Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by G. B. Garrard
LIFE has been so crammed with experiences that only a few can be mentioned in a story like this one, a story showing the pursuit of a precious purpose in life. But I would like to share with you at least part of the past thirty-five years of my life and the joys and blessings I have experienced in Jehovah’s service.
First of all, let me ask a question. Have you lived in a city long enough to feel that you are a part of it? Perhaps you have watched as buildings that have lost their value were replaced by new ones, or have seen the work done to widen narrow roads. You have seen the city develop and progress, you have had a share in it and have felt that you were part of it.
Well, that is how I have felt. Instead of being part of a city, though, I have been part of a citylike organization. Instead of the organization’s being located in just one site in a given country, it has now extended its activity into 175 lands and islands of the sea and is devoted to the worship of Jehovah God. While sharing the happiness of such an organization, my purpose has been to work for and serve the great Architect and Builder of that citylike organization and to aid in its expansion.
Years ago, when I was a youth, I often yearned fervently to know who the Creator is, to know him more intimately, if possible. At the age of twenty-one I received enlightenment by an insight into the Bible through a friend. (This friend died two years afterward, faithful in service to Jehovah God.) In London, England, in the late fall of 1924 I contacted the organization of Jehovah’s witnesses, the organization through which this information had been provided. I knew at once that they were God’s people, and decided instantly that ‘their God would be my God’ and I would go all the way with them. (Ruth 1:16, 17) From that first meeting I committed myself to baptism and to doing the work, sensing that the time was urgent and delay would be dangerous. I wanted to get into the full-time pioneer work right away, but five years of waiting passed before that intense desire could be fulfilled.
Although young, I was enmeshed in a big business and a member of one of the world’s leading shipping exchanges. My employer, an old man, wanted to have me take over the business. It was a case of letting the business crowd out my religion or setting aside the business. I preferred to forfeit the business. After that things got really hard. I wanted a clerical job, to allow ordinary hours for study and service, but I could not get such a job, because I had been too far up for clerical work. Constantly I saw the Branch servant in England for his counsel, since I looked upon the organization as my “spiritual mother.” Eventually, at the end of 1929, he said he thought the “door was open” and it would be right for me to take up the pioneer work. What a wonderful joy! It brought a whirl of delight, though I was sobered by the thought of how little I deserved it. I was preceded into the pioneer ministry by a sister in the truth who later in life was to become my wife. The question was, “Would I stick to it?” I knew that with Jehovah’s spirit and undeserved kindness I could.
With £1.10.0 ($4.20) to go on, I started preaching in the business houses in Manchester. My partners were John Laird and Bob Hadlington. I went to the Paris assembly in 1931 and was introduced to F. E. Skinner, Branch servant for India, who was looking around for workers to take back with him. Brother Rutherford approved having three of us go, and in September, 1931, at the age of 29, I left for India with Clarence Taylor and Randall Hopley. Strangely, I who could not stand extreme heat was going to India, whereas in Britain I had taken vacation in Scotland because the south of England was too hot for me. Nevertheless, if the Society needed me, they had my carte blanche. “Where you go, I shall go.” So we landed in India.
Those years of service in India were a wonderful privilege. Nine from England landed there between 1925 and 1931, and we were the last of the group. Three died while I was there. There were no missionary homes. In those days we just worked from town to town, from colony to colony on the railroads, placing Bible literature. It was tough going, covering hundreds and hundreds of miles, often traveling by night. Sometimes we had a partner and sometimes for months on end we did not. Most of the time we lived on the difference allowed on our literature placements. This meant irregular meals and, despite the cheapness of food, the “meanest” of fare. Traveling was generally a dusty experience. We carried a tin box of clothes, cartons of books and our bedding, and we slept where we could, generally in waiting rooms. Bed bugs, mosquitoes and intense heat, noises of people and animals and sweat-soaked clothes all joined to spoil a decent night’s sleep. So great was our appreciation of one another, that if one of our brothers was traveling through, we would make sure to see him, even if only for a few minutes. Sometimes this meant driving twenty or more miles in the early hours of the morning and shouting out his name as the train pulled into the station.
Each day we thanked Jehovah for his marvelous blessings. There are plenty throughout the world who would like to get in a position to enhance their own dignity, to shine before their fellows. All we longed for was the smile of our heavenly Father’s approval, and we prayed that Jehovah would help us to maintain our integrity under test. We grew hardened in adversity, and in our weaknesses Jehovah gave us strength. How good he has been! How intensely glorious it is for anyone to go into the pioneer work, attend Gilead and then serve in such an assignment! What a privilege! And the way is open for thousands in these days.
One experience compensated for all the inconveniences. While working alone in Calcutta, I did the business houses. It took nine months. There I contacted a man, the son of one of Jehovah’s witnesses I knew in England. He became interested again and eventually became congregation servant for Calcutta—a sterling example. He is now a congregation servant in England, and his son Tom, now married, is in South Africa.
Sickness was common. Some got typhoid fever, smallpox, dysentery, malaria, and so on. My troubles were due to the heat, and I suffered heat stroke. Away back in 1936 I had been advised by Brother Rutherford to go where I could serve the Lord the best. Of course, I stayed—in India. How could I leave then when I knew that the folding up of one pioneer in those days might have a dampening and demoralizing effect on those who were left? We had difficulties to contend with, but the spirit of Jehovah seemed to urge us ahead to maintain our integrity at all costs and under all circumstances. We experienced much real happiness.
