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Jehovah Has ‘Made My Paths Straight’

Jehovah Has ‘Made My Paths Straight’

A YOUNG brother once asked me, “What is your favorite scripture?” Without hesitation, I replied, “Proverbs 3, verses 5 and 6, which states: ‘Trust in Jehovah with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he will make your paths straight.’” Yes, Jehovah has indeed made my paths straight. How?


In the 1920’s before they got married, my parents learned the truth. I was born in the beginning of 1939. As a youngster in England, I accompanied my parents to Christian meetings and enjoyed the Theocratic Ministry School. To this day, I recall how I felt climbing on top of a box to be tall enough to see over the speaker’s stand to present my first talk. I was six years old and very nervous, looking out at all the grown-ups in the audience.

Street witnessing with my parents

For field service, my father typed a simple presentation on a card for me to use in the ministry. I was eight years old when for the first time I went to a door alone. How thrilled I was when the householder read my card and right away accepted the book “Let God Be True”! I ran down the street to tell my father. The ministry and the meetings brought me joy and helped develop my desire to serve Jehovah full-time.

Bible truth began to touch me deeper after my father obtained a subscription to The Watchtower for me. I took a real interest in each copy as it arrived in the mail. My trust in Jehovah grew and led me to make a dedication to him.

As a family we were delegates to the 1950 Theocracy’s Increase Assembly in New York. On Thursday, August 3, the theme of the day was “Missionary Day.” That day, Brother Carey Barber, who later served on the Governing Body, gave the baptism talk. After he asked the baptism candidates the two questions at the end of his talk, I stood up and said, “Yes!” I was 11 years of age but realized that I had taken an important step. However, I feared going into the water because I had not yet learned to swim. My uncle accompanied me to the pool and assured me that everything would be fine. Indeed, it was over so quickly that my feet never touched the bottom of the pool. I was handed from one brother to another; one baptized me, and another lifted me from the pool. Ever since that important day, Jehovah has continued to make my paths straight.


When I left school, I wanted to pioneer, but my teachers urged me to pursue higher education. I succumbed to their pressure and went to university; however, I soon realized that I could not remain firm in the truth and at the same time concentrate on my studies, so I decided to leave. I took the matter to Jehovah in prayer and wrote a respectful resignation letter, leaving at the end of that first year. With full trust in Jehovah, I immediately took up pioneer service.

In July 1957 my full-time service began in the town of Wellingborough. I asked brothers at the London Bethel to recommend an experienced pioneer brother whom I could join. Brother Bert Vaisey became my mentor, and his diligence helped me to establish a good field service routine. The congregation consisted of six elderly sisters and Brother Vaisey and me. Preparing for and participating in all the meetings gave me many opportunities to build trust in Jehovah and to express my faith.

After a short time in prison for refusal to engage in military service, I met Barbara, a special pioneer sister. We got married in 1959, willing to go wherever assigned. At first, it was Lancashire in northwest England. Then in January 1961, I was invited to attend a one-month course of the Kingdom Ministry School at London Bethel. To my surprise, at the end of the course, I was assigned to the traveling work. For two weeks, I received training from an experienced circuit overseer in the city of Birmingham, and Barbara was allowed to join me. Then we were off to our own assignment back in the counties of Lancashire and Cheshire.


While on vacation in August 1962, we received a letter from the branch office. Enclosed were application forms for Gilead School! After making the matter a subject of prayer, Barbara and I completed the forms and quickly returned them to the branch office as requested. Five months later, we were on our way to Brooklyn, New York, to attend the 38th class of Gilead, a ten-month course of theocratic education.

Instruction at Gilead taught us not only about God’s Word and his organization but also about our brotherhood. Still in our mid-20’s, we learned much from the other students in our class. It was my privilege to have a work assignment each day alongside Brother Fred Rusk, one of our instructors. One outstanding lesson he emphasized was the need always to counsel righteously, that is, to make sure that advice given was solidly based on the Scriptures. Among those who gave lectures during our course were such experienced brothers as Nathan Knorr, Frederick Franz, and Karl Klein. And how we students learned from the humble example of Brother A. H. Macmillan, whose lecture gave us insight into Jehovah’s guidance during the time of testing from 1914 to early 1919!


Toward the end of the course, Brother Knorr told Barbara and me that we were to be assigned to Burundi in Africa. We rushed to the Bethel library to look up in the Yearbook how many publishers were serving in Burundi at that time. To our surprise, nowhere did we find figures for that country! Yes, we were going to virgin territory, located on a continent about which we knew very little. Oh, how our nerves kicked in! Earnest prayer helped calm them.

