I can still remember my father saying to us children: “What a wonderful lesson we learn from Noah! Noah obeyed Jehovah and loved his family, and they all survived the Flood because all the family went into the ark.”
MY FATHER was a humble man who worked hard. He had a deep love of justice, so he liked the Bible’s message as soon as he heard it. That was in 1953, and from then on he did his best to teach us children what he was learning. At first, my mother did not want to stop following her Catholic traditions. But in time, she too started to accept Bible teachings.
My mother could not read well, and my father worked hard in the fields for many hours each day. So it was difficult for my parents to study with us. Sometimes my father was so tired that he could not stay awake during the study. But all his hard work was worth it. I was the oldest child, so I helped to teach my sister and two brothers. We often talked about how much Noah loved his family and how obedient he was to God. I loved that story so much! Soon after we started studying the Bible as a family, we were all going to the meetings at the Kingdom Hall in Roseto degli Abruzzi, a city on the Adriatic coast of Italy.
In 1955, when I was just 11 years old, my mother and I traveled across the mountains to Rome and went to our first convention. Since then, conventions have been something that I especially love.
I got baptized in 1956 and soon started pioneering. When I was 17 years old, I became a special pioneer in Latina, a city south of Rome and about 300 kilometers (190 miles) from home. It was a new city, and nobody worried too much about what the neighbors thought. So it was easier for people to accept Bible literature from my pioneer partner and me. Even though I was very excited to be there, I was still young and missed home. But it helped me to remember that Jehovah wanted me to be there, and I wanted to obey him.
Later, I was sent to Milan to help with preparations for the 1963 “Everlasting Good News” International Assembly. During the convention, I worked as a volunteer with many others, including a young brother from Florence named Paolo Piccioli. On the second day of the convention, he gave a wonderful talk about how single people can do more in Jehovah’s service. I remember thinking, ‘That brother will never get married.’ But after the convention, we started writing letters to each other. We realized that we had the same goals and that we both loved Jehovah very much and wanted to obey him. Paolo and I got married in 1965.
DISCUSSIONS WITH PRIESTS
I was a regular pioneer in Florence for ten years. It was exciting to see the congregations grow, especially to see young people progress in the truth. Paolo and I enjoyed spending time with these young ones in Bible discussions as well as in recreation. Paolo often played soccer with them. Of course, I liked to spend time with my husband, but I also understood that families and young ones in the congregation needed his time and attention.
It still makes me very happy to think about the many Bible studies we had. One student was Adriana, who spoke to two other families about what she was learning. These families arranged a meeting with a priest to discuss some church teachings, such as the Trinity and the immortal soul. Three church leaders came to the meeting. The way they explained their teachings was very confusing, and our Bible students could easily see that these teachings did not agree with what the Bible says. As a result of that meeting, 15 members of those families became Witnesses.
Of course, we do our preaching work in a different way today. Back then, Paolo often met with priests to discuss Bible teachings, and he became really good at presenting our beliefs in these discussions. One time, he was in front of a group of people who were not Witnesses. It became clear that the priests had told some of them to ask questions that would embarrass Paolo. But things did not happen the way the priests had planned. One of the people asked if it was right for the church to be involved in politics. The priests did not know how to answer. Suddenly, the lights went out, and the meeting was canceled. Some years later, we learned that the priests had planned for someone to turn the lights off in case the discussion did not go well for them.
After Paolo and I had been married for ten years, we were invited to serve in the circuit work. Paolo had a good job, so it was not an easy decision. After we prayed and thought about it, we decided to accept the assignment. We enjoyed spending time with the families we stayed with. In the evening, we often studied as a group, and then Paolo helped the children with their homework. He especially enjoyed helping them with mathematics. Also, Paolo loved to read and was always happy to talk about the interesting and encouraging things he had read. On Monday, we often went to preach in towns where there were no Witnesses and invited people to come to a talk in the evening.
After only two years in the circuit work, we were invited to serve at Bethel in Rome. Paolo worked in the Legal Department, and I worked in the Magazine Department. This was not an easy change for us, but we wanted to be obedient. It was exciting to see more and more work being done at the branch and to see the number of brothers in Italy increase so much. Also during that time, the Italian government approved Jehovah’s Witnesses as a legal religion. We were very happy in our new assignment.
In the early 1980’s, while we were serving at Bethel, a legal case in Italy became very well-known. A couple who were Witnesses were accused of causing their daughter’s death by not allowing her to have a blood transfusion. This accusation was false. Really, she died as a result of a serious blood disease that was common in Italy and other nearby countries. Brothers and sisters in the Bethel family helped the lawyers who represented the parents. A tract and a special edition of Awake! were printed and given to people to help them know the truth about that situation and to help them understand what the Bible says about blood. During those months, Paolo often worked up to 16 hours a day without stopping. I did my best to support him during that time.
ANOTHER CHANGE IN OUR LIFE
We had been married for 20 years when something unexpected happened. I was 41 years old and Paolo was 49 when I told him that I thought I was pregnant. In his diary, Paolo wrote for that day: “Prayer: If it is true, help us stay in the full-time service, not relax spiritually, and help us to be good parents by our example. Above all, help me put into practice at least 1 percent of all that I have said from the platform over the past 30 years.” When I think about that now, I can see that Jehovah truly answered Paolo’s prayer and mine.
Our lives changed a lot after Ilaria was born. Paolo and I sometimes became discouraged, as described at Proverbs 24:10: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” But we continued to support each other.
Today, Ilaria often says that she is happy her parents were busy in the full-time service while she was growing up. She always felt loved and cared for. During the day, I took care of her. In the evening when Paolo got home, he played with her and helped her with her homework. He did that even though he would sometimes have to stay up until two or three in the morning to finish his own work. Ilaria often said, “Dad is my best friend.”
Of course, to help Ilaria to do what was right, we had to discipline her, sometimes firmly. For example, I remember one time when she was playing with a friend but behaved badly. We explained from the Bible why she should not behave that way. We also made her say “I’m sorry” to her friend right away.
Ilaria says that her parents’ love for the ministry helped her to love the ministry too. Now that she is an adult and married, she better understands how important it is to obey Jehovah and follow his direction.
OBEDIENT EVEN DURING SAD TIMES
In 2008, Paolo found out that he had cancer. At first, it seemed that he would be able to get better, and he encouraged me very much. We tried to find the best doctors to take care of Paolo. Ilaria and I said long prayers to Jehovah together, asking for his help to be strong and endure. It was very hard for me to see someone who had so much strength and energy become weaker and weaker. Paolo’s death in 2010 was extremely painful for me. But it comforts me to think about all we were able to do during the 45 years we were married. We gave Jehovah our best, and I know that he will never forget our work. I eagerly look forward to the time when John 5:28, 29 comes true and Paolo is resurrected.
In my heart, I’m still that little girl who loves the story of Noah. I still want to obey Jehovah, no matter what he asks of me. I have learned that any problem we have, any sacrifice we make, or any loss we endure is small when compared to the wonderful blessings that our loving God gives us. In my life, I have seen that obeying Jehovah is always worth it.