Sharing the Good News in Faraway Places
As told by Helen Jones
I was walking through a crowded market in Bangalore, India, in the early 1970’s. Suddenly, a water buffalo picked me up by its horns and flung me to the ground. It was about to crush me when an Indian woman came to my rescue. What was I doing in India?
I WAS born in 1931 and grew up in the beautiful city of Vancouver, Canada. My parents were moral people but did not attend church. However, I had strong spiritual yearnings, so as a youth I attended Sunday school and summer Bible classes.
In 1950, at the age of 19, I married Frank Schiller, who had four children from a previous marriage. Two years later we had a son. We wanted to have religion in our lives; but Frank had been divorced, and no church we consulted would accept us. Frank was disgusted, so he refused to talk about religion.
Learning Bible Truths
In 1954 my brother excitedly told me what he had been shown in the Bible by a fellow worker, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Although I had a lot of questions and knew where the Witnesses held their meetings, I did not attend because of what Frank thought about religion. In time, two Witnesses called at our door. I wanted to know what their religion taught about divorce, and they referred me to the Bible, showing me the Scriptural grounds for divorce. (Matthew 19:3-9) They assured me that through a regular Bible study, my Bible questions could be answered.
Frank was furious, wanting nothing to do with the Witnesses. In 1955, I attended the Memorial of Christ’s death, and when I got home, I excitedly began telling him what I had learned from the Bible. “That’s not possible!” he yelled. “If you can prove that to me from the Bible, I’ll even go to one of your dumb meetings!”
I handed the Bible to him, and he took it gently with obvious reverence. We looked up the texts I had written down, and I said very little, just letting the Bible speak for itself. Frank did not argue and seemed pensive the rest of the evening.
In time, I reminded him of his promise to attend a meeting. He reluctantly replied, “Well, I’ll go just once to see what is going on.” The Bible discourse addressed the matter of wives being in subjection to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22, 23, 33) The information really impressed him. About the same time, Frank attended a Watchtower Study based on the article “Be Satisfied by Work.” Being a hardworking man, Frank just loved that information. After that study, he never missed a meeting. Soon Frank was zealous in the ministry, and I was holding Bible studies with people who progressed to baptism. Frank and I, along with my mother and my brother, were baptized in symbol of our dedication to God that same year.
A Desire to Do More
At our district convention in 1957 in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A., there was a talk on serving where the need for Kingdom proclaimers was greater. ‘Oh, Jehovah, I want to go too,’ I prayed. ‘Please help us to go someplace where we are needed.’ But Frank was concerned about his responsibility to feed and support our family.—1 Timothy 5:8.
The following year our family attended the convention in New York City held simultaneously in Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds. Over 253,000 were in attendance for the featured public talk! Frank was moved by what he saw and heard. So on returning home, we selected Kenya, Africa, to be our new home, since English was spoken there and we would also be able to find good schools for the children.
In 1959 we sold our house, loaded up our belongings, and drove to Montreal, Canada. From there we went by ship to London, England, and from England on another ship, we sailed through the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea into the Indian Ocean. Finally, we arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, on the east coast of Africa. The next day we caught a train to Nairobi, the country’s capital city.
Blessings in Africa
At that time the preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kenya was banned, so we preached with caution. Several couples from other countries were also living in Kenya, and we foreigners were allowed to stay. The number in attendance at our meetings had to be kept to less than ten. This meant that our families, including the children, had a full share in them.
Shortly after arriving in Kenya, we found a place to live and Frank found a job. The first woman I met in the house-to-house ministry accepted a Bible study and eventually became a pioneer, as full-time ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses are called. Another study I conducted was with a teenage Sikh girl we called Goody. She remained firm despite pressure from her family and the Sikh community. After Goody Lull was expelled from home, she moved in with a Witness family, dedicated her life to Jehovah, became a pioneer, and later graduated from the Gilead missionary school.
Our family had some trials. Our oldest boy became ill with rheumatic fever, and Frank was seriously burned while working on a car and lost his job. In time, he obtained employment some 700 miles [1,000 km] away in Dar es Salaam, capital of Tanganyika (now Tanzania). So we loaded our things in a vehicle and made the long trip there. Dar es Salaam then had a small congregation, which welcomed us.
Although the preaching work was then under ban in Tanzania, the ban was not rigidly enforced. In 1963, Milton Henschel, a representative from the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States, visited us. During one of his talks at Karimjee Hall, the finest auditorium in the country, an elderly man dressed as a poor person sat down beside me. I greeted him and shared my Bible and songbook. As the program ended, I invited him to come again. When he left, the local Witnesses rushed up to me.
“Do you know who that was?” they asked. “That was the mayor of Dar es Salaam!” Earlier he had threatened to have our assembly shut down. He apparently planned to use the attitude that he assumed I would have toward him as a pretense to do so. But he was so impressed by the kindness and personal interest shown that he allowed the rest of the assembly to continue without interference. There were 274 in attendance, and 16 were baptized!
