A Happy Family Life—How We Achieved It
As told by Joseph Allen
THERE are many persons who try to predict the future with accuracy but fail. For instance, if someone had told me when I was a boy growing up in Montreal, Canada, that someday I would be a father of seven children and that I would be enjoying the blessings and peace of mind that I do now, I wouldn’t have believed him.
However, let’s go back in time, for what happened in my early life affected the kind of father I became. I was born in 1923. My mother and father had arrived from England in 1912, and by the time of my birth they already had four children, three girls and one boy. Two years later another brother arrived, and that made six children in the family. So, as you can see, I grew up as a member of a big family, which contributed to my being able to handle my own large family in later years.
I learned how necessary it was for a father to exercise his headship if peace and harmony were to be enjoyed by all. Many times discipline was administered, not only by word of mouth, but also by use of the literal “rod of correction.” When Dad was away at work, Mother carried out the necessary duties to keep the family in line. We had deep respect for her right hand, with which she aimed the strap in the right direction, just before we managed to duck under the bed. That was our place of refuge, as Mother was too stout to pursue us.
As a large family, we learned to work together. We were all assigned different chores around the home. My first job was to crawl under all the beds—a place I was quite familiar with—and dust all the springs and angle irons. As I grew older, I graduated to more responsible jobs, such as regularly setting and clearing the meal table; then, washing and drying dishes, dusting the furniture, vacuuming carpets, washing and waxing floors and inside stairs. At the time, I thought it was most unfair to subject any child to these tasks. But in later years I realized that my early childhood training was a great asset in the training of our own children.
Looking back now, after having to support my own family, I can appreciate the hard times my parents had in providing for us all during the depression years. My father was a workingman—delivering bread from door to door—and so he always managed to put three wholesome meals on the table. He was also aware of our spiritual needs, making sure that we all went to church on Sunday.
The older ones would attend the church service, while we younger ones went to Sunday-school classes. One thing that always puzzled me was why Dad and Mother never attended with us. One day I got up enough courage to ask Dad why, and his reply was that he had had his fill of it and didn’t need that sort of thing anymore. This puzzled me for years, but now I understand perfectly.
LEAVING HOME: STARTING A FAMILY
Soon I approached manhood and was ready to step out into the big, exciting world. What would I do? My immediate future was already decided, for World War II was raging. I still recall very clearly the tear-filled faces of my family and the fears I felt as the troop train separated our family for the first time.
I was seventeen years old then, and the four years I spent in the Navy seemed to pass by quickly. In December 1945 I was discharged. Fortunately, I was still in good health, a little older, and a good deal wiser. To celebrate our family reunion, it was decided that we all attend church service on Christmas Day, parents included.
The past few years had changed my outlook toward religion—I wanted no part of it. I felt that I had been enlightened, like my father in previous years; I didn’t need it. My family could not understand this, since I had taken such an active part in the church as a young man, even to the point of assisting the clergyman at the altar, serving the bread and wine to the participants. However, to please my mother, I went. Really, I was very happy I did, because that evening at church I was introduced to the one who was to play a major role in my life—my future wife.
The past four years of military training had taught me to respond quickly to situations. I did in this case, and we were married five months later in May 1946. My wedding day proved to be one of the few times I had stepped into a church since reaching manhood.
We moved away from Montreal to a place in the country. Here, with the assistance of the Veteran’s Land Commission, we purchased half an acre of land and began to build our “dream home.” I worked as an electrician in a paper mill, but at other times was totally engrossed in building our home. My wife still liked to go to church, which she managed to do occasionally. She tried many times to encourage me to attend. As our home took shape, we discussed the number of rooms to build and the number of children we would like to have. It was decided on, not seven, but four; two boys and two girls. Well, things just didn’t work out that way. The third year of our marriage our first son was born; two years later a second. Now it was time for a daughter, but, much to our surprise, a third son was born.
It was now 1952, and the future in a small Quebec French town for an English Protestant family didn’t look too bright, nor at that time very “healthy.” This was made quite plain to me by my fellow workers. Practically everyone was Roman Catholic, and we were Anglican. So we decided that it would be best to sell out and move to Vancouver, where one of my married sisters, whom we had not seen for a number of years, was now living. In June 1952, with all our worldly possessions packed in our car, we said good-bye to Quebec and eastern Canada for good—we thought.
