My Career of Proclaiming God’s Kingdom
As told by Neal L. Callaway
MY DESIRE to make a career of proclaiming the kingdom of God presented me with a marvelous choice. One day the mailman brought a long envelope; it contained an application for serving at the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters at Brooklyn, New York. How happy I was to receive this! Then before I had time to fill it out I received another application; this one was for the Society’s missionary school of Gilead. Now a big decision faced me.
It was really a hard decision to make, as I had always wanted each of these privileges. Well, I finally chose to fill out the application for Gilead School. This led to my serving now more than twenty years in the Philippines, telling others about the kingdom of God. Over the years my career of proclaiming God’s kingdom has brought me many blessings, yes, right from the time of my baptism.
DESIRE FOR BAPTISM FINALLY REALIZED
I was grateful that my parents brought me, from an early age, to the meetings of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Though I was born of Protestant parents in 1926, in Cleveland, Ohio, it was not long before my father became dissatisfied at the minister of the church, who would say: “Do as I say but not as I do.” We had relatives who were Bible Students, as the Christian witnesses of Jehovah were then known. And soon we began attending meetings of the Witnesses.
My first opportunity to go from house to house in the Kingdom ministry came in 1936, when I was only ten years of age. But I enjoyed going from house to house offering Bible literature with the help of a “testimony card,” a printed card that explained my reason for calling. I wanted to be baptized, but my parents did not allow me to do so at that time because they thought I should be older. So I had to wait till I was fifteen years of age. But what an occasion that was!
It was assembly time, and the Watch Tower Society’s convention was being held in St. Louis, Missouri, August 6-10, 1941. Upon arrival there, all children between the ages of five and eighteen years were to register for Children’s Day. I registered. And on Sunday morning there was an assembly for baptism. I was one of 1,357 children who symbolized by water baptism their dedication to do Jehovah’s will. What a thrill it was finally to be able to present myself for baptism!
After being baptized we returned to The Arena or main auditorium, and at 11 a.m. I had the wonderful privilege of sitting in the main part of the auditorium with 15,000 other children. We heard the discourse by the Society’s then president J. F. Rutherford entitled “Children of the King.” It was an inspiring discourse. And after concluding his talk, the Society’s president said: ‘I have a question to propound to each of you. All of you who have agreed to do the will of God and have taken your stand on the side of the Theocratic Government by Christ Jesus, and who have agreed to obey God and His King, please STAND UP!’
We arose as one body. ‘Behold,’ exclaimed the Society’s president, ‘more than 15,000 new witnesses to the Kingdom!’ After long applause he said: ‘All of you who will do what you can to tell others about God’s kingdom and its attending blessings please say Aye!’ Then came a thunder of “Aye” from 15,000 children on their feet.
And then the Society’s president said: ‘If you had an instrument in your hands that you could use to the honor of Jehovah’s name, would you be diligent to use it?’ We answered “Yes!” ‘Then be seated, and I will tell you about that instrument. The Lord has made possible the preparation of this book as a message for you. The title of this book is “Children.”’ What tremendous applause followed! I remember going up one of the two stairways to the platform to receive my free personal copy of this Bible study aid as Brother Rutherford looked on smiling.
Yes, what a convention that was for me! Getting baptized and then being one of those 15,000 children and receiving that wonderful spiritual message and book. From that time until now I have been trying to do all I can to tell others about God’s kingdom.
PROCLAIMING THE KINGDOM FULL TIME
After my baptism, I still had three years of high school to complete, but early in 1944 I was thinking about a career as a full-time proclaimer of God’s kingdom. I filled out an application for pioneer service, full-time preaching of the Kingdom under direction of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. Upon its approval I ordered my literature and was very happy when that first carton of books arrived from Brooklyn.
On the first day of June, I started out in the ministry and rode my bicycle to the territory. That evening I graduated from high school. That ended twelve years of schooling and began my many years in the full-time ministry of telling others about Jehovah God and his kingdom.
Later I received an application for special pioneer service and was assigned to serve in Medina, Ohio. While I was there I received applications for both Brooklyn Bethel and Gilead School. Having chosen Gilead, I was called to its twelfth class. Upon graduation I remained a special pioneer for a time, and then came a letter stating that I was assigned to the Philippines. What was it going to be like? Could I endure? These and many other questions arose in my mind.
GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH MY NEW HOME
My grandfather, who was an immigrant from Germany, told me to eat the way the people eat and to learn their ways. This turned out to be a helpful suggestion, and it has made life much easier.
On June 1, 1951, I arrived at the Port of Manila. That evening I went with several of the Witnesses to a downtown section of Manila to offer the Watchtower and Awake! magazines to pedestrians. I found my new surroundings very fascinating. The people were friendly, and most of them could speak English. That evening I met many Witnesses as they came past. At times I may not have paid full attention to the magazine work, as a man came up and tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could obtain a magazine from me.
