Trusting Jehovah with All My Heart
As told by Claude S. Goodman
“TRUST IN THE LORD WITH ALL THINE HEART; AND LEAN NOT UNTO THINE OWN UNDERSTANDING.” Those words from the Bible, framed and hanging on a wall in a home I was visiting, captured my attention. For the rest of that day I pondered over them. Could I, I asked myself, trust God with all my heart?
Reaching home, I took out my King James Version Bible and reread Proverbs 3:5, along with the following verse: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” This, I resolved, would be my guide through life. Within a few days I was put to the test.
I had arranged something special for a certain evening; later it was announced that there was to be an important meeting of the Christian congregation on that very evening. Which should take priority? Recalling my resolution, I asked Jehovah to direct my steps. I attended the meeting.
That was in the year 1925. I was twenty-one years of age, but from my teens I had been searching for God’s truth.
My mother belonged to the Church of England, but I rejected that. My father was an atheist, but I came to the conclusion that there had to be a God. So one day, for the first time in my life, I knelt at my bedside and directed a prayer to the true God and asked him to reveal his truth and his people to me. The very next morning I was handed a Scriptural book entitled “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.” I devoured it. This was the answer to my prayer.
I returned the next day to the woman who had given me the book and asked for more. I left with an armful, and also with an invitation to return for more information. How I thrilled as, later, Ronald Tippin flipped through the pages of the Bible to answer my many questions. By now I was reading voraciously. I always carried a volume of Studies in the Scriptures, and I also started to read the Bible through. In May 1926, just one year after receiving the Millions book, I dedicated my life to Jehovah and symbolized it by baptism at the international assembly in London. As I listened to J. F. Rutherford’s exposé of the clergy, I knew that I was committed to a fight for the truth and against false religion.
ENLARGING MY SHARE IN THE MINISTRY
At the Memorial of Christ’s death in the year 1927, a tract entitled “Where Are the Nine?” was given to all attending. It called for more “colporteurs,” or pioneers, as full-time proclaimers of God’s truth are now designated. That night was for me one of wakefulness and prayer. Ronald Tippin and I had planned a business partnership, so next morning I wrote to him and asked him to release me from our agreement. But a letter from him to me crossed mine. Can you guess its contents? Yes, we became partners, not in secular business, but in the full-time preaching work.
Pioneering in those days meant taking the good news of God’s kingdom into untouched areas. So in May, two years after learning God’s truth, I was off with my companion to Salisbury, England. Work hours were long, cycling was strenuous. That winter I remember waking one morning to find my hair frozen to the tent walls and on the blanket a piece of ice where I breathed. But we sought out every cottage and hamlet and left Bible literature wherever interest was found.
In 1929 we attended an assembly of Jehovah’s people in London. A Bible student from India, Percy Barnes, told about the need for full-time ministers in that country. Next morning, after a night of many prayers, Ron and I presented ourselves before the Society’s president, J. F. Rutherford. His large frame and stentorian voice contrasted with his gentle and kindly attitude, as he explained that it would be a one-way ticket. That is how, two months later, we found ourselves on a ship bound for Bombay.
When I entered the full-time ministry, it was with no assets beyond a good conscience over newly settled debts. But that step was minor compared with going to India. We arrived in Bombay with a few dollars, which were soon spent on tropical clothing and bedding rolls.
To carry out my ministry, I had to employ various forms of transportation: afoot, pedal cycle, motorbike, house car, taxi, passenger train, freight train, oxcart, camel, horseback, horse cart, plane, sampan, rowboat, paddle steamer, bus, truck, rickshaw, even a private train. Sleeping was as varied: lush hotels, raja’s palace, railway waiting rooms, jungle grass and cattle shed. Our “home” was wherever Ron and I could spread our bedding rolls.
Our objective was to spread Bible literature as widely and prolifically as we could, trusting in Jehovah to get it into appreciative hands. Because no vernacular literature was available, our witnessing then was to be restricted to those speaking English. Our stay in each town thus was very short.
Our first assignment was Karachi, now in Pakistan, where our literature was readily accepted. It helped our finances when we were invited to be the guests of the best hotel in town. Quite a change from the 50-cent-a-day room where we had been staying!
We traveled on by train to Hyderabad, Sind. I tried to get some sleep on a jolting wooden-bench bunk. After Hyderabad, Ron and I separated; he went toward the cool Himalaya mountains and I went by freight train toward the hot center. Here at Murree, I met and walked with and talked the Bible’s truth to Hindu nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi. I made arrangements for him to read some Bible literature.
For the rest of that year my pattern of life was similar: Sleeping in snatches on trains, platforms and waiting rooms; eating at Indian food stalls along with coolies; walking dusty roads all day witnessing in palatial bungalows. Ron and I reunited at Lahore, from where we traveled to nearby villages by camels.
