I thank Jehovah for my five children
NARRATED BY HELEN SAULSBERY
March 2, 1997 was one of the saddest days of my life. Nearly 600 friends and family gathered in Wilmington, Delaware, USA for the funeral of my beloved husband, Dean. He was a Christian elder and the presiding overseer of a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. As I look back on our 40 happy years of marriage, I owe a lot. I know that Dean is protected in the safest place in the remembrance of Almighty God Jehovah and that we will see Dean in the future.
DEAN joined the Air Force after graduating from high school in 1950. He was not a religious man and did not seem to agree with the teachings of my then-beloved Catholic Church. But we agreed to raise our children Catholic. Every night we knelt and prayed in silence. I repeated my Catholic prayers and Dean said what was on his mind. In the following years our five children were born: Bill, Jim, Dean Jr., Joe and Charlie.
I was faithful to the Church and always took the children with me. But I became disillusioned with the church, particularly its involvement in the Vietnam War. The late Cardinal Spellman said to those who might question the justice of the American cause, "My country is right or wrong." I could not condone my sons going to war when my church was involved. However, I would pray that at least one of them would become a priest and that my husband would become a Catholic.
One Saturday evening I met up with some Catholic friends and a local priest. We were drinking and enjoying ourselves when one of the women asked the priest, "Father, is it really a mortal sin if after such a revelry you cannot get up and go to mass the next morning?"
"No, no," he replied. "Everything is fine. Tuesday night we celebrate mass in the vicarage. So you can come to mass and do your duty."
I was taught as a child that you definitely have to go to mass on Sunday. When I contradicted him, he cursed and said angrily that a woman should not correct a priest.
I thought to myself, 'Is this what I prayed for my children?' Even though I knew that not all priests are like that, it got me thinking.
In the mid-1960s, Jehovah's Witnesses visited us in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and later in Newark, Delaware. Although he admired her Christian zeal, she always said, "I'm sorry. I don't care because I'm Catholic."
Then, on a cold November morning in 1970, the Witnesses returned. They asked a question about the Bible and readSalmo 119:105: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light on my way." hit those wordsme. I remember thinking to myself, “The Bible! Maybe that's the answer, but I don't even have one. I had learned that Catholics didn't need a Bible, that it would confuse us, and that the Bible was only for priests to read and explain. I thought I was a loyal Catholic because I don't have one.
That day I accepted the Bible Study Help from Jehovah's Witnesses.The truth that leads to eternal life.I read it this week and knew I had found the truth! The Witnesses returned with two Bibles, one with a Catholic translation. I was amazed to see that the scriptures quoted in this Bible Compendium were right there in the Catholic Bible. I was then initiated into a progressive home Bible study and was baptized in August 1972 with my sister Sally, who had also begun the Bible study.
My husband Dean was never against me, but he was surprised that I was interested in anything other than the Catholic religion. I was constantly listening and watching. Before it seemed like he was always yelling at the guys to listen. But I learned that the Bible warns against "anger, shouting, and abusive speech." (Epheser 4:31, 32) Also, you don't train kids by yelling at them. I once heard my husband say to his mother about Jehovah's Witnesses, "Mom, these people live what they preach!" Not long after, he agreed to a Bible study. Dean was baptized as a Jehovah's Witness in January 1975.
education of our five sons
When I first started attending the Kingdom Hall, I felt that the meetings were too long for my children. So I left her at home with her father. It was nice and relaxing for me to go alone. But then, as we were discussing the length of Christian meetings, a speaker at our meeting asked, "Have you ever thought how long your kids can sit in front of the television?" There were my boys at that very moment! So I thought, 'Enough of that! You come with me! My husband agreed to let the children come with me and in time they came too.
Regular attendance at meetings gave structure and stability to our family life. But there was more. Dean and I have always sought to improve our parenting skills by admitting when we were wrong and carefully following Bible guidelines. We never allow double standards. What was right for me and my husband was right for our children. Regularity in public preaching was obligatory.
When it came to entertainment, violent and immoral films were not allowed. We always enjoy healthy family activities like roller skating, bowling, miniature golf, going to amusement parks, picnicking, and eating pizza on Friday nights. And Dean was the loving boss of our family. Throughout our married life we have realized that this is how it should be.—Epheser 5:22, 23.
When I began studying with Jehovah's Witnesses in 1970, Billy was 12, Jimmy was 11, DeanJr. 9, Joe 7 and Charlie2. They were already used to going to church, but now they were learning the Bible. It was exciting for us. I told them: “Look! Do you see that! Come here!” They came and we enthusiastically discussed something that was new to us. Through our study of the world's greatest authority, the Bible, the children came to love and be committed to Jehovah as their God and Creator—not just your father and mother.
