Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by W. B. Akin
AT THE turn of the century Daniel Roy Akin, colporteur for the Watch Tower Society, called at the post office in Key West, Florida, for his mail, and a pleasant young lady waited on him. Shortly thereafter she became Daniel Akin’s wife, and together as dedicated Christians they traveled throughout the State of Florida distributing the Watch Tower publications and establishing Bible classes in various cities, one of which was Tampa. There was plenty of work to do here, and the Akins stayed until the group was more firmly established. Their first child was born in Tampa in 1905, and two years later, while the family was taking care of an assignment in Knoxville, Tennessee, I was born.
My father died when I was nine, but I can still remember his Scriptural counsel to us children, and without doubt this early training and example of dedicated parents during my formative years had much to do with my deciding on pursuing a purpose in life that would please Jehovah. When I was thirteen my mother sent me to live on the farm of Marie Newsom, a faithful and devoted sister, and there I received more good discipline and training in work and the Bible. At a very tender age I used to revel in the accounts of David, Moses, Abraham and other faithful men of old, and to me these valiant fighters for truth seemed to be much more worth emulating than political figures who were always looking for personal glory and praise from their subjects.
1928, A MILESTONE
In 1923, at the age of sixteen, I attended a convention of the International Bible Students in Jacksonville, Florida, and it was during that convention I decided to dedicate my life to Jehovah and his service. The talk by Brother Rutherford on “The Pounds and the Talents,” which later was published in The Watchtower, made me see clearly my duty to my Creator. I was baptized shortly after the convention and began to make plans right away to enter the colporteur work, as the pioneer work was called then. Although I had to postpone this for five years due to family obligations, on March 1, 1928, I sent for my pioneer application blank, and was able to start later that year to pursue my purpose in life as a full-time pioneer minister.
The big convention of 1928 was to be held in Detroit, and I planned to go from there to my territory immediately afterward. I was very fortunate to have been invited by a faithful pioneer couple, F. F. and Carrie Green, to join them in the work in Augusta, Georgia. What a wonderful feeling it was to wake up in the morning and realize that at long last I actually had only one thing to do—preach the good news of Jehovah’s kingdom! My dream had come true!
Yes, 1928 was a very happy year for me, as I was not only able to start out to fulfill my purpose in life as a pioneer minister, but I also found a life partner. The girl of my choice also entered the pioneer service the same year, and we were married in December. So Christine and I have shared the same happy experiences for these thirty-two years—years filled with theocratic activity and happiness. Would you like to follow us on some of our travels and share our experiences?
EARLY PIONEER SERVICE
From 1928 until 1937 we worked our territory by counties, which meant visiting all the homes in the towns and cities as well as the last house at the end of the country trail. During this nine-year period, along with other pioneers, we worked about forty counties in Georgia, South Carolina and western North Carolina, leaving thousands of books and Bibles in the homes of the people. The work was not organized as it is today; it consisted principally of leaving literature with those of good will and then moving on to new territory. However, some back-calling was done and it was gratifying to learn of a new congregation springing up here and there.
Our lives were full of privileges and blessings before 1937, but we were in for some agreeable surprises beginning with that year. We had often spoken of the crying need for more workers in the field to take care of the great crowd of goodwill people who took the books but were left without anyone to teach them. How would all these thousands be taken care of? Jehovah must have heard the prayers of his people, and he faithfully began to answer them. Beginning in the fall of 1937 hundreds of pioneers were given special assignments to work in densely populated areas. Our assignment was Trenton, New Jersey. What a change from placing books and moving on! Now we could call back on all interested persons. The real ingathering work was under way!
THE ZONE WORK
The next step forward was strengthening the congregations through the zone work, and Jehovah graciously gave us part in this activity also. Our first assignment was Zone No. 1 in New Jersey. It was gratifying to see the publishers respond to organization instructions and increase their activity and efficiency as preachers of the good news. Visiting and living with so many devoted servants of Jehovah during this work was a pleasure never to be forgotten. There was never a dull moment either, because of the opposition to the work. Arrests, court trials, children being expelled from school because of the flag-salute issue—all were the order of the day in the territory of Jersey City’s “I am the law” Mayor Hague. But Jehovah gave us the victory, and the truth was only given wider publicity because of the opposition.
Now came 1939 and World War II. We heard the news over the radio in our trailer in Newark, New Jersey. How would this world-shaking event affect the ingathering work? Would it be slowed down? Jehovah’s answer was rather to step up the pace, as the report for these war years shows.
