Joys Beyond Compare!
AS TOLD BY REGINALD WALLWORK
“There is nothing in this world that could compare with the joys we have had in full-time missionary service to Jehovah!” I found this scribbled note among my wife’s papers shortly after her death in May 1994.
AS I reflect upon Irene’s words, I recall the 37 happy, fulfilling years we spent as missionaries in Peru. We enjoyed a precious Christian partnership ever since our wedding in December 1942—and that is a good place to start my story.
Irene was brought up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Liverpool, England. One of three daughters, she lost her father during World War I. Her mother subsequently married Winton Fraser, and they had a son, Sidney. Just prior to World War II, the family moved to Bangor, North Wales, where Irene was baptized in 1939. Sidney was baptized the year before, so he and Irene served together as pioneers—full-time evangelizers—along the north coast of Wales, from Bangor to Caernarvon, including the island of Anglesey.
At that time, I was in the Runcorn Congregation, some 13 miles [20 km] southeast of Liverpool, serving as what we today call the presiding overseer. Irene approached me at a circuit assembly to ask if she could have some territory where she could preach, as she was going to stay with Vera, her married sister who lived in Runcorn. Irene and I got along well together during the two weeks she was with us, and I later visited her in Bangor on a number of occasions. How happy I was when one weekend Irene accepted my proposal of marriage!
Returning home on Sunday, I immediately began to make plans for our wedding, but on Tuesday a telegram awaited me. “I’m sorry this telegram is going to hurt,” it read. “I am canceling our wedding. Letter to follow.” I was shocked. What could have gone wrong?
Irene’s letter arrived the next day. She told me that she was going to Horsforth in Yorkshire to pioneer with Hilda Padgett. * She explained that 12 months earlier she had agreed to serve where the need was great if requested to do so. She wrote: “This was to me like a vow to Jehovah, and I feel that because I promised him before I knew you, I must fulfill it.” Sad as I was, I greatly admired her integrity and telegraphed my reply: “Go. I’ll wait for you.”
While in Yorkshire, Irene received a three-month prison sentence for conscientiously refusing to support the war effort. But 18 months later, in December 1942, we were married.
My Early Days
In 1919 my mother had purchased a set of Studies in the Scriptures. * Although, as my father correctly remarked at the time, she had never read a book before, Mother was determined to study these volumes carefully along with her Bible. She did and was baptized in 1920.
My father was easygoing and did not prevent my mother from doing what she wanted to do, and that included bringing up their four children—my two sisters, Gwen and Ivy; my brother, Alec; and me—in the way of the truth. Stanley Rogers and other faithful Witnesses in Liverpool traveled to give Bible lectures in Runcorn, where a new congregation soon sprang up. Our family prospered spiritually along with the congregation.
Gwen was taking Church of England confirmation lessons but stopped as soon as she began to study the Bible alongside Mother. When the vicar visited us to find out why she no longer attended his classes, he met with a barrage of questions for which he was ill prepared. Gwen asked about the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer and ended up explaining it to him! She concluded by quoting 1 Corinthians 10:21, making it clear that she could no longer continue to ‘eat at two tables.’ As he left our house, the vicar said that he would pray for Gwen and return to answer her questions, but he never did. After her baptism, Gwen soon became a full-time evangelizer.
The care of youngsters in our congregation was exemplary. I recall listening to a lecture given by a visiting elder when I was seven years old. Afterward he came to talk to me. I told him that I had been reading about Abraham and how he had attempted to offer up his son, Isaac. “Go to the corner of the platform and tell me all about it,” he said. How thrilled I was to stand there and give my first “public talk”!
I was baptized at the age of 15 in 1931, the year my mother died, and left school to become an apprentice electrician. In 1936 recorded Bible lectures were being played publicly, and an elderly sister encouraged my brother and me to get busy in this field of activity. So Alec and I went to Liverpool to buy a bicycle and have a sidecar made for it to carry our transcription machine. A loudspeaker was fitted to the back of the sidecar on top of a six-foot-high [2 m] telescopic tube. The mechanic told us that he had never made anything like it before, but it worked well! Enthusiastically we covered our territory, grateful for the sister’s encouragement and the privileges entrusted to us.
