Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by Rosa May Dreyer
LITTLE did I realize what the future held for me when I told my freshman high-school teacher that I wanted to be a Baptist missionary to China. On finishing school I had learned enough of the truth to get that idea out of my head. In my perplexed state I became a teacher, but found it harder every year to do and teach all that the public school system required.
In the spring of 1936, after reading the article in The Golden Age, “Serving God or Mammon,” which set forth the many lies taught by the school textbooks, I made up my mind to pursue my purpose in life to be a pioneer. My problem: Was I justified in cutting off my financial income from my widowed mother and six younger brothers and sisters? I decided that since some of them could take on the financial load, why not let them?
I began my pioneer career September 1, 1936, with another girl from my home congregation of St. Joseph, Missouri. Within two weeks she got married; so in Muskogee, Oklahoma, my first official assignment, I found another partner and we worked along with a married couple who had a car.
In October we took in the Newark, New Jersey, convention. The trip and all events were one big thrill for me. Those were days of trouble in Newark. We worked in ‘hot’ Spanish territory, but had fun dodging the police as we witnessed and placed quantities of books and booklets. After the convention we went to the factory in Brooklyn and had sound equipment mounted on our car and were invited to dinner at Bethel. With a new pioneer every little thing is a big thing, so I can say we were thrilled to talk with Brother Rutherford, who encouraged us to continue on in our work. After some sight-seeing around New York we journeyed south to Fort Smith, Arkansas, singing all the way.
For the next seven months we worked only business territory in southern cities, including Hot Springs, Arkansas; Natchez and Vicksburg, Mississippi; and Lafayette and Lake Charles, Louisiana. Oh, I could write pages and pages about the things that happened during those seven short months—how we got into all the factories and witnessed to all the employees and how, of course, sometimes we were thrown out; how the French police in Lafayette trailed us every day and pulled the sound car in on a wrecker; how we enjoyed supper with friends in their houseboat on the Mississippi River; how we enjoyed witnessing to occupants of old mansions, such as General Lee’s and General Grant’s, around Natchez; and how we used the sound car evenings for inviting people to take sides with Jehovah (by means of beautiful quartet numbers and hour lectures.) Those daily pioneer experiences were so much in contrast with school experiences that I went around singing like ‘a bird out of a cage.’
You may wonder whether I had any financial difficulties in the beginning. No, I did not; nor have I had any during my eighteen years of pioneer service. A very precious letter from the Society came to me with my first pioneer assignment. It sounded like dear Brother Sullivan talking to new pioneers. It cited Matthew 6:25-34 and in substance said: ‘Your heavenly Father feeds the fowls of the air and clothes the grass of the field. Will he not do that much and more for you? He has said he will, and invites you to prove him.’ I have proved Jehovah; and he has proved true to his word.
Now let me go back to the end of my first nine months of pioneering. My partner and the married couple stopped pioneering and went to their respective homes. Without a partner again, I too went home for three months, at my brother’s invitation, to work part of the local congregation’s rural territory. He provided me with a car and gasoline.
In September of 1937 I went to the convention in Columbus, Ohio, with all my possessions in two suitcases, hoping to find another partner, and I did. She was Shirley Hendrickson, a kind, honest, jolly person that has proved for seventeen years to be a valuable asset in my pioneer life.
Shirley and I started out together in the Cincinnati, Ohio, pioneer camp. I had been one of the 200 chosen at the Columbus convention for special pioneer work, so by the early part of November we were at our new assignment in Waterbury, Connecticut.
In Waterbury I met a young sailor preparing to become a Navy chaplain. For over an hour he detained me with many questions and finally took only a booklet, as he had only a nickel besides enough for a pack of cigarettes, as he later told me. However, because of his apparent interest in the organization, I returned to see him the next morning with a gift of the Yearbook and left him the address of the Kingdom Hall. On that week end I was out of the city, but learned that he had attended the Watchtower study. The following Thursday he was at the service meeting, where an Informant article on smoking was considered. That was the end of his wasting money on cigarettes. For the next two weeks he accompanied me in the service and decided that he wanted to be a pioneer. Realizing that he did not have much knowledge, he took two weeks off to study. Two months from the day I met him he became a pioneer. Yes, he stuck. I saw him with his family at Yankee Stadium.
