PROFILE Despite being imprisoned and cruelly beaten in seven penitentiaries, he never wavered in his determination to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom.
IN 1948, my wife, Paula, my daughter, and I began attending meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Blanco Arriba. We had to walk 25 miles (40 km) round trip, but we never missed a meeting. On January 3, 1949, Paula and I were baptized.
Six months later some from our congregation were arrested and sentenced to three months in prison. We had to sleep on the floor and were fed only one meal a day—green bananas and tea. When we were released from prison, the government officials threatened us and assumed that we would stop preaching. But, when we returned home, we clandestinely resumed attending meetings and preaching. Because government agents were constantly watching us, we met in private homes, in coffee fields, or on farms. Instead of gathering in the same place repeatedly, we announced at the end of each meeting where the next meeting would be held. When we preached, we did so alone; we wore work clothes, and we did not use literature or a Bible. Even so, between 1949 and 1959, I was in and out of seven different prisons, serving sentences of three to six months each time.
I had to be extremely careful because some of my persecutors were my own relatives. Even though I slept in the mountains or on a farm to avoid detection, I sometimes still got caught. After one of my arrests, I was sent to La Victoria prison in Ciudad Trujillo, where there were 50 to 60 prisoners to a cell. There, we received two meals a day—cornmeal in the morning and a small ration of rice with beans at noon. Of course, all the Witnesses there preached to fellow prisoners, and we regularly held our meetings, which were conducted by reciting Bible texts from memory and relating experiences from our ministry.
The last time I was imprisoned, a soldier beat me on the head and on my ribs with the butt of a rifle. Even though I still suffer from the physical effects of that beating and other mistreatment, those tests strengthened my faith, my endurance, and my determination to serve Jehovah.
Now, at 96 years of age, I serve as a ministerial servant in the congregation. Although I can no longer walk long distances, I sit in front of my house and preach to all who pass by. The Kingdom hope is not a dream to me. It is a reality, and I have been preaching about it for more than 60 years. The new world is as real to me today as it was the first day that I heard the Kingdom message.*
Efraín De La Cruz died while this account was being prepared.