Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by Hermon Woodard
PRIVILEGED as I was to be brought up in the truth, my earliest recollection of contact with Watch Tower publications was the scenario of the Photo-Drama of Creation. Whenever I was sick I would pore over its pictures by the hour.
In 1916 the truth was accepted by my mother when a visiting witness of Jehovah (then known as a “Bible student”) showed her that the Bible did not teach hell-fire. During the testing of 1918-1919 she believed some of the lies about the Society’s officers and for a time associated with a part of the “evil slave” movement; but soon she realized they did not have Jehovah’s approval and she returned to activity with the Society. It was during this time that I started studying the Studies in the Scriptures and dedicated myself to Jehovah. Between the ages of eleven and thirteen I read all seven volumes and looked up or inquired the meaning of all the words. This was a wonderful help in my schoolwork.
I was backward about going in the door-to-door work myself but drove the car for others. But in 1933, pursuing my purpose in life, I started witnessing regularly by myself.
At that time I had an extremely monotonous and exhausting job by which I was supporting my father, mother and myself. Feeling responsibility toward them, I decided to get training for a job that would leave me a little more time, and went to mining school. After graduation I went to Arizona and started working in a mine. There I witnessed on weekends, driving many miles in the mountains to reach the isolated people.
During all this period I had a desire to pioneer but did not see my way clear financially. Finally, my mother told me that I did not have to worry about her, that Jehovah would provide, and that if I wanted to pioneer to go ahead.
Shortly after the 1940 Detroit convention, which I attended, arrangements were made for a group of pioneers to travel throughout Arizona, quickly working the spots where there had been persecution. I felt that this was the time to start pioneering. As usual, Satan tried enticements and I was offered promotions to stay on at the mine, but I could not feel right unless I went ahead; so I quit work at the mine and started pioneering September 1, 1940. At that time I had $180 and a 1937 car. I figured that when that was gone I would do some work to replenish my funds. My pioneer partners and I stretched it out by living for as low as $11 a month.
Finally, just after the 1941 St. Louis assembly, I was down to twelve cents. I bought eight one-and-a-half-cent stamps to send out the Children book question folders and went out in the service. I returned home that night with gas in the car tank and about a dollar in my pocket. Jehovah provided.
Then the special pioneer activity came along. In our first assignment we were arrested so much that the Society moved us to another town. Our case was thrown out of court without trial after the Supreme Court victory by the Society. This came just in time to allow me to be in the second class at Gilead School.
For six months I served in the southern United States and then was sent to a missionary assignment at Anchorage, Alaska. Leaving Seattle September 30, 1944, I got in on Alaska’s winter weather right away. At every port where the boat stopped it rained. I was assigned to contact all the subscribers for our magazines that I could on the way up, and this was very interesting. One isolated witness, an old “sourdough,” welcomed me, and in the October cold I slept on his floor. Not as yet being acquainted with sleeping bags, I did not find it too warm. For breakfast we ate potatoes and carrots from his root cellar. Also the same for dinner and supper, but we enjoyed it.
Then my partner and I settled down to our Anchorage assignment. Together with the friends, who had done some witnessing, we carried on group Bible studies throughout the year. Some good interest was found, but right away we ran up against the big problem in Alaska—temporary workers—so there was little growth for several years.
The next summer we went to Fairbanks. A fine little group started associating together and kept on studying after we returned to Anchorage. Then came word of the 1946 Cleveland convention, and the Fairbanks group made plans to drive over the Alaska highway. We picked up an old bus body and put it on a truck and made the trip all the way to Cleveland, Gilead, and New York and back again to Alaska.
About this time my health went downhill and I had severe headaches, so I went to Washington State for treatment. After the 1947 Los Angeles convention I came back to Alaska and teamed up with Brother Errichetti, both of our partners having married. We witnessed in all the places we could between Ketchikan and Anchorage up until the spring of 1948, when we had our first Alaskan assembly and visit from Brother Knorr in Juneau.
At this time Brother Errichetti was appointed circuit servant and I was assigned to travel with him, working all the territory we could and visiting the congregations.
Christendom’s missionaries have made a very bad name for themselves by sponging off the people. Our working for our passage on boats and doing odd jobs has had a very good effect on people who otherwise would be opposed, and Brother Knorr suggested that we continue to do this. We have sandwiched it in wherever we could, and it is surprising how little time it takes from the service. There are many small places where we could not get out of town for a week or even a month, and this gave us time to make back-calls and work to pay on our expenses.
At an isolated mining camp I stopped and talked to a lady. Several times she remarked that she wished her husband could hear this. So we arranged that if he did not have to work that evening they would drive down to another mine I had to visit and there pick me up. Just as I was about to give them up and start walking five miles to where I could get a room, they came along. I went back with them and we talked till 9:30 and then we had something to eat, as I had not had time even for supper. They invited me to stay overnight, and now every time I go there they have me in, and they have been reading ever since.
We continued working between Ketchikan and Fairbanks, and then in 1950 after our Juneau circuit assembly a brother took us out in his trawler to get to new territory. On this trip we had a wonderful time finding isolated interest. In one bay I took the skiff and went to look for a man we knew lived there. He was not at home, so I left three Awake! magazines in the door. Two days later we were able to come back; and as I went in, there were the three Awake! magazines all open on the table, and he said: “I’m ready to subscribe to that magazine.” He has been taking them ever since.
Just recently, while working with a local publisher in Anchorage territory, we came to a house where the lady was busy washing. We promised to come back. A few nights later I stopped by on my way home. The lady believes the Bible absolutely, but had never heard of the hope of life on earth. When scriptures were presented in an eight-minute sermon, she was thrilled and gave me fifty pennies for the book “Let God Be True.” A week later I called back with another publisher and the husband was home. He was disgusted with the confusion in the churches and stated to his wife, “Why should I go to church, the preachers themselves do not believe what they are preaching?”
We went over the eleven questions in the article “Religious Beliefs in America” and he agreed with the Bible answers on all of them. I said, “Do you know that there is only one religion that teaches those answers we agreed on?”
“What is that?”
That was Friday. Monday we started the home Bible study. Monday and Tuesday evenings he read until past midnight. Wednesday they came to the book study at the service center. Saturday another study. After the study, proof for 1914 and 1918, in answer to their questions. Already they were thinking of learning all they could so they could start a group back home in Maine when they returned, because they had never heard of the witnesses of Jehovah there. Then Sunday to the Watchtower study and the public talk. “Why, I learned more about the Bible from that one talk than all the rest of my life.”
In 1958 Brother Errichetti and I traveled to New York to attend the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Being present at this giant assembly was one of the most thrilling moments in my life. It encouraged me to press on in doing the divine will in my assignment.
For the present my partner and I are assigned to do missionary service by boat along the southern part of Alaska. Here we find considerable interest. Never have I regretted my years of pioneer service, but pursuing my purpose in life, I keep on enjoying the grand privilege of serving Jehovah.
While the missionary must be prepared for hardship, it is a blessed service. Do not the people of the nations endure some hardships to make a living and in hope of the passing rewards of a dying world? In missionary work the first few years are the hardest; but when those are behind. the difficulties fade into insignificance, and any hardships that one endures—drafty cabins, hard floors, cold and wet weather, storms and other dangers at sea, oppositions, all these things are not to be compared with the privilege of seeing the joy that comes to people who love righteousness when you bring them the comfort of the hope of Jehovah’s new world.