Helping My Family Become Spiritually Rich
As told by Josephat Busane
I will never forget a train journey to Johannesburg, South Africa, in January 1941. My boyhood friend Elias Kunene and I were returning to our place of work after spending a vacation in Zululand.
ON THE train with us was a young man who had some muti, which is medicine believed to possess supernatural power, usually obtained from a witch doctor. The man smeared the muti on his eyebrow in the belief that it would act to ensure favor from his white employer. As we were getting off the train, Elias said: “That muti is his god.” Those words pierced my heart like a knife because in my bag I had my own muti that I had prepared according to a witch doctor’s prescription.
Elias and I had been studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so I realized that he had made far greater spiritual advancement than I. Immediately I threw the muti into a rubbish bin and afterward joined Elias in regularly attending the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Elias and I were both married men. So why did we work in a city some 250 miles [400 km] from home? How did city life compare with farm life in Zululand? And did our association with Jehovah’s Witnesses bring benefits to our families back home?
Life in Zululand
I was born in Zululand, South Africa, in 1908. Our family lived in the district of Msinga, a region of grassy plains, hills, and thorn trees. Here, in autumn, the pointed flowers of the aloe tree cover the landscape with a blaze of red. Cattle and goats graze on the hillsides between the trees. Kraals (collections of huts) and corn patches are scattered about the plains, maize being the staple food of the Zulu people.
Our kraal, like the others, consisted of a hut for my parents, one for my sister, and one for me and my brother. Another hut served as the family kitchen, and there was one for storage. Each hut was in the shape of a beehive, having a mud wall about a yard high and a dome of thatched grass on top. Between the huts chickens scratched the ground, pecking for food, and close by was an enclosure for the cattle. Our family was content with this simple farm life. We had food and shelter, and my father did not need outside employment.
Yet, the rural tranquillity of Zululand has often been shattered. These pleasant hills and rivers have been drenched with human blood. At the beginning of the 19th century, Zululand was occupied by several independent tribes. Then arose a Zulu warrior named Shaka. His army attacked all the surrounding tribes. Survivors fled or were absorbed into the Zulu nation.
Later, battles occurred between the Zulus and the Dutch settlers. One was fought at a river not far from our home. So much blood flowed that the water reddened, so it was given the name Blood River. Then came the British armies. At a hill called Isandlwana, not far from my home, thousands of people were slaughtered in one of many fierce battles between British and Zulu soldiers. Sadly, lasting peace has never come to our part of Zululand. From time to time, old tribal hatreds flare up.
A Search for Material Riches
My mother died when I was five. My father and my older sister, Bertina, cared for me and helped me get six years of school education. Then, at age 19, I started work as a shop assistant in the nearby town of Dundee.
I heard that many young men were earning more money in the city of Johannesburg, the center of South Africa’s gold-mining industry. So, the following year, I moved to Johannesburg and worked for many years posting advertisement bills.
In Johannesburg, I was overwhelmed by the attractions and opportunities, but I soon realized that city life undermined the traditional morals of my people. However, although many young men forsook their families who lived in the rurals, I never forgot mine and regularly sent money home to them.
My father died in 1938. As the eldest son, I was compelled by Zulu custom to “revive” our family kraal. So, the following year, I married a girl from Zululand, Claudina Madondo. Though married, I still continued to work 250 miles [400 km] away in Johannesburg. Most of my peers were doing the same. Although it was painful to be separated from my family for long periods, I felt an obligation to help them enjoy a higher standard of living.
Material or Spiritual Riches?
Mother had been the only churchgoer in our family, and her Bible was the only book in our home. Some time after her death, I became literate and immediately began reading it. But the doctrines and practices of the churches began to bother me. For instance, members continued in good standing even though they engaged in fornication. I asked preachers about such inconsistencies, but no one gave me a satisfactory explanation.
While in Johannesburg, Elias Kunene and I decided to search for the true religion. We visited churches in our neighborhood but were not satisfied with any of them. Then Elias met Jehovah’s Witnesses. When he tried to explain to me what he had learned from them, I told him that he had been misled. But after listening to his discussion with church leaders and seeing their inability to prove him wrong, I began reading publications of the Watch Tower Society that Elias gave me. It was at this time that I had the memorable train journey when Elias helped me discern the danger of trusting in muti.—Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Proverbs 3:5, 6.
I then joined Elias in regular association with the first black congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Johannesburg. In 1942, after dedicating my life to Jehovah, I was baptized in Orlando, Soweto. On trips home to Zululand, I would try to share my beliefs with Claudina, but she was deeply involved in church activities.
However, she began to compare our literature with her Bible, and gradually the truth of God’s Word reached her heart. In 1945 she was baptized. She became a zealous Christian minister, sharing Bible truth with her neighbors and inculcating it into the hearts of our children.
