As told by Max Lloyd
It was late one night in 1955. A fellow missionary and I were in our assignment in Paraguay, South America, when the house we were in was surrounded by an angry mob shouting: “Our god is a bloodthirsty god, and he wants the blood of the gringos.” How did we gringos (foreigners) come to be here?
FOR me, it all began years ago in Australia where I grew up and where Jehovah began teaching me to do his will. My dad accepted the book Enemies from a Witness in 1938. He and Mum were already dissatisfied with the local clergy, who referred to portions of the Bible as fables. About a year later, my parents were baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah. From that time forward, the doing of Jehovah’s will became the most important part of our family life. My sister, Lesley, who was five years older than I, was baptized next, and I was baptized in 1940 when I was nine years old.
Soon after the start of World War II, the printing and distribution of the Bible literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses was banned in Australia. So as a young child, I learned to explain the basis for my faith, using only the Bible. I made a practice of taking my Bible to school to show why I would not salute the flag or support the war efforts of the nations.—Ex. 20:4, 5; Matt. 4:10; John 17:16; 1 John 5:21.
Many at school would not associate with me because I was labeled “a German spy.” At that time, movies were shown in school. Before the movie began, everyone was supposed to stand up and sing the country’s national anthem. When I remained seated, two or three boys would try to pull me up off the seat by my hair. I was eventually expelled from school because of holding to my Bible-based beliefs. However, I was able to take correspondence courses at home.
A GOAL I EVENTUALLY REALIZED
I had set a personal goal to start in the full-time ministry as a pioneer when I turned 14. So I was very disappointed when my parents said that I must first find a job and go to work. They insisted that I pay room and board at home but promised that when I turned 18, I could start pioneering. This led to regular discussions about the money I was earning. I argued that I wanted to save it for pioneering, but they were taking it.
When the time came to start pioneering, my parents sat down with me and explained that they had deposited the money I had given them in a savings account. Then they gave it all back to me to buy clothes and other needs for pioneering. They were teaching me to care for myself and not to expect others to do this. Looking back, that training was most valuable.
While Lesley and I were growing up, pioneers often stayed in our home, and we enjoyed sharing in the ministry with them. Our weekends were devoted to the house-to-house ministry, street witnessing, and conducting Bible studies. The goal for a congregation publisher in those years was 60 hours a month. Mother almost always reached that goal, which set a fine example for Lesley and me.
PIONEERING IN TASMANIA
My first pioneer assignment was on the Australian island of Tasmania, where I joined my sister and her husband. However, they left soon thereafter to attend the 15th class of Gilead School. I was very shy and had never been away from home before. Some speculated that I would last only three months. Yet, within a year, in 1950, I was appointed to serve as company servant, now called the coordinator of the body of elders. Later, I was appointed as a special pioneer, and another young brother became my partner.
Our assignment was an isolated copper-mining town where there were no Witnesses. We arrived by bus late one afternoon. We stayed in an old hotel the first night. The next day as we went witnessing from house to house, we asked the householders if they knew of a vacant room. Near the end of the day, a person mentioned that the minister’s house next to the Presbyterian church was empty and said that we should speak to the deacon. He was friendly and made the house available to us. It seemed strange to walk out of the clergyman’s house each day to go preaching.
The territory was fruitful. We had fine conversations and started many Bible studies. When church authorities in the capital learned about this and heard that Jehovah’s Witnesses were occupying the minister’s residence, they demanded that the deacon get us out immediately. Once again we were without accommodations!
After preaching until mid-afternoon the next day, we looked for a place to spend the night. The grandstand at the sports stadium was the best we could find. We hid our suitcases there and resumed witnessing. It was getting dark, but we decided to visit a few more homes to finish a street. At one house a man offered us accommodations in a small two-room house at the back of his property!
CIRCUIT WORK AND GILEAD
After about eight months in this preaching assignment, I received an invitation from the Australia branch office to become a circuit overseer. This shocked me, as I was only 20 years old. After receiving a couple of weeks of training, I started making regular visits to encourage the congregations. Those older than I, who included just about everyone, did not look down on my youth but respected the work I was doing.
What variety there was traveling between congregations! One week I went by bus, another week by tram, then by car or on the back of a motorcycle, balancing a suitcase and a witnessing bag. Staying with fellow Witnesses was a real joy. One company servant was eager to have me stay with him even though his home was only partially built. That week my bed was made up in the bathtub, but what a spiritually joyful week we had together!
Another surprise came in 1953 when I received an application for the 22nd class of Gilead School. But my joy was mixed with anxiety. You see, after my sister and her husband graduated from Gilead on July 30, 1950, they were assigned to Pakistan. Less than a year later, Lesley became ill and died there. How would my parents feel, I wondered, about my going off somewhere else in the world so soon thereafter? However, they said: “Go and serve Jehovah wherever he directs.” I never saw Father again. He died in the late 1950’s.
