I Have Enjoyed Learning and Teaching About Jehovah
AS I grew up in Easton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., I was focused on going to university, determined to make something of myself. I enjoyed learning and did well in mathematics and science classes. In 1956 a civil rights organization gave me 25 dollars for having the highest grades among the black students. Later, my goals changed. Why?
HOW I LEARNED ABOUT JEHOVAH
In the early 1940’s, my parents studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. That study did not continue, but my mother did continue to receive copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. In 1950 an international convention was held in New York City, and my family accepted the invitation to attend.
Soon after that, Brother Lawrence Jeffries started calling on us. He took an interest in helping me. At first, I disagreed with him about the stand of Jehovah’s Witnesses, their noninvolvement in politics and the military. I argued that if everyone in America refused to go to war, enemies could come and take over the whole country. Brother Jeffries patiently reasoned: “What do you think Jehovah God would do if all the people in America were serving him and enemies came to attack them?” His comment on that and other issues helped me to see that my objection was baseless. That aroused my interest.
I spent hours reading older issues of The Watchtower and Awake! that my mother had put in the cellar. In time, I realized that I was learning the truth, so I accepted Brother Jeffries’ offer of a Bible study. I also began attending meetings regularly. The truth filled my heart, and I became a publisher of the good news. My goals changed when I understood that “the great day of Jehovah [was] near.” (Zeph. 1:14) Instead of setting my sights on university, I wanted to help others to learn Bible truth.
I graduated from high school on June 13, 1956, and three days later, I got baptized at a circuit assembly. Little did I realize that so many blessings would come from devoting my life to learning and teaching about Jehovah.
LEARNING AND TEACHING AS A PIONEER
Six months after my baptism, I became a regular pioneer. The December 1956 Kingdom Ministry included the article “Can You Serve Where the Need Is Great?” That invitation was for me too. I wanted to help where few were preaching the good news.—Matt. 24:14.
I moved to Edgefield, South Carolina. The congregation there consisted of only four publishers. I brought the number to five. We held meetings in the front room of a brother’s home. Each month, I spent 100 hours in the field ministry. I was busy taking the lead in field service and handling meeting parts. Interestingly, the more I did, the more I learned about Jehovah.
One woman with whom I studied the Bible owned a funeral parlor in Johnston, a town a few miles away. She kindly gave me some much-needed part-time work and let us use a small building as our Kingdom Hall.
Brother Jolly Jeffries, the son of the brother who had studied with me, moved in from Brooklyn, New York, and became my pioneer partner. We roomed in a small trailer that a brother lent us.
Wages were low in the South. We earned two or three dollars for a day’s work. One time, I had just used my last few coins to buy some food at the grocery store. When I came out, a man approached me and asked: “Do you want to work? I’ll pay you a dollar an hour.” He gave me three days of work cleaning up a construction site. It seemed clear that Jehovah was helping me to stay in Edgefield. I did, though, go to the 1958 international convention held in New York City.
On the second day of the convention, something special happened. I met Ruby Wadlington, who was serving as a regular pioneer in Gallatin, Tennessee. Having a mutual interest in missionary service, we attended the Gilead meeting at that convention. Later, we began to write to each other. Then I was invited to Gallatin to give a public talk. I took that opportunity to ask her to marry me. I moved to Ruby’s congregation, and we were married in 1959.
LEARNING AND TEACHING IN THE CONGREGATION
When I was 23 years old, I was appointed as the congregation servant (now called coordinator of the body of elders) in Gallatin. We were the first congregation that Charles Thompson visited as a circuit overseer. He had much experience; yet, he asked for my input about what the brothers needed and how other circuit overseers cared for such things. I learned from him that it is good to ask questions and get all the facts before handling a matter.
In May 1964, I was invited to attend the one-month Kingdom Ministry School held in South Lansing, New York. The brothers who conducted this school cultivated in me a strong desire to learn more and to grow as a spiritual person.
LEARNING AND TEACHING IN CIRCUIT AND DISTRICT WORK
Ruby and I received an invitation to enter the circuit work in January 1965. We were assigned to a circuit that stretched over a wide area, from Knoxville, Tennessee, almost to Richmond, Virginia. It included congregations in North Carolina, Kentucky, and West Virginia. I served only the black congregations because at the time segregation prevailed in the southern United States, so blacks could not meet together with whites. The brothers had little materially, and we learned to share what we had with those in need. A longtime circuit overseer taught me a vital lesson: “Be a brother. Don’t go into a congregation like a boss. You can help them if they view you as their brother.”
