I Responded in Harvesttime
AS TOLD BY WINIFRED REMMIE
“THE harvest is great, but the workers are few.” These words of our Lord Jesus were prompted by a deep feeling for people who were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd. I have experienced this same feeling, and for the past 40 years, I have always tried to respond favorably to the Master’s call to work in the harvest.—Matthew 9:36, 37.
I was born in West Africa to a family with seven children, all girls. Our parents were tender, yet strict; they were also very religious. Attending church and Sunday school each week was nonnegotiable. For me this wasn’t a problem because I loved spiritual things. In fact, at the age of 12, I was appointed to conduct Sunday school classes.
Marriage and Adventure
In 1941, at the age of 23, I married Lichfield Remmie, a bookkeeper at the colonial secretariat. Materially, we were well off, but the love of adventure and the desire to accumulate material wealth took us to Liberia in 1944. The turning point in my husband’s life, and eventually in mine, came in 1950 when he met Hoyle Ervin, a missionary of Jehovah’s Witnesses. After just three weeks of study, my husband began to share in the preaching work.
I was upset when my husband stopped attending church. After all, he was a staunch Protestant who even fasted during the Lenten season. The first time I saw him going out to preach, bag in hand, I was furious. “What’s wrong with you?” I demanded. “An important man like you going out to preach with these foolish people!” He was calm and composed during this tirade.
The following day, Brother Ervin called at our house to study with Lichfield. As usual, I stood aloof during the study. Perhaps it was because of this that Brother Ervin asked me if I was illiterate. What? Me, illiterate? What an insult! I would show him how educated I was! I would expose this false religion!
Accepting the Truth
Not long after this, I noticed the book Let God Be True on the living-room table. ‘What a ridiculous title,’ I thought. ‘God has always been true, hasn’t he?’ As I browsed through the book, I quickly found another cause for complaint. It said that man doesn’t have a soul, he is a soul! Even dogs and cats are souls! This really vexed me. ‘What a foolish teaching!’ I thought.
When my husband came home, I angrily confronted him. “These deceivers say man doesn’t have a soul. They are false prophets!” My husband didn’t quarrel; rather, he calmly replied: “Winnie, everything is in the Bible.” Later, when Brother Ervin patiently showed me from my own Bible that we are souls and that our soul is mortal, I was astounded. (Ezekiel 18:4) What particularly impressed me was the scripture at Genesis 2:7, which states: “The man [Adam] came to be a living soul.”
How wrong I had been! I felt cheated by the clergy and never attended church again. Instead, I began attending the Christian meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. How impressive it was to see the love among them! This had to be the true religion.
Harvesting in Cape Palmas
About three months later, my husband had the opportunity to steal a large sum of money from his company—but he did not. His colleagues taunted him: “Remmie, you will die poor.”
However, because of his honesty, he was promoted and sent to Cape Palmas to open a new office there. We preached zealously and after just two months, we had a small group that was keenly interested in the Bible’s message. Later, when Lichfield traveled to the capital, Monrovia, to get some supplies for the new office, he was baptized. He also requested help from the Society to care for those in Cape Palmas who were showing interest in the truth.
The Society responded by sending Brother and Sister Faust to Cape Palmas. Sister Faust was of invaluable help to me, and in December 1951, I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah by getting baptized. Now more than ever, I was determined to ‘gather fruit for everlasting life.’ (John 4:35, 36) In April 1952, I took up the full-time ministry as a pioneer.
My efforts were immediately blessed by Jehovah; within a year, I helped five people to dedication and baptism. One of them, Louissa Macintosh, was a cousin of then president of Liberia, W. V. S. Tubman. She was baptized and entered the full-time ministry and continued faithful to God until her death in 1984. On several occasions she witnessed to the president.
To Lower Buchanan
In 1957, during the district overseer’s visit, my husband and I were invited to become special pioneers. After prayerful discussion, we accepted the assignment. Lichfield needed a few months to wrap up his secular work in Cape Palmas, so I went ahead to Lower Buchanan, a virgin territory, to open up the work there.
Upon arriving, I was accommodated by the Maclean family. The next day, as was the custom, I was taken to the subchief of the Pele tribe. The chief and his family welcomed me warmly, and I witnessed to a small group of people at his home. No fewer than six of the people I spoke to that day, including the subchief and his wife, eventually became Witnesses.
Soon I found myself conducting a Watchtower study with more than 20 people in attendance. I had to rely heavily on Jehovah, and he gave me the needed strength and ability to take care of his sheep. When I felt tired or inadequate, I would recall faithful ones of old, especially women like Deborah and Huldah, who were fearless in carrying out Jehovah’s commissions.—Judges 4:4-7, 14-16; 2 Kings 22:14-20.
In March 1958, after just three months in Lower Buchanan, I received a letter informing me of the visit of the circuit overseer, John Charuk. I rented the basement of a house that would hold a large crowd. Then I traveled to Upper Buchanan to meet Brother Charuk, but he did not come. After waiting till dusk, I wearily made my way back to Lower Buchanan.
About midnight, I heard a knock on the door. Upon opening it, I saw not only the circuit overseer but also my husband, whose surprise arrival beautifully coincided with that of Brother Charuk. How did they locate me? They had met a hunter and asked him if he knew a lady who preached to people about Jehovah. “Yes,” he replied, and then he directed them to my place. How happy I felt that in just three months in Lower Buchanan, my light was shining so brightly!—Matthew 5:14-16.
We enjoyed a peak attendance of 40 during Brother Charuk’s visit. In time a thriving congregation was established, and we were able to construct a beautiful Kingdom Hall. However, life was not always trouble free. For example, in 1963 religious persecution broke out in Kolahun, and my husband was arrested and imprisoned. He was so badly beaten that he had to be hospitalized.
Not long after his discharge, in that same year, we had a convention at Gbarnga. On the final day, soldiers rounded up all in attendance and ordered us to salute the flag. When we refused, the soldiers forced us to hold our hands in the air and to look directly at the sun. They also beat some of us with the butts of their rifles. As a help to keep my integrity to God, I sang to myself the Kingdom song “Fear Them Not!” After that the soldiers threw us into a filthy prison. Three days later the foreigners were released, and Lichfield and I were deported to Sierra Leone. The local Witnesses were released the next day.
Further Privileges and Rewards
We were assigned to work with the Bo Congregation, in the south of Sierra Leone. We served there for eight years before being transferred to Njala. While in Njala my husband was appointed to serve as a substitute circuit overseer, and I had the privilege of accompanying him as he engaged in this service. Then, in the mid-1970’s, we were reassigned to the East Freetown Congregation.
I have experienced the reward of seeing many of those I studied the Bible with embrace true worship. I have over 60 spiritual children and grandchildren as “letters of recommendation.” (2 Corinthians 3:1) Some have had to make drastic changes, as did Victoria Dyke, who was a prophetess of the Aladura sect. After a consideration of 1 John 5:21, she finally disposed of her many fetishes and objects of veneration. She symbolized her dedication by baptism and eventually became a special pioneer, helping many of her relatives to accept the truth.
In April 1985, I lost my husband in death, just a few months before our 44th wedding anniversary. But I am not left alone. I have continued to serve my Helper, Jehovah, as a full-time minister. And I feel a special bond with those whom I have helped to come to know him. They are family in a special sense. I love them and they love me. When I am sick, they rush to look after me and, of course, I help them too.
No question about it, if I had to do it all over again, I would gladly take my sickle and join in the harvest as Jehovah’s fellow worker.
[Picture on page 23]
Winifred Remmie today