Life Story

Keeping Life Simple to Serve Jehovah

AS TOLD BY CLARA GERBER MOYER

I am 92 years old and can barely walk, but I still have a clear, retentive mind. How thankful I am to have had the privilege of serving Jehovah since childhood! Living a simple, uncomplicated life has contributed immeasurably to that treasure.

I WAS born on August 18, 1907, in Alliance, Ohio, U.S.A., the oldest of five children. When I was eight, a full-time minister of the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then called, rode up to our dairy farm on a bicycle. He met my mother, Laura Gerber, at the door and asked if she knew why evil was permitted. Mother had always wondered about that.

After conferring with Father, who was out in the barn, Mother ordered the set of six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures. She devoured these and was deeply moved by the Bible truths she was learning. She studied Volume 6, The New Creation, and clearly understood the need for Christian baptism by immersion. Not knowing how to find the Bible Students, she asked Daddy to baptize her in the little creek on the farm, even though it was the cold month of March 1916.

Not long afterward Mother saw an ad in the newspaper announcing a talk at the Daughters of Veterans Hall in Alliance. The talk was entitled “The Divine Plan of the Ages.” She responded immediately, since Volume 1 of Studies in the Scriptures had the same title as the talk. The surrey was hitched up, and the whole family went to our first meeting via horse and buggy. From then on we attended meetings in the homes of the brothers on Sunday and  Wednesday evenings. Shortly thereafter, Mother was baptized again by a representative of the Christian congregation. Daddy, who was always busy with farm work, eventually took an interest in Bible study, and he was baptized a few years later.

Meeting Those Taking the Lead

On June 10, 1917, J. F. Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society, visited Alliance to speak on the subject “Why Do the Nations War?” I was nine years old and attended with my parents and with my two brothers, Willie and Charles. We had a fine crowd of over a hundred in attendance. After Brother Rutherford’s talk, most of those attending posed for a photograph outside the Columbia Theater, where his talk was given. The following week, at the same location, A. H. Macmillan gave a talk on the topic “God’s Coming Kingdom.” It was a privilege to have these brothers visit our small town.

Memorable Early Conventions

The first convention I attended was in 1918 at Atwater, Ohio, a few miles from Alliance. Mama asked the Society’s representative there if I was old enough to be baptized. I felt that I had made a valid dedication to God to do his will, so I was permitted to be baptized that day in a creek near a large apple orchard. I changed my clothes in a tent that the brothers had erected for that purpose and was baptized in an old, heavy nightgown.

In September of 1919, my parents and I rode the train to Sandusky, Ohio, on Lake Erie. There we boarded a ferry, and in a short time, we arrived at Cedar Point where our memorable convention was to be held. When we got off the boat, there was a small lunch stand on the dock. I got a hamburger, which was a real luxury for me in those days. It tasted so good! The peak attendance for our eight-day convention was 7,000. There was no public address system, so I had to listen very carefully.

At this convention the companion magazine to The Watch Tower, entitled The Golden Age (now Awake!), was released. To attend that convention, I missed the first week of school, but it was well worth it. Cedar Point was a vacation resort, and they had cooks there at the restaurant who prepared meals for the delegates. But for some reason, the cooks and waitresses walked off the job, so Christian brothers with a knowledge of food preparation pitched in and prepared food for the delegates. For many decades afterward, Jehovah’s people prepared their own meals at assemblies and conventions.

We also had the privilege of returning to Cedar Point in September of 1922 for a nine-day convention attended by a peak of more than 18,000. That is where Brother Rutherford encouraged us to “advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom.” My personal ministry, however, had begun with the distribution of tracts and The Golden Age several years earlier.

Appreciation for the Ministry

Early in 1918, I shared in delivering the tract The Fall of Babylon to neighboring farms. Because of the cold, we would heat a soapstone on the wood stove at home and take it along in the buggy to keep our feet warm. We dressed in heavy coats and hats, since the buggy had only a top and side curtains but no heater. But those were happy times.

In 1920 a special edition of The Finished Mystery, called the ZG, was prepared in magazine form. * My parents and I went out in Alliance with this publication. In those days everyone went to the doors alone, so I apprehensively ascended a porch where several people were seated. After I made my presentation, one woman said: “Doesn’t she give a nice little talk,” and accepted the publication. I placed  13 ZGs that day, the first time that I gave a longer, formal presentation from house to house.

