As told by EMLYN WYNES
CAREERS of this world hold out rich and glistening rewards to people—fame and wealth, for example. The value of fame may be judged by the fact that today only the educated few are acquainted with the famous men of the past. And as to wealth, what advantage does it offer when it cannot guarantee health and happiness? The course of faith, on the other hand, holds out to anointed Christians an unfading crown, “the crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10.
Faith produces even more than that. It brings its own day-by-day rewards to the man who exercises it, and I can testify to this as I review my forty-six years as a dedicated slave of the true God, Jehovah. Ordinarily, forty years is a long time, but in my experience those forty-six years have passed swiftly and brought many treasured memories.
I was brought up in a small village of Monmouthshire, England, where I often heard the Bible discussed by my brother who became a Bible Student back in 1918. Also, I had an uncle who was deeply interested in the publications of the Watch Tower Society such as The Divine Plan of the Ages. My parents, who soon also came to appreciate the accurate Bible knowledge found in those publications, were very hospitable, and our home was always open to many of the full-time representatives of the Society.
Meantime, I had been regularly attending the Methodist Church, where I found they were teaching ideas quite contrary to those of the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s witnesses were then known. However, one group in the Methodist Church began to deny the authenticity of parts of the Bible, and that gave me cause for some sober thinking.
I recall how a man who owned a small piece of ground with a hut on it gave it over for use as a meeting place of the Bible Students. It was whitewashed, a cement floor was put in, and with some chairs and a table with an oil lamp, it was ready for use as a meeting place or Kingdom Hall, as such a meeting hall is now known. What impressed me was that one of the Society’s traveling representatives gave a Bible lecture in that small hut. In 1921 the same group built their own fine meeting hall, which is there to this day. And I am happy to recall how I had a small share in that construction—one of the earliest assembly halls of Jehovah’s witnesses in the country.
Fanatical religious persecution by Baptists so incensed many of my relatives that they began to associate with the targets of the persecution, Jehovah’s witnesses, and they are loyal to this very day. I, too, was deeply affected. So much so that one evening, as I came out of the billiard parlor, I recalled that the Witnesses were having a meeting just up the street. What a surprise they had when I joined them. There they were sitting around a table, deep in discussion of Bible topics that were far beyond my grasp at the time. But I recognized that they were sincere and convinced that they were on the right track.
This was a turning point for me. I began to study the Bible seriously and to associate with the Witnesses. Eventually, convinced that God was blessing and directing this little group, I threw in my lot with them, dedicating my life to Jehovah even as they had done. In 1922 I got my start in the house-to-house ministry, and how encouraged I was that day when I placed a copy of The Harp of God at my very first call!
FAITH LEADS TO FULL-TIME SERVICE
In 1932 I married, and since then Doris has been my cherished partner in the ministry. She, too, has been active for forty years. From the first we determined that our home would always be open to those devoted to Jehovah’s service. On one occasion we had as many as thirteen full-time Witnesses with us during a special campaign in Bristol. Naturally, my wife and I began to think seriously about the full-time ministry for ourselves.
Many things had to be settled first, selling our home and giving up my business position. My employers told me I was mad to take such a step, and especially when I tendered my final notice even before my home was disposed of. Offers of promotion were made, but we had made up our minds. Soon the house was sold and we repaired to Manchester, in the north of England, on our first assignment. That was in 1938.
Almost at once I was appointed to be overseer of one of the local congregations as well as “city servant,” or the Society’s representative for the entire city. Then, too, a couple of homes were opened up by the Society for the numerous full-time ministers that were assigned to serve in this area, and it was part of my work to supervise these. It was a busy time but a happy time too. The war was raging, but though German bombs fell in the vicinity, no serious damage was sustained by any of our fellow Witnesses.
Then, too, because of false rumors in which we were described as “a dangerous Fifth Column,” we were often shadowed and accosted in the streets by detectives; and one of the “pioneer” homes was even ransacked from top to bottom at one o’clock in the morning; but naturally no evidence of any subversive activity could be found. Nothing but Bibles and Bible literature.
UNDISCOURAGED BY WARTIME PRESSURES
During the war prejudice against the Witnesses was often fanned into violent opposition by Christendom’s clergy. At one meeting that we organized, where the recorded lectures of J. F. Rutherford, former president of the Watch Tower Society, were featured, a Catholic woman was ejected for disturbing the peace. Soon she was back in the hall with a mob of her friends, including a city alderman. The police were called in, and despite the alderman’s threats, the mob was expelled. Later, however, when we were leaving the auditorium they tried to overturn our bus. The Society arranged for the printing and distribution of thousands of leaflets, which were widely distributed in the same area. They contained an exposure of this alderman’s illegal activities. Soon after, we learned that he had died of heart failure.
Then there were numerous privileges in connection with visiting Witnesses who had been imprisoned because of their stand of neutrality. We even conducted the annual celebration of the Lord’s evening meal in some of the prisons, even though prison governors at times sought to prevent it. In one instance an uncooperative prison governor gave permission only at the last moment—and then as a result of a telegram from the Watch Tower Society’s branch office reminding him that discriminatory action could lead to an official inquiry by the office of the Home Secretary.
