Life Story

Thanking Jehovah​—Through Full-Time Service!

AS TOLD BY STANLEY E. REYNOLDS

I was born in London, England, in 1910. After World War I, my parents moved to a small Wiltshire village called Westbury Leigh. As a young lad, I often wondered, ‘Who is God?’ Nobody could ever tell me. And I could never understand why such a small community as ours needed two chapels as well as a church to worship God.

IN 1935, four years before the start of World War II, my younger brother, Dick, and I cycled to Weymouth on England’s south coast for a camping vacation. As we sat in our tent listening to the pouring rain and wondering what to do, an elderly gentleman visited and offered me three Bible study aids​—The Harp of God, Light I, and Light II. I obtained them, glad to have something to relieve the monotony. I immediately became enthralled with what I read, but little did I then know that it would completely change my life​—and my brother’s too.

When I returned home, my mother told me that Kate Parsons, who lived in our village, distributed the same type of Bible literature. She was well-known because, although being quite elderly, she rode a small motorcycle to visit people in our scattered community. I went to see her, and she gladly let me have the books Creation and Riches as well as other publications of the Watch Tower Society. She also told me that she was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

After reading the books along with my Bible, I knew that Jehovah is the true God and I wanted to worship him. So I sent a letter of  resignation to our church and started to attend Bible studies in the home of John and Alice Moody. They lived in Westbury, our nearest town. There were only seven of us at those meetings. Before and after the meetings, Kate Parsons played the harmonium as we sang Kingdom songs together at the top of our voice!

Early Days

I could see that we were living in momentous times, and I longed to have a share in the preaching work prophesied at Matthew 24:14. So I gave up smoking, bought myself a briefcase, and made my dedication to the Great God, Jehovah.

In August 1936, Joseph F. Rutherford, the Watch Tower Society’s president, was visiting Glasgow, Scotland, to speak on the subject “Armageddon.” Even though Glasgow was some 400 miles [600 km] away, I was determined to be there and to be baptized at that convention. Money was short, so I took my bicycle on the train to Carlisle, a town on the Scottish border, and cycled on from there 100 miles [160 km] farther north. I also cycled most of the way home, returning physically exhausted but spiritually strengthened.

From that time on, I cycled whenever I went to share my faith with people in nearby villages. In those days each Witness had a testimony card with a Scriptural message for householders to read. We also used portable phonographs to play records of Bible talks by the Society’s president. And, of course, we always carried a magazine bag, * which identified us as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Pioneering in Wartime

My brother was baptized in 1940. The second world war had started in 1939, and we both saw the urgent need for full-time preachers. Hence, we submitted our pioneer applications. We were grateful to be assigned together to the Bristol pioneer home, there to join Edith Poole, Bert Farmer, Tom and Dorothy Bridges, Bernard Houghton, and other pioneers whose faith we had long admired.

A small van with “JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES” inscribed on its sides in bold letters soon arrived to pick us up. The driver was Stanley Jones, who later became a missionary in China and who was imprisoned there for seven years in solitary confinement on account of his preaching activity.

 As the war progressed, we seldom got a full night’s sleep. Bombs fell around our pioneer home, and we had to keep a constant watch for incendiary devices. One evening we left the center of Bristol after a fine assembly attended by 200 Witnesses and reached the comparative safety of our home through a hail of antiaircraft shell shrapnel.

Next morning Dick and I returned to the city to collect some things we had left behind. We were stunned. Bristol was a shambles. The entire city center had been blasted and burned out. Park Street, where our Kingdom Hall had stood, was a heap of smoking rubble. However, no Witnesses had been killed or injured. Happily, we had already moved our Bible literature from the Kingdom Hall and distributed it to the homes of members of the congregation. We thanked Jehovah on both counts.

Unexpected Freedom

The Bristol Congregation where I served as presiding overseer had grown to 64 ministers by the time I received my papers for national service. Many other Witnesses had been sent to prison on account of their neutral stand, and I expected my freedom to preach to be curtailed similarly. My case was heard at a local Bristol Tribunal where Brother Anthony Buck, a former prison officer, spoke in my behalf. He was a bold, fearless man, a stalwart for Bible truth, and as a result of his fine representation, I was unexpectedly granted complete exemption from military service on condition that I continued in my full-time ministry!

I was thrilled to have my freedom, and I determined to use it to preach to the greatest extent possible. When I received a call to report to the London branch office to talk to Albert D. Schroeder, the branch overseer, I naturally wondered what was in store for me. Imagine my surprise when I was invited to go to Yorkshire to serve as a traveling overseer, visiting a different congregation each week to help and encourage the brothers. I felt so inadequate for such an assignment, but I had my exemption and was free to go. So I accepted Jehovah’s direction and willingly went.

Albert Schroeder introduced me to the brothers at an assembly in Huddersfield, and in April 1941, I took up my new assignment. What a joy it was to get to know those dear brothers! Their love and kindness made me appreciate even more that Jehovah has a people wholly devoted to him who love one another.​—John 13:35.