When I was in the ninth grade, Mother contracted pneumonia and was bedridden for more than a month. My youngest sister, Hazel, was an infant, so I quit school to help with the farm work and to care for the children. Still, our family took Bible truth seriously, and we attended all congregation meetings on a regular basis.

In 1928 at the Memorial of Christ’s death, a tract entitled “Where Are the Nine?” was given to all in attendance. It discussed Luke 17:11-19, where the Bible says that only one of ten cleansed lepers humbly thanked Jesus for the miraculous healing. That touched my heart. I asked myself, ‘How appreciative am I?’

Since things were now going well at home and I was healthy and unencumbered, I decided to leave home and enter the pioneer service, as the full-time ministry is called. My parents encouraged me to do so. Thus, my partner, Agnes Aleta, and I received our assignment, and on August 28, 1928, we boarded a train at 9:00 p.m. Each of us had but one suitcase and a satchel to carry our Bible literature. At the station, my sisters and my parents were crying, and so were we. I thought I might never see them again, since we believed that Armageddon was near. The next morning, we arrived at our assignment in Brooksville, Kentucky.

We rented a small room in a boardinghouse and bought cans of spaghetti and also made sandwiches for ourselves. Each day we walked in a different direction, working alone and offering householders five bound books for a contribution of $1.98. Gradually we covered the town, meeting many people who were quite interested in the Bible.

In about three months, we had called on everyone in and around Brooksville as well as Augusta. So we moved on to work the towns of Maysville, Paris, and Richmond. During the next three years, we covered many counties in Kentucky where there were no congregations. We were often assisted by friends and family members from Ohio who drove down and joined us in the ministry for a week or more at a time.

Other Memorable Conventions

The convention in Columbus, Ohio, July 24-30, 1931, was truly memorable. That was where it was announced that we would be identified by the Bible-based name Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Isaiah 43:12) Prior to that, when people asked us what religion we were, we said, “International Bible Students.” But that really didn’t distinguish us very well, since there were Bible students affiliated with various other religious groups.

My partner, Agnes, had married, and I was alone; so I was thrilled when it was announced that those looking for a pioneer partner should report to a certain location. There I met Bertha and Elsie Garty and Bessie Ensminger. They had two cars and were looking for a fourth pioneer sister to work with them. We left the convention together, although we had never met before.

In the summer we worked throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Then, as winter approached, we requested assignments in the warmer southern states of North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. In the spring we returned north. That was the custom of pioneers then. In 1934, John Booth and Rudolph Abbuhl, who followed this custom, took Ralph Moyer and his younger brother Willard with them to Hazard, Kentucky.

I had met Ralph on several occasions, and we became better acquainted during the large convention in Washington, D.C., held May 30–June 3, 1935. Ralph and I were sitting together in the balcony when the talk was presented on the “great multitude,” or “great crowd.” (Revelation 7:9-14) Until then we believed that those of the great multitude were members of a heavenly class less faithful than  the 144,000. (Revelation 14:1-3) So I didn’t want to be one of them!

When Brother Rutherford explained that those of the great multitude were an earthly class of faithful Armageddon survivors, many were surprised. Then he invited all those of the great multitude to stand. Well, I didn’t stand, but Ralph did. Later, things became clearer in my mind, so 1935 was the last year I partook of the emblematic bread and wine at the Memorial of Christ’s death. Mother, however, continued to partake up until her death in November 1957.

A Permanent Partner

Ralph and I continued to correspond. I was serving in Lake Placid, New York, and he was in Pennsylvania. In 1936 he built a small trailer that he could pull with his car. He moved it from Pottstown, Pennsylvania, to Newark, New Jersey, for the convention held there October 16-18. After the program one evening, several of us pioneers went to see Ralph’s new trailer. He and I were standing inside the trailer by the small built-in sink when he asked, “Do you like the trailer?”

When I nodded, he asked, “Do you want to live in it?”

“Yes,” I responded, and he gave me a tender kiss that I will never forget. A couple of days later, we obtained a marriage license. On October 19, the day after the convention, we went to Brooklyn and toured the Watch Tower Society’s printing facility. Then we asked for a territory assignment. Grant Suiter was in charge of territory, and he asked who would be working it. Ralph said, “We will if we can get married.”

