She Found the Source of Increased Joy
A Heartwarming Report from Trinidad
“TEACHER resigns service to become missionary.” In 1955, these words headlined an article in our local daily newspaper, The Trinidad Guardian. Who was this teacher? What moved her to make such a decision? Did she lose anything by taking this step? Is she still a missionary?
Sylvia was born in a quiet farming village called Flanagin Town in central Trinidad. The small community was of limited literacy, and the only school was run by Catholic teachers and managed by a priest who visited the area once a week. Sylvia was educated there and then became a pupil-teacher in the same school. In the 1940’s she began to receive spiritual education from an elderly couple, both Jehovah’s Witnesses. The man and his wife were despised by religiously prejudiced fellow villagers, but they courageously kept on proclaiming the Bible’s message to all in the village. Another couple joined them, and this tiny group used portable phonographs to play recorded Bible sermons, after which they would offer literature explaining the message.
Sylvia’s grandmother would listen to the recorded sermons, obtain some literature, and put it away without ever reading it. But Sylvia read the publications. So, at the age of 17, she searched out the Witnesses and plied them with questions. Soon Sylvia began attending Bible study meetings with the four Witnesses in her village. The five of them would sit and discuss the Scriptures by the light of a kerosene lamp, as there was no electricity.
Sylvia’s next step was to speak to her grandmother and certain teachers about the things she was learning. Quickly the news spread through the village that Sylvia had been secretly attending the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. How could an active Catholic do that? Was she not a choir member and a “Child of Mary”? Was she not a pupil-teacher in the Catholic school? What would “Father” say? What would he do? The priest dismissed Sylvia, informing her by letter that her work as a teacher in the school had been terminated because of her persistence in attending the services of a false religion, as he viewed it.
This did not lessen her joy. In fact, some time after this she was baptized in symbol of her dedication to Jehovah God. In 1949, she entered the Government Training College for teachers and graduated in 1950. For the next five years she taught in government schools but, in 1955, left secular teaching to devote all her time to sharing the Bible’s “good news” with others. (Matt. 24:14) Why did Sylvia give up her position? Why did she ignore the attractiveness of a regular salary to preach full time as a “pioneer” without a guaranteed income?
Ask Sylvia and she will give you several interesting reasons. For one thing, although opposed to the Witnesses, her mother had let the youthful Sylvia spend every vacation with a Witness aunt. She would then spend much of her time sharing the Bible’s message with others. Sylvia enjoyed these vacations very much and returned home spiritually strengthened and increasingly convinced of the need to tell the glorious “good news” to as many as possible. Moreover, she came to appreciate that in a Christian’s list of priorities the Kingdom should be first. (Matt. 6:33) In her circumstances, Sylvia saw that it was more important for her to declare Bible truth than to engage in full-time secular work.
Even today Sylvia can talk about the strong impression made by certain pioneers, Constance Mills and Maude De Freitas. She clearly recalls their rejoicing in Jehovah, their rich zeal for the full-time work and their striking ability to speak about the Kingdom and make it seem so real to her. Sylvia admired old Brother William Jordan too and vividly recalls her lunch-time discussions with him and how much they helped her to fix her mind on Jehovah’s service. So she resigned from teaching to become a pioneer. What had she lost? “Becoming a pioneer meant leaving a comfortable home and my career. I had to give up my insurance policy and the idea of purchasing a car,” she said. “But I realized that all I had was dedicated to Jehovah, and that settled the matter.”
Sylvia would tell you that becoming a pioneer was one of several major decisions. Another involved the personal matter of marriage. She is single and does not feel that she is worse off for it. Though not waging a personal campaign sponsoring singleness, she made the decision to remain unmarried. “It is not that brothers have not been asking. I’ve had my share of ‘applications,’” she says. “But I have made my decision, and my life is happy and full. I don’t feel that I am missing anything. At any rate, I’m too busy to worry about that sort of thing.”—Matt. 19:10-12.
BLESSINGS INCREASE REJOICING
Something that was a blessing in disguise was Sylvia’s reassignment to Trinidad as a special pioneer after graduating from Gilead missionary school in 1959. She had looked forward eagerly to serving in a foreign land, and says frankly: “I was somewhat disappointed when I heard that I was being sent back to Trinidad to face the same familiar surroundings.” But did this work out well for her?
Sylvia says about Jehovah’s use of her: “He has used me to share in aiding clusters of six, four, three and sometimes one or two. I have had the privilege of helping four fleshly brothers and sisters and their marriage mates. It does the heart good to see and hear them express themselves for Jehovah and his kingdom.” Hardly a baptism session passes without one of Sylvia’s students being among the candidates for water immersion.
It has not been smooth sailing all the way. Why, one year Sylvia’s home was burned flat, and she and her partner lost everything! But fellow Witnesses housed and clothed them until they were able to get back on their own.—Mark 10:29, 30.
In 1968, Sylvia had to decide if she was going to remain in full-time service. Here is how she puts it: “I was faced with the blood issue, since I had to undergo a major abdominal operation. The operation was successful. No blood was used, but I was left in a greatly weakened and depressed state. I had to decide whether to continue in the full-time work or not. Some fellow Witnesses thought that I should leave full-time work because I was too weak. But Jehovah heard my prayers and raised me up again. He renewed my strength and, after three months, I was back in the field searching for his ‘sheep.’ (Isa. 40:28-31) Personally, I think I am now able to accomplish more than I did before the operation, thanks to Jehovah.”
Sylvia has a winning personality. A person may walk down the street and see her before him—a slight girlish figure, sensibly and tastefully dressed, an engaging smile on a pleasant face. It is so natural for people to accept her offer of Bible literature. As she talks, listeners become infected by her joy of living. She points to Jehovah as the source of happiness: “To experience his loving, tender care over the years and to labor with him has been a most rewarding and thrilling experience. I humbly give thanks to Jehovah.” Truly, ‘the meek ones increase their rejoicing in Jehovah.’—Isa. 29:19.