Remembering the Creator in the Days of My Youth
As told by Aleck Bangle
WHEN I received an application for the full-time pioneer ministry under the direction of the Watch Tower Society, I noted a question that made me pause. It asked whether I had anyone dependent upon me. Before answering this question, I asked my mother, since I was partly supporting her. With a happy heart and smiling face she said:
“Son, you were the first child born after I came to know God’s truth, and I feel much like Samuel’s mother, who dedicated her son to Jehovah. So, go, son, and give Jehovah your time, strength and energy, and I’m happy you are doing it now in your youth. Jehovah will take care of me.”
Those words of encouragement from a faithful, hardworking mother were enough for me. It made tears drop from my eyes, seeing the great faith and confidence my mother had in Jehovah. I did not delay but at once answered the question and sent in my application, which was accepted.
So I gave up my secular job, and in June 1940, at the age of twenty-one, went to New York city to start my career as a pioneer minister or full-time proclaimer of God’s kingdom. As for my mother, she was well cared for to the day of her death in 1965.
EXAMPLES OF OLDER ONES HELPED ME
My mother and father had learned God’s truth between the years 1917 and 1918. And their example was a big help in my remembering the Creator from the days of my youth. When I saw father and mother always praying before each meal and before going to bed, it impressed me. And I would do the same in my humble way.
We lived in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and when my father retired in 1931, due to ill health, he spent the remaining five years of his life preaching the good news of God’s kingdom full time. In this way he set a good example for me as to how to remember my Creator as a youth.
The time came when I wanted to show my appreciation to the Creator for the things I learned about him. So I dedicated my life to him and symbolized it by water baptism in 1938.
I will never forget the first big convention I attended. This was at Madison Square Garden in New York city in 1939. The Watch Tower Society’s then president, J. F. Rutherford, was delivering the public talk “Government and Peace” to an audience of over 18,000. After about twenty minutes, a crowd of Fascist-minded followers of the Roman Catholic priest Charles Coughlin tried to break up the meeting. They began to boo, shout and howl, some wildly crying out “Heil Hitler!” The Society’s president did not become afraid but courageously said: “The Nazis and Catholics would like to break up this meeting, but by God’s grace they cannot do it.” The speech was delivered in its entirety. When I saw the courage and confidence that my older Christian brothers displayed, it impressed on my young mind that to be a servant of Jehovah God one needs to be courageous.
TESTED REGARDING COURAGE
Shortly after beginning my full-time pioneer ministry, I moved to California to preach the good news with another young Witness. Our assignment was in central California, a vast area with only three or four isolated families of Witnesses. A few months later I went to Red Bluff, California, working with a small congregation. When war was declared after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the people of Red Bluff became more nationalistic, and there was opposition to our preaching God’s kingdom. One night opposers broke all the windows in the Kingdom Hall, smashed some benches and left the place in disarray.
When going out in the field ministry in those days, I did not know whether I would be arrested, beaten or opposed in other ways. When we were offering The Watchtower on the streets of Corning, California, the American Legion had youths bring flags on the street and try to force us to salute them. Because of our Bible-based stand, some of the Witnesses were kicked, punched and told to get out of town.
Later, while I was engaged in the field ministry with three of my Christian sisters in that same town, a member of the American Legion whom I approached at the door said: ‘What are you doing here, you . . . ? You are a young man and should be in the army like my son.’ He then came out of his house and began kicking me all the way out of his yard and half way down the block. He said: ‘If you go on the street corner today, I’ll beat you up.’
I went to the chief of police and informed him of this man’s actions and threats. His response was: ‘Since you’re not wanted in this town, why don’t you leave?’ That did not make us cancel our arrangements to do street magazine work that day. About a half hour later the man that kicked me drove up to me in his car, got out and tried to beat me. Being a much younger man than he, I was able to prevent him from getting too close. Soon a crowd of seventy-five to one hundred persons gathered. Some began to shout, ‘Let’s tar and feather this Witness as a lesson to the others.’ Thanks to Jehovah, I was calm and unafraid. I just stood and looked at them. The chief of police finally arrived and took the man away. We left for Red Bluff to continue our work.
It seems that Jehovah supplied me with an extra amount of his spirit during that hour of stress, but when it was over it became a test as to whether I was going to continue to remember my Creator or whether I would get frightened and stop. I knew it was a test of my faith, so I prayed to God to help me to overcome any fears. Besides prayer, Bible study and regular association with God’s people helped to build up my courage to continue remembering my Creator in that assignment until the Society assigned me as a special pioneer in South Pasadena, California.
FACING MOB VIOLENCE
I preached God’s truths in South Pasadena for about a year and a half. In 1942, while working there, I attended a convention of Jehovah’s people in Klamath Falls, Oregon, about 700 miles north. Fifty-one other cities were tied in by wire from Cleveland, Ohio, the key city. Klamath Falls was another very patriotic town. We heard rumors that this assembly was going to be mobbed. However, everything went smoothly until Sunday, when the public talk, “Peace—Can It Last?” was coming over the telephone wire from the key city. Peace did not last long in Klamath Falls, because a mob of over one thousand adults and youths broke into the Witnesses’ cars, smashed them, put crowbars through the radiators, got all the literature and other equipment and piled them up in the middle of the street.
Then they broke into the hall, took Bibles, books and whatever they could from the literature department. They put all of it together in the street and lit a bonfire.
The mobsters tried to push their way into the main building, but the Witnesses closed off all entrances and guarded them. The mob did succeed, however, in cutting the telephone wire, so the rest of the talk being given by the Society’s president had to be delivered by a local Witness, who was prepared to give the talk from a manuscript, if necessary. This angered the crowd more, and they began throwing stones through the windows. We had to put benches against the windows so that the stones would not hit the people in the auditorium. Despite this, some were hurt.
