On the west bank of the Indus River, in what is now Pakistan, is the ancient city of Sukkur. That is where I entered the world on November 9, 1929. About that time, my parents obtained a set of brightly colored books from an English missionary. Those Bible-based books had a role in shaping my life as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
THOSE books were called the rainbow set. When I was able to examine them, I found vivid illustrations that fired my imagination. As a result, from an early age, I developed a hunger for Bible knowledge, such as was presented in those outstanding volumes.
As World War II threatened to engulf India, my world seemed to fall apart. My parents separated and then divorced. I could not understand why two people whom I loved would leave each other. I felt emotionally numb and abandoned. I was an only child, and I could not seem to get the comfort and support that I wanted so much.
My mother and I were then living in Karachi, the provincial capital. One day, Fred Hardaker, an elderly doctor who was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, called at our home. He was of the same faith as the missionary who had provided those books for my family. He offered my mother a Bible study. Mother declined but said that I might be interested. I started studying with Brother Hardaker the very next week.
A few weeks later, I began attending Christian meetings at Brother Hardaker’s medical clinic. About 12 elderly Witnesses met there for worship. They comforted me and cared for me like a son. I fondly remember how they sat with me, coming down to my eye level, and talked with me as genuine friends, which I so needed at the time.
Soon Brother Hardaker invited me to accompany him in the field ministry. He taught me to operate a portable phonograph so that we could play records containing short Bible talks. A few of the talks were quite direct, and some householders did not appreciate the message. But I got a thrill out of witnessing to others. I was full of zeal for Bible truth and loved sharing it with others.
As the Japanese army advanced on India, the British authorities put increasing pressure on Jehovah’s Witnesses. Finally, in July 1943, that pressure affected me personally. The school principal, an Anglican clergyman, expelled me for being “an unsatisfactory character.” He told my mother that my association with Jehovah’s Witnesses set a bad example for the other students. She was horrified and barred me from associating with the Witnesses. Later, she shipped me off to my father at Peshawar, a town some 850 miles (1,370 km) to the north. Deprived of spiritual food and association, I became spiritually inactive.
REGAINING SPIRITUAL HEALTH
In 1947, I returned to Karachi in search of work. While there, I visited Dr. Hardaker’s clinic. He gave me a warm and hearty welcome.
“Now, what seems to be troubling you?” he asked, thinking that I had come for medical advice.
“Doctor, I am not physically ill,” I answered. “I’m spiritually sick. I need a Bible study.”
“When would you like to start?” he asked.
“Right now if possible,” I replied.
We spent a wonderful evening studying the Bible. I felt as if I had come home spiritually. My mother tried hard to stop me from associating with the Witnesses, but this time I was determined to make the truth my own. On August 31, 1947, I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah by water baptism. Soon, at the age of 17, I started to serve as a regular pioneer.
JOYFUL PIONEER SERVICE
My first pioneer assignment was Quetta, a former British military outpost. In 1947, the country was partitioned into India and Pakistan. * This event triggered widespread religious violence among the people, resulting in one of the largest mass migrations in history. Some 14 million refugees were displaced. Muslims in India went to Pakistan, while Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan relocated to India. Amid that chaos, I boarded an overcrowded train in Karachi and clung precariously to an outside handrail most of the way to Quetta.
In Quetta, I met George Singh, a special pioneer in his mid-20’s. George gave me an old bicycle that I could ride (or push) around the hilly territory. Most of the time, I preached by myself. Within six months, I had 17 Bible studies, and some of the students came into the truth. One of them, an army officer named Sadiq Masih, helped George and me to translate some Bible literature into Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. In time, Sadiq became a zealous publisher of the good news.
Later, I returned to Karachi and served with Henry Finch and Harry Forrest, newly arrived missionaries from Gilead School. What valuable theocratic training they gave me! Once I accompanied Brother Finch on a preaching trip to northern Pakistan. At the foot of lofty mountain ranges, we found many humble Urdu-speaking villagers who thirsted for Bible truth. Two years later, I myself was able to attend Gilead School; I returned to Pakistan as a part-time circuit overseer. I was based at a missionary home in Lahore, along with three other missionary brothers.