REMARKABLE CHANGE—HOW IT CAME ABOUT
After living in Vancouver for three years, and after our fourth son was born, one of Jehovah’s witnesses called at our door. It was the first time that this occurred in our lives. This eventually led my wife and me to become Jehovah’s witnesses. Let me tell you how this came about.
With four young boys growing up, my wife felt that the home training and disciplining that they were receiving was not sufficient. She felt that we needed to associate with and attend the Anglican Church. This I bitterly opposed. I didn’t want contact with any religion, and I didn’t feel I needed any outside help to raise my family. I emphasized the point that my next visit to a church would be at my funeral. However, I told her, if she wanted to go to church and take the children, that was up to her and I wouldn’t interfere.
She took me at my word and went. I stayed home to baby-sit for the younger ones. As time went on, she would come home each Sunday and very tactfully tell me how nice the minister was. She explained that they were going to have card parties in the church hall and put on a few suppers, and so forth, to raise funds for the church. She pleaded with me please to consider joining the men’s church club, as she would like to join the women’s club. Also, wouldn’t I reconsider and come to church to keep the family united in the Christian faith?
I continued to resist all such persuasion. I told her that I wouldn’t go to church until she could prove to me that there was something worth while to listen to, not just boring church services that everyone blindly followed. As for the church’s being a place to learn about God, I had given up on that years ago. We had never really used the Bible in church. It’s true the clergyman did read a few passages each Sunday, but he never explained what they meant. Consequently we never knew what was in the Bible.
Our family had a King James Version of the Bible in the home somewhere. We had tried to read it, but always became discouraged before completing a full page because we didn’t understand it. The Bible eventually ended up buried away in a safe place at home with a beautiful rose petal between its pages. Quite a funeral!
Persistence on the part of my wife paid off, however, and eventually I submitted and joined her in going to church. I reasoned that it was easier sitting in church enjoying the organ music than to “face the music” when she arrived home every Sunday. About six months went by, and it was smooth sailing. Then she really rocked my boat! She told me that she was not going back to church anymore. “You can go if you want to,” she said, “but I’m not going anymore.”
“Why? Why? Why?” I asked dumbfounded. Then she proceeded to tell me that she had been studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses and was amazed at what she was learning as compared to what she had learned during all the years she had been an Anglican. She asked me to sit down with her and listen to what she had to show me from the Bible (which she had by this time resurrected, because it had become important to her again).
In one short hour, I learned that God’s name is Jehovah (Ps. 83:18); that this time period we are living in is spoken of in the Bible as the “last days” (2 Tim. 3:1-5); that Armageddon is the war of God Almighty against the wicked system, and is very near (Rev. 16:14-16); and how we, as a family unit, would be able to live on earth forever, happily united in peace and security, enjoying perfect conditions under Jehovah God’s kingdom with his Son Jesus Christ as King.—Ps. 37:9-11, 29; Rev. 11:15, 17; 21:3, 4.
Well, I never had heard of such wonderful things before in all my life. It was too good to believe, and, sad to say, I didn’t believe it. While not violently opposing my wife, I did ridicule her. In my ignorance, I would call her “Jehovah,” and remind her that I wasn’t having any part of that fanatical religion. If she wanted it, fine, but not I.
She continued to whet my appetite with things she was learning from God’s Word, but I clung desperately to the church, knowing all the time that my grip was weakening. My wife was wielding the “sword of the spirit,” and eventually I lost. But really, I’ve never been so happy over losing in all my life. I left the church and started studying the Bible. In the spring, when all of God’s creation is coming to life again, my wife and I too really came to life and began living for Jehovah and his Kingdom interests, undergoing water baptism in the North Vancouver Kingdom Hall on March 31, 1956.
FAMILY BLESSINGS RESULT
Since then we have enjoyed untold blessings, not only spiritual, but also material. We came to realize that this was not just another religion, but that Jehovah’s witnesses are being used by Jehovah God to accomplish the preaching of the “good news” of the Kingdom world wide, according to Matthew 24:14. We wanted to be part of this loving Christian family.
The Watchtower and Awake! magazines provided us needed help in raising our family successfully, assisting us to understand and apply the counsel of God’s Word in our family life. We came to understand, for example, the true meaning of obedience and discipline, and the fact that Jehovah disciplines those he loves. We also learned the importance of teaching our children, and of spending time with them.—Heb. 12:5-11; Deut. 6:4-9.
