Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by Victoria Dougaluk
DURING the past few years, while studying at the homes of people of good will or associating with Jehovah’s people in general, I often have heard remarked: “With all your experiences you should write a book about your missionary life.” I being out daily in the service and having such a full schedule, this was, of course, quite impractical. However, it was recently suggested that I write, not a book, but a few high lights that stand out during years that I have been pursuing my purpose in life as a missionary. Confidentially, I think a book would be simpler, as there is so much that can be said.
So back to the year 1939 when my mother, a resident of Chippawa, Ontario, Canada, after having frequented all the churches in the district looking for the truth, finally found in the Bible, with the aid of Watch Tower publications, what satisfied and continues to satisfy her. In spite of her patiently showing us the contrast between true and false religion, I continued to go to the Roman Catholic church, where I was a member of the choir, youth organization and catechism class. I remember her tactfully pretending to teach me to read her native Ukrainian tongue while at the same time choosing scriptures containing promises of Kingdom blessings for me to read. Her patience was rewarded when one Sunday, of my own free will, I left the church and waited outside for mass to finish so as to walk home with my sisters. The congregation servant and other brothers were just passing, taking my mother in door-to-door work. Seeing me on the church steps at such an early hour, they stopped and asked if I would join them. I was very happy to do so. At the time there was a girl of my own age in the car, who encouraged me very much and told me I had done the proper thing by leaving, as I could not partake from two tables.
At that time I was twelve, and ever since I have always appreciated the energy, patience and time the brothers of that area spent in training me, never feeling I was too young to bother with. In September, 1940, I dedicated myself to Jehovah, along with my mother and a younger sister.
Shortly after this a pioneer from Newfoundland came to visit our congregation servant. He was brought to our home so that we might hear some of his experiences. I recall sitting there entranced and saying, one day I would be a missionary like that. This brother’s encouraging words stayed with me and were emphasized when, in 1942, I attended my first assembly in Cleveland, Ohio. There I met many full-time workers and they all seemed such a happy lot. So I questioned them about their activities and resolved that as soon as possible I would put in my application for full-time pioneer service.
In October, 1943, at the age of 16, I began to pursue my purpose in life, my new career. After a short period of working alone in the rurals on my bicycle I was assigned to the city of Toronto, Canada, along with another sister—a complete stranger to me. It was not long to remain that way.
I like to think back of the kindness of the Toronto branch office in getting me settled, and of the love that the brothers showed in feeding, clothing and sheltering me. Being away from home and very young, I had much to learn and appreciated the counsel of the older ones in the truth.
Bringing my Bible students to the meetings and watching them graduate to publishers was my dream come true. What a privilege to be used by Jehovah in this way! I was very happy in thus having a share in the vindication of Jehovah’s name.
After a year my sister joined me in the full-time service, having been encouraged by the experiences I had related in my letters. This brought a change of assignment to another congregation. At the time my sister was 15; so again I mention what a help the older brothers were in aiding us to grow to maturity. We had many interesting Bible studies in this assignment, our study book at the time being Children. One study was with a family of deaf-mutes. At first it seemed a real barrier, our not being able to talk to each other; but soon I found it was quite simple to talk with my hands and make myself understood. The family accepted the truth and came along in the door-to-door work, using small cards that explained the purpose of their call. They moved shortly afterward and it was a thrill to know that they attended the 1953 Yankee Stadium assembly in New York, traveling 2,000 miles to do so. Having acquired this new means of thought communication, later on I was able to carry on studies with four other deaf-mute families.
Six months later I received an invitation to the special pioneer ranks. Our assignment was an isolated territory in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario. Having been told to go as soon as possible, we immediately made inquiry as to accommodation. That very afternoon we moved, making arrangements to stay with a family for a week. It became our home for a year and a half.
Special pioneering called for more hours, more back-calls, this resulting in more experiences, more blessings. We would leave very early in the morning, taking our lunch, which we would eat in the huge cemetery nearby, and returning only after nightfall. We often witnessed to the caretakers and remember their astonishment at our fearlessness in such a place. One worker subscribed for The Watchtower and took the address of the Kingdom Hall nearest his home.
