Make Good Use of Changing Circumstances
Pum, Jan, Dries, and Otto, four Christian elders living in the Netherlands, have much in common. All four are married and have children. In addition, some years ago, they all had full-time secular jobs and lived in comfortable homes. All of them, however, ceased working secularly and began to devote all their time and strength to furthering Kingdom interests. What enabled them to make this change? All four made good use of changing circumstances.
CHANGING circumstances eventually affect most of us. Many changes, such as getting married, having children, or caring for aged parents, bring added responsibilities. Some, however, offer us more freedom to enlarge our Christian ministry. (Matthew 9:37, 38) For instance, our grown-up children may leave home, or we may retire from work.
Further, while it is true that our circumstances may change whether we want them to or not, some Christians have succeeded in creating changes in their circumstances that have opened up opportunities to increase their share in the ministry. That is exactly what Pum, Jan, Dries, and Otto did. How?
When Children Leave Home
Pum worked as a bookkeeper in a pharmaceutical firm. He and his wife, Anny, often served as auxiliary pioneer ministers together with their two daughters. Pum and Anny also made arrangements for relaxing association with others in the pioneer ministry. “This offered protection from problems that other kinds of association might have caused,” they relate. Stimulated by the example of their parents, both daughters became regular pioneers upon completing high school.
When their children left home, Pum and Anny realized that this change of circumstances gave them added freedom and finances that they could take advantage of to travel to interesting places or to enjoy some other form of leisure. However, the couple decided instead to use their changed circumstances to extend their Christian ministry. So Pum asked his employer’s permission to work one day less each week. Later, Pum made arrangements enabling him to start work at 7:00 a.m. and stop at 2:00 p.m. Of course, working less meant getting by on a smaller income. Still, they succeeded, and in 1991, Pum joined his wife as a regular pioneer.
Next, Pum was asked to become the assistant caretaker of an Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. That invitation meant that the couple had to leave the home where they had lived for 30 years and move into an apartment on the premises of the Assembly Hall. They made the move. Was it difficult? Anny answers that whenever she had feelings of homesickness, she asked herself, ‘Am I Lot’s wife?’ She refused to ‘look back.’—Genesis 19:26; Luke 17:32.
Pum and Anny feel that their decision has led to many blessings. Among many other things, they enjoy their service at the Assembly Hall, preparatory activity for district conventions, and contact with circuit overseers (traveling ministers) who give talks at the hall. Once in a while, they visit different congregations when Pum serves as a substitute circuit overseer.
What made this couple successful in expanding their service? Pum says: “When your life changes radically, you have to be determined to make the best possible use of the new circumstances.”
Creating a Simpler Life
Jan and his wife, Woth, have three children. Like Pum and his family, Jan made wise use of a change of circumstances. For years, Jan held a well-paying position at a bank and provided a comfortable life-style for his family. However, he felt a growing desire to expand his ministry. He explains: “In the course of my life, my appreciation for the truth deepened, and my love for Jehovah grew.” So in 1986, Jan made a change in his circumstances. He says: “I took advantage of a reorganization at the office and began working fewer hours. My amazed colleagues nicknamed me Diwodo because I worked only on dinsdag [Tuesday], woensdag [Wednesday], and donderdag [Thursday]. My salary decreased by 40 percent. I sold our house and bought a houseboat so that we could serve where the need for Kingdom publishers was greater. Later, I took advantage of early retirement; my income went down another 20 percent, but in 1993, I was able to begin serving as a regular pioneer.”
Today, Jan is a member of a Hospital Liaison Committee and has regularly served as convention overseer. Despite her poor health, Woth serves as an auxiliary pioneer from time to time. All three children are now married and, with their mates, are zealous ministers of the Kingdom.
How have Jan and Woth managed to adapt to a reduced standard of living? “During our days of plenty,” Jan answers, “we made sure not to get too attached to material things. Nowadays it may be a little inconvenient to have to wait a while before being able to obtain something, but the spiritual blessings and privileges we have received make up for it abundantly.”
Like Jan and Woth, Dries and his wife, Jenny, also made the decision to keep their life simple so as to give more time to Kingdom interests. Dries and Jenny served as pioneers until they became parents. Then, to care for his family, Dries worked as an administrator in a large firm. His employers appreciated his work and offered him a promotion. Dries, however, turned down the promotion because accepting it would have meant less time for Christian activities.
