“If you get baptized, I will leave you!” This was the threat my father made to my mother in 1941. Despite his threat, she decided to get baptized. As a result, my father left. I was only eight years old at the time.
BEFORE this happened, I was already interested in the truth. My mother had received some Bible publications, and I was fascinated by them. I especially liked the pictures. My father did not want my mother to talk to me about what she was learning. However, I was curious and asked questions, so she studied with me when my father was out of the house. As a result, I too decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to Jehovah. I was baptized in Blackpool, England, in 1943 when I was ten years old.
I START SERVING JEHOVAH
From that time on, my mother and I regularly went in field service together. Back then, we used phonographs to preach. They were big and heavy, weighing about four and a half kilos (10 pounds). Just imagine me, a young boy, trying to carry one of those!
By the time I was 14 years old, I already wanted to pioneer. My mother said that I should first speak to the servant to the brethren (now called a circuit overseer). He suggested that I try to learn a skill that could support me in the pioneer work. So I did that. After working for two years, I asked another circuit overseer about pioneering. He said, “Go for it!”
So in April 1949, my mother and I got rid of all our furniture and moved to Middleton, near Manchester, where we began pioneering. After four months, I selected a brother as my pioneer partner. The branch office suggested that we move to a congregation that had just been formed in Irlam. My mother pioneered with a sister in another congregation.
I was only 17 years old, but my pioneer partner and I were responsible for conducting meetings because there were only a few qualified brothers in the new congregation. Later, I moved to the Buxton Congregation, which had very few publishers and needed help. Those experiences prepared me for future assignments.
In 1951, I filled out an application to attend the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Then, in December 1952, I was called to report for military service. I asked to be excused from serving in the military because I was a full-time minister, but the court did not accept my request and sentenced me to six months in prison. While there, I received my invitation to the 22nd class of Gilead. In July 1953, soon after my release, I boarded the ship called Georgic and traveled to New York.
As soon as I arrived, I attended the 1953 New World Society Assembly. I then traveled by train to South Lansing, New York, where the school was located. I had just left prison, so I had little money. When I got off the train, I took a bus to South Lansing, but I had to borrow the 25 cents for the fare from another passenger.
A FOREIGN ASSIGNMENT
In Gilead School we received wonderful training to help us to “become all things to people of all sorts.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) Paul Bruun, Raymond Leach, and I were assigned to the Philippines, but we had to wait several months for our visas. Then we traveled by ship to Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. After that we sailed across the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Indian Ocean to Malaysia and then to Hong Kong. Finally, after 47 days at sea, we reached Manila on November 19, 1954.
There, we had to adjust to a new culture, a new country, and a new language. However, in the beginning, the three of us were assigned to a congregation in Quezon City, where many people spoke English. So after six months, we knew only a few words of Tagalog. Our next assignment would change that.
One day in May 1955, when we arrived home from field service, Brother Leach and I found some letters that said we were assigned as circuit overseers. I was only 22 years old, but in this assignment I would learn new ways to “become all things to people of all sorts.”
For example, I gave my first public talk as a circuit overseer outside a village store. At that time in the Philippines, public talks were actually given in public places! As I visited different congregations in the circuit, I gave talks in public gazebos, at markets, in front of public halls, on basketball courts, in parks, and often on city street corners. Once in San Pablo City, I could not give my talk at a public market because of the heavy rain. So I suggested to the responsible brothers that I give the talk in the Kingdom Hall. Afterward, the brothers asked if they could report this as a public meeting, since it was not held in a public place!
I always stayed in the homes of the brothers. Even though the homes were simple, they were clean. Many times my bed was a thin mat on a wooden floor. The only place to take baths was outside the house where everybody could see me, so I learned to bathe modestly. I traveled by bus and sometimes by boat to go to other islands. During all my years of service, I have never owned a car.
I learned Tagalog, even though I never took a language class. I did this by listening to brothers in the field service and at the meetings. The brothers wanted to help me learn, and I was thankful for their patience and their honest comments.
As time went by, I had to make more adjustments because of new assignments. In 1956, when Brother Nathan Knorr visited, we had a national convention. I was assigned to communicate with the news media. I had no experience with this, but others helped me to learn. Less than a year later, we had another national convention, and I served as the convention overseer. Brother Frederick Franz visited from world headquarters, and I learned a lot from him. When he gave the public talk, he wore a barong Tagalog, the traditional Filipino clothing. This made the local brothers very happy, and it taught me to be willing to adapt to people.
I needed to make more adjustments when I became a district overseer. In those days, we showed the film The Happiness of the New World Society. We almost always showed it outside in public places, so at times insects would bother us. The light of the projector attracted them, and they would get stuck in the projector. It was a lot of work to clean it afterward! It was not easy to organize these events, but it was satisfying to see people come and learn about Jehovah’s international organization.
Catholic priests in some areas pressured the authorities not to give us permits for assemblies. So that no one could hear the speaker, they would also ring the church bells whenever we had talks near their churches. Despite all of this, people continued to learn the truth, and many in those areas now worship Jehovah.
NEW ASSIGNMENTS, MORE ADJUSTMENTS
In 1959, I was assigned to serve at the branch office. I learned a lot from my experiences there. After a while, I was asked to visit other countries as a zone overseer. On one of these trips, I got to know Janet Dumond, a missionary in Thailand. We wrote letters to each other for some time, and later we got married. For 51 years we have happily served Jehovah together.
I have enjoyed visiting Jehovah’s people in 33 countries. I am very thankful that my earlier assignments helped me learn how to deal with people from different cultures and backgrounds! These visits helped me to understand clearly that Jehovah loves people of all kinds.
WE ARE STILL ADJUSTING
It has been a joy for Janet and me to serve with the brothers in the Philippines, and we continue to serve at the branch office in Quezon City. There are ten times more publishers now than there were when I began serving here 60 years ago. Even after all these years, I still need to be ready to adjust to what Jehovah asks. For example, because of changes that have recently been made in the organization, we have had to be willing to make more adjustments.
We have done all we can to follow Jehovah’s direction, and this has been the most satisfying way to live. We have also tried to make any adjustments that were necessary in order to serve our brothers well. Yes, for as long as Jehovah wants us to, we are determined to be “all things to people of all sorts.”