Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by Lloyd Barry
THOSE who learn the grand truths of the Bible in childhood are indeed richly blessed. I have ever been thankful to my father for the devoted schooling he gave me in my youngest years, concerning the great God, Jehovah, and His kingdom purposes, and concerning the soul and the hope of life. How clearly did this Bible teaching contrast with that of the clergymen who came to school and threatened noisy children with “hell-fire” torments! From youngest days I grew up to love the Bible, and with it the Watchtower magazine, which made a great impression on my youthful mind. Even at ten years of age, I could get a lot out of The Watchtower, and I still remember plainly many articles studied back in the 1920’s. What treasures of Bible understanding have been brought forth through The Watchtower during the thirty-three years that I have had it as my companion!
My early life was spent in Christchurch, New Zealand. As a schoolboy I worked hard at my studies and won first place in the University Entrance Scholarship, a prize for which all of New Zealand’s colleges and high schools vie with one another. I was on the way to becoming an atomic scientist, but now materialistic, evolutionary thinking began to surround me, and I soon found this to be just as unreasoning and worthless as the clergy’s “hell-fire” teaching. The Bible began to exercise its full power in my life. Though I went on to take my master’s degree in science, I was devoting almost pioneer time to the ministry during most of my university days. I was often in the vacation pioneer service.
SERVICE DURING WORLD WAR II
In January, 1939, I entered full-time service permanently at the Australian Bethel. At this time war clouds were gathering, and with them mobs and persecutions. The month that World War II broke out I was serving a series of assemblies and was involved in mob actions on three successive weekends. In Maitland, N.S.W., a scheduled Town Hall meeting was banned, and another brother and I broadcast a statement on this injustice from a sound car that we had parked in front of the hall. As I finished speaking, a priest-incited mob came at us and lifted the car to up-end it. Suddenly a policeman appeared, and the mob drew back for a moment. The officer put his head through the car window and said, “Boys, if you value your lives, get going from here!” Somehow the way opened in front of the car, and get going we did!
The following weekend, I was chairman at an assembly in Lismore, N.S.W. By the time I stepped forward to introduce Brother Rutherford’s transcribed talk, a mob of about five hundred husky-looking sugarcane cutters had gathered at the back of the hall. They far outnumbered the remainder of the audience. I started to outline some of the unfair tactics of Catholic Action at that time, whereupon their ringleader called out, “Stop speaking ’gainst my religion!” Turning to a police sergeant, I said, “Put that man out!” Though this same sergeant had arrested one of our pioneers several days previously during street magazine work, he actually did put the man out! Taken aback, the now-leaderless mob listened right through the lecture.
The following weekend we had an assembly in Toowoomba, Queensland, and this was highlighted by a huge information march with placards, for which the police provided protection against the mob. When Catholic and Protestant clergy now joined forces to have us turned out of the Toowoomba Town Hall, the local newspaper presented our case very fairly in a full page of fine publicity. Those were exciting days of battle!
Then came the government ban on the Society in Australia, in January, 1941. Several days after the ban I found myself serving six months in prison over the draft issue. This was an unusual education in itself, spending my days with thieves, thugs and murderers, and with many opportunities of explaining the Bible to them. One day another prisoner remarked to me, “Say, 308, I’m ‘in’ for killing a policeman, and you’re ‘in’ because you refuse to kill. It’s kind of odd, isn’t it?” This “lifer” happened to be the librarian, and he was a good help in seeing that the beloved Watchtower circulated among the three or four brothers in that prison.
Coming out of prison, I helped to carry on the fight for two more years under conditions of ban. Police raids, narrow escapes, “underground” printing and organizing, and with the lifeline of precious Watchtower truths always kept open—this all provided enough interesting experiences to fill a book. Jehovah’s guiding hand was wonderful to behold! During this time it was my privilege to travel into every part of Australia, visiting almost every congregation in the country, and serving with faithful brothers as they pressed onward in ‘doing this one thing’—preaching the good news.
It was during this time, too, that I married a Sydney lassie—as Australian as her name Melba—who has served faithfully beside me for the past eighteen years.
In June, 1943, the High Court of Australia declared the government ban on our work to be “arbitrary, capricious and oppressive,” and threw it out. Soon now, the government gave our brothers their due recognition as ministers. However, there were still skirmishes with the enemy, and I have vivid recollections of a mob that cornered three of us for some hours in Glenelg, South Australia, as late as 1945.