While we were visiting one small congregation, Ruby started a study with a young woman who had a one-year-old daughter. When no one in the congregation was in a position to conduct the study, Ruby did so by mail. On our next visit, the woman came to every meeting. When two special pioneer sisters moved in, they continued the study, and soon she got baptized. Some 30 years later in 1995, at Patterson Bethel, a young sister introduced herself to Ruby. It was the daughter of the woman with whom Ruby had studied. The daughter and her husband were students in the 100th class of Gilead School.
Our second circuit covered central Florida. About this time we needed a car, so we bought one and at an excellent price. However, the first week, the water pump failed. We had no money left to repair it. I called a brother who I thought might be able to help us. He had one of his workers fix the car and would not take any money for the repair. He just said, “It’s taken care of.” He even gave us some money as a gift! That was a beautiful example of how Jehovah cares for his servants. It reminded us to be generous with others.
Whenever we visited a congregation, we stayed in the homes of the brothers. As a result, we made many lasting friends. One day, I left my partly completed report regarding the congregation in my typewriter. When I returned that evening, I learned that the three-year-old son of the family we were staying with had “helped” me finish the report. I teased him about it for many years.
In 1971, I received a letter assigning me to serve as district overseer in New York City. We were shocked! When we moved there, I was only 34 years old. The brothers gave me, their first black district overseer, a warm welcome.
As district overseer, I enjoyed teaching about Jehovah each weekend at a circuit assembly. Many of the circuit overseers had more experience than I did. One of them had given my baptism talk. Another brother, Theodore Jaracz, later became a member of the Governing Body. There were also many experienced brothers who were serving at Brooklyn Bethel. I was so grateful that the circuit overseers and the Bethelites made me feel comfortable. I saw firsthand that these were loving shepherds, who relied on God’s Word and loyally supported the organization. Their humility made it easy for me to serve as the district overseer.
BACK TO THE CIRCUIT WORK
In 1974 the Governing Body assigned another group of circuit overseers to the district work, and I was to serve again as a circuit overseer—this time in South Carolina. Happily, by then the congregations and circuits could be integrated, which pleased the brothers.
In late 1976, I was assigned to a Georgia circuit between Atlanta and Columbus. I vividly remember giving the graveside service for five black children who died when arsonists firebombed their home. The mother was hospitalized because of her injuries. A constant stream of Jehovah’s Witnesses, both black and white, came to the hospital to comfort the parents. I saw that the brothers’ love was outstanding. Such compassion can help God’s servants deal with the most difficult circumstances.
LEARNING AND TEACHING AT BETHEL
In 1977 we were asked to come to Brooklyn Bethel for a few months to help with a project. When that was about finished, two members of the Governing Body met with me and asked if Ruby and I would be willing to serve permanently at Bethel. We accepted the invitation.
For 24 years, I worked in the Service Department, where brothers often deal with sensitive and complex questions. Over the years, the Governing Body has provided guidance in harmony with Bible principles. This is used as the basis for answering questions, but it is also the basis for training circuit overseers, elders, and pioneers. This training material has helped many to grow spiritually. That, in turn, has enriched Jehovah’s organization.
From 1995 to 2018, I visited various branch offices as a headquarters representative, formerly called a zone overseer. I met with the Branch Committees, Bethelites, and missionaries to encourage them and to help them with any concerns. In turn, Ruby and I have always been upbuilt by the experiences shared with us. For example, we visited Rwanda in 2000. We were deeply moved to hear how the brothers and the Bethel family had lived through the genocide of 1994. Many had lost loved ones. Despite what they endured, those brothers displayed faith, hope, and joy.
We are now in our 80’s. For the last 20 years, I have served with the United States Branch Committee. I never received a university education; yet, I have received the highest education from Jehovah and his organization. This has equipped me to teach others Bible truths that can benefit them eternally. (2 Cor. 3:5; 2 Tim. 2:2) I have seen how the Bible’s message has helped people to improve their life and to develop a relationship with their Creator. (Jas. 4:8) Whenever we can, Ruby and I continue to encourage others to cherish the privilege of learning about Jehovah and teaching Bible truths to others—the greatest privilege a servant of Jehovah can enjoy!