In Step with the Faithful Organization
As told by A. P. Hughes
MY INTEREST in God and the Bible started when I was a boy about eight years old. I used to attend a Bible-study class in our village school in Shropshire, England. I recall our studying the life of the apostle Paul, and I came to have a desire to serve God like that. This early contact with the Bible did much to shape my life in later years.
In 1912, when I was sixteen years old, I left home to go and live in Liverpool with relatives who often talked about a coming end to this world. It was an environment for which I am very grateful. That same year C. T. Russell, president of the Watch Tower Society, arrived in Liverpool from New York and I happened to accompany my aunt to the home where he and his party were. When I was introduced to him, he asked me pointedly: “Have you given your heart to the Lord?” (It was a question he frequently asked of young people.) I did not get the full import of his question at the time, but it certainly set me thinking. I attended his public lecture, “Beyond the Grave,” and soon after enjoyed happy days attending other meetings of Jehovah’s people and learning more about Jehovah’s wonderful purposes. In the spring of 1913 I did give my heart to Jehovah in dedication and was baptized. Thereafter I endeavored not to miss meeting with the “Bible Students,” as Jehovah’s witnesses were called at that time. I wanted to lay a good foundation and to build upon it solid truths. This later enabled me to stand firm in the faith when storms arose that shook many out of Jehovah’s organization.
My early activities consisted of distributing Bible tracts, leaving them at the doors in the early hours of Sunday morning. The idea was that the parents would get them before they fell into the hands of children and were destroyed. It was the work Jehovah assigned us for that particular time through his organization, and it attracted many to the truths found in God’s Word.—Acts 6:7.
Then came 1914 with our expectation of soon being taken from the earthly scene into heaven. Many were marking off the days until the appointed times of the nations would run out, as Jesus had foretold at Luke 21:24. However, I felt that perhaps there was something more to learn about our hope. When there appeared in The Watch Tower an article entitled “Now Is Our Salvation Nearer,” dealing with Psalm 149, I jumped for joy. It showed that, instead of our going to heaven immediately, there was a great publicity work to be done on earth. Still, we were all awaiting the great time of trouble that Jesus had foretold.
One day, as I returned home from a weekend in the country, I saw a newspaperman’s placard that read: “War Declared!” Here, I thought, was confirmation of our hope regarding the Kingdom and its rule over the earth! (Matt. 24:3, 7) Little did I realize the events that were to crowd in upon me in the next few years. Time and again decisions had to be made that called for faith and confidence in Jehovah’s visible organization. Britain was now at war, and we young brothers in the faith had to decide what course to take. Choosing to maintain Christian neutrality, I was given a two-year prison sentence. During that time I reasoned that if I could be deprived of my liberty by a worldly power, then why could I not give myself in full-time service to Jehovah?
However, there were some problems to face. During the years from 1918 to 1922 there were many tests of faith. Many voices were being heard, all claiming to be God’s channel of truth. It was the time for the sifting process that accompanied the coming of Jehovah to his temple for judgment. (1 Pet. 4:17, 18) Earnestly I prayed to Jehovah for guidance. How great the relief when I saw clearly who the “faithful and discreet slave” is! (Matt. 24:45-51) Then the second president of the Watch Tower Society, J. F. Rutherford, came to Liverpool to deliver the lecture “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.” What an exhilarating experience it was to see the hall packed out, with thousands more on the outside!
Came 1922 and I was now able to launch into the full-time pioneer ministry. I joined Edgar Clay, whom I first got to know while in a war-time prison camp, and began a seven-year period of pioneering that I shall always number among the happiest days of my life. I served first in North Wales, then in the west of England and later in Eire. Always it was our practice to let Jehovah’s organization assign our territory and always it proved to be the best.
In cooperation with the Liverpool congregation we arranged lectures in our territory. Time and again the halls were packed to hear the lecture “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.” In 1927 I was invited to take up the business-house work, calling on all the large business concerns in Birmingham. It was not easy at first and I felt unequal to it, but I soon got used to it and then felt grateful that I had responded to the invitation. On one occasion, when making a call on a leading lawyer, I stayed two hours, and he and his partner obtained ten Bible-study aids from me. Afterward I was invited to visit him and his wife at their home. These are the kinds of experiences that make the pioneer service so rich and satisfying.
During those years of pioneering I always got to the larger assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses. Some of them were like milestones along my Christian way. I will always remember 1926 and Brother Rutherford’s stirring talk at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It was at this assembly that we appeared on the streets for the first time, offering the booklet Standard for the People. At that assembly too we received the book Deliverance. How it stirred me! Its highlighting Jehovah’s organization, geared for the fight against the Devil and his wicked organization, did so much for me.
A new chapter in my life opened when I was called to serve at the Watch Tower Society’s branch office in London. I had mixed feelings when I received the letter, for my pioneer privileges were very precious to me, but in my heart I knew that my future privileges lay right there at Bethel, and that is how it has been. At the London Bethel home I have had good opportunity to witness the forward movement of the organization, keeping step with the further revelations of Jehovah’s will. I marvel at the deep respect there is for his righteous requirements, regardless of how we as individuals may be affected. I have seen many changes over the years, but one thing remains very sure to me: Jehovah is directing his servants through his “faithful and discreet slave.”
