Sustained by Jehovah All My Days
AS TOLD BY FORREST LEE
The police had just confiscated our gramophones and our Bible literature. World War II provided an excuse for opposers to persuade a new governor-general of Canada to declare the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses illegal. This occurred on July 4, 1940.
UNDAUNTED by what had happened, we got more literature from where it was stored and continued our preaching. I will always remember Dad’s words on that occasion: “We don’t stop that easily. Jehovah has commanded us to preach.” At the time, I was an energetic ten-year-old. But even today, Dad’s determination and his zeal for the ministry are still a constant reminder of how our God, Jehovah, sustains his loyal ones.
The next time the police stopped us, not only did they take our literature but they also took Dad to jail, leaving Mom alone with four children. That happened in September 1940 in Saskatchewan. Soon afterward I was expelled from school for following my Bible-trained conscience and not saluting the flag or singing the national anthem. Continuing my schooling by correspondence afforded me a flexible schedule, and I shared more fully in the preaching work.
In 1948 a call went out for pioneers, full-time ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to move to the east coast of Canada. So off I went to pioneer in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in Cape Wolfe, Prince Edward Island. The following year, I accepted an invitation to work for two weeks at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Toronto. Those two weeks turned into over six rewarding years of service. Eventually, I met Myrna, who shared my love for Jehovah, and we were married in December 1955. We settled in Milton, Ontario, and soon a new congregation was formed there. The basement of our home became the Kingdom Hall.
Desire to Expand Our Ministry
In the years that followed, we became parents to six children in rather quick succession. Our daughter Miriam was first. Then came Charmaine, Mark, Annette, Grant, and finally Glen. I often came home from work to find the little ones sitting around the fireplace on the floor, with Myrna reading to them from the Bible, explaining Bible accounts and inculcating in their hearts a real love for Jehovah. Thanks to her loving support, all our children acquired a good knowledge of the Bible at a tender age.
My father’s zeal for the ministry had left an indelible impression on my mind and heart. (Proverbs 22:6) Thus, in 1968, when families of Jehovah’s Witnesses were invited to move to Central and South America to help with the preaching work, our family desired to answer the call. By then our children ranged in age from 5 to 13, and none of us knew a word of Spanish. Following the direction given, I made a trip to various countries to check out living conditions. After I returned, as a family we prayerfully considered our options and decided to move to Nicaragua.
Serving in Nicaragua
By October 1970 we were in our new home, and within three weeks I was assigned a small part on the program at a congregation meeting. I struggled through the part in my very limited Spanish and concluded by inviting the whole congregation to our home for cerveza on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. I meant to say servicio, the word for field service, but in fact, I was inviting everyone for beer. Learning the language was indeed a challenge!
At first, I wrote a presentation on my hand and rehearsed it on my way to the door. I would say: “With the book comes a free home Bible study.” One person who accepted the offer said afterward that he had to come to our meetings to figure out what I was trying to tell him. This man became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. How evident it is that God is the one who makes the seeds of truth grow in humble hearts, even as the apostle Paul acknowledged!—1 Corinthians 3:7.
After about two years in the capital city of Managua, we were asked to move to the southern part of Nicaragua. There we worked with the congregation in Rivas and with neighboring isolated groups of interested ones. Pedro Peña, a faithful older Witness, accompanied me when we visited these groups. One was located on a volcanic island in Lake Nicaragua, where there was only one family of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Although this family had very little materially, they made a great effort to show appreciation for our visit. The evening we arrived, a meal was ready for us. We stayed for a week, and many of the dear people there who loved the Bible shared their food with us. We were thrilled to have 101 attend the public Bible talk on Sunday.
I feel that Jehovah’s sustaining power was manifest when, on another occasion, we were to visit a group of interested people in the mountains near the border of Costa Rica. On the day we were to leave, Pedro came to pick me up, but I was in bed with malaria. “I can’t go, Pedro,” I said. Putting his hand on my forehead, he replied: “You’ve got a bad fever, but you have to come! The brothers are waiting.” He then uttered one of the most heartfelt prayers I have ever heard.
Afterward, I said: “Go get a fresco (fruit drink) for yourself. I’ll be ready in about ten minutes.” Two Witness families lived in the area we visited, and they took excellent care of us. The following day we went preaching with them, although I was still weak with fever. How strengthening it was to see over a hundred people in attendance for our Sunday meeting!
On the Move Again
In 1975 our seventh child, Vaughn, was born. The following year, we had to return to Canada for financial reasons. Leaving Nicaragua was not easy because we had truly felt Jehovah’s sustaining power during our stay. By the time we left, over 500 in our congregation’s territory were attending meetings.
Earlier, when our daughter Miriam and I were appointed special pioneers in Nicaragua, Miriam asked me: “Daddy, if you ever have to go back to Canada, would you let me stay here?” I had no intention of ever leaving, so I said: “Well, of course!” So when we left, Miriam remained behind to continue her full-time ministry. Later, she married Andrew Reed. In 1984 they attended the 77th class of Gilead, the missionary school of Jehovah’s Witnesses, then located in Brooklyn, New York. Miriam now serves with her husband in the Dominican Republic, fulfilling a desire instilled in her by the excellent missionaries in Nicaragua.
