I Heard God’s Name and Forgot About My Own
I WAS working hard to make a name for myself. I went to college. I majored in dramatics and radiobroadcasting. I was determined to become an actor. The war came along, and I was put in special services. I wrote, directed, and was master of ceremonies of army shows. In 1946 I was honorably discharged, and I moved to Hollywood where I had a contract with RKO studios. But I found acting too quiet for me, too dull.
So I tried working as a comedian. In front of live audiences, making people laugh—this was more like it! Good things started happening to me. Just five years out of the army and I’d toured the country with Harry James as his comedian. I’d worked every leading supper club on the West Coast and the Flamingo and Sahara hotels in Las Vegas. I was pleased with myself. I’d come far in five years and was really making a name for myself!
Then came October 1951. It changed everything. I heard another name and forgot about making a name for myself. I was booked as comedian on the number one television show on the West Coast. On that show was a minister. I asked what religion he was. “I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
“Would you repeat that?” I asked.
“Would you say it more slowly?”
I’d never heard the name Jehovah before. I invited this man and his wife to my house. That night my wife and I found out something very startling: God has a name! And that name is Jehovah! We learned that it was a name to be honored, sanctified, and made known. (Isaiah 43:10-12) We started going around asking everyone if they knew what God’s name was.
I witnessed to customers in the clubs where I worked. One man showed interest, was always asking questions. Once he said to me:
“You know, I like most religious people, but there’s one group I can’t stand.”
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“Oh? Any particular reason?”
“Well, just different things I’ve heard.”
“Tell you what. The Bible says we have to be fair. Next time one of the Witnesses comes to your door, invite him in. Tell him what you’ve heard. See what he says. That’s the logical thing to do. Would you do that as a personal favor to me?”
He agreed, and soon after, I left to work in Las Vegas. Three years later I was at an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a big man wearing a chef’s hat came out of the kitchen and grabbed me in a bear hug.
“Remember me?” he said.
“You look familiar.”
“Remember at the club here in the valley you would tell me about the Bible, and you said the next time a Witness came to my door to invite him in? Well, I did, I studied with him, and now I’m a baptized Witness!”
Three years earlier when I’d first talked to him, informal witnessing was all I had ever done. But since then both my wife and I had been baptized and were pioneering (preaching full-time in the field ministry). This experience impressed upon me the importance of informal witnessing.—2 Timothy 4:2.
Later, in 1957, we were assigned to Lakeview, a town of 3,000 in Oregon. The first day I arrived in town I went to see the city attorney.
“Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Yes. I understand that our ministers aren’t allowed to preach in this town.”
“Are you one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
“Yes, I am. In fact, I have some court decisions sent to me by Hayden Covington, the Watchtower Society’s attorney. I’d like for you to look them over.”
He did so, picked up the telephone in my presence, dialed a number. “Father? Jehovah’s Witnesses will be going from house to house. There’s no way we can stop them.”
We started working from door to door, and I also had one of the Society’s films, The New World Society in Action, which I showed in the churches in Lakeview. The minister of one of these churches came to our trailer one evening. “You’re upsetting my town!” he complained. He started following me from house to house. One evening I was at the home of a man, reading to him from his own King James Bible. Well, this preacher comes barging in.
“I see the Devil’s here ahead of me!” he said to the man. Spotting the Bible in my hand, he quickly added: “Hey! That book, it’s from the Devil too!”
“Are you talking about this Bible I have in my hand?” I asked.
He turned on me. “Yes! That’s what I’m talking about!” He assumed that I was using the New World Translation.
I looked at the man of the house. “You see how he feels about the Bible?”
“Please leave,” the man said to him. The preacher left.
We served in Lakeview for a year and a half. There were 7 Witnesses in the congregation when we arrived, 47 when we moved on to our next assignment. In 1958 we arrived in Mt. Shasta, California, and had the privilege of starting a new congregation there.
In 1960 we moved on to Redding, California, where there was a congregation of about a hundred Witnesses. The very first Sunday I was there, a sister challenged me during the meeting, saying I had misapplied a scripture. I was not tactful, I’m sorry to say. I referred to the Bible text that said a woman was not to teach in the congregation. (1 Timothy 2:12) This sister and two others walked out, slamming the door behind them.
