This experience from (pgs 21-25 of the 3/1/05 Watchtower) is a great example of putting the ministry first, instead of allowing the pursuit of materialism, a lucrative career, or personal interests, to crowd out theocratic goals.
We Used Our Changing Circumstances to Witness Far and Wide
As Told By Ricardo Malicsi
When I lost my job because of my stand on Christian neutrality, my family and I asked Jehovah to help us chart our future. In our prayer, we expressed our desire to expand our ministry. Soon thereafter, we embarked on a nomadic journey that took us to eight foreign countries on two continents. As a result, we were able to carry out our ministry in faraway places.
I was born in the Philippines in 1933 to a family affiliated with the Philippine Independent Church. All 14 members of our family belonged to that church. When I was about 12 years of age, I asked God in prayer to direct me to the true faith. One of my teachers enrolled me in a religion class, and I became a devout Catholic. I never missed Saturday confession or Sunday Mass. However, skepticism and dissatisfaction set in. Questions about what happens to people when they die and about hellfire and the Trinity bothered me. Answers given by religious leaders were hollow and unsatisfactory.
Getting Satisfying Answers
While studying in college, I joined a fraternity that got me involved in fighting, gambling, smoking, and other unsavory activities. One evening, I met the mother of one of my classmates. She was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I posed to her the same questions that I had asked my religion teachers. She answered all my questions from the Bible, and I was convinced that what she said was the truth.
I bought a Bible and started to study it with the Witnesses. Soon I was attending all the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Following the wise Bible observation that “bad associations spoil useful habits,” I parted company with my immoral friends. (1 Corinthians 15:33) This helped me to make progress in my Bible study and eventually to dedicate myself to Jehovah. After my baptism in 1951, I served as a full-time minister (pioneer) for a while. Then in December 1953, I married Aurea Mendoza Cruz, who became my lifetime partner and faithful coworker in the ministry.
An Answer to Our Prayers
We were really wanting to serve as pioneers. However, our desire to serve Jehovah more fully did not materialize immediately. Even so, we did not stop asking Jehovah to open up opportunities in his service. Yet, our life was hard. Still, we kept our spiritual goals in mind, and at the age of 25, I was appointed congregation servant, the presiding overseer in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
As I progressed in Bible knowledge and got a better understanding of Jehovah’s principles, I realized that my job violated my conscientious position as a neutral Christian. (Isaiah 2:2-4) I decided to quit. This proved to be a test of our faith. How would I care for the needs of my family? Again we approached Jehovah God in prayer. (Psalm 65:2) We told him of our concerns and fears, but we also expressed to him our desire to serve where the need for Kingdom preachers was greater. (Philippians 4:6, 7) Little did we know what a variety of opportunities would open up to us!
(photo of Ricardo and his wife, Aurea)
Starting Out on Our Journey
In April 1965, I accepted a job as crash fire and rescue supervisor at Vientiane International Airport, in Laos, and we moved there. In the city of Vientiane, there were 24 Witnesses, and we enjoyed the preaching work with the missionaries and the few local brothers. Later, I was transferred to Udon Thani Airport, Thailand. There were no other Witnesses in Udon Thani. As a family, we conducted all the weekly meetings by ourselves. We preached from house to house, made return visits, and started Bible studies.
We remembered Jesus’ admonition to his disciples that they should “keep bearing much fruit.” (John 15:8) So we determined to follow their example and continued proclaiming the good news. Soon we enjoyed results. A Thai girl accepted the truth and became our spiritual sister. Two North Americans accepted the truth and in time became Christian elders. We continued preaching the good news for more than ten years in northern Thailand. How happy we are to know that there is now a congregation in Udon Thani! Some of the seeds of truth we planted are still yielding results.
Sadly, though, we had to move again, and we prayed that “the Master of the harvest” would help us to continue to have a share in the preaching work. (Matthew 9:38) We were transferred to Tehran, the capital of Iran. This was during the time of the Shah’s rule.
Preaching in Challenging Territories
Upon arrival in Tehran, we found our spiritual brothers right away. We associated with a small group of Witnesses made up of 13 different nationalities. We had to make adjustments in order to preach the good news in Iran. Although we experienced no outright opposition, we had to be careful. Because of the work schedule of interested ones, we sometimes had to conduct Bible studies at midnight or later—into the early morning. Yet, how happy we were to see the fruitage of that hard work! A number of Filipino and Korean families accepted Christian truth and dedicated themselves to Jehovah.
My next work assignment was in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We arrived there in December 1977. This was another country where our preaching activity was not easy to accomplish. However, we always had in mind that we must keep active. With the guidance of Jehovah’s spirit, we were able to find many families of professed Christians. Some of them were thirsting for the refreshing waters of truth found in the Holy Scriptures. (Isaiah 55:1) As a result, we started many Bible studies.
We kept in mind that God’s will is that “all sorts of men should be saved.” (1 Timothy 2:4) Happily, no one tried to cause problems for us. To overcome any prejudice, we made sure that we used a very friendly approach. Like the apostle Paul, we tried to “become all things to people of all sorts.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) When we were asked the reason for our visit, we would kindly explain, and we found that most were quite friendly.
