What Accepting Jesus Meant to Me
AS TOLD BY Helen Griffiths
MY PARENTS were Jewish, but they did not practice their religion, apart from saying that they believed in God. The result was that I had no early religious training. As far as I can remember, I always believed in God, and occasionally I even went to a Baptist Sunday school with a girl friend. In 1900, when I was eighteen, I married Edward Griffiths. We became active workers in the Episcopalian Church, my husband becoming a Sunday-school teacher, although we could not agree with many things we heard taught there. I could not understand how Jesus Christ could be God himself. In fact, the time came when Edward had just about reached the point where he realized he would? have to go either according to the Bible or according to the church, since they differed so much, when something wonderful happened.
He noticed a column in a newspaper on the subject “What Is a Christian?” It was by the president of the Watch Tower Society, known as Pastor Russell. He read it and was very much impressed; so he sent for the publication mentioned in the column. An evening shortly thereafter one of the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s witnesses were then called, came to our house. I was busy getting ready for a church supper, but she spoke with my husband. He ordered the six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures and a subscription for The Watch Tower. About the time she was leaving I came into the room and apologized for not being able to have her stay for supper. I explained that we were going to a church supper and would not be eating at home. Since we were living in New York city, she then invited us to come to Bethel, the headquarters of the Watch Tower Society, the following Wednesday evening to meet Pastor Russell.
We accepted the invitation, and after supper we were invited to Pastor Russell’s room. In the course of the conversation that ensued he asked my husband whether he was dedicated. Edward’s reply was, Yes. Then I was asked the same question, but I did not understand that he was talking about the dedication of one’s life to God. Brother Russell told me I lacked faith. “But I believe in God,” I told him.
LEARNING THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD’S SON
In the next few weeks I learned that I did lack faith because of lack of knowledge. I had always faced a problem in the Episcopalian Church because they spoke of Jesus as God, and I could not accept this. But in the few weeks after I met Pastor Russell, my husband and I attended lectures that the Bible Students held, and we learned the truth about where the dead are, what hell really is, and that Jesus is actually God’s Son and not God himself. Although as an Episcopalian I had become a Christian in name, for the first time in my life I understood who Jesus was and why it was necessary for me to accept him and his ransom sacrifice in order to be pleasing to God.
At the same time, with his new understanding of the Bible, my husband began to realize that the doctrines concerning immortality and hellfire that he was teaching the children in Sunday school were not Scriptural. His conscience troubled him, and so he took his question to the minister of our church, who replied, “Don’t worry about it, Mr. Griffiths. I don’t believe all the things I teach our parishioners either.” This admitted hypocrisy on the part of one of the clergy of Christendom did much to help us both with the decision to leave the church.
The first Sunday of every month Brother Russell spoke on baptism at the New York Temple, and in February of 1915 Edward and I heard that talk. When it came time for those who wanted to be baptized to stand, my husband and I surprised each other, for we both stood up. After we were baptized, Brother Russell came to extend the right hand of fellowship, and was he ever surprised to see me, the woman who lacked faith just a few weeks earlier, there, having been baptized!
Our home was immediately blessed by its being used as a meeting place, for both a book study and a Watch Tower study were conducted there. We had sufficient space to accommodate an extra person, and so we were often privileged to share it with a pioneer minister (or colporteur, as they were then called). This enlarged our circle in the family of the Lord and was a source of encouragement to all of us.
COPYING JESUS’ EXAMPLE
Having come to recognize Jesus in his proper place in God’s arrangement, I desired to copy his example and share in the preaching of God’s kingdom. We had three children, however, and did not feel we could share in the pioneer ministry. However, when the auxiliary pioneer ministry was announced, we both did have a share in that, devoting fifty hours a month to the work.
Not everyone appreciated this Kingdom preaching. In New Jersey Jehovah’s witnesses were being arrested for “peddling without a license.” So the Watch Tower Society arranged for special campaigns in that State, and on weekends we shared in the preaching work there, meeting early in the morning, realizing that the risk of arrest by the police was always present. On one occasion Edward was arrested, convicted and served a sentence of ten days in jail. Eventually the right to preach was established through court cases.
The New York congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses was divided into units in the 1930’s, and Edward became the congregation overseer in the Bronx. (Incidentally, at that time there was just the one congregation in the Bronx. Now there are thirty-four.) What a grand privilege and joy it has been to see the growth of Jehovah’s organization over the years!
Edward entered the pioneer ministry in 1940, having given up a financially rewarding position in the business world; and I joined him in the pioneer ranks in 1941 after our youngest child, Ruth, married. Six months after I began pioneering we were assigned to serve in Ossining, New York. Edward was appointed as a special pioneer minister then, and after another six months I, too, became a special pioneer. How thrilling it was to have a share in establishing a congregation there!
