‘My Word My Bond’
IT HAS been 15 years since I last walked down this London street. Had you seen me then, sporting a black bowler hat and carrying a rolled umbrella, you would have taken me for a typical English businessman. Indeed, I was one of thousands who commuted into “the City,” the capital’s financial district.
Not far from here lives the ‘old lady of Threadneedle Street,’ the Bank of England. The Stock Exchange is her close neighbor. Round the corner stands Lloyd’s of London, the famed insurance exchange. But my work took me along St. Mary Axe to London’s third major exchange, the Baltic.
Up the Corporate Ladder
On leaving school in 1937, I started work as an office boy with a merchant company that had worldwide shipping interests. I took my job as junior clerk seriously and set my sights on promotion. I hoped one day to become the department manager.
I was still the youngest employee when the outbreak of World War II interrupted my career, and in 1941 I joined the Royal Air Force. On returning to civilian life some five years later, I resumed work with my company. But things were different. Some of the former personnel were no longer with us. The war had taken its toll.
I soon settled down to the routine, and rapid promotion to manager status brought me personally in touch with the firm’s clients. I negotiated such business as the charter of oil tankers and arranged for ships’ bunkering facilities. To further our trade, the company nominated me for election to the Baltic Exchange.
On the Baltic
The Baltic Mercantile and Shipping Exchange Limited proudly bears a coat of arms featuring the motto “Our Word Our Bond.” By the early 1970’s, some 700 companies subscribed to this rule. They authorized their 2,400 representatives to follow traditions that date from the coffee-shop meetings of early 17th-century ship captains and traders whose verbal contracts were always binding. The Exchange still requires strict business honesty of its members.
From 1954 on, I regularly came to the Baltic Exchange premises where I conducted business on the Exchange’s floor, fixing cargoes for the shipping companies’ merchant vessels. When, on behalf of my company, I gave my word to an agreement, it became an unbreakable obligation despite any subsequent changes in the circumstances surrounding the deal. I always applied the same principle in my private life.
A Testing Time
I accepted the existence of God, but that was about it. During World War II, my religious ideals had been shaken. Clergymen preached peace, yet blessed our participation in war. ‘How,’ I often asked myself, ‘could such people be trusted?’
In 1954, Jehovah’s Witnesses began to visit my wife, Viv, to talk to her about the Bible. I did not oppose her, but I did ask her what I thought were awkward questions. As my questioning became more and more aggressive and Viv was unable to answer, she suggested bringing one of the Witnesses to meet me. I agreed.
The lady to whom my wife introduced me was smartly dressed and gave me clear answers to my questions. I asked her about the immortality of the soul, which she succinctly answered by quoting Ezekiel 18:4, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (King James Version) Then I put quite a few political questions to her. She replied that just as Jesus said his disciples would be no part of the world, so the Witnesses stick to a neutral stand on such issues. I was not too pleased about this. Curtly I retorted: “But if none of us had fought and Hitler had invaded, where would we be now?” To this she calmly replied that German Witnesses had also refused to fight. They had clung to their beliefs even in the face of execution!
I started to study the Bible with her, hoping to refute her beliefs. Little by little, my faith in the Bible grew. But was I being hoodwinked? Then I thought of the clergymen in my home area. I would put the same questions to them that I had asked the Witnesses.
I sought an invitation for my wife and me to visit the church for a discussion. That meeting was a disaster as far as bolstering my trust in the established church was concerned. Why, the clergyman rejected the Genesis account, something Jesus accepted! (Matthew 19:3-6) I came away from that and two similar meetings convinced that the Bible is God’s Word and that Jehovah’s Witnesses are indeed upholding it and living by it. My faith grew stronger.
My Word My Bond
As my Bible studies continued, I began to realize to what they would lead. I worried about my image not only in the City as an up-and-coming business executive but also locally where I was a prominent sportsman. I wondered what people would say when they discovered that I espoused the Witnesses’ beliefs.
As I had agreed to share in preaching the good news with our local Witnesses, I did not go back on my word. I hoped to show that by accompanying them just once, I was not scared. I suggested we visit people down a road where I knew no one. At the very first house, my companion and I found people who were eager to know the truth, and we started a Bible study right there and then.
The following week, I faced the challenge again. By the end of the morning, my mind was made up. I had the truth and I now felt the responsibility to help others learn it.
In my business dealings, I needed to think clearly to weigh any short-term advantages against the long-term effects. So I decided to serve Jehovah and devote as much of my time as possible to his work. I would hold my business to a minimum and so provide financially for my family. On January 8, 1956, I was baptized in public symbol of my dedication to do God’s will.
Viv and I had been planning to move from our apartment into a large house and then expand our family. But now, with Kingdom interests first in life, we decided to stay as we were. After our daughter left school in 1969 and started full-time preaching, the way was clear for me to expand my ministry. I sought an interview with my firm’s managing director to tell him of my plans to reduce my secular work.
I went over in my mind what I would say. I would respectfully present three alternatives: Give me part-time work, fire me, or I resign. He listened to my suggestions, smiled broadly, and commented: “Wait until you hear my proposal. I think it will alter your ideas.” He proceeded to explain that the board of directors had unanimously agreed to appoint me as a director of the company with a quadrupling of my salary plus the guarantee of becoming chairman of the company within three years. Hoping to persuade me, he reasoned: “With your increased salary you can easily pay a few people to do the Witnesses’ work that you would have done.” Sad to say, he misunderstood my view of God’s work.
There was no question in my mind as to what to do. I had given my word to Jehovah to do his will, and that before everything else. The managing director finally agreed that I could work part-time, provided business did not suffer. I accepted a substantial cut in salary.
Jehovah did not let me down. Four months later I was given the company directorship, this time with an agreement to continue part-time work but with a return to my previous salary.
Helping Others to Trust God
Among my close associates in the shipping company I worked for, I found others who responded to the message of the Supreme One who can be trusted. Indeed, it has been my joy to help four of these and their families to progress to the dedication of their lives to do God’s will.
In the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, rapid changes in the business world came. My company amalgamated with others. Eventually it was absorbed by a multinational corporation, and because I would not resume full-time employment, I terminated my employment in 1972.
The change of circumstances freed me to pursue my ministerial career full-time. Then, with my financial resources dwindling, I was about to take up part-time lecturing on shipping when I was invited to become a traveling minister visiting Witness congregations. Since then my wife and I have been more than well cared for.
Today’s business world has changed. Standards and ethics have eroded. There is more cut and thrust. Enemies, rather than friends, seem to abound. I, however, have the pleasure of traveling as a district minister throughout a wide area of England. How good it is to work among people who place their complete confidence in God, who says, “I have said I would do it and I will”! (Isaiah 46:11, The Living Bible)—As told by Ted Hunnings.
[Picture on page 13]
Serving as district overseer at an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses