Highly Esteeming Privileges of Sacred Service
ASSIGNMENTS of sacred service are not to be lightly esteemed. When priests in ancient Judah showed an indifferent attitude toward their privileges in connection with Jehovah’s temple, he strongly reproved them. (Malachi 1:6-14) And when some in Israel urged the Nazirites to treat lightly the responsibilities that they had accepted in connection with their sacred service, Jehovah rebuked those sinful Israelites. (Amos 2:11-16) True Christians also engage in sacred service, and they take it seriously. (Romans 12:1) This sacred service has many facets, all of them important.
While Jesus was still on earth with his followers, he trained them to be proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. In time, their message would reach to the ends of the earth. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8) This preaching has taken on even greater urgency during the final days of the present system of things.
All of Jehovah’s Witnesses share in this work. Hundreds of thousands find joy in being able to do so as pioneers. In order to fill important needs in the worldwide work, thousands have made themselves available for special full-time service at Bethel, in the traveling work as circuit and district overseers, or in missionary service. What may this involve on the part of those who want to continue in such special service?
When There Are Pressing Family Needs
Before taking up special full-time service, a person usually must make some adjustments in his circumstances. Not everyone can do this. Scriptural obligations that a person already has may make it impossible. What happens, though, when urgent family needs, perhaps involving elderly parents, confront those who are already in special service? Bible principles and counsel such as the following give needed direction.
Our entire life should be built around our relationship with Jehovah. (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Mark 12:28-30) Sacred things entrusted to our care are to be highly esteemed. (Luke 1:74, 75; Hebrews 12:16) On one occasion, a man who needed to change his priorities was told by Jesus that he ought to get fully occupied in declaring the Kingdom of God. Evidently, the man was intending to postpone such activity until after his father had died. (Luke 9:59, 60) On the other hand, Jesus exposed the wrong thinking of anyone who claimed to have dedicated everything to God and then did not “do a single thing for his father or his mother.” (Mark 7:9-13) The apostle Paul also showed the serious responsibility of providing for ‘those who are one’s own,’ including parents and grandparents.—1 Timothy 5:3-8.
Does this mean that when urgent needs arise, those in special service ought to leave their assignments in order to become caregivers? Many factors have a bearing on the answer. The decision is a personal one. (Galatians 6:5) Not a few have felt that, much as they loved their assignment, it would be wise to be with their parents to give them needed help. Why? The need may have been critical, there may have been no other family member who could help, or the local congregation may not have been able to do what was needed. Some have been able to pioneer while giving such help. Others have again been able to take up special full-time service after the family situation was cared for. However, in many cases, it has been possible to handle the situation in other ways.
Shouldering Their Responsibility
When pressing needs have arisen, some in special full-time service have been able to give attention to those needs without leaving their assignments. Consider just a few out of many examples.
One couple serving at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses entered Bethel service in 1978, after already having shared in circuit and district work. The brother’s assignment involves a heavy load of responsibility in the theocratic organization. But his parents have also needed help. This Bethel couple have made three or four visits each year—some 2,200 miles [3,500 km] round trip—to care for the parents. They personally built a home to fill the parents’ needs. There have been trips to care for medical emergencies. They have used virtually all their vacation time for some 20 years to care for this responsibility. They love and honor the parents, but they also treasure their privileges of sacred service.
Another brother had been in the traveling work for 36 years when confronted with what he describes as one of the most challenging situations in his life. His 85-year-old mother-in-law, a faithful servant of Jehovah, needed to live with someone who could help her. At the time, most of her children felt that it would not be convenient to have her live with them. One of the relatives told the traveling overseer that he and his wife ought to leave that service and, in behalf of the family, take care of the mother. But the couple did not give up their precious service, nor did they slight the needs of the mother. For the next nine years, she was with them most of the time. At first they lived in a mobile home, then in various apartments provided by the circuits. For extended periods, the brother, who was then a district overseer, kept traveling to care for his assignments while his wife stayed with her mother to provide loving full-time care. Each week after meetings on Sunday, the husband made long trips back to help them. Many who were aware of the situation expressed deep appreciation for what this couple were doing. In time, other family members also felt moved to provide some help. Thousands of Jehovah’s people continue to benefit from the service of that self-sacrificing couple because they held on to their privilege of special full-time service.
With Family Cooperation
When various family members appreciate the value of special full-time service, they may cooperate so that at least some of them can share in it.
Such a spirit of family cooperation has been helpful to a Canadian couple who serve as missionaries in West Africa. They did not wait until an emergency arose, simply hoping that nothing would happen. Before they went to the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, in preparation for foreign service, the husband discussed with his younger brother the care of their mother in the event she became ill or disabled. Showing love for their mother as well as appreciation for the value of missionary work, the younger brother said: “I have a family and children now. I can’t go very far and do the things you can. So if anything happens to Mom, I’ll care for her.”
