“We’ll do that!” This is how my husband and I, along with my brother and his wife, responded to an invitation to take up an assignment. Why did we accept it, and how did Jehovah bless us? First, let me tell you about my background.
I WAS born in 1923 in Hemsworth, a town in Yorkshire, England. I had one older brother, Bob. When I was about nine years old, our father, who disliked religious hypocrisy, obtained some books exposing false religion. He was very impressed by what he read. A few years later, Bob Atkinson called at our house and played a phonograph record of one of Brother Rutherford’s talks. We realized that this came from the same group that published those books! My parents suggested that Brother Atkinson have his evening meal with us every night and answer our many Bible questions. We were invited to attend meetings at a brother’s home a few miles away. We quickly responded, and a small congregation was formed in Hemsworth. Soon we were accommodating zone servants (now known as circuit overseers) and inviting nearby pioneers for meals. Association with them really left an impression on me.
We had begun setting up a business, but Father said to my brother, “If you want to go pioneering, we’ll get rid of this.” Bob agreed, and he left home to pioneer at age 21. Two years later, when I was 16, I was appointed as a pioneer. Apart from weekends, I worked mostly alone, using a testimony card and a phonograph. But Jehovah blessed me with a Bible student who made wonderful progress. Many in that student’s family eventually accepted the truth. The following year, I was appointed as a special pioneer, along with Mary Henshall. We were sent to unassigned territory in the county of Cheshire.
It was now the middle of World War II, and women were directed to assist in the war effort. As full-time ministers, we special pioneers expected to receive the same exemption as other religious ministers. But the courts did not agree, so I was sentenced to 31 days in prison. The following year when I turned 19, I registered as a conscientious objector. I was brought before two tribunal courts, but my case was dismissed. All through this experience, I knew that holy spirit was helping me and that Jehovah was holding my hand, making me firm and strong.—Isa. 41:10, 13.
A NEW PARTNER
Arthur Matthews and I met in 1946. Having just served a three-month prison sentence as a conscientious objector, he joined his brother Dennis, a special pioneer, in Hemsworth. They had been taught about Jehovah from infancy by their father and got baptized as teenagers. Very soon Dennis was assigned to Ireland, leaving Arthur without a partner. Impressed with the way this young, hardworking pioneer conducted himself, my parents invited Arthur to stay with them. When I visited, Arthur and I would volunteer to wash the dishes after meals. Eventually we began writing to each other. During 1948, Arthur received another three-month prison sentence. We married in January 1949 with the goal of staying in full-time service as long as possible. With Jehovah’s blessing and careful management, we used vacation time to earn some money picking fruit, so we were able to continue pioneering.
Just over a year later, we were asked to go to Northern Ireland, first to Armagh and then to Newry, both mostly Catholic towns. Tension in the area was high, and we had to be very cautious and discerning when talking with people. Meetings were held in a brother and sister’s home that was ten miles (16 km) away from where we lived. About eight attended. When invited to stay the night, we would sleep on the floor and enjoy a hearty breakfast the next day. It is a great joy to know that there are now many Witnesses in that area.
“WE’LL DO THAT!”
My brother and his wife, Lottie, were already serving as special pioneers in Northern Ireland, and in 1952 the four of us attended a district convention in Belfast. A brother kindly accommodated all of us, together with Pryce Hughes, then the branch servant in Britain. One night we discussed the release of the booklet God’s Way Is Love, produced especially with Ireland in mind. Brother Hughes spoke of the difficulty in reaching Catholic people in the Irish Republic. Brothers were being put out of their accommodations and facing mob violence instigated by the priests. “We need couples with cars,” Pryce said, “to engage in a special campaign to distribute the booklet throughout the country.”* Our immediate response was, “We’ll do that!” Hence, the comment made at the beginning of this story.
One place where pioneers could always stay in Dublin was at the home of Ma Rutland, a longtime faithful sister. After a stop there and after selling some belongings, the four of us piled onto Bob’s motorcycle and sidecar and went in search of an automobile. We found a suitable secondhand car and asked the seller to deliver it to us, since none of us could drive. Arthur spent that evening sitting on the bed, going through imaginary gearshift movements. The next morning while he was attempting to drive the car out of the garage, missionary Mildred Willett (who later married John Barr) came by. She could drive! Now on the road and with a little more practice, we were ready to go!
