“THE Anglican Church does not teach the truth. Keep looking for it.” After my Anglican grandmother said this, my mother started looking for the true religion. However, she ignored Jehovah’s Witnesses and told me to hide when they came to our home in Toronto, Canada. But when my mother’s younger sister began to study with the Witnesses in 1950, my mother joined her. They studied at my aunt’s house and later got baptized.
Dad was an elder in the local United Church of Canada, so each week he sent my sister and me to Sunday school, after which we joined him for the 11:00 a.m. church service. In the afternoon, we went with Mom to the Kingdom Hall. We could easily see the difference between the two religions.
Mother shared her new beliefs with her longtime friends Bob and Marion Hutcheson, who also accepted the truth. In 1958 the Hutchesons took me along with their three boys to the eight-day Divine Will International Assembly in New York City. Looking back, I now realize what an effort it must have been for them to include me, but that assembly was one of the highlights of my life.
PERSONAL INTEREST INFLUENCED MY FUTURE
During my teen years, we lived on a farm where I enjoyed caring for animals. I seriously considered becoming a veterinarian. My mother mentioned this to a congregation elder. He kindly reminded me that we are living in “the last days” and asked how attending a university for several years would affect my relationship with Jehovah. (2 Tim. 3:1) As a result, I decided not to pursue a university education.
I still wondered what to do after I graduated from high school. Although I shared in the field service every weekend, I did not enjoy the ministry and could not see myself as a pioneer. Meanwhile, my unbelieving father and uncle were encouraging me to work full-time for a leading insurance company in Toronto. My uncle had a prominent position there, so I accepted the job.
In Toronto, my constantly working overtime and associating with unbelievers kept me from being regular in spiritual activities. I lived with my non-Witness grandfather at first, but after he died, I needed another place to live.
The Hutchesons, who had taken me to the 1958 convention, were like parents to me. They invited me to live in their home and helped me to grow spiritually. In 1960, along with their son John, I got baptized. John began to pioneer, prompting me to increase my activity in the ministry. The brothers in the congregation noticed my spiritual progress, and eventually I was appointed as the Theocratic Ministry School servant. a
A WONDERFUL PARTNER AND A NEW REALIZATION
In 1966, I married Randi Berge, a zealous pioneer who was eager to serve where the need was greater. Our traveling overseer took a personal interest in us, encouraging us to help the congregation in Orillia, Ontario. So we packed up and moved.
As soon as we arrived in Orillia, I joined Randi as a regular pioneer. Her enthusiasm had already rubbed off on me! Once I put my heart into pioneering, I experienced the joy of using the Bible and seeing people grasp the truth. What a blessing it was to help a wonderful couple in Orillia make changes in their lives and become servants of Jehovah.
A CHANGE OF LANGUAGE AND OF THINKING
During a visit to Toronto, I met Arnold MacNamara, who was one of the brothers taking the lead at Bethel. He asked if we would like to special pioneer. I immediately responded: “Absolutely! Anywhere but Quebec!” I had been influenced by the negative feelings of English-speaking Canada about the social unrest in the French-speaking province of Quebec. At the time, a political movement in Quebec advocated separation from the rest of Canada.
Arnold replied, “Quebec is the only place where the branch is sending special pioneers at this time.” I immediately agreed to go. I already knew that Randi was interested in serving there. Later, I realized that this was one of the best decisions of our life!
After attending a five-week French class, Randi and I along with another couple went to Rimouski, about 540 kilometers (336 mi) northeast of Montreal. We still had a lot to learn, which became very evident at a meeting when I read some announcements. I said that at our upcoming convention, we would have many “ostrich delegates” instead of “Austrian delegates.”
In Rimouski, the four of us were joined by four zealous single sisters as well as the Huberdeaus and their two daughters. The Huberdeaus subsidized the rental of a seven-bedroom pioneer home that we called the White House because of its white pillars and facade. We usually had between 12 and 14 people living there. As special pioneers, Randi and I were out preaching in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings, so we appreciated having someone always available to accompany us in service—even on cold winter evenings.
We grew so close to those faithful pioneers that they became like family to us. Sometimes we sat around a campfire together or we had a “pierogi day,” a day when we all made dumplings with different fillings. One of the brothers was a musician, so on Saturday nights we often sang and danced.
The territory in Rimouski bore fruit! Within five years, we had the joy of seeing several Bible students progress to baptism. The congregation grew to about 35 publishers.
In Quebec, we received excellent training as evangelizers. We saw how Jehovah helped us in the ministry and with our material needs. In addition, we learned to love the French-speaking people, their language, and their culture—which led to our loving other cultures too.—2 Cor. 6:13.
