Devoted to Jehovah and the Ministry
As told by R. Hopley
WHEN I was a child my parents began to have Bible study meetings in our home at Chase Terrace, near Walsall, England. These weekly meetings grew, as my brothers and some other friends joined us. I used to listen to the discussions about God’s kingdom and its blessings, and I was particularly impressed by the account in Isaiah, chapter 11, about the animals and how a little child would lead them.
What little I understood about Bible doctrines such as the condition of the dead, the soul, God and Christ and the Kingdom, I readily accepted. But it was not until I was about eighteen that I took a more serious view of my devotion to God and the ministry. Up till then I had been very keen on sports and there was a tussle when the football season came as to whether I would go in for football whole-souled or not. Just about that time my brothers began talking about attending a convention in London sponsored by the Watch Tower Society. They were all excited about it and I caught the spirit of the occasion and attended with them. A friend, the secretary of our local football club, came also and he professed to enjoy the talks. He had a sister with whom I became friendly. It was not long, though, before I began to realize that this friendship was coming in between me and my study of the Bible. So I made up my mind to break off this association.
Not long after that, my friend, the secretary of the football club, chose football in preference to Bible study and lost further interest. However, I never allowed this to affect me. I was firm in my desire to serve God and to make progress in the knowledge of his purposes. My family aided greatly in this, as all nine of us were united with a strong love for one another as we grew in the knowledge of Jehovah. It was the example set by my brothers that helped me to make a firm decision to devote my life to Jehovah God. Thus, in 1921, at the age of nineteen, I was baptized in symbol of my dedication to Jehovah.
DEVOTING FULL TIME TO MINISTRY
Gradually my discernment of spiritual things grew and I felt the urge to give up my secular job and devote my whole time to the work of the ministry. One of my brothers was already a full-time minister, called a “colporteur” at that time, and I made up my mind to join him. He had five years of experience already and was well able to train me for this work. That was in 1925. My first assignment, together with my brother, was at Kings Lynn, in Norfolk, England. We traveled by cycle all around the countryside in all sorts of weather and soon we had quite a large circle of friends. Public talks were given and the beginnings of a congregation made.
We then moved on to Wisbeech. It was here that I gave my first public talk. It was really a milestone in my life. I was through in less than half an hour, giving it mostly from memory, but it was a start. It was also here that we met a Salvation Army man, very well known in town. We spent much time discussing the subjects of hell, soul and trinity. He was amazed at the Bible texts we were able to turn up refuting the popular ideas on these subjects. It was not long before he was convinced that we were teaching the truth. He did all he could to help us and later he built a fine Kingdom Hall where regular meetings were held.
About this time my brother decided to get married. He took up a secular job, and this left me without a partner. Even before this the thought of marriage had come into my own mind, but I felt I wanted to remain entirely free for Jehovah’s service, and kept to the idea of singleness. So I stuck to my full-time ministerial work, moved to another town, and had a wonderful time. I felt that God’s spirit was helping me to carry on, even though alone.
Eventually I joined up with Brother Clarence Taylor, who now serves in South Africa. He was well advanced in Bible knowledge and we had a grand time preaching together. We worked in Great Yarmouth and other places in East Anglia, finally going to Brother Taylor’s hometown, Sheffield.
In 1931 the Watch Tower Society arranged a convention in Paris. We attended and there met the branch servant from India. His hometown was also Sheffield, so when we got back he invited us to dinner. It was then that we received our first invitation to go to India. Another brother, Gerald Garrard, who also serves in South Africa now, was invited to join us. Soon we left London on a ship bound for foreign service.
It was a long journey but we enjoyed it. We landed in Bombay and Brother Skinner, the branch servant, met us and welcomed us to India. There were very few of Jehovah’s witnesses in India at that time. But the people received us very kindly, for Indian hospitality is proverbial. In most homes we were offered cold drinks or a cup of tea. We were given a long series of assignments to different parts of the country, as the policy in those days was to cover the territory as quickly as possible, placing literature, and then move on. We preached in Quetta in the far north, then across to Delhi, into the Himalaya Hills at Naini Tal, on down to Kanpur, Allahabad, Agra, Calcutta and eventually across into Burma.
