Jehovah’s Blessing Has Made Me Rich
As told by Elsie Meynberg
“THE blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) I have personally experienced the truthfulness of this Bible proverb. Allow me to tell you how.
When I was only six, I listened in on my mother’s discussions with a Bible teacher who visited us, and I noted how enthralled my mother was by what she was learning. One cold winter night, I went downstairs for a glass of water and found Mother reading next to the open oven door. Instead of scolding me as I expected, she put her arm around me and explained that God’s name is Jehovah. The warmth in her voice told me that what she had learned was very important to her.
After a few more discussions with the Bible teacher, Mother set out on foot to share with the neighbors the good news she had learned. However, she was not always well-received. We lived in the country near Beatty, Saskatchewan, Canada, and our neighbors were mostly relatives of ours, staunch Lutherans or Evangelists. Nevertheless, Mother continued to visit them.
I would watch through frosty windows as Mother struggled to bring the horses from the barn, knowing that she was not accustomed to hitching them up. At other times she would go off to the meetings or the field ministry despite Father’s complaints. He was not in agreement with Mother’s new faith, but she was determined. She would always return with an inner happiness that was evident to all. “The blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich,” she would say. I used to wonder what she meant by that. Although I was only six, I too wanted to serve Jehovah.
One day I was on the roof with my father, where he was repairing the shingles. Mother and my sister Eileen were leaving with a group in a Model T Ford to take part in an “information march.” They were going to parade through the town with placards advertising a Bible talk.
“You will never be so foolish, will you?” Father asked me. But even though I was a girl who just delighted in climbing, I would much rather have been in that information march than up on the roof. However, they said I was too short to carry a placard.
Meeting the Challenge of the Ban
Finally, my first opportunity to share in Kingdom preaching came in November 1940. What excitement! Since the preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was banned in Canada at the time, we went out in the middle of the night and left the booklet End of Nazism at the door of every house.
When I was nine years old, I determined to dedicate my life to Jehovah and be baptized. Because of the persecution, we were not told the location of the meeting, but we were led to a place in the forest where a large group of Witnesses were enjoying a “picnic.” There my older sister Eleanor and I were among the many who were baptized in the cold waters of a nearby lake.
School in those days began with the class saluting the flag and singing the national anthem. Despite the accusing stares of our classmates, we would respectfully refuse to participate because of the Bible’s teaching on idolatry. (Daniel, chapter 3) My cousin Elaine Young, who was also a Witness, had to walk four miles [6 km] to school, but each day she would be dismissed for not saluting the flag. Afterward she would walk all the way home again. She did this for half the school year so that she would not be marked absent and fail the course.
After leaving school, I worked in a bank. But a test came when I was denied my request to attend the international convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York in 1950. I had some savings and decided to quit and start in the full-time ministry. So Elaine and I moved to the city of Regina. “She will be home begging by spring,” taunted some. However, I was able to provide for myself by working as a part-time housemaid. The richness of Jehovah’s blessings has kept me in his full-time ministry ever since.
Achieving Our Goal
In 1955 Elaine and I were thrilled to be invited to the 26th class of Gilead and later to receive assignments to Bolivia, South America. There were only about 160 Witnesses in the whole country at the time. Eventually, we headed for Tarija to join two other missionaries in our first assignment.
Tarija was a beautiful town. It was so interesting to see the women in their traditional dress carrying burdens on their heads. The people were pleasant and would never tell us they were not interested. They evidently felt that it was more polite to tell us to call again at a time when they knew they would not be at home. It took a while to get used to that.
One day we were talking to a man at his door when a jeep stopped and out leaped a furious, red-faced priest. “If you don’t stop talking to those girls, you will be excommunicated!” he yelled at the man. Turning to us, he threatened: “You have no right to preach here. If you don’t stop, I’ll take further measures.” By this time many neighbors had come out to watch. So we simply went on with our work, placing many books and Bibles with the curious onlookers.
Having spent two years in this pretty valley where peaches, peanuts, and grapes thrive, we were not at first happy to receive a change of assignment to Potosí, a bitterly cold mining city situated at an elevation of over 13,000 feet [4,000 m]. We were used to the frigid Canadian winters, but the difference was that in Potosí the homes normally had no heat. However, in Potosí there was the warm association of a Christian congregation, whereas no congregation had yet been formed in Tarija.
Opening Up New Territory
Next, Elaine and I were assigned to Villamontes to open up the preaching work there. The truck we took was loaded with contraband sugar, so to avoid problems with the police at the toll bars, the driver did not set out until nightfall. How we wished that we had brought a flashlight along, for suddenly something stirred beside us under the canvas! It was the truck driver’s helper.