Happily we trudged along over New England’s snow and ice, with a book bag and spare package of books and lunch in one hand and a phonograph in the other, which sometimes served to ward off a vicious dog or to save one from a fall on the ice. From Waterbury we went to Torrington, Connecticut. It is a pleasant memory that there we had the privilege of helping a young brother and sister to get started in the service. Now they are missionaries in Italy.
From Connecticut we went to Massachusetts: first to Pittsfield, then to Leominster, where we worked in a group of five special pioneers. Placements were few there in French Catholic territory, but a brother and sister opened both their home and icebox to all five of us without any charges.
Our next assignment was Fitchburg, followed by Boston. On my contacting the congregation servant there, he put a letter into my hands from the Society’s legal department advising me to teach at the Kingdom School in Sudbury, a town twenty miles out of Boston. This brought tears to my eyes and to Shirley’s too; but, continuing to pursue my purpose in life, I accepted it as an assignment from Jehovah through his organization. Though all was not rosy during those two school terms, I did not get rusty as far as the service was concerned. I had the use of a big, old Packard in which I took a dozen children in the service on Saturday and Sunday besides two afternoons each week.
In May of 1940 I left Sudbury to resume my pioneer work, but it was not until the following December that Shirley and I got together again, this time in San Antonio, Texas. Because of the circumstances under which we lived, the hardest year of our pioneer life was spent there. But since we went there under the authorization of Brother Rutherford, we stuck it out. In due time Jehovah always has some way of taking his servants out of a difficult situation. He delivered us by giving us a special pioneer assignment, first in Alice, Texas, then in Aransas Pass, where we were when our questionnaires for Gilead came.
Gilead! Something entirely new before us! In a few weeks we found ourselves transported from sunny Texas to the snow-covered grounds of Gilead. It was now the first Sunday in February of 1943. The next day we ‘guinea pigs’ of the first class took our places for work—I mean it was work for me; but I was so happy to be there. My joyful experiences at Gilead were to me like a night’s pleasant dream of things in the New World.
The five short months quickly passed and Shirley and I and two others then spent two years pioneering in Texas border towns, waiting for entrance into our foreign assignment, Mexico. There in Eagle Pass one day I met a real sheep rubbing away on a washboard. After a bit of reading and a little study help she accepted the truth and became a wonderful publisher. Her whole family too soon became part of the New World society.
On May 21, 1945, we entered Mexico as instructors. Twenty-one were originally assigned here; eleven have stuck. These eleven I am sure will say with me: “I would not by choice be anywhere else.” Pioneering for nine years in this one city (Mexico City) has given me a joy I had not experienced before: that of seeing 175 publishers increase to over 1,300 and one unit subdivide into 20. There has also been a special satisfaction and joy derived from taking the Kingdom message to people who have never had a Bible in their hands and then see them, in my presence, take down their images and saints and destroy them.
Placements have been very good all along and I’ve found it very easy to start studies; but new studies are always being started and others dropping off. Generally, women here are slaves to their husbands, so even though they accept the truth many of them are unable to attend the meetings and go in the service.
When we have an assembly in the city I feel as a happy mother of many children feels at a family reunion. I get hugs and kisses from all sides from different ones that I have studied with during the past nine years and who now are publishers in the various twenty units. And to see there publishers to whom I had taken the truth, with their companions of good will, makes me feel like a proud grandmother.
I have certainly experienced the fulfillment of Jesus’ words: “No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time.” (Mark 10:29, 30, NW) Though I do not know what tomorrow holds for me, I hope I can continue pursuing my purpose in life in my foreign assignment until ‘the houses are without inhabitants.’
He that has endured to the finish is the one that will be saved.—Matt. 24:13, NW.
[Picture on page 393]
Rosa May Dreyer