Does it pay to encourage the brothers to increase their service privileges by entering the full-time pioneer service? Consider this experience: While visiting a small congregation in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, we stayed with the congregation servant, Oscar Suess, who was doing well financially, living in a very comfortable two-bathroom house, but he had very little time for Kingdom preaching. The suggestion was made that probably the Society’s pioneer letter was meant for him also. What? Try to pioneer with a family—a wife and two young boys? Within a few months the Suess family was happily located in their pioneer assignment with us, and from there the brother’s service privileges increased to being a traveling representative of the Society. Now, nineteen years later, he is still going strong. At every convention after that when they would see us, he and his wife would throw their arms around us and thank us for giving them the necessary boost into the pioneer work just when we did.
The zone work ended in 1941, and we were assigned to Bristol, Pennsylvania, as special pioneers; then, later, on to Rahway, New Jersey. There I placed a book with the mother of a family, but after a couple of return visits I stopped calling because of lack of interest. Eight years later I received a letter from a young married sister living in Washington, D.C., then a pioneer, asking if I remembered the circumstances of that back-call in Rahway and a teen-age girl who listened to my Bible sermons. She was the girl! Can you imagine my joy on receiving this letter?
The spring of 1943. Our invitation to attend the second class of Gilead! What a privilege we had for five and a half months associating with so many of our devoted brothers, studying together and being trained for the real expansion work to be done in other lands! This edifying period was over only too soon, but thousands of hungry ones were waiting to be fed with the same rich food we had received at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Our assignment was Peru, South America, with six others, but it was not possible to enter the country right away.
In the meantime, an assignment to Woonsocket, Rhode Island. We were informed that this was hard territory, but earlier work had apparently done much to open the hearts of the people. We have never seen so many couples, yes, entire families come into the truth and become active in such a short while as when we were in Woonsocket. They have continued strong, and now have their own lovely Kingdom Hall.
Washington, D.C., was next. The war was finally coming to a close in 1945, and the Society already had its plans far advanced for helping the disillusioned peoples in Europe and other lands. This meant contacting the representatives of various governments in Washington to make arrangements for Watch Tower missionaries to enter their countries to organize the all-important work of giving spiritual aid and comfort to these mourning ones. Besides this, there were very pleasant overseer’s duties to be taken care of in the local congregation; so Washington was a most happy and interesting assignment.
ON TO PERU
Then came the big news! In the late summer of 1946 instructions came from Brooklyn for the eight of us to proceed to Miami, Florida, to board the plane leaving at midnight October 19 headed south for Peru. I am sure this was the biggest thrill of our lives—to be actually on our way to our foreign assignment! Peru is not such a big country, but there were only eight missionaries for eight million people. It looked like a tremendous responsibility for eight of us to feed all that multitude of humanity, but with faith that Jehovah would direct our efforts, we started to work. Can you think of anything more thrilling than having part in opening up the work in such a country?
It did not take long to get used to the language. We made a lot of mistakes at first, but the people were very kind and the sheep started coming in right away.
As depot servant it was a joy for me to send in those first small reports and then watch the steady growth, month by month, until the Branch was set up in 1949. The second congregation was formed the following year. During Brother Knorr’s visit in 1949, I asked when we could open up the work in outlying towns of the country, and the answer was, “Wait until we are stronger in the capital.” Wise counsel. In a few years a goodly number of the Peruvian brothers had reached sufficient maturity to be sent out as special pioneers; and these local brothers were, in great part, responsible for the 31-percent increase in number of publishers in Peru during 1959.
EXPERIENCES IN THE FIELD
We could really fill a book with the wonderful experiences we have enjoyed, but there is not one that thrills us more than the very first day’s work in this country. We started out with Bibles and books from door to door, using a printed card to present the message. At one door Christine met a lady who was very nice and who tried to tell her to go see her husband in his tailor shop, half a block away. Not being able to make Christine understand, she took her by the arm and led her to the tailor shop where her husband and four others were working. One took the book; the others were friendly but skeptical of “Protestants.” Another family met in the same block took the books. When the back-calls were made, studies were started with both families, and in a short time these two studies produced eleven publishers of the Kingdom. Three of them became pioneers, and one is now a special pioneer up in the Andes mountains. All of this grew from the first day’s work! The mother of the second family mentioned, Ana la Torre, could not read, but she became one of the most diligent publishers and was very efficient in citing and quoting scriptures in the door-to-door work. Her sincerity was contagious. Whenever she found real interest, she would ask me to make the back-call with her, and in this way she was instrumental in bringing many to the light of the truth. She died faithful, witnessing to the last.
