FOLLOWING a typhoon, the river churned with mud and boulders. We needed to reach the other side, but the raging waters had washed the bridge away. My husband, Harvey, and I, along with our Amis-language interpreter, felt scared and helpless. As the brothers on the other side watched anxiously, we began to cross. First, we drove our small car onto the back of a slightly larger truck. Then, without ropes or chains to keep the car in place, the truck slowly drove into the torrent. The passage seemed endless; yet, we made it safely across, all the while beseeching Jehovah in prayer. That was in 1971. We were on the east coast of Taiwan, thousands of miles away from our places of origin. Let me tell you our story.
LEARNING TO LOVE JEHOVAH
Harvey was the eldest of four brothers. His family came into the truth in Midland Junction, Western Australia, during the desperate economic times of the 1930’s. Harvey grew to love Jehovah and got baptized at age 14. He soon learned not to turn down theocratic assignments. As a lad, he once declined to read The Watchtower at the meeting, thinking he was not qualified. But the brother talking with Harvey reasoned, “When someone in Jehovah’s organization asks you to do something, he thinks you are qualified!”—2 Cor. 3:5.
I embraced the truth in England, as did my mother and my older sister. My father accepted the truth much later, but at first he was opposed. Against his wishes, I got baptized when I was not quite ten years old. I set the goal to pioneer and then to become a missionary. However, my father would not allow me to pioneer until I turned 21. I did not intend to wait that long. So when I was just 16, with his blessing I moved to Australia to live with my oldest sister, who had migrated to that country. Finally, when I turned 18, I started pioneering.
In Australia, I met Harvey. We shared the desire to serve Jehovah as missionaries. We got married in 1951. After pioneering together for two years, we were asked to take up circuit work. Our circuit consisted of a large portion of Western Australia, so we were often driving through vast dry and remote areas.
OUR DREAM IS FULFILLED
In 1954, we were invited to attend the 25th class of Gilead. Our dream of becoming missionaries was within reach! We arrived in New York by ship and began a rigorous Bible study course. As part of the curriculum, we had to study Spanish, which was challenging for Harvey because he could not roll his r’s.
During the course, the instructors announced that those interested in an assignment to Japan could sign up for a Japanese-language class. We decided that we would rather let Jehovah’s organization choose our assignment. Shortly afterward, Albert Schroeder, one of the Gilead instructors, learned that we had not put our names down. He said to us: “Think about it some more.” When we hesitated further, Brother Schroeder said: “The other instructors and I have signed you up. See if you can get your tongues around Japanese.” Harvey easily adapted to this language.
We arrived in Japan in 1955 when there were only 500 publishers in the whole country. Harvey was 26, and I was 24. We were assigned to the port city of Kobe, where we served for four years. Then we were delighted to be invited back into the traveling work, and we served near the city of Nagoya. We loved everything about our assignment—the brothers, the cuisine, the countryside. Before long, however, we had another opportunity to avoid saying no to Jehovah.
A NEW ASSIGNMENT BRINGS NEW CHALLENGES
After three years in the traveling work, the Japan branch asked us if we would be willing to go to Taiwan to work among the indigenous Amis people. An apostasy had arisen there, and Taiwan needed a brother fluent in Japanese to help remedy the situation. * We loved our work in Japan, so this was a hard decision. But Harvey had learned never to turn down an assignment, so we agreed to go.
We arrived in November 1962. Taiwan had 2,271 publishers, most of them Amis. But first, we needed to learn Chinese. We had only a textbook and a teacher who did not speak English, but we learned it.
Soon after arriving in Taiwan, Harvey was assigned to be the branch servant. The branch was small, so Harvey could care for his office responsibilities and still work with the Amis brothers up to three weeks per month. He also served as district overseer from time to time, which included giving talks at assemblies. Harvey could have given the talks in Japanese, and the Amis brothers would have understood. However, the government allowed religious meetings to be held only in Chinese. So Harvey, still struggling with the language, gave the talks in Chinese while a brother interpreted them into Amis.
Taiwan was then under martial law, so the brothers had to obtain permits to hold assemblies. Obtaining permits was not easy, and the police often delayed issuing them. If the police had not issued the permit by the week of the assembly, Harvey would just sit in the police station until they did. Since the police were embarrassed to have a foreigner waiting in their station, the tactic worked.
MY FIRST MOUNTAIN CLIMB
During the weeks we spent with the brothers, we would normally walk for an hour or more at a time, climbing mountains and wading across rivers. I remember my first mountain climb. After a quick breakfast, we caught a 5:30 a.m. bus to a distant village, crossed a wide riverbed, and labored up a mountainside. It was so steep that the feet of the brother climbing in front of me were at my eye level.
