“If you get baptized, I will leave you!” My father threatened my mother with those words in 1941. Despite his threat, she decided to go ahead and get baptized in symbol of her dedication to Jehovah God. Making good on his threat, my father left. I was only eight years old at the time.
MY INTEREST in Bible truth had already been aroused earlier. My mother had obtained Bible publications, and I became engrossed in their contents, particularly the illustrations. 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 at the age of ten.
GETTING STARTED IN SERVING JEHOVAH
From that time on, my mother and I shared regularly in the field service together. To introduce the Bible’s message, we used phonographs. These were rather bulky and weighed about ten pounds (4.5 kg). Just imagine me, a young boy, lugging one of those!
By the time I was 14 years old, I 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 get some kind of skill to support me in the pioneer service. So I did that. After working for two years, I consulted another circuit overseer about pioneering. He said, “Go for it!”
Thus, in April 1949, my mother and I disposed of the furniture in our rented house 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 newly established congregation in Irlam. My mother pioneered with a sister in another congregation.
Although I was only 17 years old, my partner and I were given the responsibility of conducting meetings because there were few qualified brothers in the new congregation. Later, I was invited to transfer to the Buxton Congregation, which had very few publishers and needed help. I have always viewed those early experiences as training for future assignments.
In 1951, I filled out an application to attend the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. However, in December 1952, I was called to report for military service. I sought an exemption on the basis of being a full-time minister, but the court would not acknowledge that I was a minister and sentenced me to six months in prison. While there, I received my invitation to the 22nd class of Gilead. So it was that in July 1953, I was on board the ship called Georgic, heading toward New York.
Upon arrival, I was able to attend the 1953 New World Society Assembly. I then traveled by train to South Lansing, New York, where the school was located. Fresh out of prison, I had little money. When I got off the train, a shuttle bus was to take me to South Lansing, and I had to borrow the 25-cent fare from a fellow passenger.
A FOREIGN ASSIGNMENT
Gilead School provided wonderful training to help us to “become all things to people of all sorts” in the missionary work. (1 Cor. 9:22) Three of us—Paul Bruun, Raymond Leach, and I—were assigned to the Philippines. We had to wait several months for our visas; then we were on our way by ship via Rotterdam, the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean, Malaysia, and Hong Kong—47 days at sea! We finally reached Manila on November 19, 1954.
Then started the adjustment to a new people, a new land, and even a new language. However, the three of us were initially assigned to a congregation in Quezon City, where many of the residents spoke English. Thus, after six months, we knew only a few words of Tagalog. Our next assignment would help solve that problem.
One day in May 1955 when we arrived home from field service, Brother Leach and I found a pack of letters in our room. We learned that we were being assigned as circuit overseers. I was only 22 years old, but this assignment gave me the opportunity to “become all things to people of all sorts” in new ways.
For example, I gave my first public talk as a circuit overseer in front of a village store out in the open. I soon learned that it was the custom in the Philippines in those days for a public talk to be really public! As I visited different congregations in the circuit, I delivered talks in public gazebos, at markets, in front of municipal halls, on basketball courts, in parks, and often on city street corners. Once in San Pablo City, a downpour prevented me from giving a talk at a public market, so I suggested to the responsible brothers that it be given in the Kingdom Hall. Afterward, the brothers asked whether this could be reported as a public meeting, since it was not held in a public place!
Accommodations were always in brothers’ homes. Even though the homes were simple, they were always clean. My bed was often a woven mat on a wooden floor. Bathing facilities lacked privacy, so I learned to bathe modestly out in the open. I traveled by jeepney and bus and sometimes by boat when going to other islands. Through all my years of service, I have never owned a car.
Working in the field ministry and visiting congregations helped me to learn Tagalog. I never had a formal language course, but I learned by listening to brothers in the field service and at the meetings. The brothers wanted to help me learn, and I appreciated their patience and honest comments.
As time went by, new assignments prompted me to make more adjustments. In 1956 when Brother Nathan Knorr visited, I was assigned to care for public relations at the national convention. I had no experience, so others willingly helped me learn. Less than a year later, another national convention was arranged and Brother Frederick Franz from world headquarters visited. While serving as convention overseer, I learned from Brother Franz’s willingness to adjust to the people. The local brothers were pleased to see Brother Franz wearing the barong Tagalog, traditional Filipino attire, when giving the public talk.
I needed to make more adjustments when I was assigned as a district overseer. At that time, we showed the film The Happiness of the New World Society, almost always outdoors in public places. At times, we were bothered by insects. They were attracted by the projector light and got stuck in the projector. It was quite a job cleaning the projector afterward! It was not easy arranging these showings, yet it was satisfying to see the fine response of the people as they got acquainted with the international aspect of Jehovah’s organization.
Catholic priests pressured some local authorities not to give us permits for assemblies. Or they would try to drown out our program by ringing the church bells whenever talks were held near their churches. Still, the work progressed, and many in those areas are now worshippers of Jehovah.
ASSIGNMENTS THAT CALLED FOR MORE ADJUSTMENTS
In 1959, I received a letter informing me that I had been assigned to serve at the branch office. This resulted in many more learning experiences. In time, I was asked to make zone visits to other countries. On one of these trips, I got acquainted with Janet Dumond, a missionary in Thailand. We corresponded for some time and later married. We have enjoyed 51 years of satisfying service together as a married couple.
In all, I have had the pleasure of visiting Jehovah’s people in 33 countries. How thankful I am that my earlier assignments helped prepare me for the unique challenges of dealing with such a diversity of people! These visits broadened my viewpoint even more and helped me to see how Jehovah’s love embraces people of all kinds.—Acts 10:34, 35.
What a delight it has been to serve with our brothers in the Philippines! The number of publishers is now about ten times what it was when I began serving here. Janet and I continue to serve together at the Philippines branch office in Quezon City. Even after more than 60 years in this foreign assignment, I still need to be ready to adjust to what Jehovah asks. Recent organizational changes have required that we remain flexible in our service to God and to our brothers.
We have endeavored to accept whatever we perceived to be Jehovah’s will, and this has been a most satisfying way to live. We have also tried to make the necessary adjustments and serve our brothers well. Yes, we are determined, for as long as Jehovah wills, to be “all things to people of all sorts.”