We can never know exactly what will happen in our life. It can be uncertain at times or even very difficult. But Jehovah blesses people who lean on him, not on their own understanding. This is what my wife and I have learned during our long and rewarding life. Here is a little of our history.
MY FATHER and mother met in 1919 at the convention of the International Bible Students in Cedar Point, Ohio, U.S.A. They got married later that same year. I was born in 1922, and my brother, Paul, was born two years later. My wife, Grace, was born in 1930. Her parents, Roy and Ruth Howell, were raised as Bible Students, and her grandparents were also Bible Students and friends of Brother Charles Taze Russell.
I met Grace in 1947, and we got married on July 16, 1949. Before we got married, we spoke honestly about our future. We decided to work in the full-time ministry together and not to have children. On October 1, 1950, we began our pioneer service. Then in 1952, we were invited to do circuit work.
TRAVELING WORK AND GILEAD TRAINING
Both of us felt that we needed much help to succeed in our new assignment. While I learned from mature brothers, I also wanted Grace to receive good training. I spoke with Marvin Holien, who was a family friend and an experienced traveling overseer, and asked: “Grace is young and lacks experience. Can you recommend someone she can work with for a while to get some training?” He said that Edna Winkle was an experienced pioneer who could help her a lot. Later, Grace said that Edna made her feel comfortable speaking to people at the doors, knew how to respond when people disagreed, and taught her how to listen carefully and choose the best answer. Grace also said, “She was just what I needed!”
Grace and I served in two circuits in the state of Iowa. The circuits also included parts of the states of Minnesota and South Dakota. Then we were transferred to New York Circuit 1, which included the areas of Brooklyn and Queens. We will never forget how inexperienced we felt. The circuit included the Brooklyn Heights Congregation, which met in the Kingdom Hall at Bethel and had many experienced Bethel family members. After I gave my first service talk to that congregation, Brother Nathan Knorr came up to me and said: “Malcolm, you gave us some counsel to work on, and it was appropriate. Don’t forget, if you don’t help us by giving us kindly counsel, you are of little value to the organization. Keep up the good work.” After the meeting, I told this to Grace. Later, we went upstairs to our Bethel room. We were so tired from all the stress that we cried.
“If you don’t help us by giving us kindly counsel, you are of little value to the organization. Keep up the good work”
After a few months, we received a letter inviting us to attend the 24th class of Gilead School, which would graduate in February 1955. Before going to school, we were told that we might not be sent out as missionaries. Instead, the training would help us to be more useful in the traveling work. Being in the school was wonderful, and it also taught us to be humble.
When we finished the course, we were assigned to serve in the district work. Our district included the states of Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Then, in December 1955, we were surprised to receive a letter from Brother Knorr saying: “Be honest with me now. If you say you are willing to come to Bethel and remain here . . . or if you are willing to take a foreign assignment after you are at Bethel for a while, let me know. If you prefer the district and the circuit work, I would like to know that.” We replied that we would be happy to do whatever we were assigned to do. Right away we were told to come to Bethel!
EXCITING YEARS AT BETHEL
During those exciting years at Bethel, I was assigned to give talks and teach in many places in the United States. I helped train many young men who would later have great responsibilities in Jehovah’s organization. Later, I worked as a secretary for Brother Knorr in the office that organized the worldwide preaching work.
To me, the years I spent in the Service Department were especially enjoyable. There I worked with T. J. (Bud) Sullivan. He was the overseer of that department for many years. I also learned much from others. For example, I learned a lot from Fred Rusk, who was assigned to train me. I remember asking him why he made so many corrections to my letters. He laughed and said, “Malcolm, when you say something orally, it can be explained with further words, but when you write something, especially when it comes from here, it has to be as sound and as accurate as possible.” Then he told me: “Be of good courage. You are doing well, and in time, you will be fine.”
During our years at Bethel, Grace had several different jobs, including cleaning rooms as a housekeeper. She enjoyed the work. Even now, when we meet some of the brothers who were young men when we were at Bethel, they tell Grace with a smile, “You really taught me how to make a bed, and I can tell you my mother liked what you did.” Grace also enjoyed working in the Magazine, Correspondence, and Tape Duplicating departments. Those different assignments helped her to learn that no matter what we do or where we are, serving in Jehovah’s organization is an honor and a blessing. After all these years, she still feels the same way.
CHANGES WE HAVE MADE
About 1975, we began to realize that our parents were getting older and needed more help. Eventually, we had to make a difficult decision. We did not want to leave Bethel and the brothers and sisters we loved very much. Still, I felt that it was my responsibility to help care for our parents. Later, we left Bethel, but we hoped to return when our situation changed.
To earn money for our family, I began selling insurance. I will always remember what one manager told me while I was in training: “This business is built on making evening calls. That’s when you can see the people. Nothing is more important than to be there every evening, making calls.” I told him that I respected his experience and what he said, but I had always put worship to God first in my life and I was not going to change now. I agreed to make some evening calls, but I told him that on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, I needed to attend very important meetings. Jehovah has truly blessed me for not missing meetings because of secular work.
We were with my mother when she died in a nursing home in July 1987. The nurse in charge came to Grace and said: “Mrs. Allen, go home and get some rest. Everyone knows you were here all the time for your mother-in-law. Have peace of mind and self-respect.”
In December 1987, we applied to serve again at Bethel, the place we loved. But only days later, we learned that Grace had colon cancer. After surgery and a successful recovery, we were told that her cancer was gone. During that time, we also received a letter from Bethel that recommended we continue serving with the local congregation. We were determined to continue working hard for Jehovah.
Later, I found a job in Texas. We thought the warmer weather there would be good for us, and it has been. Ever since we moved here 25 years ago, we have been surrounded by loving brothers and sisters who have become our very close friends.
LESSONS WE HAVE LEARNED
Over the years, Grace has suffered colon, thyroid, and breast cancer, but she has never complained about her life. She has always cooperated with me and respected me as head of the family. People often ask her about the secret to our successful marriage and our happiness. She explains that we are best friends, we communicate every day, we love to spend time together, and we never go to sleep while we are angry with each other. Of course, sometimes we irritate each other, but we always forgive, and that truly works.
“Always lean on Jehovah and accept what he permits”
During all our trials, there are several good lessons that we have learned:
No matter what happens, always look to the Bible for direction. Being obedient to Jehovah and his laws is very important. Either we are obedient or not, but we cannot be both.—Romans 6:16; Hebrews 4:12.
Know that no other organization has Jehovah’s blessing and favor.—John 6:68.
We have been married for almost 65 years now, and we have each served Jehovah for more than 75 years. It has been wonderful serving Jehovah together for so long. We hope and pray that all our brothers and sisters will also be able to feel how rewarding life is when you lean on Jehovah.