What Many Reasons I Have to Be Thankful!
AS TOLD BY LOTTIE HALL
IT HAPPENED on our way from Calcutta, India, to Rangoon, Burma, in 1963. Shortly after leaving Calcutta by plane, one of the brothers noticed oil leaking onto the wing. On being told about it, the crew declared an emergency landing. The plane first had to jettison a lot of fuel to make it possible to land. The steward called out, “If you want to pray, do it now!” We did indeed pray that if it was Jehovah’s will, we might have a safe landing, and we did. Truly we had something to be thankful for!
YES, and I have much else to be thankful for. At the age of 79, I still have a measure of health and strength, which I use in the full-time ministry. Moreover, in addition to those blessings common to all of Jehovah’s people, I have had many outstanding experiences. All in all, it has been my precious lot to serve Jehovah for upwards of 60 years, and more than half of that time I have been a full-time minister, or pioneer.
It all started with my father when we lived in Carbondale, Illinois. He was associated with the Disciples of Christ denomination and was interested in becoming a minister. However, his experience with two Bible colleges left him disillusioned, for he had his own ideas about the Trinity, the immortality of the soul, and eternal torment.
Eventually, he was satisfied by the Bible truth brought to him by a Bible Student colporteur in 1924, when I was just 12 years old. My father was glad to learn that there were others who felt as he did, that the Trinity, hellfire, and the immortality of the human soul are false teachings. Soon our family was meeting regularly with the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then called. Learning the truth about Jehovah and his Word was something for which I was truly thankful.
Before long, however, calamity struck. The man who had brought my father these truths turned out to be both dishonest and immoral. He stumbled my father but not mother and me. Now 15, I was the oldest of six children, and with my mother I stuck to the truth.
In the summer of 1927, it was announced that a big convention of Bible Students would be held in Toronto, Canada. Father said he could not afford to go, but Mother was a determined woman. She started to peddle various household items, and by convention time she had accumulated eight dollars. With that sum she and I started to hitchhike to Toronto, a thousand miles [1,600 km] away. It took five days and 37 rides before we finally made it, getting there the day before the convention began. Because our funds were low, we asked for and received free sleeping accommodations. When Brother A. H. Macmillan heard about our trip, he wrote it up for the convention newspaper under the title: “Any Increase in Rail Fares Doesn’t Worry These Bible Students.”
Mother kept Father informed by means of postcards. So, at the last minute, he decided to come after all and arrived by car just in time for the public talk on the last day of the convention. Now we did not need to hitchhike our way back home. What a convention it was! How thankful I was that we had been able to attend it, and how grateful I was that it helped my father to regain his spiritual balance!
For years when I was asked what my religion was, I answered, “IBSA,” which letters stood for International Bible Students Association. But I always felt unhappy with that designation. I was grateful, therefore, when at the 1931 convention in Columbus, Ohio, we adopted the new name Jehovah’s Witnesses.
My School Career
Among the many blessings that have made my life rich were those connected with music. I was very fond of music and early learned to play the piano. For many years I had the privilege of playing the accompaniment for congregation singing. Before the Watch Tower Society began making recordings of Kingdom songs, a missionary brother serving in Papua New Guinea once asked that I make recordings of a number of our songs so that the Papuans could learn to sing them. That was something I really enjoyed doing.
My favorite instrument, however, was the clarinet. I loved playing it in the college orchestra. The college professor was so pleased with my playing that he asked that I also play in the men’s band. In those days no female ever played in a men’s band, so when the band members heard of what the professor had proposed, they planned to strike. They thought better of it when they were served notice that if they struck, they would be expelled. Another tradition was broken when I was required to march with the band in an all-day parade. The newspaper rated it a sensation and reported it with bold headlines: “Girl Musician in a Sea of Men.”
Eventually, I was interviewed for a professorship in music. However, thinking of all the issues that could arise if I was to teach music, such as being asked to teach or play religious and nationalistic music, I decided to pursue something else and was assigned to teach world history. But that change did not keep me, years later, from playing my clarinet in convention orchestras in many lands as I traveled to international conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In time I became an instructor in world history at a large high school in a suburb of Detroit, and as such, I was once asked by the principal to recommend one of several new textbooks. In reviewing these, I was struck by the fact that while the current textbook mentioned Jehovah’s name eight times, the new ones left the God of the Hebrews unnamed, although they named many of the gods of pagan nations, such as Ra, Molech, Zeus, and Jupiter. When a salesman called, I asked him why Jehovah was not mentioned in his textbook, and he said: “No, we will not put that name in our text because of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” So I told him: “Very well! Then I will not recommend your text.” He slammed the book in his bag and bolted out the door.
