I was just 17 years old and had the concerns and ambitions typical of most teenagers. I loved mingling with my friends, swimming, and playing soccer. But one evening my life changed dramatically. I was involved in a horrific motorcycle accident that left me paralyzed from the neck down. That was some 30 years ago, and I have been bedridden for a long time now.
I grew up in the city of Alicante, on the east coast of Spain. My family was completely dysfunctional, so as a youth I spent much of my time on the streets. Close to my house was a tire repair shop. There I became friends with José María, one of the employees. He was a warm person who gave me the attention I sorely missed in my own family. In times of distress, he was like a real brother to me—a true friend, although he was 20 years my senior.
José María had started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I could tell that he loved the Scriptures, and he often shared Bible truths with me. I listened to him respectfully, but I never really took an interest in what he said. My teenage heart was preoccupied with other matters. That, however, was about to change.
AN ACCIDENT THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
I do not like to talk much about that road accident. What I will say is that I was foolish and reckless. In just one day, my whole life changed completely. From being a young teenager full of vitality, I suddenly found myself paralyzed and stuck inside a hospital ward. Coming to terms with this predicament was really tough. I kept asking myself, ‘Is there any point in living?’
José María came to see me, and he quickly arranged for Jehovah’s Witnesses from the local congregation to visit me at the hospital. Those regular visits touched my heart. As soon as I left the intensive care unit, I began to study the Bible. I discovered the truth about why people suffer and die and why God allows bad things to happen. I also learned about God’s promises for the future, when the whole earth will be filled with perfect humans and nobody will ever say: “I am sick.” (Isaiah 33:24) For the first time in my life, a wonderful hope was opening up to me.
When I left the hospital, I progressed quickly in my study of the Bible. With the use of a special wheelchair, I even attended some meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and shared in their preaching activity. On November 5, 1988, at the age of 20, I was baptized by immersion in a special bathtub. Jehovah God had given me a whole new outlook on life. But what could I do to show my appreciation?
ON THE MOVE DESPITE MY DISABILITY
I was determined not to let my condition stop me from doing all that I could in Jehovah’s service. I wanted to progress. (1 Timothy 4:15) At first, that was not easy, for my family was opposed to my new faith. But I had my fellow believers, who were my spiritual brothers and sisters. They made sure that I never missed a meeting and that I had an active share in the preaching work.
As time went by, however, it became evident that I was going to need round-the-clock specialized care. After a long search, I eventually found a suitable center for the disabled in the city of Valencia, 100 miles (160 km) north of Alicante. This center became my permanent home.
Although bedridden, I am determined to share my faith with others
Although bedridden, I was determined to continue pressing forward. Using my disability pension and other subsidies, I obtained a computer and had it installed next to my bed. I also purchased a cell phone. Now, each morning, a caregiver switches on my computer and activates my cell phone. To operate the computer, I use a joystick that I control with my chin. I also have a special rod that I hold with my mouth. This rod allows me to type letters on a keyboard and dial numbers on my cell phone.
How has this technology helped me? First of all, it gives me access to the jw.org website and the Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY. What marvelous tools these have proved to be for me! I often spend hours each day studying and researching Bible-based publications so that I can continue learning about God and his wonderful qualities. And whenever I feel alone or a little discouraged, there is always something on the website that lifts my spirits.
My computer also allows me to listen to and participate in congregation meetings. I can comment, offer prayers, present talks, and even read the Watchtower magazine when I am assigned to do so. Although I cannot attend those meetings in person, I still feel that I am very much a part of the local congregation.
Having a telephone and a computer also allows me to have a full share in the preaching work. True, I cannot go from house to house as most of Jehovah’s Witnesses do. But that has not stopped me. Using these tools I am able to share my faith with others. In fact, I enjoy my phone conversations so much that the local elders have even asked me to coordinate telephone preaching campaigns. These campaigns have been particularly helpful to housebound members of the congregation who are unable to leave their homes.
But my life does not revolve around just technology. Each day, dear friends come to see me. They bring along relatives and acquaintances who are interested in the Bible. Often, they even ask me to take the lead in discussions with them. On other occasions, families visit and invite me to share in their evening of family worship. I especially like it when young children sit at my bedside and tell me why they love Jehovah.
I appreciate receiving so many visitors. My room is often a hub of activity, with friends coming to see me from near and far. As you can imagine, this loving attention surprises the caregivers at my center. Each day, I thank Jehovah for allowing me to be part of such a wonderful brotherhood.
Whenever anybody greets me and asks how I am, I simply say, “Here I am, still battling on!” Of course, I know I am not alone in this struggle. Whatever our circumstances or impediments, all Christians are in a fight—“the fine fight of the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:12) What has helped me to battle on for so many years? I pray each day and thank Jehovah for giving my life a sense of purpose. And I try to stay as busy as possible in serving God, keeping my eyes focused on the hope ahead.
I often think about the new world and what it will be like to run and jump again. At times, I have joked with my good friend José María—who suffers from polio—about running a marathon together. “Who would win?” I ask him. “It doesn’t matter who wins,” he replies. “What really matters is being there, in Paradise, to run the race.”
It has not been easy for me to come to terms with my disability. I know that as a teenager, I did something stupid, and that has cost me dearly. Yet, how grateful I am that Jehovah did not abandon me. He has given me so much—a large spiritual family, the will to live, the joy of helping others, and a wonderful hope for the future. If I had to sum up my feelings in just one sentence, I guess I would say that Jehovah has truly given me more than I deserve.