Jehovah Has Taken Good Care of Me
I BEGAN serving Jehovah in an unusual way, to say the least. I grew up in a beautiful rural area of New Zealand’s far north, inhabited mainly by Maori people like me. While traveling on horseback one day, I was approached on the road by my cousin Ben. It was 1942, in the autumn (Southern Hemisphere, spring in the Northern Hemisphere). I was 27 and at the time a practicing member of the Church of England.
For many years Ben had been reading the books of Judge Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and now he had a letter in his hand from the New Zealand main office of the Watch Tower Society asking him to invite local people to a location where they could celebrate the Lord’s Evening Meal together. Further, Ben was to arrange for someone to conduct the service. Looking up at me, Ben said: “You are that person.” Proud to be considered qualified—and being a communicant in the church—I agreed.
On the evening in question, about 40 persons gathered in Ben’s home for the celebration of our Lord’s death, and not one of them was a Witness of Jehovah. Upon my arrival my cousin handed me the talk outline. I dispensed with the suggested song and called on Ben’s brother-in-law to open with prayer. Then I proceeded to present the outlined material, which consisted of a series of questions along with Scripturally based answers. A local clergyman who was present interrupted with objections, but these were answered by reading the Scripture references in the outline.
I recall that one of the questions in the outline related to the time of the year when the event was to be celebrated. How satisfying it was when all present looked out the window and saw the full moon. Clearly, the date was Nisan 14.
What a night that was! Our celebration lasted four hours! Many questions were raised and answered from the Scriptures in the Society’s outline. Looking back, I know that I could not have survived the experience without Jehovah’s loving care—even though at the time I was not one of his dedicated Witnesses. Nevertheless, on that Memorial night in 1942, I discovered my purpose in life.
I was born in 1914. My father had died some four months before my birth, and I recall as a young child being envious of other children who had fathers to love them. I missed that very much. For my mother life without a husband was a hard struggle, made more difficult by the far-reaching effects of World War I.
As a youth, I married a young lady named Agnes Cope, and she has been my partner in life for over 58 years. At the beginning we struggled together to make a success in life. I failed as a farmer because of severe drought. I found some escape in sports, but until that 1942 Memorial experience, I had no real purpose in life.
Witnessing to Relatives
After that Memorial, I studied the Bible in earnest, discussing with some of my cousins the Bible literature published by the Watch Tower Society. In September 1943 some Witnesses of Jehovah from a different area came to visit our isolated community. We had an intensive, four-hour discussion. Then, upon learning that they were to leave the following morning, I asked: “What prevents me from being baptized now?” Two of my cousins and I were immersed in water at one thirty in the morning.
Thereafter, I traveled extensively to witness to my relatives. Some were receptive, and for these I based my discussions on Matthew chapter 24. Others were not receptive, and in those cases I used Jesus’ words to the Pharisees recorded in Matthew chapter 23. In time, though, I learned to be more tactful, in imitation of our kind and loving heavenly Father.—Matthew 5:43-45.
At first my wife opposed my desire to serve Jehovah. However, she soon joined me, and in December 1943 she became a dedicated, baptized helpmate. Joining her in baptism on that memorable day were five others from our village of Waima, bringing the total Kingdom publishers in that location up to nine.
Blessings Despite Opposition
During 1944 we were again visited by brothers from outside, and this time they provided needed training in the formal house-to-house ministry. As our presence in the community became more evident, opposition from Christendom’s representatives mounted. (John 15:20) There were repeated confrontations with local clergymen, resulting in long doctrinal discussions. But Jehovah gave the victory, and other members of the community, including my sister, came under Jehovah’s loving care.
A congregation was formed in Waima in June 1944. Religious persecution and hatred grew. Jehovah’s Witnesses were denied burial in the local cemetery. At times the opposition became violent. There were physical confrontations. My car and the garage housing it were burned to the ground. Nevertheless, with Jehovah’s blessing, in less than three months, we were able to purchase a truck. And I used a horse-drawn wagon to take my growing family to the meetings.
The increasing number of associates meant that we had an urgent need for a larger meeting place, so we decided to construct a Kingdom Hall in Waima. This was the first Kingdom Hall constructed in New Zealand. Four months after the first trees were felled on December 1, 1949, a combined assembly and dedication was held in the new 260-seat hall. In those days that was quite an accomplishment, achieved with Jehovah’s help.
Further Evidences of Jehovah’s Care
Since the number of Kingdom proclaimers in New Zealand’s far north continued to grow, visiting traveling overseers offered encouragement to serve where the need was greater. In response, in 1956, I moved my family to Pukekohe, just south of Auckland. We served there for 13 years.—Compare Acts 16:9.
Two examples of Jehovah’s care during this time stand out in my memory. While I was employed by the county council as a truck driver and machine operator, I was invited to a four-week course of the Kingdom Ministry School at the Watch Tower Society’s branch office in Auckland. I requested four weeks’ leave for this purpose, and the chief engineer said: “By all means. I wish more people were like you. When you return, come and see me in my office.” When I subsequently visited his office, I received pay for the four weeks I was away. Thus, my family’s material needs were cared for.—Matthew 6:33.
That was the first example. The second occurred after my wife and I entered the regular pioneer service in 1968. Again, we relied on Jehovah for support, and he rewarded us. One morning after breakfast, my wife opened the refrigerator door and found nothing inside but a half pound of butter. “Sarn,” she said, “we have nothing left to eat. Are we still going out in service today?” My reply? “Yes!”