“If you come back at 5:00 p.m., we can arrange it,” Brother Suiter responded. So that evening we were married in the home of a Witness in Brooklyn Heights. We ate a meal with some friends at a local restaurant and then took public transportation to Ralph’s trailer in Newark, New Jersey.

Shortly thereafter, we were on our way to Heathsville, Virginia, our first pioneer assignment together. We worked Northumberland County and then moved on to Fulton and Franklin counties in Pennsylvania. In 1939, Ralph was invited to do zone work, an activity in which we would be visiting a number of congregations on a rotating basis. We served congregations in the state of Tennessee. The following year our son, Allen, was born, and in 1941 the zone work was discontinued. We were then assigned to Marion, Virginia, as special pioneers. In those days, that meant spending 200 hours a month in the ministry.

Making Adjustments

In 1943, I found it necessary to give up the special pioneer ministry. Living in a small  trailer, caring for a little child, preparing meals, keeping all of us in clean clothes, and spending about 60 hours in the ministry each month was about all I could do. But Ralph continued as a special pioneer.

We moved back to Alliance, Ohio, in 1945, sold the trailer that had been our home for nine years, and moved into the farmhouse with my parents. It was there, on the front porch, that our daughter, Rebekah, was born. Ralph took part-time work in town and continued as a regular pioneer. I worked on the farm and did what I could to help him to continue pioneering. Although my family offered us free land and a house, Ralph declined. He wanted to remain unencumbered so that we could pursue Kingdom interests more fully.

In 1950 we relocated to Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and rented a house for $25 a month. Over the next 30 years, the rent increased to only $75. We felt that Jehovah was helping us to keep our life simple. (Matthew 6:31-33) Ralph worked three days a week as a barber. Every week we studied the Bible with our two children, attended congregation meetings, and preached the good news of the Kingdom as a family. Ralph served as the presiding overseer of the local congregation. By keeping our life simple, we were able to do much in Jehovah’s service.

Loss of My Dear Mate

On May 17, 1981, we were sitting in the Kingdom Hall, listening to a public talk. Ralph felt poorly, walked to the back of the hall, and had an attendant bring me a note saying that he was going home. This was so unlike Ralph that I asked someone to drive me home right away. Ralph died of a massive stroke within the hour. By the end of the Watchtower study that morning, it was announced to the congregation that he had passed away.

That month Ralph had already spent more than 50 hours in the ministry. His full-time career as a pioneer spanned more than 46 years. He had conducted Bible studies with over a hundred people who eventually became baptized Witnesses of Jehovah. The spiritual blessings we received were well worth any sacrifices we made through the years.

Grateful for My Privileges

For the past 18 years, I have lived by myself, attending meetings, preaching to others as I am able, and studying God’s Word. Now I live in a retirement apartment for senior citizens. I own only a few pieces of furniture and choose not to have a television. But my life is full and spiritually rich. My parents and my two brothers were faithful until their death, and my two sisters continue faithfully in the way of the truth.

I rejoice that my son, Allen, is serving as a Christian elder. For many years he has installed Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall sound systems and has worked at sound installation for summer conventions. His wife is a loyal servant of God, and their two sons serve as elders. My daughter, Rebekah Karres, has spent more than 35 years in the full-time ministry, including four years at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn. She and her husband have spent the past 25 years in the traveling work in various parts of the United States.

Jesus said that the Kingdom is like a hidden treasure that can be found. (Matthew 13:44) I am thankful that my family found that treasure so many years ago. What a privilege to look back over 80 years of dedicated service to God​—with no regrets! If I could live my life again, I would live it the same way because, indeed, ‘God’s loving-kindness is better than life itself.’​—Psalm 63:3.

[Footnote]

^ par. 17 The Finished Mystery was the seventh of a series of volumes entitled Studies in the Scriptures, the first six of which were written by Charles Taze Russell. The Finished Mystery was published after Russell’s death.

[Picture on page 23]

We heard Brother Rutherford’s talk in 1917 in Alliance, Ohio

[Picture on page 23]

With Ralph in front of the trailer he built

[Picture on page 24]

With my two children today