We enjoyed assignments in Tarrytown, Hastings-on-Hudson and Islip, Long Island, in the years following, and in Islip, too, we were able to organize a congregation. These assignments were during the years of World War II, and, because of gasoline rationing, it was often necessary for us to walk long distances to our Bible studies. Edward was nearing seventy years of age at that time, but we enjoyed good health and, with Jehovah’s help, we were able to continue full-time preaching and so received many blessings.
Providence, Rhode Island, was the next place to which we were assigned. The congregation had fifty-eight persons associated with it, and Edward was quite surprised at the coldness of the congregation. He felt that if those associated with the congregation there could have closer contact with headquarters they would soon warm up. So, as the congregation overseer, he began asking for speakers from Bethel. These certainly proved to be a wonderful stimulus to the congregation there. I remember that a certain family was asked to house one of the headquarters speakers. They were a little hesitant at first, but they agreed. The speaker was made to feel part of the family, and, in time, he actually became part of the family, as he married one of the girls in the family. He and his wife are now serving in Denmark.
BLESSINGS FROM FOLLOWING JESUS’ EXAMPLE
While it had been easy for us to see the difference between God’s truth and false religion, some could not see this so clearly. I remember an Italian girl with whom I studied. She had been a Catholic in Italy, where a priest burned her Bible; but on coming to the United States she found that her family had become Baptists. She joined the Baptist Church, but she agreed to study the Bible with me. The study progressed except for the fact that she could not see the difference between Christendom’s Babylonish religion and Bible truth. Then one day the Baptist minister paid her a visit. She began talking to him about God’s kingdom. He asked her why she wanted any kingdom to come, since she had a fine home, was well situated materially and did not need to worry about any kingdom. She told him she was not concerned about just herself but about all those suffering throughout the world that did not have what she had materially. The minister’s visit helped her to see the difference between Christendom’s teachings and those of the Bible. She is still serving faithfully, preaching the good news of God’s kingdom.
Before we left Providence, we experienced the blessing of seeing the congregation grow in number to 117. From there we were assigned to Greenport, Long Island, and there, too, we were able to share in establishing a new congregation. Edward’s health failed while we were there, so in 1953 we returned to the Bronx to live with our son Richard and his family. In December 1954 my husband finished his earthly course.
Since returning to the Bronx, I have continued making known the truth concerning Jehovah and his Son, and at eighty-four years of age I am still blessed with the privilege of being on the list of pioneer ministers, enjoying the company of many others in the congregation as I share in the preaching of the good news. Having a congregation book study group meet in my apartment is another blessing that I appreciate very much.
Speaking of blessings, I am reminded of assemblies. How happy Edward and I were when the name “Jehovah’s witnesses” was announced at the Columbus, Ohio, assembly in 1931. And I remember, too, the thrilling assembly in St. Louis in 1941, when the Society’s president, Brother Rutherford, spoke to the children there. But assemblies get better all the time. The Yankee Stadium conventions were all wonderful too. And the one I attended not long ago at Baltimore, the “God’s Sons of Liberty” Assembly, was the best one yet. I have been having problems with my health lately, but I am so glad I was able to get to that assembly. My health was not any more of a problem there than it would have been if I had stayed home, and what a spiritual blessing I would have missed! I am so grateful to Jehovah and to my Christian brothers and sisters for the love shown me in making my trip to Baltimore for the assembly possible.
When I look back on the years I have served Jehovah, I am very happy. When we first began following Jesus’ example by preaching, we wondered how we would ever reach all the people in New York city with the message. What a joy it has been over the years to see how Jehovah’s blessing has been on the efforts of his witnesses and how he has raised up so many to accomplish the work he wants done! Down through the years we were privileged to aid many to a knowledge of God’s truth, and the children of some of those with whom we studied are now district, circuit and congregation overseers. When I visit them, it is like going home to my families. Surely one of the many blessings I have received as a result of my acceptance of Jesus and my dedication to Jehovah has been my “children” and “grandchildren” in the Lord.—Mark 10:29, 30.
I have learned that when we have love for Jehovah and faith in him, if we put forth the effort, Jehovah does the rest. I do know that, if one has no Scriptural obligations to prevent him, there is no greater joy than to share in the pioneer ministry with full faith in Jehovah and his promises, such as the one at Malachi 3:10: “‘Test me out, please, in this respect,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘whether I shall not open to you people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon you a blessing until there is no more want.’” So although I was a natural Jew without understanding of Jesus Christ and little knowledge of God, how grateful I am that I had the opportunity to come to know Jehovah, and how glad I am that I accepted his most gracious provision, his Son Jesus Christ, and copied the example He left for us!—1 Pet. 2:21.
(Sister Helen Griffiths died on Friday, November 4, 1966, as she neared eighty-five years of age. The funeral service was held on Sunday, November 6, and more than 165 were present to hear the talk given by a close friend of hers, Russell Kurzen, a member of the Brooklyn Bethel family. Sister Griffiths was one of the anointed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose hope of heavenly happiness is spoken of in the promise at Revelation 14:13.)