A Career That Leads to Life-Long Blessings
As told by Emily Hardin
BEING of Pennsylvania Dutch stock, I was brought up in a religious home. My father was a Baptist deacon and his duties included going by horse and buggy once a month to collect the “dues” from the members who would not bring them to the church or who were behind on their payments. My mother told us later that on his return one day he said: “This is my last trip. Those poor farmers have less than the preacher, so I am going to resign.”
That he did, but he stayed in the church until the year 1919, when he died, a victim of the Spanish flu. My mother was now responsible to rear three small children. In time we moved to another community and lived in an apartment house where an old lady lived. We understood her to be a “Bible Student,” as Jehovah’s witnesses were then called. When she heard of my mother’s disenchantment with the churches, she began to visit us every Sunday and to discuss the Bible. Though she was an arthritic cripple and could not attend meetings at her Christian congregation, she encouraged my mother and me to go. So we began attending the meetings of the Bible Students at Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
From the very beginning my mother talked to my sister and me about all the things she learned from the Bible. Finally, came 1935 and the Washington, D.C., convention of Jehovah’s witnesses. There all three of us—my mother, my sister and I—were baptized in symbol of our dedication to Jehovah.
THE FULL-TIME PREACHING WORK
The rest of that year my mother encouraged me to take up the work of proclaiming God’s kingdom on a full-time basis. She insisted that she could also preach full time, so we both began in February of 1936. However, after about six months my mother found she could not keep on because of poor health. I started to work with another Witness with whom I continued for more than five years.
We worked with many different groups in all parts of the east coast of the United States. Sometimes we lived in groups of twelve to fifteen full-time proclaimers of the good news, working together and moving our cars and trailers from one place to another. We always had plenty of food, but money for gasoline was very scarce at times. We did a lot of trading of Bible literature for food, especially in the South.
It has always served as great encouragement to look back on that time and realize how many that we worked with or came to know were later missionaries or serving in some capacity as full-time ministers.
We worked with a sound car for a period of time. This was especially interesting and facilitated our preaching work. After a recorded Bible lecture had finished playing, we would all leave the sound car to call on the houses nearby. Those who did not like the message would not even come to the door, and those who liked the good news were waiting to receive us. We left much Bible literature in the hands of the people.
Then came the time for the house-to-house phonograph work. My partner and I were given the privilege to be among the group selected to acquaint the congregations with how to use the phonograph in the door-to-door preaching work. Our group of nine was sent from one city to another. What fine experiences we had with the different congregations with which we worked!
Thereafter I worked in California until the spring of 1941, when I went to New Mexico with others and stayed there till time for the St. Louis assembly in 1941.
MARRIAGE AND CONTINUED FULL-TIME PREACHING
The next year I married F. M. Hardin, and we received an assignment in Las Vegas, New Mexico, as special pioneers or full-time ministers. Then we were transferred to Albuquerque, where my husband was to help arrange for one of the 1942 “New World Theocratic Assemblies.”
We were able to rent a hall in a small town outside Albuquerque called Bernalillo. Here, as frequently occurred in those years, a mob began to form and to threaten us. On Saturday night a number of soldiers joined the mob. Our hall was completely surrounded. They evidently planned to come in and destroy the sound equipment so that the public talk “Peace—Can It Last?” could not be given the next day. A state policeman came in to warn us that he could not control the mob and that we had better disband the assembly. However, the assembly continued and the state trooper went out and talked to the mob. They left, but declared they would return on Sunday.
Return they did, and with more soldiers this time. However, before the mobsters could attack the assembly, some dissension arose among them. One of the soldiers took a horse that belonged to a Mexican. The soldier wanted to ride around and give orders to the mobsters. This led to a fight between the soldiers and the Mexicans. Some were badly cut in the melee; finally the Military Police came to get the soldiers. So ended the opposition, and we had a fine attendance at the public talk.
GILEAD’S FIRST CLASS AND MISSIONARY WORK
Shortly after the assembly, we received a questionnaire to fill out for something entirely new—the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead—training for missionary service. What a thrill it was when we were accepted! Arriving at Gilead, we found many whom we knew who were also in the first class. After graduation, we received an assignment to Costa Rica, the smallest country in Central America; and this was to us the finest assignment that anyone could ask for.
