Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by C. D. Leathco
IT WAS late in the summer of 1934. Near Ashland, Oregon, a slim, white-haired lady past seventy years of age descended from a big gray interurban bus. Her arm straightened under the weight of a square black book bag. As she called from house to house her course led to our home; but before she had time to reach the door mother swung it open and invited her in. The neighbors had been talking, and mother was curious. Some had laughed and made fun of the strange message, but mother listened intently and took a subscription for The Watchtower.
Mother’s curiosity had paved the way, and regularly she read the magazine to me as I went off to sleep at night. About a year later, in 1935, I listened to a radio broadcast by J. F. Rutherford from Washington, D.C. How stimulating it was to hear of the earthly blessings in store for the “great multitude”! I began to see the need of making a dedication and getting baptized. After having symbolized my dedication by water immersion, I worked hard as a sixty-hour-a-month publisher.
When the circuit servant visited us he was accompanied by his pioneer family. They all lived and talked the pioneer service. It was just what I needed. With their example and encouragement, I decided to make the pioneer work my purpose in life.
It was in April of 1938, with my phonograph and book bag in the newspaper carrier of my bicycle, that I began to pioneer in the rural territory around home. When the circuit servant and his family came around again, I joined his son and another group of young pioneer brothers. Invigorating experiences followed as we placed enormous quantities of literature during the six-books-for-a-dollar campaign, worked isolated territory and helped to build up spiritually many new publishers in these isolated places.
Of course, things were not always as rosy as that. In Arizona placements were poor and we had to go to work part time picking cotton to have enough money for food. Then came strong persecution in the early forties. In Prescott, mobsters destroyed our Kingdom Hall. Months later when we returned, a mob formed and a bloody fight ensued. With things like that taking place, my parents became anxious about me; so, saying good-by to the others, I made a 1,140-mile bicycle trip that took seven days, to arrive home and continue in the pioneer service there.
After three years in the regular pioneer work the Society invited me to be a special pioneer in Pomona, California, where I had been raised. I found many old acquaintances, and that made it easier to work. Our group of five found much interest and soon formed a congregation.
Up to this time I had been interested in Bethel service and was hoping to be called to work there. Instead, I received an invitation to attend the first class of Gilead. What a mixed feeling! What is Gilead? Where will I be going? Will I like it and can I take it? It did not take long until I knew. Gilead is a blessing from Jehovah. I was sent to Brazil, and I immensely enjoy the missionary life. It has been filled with good experiences and I have found many sincere friends.
When I graduated, the war was on and transportation was difficult. The Society tried hard for two years to get me permission for permanent residence in my assignment, but after all seemed to fail I came to Brazil to try. This period of time after graduation was filled with experiences of lasting value. Part of the time I was learning printing in the Society’s factory and the rest of the time was spent in circuit work in the Middle West and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The trip to Brazil had its ups and downs. On one occasion we had to help the captain get his plane out of the mud. He had run off the gravel runway and got stuck. With six of us tugging at the tail while he raced the motors, we got it back on the gravel and soon were away to Rio de Janeiro and the end of the four-day trip.
On arrival I went to work in the Branch factory, where I worked in various departments for nine years. While working on the printing press there was little time to converse with others, but I studied at night to learn the language. In the local congregation I was assigned first as school servant and later as congregation servant. How abundant Jehovah’s spiritual blessing has been here! When I arrived here, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo each had just one congregation. Today there are scores of units. In preparing for the district assembly in São Paulo I have before me a list of forty-four units that will be contacted in order to furnish rooms for our brothers from the interior. Certainly, here is evidence that I have seen with my own eyes of the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promise, in Isaiah 60:22, to make the little one become a thousand!
Ever since my arrival I have had to put up a fight to stay in the country. Certain elements worked to have me removed from the country, thinking that the phenomenal increase in the numbers of Jehovah’s witnesses was due to the Branch manager. On several occasions the newspapers went so far as to announce my deportation. Despite the hate shown from some quarters, there were fair-minded officials who came to my rescue, and not a few accepted Bible studies as a result of written arguments and the witness given them by the Society’s lawyer and me. It is often true that when one has to work hard to retain something, he appreciates it more, and that has been true of my assignment in Brazil.
Five years ago I married a missionary sister and went into the district work here in Brazil. There have been many fine experiences that have brought us contentment and real happiness as we have pursued our purpose in life here in our missionary assignment. For instance, while I was helping a publisher in the training program we placed a book. On the return call we found the family toting their images, rosaries and pictures of saints to the junk heap. They realized that they had found the truth. Within just a few months they dedicated themselves to Jehovah and started out in his service. That is typical of the experiences we enjoy here.
What a thrill it was, on visiting an area isolated from contact with modern civilization, to find sixty new brothers bubbling over with enthusiasm for the truth! Although they had been in the truth less than a year, they were already studying with dozens of other persons of good will. Their hearts overflowed with gratitude to Jehovah for having sent someone to give a baptism talk. Over a hundred people were present, and eighteen were immersed.
Surely you will agree that it would be a grand privilege for anyone to visit a sleepy old city of 14,000 inhabitants with the Kingdom message, wake them up with hundreds of invitations to the film “The Happiness of the New World Society,” and then have 2,600 of them present in the public square the first night! That was a privilege I had, and my joy was increased over and over again when two more showings of the Society’s films there brought the total attendance up to 4,445.
Oh, yes, there is opposition here too. But the common people resent the long and oppressive clerical rule. The clergy still have strong influence in the official realm, but the common people welcome the relief from religious superstition that a knowledge of the Bible brings them.
This was very evident in the picturesque village of Three Stores, located in the hills near the Argentine border. One day a soldier who had come in contact with the truth came home on furlough. He put his Bible and study book to good use and talked about the Kingdom, and a congregation began to take shape. The local church began to lose its members, to the extent of diminishing from a hundred and fifty to ten. How did it happen? Well, just as Jehovah sent Peter to Caesarea to find Cornelius, so here he sent a foreign missionary to find another soldier like Cornelius and to help him in his service to God. Of course, the local clergy did not like it, and when I came they cut the electric light wires to interrupt our showing of the Society’s film and they put the police on our trail. But the police liked the film so well that they got on the trail of those who cut the wires.
The joys and experiences of missionary service were crowned for me last summer when I was able to attend the Divine Will International Assembly in New York city. For eight years I had been unable to step out of the country for fear of not being allowed to return, but relief came, and I was present in New York to receive the sound Scriptural instruction given. It infused me with new life and greater determination to stay on the job. The assembly made me realize more than ever before how much the New World society is doing to care for its members and to prepare them for the coming storm of Armageddon. It helped me to appreciate my assignment and to continue to pursue with vigor my purpose in life.
It was impressing to me to see what a good influence the assembly had on New Yorkers. One day I was stopped by a store manager who inquired what it is that makes Jehovah’s witnesses so clean-cut, neat and polite. A little while later, right in the middle of the traffic, a priest from a local Catholic university brought his car next to mine and, leaning out the window, politely complimented Jehovah’s witnesses on being such an orderly people and such a good influence on the people of the city, and he invited us to return to New York. Whether we return before Armageddon or not, the assembly served the purpose of making me better equipped for New World living.
It was generous of the brothers to make it possible for the Society to give me the assistance to be there, and that generosity and the Society’s spiritual and material provisions make it possible for me and others to continue working for the expansion of Jehovah’s pure worship in this country. All the thanks I have to give can best be expressed in the form of an invitation for you to come and join me in a foreign assignment and have a joyful and theocratic purpose in life as a pioneer.