Jehovah Acts in Loyalty
AS TOLD BY PETER PALLISER
It was December 1985. Excitement mounted as we began our descent to the international airport in Nairobi, Kenya. On the drive into the city, memories flooded back, awakened by familiar sights and sounds.
WE CAME to Kenya to attend the “Integrity Keepers” District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Twelve years earlier, my wife and I had been forced to leave Kenya because of a ban on our preaching work. We had lived there at Bethel, the name given to the branch facilities of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What a pleasant surprise awaited us when we returned there to visit!
Helping to prepare the noon meal at Bethel was a young Witness whom we had known since she was two years old. At least six members of the Bethel family were people we knew when they were children. What a joy it was to see them now as young adults, along with their families, all still active in the ministry! Our God, Jehovah, had cared for them in keeping with the Bible’s promise: “With someone loyal you will act in loyalty.” (2 Samuel 22:26) What a contrast I found between my early life and the rewarding life that these young ones were leading!
Early Life Without Purpose
I was born in Scarborough, England, on August 14, 1918. Two years later my mother and stepsister left for Canada, so I spent the next three years living with my father, his mother, and his sister. When I was five, Mother kidnapped me and took me to Montreal, Canada. Four years later she sent me back to England to live with Father and to attend school.
My mother and stepsister wrote to me about every six months. At the end of their letters, they would express the wish that I be a good citizen, loyal to King and country. My replies probably disappointed them because I wrote that I believed that nationalism and war were wrong. Yet, not having any clear direction, during my teen years, I just drifted along.
Then in July 1939, six weeks before World War II began, I was drafted into the British army. I was only 20. My regiment was soon sent to northern France. When German aircraft attacked us, we young lads aimed our rifles and shot at them. It was a scary existence. We retreated before the advancing German armies, and I was among those evacuated at Dunkirk during the first week of June 1940. I still recall with horror the sight of a whole battalion of dead strewn across the beach. I survived that nightmare and arrived at Harwich in eastern England aboard a small freighter.
The following year, in March 1941, I was sent to India. There I received training as an instrument mechanic. After a period in the hospital as a result of an infection, I was transferred to an army unit in Delhi, India’s capital. Far from home and still not feeling well, I began thinking about the future. Especially did I wonder about what happens to us when we die.
Exercising a New Loyalty
A fellow Englishman, Bert Gale, was my roommate in Delhi. One day he said that “religion was of the Devil,” a comment that aroused my interest. His wife had become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and from time to time, she sent him Bible publications. One of these, the booklet Hope, captured my interest. Its discussion of the hope of the resurrection provided me with a real sense of calm.
Sometime early in 1943, Bert spoke to an Anglo-Indian civilian, Teddy Grubert, who worked with us on the military base. To our amazement we learned that Teddy was a Witness. Although in 1941 a ban had been placed on the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he took us to the meetings held by the Witnesses in Delhi. In that small congregation, I found genuine, warm companionship for the first time in my life. Basil Tsatos, an older Christian brother from Greece, took me under his wing and answered my questions. He provided clear Bible answers to questions about why we grow old and die, the resurrection, and God’s promised new world of righteousness.—Acts 24:15; Romans 5:12; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:3, 4.
The booklet Peace—Can It Last?, published in 1942, especially captured my interest. It identified the League of Nations as the “scarlet-colored wild beast.” (Revelation 17:3) Quoting Re chapter 17, verse 11, of Revelation, the booklet said: “It can now be said that the League ‘was, and is not.’” Continuing, it said: “The association of worldly nations will rise again.” In 1945, more than three years later, that is exactly what occurred when the United Nations organization was formed!
During the ban on Witness literature, I was able to help my newfound friends. When a carton of Peace—Can It Last? booklets would arrive, the congregation turned it over to me for safekeeping. Who would think of looking in the army camp for banned literature? Each time I attended the meetings, I took along a few booklets to keep the brothers supplied. I even hid their personal Bible literature when they feared a search of their homes. Finally, on December 11, 1944, the ban was lifted.
My loyalty to Christian teachings was put to the test during the 1943 Christmas celebrations that were organized for our army detachment. I refused to participate, since I had learned that Jesus was not born in the cold of December and that early Christians did not celebrate Christmas.—Compare Luke 2:8-12.
When the “United Announcers’” Assembly was held in Jubbulpore (Jabalpur) December 27 to 31, 1944, I was among the some 150 in attendance. Many convention delegates traveled by train from Delhi, a trip of well over 400 miles [600 km]. I shall never forget the wonderful atmosphere in that open-air setting, where I saw Jehovah’s organization in action.
The convention delegates were accommodated in school dormitories, where we sang Kingdom songs and enjoyed happy Christian fellowship. During that convention I began sharing in the public preaching work, a work that has ever since remained dear to my heart.
Full-Time Ministry in England
I returned to England in 1946 and soon began to associate with the Wolverton Congregation. Although we had only about ten Kingdom publishers, these made me feel at home, and I experienced the same contentment that I had among my brothers in India. Vera Clifton stood out in the congregation as a genuine, warmhearted person. When I learned that she shared my desire to be a pioneer, as full-time ministers are called, we were married, on May 24, 1947. I fixed up a caravan, or mobile home, and the following year, we received our first pioneer assignment, the country town of Huntingdon.