More Privileges of Service

An unforgettable five-day national convention was held  in 1941 at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall. Despite food rationing and restricted national transportation, the attendance built up to a Sunday peak of 12,000; yet, at that time there were just over 11,000 Witnesses in the country. Recordings of talks by the Society’s president were played, and the book Children was released. That convention was certainly a milestone in the theocratic history of Jehovah’s people in Britain, held as it was in the midst of World War II.

Soon after this convention, I received an invitation to serve with the London Bethel family. There, I worked in the shipping and packing departments and later in the office, handling matters pertaining to the congregations.

The Bethel family had to contend with air raids on London night and day, as well as with constant checks by the authorities on responsible brothers working there. Pryce Hughes, Ewart Chitty, and Frank Platt were all sent to prison for their neutral stand, and eventually Albert Schroeder was deported to the United States. Despite these pressures, the congregations and Kingdom interests continued to be well cared for.

On to Gilead!

When the war ended in 1945, I applied for missionary training at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and was accepted for the eighth class in 1946. The Society arranged for a number of us, including Tony Attwood, Stanley Jones, Harold King, Don Rendell, and Stanley Woodburn, to sail from the Cornish fishing port of Fowey. A local Witness had booked our passage on a small cargo ship carrying china clay. Our quarters were very cramped, and the deck was usually awash. How relieved we were when we finally approached our port of entry, Philadelphia!

The Gilead campus was beautifully situated at South Lansing in upstate New York, and the training I received there meant much to me. The students in our class came from 18 nations​—the first time the Society had been able to enroll so many ministers from foreign lands—​and we all became close friends. I greatly enjoyed the companionship of my roommate, Kalle Salavaara from Finland.

Time passed quickly, and at the conclusion of five months, the Society’s president, Nathan H. Knorr, arrived from the Brooklyn headquarters to give us our diplomas and to tell us where our assignments would be. In those days, students did not know their destinations until these were announced at the graduation ceremony. I was assigned to return to London Bethel to continue my work there.

Back to London

The postwar years were austere ones in Britain. Food and many other necessities, including paper, continued to be rationed. But we got by, and Jehovah’s Kingdom interests prospered. In addition to working at Bethel, I served at district and circuit assemblies and visited congregations, including some in Ireland. It was also a privilege to meet Erich Frost and other brothers and sisters from Europe and to learn from them something about the integrity of fellow Witnesses who had faced the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. Bethel service was indeed a blessed privilege.

For ten years I had known Joan Webb, a special pioneer serving in Watford, a town just north of London. In 1952 we married. Both of us wanted to continue in full-time service, so we were thrilled when, after I left Bethel, I was appointed as a circuit overseer. Our first circuit was along England’s south coast, in Sussex and Hampshire. Circuit work was not easy in those days. We traveled chiefly by bus, bicycle, and on foot. Many congregations had large, rural territories, which were often difficult to reach, but the number of Witnesses continued to grow steadily.

New York City 1958

In 1957, I received another invitation from Bethel: “Would you like to come to the office and assist with the travel arrangements for  the forthcoming international assembly to be held at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds in New York City in 1958?” Joan and I were soon busy handling applications from the brothers for the Society’s chartered planes and ships. This turned out to be the famous Divine Will International Assembly, attended by a vast audience of 253,922. At this convention, 7,136 symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by water immersion​—well over twice the number baptized on the historic occasion of Pentecost 33 C.E., as reported in the Bible.​—Acts 2:41.

Joan and I will never forget the kindness of Brother Knorr when he personally invited us to attend the assembly to help care for the delegates arriving in New York City from 123 lands. That was a happy and fulfilling experience for us both.

Blessings of Full-Time Service

Upon our return, we continued in the traveling work until health problems came along. Joan was hospitalized, and I had a mild stroke. We transferred to the special pioneer ranks but later had the privilege of temporarily serving in the circuit work again. Eventually, we returned to Bristol where we have remained in full-time service. My brother, Dick, lives nearby with his family, and we often reminisce.

My eyesight was irreparably damaged by detached retinas in 1971. Since then I have had great difficulty in reading, so I find the cassette recordings of Bible literature a wonderful provision from Jehovah. Joan and I still conduct home Bible studies, and over the years, we have been privileged to help some 40 individuals come to a knowledge of the truth, including one family of seven.

When we dedicated our lives to Jehovah over 60 years ago, our desire was to enter full-time service and stay in it. How grateful we are to have strength still to serve the Great Jehovah​—the only way we can thank him for his goodness to us and for our years of happiness together!

[Footnote]

^ par. 11 A cloth bag that could be hung from the shoulder and was designed for carrying copies of The Watchtower and Consolation (later, Awake!).

[Picture on page 25]

With my brother Dick (far left; Dick is standing) and other pioneers in front of the Bristol pioneer home

[Picture on page 25]

The Bristol pioneer home in 1940

[Pictures on page 26]

Stanley and Joan Reynolds on their wedding day, January 12, 1952, and today