Before long, I was boarding a ship with five other Australians for a six-week voyage to New York City. On the way, we engaged in Bible reading, study, and witnessing to fellow passengers. Before going upstate to the school’s facilities in South Lansing, New York, we attended the July 1953 international convention at Yankee Stadium. A peak of 165,829 were in attendance!
Our class of 120 Gilead students came from every corner of the earth. It was not until graduation day that we were told where we were being assigned to serve. As soon as we could, we rushed to the Gilead library to learn about the countries to which we were assigned. I learned that my assignment, Paraguay, was a country with a history of political revolutions. Shortly after arriving there, I asked the other missionaries one morning what the “celebration” had been during the night. They smiled and said: “You have experienced your first revolution. Look out the front door.” Soldiers were on every corner!
A MOMENTOUS EXPERIENCE
On one occasion, I accompanied the circuit overseer to visit an isolated congregation and to show the film The New World Society in Action. We traveled for eight or nine hours, first by train, then by horse and buggy, and finally by oxcart. We carried along a generator and a movie projector. After finally arriving at our destination, we spent the next day visiting farms and inviting all to the showing of the film that night. Some 15 people attended.
After showing about 20 minutes of the film, we were told to go inside the house as quickly as possible. We grabbed the projector and obeyed. It was then that men started shouting, firing guns, and chanting: “Our god is a bloodthirsty god, and he wants the blood of the gringos.” There were only two gringos there, and I was one of them! Those who attended the film showing held off the mob’s attempts to break into the house. But the opposers returned about three o’clock in the morning, firing their guns and promising to get us on our way back to town later that day.
The brothers contacted the sheriff, and he came in the afternoon with two horses to take us to town. On the way back, whenever we came near a clump of bushes or trees, he pulled out his gun and rode ahead to inspect the area. A horse, I could see, was an important means of transportation, so I later obtained one.
MORE MISSIONARIES ARRIVE
The preaching work continued to have good success in spite of regular clergy opposition. In 1955, five new missionaries arrived, including a young Canadian sister named Elsie Swanson, who graduated from the 25th class of Gilead. We were together for a while at the branch office before she was assigned to another town. She had devoted her life to the service of Jehovah with little help from her parents, who never accepted the truth. On December 31, 1957, Elsie and I were married, and we lived by ourselves in a missionary home in the southern part of Paraguay.
Our home did not have running water; instead, we had a well in the backyard. So there was no indoor shower or toilet, no washing machine, not even a refrigerator. We bought perishable food each day. But the simplicity of life and the loving relationships with our brothers and sisters in the congregation made this a very happy period in our married life.
In 1963, shortly after we arrived back in Australia to visit my mother, she had a heart attack, seemingly brought on by the excitement of seeing her son after ten years. As the time drew near to return to our assignment in Paraguay, we were faced with one of the most difficult decisions of our lives. Should we leave my mother in a hospital, hoping that someone would care for her, and return to our assignment in Paraguay, which we loved? After much prayer, Elsie and I decided to stay and care for Mother. We were able to do that and stay in the full-time ministry until she died in 1966.
It was a privilege to be used in the circuit and district work in Australia for a number of years and to teach the Kingdom Ministry School for elders. Then came another adjustment in our lives. I was assigned to serve as a member of the first Branch Committee in Australia. Then, when we were to build a new branch office, I was appointed as chairman of the building committee. With the help of many experienced, cooperative workers, a beautiful branch was built.
I was next assigned to the Service Department, which deals with the oversight of the preaching work in a country. I also received the privilege of visiting other branches throughout the world as a zone overseer to provide help and encouragement. It was especially faith-strengthening to me to visit in some countries those who had spent years—even decades—in prisons and concentration camps because of their faithful obedience to Jehovah.
OUR PRESENT ASSIGNMENT
After returning from a tiring zone trip in 2001, I found a letter of invitation to come to Brooklyn, New York, to serve as part of the newly formed United States Branch Committee. Elsie and I prayerfully considered the invitation, and we happily accepted the assignment. After more than 11 years, we are still in Brooklyn.
I am so glad that I have a wife who is happy to do whatever Jehovah asks. Elsie and I now are in our early 80’s and still have reasonably good health. We look forward to enjoying the teachings of Jehovah throughout eternity as well as all the rich blessings that will be realized by those who continue to do his will.
[Blurb on page 19]
One week I went by bus, another week by tram, then by car or on the back of a motorcycle, balancing a suitcase and a witnessing bag
[Blurb on page 21]
We look forward to enjoying the teachings of Jehovah throughout eternity
[Pictures on page 18]
Left: While in circuit work in Australia
Right: With my parents
[Picture on page 20]
Our wedding day, December 31, 1957