Rewarded by Practicing Godly Devotion
AS TOLD BY WILLIAM AIHINORIA
I awoke in the middle of the night to Father’s familiar moaning. He was rolling on the floor holding his stomach. Mother, my older sister, and I huddled around him. When the pain seemed to subside, he sat upright, sighed, and said: “Only Jehovah’s Witnesses have peace on this earth.” The remark was puzzling, but it made a deep impression on me because I had never heard of Jehovah’s Witnesses before. I wondered what he meant.
THAT incident occurred in 1953 when I was six years old. I was part of a polygamous household in Ewossa, an agricultural village in midwestern Nigeria. I was the second child, but the first son in a family that eventually grew to include Father’s 3 wives and 13 children. We shared Grandfather’s thatched-roof, four-room mud house. The household also included Grandmother and Father’s three brothers, as well as their families.
My early life was miserable. What contributed to this in particular was Father’s poor health. He had chronic stomach pain that lasted until his death many years later. His unknown ailment defied all medical treatment affordable to an African peasant family—both herbal and orthodox. Many nights we spent weeping beside Father as he rolled in agony on the floor until the cock crowed the following morning. In search of a cure for his illness, he often traveled with Mother, leaving me and my siblings in the care of Grandmother.
Our family subsisted by cultivating and selling yam, cassava, and kola nuts. We also did a little rubber tapping to supplement our meager income. Our staple food was yam. We ate yam in the morning, pounded yam in the afternoon, and had yam again at night. Occasionally, we had a little variety when we ate roasted plantain.
An important part of our life was ancestor worship. The family offered food to sticks with cowrie shells tied onto them. Father also worshiped an idol to ward off evil spirits and witches.
When I was five years old, we moved temporarily from our village to a farming camp about seven miles [11 km] away. There Father contracted guinea worm disease, which was an added affliction to his abdominal sickness. He could not work during the day, and his abdominal pains tormented him at night. I contracted jigger, or sandflea, disease, a form of typhus. As a result, we lived on handouts from our extended family. Rather than die in squalor, we moved back to our village of Ewossa. Father wanted me, his first son, to become more than a subsistence farmer. He felt that a good education would enable me to raise the family’s standard of living and help me bring up my siblings.
Exposure to Different Religions
Back in our village, I was able to begin my schooling. This led to an exposure to the religions of Christendom. In the 1950’s, one could hardly separate a Western education from the religion of the colonial masters. Since I attended a Catholic primary school, that meant I had to be a Roman Catholic.
In 1966, the year I turned 19, I was admitted to the Pilgrim Baptist Secondary School in the town of Ewohinmi, about 5 miles [8 km] from Ewossa. There my religious education changed. Because I was now attending a Protestant school, the Catholic priests prevented me from partaking of the Sunday Mass.
It was during my time at this Baptist school that I was first exposed to the Bible. Although I continued going to the Catholic church, I read the Bible on my own every Sunday after the Catholic church service. The teachings of Jesus Christ fascinated me, stirring in me the desire to live a meaningful life of godly devotion. The more I read the Bible, the more I was disgusted with the hypocrisy of some of the religious leaders and the immoral life-style of many of the laity. What I saw among those professing to be Christian was so different from what Jesus and his disciples taught and did.
Certain incidents in particular shocked me. On one occasion when I went to the catechist’s provision store to purchase a rosary, I saw a juju amulet hanging on the store’s doorpost. Another time, the principal of the Baptist school attempted to abuse me sexually. I learned afterward that he was a homosexual and had abused others. I pondered these things, wondering to myself, ‘Does God approve of religions whose members and even whose leaders are not held accountable for gross sins?’
A Change of Religion
Still, I loved what I read in the Bible and resolved to continue reading it. It was then that I began to reflect on Father’s comment some 15 years earlier: “Only Jehovah’s Witnesses have peace on this earth.” But I was apprehensive because Witness youths in my school were ridiculed and sometimes punished for not joining our morning worship. And some of their beliefs seemed strange. For example, I found it hard to believe that only 144,000 were going to heaven. (Revelation 14:3) Since it was my desire to go to heaven, I wondered whether this number had been completed before my birth.
It was obvious that the Witnesses were different in their conduct and attitude. They were not involved in the immoral and violent activities of other youths in school. To me, they were really separate from the world, as I had read in the Bible that those who practice true religion should be.—John 17:14-16; James 1:27.
I decided to investigate further. In September 1969, I was able to obtain the book “The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life.” The following month, a pioneer, as a full-time minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses is called, began to study with me. Inspired by my first study, I started to read the Truth book on a Saturday night and finished it by the next afternoon. Immediately, I began telling my fellow students the marvelous things I had read. The students and teachers thought my newfound faith was driving me mad. But I knew I was not going mad.—Acts 26:24.
The news of my preaching a new religion was relayed to my parents. They asked me to return home immediately so that they could ascertain what my problem was. There was no one to whom I could turn for advice, as all the Witnesses had gone to one of their district conventions at Ilesha. On my return home, I was bombarded with questions and criticism from my mother and other relatives. I tried my best to defend what I was learning from the Bible.—1 Peter 3:15.