TO CEYLON, BURMA AND MALAYA
Following an assembly in December 1929, we were sent to the beautiful island of Ceylon. Our problem in Ceylon was how to reach the thousands of tea, rubber and coffee plantations scattered over the mountains. This we solved in part by securing a lightweight pedal cycle, which was loaded onto a bus along with many cartons of literature. One of us would go to a convenient town and from there cycle daily to the plantations scattered miles apart over the hilly countryside. The other would remain in Colombo and witness to the people there. It was a happy day when, once a month, we two united and exchanged experiences.
Our next assignment was Burma. So we secured a “deck” passage on an exclusive British liner bound for Rangoon. This meant spreading our bedding rolls on the deck under the stars at night and eating with the Indian crew during the day. We were disdained by English passengers for “lowering British prestige,” but on our part we felt we were elevating Christian prestige by following the examples of Jesus Christ and the missionary and apostle, Paul.
There were about ten persons preaching God’s truth in Rangoon; we were able to help them and to organize them for the field ministry. One of us remained in Rangoon and the other would go by train or river flotilla into the interior.
Deep in the jungle hills at a place called Namtu was a silver mine owned by a British company. I wanted to talk to a man interested in the Bible who was at the minehead. It could be reached only by the private railway owned by the company. We applied for permission to use the railway but were turned down repeatedly. Upon reaching Lashio, I learned that there was a jungle track to Namtu, and so I persuaded a taxi driver to take me and many cartons of Bible literature by that route.
On the second day in Namtu, a man showed interest in the Bible’s truth but, because of failing eyesight, declined the literature. I offered to read to him from my personal copies. This impressed him, for the next day I learned that he had phoned to his friends about this, and most of them took the Bible literature. I think he must have phoned the managing director of the mine, because of what followed.
Still wanting to travel to the minehead, I went to the managing director himself, thinking perhaps he might throw me off the property. But he did not seem surprised to see me. As I explained to this Australian my reason for going to the minehead, I saw a twinkle in his eyes. He left his guests to take me in his chauffeur-driven car to the mine office. There he introduced me to his private secretary, a Roman Catholic who had taken it upon himself to deny my use of the company’s railway. The secretary’s face fell at the sound of my name, and again as the managing director instructed him to treat me as a guest of the company, to put a private train at my disposal and to have me fed and housed at the company’s facilities. Now the secretary was falling over himself to do my bidding and calling me “Sir.” So for the next several days, one could behold a humble full-time minister with a train all to himself, to go when and to where he chose. More importantly, the interested person was found and encouraged, and men at the minehead received a witness about God’s kingdom.
It was mid-1931 when we left Burma for Malaya. Ron went directly to Singapore, but I took a coastal vessel through the beautiful archipelago and witnessed to coastal towns. We toured Malaya by different routes to reunite at Kuala Lumpur. Next, Ron worked Penang while I went on to Bangkok, Thailand, and left a large quantity of Bible literature there before joining Ron again, preparatory to going next to Calcutta, India.
Calcutta! Vast city of millions of illiterates living in homeless squalor. We secured a low-cost unfurnished room and used cartons for our chairs, another for our table, and our bedding we spread on the floor. It was here in Calcutta that we distributed the booklet The Kingdom the Hope of the World. We left copies with businessmen, politicians and clergymen. How some of the clergy fumed!
To cover the large city, we bought two low-priced motorcycles and used them also to travel the 1,500 miles to an assembly in Bombay. After that assembly in 1932, we went again to Ceylon, using our motorcycles for those mountain roads. But a bad bout of malaria put an end to my stay in Ceylon. The Watch Tower Society invited us back to India to take charge of a new house car.
A new style of life opened now for us. We were able to comb every village, often far from railways or roads. Unbridged rivers were our chief concern, but we became experts at fording these. We would disconnect the engine exhaust at the manifold and, with water often over the floorboards, roar our way across.
In 1934 the Society sent us sound equipment with recorded Bible lectures in the vernacular. Now we were able to contact the masses direct. We would set up the sound system wherever people congregated. Attendances at the recorded Bible talks were often large.
This continued until 1938, when a brother from Australia visited as zone overseer. At his request, Ewart Francis and I tested the suitability of a lake for a baptism. It must have been contaminated water, for twenty-one days later Ewart was dead, and I was on a sickbed from which I arose after two months of unconsciousness—and only then because of the skilled nursing by a Christian sister in the full-time preaching work, Maude Mulgrove. On leaving that hospital in Agra, I was able to give a talk to the assembled staff, and one of these, Edith Newland, left nursing to become a full-time preacher of God’s truth, and she continues as such even until now.
