Delighted to Serve as Jehovah Wills
As told by Emil H. Van Daalen
AFTEREFFECTS of World War I were being felt in all the earth. The financial crash of 1929 caused many to commit suicide due to the loss of their savings. This was followed by widespread drought, blinding dust storms, plagues of grasshoppers, low crop yields, rock-bottom prices for livestock and grains and soaring unemployment. To top it all off, the threat of another war loomed on the horizon. Yes, as foretold in the Bible, ‘men were becoming faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.’—Luke 21:26.
At that time our family was living on a farm in eastern South Dakota—my parents, their seven sons and one daughter. Mother and Father had already experienced World War I, had lost a farm and were trying to make a comeback on another. With so many sons the fear of another war caused them great distress.
Learning to Do Jehovah’s Will
Little did I then know that a certain expression of the Biblical psalmist would largely govern most of my life. These were David’s inspired words: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted.” (Psalm 40:8) It all started back in 1932.
In that year Edward Larson, a traveling salesman, came displaying his spices, soaps and the like. But he had something more important—a message. He told us that the churches were not teaching the truth, that Jesus Christ was ruling as heavenly King, that the good news of the Kingdom had to be preached and that after God’s war of Armageddon the righteous would enjoy eternal life.—Revelation 16:14, 16; 21:1-4.
My mother, in particular, was greatly impressed. A nearby family also became interested. Hence, soon there were three families, including the Larsons, that “received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures.”—Acts 17:11.
About this same time Ralph Vittum, a pioneer (a full-time Kingdom proclaimer) traveling in an old Model-T Ford, came to our door. My parents invited him to room with us while he was witnessing to the people in the area. We would stay up until twelve or one o’clock at night while he explained the truth about the Kingdom and exposed the churches’ teachings on hell, the Trinity, immortality of the soul and other false doctrines. Although we did not have a formal Bible study, we were beginning to understand God’s purpose for mankind and how we could do the divine will. What a relief and joy that was, especially for my parents!
In time we met more Witnesses. Thus we were absorbed into the congregation of Jehovah’s servants.
A New Purpose in Life
This all began when I was a senior in high school. In 1934 I started in the field ministry and was baptized two years later. During that difficult period of drought and dust storms, I spent two weeks witnessing in isolated territory. We cooked our own meals and slept on the ground or in the car, wherever we happened to be at the end of the day. But we were happy, knowing that we were doing Jehovah’s will.
On that particular trip, we met a woman who had obtained the booklet Dividing the People. On reading it, she recognized the message as truth, ordered a large number of these booklets from the Watch Tower Society and was distributing them among her neighbors and friends. She became a very zealous witness of Jehovah.
In October 1938 my brother Arthur and I started pioneering. We worked mostly rural territory in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. Later we were joined by another fleshly brother, Homer, and Brother Carrol Tompkins. By then we had a house trailer and two cars. We worked territory in Missouri, Louisiana and Iowa. While in Sioux City during 1941, we received special pioneer assignments to Watertown, South Dakota.
Serving During the Early War Years
World War II was in progress, and the young men were being called for military service. But none of us had to go because of our ministerial status as full-time Kingdom preachers. It upset the farmers around Watertown to see four young men of military age ‘wasting their time going from door to door with Bible literature’ while their sons were involved in the war. One Saturday night we were on the street offering our Bible journals when officers of the law came and took us to the police station. They told us that we had to leave town within two weeks or we would be arrested. Naturally, we considered this our assignment from Jehovah and so felt as the apostles did when ordered to stop preaching: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
Two weeks later, as we were leaving our cottage for the field ministry, the police came, put us under arrest and took us to jail. That night the city attorney—the prime mover behind it all—questioned us one by one, and the interrogation continued until the early hours of the morning. We spent four days in jail. They charged us with many things, but the charge that was used all the way through to the State Supreme Court was that we were to collect a one-cent sales tax for each 25-cent publication we placed and were to remit it to the government. The Supreme Court ruled that due to the nature of our work such tax would be illegal. Thus Jehovah blessed us with a victory, and today there is a flourishing congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Watertown.
Training for Future Service
It was now 1942. The war was raging, but it seemed clear that there was much work yet to be done in fulfillment of Jesus’ words: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . ., teaching them.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.
My two brothers and I received applications to attend the first class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Imagine our surprise and joy! Who were we to be blessed with such a grand privilege? We were advised that we might never return to our homes again this side of Armageddon. It was a time of decision. But there was only one answer: To do Jehovah’s will was our delight. (Psalm 40:8) Besides, our cup was full and running over when we learned that our fleshly brother Leo and his wife Eunice would be fellow students. This would make six of us of the same family in that first class.
