We Were a Team
AS TOLD BY MELBA BARRY
On July 2, 1999, my husband and I were at a large gathering of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as we had been thousands of times in our 57 years of marriage. Lloyd was delivering the final address at the district convention in Hawaii that Friday. Suddenly, he collapsed. Despite all efforts to revive him, he died.*
HOW precious are those Christian brothers and sisters in Hawaii who rallied around me and helped me cope with this tragedy! Lloyd had touched the lives of many of them, as well as of many others around the world.
In the nearly two years since his death, I have thought about our precious years together—many in a foreign missionary assignment as well as at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York. I have also reminisced on my early life in Sydney, Australia, and the challenges Lloyd and I faced in order to get married during the early part of World War II. First, though, let me tell you how I became a Witness and how I met Lloyd back in 1939.
How I Became a Witness
James and Henrietta Jones were my loving and caring parents. I was only 14 when I finished school in 1932. The world was then in the middle of the Great Depression. I began working to help the family, which included my two younger sisters. Within a few years, I had a well-paying job with several young women working under me.
Meanwhile, in 1935, Mother accepted Bible literature from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and was soon convinced that she had found the truth. The rest of us thought she was going crazy. One day, however, I saw the booklet entitled Where Are the Dead? and was intrigued by the title. So I secretly read the booklet. That did it! Right away I began going with Mother to a midweek meeting called the Model Study. The booklet entitled Model Study—eventually there were three of them—contained questions and answers as well as scriptures to support the answers.
About that time, in April of 1938, Joseph F. Rutherford, a representative from the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, visited Sydney. His public talk was the first I attended. It was supposed to have been held at the Sydney Town Hall, but opposers succeeded in having our use of the site canceled. Instead, the talk was given at the much larger Sydney Sports Ground. Because of the added publicity provided by the opposition, some 10,000 were in attendance, an amazing number considering that there were only 1,300 Witnesses in Australia at the time.
Shortly afterward, I shared in the field ministry for the first time—and without any training. When our group arrived at our preaching territory, the one taking the lead said to me, “That is your house over there.” I was so nervous that when the lady answered the door, I asked, “Could you tell me the time, please?” She went inside, checked the time, and came back out and told me. That was it. I went back to the car.
However, I did not give up, and soon I was regularly sharing the Kingdom message with others. (Matthew 24:14) In March 1939, I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah by being baptized in the bathtub of our next-door neighbor, Dorothy Hutchings. Because there were no brothers available, soon after my baptism, I was given congregational responsibilities ordinarily reserved for Christian men.
We generally held our meetings in private homes, but at times we rented a hall for public talks. A handsome young brother from Bethel, our branch office, came to our little congregation to give a talk. Unbeknownst to me, he had another reason for coming—to look me over. Yes, that was how I met Lloyd.
Meeting Lloyd’s Family
Soon I had the desire to serve Jehovah full-time. However, when I applied to pioneer (engage in the full-time preaching work), I was asked if I would like to serve at Bethel. So in September 1939, the month World War II began, I became a member of the Bethel family in Strathfield, a suburb of Sydney.
In December 1939, I traveled to New Zealand for a convention. Since Lloyd was from New Zealand, he was going there too. We traveled on the same ship, and we got to know each other better. Lloyd made sure that I met his mum and dad and sisters at the convention in Wellington and later at their home in Christchurch.
Banning of Our Work
On Saturday, January 18, 1941, the Commonwealth authorities drove up to the branch office in some half-dozen black limousines to seize the property. Since I was working in the small guardhouse at the entryway to Bethel, I was the first to see them. Some 18 hours earlier, we had been notified of the ban, so almost all the literature and files had been cleared from the branch. The following week, five members of the Bethel family, including Lloyd, were put in prison.
I knew that what the brothers in prison needed most was spiritual food. To help out Lloyd, I decided to write him “love letters.” I began in the fashion expected of such a letter, but then copied entire Watchtower articles and signed off as his sweetheart. After four and a half months, Lloyd was released.
Marriage and Continued Service
In 1940, Lloyd’s mother visited Australia, and Lloyd told her that we were thinking of marriage. She advised him against it because the end of the system of things seemed imminent. (Matthew 24:3-14) He also mentioned his intentions to his buddies, but each time, they talked him out of getting married. Finally, one day in February 1942, Lloyd quietly took me—along with four Witnesses who had been sworn to secrecy—to the registry office, and we got married. There was no provision then in Australia for Jehovah’s Witnesses to perform marriages.