The result of all of this was a family that always enjoyed doing things together. The boys were a big help to me in building our home, even as little tots. When they were too young for school, I would often take them with me on my electrical jobs. We eventually were blessed with two daughters, and my wife took great delight in training them to sew and cook and do other chores around the home. Mind you, there were still times when the literal rod of correction was applied, and this we did where Jehovah put the most padding on the human body.—Prov. 23:13, 14.
ASSEMBLIES—A FAMILY HIGHLIGHT
Another aspect of Christian activity that we have loved so much is assemblies. We especially look forward to the district assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses, which we always incorporate into our annual vacation. We have traveled to many big cities in the United States and Canada, and have enjoyed the variety of Jehovah’s creation, along with visits to the Watchtower Society’s factories and farms. All of this has been a practical way to broaden our children’s education.
One outstanding assembly that we attended was in New York in 1958. On our way there from Vancouver, we parked the car in Spokane, Washington, to do some shopping, telling the children to remain in the car. On our return, they told us that a man had come over to talk with them. They pointed him out to us in a nearby store. He waved and approached the car. He told us that he had noticed our bumper sticker advertising the New York assembly and identified himself as one of Jehovah’s witnesses. He invited us to his home for a steak dinner, followed by an evening of Christian fellowship and a pleasant night’s rest.
Farther on, in Lusk, Wyoming, our bumper sign brought us another blessing, very similar to that experienced in Spokane. My car engine developed a loud knock during the day. A Witness in that little town, noticing our bumper sign, suggested that we stay overnight at his place while he worked on the engine. It turned out that he was the county mechanic and had access to a large garage with all the necessary tools to make the repair. The next morning we were on our way again, grateful for the love and hospitality that Jehovah’s people show to one another. This was further evidenced among the 250,000 delegates at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds in New York city.
SHARING IN KINGDOM EXPANSION
After we returned, a curious workmate asked why I would go to such expense and travel such a distance to attend one of my religious conventions. When I explained the importance of such meetings and the pleasant association with so many clean-living, God-fearing people, he naturally had many more questions to ask about the Bible. I answered him, using, along with the Bible, various publications provided by the Watch Tower Society. He was so impressed with our home library that he wanted all these publications too, and a Bible study was started with him. It wasn’t long until he became our spiritual brother. About this same time my mother-in-law began to show interest, which eventually led to her also becoming a witness of Jehovah.
In the twenty years that we have been Jehovah’s witnesses, we have seen a tremendous increase in Kingdom preachers. This has, in turn, led to the building of many new Kingdom Halls. We, as a family, have had a share in constructing at least four of these, plus two large mobile kitchens used at circuit assemblies around the Vancouver area. Since moving back to eastern Canada, our share in Kingdom interests has increased.
I need to work only part time on a secular job now, and am pleased to have had the privilege of working on our new Assembly Hall near Toronto. Also, last year I was invited to work at the Toronto Bethel for approximately four months, helping with a large extension to the factory and the addition of a new Kingdom Hall. On all these various building projects, it has been a rewarding experience to work alongside men and women who volunteer their skills and time, all for the love of their God and fellowman. This to me is a foretaste of the promised New Order living, so near at hand.
OUR PROTECTED FAMILY
As world conditions worsen and this system rapidly deteriorates, family life is adversely affected for many. But, thanks to Jehovah and his Christian organization, our family has been protected. By applying Bible principles and counsel, we have kept free from the many snares of the world. The result is that our whole family is truly happy, and is having a full share in serving God.
Our four eldest sons have married zealous Christian women, and are carrying out their duties as elders and ministerial servants in the Christian congregation. The eldest son, with the help of his wife, enjoys the full-time pioneer service here in Ontario. Our second son and his wife are now serving where the need for Kingdom preachers is greater in the Province of Quebec. And the two younger sons are happily married and living in the West. We still have our two daughters and youngest son with us, and, like their older brothers, they show great love and appreciation for God’s Word. Two of them have already publicly shown this by water baptism.
Although some of our family are miles away, the unity of Jehovah’s organization makes us feel always close. We are especially united by the Bible-based hope of living on earth forever in peace and security, enjoying perfect conditions under Jehovah God’s kingdom. Indeed, the words at Psalm 37:37 have taken on a special meaning for my family and myself: “Watch the blameless one and keep the upright one in sight, for the future of that man will be peaceful.”