Unexpectedly, the branch asked us to move to the town of Tracadie, on the eastern shore of New Brunswick. This presented a challenge because we had just signed a lease on an apartment and I had a part-time teaching contract with the school board. In addition, some of our Bible students had just become publishers and we were right in the middle of building a Kingdom Hall.
Mal. 3:10) As always, Randi’s solid spirituality, self-sacrificing spirit, and sense of humor eased the challenge of moving.We prayed all weekend about the move and visited Tracadie, which was quite different from Rimouski. But we resolved that since Jehovah wanted us there, we would go. We put Jehovah to the test and saw him remove each of the obstacles. (
The only elder in our new congregation was Robert Ross. He had pioneered there with his wife, Linda, and they decided to stay after their first child was born. Even while caring for a little boy, they greatly encouraged Randi and me by their warm reception, determination, and zealous ministry.
THE BLESSINGS OF SERVING WHEREVER NEEDED
After we pioneered in Tracadie for two years, we again received an unexpected surprise—an invitation to serve in the traveling work. We served English circuits for seven years, after which we were reassigned to a French circuit in Quebec. Our district overseer in Quebec, Léonce Crépeault, would commend me on my talks. But later he would always ask, “How could they be more practical?” b This personal attention helped me to focus on making my teaching more specific and down-to-earth.
One of my most memorable assignments was the one I had at the 1978 “Victorious Faith” International Convention in Montreal. I worked in Food Service. We were expecting 80,000 people, and a new feeding arrangement had been implemented. Everything was completely new: the equipment, the menu, and the method of preparation. We had about 20 large refrigerated trailers, which sometimes malfunctioned. Before the start of the first day, we could not even enter the stadium to set up until midnight because of a previously scheduled sporting event. And we had to start the ovens before daybreak to make breakfast! We were tired, but I learned much from the hard work, maturity, and sense of humor of my fellow volunteers. We bonded, resulting in friendships that have lasted to this day. What a joy to experience this landmark convention in Quebec, the veryprovince where there was bitter persecution during the 1940’s and 1950’s!
I learned a lot from my fellow overseers during our large Montreal conventions. One year, David Splane, who now serves on the Governing Body, oversaw the convention office. At a later convention when I was asked to handle that assignment, David fully cooperated.
In 2011, after we had enjoyed 36 years in the traveling work, I was invited to serve as an instructor in the School for Congregation Elders. Randi and I slept in 75 different beds within two years, but it was worth every sacrifice. At the end of each week, the elders were overcome with gratitude because they saw how much the Governing Body cares about the elders’ spirituality.
Later, I taught the School for Kingdom Evangelizers. The students often felt overwhelmed with the busy schedule: sitting in class for about seven hours a day, doing homework for three hours each evening, and handling four or five assignments per week. The other instructor and I explained that they could not do it unless they had Jehovah’s help. I will always remember how surprised the students were to see that by relying on Jehovah, they were able to accomplish far more than they thought possible.
PERSONAL INTEREST BRINGS LONG-LASTING BLESSINGS
My mother’s personal interest in others aided her Bible students to progress and even helped my dad to soften toward the truth. Three days after she died, he surprised us by coming to a public talk at the Kingdom Hall, and he continued to attend meetings for the next 26 years. Although Dad never got baptized, the elders told me that he was always the first one to arrive at meetings each week.
My mother also made a lasting impression on her children. All three of my sisters and their husbands serve Jehovah faithfully. Two sisters serve at branch offices—one in Portugal and another in Haiti.
Randi and I now serve as special pioneers in Hamilton, Ontario. When we were in the traveling work, we enjoyed accompanying others on their return visits and Bible studies. But now we delight to see our own students progress spiritually. And as we bond with the brothers and sisters in our new congregation, we feel encouraged to see how Jehovah supports them through good times and bad times.
Looking back, we deeply appreciate the personal interest that so many showed to us. In turn, we have tried to express “earnest concern” for others, encouraging them to reach their full spiritual potential. (2 Cor. 7:6, 7) In one family, for example, the wife, son, and daughter were all in full-time service. I asked the husband if he had ever thought about pioneering. He replied that he was supporting three pioneers. So I asked, “Can you support them better than Jehovah can?” I encouraged him to enjoy what they were enjoying. He was a pioneer within six months.
Randi and I will continue to “tell the next generation” about Jehovah’s “wonderful works,” and we hope that they will enjoy his service as much as we have.—Ps. 71:17, 18.