Meanwhile, Dad’s words, “we don’t stop that easily,” still burned in my heart. So by 1981 when we had saved enough money to return to Central America, we moved again, this time to Costa Rica. While serving there, we were invited to help with the construction of their new branch facilities. In 1985, however, our son Grant required medical attention, so we returned to Canada. Glen stayed in Costa Rica to work on the branch construction project, while Annette and Charmaine served as special pioneers. Those of us who left Costa Rica never dreamed we would not return.
Dealing With Adversity
September 17, 1993, dawned bright and sunny. Our eldest son, Mark, and I were shingling a roof. We worked side by side and chatted about spiritual matters, as was our custom. Somehow I lost my balance and rolled off the roof. When I regained consciousness, all I could see were bright lights and people dressed in white. It was the trauma room of the hospital.
Because of what the Bible says, my initial reaction was: “No blood, no blood!” (Acts 15:28, 29) How reassuring to hear Charmaine say: “It’s OK, Dad. We’re all here.” I learned later that the doctors saw my medical document, and the use of blood was never an issue. I had broken my neck and was completely paralyzed, unable even to breathe on my own.
Immobilized, I needed more than ever to be sustained by Jehovah. A tracheotomy, performed to insert a respirator tube, cut off the passage of air to my vocal cords. I could not talk. People had to read my lips to understand what I was trying to say.
Expenses mounted quickly. With my wife and most of my children in the full-time ministry, I wondered whether they would have to leave this service to care for these financial responsibilities. However, Mark was able to get work that in only three months helped to cover much of this expense. As a result, all were able to remain in the full-time ministry except my wife and me.
Hundreds of cards and letters from six different countries covered the walls of my hospital room. Jehovah was truly sustaining me. The congregation also helped my family by providing meals during part of the five and a half months I was in the intensive care unit. Every day, a Christian elder spent the afternoon with me, reading to me from the Bible and Bible publications, as well as relating encouraging experiences. Two family members prepared for each congregation meeting with me, so I never missed out on vital spiritual food.
While I was still in the hospital, provision was made for me to attend a special assembly day program. The hospital staff arranged for a registered nurse and a respiratory technician to accompany me the whole day. What a delight it was to be with my Christian brothers and sisters again! I will never forget seeing hundreds line up, waiting their turn to greet me.
About a year after the accident, I was able to move back home with my family, although I still require 24-hour-a-day nursing care. A specially equipped van enables me to get to meetings, which I seldom miss. I must admit, though, it takes determination to go. Since coming home, I have been able to attend all district conventions.
Eventually, in February 1997, I regained my ability to speak to a limited degree. Some of my nurses listen appreciatively as I share with them my Bible-based hope. One nurse has read the entire book Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom to me as well as other Watch Tower publications. I correspond with people by using a stick to operate a computer. Though typing this way is very tedious, it is rewarding to be able to remain involved in the ministry.
I suffer a great deal from nerve pain. But it seems that when I am sharing Bible truths with others or hearing these read to me, I feel some relief. Occasionally, I do street witnessing with my supportive wife, who interprets for me when I need help. On several occasions, I have been able to serve as an auxiliary pioneer. Serving as a Christian elder gives me a sense of joy, especially when brothers come up to me at meetings or visit me in my home and I am able to help and encourage them.
I must confess that it is easy to get depressed. So whenever I feel down, I immediately pray that I might have joy. Night and day I pray that Jehovah will keep sustaining me. A letter or a visit from someone always cheers me up. Reading a Watchtower or an Awake! magazine also fills my mind with upbuilding thoughts. Different nurses sometimes read these magazines to me. Since my accident, I have listened to the reading of the entire Bible on cassette tapes seven times. These are among the various ways that Jehovah has sustained me.—Psalm 41:3.
My change in circumstances has afforded me a lot of time to meditate on how our Grand Instructor, Jehovah, educates us for life. He gives us accurate knowledge of his will and purpose, a meaningful ministry, counsel on the secret to family happiness, and discernment to know what to do in adversity. Jehovah has blessed me with a faithful and wonderful wife. My children too have loyally stuck by my side, and it is a joy to me that they have all shared in the full-time ministry. In fact, on March 11, 2000, our son Mark and his wife, Allyson, graduated from the 108th class of Gilead School and were assigned to Nicaragua. My wife and I were able to attend their graduation. I can truthfully say that adversity has changed my life but not my heart.—Psalm 127:3, 4.
I thank Jehovah for the wisdom he has provided to enable me to pass on to my family the spiritual heritage that I received. I am strengthened and encouraged to see my children serving their Creator with an attitude similar to that of my father, who said, “We don’t stop that easily. Jehovah commanded us to preach.” Indeed, Jehovah has sustained me and my family all our days.
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With Dad, my brothers, and my sister, next to our house car, used during pioneer days. I am on the right
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With my wife, Myrna
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A recent picture of our family
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I still witness by letters