Although we were not allowed to continue our Bethel service as a married couple, we were asked if we would like to go into the special pioneer work. We happily accepted an assignment to a country town by the name of Wagga Wagga. Our preaching work was still under ban, and we had no financial assistance, so we really had to throw our burden on Jehovah.—Psalm 55:22.
We rode a tandem bicycle into the rurals, met some nice people, and had long talks with them. Not many accepted a Bible study. However, one storekeeper appreciated the work we were doing so much that he provided us with fruits and vegetables each week. After we had spent six months in Wagga Wagga, we were invited back to Bethel.
The Bethel family had vacated the Strathfield office in May 1942 and had relocated into private homes. They moved from home to home every couple of weeks or so to avoid detection. When Lloyd and I returned to Bethel in August, we joined them at one of these locations. Our assignment during the day was to work in one of the underground printeries that had been established. Finally, in June 1943, the ban on our work was lifted.
Preparation for Foreign Service
In April 1947 we were given preliminary applications to attend the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, located in South Lansing, New York, U.S.A. In the meantime, we were assigned to visit congregations in Australia to strengthen them spiritually. After a few months, we received our invitation to attend the 11th class of Gilead. We had three weeks to put our affairs in order and to pack our belongings. We left family and friends in December 1947 and headed for New York with 15 others from Australia who were invited to the same class.
Our few months at Gilead School flew by, and we received a missionary assignment to Japan. Since it took time to get our papers ready to go to Japan, Lloyd was once again assigned as a traveling overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The congregations that we were assigned to visit stretched from the city of Los Angeles down to the Mexican border. We had no car, so each week the Witnesses lovingly transported us from one congregation to the next. The area covered by that vast circuit now makes up parts of three English and three Spanish districts, each district being made up of about ten circuits!
Suddenly, it was October 1949, and we were on our way to Japan on a converted troopship. One end of the ship was set aside for men and the other for women and children. Just one day before we were to arrive in Yokohama, we encountered a typhoon. Evidently it cleared the air, for when the sun rose the next day, October 31, we could see Mount Fuji in all her glory. What a grand welcome to our new assignment!
Working With the Japanese
As we got close to the docks, we saw hundreds of black-haired people. ‘What a noisy bunch!’ we thought as we heard a tremendous clattering noise. Everyone wore wooden clogs that clattered on the wooden wharves. After a night in Yokohama, we caught the train to our missionary assignment in Kobe. There Don Haslett, a Gilead classmate who had arrived in Japan a few months earlier, had rented a missionary home. It was a beautiful, big, Western-style, two-story house—totally bare!
To provide padding on which to sleep, we cut the tall grass in the yard and put it on the floor. Thus began our missionary life, with nothing but what we had in our luggage. We obtained small charcoal burners, called hibachi, to provide heat and to cook on. One night, Lloyd found two fellow missionaries, Percy and Ilma Iszlaub, unconscious. He was able to revive them by opening the windows to let in some fresh, cold air. I too once passed out while cooking on the charcoal burners. Some things took a little getting used to!
Learning the language was a priority, and we studied Japanese 11 hours a day for a month. Afterward, we headed out in the ministry with a sentence or two written down to get us started. On my very first day out, I met a lovely lady, Miyo Takagi, who received me kindly. During return visits, we struggled with the help of Japanese-English dictionaries until a fine Bible study developed. In 1999, while attending the dedication of the expanded branch facility in Japan, I saw Miyo again, as well as a number of other dear ones with whom I had studied. Fifty years have passed, but they are still zealous Kingdom proclaimers, doing what they can to serve Jehovah.
In Kobe on April 1, 1950, some 180 attended our observance of the Memorial of Christ’s death. To our surprise, the next morning 35 persons showed up to share in the field ministry. Each missionary took three or four of these new ones along in the service. Householders did not speak to me—the foreigner who understood little—but rather to the Japanese Memorial attenders who accompanied me. The conversations went on and on, but I had no idea what they were talking about. I am happy to say that some of these new ones progressed in knowledge and have continued in the preaching work down to this day.
Many Privileges and Assignments
We continued in our missionary work in Kobe until 1952, at which time we were assigned to Tokyo, where Lloyd was entrusted with oversight of the branch office. In time, his work assignments took him throughout Japan and to other countries. Later, on one of his visits to Tokyo, Nathan H. Knorr from world headquarters said to me: “By the way, do you know where your husband is going on his next zone trip? Australia and New Zealand.” He added: “You can go, too, if you pay your own way.” What excitement! After all, it had been nine years since we left home.
