Loyalty to Jehovah’s Organization
AS TOLD BY S. A. LIWAG
“ONE thing I have asked from Jehovah—it is what I shall look for, that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of Jehovah and to look with appreciation upon his temple.”—Ps. 27:4.
That scripture expresses exactly what I have desired since I came to know Jehovah, and that desire has grown stronger through the years. I have seen how Jehovah always richly blesses those who loyally back up his organization in its endeavors. Also, such loyal service results in great personal satisfaction and results in many others being helped to enjoy the unspeakable privilege of serving Jehovah in his visible organization.
LOYALTY TESTED EARLY
My loyalty to Jehovah and his organization was tested early and often. I was born in a Roman Catholic family, but I was always interested in knowing what the truth really is. Because of this I did extensive research in religion when I was teaching school in Cabanatuan City in the early nineteen thirties. I found no real satisfaction in the literature of the various religions I studied, but then I came across the publications of the Watch Tower Society. After studying these, I knew that what they said was the truth. Since it was the truth it deserved to be told to others. So it was that in 1933 I dedicated my life to Jehovah.
As I grew in knowledge I more clearly understood the position of a Christian in this system of things. The booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World drove home to me the paramount truth that God’s kingdom is man’s only hope, the only remedy for all the ills of the world. I reasoned that if I voted for any government of men, for any candidate or political party, then I would not be neutral like Christ Jesus in regard to the affairs of this world. (John 17:16) I would, in essence, be disloyal to Jehovah’s own government and would be denying the great truth that God’s kingdom is man’s only hope. That I could not and would not do. However, turning my back on worldly politics created a crisis in our family that resulted in my being disowned and driven away from home.
Since I was the only one of Jehovah’s witnesses in the community, I found the privilege of prayer a great source of strength and comfort. The knowledge that I was doing God’s will and was suffering for righteousness’ sake was another source of strength and comfort. I felt Jehovah God so close as I made my own expressions like that recorded at Psalm 27:10: “In case my own father . . . did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up.” And my loyal God and heavenly Father has done just that.—Prov. 18:10.
Under the direction of the Society’s office in Manila I learned to do the preaching work more effectively. From house to house I went with a case full of Bible literature, first introducing the message with a testimony card and then enlarging on the message and presenting the Bible-study aids.
As I continued this way month after month I did not realize I had become a spectacle to the community, especially to my fellow teachers. Then another crisis came, this time in connection with my teaching profession. I was called to the office of the division superintendent of schools and was told I could not continue to preach from house to house on weekends and still be permitted to teach school. I explained that everyone, including public schoolteachers, had the right to practice their religion in their own way. It was to no avail. I was asked to resign. However, I told the superintendent I was not resigning. He could do what he pleased and take the responsibility before Almighty God.
BLESSED BY FOLLOWING SOCIETY’S ADVICE
I wrote to the president of the Society at that time, J. F. Rutherford, informing him of what was happening to me. He very kindly answered me, advising me to go into the pioneer work if I was fired from teaching school. This I did, and since then I have enjoyed immensely full-time preaching and teaching, whether it was aboveground or underground. The ministry has proved immeasurably more joyful and satisfying than teaching school, or doing any other work for that matter.
After I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah God by water baptism on October 1, 1934, I was assigned with another pioneer to cover the Tagalog area in central Luzon. Although pioneering in those days was not carried on in just the same way as it is now, it was no less thrilling and enjoyable. It called for much faith then as it does today.
All territories at that time were virgin and we had to learn new dialects so we could speak to the people in each region we went to. When we reached a new town we first looked for a place to stay. Failing at times to find one right away, we asked permission to lodge in the town hall, if only in an unoccupied prison cell. As we went from house to house we kept a lookout for accommodations and moved in when we found room.
Usually we preached in the government offices, schools and the town itself first. Then we preached in the rural territory as far as we could reach. We filled our book bags and carried extra bundles of literature under our arms. We crossed rivers and climbed mountains, eating what food we could obtain on the way and sleeping where we found ourselves when night came, until our supply of literature was exhausted. Whenever we found a place to sleep, we repaid the householders’ hospitality by making known to them Jehovah God and his kingdom. Often we talked deep into the night. Then before we left the next morning we would present to them a few booklets as a gift if they had not already got some previously.
