MANY years ago, my younger sister Araceli got angry and shouted: “Stop talking to me. I don’t want to listen to anything else about your religion. It makes me feel sick. I hate you!” Her words hurt me very much. I am now 91 years old, and I still remember them clearly. But just as Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, “better is the end of a matter than its beginning.”—Felisa.
Felisa: I grew up in a humble family in Spain. My family was Catholic, and we were very religious. In fact, 13 of my relatives were priests or worked for the church. My mother’s cousin was a priest and a teacher in a Catholic school. After he died, Pope John Paul II honored him by beatifying him. My father was a metalworker, and my mother worked in the fields. We were eight children, and I was the oldest.
When I was 12, a civil war started in Spain. After the war, my father was sent to prison because the government did not like his political ideas. It was hard for my mother to find enough food for all of us. So she sent my three younger sisters, Araceli, Lauri, and Ramoni, to live with nuns in a convent in the city of Bilbao. There, my sisters would have enough food to eat.
Araceli: At that time I was 14 years old, Lauri was 12, and Ramoni was 10. We missed our family very much. At the convent, our job was cleaning. Two years later, the nuns sent us to a large convent in Zaragoza that cared for older people. We had to work hard cleaning the kitchen, and this made us very tired.
Felisa: When my sisters went to the convent in Zaragoza, my mother and my uncle, who was the local priest, decided to send me there too. They wanted to keep me away from a boy who liked me. I looked forward to spending some time at a convent because I loved God. I went to church every day, and I even wanted to become a Catholic missionary like my cousin in Africa.
But at the convent, I felt that I could not do many of the things I wanted to do. The nuns did not encourage me to serve God in another country, as I had hoped for. So a year later, I went back home and looked after my uncle, the priest. I did housework for him, and we prayed the Rosary together every evening. I also liked to arrange the flowers in the church and dress the images of Mary and the “saints.”
Araceli: While I was in Zaragoza, I took the first vows needed to become a nun. Then the nuns decided to separate my sisters and me. So they sent me to a convent in Madrid and Lauri to a convent in Valencia. Ramoni stayed in Zaragoza. In Madrid, I took my second set of vows to become a nun. Many people, such as students and elderly people, came to stay at the convent. So there was a lot of work to do. I worked in the convent hospital.
I looked forward to my life as a nun. I thought we would spend a lot of time reading the Bible and learning about it. But I was disappointed. No one used the Bible or even talked about God or Jesus. I learned some Latin, studied the lives of Catholic “saints,” and worshipped Mary. But most of the time, we just did hard work.
I started to feel stressed and worried. I felt that I should be earning money to help my family instead of working at the convent to make other people rich. So I talked to the mother superior about this and told her that I wanted to leave. But she locked me in a cell. She thought that this would convince me to stay.
The nuns let me out of the cell, but when they realized that I still wanted to leave the convent, they locked me in the cell again. After doing this three times, they said I could leave if I wrote the following: “I am leaving because I prefer to serve Satan rather than God.” I was shocked. I really wanted to leave, but I would not write those words. Finally, I said I wanted to talk to a priest, and I told him what had happened. He got permission from the bishop to send me back to the convent in Zaragoza. After a few months there, I was allowed to leave. Soon after that, Lauri and Ramoni also left the convent.
A BOOK THAT DIVIDED US
Felisa: Some time later, I got married and went to live in Cantabria, a province in Spain. I still went to church regularly. One Sunday in church, the priest angrily shouted, “Look at this book!” He showed us the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. He said, “If someone has given you a copy, give it to me or throw it away!”
I did not have that book, but I wanted one. Then a few days later, two women came to my house. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they offered me that book. I read it that same night. When the women returned, they asked me if I wanted to study the Bible, and I said yes.
I always wanted to please God. Then I learned the truth about Jehovah, and I began to love him deeply. I wanted to tell everyone about him. In 1973, I got baptized. Whenever I could, I tried to speak to my family about the truth. But my family, and especially my sister Araceli, insisted that what I believed was wrong.
