Rewards of Endurance
As told by F. J. Franske
INDIANS still roamed the plains of the Canadian west and my job was in the saddle on the cattle range when I was a boy. It was the kind of life that calls for endurance, but one with only limited rewards. In 1921 a new life opened to me, much of it still in the rugged west, but calling for endurance in the service of God. The rewards have been many.
Careful study of the Word of God showed me that there was work to be done, educating others for life. It was the article “Birth of the Nation” in The Watchtower, in 1925, that really clinched the matter for me. I read and reread that article, and as I did, it opened to me an appreciation of the kingdom of God that was so wonderful, so all-embracing that I decided that service in such a cause was worth all it might require to make it my own.
That year my brother and I volunteered for colporteur service and the Watch Tower Society sent us out as one of four “School Teams” to give Bible lectures in the schools throughout the prairie provinces. The response was good, and the hitching rails outside were often lined with saddle horses while the cow punchers inside listened to the lecture. One of our subjects was “Is Hell Hot?” and by the time we showed that the Bible hell is no hotter than the grave, the local preachers began to feel that it could be plenty hot right here on earth. Once, through a misunderstanding, I shared the platform with a politician. Was his face red! But the audience enjoyed the setting. In fact, the family with whom we stayed accepted the message, and one of the girls took up the full-time preaching work as a pioneer.
Came 1929 and the need for endurance in a new field. The Society sent me to Newfoundland in charge of the schooner “Morton.” At the time my knowledge of ships was nil, but during the years that followed, parts of twelve of which were spent at sea, I had opportunity to learn a lot. My partner, Jimmy James, and I preached in all the outports of Newfoundland and in parts of Labrador. Often we encountered rough seas, dense fog and heavy ice floes. Once we struck a submerged rock at full speed, and on another occasion we were barricaded behind a huge iceberg that moved into the harbor entrance during the night. In winter I often traveled the coast with a dog team. With the Eskimos we bartered for fur and leather goods; from the Newfoundlanders we received cash and dried fish or other items in exchange for Bible literature, and placements were phenomenal. It was satisfying work.
In Montreal, where I found myself in 1931, there was no rough sea to contend with, but the Quebec mobs, goaded on by their priests, were equally unpredictable, and they came after us when we tried to preach from the Bible. Even the police did the bidding of the clergy, and it seemed that every policeman in the city was looking for us. We made regular visits to the police station, but we did not quit. We knew the scripture that says: “If, when you are doing good and you suffer, you endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God.”—1 Pet. 2:20.
The next year I was in charge of a group of pioneers that specialized in field ministry and holding weekend conventions throughout the province of Ontario. It was interesting work, but strenuous. Unfortunately, I had not yet learned to conserve my strength; I pushed too hard, and that fall I took the count for a nervous breakdown. The condition proved to be recurrent, and I needed a change.
ENDURANCE IN THE CARIBOO
I returned to the west coast and joined up with an ex-mounted policeman and we devoted ourselves to preaching throughout the famous Cariboo ranching and gold-mining country of central British Columbia among the miners, loggers, trappers, ranchers and Indians. It was a man’s country—rough but productive. So sparse were the settlements and so great the distances from towns and between calls that it was difficult to keep a supply of food, so we carried a rifle and shot our meat or fished for it in the rushing mountain streams. Our fare ranged from berries and wild grouse to moose and bear steak. Bread was baked in a frying pan over an open campfire. We were really living off the fat of the land.
How often when day was done we sat under the fragrant pines by the towering mountains and watched the sparkling embers of our crackling fire! There under the starry skies we discussed The Watchtower or mused upon the Scriptures and the wonderful prospects ahead under the Kingdom for which we worked and prayed.
Next spring our plans met with disaster when my partner was killed in a motor accident. I tried to go it alone, but, periodically isolated for a month at a time, I could not make it. There had to be some adjustment in my circumstances if I was to continue.
I needed a companion, and the one I found was patient, practical, uncomplaining and true-blue from the start. We were married in 1935 and together carried on operations in the Cariboo. Our territory was rugged. Many times we almost slipped over the precipitous mountain trails, and once we were swamped in the morass and had to be literally lifted out, car and all. On another occasion, while doing part-time work, I received a severe ax cut on my leg. No doctor was available and it looked bad, but we managed to treat it by applying raw balsam gum fresh from the trees. We loved our territory and its people. Their cheery invitation to “Come right in, the door is open” always put a glow in our hearts. Many heart-warming friendships developed with both Indians and Whites while we were there, and now the country is covered with a network of congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses.
