A Light Bearer to Many Nations
THE STORY OF GEORGE YOUNG AS TOLD BY RUTH YOUNG NICHOLSON
“Why, then, this silence in our pulpits? . . . What kind of men should we be if we kept silent after we had proved these things whereof I write to be true? Let us not keep the people in ignorance, but let us proclaim the truth in no apologetic or hidden manner.”
THESE words were part of Father’s 33-page letter requesting the removal of his name from the church registry. The year was 1913. From that time forward, he embarked on an event-filled life that led him to serve as a light bearer to many nations. (Philippians 2:15) From the time I was a little girl, I collected stories about Father’s experiences from relatives and from historical material, and friends helped me piece together his life. In many ways Father’s life reminds me of that of the apostle Paul. Like that “apostle to the nations,” Father was always ready to travel to deliver Jehovah’s message to people of every land and island. (Romans 11:13; Psalm 107:1-3) Let me tell you about my father, George Young.
The Early Years
Father was the youngest son of John and Margaret Young, Scottish Presbyterians. He was born September 8, 1886, soon after the family moved from Edinburgh, Scotland, to British Columbia in western Canada. His three older brothers—Alexander, John, and Malcolm—were born in Scotland a few years earlier. Marion, the boys’ younger sister, whom they affectionately called Nellie, was two years younger than Father.
Growing up on a farm in Saanich, not far from Victoria, British Columbia, the children enjoyed themselves. At the same time, they learned to shoulder responsibility. So when their parents would return from a trip to Victoria, outside chores were finished and the house was tidy.
In time, Father and his brothers became interested in mining and also in the timber trade. The Young brothers developed a fine reputation as timber cruisers (men who inspected land for possible lumber yield) and as buyers and sellers of timber. Father handled the financial transactions.
Eventually, Father’s inclination toward spiritual matters led him to decide to become a Presbyterian minister. About that time, however, newspaper sermons by Charles Taze Russell, first president of Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, profoundly affected his life. What Father learned moved him to compose and send the letter of resignation mentioned at the outset.
Father kindly but clearly used Bible verses to disprove the church teachings that the human soul is immortal and that God will torment human souls eternally in hellfire. He also exposed the doctrine of the Trinity, proving that it was of non-Christian origin and entirely unsupported by the Scriptures. From then on he pursued the Christian ministry in imitation of Jesus Christ, humbly using all his abilities and strength to Jehovah’s glory.
In 1917, under the direction of the Watch Tower Society, Father began serving as a pilgrim, as traveling representatives of Jehovah’s Witnesses were then called. In cities and towns across Canada, he gave lectures and presented the motion picture and slide program known as the “Photo-Drama of Creation.” Theaters were packed for Father’s visits. The schedule for his pilgrim visits appeared in The Watchtower until 1921.
A Winnipeg newspaper reported that Evangelist Young spoke to 2,500 and that many could not gain entrance because the hall was so crowded. In Ottawa, he spoke on the subject “To Hell and Back.” There an elderly man reported: “When it was over, George Young invited a row of clergymen to the platform to discuss the subject with him, but none of them moved. I knew then I had found the truth.”
Father tried to squeeze in as much spiritual activity as possible on his pilgrim visits. Afterward, he rushed to catch the train for another scheduled stop. When traveling by car, he was often on his way to his next assignment long before breakfast. In addition to being zealous, Father had the reputation of being a considerate man and was known for his Christian deeds and generosity.
Among the many early conventions he attended, an especially memorable one was held in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1918. All of his family were there for the baptism of Nellie. It was also the last time the boys were together. Two years later, Malcolm died of pneumonia. Like his three brothers and his father, Malcolm entertained the hope of heavenly life, and they all remained faithful to God to their death.—Philippians 3:14.
Off to Foreign Fields
After Father completed a preaching tour of Canada in September 1921, he was directed by Joseph F. Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society, to proceed to the islands of the Caribbean. Everywhere Father presented the “Photo-Drama of Creation,” it was well received. From Trinidad, he wrote: “The place was packed, and large numbers were turned away. The second night the building was thronged with people.”