After splendid months of instruction, I had the privilege of receiving special training at Brooklyn Bethel, together with two of my brothers. Thereafter, we were sent out as circuit overseers. I was privileged to visit most of the congregations in the states of Iowa and Nebraska. Finally, my missionary assignment was received. It was Puerto Rico, with my brother Leo, his wife Eunice and my cousin Donald. What a blessing! Jehovah’s loving-kindness truly was evident.
Pursuing Jehovah’s Will in New Fields
We arrived in Puerto Rico on March 13, 1944. Now came the big test. We felt small and alone in a population of about 2,000,000. Our ability to understand and speak Spanish was so limited! Could we stick it out? Was our faith sufficiently well grounded? Did we truly believe it was Jehovah’s will that we be there? Time would tell.
The second day after arriving we ventured out to witness to our neighbors in our halting Spanish. Soon we lost our timidity as the people showed great kindness and patience. We met the two pioneer sisters already there and the few spiritual brothers and sisters in Santurce and Arecibo. They were overjoyed to know that they were going to receive help. The placement of literature was phenomenal. We found so much interest that it was impossible to study with all those desiring to learn the truth. In a letter, shortly after our arrival, I asked the Watch Tower Society to send more missionaries, and soon we were joined by my fleshly brothers Arthur and Homer. Later, many more missionaries were sent.
I was sent to several cities, this giving me opportunity to help a number of individuals learn the truth and dedicate themselves to Jehovah. One experience distinctly remembered is that involving Susana Mangual, who was in her 60’s. She lived in a house built about eight feet (2.5 m) off the ground. Steps led up to the porch. She was a heavy smoker, already having a bad cough, and she had not been down off the porch in a long time. When I called, she quickly showed interest, and soon a Bible study was in progress. She progressed rapidly in the truth. On the way to a Christian assembly, on the other side of the island, she decided to quit smoking and get baptized. Returning home, Susana no longer stayed in the house but was out in the field service with the brothers. After a period of time she became a regular pioneer.
The work continued to expand in Puerto Rico until it was necessary to have a full-time circuit overseer. It appeared to be Jehovah’s will for me to enjoy this privilege, and soon I was visiting the congregations, missionary homes and isolated groups throughout Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. But with the progress of the work another change was to take place.
In November 1951 I received a letter from the Society inviting me to be the branch overseer in Cuba. This was too much for me to believe. How could I handle the work in a branch that had oversight of nearly 10,000 publishers of the Kingdom? Although I felt very inadequate for the responsibility, it appeared to be Jehovah’s will, and so I would try.
Besides my receiving Jehovah’s help, the four brothers in the office patiently worked along with me. I spent two wonderful years there and became acquainted with hundreds of spiritual brothers and sisters. Many are very close to my heart, and I think of them often.
Yet another change was about to take place. For Scriptural reasons I asked for a transfer back to Puerto Rico, and the request was granted. Upon returning, I was asked by the Society to look after the branch work there, which would mean long hours of work. But, again, if this was Jehovah’s will, that was sufficient reason for me to accept. It was good to be back among the missionaries and the Puerto Rican brothers and sisters. Before long one of the missionary sisters and I decided that we could serve Jehovah as a married couple. So in March 1959 Bettyjane Rapp became Bettyjane Van Daalen. We have been happily married ever since.
The preaching and teaching work was advancing and Jehovah’s blessing was apparent. Nevertheless, another change was shaping up.
Joyfully Continuing to Do the Divine Will
Early in 1963 I was invited to attend a 10-month Gilead School course for branch overseers and their assistants. Ronald Parkin, who had been in the previous class, would look after the branch in my absence. At the end of the course, Jehovah had another responsibility for me, that of caring for the Kingdom-preaching activity in the Bahama Islands.
Serving in the Bahamas proved to be a wonderful experience. My wife and I found that the people there are friendly, religiously inclined and tolerant. They are willing to spend time discussing the Bible. Experiences with the publication My Book of Bible Stories will prove the point.
When Jehovah’s Witnesses were offering this book in their door-to-door activity, a 76-year-old sister, while auxiliary pioneering, placed over 100 copies. Another sister, living isolated on an out island received 60 copies and placed these before the month had passed. Yes, the Bahamian people hold the Bible in high esteem.
During the 18 years that my wife and I were in the Bahamas, the Kingdom-preaching work made fine progress because of our heavenly Father’s blessing. Jehovah’s Witnesses are well known in the islands, and many fine brothers and sisters are expending themselves to search out the humble sheeplike ones while there is yet time.
Now that we are serving in Florida in the full-time preaching work, we can look back on many happy years of praising God on Caribbean islands. We have found that rich blessings always result from yielding to the direction of God’s spirit. Indeed, the greatest happiness—true delight—comes from serving as Jehovah wills.
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