Trusting in Jehovah Brings Happiness
AS TOLD BY JACK HALLIDAY NATHAN
You have perhaps heard the expression, “Born with a silver spoon in his mouth.” Well, when I was born back in 1897, that was almost literally true in my case.
IT WAS the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign, her diamond jubilee. Children born that year in England were presented with a silver spoon. The British Empire was in its glory, reaping the benefits of the Industrial Revolution at home and the prosperous trade from thriving colonies abroad.
My grandfather was a Jew, and my father became a Hebrew scholar, well-versed in the Hebrew Scriptures. But my grandmother was the daughter of an Anglican bishop, and because of her influence, my father accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah. The writings of Charles Taze Russell influenced both my parents, so we never believed in the Trinity or the hellfire doctrine.
During my childhood, horses were still the main means of transportation in England, and there were few horseless carriages, or automobiles. In 1913, because of my love of horses, I joined a horse-transport unit of the territorial army (militia). With the outbreak of World War I, I was transferred to the regular army and shipped to the Greek front, where I contracted malaria. Later, I was sent to the western front in France as a machine gunner and was eventually taken prisoner in 1917 by the Germans.
Finding a Purpose in Life in India
After the war ended in 1918, there was no work available in England, so I rejoined the army and went off to India as part of the peacetime garrison. In May 1920 the malaria flared up again, and I was sent up into the hills to recuperate. There I read all the books I could get my hands on, including the Bible. Reading the Scriptures intensified my interest in the Lord’s return.
Months later, down in Kanpur, I started a Bible study group, hoping to learn more about the Lord’s return. It was there that I met Fredrick James, a former British soldier who was now a zealous Bible Student. He explained to me that Jesus had been present since 1914, invisible to man. This was the most thrilling news I had ever heard. My first urge was to get out of the army. The bloodshed and death of the European war had disgusted me. I wanted to be a peaceful missionary and preach this good news about Christ’s presence.
The army did not agree to release me, however. Instead, they sent me to western India, now Pakistan. While there, I read Studies in the Scriptures, by Charles Taze Russell, and became more convinced than ever that I should respond to the call to preach. I began to have nightmares that left me depressed. In desperation I wrote to Brother James, who invited me to his home in Kanpur. The day I arrived was the Memorial of the Lord’s death. That day had a great impact on my life—I resolved both to remain single and to make the full-time ministry my goal in life.
Back in England
In late 1921, I was transferred back to England, and in the spring of 1922, I was discharged from the army. That summer J. F. Rutherford, the second president of the Watch Tower Society, came to England, and I went with my parents to hear his talk at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Afterward, I was moved to offer my services at Bethel, as the branch offices of the Watch Tower Society are called, but I was kindly encouraged to do some colporteur work (full-time preaching) first. So I quit my job and accepted a territory assignment in the south of England. With no experience, a crown (50 cents, U.S.) in my pocket, and trust in Jehovah, I started my career as a full-time minister. About March 1924, I was invited to Bethel.
The following year, though, I was asked to leave Bethel, and I was devastated, feeling that I was being disciplined for something that I was not responsible for. In that short time, Bethel had become my life. But by putting the problem before Jehovah in prayer and trusting that his will would be done, I was able to carry on joyfully in the pioneer assignment I was given. In May 1926, I was invited back to Bethel, where I remained for the next 11 years.
Brother Rutherford visited England again in 1936 and invited me to go to Canada to share in the Kingdom work there. However, because of a misunderstanding, I incurred Brother Rutherford’s disapproval by revealing some confidential information. I still remember his exact words: “Jack, I can’t trust you. Tear up your tickets!” What a crushing experience! But it was discipline sorely needed, and afterward, with another brother, I was assigned as a pioneer for the next eight months. This privilege of service lifted me out of my despondency, and I learned from the discipline.
Expanded Ministry in Canada
About a year later, during his next visit to England, Brother Rutherford once again brought up the subject of Canada. I was eager for the opportunity and with alacrity accepted an assignment there. After serving a few months at the Canadian Bethel, I was assigned as a traveling representative of the Society in southwestern Ontario. Most of the congregations there were small and needed much encouragement. But what a joy those early years were, despite physical hardships from severe weather conditions and uncertain transportation!
I’ll never forget the warmth and spiritual appreciation of one small native Indian congregation near Brantford. It was wintertime, and the snows were deep, making it hard for my Model T Ford to get through. Nobody was expecting me, and when I arrived, I found that the brothers had gone into the woods for firewood. So off I went to find them, waist-deep in snow. When I finally came upon them, they were surprised, yet happy, to see me. They dropped everything, came home, and arranged a meeting that very evening.
