Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by Harry W. Arnott
THE joys and blessings of the April 3, 1955, talk and the activity that followed, and the Memorial season with its evident blessing from Jehovah, have made me want to put in writing my story. It begins around July, 1939, for it was then that, during a visit to our home by my grandmother, I first got to know of the truth from her. And right from the start I got to learn some lessons that have stood me in good stead during all the years since. Granny had been active in the witness work since 1915, yet during all that time from 1915 to 1939 she had seen little, if any, direct fruits from her Kingdom-preaching. So you can imagine her joy at helping me to take my stand. Since then she has had other like blessings, but her patience during those years was a real example to me. She gave me good Scriptural counsel also. I well remember her taking me aside one day, just after I had begun to take an active share in the service, and before she concluded her stay with us, and saying: “Here is something always to keep in mind: never allow yourself to become discouraged or stumbled by something one of the brothers may say or do. Remember that you are serving Jehovah, not men. If you stick to Jehovah and his organization you will not go wrong.”
In March, 1940, I was immersed, enrolling the following June as a pioneer. From then on I really began to pursue my purpose in life, and in all the years since I have been most thankful that all my energies have been in Kingdom service.
I know that in these days there is a need in many lands for one to have a part-time job to care for the necessities of living when one is a general pioneer; but right from the start I was grateful that I was able to get along without the need for such. Not that I had any finances of my own, or any outside help. I did not. I believe that I had about £6 (about seventeen dollars) as my total wealth when I entered the pioneer service at the age of 18, and I received no financial assistance from home. Some may feel that was foolhardy. Maybe it was; but I trusted in Jehovah, and though I learned to be “low on provisions” sometimes, yet I was not without what was essential. Looking back, I’m glad it was that way, for so many seem to have missed the joys of pioneer service because there were certain things, certain material possessions, a certain amount of money laid up, that were needed before the step of pioneering could be taken—and they just never seem to get to take the step. So I never did take a part-time job. But later, in 1942, I was assigned to special pioneer work in Britain as part of the expansion into isolated territory, and the Society’s financial provision was really appreciated.
While I was consistently pursuing my purpose in life, the only break in the past fifteen years of pioneer service was involuntary. That was during the war years when I wanted to continue my ministry but others thought differently and put me in prison. I really count myself fortunate to have shared this kind of experience with other brothers and sisters, who also had objection to breaking their exclusive devotion to Jehovah. It proved to be a most strengthening experience, although a test. With so much time on my hands (the first seventeen weeks I was locked up on my own for nineteen out of twenty-four hours, and even during the five hours of communal labor I was not allowed to talk to anyone) I had time for meditation. Then all the doubts I had ever had about the truth came back to mind: ‘Was I throwing away my life for a pipe dream?’ ‘Was I just being carried away by some youthful emotional experience?’ ‘Just why was I going through with these experiences?’ Then what Paul wrote also came to mind: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” And, despite my many shortcomings, it was the greatest encouragement to find that in my heart I did love the truth and wanted to please Jehovah. Now I had no doubts that it was the truth, and though I might fail, the truth would endure; so with Jehovah’s help I determined to stick to the truth.
What helped at that time was that along with these prison experiences had gone some wonderful times in the service in the special pioneer work. One particular assignment to isolated territory always sticks in my mind. I had a fine partner, who since has gone through Gilead, along with his wife, and they now are in South Africa. The Christian love and companionship we shared was a wonderful blessing to both of us and made the work all the more a delight. Within weeks of arriving in that isolated assignment we had twenty studies going in the one town, and within the year it was possible to organize a new congregation. Seeing the “productive seed” of God’s Word thus reproduce in such a short time was a happy thrill. There was hard work along with the joyful experiences, of course, including cycling some sixty miles some days to care for studies in the scattered farms up in the hills. But that taste of real pioneering quickened the desire to do missionary service some day, Jehovah being willing. Quite vividly I recall cycling home around midnight after ten or twelve hours’ service. As we went along we would talk over the blessings of the day, or often marvel at the wonders of the universe, as the stars and moon shone at their best in that crisp, clear air of northern Scotland.