BACK TO THE BOATS
After brief periods of service on Vancouver Island, in Winnipeg and on the Society’s boat, my nerves began to wear thin again. I was putting in time but was not really on the job. A complete change was needed, so I shipped as engineer on a tugboat. While that was good for me physically, it kept me from congregation meetings and association with my Christian brothers, and that was killing. So I bought my own salmon trolling boat and did fishing while my wife continued to pioneer in Vancouver. Just as we were laying plans to have a large deep-sea trolling boat built with spacious cabin for living quarters, so we could pioneer along the British Columbia coast, my wife fell ill with cancer, and in November of 1946 I buried her. Now what?
Despondency pressed hard, but marking time in idleness is no cure for such a loss. I went ahead with work on the boat and invited Jim Quinn along as a partner. Together we carried the Kingdom message to every island, inlet, logging camp, lighthouse and settlement along the coast. We put in more than two hundred hours a month preaching and logged ninety hours traveling, much of it at night. But we left a trail of Bible literature from Vancouver to Prince Rupert and on into Alaska. In twelve months we obtained over fifteen hundred subscriptions for The Watchtower and Awake! My head was clear again.
INCREASED SERVICE PRIVILEGES
That fall I was invited to become a traveling representative of the Society in the circuit work; so I left the boat to visit congregations on the west coast. It was intensely interesting work. A few years later I was appointed district servant, regularly serving assemblies. Canada was then divided into two districts; I served the west while Jack Nathan served the east. We traveled by car, train, ship and airplane in order to cover the great distances. After a year our districts were switched, and I went east.
Following the 1953 New World Society Assembly in New York city, I was invited to become a member of the Canadian Bethel family. Appointment as the farm servant on the Canadian Kingdom Farm was an unanticipated privilege and one that put me in line for much valuable experience. While continuing to share in the field ministry, I came to appreciate more than ever that there is other work that is part of the ministry. In this case it was providing the physical food needed for the hard workers at Bethel in order to keep Bible publications and instructions flowing to the ministers out in the field. This new assignment called for a knowledge of dairying, gardening, fruit raising and all that goes with them. It took me back to my boyhood days in the west. Since I had grown up around cattle, the cows and I did well.
How many things we have learned in Jehovah’s service, and how beneficial they are! Over the years we have learned how to live and work closely with brothers and sisters who are imperfect but who are willing to overlook differences because they love Jehovah and one another. We have learned how to forget personalities and apply Christian principles with impartiality. We have learned that none of us can be lone wolves but that we need one another. The warm friendship and enthusiastic expressions of our Christian brothers buoy us up when we feel low, and meditation on God’s Word along with earnest prayer are like a healing balm to flagging spirits.
I have never enjoyed the customary pleasures of family life, but my association with the huge family of God’s people and the privileges I have enjoyed in serving its interests have built up for me a backlog of pleasurable relationships that can be neither evaluated nor duplicated by any other experience. Wherever I go, at Kingdom Halls or conventions, individuals ask, “Do you remember me?” and then they remind me of some occasion when we served together, perhaps a time when I helped to start them out in the service or gave them the encouragement they needed to get over a hump. Who would want to exchange such a wealth of experiences, such an appreciative family, for anything in the old world?
The experiences of my life have proved to me that Jehovah does indeed deal with his people through his organization but that he also sustains them personally in time of need. We cannot rely on ourselves, thinking that we will not fall. We must look to Him, and when we do he supplies strength commensurate to the demand. As the apostle Paul so well expressed it: “Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall. No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.”—1 Cor. 10:12, 13.
If I had given up when the going got tough, I would have lost out on so much. The problems that have confronted me are only those that are common to imperfect men; sometimes they are hard, but for one who trusts in Jehovah the spirit of God is a wonderful sustaining force.
My hair is graying now and I have slowed up. It has become necessary to step aside in favor of younger and more capable men, but I am not yet down and out. There is still spring in my step and a song of praise to God in my heart.
How grateful I am to God that he has strengthened me to endure in his service! What a full life, what rewards, what deep satisfaction have been mine for devoting my life to the service of God!