IN THE mid-1930’s, my father and mother—James and Jessie Sinclair—moved to the Bronx, a borough of New York City. One of their new acquaintances was Willie Sneddon, who came from Scotland, as they did. Within minutes of their first encounter, the three were talking about their families. That was a couple of years before I was born.
Mother told Willie that shortly before the Great War, her father and her older brother drowned when their fishing boat hit a mine in the North Sea. Willie responded, “Your father is in hell!” Willie was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and this was my mother’s shocking introduction to Bible truth.
What Willie said upset my mother because she knew that her father was a good man. But Willie added, “Would it do any good if I told you that Jesus went to hell?” Mother recalled the church creed, which in its original form stated that Jesus descended into hell and was raised on the third day. So she wondered, ‘If hell is a fiery place where the wicked are tormented, why did Jesus go there?’ This was the beginning of my mother’s interest in the truth. She began attending meetings with the Bronx Congregation and got baptized in 1940.
At that time, Christian parents were given no special encouragement to study the Bible with their children. When I was a toddler, my father would care for me while my mother attended meetings and shared in the witnessing work on weekends. After a few years, he and I began attending meetings with my mother. She was very active in preaching the good news and conducted several Bible studies with interested people. In fact, there was a time when she held some of her studies as a group because her students lived quite near to one another. I accompanied her in field service during my school vacations. In that way, I learned a lot about the Bible and how to teach others what it says.
I am sorry to say that when I was little, I didn’t fully appreciate the truth. I took it for granted. However, when I was about 12, I became a Kingdom publisher and regularly shared in the field ministry from then on. At the age of 16, I dedicated my life to Jehovah, getting baptized on July 24, 1954, at a convention in Toronto, Canada.
SERVING AT BETHEL
Some brothers in our congregation were or had been members of the Bethel family. They had a strong influence on me. Their abilities in speaking and explaining Bible truths impressed me. Although my schoolteachers wanted me to attend university, my goal was to go to Bethel. Therefore, I turned in a Bethel application at that convention in Toronto. I did so again in 1955 at a convention in Yankee Stadium, New York City. Not long thereafter, when I was 17 years old, I received an invitation to start serving at Brooklyn Bethel on September 19, 1955. On my second day at Bethel, I began working in the Bindery at 117 Adams Street. I was soon working on a gathering machine, which assembled 32-page sections of books to get them ready for a machine that sewed the books.
After about a month in the Bindery, I was sent to the Magazine Department because I knew how to type. Back then, brothers and sisters typed address stencils (small metal plates) for new subscribers to The Watchtower and Awake! A few months later, I was working in the Shipping Department. Klaus Jensen, the department overseer, asked me if I would be willing to accompany the driver who was taking cartons of literature by truck to the docks for shipping worldwide. There were also sacks of magazines to be brought to the post office for mailing to congregations throughout the United States. Brother Jensen said that he thought the physical work would do me good. I weighed only about 125 pounds (57 kg) and was as skinny as a rail. Those trips to the docks and the post office helped to strengthen me physically. Brother Jensen evidently knew what was good for me!
The Magazine Department also filled congregation requests for magazines. Thus I learned about languages in which our magazines were printed in Brooklyn and sent to other parts of the world. I had never heard of many of the languages but was happy to know that tens of thousands of magazines were being sent to far-flung places. Though I did not know it at the time, I would have the privilege of visiting many of those places in the years to come.
In 1961, I was assigned to work in the Treasurer’s Office under the oversight of Grant Suiter. After a couple of years there, I was called to the office of Nathan Knorr, who was then taking the lead in our worldwide work. He explained that one of the brothers working in his office was going to attend the Kingdom Ministry School for a month, after which he would work in the Service Department. I was assigned to take his place and work alongside Don Adams. By coincidence, Don was the brother who had accepted my Bethel application at the 1955 convention. Two other brothers already working in the same office were Robert Wallen and Charles Molohan. The four of us worked together for over 50 years. What a joy it has been to serve with such faithful spiritual men!—Ps. 133:1.
Starting in 1970, I was assigned to travel for a few weeks every year or two to visit a number of branch offices of the Watch Tower Society, making what were then called zone visits. This involved visiting Bethel families and missionaries worldwide, giving spiritual encouragement, and checking branch office records. What a joy it was to meet some who had graduated from the early classes of Gilead School and were still serving faithfully in their foreign assignments! It has been a privilege and a delight to visit over 90 countries in connection with that work.
I FOUND A FAITHFUL COMPANION
All Bethel family members in Brooklyn were assigned to congregations in the New York City area. The one that I was assigned to was in the Bronx. The first congregation in that borough had grown and divided. That original one became known as the Upper Bronx Congregation, which I attended.
In the mid-1960’s, a Latvian family of Witnesses who had come into the truth in the south Bronx moved into the territory of that congregation. Livija, the eldest daughter, became a regular pioneer as soon as she finished high school. A few months later, she moved to Massachusetts to serve where the need for Kingdom publishers was greater. I began writing to her with news about the congregation, and she would write back to tell me of her success in the ministry in the Boston area.
A few years later, Livija was appointed to be a special pioneer. She wanted to do as much as she could in Jehovah’s service, so she applied for Bethel and was invited to come in 1971. It seemed that this might be a hint from Jehovah! On October 27, 1973, we got married and were privileged to have Brother Knorr deliver our wedding talk. Proverbs 18:22 says: “The one who finds a good wife has found something good, and he receives Jehovah’s favor.” Livija and I have thus been favored with over 40 years together in Bethel service. And we continue to support a congregation in the same general area of the Bronx.
SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH CHRIST’S BROTHERS
Working with Brother Knorr was truly a pleasure. He was a tireless worker for the truth and had tremendous appreciation for the missionaries around the world. Many of them were the first Witnesses in the countries to which they were assigned. It was very sad to see Brother Knorr suffer from cancer in 1976. Once, when he was bedridden, he asked me to read to him some material that was being processed for printing. He asked me to call Frederick Franz so that he too could come and listen to the reading. I later found out that because of Brother Franz’ failing eyesight, Brother Knorr had been spending considerable time reading such material to him.
Brother Knorr died in 1977, but those who knew and loved him were comforted because he had finished his earthly course faithfully. (Rev. 2:10) Thereafter, Brother Franz took the lead in our work.
By that time, I was doing secretarial duties for Milton Henschel, who had worked with Brother Knorr for decades. Brother Henschel informed me that my foremost responsibility at Bethel would now be to help Brother Franz in any way needed. I would regularly read material to him before it was printed. Brother Franz had a remarkable memory and the amazing ability to concentrate totally on what was being read. What a joy it was to help him in that way until he finished his earthly course in December 1992!
The 61 years that I have spent at Bethel have passed quickly. My parents both died faithful to Jehovah, and I look forward to welcoming them back in a much better world. (John 5:28, 29) Nothing that this old system of things offers can compare with the wonderful privilege of working with faithful men and women in behalf of God’s people around the world. Livija and I can truthfully say that during our years in full-time service, “the joy of Jehovah [has been our] stronghold.”—Neh. 8:10.
No human is indispensable in Jehovah’s organization, and the work of spreading Kingdom truths continues. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with many stalwart and loyal brothers and sisters over the years. Most of the anointed ones with whom I have worked are no longer here on earth. But I am grateful to have been a companion of such faithful spiritual ones in Jehovah’s service.