Finding Relief From Youthful Despair
As told by Eusebio Morcillo
In September 1993, I visited a maximum-security prison. The occasion was the baptism of a prisoner, my younger sister Mariví. Some inmates and prison officials respectfully watched as I conducted the ceremony. Before I explain how she and I came to be there, let me describe our early life.
I WAS born in Spain on May 5, 1954, the first of eight children. Mariví was the third. Our grandmother reared us as devout Catholics, and I have pleasant childhood memories of feeling devoted to God while I was with her. But the environment in my parents’ home was far from spiritual. Father regularly beat Mother and us children. Fear was a part of our lives, and it hurt me deeply to see Mother suffer.
At school, I faced added disheartening conditions. One of the teachers, a priest, knocked our heads against a wall if we answered a question incorrectly. Another priest sexually abused pupils while reviewing their homework with them. Furthermore, such Catholic teachings as hellfire confused and frightened me. My devotion to God soon withered.
Trapped in a Senseless Life
Lacking any spiritual guidance, I started spending time with immoral, violent people at discotheques. Often fights broke out, with knives, chains, glasses, and stools used as weapons. Even though I did not actively participate in the violence, on one occasion I was knocked unconscious.
Eventually I tired of that environment and looked for quieter discotheques. Even at those places, drugs were common. But instead of gratification and peace of mind, the drugs gave me hallucinations and anxiety.
Although I was dissatisfied, I lured one of my younger brothers, José Luis, and a close friend, Miguel, into the same lifestyle. Along with many other youths in Spain at the time, we were trapped in a corrupt world. I would do almost anything to get money for drugs. I lost all dignity.
Jehovah Comes to the Rescue
During this time, I spoke several times with my friends about the existence of God and the meaning of life. I began searching for God by looking for someone to share my feelings with. I had noticed that Francisco, one of my workmates, stood out from the others. He seemed happy, honest, and kind, so I decided to open my heart to him. Francisco was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he gave me an issue of The Watchtower that contained an article on drugs.
After reading the article, I prayed to God for help: “Lord, I know that you exist, and I want to know you and to do your will. Please help me!” Francisco and other Witnesses used the Bible to encourage me and gave me Bible-based publications to read. I came to realize that they were giving me the help I had requested from God. Soon I began to speak to my friends and José Luis about the things I was learning.
One day when leaving a rock concert with some friends, I separated myself from the group. I looked at them as a detached observer, and it struck me just how repugnant our conduct had become because of the influence of drugs. At that moment, I decided to reject that lifestyle and become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I asked Francisco for a Bible, and he gave me one along with the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. * When I read about God’s promise to wipe out every tear and to remove even death, I had no doubt that I had found the truth that can set mankind free. (John 8:32; Revelation 21:4) Later, I attended a meeting at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The friendliness and warmth I found there impressed me greatly.
Eager to share with others my experience at the Kingdom Hall, I immediately gathered José Luis and my friends and told them all about it. Some days later, all of us attended a meeting. One girl sitting in the row in front of us glanced at us. She was obviously startled at seeing this group of long-haired hippies, and she was careful not to turn her head again. She must have been surprised when we returned to the Kingdom Hall the following week, for this time we were wearing suits and ties.
Soon afterward, Miguel and I also attended a circuit assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We had never experienced anything like that before—a true brotherhood of people of all ages. And strangely enough, the assembly was held in the same theater where we had just attended a rock concert. But on this occasion, the atmosphere and the music we heard lifted our spirits.
Our entire group began to study the Bible. About eight months later, on July 26, 1974, Miguel and I were baptized. We were both 20 years old. Four others in our group got baptized a few months later. The Bible training I had received motivated me to start helping my long-suffering mother with the housework and to share my newfound faith with her. We became close. I also devoted much time to helping my younger brothers and sisters.
In time, my mother and all but one of my siblings learned Bible truth and were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses. In 1977, I married Soledad. She was the young girl who looked aghast when she saw us on our first visit to the Kingdom Hall. Within a few months, we both became pioneers, as Jehovah’s Witnesses call full-time preachers of the good news.
A Beloved One Is Redeemed
My younger sister Mariví had been sexually abused as a child, and that horrible background deeply affected her. As a teenager, she took up an immoral lifestyle that involved drugs, thievery, and prostitution. At the age of 23, she was sent to jail, where she continued her wayward life.