Araceli: Because I was treated so badly at the convent, I felt angry and unhappy with my religion. But I kept going to church on Sundays, and I prayed the Rosary every day. I still wanted to understand the Bible, and I asked God to help me. Then Felisa told me what she had learned. She was so excited about what she believed that I thought she was crazy. I did not agree with what she was saying.
Later, I went back to Madrid for work and then got married. Over the years, I had noticed that people who regularly went to church did not really live by Jesus’ teachings. So I stopped going to church. I no longer believed in “saints” or in hellfire, and I did not think that a priest could forgive sins. I even got rid of all the religious images I had. I did not know whether I was doing the right thing. I felt disappointed, but I kept praying to God: “I want to get to know you. Help me!” I remember that Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on my door many times, but I never opened it. I did not trust any religion.
My sister Lauri was living in France, and Ramoni was living in Spain. About 1980, they started to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was sure that, like Felisa, they did not realize that they were learning a lot of lies. Later, I met Angelines, one of my neighbors, and we became close friends. She too was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Angelines and her husband asked me many times whether I wanted to study the Bible with them. They realized that although I said I did not care about religion, I really wanted to know about the Bible. Finally, I told them: “All right. I will agree to study with you, but only if I can use my own Bible!” I had the Nácar-Colunga translation of the Bible.
THE BIBLE FINALLY UNITES US
Felisa: When I got baptized in 1973, there were about 70 Witnesses in Santander, which is the capital city of Cantabria. We had to travel far to preach to all the people in the hundreds of villages in the province. So we traveled by bus and later by car to go from village to village.
Over the years, I studied the Bible with many people, and 11 of them got baptized. Most of the people I studied with were Catholic. I needed to be patient with them. Just like me, they needed time to realize that what they believed was wrong. I knew that only the Bible and Jehovah’s holy spirit could help a person change his thinking and understand the truth. (Hebrews 4:12) My husband, Bienvenido, who had been a policeman, got baptized in 1979, and my mother began to study the Bible not long before she died.
Araceli: When I started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I felt that I could not trust them. But as time went by, I did not feel that way anymore. The Witnesses not only taught the Bible but also obeyed its teachings. My faith in Jehovah and in the Bible began to grow, and I felt much happier. Some of my neighbors noticed this change and told me, “Araceli, keep going on the way you have chosen!”
I remember praying, “Thank you, Jehovah, for not giving up on me and for giving me so many opportunities to find what I was looking for—the true knowledge of the Bible.” I also asked my sister Felisa to forgive me for saying unkind things to her. From then on, instead of arguing with each other, we enjoyed talking about the Bible. I got baptized in 1989, when I was 61 years old.
Felisa: I am now 91 years old. My husband has died, and I cannot do as much as I used to. But I still read the Bible every day, and I go to meetings and out in the ministry whenever I can.
Araceli: I like to speak about Jehovah to all the priests and nuns I meet, perhaps because I was a nun. I have had interesting conversations with some of them, and many have taken books and magazines. I especially remember one priest. After I talked to him a few times, he agreed with what I was saying. Then he told me: “But where could I go at my age? What would my parishioners and my family say?” I replied: “And what will God say?” He realized that I was right, and I could see that he was sad. But it seems that he did not have the courage to change.
I will never forget when my husband told me that he wanted to come to a meeting with me. He was over 80 years old when he came to his first meeting, and after that he never missed a meeting. He studied the Bible and started preaching. I have many wonderful memories of us working together in the ministry. He died two months before the day he was going to get baptized.
Felisa: When I started serving Jehovah, my three younger sisters were against me. But later, they too accepted the truth. That was truly one of the best things that has ever happened to me. After that, we could enjoy spending time together talking about our dear God, Jehovah, and his Word! At last, we were all worshipping Jehovah.*
Araceli is 87 years old, Felisa is 91, and Ramoni is 83. They are all still serving Jehovah faithfully. Lauri died in 1990, and she too stayed faithful to Jehovah.