After the meeting was over, I had a brother contact them to see if they would meet with me that evening. When they arrived I said:
“The congregation records show that you sisters are very active. Now, I’m new here, and I need all the help I can get. I have a list of about 50 Witnesses who are inactive. You sisters know these people. I’d like to assign you to call on them, tell them we are trying to make a new start here, and see if you can’t reactivate them. The three of you work hard and do well in teaching. I think you can help these families. Would you be willing to try?”
Nothing was said about the incident during the meeting that morning. They went to work, and soon the congregation was growing. Within a year we had 100 publishers in our congregation, plus over 50 in a new congregation in Anderson.
During the years that followed, I was sent to many different congregations to serve. Experience taught me one thing: Be kind and considerate to people. Be tactful. (Proverbs 15:1; Galatians 6:1; Titus 3:2) Especially in going from door to door, make friends, not enemies. So I listen to what people say and respond accordingly.
For example, one time the woman who answered my knock said:
“I have my own church.”
“You know what I appreciate about that?” I said. “It means you believe the Bible. You doubtless pray the Lord’s Prayer, and in it you ask for God’s will to be done on earth. We’ve had enough of man’s will, haven’t we? We want God’s will done. Now, what is his will for us? That’s the important question for us, isn’t it?” We talked about that for 20 minutes.
At another door a man said: “I’m Catholic.”
“You know what I really appreciate about Catholics?” I asked.
“They pray the ‘Our Father’ Prayer. It’s a wonderful prayer: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.’ Let me show you something interesting about that name.” I was able to do so.
Many times people say: “I’m busy.”
“I’m glad you’re busy. You know why? God loves busy people. I’m busy myself. I have two journals here made especially for busy people. The articles are short and to the point. I leave the two of them on a contribution of 40 cents. I know you’ll enjoy reading them.”
In other words, whatever a person brings up, I respond to it. I don’t ignore it, I use it. It helps me to ‘know how I ought to answer each one.’—Colossians 4:6.
In 1964 I had a very unusual experience in Montgomery, Alabama. Jehovah’s Witnesses were to have a convention in the Coliseum. Before it was to take place, protesters carrying derogatory signs paraded in front of the Kingdom Hall. The story had circulated that Jehovah’s Witnesses were going to break the law by trying to force integration at their convention. The Society instructed us to contact the city officials. Two of us got an appointment with Governor Wallace. When ushered into his office, we introduced ourselves and said:
“We are Jehovah’s Witnesses and feel that trouble might be brewing for us at our convention at the Coliseum. Stories are being circulated that we are going to try to break the law by trying to force integration . . . ” That’s as far as we got.
“Wait a minute,” Governor Wallace interrupted us. He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out the Society’s New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures and copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines.
“My grandaunt is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” he said. “She’s one of the anointed.” He called into his office a colonel in charge of public safety and instructed him to see to it that there would be no trouble at the Coliseum. We had one of the quietest assemblies ever.—Romans 13:4.
In our more than 30 years of full-time service, we have had many blessings. Our two boys pioneered while in high school, then served at the Brooklyn world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Upon leaving there, they worked full-time in the field ministry. Later one of our sons, Jim, died in an accident. We take comfort in the hope that, through the resurrection, we will see him again right here on earth. Our other son, Gary, is still pioneering.
My wife Marilyn and I are now living in Panama City Beach, Florida. Both of us are still full-time preachers of the good news, and from time to time I have the privilege of being used as a traveling representative of the Watchtower Society. Our joy has been in seeing Jehovah’s family of worshipers on earth grow to become millions, and we rejoice that we have been used to bring Kingdom truth to over 200 families. Surely, there is no work like Jehovah’s work!
How happy I am that back in October 1951 someone told us about the name of Jehovah and that we have had such a fine share in making it known to others!—As told by James Kennedy.
“That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.”—Psalm 83:18, King James Version
[Blurb on page 18]
That night we found out something very startling: God has a name!
[Blurb on page 19]
“I see the Devil’s here ahead of me!”
[Blurb on page 19]
Experience taught me one thing: Be kind and considerate to people. Be tactful
[Blurb on page 20]
Whatever a person brings up, I respond to it. I don’t ignore it, I use it
[Picture on page 18]
I thoroughly enjoy presenting the Awake! in my preaching work