SERVING AT THE SOCIETY’S BRANCH OFFICE
This sickness, typhoid fever, left me so infirm that it was thought unwise to send me back to the house car, so I was invited to aid Brother Skinner, overseer at the Society’s branch office. It was then the war year of 1939. The Society’s literature came under ban. The branch was raided many times, but only twice without our being forewarned. Some friendly disposed person would drop us a hint; we prepared for the raid, and an hour afterward we would be busy as ever duplicating The Watchtower.
Brother Skinner and I were arrested and charged with spreading banned literature. We consulted a lawyer noted for his not fearing the British “Raj,” but the fee was beyond our means. Dejected, we returned home. On the steps of the branch building was a Norwegian Witness, a sailor exiled from home. Upon leaving, he slipped something into Brother Skinner’s hands—exactly the amount that the lawyer had quoted as his fee! The gift was repeated, when, after losing in the lower court, we wanted to appeal to a higher court, except that this time the amount given was in excess of our needs.
In the early war years, the Australian branch office shipped us a treadle printing press, and I was sent to Kotayam, Kerala, there to print the Malayalam Watchtower. I knew nothing of printing and less of Malayalam. Further, the Witness sent to help me knew no English. But with the aid of books on printing and many gestures, we assembled the machine and set up fonts of English and Malayalam type. How thrilled we were when our first copy of The Watchtower went out!
With the end of the war and the removal of bans, new hazards arose. The Indian people had helped Britain during the war and now demanded home rule. Intensely anti-British demonstrations followed. Violent attacks on persons wearing European-style dress became common. Yet our witnessing intensified even in the most troubled areas. Then came the news that Brother Skinner was invited to go to the United States to attend the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. I was asked to care for the branch during his two-year absence. I surely needed to continue trusting in Jehovah.
One morning when the anti-British demonstrations were exceptionally active, I received news that the long-awaited first postwar shipment of Bible literature had arrived at the docks. Elated and excited, I set off on my bicycle, only to find the road ahead blocked by an angry crowd. I thought of escaping down a side street, but found that blocked as well. I had no alternative but to go through the crowd. So with a brief prayer to Jehovah, I cycled straight toward them, and on reaching them started to shout and wave my arms vigorously. What they thought, I do not know, but they fell back, and a path opened before me. Some even cheered me! After signing for the literature I returned by a more discreet route.
In 1947, India was granted independence. This was followed by one of the greatest massacres in history, Muslims versus Hindus. Neighbors who had lived side by side for generations rose to slay one another. Jehovah’s witnesses who were doing street witnessing saw persons stabbed alongside them.
TO GILEAD SCHOOL
The next year, 1949, was the most exciting of all for me, for I was invited to Gilead School. There I experienced ecstasy: as when Brother Dunlap took us through the Kingdom book, or when Brother Schroeder traced the unclean trail of false religion from Babylon to Christendom; as Brother Keller proved that the divine name belonged in Christian inspired writings, or as Brother Friend moved us to tears with his Bible reading of Joseph and his brothers.
I have never known so exciting an atmosphere as when the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, told us one by one of our future assignments. After graduation, I was given extended training in branch operation and management, for my assignment was to open a new branch office in Pakistan.
After six years in Pakistan, I decided on another step, marriage. My wife-to-be was Lilian, a daughter of Sister Harding, at whose home I convalesced after typhoid. I was now fifty-two years of age and, out of thirty years in the full-time ministry, had spent twenty-six in foreign assignments. But I did not want this step to end my pioneer ministry. I learned that part-time secular work was more easily obtained in Australia, and decided to move there. My prayers were that I might continue to use my Gilead training to good advantage.
We arrived in Australia with a small reserve of money, and I decided to continue in the full-time ministry as long as any remained. I looked carefully at each dollar before spending it. My territory was three miles away, and I walked to and from it to save the bus fare. Then Lilian told me she was pregnant. Mark was born, and in prayer I asked Jehovah to help me train the boy to be a faithful worshiper of him. We rented a house, and furniture just seemed to walk in and settle itself where needed, the gift of loving brothers or by being purchased secondhand.
In the sixteen years that followed, I enjoyed the privilege of being presiding overseer and saw the congregation grow and twice divide. In May 1973 I completed, at the age of sixty-nine, forty-six years of full-time service. Now in my seventieth year, I look back on a life just filled with happy and often exciting experiences, only a few of which I related here. I ask myself, Were I back at that day when I accepted the Millions book, would my reaction be different? My answer is, No! Jehovah is true to his promises, and he directs the steps of those who trust in him with all their heart. Despite being in full-time Christian service, often with very little of a material nature, I can truthfully say that never once have I put my hand into my pocket for a needed dollar and failed to find one there. That is something of worth. But of greater value by far is the overriding conviction of having Jehovah’s power and loving care behind one. There is no possible value that a man can set on that!