Following Brother Knorr’s visit to Australia in 1947, there came the call to Gilead. Another wonderful privilege! To visit headquarters at Brooklyn and see at firsthand Jehovah’s organization in action, and then to spend six grand months of study in Gilead’s eleventh class—all this strengthened our determination to press on with the New World society anywhere in the world. Those six months at Gilead have not faded with the years of missionary service; the hard study, the happy associations, the moments of relaxation—these are all remembered, together with Gilead’s refreshing, green landscape. We also have happy memories of a year spent in circuit work in southern California and of joyful associations with the brothers there.
MISSIONARY SERVICE IN JAPAN
Next came Japan. Many impressions crowded themselves into the first few weeks. There was the first sight of Fujiyama from Yokohama Bay, and then as we came ashore, just people, people, people, and the clog, clog, clog of wooden footwear. Surely this was a field calling for a multitude of laborers! This was November, 1949, and so soon after the war there was much poverty; some of the cities were still a mass of ruins and rubble. Everyone was so very eager to please the foreigner.
Our early days of missionary service were spent in Kobe, and we met up with many delightful experiences, together with strange problems. Almost every home would consent to having a Bible study. We were in demand by those desiring to learn Western culture, but how many of these really wanted to learn about the true God? At first, with our limited command of the language, it was hard to tell, but we pushed along with a multitude of studies, confident that Jehovah would bless the outcome.
As we were the first missionaries in our assignment, there were no others there to teach us the language. We had to struggle along with imperfect textbooks, but mostly by trial and error. Many a faux pas was committed, such as telling the householder, “I am coughing from house to house,” instead of “preaching from house to house,” and explaining that Christ comes “with spiders” instead of “with clouds.” Moreover, there were frustrations due to the people’s total ignorance of the contents of the Bible. For example, in reviewing a study, one might ask, “Who was Abraham?” and be told, “One of the presidents of the United States”; or, “Who is the God of love?” and be told “Cupid”! This kind of problem has often been encountered, but there has been stimulating joy in overcoming obstacles of language and background, and in seeing some of those with whom we studied continually grow stronger.
On our very first day of preaching in Kobe, we contacted some who were later to become Kingdom publishers. Persons from two houses contacted that first morning began immediately to study the Bible with us, and they came right along into the truth. Once we were able to converse together, they told us they did not understand a word we said that first morning, but they were impressed because we came down a muddy lane to make a personal visit at their homes. One of these sisters, a housewife, has now been a pioneer minister for more than a year, and last year we spent several days of vacation at her home.
Missionary life has its ups and downs, its thrills and disappointments, but it also brings a satisfaction to be found nowhere else on earth. We had a beautiful home in Tarumi, Kobe, with a view stretching over toward Japan’s Inland Sea. Starting off with five missionaries, we later grew to ten, and then twelve. With the start of the Korean war in 1950, the missionaries from that country were evacuated to Japan; and then there were eighteen in our home for a short time. What grand times we had together! At the evening mealtime the roof would almost lift with laughter as new, strange experiences were told. Once a visitor from England commented, “I’ve never seen a family like it. Why, here everyone talks at once!” It was good relaxation.
As soon as we had found a reliable interpreter, we held our first meeting. That was Memorial of 1950. Attendance was 180! Meetings were then held on the spacious lawn in front of our home, and more than a hundred attended for some weeks. Field service was announced, and next morning thirty-five turned up to go with ten missionaries, so that each of us had to take three or four to the doors with us. Such was Japan shortly after the war. One of our first unhappy awakenings was to find that much of this interest was just interest in us, the foreigner. Still, the results have been most gratifying, when we take the complete picture. Many of our early Kobe studies are now themselves in full-time pioneer service, and a number of them have gone through Gilead, to return and serve with us here in the missionary field. The high point of our Kobe experiences was reached in May, 1951, when Brother Knorr stayed at our home, and what joy it was to see 453 people seated on the lawn and under the Japanese pines to hear his public talk!
In our early witnessing in Japan, our only equipment was the Japanese Bible and Light, Book Two, supplemented by some mimeographed studies from “Let God Be True.” However, from 1951, we also had The Watchtower in Japanese, and from that point real growth to maturity was to be seen.