Later, I reported to the principal that we really did not need a new textbook and gave a number of good reasons. He agreed with me. All were happy with this decision when, just a few months later, it was decided to drop the world history course from the high school’s curriculum. A new course, called social studies, replaced it throughout the 14-school system. Had the school bought new history books, what a loss that would have entailed!
I had many enjoyable experiences teaching school and was a strict disciplinarian. This paid off in a number of lifelong friendships. I also had many opportunities to do informal witnessing. But eventually time and circumstance led me into the full-time service.
After teaching school for 20 years, my eyes began to fail. Further, my parents felt that they needed me, so my father asked me to come home, saying that there was a more important teaching work to be done, and Jehovah would see to it that I did not starve. I quit teaching in 1955, and among my first blessings thereafter was attending the series of “Triumphant Kingdom” conventions in Europe. How thankful I was to be with our brothers in Europe, many of whom had undergone so much suffering during the second world war! Especially was it a blessing to be among the 107,000 who packed the Zeppelinwiese, or Zeppelin Meadow, in Nuremberg, where Hitler had planned to have his victory march after World War II.
That was just the first of many world tours I have been privileged to make. In 1963 my mother and I were among the 583 conventioners to travel right around the world with the “Everlasting Good News” Assemblies. That trip took us from New York to Europe, then on to Asia and islands in the Pacific before concluding in Pasadena, California. It was during that trip that we had the frightening experience described in the introduction. Later tours took us to conventions in South America, the South Pacific, and Africa. Truly, these trips enriched my life, and being able to play in the convention orchestras in many of these places was an added plus for a music lover.
Entering the Pioneer Ranks
In 1955, after getting back from Europe, I joined my mother in the pioneer work for a year, and then the Society asked me to work with a small congregation at Apalachicola in western Florida. For seven years another sister and I helped in the work there, and soon the congregation was able to build a Kingdom Hall to accommodate the increase. Progress continued, and before long another congregation was formed in Port Saint Joe. I spent 11 years working with three congregations in western Florida.
Once I was asked by the circuit overseer to find a place for a circuit assembly. I was able to obtain the use of the prestigious Centennial Building in Port Saint Joe for only $10. But we also needed a cafeteria, and we thought of using a school facility. However, I found that the superintendent of schools was opposed, and he said I would have to meet with the school board. The mayor also came to that meeting, as he wanted us to have the use of the cafeteria. When he asked what were the objections to our having it, the head of the school board said that there was no precedent for a religious group’s using school facilities. The mayor turned to me for a reply. Well, I had a number of handbills showing that we had used school facilities for our meetings in other towns, and then I pointed to Acts 19:9, which said that the apostle Paul preached in a school auditorium. That settled it. The board agreed with the mayor to let us have the cafeteria—for $36.
When I was but 13 years old, at which age I was baptized, I prayed: “O God, just let me bring one person into the truth.” That prayer was now being answered many, many times over as I was blessed in helping a good number to take their stand for Jehovah and his Kingdom. Repeatedly, however, just before a Bible student reached the point of dedication and baptism, I was assigned to another congregation. Still, I had the privilege of planting and watering, and many of these students have proved to be lifelong friends. Sharing in such fruitful activities truly brought many reasons for me to be thankful.
The Media Help
While the media in many places time and again have reported unfavorably on the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I am happy to say that the media in the De Land, Florida, area—where I now serve—have helped me to witness. For example, while on one of those world convention tours, my mother and I sent lengthy dispatches to the local newspaper, and these were readily published, together with pictures. The reports were in the nature of travelogues, but we always managed to use them to witness about Jehovah’s name and Kingdom.
The same has been true of my street witnessing. I have a street corner where I have two lawn chairs, one on which I sit and the other on which I display our literature. Once, a half-page article with a picture appeared in a local paper under the caption: “Deland’s Lottie Carries On Parents’ Work as Witnesses.” More recently, in 1987, another paper had a half-page article with a large picture in color under the heading: “Lottie Hall Has Her Own Corner Staked Out for Christ.” The following year another paper had a front-page picture of me, along with such remarks as, “She’s always there” and, “Seated in a lawn chair, the retired school teacher uses her street corner post to do Jehovah’s Witness missionary work.” Also, four times the local TV station has presented pictures about my witnessing. I keep sharing to a limited degree in all features of the Kingdom ministry: house-to-house preaching, return visits, and home Bible studies. However, because of advancing years and physical infirmities, I now spend quite a lot of time in the street work.
In retrospect I must say that I truly have many reasons to be thankful. In addition to those blessings common to all of Jehovah’s people, I have as a schoolteacher had the privilege of influencing many young people; I have had the joy of attending a number of conventions worldwide; I have had a most fruitful pioneer ministry; and I have also been blessed in connection with music. Moreover, there was the witnessing I was able to do by means of the media. Truly, I can say with the psalmist David: “I will praise the name of God with song, and I will magnify him with thanksgiving.”—Psalm 69:30.