Learning God’s Ways from Infancy
As told by Kathryn Glass
“NOW that you have begun to study the Bible and are learning about Jehovah’s purposes, there is something you should do. Keep talking about these things to your little children.”
“But they are so little! Why, the girl is only four and the boy just past a year. These are deep things we are learning!”
How often parents express themselves in this way! But is it true that little children cannot understand the Bible’s teachings? Well, I have often used Proverbs 22:6 to answer that question for many mothers. It reads: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” From my own experience that counsel has proved to be sound in modern times.
It was back in 1911 that my parents began studying the Bible with the help of the set of books called “Studies in the Scriptures,” published by the International Bible Students Association. I was not quite four years of age. I had a little brother, and my parents taught us about the joyful hope of God’s kingdom and Jehovah’s requirements for little children from the very beginning. Later another brother and sister were added to the family, and they, too, learned along with the rest of us. Thus we grew up with God’s purposes and promises always in our minds.
Each summer morning, before most of us reached school age, mother would assemble us along with some neighborhood children and we would sing a song from the book Hymns of Millennial Dawn. Then she would lead us in a short prayer, following which there would be a Bible story. More than that, she would encourage a little discussion, so we would get the deeper meaning. How we enjoyed those occasions! And they helped us to appreciate the role of the various Bible characters in Jehovah’s purposes.
The congregation of Jehovah’s people in our town of Vincennes, Indiana, met in our home. We children were taught to get a drink of water and go to the bathroom before each meeting, so we would not disturb anyone later. We learned to sit quietly and listen. Then, when I was in third grade I was given my own copy of the Bible study aid and I would take my turn in reading the paragraphs.
Our home was always “open house” to the pioneers (then known as colporteurs) who were engaged full time in distributing the Watch Tower Society’s literature, and to the traveling representatives of the Society whom we then knew as “pilgrim brothers.” We profited much from those visits as we listened to their experiences.
DECISION AT TEN
My memory of one such visit still stands out clearly in my mind. I was ten years old. The visitor was a “pilgrim” named W. J. Thorn. For some reason mother and we children were the only ones at one of his meetings, so he decided to direct his remarks to us young ones particularly. He spoke about dedication, and he made it so clear and desirable that I was deeply impressed. When I went to bed that night, part of my prayer was to offer myself to God to be used as he saw fit. I never told anyone about that dedication, but all through my adolescent years it was uppermost in my mind and often guided me in decisions I had to make.
Some two years later we moved to a small town in Ohio where there was no congregation of Jehovah’s people. Although we still had some Bible study, it was no longer regular. Sickness, the struggle to raise a family, the cares of life, and father often having to be away on business, hindered spiritually healthful association with others of God’s people for a number of years. But that early training had had profound effect on us youngsters. It had sent down deep roots in our hearts. One after another we dedicated our lives to God. I was baptized, together with my sister, in 1936. Our brothers had already embarked on the full-time preaching work, pioneer service, and Gertrude and I had plans to do the same.
A LIFEWORK BEGINS
In December 1938 we both entered the pioneer service, preaching God’s Word full time. By this time our home was in Cleveland, Ohio, so we served there for a few months before accepting an assignment to work in Brookville, Pennsylvania. Those were stirring times. Jehovah’s witnesses in many places were the targets of persecution during World War II. Gertrude and I spent several days in jail for preaching God’s Word. Then the Society obtained an injunction against a number of towns in Pennsylvania, and we were free to engage in our preaching work without interference.
It was while we were serving in Warren, Pennsylvania, that the Society’s then president, J. F. Rutherford, announced a new arrangement for “special pioneers,” whereby the Society would afford some financial support to those pioneers who would go into communities where there was special need for Kingdom preaching. What a thrill we got when letters came to us inviting us to share in this special preaching activity!
In December 1941, four of us pioneers commenced under the new arrangement at Salamanca, New York. Later, a fifth girl joined us there. A congregation was soon established, a Kingdom Hall was located and furnished, and it was time for us to move on to another assignment. In the meantime my sister Gertrude found it advisable to return home to care for mother in her final illness. Dorothy Lawrence and I were sent to Penn Yan, New York, in 1944, but not for long. We were both invited to attend the Fourth Class of the Watch Tower Society’s missionary training school, the School of Gilead. We have been partners and companions ever since then.
GILEAD AND ONWARD
We did notice that many in our class at Gilead had known about Jehovah’s purposes since childhood. Here, too, we met the former “pilgrim” W. J. Thorn again. Though old and failing in health, he was still able to work every day at the Watchtower Society’s Kingdom Farm, where Gilead School was then located. When I reminded him of his words that had influenced me in early childhood, he told me that he had often used that theme when talking to youngsters.
