Small Sacrifices Brought Us Great Blessings
AS TOLD BY GEORGE AND ANN ALJIAN
Never in our wildest dreams did my wife and I ever imagine that we would one day confuse “teacher” with “mouse.” Never did we think that in our 60’s we would be pondering strange-looking written characters in an effort to communicate with people from the Far East. Yet, this is what Ann and I did in the late 1980’s. Let us tell you how the small sacrifices we have made over the years have led to many blessings.
I CAME from a family of Armenian descent and belonged to the Armenian Church. Ann was a Roman Catholic. We both compromised our religious beliefs when we married in 1950. I was 27 years old, and Ann was 24. We settled in an apartment over my dry-cleaning shop in Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A. By then I had owned this business for about four years.
In 1955 we bought a beautiful three-bedroom house in Middletown, New Jersey. That home was 40 miles [about 60 km] from my business, where I worked six days a week. I came home late every night. The only contact I had with Jehovah’s Witnesses was when they periodically came to my shop and placed Bible literature with me. I read the literature with great interest. Though my business took up most of my time and attention, I developed a deep respect for the Bible.
I soon discovered that the Watchtower radio station, WBBR, was broadcasting Bible lectures during the time I was driving to and from my shop. I listened closely to these lectures, and my interest grew to the point that I asked the Witnesses to visit me. In November 1957, George Blanton called at my home and started a Bible study with me.
Our Family Becomes United in Pure Worship
How did Ann feel about all of this? Let her tell you.
“Initially, I was extremely opposed. I was so disruptive during George’s Bible study that he decided to study at a different location, doing so for eight months. During that time, George started attending meetings on Sundays at the Kingdom Hall. I knew then that he was serious about his Bible study because this was his only day off. Yet, he remained a good husband and father—even more so—and my attitude began to change. In fact, sometimes while dusting the coffee table when no one was looking, I picked up the Awake! magazine that George always left there, and I read it. At other times, George read to me Awake! articles that did not directly deal with doctrine but that always highlighted the Creator.
“One evening while George was out having his Bible study with Brother Blanton, I picked up a publication that our two-year-old, George, had put on the table beside my bed. It had something to do with hope for the dead. Though I was tired, I began to read it because my grandmother had just died, and I was very despondent. I immediately saw and appreciated the Bible truth that the dead are not suffering somewhere and that they will come back to life in a future resurrection. Soon I was sitting straight up in bed, avidly reading and underlining points that I wanted to show George when he came home from his Bible study.
“My husband could hardly believe that I was the same person. When he left the house, I was opposed, and now I was bubbling over with the wonderful Bible truths I had learned! We stayed up well into the morning hours talking about the Bible. George explained God’s purpose for the earth. I asked him that very night if he could have his study at home so that I could join it.
“Brother Blanton recommended that the children sit in on our study. We thought they were too young, since they were only two and four years old. However, Brother Blanton showed us Deuteronomy 31:12, which says: ‘Congregate the people, the men and the women and the little ones . . . , in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn.’ We appreciated that direction and even arranged for the children to comment during the Bible study. We would prepare our comments together, but we never told them what to say. We feel that this helped to direct our children toward making the truth their own. We will always appreciate the guidance that Brother Blanton gave us to help our family grow spiritually.”
Challenges Requiring Sacrifice
Now that we were united in studying the Bible, we had new challenges to meet. Since my shop was so far away, I did not usually arrive home until nine o’clock in the evening. Because of this, I was unable to attend meetings on weekdays, though I could attend on Sundays. By that time, Ann was attending all the meetings and was making rapid progress. I too wanted to attend all the meetings as well as conduct a meaningful family study. I knew that I had to make some sacrifices. So I decided to shorten my business hours, even at the risk of losing some of my customers.
That worked out very well. We viewed the family study as seriously as the other five weekly meetings at the Kingdom Hall. We called it our sixth meeting. That meant a specific day and time—Wednesday each week at 8:00 p.m. Sometimes after supper, as we put the last dish away in the kitchen, one of us would say, “It’s almost time for the ‘meeting’!” Ann would start the study if I was late, and I took over as soon as I arrived.
Another thing that kept us strong and unified as a family was reading the daily text together in the morning. However, there was a problem in arranging this. Everybody got up at a different time. We discussed this and decided that we would all get up at the same time, have breakfast at 6:30 a.m., and consider the daily text together. This proved very beneficial for us. When our sons grew up, they chose to enter Bethel service. We felt that these daily discussions contributed to their spirituality.