While we were in Tanzania, the country gained independence. After that, local people were favored for employment over aliens. Most foreigners had to leave the country, but Frank’s persistence in seeking employment finally paid off when he was told there was a need for a master mechanic to keep some diesel locomotives going. That allowed us to stay for four more years. When Frank’s contract terminated, we returned to Canada, where we remained until the last of our children grew up and married. We still felt young and were anxious to do more.
On to India
In 1970, at the recommendation of the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bombay (now Mumbai), we moved to Bangalore, a city of about 1.6 million at the time. It was there that I had the narrow escape from the horns of the water buffalo. There was then an English-speaking congregation of 40 and an isolated group that spoke Tamil. Frank studied with several men who progressed in knowledge of the Bible and later became Christian elders. I also studied with families who came to serve Jehovah.
One lady named Gloria lived in a very poor section of town. When I first called on her, she invited me in. Since there was no furniture, we sat on the floor. I left a copy of The Watchtower, and from this she cut out a Bible quotation from Revelation 4:11 and pasted it on the wall where she could see it every day. It included the words: “You are worthy, Jehovah,” which was such a beautiful phrase to her. A year later she was baptized.
Frank was invited to work for a year at the branch in Bombay and to oversee the construction of the first Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in India. The Assembly Hall was made simply by adding an upper floor to the existing branch building. There were then only a little over 3,000 Witnesses in all of India, and fewer than 10 served at the branch. In 1975, when our funds were depleted, we were sad to leave the friends we had come to love so dearly.
To Africa Again
Ten years passed, and Frank was now eligible for his retirement pension. So we made ourselves available for an international program to construct branch offices. A letter arrived asking us to go to Igieduma, Nigeria, as construction was in progress there. While in Igieduma, Frank studied the Bible with a man in a nearby village who made progress and later became a member of the Nigeria branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Next, we went to Zaire to work on branch construction. Soon afterward, the preaching work was banned and our passports were confiscated. Frank suffered a heart attack on the job but was able to rest during the ban. Later, all construction workers had to leave, and we were sent to nearby Liberia. There, at the Monrovia branch office, Frank was asked to repair the generator. When our visas ran out in 1986, we again had to return to Canada.
Finally to Ecuador
Shortly afterward, we heard that our good friend Andy Kidd had moved to Ecuador and was enjoying the preaching work there. Andy was the only elder in his local congregation, so he often had to care for most of the meeting parts. At his invitation, we visited the Ecuador branch in 1988 and were made to feel welcome.
We found a comfortable home in which to live; but we had to learn Spanish, and Frank was 71. During the next two years, even with limited Spanish, we were able to assist 12 people to baptism. Frank was asked to work on the Ecuador branch construction project. He also studied the Bible with the husband of one of the first Witnesses in Guayaquil. This man, who had been opposed for 46 years, became our friend and spiritual brother.
A Huge Loss
We settled near the small town of Ancón, by the Pacific Ocean, where we were able to help with the construction of a new Kingdom Hall. Sadly, on November 4, 1998, after giving the final talk at the Service Meeting, Frank suffered a heart attack, and he died that night. Our spiritual brothers and sisters were so supportive! The next day Frank was buried in the cemetery across the road from the Kingdom Hall. No words can describe the pain of losing a loved one in death.
Yet again, I had to return to Canada, this time alone, to care for family and legal matters. Despite my sorrow, Jehovah did not forget me. I received a letter from the Ecuador branch letting me know that I was welcome back. So I returned and obtained a small apartment near the branch office. Keeping busy at the branch, as well as in the ministry, helped me to cope with the pain of losing Frank, but I still felt very much alone.
Pressing On in the Work
In time, I became acquainted with Junior Jones. He had come to Ecuador from the United States in 1997 to pioneer. We shared the same goals and enjoyed the same things. We were married in October 2000. Junior had experience in construction, so we were invited to work on finishing up the Assembly Hall in Cuenca, a city high up in the Andes Mountains. Then, on April 30, 2006, Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses came from New York and gave the dedication talk, with 6,554 in attendance.
Who could have imagined that in faraway places—Africa, India, and South America—the Kingdom-preaching work would have grown so wonderfully? Now, Junior and I have no thoughts of retiring. My more than 50 years in Jehovah’s service has passed so fast that it seems just like yesterday that I started. And I know that when the new world arrives, the time in which we are now living will seem to have passed just as quickly.—Revelation 21:3-5; 22:20.
[Map/Picture on page 15]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
Where We Served
CANADA → ENGLAND → KENYA → TANZANIA
CANADA → INDIA
CANADA → NIGERIA → CONGO, DEM. REP. (ZAIRE) → LIBERIA
CANADA → ECUADOR
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
With Frank in India, going to an assembly
[Picture on page 15]
With my husband Junior Jones