A flurry of letter writing quickly followed. My mother helped me get my ticket. Lloyd and I had been busy in our assignments, and we did not have the wherewithal to visit our families. So this was an answer to my prayers. As you can imagine, Mother was very happy to see me. She said, “Well, I’m going to save up for you to come again in three years’ time.” We parted with that in mind, but sad to say, she passed away the following July. What a wonderful reunion I hope to have with her in the new world!
Up until 1960 the missionary work was my only assignment, but then I received a letter explaining: “The arrangement from this date will be for you to do the laundry and ironing for the whole Bethel family.” Our family then included only about a dozen people, so I was able to care for this work in addition to my missionary assignment.
In 1962 our Japanese-style home was demolished, and a new six-story Bethel Home was completed on the site the next year. I was assigned to help the young, new Bethel brothers to keep their rooms tidy and to clean up after themselves. Customarily, boys in Japan were not taught to do anything in the home. Emphasis was placed on secular education, and their mothers did everything for them. They soon learned that I was not their mother. In time, many progressed to take on new, responsible assignments within the organization.
One very hot summer day, a Bible student toured our facilities, and she saw me scrubbing the shower rooms. She said, “Please tell whoever is in charge that I would like to pay to have a maid come in to do this work for you.” I explained to her that while I appreciated her kind thought, I was more than willing to do anything I was assigned to do within Jehovah’s organization.
About this time, Lloyd and I received an invitation to attend the 39th class of Gilead! What a privilege it was in 1964, at the age of 46, to be going to school again! The course was provided particularly to help those serving in the branch offices to care for their responsibilities. After the ten-month course, we were assigned back to Japan. By this time, we had over 3,000 Kingdom proclaimers in that country.
The growth gained such momentum that by 1972 there were over 14,000 Witnesses, and a new five-story branch office was built in Numazu, south of Tokyo. From our buildings, we had a spectacular view of Mount Fuji. Over a million magazines a month in the Japanese language began rolling off the huge new rotary printing press. But a change for us was in the offing.
Late in 1974, Lloyd received a letter from the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn that invited him to serve on the Governing Body. At first I thought: ‘Well, this is it. Since Lloyd has the heavenly hope and I have the earthly hope, sooner or later we will have to part anyway. Perhaps Lloyd should go to Brooklyn without me.’ But I soon readjusted my thinking and willingly made the move with Lloyd in March 1975.
Blessings at Headquarters
Even in Brooklyn, Lloyd’s heart was very much in the Japan field, and he was always talking of the experiences that we had had there. But now there were opportunities for widening out. For the last 24 years of his life, Lloyd was used extensively for zone work, which involved worldwide travel. I accompanied him around the world several times.
Visiting our Christian brothers in other countries helped me appreciate the conditions under which many of them live and work. I will never forget the face of ten-year-old Entellia, a girl whom I met in northern Africa. She loved God’s name and walked an hour and a half each way to Christian meetings. In spite of severe persecution from her family, Entellia had dedicated herself to Jehovah. When we visited her congregation, there was just a single, low-wattage light bulb hanging over the speaker’s notes—otherwise, the meeting place was pitch black. In all of that darkness, it was breathtaking to hear the beautiful singing of the brothers and sisters.
A highlight of our lives occurred in December 1998 when Lloyd and I were among a delegation to the “God’s Way of Life” District Conventions held in Cuba. How impressed we were by the gratitude and joy the brothers and sisters there expressed at having some from the Brooklyn headquarters visit them! I treasure so many memories of meeting dear ones who are zealously giving a great shout of praise to Jehovah.
At Home With God’s People
Although my native country is Australia, I came to love the people wherever I was sent by Jehovah’s organization. That was true in Japan, and now that I have been in the United States for more than 25 years, I find it to be the same here. When I lost my husband, my thought was, not to return to Australia, but to stay at Brooklyn Bethel, where Jehovah has assigned me.
I am now in my 80’s. After 61 years in the full-time ministry, I am still willing to serve Jehovah wherever he sees fit. He has truly taken good care of me. I treasure the more than 57 years during which I was able to share my life with a dear companion who loved Jehovah. I am confident of Jehovah’s continued blessing upon us, and I know that He will not forget our work and the love that we have shown for his name.—Hebrews 6:10.
[Picture on page 25]
With mother in 1956
[Picture on page 26]
With Lloyd and a group of Japanese publishers in the early 1950’s
[Pictures on page 26]
With my first Bible student in Japan, Miyo Takagi, in the early 1950’s and in 1999
[Picture on page 28]
With Lloyd in magazine work in Japan