Jehovah’s protecting care was frequently evident. I recall one assembly we had with several thousand in attendance. At its close we had barely left the auditorium when a bomb came through the roof and demolished the structure. Also, a hotel where many of the Witnesses were accommodated was destroyed by a bomb—but not one Witness was hurt! Surely “the angel of Jehovah is camping all around those fearing him.”—Ps. 34:7.
Appearances in courts were frequent in those days, too, for I was often called upon to defend fellow Witnesses charged under the mobilization laws. One irascible judge kept asking irrelevant questions about my earnings and the balance sheet of the Society. When I pointed out that I was not a prisoner but a witness and did not have to answer such questions, he had me thrown out of court. The very next day, though, on advice of the Society, I gained an interview with this judge and managed to present the case of our fellow Witnesses, even though he still fumed and fussed. This time, however, I was ushered out of his presence in a more civil manner.
Finally my own turn came, my own day in court. I can still hear the verdict of an honest judge ringing in my ears: “This man has favorably impressed this tribunal; we are satisfied that he has not joined the Witnesses for any base or ulterior motive; we are satisfied that his conscience would be violated if he were called upon to take any part in military service. He realizes to the full his duties as a citizen, therefore there is no necessity to impose any conditions. His service to Jehovah is unlimited.”
FAITH’S DAY-TO-DAY REWARDS
It has been a source of constant joy to be able to serve for so many years without a break as one of the Society’s traveling representatives, visiting congregations, working with fellow Witnesses in all parts of the British field. It has been faith-strengthening to note the growth of the organization in Britain from 2,000 Witnesses to well over 54,000. In the early days we used to travel around a circuit of 26 congregations, and it would entail a journey of some 300 miles. Now there are so many congregations and so many circuits that one does not have to go far to visit the same number of congregations.
Assemblies have always been a wonderful blessing, particularly to those exercising faith in God’s grand purposes. I shall always remember the first large gathering I attended in London’s Alexandra Palace in 1926. I can still recall the hush of the huge audience in Royal Albert Hall as the then president of the Watch Tower Society, J. F. Rutherford, delivered the sobering talk entitled “World Powers Are Tottering—the Remedy.” And what a privilege to be one of the hundreds who shared in a street distribution of the special booklet released on that occasion, The Standard for the People!
Then there was the outstanding assembly in Paris in 1937. The speaker on this occasion had said: “The Gestapo are in this audience and some of you brothers will be arrested before you leave this assembly.” Realizing the crisis facing them, the brothers sang the concluding song with great feeling—“God be with you till we meet again.” What a touching scene! The fearlessness of the whole association was a real stimulus to faith.
Another joyous assembly was held in Leicester, England, in 1941, despite wartime restrictions, food rationing and much fanatical opposition. The lecture “Children of the King,” relayed from St. Louis, Missouri, was listened to intently and the book Children was passed out to hundreds of youngsters who lined up on the platform. Many of those same children are now grown up, responsible servants in the congregations all around this country.
Perhaps above all else our association at the Nuremberg assembly with Witnesses who had just emerged from the horrors of Hitler’s concentration camps brought us to an even stronger faith in Jehovah’s protection and guidance over his people. Singularly blessed too were those of us who were privileged to cross the ocean in 1950 and attend the great convention in New York’s Yankee Stadium. Here is where we heard for the first time that the prospective modern princes that will share in ruling the earth under Christ’s heavenly kingdom are already here.—Ps. 45:16.
It was also an added privilege to attend the 1958 convention in New York city. All these assemblies built up a great degree of appreciation for God’s organization. It was truly thrilling to live through all those years, to gain deeper insight into Jehovah’s way of administering the affairs of his people, to see, one after another, Kingdom controls coming into effect and bringing to Jehovah’s witnesses world wide a unity and peacefulness that are unmatched in any other organization among humans.
Even when, for a time, I was hospitalized it was happifying to be able to go on sharing in the worldwide work of spreading Bible knowledge. I spent many hours witnessing to doctors, nurses, students and patients, yes, and even visitors. The soothing effect of the message of the Kingdom was quite noticeable. One doctor who came to visit the patients in our ward exclaimed as he came in: “What has happened? This is the most pleasant and happy ward in the whole hospital!”
At that time I enjoyed other rewards of faith that I must mention. From all over the country came hundreds of letters and cards to remind me that I had not been forgotten—and this in itself was a tremendous witness to those around me in the hospital. And as the time came to leave the hospital, scores of kind offers arrived, many homes were offered as places of recuperation. I was experiencing fulfillment of Jesus’ promise as recorded at Luke 18:29, 30.
LOOKING AHEAD IN FAITH
When the time comes to leave this feature of Kingdom work, which I have treasured so much in serving fellow Witnesses, it will be with reluctance. However, I know that Jehovah has service privileges for each one, young and old, weak and strong, and it is my desire to fill up the remainder of my days here on earth with activity that in some small way reflects honor to Jehovah, the faithful God.
As I look back on the way I have come I can but note that whatever I have been able to accomplish has been done in the strength and faith that God provides, through his Word, his spirit and his organization. The warmth and consideration of fellow laborers has been most helpful. My dear wife, too, has been at my side a pillar of strength, supporting me in my responsibilities.
I have no fears for the future. Jehovah has strengthened me in the past, and I feel sure that he will continue to exercise undeserved kindness toward me, so that I shall never be in want physically or spiritually. My heart overflows with appreciation for his indescribable free gift. I look forward to the final reward of faith, life forever in the sunshine of Jehovah’s favor.