Full-Time Service Brings True Riches
I CAN picture myself, more than fifty-five years ago, standing in front of a shop window on a street in northwest London. There were many books and pamphlets on the Bible in that window, but the attraction to me was a booklet entitled “What Say the Scriptures About Hell?”
There was a reason why I wanted that booklet. On his way to work the previous day my brother had been handed a tract entitled “The Wages of Sin Is Death, Not Eternal Torment.” Later in the day he gave the tract to me. It was of special interest because for the past two years we had both been members of the North West London Gospel Mission and had been using our weekends in open-air preaching and at mission halls. The theme of our message? It was: “Get saved now, the unbeliever will spend eternity in everlasting torment!”
That is why I had the urge to read that booklet in the shop window! Looking up over the shop, I read the words “Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.” For the first time I realized that this was the London center of the Society that had published the pamphlet handed to my brother. I had started on the road to obtain riches of unsurpassed knowledge founded on the book of truth, the Holy Bible.
Before long I was convinced of the need to dedicate my life to God. So in 1910, along with forty others, I was baptized in water to symbolize my dedication to do the will of God.
From the earliest days following my dedication I had a desire to serve the brothers in the faith. How glad I was when, on one of the visits of the Watch Tower Society’s first president, C. T. Russell, he read out a list of names, among which was my own, of those recommended to serve as “elders” and “deacons” in the London Tabernacle, where we had our meetings. Now I was to enjoy riches of service among my spiritual brothers by ushering them to their seats and also by conducting group studies in the Bible-study aid entitled “The Divine Plan of the Ages.”
FULL-TIME PREACHING BEGINS
It was in June of 1914 that the vital question arose: Should I make the full-time preaching work my career? J. F. Rutherford, who was to become the second president of the Watch Tower Society two-and-a-half years later, was starting a Bible lecture campaign in Britain. Large halls throughout the country were being booked for his talk “Where Are the Dead?” Full-time workers were needed to call on the people who left their names at these meetings.
At this time I received a letter from the Society asking me if I would join these ministers in this full-time service. It is strange how the mind reasons at times. I thought to myself: “I am an appointed servant of the London Tabernacle congregation. I am conducting four group studies weekly. I am on the list of speakers for public meetings. What more can I do?” All the same, I had no obligations to hinder me from entering this full-time service.
Therefore, I made a decision, the right one. I entered full-time preaching service. And what a year to do so, for 1914 was marked out in Bible prophecy! We Bible Students knew that something would happen in the autumn of that year, but we did not know exactly what it would be. We were within a few months of the greatest war in history up to that time, although the people in Britain were unaware of the woes awaiting the nations.
PREACHING THROUGHOUT THE BRITISH ISLES
Soon after those events I married one who is still with me in full-time service. Then, a short time later, we received a letter from the London office of the Watch Tower Society. Would we go to Lancashire to aid people who had become interested in the message of Bible truth? Of course we would! Before long we were working in our new assignment, an area where no congregations existed at the time. Incidentally, the local tribunal exempted me from military service as a minister and I was allowed to work on my assignment all during the four years of World War I.
We enjoyed the work in Lancashire but found it a difficult assignment because of very limited travel facilities and acute war conditions. But we were richly blessed in seeing the growth of three congregations and were able to baptize upward of sixty persons in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah.
Later, another letter came from the London office asking me to take up what was then called the “Pilgrim” work. This meant visiting all the congregations in Britain. Two Bible talks were given each day to different congregations, with a weekend visit to a larger congregation. The work of a “Pilgrim” was to visit and strengthen those who were in the truth in those critical years, for the brothers needed to maintain a good outlook on the future and be prepared for the service ahead.
In 1926, after eight years in that feature of the ministry, we were assigned to territory covering England’s beautiful Lake District, southeast Scotland and Northern Ireland. We fixed up four halls in different towns and gave four lectures a week in each one of them. We put up advertising posters for the lectures and gave out handbills from door to door. One rich experience in connection with this work in Northern Ireland happened when we gave a series of talks in County Sligo. A man got one of the handbills we distributed, but did not attend the lecture. Instead, he sent to London for literature. Later he accepted the truths of God’s Word, along with several members of his family. But I was not to meet this man until thirty-four years later, in 1963! That was at the “Everlasting Good News” Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses at Twickenham, London. What a joy that was!
Instructions now came for my wife and me to continue our ministry in Eire. Using bicycles, the best means of transportation for those parts, we commenced in the northern counties of Eire and worked our way south in what was to be a five-year stretch of intensive preaching.
It was in Eire where we came to appreciate more fully the protective power of unseen servants, the angels, those who are “spirits for public service.” (Heb. 1:7, 14) This was so because we met up with violent opposition from Catholic Action. We were manhandled, stoned, threatened, chased from village to village; our literature was stolen from railway stations and also burned in a market square in a town in Tipperary; and we were even made to look down the barrel of a revolver. A lovable people had been sadly prejudiced by Babylonish religion. Yet, among them were a praiseworthy few whose homes were opened to us in time of need.
In time sound cars had come into use in the preaching work and we were asked to take over one of these. On the outside of the car were the words “This Gospel of the Kingdom Must Be Preached.” With this we were to spend two years working many parts of Scotland where no congregations existed. In this interesting land our loudspeakers boomed out the message of God’s truth, in lowlands and highlands, over the lochs, the mountains and the plains.
After this we received further assignments in England. There we began to see the long-awaited increase of Jehovah’s gathered ones as the forward movement of the preaching work brought many to a knowledge of Bible truth and dedication.
SERVICE AT LONDON BETHEL
In 1942 I was asked to come to the London headquarters of the Society. Help was needed because a number of the leading brothers in the London Bethel were imprisoned due to their Bible-based neutral stand during World War II.
I went into Bethel for the duration of the war and started a four-and-a-half year period of service that was unforgettable. Life in a Bethel home brings service of the highest order no matter what form that service takes. I was privileged to work at the service desk and be in touch with all the congregations in Britain. That was a very happy and rich experience.
Those were also very hazardous years. London was made the center of attack by enemy aircraft. The “Battle of Britain” raged. High explosive and incendiary bombs fell almost nightly on London. But the amazing thing was that the Witnesses in London never let up on their preaching work. Instead, they increased it! They visited people with the “good news of the kingdom,” bringing comfort to many. Under these difficult circumstances we were learning about the true riches of Jehovah’s care in providing protection for his people.—Matt. 24:14.
In 1946 the Society invited me, with Sister Guiver, to do circuit work. Next to life in the Bethel family, the work of a circuit servant was one of the richest, spiritually rewarding privileges that one could enjoy. That is how it appealed to me. It called for great love and much kindness toward young and old. But there is a special joy in serving the brothers and in taking new ones out into the preaching work. Sixteen years thus passed, until 1962.
My wife and I then were enrolled on the special pioneer list, serving on the south coast of England, where it is more suitable to our health. But there is no retiring! The days are busy serving in the local congregation and in the full-time preaching work.
Looking back after more than fifty years of activity in a variety of ways since making the full-time service my career, there comes to mind what many said when I was deciding on this way of life: “What will you do when you get old?” I can honestly say I have never lacked anything I really needed. The essentials always have been there, as Jesus promised when he said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33) Truly, what we have gained in a spiritual way since making the full-time service our career are enduring riches that can never fail.—Matt. 6:20.