You Are Invited to Pioneer—Will You Accept?
ANY part we may have in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom is a source of joy. Regardless of the response of people in our territory, we have the joy of knowing that we are doing Jehovah’s will. And, if our expressions about God’s kingdom move the hearts of appreciative ones, we have the additional joy of seeing them make progress in the way of righteousness. Accordingly, the more time we devote to the field ministry the greater will be our joy. This is in harmony with the Bible principle: “He that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”—2 Cor. 9:6.
Hence we are inviting as many as possibly can to take up the regular or vacation pioneer service. In doing so, we know that there are many who would very much like to pioneer but whose present circumstances and responsibilities prevent this. These faithful servants of Jehovah can draw encouragement from the fact that Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ are aware of their limitations. Remember that Jesus, in one of his illustrations, pointed out that the ‘soil of the heart’ may produce varying amounts of fruitage and yet in each case be fine soil. (Matt. 13:23) This is because the bearing of fruitage refers to making expressions about the Kingdom and is therefore directly related to the amount of time spent in talking to others about the truth.
So it is good for all of us to consider our circumstances and responsibilities. Could we bear more fruitage, that is, make more expressions about God’s kingdom to others, even to members of our own family? Are we in position to increase those expressions by becoming a pioneer? Yes, can you personally make adjustments in your present way of life to be a pioneer?
Necessary Qualifications—Do You Have Them?
It is good to remember that pioneers are appointed by the Watchtower Society, which is under the direction of the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses. One’s ability to devote at least one hundred hours a month in the field ministry is important to the Society, but it is not the prime consideration. Pioneers should be persons whose example in Christian conduct is worthy of imitation. Others should be able to recognize them as persons who display the fruitage of God’s spirit.
Brothers responsible for recommending persons to be pioneers therefore must exercise due care in discharging their obligation. They know that a pioneer will represent their congregation as an appointed evangelizer. One who dresses immodestly and follows extreme fads in grooming could hardly represent the congregation in this capacity. And, of course, a person who is still enslaved to the unclean tobacco habit could not serve as a pioneer.
Other pre-enrollment requirements are set forth in the “Lamp” book, pages 194-200. One must be baptized for at least six months and, after enrollment, one is expected to average a hundred hours a month in the field ministry—a total of 1,200 hours per year.
Vacation pioneering is an ideal arrangement for those who can pioneer on only a limited basis, say, for one, two or more months during the year. In fact, a person can vacation pioneer for as little as two weeks, devoting seventy-five hours to the field ministry during the month. A person desirous of being a vacation pioneer does not have to wait six months after being baptized but may apply immediately after baptism, provided he has been a regular publisher for the past six months.
If you are thinking of accepting the invitation to pioneer, first ask yourself a few probing questions: What does my heart really move me to do? Am I prompted to speak to others about the Kingdom because of love for Jehovah God? Do I feel pity and compassion for the people who find themselves in a spiritually wretched condition? Does this love and compassion urge me to devote ten, twenty, a hundred or more hours in the field ministry each month? Or do I look at pioneering as some sort of status, something that will give me a certain degree of prestige and honor? Am I planning to enroll as a pioneer because my parents or marriage mate urged me to do so? Do I think of pioneering as a way to sidestep some compulsory, undesirable occupation? Do I view pioneering as an escape route, the lesser of two evils?
Right motives are vital. The right view of pioneering will enable one to continue finding real joy in this service. “What moved me to pioneer is that I wanted to please Jehovah,” writes one who has pioneered since 1956, “and I wanted others to know the truth the way I knew it. I felt I could do this better by pioneering.”
Do My Circumstances Allow Me to Pioneer?
Having thought about your motives, consider your circumstances. What about your health, for instance? If you are not physically able to devote a hundred hours a month to the field ministry, you would, of course, not apply for regular pioneer service. As one publisher comments: “At present my health does not permit pioneering full time. However, I’m trying to be a good congregation publisher, and at times I vacation pioneer as I am able, always keeping pioneering in mind and before Jehovah in prayer.”
