I WAS born in 1927 in the little town of Wakaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. Dad and Mom had seven children, four boys and three girls, so I came to know early in life what it was like to be with people.
Our family felt the effects of the desperate economic times of the 1930’s known as the Great Depression. We were not wealthy, but we did not lack food. We had some hens and a cow, so we were never short of eggs, milk, cream, cheese, and butter. As you can imagine, all in our farm family had chores.
I have many happy memories of that time, such as the sweet fragrance of apples filling the room. You see, when Dad went to town in the autumn to sell farm produce, he often returned with a box of freshly picked apples. What a treat it was for each of us to have a juicy apple every day!
OUR FAMILY LEARNS THE TRUTH
I was six years old when my parents heard of the truth. Their first son, Johnny, had died shortly after he was born. My distraught parents asked the local priest, “Where’s Johnny?” The priest said that the baby had not been christened, so he was not in heaven. Rather, he was in Limbo. The priest also said that if my parents paid him, he would pray for Johnny to get out of Limbo and go to heaven. How would you have felt? Dad and Mom were so disillusioned that they did not speak with that priest again. Yet, they still wondered what had become of Johnny.
One day Mom came across a booklet entitled Where Are the Dead? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. She read it eagerly. When Dad came home, she said excitedly: “I know where Johnny is! He’s sleeping now, but one day he’s going to awaken.” That evening my father read the entire booklet. Mom and Dad were comforted to learn that the Bible says that the dead are asleep and that there will be a future resurrection.
What they found changed our lives for the better, bringing both comfort and happiness. They started studying the Bible with the Witnesses and attending meetings with the little congregation in Wakaw, where most had a Ukrainian background. Soon Mom and Dad were sharing in the preaching work.
Not long after that, we moved to British Columbia and a congregation warmly welcomed us. I think back with pleasure on our family preparation of The Watchtower for the Sunday meetings. All of us were developing a deep love for Jehovah and for Bible truth. I could see how our lives were being enriched and how Jehovah was blessing us.
Understandably, it was not the easiest thing for us children to speak to people about our beliefs. Something that really helped, though, was that my younger sister Eva and I often prepared the month’s field service presentation and demonstrated it at the Service Meeting. It was a wonderful way for us, though we were shy, to learn to speak with others about the Bible. I’m so grateful for how we were trained to preach!
One of the highlights of our childhood was having full-time servants stay with us. For example, we loved it when our circuit overseer, Jack Nathan, visited our congregation and stayed in our home. * His countless stories were a delight, and his sincere commendation made us want to serve Jehovah faithfully.
I recall thinking, “When I grow up, I want to be like Brother Nathan.” Little did I realize then that his example was helping to groom me for a career in full-time service. By the time I was 15 years old, I was determined to serve Jehovah. In 1942, Eva and I were baptized.
TESTS OF FAITH
During World War II when patriotism ran high, Miss Scott, a particularly intolerant schoolteacher, expelled my two sisters and one of my brothers from school. Why? Because they declined to salute the flag. Then she contacted my schoolteacher and urged her to expel me. But my teacher said, “We live in a free country, and we have the right to refrain from patriotic ceremonies.” Despite much pressure from Miss Scott, my teacher said firmly, “This is my decision.”
Miss Scott replied: “No, it is not your decision. I will report you if you don’t expel Melita.” My teacher explained to my parents that if she wanted to keep her job, she had no choice but to expel me, even though she believed that it was the wrong thing to do. Nevertheless, we obtained school material that we could study at home. Shortly thereafter, we moved some 20 miles (32 km) away, where we were accepted at another school.
The war years brought bans on our literature; yet, we went from house to house with the Bible. As a result, we became skilled at sharing the good news of the Kingdom directly from the Scriptures. That, in turn, helped us to grow spiritually and experience Jehovah’s support.
ENTERING FULL-TIME SERVICE
As soon as Eva and I completed our schooling, we entered the pioneer service. For secular employment, I first worked in a department store deli. In time, I took a six-month course in hairdressing, something I had enjoyed doing at home. I found work at a hair salon two days a week and also taught the trade twice a month. In that way I supported myself in full-time service.
In 1955, I wanted to attend the “Triumphant Kingdom” assemblies in New York City, U.S.A., and Nuremberg, Germany. Before I left for New York, though, I met Brother Nathan Knorr from world headquarters. He and his wife were attending a convention in Vancouver, Canada. During their visit, I was asked to do Sister Knorr’s hair. Brother Knorr was pleased with the result and wanted to meet me. As we chatted, I told him that I was planning to be in New York before going on to Germany. He invited me to work at Brooklyn Bethel for nine days.
That trip changed my life. In New York, I met a young brother named Theodore (Ted) Jaracz. Shortly after meeting him, I was surprised when he asked me, “Are you a pioneer?” I replied, “No.” My friend LaVonne overheard this and interjected, “Yes, she is.” Puzzled, Ted asked LaVonne, “Well, who knows better, you or her?” I explained that I had been pioneering and intended to start again as soon as I returned from the conventions.
THE SPIRITUAL MAN I MARRIED
Born in 1925 in Kentucky, U.S.A., Ted had symbolized his dedication to Jehovah at the age of 15. Though none of his family members came into the truth, he became a regular pioneer two years later. That began a career of nearly 67 years in the full-time service.
In July 1946, at the age of 20, Ted graduated from the seventh class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. After that, he served as a traveling overseer in Cleveland, Ohio. Some four years later, he was assigned to serve as branch servant in Australia.