This mob action continued throughout the rest of the afternoon program, and eventually the police succeeded in pushing the mob down the road. The police advised us to get out of the building and not to continue the evening program because they said it would not be possible for them to control the mob when it got dark. The assembly was brought to an end, and we had to work our way through the crowd to get to our hotel rooms. Outside the building, it looked as if a hurricane had struck. Although I was young, I knew that Jehovah can protect his people, and that was proved to me right there. Following my experiences at that assembly, I went back to my assignment and remained there until Jehovah’s organization saw fit to send me elsewhere.
GILEAD AND ASSIGNMENT TO JAMAICA
Then I received an application for going to the Society’s missionary school of Gilead. I filled it out, and a few weeks later I was invited to the second class of Gilead, beginning September 1943. It was at Gilead that I got deeper appreciation for the Creator and his organization. Those five months of helpful training passed by so quickly that, before we knew it, we were given our assignments and graduated in January 1944.
Four of us were sent to Montgomery, Alabama, to work with a congregation. I remained in Alabama till April 1945. Then I was asked to come to the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn in May 1945.
I remained in Brooklyn for three months and was then sent to Oklahoma state to serve some congregations as a “servant to the brethren,” known today as a circuit servant or supervisor. I was just a youth compared to many of my Christian brothers whom I served. Yet the Witnesses did not look down on me as a youth, but readily accepted the suggestions given from God’s Word and organization.
In February 1946 I received notice of a new assignment, to a foreign country, Jamaica, West Indies. One of the graduates of my class was going with me as my partner.
We arrived in Jamaica on March 10, 1946. Two days later I was in the field ministry, working in the block near the branch office. Four days later Brothers Knorr and Franz, the Society’s president and vice-president, came to Jamaica, and a two-day assembly was held in the Ward Theater in Kingston, with 1,270 persons attending. The Society’s president also arranged for the one congregation of two hundred Witnesses in Kingston, the capital, to be divided into three congregations. This was really the beginning of expansion in Jamaica. Since then it has been a source of joy for me to see those three congregations grow into fifteen congregations with over 1,500 proclaimers of the good news.
During the years 1946-1950 I was assigned as part-time circuit supervisor for one of four circuits here on the island, and part-time worker in the branch office. In those days transportation, especially in the rural areas, was not very good. So one presiding minister of a congregation came to the railway station to meet me with two donkeys, one to carry my luggage and the other to carry me. Up the hills we went for five miles or more, and it caused quite a stir. People would stop what they were doing to see a white man riding a donkey.
At other congregations my luggage would be put on a donkey, and a Witness would be sent with me to bring the donkey back, after we walked from five to twelve miles to the next congregation. Naturally youth was in my favor, and how happy I am that I did remember the Creator then. It was a joy to serve my Christian brothers.
Another opportunity to expend some of my youthful vigor came in 1950 when the Society arranged for another missionary and myself to visit the island of Grand Cayman, about two hundred miles from Jamaica. We traveled by boat. There were no witnesses of Jehovah on the island but there was a population of about seven thousand people. We covered every nook and corner of the island on bicycles, over hard and rough roads, and we placed over 1,200 pieces of Bible literature in the hands of the people within six weeks. Shortly after our visit the Society sent other missionaries there, and today there are fourteen proclaimers of God’s kingdom on the island.
Not long after I returned from Grand Cayman, the Society suggested that I work at the branch office full time. So from 1951 to January 1962 I remained in the branch office in Kingston. During this time I also served as presiding minister in three different congregations. It was a blessing to work with many young ones in those congregations and to help them remember their Creator.
RETURN TO GILEAD AND MORE BLESSINGS
In the latter part of 1961 a test came regarding my faith. I received an application from the Society for attending a special ten-month course at Gilead School. The application stated: “If you fill out this application and are accepted you might not return to the country you are now serving, so if you do not want to leave, it would be better not to fill out the application.” It was not easy to decide what to do.
I had come to love my Christian brothers here so much and really felt at home with them. I was now forty-two years of age and not a youth anymore, but I could look back twenty-one years to the time when I started in the full-time pioneer ministry. I could see that Jehovah took care of me for all those years. So I made my decision to agree to go to Gilead again. Not long afterward a letter came requesting that I come to Brooklyn to attend the ten-month course beginning in February 1962. When leaving Jamaica, I will never forget the crowd of over two hundred that came to the airport to see me off. I bade them good-bye with mixed feelings.
I enjoyed that course even more than the one I took back in 1943. So I promised the Creator that I would make use of what I learned to show him that it was appreciated, no matter where I was sent.
When the Society’s president gave us our assignments a few weeks before graduation, my heart began beating extra fast. He started alphabetically, and I was happy my last name began with the letter “B.” Quickly he came to the “B’s,” and when he said, “Brother Bangle will be going back to Jamaica,” I felt like jumping for joy. My heart must have skipped a couple of beats. It was really a happy day for me.
Soon came graduation, and I was informed that I would take up work as a district supervisor in Jamaica. I arrived back in Jamaica in December 1962, and took up the district work in March 1963, and am happy to say that I am still serving in this most joyous work up to the present.
As I travel around the island it is a pleasure to show the Watch Tower Society’s films to thousands of people. People here love to see the films.
Since I came to this assignment over twenty-five years ago, I have been privileged to see the growth of the Kingdom work here in Jamaica from about 1,000 Witnesses in 1946 to over 5,500 today.
As I look back over the thirty-one years since I entered the full-time pioneer ministry, I have found the psalmist’s words to be true: “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old[er], and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.” (Ps. 37:25) I am not yet an old man, and if it is Jehovah’s will, I look forward to spending my later years as I spent the years of my youth—remembering my Creator.