Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by Mary M. Hinds
YES, it can be done! Down through the ages faithful men and women have done it. Today men and women are still doing it. And one of the most satisfying ways of doing it—that is, giving Jehovah an answer to Satan’s boast—is to be in the pioneer service.—Prov. 27:11.
My earliest recollections are of God-fearing parents studying the Society’s publications and, thanks to them, inculcating right principles in us children. Regularly attending and participating in the Watchtower study (whether at home or at the home of the nearest witness to which we traveled eighteen miles in a horse-drawn buggy), putting out tracts after school—these good habits had become such a part of my life that I took the truth for granted and somehow overlooked the need of making a personal decision if I would have the approval of the great Creator.
At the age of eighteen I enrolled in a university for a four-year course of training. Face to face now with life’s stern realities, I was bewildered and desperately homesick. But tucked down in the corner of my trunk, betokening a dedicated mother’s thoughtfulness—and hopefulness—was a little green book, The Harp of God. I clasped it eagerly, read it, studied it together with the Bible. It meant so much more to me now than ever before! It brought comfort and hope. This life-giving knowledge alerted me to a future far more satisfactory than anything I could possibly have hoped to attain as a result of my own efforts and led to my dedication and to baptism at the first big assembly I ever attended, in Toronto, Canada, in 1927. Within me there was quickened an unquenchable desire to pioneer. But there was a college debt that I could not conscientiously shift to another to settle, and that increased before I could possibly qualify to cancel it. How I stretched my pay checks for a full year to cancel that debt. Yes, and there was eight dollars left to my credit!
‘Seek first the kingdom and all these other things will be added’ was an assurance that kept ringing in my ears; and having ‘counted the cost,’ I could not reconcile myself to anything less than to pursue my purpose in life as a pioneer. (Matt. 6:33) So I resigned my position, burned the bridges behind me, and in September, 1930, right in the midst of a great economic depression, started really running on life’s race-course. I have always been so glad that I did that, for it meant more to me then than any of the many perfectly proper things this old world could offer, and it still does. It has meant tasting of Jehovah’s goodness and singing his praises every day, thereby resulting in peace of mind to face whatever comes.
That first winter the going was hard for an inexperienced pioneer, and many times the nagging suggestion to go back to a salaried position pestered me. I soon learned that real determination on my part and complete reliance on Jehovah and his organization were necessary to stick to the work. Changing from rural to city territory with the permission of the Society solved my problem during that first winter, and I worked with the Indianapolis, Indiana, congregation until the Columbus, Ohio, convention in 1931, where the receiving of the “new name” climaxed the year. There I arranged to work with a precious sister twenty years older than I and with some twenty-five years of pioneer work to her credit; she had a car. What a help she was!
For the next six years we worked happily together, doing chiefly a planting work in rural territory. From the level corn-belt of northern Indiana, through the bluegrass and tobacco sections of Kentucky and Tennessee, and on to the cotton plantations of southern Alabama we preached. In our endeavor to reach every home in our assignment, we forded rivers, walked foot logs, climbed mountains, filled gulleys in the road with stones so the car could pass, got stuck in everything from Mississippi gumbo to Lookout Mountain sand. We were misrepresented by religious fanatics who would call ahead to warn the neighbors that we were coming; we visited “feudin’ hollers”; we were driven out of mining camps at the point of a gun. Whatever the difficulty may have been, it turned out for joy when we found real interest—so often at that last house at the end of the way. Never did we knowingly pass by a single home, for we knew that faithfulness in little things would lead to faithfulness in greater things. We sowed abundantly and reaped bountifully in those twenty-nine counties of isolated rural territory.
Our spiritual diet was the best: the Bible and The Watchtower, which we studied eagerly, always finding that each truth was just as fresh and sweet as ‘when we clasped it first to heart.’ Our finances? Oh, we had learned the difference between wants and necessities, and that ‘neither life nor happiness depends on the things possessed,’ so we fared marvelously. (Luke 12:15) By economizing we had funds to attend the conventions too, to keep us stimulated for the lifesaving work we were privileged to do.
Rich as those years were, greater things were to be done. We were indeed grateful, again at Columbus, Ohio, in 1937, to be invited to participate in the special pioneer work. Through the change from the democratic to the theocratic manner of organization we worked with the Louisville, Kentucky, congregation and joyously watched Jehovah give the increase as many of those on whom we made backcalls associated themselves with us and became dedicated witnesses. Then on to Jeffersonville and New Albany, Indiana, where more interest was aroused and more never-to-be-forgotten friends were made. In 1941 we were assigned to Union City, Tennessee. In early 1942 I was called home by the sudden death of my beloved mother, who had always encouraged me to keep faithful in the service. The blow was hard; and at the end of ten days when I returned to my territory I found my companion in the throes of an illness that forced her out of the pioneer service a few months later. Her thirty-six years of pioneering made me appreciate more the value of those sterling qualities of patience and endurance. Through all this I came to know that being in pioneer service does not exempt one from the problems and temptations “common to men,” and neither does one meet them in one’s own strength. (1 Cor. 10:13) A very close walk with God is the pioneer service! And He succors and sustains those casting their burdens upon Him!
At the New World Theocratic Assembly in Cleveland, Ohio, that year emphasis to the truth that Jehovah’s organization is not static came when the spine-tingling suggestion was made that soon perhaps some of our brothers might be sent to do service on foreign shores. That, I was sure, could never apply to me, and I headed back to my assignment in Union City, where my new partner and I shared the joy of organizing a small congregation.
