RENEÉ, a sister in her mid-30’s, grew up in a family of zealous Witnesses in Australia. “We moved many times to help in areas where there was a greater need for Kingdom preachers,” she says. “Dad and Mum made things interesting, exciting, and fun! When I had two children of my own, I wanted them to have that same kind of life.”
Reneé’s husband, Shane, a brother in his late 30’s, had similar spiritual goals. He explains: “After the birth of our second child, we read in The Watchtower about a family of Witnesses who had gone to the southwestern Pacific in their yacht to preach in the islands of Tonga.* That article prompted us to write to the Australia and New Zealand branch offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses to ask where there was a greater need for Kingdom preachers.* In response, we were invited to move to Tonga—the very place we had read about!”
After Shane, Reneé, and their children, Jacob and Skye, had lived in Tonga for about a year, a succession of riots forced them to return to Australia, but they kept in mind their goal of expanding their ministry. In 2011, they moved to Norfolk Island, a tiny Pacific island about 900 miles (1,500 km) east of Australia. How did that move turn out? Today, 14-year-old Jacob says, “Jehovah not only looked after us but he also made the ministry fun!”
REACHING OUT TO SERVE AS A FAMILY
Like Shane, Reneé, and their children, many other Witness families have offered themselves willingly to serve as “need greaters.” What motivated them to move?
“Many people were interested in the good news. We wanted to give them the opportunity to have a regular personal Bible study.”—Burnett
Burnett and Simone, a couple in their mid-30’s, and their sons, Eston and Caleb, now ages 12 and 9, moved to Burketown, an isolated town in Queensland, Australia. “Witnesses had preached there only every three or four years,” explains Burnett. “Many people were interested in the good news. We wanted to give them the opportunity to have a regular personal Bible study.”
Mark and Karen, now in their early 50’s, served in several congregations near Sydney, Australia, before they and their three children, Jessica, Jim, and Jack, moved to Nhulunbuy, a remote mining community in the Northern Territory. Says Mark: “I love people, so I wanted to be where there was lots to do in the congregation and in the ministry.” Karen, however, was hesitant about moving. “But after Mark and others encouraged me,” she says, “I was willing to give it a try. Now I am glad that I did!”
In 2011, Benjamin and Carolyn and their two preschool daughters, Jade and Bria, moved from Queensland, Australia, back to Timor-Leste, a small country on Timor Island in the Indonesian archipelago. “Carolyn and I had previously served in Timor-Leste as special pioneers,” says Ben. “The witnessing was awesome, and the brothers were very supportive. It broke our hearts to leave. We were determined to return. When our children came along, we postponed our plans but did not change them.” Carolyn adds: “We wanted our children to be surrounded by missionaries, Bethelites, and special pioneers and to receive the best possible spiritual experience.”
PREPARING TO MOVE
Jesus told his followers: “Who of you wanting to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense?” (Luke 14:28) Likewise, when a family contemplates moving to another area, good planning is vital. What needs might be considered?
SPIRITUAL: “We wanted to serve others and not be a burden,” says Ben. “So before we moved, we made sure to build up ourselves spiritually. We also increased our share in the ministry and in other congregation activities.”
Jacob, mentioned earlier, relates: “Before moving to Norfolk Island, we read lots of life stories in The Watchtower and Awake! about families who served where the need was greater. We talked about the challenges they faced and how Jehovah cared for them.” His sister, 11-year-old Skye, adds: “I said lots of prayers—on my own and with Mum and Dad!”
EMOTIONAL: Reneé relates: “Because we lived near family and close friends in an area I loved, it would have been easy to stay there. But rather than dwell on what I was giving up, I thought about how the move would benefit our family.”
CULTURAL: Many families do research to prepare themselves for their new surroundings. “We read as much about Nhulunbuy as we could,” says Mark. “Brothers living there kindly sent copies of the town newspaper, which gave us some insight into the local people and their culture.”
Shane, who moved to Norfolk Island, adds: “Most of all, I focused on displaying Christian qualities. I knew that if I was sincere, mild, honest, and hardworking, I could fit in anywhere in the world.”
DEALING WITH CHALLENGES
Successful “need greaters” highlight the importance of being flexible and positive when facing unexpected challenges. Consider some examples:
Reneé relates: “I learned to embrace different ways of doing things. For example, when seas are rough at Norfolk Island, supply ships cannot berth and groceries can become scarce and expensive. So when preparing meals, I have learned to be resourceful.” Her husband, Shane, adds: “We also adjust our spending to stay within our weekly budget.”
Their son, Jacob, highlights a different challenge. “Our new congregation had only seven other members—all adults. So I had no friends my age! But when I worked with the older ones in the ministry, we soon became friends.”
Jim, now aged 21, faced a similar situation. “The closest neighboring congregation to Nhulunbuy is over 450 miles (725 km) away, so we make the most of assemblies and conventions. We arrive early and savor our association with the brothers and sisters. We view these occasions as the highlights of our year!”
“SO GLAD WE CAME HERE!”
The Bible states: “It is the blessing of Jehovah that makes one rich.” (Prov. 10:22) Around the world, countless “need greaters” have personally experienced the truth of that inspired statement.
“The greatest blessing has been the effect that our move has had on our children,” says Mark. “The older ones have absolute confidence that Jehovah will care for those who put Kingdom interests first. You cannot buy that confidence.”
Shane says: “I am so much closer to my wife and children. When I hear them relate what Jehovah has done for them, I feel truly satisfied.” His son, Jacob, agrees: “I have had such a great time. I am so glad we came here!”
See the article “Friends of God in the ‘Friendly Islands,’” in The Watchtower, December 15, 2004, pp. 8-11.
In 2012, the Australia and New Zealand branch offices were consolidated to form the Australasia branch.