A Pioneer Partnership for Life
In a neat and simply furnished room in Cardiff, Wales, the Congregation Book Study has just concluded. The study conductor thanks the two pioneer sisters, Maud Clark and Mary Grant, now in their 90’s, for their hospitality and encourages them to reminisce . . .
Maud: It is now 65 years since Mary and I first met and started pioneering together.
Mary: Yes, it was in 1923, on a cold, snowy January night! Do you remember, Maud? I took you straight from Much Wenlock railway station to my accommodations. We had a bite to eat, and then we studied Tabernacle Shadows together. Next morning we set off on our bicycles to preach to the Shropshire farmers.
Maud: Of course, we were ready for this. You see, we had both been pioneering for some time. Even when I was a young girl, God’s Word always interested me. Why, I can remember reciting seven psalms at church so as to obtain a free Bible! It was in 1908, when I was 11, that my eldest sister read the book The Divine Plan of the Ages and left the church we attended, becoming a Bible Student. Bible truths became the topic of our conversations at home. But when my father died, I began to wonder, ‘Where are the dead?’
What a thrill to find the answer when I went to see The Photo-Drama of Creation, presented in my hometown of Sheffield! In those moving pictures, synchronized with the phonograph records, I saw portrayed the raising of the Shunammite woman’s son. Yes, I learned that the dead are unconscious until resurrected.—2 Kings 4:32-37.
I promptly resigned from the Anglican Church and took up what we called pastoral work, offering Bible literature right in the very same area where I was known for distributing church magazines. I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah in August 1918 at an assembly in the nearby city of Leeds.
After spending happy vacation times with two colporteur sisters in Derbyshire, I made up my mind to make the pioneer service my life’s work. In August 1922, I took up my first assignment: Biggleswade in Bedfordshire.
One of the colporteurs said to me: “If you can stick it out for the first six months, you will be all right.” Those initial months were not easy. I had an accident on my bicycle. Then my first pioneer companion returned home. But I was determined to continue, so I wrote to the Society asking for a partner. And Jehovah gave me Mary!
Mary, you took a stand for the truth earlier than I did, didn’t you?
Mary: Yes, Maud. At the time we were living in Cardiff, South Wales. When I was 16, my grandmother invited me to read the book The Divine Plan of the Ages, which she had obtained at a public meeting organized by the Bible Students. I had always wanted to understand the Bible and be a missionary when I grew up. As I read this volume, I knew I had found the truth.
I began to attend the Bible Students’ meetings, in spite of my mother’s great disapproval. You see, my parents were well-to-do, and as they did not allow me to work, I found conditions at home very restrictive. Nevertheless, I managed to obtain the rest of the set of Bible study aids. When my mother found out, she angrily burned the books and told me I was too young to know about such things. To replace them I had to smuggle books into my home one by one, after early morning visits to the home of one of the Bible Students some two miles [3 km] away. I used to read these avidly before the rest of the household awoke, hiding them in the garden shed during the day.
In 1913, when I was 17, I traveled to London for a sight-seeing vacation. Happily, this coincided with a visit by Brother Russell to an assembly held at the Kingsway Hall. There I expressed my desire to be baptized. The colporteur sister who worked in Cardiff approached Brother Russell to ask him if he thought I was too young. He asked me how old I was and questioned me to see if I understood the Scriptures and to determine whether I had dedicated my life to Jehovah. As a result, I donned a long black gown and joined the other candidates for immersion at the London Tabernacle. I remember so well the words we sang as we came out of the water:
“Buried with Christ
and raised with him too,
What is there left for me to do?
Simply to cease from
struggling and strife,
Simply to walk in the newness of life.”
Afterward, a brother approached me and said: “You must be the last one of the 144,000 to come in; you only have such a short time left to make your calling and election sure.” Such were the thoughts of many who viewed the approaching year, 1914, with great expectation. For me, though, this proved to be a time of testing as I put up with great opposition at home. I attended the meetings as often as I could. In 1916, I enjoyed the privilege of serving as an usherette at the showing of The Photo-Drama of Creation in Cardiff. After completing my nurse’s training in Manchester, I started the full-time pioneer service in 1922.