World War II—A Time of Testing
As the clouds of war gathered, Stanley Rogers and I were busy advertising the public lecture “Face the Facts,” to be given at London’s Royal Albert Hall on September 11, 1938. Later I shared in distributing this talk in booklet form, along with Fascism or Freedom, published the following year. Both booklets clearly exposed the totalitarian ambitions of Hitler’s Germany. By this time, I had become well-known in Runcorn for my public ministry and was respected for it. Indeed, the fact that I had always been in the forefront of theocratic activity stood me in good stead.
The firm for which I worked had contracted to wire a new factory on the outskirts of the town. On learning that it was to be a war-weapons factory, I made it clear that I could not work there. Although my employers were displeased, my foreman spoke up for me, and I was given another job. I later learned that he had an aunt who was also one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A colleague greatly encouraged me when he said: “We would not expect anything else of you, Reg, since you have been engaged in that Bible work for so many years.” Nevertheless, I had to be vigilant, as many of my workmates wanted to cause trouble for me.
My registration as a conscientious objector was accepted by the court in Liverpool in June 1940 on condition that I remained in my present occupation. This, of course, enabled me to carry on my Christian ministry.
Into Full-Time Service
As the war drew to a close, I decided to leave my employment and join Irene in the full-time ministry. In 1946, I built an 18-foot [5 m] trailer that became our home, and the following year, we were asked to move to Alveston, a village in Gloucestershire. Subsequently, we pioneered in the ancient town of Cirencester and in the city of Bath. In 1951, I was invited to visit congregations in the south of Wales as a traveling overseer, but less than two years later, we were on our way to the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead for missionary training.
The school’s 21st class was held at South Lansing, upstate New York, and we graduated in 1953 at the New World Society Assembly held in New York City. Irene and I did not know where our assignment would be until the day of our graduation. How thrilled we were to learn that Peru was our destination. Why? Because Sidney Fraser, Irene’s half brother, and his wife, Margaret, had been serving at the Lima branch office for over a year after graduating from the 19th class of Gilead!
While waiting for our visas, we spent a short time working at Brooklyn Bethel, but we were soon on our way to Lima. The first of our ten missionary assignments was Callao, the main seaport of Peru, just west of Lima. Although we had learned some of the basics of Spanish, at that point neither Irene nor I was able to carry on a conversation in the language. How would we manage?
Problems and Privileges of Preaching
At Gilead we were told that a mother does not teach her baby a language. Rather, the baby learns as its mother talks to it. So the counsel given to us was: “Get out in the preaching work right away, and pick up the language from the public. They will help you.” As I endeavored to come to grips with this new tongue, imagine how I felt when within two weeks of our arrival, I was appointed the presiding overseer of the Callao Congregation! I went to see Sidney Fraser, but his counsel was the same as that given at Gilead—mix with the congregation and with the people in your territory. I determined to follow this advice.
One Saturday morning, I met a carpenter in his shop. “I’ve got to get on with my work,” he said, “but please sit down and talk to me.” I told him that I would do this but on one condition: “When I make a mistake, please correct me. I will not be offended.” He laughed and agreed to my request. I visited him twice a week and found that it was an ideal way to become familiar with my new language, just as I had been told.
By coincidence, in Ica, our second missionary assignment, I met another carpenter and explained to him the arrangement I had in Callao. He agreed to help me similarly, so my Spanish continued to improve quite nicely, although it took three years before I became truly proficient. This man was always very busy, but I managed to conduct a Bible study by reading the Scriptures and then explaining their meaning to him. One week when I went to see him, his employer told me that he had left for a new job in Lima. Some time later when Irene and I arrived in Lima for a convention, I met this man again. How thrilled I was to learn that he had contacted local Witnesses in order to continue his studies and that he and his family had all become dedicated servants of Jehovah!