That morning, Harvey worked with some local brothers in the ministry, while I witnessed alone in a small hamlet where Japanese-speaking people lived. By about one o’clock, I was feeling faint because I had not eaten for several hours. When I finally met up with Harvey, there were no other brothers around. Harvey had bartered some magazines for three raw chicken eggs. He showed me how to eat one by making a small hole in each end and sucking. Although it did not seem very appetizing, I tried one. But who would get the third egg? I got it, since Harvey did not feel able to carry me down the mountain if I passed out from hunger.
A BATH WITH A DIFFERENCE
At one circuit assembly, I faced an unusual challenge. We were staying in a brother’s home right next to a Kingdom Hall. Since the Amis consider bathing very important, the circuit overseer’s wife prepared a bath for us. Harvey was busy, so he asked me to go first. The bath consisted of three receptacles: a bucket of cold water, one of hot water, and an empty basin. To my surprise, the circuit overseer’s wife had placed them outside the house in direct view of the Kingdom Hall where brothers were helping with the preparations for the assembly. I asked her for a curtain of some kind. She brought me a sheet of transparent plastic! I considered retreating into the shadows behind the house, but there geese poked their heads through the fence, ready to nip anyone who got too close. I thought to myself: ‘The brothers are too busy to notice that I am taking a bath. And if I don’t bathe, they will be offended. Let’s get on with it!’ So I did.
LITERATURE FOR THE AMIS
Harvey realized that the Amis brothers were struggling to progress spiritually because many were illiterate and they had no literature. Since the Amis language had recently begun to be written using Roman characters, it seemed practical to teach the brothers to read their own language. This was a huge undertaking, but eventually the brothers were able to study by themselves. Amis literature became available in the late 1960’s, and in 1968, The Watchtower in Amis began to be published.
However, the government restricted publications that were not in Chinese. So to avoid problems, the Amis Watchtower was circulated in various forms. For example, for some time, we used a dual-language Mandarin-Amis edition of The Watchtower. If anyone was curious, we were ostensibly teaching the local people Chinese. Since then, Jehovah’s organization has supplied much Amis-language literature to help these dear people learn Bible truths.—Acts 10:34, 35.
A PERIOD OF CLEANSING
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, many Amis brothers were not living by God’s standards. Since they did not fully understand Bible principles, some were living immorally, getting drunk, or using tobacco and betel nut. Harvey visited many congregations, trying to help the brothers understand Jehovah’s view on these matters. On one such trip, we had the experience mentioned at the outset.
Humble brothers were willing to make changes, but sadly, many others were not, and the number of publishers in Taiwan dropped from over 2,450 to about 900 during a period of 20 years. This was very discouraging. However, we knew that Jehovah would never bless an unclean organization. (2 Cor. 7:1) Eventually, the wrong practices were cleaned out, and with Jehovah’s blessing, Taiwan now has over 11,000 publishers.
From the 1980’s on, we saw the spiritual condition of the Amis congregations improve, and Harvey could spend more time among the Chinese. He was delighted to help the husbands of a number of sisters become believers. I recall that he said how happy he was when one of these men prayed to Jehovah for the first time. I too rejoice to have been able to teach many honesthearted ones to draw close to Jehovah. I even had the joy of serving at the Taiwan branch with the son and daughter of one of my former Bible students.
A SAD LOSS
Now, though, I am without my partner. After almost 59 years of marriage, my dear Harvey died on January 1, 2010, after battling cancer. He had spent nearly six decades in full-time service! I still miss him terribly. But how happy I was to support him in the early days of the work in two fascinating countries! We learned to speak—and in Harvey’s case also to write—two difficult Asian languages.
A few years later, the Governing Body decided that because of my advanced age, it would be best for me to return to Australia. My first thought was, ‘I don’t want to leave Taiwan.’ But Harvey taught me never to say no to Jehovah’s organization, so I was not about to do that. Later, I came to see the wisdom of the decision.
Today, I work in the Australasia branch during the week and with a local congregation on the weekends. At Bethel, I am glad to use my Japanese and Chinese to give tours. Yet, I earnestly await the promised day of the resurrection, knowing that Harvey, who learned never to say no to Jehovah, is now safe in His memory.—John 5:28, 29.
^ par. 14 Although Chinese is now the official language of Taiwan, Japanese had been the official language there for many decades. Thus, Japanese was still the common language among the various ethnic groups in Taiwan.