In passing, let me mention my partner Van. He had been a captain at sea. His was a loving example. He died of enteric, or typhoid fever, pneumonia and a “wall” around his heart all at one go. He died on a Sunday night; I buried him on Monday morning, and then kept the Memorial celebration on Monday evening. Very poignant!
I must enlarge on my comments about the work. Up to the war we distributed literature without doing much building-up work. As one woman said to me: “Mr. Garrard, Mr. Francis and you come here; my husband and I get interested in what you preach; then after a few days you leave. We are left alone.” Building-up work was missing. During the wartime a new work began—building up the citylike organization. We were too few to be scattered, so we stayed put and built up the interest.
During the anti-white riots, our being caught in mobs was not pleasant. However, our thoughts always went to Jehovah. I recall the first time a mob of about fifty pounced on me—they wanted to kill me but did not know how to start! They let me go because I was a preacher. Then three of us got caught, with mobs on both sides. Before the trouble starts you get “butterflies” in your stomach, but once it begins you feel as calm as you could wish to be. Jehovah’s spirit seems to neutralize your own fear. You just trust him—there is nothing else to do—and in amazement you see how well everything turns out.
December, 1946, brought our first contact with Gilead graduates and the pleasure of meeting Brother Knorr for the first time. We learned that now we had to readjust ourselves to new ways of building up. We did just that, and those trained at Gilead were there to help. It seemed like a breath of fresh air to us. Then Brother Skinner went to Gilead.
December, 1947, the greatest privilege I had experienced to that time came my way. Clarence Taylor and I left for Gilead. What a wonderful joy! Although I did not know it at the time, I was leaving India for good, after sixteen years of service there. Today there are over 1,400 publishers in India—a marvelous increase!
Gilead was a remarkable and outstanding experience in my life. Nowhere in the world is there another school like it. So much has been said about it that I am not going to go into detail, but I could not leave it out. It was a milestone in pursuing my purpose in life.
After school I had the unforgettable experience of circuit work in Pittsburgh, the cradle where the modern growth of Jehovah’s witnesses had begun. I felt incompetent in myself, but Jehovah’s spirit and the willing efficiency of the brothers provided all that was necessary for our circuit assembly. At my previous circuit assembly in India there had been twenty-one. Here in Pittsburgh there were more than 1,500—huge numbers for me.
In an interview with Brother Knorr at Gilead I had told him that I would not last long if sent back to India. I did not mind that so much, but I wanted to continue in the work as long as possible. He was, as usual, very kind and understanding. Later on he told me I was being sent to South Africa.
South Africa, February, 1949. To me it seemed like paradise before its time. Conditions for Europeans have been above average. Many people are kind, gentle and very hospitable. The work in this country is easy, especially with Bible sermons, because the people have respect for the Bible. Among the Afrikaans-speaking people especially is this evident. However, respect for the Bible is not the same as understanding it, and the younger generation does not even read it so much. Nevertheless, we find many hearing ears. The field for workers is vast.
The Branch here has much work, printing in various languages, and the modern Bethel home and printing facilities are a big help. We in the field can always be assured of help and understanding from the brothers in Bethel, who are always anxious to forward the work. Nothing is too much trouble for them. We appreciate it!
There has been growth in Jehovah’s citylike organization here in Africa too. The number of publishers has increased from an average of 5,506 in 1949 to 15,853 in December of 1958, and it is grand to know that one has had some small share in that increase. Other African lands formerly under the supervision of the South African office now have their own Branches.
Having started service in South Africa as a pioneer, I have had my turn on the district and circuit work, and at the time of writing this I am still enjoying the privilege of circuit work. About three years ago I married a sister in the truth whom I had known since 1925. She started pioneering in England, went to France for seven years, and served in London Bethel and in Dublin before coming to South Africa. She has proved to be a great aid to me in the work.
While in pioneer service I have not missed the assemblies of Jehovah’s people. Due to great kindness shown by a Witness and my uncle in Canada, I had the joy of attending the 1953 international assembly in New York. However, all my previous experiences were eclipsed by the blessing of being present at the Divine Will International Assembly last year, and for that unexpected provision I am very grateful. The good things enjoyed there were crowned for us when my wife went to Gilead as a member of the thirty-second class. This is something we both deeply appreciate.
Since the Assembly we have seen an even greater influx into the organization. The distribution of the Resolution tract has had a part in it, and the great expansion in the Society’s own building program indicates that provision is being made for many more who will yet respond to the good news.
Just what can I say to Jehovah for all his benefits to me? My heart is full. By the end of 1959, if Jehovah wills, I shall have been in the pioneer service for thirty years. Looking back, I recall my service in Britain, India, Burma, Ceylon, Aden, America, Canada, South Africa and Mauritius. There have been regular and special pioneering, circuit and district work, some work in the Branch in India, and then Gilead! I have been able to touch on only a few of the experiences I have enjoyed. But I can sum it all up by saying that Jehovah has been good! His organization is a glorious habitation! If you are contemplating pioneer service, do not hesitate. Be strong and courageous. Trust in Jehovah and prove that he is good.