Meanwhile, in Johannesburg, I had the privilege of helping some to come to a knowledge of Bible truth. By 1945 there were four black congregations in the vicinity of Johannesburg, and I served as the presiding overseer of the Small Market Congregation. In time Scriptural direction was given to married men who worked far from their homes to return to their families and give more attention to their responsibilities as family heads.—Ephesians 5:28-31; 6:4.
Elias was the first to leave Johannesburg, never to part from his family again. As a result his wife and all five of his children became active Witnesses of Jehovah. Elias also reared four orphaned nieces and nephews, who became dedicated Witnesses. In 1983 he died, having set a fine example in faithfully carrying out the directions Jehovah gives through his Word and his earthly organization.
In 1949, I left my job in Johannesburg to care for my family in Jehovah’s way. Back home I obtained work with a livestock inspector as a dipping-tank assistant. It was difficult to support a family of six children on the meager salary I received. So to care for expenses, I also sold vegetables and corn that we grew at home.
Blessings of Greater Value
Although our family was not rich materially, we had spiritual treasures because of heeding Jesus’ directions: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”—Matthew 6:19, 20.
Attaining these spiritual treasures requires hard work, just as does digging for gold in the mines around Johannesburg. Every evening I would share a Bible text with my children and require each one to tell me what he had learned. On weekends I would take them, in turns, in the preaching work. As we walked from kraal to kraal, I would discuss Scriptural matters and try to impress the Bible’s high moral standards on their hearts.—Deuteronomy 6:6, 7.
For example, in order to be certain that our children did not steal, I made sure that any object they brought home was not stolen. (Ephesians 4:28) Similarly, if one of them told a lie, I did not hold back from using the rod of discipline. (Proverbs 22:15) I also required that they show proper respect for older ones.—Leviticus 19:32.
As family head, I set an example by not missing meetings, and I required the children to attend them as well. I saw to it that each child had a songbook, a Bible, and any other publication being used at the meetings. We also prepared for our meetings together, and if a child did not comment, I would try to help him to do so at the next meeting.
For many years ours was the only family in a position to provide hospitality to traveling overseers. These representatives of the Watch Tower Society had a fine influence on our children and built in them a desire to become pioneers, or full-time evangelizers. My wife and I were happy when our eldest son, Africa, began pioneering after completing ten years of schooling. Eventually he served as a traveling overseer, and later he was invited to the South Africa branch office of the Watch Tower Society, where he worked as a translator. He is now married and has children of his own. He serves as an elder in a congregation in Zululand, and he also has the privilege of helping the South Africa branch with legal problems that arise from time to time because of issues involving true worship.
Altogether, we had five boys and a girl. All six children are now grown and are strong spiritually. This has filled our hearts with much happiness—a deep contentment that can never be bought with material things. Four of my sons serve as elders in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses with which they associate. One of them, Theophilus, now enjoys the privilege of Bethel service at the South Africa branch.
Spreading the Truth in Zululand
When I finally returned to live with my family in Zululand in 1949, there were only three Kingdom proclaimers in our Collessie Congregation. In time the congregation grew, and a second congregation was established 20 miles [30 km] away in the village of Pomeroy.
Over the years our preaching work would sometimes be disrupted because of factional fighting in the communities. Churchgoers get involved in this tribal fighting. It is only Jehovah’s Witnesses who are known for their neutrality. Once, a fight broke out between the Mabaso and the maBomvu tribes in an area where I was dipping cattle. The people in the area were of the Mabaso tribe and might normally have killed me because they knew I came from the maBomvu tribe. However, they also knew that I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so they did not harm me.
During the 1970’s, incidents of tribal fighting worsened, and the district of Msinga became very unsafe. Along with some others, I decided to move the family to a more peaceful part of Zululand. In 1978 we settled in the town of Nongoma, where we began associating with the Lindizwe Congregation. The following year, my dear wife, Claudina, died. Her loss came as a severe shock to me, and my health deteriorated badly.
Yet, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, I revived sufficiently to be able to enter the pioneer service two years later. How grateful I am to Jehovah that my health has actually improved with this increase in preaching activity! I am now 85 and am still able to average over 90 hours in the preaching work each month. In January 1992, I moved with my son Nicholas to Muden, a part of Zululand where there is a need for more Kingdom proclaimers.
How thankful I am for the direction from Jehovah’s organization that encouraged ones like me to give better attention to the spiritual needs of our families! The blessings that have resulted are far greater than anything money can buy. (Proverbs 10:22) I praise Jehovah for all of this and pray for the time when his Kingdom will transform this earth into a paradise. Then life in these beautiful hills and valleys of Zululand will forever be tranquil as the inhabitants “sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree,” with “no one making them tremble.”—Micah 4:4.