A couple serving in South America received much cooperation from the wife’s family in caring for her aging mother. One of her sisters and the sister’s husband cared for the mother until that sister was stricken with a fatal illness. Then what? To allay any concern, the brother-in-law wrote: “As long as I and the children are alive, you will never have to leave your missionary service.” Further family help came when another sister and her husband gave up their home and moved to where the mother lived in order to care for her, and they did so until her death. What a fine spirit of cooperation! All of them were helping to support the missionary service.
Parents Who Give Freely to Jehovah
Outstanding appreciation for sacred service is often shown by parents. Among the most valuable of their possessions with which they could honor Jehovah are their own children. (Proverbs 3:9) Many Christian parents encourage their children to get into the full-time service. And some of them feel like Hannah, who gave her son Samuel to Jehovah for his service “to time indefinite,” that is, for “all the days that he does happen to be.”—1 Samuel 1:22, 28.
One such parent wrote to her daughter in Africa: “We thank Jehovah for the wonderful privilege that you have. We couldn’t have hoped for better.” And on another occasion she said: “It is true that we must make the sacrifice of being separated, but what a joy it is to see how Jehovah cares for you!”
After reviewing the various situations that had arisen in providing needed care for his elderly parents, a missionary in Ecuador wrote: “I think that the greatest assistance that my wife and I may have received was my father’s prayers. After his death, my mother told us: ‘A day never passed without your father’s praying to Jehovah to allow both of you to remain in your assignment.’”
An elderly couple in California, U.S.A., were pleased to have one of their sons in full-time service. That son and his wife were in Spain when the mother died. Other members of the family felt that arrangements needed to be made to care for the father. Because they were busy with secular work and raising their children, they did not feel that they could take on that responsibility. Instead, they strongly urged the couple who were in special full-time service to return home and care for the father. However, the father, though 79 years of age, still enjoyed good health, and he also had clear spiritual vision. At a family meeting, after various ones had expressed themselves, the father stood up and said firmly: “I want them to return to Spain and continue working.” They did, but they also helped him in tangible ways. Their current assignment is in the circuit work in Spain. Since that family meeting, other family members have shown appreciation for what the couple in foreign service are doing. After a number of years, one of the other sons took the father into his home to care for him until he died.
In Pennsylvania, U.S.A., an anointed brother who had pioneered for about 40 years was over 90 years of age when his wife got seriously ill and died. He had a son and three daughters, besides numerous spiritual children. One of his daughters had been in full-time service for over 40 years, having served with her husband as a missionary, in the traveling work, and at Bethel. She helped to make arrangements so that suitable care would be given to her father. The local brothers also helped in taking him to meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Later, after her husband had died, she asked her father if he wanted her to leave Bethel to care for him. He highly esteems sacred things, and he felt that his needs could be cared for in other ways. So he replied: “That would be the worst thing you could do, and it would even be worse if I let you do it.”
Some congregations have been very helpful in caring for the aging parents of those in special full-time service. They especially appreciate those who have devoted many years to such service. While they cannot relieve them of their Scriptural responsibilities, these congregations do much to make the load light enough so that it may not be necessary for the children to leave their special assignments.
A couple from Germany had been in their foreign assignment for about 17 years, much of that time in the traveling work, when the needs of his elderly mother escalated. Each year they used their vacation to help her. Witness neighbors also provided loving assistance. Then when the couple in full-time service were with his mother during a critical period, the elders of the local congregation arranged to meet with them. They were well aware of what the couple were regularly doing for the mother. They also appreciated the value of the special service in which that couple were sharing. So the elders outlined a proposed program of care for the mother and then said: “You are not able to care for her more than what you are doing; we will help you so that you can remain in your assignment in Spain.” For the past seven years, these elders have continued to do so.
Similarly, a brother who has been serving in Senegal since 1967 received much loving support from the congregation where his father was located. When a crisis arose, the husband, with the willing cooperation of his loving wife, traveled alone to the United States to help his parents. He found it necessary to remain there for several months. The situation was difficult, but when he had done what he could, the congregation stepped in and helped so that he could continue his missionary service. Over a period of some 18 years, the congregation provided loving help in countless ways, first for the father (even though he no longer recognized many of them) and then for the mother. Did that free the son of responsibility? No; he often traveled from Senegal and used his vacation to provide all the help he could. But many in that congregation had the pleasure of knowing that they were having a share in keeping a hardworking couple in special full-time service in Senegal.
Jesus said that those who left all for the sake of the good news would come to have brothers, sisters, mothers, and children a hundredfold. (Mark 10:29, 30) That is certainly true among Jehovah’s servants. A couple now serving in Benin, West Africa, experienced this in a special way when two Witnesses in their parents’ congregation told them not to worry about the parents. They added: “Your parents are our parents too.”
Yes, there are many ways that we can show that we highly esteem privileges of sacred service. Are there ways in which you might do this even more fully?
[Pictures on page 26]
They have made themselves available for special full-time service