Conforming to Jehovah’s Ways
As told by Arthur Worsley
FOR three days we hadn’t seen the sun; the wind and sea lashed at us. We were off North Carolina’s notorious Cape Hatteras en route to our preaching assignment in the Bahamas. It was November 1948. The four of us, three missionary graduates of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and I, began to wonder if we would ever get there.
I was at the wheel of the Watch Tower Society’s 60-foot (18-m) schooner, the Sibia. Off to starboard a sound like escaping steam came at intervals as great waves bore down on us, and we were drenched as they rolled over us. Ropes were looped through the belt around my waist and tied to ringbolts in the deck. When we rolled with the wind, the rigging gave a dismal moan, and as we rolled against the wind, it shrieked wildly.
Terribly seasick in the main cabin below deck were Stanley Carter and Ron Parkin. And 50-year-old Gust Maki, whom I had just relieved at the wheel, was completely exhausted. Before taking the wheel, I made a brandy eggnog and told Gust where to find it. That was the last I saw of him for nearly ten hours.
I will never forget the loneliness of that night, listening to the shrieking wind, fighting the “kicking” wheel, and hoping the rope that secured me would hold. How did I come to be in this situation?
Early Life in England and Canada
My father was in the British marines, and I was always around naval personnel and other military men. When my mother died suddenly, I was sent off to serve an apprenticeship at sea. In 1923, when I was 16, I made a trip around the world aboard a training ship.
While in Singapore, I heard from my brother that Dad had remarried and the family was now in Alberta, Canada. So, in 1924, I joined my family on a 320-acre (130-ha) farm near Lethbridge. The chamber of commerce referred to it as “sunny southern Alberta, the land of golden grain,” which was truthful.
A Visit That Changed My Life
One thing the chamber of commerce seemed to have forgotten to mention was the prairie winters. The temperature would go down to 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-34° C) at times, and perhaps more. On one such day in the winter of 1926-27, an old Model T Ford steamed into our yard and sighed to a shivering stop as near to the house as possible. Invited in for hot coffee and cookies, the driver explained that the road had been blocked by drifting snow, and he wasn’t sure where he was. Well, that was soon cleared up, and then he started to talk to us about the Bible. I gave him a dollar for the book Deliverance and seven booklets.
My parents had gone to town shopping, so my brother and I browsed through the literature for a while. Then it was all placed in the bookcase and forgotten since we needed to take care of the livestock. However, some of the things I had read kept coming back to mind. I would even wake up at night thinking about them. Finally, I decided to see what these things were all about.
Reaching up at random, I pulled out the booklet Our Lord’s Return. Waiting until everybody had retired, I read the booklet and looked up every scripture in our family Bible. Amazed and delighted with the explanations, I began “witnessing” to my family the next morning at breakfast. They weren’t at all impressed, but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.
I wrote the Watch Tower Society, sending the names and addresses of neighboring farmers and asking that copies of Our Lord’s Return be sent to them. Later, when I went over to ask them how they liked the booklet, I was surprised by the hostile responses, such as, ‘Say, a young fellow like you shouldn’t get mixed up with that stuff’ or, ‘That’s Russellism. They put those people in jail in the United States.’
Although disappointed, I did not give up. I ordered all the literature the Watch Tower Society published, including extra copies that I could lend to someone. I read at every opportunity, thinking how I might share what I was learning with others. The Society informed me that the nearest congregation, or “ecclesia,” was about a hundred miles (160 km) away in Calgary, which was too far for me to attend.
In 1928 I left home to work for myself, ending up working a quarter section, 160 acres (65 ha), for which I agreed to give the owners a quarter of what was produced each year. In December 1929 I was due for a vacation, so I went to join my father and my stepmother who had moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. A few days after I arrived, a woman came to the door offering literature published by the Watch Tower Society. From her I learned where the Bible Students (now called Jehovah’s Witnesses) met, and the following Sunday I walked five miles (8 km) through a heavy rainstorm to attend.
