Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by Homer McKay
AS I write this I am riding along on a train. Outside there are rice fields, palm trees and, here and there, monkeys are to be seen playing in the trees. At the stations people are mostly dressed in white, for this is the tropics and it is very hot. Mingling in the crowds can be seen the half-naked and painted bodies of the “sadhus,” the religious leaders. How did I get here? Well, it all started about twenty-one years ago, though I had no idea then that the things I learned would carry me to the other side of the earth and into such strange surroundings. In 1939 two of my friends introduced me to the truths that the Bible taught. I have often admired their diligence, for not only did I not believe the Bible, I did not believe that a God existed.
It was a thrilling day for me when I came to a knowledge of the truth there in Brampton, Ontario, just a few miles from Toronto in Canada. My reading of the Bible opened up a whole new life. I was particularly impressed with witnesses like Paul, who traveled over such a vast territory witnessing to people who had never heard of the good news of God’s kingdom. At this time I knew nothing of full-time Christian work of any kind. It was quite a moment in my life, therefore, when I met the circuit servant, Brother Wainwright. It set a new goal in my life—to be a full-time preacher. It was only a matter of months before I had made a dedication and was out in the pioneer work. Then came the ban on the Watchtower Society in Canada; the pioneer work closed down and I went back into secular work and, in the meantime, married. What a change all of this was, having a few more of the material things in life.
Before the ban was lifted a call went out through the Kingdom Ministry (Informant) for more pioneers. Now the comforts of a home and its security seemed good and I did not want to leave them, so I salved my conscience with my “Scriptural obligation,” a wife to support, and, besides, Jehovah was using me as a congregation servant. Inwardly, however, I knew I had dedicated my whole life and not part of it, and this bothered me. Then one day a special letter came from the Society about the pioneer work, and it was harder than most to put aside. As I was pondering over it, my wife said to me, “Well, why don’t we go?” There went my “obligation.” I had no excuses. Immediately my wife and I made our plans to give up our home and pursue our purpose in life by pioneering together. My dedication required it and I knew it, so I had a real feeling of joy and satisfaction knowing that I was doing the right thing. I thanked Jehovah, too, that I had a helpmate that was an encouragement in serving him.
After two weeks in Ottawa, our first assignment, the joy of pioneer work soon crowded out any regrets I had about starting. While the ban still continued on our literature, we had a grand time going to the doors with only the Bible in our hand and talking to the people about its wonderful truths. In spite of these difficulties, people were taking their stand and dedicating their lives to Jehovah. Collingwood, Ontario, was our third assignment, and here again a decision had to be made that changed the rest of our lives. It was an invitation to Gilead School. The question was, “Would we go to a foreign assignment?” Brother Knorr had lectured to us at conventions on the difficulties of a foreign field, the different food, living conditions, and so forth. But pioneering had helped me to get things in their proper place. There could be only one answer in view of my dedication vows; besides that, I knew now that it is not the conditions that one lives under that bring happiness, it is the work one does and the satisfaction one gets from it. Home was good, but Isaiah did not say to Jehovah, “It depends on where you send me.” No. He said, “Here I am! Send me.”
Gilead graduation was in February of 1947. It had been a grand time with students from seventeen countries—the first international class. The next few months we spent in the circuit work in Canada. They were busy months, but some of the happiest I had spent up until then. Then one day in Ottawa we received our foreign assignment. India was to be our new home. We could not get much farther away. So it was that when our ship, the “Marine Swallow,” slipped from her berth in San Francisco harbor in the late afternoon of November 27, 1947, my wife and I were on her, bound for the Orient. As we sailed out into the Pacific and the American coast line faded from view we thought and talked of the experiences that had been ours and the friends and families that we never expected to see again before Armageddon. On the other hand, our minds were forming mental pictures of a new country under different conditions.
It was a wonderful trip, with friends all the way. At Yokohama the only two Japanese visitors to come aboard—officially we were still at war—were friends to see us. At Shanghai and Singapore our former classmates were on the dock to meet us, along with their good-will companions. Our fellow passengers, though mostly missionaries, were surprised when, port after port, our brothers came out to meet us. One said, “You seem to have friends everywhere.” It opened up an excellent opportunity for us to witness to them, for had not Jesus promised: “No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time”?—Mark 10:29, 30.
Thirty-two days after leaving San Francisco we landed in our new home, Bombay, India. Was I shocked? That is hardly the word for it. Never before had I realized how much a new world was needed. I looked at the poverty-stricken people whose only home was a sidewalk. Added to an already difficult situation were thousands of refugees who had fled with only the clothes they were wearing from Pakistan after the partition. On the other hand, was I happy to be in my new assignment? Very much so. Our Indian brothers were quick to express their love and make us feel at home and were bubbling over with appreciation because we had come here to help them.