The seeds of Bible truth had been sown for many years before the arrival of the first missionaries in 1946. We started out in the preaching work by presenting a Spanish “Testimony Card,” which explained our purpose in calling. Then it was up to the householder to say Yes or No. Also at that time we did a lot of street work with magazines. One night two men passed me, and one said to the other, “There are 150 of them on the street. I’ve been counting them.” At that time the entire congregation in San José was less than seventy-five, but we surely looked like an army to passersby.
One of my most enjoyable missionary assignments was in Port Limón on the Atlantic Coast side of Costa Rica. We were sent there in 1947 to help the English-speaking congregation, a good number of whose members had been in the preaching work since 1910. To me it is still a real privilege to attend a national assembly in Costa Rica and meet again those dear friends who made our stay in Port Limón so enjoyable and spiritually profitable.
I especially remember one experience in Costa Rica when we went to witness in the small town of Colorado Bar, a place where none of Jehovah’s witnesses lived. We got passage on a small boat, the trip taking twelve hours. We called on people the next day, and that night a public talk was given. In two days we had placed about all our Bible literature with the people and talked to nearly everyone in the village. I placed a Bible study aid with a man who wanted it for his children. One of the boys, on reading the book, recognized it as God’s truth. Soon he went to work in Port Limón and began associating with the congregation and was baptized. He entered the full-time ministry, and is now a special traveling minister representing the Watch Tower Society in Costa Rica.
Another experience that stands out in my mind is the time our missionary family was invited to go to a place called Aguacate. A public talk was planned and also a Saturday night meeting. It turned out to be a small assembly!
Saturday night the hall was full, and we had a fine time. Sunday, when the people began to gather for the public talk, we could hardly believe there were so many people in the vicinity. They came on horses, oxcarts and on foot. They had killed a beef and there was plenty of food for everyone. We soon saw that they could not begin to get into the Kingdom Hall, as there were over three hundred persons present. So the Witnesses just pulled the boards off the two sides of the hall, and that way everyone could hear! Now almost all the people living in that section are Jehovah’s witnesses.
In 1945, the year before we arrived in Costa Rica, the maximum number of Witnesses there was 253. Ten years later the number grew to 1,934. Our having had a share in this increase was surely a blessed privilege. Even with the rapid growth, we could get to know nearly all of our Christian brothers.
In 1950 we wanted to attend the international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in New York, but how? Well, just on time my husband received a small inheritance of $135 from an aunt, and at the same time I received $150 from an insurance policy paid twenty years before. This, with what we had, made it possible and we were glad to spend about our last cent on such a wonderful occasion. From then on the Watch Tower Society has always helped us to attend international assemblies, for which we are truly grateful.
CHANGES IN MY LIFE AND A NEW ASSIGNMENT
No one in this system of things can live without heartbreaks, and mine came after attending an assembly in New York in 1953. Arriving back in Costa Rica, my husband suffered a heart attack from which he never completely recovered, and the following year, in December, he died. We were having an assembly, and the Society’s president, Brother Knorr, was visiting Costa Rica at that time, and he was a great source of comfort. How wonderful it is to have hundreds of spiritual brothers and sisters and homes where one can be received at such a time as this!
Since I had chosen my career many years before I was married, I could not see why I should change it upon being alone again. So after a struggle with my health for about six months, I was able to make a new start. I continued in Costa Rica until 1957, when I received an assignment to Nicaragua.
In 1957 the organization of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses in Nicaragua was just about the size it had been in Costa Rica when we arrived there—only 196 Witnesses in the whole country. So again I would share in marvelous growth. The people here are very hospitable; nearly everyone will listen when we talk to them about God’s Word and take Bible literature if they have the money.
We have now reached a peak of 1,654 proclaimers of the good news. And instead of the two congregations that we had in the capital city Managua when I arrived, we now have twelve. We expect many more Nicaraguans to join the growing ranks of the praisers of Jehovah’s name.
What career could I possibly have chosen that would have given me such constant pleasure and joy as this one of full-time service to Jehovah? None.
When I look back over thirty-five years of full-time service and twenty-five of these years in foreign service, I still say in the words of the resolution presented by the First Class of Gilead, I want to express ‘my profound gratitude to Jehovah, the Watch Tower Society and the governing body for the privilege of having received instruction and theocratic education enabling me to be a better minister of the good news.’
[Picture on page 731]
The Society’s branch office and missionary home in Managua, Nicaragua, where Sister Hardin is now privileged to serve