Raising a family—as well as caring for Jenny’s sick mother—required much of the couple’s time and energy. Still, they continued to cultivate the pioneer spirit. What helped them to do this? Jenny explains: “We had pioneers living with us, invited pioneers over for meals, and offered lodging for circuit overseers.” Dries adds: “We kept life simple and avoided incurring debts. We made the decision never to take on big enterprises or purchase a home, so that in future days we would not be tied down by such things.”
The decision of Dries and Jenny to create circumstances that would allow them more time for Kingdom interests had rewarding results. Both their sons now serve as elders, and one pioneers along with his wife. Dries and Jenny served as special pioneers, and later Jenny accompanied Dries in the circuit work. Now they are volunteers at Bethel, where Dries serves as a member of the Branch Committee.
Similar to Dries and Jenny, Otto and his wife, Judy, pioneered before they had their two daughters. When Judy was expecting their first child, Otto found work as a schoolteacher.
While the children were growing up, Otto and Judy often entertained pioneers in their home so that their daughters could see the joy of full-time Christian workers. In time, their oldest daughter entered the pioneer service. Later, she attended Gilead School and, along with her husband, now serves as a missionary in an African land. Their younger daughter started pioneering in 1987, and Judy joined her.
When changing circumstances permitted Otto to work fewer hours at school, he used the extra time to pioneer. Eventually, he quit his job completely. Today, in the traveling work, Otto uses his ability as a teacher to strengthen congregations spiritually.
What is Otto’s advice for those who take an early retirement from their secular job? “When you retire, don’t decide to take it easy for a year or so. It is not hard to get used to ‘taking it easy.’ Before you know it, you will forget about pioneering. Rather, start your increased ministerial activities right away.”
Life Experience at Work
Granted, brothers like Pum, Jan, Dries, and Otto do not now have the strength and stamina they had when they were younger. But they do possess greater maturity, experience, and wisdom. (Proverbs 20:29) They know what it means to be fathers, and from working with their wives, they have some idea of how much is involved in being a mother. With their wives, they have handled family problems and set theocratic goals for their children. Says Otto: “When I give counsel as a circuit overseer in matters dealing with the family, it helps that I have raised a family myself.” Likewise, Dries’ experience as a father now makes him a valuable addition to the Bethel family, with its many young workers.
Yes, firsthand knowledge helps such brothers to care for a wide variety of needs in the congregations. Their experience has, so to speak, sharpened the tools they wield, so that they use their energy to the best advantage. (Ecclesiastes 10:10) In fact, in a given period of time, they can often accomplish more than those who are stronger physically but less experienced.
Such brothers, together with their wives, are fine examples for the young among Jehovah’s people. Young people observe that couples like these have personally experienced many of the challenges and blessings that are reported in our Christian publications. It is encouraging to see men and women who exhibit a spirit like that of Caleb who, though advanced in years, requested a challenging assignment.—Joshua 14:10-12.
Imitate Their Faith
Could you perhaps imitate the faith and action of the couples mentioned in this article? Remember, they made the truth their way of life. They developed in their children the desire to pioneer. They did so, as Jan puts it, “by being an example in love for Jehovah and his organization, by making arrangements for good association, and by teaching the children to be self-supporting.” They also worked and played together as a family. “During vacation time,” recalls Pum, “the entire family customarily went out in the preaching work in the morning and enjoyed relaxation together in the afternoon.”
In addition, these Christians planned ahead, so that when their circumstances changed, they were ready to take advantage of the new situation. They set goals and made decisions that hastened the achieving of their goals. They looked for ways to do less secular work and were willing to make do with less income. (Philippians 1:10) The wives gave their husbands solid support. Together, they had a strong desire to enter the “large door that leads to activity” and, as a result, enjoy rich blessings from Jehovah.—1 Corinthians 16:9; Proverbs 10:22.
Do you likewise have a desire to enlarge your share in the ministry? If so, making good use of changing circumstances may prove to be the key to doing just that.
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Pum and Anny caring for the Assembly Hall
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Jan and Woth sharing in the preaching work
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Dries and Jenny serving at Bethel
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Otto and Judy preparing to visit the next congregation