At five in the morning, we stopped. Sick from the exhaust fumes and laden with dust, we crawled out. A landslide had blocked our way. Finally, after four hours of hard work, the owner had his helper take the vehicle across the narrow ledge that had been cleared. The owner would not even look as the truck edged its way across with the outer of its dual wheels turning in midair above the seemingly bottomless abyss at the side of the road. Elaine and I crossed on foot. As we continued toward Villamontes in the truck, the hairpin turns on the mountain passes were so tight that the driver was repeatedly forced to back up and maneuver around them. Finally, after 35 exhausting hours, we arrived.
It was a new experience for Elaine and me to be completely on our own. Also new to us were the tropical insects. Large hardshell beetles would drop on us after crashing into the light above our heads. Tiny flies would give us painful bites, causing itchy lumps that oozed a clear liquid. The first night in our new home, I went out to use the outdoor toilet. But when I turned on my flashlight, the whole floor seemed to come alive with cockroaches. Lizards scuttled away, and huge toads eyed me from the corners. I decided I could wait till morning.
Later, we were by the river and thought that we would rest on a log we saw there. However, we decided we would first make a return visit nearby. When we returned, the log was gone. Excited passersby told us that a massive snake had been there. I’m glad we didn’t try to sit on that “log”!
What we enjoyed most about Villamontes was visiting people in the evening. We would find them sitting on wicker chairs out on the sidewalks, sipping an herbal drink called maté. We spent many a happy hour explaining the Kingdom promises in such surroundings. But more difficult times came after Elaine married and I was reassigned to Vallegrande with a new partner.
Like the Wild West
To reach Vallegrande, another exhausting trip of three days was required, and this time I was alone. The narrow dirt roads seemed to wind on forever into the wilderness. At last I arrived as the sun was setting. The bus disturbed the tranquillity of a town where horses were more common than motor vehicles. People stared from under the eaves, which projected over the sidewalks and were supported by posts. Some of the men who leaned against the posts wore gun belts with revolvers. Almost everyone seemed to be wearing black. I thought: ‘Why this is just like the wild West!’
And it was, in effect. Disputes were settled with the gun. Even though it was a town of just ten thousand people, murder and violence were common at that time. The population was dominated by a gang that took over the toll bar at the entrance of town. The gang members made their living by stopping the buses and robbing them. Farmers were also robbed as they brought their produce into town. Young girls were raped at gunpoint before their parents’ eyes. Mothers would not even let their daughters go alone to the corner to shop.
Imagine our thoughts when the gang leader entered the Kingdom Hall one day. He was drunk. The circuit overseer, who was giving the talk, grew pale. “I believe!” yelled the gang leader as he thumped the back of the bench with such force that it broke. Then he grabbed the circuit overseer. But suddenly he calmed down, and an old school friend of his in the audience was able to lead him away.
Eventually, an army general challenged the gang leader to a duel. The general had a dead dog hung up in the plaza with a sign saying: “Get out of town, or the same will happen to you.” The gangster left, and conditions improved in Vallegrande.
Sometimes we traveled for 12 hours on horseback to preach in outlying villages. A schoolteacher in one of the villages received us hospitably and later became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. One time I borrowed a mule to go out there, but every time it passed the home of one of its former owners, it headed there, and they had to lead us out onto the trail again.
Challenges—But Still Rich
As is true of many other missionaries, I have found that the greatest challenge may not be the heat or the insects, the cold or the altitude, or even the disease and the poverty. Rather, it can be personality conflicts. ‘Why do such difficulties arise in Jehovah’s organization?’ I wondered, and I even began to doubt that Jehovah was making me rich with blessings. Then I recalled the scripture about Jehovah’s blessing at Proverbs 10:22. The second part of the verse says, “And he adds no pain with it.” So we should not blame Jehovah for these difficulties. I came to realize that they are part of what Adam passed on to us and are included in what Paul describes at Romans 8:22: “All creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together.”
I had been corresponding with Walter Meynberg of the Canadian Bethel, and while I was on vacation in Canada in 1966, we were married and were assigned to La Paz, the principal city of Bolivia. What a blessing it has been to see the congregations here multiply from just one when I arrived in Bolivia to 24, in every corner of the city. It has been similar in other cities of the country. Indeed, the group of about 160 publishers who were preaching the good news in Bolivia when I first arrived in 1955 has grown to some 7,000!
My mother’s determined example that she set so long ago has resulted in more than ten of my immediate family being in the full-time service. I am delighted to say that my father became a dedicated Witness, and over 30 persons with whom I was privileged to study the Bible have been baptized. Are these not riches? Yes, I believe they are. Indeed, ‘the blessing of Jehovah—that is what has made me rich.’