Then, in 1923, Father was assigned to Brazil. There he spoke to large audiences, at times using hired interpreters. The Watchtower of December 15, 1923, reported: “From June 1 to September 30 Brother Young has held 21 public meetings, with a total attendance of 3,600; 48 class meetings, with an attendance of 1,100; distributed free literature in Portuguese to the number of 5,000 copies.” Many responded with interest when Father delivered the talk “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.”
When new facilities were dedicated in Brazil on March 8, 1997, the dedication brochure reported: “1923: George Young arrives in Brazil. He organizes a branch office in the center of Rio de Janeiro.” Although Bible literature was available in Spanish, there was a need for it also in Portuguese, the primary language of Brazil. Thus, on October 1, 1923, The Watchtower began to be published in Portuguese.
Father made many memorable contacts in Brazil. One was a well-to-do Portuguese man by the name of Jacintho Pimentel Cabral, who offered his home for meetings. Jacintho soon accepted Bible truth and later became a member of the branch staff. Another was Manuel da Silva Jordão, a young Portuguese gardener. He heard a public talk by Father that motivated him to return to Portugal to serve as a colporteur, as full-time ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses were then called.
Father traveled extensively by railroad throughout Brazil, and he managed to locate interested ones. On one of his trips, he met Bony and Catarina Green, and he stayed with them for about two weeks, explaining the Scriptures to them. About seven of the family then symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by water baptism.
Another contact was that made with Sarah Bellona Ferguson in 1923. In 1867 as a young girl, she, along with her brother Erasmus Fulton Smith and the rest of the family, had moved to Brazil from the United States. Since 1899 she had regularly received the Watchtower magazine by mail. Father’s visit was the long-awaited opportunity for Sarah, her four children, and someone Father called Aunt Sallie to be baptized. That was on March 11, 1924.
Before long, Father was preaching in other South American countries. On November 8, 1924, he wrote from Peru: “Have just finished putting out 17,000 tracts in Lima and Callao.” Next he was off to Bolivia to distribute tracts there. Regarding that visit, he wrote: “Our Father is blessing the effort. An Indian helped me. His home is on the headwaters of the Amazon. He is taking 1,000 tracts and some books back with him.”
Through Father’s efforts, seeds of Bible truth were spread in many countries of Central and South America. The December 1, 1924, Watchtower reported: “George Young has now been in South America for upwards of two years. . . . It has been the privilege of this dear brother to carry the message of the truth to Punta Arenas, in the Straits of Magellan.” Father also spearheaded the preaching work in such countries as Costa Rica, Panama, and Venezuela. He carried on even though he had contracted malaria and his health was affected.
Next to Europe
In March 1925, Father set sail for Europe, where he hoped to distribute 300,000 Bible tracts in Spain and Portugal and to arrange for Brother Rutherford to deliver public lectures. After arriving in Spain, however, Father expressed reservations about having Brother Rutherford give such lectures in view of the atmosphere of religious intolerance.
In response, Brother Rutherford wrote, quoting Isaiah 51:16: “I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.” (King James Version) With that, Father concluded: “Surely it is the Lord’s will that I go ahead and leave the results for him.”
On May 10, 1925, Brother Rutherford delivered his lecture through an interpreter at the Novedades Theater in Barcelona. More than 2,000 were in attendance, including a government official and a special guard on stage. A similar procedure was followed in Madrid, with 1,200 in attendance. The interest generated from these talks resulted in the establishing of a branch office in Spain that was placed, as the 1978 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses says, “under the guidance of George Young.”
On May 13, 1925, Brother Rutherford spoke in Lisbon, Portugal. His visit there was also a great success, despite attempts by the clergy to disrupt the meeting by yelling and smashing chairs. Following Brother Rutherford’s lectures in Spain and Portugal, Father continued showing the “Photo-Drama,” and he also arranged for Bible literature to be printed and distributed in those places. In 1927 he reported that the good news “has been published throughout every city and town in Spain.”
Preaching in the Soviet Union
Father’s next missionary assignment was the Soviet Union, where he arrived on August 28, 1928. A letter he wrote, dated October 10, 1928, reads in part:
“Since coming to Russia, I can truly pray, ‘Thy kingdom come’ with all intensity of heart. I am learning the language, but it is slow. My interpreter is a very exceptional man, a Jew, but he believes in Christ and loves the Bible. I have had some interesting experiences but do not know how long I will be permitted to remain. Last week I got notice to leave in 24 hours but got it fixed up so I could remain longer.”
