Grateful for a Strong Christian Heritage
AS TOLD BY GWEN GOOCH
At school I sang a hymn with the words, ‘the Great Jehovah enthroned in his glory.’ I often wondered, ‘Who is this Jehovah?’
MY GRANDPARENTS were God-fearing. Early in this century, they associated with the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known. My father did well in business but did not at first pass on to his three children the Christian heritage he had been offered.
It was only when Father gave my brother, Douglas, my sister, Anne, and me the booklets entitled His Works and Who Is God? that I learned that Jehovah is the name of the true God. (Psalm 83:18) I was thrilled! But what had rekindled Father’s interest?
In 1938, when he saw the nations poised for war, Father realized that it would take more than human efforts to remedy world problems. Grandmother gave him the book Enemies, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. From reading it, he learned that the real enemy of mankind is Satan the Devil and that only God’s Kingdom can bring world peace.*—Daniel 2:44; 2 Corinthians 4:4.
As war approached, our family started attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Wood Green, North London. In June 1939 we went to nearby Alexandra Palace to hear the public address, “Government and Peace,” delivered by Joseph F. Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society. Rutherford’s speech in New York City’s Madison Square Garden was relayed by radio to London and other major cities. We could hear the talk so clearly that when a rowdy mob in New York caused a disturbance, I looked around to see if it was occurring in our auditorium!
Father’s Zeal for Bible Truth
Father insisted that every Saturday evening our whole family share together in a Bible study. Our study centered on the Bible subject in The Watchtower scheduled for discussion the following day. Illustrating the impact these studies had, to this day the account about Joshua and the siege of the city of Ai discussed in The Watchtower of May 1, 1939, is still vivid in my mind. I was so intrigued by that account that I checked all the references to it in my own Bible. I found such research fascinating—and still do.
Sharing with others what we were learning sounded Bible teachings down into my heart. One day Father gave me a phonograph with a recorded Bible sermon, a booklet we used for Bible study, and the address of an elderly lady. He then asked me to call on her.
“What am I going to say, and what do I do?” I inquired.
“It’s all there,” Father replied. “Just play the record, read the questions, have the householder read the answers, and then read the scriptures.”
I did as he told me, and in this way I learned to conduct a Bible study. By thus using the Scriptures in my ministry, I came to understand them better.
Challenge of the War Years
World War II broke out in 1939, and the following year I was baptized in symbol of my dedication to serve Jehovah. I was only 13. I decided then to become a pioneer, as full-time ministers are called. I left school in 1941 and at the Leicester convention joined Douglas in the full-time preaching activity.
The following year, Father was imprisoned for his conscientious objection to warfare. We children rallied around our mother, helping her care for our home during that difficult time of war. Then, no sooner was Father released from prison than Douglas was called up for military service. A local newspaper headline read, “Why Son Like Father Chose Prison.” A good witness resulted, as opportunity was provided to explain why true Christians do not share in killing their fellow humans.—John 13:35; 1 John 3:10-12.
During those war years, many Witnesses in the full-time ministry were regular visitors to our home, and their upbuilding Bible-based discussions left a lasting impression. Among these faithful Christian brothers were John Barr and Albert Schroeder, who are now members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My parents were truly hospitable, and they taught us to be the same.—Hebrews 13:2.
Ready to Provide an Answer
Soon after I started pioneering, I met Hilda in the door-to-door ministry. She angrily declared: “My husband is out fighting for the likes of you! Why aren’t you doing something toward the war effort?”
“How much do you know about what I am doing?” I asked. “Do you know why I have come to you?”
“Well,” she replied, “you had better come in and tell me.”
I was able to explain that we were providing true hope to people who were suffering because of the horrible deeds that were being done—often in the name of God. Hilda listened with appreciation, and she became my first regular Bible student. She has been an active Witness now for over 55 years.
At the end of the war, I received a new pioneer assignment in Dorchester, a town in southwest England. This was the first time I had lived away from home. Our small congregation met in a restaurant, a 16th-century building called “The Old Tea House.” We had to rearrange the tables and chairs for each of our meetings. It was very different from the Kingdom Hall I was used to. Nevertheless, the same spiritual food and loving association of Christian brothers and sisters were present.
My parents meanwhile moved to Tunbridge Wells, south of London. I returned home so that Father, Anne, and I could pioneer together. Our congregation soon grew from 12 to 70 Witnesses, so our family was asked to move to Brighton on the south coast, where the need for Kingdom proclaimers was greater. Many zealously joined in preaching with our pioneer family, and we saw Jehovah richly bless our work. The one congregation soon became three!
An Unexpected Invitation
In the summer of 1950, our family was among the 850 delegates from Britain who attended the Theocracy’s Increase International Assembly in New York City’s Yankee Stadium. Many pioneers who would come to that convention from overseas were sent an application to attend the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, located near South Lansing, New York. Douglas, Anne, and I were among them! I remember thinking when I dropped my filled-out application into the mailbox, ‘Now I have really done it! What direction will my life take?’ Yet my determination was: “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) I was thrilled when I received an invitation to remain after the convention to attend the 16th class of Gilead, together with Douglas and Anne. We were all well aware that we could be sent as missionaries to any part of the world.