By that time, I was serving as a circuit overseer, a traveling minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In 1989, Soledad and I were assigned to the area where Mariví was imprisoned. The authorities had recently taken her son away from her; she was devastated, with no desire to live. One day I visited her and suggested that we study the Bible together, and she accepted the offer. After studying for a month, she stopped using drugs and tobacco. It thrilled me to see that Jehovah gave her the strength to make these changes in her life.—Hebrews 4:12.
Shortly after starting to study, Mariví began sharing Bible truths with fellow inmates and prison officials. Although she was transferred from one prison to another, she continued her preaching activity. In one prison she even witnessed from cell to cell. Over the years, Mariví started Bible studies with many inmates in different penitentiaries.
One day Mariví informed me of her desire to dedicate her life to Jehovah and get baptized. But she was not granted permission to leave the prison, nor was anybody allowed inside to baptize her. She endured four more years in the corrupt environment of that prison. What helped her to maintain her faith? At the precise time that the local congregation was holding a meeting, she reviewed the same program in the prison cell. She also had a regular program of personal Bible study and prayer.
In time, Mariví was moved to a high-security prison that had a swimming pool. She felt that these new circumstances might make her baptism possible. And sure enough, Mariví was finally granted permission. Thus it was that I found myself presenting her baptism talk. I was with her at the most important moment of her life.
As a result of her former lifestyle, Mariví developed AIDS. Nevertheless, her good conduct earned her an early release from prison, in March 1994. She lived at home with Mother and led an active Christian life until her death two years later.
Overcoming Destructive Feelings
I too have not entirely escaped the consequences of my former life. The abuse I suffered at the hands of my father as well as my lifestyle as a teenager left their mark on my personality. In my adult life, I have often been plagued by feelings of guilt and a lack of self-worth. At times I have been extremely low in spirits. Yet, God’s Word has been invaluable in helping me to fight these disturbing feelings. Meditating repeatedly on such scriptures as Isaiah 1:18 and Psalm 103:8-13 has over the years helped me to deaden recurring feelings of guilt.
Prayer is another spiritual weapon that I use to combat feelings of worthlessness. I have often found myself praying to Jehovah with tears welling up in my eyes. Nevertheless, the words recorded at 1 John 3:19, 20 strengthen me: “By this we shall know that we originate with the truth, and we shall assure our hearts before him as regards whatever our hearts may condemn us in, because God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.”
Since I approach God sincerely with a “broken and crushed” heart, I realize that I am not as bad as I once thought. The Bible assures all those seeking Jehovah that he does not despise those who sincerely regret their past conduct and have turned to doing his will.—Psalm 51:17.
Whenever feelings of self-doubt surface, I try to fill my mind with positive thoughts, the kind of spiritual things mentioned at Philippians 4:8. I have memorized Psalm 23 and the Sermon on the Mount. When negative thoughts come to my mind, I recite to myself these Scriptural passages. This mental housecleaning is especially helpful during sleepless nights.
Another source of help has been the commendation I receive from my wife and other mature Christians. Although at first I found it hard to accept their encouraging words, the Bible has helped me to understand that love “believes all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) And, of course, I have gradually learned humbly to accept my weaknesses and limitations.
On the positive side, my own struggles against negative feelings have helped me to be an empathetic traveling overseer. My wife and I have each spent nearly 30 years as full-time ministers of the good news. The joy I derive from serving others helps to push negative feelings and memories of my distasteful experiences more and more into the background.
Now when I look back and reflect on all the blessings Jehovah has bestowed upon me, I feel moved to say as the psalmist did: “Bless Jehovah, . . . him who is forgiving all your error, who is healing all your maladies, who is reclaiming your life from the very pit, who is crowning you with loving-kindness and mercies.”—Psalm 103:1-4.
^ par. 14 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses but now out of print.
[Blurb on page 30]
I have often been plagued by feelings of guilt and a lack of self-worth. Yet, God’s Word has been invaluable in helping me to fight these disturbing feelings
[Pictures on page 27]
My brother José Luis and friend Miguel followed both my bad and my good example
[Picture on page 28, 29]
The Morcillo family in 1973
[Picture on page 29]
Mariví as a prison inmate
[Picture on page 30]
With my wife, Soledad