Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by A. E. Tharp
HAVING finished a quarter of a century in full-time service of Jehovah and his King, I am reflecting on what a pleasant, busy time it has been.
In 1929 my father was a subscriber for The Golden Age. He also had some of the Watch Tower books of those days. “When the World Went Mad,” a Golden Age serial by Daniel Morgan, caught my eye and I enjoyed it. Next summer at a neighbor’s I saw my father’s copy of the book Creation. Then sixteen, and having just finished a course in geology in high school, I carried that book home and read it with mounting interest. On reaching the section about “consecration,” I made my unreserved dedication to Jehovah. The summer after graduating from high school I was baptized in a beaver pond and began going out in the service with the few local brothers, pursuing my purpose in life.
That fall The Watchtower showed we would be visited by two of the Society’s traveling representatives, A. H. Macmillan, accompanied by G. Y. McCormick. During that visit Brother Macmillan asked me, “Why don’t you pioneer?” He assured me that the Society would let me be a pioneer even though still a minor; so a letter was sent posthaste to Brooklyn. Soon the cherished appointment came. January, 1932, saw me walking “over the hill” to my territory about three miles away. Next summer I used my brother’s bicycle; then I was given an old mare and used a buggy until fall, when my brother joined me to pioneer with me until his death, two years later.
In Miles City, Montana, another partner and I awaited our expected assignment as special pioneers. It turned out to be Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There that year (1938) we were using the doorstep setup with the phonograph and placing the book Enemies. Many were our experiences. Outstanding was my getting an audience with the general manager of the Allis Chalmers Corporation and playing the “Resolution” record for him and his office force. Then, too, we saw the beginnings of mob violence that was to flare nationwide two years later. Valuable training also became ours on the way of working with a large congregation. That was also my first training in public speaking, which required considerable rounding out years later at Gilead.
Finally Aarne and I were separated permanently, and I was assigned to do zone servant work, then special pioneering again, followed by servant-to-the-brethren work. During this time, in Kansas and Oklahoma, mobs and arrests were frequent occurrences. These experiences united us more firmly and taught us to obey organization instructions more thoroughly.
Following Brother Rutherford’s death we learned that a building constructed by the Society during his lifetime in upstate New York had become the school of Gilead, where brothers were to be trained for missionary service. Would I go if invited? Would I be willing to relinquish existing ties and friendships for the sake of the ministry in some other country?
The immeasurable value of Gilead training was brought home to me in the fall of 1943 when I met in Danville, Kentucky, a graduate of the first class. He was doing servant-to-the-brethren work. We had known each other years before in Texas. What a noticeable difference in him, some of which at least I attributed to his Gilead training. Our discussion convinced me that Gilead was a serious step, a worthy one to be taken.
Yes, I was invited; and the third class saw me at Gilead along with the rest chosen for that class. How hard we worked! For the first time I got behind in reading The Watchtower and Consolation. The work was pleasant, though, with nearly everyone doing his utmost to meet the requirements. Kindness and patience shown by the instructors impressed us. So much there was to be studied that we wished we could have a year instead of five months. But now July, graduation, assignments and scattering. My assignment was servant-to-the-brethren work, even more enjoyable after Gilead than it had been before.
About February, 1946, a letter from Brother Knorr found me at McMinnville, Oregon. At last I had been assigned to Trinidad, British West Indies. I soon located it on the map as a little island off the coast of Venezuela, about ten degrees north of the equator. Then a few days were spent with the folks to tell them good-by, a week was spent at Bethel in Brooklyn to learn something of office procedure, and then off to Miami and on to Trinidad!
A daybreak landing at the airport in Trinidad revealed a pretty green spot surrounded by lovely mountains and fields of sugar cane—my new home! A brother from my class at Gilead, assigned to a neighboring island, was visiting Trinidad. With two others he had come over for the assembly to be served by Brothers Knorr and Franz. The branch servant was at the airport too, and we were soon acquainted and on our way to town. How different! Oxcarts, palm trees, little huts and dusky-hued people—reminding me much of my days at Laredo, Texas. Brother Knorr purchased the building that was to become the missionary home and branch office. There I stayed alone from May until October, when the rest of the missionaries arrived. Nearly every Sunday the local brothers and I did group witnessing somewhere, often having a public lecture, so easy to arrange in the open air, always well attended then and even to this day. When the others arrived there were nine of us in the home. Much work was to be done; results soon began to appear. There was one congregation (60 publishers) in the Port of Spain area when the home was opened. Now there are about 400 publishers with seven congregations. That was soon realized throughout the branch territory, as many as 3,500 attending assemblies held regularly here as elsewhere.
The branch is well organized and gives evidence of Jehovah’s blessing. Of the original nine some are still here, one of whom became my wife.
To every one of you who, as my younger brothers, are now thinking about pleasing Jehovah, let me say that it is good to remember your Creator in your youth. Be a pioneer; stay a pioneer; you will never regret it. Should you be invited to Gilead, go, but not to turn back. Stick with it. Persecution does not weaken; it strengthens the pure in heart who fear Jehovah. Remember, the New World society is Jehovah’s, and he will do his good pleasure by means of it and correct in it anything he does not like. We need not fret; we need to grow in faith, in patient endurance, and as exclusively devoted servants of Jehovah to keep on pursuing our purpose in life. Doing our part, we can rest assured that Jehovah will do his, always. Now may we all work to succeed by his undeserved kindness, continuing under his approval for the vindication of his name and our endless privileges in his new world.