We found the work in India very different from that in England. It was easy to place literature, but not so easy to convince the Hindus and other religious communities that life could come only as a result of Christ’s ransom sacrifice. Hindus have many “gods.” Some of the more popular are in the shape of an elephant-headed man, or a monkey, or in some cases just a lump of clay with some sort of representation of a man. Some sects believe that God is in everything and they very strictly avoid killing anything, even a cockroach, a rat, or a bedbug. Hindu homes are usually decked with many religious pictures of their “gods.” Mohammedans, on the other hand, abhor images. It amazes the Mohammedans when we tell them we do not believe in the “trinity,” or three gods in one. They have their own ideas about Jesus Christ, but are often willing to discuss the subject. And then there are the Parsees, who are Zoroastrians by religion and use fire as a symbol of deity. Yes, there are certainly plenty of religious ideas among the people of India.
While working in Calcutta we had the opportunity of spending some time during the hottest season preaching up in the Himalayas at Darjeeling and Kurseong. What an awe-inspiring sight those lofty snowcapped mountains are! The view of mighty Kanchinjunga is truly breathtaking, a marvelous exhibition of Jehovah’s handiwork!
Eventually I was sent to Burma. There were some families already interested in the Bible and actively engaged in the preaching work in Rangoon and other places. I was able to aid these brothers to organize themselves more for the ministry. Several families showed keen interest in Bible truth, and as their children grew up, they too became active Witnesses. These families were really the beginning of the present-day witness work in Burma. I enjoyed greatly the privilege of helping them toward Christian maturity.
In 1938 I was assigned to Madras, India. From there I worked down the southeast coastal section, placing literature in Trichinopoly, Madura and Tuticorin, besides many small places. At this time I was joined by a young brother from Malaya, a one-time Sikh named G. P. Singh. We worked together for quite a time. He eventually was privileged to attend the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in the United States, and on his return to India he continued in the full-time ministry.
Then came World War II. The British government in India clamped down on our literature, confiscating it wherever they could find it. As we moved from town to town we were constantly harassed by the police, who took away our literature. Then the Society instructed me to go to Bangalore and work with just the Bible, aiding the local brothers to do likewise. By this means we broke down a lot of prejudice, especially among Roman Catholics. After three years in Bangalore I was sent to Calcutta to help the small congregation that was just forming there. However, my health broke down and I returned to England, where I had an operation for appendicitis and spent some time recuperating.
ASSIGNED TO BRANCH OFFICE
On my return to India in 1949 I was invited to work at the branch office in Bombay. Another brother and I worked together on a small press printing The Watchtower in the Malayalam language, as well as doing other printing work. I also handled the shipping of literature and the literature stock. This kept me busy, but it was work that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Life at the branch office and home has been spiritually uplifting and it has been a fine privilege to work with those who have been in the preaching work for so many years. Gradually the activity in India has expanded, until there are now seventy-five congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses throughout India. It has been an inspiration to me to live and work with the Indian brothers and to watch them grow to maturity. Babies of long ago are now active preachers and overseers in congregations. Then, in 1960, the Bombay branch office and home were moved into the suburbs into a fine new building owned by the Society, where it is still my privilege to serve.
It is now over thirty-three years since I first came to India, and thirty-nine years since I became a full-time preacher of the good news. It has been a life devoted to Jehovah and the interests of the Kingdom. I trust that my experience will serve to encourage others to do the same thing, that is, to devote their lives to Jehovah and become full-time ministers. If we put our trust in Jehovah and in his Word and are courageous in being his witnesses, then we are assured of his protection and blessing and we may be certain that he will sustain us as we faithfully carry out our devotion to Jehovah and the ministry.