In those days we set off on our bicycles for rural territory early in the morning. Our full day of preaching was interrupted only by a quick midday break for sandwiches. No matter how strong the head wind or how heavy the rain through which we pedaled home, we were happy and satisfied in the Lord’s work.
In time we yearned to expand our ministry and to share the “good news” with peoples of other countries. (Matthew 24:14) So we applied to attend the Gilead missionary school in South Lansing, New York, U.S.A. Finally, we were accepted to the 26th class of Gilead that graduated in February 1956.
An Expanded Ministry in Africa
Our missionary assignment was Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in Africa. Soon after arriving, we were called in to serve in that country’s Bethel. As part of my Bethel work, I cared for correspondence with East Africa. In 1956, Kenya—one of these East African countries—had only four Witnesses, while there were well over 24,000 in Northern Rhodesia. Vera and I began to think of how fine it would be to serve where the need was greater.
Then, unexpectedly, I received another invitation to Gilead School, this time for a ten-month course for overseers. Leaving Vera behind in Northern Rhodesia, I traveled to New York City, where Gilead School was located at that time. After finishing the course in November 1962, I was assigned to Kenya to establish a branch office there. By this time Kenya had over a hundred Witnesses.
On my return to Northern Rhodesia to meet Vera, I was supposed to have a brief stopover in Nairobi, Kenya. But when I arrived, Bill Nisbet, a Gilead graduate of the 25th class, met me with news that there was an opportunity to obtain official permission to enter Kenya right away. We approached the immigration authorities, and within a few minutes, I had obtained a five-year work permit. So I never did get back to Northern Rhodesia; rather, Vera joined me in Nairobi.
After an improvised Swahili language course, we joined with the small Nairobi congregation in the ministry. Sometimes after we read our Swahili sermon, the householder would exclaim, “I don’t understand English!” Despite this, we persevered and gradually overcame the language barrier.
Our territory included vast housing complexes with such Bible names as Jerusalem and Jericho. Interest was quickly developed, and from these areas came many new Kingdom publishers. What a remarkable effect Bible truth had on these people! Feelings of tribal superiority disappeared as loyalty to the Kingdom brought unity among Jehovah’s people. Even intertribal marriages took place, something very unusual among non-Witnesses.
New Kingdom proclaimers embraced the truth with zeal. Samson, for example, was so eager for Bible truth to penetrate his home area that he kept asking for pioneers to be sent there. In fact, he built an extension onto his house in the Ukambani region to provide accommodations for them. Soon a new congregation of Kingdom proclaimers was established there.
Several times I visited our brothers in the East African country of Ethiopia. They were spending an average of over 20 hours a month in the ministry, despite imprisonments, beatings, and constant surveillance. Once two busloads of Ethiopian brothers and sisters traveled for a week, crossing hazardous mountain passes, to attend a district convention in Kenya. Their resourcefulness in arranging for Kingdom literature to be available in their land was remarkable. We in Kenya were happy to help keep them supplied.
An official ban on our work in Kenya was imposed in 1973, and the missionaries were forced to leave. By then we had over 1,200 Witnesses in Kenya, and many of these were at the airport to give us an unforgettable send-off. Their presence prompted a fellow traveler to ask if we were celebrities of some kind. Vera and I returned to England and were offered an assignment there, but we yearned to return to Africa.
Back to Africa
Thus, a few months later, we received our new assignment, to the Bethel in Accra, the capital of the west African country of Ghana. Here one of my assignments brought me face-to-face with the hardships our brothers there encountered. As I cared for purchases of food and supplies for the Bethel family, I was amazed by the exorbitant price of foodstuffs. Often one simply could not buy the items needed. Petrol shortages and the scarcity of spare parts brought added problems.
I came to learn the importance of patience, something that our Ghanaian brothers had developed. It was so encouraging to see the cheerful attitude they maintained as they rejected the temptation to obtain life’s necessities through bribery. As a result, Jehovah’s people in Ghana became well-known for their honesty and came to enjoy a good name with many officials.
Despite material shortages, however, there was growing spiritual prosperity. Throughout the land, our Bible publications were found in practically every home. And we saw the number of Kingdom proclaimers in Ghana grow from 17,156 in 1973 when we arrived to over 23,000 in 1981. In that year my bouts with skin cancer, no doubt aggravated by years of exposure to the sun in India and Africa, forced us to leave Ghana and return to England for regular treatment.
New Circumstances in England
For me our return meant a considerable adjustment in my ministry. I was so used to speaking freely with people who respected God and the Bible. But in London, I rarely find such an attitude. I marvel at the perseverance of the brothers in Britain. This has made me see the need to develop more empathy for the people who are “skinned and thrown about” spiritually.—Matthew 9:36.
After our return from Africa, Vera and I served together at London Bethel up to the time of her death in September 1991 at the age of 73. It has not been easy losing such a faithful companion who labored side by side with me in the ministry for so many years. I miss her terribly. But I am happy for the fine support I receive from our Bethel family of some 250 members.
I truly count it a privilege to experience the forward movement of Jehovah’s organization and to see so many making the full-time ministry their way of life. I can assure you, there is no better way of life than this, for “Jehovah . . . will not leave his loyal ones.”—Psalm 37:28.
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We pioneered in England from 1947 to 1955
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First time in the ministry during a convention in India
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When we were missionaries in Northern Rhodesia
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In 1985, with friends we had not seen for 12 years