Jehovah Has Dealt Rewardingly with Me
As Told By Mabelle Ilett
I AM eighty-seven years old now and often lean on the arms of others, so it is not easy for me to get about. But I was at the recent “Word of Truth” Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses at Yankee Stadium, New York City. There one of the nurses from the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters wheeled me in a chair around the entire circumference of the ball field so I could get a good view of the crowd. How my heart rejoiced to look up into the stands and see tens of thousands of witnesses of Jehovah! Yes, for many reasons my physical feebleness is more than offset by the robust joy in my heart, which cries out like the psalmist David of old: “I will sing to Jehovah, for he has dealt rewardingly with me.”—Ps. 13:6.
It was a printed invitation to a public Bible talk that helped me take my first step toward a life of spiritual rewards. In the spring of 1922 a leaflet was left at my home, inviting people to hear a talk entitled “Where Are the Dead?” I wanted very much to hear this discourse and wondered if my husband Ambrose would consent to taking me to hear it.
When Ambrose came home to lunch one day, I showed him the tract. He told me that he had been reading a book entitled “The Divine Plan of the Ages,” published by the organization sponsoring the public lecture. How wonderful! I thought. Could this book contain the truth that I had been looking for so long? Would this lecture aid me in my search for accurate knowledge? The answers came soon.
We both attended the lecture. How refreshing that first meeting was! It delighted me to hear Scriptural evidence disproving such doctrines as hellfire and purgatory. When we arrived home, I exclaimed: “Did you ever hear anything so wonderful, dear? I’m so happy to know that there’s no burning hell or purgatory!” He agreed. Now my thoughts were: Where could I find more of this wonderful information? Just exactly what is God’s purpose? What must I do to please God fully? Would God show me the way? He did.
It happened that a patient of my husband (he was a medical doctor) saw us at that public lecture. She called me on the telephone the next day to tell me that there was a Bible study in the neighborhood. They were studying the Bible with the aid of the book The Harp of God. I told my husband about this, and we started attending the neighborhood Bible study.
I delighted in this book, The Harp of God! The preface to the book said: “The reader should consider each point herein made with his Bible before him, proving each proposition, that he may be thoroughly convinced in his own mind.” I did that, looking up over seven hundred Scripture citations. Clearly and quickly I learned about the creation of the earth and man, the Abrahamic promise, the birth of Jesus Christ, the ransom, the return of Christ and the glorification of “the church.”
BEGINNING IN THE FIELD MINISTRY
Because of studying and meeting regularly with Jehovah’s people, it was not long before I realized that I, too, should be a proclaimer of these glad tidings. I felt like Jeremiah of old. If I held the message within me, it would be like a fire in my bones. So I just had to tell others what I learned about God’s purposes, and Jehovah blessed me for so doing.
Though I was still a beginner in Bible knowledge, I would approach the householders and tell them the truth from the Bible, as I knew it. I will always remember with appreciation how a certain brother would watch me as I worked from house to house in rural territories. If he sensed that I was at a loss for words, he would quickly leave his car, come to stand by my side and fill in with the knowledge I lacked. This was a loving provision and a fine support for me until I knew more about Jehovah’s Word of truth and could defend his truth more maturely.
Our field ministry in northern New York state reminded me of the way Jesus Christ preached. As Jesus did, so we went from village to village, town to town and city to city. Those days from 1923 to 1929 were filled with rewards for me, and I shall never forget them. Jehovah indeed dealt rewardingly with me, and now more rewards were in store.
In 1929 my husband and I made a far-reaching decision with regard to our future in Jehovah’s service. The choice was whether to continue in our secular work or to expand our Kingdom ministry to other fields. What would we do? Our decision was to sell our home in Watertown, New York, with its many comforts, and expand our privileges of preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. Though we felt some sadness at leaving behind dear friends and the patients of my husband, serving Jehovah was more important to us. After all, had we not dedicated our lives to him? Desiring to build our lives around that dedication vow, we wanted to go to other places to serve our wonderful God, Jehovah.