The sister we lived with often came along, spending the entire day with us, adding variety and pleasant companionship. In fact, the fellowship of the entire congregation we attended at the time did much to build us up spiritually for what was yet to come.
In our assignment we were very content, lacking nothing; but I will admit that secretly we were entertaining the thought of one day being sent to the Province of Quebec. We had heard of the persecution of the brothers there, because of their preaching work, how many of them were mobbed, beaten and imprisoned. We began thinking like this: We have our youth, strength and health; why, an assignment like that would be ideal for us, as we want to have a real share in the fight for freedom along with the brothers already there.
You can imagine our excitement when one day not only did my sister receive an invitation for special pioneering, but both of us were asked to go to Montreal, Quebec, to carry on our ministry there. We also heard that our younger sister was starting her third successive year as a summer pioneer, intending to join us in due time.
Before our leaving for Montreal others also had been invited to Quebec and we were called in to the Toronto branch. The importance of learning French was stressed; the customs of the people were explained, and we were encouraged in general. This gave us a fine start.
May 1, 1946, saw two excited and nervous sisters pulling into the big city of Quebec Province. Thankfully we were met by a brother who was then in charge of the legal affairs in Montreal. We were taken aside for a meal, then to the weekly service meeting of the congregation to which we had been assigned. At that time only one congregation was holding meetings, and I shall never forget coming out of the hall, my head feeling the size of a pumpkin, having tried so hard to understand all that had been said, in French. I recall listening to an English-speaking pioneer answering questions in French, and how much I admired his having made such progress. I was determined to do likewise.
It wasn’t long before we were experiencing what we had at one time read about. My sister was arrested and taken regularly to the juvenile court and I was a regular attendant at the recorder’s court, so much so that the judge one day informed me that I was the biggest nuisance that had ever come into the place. We had many opportunities of witnessing, not only to the court personnel but to other prisoners. A great bond of love grew up between the brothers who shared prison experiences; one occasion I specially recall: Several of us had been brought in together and as the bail would come through, the oldest, or those with families at home, were released first. In the end two of us remained. Six days passed, we not knowing when our turn would come. Finally bail came through, but only for one. The French sister with me said, ‘Two or nothing’; so gave up her immediate freedom to stay on with me. This was appreciated more than words could express. Eventually Jehovah’s witnesses came to be very much respected for their fight for freedom, as all attempts to discourage us failed. Their efforts to deaden our zeal made us all the more determined to carry on and find the sheep in that area.
This, however, was not our biggest problem. It was the French language. We realized that the only way we could be of help to the French people would be to talk to them in their own language; so having moved in with a family having no knowledge of English, we set about on this task. We wore out dictionaries. We would put into practice every new word learned, until slowly words finally came to make sense, then phrases, then thoughts or ideas. There would be hearty laughs at our attempts, but the French people were very helpful in explaining what we wanted to know.
Brother Knorr’s visit to Montreal in the latter part of 1946 meant a great deal to the Quebec pioneers. Sixty-six of us were invited to Gilead for the ninth class (1947), to be trained for special missionary work in Quebec Province.
At Gilead we learned French grammar along with all the other essential topics. It was just the impetus we needed to get back into the field, having renewed strength, new refutation and increased knowledge. The unity and love manifest there trained us in how to live our everyday lives as well. The young girl who had encouraged me when I first left the church steps, never to return, attended the same Gilead class as I. Our having been to Gilead meant that now more was required of us; but by our having Jehovah’s spirit, His Word and His organization (for which we continually give thanks), all obstacles were overcome and we continued to enjoy the blessings of full-time pioneering.
In October, 1949, my sister and I were sent to the town of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, an isolated territory thirty-five miles outside of Montreal. A friend drove us out to look for accommodations. Everywhere we inquired the people would say: “I will have to phone my priest to see if it is permissible to rent to non-Catholics.” After trying several places we finally found a woman who agreed to rent us her front room with the intention, as she later admitted, of converting us to the Catholic faith.