When the exodus of the missionaries and other pioneers from the capital to the provinces began, we were sent to Chorrillos, another beautiful assignment right on the blue Pacific, very close to Lima. More sheep, more shepherding work, more joyful experiences! In three years a healthy congregation of twenty-five publishers had grown to some degree of maturity, and we were ready to be on the march again.
But before leaving Chorrillos I must tell you of another experience. My wife contacted a lady in door-to-door work who took the book “Let God Be True.” When she called back the following week, the door opened just a little and the lady told her very nervously that she could not let her in. She had taken the book to the priest to bless it, and he had taken it away from her, telling her that the missionary was bad, that she was infiltrating communism into the homes by means of the Bible, and that she should be thrown out of the house. Christine laughed and said, “But you can’t throw me out as long as I’m outside. Open up the door and let me in, and then you can do as the priest said and throw me out.” The door opened up, in walked the Witness and she stayed an hour. During the week the mother of the lady had died, and she listened attentively to the message about the dead. Finally she said, “Well, I’m back in the same place I was last week. I still want that book, but I don’t have the money now. But, wait! I’ve just thought of something.” She left the room and came back with some small envelopes with black borders. The priest had told her that she should tell her friends not to spend money on flowers for her dead mother, but to put that money into envelopes for him, and he would pray for the repose of her soul, and this would be a great comfort for the daughter. She took enough money out of one of the envelopes to pay for the book, saying, “I’m sure this book will bring me more comfort than the prayers of the priest.” She proved to be truly one of the Lord’s sheep, and today she is a happy and diligent publisher of the good news to others who are mourning.
April, 1957—on the move again! This time to a large fertile valley of Cañete, a hundred miles south of Lima. The whole coast of Peru is a desert, but wherever streams come down from the mountains to irrigate the rich soil it produces abundantly. On the extensive cotton farms thousands of peons work, earning on an average only 50 or 60 cents a day (U.S.), and on many of these farms if the worker changes his religion he is immediately booted out. The priests have almost complete control. Living in this atmosphere of fear and poverty, very few have the courage to take a stand for the truth, but we found many people of good will who in time will, no doubt, become strong enough to make the break for liberty and associate with the New World society. Before we left, a congregation of six publishers including three baptized brothers was formed, and we are confident that Jehovah will continue to bless their diligent efforts to find the “sheep.”
When we left Cañete in October, 1959, two Peruvian sisters, special pioneers, were assigned there to carry on where we left off. Christine had studied with one of these sisters, and I had found the other one eleven years before in Lima. They had advanced from congregation publishers to efficient pioneers, and now were given their first assignment as special pioneers to help the newly formed congregation at Cañete. Do you wonder that we enjoy our assignment here in Peru so much!
Now in 1960 our assignment is Tacna, a pretty little city on the Peruvian border, with Chile only a thirty-minute ride from us on the Pan-American highway. Looking to the northeast, we can see the rugged Andes mountains—the highest peaks covered with snow at this time of the year. The climate is very mild, with warm days and cool nights, and storms are unknown. The people are very pleasant to work with, kind, and unusually attentive to the Kingdom message. Already we have found a number who are favorably inclined toward righteousness and are making good progress in their studies.
With all these blessings, does it leave anything to be desired? Well, now, maybe there is just one thing. We cannot reach all the people here to take care of them as we would like to, and if some of you dear readers, dedicated to Jehovah, would come here with your families to help out where the need is great, our joy would be complete. We already have several devoted families here doing a very good work. They provide stability to the newly formed congregations and permit the pioneers to go out to more outlying districts. But more help is needed. There are about a thousand publishers now, but eight million people need to be taught the good news.
During this short visit, I have been able to sketch briefly only some of the high lights in our happy life as full-time servants of our God Jehovah. I could say much more of Jehovah’s loving protection and care in time of danger; his timely provision of necessary things along the way; the many friends we have made; the places we have seen; the blessed service privileges during assemblies and conventions—Toronto, Detroit, Columbus, Madison Square Garden, St. Louis, Yankee Stadium, and others. These sweet memories spur us on as we “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” And we feel that the best is yet to come. The victory scene is much closer than when we started. Would not you too like to enjoy pioneer service privileges while the door is still open? You can!