As told by Lois Didur
How often in your life have you said something like this, ‘I wish I had not made the choice I did’? Well, after 50 years in full-time service, I cannot think of anything lastingly unpleasant that has come from being at Jehovah’s right hand. Let me tell you why.
I WAS born in 1939 and grew up in rural Saskatchewan, Canada, along with four sisters and a brother. Life on the prairie farm was happy. One day, Jehovah’s Witnesses called on my father, and I asked them if God has a name. They showed us the name Jehovah at Psalm 83:18. That made me want to know more about God and his Word.
In those years, farm children went to one-room rural schools up to the eighth grade. They rode horses or walked the many miles to school. The schoolteacher’s needs were provided for by families in the district. One year, it was my parents’ turn to accommodate the new teacher, John Didur.
Unknown to me, this young man too had a keen interest in God’s Word. Once I was praising communism and socialism, which my father then advocated. John quietly replied: “No man has the right to rule over other men. Only God has that right.” That led to many interesting conversations.
Having been born in 1931, John had heard of the hardships of war. When the Korean War erupted in 1950, he questioned various churchmen about their involvement in war. All said that it was acceptable for Christians to take up arms. Later, he asked Jehovah’s Witnesses the same question. They directed him to the Scriptural stand toward war that the early Christians took. John was baptized in 1955. The following year, I was too. We both knew that we wanted to serve Jehovah with our life and energy. (Ps. 37:3, 4) In July 1957, John and I were married.
Many a year on our wedding anniversary, we were at a convention. We were glad to be in the company of thousands of others who respected marriage. Our first international convention was in 1958. Five of us set off for New York City by car from Saskatchewan. For a week, we drove by day, and each night we slept in a tent. Imagine our surprise when a brother we met in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, invited us to stay at his family home that night! His spontaneous kindness allowed us to arrive in New York City clean and tidy. That huge convention impressed on us the outstanding pleasure of serving Jehovah! As the psalmist wrote, “there is pleasantness at your right hand forever.”—Ps. 16:11.
A year later, in 1959, we were pioneering and living in a small house trailer on top of a prairie hill in Saskatchewan. You could see for miles, and some of these miles were our territory.
One day, an interesting letter from the branch office arrived. I hurried out to where John was working on the tractor. The letter invited us to be special pioneers in Red Lake, Ontario. Not knowing where that was, we quickly got out maps to find it.
What a contrast it proved to be to the open prairies! Now we experienced huge forests and little towns built near gold mines. As we were looking for accommodations the first day, a little girl heard our conversation with her neighbor. She ran home to her mother, who kindly offered us lodging overnight. The bed was in a dirt cellar. The next day, we located a place, a two-room log house with no plumbing and no furniture, just a wood-burning tin heater. We got a few things at a secondhand shop and soon felt quite content.
There was no congregation within 130 miles (209 km). Many workers in the gold mines had come from Europe, and they asked if we could get them a Bible in their language. In a short time, we had 30 excellent Bible studies. Within six months, a small congregation was formed.
The husband of one woman with whom we studied phoned his priest to come and set his wife straight. During the encounter, the priest said that we should be teaching the Trinity, among other things. The woman got their Catholic Bible and asked the priest to back up the things he was saying. He flung the Bible across the table, saying that he did not need to prove anything. As he left, he said in Ukrainian that they should throw us out of the house and never let us in again. He did not realize that John understood Ukrainian!
Shortly thereafter, we left Red Lake because John was to be trained for the circuit work. About a year later, however, when John was giving the baptism talk at a district convention, that husband was among the baptismal candidates! The episode with the priest had caused him to begin looking into the Bible for himself.
BUSY IN THE TRAVELING WORK
In the circuit work, we had the unique pleasure of staying with many different families. We became very close to those who shared their home and life with us. Once, we were in an upstairs room that had no heat in the winter. Early in the morning, we would hear the elderly sister quietly enter our room to light a fire in the tiny stove. Soon, she would return with a basin and warm water so that we could prepare for the day. I learned much from her quiet, gentle ways.
The traveling work helped me to draw closer to Jehovah. One circuit in Alberta included a mining town in the Far North, where a sister lived. How did Jehovah’s organization view that isolated sister? Every six months, we flew there to spend a week in service and to hold meetings with her, just as with a large city congregation. It was a warm reminder of Jehovah’s tender care for each little sheeplike one.