Next, we needed accommodations. We had been cautioned to avoid living in a trailer because opposers might set it on fire, so we searched for a home, but in vain. That night the four of us slept in the car. The next day, all we could find was a little homemade trailer with two small bunk beds. That became our home. Amazingly, we had no problem parking the trailer on the property of friendly farmers. We covered territory that was 10 to 15 miles (16 to 24 km) away. Then after moving on, we would return and call on those in the area where we had been parked.
We visited all the homes in the southeast of the Republic without much trouble at all, distributing over 20,000 booklets and passing on to the Britain branch office the names of interested people. What a blessing it is to have hundreds of Witnesses there now!
BACK TO ENGLAND, THEN ON TO SCOTLAND
In time, we were reassigned to south London. Within a few weeks, Arthur received a call from the Britain branch office asking him to begin circuit work the next day! After a week’s training, we traveled to our circuit in Scotland. Arthur had no extra time to prepare his talks, but his readiness to meet challenges in Jehovah’s service was of great encouragement to me. We really enjoyed our assignment in the circuit work. We had been in unassigned territory for some years, and now it was a wonderful blessing to be among so many brothers and sisters.
When Arthur received an invitation to attend the 1962 ten-month course at Gilead School, we had a big decision to make. We came to the conclusion that even though I was to be left behind, it was right for Arthur to accept this privilege. As I was to be without a partner, I was sent back to Hemsworth as a special pioneer. When Arthur returned a year later, we were assigned to the district work and covered Scotland, northern England, and Northern Ireland.
A NEW ASSIGNMENT IN IRELAND
In 1964, Arthur received a new assignment as branch servant in the Irish Republic. We had greatly enjoyed the traveling work, so at first I felt very apprehensive about the change. Looking back, now I am grateful to have been given the privilege of serving at Bethel. I believe that if you accept an assignment even when you don’t really feel like doing it, you will always be blessed by Jehovah. My days were filled with office duties, packing literature, cooking, and cleaning. For some time, we were also in district work and were able to meet brothers throughout the country. This, along with seeing our Bible students make progress, created a strong bond with our spiritual family in Ireland. What a blessing!
A TURNING POINT IN IRELAND’S THEOCRATIC HISTORY
The first international convention in Ireland was held in Dublin in 1965.* Despite intense opposition on all fronts, the convention was a great success. A total of 3,948 attended, and 65 got baptized. Everyone who had provided accommodations for the 3,500 international delegates received a letter of appreciation. Householders, in turn, praised the delegates’ conduct. It was indeed a turning point for Ireland.
In 1966 both north and south Ireland were united under the Dublin branch office—a sharp contrast to the political and religious divisions on the island. We were thrilled to see so many Catholics coming into the truth and serving alongside brothers who were once Protestants.
A COMPLETE CHANGE OF ASSIGNMENT
In 2011 our lives changed completely when the Britain and Ireland branches were merged and we were assigned to London Bethel. The news came at a time when I was beginning to be concerned about Arthur’s health. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. On May 20, 2015, my companion of 66 years passed away in death.
In the last few years, I have felt heartbreak, depression, and grief. In the past, Arthur had always been there for me. How I miss him! But when you go through these kinds of situations, you draw closer to Jehovah. It has also been heartwarming to learn how much Arthur was loved. I have received letters from friends in Ireland, Britain, and even the United States. These letters, along with encouragement from Arthur’s brother Dennis, his wife, Mavis, and my nieces Ruth and Judy, have helped me more than words can express.
A scripture that has greatly encouraged me is Isaiah 30:18. It says: “Jehovah is waiting patiently to show you favor, and he will rise up to show you mercy. For Jehovah is a God of justice. Happy are all those keeping in expectation of him.” I have found it truly comforting to know that Jehovah is waiting patiently to remedy matters and to give us exciting assignments in his new world.
Looking back on our lives, I can see how Jehovah has guided and blessed the work in Ireland! I feel very privileged to have had a small share in that spiritual growth. It is undoubtedly true that doing what Jehovah asks of us always brings blessings.