What about the witness work? Well, that was a surprise too. The people were friendly and readily invited us into their homes, but the arguments were something entirely new. Why, they said, “Our books are 25- to 40,000 years old, whereas the Bible is just something new.” The fact that they had few manuscripts earlier than the twelfth century, or about the time Wycliffe was translating the Bible into English, did not seem to matter. Scientific facts? Why, they were reduced to shambles when confronted with the wonders of the Hindu philosophy. Did we not know that they had telephones, airplanes and television long before the West? Yet with all these claims, the most primitive superstitions were believed in: cows are worshiped as the mother of all creation, phallic signs are still prominent in many temples and a part of their worship. How glad I was for my Gilead training and the insurmountable evidence of the Bible’s authenticity! At first, I felt that surely something would happen that would cause me to leave; it all seemed so awful and hopeless. But this was what my dedication called for, and, I often thought, “whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear” they must have an opportunity to hear the good news.
In a short time my eyes became accustomed to all the strange sights. Pessimistic ideas soon gave way to a more optimistic view as interest began to manifest itself. In spite of the few nominal Christians, our congregation began to grow and likewise the work throughout India. It was encouraging to see that year after year we were able to meet our quotas of increase in Kingdom publishers. When we arrived in India there were only fifty-five publishers in Bombay and one congregation. Now, twelve years later, there are six units conducted in three different languages. Certainly here was evidence written on human hearts that the people here loved the truth just as in any other part of the earth, if only they could have the opportunity to hear it. How happy I was to have the opportunity to work here where the need was so great!
In the East there are many diseases owing to lack of sanitation, and typhoid is one of them, so it was not unnatural that I should get it. Taken ill on the 21st of March, 1951, it was not until September that I started back to work again. Six months can be a long time when one is ill, but with letters from many old, and many new, friends, along with regular visits from my brothers, time passed quickly. Any thought of going home now? Not a bit. This was home now and I was with my friends. During this time how happy I was for the missionary home arrangement that made it possible for me to stay in the missionary work!
Then came the spring of 1953. My wife and I had a great surprise in store for us. We were a long way from our original home, but Jehovah through his organization had not lost track of us, for we received an invitation to attend the New York assembly. It seemed unbelievable. Jehovah’s kindness seemed unstinted when we set sail from Bombay June 7, 1953, for New York by way of Europe. What a joyful trip it was! Throughout Europe many of our former classmates were serving, and what a pleasure it was to meet them after six years in their assignments!
With all of our families and friends in the truth, New York was more than a convention; it was also a family reunion. What joy filled our hearts, and thanks to Jehovah, that we could all sit there together enjoying the rich spiritual food and at the same time recount our experiences! How happy we were to have had “overseas service”!
Well, if 1953 was a thrill, you can imagine how I felt in 1958 when Brother Skinner, our branch servant, read a letter saying that my wife and I were invited to the Divine Will International Assembly. It was hard to choke back the tears.
At the assembly some asked me about going back to India. How did I feel? Did I really want to go? I guess it is a case of, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I have a lot of treasures in India. For ten years, along with others, I have worked, hoping to see a Marathi unit organized—one of the largest of the local language groups. We have had many disappointments with those that would like to ‘lord it over those of God’s inheritance’ and have had to start all over again. Just before leaving for New York, though, a Marathi unit was formed and now there was the anxiety to get back and see how they were doing. I am glad to report that they are doing very well.
But that was not the only reason to rush back. Have you had the joy of going back to a brother or good-will person, knowing that he was waiting for you, and telling him about the assembly? In India I knew there was not one but hundreds of our brothers waiting to hear about Jehovah’s will as revealed at the assembly. In fact, we were going back to prepare for the largest assembly of our brothers ever to come together in India and to tell them what happened in New York. Here, for the first time, we were going to translate all the talks into five languages simultaneously so that all could understand. Oh, what happiness, to look out on that sea of happy, eager faces and see how Jehovah had prospered our work in the preceding ten or more years!
Now there are 1,514 publishers of the Kingdom in India. How happy I am that Jehovah has made it possible for me to enjoy these years aiding my brothers and the good-will persons here where the need is so great. I know that it is the only work worth while before Armageddon and I feel confident, as I look to the years ahead, that by keeping my dedication vows I will find the greatest happiness and years of satisfying service.