At nearby Beamsville, faithful brothers and I struggled for many months with elective elders and apostates. What a privilege it was to see how Jehovah’s spirit operated to clear up the situation! Trust in Jehovah and loyalty to his organization resulted in many blessings for the congregations during those early years. Many children from those congregations grew up to enter the pioneer ranks, go to Bethel, enjoy missionary assignments, and become traveling overseers. I have never forgotten the joys of staying with loyal Christian families that produced such fine young people. These families became my family, and their children became my children.
Years Under Ban
During the war hysteria of 1940, the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was put under ban. What a shock! Government-sponsored radio announcements ordered us to hand over to the police our literature, our congregation records, and our Kingdom Hall keys. Realizing the urgency of the situation, I went around to the congregations and urged them to hide their literature and records. The brothers were encouraged to meet in private homes, at a different home each week. In time the congregations reinstituted the door-to-door ministry, using only the Bible. This proved to be a blessing, as all of us learned to use our Bibles better.
Later that year we received a large supply of the booklet End of Nazism from the United States. Getting this banned literature into Canada required great ingenuity. Some brothers picked up hitchhiking soldiers, who sat on the cartons, unwittingly providing cover for the banned booklet. Then one morning in November, between three and six o’clock, the whole country was blitzed by Witnesses who left a copy of this booklet on the doorstep of most homes in Canada.
During those years of the ban, I continued in the pioneer ministry in Canada’s western province of British Columbia. Before the ban, the brothers used a boat when calling on the people in villages in isolated inlets from Vancouver all the way to Alaska. When the ban went into effect, a great deal of literature was on board, so the Witnesses dropped it off with friendly people en route to the port where the boat was to be taken into custody. Later, I took a fishing boat to locate this literature, and then, during the salmon-fishing season, I arranged for the brothers to pick it up from these interested people. In time the literature was brought to Vancouver for wider distribution, camouflaged in the holds of fishing boats.
In late 1943, we received news that the ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses had been lifted. However, it was not lifted from the Watch Tower Society. So we carried on as before, using only the Bible in our house-to-house ministry. But now we could openly identify ourselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses. When the ban started, we had about 6,700 Witnesses; when it was lifted, we were 11,000 strong!
Life as a Traveling Overseer
As a traveling representative of the Society, I covered countless miles during the next few years, working with and encouraging the congregations. In the winter, I accompanied the brothers in a unique vehicle called a caboose. This was a horse-drawn, covered sleigh, complete with an airtight wood stove and smokestack. Often, starting out before daybreak with as many as six aboard, we traveled through deep snow for 20 miles [35 km] or more, calling at farms along the way. The driver had to be alert because snowdrifts could tip the caboose on its side, spilling out the occupants along with the hot embers from the wood stove.
In 1947, I was appointed to oversee the country’s first district, which took in the entire country. I had a circuit assembly to serve almost every week. Assemblies were held in ice rinks, football fields, racetracks, union halls, and community halls. Arrangements for these gatherings required much attention before the program could begin. In 1950, Frank Franske was appointed as the second district overseer in Canada, and later five more of these traveling overseers were added.
Through the years, I have traveled by light aircraft, by fishing boats, by large snowmobiles with track and skis called bombardiers, by snowplanes (vehicles with a propeller behind and skis up front for steering), and by more conventional means—train, bus, and car. Sometimes, in a plane we would skim the peaks of the majestic Rocky Mountains, then plunge headlong into deep hidden valleys to reach isolated groups of brothers.
I have crisscrossed Canada many times. I have stayed in log cabins so cold we could see our breath in the morning and in farmhouses with no modern conveniences. Yet, through it all, I had a great sense of satisfaction, knowing I was doing Jehovah’s work, encouraging Jehovah’s people.
Additional Privileges of Service
For the past 33 years, I have had the privilege of being a member of the Canadian Bethel family, as well as serving as a convention speaker in England, Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the Far East. In Australia, I met the daughter of Brother James, who had been so encouraging to me in India. Brother James was never a missionary, but he passed a fine spiritual heritage on to his family.
Today I am surrounded by hundreds of young men and women in the Canadian Bethel. The way they use their youthful vigor in Jehovah’s service is encouraging and stimulating. My eyes are dim, but these younger ones read to me. My legs are weak, but they take me along with them into the field ministry. Some ask how I cope with health problems associated with advancing age. Well, for one thing, I study God’s Word every day. This keeps my mind and heart on spiritual things.
Truly, it has been a great privilege to walk and talk with my heavenly Father, Jehovah, for 69 years of dedicated life, 67 of which have been spent in full-time service. I have always found Jehovah to be a loving, compassionate God, forgiving human frailties and giving power and strength to those trusting in him. My hope is to maintain my integrity and loyalty to Jehovah and his organization to the finish, trusting in the promise that in due time I will be united with my dear Lord, Jesus Christ, and with many of my faithful brothers and sisters in heavenly glory.—Psalm 84:12.
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Snowplanes traveled cross-country at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour [80 km/hr]
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During winter, a horse-drawn caboose was used in witnessing on the prairies of Canada