Keeping Myself Busy in Jehovah’s Organization
As told by Vernon Zubko
I WAS raised on a farm near Stenen, a village in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada. My parents, Fred and Adella, worked hard to provide spiritually and materially for my older sister, Aurellia, and me as well as for my younger siblings, Alvin, Allegra, and Daryl. To this day, we remain grateful to our parents for teaching us the truth.
Father, an anointed Christian, was a fearless evangelizer. He worked hard to make a living, but he also made sure that everyone knew he was a Witness. He was always speaking about the truth. His zeal and courage left a lasting impression on me. He often told me, “Keep yourself busy in Jehovah’s organization, and you will avoid many problems.”
Frequently, we did street witnessing in Stenen and neighboring communities. For me, that was not always easy. Each town had its bullies, who would come up to us younger ones and mock us. Once when I was eight years old, I was standing on a corner with The Watchtower and Awake! when a group of youngsters surrounded me. They snatched my new hat off my head and put it on a post beside me. Thankfully, an older brother who was keeping an eye on me saw what was happening. He approached and asked, “Vern, is there a problem?” The boys quickly disappeared. Although the experience was a bit upsetting, it taught me that when doing street witnessing, one should keep moving and not stand like a post. Such training during my formative years also gave me the needed courage to go from door-to-door.
Alvin and I were baptized in May 1951. I was 13 years of age. I still remember that Brother Jack Nathan, who gave the baptism talk, urged us never to let a month go by without speaking about Jehovah.* In our family, pioneer service was always considered the best career to follow. So in 1958, after finishing my schooling, I moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to pioneer. Though Father was happy to have me work with him in the family business as a lumber planer, he and Mother strongly encouraged the full-time ministry and supported my move.
A New Home and a New Partner
In 1959 the branch office invited any who could do so to move to Quebec, where there was a great need for evangelizers. I went to pioneer in Montreal. What a change! It was a new chapter in my life, as I was learning to speak French and to adapt to a different culture. Our circuit overseer told me, “Never say, ‘This is the way we did it back home.’” That was good advice.—1 Cor. 9:22, 23.
I had no pioneer partner when I moved to Quebec. However, a young sister named Shirley Turcotte, whom I had met earlier in Winnipeg, became my permanent partner when we got married in February 1961. She too came from a family who loved Jehovah. Although at the time I did not fully appreciate it, she would become an invaluable source of strength and encouragement to me through the years.
A Tour of the Gaspé
Two years after our wedding, we were appointed as special pioneers in Rimouski, Quebec. The following spring, the branch office asked us to make a preaching tour throughout the Gaspé Peninsula, along Canada’s east coast. Our assignment was to plant as many seeds of truth as possible. (Eccl. 11:6) We loaded our car with over 1,000 magazines and close to 400 books, as well as some food and clothes, and set out for a month-long preaching tour. We systematically worked all the small villages in the Gaspé. The local radio station warned that the Witnesses were coming and told the people not to accept our publications. However, most residents misunderstood the announcement and believed that it was advertising our publications, so they accepted the literature.
In those years, freedom to preach was relatively new in certain parts of Quebec, and it was not uncommon to be stopped by the police. This happened in one city where we were placing literature at almost every door. An officer asked us to go with him to the police station, and we complied. I found out that the lawyer for the city had issued an order to stop us from preaching. Since the chief of police was away for the day, I presented the lawyer with a thoroughly documented letter from the branch office in Toronto that explained our right to preach. After reading the letter, the lawyer quickly said: “Look, I don’t want any problems. It was the parish priest who told me to stop you.” Since we wanted the people in the territory to realize that our work was not illegal, we immediately returned to the area where we were stopped by the police and resumed our ministry.
The next morning when we returned to see the chief of police, he was upset to hear that we had been stopped. You should have heard his phone call to the lawyer! The police officer told us that if we had any problems, we should call him personally and he would handle the situation. Even though we were strangers and our French was limited, we found the people to be kind and hospitable. But we wondered, ‘Will they ever get to know the truth?’ We got our answer years later when we went back to build Kingdom Halls throughout the Gaspé. We discovered that a lot of the ones to whom we had witnessed are now our brothers. Indeed, Jehovah is the one who makes it grow.—1 Cor. 3:6, 7.
We Receive an Inheritance
Our daughter Lisa was born in 1970. This inheritance from Jehovah added much joy to our life. Shirley and Lisa worked along with me on many Kingdom Hall construction projects. After Lisa finished her schooling, she said: “Well, Mom and Dad, since I took you out of the full-time service for a while, I will try to make up for it by becoming a pioneer.” Over 20 years later, Lisa still serves as a pioneer, but now along with her husband, Sylvain. Together, they have had the privilege of working on several international building projects. Our objective as a family is to keep our life simple and to make ourselves available for Jehovah’s service. I have never forgotten Lisa’s words when she started pioneering. In fact, she motivated me to return to the full-time ministry in 2001, and I have been pioneering ever since. Pioneering continues to teach me to trust in Jehovah in everything I do and to live a simple but full and happy life.
Building Projects Require Love, Loyalty, and Faithfulness
Jehovah has taught me that if we make ourselves available and accept whatever assignment he gives us, there are many blessings to be reaped. Serving on a Regional Building Committee and working on building projects along with my brothers and sisters throughout Quebec and elsewhere is a precious privilege.
Although some volunteers may not give outstanding talks from the platform, at Kingdom Hall building projects they shine like stars. These dear ones put their heart into the work, and their talents come out. The result is always a beautiful building to be used in the worship of Jehovah.
I have been asked, “What are the most important qualities for a volunteer on a Kingdom Hall project?” From my experience, a person must first of all love Jehovah and his Son as well as the brotherhood. (1 Cor. 16:14) Second, loyalty and faithfulness are needed. When things do not go the way we want them to go—and this will happen—a loyal person will continue to support the theocratic arrangement. Faithfulness will move him to volunteer for future projects.
Grateful to Jehovah
Although my father died in 1985, his advice to keep myself busy in Jehovah’s organization remains imprinted on my mind. Like others who have received their assignment in the heavenly part of Jehovah’s organization, he is no doubt busy. (Rev. 14:13) Mom is now 97. Because of a stroke, she cannot speak as well as she used to; still, she knows her Bible. She quotes scriptures in her letters and encourages us to keep serving Jehovah faithfully. How grateful all of us children are for having had such loving parents!
I am also grateful to Jehovah for Shirley, my faithful wife and partner. She keeps close to her heart advice that her mother gave her, “Vern will be kept quite busy in the truth, and you are going to have to learn to share him with others.” When we got married 49 years ago, we resolved that we would grow old together, serving Jehovah, and if we both survive the end of this system, grow younger together and continue serving him forever. Yes, we have had “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) Jehovah for his part has truly cared for us and has made sure that we have never lacked anything that is good.
See The Watchtower, September 1, 1990, pages 10-14, for the life story of Jack Halliday Nathan.
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“Our objective as a family is to keep our life simple and to make ourselves available for Jehovah’s service”