Maud: We really had to take the initiative back then. We told everyone that we were engaged in a Christian work. People in those days were readers. We offered The Harp of God and the series Studies in the Scriptures. Of course, we needed quite a large case in which to carry all this literature. Mine was so big that when I arrived at an isolated farm one day, the farmer’s wife thought I was a relative coming from Canada to visit. How we laughed!
Since pioneering was our life, we received our livelihood from the work of distributing the books containing the Kingdom message. We used our resources carefully and lived frugally, exchanging books for butter and other farm produce and picking up potatoes, swedes, and cabbages that fell from farm carts on the rough, dusty lanes. We became skilled in mending the flat tires of our bicycles, and we developed into good seamstresses, making our own clothes.
As the brothers who served as itinerant speakers delivered Bible talks in the towns, Mary and I came along behind them to follow up the interest their preaching sparked. Small groups of interested ones sprang up in Shrewsbury and other towns. And how we looked forward to the assemblies! I think the 1926 London convention was outstanding. There we enjoyed the added privilege of distributing the booklet The Standard for the People on the streets of the capital. Then our excitement grew as we read the contents of a letter from the Society. It was a change of assignment for us: Northern Ireland.
Pioneering New Territories
We arrived in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, to pioneer among a religiously divided people. We stayed first at Greenisland. It was wet and cold, and we had no fires for weeks because of a coal strike in England. I can picture us now, sitting with our coats and gloves on in the evenings, trying to study while shivering from the cold. Then the summer came, and how we thanked Jehovah for the privilege of working in the beautiful surroundings of the Antrim glens. The people listened well to the Kingdom message. Oh, yes, they often argued, but they were kind. “Come awa’ in,” they would say, and they would put the kettle on the greesha (red-hot peat) to boil, and our discussions continued.
Mary: Since we were now four pioneer girls together in our assignment, we stuck to a full theocratic schedule of meetings. Each morning we discussed a Scripture text and read “My Morning Resolve,” which said, in part, ‘Daily will I remember at the Throne of Heavenly Grace the general interests of the harvest work, particularly the share that I myself am privileged to enjoy in that work, and the dear colaborers at Bethel and everywhere.’ Wednesday night we had our Prayer, Praise, and Testimony Meeting. Sundays we studied The Watchtower together, and we would gather around the small organ often found in people’s homes to sing from the Hymns of the Millennial Dawn, such as:
“Ne’er think the victory won,
Nor once at ease sit down
Thine arduous task will not be done
Till thou hast gained thy crown.”
Maud: What a change it was when we were assigned a special work that opened up—we became “business-house pioneers.” How could we ever witness to businessmen, bank managers, and the like? Those big buildings in Belfast looked formidable. But we remembered Philippians 4:13: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” And we would not think of turning down our assignment. What grand experiences we had talking to those men and placing much literature with them! By 1931 we had finished the business houses and had spent five years in Northern Ireland. We wondered where our next assignment would be. To our amazement it was the business houses of Dublin.
To Tarshish or Nineveh?
We must admit that, at first, we felt like Jonah, who was assigned to preach to Nineveh and headed instead for Tarshish. We would have preferred a different assignment. We soon realized how we must rely on Jehovah. Yet, how daunting it was to stand by Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin and see streets full of priests and nuns, men raising their hats and women crossing themselves in honor of ‘the blessed Virgin.’ At that time there were just four Bible Students in Dublin.
We managed to obtain rooms with a Roman Catholic household. Of course, we had to hide our literature under the bed, for the priest made regular visits to the house. One day a Dublin businessman called at our accommodations, saying: ‘You left books at my bank.’ He was so thrilled with them that he went to every shop to see if they sold Judge Rutherford’s books. He then wrote to New York and was given our address. He arranged a party for all his friends to tell them about what he had learned.