Privileges After Baptism Call for Greater Sacrifice
I was baptized in 1962, and after having had my business for 21 years, I sold it and took on a local job to be closer to my family so that we could serve Jehovah together. This opened the way for many blessings. We set the goal that we would all take up the full-time ministry. That started in the early 1970’s when our older son, Edward, became a full-time minister, or regular pioneer, right after finishing high school. A little later, our son George started pioneering, with Ann soon following. I was very encouraged by all three of them, as they would tell me about experiences they had had in the field service. As a family, we discussed how we could simplify our life so that we could all be in full-time service. We decided to sell the house. We had lived in that house for 18 years and had raised our family there. We really loved our home very much, but Jehovah blessed our decision to sell it.
Edward was invited to Bethel in 1972, and George, in 1974. Though Ann and I missed them, we did not dwell on how nice it would be to have them stay in our neighborhood, marry, and have children. Instead, we rejoiced that our sons were serving Jehovah at Bethel.* We agree with Proverbs 23:15, which says: “My son, if your heart has become wise, my heart will rejoice, even mine.”
We Enter the Special Pioneer Service
With both of our sons at Bethel, we continued pioneering. Then one day in 1975, we received a letter inviting us to enter the special pioneer work in unassigned territory in Clinton County, Illinois. What a surprise that was! This meant that we had to leave New Jersey, where we had been close to our sons in New York and where we had friends and relatives. However, we took it as an assignment from Jehovah and made the sacrifice, which led to new blessings.
After several months of working the unassigned territory, we began to hold meetings in a hospitality hall in Carlyle, Illinois. But we wanted a permanent place to meet. A local brother and his wife found property with a very small cottage that we were able to rent. We cleaned it up—outhouse and all—and converted it into a tiny meeting place. We remember fondly a horse that was curious about us. He often popped his head in the window to see what was going on at the meeting!
In time, the Carlyle Congregation was formed, and we were happy to have had a share in this. We were assisted by a young pioneer couple, Steve and Karil Thompson, who had also come to work the unassigned territory. The Thompsons stayed there for several years and later attended the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and moved to a missionary assignment in East Africa, where they serve in the traveling work.
Soon our small meeting place was becoming crowded, and we were in need of a larger hall. The same local brother and his wife again came to the rescue and bought property that was more suitable for a Kingdom Hall. How happy we were when a few years later, we were invited to the dedication of a newly built Kingdom Hall in Carlyle! I was privileged to give the dedication talk. Our assignment there was a wonderful experience for us, a blessing from Jehovah.
A New Field Opens Up to Us
In 1979 we received a new assignment, to Harrison, New Jersey. We served there for about 12 years. During that time we started a Bible study with a Chinese woman, and this led to many other studies with Chinese people. In the meantime, we learned that thousands of Chinese students and families lived in our area. Because of this, we were encouraged to learn the Chinese language. Though this meant spending time each day studying the language, it resulted in many joyful Bible studies with Chinese people in our area.
During those years, we experienced many humorous situations, especially in our attempts to speak Chinese. One day Ann introduced herself as a Bible “mouse” instead of a Bible “teacher.” The words are very similar. The householder smiled and said: “Please come in. I’ve never spoken to a Bible mouse before.” We are still struggling with the language.
Then we were assigned to another location in New Jersey where we were able to continue working in the Chinese field. Later we were invited to move to Boston, Massachusetts, where a Chinese group had been developing for about three years. It has been our privilege to give support to this group for the past seven years and to have the joy of seeing it become a congregation on January 1, 2003.
Blessings From a Life of Self-Sacrifice
At Malachi 3:10, we read Jehovah’s invitation for his people to bring in their offerings and sacrifices so that he would pour out his blessings until there was no more want. We gave up a business that I was very much interested in. We sold our home, which we loved very much. And we gave up other things as well. Yet, compared with the blessings, the sacrifices were small.
Indeed, what rich blessings Jehovah has poured out on us! We have had the satisfaction of seeing our children respond to the truth, we have had the joy of engaging full-time in a lifesaving ministry, and we have seen Jehovah taking care of our needs. Truly, our small sacrifices have brought us great blessings!
They are still faithfully serving at Bethel—Edward and his wife, Connie, at Patterson and George and his wife, Grace, at Brooklyn.
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Louise and George Blanton with Ann, 1991
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The Kingdom Hall in Carlyle, dedicated June 4, 1983
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With the newly formed Boston Chinese Congregation
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With Edward, Connie, George, and Grace