Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Jehovah Supported Me Through Trials"

the following experience, (on pgs 246-247 of the 2007 Yearbook) is of Sully Esparon - one of the first to be baptized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses (in 1964) on the island of Réunion, (the largest of the Mascarene Islands), and spent three years in prison because he would not join the military.

As told by Sully Esparon...
When I accepted the truth at age 15, my parents put me out of the house. But that did not weaken my determination to serve Jehovah. I started regular pioneering in 1964 and special pioneering in 1965. I also had the privilege of sharing in the oversight of the congregations in Saint-André and Saint-Benoît. Jean-Claude Furcy and I regularly cycled between the two, which had 12 and 6 publishers respectively.

In 1967, I was called up for military service. I explained that as a Christian, I could not take up arms. Nevertheless, because mine was the first case of its kind in Réunion, the authorities neither understood nor accepted my position. In fact, an officer beat me in front of about 400 recruits and then took me, now limping, to his office. He laid a uniform on his desk and told me to put it on, otherwise he would beat me again. Nearly six feet [1.8 m] tall and well built, he towered over me. Still, I mustered up courage and said, “If you hit me again, I will file an official complaint because France guarantees freedom of religion.” Fuming, he stepped toward me but restrained himself. Then he took me to the commanding officer, who said that I would do three years of hard labor in France.

I did the three years, but in Réunion. And it was not hard labor. After sentencing me, the judge invited me into his office. Smiling, he shook my hand and sympathized with me, explaining that as judge, he had to apply the law. The assistant prison director too was friendly toward me and arranged for me to work in the courtroom. He even came with me to the visitors’ area to meet my parents and a member of the congregation.

Initially, I shared a cell with 20 to 30 others, but then I was put in a cell for 2, which gave me more freedom. I requested an electric light and, amazingly, received one. Normally, electric items are forbidden because inmates might try to electrocute themselves. Thanks to my lamp, I could study the Bible and also complete a correspondence course in accounting. When I was released in 1970, a judge kindly found work for me.