Pursuing My Purpose in Life
As told by D. G. Bradley
MY FATHER had the Seven Volumes of Studies in the Scriptures and was reading them before I was born. When I was a small child, my mother, although not yet in the truth, used to house traveling representatives of the Society when they came through. Relatives of the family have been Jehovah’s witnesses since the beginning of World War I. Yet our home was not a theocratic one until 1939, when my parents and I all took a real stand and became active in the truth.
It was two pioneers who set me thinking. My mother accommodated them when they came to our little town on the Canadian Prairie. Although at first I did not want to listen to what they had to say, after a short while the message of the Kingdom began to appeal to me more and more. Up until that time I had never prayed on my own in my life and now here I was wanting to ask for more knowledge and understanding and did not know how to do it. So I memorized Psalm 25:4, 5 and for two weeks I repeated those verses every night before going to bed. What a transformation took place in my life! One month after the pioneers came to our place I was in the service with them. The next month (September) I gave my employer a month’s notice, and by December I had my first pioneer assignment—one month before I was baptized.
This first taste of pioneering lasted only a few months, but it was long enough to implant in me the strong desire to make that my whole purpose in life. My partner and I traveled with a trailer and a rather ancient team of horses for the winter months and went over to bicycles when spring came. The territory was far from any congregation and very scattered. The most outstanding experience during this time was a very simple one but one that made me very happy. I placed the book Salvation with a farmer’s wife who showed keen interest. Just at that time that part of the territory was taken from us and given to two other pioneers, so I never did make a back-call. Imagine my joy when many months later these same pioneers informed me that when they finally called on this woman she was busy going to all the farmers in the area with the book Salvation, letting them know what she had learned.
Those first few blessed months of pioneering came to an end suddenly when the Canadian government clamped a surprise ban on our work and the organization, making it illegal to be one of Jehovah’s witnesses. Being still very immature, I did not know just what to do and I took on secular work. This job proved to be quite useful, for it gave me much freedom to help neighboring congregations during the ban. However, I could never get pioneering out of my mind. When I would talk about it some would say that I should remain where I was because of the way Jehovah was using me. This did not satisfy me and finally I wrote to the Society for counsel. Their answer was, “If your desire is to be in the pioneer service, then that is the thing to do.” So with these words of encouragement from the right source I was soon back in my territory with a bicycle and a small trailer kindly lent to me by a brother. The possibility of financial problems did not enter my mind. The only thought in my mind was that I ought to be pioneering and that is what I wanted to do. In two months’ time I went back to the congregation and got myself a partner—a permanent one. Ruby and I were married in October, 1942, and together we set out on a career of increasingly joyous service that has not yet come to an end.
STICKING TO PIONEER SERVICE
Those who know the winters of the Canadian Prairie will know what I mean when I say we could not remain in the rurals in the single-walled little trailer we had. So the first winter we went to the town where my parents lived, a place of about 5,500 population. Here for the first time I had the privilege of assisting in the formation of a new congregation, with no less than twenty-two publishers. Some of these were ones I had personally studied with and assisted into the service.
The first few years following that winter were the most difficult of all for us. Finally, after a series of mishaps, mostly with cars, I wrote to the branch office in Toronto and asked for an assignment where we could pioneer without a car. Back came an invitation to go to London, Ontario, 1,700 miles away.
I should like to mention at this point a lesson I learned and I am glad to say that it was to my good and not to my detriment. Several well-meaning brothers had been observing the struggle we were having in remaining in the pioneer service and quite sincerely thought we were going at things the wrong way. They felt we would be better off to serve as good congregation publishers until a more opportune moment to pioneer. There were occasions when we also began to wonder if this was what we should do. Then we would think, “If others can pioneer, why can’t we?” These were the thoughts going through our minds when the Society invited us to go to London. Should we go? For a few days we discussed the matter and then came to this conclusion, “If it was wrong for us to try to keep in the pioneer service, would the Society have invited us to London?” After careful and prayerful consideration of the matter both of us were wholly convinced that we should go, and we did. I think that was the most important decision I ever made, apart from dedication, and was the basis for all others to come. How necessary it is to rely upon the leading of Jehovah through his organization!
After a year of real pioneering in joyous association with those dear brothers and sisters of the London, Ontario, congregation, we were sent to Ottawa as special pioneers with a party of six others. Seven months of special pioneering and then into the circuit work back in southern Ontario.
As was the case with so many others, our desire for Gilead and foreign service remained strong in our hearts from the first time we heard of it. Finally in September, 1947, we joined over a hundred brothers and sisters from different parts of the United States and Canada for five months of the most intensive study I ever have experienced in my life. The things that Jehovah opened to our understanding during that course concerning his Word, his purposes, his organization and his requirements for Christian living will never be forgotten.
OUR AFRICAN HOME
Just before we graduated Brother Knorr gave us our foreign assignments. Southern Rhodesia, Africa! How excited we were! Recent reports had informed us that the field was ripe for a tremendous harvest in Africa, and now we were going to share in it. We could hardly contain ourselves. Finally the day came to set sail, and on February 15, 1949, we arrived at our new home in Southern Rhodesia. That was over eleven years ago and now it is no longer a new home. Over half of my years in the truth have been spent in this country.
When we first arrived here the ban on our literature had just been lifted a short time and a branch had been established only the year before. Externally the New World society in this country has enjoyed many blessings. Ten years ago the name “Watchtower” was a synonym for fear. People had the most fantastic ideas about us, but now that misunderstanding is almost completely gone. While there is the usual opposition from clerical quarters, people no longer fear the “Watchtower” but rather have come to realize that Jehovah’s witnesses are a good people and are to be trusted. As one official put it, “Ten years ago when I heard the name ‘Watchtower’ my hair used to stand on end. But now I have come to realize you people are the most stabilizing force we have in the country.” It has been wonderful to watch this transformation take place.
Internally the organization has grown and matured very well. The African brothers are simple and lovable and respond to loving assistance. What a pleasure to watch them throw off the shackles of custom and superstition and clothe themselves with a new personality! Here in Salisbury the African and European populations live in separate communities. When we arrived in Salisbury there were five European publishers and one African congregation. Ten years later there were sixteen African congregations and two European congregations, with a total of about 1,500 publishers. Just think, if I had not continued to pursue my purpose in life I would not have been privileged to experience and have a share in that growth!
Of the different phases of service I have been privileged to share in in this country the district work was the most exciting, although every part of the service has its blessings. In the district work there was always something new to learn or experience: outdoor circuit assemblies; speaking through a translator; trying to learn an entirely new language. One thing I would not miss for anything is the look on the faces of the brothers when you try to talk to them in their own language. Their eyes light up and they tell each other how happy they are that you can say something to them. Due to ill health I had to leave the district work in 1954, but after a year of part-time missionary and circuit work I was invited into the branch office. It has since been my privilege to become branch servant.
This account would not be complete without mentioning the two occasions when we attended international assemblies in New York, one in 1953 and the last one in 1958. We are very grateful to Jehovah for this marvelous provision and we thank the brothers and sisters all over the world who made it possible for us, along with other missionaries and delegates, to be there. One of the many pleasant experiences of the last assembly was the association with my dear old dad, who has always been keenly interested in my remaining in the full-time preaching work. It was good to talk with him and learn of his continual steadfastness in the truth in his old age.
When I look back over the past eighteen years of full-time evangelizing, it is with the greatest of happiness, a happiness I share with Ruby, my wife, who has supported and encouraged me right from the beginning. My constant prayer is that together we will always get the greatest delight out of doing Jehovah’s will, as that will is revealed, to time indefinite in a life that need never end.