But maybe it is just a matter of not being sure of what you can do. If so, then you might try to spend a hundred hours in the field ministry during a month. You will then know better whether your health will permit you to vacation pioneer a month or two at a time. Why, you may even surprise yourself! Like others, you may find that spending more hours in the field actually improves your health. One sister, in spite of having a collapsed lung and a kidney ailment, decided to vacation pioneer every other month. Results? Not only does she feel that her health has improved, but she also has had the joy of seeing one person with whom she studied get baptized and two more express their desire to become witnesses of Jehovah.
A sister crippled with arthritis was told by her doctor to walk a lot. So she started to pioneer. She still has arthritis but it does not pain her as much. This sister is also able to meet her goals. Even her attitude toward life changed, as she says, “When serving Jehovah you forget self and think of Him and the doing of his will.” Another writes: “Although I have been an active publisher for 26 years, I have been a regular pioneer for only one year. For many years I have been treated for pernicious anemia. Finally I decided to pioneer anyway. Then the seeming miracle happened—I really began to get well. My blood count began to go up and now I need very little medication. I also feel there has been a great spiritual improvement.”
What about your Scriptural obligations? Do your circumstances in this regard allow you to pioneer? For instance, are you married and do you have children? One couple says: “We are pioneering with a little boy two years old. Our schedule is pretty tight, but not so tight as to take away the joy of pioneering.”
Is your mate an unbeliever or opposed to the truth? “Many think it’s hard to pioneer with a husband that is not in the truth,” says one sister, “but it’s not so. I go in the field ministry when my husband is at work. One thing that is very necessary is a schedule. I have to have one in order to get all my housework, washing and ironing done. My husband gets up at 4 a.m., so that is when my day starts.”
Are you a mother with children? “In the fall of 1968,” writes such a mother, “I decided to pioneer, after I had counted the cost. I have three girls, ages 10, 9 and 7. I am a widow on social security and I have a car. First I vacation pioneered for three months, during which time I arranged a workable schedule. So with prayer, study and the aid of Jehovah’s spirit it has been possible.” Another: “I can say this has been the most joyous, upbuilding and happy time in my life. Anyone with children [she has four, ages 4 to 12] who can, should experience this grand blessing of pioneering. It has really been a blessing from Jehovah.”
What about business obligations, such as mortgages or indebtedness for which you are responsible? These circumstances may not permit you to pioneer. However, listen to how one solved this problem: “We sold our home, which would not have been paid for in this system, and we bought a very comfortable trailer which is suiting our needs perfectly. Years ago I never would have believed I would have felt this way. Now, it seems like the only way.”
These, of course, are only some of the personal experiences of many pioneers and how they solved their problems. But someone else’s answers may not fit your circumstances. You yourself must be realistic in evaluating your own situation. You have to face your own problems. If you already have certain Scriptural obligations, those that come with pioneering may overload your carrying capacity, making pioneering impractical and inadvisable. On the other hand, perhaps all that is needed to care for both responsibilities are some adjustments and changes in your way of life. Try organizing your time and developing more efficient work habits.
Writes one sister: “I’ve learned to get my work done each day. We get up at six, and when the children leave for school and I for service, our home is clean. And what’s really surprising, it isn’t hard at all. We have more time for personal study. So even very disorganized people like me can become pioneers, and more organized and useful, if we want to serve Jehovah. My first year as a pioneer has taught me much, and I’m looking forward to learning more.”
Another pioneer tells how she schedules her time: “When the children are in school I build up my hours so that during the two summer months I have more time to be with them. My one dedicated child has vacation pioneered with me for one month every summer too. I wish every mother could experience the joy of having her child follow her example as a pioneer.” The report on another says: “She has a limited income, has no husband, three children to care for, no personal transportation and lives some distance from the Kingdom Hall. However, she makes her hours almost every month. How? Her schedule is the key to her staying in the pioneer work.”
Why Do Some Drop Out?
If you accept this invitation to pioneer, one of your more serious problems will probably be how to stay in this full-time work. True, some pioneers each year are lost due to old age and death—some after twenty, thirty or forty years on the list. Others are victims of “time and unforeseen occurrence”—sickness, accidents, failing health of dependent parents or children, financial difficulties, and so forth. (Eccl. 9:11) However, others (quite a few, in fact) seem to have only themselves to blame, since the difficulties that take them out often could be avoided. It is these avoidable pitfalls that prospective pioneers do well to consider beforehand; also those who have stopped pioneering should retrospectively consider the following points.