I received my first missionary assignment, a housing project of the government called Roxas District. After several months of preaching God’s kingdom there, I was able to recommend to the Society that the group of new Witnesses there be formed into a congregation. I was privileged to become the presiding minister. When witnessing about God’s kingdom from house to house, I found that nearly everyone would invite me into their living room. I was able to give a sermon at nearly every home.
SERVING AS CIRCUIT SUPERVISOR
After being in my missionary assignment for only nine months, I received the privilege of serving as a circuit servant or supervisor, visiting congregations of Witnesses to encourage them and help them in their ministry. This work took me out to the provinces. Life there was much different from that in the city. There was very little transportation, and most of the witnessing was done on foot. It reminded me of the time when Jesus Christ and his apostles went from town to town proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom.
During my visits nearly every Witness in a congregation would engage in the field ministry. Each morning they would assemble in the Kingdom Hall at 8 a.m. In fact, many were already there at 7 a.m. During my week’s visit, many of the Witnesses who lived farther from the Kingdom Hall would sleep at the Hall for the whole week; at about 2 o’clock Monday morning they would start for home, full of spirit and happiness.
The week’s special preaching activities made us all very happy. Sometimes we would walk over the hills for two hours to the witnessing territory, sometimes singing Kingdom songs as we went. And with fifteen to twenty in a group, all walking single file over the trails and singing, it really made my heart glad that I had accepted my foreign assignment.
The first circuit I was assigned embraced the whole of the Tagalog-speaking towns; today that same section is contained in two districts. The expansion is very fast. Serving as circuit servant there in the Tagalog-speaking section of the Philippines was a real highlight in my life. To take God’s Word to the small homes in the rural sections; to see these humble people with no chairs in their homes but sitting on the floor listening to every word being spoken; to conduct a Bible study with them and later to see them at the Kingdom Hall on my next visit to the congregation—this made me want to work all the harder to tell others of God’s kingdom before the work was finished.
Traveling on Monday to another congregation was a real treat. Early in the morning in the rural sections I would wait for the bus to come. When it arrived it was usually full, but that did not matter, as there is always a way to make room for one more. The roof of the bus was full of cargo, and at times inside the bus, in the rear, perhaps a cow. On the running board might be some pigs; on the floor of the bus perhaps sacks of rice. The bus would travel along at about twenty to twenty-five kilometers an hour (about fifteen miles an hour), but in time we would reach our destination.
One year I was serving in the Batangas-Mindoro circuit, made up of three provinces. Mindoro is a large island on the west coast of Luzon. There in the town of Bongabon I found my partner for life; Nenita and I have served together now in Kingdom work for thirteen years.
Generally each year I have one month or more leave from my regular work to prepare for a large assembly. It is a wonderful privilege. The first assembly of which I had the privilege of being assembly servant or supervisor was in 1953. We had many problems, because this was my first time to be assembly servant, and most of the other Witnesses were new in their work too.
Then in 1963 I received the assignment to be assembly servant at the Around-the-World International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This was to be the biggest assembly yet in the Philippines. The Rizal Memorial Football Stadium was under contract, but there was no place for the cafeteria and various departments. So a large building had to be constructed. Besides this, it was decided to place a roof over the bleachers, as the assembly would take place during the rainy season. We began putting the roof over the bleacher section two weeks before the assembly. Some employees of the stadium said it would never be done. But just a handful of carpenters, with good organization and Jehovah’s blessing, were able to complete the building of the roof ahead of schedule, and on opening day it was ready.
We had planned this assembly for 20,000 persons, but when the attendance count came in, we saw that there were over 37,000 persons at the public talk!
Convention times give us a nice break, and we get to talk with other circuit and district supervisors from all parts of the country and to hear their experiences and of the thrilling increases that Jehovah is giving us here.
On June 1, 1968, I received the grand privilege of being appointed to serve as a district servant or supervisor. This has brought us many joys and thrills. It is delightful to assemble with Jehovah’s people at a circuit assembly every two weeks. In our present district each circuit is made up of 200 to 500 Witnesses. We are now in the section of the country where the major language is Hiligaynon. Each circuit has its own dialect, but the basic language here is Hiligaynon.
This district is made up of almost 4,000 Witnesses. It includes many beautiful islands and has one volcano. Many of our Christian brothers make their livelihood by raising sugarcane and rice or by engaging in the fishing industry.
At times travel is still very difficult. In some places, only during the mornings can one travel, as there is danger in the evenings or at night. Often we ride one bus to a certain town and then transfer to another to get where we are going. When it is time to transfer, we may find there are no buses at this time of the day. So we just have to sleep in that town at the home of a Witness and then proceed the next morning. This means, then, that it may take two days to go only a short distance. It is encouraging, though, to experience the warm hospitality of our Christian brothers wherever we are.
I have been in the Philippines now more than twenty years, and there is no place that I would rather be on earth than here, telling others of the kingdom of God. Jehovah has given me everything that I have needed; in fact, more than I ever expected.