Upbuilding Associations Smooth the Way
As told by Jennie Klukowski
IT WAS August 10, 1941, previously announced as “Children’s Day” at a Christian assembly in St. Louis, Missouri. The Watch Tower Society’s president, J. F. Rutherford, directed his remarks to the 15,000 children seated before him: ‘All of you children 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!’
I stood up. I was thirteen years old, and delighted to be associated with that happy crowd. It was my first big assembly. This kind of upbuilding association was what smoothed the way for my becoming a full-time proclaimer of God’s kingdom.
LEARNING GOD’S TRUTH
I was born and reared in the state of Michigan. It was in a one-room country schoolhouse that the teacher began speaking to the classes of the unusual times in which we are living and what the future would be for mankind, in the light of Bible prophecy. I found it all very interesting. One day after classes she asked me if we had a Bible at home. “Yes,” I said, “my mother reads it often.” She offered to visit us one evening to show us how to study the Bible, which she did, as she was one of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses.
At this time my older sister moved to the city. Seeing a sign about Bible studies in the window of a private home, she knocked on the door and made it known that she was interested, and a Bible study was arranged. On her weekend homecomings we talked of what we were learning about the Bible and discovered that we were talking about the same organization!
THE WAY OPENS FOR FULL-TIME SERVICE
My sister soon began working full time proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom. With her encouragement I also made that my goal. In January 1942 I was baptized. Time weighed heavily until I finished grade school and was able to start devoting my full time to proclaiming the good news. I received my parents’ consent because I would be working with my older sister. My first assignment as a full-time preacher of God’s Word was dated January 1, 1943. I was then fourteen years old.
After ten months of working with my sister in Alma, Michigan, she received a new assignment to East Rochester, New York. I went along with her. It was our first assignment somewhat isolated from a Christian congregation. How we looked forward to going to Rochester to attend meetings and to associate with the friendly, hospitable congregation there.
It was while in this assignment that I found for the first time a person who was deeply interested in the Bible’s message. She asked so many questions that I felt overwhelmed and worried that she would not be satisfied with my answers. “I’ll bring my older sister the next time I come,” I promised her.
“Is she much older than you?” the lady asked.
“Oh, yes,” I said, “She’s old—she’s twenty-three!”
On my next visit there with my sister, the lady told her what I had said—much to my chagrin. She continued studying and became one of Jehovah’s witnesses along with other members of her family.
Our stay there proved to be all too short, for on the first day in our new territory my sister received an invitation to attend the third class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, in preparation for foreign missionary service. After three months, my sister went to Gilead and I returned home to wait until my parents would agree that I could leave home and be on my own in the full-time preaching work.
BACK TO FULL-TIME SERVICE
That day came the following year, in September 1945, when I turned seventeen years old. I began preaching in Flint, Michigan, living with a Christian sister and her husband who were like my own family. It was in this assignment that I spent one and a half years in upbuilding association with a congregation that included about twenty zealous teen-agers. Our association was mutually upbuilding and smoothed the way for continued full-time service in the interest of God’s kingdom.
What a happy time I had in July of 1969 when some of these former teen-agers arranged a surprise ‘get-together’ for all those who had grown up and worked together in the Flint congregation more than twenty years before. Now those ‘teenagers’ are overseers, ministerial servants, full-time pioneer ministers, traveling ministers, missionaries and zealous publishers of the good news. What a warm feeling and pleasant memories I have of those years spent together and of these few hours of reminiscing, updating and looking ahead!
I enjoyed some fine experiences over twenty years ago while associated with the Flint congregation. I met a lady in isolated territory just waiting to learn God’s truth. Soon she was preaching in the little town with me, witnessing enthusiastically about God’s kingdom to neighbors and relatives, undaunted by their indifference. Today, in her letters she tells me of the progress of the local congregation.
Then came an invitation to do preassembly work for eight weeks in preparation for the big international assembly that would be held in Cleveland, Ohio, August 4 to 11, 1946. How nice to meet and work with so many full-time proclaimers of God’s kingdom, scouring the city six times over in a house-to-house search for accommodations for convention delegates.