Individuals who lack organization in their activity and who have little initiative or ability to handle problems may find it difficult to cope with the everyday routine of the pioneer life. If you are such a person by nature, you would do well to work for a while with some successful pioneer—a veteran in the service, so to speak. In such a case the proverb applies: “Two are better than one . . . for if one of them should fall, the other one can raise his partner up.”—Eccl. 4:9-12.
In this regard a person writes: “I have been a regular pioneer for three years and, as I look back, I know that it was working with other pioneers that encouraged me. I vacation pioneered for three months before I was enrolled as a regular pioneer, and during those three months I worked closely with other pioneers and I was able to observe their regularity in service. Also the joy they manifested as they carried out their ministry really made an impression on me. They let me know that it was serving Jehovah full time that gave them this joy.”
In order to stick in the pioneer work one must have the right mental outlook on life. One cannot have an excessive craving for the dainty luxuries and trivial niceties of life and at the same time find contentment in the pioneer service. “From my experience I feel that one’s mental attitude has more to do with one’s remaining faithful in the pioneer service than all the words of encouragement spoken by others,” is the way one pioneer sister put it.
Pioneering is not for lackadaisical, self-sparing persons. Nor is it for persons who are easily discouraged and who quit when the seas of adversity get rough. One seasoned pioneer says: “Since I have made pioneering my career in life I have found that it is not for lazy persons. It is necessary to put forth a great effort and to work hard in the assignment. In twenty years of pioneering, circumstances have arisen that made it necessary to exert oneself in order to stay on the list. One year, because of a broken ankle, I really had to put forth a great effort to continue.”
Many who once pioneered, after reviewing why they stopped, may now want to accept this invitation to pioneer again. When one such person was encouraged to consider the possibility of reentering the pioneer work, his reply was: “I received your letter regarding my former pioneer service and how I should consider reentering. I can certainly agree with you that there is much joy in serving Jehovah as a pioneer and I would wholeheartedly recommend it for all of Jehovah’s people. Pioneering makes one appreciate more fully the organization. I only hope, as my wife does too, that we can once again pioneer, and soon. We are making the necessary adjustments so we can do this.”
Counting the Cost
Consider not only your heartfelt desires and motives but also your circumstances—health, economic situation and Scriptural responsibilities. All these factors and others must be considered in what you will do personally about pioneering.
That is what one sister did. She said: “I decided to vacation pioneer month by month to make sure I could handle it and still take good care of my family. After several months I realized there was no reason to hold back from turning in my application for regular pioneering.”
One must be willing to sacrifice, conserve and put up with inconveniences and shortages. Zeal, determination, stick-to-itiveness, faith, patience and a deep love for Jehovah and one’s fellowman are needed to be a successful pioneer. They are also qualities that enabled the apostle Paul to carry on in his special assignment.—2 Cor. 6:3-10; 11:23-27.
If you are a little short on some of these points, vacation pioneering may aid you to develop them. There is nothing better for making improvement than practice. Note what two pioneers say about this: “I really think pioneering has helped me in a great manner. It has enormously increased my desire to vindicate Jehovah’s name and help others in the way of salvation.” “Pioneering has helped me gain the stability needed to endure. It has made me appreciate that no matter what is lost or gained we have a share in the vindication of Jehovah’s name.”
After all things are considered, if you really are not able to pioneer, then continue to follow through on Jesus’ counsel to “exert yourselves vigorously” in the service privileges that you now enjoy. (Luke 13:23, 24) But if you are able to care properly for your other Scriptural obligations while at the same time pioneering, either regularly or on a “vacation” basis, then by all means let your heart move you to do so! Accept this invitation, and you will be happy that you did.
The best recommendation and encouragement comes from the pioneers themselves, as this cross section shows: “I’ve been a regular pioneer for the past four months and I’m happier now than ever before.” “As I start my third year pioneering I shall be looking forward to many more rich blessings in Jehovah’s service.” “After five years in this full-time ministry, let me say that a young person is really missing the greatest opportunity if he does not pioneer.” “As I fast approach the age of 69, words fail to express how I value these 23 years of pioneer privileges.” “The deep-down happiness pioneering brings is something that has to be experienced to be appreciated.”