Before we learned Bible truths, we had a lot of debt. To pay some bills we sold our house and rented a house. We also sold our new car and bought a used one. We try to keep our lives as simple as possible. This allowed me to stay at home with the children instead of working secularly. We felt that our children needed a mother at home. It also allowed me to spend more time in itChristian ministry when the children were in school. In September 1983 I was finally able to pioneer (full-time minister). While our boys didn't always have the best in material things, they didn't feel unnecessarily disadvantaged. Each of them attended technical college and learned trades such as horticulture, carpentry, car mechanics and graphic design. So they were equipped to make a living.
I've often thought about our family life and said to myself, 'I imagine we're one of the happiest families in the world, even though we're materially poor.' It wasn't long before Dean was looking for responsibilities in the congregation, as were the boys. In 1982, Dean was made a Christian elder. Eight years later, in 1990, our oldest son, Bill, became the eldest. Thus, in the same year, Joe was named Dean Jr. in 1991, Charlie in 1992 and Jim in 1993.
I know that as parents we've done some things wrong, and it's not always easy to remember the right things we've done. A friend asked my sons what they remembered from their early years as Christians, specifically what Bible principles they learned in their early education that helped them meet the requirements to become Christian elders. Your comments warm my heart.
What my kids have to say
Invoice:"What did we learn from?Romans 12:9-12I notice. In part it says: “Have tender affection for one another in brotherly love. Let's take the initiative by honoring one another. ... Be radiant in spirit. ... Rejoice in hope.' My parents had the ability to show what it means to love people. You could see that showing love to others made her happy. It was this loving atmosphere in our home that made Bible truths a permanent part of our thinking. That kept us in the truth. My parents loved the truth of the Bible inside and out. So I've never had a hard time loving the truth, and I've never had a hard time holding on to it."
Jaime:“One of the main principles that comes to mind isMateo 5:37: 'Just keep your wordSimmeans yes youNo,Not; for everything beyond that comes from evil.' My siblings and I always knew what my parents expected of us, and we saw in them living examples of how Christians should be. The two have always been in harmony. They never argued. If they didn't agree on something, we never knew. They agreed and that certainly made a big impression on all of us. We didn’t want to disappoint Mom and Dad, and especially Jehovah.”
Dean:„Proverbs 15:1says: 'A gentle answer casts out anger, but a word that causes pain stirs anger.' Dad was lenient. I don't remember arguing with him, even as a teenager. He was always very friendly, even when he was sad. Sometimes he sent me to my room or took away some privileges, but we never argued. It wasn't just our father. He was our friend too and we didn't want to let him down."
José:"No2 Corinthians 10:5, the Bible speaks of “capturing every thought in order to realize itobedienceto Christ.” In our home, we were taught to obey Jehovah's rules and instructions. The truth was our life. Attending meetings was a way of life. The idea of doing something different on a reunion night is still a foreign word to me. Christian service was also a part of our lives, never an option. Our friends were at the Kingdom Hall. There is no need to look any further. What more can a father do for his children than set them on the path of life!
Charlie:„Proverbs 1:7I notice. It says: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge. Wisdom and discipline are what mere fools despise. My parents helped us to see that Jehovah existsreal and understand the importance of developing fear and love for it. They argued with us and said, 'Don't do it becauseussay what to doyourthink? How do you think Jehovah felt when he saw this? How do you think Satan feels?'
“That brought us back to the original question. Papa and Mama couldn't always be with us. They could do much to bring Bible truths into our hearts and minds. We were alone at school, at work, and with our friends. This healthy fear of Jehovah made a great difference in us, and it is still with us today.
“Mom also kept talking about her pioneering and the wonderful experiences she was having. She has always been very positive about the ministry and it has had a wonderful effect on us. We've developed a love for people like you and realized that door-to-door activities can be very enjoyable.”
reason to be thankful
My children are now married and I have five beautiful daughters-in-law, all faithful to Jehovah. I have also been blessed with five more children, yes five grandchildren! Everyone is brought up to love Jehovah and to keep his Kingdom firmly in the forefront of their lives. We pray that one day they will grow old like their parents and grandfather.
Not long after Dean's death, one of my sons wrote: "I will miss my father very much in my sleep now. There is no more pain. no more suffering No more surgeries, needles and feeding tubes, just peace. I couldn't say goodbye before he died. Things don't always go as planned. All I can say is that I am determined to live my life not to miss the salute!”
How I thank Jehovah for my beloved husband and for the sure hope of the resurrection! (Juan 5:28, 29) And how I thank you for my five children!
[photo on page
Helen Saulbery and her family today