It was delightful to attend a meeting with others who shared my interest in the Bible. The next week, as well as each week afterward, I joined the group in the house-to-house preaching work. Then The Watchtower of January 15, 1930, arrived with an invitation to help with work at the Watch Tower Society’s Brooklyn headquarters, called Bethel. I offered my services and, to my surprise, was invited to come. It took me a while to wind up my affairs, and in the meantime I was baptized. I finally arrived at Bethel on June 13, 1930.
Serving at Bethel
Assigned to the bindery, I ended up operating the stitcher, which drives wire staples into the back of booklets. What a thrill it was to work on Our Lord’s Return, the very booklet instrumental in changing my life! Soon I was stitching the new booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World.
My first convention, in Columbus, Ohio, in July 1931 was indeed memorable. I’ll never forget the tremendous applause when it was announced that henceforth we would be known by the name Jehovah’s Witnesses. Then the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World was released. This explained why this name was being adopted. Afterward we delivered it to all military, political, business, and religious officials, I personally being assigned to do this near Bethel in Brooklyn Heights and on Governor’s Island.
New York harbor is right at the doorstep of Bethel, and since I was familiar with ships, the waterfront became my preaching territory. One day a barge captain protested: “Now, don’t go trying to peddle those books to me. I have the one book that really tells the truth about the Bible.”
“Please show me what you have,” I said.
He brought out a dilapidated copy of the book Government, explaining: “I fished it out of the river and dried it off. It’s the best book I’ve ever read.”
After showing him from the publishers’ page that the books I was offering were from the same publishers, the rest was ‘easy sailing.’ We had a wonderful time together!
There were comparatively few preaching in those days, so we tried everything to get the good news to the people before Armageddon. New York City had only one congregation. Now there are over 300 congregations and some 30,000 publishers in the city, and many territories are worked every month!
Rutherford—A Tireless Worker
Joseph F. Rutherford, the president of the Watch Tower Society during my first 11 years at Bethel, used to amaze me by the enormous amount of work he accomplished. Not only did he write most of our Bible literature, lecture extensively, and fight court battles, but he also took a personal interest in the affairs of the Bethel family, which then numbered nearly 200.
For example, in 1932 he decided we should raise more of our own food, particularly meat. So he arranged to have some chicken houses built on the Society’s 15-acre (6-ha) farm on Staten Island. Somehow he learned that I knew a little about raising chickens. This resulted in my spending weekends with him designing chicken houses and measuring out land in order to build them.
On one of these visits, Brother Rutherford appeared very worried about something. After a while I got up the courage to ask if there was anything wrong and if I could do something to help. He made some remark about my not being able to help. But as we continued walking toward the garden, he said: “I have never seen it to fail yet. Whenever I’m working on an important matter, some trouble comes up, and right now I am working on one of the most important articles in years.” I was really surprised that he even mentioned it to me, a relatively new one at Bethel.
A few weeks later, Jehovah’s people were provided with the Watchtower issues of August 15 and September 1, 1932, containing a two-part article entitled “Jehovah’s Organization.” These articles exposed the system of elective elders as being unscriptural. They caused quite a stir, but they were one more step toward complete theocratic oversight.
In those days Brother Rutherford faced great opposition from those who were trying to drive him off the airwaves. But he was a fighter and never gave in to his religious opponents.
Pressures Mount, Rutherford Dies
Persecution increased during the 1930’s. In Nazi Germany many were being sent to concentration camps and killed because of their faith. Even in the United States some brothers were tarred and feathered; others were forced to swallow castor oil. Property was destroyed, and children were expelled from school.
During 1941 Brother Rutherford began to fail in health, but he still had tremendous drive and unfailing leadership. To those of us who knew him well, his deteriorating health was sadly obvious. He had lost so much weight that his clothes hung on him loosely. Although his body was dying, his mind was alert and his enthusiasm for the truth and the proclaiming of Jehovah’s name never waned.
After breakfast one morning in the late fall of 1941, he confided to the family that he was to have a serious operation. He spoke encouragingly to the family for some time, concluding: “So if God wills, I will see you again. If not, I know you boys will keep up the fight.” There was not a dry eye in the family, and we never did see him again. He left that day for California where he died January 8, 1942.