After trying unsuccessfully to prove that Jehovah’s Witnesses were false teachers, my uncle attempted a different approach. He appealed to me: “Remember that you went to school to get an education. If you leave your studies and go preaching, you will never complete your education. So why don’t you wait until you finish school before joining this new religion.” At the time that seemed reasonable, so I stopped studying with the Witnesses.
In December 1970, immediately after my graduation, I went straight to the Kingdom Hall, and I have been going to the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses ever since. On August 30, 1971, I was baptized in symbol of my dedication to God. That shook not only my parents but the entire community as well. They said I had disappointed them since I was the first in or around Ewossa to have received a government scholarship. Many had high expectations for me. They hoped that I would use my education to improve the community.
Consequences of My Change
My family and the older men of the community sent a delegation to try to persuade me to renounce my faith. Their efforts were mingled with curses. “If you do not leave this religion,” they said, “your future is doomed. You will not get a job. You will not build a house of your own. You will not be able to marry and raise a family.”
Contrary to their dire predictions, ten months after finishing school, I got a job as a teacher. In October 1972, I married my beloved wife, Veronica. Later, the government trained me as an agricultural extension agent. I bought my first car, and I started to build our house. On November 5, 1973, our first daughter, Victory, was born, and in the years that followed we also had Lydia, Wilfred, and Joan. In 1986 our last child, Micah, was born. They have all proved to be precious children, an inheritance from Jehovah.—Psalm 127:3.
Looking back, I can say that the evil wishes of the community all turned to blessings. That is why I named my first daughter Victory. Recently, the community wrote to me and said: “Please, we want you to come home and share in the development of our community now that God is blessing you.”
Rearing Children in Godly Ways
My wife and I knew that we could not combine our godly responsibility of rearing children with the pursuit of material riches. Hence, we have learned to be content with a simple life. We prefer to live this way rather than face the possible consequences of choosing a different life-style.
It is common in our part of the world to share a building with other families, using the same bathroom, kitchen facilities, and so on. We were happy to be able to rent only self-contained living quarters in any town to which I was transferred as a government worker. True, such accommodations were more expensive, but having them reduced our children’s exposure to unwholesome influences. I thank Jehovah that over the years, we were able to bring up our children in a spiritually healthy environment.
In addition, my wife has remained at home in order to be with and take care of our children. When I finish work, we endeavor to do things together as a family. Anything we do, we do as a team. This includes family Bible study, preparation for and attending of congregation meetings, sharing in the Christian ministry, as well as engaging in social activities.
We have tried to follow the counsel of Deuteronomy 6:6, 7, which urges parents to teach their children not only at home but at every opportunity. This has caused the children to look inward for companionship instead of outward. They have learned by our example to monitor their associations because Veronica and I do not spend an undue amount of time in the company of those who do not share our beliefs.—Proverbs 13:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33.
Of course, our guidance and teaching have not been the only positive influence in our children’s life. Our home has been and still is open to zealous Christians, many of whom are traveling ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The time that these mature Christians have spent with our family has given our children the opportunity to observe and learn from their self-sacrificing way of life. This has reinforced our teaching, and the children have made Bible truth their own.
Rewarded for Godly Devotion
Today my wife and I, together with four of our children, are in the full-time ministry. I first started to pioneer in 1973. Over the years, I have had to interrupt my full-time ministry from time to time because of economic circumstances. On occasion, it has also been my privilege to share in teaching the Kingdom Ministry School, which provides training for Christian overseers of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I currently enjoy the privilege of serving on a Hospital Liaison Committee, as well as being the city overseer of Uhonmora.
My first two daughters, Victory and Lydia, are happily married to fine Christian elders. They and their husbands are serving as members of the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses at Igieduma, Nigeria. Our oldest son, Wilfred, serves as a ministerial servant, and our youngest, Micah, serves periodically as an auxiliary pioneer. In 1997, Joan finished her secondary schooling and took up the regular pioneer service.
Among the most rewarding experiences in my life is helping others to serve Jehovah God. Such ones include some of my extended family members. My father made efforts to serve Jehovah, but the practice of polygamy held him back. From my youth on, I have loved people. When I see others suffer, I feel as though my problems are of less importance. I suppose they observe that I am sincere in my desire to help them, and this makes it easier for them to talk with me.
One of those I helped to a knowledge of God’s purposes is a bedridden young man. He was a power-company worker who got a terrible electrical shock on the job that paralyzed him from the chest down. He accepted a Bible study and gradually responded to what he learned. His baptism on October 14, 1995, in a stream near our home, was the first time in 15 years that he had moved from his bed. He said it was the happiest day of his life. He is now a ministerial servant in the congregation.
I must say that I have no regrets for having chosen some 30 years ago to serve Jehovah with his united, dedicated people. I have seen real love in action among them. Even if the hope of everlasting life were not included in Jehovah’s reward to his faithful servants, I would still desire a life of godly devotion. (1 Timothy 6:6; Hebrews 11:6) It is the way that has shaped and anchored my life, bringing joy, satisfaction, and happiness to me and my family.
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With my wife and children in 1990
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With my wife and children and two sons-in-law