So we entered the full-time preaching work in 1929. Our ministry took us to Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire in the summer, and Florida in the winter. We witnessed to people, offering them such Bible-study aids as the books Deliverance!, Creation and The Harp of God. What wonderful instruments they were both in feeding our minds with the precious truths of our God, Jehovah, and in aiding others to seek Him! When we found any persons very much interested, we would always call back and see how they were getting along. Our ministry in this field continued until the end of the year 1931. Then Jehovah rewarded us with more privileges of service.
MISSIONARY WORK IN CUBA
We had heard that there was a need for Kingdom proclaimers in Cuba; so we offered to go. With a missionary spirit like that of the apostle Paul, four of us went to serve as missionaries in Cuba. We felt the same excitement that graduates of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead do today, at the prospect of going as missionaries to foreign lands. How well I remember packing the car with belongings for the trip! We traveled by car to Florida and took a ship from there to Cuba.
One outstanding point of our work in Cuba I fondly remember; this was a convention that we had on November 9, 1932. Brother Rutherford gave the public talk to a peak attendance of ten persons! The assembly was held in a private home in Havana, and we had a fine time together, rejoicing in Jehovah and in his goodness. I remember how forcefully Brother Rutherford spoke on Bible truths. At this time he instructed us to spread the good news to all parts of Cuba, to cover the whole island. He also instructed us that in giving a witness to the Kingdom we should not pass up the influential people in Cuba.
We were obedient to these instructions and witnessed to politicians, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, priests and nuns, as well as to the preachers of Protestantism. Some were kind, others were not; but we still preached the good news whether they heard with pleasure or annoyance. I remember one preacher telling me that I was very presumptuous in coming to the doors with this message. I replied: “The message of the Kingdom is for everyone, and I do not feel presumptuous in coming to your door.” Such rejections did not discourage me.
Jehovah continued to bless our work in Cuba, and, in our car, we covered virtually all the island, offering Bible study-aids such as the Spanish edition of The Harp of God. I thank the Lord for such wonderful foreign experience! But now Jehovah had more for us to do in His service. He dealt rewardingly with us by enabling us to enter into a new field of service.
On October 23, 1933, my husband and I were visiting the Van Amburghs at Brooklyn Bethel, the headquarters of the Watch Tower Society. After breakfast, the Society’s president invited Brothers Van Amburgh and Ilett to his office. Two hours passed. What could they be talking about? I wondered. Finally, Brother Rutherford came to the Van Amburghs’ room, where I was, and he looked me in the eye (as he always did when talking with a person) and asked directly: “How would you like to come to Bethel and serve here with Brother Ilett? Occasionally members of our dear family get sick and we need a doctor here.” I was surprised. I never expected anything like that! I answered: “If it is Jehovah’s will, yes, I will come to Bethel.” Thus we both entered into the rewards of Bethel service.
My years at Bethel have proved to be delightful ones, bringing me a variety of privileges. I served at the Bethel reception desk, from time to time, for many years. What a pleasure it was to greet Jehovah’s dear people as they visited the Society’s headquarters! What joy and satisfaction I had in answering their questions and directing them to various places in the Bethel home!
My husband Ambrose served at Bethel faithfully until his death in 1957. Although I miss him, I am not alone. Jehovah has dealt rewardingly with me, and full-time service helps make up for any personal losses that we may encounter in life. I live with almost 800 other witnesses of Jehovah, and I rejoice to see among them the students of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, busily moving about, studying God’s Word to make themselves effective missionaries of the good news.
Though I have grown feeble, I would not think of giving up the work of witnessing to God’s kingdom. I write letters, sending out Bible literature, trying to cultivate interest in those who are favorably disposed.
I have fond memories of yesteryear when Jehovah’s visible modern-day organization was younger, but I live joyfully in the present, thankful for all of Jehovah’s present-day goodness, looking confidently and with faith to the future.
How glad I am that my decisions in life have been built around my dedication vow to Jehovah! Those right decisions have led me to one reward after another in Jehovah’s service. Jehovah has dealt so rewardingly with me that I can ask and declare, as did David: “What shall I repay to Jehovah for all his benefits to me? The cup of grand salvation I shall take up, and on the name of Jehovah I shall call. My vows I shall pay to Jehovah, yes, in front of all his people.”—Ps. 116:12-14.