Putting Kingdom Interests First
THE special training provided overseers of the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses in a one-month course at the Watchtower Society’s Kingdom Ministry Schools has been received with keen appreciation. But for men with families to support, and at a time when employment is scarce, making arrangements to attend the school has called for strong faith.
Those who have attended have had a question to face. No, it was not a question of whether they would go to school; they knew the answer to that. But the question was, Would their secular employer be willing to let them off for a whole month or more and still have a job for them on their return? No matter what the answer, they knew that they would be doing the right thing by putting their service to God first.
Some employers, on learning that the congregation servant was to be given free training to equip him for more effective overseership, marveled at the interest shown by the organization in those who represent it. Just the thought that no charge at all was made for the training or even for room and board at the school amazed them. And what was the objective of the training? Not a commercial one; not so the overseer could make more money for some organization, nor even so he could make money for himself; but so that he could more effectively care for the spiritual needs of those in his congregation. The fact that the Watchtower Society gives the training free and the overseer is willing to give of his time to receive it has made some employers feel that it is the least they can do to give a little cooperation.
In other places of employment there has been no spontaneous encouragement. It has proved to be a test of faith for the congregation servant, but a test that he has met with Jehovah’s help.
A congregation overseer from Fort Worth, Texas, relates this experience that he had: “When I received my invitation to attend the Kingdom Ministry School at South Lansing, New York, I approached the owner of the business where I was employed and asked for a six-week leave of absence. The answer was a very definite No, and when I informed my employer that I was going anyway, he began to advertise for my replacement as a supervisor in his business organization. . . .
“The Monday before I was to leave, the owner sent interoffice memos to the sixteen department heads to contact me immediately if their business required contact with me, since I would be on leave of absence for the next six weeks.
“When I received my last pay check before leaving, I asked if I might have my vacation pay, since my family would be needing it. My employer replied, ‘Suppose I just send your wife your next pay check and we’ll save your vacation pay for this summer inasmuch as you will probably be going away again as you do every summer.’”
The overseer in Burlington, North Carolina, had this experience: “When I asked for a month off in order to come to the Kingdom Ministry School, my supervisor informed me that he would not stand in the way of anyone trying to serve the Lord. The next day, however, our personnel manager informed me that I would lose my seniority and insurance if I took an extended leave of absence, and in case an emergency arose they would have to hire someone to replace me. Nevertheless, I was determined to come to the school and so stated.
“Before my leaving for the school my supervisor came to me and told me that I should not worry while gone for the month, that my insurance would be in effect for myself and my family, and that I would have a promotion when I returned to work. I expressed my appreciation for everything he had done for me, but told him that I was more interested in my ministerial work than I was in assuming any more responsibility there, and also that due to my ministerial activity I would have to have two more weeks off during the summer to attend our assembly in Texas. He stated that he had always worked things out for me before, and he would work something out for this summer.”
A congregation servant who is also a pioneer in North Carolina writes this: “My wife and I were overjoyed when my invitation came to attend the 17th Class of the Kingdom Ministry School at South Lansing, New York. We had been in regular pioneer work for several years, and I was very glad to receive training that would improve my ability to present Jehovah’s Kingdom message.
“However, one problem loomed on the horizon. I had been working for the . . . company for about one and a half years, and the kind of jobs that enabled my wife and me to pioneer are scarce in this area. When I approached my staff supervisor about attending the Bible school he was skeptical. He pointed out quickly that the last three men who took more than two weeks off had been ‘canned.’ In spite of this I approached the district manager about the school. I explained the educational value of the course, the public speaking classes, and the purpose of the training. When I explained that I would need four weeks off to attend, he thought for a few moments, and said: ‘I know you take your religion seriously, and that is good for any man. I am going to make an exception and let you go because I like your work and because of your good record with us.’ When I started to ask him about a week’s vacation pay, he interrupted with, ‘Don’t worry about money. I will continue your regular pay on the condition that you don’t tell it around the office. After all,’ he said, ‘this is a rare exception.’
“When I explained about the school to the manager of the trailer park where I live, he said that he wouldn’t charge me a dime while I was gone, and to just leave the trailer where it was.
“So although sometimes our problems seem like mountains, if we trust in Jehovah and his ability to solve our problems for us, our only major concern will be to praise his name more and more.”
The overseer at Beaumont, California, writes this: “When I received my invitation to come to the Kingdom Ministry School at South Lansing I was having trouble with my vocal cords, which the doctor described as ‘preacher’s sore throat.’ The remedy, he said, was to quit doing so much talking. My only income was derived from selling and that had been practically nil for the past few months, with the usual accumulation of bills. But Jehovah’s spirit entered in, and my wife suggested that maybe she could get a job. This she was able to do, and while her salary would not meet all expenses and pay for the trip, it did give us something. So she took up her pad and pencil as a secretary, and I took up her apron and saved my voice. With a contribution from the congregation to fill the gap, I am, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, able to attend the Kingdom Ministry School.”
A congregation servant from Brooklyn, New York, says that on three separate occasions he approached his employer to ask for time off to attend the Kingdom Ministry School. All three times he was turned down, and the third time the response was an angry one. Three days later it was time to leave for school, so the brother approached his employer again, this time requesting his pay in full, since he was going to have to say Good-by. On this occasion, after a long conversation in which the purpose of the school was again explained, leave of absence was granted.
Some who have attended the school have lost their secular work when doing so, but even these do not feel as if the Lord had let them down. Not at all! He blessed them far beyond their expectations with good things at the Kingdom Ministry School. Nor will He fail to hear their prayer in the days to come, when they ask: “Give us our bread for the day according to the day’s requirement.” (Luke 11:3) As Jesus himself assured, those who earnestly seek first the kingdom of God will find that all the other things necessary to life are added to them.—Matt. 6:33.
The example of these overseers in putting the Kingdom interests first is a fine one. They are, as the apostle Peter said they should be: “examples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:3) Others associated with the New World society will emulate their good example. When confronted with circumstances in which secular work might make it impossible to attend a convention of Jehovah’s people or when secular work begins to crowd out congregation meetings, they will remember the counsel found at Hebrews 13:7: “Remember those who are governing you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith.”