When I first heard of Gilead I wanted to go. I guess there was the thought of “going places” in the spirit of adventure. But I felt, too, that it was the only logical step to take—to register for Gilead when the opportunity came. If I held back I felt I would be putting a restriction on the organization’s use of me. If I did register and was not called, then that was that. But it certainly is best to let Jehovah direct us in our assignments, and since I had dedicated my life to do Jehovah’s will, I could think of no valid reason for ceasing to pursue my purpose in life.
Next to dedication and going into the full-time service, Gilead was the most important step in my life. So much has been said about the training at Gilead that there is little I can add. But I believe that it was not my learning much that was new that impressed me most (although I did learn many new things), but rather that Gilead was like taking the truth and handling it anew, bringing together the many things learned (and mostly dimmed from lack of use) and fitting them together into one brilliant, clear picture, thus deepening more than ever before our appreciation and understanding of the truth.
After Gilead I was sent to Northern Rhodesia, and here until now I have been for nearly eight years. And what eventful years! On arrival I did some special pioneer work, having some happiest months in seeing many Europeans here accept the truth. It was a privilege to help establish new congregations. At first, however, I felt the climate might get in the way of my keeping on in this assignment. To most folks it is an equable climate, but I found it most enervating. I began to get bouts of heat exhaustion. Once while speaking at an assembly I collapsed in the middle of the talk. Though I was tempted to ask for a change of assignment, I’m glad so far that I didn’t ask definitely to be moved. It hasn’t turned out as bad as I had imagined. Once again it has been the spiritual blessings in the assignment that have encouraged me to keep going. If it wasn’t for that and Jehovah’s help by his spirit and his organization, I might have quit, for the flesh is weak—I know mine is. But just to be at one of the assemblies of the African brothers here, to listen to the singing, to have the privilege of talking to them and to see how eagerly and intently they follow each point of counsel and instruction as the program develops, makes it all worthwhile.
After being here for six years I got married to a graduate of the same class of Gilead. We both worked at the branch. There followed the happiest months of my life, sharing a blessed companionship with a lovely girl wholly devoted to Jehovah and an ideal helpmate. We had waited a long time, both of us, to share such a happy companionship and we were determined by Jehovah’s help to use this added blessing to his praise. Then, just five months after we were married, my wife was killed in a car accident. That was a little less than a year ago, so the event still is easy to recall. I was in the accident myself, but escaped without any serious injury. I was able to resume work at the branch within a day or two. But for a while I was stunned by the tragedy. It was then I learned to appreciate what a wonderful blessing the truth is, and especially to have the privilege of full-time service. There is no doubt that true spiritual healing comes from Jehovah, and the closer we are to him and his organization, the more we are actively participating in the things of the New World society, the more effective is the healing.
So here I am in Northern Rhodesia after seven and a half years of varied experiences, all of which have strengthened my hope and trust in Jehovah. I know that it has not been in my own strength that I have kept on in full-time service. There is the temptation (and I fall into it sometimes) of being self-reliant, instead of relying entirely on Jehovah. On the other hand, there is the danger of becoming despondent, feeling incapable of handling an assignment—again not relying on Jehovah. So I have been especially thankful these past years for the continual counsel from the ‘faithful and discreet slave,’ to help us always to look to Jehovah, giving the best we can and leaving the results to him; for he is the One who can keep us in his service. Thankfully rejoicing now in my privilege as branch servant, my desire is to continue in full-time service right on down till Armageddon, and, of course, beyond, in the new world, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, and to do so in whatever capacity Jehovah’s organization wants to use me. I hope I shall have the necessary health and strength to do that and, above all, keep the right condition of heart and mind, following along wherever Jehovah through his reigning King, Christ Jesus, leads his people. I am glad I started the pioneer work and pursued my purpose in life. Jehovah has certainly added his blessing.