Taking Up Service Where the Need Is Great
WATCHTOWER articles on Pursuing My Purpose in Life have always been a source of great stimulation and encouragement to me. As I read of the advancement of these brothers and sisters in the truth, their courage in facing obstacles and their perseverance in pursuing their purpose in life, I found enjoyment in sharing their experiences. Yet it was not until I personally took up serving where the need is great that I fully appreciated the heartfilling joy that could be had in this work. Let me tell you about it.
After hearing the stirring convention talk “Serving Where the Need Is Great,” followed by the Society’s letter of September 10, 1957, to all congregations, including the one where I was located in Canada, I began to give serious thought to expanding my ministry. Though I married about this time, this did not prevent me from reaching out for greater fields of service.
First, we had to determine where there was the greatest need, and all spare waking moments were spent in poring over reports in the Yearbook and issues of The Watchtower and Awake!, not to mention many lunch hours spent in libraries and other information centers. After selecting three countries, as suggested, we made our intentions known to the branch office. A reply came immediately, with much helpful information, including names of firms with which employment might be obtained.
Days and weeks flew, and our file of correspondence grew larger and larger. Our enthusiasm was sorely tested and our spirits rose and fell as the replies were received: “No openings available”; “Your qualifications not suitable”; “Suggest you remain where you are.” While we suffered disappointments many times, our determination became even more firm.
Satan used other means, too, to entice us from enlarging our service to Jehovah. When I began to think about serving where the need is great, my employer, who at that time knew nothing of my plans, offered me a special training course that would result in a promotion, raise in salary and an assured future in the business world. It was a tempting offer, but I was resolute in my determination to serve Jehovah where I was most needed, so I kindly but firmly told him why I could not accept. He endeavored to convince me that I was rejecting a wonderful future. However, after explaining why the ministry was the only worth-while career and the one I had chosen, I climaxed the conversation by tendering my resignation, to take effect within six months. It was a wonderful opportunity to witness to those with whom I had been associated in business over the past twenty years.
Meanwhile our goal had been determined—Sarawak, a large island in the Far East where two missionaries had established a very small congregation; surely this was a place where there was need of assistance. As yet nothing definite had been arranged regarding employment, but we were sure that the small income we had, plus our savings, would enable us to remain abroad at least a year; and with Jehovah’s backing, much could be accomplished in that time.
While we were making our plans, a widowed sister, though not young in years but “aglow with the spirit” and with twelve years of pioneer experience, expressed her desire to serve in a foreign field. She felt that this door was closed to her, as she was well past the age for admission to Gilead. You can imagine her joy on being invited to come along with us. Final plans were made without further delay.
EN ROUTE TO THE FAR EAST
October 16, 1958, dawned bright and clear over New York city—we know, because we were too excited to sleep! Breakfast over, we headed for the Brooklyn waterfront. The ship was experiencing the normal presailing hustle and bustle. By five o’clock the last rope was cast off, and we were on our way. It was hard to leave families and friends behind, but, facing in the direction of the ship, we set off to serve where there was a greater need, in the Far East.
The first few days at sea were spent in resting up after the rush of our departure, getting acquainted with the eight other passengers and struggling with sickness. Our first port of call was Alexandria, Egypt. The ship was due to dock for about twenty-four hours, so all the passengers prepared to go ashore. The majority were going to sight-see, but we were more hungry for the companionship of our spiritual brothers, and our concern was to contact them in the short time available.
When the ship touched the dock that bright Sunday morning, we were poised at the gangplank ready to disembark. After clearance by the Customs we raced for the nearest telephone. How thankful we were to get in touch with the branch servant! With his help we were soon at the Kingdom Hall. The Kingdom Hall sign, while written in unfamiliar Arabic, was easily identifiable and to us it meant “Welcome.” On pressing the doorbell we were warmly greeted by the city servant and the others who were busy preparing platform equipment for the forthcoming assembly.
What a joy it was to meet those brothers from many different national groups, whose firm handshake and warm smiles so easily bridged the language barrier! Nothing could dissuade them from extending the warmest hospitality. We had lunch at the home of one of the sisters, and there we had our first taste of some delicious Egyptian foods. After enjoying fellowship with this theocratic family, we were taken to see some of the beautiful gardens and other interesting sights of the city. We returned to the Kingdom Hall in time for the regular Watchtower study, which is held in three languages: Greek, Arabic and French. Having served in Montreal, we had some knowledge of French, so we were able to enjoy the study in that language. Both before and after the study we mingled with the more than 120 brothers who were there. We could not help but note that they do not just arrive on time but are there half an hour early and remain long afterward to enjoy the association of their brothers. After a leisurely supper with a group of the friends, we began to make our way back to the ship. Words are difficult to find to express the strengthening effect this brief association had on us. This was one of many blessings we were to enjoy because of our desire to serve where there is a greater need.
Leaving Alexandria, we made brief stops at Port Said and Suez before entering the Red Sea, through which Moses led the Israelites. At Jeddah, Arabia, we saw Moslem pilgrims on their once-in-a-lifetime trek to Mecca. At Port Sudan there were the fuzzy-wuzzies with their masses of wirelike bushy hair. After a brief pause at Aden, perched on a rocky promontory, we turned east across the Indian Ocean.