Contact was made with some Bible Students in Kharkov, now a major city in Ukraine, and the resulting warm exchange brought tears of joy to their eyes. A little convention was held each night until midnight. Writing later about this meeting with the brothers, Father noted: “Poor brethren, their few books seized and the authorities unfriendly, yet they are happy.”
Father’s ministry in the Soviet Union was highlighted in a special brochure provided for those who attended the June 21, 1997, dedication of the new branch facilities in St. Petersburg, Russia. The brochure says that Father was sent to Moscow, and it reports that he obtained permission “to produce 15,000 copies of the booklets Freedom for the Peoples and Where Are the Dead? for distribution in Russia.”
After returning from Russia, Father was assigned to pilgrim work in the United States. In South Dakota he visited the home of Nellena and Verda Pool, fleshly sisters who years later became missionaries in Peru. They expressed fond appreciation for Father’s tireless ministry and noted: “Brothers in those old days definitely had the pioneer spirit as they went out to these foreign places with little of this world’s goods but with a heart full of love for Jehovah. That is what pushed them to accomplish what they did.”
Marriage and Second Tour
Through the years Father had been corresponding with Clara Hubbert of Manitoulin Island, Ontario. They were both in attendance at the convention in Columbus, Ohio, on July 26, 1931, when the Bible Students adopted the name Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Isaiah 43:10-12) A week later they were married. Soon, Father was away again, on his second missionary tour through the islands of the Caribbean. There, he helped to organize meetings and to train others in the house-to-house ministry.
Mother received pictures, cards, and letters from Suriname, St. Kitts, and many other places. The letters reported on the progress of the preaching work and sometimes included facts about birds, animals, and plants in the particular country he was in. In June 1932, Father completed his assignment in the Caribbean and, traveling steerage as usual, he returned to Canada. Thereafter, he and Mother shared in the full-time preaching work together, spending the winter of 1932/33 in the Ottawa area with a large group of other full-time ministers.
A Brief Family Life
In 1934 my brother, David, was born. When he was just a child, he would stand on Mama’s hatbox and practice giving his “talks.” All his life, he has shown zeal for Jehovah like his father. The three of them traveled by car, with sound equipment tied to the roof, as they visited congregations from the east coast of Canada to the west coast. I was born in 1938 while Father was serving in British Columbia. David remembers Father putting me on the bed and Father, Mother, and David kneeling around it while Father gave a prayer of thanksgiving for me.
In the winter of 1939, we lived in Vancouver while Father visited congregations in that area. Among the many letters we have collected over the years was one dated January 14, 1939, written when he was in Vernon, British Columbia. Father addressed it to Clara, David, and Ruth, saying: “Just a little kiss and a hug.” In it there was a message for each of us. He talked about the harvest being great there but the workers few.—Matthew 9:37, 38.
A week after returning to Vancouver from his assignment, Father collapsed at a meeting. A subsequent diagnosis revealed that he had a cancerous tumor on the brain. On May 1, 1939, he finished his earthly course. I was nine months old, and David was nearly five years old. Our beloved mother, who also had the heavenly hope, remained faithful to God until her death on June 19, 1963.
How Father felt about his privilege of carrying the good news to many countries is beautifully captured in one of his letters to Mama. He said in part: “Jehovah graciously permitted me to go to these lands as a light to bear the Kingdom message. His holy name be praised. Through frailty and incompetence and weakness, his glory shines.”
Now George and Clara Young’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are also serving our loving God, Jehovah. I was told that Father frequently quoted Hebrews 6:10, which says: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.” We too have not forgotten Father’s work.
[Picture on page 23]
My father, on the right, with his three brothers
[Pictures on page 25]
Father (standing) with Brothers Woodworth, Rutherford, and Macmillan
Below: Father (far left) in group with Brother Russell
[Pictures on page 26]
Father and Mother
Below: Their wedding day
[Picture on page 27]
With David and Mother some years after Father’s death