Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by Eva Barney
WHAT more could a person want? What more could anyone wish for in life? Blessed with a comfortable home, a good job, the best of clothing, money in the bank, shares in a well-established firm, the family car for use at any time, and wonderful parents—I thought to myself: ‘Is this pursuing my purpose in life?’ Having made a dedication to Jehovah in 1923, I must do the divine will. My life must henceforth be directed by God’s Word as made plain to me by His holy spirit and His organization.
As a result of diligent study of the Bible, the conviction came that material comforts must be forfeited to pursue my purpose in life, clearing the way to devote all my time, strength and resources to preaching “this good news of the kingdom.” To be convinced mentally was one thing, but to act in harmony with those convictions I found extremely hard. How could I ever leave mother, dad, home, job and relatives? What about finances? What would friends and relatives think? Knowing dad would be very angry raised more questions. Could I do it?
ENTERING THE PIONEER SERVICE
Totally unaware of the battle going on in my mind, my good friend Bessie How, a very zealous witness of Jehovah, wrote me, inviting me to spend my vacation pioneering with her. Happily I accepted her kind and thoughtful offer, little realizing the change to be made in my life by those two weeks in the door-to-door work. So you see I was really a vacation pioneer. Now I can appreciate why the Society has inaugurated vacation pioneer service, because it was that service that revealed to me the way to pursue my purpose in life.
The first step was to leave my secular employment. Here again my good friend Bessie came to my assistance, helping to write out a resignation. Next morning found me in the chief operator’s office with the resignation and the book Deliverance, since I wanted to hand them to her in person. She was not in her office. Fearful of a sudden change of mind, I quickly placed them on her desk and left. Four o’clock that afternoon a call came to report at her office. Having read the letter of resignation, she wanted more information as to why I was leaving. Here was a real opportunity, and I took full advantage of it. Her response to my witness was that never in all her years with the company had she received such a resignation. Ordinarily employees resigned because of getting married or in order to accept a better-paying position. Further, her religion “did not supply that kind of faith—to leave a good job for a work that offered no financial gains.” Considerately she offered six months’ leave of absence during which to “try out your new work.” Declining her offer on the grounds that ‘all bridges must be burned,’ I left with her blessing and best wishes for success. The completion of this step toward the ultimate goal brought great peace of mind. My expressions of gratitude went out to Jehovah for the strength he provided.
Dad, of course, was enraged when hearing about this, and angrily declaimed that if I left home to go out in “that preaching work” I need never come home again. Naturally I felt hurt, but determined to go.
FINDING CONTENTMENT IN THE MINISTRY
Having said good-by to friends and relatives, my partner and I were soon on our way to our first assignment, Iroquois, Ontario. After locating our room and getting settled, I suddenly felt a wave of homesickness. The only thing to do was to make a phone call home. My mother’s voice sounded so satisfying to my ears that the homesickness left, and in its place contentment came. A wonderful feeling of freedom came over me. How delightful it was! Free from the cares of this world! Unencumbered! Full-time service to Jehovah took us next to Cardinal, Ontario, and from there we were directed to Montreal, Quebec. How refreshing it was to work with seven other pioneers, young people like myself, wholly devoted to Jehovah! Yes, we had our problems: bad weather, unforeseen expenses, sickness, religious opposition and almost continuous police interference, with some arrests. Any unpleasant experiences were more than made up for as we found sheeplike persons of good will. As their appreciation of the message grew, our joy increased.
Regularly letters were sent home relating outstanding happy experiences. Mother appreciated these, but dad was only interested in when I was coming home.
With his death another decision had to be made. Should I continue pursuing my purpose in life in Montreal, should I obtain territory at home and pioneer, or should I find employment and become a congregation publisher in order to be at home as company for my mother? Being a devoted Witness, mother insisted on my continuing in the pioneer work. Feeling obligated to remain with her, I obtained territory around the city and pioneered from home.
Suddenly I felt insecure. Doubts and fears took possession of me. All my bank account had been used. My bonds were sold. Leaning to my own understanding resulted in the belief that I needed to build up another supply of money. Early one morning as I was about to leave the house to seek employment, mother handed me a letter. What could this be, at 7:30 in the morning? It contained money and a short note, saying: “Hope this will help you in the pioneer work.” That did it! Never since have I doubted the promise made by Jesus that necessary provision would be made if we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. (Matt. 6:33) Not in all my thirty years of pioneering has this ever failed!
TIMES OF PERSECUTION
In 1933 a special work was organized to distribute French booklets in Quebec city. Despite the possibility of arrest and imprisonment, two hundred volunteered. Soon thirty men and women were arrested and taken to police headquarters “for questioning.” Bail money was demanded before release. Even though imprisoned, we all had a happy time. Those in charge of the prison, including the “Mother Superior,” were astounded to find people actually enjoying themselves in prison. And why not? We were Jehovah’s witnesses and had nothing to fear. The charge turned out to be “seditious conspiracy.” The trial, four days long, was lively and interesting. It was a marvelous experience. Jehovah gave us victory.
Early in 1938 when the Society began the special pioneer arrangement, I received an application form. While I was considering it, a mature brother advised me to accept any invitation the Society might extend. The application was approved, and to this day I continue to thank Jehovah for training his worshipers to consider one another and to incite to right works.
