Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by W. A. Bivens
JUST a few weeks after I started studying the Bible with the help of the Society’s publications I was offered an unusual business opportunity. I was working in the office of an automobile agency and was invited by the manufacturer to receive six months’ free training in Detroit and then be set up in my own agency. This would mean financial security for life. But as I studied I learned that life could mean much more than living just some sixty or seventy years; that it could mean eternal life through obedience to Jehovah’s Word. More and more my job seemed like a loss of time. So my wife and I decided that the business we wanted to be in was the Lord’s business; so to pursue our purpose in living we decided to pioneer.
We bought a trailer and within a few months were in the pioneer service. Just a little more than a year later the Society invited me to become a special pioneer. That was a real thrill. But that was nothing compared to what happened a few months later. We had just come in from the service when my wife came running from the trailer camp office, breathless and excited. She had a letter from the president’s office. It was an invitation to go to Gilead. Our trailer must certainly have rocked around with all our excitement. We had hoped to go, but not for a year or two, so this was completely unexpected. Even when we got there we were still faintly suspicious that it had all been a mistake; but no, they were expecting us, and they even had a room ready for us. Now began five months of very hard but joyous work. And that was physical as well as mental. Being assigned to the garden crew for about three hours a day called for use of muscles that had just taken life easy for several years. But after a few days the stiffness and soreness were gone and the work and the companionship with other brothers in the crew were very pleasant and satisfying.
As we neared the end of the school term, all the students were thinking and wondering about their next assignment. Along with several other brothers I was assigned to New York city as a unit servant. It was a real privilege there to be associated with several members of the Bethel family and gain a much deeper appreciation of Jehovah’s earthly organization. But we had not gone to Gilead to prepare for work in New York city. So when we received an assignment to Central America we were ready to go even though it meant leaving the many new friends we had found in our temporary assignment.
Eight of us were assigned to go together. We left New York by train for Miami, Florida, there to take a plane to our foreign assignment. What lay ahead? We did not know, but it was our assignment from Jehovah’s organization and that is where we wanted to be. Although we were going to one of the largest cities of Central America our first view of it was not too encouraging. After New York it seemed pretty small. Little did I realize then that some years later, after working out in some of the pueblos, it would look as big and bright as New York. Our new missionary home was quite a change from a New York apartment. It was made of adobe (just another name for mud), and the plumbing left a lot to be desired. But, on second thought, are not bricks just mud too, only baked differently? The kitchen was a long, narrow room without windows, and with a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. The stove, also made of adobe, required enormous amounts of firewood to keep it going.
But probably the biggest difficulty was the language. All the missionaries memorized a short testimony in order to present the literature at the door, but when that was said that was all. We could not understand the people when they talked to us, and to our unaccustomed ears it seemed that everyone spoke at machine-gun rapidity. After our short presentation someone might ask us where we were from and we would just reply, “Good book; thirty-five cents.” Difficulties? Sure. But these things were just something to laugh at. Our blessings were far greater. Soon we had a small congregation organized. In a little over two years it had grown to fifty-five publishers of God’s kingdom.
Within a few weeks after arriving we began to understand the language and were soon taking part in meetings and giving talks. After two and a half years six of us were sent to a much smaller place, to start the work there. This town was high up in the mountains and it was cold the year round. Living in a smaller town brought new problems. But here, too, a small congregation was organized and has continued on ever since. Having worked two years in this second assignment, my wife and I were moved to a still smaller place. There would be just the two of us and this would be a coast town, hot all the time.
Not the easiest conditions, of course; but not the worst either. There was very little opposition to the work; we were placing literature and finding people of good will. Soon some of these began to have part in the service, and that was a real joy for us. At that time we learned that new missionaries would be coming in to work there and my wife and I would go to a still smaller place. After working for a short while with the new missionaries, to help them get acquainted with the country’s customs and the language, we left to start out in virgin territory again.
Our new assignment was even hotter than the coast town, for it was in a low desert. Here the chief problems were lights and water. We used three twenty-five-watt light bulbs for the entire house. At times the lights would be so weak that candles gave much more light. Our water had to be boiled and filtered. We were happy here, too, because we were wonderfully blessed with people of good will who were anxious to learn the truth and become part of the New World society. In about six months ten publishers were reporting time in the service and learning to care properly for their theocratic obligations. It was a delight to hear one new brother (after being in the truth only three months) say in service meeting that “we who are mature have to help the weaker ones work from house to house”! And he was one of the more mature in that new congregation.
In addition to the town where we lived we also worked two or three small villages nearby. One of these was about eighteen miles away and we would leave home at 6:30 in the morning to take the train. This train was no modern streamliner. It took two hours to travel eighteen miles. We always rode second-class, which meant wood benches; and after a few miles you knew well that it was hardwood. Here you would try to make yourself comfortable among the people, baskets, bundles, chickens and, perhaps, a few live iguanas. We would work all day and until about 9:30 at night, eating the food we had taken on stone benches in the center of town. At 10:30 the train came through and we would arrive home about 12:30 or 1 a.m. However, one time we got home at 6:30 a.m., just twenty-four hours after leaving. The train had been held up by a landslide. But all that work was not in vain. The two chief supporters of a Protestant organization became Jehovah’s witnesses. Others joined these two in the service and soon a regular Watchtower study was being conducted with them. Endurance under hardships always brought rich blessings.
For two and a half years my wife and I had worked alone without the help and companionship of other missionaries or other mature brothers, but we had the joy of seeing new ones take up the truth and proclaim it, dedicate their lives to Jehovah God and grow to maturity in his service. One night when we returned late from one of these trips we came home hot and tired, but we were quickly refreshed. There was a letter from the president’s office asking if I would accept an assignment in another country as branch servant. I have been in this assignment several years now, and greatly treasure this privilege of service. Instead of working with a small group I am now associated with many hundreds of fellow servants. Now there are very few physical hardships, although there are always problems. But there is no place in Jehovah’s service that does not bring joy and happiness.
Now we have a lovely new branch home here in Costa Rica; the work is well established and continues to grow. In the last few years I have also had the privilege of visiting the branches in the Central American countries as zone servant and working with the missionaries in the field to help them surmount the obstacles they encounter in the ministry. Surely there is no end to the blessings that come in the full-time service.
Did I lose anything by not going into secular business? It would have meant an abundance of this world’s goods; material security. Do the joys and privileges of pioneer service outweigh the loss of those material things and the gain of hardships that many pioneers undergo—perhaps not knowing how tomorrow’s food will be bought, perhaps in isolated territories without the association of other brothers? There just isn’t any comparison! The full-time service is not the easiest life, but it is the best. For those who are able and willing to enter the full-time service there is no reason to accept anything less than the best. Those who will live in the new world will certainly enjoy the best of everything, so there can be no better time than now, just before stepping over into that new world, to begin pursuing one’s purpose in life by entering that service. Probably Jesus’ words at Matthew 6:25-34 mean more to pioneers than to anyone else: “So, never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own evil.” Thousands of pioneers have demonstrated their faith in this promise. Their continued service proves that these words are true. And more thousands, when they courageously choose in this ever-shortening “favorable season” before Armageddon, also can prove them true, to Jehovah’s delight and praise.