At our first call, the householder accepted the literature we offered and kindly gave us a few dozen eggs as a donation. The second person visited gave us a gift of vegetables—kumaras (sweet potatoes), cauliflower, and carrots. Other food items we returned home with that day were meat and butter. How true in our case were the words of Jesus: “Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses; still your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are?”—Matthew 6:26.
An Assignment Abroad
Rarotonga in the Cook Islands! This was our special pioneer assignment in 1970. It was to be our home for the next four years. The first challenge here was learning a new language. However, because of similarities between New Zealand Maori and Cook Island Maori, I was able to give my first public talk five weeks after arrival.
In the Cook Islands, there were few Kingdom publishers, and we had nowhere to meet. Again, in answer to prayer, Jehovah met our needs. A casual conversation with a shopkeeper resulted in our leasing suitable land, and within a year we had a small home and a Kingdom Hall to seat 140. From then on we received blessing after blessing, to Jehovah’s praise.
Particularly appreciated was the island hospitality extended to us. Frequently, while in the ministry, we were offered refreshing drinks—most welcome in the hot, humid climate. Often we would arrive home to find bananas, papaws, mangoes, and oranges left anonymously at our doorstep.
In 1971 my wife and I, accompanied by three other publishers from Rarotonga, traveled to the island of Aitutaki, noted for its beautiful lagoon. We found lovers of God’s Word among the hospitable inhabitants and started four home Bible studies, which we continued by correspondence after our return to Rarotonga. In time those students on Aitutaki were baptized, and a congregation was formed. In 1978 the second Kingdom Hall in the Cook Islands was constructed there. Jehovah kept making things grow in response to our planting and watering.—1 Corinthians 3:6, 7.
I was privileged to visit ten islands in the Cook Island group, often under trying circumstances. One boat trip to Atiu, 114 miles [180 km] away, required more than six days because of high winds and rough seas. (Compare 2 Corinthians 11:26.) Even though food supplies were limited and many around me were seasick, I was grateful for Jehovah’s care, which resulted in a safe arrival at my destination.
In 1974 we were refused a permit to stay in the Cook Islands and so had to return to New Zealand. By that time there were three congregations on the islands.
Further Privileges of Service—And a Test
Back in New Zealand, new doors of opportunity opened up. (1 Corinthians 16:9) The Society needed someone who could translate The Watchtower and other Bible literature into Cook Island Maori. I was given the privilege, and it has remained mine to the present day. Then I was privileged to make regular return visits on my brothers in the Cook Islands, first as a circuit overseer, then as a substitute district overseer.
On one of those visits, Brother Alex Napa, a special pioneer from Rarotonga, went with me on a 23-day ocean voyage that took us to Manahiki, Rakahanga, and Penrhyn—islands in the northern Cooks. On each island, Jehovah moved the hearts of hospitable local people to provide us with accommodations and to accept much Bible literature. (Compare Acts 16:15.) In these islands, pearl oysters are plentiful, and on many occasions the people offered pearls as a contribution toward the cost of the worldwide preaching work. So, as we gave spiritual pearls, we received some literal ones.—Compare Matthew 13:45, 46.
How beautiful that isolated part of the world is! Imagine huge sharks swimming peacefully together with children in a lagoon! What a magnificent spectacle the night skies presented! How true the psalmist’s words: “One day after another day causes speech to bubble forth, and one night after another night shows forth knowledge.”—Psalm 19:2.
Then, nine years ago, came a real test of integrity. My wife was hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage. Surgery was needed, but the doctor would not agree to perform it without using blood. My wife and I could not conscientiously agree to a procedure that would violate God’s law. But the conscience of the surgeon dictated that every means possible, including blood, be used to save life.
My wife’s health deteriorated, and she was put in an intensive care ward, with only limited visits allowed. She experienced hearing loss due to pressure on the eardrums. It became a crisis situation. After one visit a doctor followed me to my car, insisting that my wife’s only chance was surgery with blood and pleading with me to consent to it. Nonetheless, my wife and I trusted in Jehovah—even if obeying his law resulted in losing a few years in this present life.
Suddenly, there was a marked improvement in my wife’s condition. I arrived one day to find her sitting up in bed reading. On subsequent days she began witnessing to patients and the nursing staff. Then I was summoned to the surgeon’s office. “Mr. Wharerau,” he said, “you are indeed a fortunate man! We believe your wife’s problem has healed.” Unexpectedly, her blood pressure had stabilized. Together, my wife and I thanked Jehovah and renewed our determination to do our utmost in his service.
Now I have been reassigned to the Cook Islands and am once again serving in Rarotonga. What a blessed privilege! In looking back my wife and I are grateful for Jehovah’s care over almost five decades in his service. Materially, we have never been without life’s necessities. In a spiritual sense, the blessings have been too numerous to recount. A notable one is the number of my fleshly relatives who have embraced the truth. I can count more than 200 who are now baptized Witnesses of Jehovah, including 65 direct descendants. One grandson is a member of the New Zealand Bethel family, while one daughter with her husband and two sons are doing construction work at branches.—3 John 4.
In looking ahead, I cherish the prospect of living in a paradise where, earth wide, the beauty will exceed even that of the pretty green valley where I was born. What a privilege it will be to welcome back my mother and father in the resurrection and to inform them of the ransom, the Kingdom, and all the other evidences of Jehovah’s care.
My determination, sustained by the knowledge that God cares for me, is as the psalmist stated at Psalm 104:33: “I will sing to Jehovah throughout my life; I will make melody to my God as long as I am.”—As told by Sarn Wharerau.
[Picture on page 28]
The first Kingdom Hall built in New Zealand, 1950