“He Leads Me in the Tracks of Righteousness”
As told by Olga Campbell
“A good example is like a bell that calls others to follow,” said my sister Emily. “You rang the bell, and I responded.” She was writing to congratulate me on completing 60 years in the full-time ministry. Let me tell you what my early life was like and how I came to take up my lifelong career.
I WAS born on January 19, 1927, into a Ukrainian farm family near Wakaw, Saskatchewan, in midwestern Canada. My twin brother, Bill, and I were the sixth and seventh of eight children. We little ones helped our hardworking father in the fields. In our tiny house, our mother nurtured us despite the crippling pains of rheumatoid arthritis, which eventually took her life. She was just 37 when she died; I was only 4 years old.
Six months after Mother died, Father remarried. Tension soon filled our home, which we came to share with five new half sisters! I tried to show our stepmother respect, but my older brother John had a more difficult time.
In the late 1930’s, Bill and I attended middle school, where we could escape the turmoil at home. With World War II on the horizon, patriotism filled the air. Our new teacher instituted the flag salute, and one girl refused to participate. The students showered her with insults. However, I admired her courage and asked her why she had not saluted. She explained that she was a Bible Student, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were sometimes called, and that she gave allegiance only to God.—Exodus 20:2, 3; Acts 5:29.
Striking Out on My Own
In 1943, I took a job in Prince Albert, loading trucks and delivering cases of soft drinks. Yearning for spiritual guidance, I bought a Bible but found it so difficult to understand that I shed tears of frustration. The Our Father was about the sum total of my Bible knowledge.—Matthew 6:9-13.
One Sunday, my churchgoing landlady proudly related that she had shoved a “Bible lady” off the doorstep. ‘How could she be so unkind?’ I wondered. A few Sundays later, I didn’t feel well, and I stayed home from church. That day the “Bible lady” came back.
“Do you pray?” she asked me.
“The Our Father,” I replied.
As she explained the meaning of Jesus’ words, I listened eagerly. She promised to return the following Wednesday.
When my landlady came home, I excitedly told her about the “Bible lady,” who was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. To my dismay, my landlady threatened, “If she comes back on Wednesday, I’ll kick both of you out of the house!”
I combed the neighborhood looking for the Witness, who I had learned was Mrs. Rampel. When I found her, I explained my dilemma and asked her to tell me everything she could about the Bible. It seemed as if we covered Genesis to Revelation! She compared the present time to Noah’s day, when God brought an end to an unrighteous world and delivered Noah and his family into a cleansed earth.—Matthew 24:37-39; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:5-7, 12.
“I can see that you have accepted these Bible teachings as the truth,” Mrs. Rampel noted after our long discussion. “In two weeks, there will be an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and you should be baptized.” That night I lay wide awake thinking about all I had learned. Baptism seemed like such a serious step. Yet, I wanted to serve God! Though my Bible knowledge was limited, I was baptized at the age of 16, on October 15, 1943.
A Cross-Country Move
In November my brother Fred asked me to work as a housekeeper in his three-story house in the city of Toronto in eastern Canada. I agreed, hoping that I might enjoy greater freedom to worship Jehovah there. Before I left, I visited my sister Ann, who was still nearby in Saskatchewan. She had a surprise for me—she and Doris were studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and she urged me to do the same. Then I shared my secret—I was already a baptized Witness!
My younger sister Emily and I took the long train ride to Toronto. Bill met us at the station and brought us to the house that he shared with Fred and John. I asked Fred who else lived in the house. “You’ll never believe this,” he said. “You remember Alex Reed from back home? He lives upstairs, and that crazy man is interested in those Bible Students!” My heart leaped.
I tiptoed up to see Alex and arranged to go to a meeting with him that very night. I wanted to attend right away so that my brothers would not have time to try to dissuade me. Shortly afterward, even though I had never had a formal Bible study, I went in the preaching work for the first time. I enjoyed speaking with many Ukrainians, using the language I had learned in my childhood.
Bill enjoyed reading The Watchtower, which I often put in his room. After he moved to British Columbia in western Canada, I sent him a gift subscription to The Watchtower. Though usually a man of few words, he wrote me a ten-page letter expressing his gratitude. In time, he dedicated his life to Jehovah and became a zealous Christian overseer. So to my great joy, five of my siblings—Bill, Ann, Fred, Doris, and Emily—became dedicated worshippers of Jehovah!