That same year another delightful prospect presented itself—marriage. Would marriage interfere? Could we as a married couple continue pursuing our purpose in life? My prospective husband was also a special pioneer. We reasoned that since we were able to work as special pioneers when single, why could we not continue pioneering when married? For twenty-two years my husband has been a loving, considerate companion, ever ready to comfort and encourage.
Two years later, in 1940, the Canadian government placed a ban on the organization of Jehovah’s witnesses in Canada. Immediately the words of a former president of the Society were recalled: “We shall not hole up and hide our faces!” So we determined to continue our preaching of this good news of the established kingdom and upholding Jehovah’s name, regardless of the ban.
The fact that the organization had been declared “illegal” only served to alert us to the possibility of arrest and imprisonment. We did not have to wait long. The following morning, fully aware of the likely consequences, three of us sallied forth to spend the day in the witness work. My husband was arrested and Marjorie Held and I were taken to the police station, held in custody for a short time, then escorted home. This was in Kingston, Ontario.
From here on my purpose in life was pursued from a small cabin trailer. We served at London and Woodstock, Ontario, then Truro, Glace Bay and Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia. During the years of the ban our little “home on wheels” was invaded by the police no less than fourteen times. And many a thrill we had witnessing to the police officers with the American Standard Version Bible!
A new day began for us! My husband brought home a long envelope. It was a letter from the President’s Office, inviting us to attend the fifth class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead at South Lansing, New York. This was something we had hoped and prayed for. This meant: prepare ourselves for five months’ concentrated study; pack up and leave the country; and be willing to go wherever the Society might send us. There was so much we did not know, so much more to learn! Those five months proved to be the most blessed months of our lives! Filled now to overflowing with solid spiritual food, we were eager to get to our “foreign” assignment, the cold, rugged yet colorful island of Newfoundland, just off the east coast of Canada.
‘FISHING FOR MEN’ IN NEWFOUNDLAND
Being well trained now for the work, we began to apply ourselves in a practical way to finding the “other sheep” in the second city of Newfoundland, Corner Brook, located in the Bay of Islands at the mouth of the Humber River. The Humber valley has become famous for its scenic beauty, its majestic hills and its salmon fishing. Here we were about to begin ‘fishing for men.’—Matt. 4:19.
How good it made me feel one morning when I called on a very friendly young woman who ordered a Bible and asked me to call during the weekend when her husband would be home. I called and found him without interest in religion, not having been to church since being married. I told him: “I think you are just the man I’m looking for.” They invited me back. For several calls he listened with rapt attention to Bible recordings. Eventually a Bible study was started in the midst of a veritable smoke screen. Attending the meetings and perceiving that no one smoked, he immediately quit. His wife and family soon began to appreciate the truth. Most of the family are now dedicated Witnesses, pursuing peace.
In the same neighborhood, at the top of a long steep hill, I found a family who were Seventh-Day Adventists but ready for the truth. They took the current literature offer and invited me back. Regular weekly studies resulted in the two girls’ dedication to Jehovah and spending their school vacations in the preaching work with us. Later the parents were baptized. One of the girls became a missionary in Peru, a graduate of Gilead; and the other is pursuing her purpose in life in Carbonear, Newfoundland, as a special pioneer. The parents faithfully serve with the Corner Brook congregation.
Another girl in this west coast city, who was a baptized Witness before our arrival, had run into wrong associations, but decided to make a clean break. Giving up her job, she attended her first large convention of Jehovah’s witnesses at Cleveland, Ohio, in 1946, and upon returning to Newfoundland began pioneering. After two years in the full-time ministry she received a call to Gilead, and is now a missionary in St. John’s.
Words fail me when I try to express all the joys and blessings we received in our six years of loving association in Corner Brook. To leave this thriving congregation was not easy. However, Jehovah had other work for us in St. John’s missionary home, where we can continue to learn to demonstrate our love for Jehovah and our brothers, putting up with one another in love and right works.
How gratifying it is to see our Kingdom Hall filled with praisers of Jehovah and people of good will each meeting night! Because of this, negotiations are under way for the building of a new and larger structure. Among these happy people is a family contacted one bitter cold morning. At the conclusion of the sermon and subscription offer for both The Watchtower and Awake! the seven-year-old son exclaimed: “Give her the two dollars, daddy, and take them both!” Immediately the man subscribed and extended an invitation to return. After I had studied with this family for two years, it was a real joy to see the oldest boy symbolize his dedication to Jehovah along with the many thousands at the Divine Will Assembly at New York city in 1958.
ASSEMBLY AT CORNER BROOK
More blessings were in store for us in 1959! One of these was the Awake Ministers District Assembly in the spacious Humber Gardens at Corner Brook. Arriving by train from St. John’s, we beheld the station platform literally swarming with Jehovah’s witnesses and, ranged outside the station, a long line of cars carrying colorful overhead signs advertising the public address to be delivered by the president of the Society on the final day of the assembly. What a privilege it was to enjoy such close fellowship with others of the happy family of the wonder-working God, especially since we had with us both Brother Knorr and his wife. Without loss of time the incoming Witnesses were taken by these cars to Humber Gardens. At this assembly both parents of the boy baptized at New York took the step of water immersion in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah.
As I look back over the past thirty years of pursuing my purpose in life, how thankful I feel to Jehovah and His organization that through the help, guidance, protection and admonition provided I have come to appreciate clearly that “even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) My earnest prayer is that I may continue to love Jehovah with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and my neighbor as myself. Doing this means helping neighbors to take in knowledge of the one true God and Jesus Christ, resulting in blessing. And the blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich!