Dawn was breaking as we finished sliding tracts under the doors of the last few houses in our assigned territory. The year was 1939, and we had left our beds in the middle of the night to drive over an hour to the small city of Joplin in southwestern Missouri, U.S.A. As soon as we quietly completed our mission, we piled into the car and drove to the designated meeting spot, where we waited for the other car groups to arrive. You may wonder, though, why we went out in the ministry that morning before sunrise and then left the territory so quickly. I will tell you later.
I AM grateful to have been raised by Christian parents, Fred and Edna Molohan, who instilled in me godly devotion. They had been active Bible Students (Jehovah’s Witnesses) for 20 years by the time I was born in 1934. Our family lived in Parsons, a small town in southeastern Kansas. We were members of the congregation there that was made up of nearly all anointed Christians. Our family enjoyed a good routine of attending congregation meetings and preaching the truth of God’s Word to others. Saturday afternoons were usually set aside for street work, as we called public witnessing in those days. Sometimes it was a bit tiring, but Dad always refreshed us by taking us out for ice cream when we finished.
Our little congregation had a large territory that included several small towns as well as many farms in nearby counties. When visiting the farmers, we would often trade our literature for homegrown vegetables, fresh eggs (right out of the nest), or even live chickens. Since Dad had contributed for the literature ahead of time, this food helped to supplement our meals.
My parents obtained a phonograph, which they used in the preaching work. I was too small to operate it, but I did enjoy helping Dad and Mom as they played recordings of Brother Rutherford’s lectures on return visits and Bible studies.
Dad converted our 1936 Ford into what we called a sound car, a vehicle with a large speaker attached to the roof. This car was very effective in spreading the Kingdom message. Usually, a music recording would be played first to get the people’s attention, and then a recorded Bible lecture would be played. When the record finished, we would offer literature to interested people.
In the little town of Cherryvale, Kansas, the police told Dad that they would not allow the sound car in the town park, where many people were relaxing on Sundays, but outside the park it was permitted. So without objecting, Dad moved the car to the adjacent street facing the park so that the people there could still easily hear the message, and then he continued with the program. It was always exciting to be with Dad and my older brother, Jerry, on those occasions.
In the late 1930’s, we engaged in special “blitz” campaigns to cover territories quickly where there was much opposition. We would get up before dawn (as we did for Joplin, Missouri) and quietly put tracts or booklets under the doors of people’s homes. Afterward, we would meet up outside the city to check if anyone had been caught and arrested by the police.
During those years, another exciting feature of our ministry was what we called an information march. To advertise the Kingdom, we donned placards and marched in line through a city. I remember one such march in our town when our friends wore the placard that read “Religion Is a Snare and a Racket.” They walked through town for about a mile (1.6 km) and then returned to our home. Fortunately, they did not face any opposition on the march, but they did meet many interested observers.
Our family would often travel from Kansas to Texas to attend conventions. Dad worked for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (also known as the M-K-T, or Katy, Railroad), so we could ride the rails using his employee’s pass, enabling us to visit relatives and attend conventions together. Mom’s older brother, Fred Wismar, and his wife, Eulalie, lived in Temple, Texas. Uncle Fred learned the truth as a youth in the early 1900’s, got baptized, and shared what he learned with his siblings, including my mother. He was well-known by the brothers throughout central Texas, where he once served as a zone servant (now known as a circuit overseer). He was a kind, happy man and always a joy to be with. He was zealous for the truth, and he was certainly a good influence on me during my youth.
In 1941 our family traveled by train to St. Louis, Missouri, for a large convention. All the youths were invited to sit together in a special section of the arena to hear Brother Rutherford’s talk “Children of the King.” At the conclusion of his talk, each one in our group was surprised with a personal gift of the new book Children, handed out by Brother Rutherford and his assistants. There were over 15,000 young ones who enjoyed this spiritual blessing.
In April 1943 we enjoyed the small yet noteworthy “Call to Action” Assembly in Coffeyville, Kansas. The new Theocratic Ministry School, which would be held in all congregations, was inaugurated, and a booklet containing 52 lessons to be used in the school was released. Later that year, I gave my first student talk. That assembly was also special for me because, along with a few others, I got baptized in a chilly farm pond nearby.
MY CAREER WISH—BETHEL SERVICE
I finished my formal schooling in 1951 and had to make some decisions about my future. My earnest desire was to take up service at Bethel, where Jerry had served previously, so my application was soon sent to the Brooklyn office. This decision turned out to be very beneficial spiritually. In a short time, my application was approved, and I was invited to begin Bethel service on March 10, 1952.
My hope was to work in the printery in order to have a share in the production of magazines and literature. However, I was assigned to work as a waiter and later in the kitchen, which was an enjoyable learning experience for me. So I never had the privilege of working in the printery. However, the adjusted work schedule for the kitchen crew was of benefit to me because it allowed me some quiet time during the day to do personal study using the extensive Bethel library. This helped me to grow spiritually and strengthened my faith. It also fortified my determination to serve Jehovah at Bethel for as long as I could. Jerry had left Bethel in 1949 and married Patricia, but they lived nearby in Brooklyn. They were always most helpful and encouraging to me during my early years in Bethel service.
Shortly after my arrival at Bethel, there were tryouts arranged to add more brothers to the list of Bethel speakers. Brothers on this list were assigned during the year to visit congregations in a 200-mile (322-km) radius of Brooklyn to give a public talk and to work with the congregation in field service. I was privileged to be put on this list. Nervously, I began giving my first public talk, then an hour in length. I usually traveled to the congregations by train. I well remember one wintry Sunday afternoon in 1954. I boarded a train bound for New York that should have had me arriving back at Bethel by early evening. However, a storm blew in with freezing high winds and snow. The electric engines on the train shorted out and lost power. Finally, the train made it to the station in New York City at about five o’clock Monday morning. From there, I hopped on a subway for Brooklyn and went straight to work in the kitchen, a bit late and very tired after sitting up all night on the disabled train. But such inconveniences were overshadowed by the pleasures of serving the brothers and meeting so many new friends on these special weekends of service.
During my early years at Bethel, I was invited to share in the radio broadcasts on station WBBR. The studios were then located on the second floor of 124 Columbia Heights. It was my assignment to portray one of the individuals in a Bible study program that was broadcast weekly. Brother A. H. Macmillan, a longtime member of the Bethel family, regularly participated in these radio programs. Affectionately known as Brother Mac, he was an excellent example of endurance in Jehovah’s service for us younger members of the Bethel family.
An invitation came in 1958 to work closely with Gilead School. My job was to assist the graduates in obtaining visas and to make travel arrangements for these zealous men and women. Air travel was extremely costly in those years, so only a few of the graduates would travel by air. Most who traveled to Africa and the Far East went by cargo ships. When commercial jet service began, airfares became much lower and soon most of the missionaries were sent to their assignments by air.
My work expanded in 1960 with the arranging of charter flights from the United States to Europe for the 1961 international conventions. I joined the charter flight from New York to Hamburg, Germany, for that convention. After the convention, three other Bethel brothers and I rented a car and drove through Germany to Italy, visiting the branch office in Rome. From there, our journey took us to France, over the Pyrenees Mountains, and into Spain, where the witnessing work was under ban. We were able to deliver some literature, disguised as wrapped gifts, to our brothers in Barcelona. It was a thrill to meet them! Driving on to Amsterdam, we caught our return flight to New York.
About a year later, my Bethel assignment included arranging for selected delegates to travel to a special series of international conventions that straddled the globe. This was the “Everlasting Good News” Assembly of 1963. Arrangements were made for 583 delegates to travel around the globe to attend conventions in Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific, finishing the tour in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Pasadena, California. Included in the itinerary were stops in Lebanon and Jordan for special educational tours related to the lands of the Bible. Besides scheduling flights and hotel stays, our Bethel department obtained all the visas needed for stops in several countries.
NEW TRAVEL PARTNER
The year 1963 was a landmark for me for another excellent reason. On June 29, I married Lila Rogers from Missouri, who had become a member of the Bethel family three years earlier. A week after our wedding, Lila and I joined the around-the-world tour and visited Greece, Egypt, and Lebanon. We took a short flight from Beirut to a tiny airport in Jordan. Because the work in Jordan was restricted and we had been told that Jehovah’s Witnesses were not granted visas to enter the country, we wondered what would happen when we arrived there. What a happy surprise when, on our arrival, we saw a crowd standing on top of the airport terminal with a banner that read “Welcome Jehovah’s Witnesses”! And what a thrill it was to see firsthand the lands of the Bible! We visited places where ancient patriarchs lived, where Jesus and the apostles preached, and where Christianity began to spread to the ends of the earth.—Acts 13:47.
For 55 years, Lila has been my loyal companion in all of our service assignments. We were able to visit Spain and Portugal several times when the work was under ban in those lands. We could encourage the friends and bring them literature and other things they needed. We were even able to visit some of our brothers imprisoned in an old military fort in Cádiz, Spain. My heart was filled with joy to be able to build them up with a Scriptural talk.
In the years since 1963, it has been a privilege to assist in arranging international convention tours to Africa, Australia, Central and South America, Europe, the Far East, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico. Lila and I have enjoyed many unforgettable conventions together, including one in Warsaw, Poland, in 1989. Many brothers from Russia were able to attend that large convention—their first! Several brothers and sisters we met had spent years in Soviet prisons because of their faith.
Visiting branch offices around the world to build up and encourage the Bethel families and the missionaries has been a very enjoyable privilege for me. On our last branch visit to South Korea, we were able to meet with 50 of our brothers at a prison in Suwon. Those brothers all showed a positive attitude and looked forward to getting involved in their ministry again. Meeting them was most encouraging to us!—Rom. 1:11, 12.
INCREASE BRINGS JOY
I have observed how Jehovah has blessed his people with increase over the years, from some 100,000 publishers at the time of my baptism in 1943 to more than 8,000,000 now serving Jehovah in 240 lands. This is due in large part to the preaching work spearheaded by Gilead graduates. What a joy it has been to work closely with many of these missionaries over the years and to help them get to their foreign assignments!
I am grateful that I made the decision as a youth to expand my ministry by applying for Bethel service. Jehovah has richly blessed me every step of the way. In addition to the joys of Bethel service, for decades Lila and I enjoyed the privilege of working in the ministry with congregations in Brooklyn, where we made many lifelong friends.
My Bethel service continues with the support of Lila each day. Even though I am now over 84 years of age, I can still enjoy meaningful work, helping in the handling of branch correspondence.
What a joy it is to be a part of Jehovah’s marvelous organization and to observe the vast difference between those serving Jehovah and those not serving him. We can more clearly understand the words of Malachi 3:18: “You will again see the distinction between a righteous person and a wicked person, between one serving God and one not serving him.” With each passing day, we observe Satan’s system of things disintegrating, filled with people who have no hope and very little joy in life. But those who love and serve Jehovah have a happy life—even in these critical times—and a sure hope for the future. What a privilege we have to spread the Kingdom good news! (Matt. 24:14) We long for the day, soon to come, when God’s Kingdom will bring this old world down and usher in the new world with all its promised blessings, including radiant health and endless life. Then, faithful servants of Jehovah here on earth will enjoy life forever.