On May 22, 1945, the Canadian government lifted the ban on the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses.* Actually, I had not realized that we were under ban until I heard that announcement. My friend Judy Lukus and I decided to take up the full-time ministry as pioneers farther east in French-speaking Quebec. When my sisters Doris and Emily heard about our plans, they decided to pioneer in Vancouver, British Columbia, on the other side of the continent.
Religious Intolerance in Quebec
My move to Quebec was no mere change of scenery. The Witnesses there faced fierce opposition to their preaching work.* We delighted to share in the distribution of the tract Quebec’s Burning Hate for God and Christ and Freedom Is the Shame of All Canada. That searing message exposed the religious intolerance against the Witnesses.
For 16 days, we started about two o’clock each morning, silently slipping tracts under the doors. At one apartment house, we learned that the police were on the way. We escaped detection by hiding in an alley. The next day, we went back on the streets offering The Watchtower and Awake! As the months passed, the police arrested us so many times that we lost count. To be prepared for a jail stay, I always carried my toothbrush and my eyebrow pencil.
In November 1946, Nathan Knorr, who was taking the lead in the worldwide work of the Witnesses, visited from Brooklyn, New York. He invited 64 of us pioneers in Quebec to attend the ninth class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in South Lansing, New York. At this school, we received an intensive five-month course of Bible instruction. After graduating in August 1947, we were sent to towns throughout Quebec to start new congregations.
A Rewarding Ministry
Four of us young women were sent to the city of Sherbrooke. We diligently practiced speaking French, conjugating verbs again and again as we walked to and from our preaching territory. At lunchtime we sometimes had no money for food, so we went home and studied. My partner, Kay Lindhorst, was a real grammarian. She taught me English grammar first so that I could grasp the French.
The highlight of my pioneering was in Victoriaville, then a town of about 15,000. Hardly anyone spoke English, so it was the best environment for us to improve our French. Our first week there was thrilling. Everywhere we went, people accepted our literature. When we returned, all the doors were shut and the shades were drawn. What had happened?
The local priest warned the people not to listen to us. So as we went from door to door, children followed us at a distance, throwing rocks and snowballs. Still, many longed to hear the Bible’s message. At first, they only let us visit them after nightfall. As they progressed in Bible knowledge, however, they studied openly despite their neighbors’ displeasure.
In the 1950’s, my sisters and I returned to Wakaw for a visit. We related our preaching experiences at a congregation meeting. Afterward, the presiding minister told us, “Your mother will be so pleased when she is resurrected and learns that her children became Jehovah’s Witnesses!” He explained that she had studied the Bible with a Witness before she died. It brought tears to our eyes to learn that she had been taking in Bible truths that she would surely have shared with us had her life not been cut short.
Marriage and a Shared Ministry
In 1956, I met Merton Campbell, a Witness who had spent 27 months in prison during World War II for maintaining Christian neutrality. He had been serving at the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn for nearly ten years. Merton had many fine spiritual qualities, and I saw that he would be a good husband. We corresponded for some months, and our mutual respect and affection deepened into love.
Merton and I were married on September 24, 1960. What a blessing to have shared the past 47 years with a wonderful spiritual man! Merton has worked for 58 years in the Service Department, which provides assistance and direction to congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the United States. For over 30 years, my work in Brooklyn was to decorate guest rooms and later large Assembly Halls in the New York City area. Then, in 1995, Merton and I were transferred to the Watchtower Educational Center in Patterson, about 70 miles [110 km] north of New York City.
When I left home at age 12, I never imagined that one day I would be surrounded by a large spiritual family, including my own siblings. I long for the time in God’s new world when we can crowd around Mother and relate what happened while she slept—especially how Jehovah God lovingly cared for the spiritual needs of her children. How we rejoice that Jehovah has led us in “the tracks of righteousness”!—Psalm 23:3.
Because of the neutral stand of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the government had banned their organization on July 4, 1940.
For more details regarding the religious persecution in Quebec, see the April 22, 2000, issue of Awake! pages 20-3.
[Pictures on page 27]
My parents and the house I shared with them and my seven siblings
[Picture on page 29]
With my partners in the ministry in Ottawa, 1952
[Picture on page 29]
With my siblings (from left to right) Ann, Mary, Fred, Doris, John, me, Bill, and Emily
[Picture on page 29]
With Merton today