My husband and I, along with my brother and his wife, were offered a special assignment. Immediately we said, “We’ll do that!” Why did we accept the assignment, 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 nine years old, our father got some books that explained how false religion has tricked people. Father was very impressed with what he read. He did not like that religious leaders taught one thing but did another. A few years later, Bob Atkinson came to our house and played a record of one of Brother Rutherford’s talks. We realized that this talk was from the same group that published the books Father had read. My parents invited Brother Atkinson to have dinner with us every night and answer our many Bible questions. He invited us to attend meetings at a brother’s home a few miles away. We started attending meetings regularly, and a small congregation was formed in Hemsworth. Soon we had zone servants (now known as circuit overseers) staying with us and pioneers from nearby congregations having meals with us. Those brothers and sisters were a very good influence on me.
At that time our family had started 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 when he was 21 years old. Two years later, when I was 16, I too became a pioneer. On weekends I worked with others, but on most weekdays I worked alone. I used a phonograph and a testimony card, that is, a small card with a short and simple Bible message on it. Jehovah blessed me with a Bible student who made wonderful progress. Many in that student’s family eventually came into 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.
During World War II, women had to do work that would support the war. Other religious ministers were exempt from going to war, so we thought that as special pioneers, we would also be exempt. But the courts did not agree, and I was sentenced to 31 days in prison. The following year, when I turned 19, I had to go to court two more times because my conscience still did not allow me to support the war. However, both times the authorities let me go. During this entire experience, I knew that holy spirit was helping me and that Jehovah was making me firm and strong.—Isaiah 41:10, 13.
A NEW PARTNER
Arthur Matthews and I met in 1946. Arthur had just served a three-month prison sentence because he refused to go to war. As soon as he was released from prison, he joined his brother Dennis, a special pioneer, in Hemsworth. Their father had taught them about Jehovah from the time they were very young, and they got baptized when they were teenagers. Soon after they started pioneering together, Dennis was assigned to Ireland. So Arthur was left without a partner. My parents were impressed by the way this hardworking pioneer behaved. So they invited him to stay with them. When I visited, Arthur and I would offer to wash the dishes after meals. Eventually we began writing to each other. During 1948, Arthur had to go to prison for another three months. We married in January 1949, and our goal was to stay in full-time service as long as possible. We were very careful about how we spent our money, and we used vacation time to earn some money picking fruit. With Jehovah’s blessing, we were able to continue pioneering.
A little over a year later, we were assigned to Northern Ireland, first to Armagh and then to Newry, both mostly Catholic towns. There was strong religious prejudice in the area, so we had to be very careful and use good judgment when we preached to people. We had our meetings in a brother and sister’s home that was 16 kilometers (10 miles) away from where we lived. About eight attended the meetings. Sometimes we would stay overnight. We would sleep on the floor and then enjoy a big 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 was kind enough to host us, so the four of us stayed at his home together with Pryce Hughes, then the branch servant in Britain. One night we were discussing a new booklet, God’s Way Is Love, which was produced especially for the people in Ireland. Brother Hughes explained that it was difficult to preach to Catholic people in the Irish Republic. Brothers were being forced to leave the places where they were staying, and priests were urging people to attack the brothers. Pryce said, “We need couples with cars to engage in a special campaign to distribute the booklet throughout the country.”* (See footnote.) That is when we said, “We’ll do that!”
One place where pioneers could always stay in Dublin was at the home of Ma Rutland, a faithful sister who had served Jehovah for many years. We too went to stay there for a while, and we sold some of our belongings. Then, the four of us got on Bob’s motorcycle and sidecar and went to find a car. We found a used one that was in good condition, and we asked the seller to deliver it to us because none of us knew how to drive. Arthur spent that entire evening sitting on the bed, pretending he was shifting the gears of a car. The next morning while he was trying to drive the car out of the garage, a missionary named Mildred Willett (who later married John Barr) came by. She knew how to drive! She helped us practice driving, and after that we were ready to go.
Next, we needed to find a place to live. The brothers had told us to avoid living in a trailer because opposers could set it on fire. So we searched for a home but could not find one. 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 would preach in a territory that was 16 to 24 kilometers (10 to 15 miles) away from the trailer. After moving on to a new area, we would then return to preach to the people where the trailer had been parked.
We visited all the homes in the southeast of the Irish Republic without much opposition. We placed over 20,000 booklets, and we sent the names of all those who were interested to the Britain branch office. What a blessing it is to have hundreds of Witnesses in that area of Ireland now!
BACK TO ENGLAND, THEN ON TO SCOTLAND
Some years later, we were reassigned to south London. After a few weeks, brothers from the Britain branch office called Arthur and asked him to begin circuit work the next day! We were trained for a week, and then we traveled to our circuit in Scotland, so Arthur did not have much time to prepare his talks. But he was always willing to do any assignment in God’s service, no matter how difficult it was. His example greatly encouraged me. We really enjoyed our assignment in the circuit work. After having been in unassigned territory for some years, it was a wonderful blessing to be among so many brothers and sisters.
When Arthur was invited to attend Gilead School in 1962, we had a big decision to make. The course would last ten months, but I could not go with him because I was not invited. We decided that it was right for Arthur to accept this invitation. Because I would not have a pioneer partner, the branch sent me back to Hemsworth as a special pioneer. When Arthur returned a year later, we were assigned to the district work. Our territory included Scotland, northern England, and Northern Ireland.
A NEW ASSIGNMENT IN IRELAND
In 1964, Arthur was assigned to be the branch servant in the Irish Republic. At first, I was nervous about going to Bethel because I really enjoyed the traveling work. Looking back now, I am grateful for the privilege of serving at Bethel. I believe that if you accept an assignment even when you don’t really feel like doing it, Jehovah will always bless you. In Bethel, I did office work, packed literature, cooked, and cleaned. For some time, we were also in the district work and were able to meet brothers throughout the country. This, along with seeing our Bible students make progress in the truth, created a strong bond with our brothers and sisters in Ireland. What a blessing!
AN IMPORTANT EVENT FOR JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES IN IRELAND
The first international convention in Ireland was held in Dublin in 1965.* (See footnote.) Even though there was intense opposition, the convention was a great success. A total of 3,948 attended, and 65 got baptized. The 3,500 international delegates stayed at the homes of people in Dublin. Every one of these householders received a letter of appreciation. And the householders praised the good conduct of the brothers as well. It was truly a positive change for Ireland.
In 1966 both north and south Ireland were united under the Dublin branch office. This unity was very different from what was happening on the island in general, where people were divided because of politics and religion. We were thrilled to see so many Catholics coming into the truth and serving Jehovah together with their 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. At that time, I was beginning to worry about Arthur’s health. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Sadly, on May 20, 2015, my companion of 66 years died.
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 makes me happy to learn how much others loved Arthur. I have received letters from brothers and sisters in Ireland, Britain, and even the United States. These letters, along with encouragement I received from Arthur’s brother Dennis, his wife, Mavis, and my nieces Ruth and Judy, have helped me more than I could ever describe.
A scripture that has encouraged me very much 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.” It truly comforts me to know that Jehovah is waiting patiently to solve all our problems and to give us exciting assignments in his new world.
When I think about the past, I can see how Jehovah has guided and blessed the preaching work in Ireland! I feel honored to be one of many who helped in this work. It is very true that doing what Jehovah asks of us always brings blessings.