Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by Helen Wilson
WHAT would be the best way to spend my life? That was the decision I had to make when I graduated from high school. Was I going to look for a job so as to earn money and merely provide myself with material things, or was there something more worth while that should be done? From childhood I had been taught the truths found in the Bible, and I had spent some time preaching the Kingdom good news during my years of schooling. These things helped me to set my course in life.
In 1939 I enrolled as a pioneer during vacation time, and the pioneer ministry has been my vocation ever since. Twenty-one years have gone by since then, and I have experienced much joy and have received many blessings during all those years as a pioneer. My first years were not so easy, but I am thankful that I never once had to stop. It was not long until my mother, sister and I were assigned as special pioneers to help strengthen weak congregations in North Carolina in the United States. The three of us lived in a small house trailer, and since gasoline was expensive and rationed during the war, we did a lot of our witnessing on bicycles.
One of the greatest surprises of my life came one morning when I picked up our mail at the post office. A letter from Brooklyn from the President’s Office! “What can it be?” I was saying to myself. Why, it was a letter telling about the opening of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and an application blank for me to fill out. It was something that I had never dreamed of. It was not easy to leave my mother and sister, but after considering the words of Jesus at Mark 10:29—that “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, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the coming system of things everlasting life”—I was willing to take the step.
How true these words have proved to be! Upon arriving at Gilead I soon got acquainted with my new and numerous family, with whom I would be studying and working for the next five months. Those were joyous months. The close fellowship, love and unity manifested by all was a foretaste of the new world.
Graduation day soon drew near, and we were all anxious to know where we would be sent. What an exciting time when the assignments were received! Almost all of us were assigned to Central American countries, where we would be able to use the Spanish we had been studying. My partner, Helen Nichols, and I were assigned to Mexico. In the meantime we were sent to the little town of Weslaco, Texas, on the Mexican border, to work until our passports and visas for Mexico could be obtained. Over half the population of Weslaco proved to be Mexican, and they spoke Spanish. So, being there, we felt as if we were already in our foreign assignment.
We began witnessing among the Mexican people right away. I’ll never forget the first testimony I tried to give in Spanish. With the help of the phonograph and a recording in Spanish, which were still being used at that time, I managed to place the book Children. What a great satisfaction! The next problem was to increase my vocabulary sufficiently to make back-calls and to study with the interested ones.
We were helped by attending meetings in the adjoining town, where there was a Mexican congregation. At first it seemed that the brothers talked so terribly fast, running all their words together. I recognized only a word here and there, but soon we were able to get the thoughts. Before long I was answering some of the questions and conducting home Bible studies. With the help and patience of those humble people we made good progress.
More than two years passed, but still we were not able to obtain visas for Mexico. Nevertheless, during certain months of the year we had Mexican “wetbacks” to witness to. They would cross the Rio Grande River illegally to earn a few dollars during the fruit harvest, as the Rio Grande Valley is noted for its citrus fruit. Upon returning to Mexico some of them would look up the Witnesses in their home towns. So even though we were not able to enter Mexico, we were having a small share in getting the message into the country.
In the early part of 1946 our assignment was changed to Cuba, and we were assigned to a home with some of our former classmates. It was like seeing part of our family again after having been separated for almost three years. There were six of us in the home to share the housework and also our field experiences. We had to get accustomed to many new things, such as cooking with charcoal and eating new foods, but we cherished the privilege of being in a foreign assignment. As a whole the Cubans are very humble, and this made it easy for us to witness to them. As a result of their responsiveness to the message many lively congregations were formed when missionaries were assigned to the island.
After being in our Cuban assignment for some months we returned to the United States to attend the 1946 Cleveland, Ohio, convention. My partner and I drove from Miami, Florida, taking four Cuban pioneers with us, including an eighty-year-old sister. Funds being low, we would make our stops for naps and snacks along the roadside, but no complaints were heard. We greatly enjoyed this assembly, especially the Spanish program, where we heard the experiences of other missionaries and natives of other Latin-American countries. With renewed zeal we returned to our assignment, which we learned to love more and more as we came to know the people better.
In the summer of 1948 we were informed that some of the missionaries would be taken out of Cuba and sent to other lands, now that strong native publishers were capable of taking over the responsibilities of the work there. Our group was asked if we would be willing to go. We were willing to accept any assignment, considering it as from Jehovah. For some time we were kept in suspense and we guessed about every country on earth to which we might be sent—except Argentina—but that is where we went.
The six of us were to make the trip by boat, sailing from New York. So in September, 1948, we said good-by to our dear Cuban friends and started our long trip. After stopping over in North Carolina to see my family and then spending a few days in New York, we left on a chilly fall day in October. When we arrived in Buenos Aires it was spring; not that it took us months to make the trip, but the seasons are just the opposite here from what they are in the United States.
We found Buenos Aires to be a clean modern city of approximately four million inhabitants, with subways and other means of modern transportation. Its being a cosmopolitan city made the door-to-door work all the more interesting, since we never knew from one house to the next what kind of people we would meet.
Shortly after arriving in Buenos Aires we attended our first assembly and got to know many of our Argentine brothers. We found a great need for missionaries, the harvest being great and the laborers so few in comparison. When we arrived, there were about a thousand active publishers in the whole country. Now, nearly twelve years later, there are about 7,000.
Our next assembly was at the time of Brother Knorr’s visit in the early part of 1949. It was broken up by the police, who took hundreds of us to jail until investigations were made. A ban was then put on all our public assemblies and all Kingdom Hall doors were closed. Nevertheless, Jehovah the Almighty continued to prosper our efforts, and there has been a continual increase in number of publishers year by year.
All our meetings had to be held in private homes, where ten or fifteen of us would study together. It was more like a family gathering and we all felt free to take part. I was assigned as study conductor of one of these groups, which meant added responsibility, and I was thankful to Jehovah that I could be used.
After being in my Argentine assignment for almost five years I made my first return visit to the United States. That was in 1953 to attend the international New World Society Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was a most enjoyable occasion. It was also my privilege to be at the 1958 Divine Will International Assembly. Upon returning to Argentina this time I was assigned with three other missionaries to work in the city of Salta near the Bolivian border. We are very happy in this assignment and have seen a steady growth both in numbers and in maturity of the small congregation, which was already formed when we arrived.
Looking back, I can truly say that my seventeen years of missionary service have been well worth the cost. In spite of the hardships we endure at times we still have that peace of God that excels all understanding. (Phil. 4:7) True to his promise, Jehovah ‘opens the windows of heaven, and pours out a blessing, that there is not room enough to receive it.’—Mal. 3:10, AS.