WHEN Gwen and I were five years old, we began to learn to dance. We had not yet met. But growing up, we each determined to make ballet dancing our career. When we were almost at the top of our profession, we gave it all up. What led to our decision?
David: I was born in 1945 in the county of Shropshire, England. My father had a farm in the peaceful countryside. After school, I would enjoy feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs as well as caring for the beef cattle and the sheep. During school vacations, I helped with the harvest, sometimes driving our tractors.
However, another interest was beginning to take over my life. My father had noticed that at a very young age, I wanted to dance whenever I heard music. So when I was five years old, he suggested that my mother take me to a local dance school for me to learn tap dancing. My teacher thought that I had the potential for becoming a ballet dancer and gave me training for this as well. At the age of 15, I won a scholarship to the prestigious Royal Ballet School in London. There I met Gwen, and we were paired as dancing partners.
Gwen: I was born in the busy city of London in 1944. As a little girl, I had deep faith in God. I tried to read my Bible but found it difficult to understand. Earlier, when I was five years old, I went to dancing classes. Six years later I won a competition, open to the whole of Britain, that awarded the winner a place at the junior section of The Royal Ballet School. This was located at White Lodge, a beautiful Georgian mansion in Richmond Park on the outskirts of London. There I received schooling as well as ballet training from highly regarded teachers. At age 16, I became a senior student at The Royal Ballet School in central London, and that is where I met David. Within a few months, we were performing together in ballet scenes within operas at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London.
David: Yes, as Gwen noted, our careers led us to dance at the famous Royal Opera House and with the London Festival Ballet (now the English National Ballet). One of the choreographers of the Royal Ballet set up an international company in Wuppertal, Germany, and selected us to be the two soloist dancers he took with him. During our careers, we danced in theaters around the world, performing with such celebrities as Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. This kind of competitive life makes one think a lot of oneself, and we became dedicated to our profession.
Gwen: My whole mind and body were devoted to dancing. David and I shared the ambition of getting to the top. I enjoyed signing autographs, receiving flowers, and hearing the applause of the audience. In the theater world, I was surrounded by much immorality, smoking, and drinking; like others in the profession, I relied on my good-luck charms.
OUR LIVES CHANGE COMPLETELY
David: After many years in the dancing profession, I got tired of living out of a suitcase. Since I had grown up on a farm, I began longing for a simpler life in the countryside. So in 1967, I left my career and began to work on a large farm near my parents’ home. The farmer let me rent a small cottage. Then I phoned Gwen at the theater and asked her to marry me. She had been promoted to solo dancer and her career was advancing, so she had a difficult decision to make. Still, she accepted my proposal and joined me in a rural life that she knew little about.
Gwen: Yes, it was difficult to adapt to farm life. Milking cows and feeding pigs and chickens in all kinds of weather was far from the world I knew. David began a nine-month course at a farming college to bring him up-to-date with the latest methods, and I felt lonely till he came home at night. By now our first daughter, Gilly, had been born. At David’s suggestion, I learned to drive a car, and one day while visiting a nearby town, I saw Gael, whom I had met when she worked in one of the local shops.
Gael kindly invited me to her home for a cup of tea. We shared wedding photos, and her photo showed a group outside a place called a Kingdom Hall. I asked her what sort of church that was. When she told me that she and her husband were Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was delighted. I remembered that one of my aunts was a Witness. I also remembered, though, how annoyed and disgusted my father had been with her, throwing her literature into the rubbish bin. I had wondered why my father, normally very friendly, became so angry with such a kind person.
At last I had the opportunity to find out how my aunt’s beliefs differed from church teachings. Gael showed me what the Bible actually teaches. I was amazed to find that many doctrines, like the Trinity and the immortality of the soul, are contrary to the Scriptures. (Eccl. 9:5, 10; John 14:28; 17:3) I also saw God’s name, Jehovah, in the Bible for the first time.
David: Gwen told me what she was learning. I remembered my father saying to me when I was a child that I should read the Good Book. Hence, Gwen and I agreed to have a Bible study with Gael and her husband, Derrick. After six months we moved to Oswestry, in the same county of Shropshire, because we were given the opportunity to rent our own little farm. There Deirdre, a local Witness, patiently continued conducting our Bible study. Our progress was slow at first. Looking after the livestock kept us very busy. Still, gradually the truth took root in our hearts.
Gwen: A big obstacle that I had to overcome was superstition. Isaiah 65:11 helped me to see how Jehovah views “those setting a table for the god of Good Luck.” It took time and prayer for me to get rid of all my good-luck charms and talismans. Learning that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” made me aware of the sort of person that Jehovah looks for. (Matt. 23:12) I wanted to serve a God who cared for us so much that he gave his precious Son as a ransom. By now we had another daughter, and it was thrilling to learn that our family could live forever on a paradise earth.
David: When I understood the amazing fulfillment of Bible prophecies, such as those found in Matthew chapter 24 and in the book of Daniel, I became convinced that this was the truth. I realized that nothing in this system of things matched having a good relationship with Jehovah. Thus, as time went on, I became less ambitious. I understood that my wife and daughters were as important as I was. Philippians 2:4 convinced me that I should not center my thoughts on myself and my desire to get a bigger farm. Rather, I should put serving Jehovah first in my life. I stopped smoking. But organizing our lives to get to the Saturday evening meeting six miles (10 km) away was not easy because the cows needed to be milked about that time. However, with Gwen’s help we never missed a meeting; nor did we miss taking our girls out with us in the ministry every Sunday morning
Our relatives were not pleased with our change. Gwen’s father did not speak to her for six years. My parents too tried to stop us from associating with the Witnesses.
Gwen: Jehovah carried us through these challenges. And as time went by, the brothers and sisters in the Oswestry Congregation became like a new family, lovingly supporting us through our trials. (Luke 18:29, 30) We dedicated our lives to Jehovah and got baptized in 1972. I wanted to work hard to help as many people as possible to know the truth, so I began pioneering.
A REWARDING NEW CAREER
David: The years we worked on our farm were physically hard; spiritually, we tried to set a good example for our girls. In time, as a result of government cutbacks, we had to give up the farm. With no home or employment and with our third daughter just a year old, we prayed to Jehovah for help and guidance. We decided to use our talent and open a dance studio to support the family. Our determination to put spiritual interests in first place bore good fruit. To our great delight, all three of our daughters began pioneering when they finished school. Gwen too was a pioneer, so she was able to give our girls daily support.
After our two eldest daughters, Gilly and Denise, got married, we closed the dance studio. We wrote to the branch office to find out where we could be of help. They directed us to towns in the southeast of England. With only one daughter, Debbie, at home, I too began pioneering. Five years later, we were asked to help other congregations farther north. After Debbie got married, we had the privilege of spending ten years in the international construction program in Zimbabwe, Moldova, Hungary, and Côte d’Ivoire. Then we returned to England to assist with construction at London Bethel. Because of my farming experience, I was asked to help at the Bethel farm that was operating at the time. Presently, we are pioneering in the northwest of England.
Gwen: Our first dedication
David: Having a career in Jehovah’s service has made a huge difference in our lives. I know it has helped me to improve as a husband and father. The Bible tells us that Miriam, King David, and others expressed their happiness by dancing. And we, along with many others, are longing to dance for joy in Jehovah’s new world.