Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by Charles Eisenhower
IT WAS back in 1933, on a farm in Pennsylvania, U.S.A., that I first came in contact with Jehovah’s witnesses. My father borrowed the book Government from my Sunday-school teacher. He enjoyed the book so much that, upon returning it, he came home with another book called The Harp of God. Most of father’s extra time was spent with these publications.
One day he told mother and me what he had been reading. “These books,” he said, “tell about God’s kingdom. They prove that the earth is not going to be burned up, that there is no such place as a fiery hell, such as the clergy teach,” and as we were taught in the Lutheran church.
What father said made me happy. Even though I was only a boy of fourteen, I could not understand why a loving God would want to destroy this planet, nor could I understand why he would want to torment people in fire forever and ever. The earth was a beautiful place to me. Often I would walk through the forests near our home and the beauty and serenity would thrill me. “If only the whole earth were as beautiful and as peaceful as this,” I would say to myself. So what father said delighted me greatly. It gave me courage and hope and vastly increased my appreciation in God.
Soon after father’s talk with us, mother and I started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses. It was not long after that that we left the Lutheran church and became preachers of the good things we had learned as Jehovah’s witnesses. We spoke first to our neighbors and then to others.
Farm work kept us busy, but we did not let it interfere with our Sunday service. Faithfully every Sunday we would go preaching, staying out almost all day. Then at night we would travel twenty-five miles to the Watchtower study.
The first time I preached in a city I was arrested and taken to the police station. It worried me considerably, until I arrived at the station and found other witnesses there. Sunday preaching, however, was not enough for me. I wanted to do more. It was during this time that I began to think about making pioneering my purpose in life.
Years passed, however. In fact, my sister Viola, who at first opposed the work of Jehovah’s witnesses, had now become one herself and was pioneering. It was not until September, 1938, that I was immersed, and the following month I began to pursue my purpose in life as a pioneer.
With one change of clothes and thirty dollars in my pocket I started out for Washington, D. C. There I worked out of the pioneer home for a few months. Later I drove a sound truck, and after that there was life in a trailer and plenty of preaching in rurals and villages. From Washington I went to Texas, where I learned what pioneering was really like. Some days we went to bed with empty stomachs. There were days when we ate just the fruit we had exchanged for literature placements that day. But there was always a tomorrow when things would brighten up a bit. These trials taught us precious lessons in faith and how Jehovah provides. In Texas I was made a special pioneer.
Troubles, trials and tribulations marked 1940. I was arrested several times and questioned about my ministerial status. Even my last name brought the law down on me. My last name is Eisenhower, which happens to be a German name. Because of this fact I was taken by Texas law officials for a Nazi spy. That still amuses me. The name Eisenhower had not as yet become a household word throughout the world as it did come to be when Dwight D. Eisenhower became commander of Allied forces in Europe and later president of the United States of America, of which Texas is a part.
On two occasions, while pursuing my purpose in life as a pioneer in Texas, I was ordered by officials to leave town in twenty-four hours. But I stayed and continued working. One night the police came and told me to leave town or they would run me out. They gave me two hours. I was concluding a Bible study when they returned. Seeing that I would not leave voluntarily, they ushered me out to my car, took me to the city limits and told me to keep going. I did, but much to their dismay I returned, not alone, but with a large group of witnesses and we worked the town. A mob formed. Eighty-nine of us were jailed for seventy-two hours without bail. They accused me of being the ringleader.
While in jail I was introduced to a lovely sister who, about three months later, became my wife. Not being able to work in this town, I was given another assignment. In 1942, however, we returned to this town where we had been jailed, mobbed and run out, and we worked it. The townspeople would run us out of places, women would chase us with brooms, others would shout threats. But we stayed and worked and finally formed a small congregation. From there my wife and I were assigned to Dallas, Texas, which was a blessing in contrast.