In Dhaka we found a local Witness and encouraged her to join us in our Christian meetings and later in the preaching work. Then, my wife studied the Bible with a family and invited them to our meetings. By Jehovah’s loving-kindness, the whole family came into the truth. Later, their two daughters helped with translating Bible literature into Bengali, and many of their relatives also came to know Jehovah. Many other Bible students accepted the truth. Most of them are now serving as elders or pioneers.
Since Dhaka is a very populous city, we invited some of our family members to help us in the preaching work. Several responded and joined us in Bangladesh. How joyful and how thankful to Jehovah we are for the opportunity we had to share in preaching the good news in that country! From the very small beginnings of only one person, there are now two congregations in Bangladesh.
In July 1982, we had to pull up stakes and leave Bangladesh. We left the brothers with tears in our eyes. Not long thereafter, I received employment at Entebbe International Airport, in Uganda, where we would stay for four years and seven months. What would we be able to do in honoring Jehovah’s great name in this land?
(Map of locations they served in the ministry: Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia, Iran, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines)
Serving Jehovah in East Africa
Upon our arrival at Entebbe International Airport, a driver picked up my wife and me to take us to our accommodations. As we were leaving the airport, I started preaching to the driver about God’s Kingdom. He asked me: “Are you one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?” When I answered in the affirmative, the driver said: “One of your brothers works at the control tower.” Right away, I asked him to take me there. We met the brother, who was very happy to see us, and arrangements were made for meetings and field service.
There were only 228 Kingdom publishers in Uganda at that time. Along with a couple of brothers in Entebbe, we spent our first year planting seeds of truth. Since people there are fond of reading, we were able to place much literature, including hundreds of magazines. We invited brothers from Kampala, the capital, to help us preach in Entebbe’s territory on weekends. At my first public talk, the attendance was five—including me.
Over the next three years, we experienced some of the happiest moments of our life, seeing those whom we taught respond and make rapid progress. (3 John 4) At one circuit assembly, six of our Bible students were baptized. Many of them said that they were encouraged to pursue the full-time service because they saw us serving as pioneers, even though we had full-time jobs.
We realized that our workplace could also be fruitful territory. On one occasion, I approached an airport fire officer and shared with him the Bible-based hope of life on a paradise earth. I showed him from his own Bible that obedient humankind will live in peace and unity, suffering no more from poverty, lack of housing, war, sickness, or death. (Psalm 46:9; Isaiah 33:24; 65:21, 22; Revelation 21:3, 4) Reading this in his own Bible sparked his interest. A Bible study was started right away. He attended all meetings. Soon he dedicated himself to Jehovah and was baptized. Later he joined us in the full-time ministry.
Civil unrest broke out twice in Uganda while we were there, but that did not bring our spiritual activities to a halt. The dependents of those working for international agencies were transferred to Nairobi, Kenya, for six months. Those of us left in Uganda kept on with our Christian meetings and the preaching work, although we had to be prudent and cautious.
In April 1988, my job assignment was completed and we moved again. We left the Entebbe Congregation with a feeling of deep satisfaction over the spiritual developments there. In July 1997, we had an opportunity to visit Entebbe again. By then, some of our former Bible students were serving as elders. How thrilled we were to see 106 in attendance at the Public Meeting!
Moving On to Untouched Territory
Would we be able to enter new doors of opportunity? Yes, my next work assignment was at Mogadishu International Airport, in Somalia. We were determined to make good use of this new opportunity to serve in untouched territory.
Our preaching activity was confined mostly to embassy staff, Filipino workers, and other foreigners. Often we met them in the marketplace. We also made friendly visits to their homes. By combining ingenuity, resourcefulness, prudence, and complete reliance on Jehovah, we were able to share Bible truths with others, and this bore fruit among those from different nationalities. After two years, we left Mogadishu—just before war broke out there.
The International Civil Aviation Organization next assigned me to Yangon, Myanmar. Again, fine opportunities opened up for us to help honesthearted ones learn about God’s purposes. After Myanmar, we were assigned to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Preaching the good news from house to house in Dar es Salaam was much easier because there was an English-speaking community.
In all the countries we worked in, we had very few problems in carrying out our ministry, although in many cases, there were restrictions on the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Because of the status of my work, which was usually connected with government or international agencies, people did not question our activities.
My secular employment required that my wife and I live as nomads for three decades. However, we viewed my job as only a means to an end. Our first goal was always to promote the interests of God’s Kingdom. We thank Jehovah for helping us to make good use of our changing circumstances and to enjoy the wonderful privilege of spreading the good news far and wide.
Back Where It All Started
At the age of 58, I decided to take early retirement and return to the Philippines. When we got back, we prayed to Jehovah to direct our steps. We started serving in a congregation in Trece Martires City, in the province of Cavite. When we first arrived, there were only 19 proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. Daily preaching activities were organized, and many Bible studies were started. The congregation began to grow. At one time, my wife had as many as 19 home Bible studies, and I had 14.
Soon the Kingdom Hall became too small. We prayed to Jehovah about this. A spiritual brother and his wife decided to donate a piece of land, and the branch office approved a loan for building a new Kingdom Hall. The new building has had a big impact on the preaching work, and the attendance increased week by week. At present, we travel over one hour each way to assist another congregation, of 17 publishers.
My wife and I cherish the privilege we have enjoyed serving in so many different countries. Looking back at our nomadic life, we feel deeply satisfied to know that it was used in the best way possible—to help others to learn about Jehovah!