At that time we were petitioning the people for a written Bill of Rights for Canada. The first week the majority signed, agreeing freedom of religion was everyone’s right. Sunday’s sermon brought a change of scene. The parish priest announced that no one was to sign, that we were “Communists,” that we were ‘the foolish virgins of the parable,’ etc. Our landlady was warned to put us out after two weeks. One morning she told us to leave the house within two hours or our belongings would be put on the street. She cried as she informed us, adding that this was not her own idea. Taking our clothes to the train-station lockers, we began another search for lodgings, but to no avail. We were obliged to return to Montreal and for the next three days our time was spent hiking back and forth between these two cities looking for another home. We found it on the city’s outskirts, with a very openminded family that even after having been insulted in the local papers refused to put us out.
After a time we were arrested, charged with selling Bibles. Upon our trial we won. This stopped the mobbing that had become a daily routine and also gave us police protection. Later we were joined by two other missionaries and in due time we had the joy of establishing a new congregation. Several persons took a firm stand for the truth, being obliged to leave town to look elsewhere for work. To us, though, it became real home, and the territory being almost entirely French we were able to progress in the language. On many occasions people took us to talk to the local priests at their presbytery, not believing that we had the ‘good Bible.’ These discussions strengthened us as we realized how little these seminary and theologically trained men knew of the Scriptures. One even objected: “How do you expect me to discuss the Bible? I am a priest, not a Bible student.” Another, a Dominican “Father,” swore at us during a discussion in a closed retreat building when we showed him in his own Bible that his proof of “a trinity” taken from 1 John 5:7 was an interpolation. The young man who had driven us there was disillusioned, having at first promised us that though he did not know the answers to our questions surely the “Fathers” would.
September (1951) began another adventure in our missionary life. We were assigned with a classmate to Trois Rivieres, Quebec, eighty-three miles north of Montreal, along with five other newly graduated missionaries of Gilead’s seventeenth class. At the beginning they were strangers to us, but, we being able to find only two rooms to accommodate the eight of us, it was not long before we became acquainted. Our first day of service began by a visit to the local chief of police. This was to inform him of our arrival and intentions, so as to spare his men the need to make unnecessary investigation of false charges, which expectedly would be phoned in, that we were “Communists.” After we explained the method of our work, he wished us much success. Eight missionaries working every day soon brought the comment that an army had invaded the town. At first the priests tried several means to stop our working there, even following us from door to door to warn the public. A call to the police one day, to arrest us, was foiled when the police, on seeing who it was, drove right past. When we obtained larger quarters our home became a Kingdom Hall.
Many upon whom we called commented on the fact of eight girls living together in peace. That alone proved to them that we had a peaceful organization and that God’s spirit prevailed. Living in very close quarters, every one of us learned much and found that our particular individual way of doing certain things was not always the right way; so each in turn gave in to do better. We found that when there was organization there was peace. Living together for over two years united us as a real family, and when the time came to leave we realized what a strong bond had been established.
Now something new awaited us: an established congregation. Faithful pioneers had worked very hard to build up this group under very trying circumstances. Like Moses, we felt quite incapable of taking over, but knowing that our strength lay in Jehovah, we prayerfully took up our responsibilities. Soon we found the publishers responding and co-operating to further the Kingdom interests, and our mountain melted away to a molehill. A year later we were still increasing and very much enjoying our association with these “other sheep” who are in so great need, though gradually growing to maturity.
My sister, who had accompanied me for over ten years, now has left for another assignment along with another member of the family, my brother-in-law; but in her place my younger sister (a pioneer of three years), along with her husband (a full-time servant of five years), came into Quebec Province. In being thus privileged to be used by Jehovah I have been very happy. Pursuing my purpose in life as a missionary has proved it.
Now I am pursuing my purpose in life in a different capacity. After spending some time at the Toronto Bethel home, I married and became a member of the Brooklyn Bethel home, where I now live and serve as Mrs. C. A. Steele.