November, 1942, is a memorable month in our life, because in that month we received application forms to attend the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, which was to open February, 1943. We felt extremely inadequate, but grateful for the privilege. Our applications were accepted. We sold our car and trailer and headed for school.
That was Gilead’s first class. The school was new, the classes were new, the instructors and students were new. Everything there in connection with the school was happening for the first time. So much was jammed into our heads that at times it seemed impossible to contain it all. With time we became adjusted and Gilead won a very dear place in our lives. In the brief five months at Gilead we had learned much that would help us to continue in the service.
Three months after leaving Gilead my wife and I, along with a group of ten other missionaries, were assigned to go to Cuba. We were the first Watchtower missionaries to leave the United States. Things were different in Cuba. The first night we slept on the floor. The next day we bought beds, made clothes closets and dressers from apple boxes. We did not have much of this world’s goods, but we were a happy group.
After getting settled there was preaching to do. To venture forth in a strange land took a tremendous amount of courage and faith. Cubans spoke Spanish in a rapid-fire fashion. I did not understand a word that was said. Fortunately for me, I had a phonograph and a sermon recorded in Spanish. At Gilead I had memorized a few theocratic terms and a short sermon in Spanish, which I repeated with some skill. So when the recorded speech ended I tried my best to explain in Spanish what I was doing. The people would wince as I struggled over words and slaughtered their beautiful language. But they were patient and kind, which encouraged me greatly. When I ran out of things to say I simply said adiós and went on my way.
To conduct a Spanish study I took two sets of books with me, one set in English and the other in Spanish. After a time I saw that it was better to try to forget English altogether and try to think in Spanish. Slowly I could see that I was making progress. This thrilled me, because I knew that I was learning the language!
The work went along well. Several of the persons with whom I had studied became publishers. Cuba had become home. After Brother Knorr, the Watchtower Society’s president, visited Cuba in 1945, a missionary home was established. Under a new arrangement that began at that time, we lived better, ate better and did better work. There were only 500 publishers in Cuba when we arrived in 1943. After five years that number had increased to 5,000. It has been our happiness to witness this growth and to feel a part of it.
Brother Knorr told us that we would remain in Cuba until there were 5,000 publishers. Since we had that number we wondered if we would ever be changed. But sooner than expected there was a letter from the Society inquiring whether we would go to Argentina. It was not pleasant to think about leaving Cuba, because we had made so many dear friends. But, having resolved to make pioneering our purpose in life, we pressed on.
On October 6, 1948, six of us boarded a boat for our new homeland, Argentina. Needless to say, we were excited and hopeful. Now after nine years in the land we have become very much a part of its soil. We drink maté, eat asado and feel ourselves very close to the people. For over three years I have served as circuit servant, visiting all the congregations in the country. The publishers have matured and the congregations have prospered in numbers. In 1953 I was appointed branch servant, and for this added privilege of service I give Jehovah thanks and pray that he guide me in this responsible office.
Soon it will be fourteen years that I have been pursuing the life of a pioneer missionary. They have not all been easy years. I would not want you to think that. Missionary life is not all downhill traveling. There are many uphill climbs, but with faith in Jehovah you will make them.—1 John 5:4.
When I started pioneer work in 1938 I had practically nothing in the way of this world’s goods. I still do not have much, but what I do have worldly riches cannot buy. I have peace of mind, joy of heart and genuine contentment—no small treasure any one of these—I have them all. The glorious treasure of full-time service has become more precious to me with each passing year. During this time I have acquired invaluable experience. I have learned to trust in Jehovah and rely on his organization, and the hope of gaining everlasting life, which Jehovah gives, burns brighter within me than ever before. To be a full-time servant of the King of kings and a member of the New World society is indeed a worthy pursuit in life.
However, as I sit here and write, I cannot help but wonder why more able-bodied publishers do not pursue the full-time ministry. My hope is that this experience of mine will inspire you to lay aside the weight that has been holding you back from making pioneering your purpose in life—a glorious goal if there ever was one.