We kept in touch with many who provided accommodations for us. That reminds me of one of the first gifts John gave me—a colorful box full of writing paper. We thoroughly enjoyed keeping in touch with friends by mail, using such writing material. I still treasure that letter box.
While we were in a circuit in Toronto, a brother from the Canada Bethel phoned to ask if we would consider coming to Bethel. When did he want the answer? “Tomorrow if possible!” He got it.
Each change of assignment had shown us various aspects of the pleasantness that comes at Jehovah’s hand. That continued when we moved to Bethel in 1977. Association with some of the anointed ones allowed us to see not only their different personalities but also their high regard for God’s Word.
The new routine at Bethel felt good. For example, our clothes were now in a drawer rather than in a suitcase, and we belonged to one congregation. Besides working at my assignment, taking visiting groups on tour was always a happy experience for me. I would explain the work being done at Bethel, hear the comments of the visiting brothers, and answer their questions.
Years passed quickly, and in 1997, John was invited to attend the School for Branch Committee Members at Patterson, New York. Thereafter, we were asked if we would consider moving to Ukraine. We were encouraged to think it over carefully and prayerfully. By the end of that evening, we knew that our answer would be yes.
We had attended the large international convention in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1992, and then the one in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1993. Those had attracted us to our brothers in Eastern Europe. Our new accommodations in Lviv, Ukraine, were on the second floor of an old home. The windows overlooked a yard that had a little garden, a big red rooster, and a brood of hens. It felt almost like being on a Saskatchewan farm. Twelve of us lived in that home. We had an early morning ride across the city each day to work at Bethel.
How did we feel about being in Ukraine? It was humbling to sit among many who had gone through trials, bans, and imprisonments. Yet, they had kept their faith strong. When we commended them, they would say, “We did it for Jehovah.” They never felt that they were left on their own. Even now, if you thank someone for a kindness, he or she may reply, “Thank Jehovah,” acknowledging the Source of all good things.
In Ukraine, many walk to the meetings, so they have time to talk and encourage one another. The walk might be an hour or more. There are over 50 congregations in Lviv, 21 of which use a big Kingdom Hall complex. On Sundays, it is a very beautiful sight to see a steady flow of brothers coming to the meetings.
We quickly felt at ease with the brothers and sisters, who have a gentle manner and are eager to care for others. When I have a problem understanding the language, which I still do, they are very patient. Their eyes often express as much as their words.
An example of the real trust among our brothers came during the 2003 international convention in Kiev. We had just gone down to the platform of the busy underground metro system when a young girl walked over to us and quietly said, “I’m lost. I can’t find my grandma.” The girl had seen our badge cards and knew that we were Witnesses. She was so brave and did not cry. A circuit overseer’s wife who was with us gently took the girl to the Lost and Found Department at the stadium. Soon the girl was reunited with her grandma. I was very touched by the wonderful trust that this little girl had, even in a crowd of thousands of people.
Brothers from many countries came to Ukraine in May 2001 for the dedication of our new branch facilities. After the special talk at a stadium on Sunday morning, a sea of brothers came walking up the road to tour the new Bethel. What an unforgettable sight! I was quite moved to see these brothers, who were so quiet and orderly. It deepened my appreciation for the pleasantness that comes with serving God.
A DRASTIC CHANGE
Sadly, in 2004, John was diagnosed with cancer. We went to Canada for his treatment. The first session of chemotherapy was almost too much for his system, and he spent some weeks in intensive care. Thankfully, he regained consciousness. Though he could hardly speak, his eyes always showed appreciation for all who visited him.
But he was not able to recover, and he died that fall. I felt that a very big part of me was missing. John and I had so enjoyed serving Jehovah together. What would I do? I chose to return to Ukraine. I have been very grateful for the warm love of the Bethel family and of the congregation there.
There was never a time in our life that we regretted the choices we had made. It has been a pleasant life, with the best of association. I know that there is still much to learn about Jehovah’s goodness, and I do hope to continue in his service forever because I truly have found ‘pleasantness at Jehovah’s right hand.’
[Blurb on page 6]
“There was never a time in our life that we regretted the choices we had made”
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When I married John
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When I was a special pioneer in Red Lake, Ontario
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With John in Ukraine, 2002