STOPOVER IN SINGAPORE
The journey rapidly drew to a close. The rattle of the anchor chain’s descent had barely faded before a group of our brothers from Singapore were aboard the ship to welcome us. How glad we were to renew acquaintances with the branch servant and his wife, whom we had met at the Divine Will International Assembly in New York, and the warmth of the greetings by our new Chinese brothers and sisters made us feel right at home immediately! Willing hands disposed of our luggage, and within a short time our feet were firmly planted on solid ground after a month at sea.
For the duration of our stay, we were not quartered but rather absorbed into the family of a local sister. How kind and loving they were! I will never forget the startled looks on the faces of the sisters as they glanced ceilingward during supper that first evening to see small lizard-like creatures dashing around the lights as they feasted on the insects. We soon realized what a help they were and accepted them as part of the household equipment in the Far East.
The days were fully occupied as we enjoyed service privileges and came to realize the great need for mature publishers to care for the many persons of good will. You may better understand the sense of urgency we felt when I say that, instead of reporting the normal seventy-five hours as two-week vacation pioneers, we spent 120 hours in the field service that month, in addition to considerable time spent in preparations for the forthcoming district assembly.
The bond of love with our brothers and sisters grew and grew until it was as though we had known them all our lives. With the assembly over, the time had come for us to set off once again for Sarawak. After a final get-together with our brothers, we began the last stage of our journey. Any hesitation we may have felt before had long since disappeared and, spiritually strengthened by theocratic association, we eagerly looked ahead to the privileges that awaited us.
SERVICE IN SARAWAK
We were able to find comfortable living quarters shortly after arrival, and within a matter of days, as we joined forces with the two enthusiastic missionaries, we began to taste the thrill of witnessing in largely virgin territory. Picture, if you will, the scene as individuals ask about Jehovah. Dark heads nod in agreement as Scriptural answers are given; smiles of appreciation flash across their faces, and they readily accept the Bible literature.
We had heard of tropical downpours, but they have to be experienced to be appreciated. One evening in the midst of a heavy shower we started out after dark to attend a family Bible study, and on arrival we found that the house could be reached only by walking along a 450-foot raised plank walk. With flashlight in one of my hands, umbrella in the other, and clutching a brief case under one arm, we teetered along until we reached the house. After an enjoyable study, illuminated by windblown flames from a broken oil lamp, many more Bible questions were asked and answered before we departed. Outside it was still raining, and a small lake had formed. On leaving we took off our shoes and socks, raised trousers and skirts as high as possible and inched our way along the now-submerged plank to the road.
The more we worked among our neighbors the more we grew to understand and love them. Literature was readily placed, and within a short time there were few homes in our immediate area that did not have some. Studies, too, were easy to start—many on the first call. We showed the Society’s films in halls, private homes, hospitals and even in a leper settlement, with an average of a hundred in attendance at each of thirteen showings. Results were soon evident. Attendance at the Watchtower study climbed from six to ten and twelve, and when a regular program of public meetings began, attendance rose to fifteen, with peaks of twenty or more—all this in less than six months.
One of the missionaries received a letter from a Chinese schoolgirl who had been impressed by what she saw in one of the Society’s films. While her parents were Buddhist, she ‘felt drawn by the “good news” and wanted to learn more,’ she explained. A study was quickly arranged, and within a short time this teen-ager was attending meetings and taking a regular part in field service, where she was able to render valuable aid in reaching Chinese-speaking residents.
At another home Bible study a friend of the householder dropped in for a visit and, on being invited to share, he did so willingly. Although the original study was discontinued, this truth-hungry one persevered and, before even completing a study of the booklet, began attending the Watchtower study and commenting, even though this meant a fourteen-mile round trip by bicycle in broiling sun or pouring rain.
Of course, our activity did not go unnoticed by the other religious missions, particularly when many of their students turned to us for answers to their Bible questions. A campaign of intimidation was begun. While some discontinued their studies, others held firm. Then pressure was brought to bear on the political elements, and our visas were canceled. We appealed for reconsideration of the matter, but the appeal fell on deaf ears. We were forced to leave our island assignment.
As our ship left the dock, many of our new-found friends were there to express their loving appreciation for the help that had been given them. Our prayers on their behalf have been long and earnest, and Jehovah has not forsaken them. By mail we have learned that the stronger ones are doing much to help the others, and the Watchtower study is being held regularly. Regardless of the efforts of the false shepherds to withstand the divine will, Jehovah’s arm is not shortened, and those who continue to follow the Right Shepherd will gain life in the new world.
Although we had been forced to leave Sarawak along with our three-month-old daughter, born shortly after our arrival, our desire to serve where the need is great had not diminished. Millions of other people live in this part of the world; we felt that we could too. We want to be where there is the most need for help. Soon the way was opened for us to enter another such place— Malaya.
Since our arrival in this new assignment the privilege of special pioneer service has been opened to us, and we are grateful for it. We are now in our second year in a foreign field, and by submerging ourselves in the ministry we have found protection from the very real danger of materialism and the other evils of Satan’s world. Our small income and savings have proved to be like the bread and fish that Jesus used to feed the multitude; we have ample to sustain us. How richly Jehovah has blessed us! How happy we are that we responded to His call to serve where the need is great!—Contributed.