Shortly after I married my dear wife, Evelyn, we arrived at Hornepayne, a small town in an isolated part of northern Ontario, Canada. It was a bitterly cold morning when a brother came to pick us up at the train station. After we enjoyed a big breakfast with him, his wife, and his son, we walked through the snow as we preached from house to house. That same afternoon in 1957, I gave my first public talk as a circuit overseer. However, only five were at the meeting. No one else came.
ACTUALLY, I did not mind that so few people came to my talk. Ever since I was a young boy, I have been very shy. I was so shy that I would hide when people came to our home, even if I knew them.
So it might surprise you to learn that in most of my assignments in Jehovah’s organization, it has been necessary for me to interact with many people, both friends and strangers. How is it possible for a shy person who is not very confident in himself to do this? It is not by my own strength. Jehovah has always helped me to do what I have been assigned to do. He has kept his promise: “I will fortify you, yes, I will help you, I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10) This help has often come from other Christians. Let me tell you about some of them, starting with when I was a child.
SHE USED A BIBLE AND A LITTLE BLACK BOOK
It was a sunny day in 1940 when Elsie Huntingford came to our family farm in southwestern Ontario. Because my father was shy like me, my mother answered the door. My father and I just sat inside and listened. My father thought that Sister Huntingford was selling something, and he became worried that my mother would buy it. So he went to the door to say that we were not interested. Sister Huntingford asked, “Are you people not interested in a Bible study?” Dad said, “Of course we’re interested in that.”
My parents were ready to accept the truth when Sister Huntingford visited us. They used to be very involved in the United Church of Canada. However, they had decided to leave the church. Why? Because the minister put a list of those who gave money to the church right where everyone could see it. My parents’ names were close to the end of the list, so everyone knew that they gave less money than others. Even though my parents did not have a lot of money, the church elders made them feel that they needed to give more. Another reason they left was that one minister admitted that he would lose his job if he taught what he really believed. So we left the church, but we still wanted to worship God and learn about him.
At that time, the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was under ban in Canada, and it was not possible to preach openly. At first, Sister Huntingford taught us using only the Bible and a little black book with her notes. Later, when she realized that we would not betray her, she gave us other Bible publications. After each study we carefully hid the publications. *
Sister Huntingford worked zealously in the ministry despite opposition and other problems. Her zeal made a big impression on me, and I decided to serve Jehovah. My parents were baptized in 1948. The next year, when I was 17, I was baptized in a water trough that was used for animals. After my baptism, I was determined to become a pioneer.
JEHOVAH HELPED ME TO BE COURAGEOUS
I hesitated to pioneer right away because I thought that I needed to earn some money first. So I got two jobs, one at a bank and one in an office. However, I was young and inexperienced, and I immediately spent all the money I made. A brother named Ted Sargent urged me to be courageous and put faith in Jehovah. (1 Chronicles 28:10) That kind encouragement helped me to start pioneering in 1951. I had only 40 dollars, a used bicycle, and a new book bag. But Jehovah always made sure that I had the things I really needed. I am thankful that Ted encouraged me to pioneer. Many good things resulted from that decision.
One evening in August 1952, I received a phone call from Bethel in Toronto, Canada. I was invited to start work at Bethel in September. Even though I was shy and had never been to Bethel before, I was excited to work there because I had heard so many wonderful things about Bethel. When I arrived, I felt at home right away.
“SHOW THE BROTHERS THAT YOU CARE ABOUT THEM”
Two years after I arrived at Bethel, I became the congregation servant of the Shaw Unit in Toronto. * (See footnote.) I replaced Bill Yacos, who was older and more experienced. I was only 23 years old and felt like a naive farm boy. In a kind and humble way, Brother Yacos showed me what to do. Jehovah really helped me.
Brother Yacos was a stocky man with a friendly smile. He truly cared about people. He loved the brothers, and they loved him. Brother Yacos would regularly visit them in their homes and not just when they had problems. He encouraged me to do the same and to work with them in the field ministry. “Ken,” he said, “show the brothers that you care about them.”
MY WIFE IS LOYAL TO JEHOVAH AND TO ME
Jehovah has helped me in a special way since January 1957. That month I married Evelyn, who was a graduate of the 14th class of Gilead School. Before we got married, she served in the French-speaking province of Quebec. Since the Roman Catholic Church was very powerful in that area, it was difficult for Evelyn to preach there. But she was loyal to Jehovah and did not stop preaching.
