I was born in Croydon, England, in 1921, the eldest girl among three girls and two boys. When I was three years old, some of us children came down with diphtheria. I was hospitalized. My brother Johnnie died, and because he was unchristened, the Anglican Church would not allow a funeral service. My father was upset by this and asked one of the clergy if he would say a prayer when they lowered Johnnie's casket into the ground. He refused.
My mother said that this turned my father away from religion for good. She was so afraid something might happen to me or my sisters that without my father's knowledge, she took us to the church and had us christened. My father became an active member of the Communist party and encouraged us to read material related to dialectical materialism, including books by Huxley, Lenin, and Marx. God was never mentioned at home except when father would say that there was no God.
In 1931, when I was about ten, I sometimes walked down the street to see my father's parents. Grandfather was often criticized by others, but he had a twinkle in his pretty blue eyes and was always happy. He usually gave me some candy and something to read as I walked home. I ate the candy and discarded the reading material. I did not then understand why others spoke negatively about him.
When I was in my teens, I joined the Young Communist League and in time became the secretary. I gave talks at the town hall and did street work with the newspaper Challenge, offering it to anyone who would listen. At that time, a Fascist group called the Blackshirts was active and was violently opposed to Communism. I remember that as I stood on the pavement offering the Challenge, members of the Blackshirts would come up and talk to me, calling me Sunshine, a nickname they had given me. The older members of the Communist party I was associated with found out that the Fascists were planning to beat me up with knuckle-dusters, so they started providing me with an escort.
On one occasion, we found out that the Fascists were going to march through the East End of London (then inhabited mostly by Jews). We were told to confront them and take along bags of marbles, which we were to throw under the hooves of the policemen's horses as they charged to break up the opposing sides. Many were arrested that day, but fortunately, I was not among them, as I had decided not to go.
My Conscience Becomes Active
On another occasion, I was told to say something at a public gathering that I knew wasn't true. I refused and was asked, "What difference does it make as long as we get the point across?" It was at this time in my life that my conscience began to bother me, and I started wondering about a number of things.
One time during my early teens, my mother encouraged me to attend a church service, just to see what it was all about. I recall being told to go to the altar to confess my sins. While there, I noticed that the embroidery on the altar covering had three rings entwined. I inquired as to what they represented and was told that they represented the "Holy Trinity-God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost." I thought, 'This is strange. They believe in three gods, but my father says there isn't even one!' When I asked additional questions, it was explained that an egg has three parts but is really only one egg. This didn't satisfy me either. I was then told that I asked too many questions. I went home and told my mother that I didn't want to go to church anymore, and I didn't!
By the time World War II broke out, I was no longer active in the Young Communist League. I married a Canadian who was serving in the military, and we had a son. Our first home in London was bombed. A V-1 missile fell in front of our house when my son and I were at home. We lost all our material possessions. We were buried in the rubble but were fortunate enough to escape with our lives. My husband was in Normandy, France, at the time.
About that time, I remember talking to two young women and asking them, "If there is a God, why does he allow all this suffering?" They said something about Satan being the god of this world. "Oh," I thought, "another god that I know nothing about!" Then, a young man came. I plied him with questions, and he said that he was looking for sheep, not goats. Not being familiar with Jesus' illustration, I asked him if he was a minister or a farmer. A few more years went by, and World War II came to an end. My husband came home after seeing 95 percent of the Saskatoon Light Infantry with which he was serving wiped out in the war. We settled down in another home in Croydon.
The Witnesses Come Calling
One Sunday, two of Jehovah's Witnesses came and rang our doorbell. My husband answered the door and had a very long discussion with them. He had become bitter against all religion because of the hypocrisy he had witnessed during the war. The fact that the Witnesses had taken a neutral stand impressed him. He told me that he had invited them back for a Bible discussion. I became very concerned and asked my father what I should do. He said that I was not to get involved and that if my husband persisted with this crazy religion, I had better file for divorce.
I decided to sit in on one of the discussions to see what it was all about. All of us sat around the table, and the Witness said: "One of these days you'll be able to put your arms around a lion just as you can a dog." 'Oh, they are crazy,' I thought. I couldn't concentrate on anything else that was said that evening. Afterward, I told my husband that I didn't want them to come back again. Many tears were shed, and we discussed getting a divorce.
Shortly after this, another Witness called. We later found out that he was a circuit overseer who was visiting the local congregation and had heard about us. I remember him very clearly. He had blue eyes and a very kind, patient disposition. He reminded me of my grandfather. I pulled out a list of 32 questions I had written down. "We will discuss them one at a time," he said, and we proceeded to do so. He helped me appreciate that to fully understand what the Bible says, I needed to read and study it. He suggested that someone stop by on a regular basis to study the Bible with us. I told him OK.
As I gradually began to understand about our Creator, Jehovah God, I was moved to tears. I remember going into the bedroom and praying to Jehovah to please forgive me and help me understand the Bible and his purposes. My husband, my son, and I got baptized in 1951. My father was very disturbed to hear about this and said he would rather see me dead than one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Serving Where the Need Is Greater
My husband decided to return to Canada, and in 1952 we moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. My father refused to say good-bye, and I never saw him or heard from him again. After we had been living in Vancouver for several years, a call went out to go where the need was greater, especially to areas such as Quebec, where Premier Duplessis had a Hitler-like attitude toward Jehovah's Witnesses.
In 1958 we packed all our earthly possessions into our car and drove to the international convention in New York. From there we drove to Montreal, Quebec, where we were assigned to a French congregation in Ville de Jacques-Cartier. We had many interesting experiences while serving Jehovah in Quebec. One time, our car was overturned, rocks were thrown at us, and a woman turned the hose on us full blast. This was in a place called Magog.
Another time, my companion and I were passing a church just as the people were filing out. Someone recognized us and shouted: "Temoins de Jehovah!" ("Jehovah's Witnesses!") A chase ensued, led by the priest, but we outran the crowd. We were arrested many times. However, I had the pleasure of helping quite a few people learn about Jehovah, many of whom are still actively serving him.
In the early 1960's, my husband's employer transferred him to Los Angeles, and we served in a congregation there for over 30 years. What a delight it was for us to talk about the truth to people who had moved to Los Angeles from all parts of the earth! I had the privilege of studying with people from Lebanon, Egypt, China, Japan, France, and Italy, to name just a few. I recall meeting a young woman who didn't speak any English-fortunately, her husband did. So my husband and I studied with them together. I eventually had a separate study with her. I used the Let God Be True book in English, and she would look up the scriptures in her Chinese Bible and answer the questions in Chinese. Then, I would say the answer in English, and she would repeat it in English. Eventually, she became fluent in English, although she speaks it with a British accent. I am happy to say that both she and her husband are now dedicated servants of Jehovah.
We recently moved to Tucson, Arizona, and have the additional privilege of seeing all the members of our family faithfully serving Jehovah, including our great-grandchildren, who are being taught about our Grand Creator, Jehovah.
By the way, I was thrilled to learn from the brothers in Croydon that my grandfather with the twinkling blue eyes was one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
-As told by Cassie Bright.