We used the barter system extensively, especially in the rurals, receiving rice, eggs, chickens, sugar and other staples in exchange for Bible literature. We experienced the literal fulfillment of Jesus’ words at Matthew 6:33, when he said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”
In February 1936 I was called to Bethel service at the branch office in Manila. From there my former pioneer partner and I were sent to spearhead the work in the Visayas and Mindanao. We left for Cebu City, the second-largest city in the Philippines, from where we worked our way out in various directions.
As favorably disposed persons accepted the truth and dedicated themselves to Jehovah and joined us in the work, the group grew larger and larger. This made it necessary to divide the group. My faithful pioneer partner led one group eastward to the island provinces of Bohol, Leyte and Masbate. I led the other group westward to Negros, Panay and then southward to Mindanao.
Everywhere Catholic priests and Protestant missionaries of all denominations fought our preaching work tooth and nail. They attacked us from their pulpits and in their publications. But people who loved Jehovah and his kingdom continued to manifest themselves, not infrequently as a direct result of this violent opposition against us.
UNDERGROUND DURING JAPANESE OCCUPATION
Early in 1939 I was called back to Manila, where we had our first convention in the Philippines, at the Manila Grand Opera House. It was highlighted by Brother Rutherford’s recorded talk entitled “Government and Peace.” Almost all 300 of us advertised the public talk in the business sections of Manila. It was interesting to observe the varied reactions of the onlookers—admiration, amusement, jeers, hatred. One bystander commented: “I did not know there were so many of Jehovah’s witnesses. Why, they are like locusts in number!”
In 1940 I was sent north, with six pioneers, to open up the work in the Ilocos region and the Cagayan valley. Once we spent more than a month in jail because of our preaching, but after being released we returned to where we left off and continued to cover our territory to the Cagayan valley.
Early in 1941 I was again called back to Manila. I was then assigned to serve different groups in the Visayas and Mindanao in the south. By the end of November of that year I had accomplished my mission in the south and was scheduled to take a boat to Manila on December 8.
I did not make it. I had just finished serving a pioneer group at Toril, Davao City, when Japanese air and naval forces struck in a simultaneous blitzkrieg attack.
Loading ourselves with all the literature we could possibly carry, we took to the hills, with Japanese soldiers just behind us. At times they got to key points ahead of us so we had to detour and travel mostly by night through leech-infested jungles and over pathless mountainsides. We went on to as yet unoccupied territory, individually and in groups.
We studied God’s Word as much as possible, ceaselessly praying for divine guidance, strength and protection. We did not wait for opportunities to come to us before we preached, but we created opportunities to pass the Word of comfort and life to others. As our supply of literature got low, we just loaned booklets to interested persons and made return visits to establish Bible studies. In time we became a traveling congregation of about two hundred persons, about half Visayans and half Ilocanos, whose dialects we learned to speak to good advantage.
Time and again we were caught in the cross fire between the Japanese forces and the local guerrillas or fell into the hands of roving armed bandits. In all this our wonderful God Jehovah delivered us, so that the only lives lost were those who died of malaria or some other disease or due to sheer exhaustion from almost four years of these raw experiences.
It was very surprising to observe that when we encamped at a certain place, so long as we had not covered all accessible territory from that particular point, we did not succeed in moving to another place. However, when we settled in one place and felt like staying longer, something invariably happened when all accessible territory had been covered, and we felt forced to move on. Was it the hand of Jehovah that was guiding us? We had no doubt about it.
As the situation got tighter, with no communication whatsoever from brothers in other parts of the Philippines, we were forced farther and farther into the heart of the virgin jungles of Mindanao. A price was set on my head by the Japanese, dead or alive.