Then came the unforgettable surprise. Two long envelopes from the President’s office! “Confidential” stamped across them! Feverishly we opened them, scanned the contents, went home. With a mixed feeling of gratitude, humility, joy, and excitement we wanted to shout to the world: “Gilead! Missionary fields! Foreign assignments! Theocratic expansion!” That enclosed questionnaire was indeed sobering. If it were filled out and accepted it might mean that I would never see my loved ones again, once having departed from the States. It would mean learning a new language at the age of thirty-five, and language had always been hard for me. Maybe it would mean a complete readjustment in my manner of life. On the other hand, could I afford to miss the great privilege of making proper reflection in other lands of the great “Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort”? (2 Cor. 1:3) You have guessed the answer. The questionnaire was sent in, and the days crept by as a reply was eagerly awaited. Meantime we went on to our next assignment, Pineville, Kentucky. Nestled in the Cumberland Mountains not too far from Harlan, where our brothers had been accused of sedition a short time before, this little town proved to be a most heart-warming territory. Soon we were absorbed in laying the groundwork for a future congregation that we never met with, for before it was formed our invitation to attend Gilead’s second class came!
Gilead! What a combination of pleasantness, happy association, intensified study and instruction, peace, truly a foretaste of New World conditions! How those five months did fly! How our faith was strengthened, our understanding enriched! How we were benefited by that loving scrutiny by our understanding instructors! How our lives were broadened by close association with all there! How our love was deepened by our living as a New World family! Graduation day came altogether too soon in January, 1944.
Yes, we must now leave Gilead, but its spirit was to continue with us and grow and be imparted to our brothers wherever we went. Now the full-time service took on a new grandeur and beauty. We lived in small groups, working together “shoulder to shoulder” for the advancement of the glorious good news. The group I was with was assigned to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, which served as a foretaste of the future, due to its many nationalities. I was indeed grateful for the companionship of my new partner, at last a sister of my own age, Hazel Burford, whose story you have read in these columns. Our brothers were waiting for us in Perth Amboy and extended such a hearty welcome and had so lovingly arranged for our comforts that soon the “hurt” of leaving Gilead began to heal. They had collected furniture for the apartment they helped us to find (no little task in those war years), stocked our cupboards with groceries, even did our household laundry. Working with the congregation brought more joys as we saw a healthy increase; and those brothers endeared themselves to us until we wished we could take them with us to our foreign assignment.
That came in the late summer of 1945, to Colón, Republic of Panama. Now this was really new, this business of getting passports, visas, etc., and how excited we were! The reassurance of still being used by Jehovah in His organization compensated for the one-way ticket, though I have been back to the States for three assemblies since then. What a theocratic welcome the brothers in our new assignment gave us! They treated us like something “special” and were so generous, kind, and willing to co-operate. Years of service with them has proved their genuineness and love and we have thrilled together as theocracy’s increase in this land has kept pace with the rest of the world, causing us literally to ‘enlarge the place of our tents’ as we have outgrown one hall after another.
Each assignment has had its peculiar charm, and has produced its heartgripping, joy-evoking experiences. Would you not feel tender compassion for those who, through lack of instruction, had never legalized their matrimony, but who, when understanding Jehovah’s requirements, cleaned up their lives, even coming with their own children as witnesses to legalize their marriage? Would you not be thrilled too if one you had brought the truth to a few years ago, in a language not your own, became a pioneer, then a special pioneer, and then came to the Divine Will National Assembly accompanied by some of the fruits of her labors of love and there told you: “Now you have eleven grandchildren, all mature and singing Jehovah’s praises”? Would you not be glad for the dear newly dedicated one who comes and says: “I want to be a good letter of recommendation for you, so please teach me more and more how to do Jehovah’s will”? These things duplicated many times make us happy to stay in our assignment.
Another thing, pursuing my purpose in life has helped me to appreciate the Society’s personal interest in and care for its full-time ministers. The privilege of living in a missionary home, of working and living together as a family, of being revitalized, as it were, by hearing the circuit, district, zone and branch servants relate their experiences in their far-flung territory; this, I say, would never have come to me apart from the full-time service. In sickness, too, one need have no dread of being forced out. I am sure that one great contributing factor to a speedy recovery from a serious illness, hospitalization and an operation was the permission to stay where my heart is—in my assignment.
This past year, my twenty-eighth year of pioneer service, has been the richest of them all. My leave of absence and vacation made it possible to visit again so many dear ones of my personal acquaintance to whom I owe such a debt of love and gratitude for their love, constancy, generosity, and kindness expressed to me through the years. Climaxing the year was the great Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. To have been there as a missionary, identified as one of the “signs and wonders” with that great throng of the ‘desirable things of the nations’ (among whom was my now zealous fleshly sister); to have been entertained in the home of one that I had had the pleasure of studying with soon after my arrival in Colón and who had married and moved to New York city, and who is now very active in theocratic ministry; to have faced up to the divine will and to have learned more about it, calls for an expression voiced long ago by King David: Jehovah, “you have crowned the year with your goodness.”—Ps. 65:11.
Immediately after the Assembly I came back to Panama; and as the plane gently settled on the landing strip I thanked Jehovah for a safe return to the dearest spot on earth to me, my assignment, to continue pursuing my purpose in life. When will you begin pursuing yours?
Make me walk in your truth and teach me, for you are my God of salvation.—Ps. 25:5.