In one congregation, we discovered that a young couple were not married, yet they had been baptized. As we discussed with them the Scriptural principles involved, they determined to legalize their union, which would put them in position to become baptized Witnesses. So I arranged to take them to the town hall to register their marriage. But then a problem arose because they had four children who had not been registered either, and this was a legal requirement. We naturally wondered what action the mayor would take. “Because these good people, your friends Jehovah’s Witnesses, have seen to it that you should be legally married,” the mayor said, “I am going to waive the summonses that should be served for each child and enter them into the register free of charge.” How grateful we were, since this was a poor family and any fine would have been a great burden for them!
Albert D. Schroeder from Brooklyn headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses later visited us and recommended that a new missionary home be established in another part of Lima. So Irene and I along with two sisters, Frances and Elizabeth Good from the United States, and a Canadian married couple moved to the district of San Borja. Within two or three years, we were blessed with another thriving congregation.
Serving in Huancayo, over 10,000 feet [3,000 m] up in the central highlands, we associated with its congregation of 80 Witnesses. There, I was involved with the construction of the second Kingdom Hall to be built in the country. I was appointed as the legal representative of Jehovah’s Witnesses, since we had to go to court three times to establish our legal rights to the land we had purchased. Such actions, along with extensive disciple-making by the many faithful missionaries in those early years, laid a sure foundation for the fine increase we now see in Peru—from 283 Witnesses in 1953 to over 83,000 today.
A Sad Departure
We enjoyed rich association with fellow missionaries in all our missionary homes, where it often was my privilege to serve as home overseer. Every Monday morning, we got together to talk about our activity for the week ahead and to assign duties to care for our home. The principal thing, we all realized, was preaching, and to that end all worked harmoniously together. I am happy to recall that we never had a major dispute in any of our homes.
Our last assignment was in Breña, another suburb of Lima. Its loving congregation of 70 Witnesses rapidly grew to well over 100, when another congregation was formed in Palominia. It was at this time that Irene became sick. I first noticed that she occasionally could not remember what she had said, and at times she had difficulty remembering how to get home. Although she received fine medical attention, her condition slowly deteriorated.
Sadly, in 1990, I had to make arrangements for us to return to England where my sister Ivy kindly welcomed us into her home. Four years later, in her 81st year, Irene died. I have continued in the full-time ministry, serving as an elder in one of the three congregations in my hometown. Once in a while, I also travel to Manchester to encourage the Spanish group there.
I recently had a heartwarming experience that started decades earlier when I played five-minute sermons on my phonograph to householders. I vividly recall a young schoolgirl who stood behind her mother at the door, listening to the message.
This girl eventually immigrated to Canada, and a friend who still lives in Runcorn and who is now a Witness kept in touch with her. She recently wrote that two Witnesses had called on her and had used expressions that unexpectedly brought back memories of what she had heard in that five-minute recording. Recognizing the ring of truth, she is now a dedicated servant of Jehovah and asked that her thanks be conveyed to the young man who visited her mother’s home well over 60 years ago! Truly, we never know how seeds of truth will take root and grow.—Ecclesiastes 11:6.
Yes, I look back with deep gratitude on my life spent in Jehovah’s precious service. Since my dedication in 1931, I have never missed an assembly of Jehovah’s people. Although Irene and I had no children of our own, I am happy to have well over 150 sons and daughters in a spiritual sense, all serving our heavenly Father, Jehovah. As my dear wife put it, our privileges have indeed been a joy beyond compare.
^ par. 9 “Following in My Parents’ Footsteps,” Hilda Padgett’s life story, appeared in The Watchtower October 1, 1995, pages 19-24.
^ par. 12 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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Mother, early 1900’s
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Left: Hilda Padgett, me, Irene, and Joyce Rowley in Leeds, England, 1940
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Above: Irene and me in front of our trailer home
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Advertising a public talk in Cardiff, Wales, 1952