Ted was at the convention in Nuremberg, Germany, and we spent some time together. A romance blossomed. I was happy that his goals were centered on serving Jehovah whole-souled. He was a very dedicated person, serious in his devotion but kind and friendly in his disposition. I felt that he put others’ interests ahead of his own. Following that convention, Ted returned to Australia and I went back to Vancouver, but we kept in touch by letter.
After some five years in Australia, Ted returned to the United States and then came to pioneer in Vancouver. I was happy to see how much my family liked him. My older brother, Michael, was very protective of me, and he often expressed concern if a young brother took an interest in me. However, Michael quickly became fond of Ted. “Melita,” he said, “you’ve got a good man here. You had better treat him well and be smart enough not to lose him.”
I too had become very fond of Ted. We were married on December 10, 1956. We pioneered together in Vancouver, then in California, and then we were assigned to the circuit work in Missouri and Arkansas. For some 18 years, we had a different home each week as we served in the traveling work throughout a large part of the United States. We had wonderful experiences in the ministry, as well as much happy association with brothers and sisters. That more than made up for the inconveniences of living out of a suitcase.
Something I particularly respected about Ted was that he never took his relationship with Jehovah for granted. He cherished his sacred service to the greatest Person in the universe. We loved to read and study the Bible together. At night before retiring, we knelt next to the bed, and he prayed for us. Then we separately said our own prayers. I always knew when a serious matter was weighing on Ted’s mind. He would get out of bed, kneel down again, and silently pray at length. I deeply appreciated that he wanted to pray to Jehovah about matters great and small.
Some years after we got married, Ted explained to me that he was going to start partaking of the emblems at the Memorial. “I have prayed about this intensely to be absolutely sure that I am doing what Jehovah wants me to do,” he said. I was not entirely surprised that he had been anointed with God’s spirit to serve in heaven eventually. I viewed it as a privilege to support one of Christ’s brothers.
A NEW AVENUE OF SACRED SERVICE
In 1974, to our great surprise, Ted was invited to become a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In time, we were called to serve at Brooklyn Bethel. While Ted cared for his responsibilities on the Governing Body, I worked as a housekeeper or in the hair salon.
As part of Ted’s responsibilities, he was assigned to visit various branches. He was particularly interested in the preaching work in countries behind the Iron Curtain. Once, during a much needed vacation in Sweden, Ted said: “Melita, the preaching work is banned in Poland, and I would love to help the brothers there.” So we obtained visas and went to Poland. Ted met with some of the brothers who cared for our work, and they went for a long walk so that no one could overhear their conversation. The brothers had four days of very intense meetings, but I was happy to see how satisfied Ted was to help his spiritual family.
The next time we visited Poland was in November 1977. F. W. Franz, Daniel Sydlik, and Ted made the first official visit by members of the Governing Body. Our work was still banned, yet the three Governing Body members were able to speak to overseers, pioneers, and longtime Witnesses in various cities.
The next year, when Milton Henschel and Ted visited Poland, they met with officials who were becoming more tolerant of us and our activities. In 1982 the Polish government permitted our brothers to hold one-day assemblies. The following year, larger conventions were held, mostly in rented halls. While the ban was still on in 1985, we were allowed to hold four conventions in large stadiums. Then, in May 1989, while plans were under way for even larger conventions, the Polish government granted Jehovah’s Witnesses legal recognition. Few events brought Ted more joy than that.
COPING WITH HEALTH SETBACKS
In 2007 we were on our way to attend a branch dedication in South Africa. In England, Ted had trouble with his blood pressure, and a doctor advised him to postpone his trip. After Ted recovered, we returned to the United States. But a few weeks later, he had a severe stroke that disabled his right side.
Ted’s recovery was slow, and initially he was not able to go to the office. We were grateful, though, that his speech was normal. Despite his limitations, he tried to keep up his routine, even participating in the weekly Governing Body meetings by telephone from our living room.
Ted deeply appreciated the excellent physical therapy he received in the Bethel infirmary. Slowly, he regained much of his mobility. He was able to care for some of his theocratic assignments, and he always managed to be cheerful.
Three years later, he had a second stroke and died peacefully on Wednesday, June 9, 2010. Although I had always realized that Ted would have to finish his earthly course, I cannot describe how painful it was for me to lose him and how much I miss him. Still, I daily thank Jehovah for what I was able to do to assist Ted. We enjoyed over 53 years of full-time service together. I thank Jehovah for how Ted helped me draw closer to my heavenly Father. Now, I have no doubt that his new assignment brings him great delight and satisfaction.
MEETING NEW CHALLENGES IN LIFE
After so many busy, happy years with my husband, adjusting to the present challenges has not been easy. Ted and I loved meeting visitors at Bethel and at our Kingdom Hall. Now that my beloved Ted is no longer here and I am not as strong as I used to be, my association is more limited. Nevertheless, I still enjoy being with my dear brothers and sisters at Bethel and in the congregation. The Bethel routine is not easy, but it is a source of joy to be able to serve God in this way. And my love for the preaching work has in no way diminished. Though I get tired and cannot be on my feet for any length of time, I get much satisfaction from sharing in street witnessing and conducting Bible studies.
When I see all the terrible things happening in the world, how glad I am to have been in Jehovah’s service with such a wonderful marriage mate! Jehovah’s blessing has truly enriched my life.
^ par. 13 Jack Nathan’s life story was published in The Watchtower, September 1, 1990, pp. 10-14.