For two more years we had to live in the jungle as a separate community, without contact with the outside world except when we preached. We made clearings, subsisted on roots and wild fruits and on wild pig and monkey meat until our harvest of rice, corn and sweet potatoes. The different family groups were organized to discuss the daily text, usually in the evening when surprise raids by the Japanese or the native guerrillas were more unlikely. Both resented very much our not taking their respective sides. Once a week we had a congregation study in Cebu-Visayan and in Ilocano.
The time came when most of our literature was either lost or worn out. We had only a few copies of the Bible left. How was the preaching work done then? Well, we divided the brothers into groups of six to eight. Half the groups worked for the community’s material food for one week while the other half went out preaching. The next week the process was reversed. In each group there was one or two mature brothers who could deliver an hour testimony on the Kingdom. Each group had one or two children who were trained to give a five-minute résumé of the same subject. Each group had one copy of the Bible. When a group came to a house or hut, one of the group gave the greetings and explained the purpose of the visit, introducing the speaker and his subject. After the one-hour informal talk, the “chairman” suggested having a résumé of the talk, which the child minister delivered. The résumé given, the chairman invited questions from the householders. If they had none or were too shy to ask, others of the group asked questions prepared beforehand for the benefit of the householders. Different members of the group shared in answering questions. In that way all shared in the testimony.
Toward the close of this underground ministerial activity, I fell into the hands of a Japanese patrol during a raid on our jungle hideout. I was marched like a dangerous criminal through the jungle and into town to the Japanese headquarters. I was happy when I found out that I had my small pocket Bible, the only thing I was able to carry with me. At the camp I was grilled by the Japanese commanding officer through an interpreter. From the Bible I explained the neutral stand of Jehovah’s witnesses and how as dedicated ministers of God our loyalty was to Jehovah’s heavenly kingdom government. After hours of grilling that extended deep into the night, to my great surprise I was released! I quickly returned to the dearly beloved ones in our jungle home, where fervent prayers and sorrow turned into cries of joy and tears of gratitude to Jehovah for his wonderful acts of loving-kindness.
In 1945 the American liberation forces came and the brothers returned to their respective towns. Everywhere they went they carried on the new way of life they had learned with others of Jehovah’s people during the war. That was how, after the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses mushroomed here and there. The 373 Witnesses before the war became more than 2,000 after the war.
I tore myself away from the dear brothers in Mindanao so I could contact other brothers and also report to the branch office in Manila, reaching there late in 1945. In 1946 I served in the district work. In 1947 the president of the Society, N. H. Knorr, and his secretary, M. G. Henschel, visited the Philippines. That memorable visit proved to be a milestone for the Kingdom work in the Philippines, for soon afterward, Gilead-trained missionaries were assigned to the country. This marked the beginning of the rapid increase that saw 33,737 publishers active in December 1963!
With two other brothers from the Philippines I was invited to Gilead School in 1949 and graduated at the Theocracy’s Increase Assembly in Yankee Stadium, New York City, in 1950. I was then assigned back to the Philippines. The next year, through the help of the Society and other loving brothers, I was able to attend the Clean Worship Assemblies in London and Paris. In 1955 I had the rare privilege of attending the Triumphant Kingdom Assemblies at Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Nuremberg, Berlin and The Hague, visiting other brothers in Madrid, Rome, Beirut, Bangkok and Hong Kong on the way home.
We were favored with another visit by Brother Knorr in 1956, and in 1957 by the vice-president of the Society, F. W. Franz. Then in 1958 I was one of the eighty-one delegates from the Philippines to that unforgettable Divine Will International Assembly at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds in New York City. In 1963 we were thrilled to have Manila serve as one of the cities in the grand Around-the-World Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. How grateful we were to see 37,806 in attendance at the public talk, far exceeding our expectations! Since that time, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, I have continued to enjoy many precious treasures of service at the branch office in Quezon City.
Yes, life in Jehovah’s organization is rich beyond compare! All the many blessings I have enjoyed I owe to our wonderful God, Jehovah, and his loyal organization that so richly deserves our love and loyalty in return.
If it were possible to return to my early youth, I would want to make the same decision that I made thirty-one years ago, only with even greater determination—to serve Jehovah loyally full time with his marvelous organization.