In January of 1947, I was asked if I would accept an assignment in Jackson, Michigan. Three months later I was there. Somehow, from the letter I had sent the presiding minister and his wife, they assumed that I was an elderly woman, so they arranged a place for me to stay with two elderly women, one being a full-time proclaimer of the Kingdom also. They were quite amused to find an eighteen-year-old girl waiting for them when they arrived home one Sunday afternoon.
Later I was joined by two more full-time proclaimers of about my age. The presiding minister and his wife turned out to be a second set of parents to the three of us, and to this day their letters are signed “Pa and Ma.” The whole congregation, young and old, took us in—how could we feel far away from home?
In time more joined us in Jackson, Michigan, in the ranks of full-time preachers of God’s Word. And when an elderly Christian sister in the congregation lost her husband in death we moved in with her, living in the upstairs part of her house for a nominal fee. Her love of Bible truth, youthful spirit and sense of fun helped her to be patient with us, and six of those who lived with her during that period became missionaries.
TO GILEAD SCHOOL AND BRAZIL
My invitation in 1948 to the thirteenth class of the missionary school of Gilead was an unexpected surprise. I had not thought about going to Gilead until then. I spent many days in meditation. Would I really find in another land the fine association I had enjoyed until now, association that had smoothed the way to continued full-time service? Shortly before the invitation arrived, my youngest sister who had just graduated from high school had come to work with us in the full-time preaching work. It would mean leaving her also.
But February 1949 found me at Gilead School. No time to feel lonely with so many classes, classmates and so much homework. In five and a half months I thought: “How sad to say good-bye to so many friends going so far!”
But I had been assigned to go to Brazil with six others. And after three months in the East Manhattan Unit in New York, we were on our way on a ship. On the morning of the thirteenth day aboard ship, we awoke in time to look out of the porthole and see the glistening white and pastel-color buildings of what has been called the world’s most beautiful port, Rio de Janeiro. Coming off the ship, we found the branch servant, missionaries and local Witnesses waiting to greet us. No time to think about being “far away”!
During weekdays one would stay home to cook while six went out to work. We would work straight through until afternoon, then return home to rest, eat and study Portuguese. We would exchange experiences, telling of what people said and what we said.
Gradually the fear and apprehension of the new language and customs disappeared and the warmth and patience of the Brazilian Witnesses convinced us that Christian love knows no boundaries.
After one year in Rio de Janeiro we went to an interior city, Belo Horizonte. All together now, I have been in six assignments during my twenty-two years in Brazil. Three have been to establish congregations and three to work in those already established. My youngest sister joined me in the missionary work here after graduating from the eighteenth class of Gilead.
In one small town, São João del Rei, we found for the first time a territory that was difficult. The mayor was a priest, and in the evening by means of a radio program he discouraged people from listening to the message we brought from the Bible. At one gate the man of the house grabbed the Bible from the hands of a missionary and tore it to pieces, though it was a Catholic version at that. Sometimes we would work for three hours or more without being able to leave a single piece of Bible literature with anyone, since people feared what their neighbors would say or think. But still we found some who wanted to have a Bible study, and we were able to see the beginning of a new congregation before we were transferred to another city.
My present assignment is Belém, Pará, at the mouth of the Amazon River, a city of about 600,000 inhabitants. We have five congregations in the city, with over 400 Witnesses.
One Saturday morning while offering The Watchtower and Awake! in the business territory of this city, I met a man who asked me to bring him a “Protestant” Bible as he said he had read the “Catholic” translation and wanted to make a comparison. He was able to learn that God’s truth is the same regardless of which translation is used. In time he came to be the presiding minister of my congregation.
In another experience, a woman with whom I had studied the Bible moved to the interior because of her husband’s secular work. ‘How would she fare?’ I wondered, as she was newly baptized, and there were no Witnesses in this little town. When she moved back to Belém five years later, she left a thriving congregation with their own Kingdom Hall.
Recently we moved into a new, spacious and airy missionary home built over Belém’s first congregation-owned Kingdom Hall. Here we enjoy upbuilding association with our Christian brothers and sisters like that of those I have lived and worked with over the last twenty-eight years. How grateful I am that such association has smoothed the way for so many blessings, such as having spent more than half my life here in a missionary assignment, and helping others to enjoy Kingdom service.