ENLARGED SERVICE PRIVILEGES
Since 1952 it has been my privilege to serve as branch servant in Tokyo, and to watch at firsthand the marvelous increase throughout the islands of Japan. Truly, this has been “‘not by a military force, nor by power, but by my spirit,’ Jehovah of armies has said.” (Zech. 4:6) From 1949 to 1955 there was a fine increase from 8 to 525 publishers. However, from Brother Knorr’s visit in 1956, the ball of increase really started to roll, with more than a 30-percent increase in the average number of Kingdom publishers in 1957, 1958 and 1959. At the time of writing this story, the Japanese field has had new peaks of publishers twelve months in succession, so that the publisher total now stands at 1,539. A fine team of missionaries, serving shoulder to shoulder with a growing, maturing band of Japanese publishers, is truly experiencing the “blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich.”—Prov. 10:22.
Any activity that helps the Japanese people to see Jehovah’s organization more clearly is indeed a joy! An outstanding joy is the theocratic assembly. Our early assemblies in Japan would have seemed strange by Western standards: sleeping on the mat floors—sometimes wooden floors—and often dormitory-style with many of the brothers; sitting bowlegged on the floor for hours trying to take in talks in a strange language; and more floor-sitting three times a day, with a bowl of rice and fish in one hand and chopsticks in the other as we took in necessary physical nourishment. One assembly we fondly refer back to as the “sweet potato” assembly; that was when the rice ration ran out and we lived on sweet potatoes for almost two days. The bond of theocratic love was drawn ever tighter as hundreds upon hundreds of the Japanese flocked into the New World society. Now our assemblies are usually so large that we have to use bigger auditoriums with Western-style seating. The missionary is being swallowed up in the ever-expanding sea of Japanese publishers.
As the years flow by, one receives different assignments, and each brings its own special joy. I will always remember my first assignment to visit Taiwan in 1952. The brothers there had suffered terrible persecutions with torture; they were still banned and had been practically out of contact with the New World society for some thirteen years. During those years of isolation they had grown from the one original dedicated brother to more than three hundred. What a delight it was to serve with the honest, stouthearted brother who had carried the burden of oversight during all those years of trial! His prison tortures had been so bitter that he had even prayed that Jehovah might give him relief in death; however, he was now glad he had not died, for the fruits of his integrity-keeping were to be seen in the crowd of native Taiwanese who had come to the truth and whose number has now increased to about two thousand. There is a wonderful stimulus to be found in heart-to-heart association with brothers who maintain integrity even with the danger of death. In many visits to Taiwan I have always felt that I brought away more than I could take in. However, it was a marvelous privilege, and really a miracle in time of ban, in 1955, that I could take in the Society’s film “The New World Society in Action” and show it to all those faithful Taiwanese brothers. Now the government there has a better understanding of our work, and Taiwan is organized as a branch separate from Japan.
Since 1956 I have had added privileges in visiting branches in the Far East as zone servant. Once I was able to visit my aging parents in New Zealand, and for this I was deeply thankful. It is now over twenty-one years since I left a happy, theocratic home to go wherever Jehovah would send me in his full-time service. Our family ties of love were strong, but stronger are the ties that bind us together in Kingdom service, even though in widely separated lands. It was a joy to find my parents as strong as ever in Kingdom service. However, New Zealand no longer seemed like home, nor did Australia. “Strange” the way of life seemed “down under,” compared with the life we had become accustomed to in Japan’s missionary field. Through this visit I truly came to appreciate that “home” is wherever Jehovah assigns us in the realm of theocratic service.
I recall my father’s taking me to the Watchtower studies in New Zealand when I was a small boy and how thrilled I was when the “class” leader used to ask me to read the paragraphs. Now it is a greater thrill to take my turn as reader in the Japanese Watchtower study. Indeed, how thrilling has life been throughout all those intervening years! Twenty-one years of full-time service seem just like a day, and yet they are years packed full of joys and experiences that a hundred ordinary lifetimes could not start to contain! What a wonderful heritage is the pioneer service! There are lots of ups and downs, but how kindly does Jehovah help us “up” again from the “downs.” Oh, that all of us may continue this service faithfully forever, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness as expressed through his Son, Christ Jesus!