Evelyn has also loyally supported me. (Ephesians 5:31) Sometimes this was hard to do. For example, just one day after we got married, the branch asked me to go to Canada Bethel for a one-week meeting. But we had planned to go to Florida, U.S.A., for our honeymoon. Because Evelyn and I wanted to do whatever Jehovah asked of us, we changed our plans. During that week, Evelyn preached near the branch. Even though the territory was very different from Quebec, she did her best.
At the end of the week, something unexpected happened. I was assigned as a circuit overseer in northern Ontario. I was a new husband, only 25 years old, and very inexperienced. But we were confident that Jehovah would help us. We took an overnight train in the middle of the cold Canadian winter. A number of experienced traveling overseers who were returning to their assignments rode the same train. They encouraged us very much! One brother did not want us to sit in an uncomfortable seat all night long. So he insisted that we take his compartment that had a bed. The next morning we visited the small group in Hornepayne, as I mentioned at the beginning of the article. It was our first assignment, and we had been married only 15 days.
A few years later, our lives changed again. In late 1960, when I was serving as a district overseer, I was invited to the 36th class of Gilead School, which started in February 1961. I was excited to have the opportunity to study the Bible for ten months. But I was also sad because Evelyn, like many other wives, was not invited to attend. She had to write a letter saying that she was willing to stay in Canada while I attended the class in Brooklyn, New York. Although she cried at the thought of being away from me for so long, we agreed that I should go to Gilead. Evelyn was happy that I would receive this valuable training.
While I was in Brooklyn, Evelyn worked at Bethel in Canada. She had the privilege of sharing a room with an anointed sister named Margaret Lovell. Of course, Evelyn and I missed each other very much. But Jehovah helped us settle into our assignments. Evelyn was willing to make sacrifices for Jehovah, and this touched me deeply.
After I had been at Gilead for only three months, I received an invitation from Brother Nathan Knorr, who was taking the lead in the worldwide preaching work. He invited me to go back to Canada to teach Kingdom Ministry School. He told me that I would likely never be invited to Gilead School again after I finished teaching the class in Canada. Brother Knorr explained that I did not have to accept the assignment. Instead, I could choose to finish Gilead School and then I would perhaps be assigned to a foreign country as a missionary. He said that I could talk to my wife and then make a decision.
I did not have to ask Evelyn, because I already knew how she felt. We have always thought that we should go wherever Jehovah’s organization assigned us to go, even if it is not our preferred assignment. So I immediately told Brother Knorr, “Whatever Jehovah’s organization wants us to do, we are happy to do.”
In April 1961, I returned to Canada to teach Kingdom Ministry School. Later, Evelyn and I were invited to work at Bethel in Canada. Then, we were very surprised when I was invited to attend the 40th class of Gilead, which would start in 1965. Once again, Evelyn needed to write a letter saying that she was willing to stay in Canada while I went to the school. However, only a few weeks after I received my invitation, Evelyn was also invited to Gilead. We were so happy!
After we arrived at Gilead School, Brother Knorr said that we would be sent to Africa with all the other students who were in the French-language class. We were surprised when we were assigned back to Canada. I was only 34 years old, and I was assigned as the branch overseer. When I reminded Brother Knorr that I was very young, he helped me to feel more confident. Right from the beginning, I tried to talk to others with more experience before making important decisions.
BETHEL IS A PLACE TO LEARN AND TO TEACH
While serving Jehovah at Bethel, I have had the wonderful opportunity to learn from others. I respect and admire the other members of the Branch Committee. I have also learned a lot from the hundreds of fine brothers and sisters, young and old, whom I have met here at the branch and in the various congregations where we have served.
At Bethel, I have also had the opportunity to teach and help others to strengthen their faith in Jehovah. The apostle Paul told Timothy: “Continue in the things that you learned.” Paul also said: “The things you heard from me that were supported by many witnesses, these things entrust to faithful men, who, in turn, will be adequately qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2; 3:14) I have been at Bethel for 57 years now. Some have asked me what I have learned. My answer is simple: Always do what Jehovah’s organization wants you to do. And trust that Jehovah will help you.
I still clearly remember when I arrived at Bethel. I was a shy, inexperienced young man. During all these years, Jehovah has helped me. He has often used loving brothers and sisters to assist me when I needed it most. In this way, Jehovah is telling me: “Do not be afraid. I will help you.”