Later that year, we attended a convention in Liverpool, England, where we learned of our new name, Jehovah’s Witnesses. On our return to Dublin, we shared in the campaign to distribute the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World, which contained the convention resolution. We made calls at all the monasteries, convents, and business houses, presenting free copies of the booklet. All were accepted!
Mary: One day we saw a boat cruising down the river Liffey, and this gave us the idea of witnessing to the crews of the ships in dock. When we tried to enter the dock area, it was barred by a policeman, who asked what we were doing. On showing him the books, he said, “Go ahead.” We found several ship captains from other countries who knew of the Witnesses. When we look back on those experiences, we marvel at the way Jehovah cared for us as we each went alone aboard the ships.
Witnessing During the Blitz
Maud: In 1939 when war broke out, we returned to Liverpool and joined 20 other pioneers who lived at the pioneer home. We now lived through air raids and bombings and witnessed wherever people would listen. We often found ourselves putting the records on our phonographs, discussing the Kingdom message, and then running back to the pioneer home, or dashing from one air-raid shelter to the next. Throughout this period, we were not frightened, for we were doing the Lord’s work.
Many times as we went down the streets, people hurled abuse at us because of the neutral stand the Witnesses maintained during this time of conflict. I remember that at one house a young man listened to the recordings and accepted a regular Bible study. A difficulty arose. He had just volunteered to join the British Navy. He wrote a letter to the authorities stating his neutral position and received in return a complete exemption from military duty. He later joined us in the full-time service.
Mary: I will never forget those war days, Maud. Do you recall what happened when we moved to Knutsford in Cheshire in 1942? A lady shouted out to us, ‘What are you doing for the war effort?’ Before we could answer, a passerby answered, ‘She’s doing work we haven’t the courage to do.’ An elderly man chimed in, ‘They’re doing a good work.’
Maud: Indeed, the Bible study work was the big thing. I had a grand experience when I called at a farm and met a lady who told me that her little boy had been killed in a road accident. I placed with her the booklet Hope for the Dead and started a Bible study. After just seven studies, this lady began to accompany me in the witness work. A few months later her husband accepted the truth, and within two years this couple sold their farm and began pioneering. Their daughter later joined them in the full-time work, and now she and her husband serve in the London Bethel.
At the 1941 Leicester assembly, Brother Schroeder announced that the special pioneers were to receive a small monetary allowance to help them with the necessities of life. For nearly 20 years, Jehovah had blessed our literature distribution work and in this way provided us with what we needed. Jehovah never let us down. We have proved that “there has not failed one word of all his good promise that he has promised.”—1 Kings 8:56.
Finding “Sheep” in Wales
1954 found us in Milford Haven, Wales. Despite clergy opposition, we preached and found some sheeplike ones who responded. These we organized into a group and showed them how to conduct meetings and give short, meaningful comments. What a joyful occasion it was to see seven baptized in a sheep-dip filled with warm water carried there in milk churns!
In the Welsh valley town of Abercynon, a magazine-route call brought good results. Although the lady who regularly accepted copies of the magazines said, “I don’t believe what you’re telling me,” she agreed to read the magazines. On a later visit, I found the husband busy decorating the house. After a friendly talk, arrangements were made to start a Bible study the next week. We made friends with the three sons who came to join in the study. Eventually, the mother and her sons dedicated their lives to Jehovah and were baptized. To date, 35 members of that family have accepted the truth, some serving as auxiliary, regular, or special pioneers, and some as elders.
Now here we are in Cardiff, reminiscing about our lives. We have no regrets. Jehovah has supplied our every need in a material way. We have had a wonderful life serving together as pioneers, and we still count the full-time service as our greatest treasure in life.
Now our hearts thrill to see the growing pioneer ranks. And all those young ones taking up this precious service—how we rejoice! Mary and I have pioneered together for 65 years. Our lives have been simple but busy, hard but rewarding. We really do recommend pioneering for life.
[Picture on page 23]
Maud (left) and Mary still find their greatest treasure in full-time service to Jehovah