HEALING FROM A CRISIS
Sadly, in 1954, the missionaries at Lahore had a clash of personalities, causing the branch office to make reassignments. Because I had unwisely taken sides in the dispute, I received strong counsel. I felt crushed, concluding that I was a spiritual failure. I moved back to Karachi and then to London, England, hoping to make a fresh spiritual start.
In London, my congregation included many members of the London Bethel family. Pryce Hughes, the kindly branch servant, took me under his wing. One day, he told me of an occasion when he received firm counsel from Joseph F. Rutherford, who was overseeing the worldwide preaching work. When Brother Hughes tried to justify himself, Brother Rutherford sternly rebuked him. I was surprised to see Brother Hughes smile at the memory. He said that the incident upset him at first. But later he realized that he needed the firm counsel and that it was an expression of Jehovah’s love. (Heb. 12:6) His comments touched my heart and helped me regain my spiritual balance.
About that time, my mother moved to London and accepted a Bible study from John E. Barr, who later served on the Governing Body. She made steady spiritual progress and was baptized in 1957. Later I learned that before my father died, he too studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In 1958, I married Lene, a Danish sister who had settled in London. The next year, we were blessed with a daughter, Jane, the first of our five children. I also received privileges of service in the Fulham Congregation. In time, however, Lene’s poor health required that we move to a warmer climate. So in 1967, we migrated to Adelaide, Australia.
A HEARTBREAKING TRAGEDY
Our congregation in Adelaide included 12 older anointed Christians. They took a zealous lead in the preaching work. We quickly settled into a good spiritual routine.
In 1979, Lene and I welcomed the arrival of our fifth child, Daniel. He was severely affected with Down syndrome * and was not expected to live long. Even now I struggle to describe the anguish that we felt. We threw ourselves into caring for his needs, while not neglecting our four other children. Daniel sometimes turned blue from lack of oxygen caused by two holes in his heart, and we had to rush him to the hospital. But despite his poor health, he was very intelligent and had a loving nature. He was also very spiritually inclined. When our family prayed before meals, he would clasp his tiny hands, nod his head, and say a hearty “Amen!” Only then would he eat his meal.
When Daniel was four, he developed acute leukemia. Lene and I were physically and emotionally exhausted. I felt that I was close to a nervous breakdown. Yet, when we were at our lowest ebb, our circuit overseer, Neville Bromwich, arrived at our door. That night, with tears in his eyes, he wrapped his arms around us. We all wept. His loving and compassionate words comforted us beyond measure. He left about one o’clock the next morning. Soon afterward Daniel died. Losing him was the most traumatic event in our lives. Nevertheless, we endured our grief, confident that nothing—not even death—can separate Daniel from Jehovah’s love. (Rom. 8:38, 39) How we long to be with him when he is resurrected in God’s new world!—John 5:28, 29.
FINDING JOY IN HELPING OTHERS
Today, after surviving two major strokes, I still serve as a congregation elder. My experiences have instilled in me empathy and compassion for others, especially those struggling with problems. I try not to judge them. Instead, I ask myself: ‘How has their background shaped their emotions and thinking? How can I show them that I care? How can I encourage them to follow Jehovah’s ways?’ I truly love doing shepherding work in the congregation! Indeed, when I comfort and refresh others spiritually, I sense that I am comforting and refreshing myself.
I feel like the psalmist who declared: “When anxieties overwhelmed me, [Jehovah] comforted and soothed me.” (Ps. 94:19) He has sustained me through family difficulties, religious opposition, personal disappointments, and depression. Truly, Jehovah has been a real Father to me!
^ par. 19 At first, Pakistan was composed of West Pakistan (now Pakistan) and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
^ par. 29 See the article “Raising a Child With Down Syndrome—The Challenge and the Reward” in Awake! of June 2011.