Over the years, there were so many vicious attacks on Brother Rutherford, but such charges were like steam in a gale to us who worked with him and almost daily heard him provide spiritual instruction during morning worship. We knew him for what he really was—one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What more could be said?
Not long after Nathan H. Knorr became president, he called a few of us to his office, outlined plans for reviving visitations of the Society’s representatives to the congregations, and asked if we would like to share. I accepted and began the traveling work in 1942. We were designated “servant to the brethren,” which designation was later changed to “circuit servant.”
In May 1948, at a district convention in Houston, Texas, Brother Knorr called me to his office. After a few preliminaries regarding the work in the area and my health, he asked: “Are you thinking about getting married?”
Well, I could not truthfully say no, and by the same token I could not say yes. So I answered: “Brother, I have been thinking about it since I was five years old.” That still left me in a kind of neutral position. Brother Knorr then explained that the Society had acquired a schooner, and he asked if I would like to go in the missionary service on the boat.
That is how I came to be, in November 1948, at the wheel of the Sibia on that extremely stormy night off Cape Hatteras.
Witnessing in the Islands
In a few days we made it to the Bahamas where we found the people so very hospitable and hungry for Bible truth. We witnessed on all the larger islands, visiting some of them several times during the seven months we were there. Then we headed for the Virgin Islands, witnessing throughout this island group.
One night on St. Martin, the mayor, or commissioner of the island, came up to me and said: “Until a couple of weeks ago, as I would walk around town, all that you would hear talked about were cockfights and women. Now everywhere I go I hear them talking about Jehovah and the Bible. You Jehovah boys have done a good job, and I thank you for it.”
I was privileged to give the first Memorial talk ever delivered on St. Vincent. Afterward a woman remarked: “Mr. Brown would have loved to have heard that talk, but he lives far way.” I was told the general direction, and early the next morning, I started out to find the village.
There were no roads, just trails. I walked for hours, asking directions from time to time. Utterly tired, at about two in the afternoon I came to a little clearing with a few huts scattered about. I decided to go over to one and rest. As I drew nearer, I saw lettering over the top of the door, “Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” My weariness came off like a cloak.
Soon a man came by and asked if he could help me. “How can I get in touch with the people that built this little hall?” I inquired.
“I am one of them,” he said.
I told him I was from the Sibia, but it didn’t seem to mean a thing to him. So I said, “Don’t you know? The Jehovah boat.” Then he could hardly keep his feet on the ground, he was so happy. Shortly, I learned how the hall came to be built.
“When I go to Trinidad,” he explained, “they tell me about the truth. And I come back and tell the other people.” He asked if I would like to give a talk.
“I’d be glad to,” I said. So he blew into a conch shell, and pretty soon the little hall was full and people were standing at the window spaces. I gave the talk, and then a Watchtower study was held, conducted beautifully! After all of this, the brother invited me to his home for a meal. The sun was getting low, and I told them I had to go. They escorted me back by a much shorter route. After they left me, I still had a few more miles to go to the boat, but it was a beautiful night.
Back to Bethel
The first large Yankee Stadium convention was held in 1950. We on the Sibia were invited to attend. While in New York, I was assigned again to the traveling work in the United States. After a few years, I got sick and was called back to Bethel in 1956. My health gradually improved, but I remained at Bethel.
One time when Brother Knorr was talking about the need of more missionaries in Africa, I suggested he send me there. However, he reminded me of my age and the number of times I had been in the hospital, and he told me I had better stay where I could get some attention if I needed it.
Now at 79 years of age, and with almost 56 years of full-time service to look back on, it is a joy to know I entered such service in my youth. Often, after returning from meetings or from work, I sit in my comfortable room at Bethel and think back on the events of the past 60 years. Truly, I have been blessed due to my conforming to Jehovah’s ways.
[Picture on page 23]
While preaching in Alabama in 1934, I traded Bible literature for chickens