After enjoying the convention together as a family, the time came for our parents to return to England—alone. The three of us children waved good-bye as they sailed home on the Mauritania. What an emotional parting that was!
The 16th class of Gilead was made up of 120 students from all parts of the world, including some who had suffered in Nazi concentration camps. Since our class was taught Spanish, we expected to be assigned to some Spanish-speaking country in South America. Imagine our surprise on graduation day to learn that Douglas was assigned to Japan and Anne and I to Syria. So we girls had to learn Arabic, and this remained true even when our assignment was changed to Lebanon. While waiting for our visas, we received Arabic lessons twice a week from George Shakashiri, the Watch Tower Society’s typesetter for the Arabic Watchtower.
How exciting it was to be going to a Bible land that we had studied about in class! Keith and Joyce Chew, Edna Stackhouse, Olive Turner, Doreen Warburton, and Doris Wood accompanied us there. What a happy missionary family we became! A local Witness visited our missionary home to assist us further with the language. During our daily instruction period, we would practice a brief presentation, after which we would go out and use it in our preaching work.
We spent our first couple of years in Tripoli, where there was an established congregation. Joyce, Edna, Olive, Doreen, Doris, Anne, and I assisted the wives and daughters of local Witnesses to share in meetings as well as in the public ministry. Up until then, our Christian brothers and sisters, following local custom, did not sit together at meetings, and rarely did these Christian sisters share in the ministry from house to house. We needed their assistance with the language in our public preaching, and we encouraged them to share in this work themselves.
Anne and I were next assigned to help the small group of Witnesses in the ancient city of Sidon. Not long afterward, we were asked to return to the capital, Beirut. Seeds of Bible truth had been sown among the Armenian-speaking community there, so we learned that language to help them.
Changes of Assignment
I had met Wilfred Gooch before leaving England. He was a zealous, caring brother who had served in the London Bethel. Wilf was a member of the 15th class of Gilead, which graduated during the 1950 Yankee Stadium convention. His missionary assignment was the Watch Tower Society’s branch office in Nigeria, and for some time we corresponded. In 1955 we both attended the “Triumphant Kingdom” convention in London, and shortly thereafter we became engaged. The following year, we were married in Ghana, and I joined Wilf in his missionary assignment in Lagos, Nigeria.
After I left Anne in Lebanon, she married a fine Christian brother who had learned Bible truth in Jerusalem. My parents were unable to attend our weddings, since Douglas, Anne, and I were married in different parts of the world. Still, they were content to know that we all were happily serving our God, Jehovah.
Work in Nigeria
At the branch office in Lagos, I was assigned to clean the rooms of the eight members of our branch family as well as prepare their meals and do their laundry. It seemed to me I had gained not only a husband but an instant family too!
Wilf and I learned brief Bible presentations in the Yoruba language, and we were rewarded for our efforts. A young student we contacted now has a son and a daughter who serve in Nigeria’s large Bethel family of about 400 members.
In 1963, Wilf received an invitation to attend a ten-month course of special instruction in Brooklyn, New York. After finishing it, he was unexpectedly assigned back to England. I had remained in Nigeria and was given only 14 days’ notice to meet Wilf in London. I left with mixed feelings, since Nigeria had been such a happy assignment. After serving 14 years abroad, it took time to adjust to life in England again. However, we were grateful to be close to our aging parents once more and to be able to help care for them.
Sustained by Our Hope
From 1980, I was privileged to accompany Wilf as he traveled to many countries as zone overseer. I especially looked forward to our return visits to Nigeria. Later we also went to Scandinavia, the West Indies, and the Middle East—including Lebanon. It was a special thrill to relive happy memories and to see those I had known as young teenagers who were serving as Christian elders.
Tragically, my dear husband died in the spring of 1992. He was only 69. It was an especially hard blow as it happened so suddenly. After 35 years of marriage, it has taken time to adjust. But I have received much help and love from my worldwide Christian family. I have had so many happy experiences upon which to reflect.
Both my parents set a splendid example of Christian integrity. Mother died in 1981 and Father in 1986. Douglas and Anne continue to serve Jehovah faithfully. Douglas and his wife, Kam, are back in London, where they have remained after caring for Father. Anne and her family are in the United States. All of us greatly appreciate our God-given hope and heritage. We continue to “show a waiting attitude,” looking forward to the time when the living, along with their resurrected loved ones, will serve forever together as members of Jehovah’s earthly family.—Lamentations 3:24.
The life story of my father, Ernest Beavor, appeared in The Watchtower of March 15, 1980.
[Pictures on page 23]
Clockwise starting top left:
Gwen at age 13 demonstrating a model study at the Enfield Kingdom Hall
Missionary family in Tripoli, Lebanon, 1951
Gwen with her late husband, Wilf