In our new assignment, everything was so different from anything we had ever experienced​—the climate, the culture, and the language. Now we had to master French. We also faced the challenge of where to live. Two days after we arrived, one of our Gilead classmates, Harry Arnott, visited us on his way back to his assignment in Zambia. He helped us locate an apartment, which became our first missionary home. Soon, though, we began to get opposition from local authorities, who knew nothing about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Just as we were beginning to enjoy our assignment, the authorities informed us that we would not be able to stay without a valid work permit. Sadly, we had to leave and adjust to a new country, this time Uganda.

Trust in Jehovah alleviated our fears about arriving in Uganda without a visa. A Canadian brother serving where the need was greater in Uganda managed to explain our situation to an immigration officer, and we were given some months during which we could apply to legalize our residence. That favorable development indicated to us that Jehovah was helping us.

Conditions in this new assignment were very different from those in Burundi. The Kingdom work was already established, although there were only 28 Witnesses in the entire country. In the territory, we found many who spoke English. We soon realized, however, that in order to help interested ones progress, we needed to learn at least one of the many indigenous languages. We started preaching in the Kampala area, where Luganda was widely spoken, so we decided to concentrate on that language. It took us several years to become fluent, but what a difference it made to the effectiveness of our work! We began to understand better the spiritual needs of our Bible students. They, in turn, opened their hearts and expressed how they felt about what they were learning.


On our “scouting safari,” Uganda

Our joy of finding humble people who were receptive to the truth was compounded by another unexpected privilege​—that of serving in the traveling work throughout the country. Under the direction of the Kenya branch, we embarked on a “scouting safari” to find suitable locations for special pioneers who could open up the field. Several times we experienced outstanding hospitality from people who had never met Witnesses before. They made us feel welcome and even prepared meals for us.

A different kind of safari came next. From Kampala, I traveled two days by train to the Kenyan port of Mombasa and then onward by ship to the Seychelles, an island group out in the Indian Ocean. Later, from 1965 to 1972, Barbara joined me on regular visits to the Seychelles. During that time, the two isolated publishers became a group and then a thriving congregation. Other “safaris” took me to visit the brothers in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Sudan.

Back in Uganda the political climate changed rapidly following a military coup. The years of terror that followed brought home to me the wisdom of obeying the instruction to “pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar.” (Mark 12:17) At one point, all resident foreign nationals were required to register at the police post nearest their home. Promptly we obeyed. A few days later, while driving through Kampala, secret police officers approached another missionary and me. Our hearts were pounding! They accused us of being spies and escorted us to the main police station where we explained that we were peaceful missionaries. Our protests that we had already registered with the police fell on deaf ears. Under armed guard we were driven to the police post nearest the missionary home. How relieved we were when the desk officer, who knew we had registered earlier, recognized us and directed our guard to release us!

In those days, we often experienced tense moments at military roadblocks, especially when stopped by soldiers who had been drinking heavily. Every time, though, we prayed and felt an inner calm as we were allowed to pass through safely. Sadly, in 1973 all foreign missionaries were ordered to leave Uganda.

Mimeographing Our Kingdom Ministry, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire branch

Again we received an assignment change, this time to Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa. What an adjustment this meant for us: learning a completely new culture and once again speaking French all the time and adapting to life with missionaries from different backgrounds! Yet, once more we saw Jehovah’s direction as humble, honesthearted ones from the field quickly responded to the good news. Together we saw how our trust in Jehovah made our paths straight.

Then suddenly Barbara was diagnosed with cancer. Despite our international travels for specialized treatment, by 1983 it became obvious that we could no longer serve in our assignment in Africa. What a disappointment this was for both of us!


Barbara’s cancer progressed while we were serving at London Bethel, and she eventually died. The Bethel family proved to be a wonderful support. One couple in particular helped me to adjust and continue to trust in Jehovah. Later I met a commuter Bethel sister who had experience as a special pioneer and whose love for Jehovah showed that she was a spiritual person. Ann and I got married in 1989, and we have served at London Bethel ever since.

With Ann in front of the new Britain Bethel site

From 1995 to 2018, I enjoyed the privilege of serving as a world headquarters representative (formerly called zone overseer), visiting nearly 60 different countries. In each, I saw living proof of how Jehovah blesses his servants under various circumstances.

In 2017 our visits took me back to Africa. What a joy it was to introduce Ann to Burundi and for both of us to marvel at the growth in that field! On the very street where I preached from house to house back in 1964, there is now a beautiful Bethel home serving more than 15,500 publishers.

I was overjoyed when I received the itinerary for my visits in 2018. There on the list of countries was Côte d’Ivoire. Our arrival in Abidjan, the capital, was like coming home for me. As I glanced at the telephone listing, who should be living next door to our Bethel guest room but a brother whose name I recognized, Sossou. I remembered that he had served as city overseer when I was in Abidjan. But I was mistaken. It was another Sossou​—his son.

Jehovah has been true to his word. Through numerous adversities, I have come to appreciate that when we trust in Jehovah, he really does make our paths straight. Now we eagerly anticipate following the unending path that will become even brighter with life in the new world.​—Prov. 4:18.