Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by Doris Monroe
TWO milestones in my spiritual growth were passed before I finally chose pioneering as a life career. The first was having a part in bringing the truth to a former school chum of my sister. Although opposed at home, she began to come to meetings with us. In helping her we were actually building up our own faith.
The second milestone: About this time special pioneers were sent to our suburb, near Chicago. Meetings were held in a home and evening booklet work was begun. What a thrill for us to take our first publisher in the service! In spite of very limited training at the time, she continued on, soon was immersed and now had become our spiritual sister. That was the beginning of a close friendship that resulted in our sharing ten years of pioneering, graduation from Gilead and service in a foreign country.
When the special pioneers left I began my first study with a small elderly woman. She had gone through only the second grade. For her learning was difficult, but soon she was coming to meetings; and then one evening when we assembled for street magazine work she came also, having heard the announcement and being eager to take part.
The Society’s frequent letters calling for pioneers seemed to be directed to us. Though obstacles were in our way, these seemed to vanish as we reflected on what service privileges we had been using; so in the summer of 1943 three of us decided to pioneer, to begin January 1, 1944. That first year flew by. That summer we were happy to attend our first assembly as pioneers at Buffalo. In December came the Society’s letter inviting us to become special pioneers. We accepted, and finally our assignment came; we were to replace a couple who were being called to Gilead from Washington, Iowa. After having lived in Chicago, this Iowa town of 5,000 population seemed terribly small to us; the contrast was overwhelming. That was in March, 1945. We had arrived in a pouring rain, had no names of persons of good will and no place to go except a hotel. But next day was sunny and before evening we had found a place to live. So at last we were ready to begin our first special assignment.
No, we did not form a congregation or find much interest. Special pioneers had worked there before with little success. But within two months before the couple had gone to Gilead they called on a woman who took a booklet. She had come into the truth and now she accompanied us from door to door and studied The Watchtower with us on Sundays. Though we had no congregation, we tried to keep the schedule of a congregation and we grew in appreciation of the essential part it plays in one’s life as a Christian.
In August, 1945, we went to a larger territory, Ottumwa, Iowa. In this city of 40,000 we were glad to associate again with a congregation. A month after we arrived there the sister in Washington wrote us that one of the persons of good will left in her care was now in the truth. We could hardly believe it, but a few weeks later they both came to spend the day with us in the service at Ottumwa.
Now our days at Gilead were nearing—the eighth class, to begin after the 1946 assembly at Cleveland, which we attended. How thrilling it was to be of this first international class—to hear much about India, Africa, Finland, Ireland and other lands! One evening when experiences were being related a Finnish brother told those of a brother who had actually faced a firing squad in a prison camp. Then he pointed out the brother, one of our fellow students. Another grand moment was the evening the foreign brothers received their assignments to China, Africa, the Philippines, Fiji Islands, Malta—to mention just a few places they would soon be off to. Everyone was talking at once; the halls resounded with laughter. The rest of us longed to be receiving our assignments too. Finally came graduation day, and everyone left, wondering when we should meet again.
By now our threesome had increased; four of us were assigned to work with one of the New York city congregations. Months sped by, highlighted by a trek across the continent in August to the assembly at Los Angeles. We had hardly resumed work in New York when we were called to Philadelphia for preconvention duty for two months. While there we received our foreign assignment. Excitedly we tore open the envelope, one remarking we would probably go to Chile—it was farthest away. Sure enough, Chile it was!
Sailing from New York, seventeen days later we arrived at Valparaiso, our first assignment. This unusual city, Chile’s second largest, is built on forty hills, each named. On our arrival there was a congregation, very small. Often only one other person would attend besides the missionaries. During the first year our big problem was the language. Upon presenting our brief prepared testimony and pausing, the householder would begin to talk at what seemed a terrific rate of speed, using words that seemed miles long. But little by little we began to pick out the words and use them ourselves. Everyone was wonderfully patient with us. I used to marvel at how they could refrain from laughing at some of our funny mistakes; yet with a straight face they would correct us. Then several months later they laughed with us as they told us they hardly understood a thing we had said at first. Yes, some of the people we visited that first year are now publishers.
Brother Knorr’s visit to Chile in March, 1949, and our wonderful Santiago assembly then, with a peak attendance of 450, are delightful memories. Five years later when he came our attendance was over a thousand. When we came to Chile the average number of publishers was 200. This year we passed the 1200 mark. Sometimes progress seems slow when it is viewed from day to day, but as we look back over the years the results inspire us.
In January, 1950, we were assigned to Chile’s capital, Santiago. Six months later sixteen of us were on our way to the Yankee Stadium assembly. Thrilled beyond description to be there and to receive new instruments to use in the service, upon returning we resettled to our work. In the next three years our congregation kept growing. Encouraging it was to see how many of the publishers were maturing. But disappointments there were, tool as students would take hold for a while, then drop away. Here for many the love of the truth is not strong enough to make a change in their personal lives. Moral standards are not very high and an inborn tendency is to take an easy course through life. But in spite of this there are those who let the truth become the first thing in their lives. To have a share in aiding such ones is a happy privilege.
Yankee Stadium 1953—yes, we went by chartered plane. For all Chilean delegates an assembly high light was graduation there of Chile’s first missionary. He had been contacted by one of the missionaries during her first months here. Happy we were, too, to talk again at Yankee Stadium with our classmates serving in various parts of the world, hearing about their work; and it was quite evident that each one considered his assignment the best. We all agreed we would not want to go back to our first pioneer assignment.
On returning to Chile I made a back-call on a Watchtower subscriber. She told me she had been lending the magazines to an interested friend. Calling upon that friend, I found she had absorbed much of the truth. We began studying and after a few months she accompanied me in the service and was baptized at the next assembly. Another student who had begun to go with me from door to door asked me to accompany her to the home of a friend to whom she had witnessed. We placed a set of three books and a Bible and obtained a Watchtower subscription on the first call, and the following week began a study. Now she is ready to go with us in the service.
Kingdom service is the only worthwhile activity, giving greatest happiness and comfort, not only to others but to us. Recently this was forcibly brought home to me when my sister, with whom I had shared ten years of pioneering, was suddenly killed, just a few months after going to Africa to marry another missionary and continue full-time service there. Truly nothing was as sustaining to me then as having my days filled in the service, pursuing my purpose in life, bringing comforting news of the incoming glorious new world to the sheep. As I look back over my twelve years of pioneering I find that they have been, indeed, the richest years of my life. Joyously I look forward to the privileges of the next twelve, as well as countless ones beyond.