I could write a book about our grand experiences at Gilead, but then Gilead was but a springboard to greater things ahead. Our first assignment was to Cuba, where we arrived on the first of the year, 1946. We were to help strengthen a small congregation at a place called Cienfuegos. The Kingdom Hall or meeting place was the large living room of our missionary home. Some in the congregation were confused; others had discontinued association due to evil influences, so it was our job to visit and build up as many as possible. With Jehovah’s help we succeeded measurably.
A DIFFERENT ASSIGNMENT
Our next major assignment was to the Dominican Republic. Hardly were we settled and granted permanent residence when trouble came. A ban was imposed on our work. Dictator Trujillo ordered all Kingdom Halls closed, and our preaching work was prohibited. Some of the missionaries were withdrawn, but Dorothy and I were happy that we could remain. The work was reorganized along new lines. We were counseled to take up secular employment and live as ordinary residents.
That was quite a change. We found a comfortable apartment facing the Caribbean, and taught English in order to keep going. Our students were mostly business people and diplomats from various lands. At the same time we had a small group of Witnesses assigned to us, and we met in our apartment for meetings and Bible studies. In this way police spies could never be sure which were bona fide students of English and which were our spiritual sisters coming and going from our home.
We had a large bathtub in our apartment, and this proved to be very serviceable, since it was not possible to have public baptisms during those years of ban. From around the city candidates came to be baptized here, and incidentally we were able to keep in touch with what was going on in other parts of the city and country. I know of fifty or more, including many young persons, who were immersed in that tub.
Once at Memorial celebration our apartment was crowded with Witnesses. There was heavy rain and everyone came in soaked to the skin, but we had towels ready to help them dry off. And that rain proved to be a blessing, because it made it impossible for the official spies to sit on the low wall in front of our house to watch what went on.
THEN TO PUERTO RICO
In 1957 all of us missionaries were deported from the Dominican Republic; so we were assigned next to Puerto Rico, our specific assignment being the small town of Adjuntas in the mountains. We worked hard and made progress despite opposition. The religious clergy, Catholic and Protestant, brought pressure on the people. People were expected to stay with the church in which they had been brought up. Even the efforts of the Greek Orthodox Church to gain a foothold there were thwarted. But not Jehovah’s people, for we befriended many and we had many sympathizers, including even prominent persons.
One happy experience here had to do with a young boy of fourteen who presented himself at a home where I was conducting a Bible study saying he had come to study. He made many comments and asked numerous questions. He had a happy nature and was chatting and laughing most of the time. Not being quite sure of his sincerity, I made some inquiries and found that his schoolteacher was already studying the Bible with me, and she had aroused his interest. She assured me that he really was sincere.
Sure enough, he made remarkable progress. When he went to a larger city to finish schooling, he kept up his Bible studies, shared in the field ministry and was eventually baptized. He had to continue with his family for a time to help raise several younger brothers and sisters. In due time he arranged his affairs to enter the full-time pioneer ministry. Later, he was invited into the special pioneer service and is now an overseer in the congregation where he serves as a pioneer minister.
I must tell you another experience involving a young girl in our territory. The girl had been brought up rather permissively. Her outspokenness, though sincere and honest, might lead people to consider her disrespectful, even impudent. The mother was really concerned about her. One day she had come home from school announcing that she was through with the Catholic Church, though her mother still was going to mass at the time. On her own she withdrew from the Catholic school and chose to be graduated from a public school.
But then, when the mother started to have Bible studies with us, the girl hotly denounced the idea. Efforts to have her at least read the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life were to no avail. In desperation the mother made a deal with her. It seems that she had been promised a trip to Spain, so the mother now told her that if she would study the book before she went, she would give her an additional amount of money for travel expenses. She did not have to believe the book, her mother told her, just as long as she completed a regular study of it. The girl agreed, and the mother asked me to conduct the course of study.
It was difficult. The girl would try to refute the simplest of statements. I tried to keep calm and endeavored to answer all her objections, and since she had a good sense of humor I tried to keep it light, though at the same time maintaining the dignity worthy of the “good news.” As we neared the end of the book, I felt that she had not accepted its message from the Bible. I had rather questioned the mother’s judgment in making such a deal with her daughter. However, to my surprise one day she asked which book we were going to study next! Jehovah had certainly made the seed to grow!—1 Cor. 3:7.
When I look back over the past thirty-one years of full-time service in the interest of God’s kingdom, I can only rejoice at the full life that has been mine. Why, in a sense, I am richer than King Solomon. And as I observe families with small children at the Kingdom Hall here in the Río Piedras congregation in San Juan, I cannot but think of the blessings that will result to parents who heed the counsel at Proverbs 22:6.
I, for one, give thanks to Jehovah and to my parents for such good, thorough training from infancy, a training that molded me to accept God’s way with pleasure.