I told the officer that I had already been in prison because I would not fight. I asked him, “Are you going to make me go through that again?” This was the second time I was ordered to join the United States Army.
I WAS born in 1926 in Crooksville, Ohio, in the United States. Father and Mother were not religious, but they told us eight children to go to church. I went to the Methodist Church. When I was 14, the minister gave me a prize because I went to church every Sunday for a year.
About that time, a neighbor named Margaret Walker, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, began visiting my mother and talking to her about the Bible. One day, I decided to join them. Mother thought that I would interfere with her study, so she told me to get out of the house. But I kept trying to listen to their discussions. After a couple more visits, Margaret asked me, “Do you know what God’s name is?” I said, “Everyone knows that
I studied the Bible and got baptized in 1941. Soon afterward, I was assigned to conduct a congregation book study. I encouraged my mother and siblings to come, and they all began attending the book study that I conducted. Dad, though, was not interested.
OPPOSITION AT HOME
I was given more responsibility in the congregation, and I collected many books published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. One day, Dad pointed to my books and said: “You see all that stuff? I want it out of this house, and you can go with it.” I left home and went to live in nearby Zanesville, Ohio, but I traveled back and forth to encourage my family.
Dad tried to stop Mother from attending the meetings. Sometimes when she was on her way, he chased after her and pulled her back into the house. But she would just run out the other door and go to the meeting. I told Mother: “Don’t worry. He’ll get tired of running after you.” In time, Dad gave up trying to stop her, and she attended the meetings freely.
When the Theocratic Ministry School began in 1943, I started giving student talks in my congregation. The counsel I received after my parts on the school helped me to become a better speaker.
NEUTRALITY DURING WAR
In 1944, during World War II, I was ordered to join the army. I reported to Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio, had a physical examination, and filled out paperwork. I also told the officials that I would not become a soldier. They let me go home. But a few days later, an officer came to my door and told me, “Corwin Robison, I have a warrant for your arrest.”
In court two weeks later, the judge said: “If it were up to me, I’d give you a life sentence. Do you have anything to say?” I replied: “Your Honor, I should have been classified as a minister. Everyone’s doorstep is my pulpit, and I have preached the good news of the Kingdom to many people.” The judge told the jury: “You are not here to decide whether this young man is a minister or not. You are here to decide whether he reported for induction into the army or not.” In less than half an hour, the jury decided that I was guilty. The judge sentenced me to five years in prison in Ashland, Kentucky.
JEHOVAH PROTECTS ME IN PRISON
I spent the first two weeks in a prison in Columbus, Ohio, and I stayed in my cell the first day. I prayed to Jehovah: “I cannot stay in a cell for five years. I don’t know what to do.”
The next day, the guards let me out. I walked over to a tall, broad-shouldered prisoner, and we stood there looking out a window. He asked me, “What are you in for, Shorty?” I said, “I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” He said, “You are? So why are you here?” I said, “Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t go to war and kill people.” He said, “They put you in prison because you won’t kill people. They put other guys in prison because they kill people. Does that make sense?” I said, “No, it doesn’t.”
Then he said, “For 15 years I was in another prison, where I read some of your literature.” When I heard that, I prayed, “Jehovah, help me get this man on my side.” At that moment, the prisoner, whose name was Paul, said: “If any of these guys touch you, just yell. I’ll take care of them.” So while I was there, I had no problems with the 50 prisoners in that section.
When the officials moved me to the prison in Ashland, I met some mature brothers who were already there. They helped me and others to remain close to Jehovah. They assigned us a weekly Bible reading, and we prepared questions and answers for meetings that we called Bible Bees. We were in a large cell that had beds along the walls. There was a brother who would organize our territory. He would tell me: “Robison, you are responsible for bed such and such. Anyone assigned to that bed is your territory. Make sure you witness to him before he leaves.” That is how we preached in an organized way.
WHAT I FOUND OUTSIDE OF PRISON
World War II ended in 1945, but I stayed in prison for some time after that. I worried about my family because Dad had told me, “If I can get rid of you, I can handle the rest.” After my release, I had a pleasant surprise. Seven in my family were attending meetings and one of my sisters was baptized, despite Dad’s opposition.
When the Korean War began in 1950, I was ordered to join the army a second time. I was told to report to Fort Hayes again. After testing my abilities, an officer told me, “You had one of the highest scores in your group.” I said, “That’s fine, but I am not going into the army.” I quoted 2 Timothy 2:3 and said, “I am already a soldier of Christ.” After a long silence, he said, “You can leave.”
Soon afterward, I attended the Bethel meeting at a convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. Brother Milton Henschel told us that there was a need at Bethel for brothers who wanted to work hard for the Kingdom. I applied for Bethel service and was accepted. I started serving in Brooklyn in August 1954, and I have been at Bethel ever since.
I have always had a lot of work at Bethel. For several years, I operated the boilers in the printery and the office buildings, worked as a machinist, and repaired locks. I also worked at Assembly Halls in New York City.
I love the programs at Bethel, such as morning worship and the family Watchtower Study, as well as preaching with the congregation. When you think about it, these are things that any family of Jehovah’s Witnesses should be doing regularly. When parents and children consider the daily text together, have regular Family Worship sessions, participate in the congregation meetings, and are zealous for preaching the good news, all in the family will likely remain close to Jehovah.
I have made many friends at Bethel and in the congregation. Some were of the anointed and have gone to heaven. Others were not anointed. But all of Jehovah’s servants are imperfect, including Bethelites. If I have an argument with a brother, I always try to make peace. I think of Matthew 5:23, 24 and how we should handle our disagreements. It is not easy to say “I am sorry,” but most disagreements are solved this way.
GOOD RESULTS FROM MY SERVICE
Now I have a hard time preaching from door to door because of my age, but I have not given up. I have learned a little Mandarin Chinese and enjoy approaching Chinese people on the street. Some mornings I place 30 or 40 magazines with interested ones.
I have even made a return visit in China! One day, a nice young girl smiled at me as she passed out advertisements for a fruit stand. I smiled and offered her The Watchtower and Awake! in Chinese. She took them and told me that her name was Katie. After that, whenever she saw me, Katie came over to talk to me. I taught her the names of fruits and vegetables in English, and she repeated the words after me. I also explained Bible texts to her, and she accepted the Bible Teach book. After some weeks, though, she disappeared.
Months later, I offered the magazines to another girl who was passing out advertisements, and she accepted them. The next week, she handed me her cell phone and said, “You talk to China.” I said, “I don’t know anybody in China.” But she insisted, so I took the phone and said, “Hello, this is Robison.” The voice at the other end said, “Robby, this is Katie. I’m back in China.” I said, “China?” Katie answered, “Yes. Robby, you know that girl who handed you the phone? She’s my sister. You taught me many good things. Please teach her the way you taught me.” I said, “Katie, I will do the best I can. Thanks for letting me know where you are.” Soon afterward, I spoke to Katie’s sister for the last time. Wherever those two girls are now, I hope that they learn more about Jehovah.
I have served Jehovah for 73 years, and I am happy that he helped me to remain neutral and to be faithful in prison. Also, my siblings tell me that they were encouraged when I faced Dad’s opposition without giving up. Eventually, Mother and six of my brothers and sisters got baptized. Even Dad’s attitude changed a little, and he attended some meetings before he passed away.
If it is God’s will, my family members and friends who have died will return to life in the new world. Imagine our joy as we worship Jehovah forever with those whom we love! *
^ par. 32 While this article was being prepared for publication, Corwin Robison died faithful to Jehovah.