When we were plunged into the dark days of World War II we were cut off from the Brooklyn office, and many types of restrictions were placed upon us. How richly our heavenly Father sustained us during those difficult days! The physical discomforts brought about by the heavy bombing of London, the food shortages with inevitable rationing, and so many other things, were more than offset by the marvelous evidence of Jehovah’s direction and blessing. Never were we without the spiritual food supplied through The Watchtower. We had but one typecasting machine and one medium-sized press. Paper was very scarce indeed. Yet, throughout the war, we always obtained our needs. In fact, our magazine production increased greatly during the war!
To witness the love and zeal of the brothers in London and in other large cities so heavily bombed, and to see them carrying on with their Bible studies without letup were things I would not have missed for anything. There was practically no literature left, but this did not deter them from going to the people with the Kingdom message.
Additionally, there was the problem of neutrality once again, affecting not only the brothers but also the sisters. Like many others, I was asked by the authorities to leave my assigned place at Bethel and take up work inconsistent with my Christian neutrality. This I refused to do and so it was prison again for me for a few months. But prison life was not as difficult this time, for we were able to meet together on specified days for Bible study. I had the privilege, along with other brothers, of witnessing to at least three of the prison guards who accepted the message and then dedicated their lives to the doing of Jehovah’s will. One later became a congregation overseer.
I returned to the London Bethel for another year—then back again to prison for the same reason as before. However, this time pressure was applied in an attempt to break up our organization at the London office. Brother A. D. Schroeder, who was serving with us, was deported to the United States. Several of the younger members of the Bethel family had to go to prison. In all this we learned to put our trust wholly in Jehovah.
It was a great day for me and for all the Bethel family when the war ended and there was the prospect of meeting again with Brother N. H. Knorr, who was now the president of the Watch Tower Society. Unless you have experienced being isolated from the Society’s headquarters for a number of years, it is difficult to imagine what it is like to have direct contact once again and to see our brothers face to face and to know the sheer joy it brings.
ON TO PROSPERITY
The undeserved kindness of Jehovah knows no bounds. I experienced this when I received an invitation to attend the first postwar international assembly, in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1946. My first opportunity to meet the Brooklyn Bethel family and to live with them for about six weeks before going on to Cleveland was a further means of fixing firmly in my mind the place the Watch Tower Society holds in the divine purpose.
The Cleveland assembly was just wonderful. To see those vast crowds all in the truth was almost unbelievable. To witness the release of the book “Let God Be True,” which has done so much in establishing Bible truths in the minds of so many; to hear Brother Knorr give out the news that a new Brooklyn Bethel was to be built; to observe all the other evidences of expansion and prosperity did much to open our minds to the even greater work that lay ahead. And there were more joys in store, for I have been privileged to attend three more assemblies in New York City, including the huge assembly of 1958.
Perhaps the greatest joy of all, however, has been that of witnessing the unfolding of Bible prophecies. What a joy it has been to see the great crowd of “other sheep” coming into the fold! (John 10:16) In 1939 there were just 7,000 witnesses of Jehovah in the British Isles; now there are nearly 50,000! To meet the requirements of these ever-growing numbers there has been a need for expansion in equipment. Our heavenly Father has satisfied these needs by providing us with our new Bethel home and factory in delightful surroundings in northeast London. We have the added joy of the Kingdom Ministry School here for the training of congregation overseers. It has brought me into blessed association with many personal friends, both new and old, for which I am truly thankful.
In the latter part of 1961 I was privileged to spend a week at the Bethel home in Brooklyn. It was indeed a heartwarming experience to receive such hospitality from brothers I know and love. I was also able to attend the Society’s annual business meeting at Pittsburgh, the place that witnessed the beginning of Jehovah’s work in these last days. I had read about the meeting in the Yearbook for many years, and there I was—what a blessing to be present! I felt a closeness to the great purpose of Jehovah as I witnessed the selecting of brothers for the Board of Directors of the Watch Tower Society. How true it is that Jehovah has established an organizational structure so like that in the days of the apostles. While in Pittsburgh I was able to make another link with the past by visiting the place where Brother Russell first commenced publishing The Watch Tower.
I am so thankful that I have lived in the knowledge of Jehovah’s purposes from those early days just prior to 1914 when all was not so clear, right on to this day; from a day when there were some doubts, to this day when the truth shines like the noonday sun. If one thing has been most important to me, it has been the matter of keeping close to Jehovah’s visible organization. My early experience taught me how unsound it is to rely on human reasoning. Once my mind had been resolved on that point, I determined to stay by the faithful organization. How else can one get Jehovah’s favor and blessing?
Now it is 1963. Time has passed quickly because I have kept active. How grateful I am that I was able to take the good counsel: “Remember, now, your grand Creator in the days of your young manhood.” (Eccl. 12:1) My life has been very pleasant to me, and I can say with the psalmist David, “The measuring lines themselves have fallen for me in pleasant places. Really, my own possession has proved agreeable to me.” (Ps. 16:6) I have no doubt that it will continue to be so as I walk in step with Jehovah’s faithful organization.