Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Missionary Couple - Xavier & Sara Noll

(photo and following experience on pgs 165-168 of the 1998 Yearbook... I love this photo =) aren't they so cute together?)

Xavier and Sara Noll
(missionary couple who served in Martinique)

On July 10, 1954, Xavier and Sara Noll arrived from Marseilles, France. Both of them were full-time ministers, and Xavier had been serving as a congregation overseer in Marseilles.
They can still remember their arrival on this island at what seemed to them to be the other end of the world, 4,400 miles [7,000 km] from their homeland. They have not forgotten their first impressions of the heat and the humidity, nor have they forgotten the conviviality, hospitality, and good-natured manner of the people.

From the very first days, they learned how to live with a minimum of conveniences. After lodging for a few days with a man who was kindly disposed toward Jehovah’s Witnesses, they found a new wooden house, but that simply means that it was a structure made with wooden walls and a wooden floor. Sheets of corrugated iron constituted the roof. There was no ceiling, and there were no toilet facilities. At dusk it was Brother Noll’s chore to empty the “sanitary” pail in a ravine. His first trip with the pail was on July 14, the French national holiday. He had to cross a public square called Stalingrad, which was bubbling with activities connected with the holiday. As he walked through the square, with his pail exposed to the amused view of groups of people who had come out to relax and breathe some fresh air, they split their sides with laughter. It was a premiere! Never before had they seen a white man performing such a task!

A Surprising Welcome
Here are a few of Brother Noll’s recollections of that first day in service: “Going out in the preaching work for the first time here, my wife and I were anxious to come in contact with the people, to know them, to know what kind of welcome we would receive. The reality was beyond our expectations. We started witnessing in the center of the town, which at the time had a population of 60,000. That morning, my wife and I met twice as we were returning home to refill our witnessing bags with the books ‘The Truth Shall Make You Free’ and ‘The Kingdom Is at Hand’ as well as with booklets such as ‘The Prince of Peace.’”
Householders would often say: “I’ll take your book as a record of your passing,” or, “If this speaks about God, I’ll take it.” During the first two weeks, almost 200 books and hundreds of booklets were placed. It was easy to start conversations because the people were curious and were willing to welcome strangers. What encouragement it was to be received so hospitably!

Brother and Sister Noll wondered whether they would be able to study with so many people! But they learned quickly that they had to differentiate between those merely showing natural hospitality and those with a real desire to know and put into practice the truth coming from God. There were some who wanted to learn. Brother Noll recalls: “The person who met us on arrival in Martinique introduced us to some workmen and apprentices in his cabinetmaking workshop. We started a study that same night and two more during the first week.”
One of those studies was with a young couple, Paul and Nicole Jacquelin. They were studying three times a week and making good progress. Soon they were sharing with the Nolls in witnessing from house to house. With these new publishers, the preaching work started to take on local color.

Marriage, Not Simply Cohabitation (pgs 171-172)
Some African customs survived slavery and were accepted by the Catholic Church as long as the participants also performed Catholic rites. In this atmosphere, cohabitation between people not married to each other was the order of the day. As Sister Noll shared in the ministry, people would ask her: “Do you have children?” When she replied, “No,” they would ask, “And your husband?” It was not uncommon to find men who had children by women other than their legal wife. Those who wanted to become true Christians had to abandon such unscriptural practices.—Hebrews 13:4.

The first one in Martinique who faced up to this need was a woman who had six children from three different men and was living with the father of her last child when she started to study the Bible. Marguerite Lislet quickly realized the enormous changes that she had to make if she was to be pleasing to Jehovah. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) She asked her common-law husband to leave, and despite having health problems, she courageously stood up to financial difficulties in order to take care of her six children. She got baptized in 1956. Later on, she became the first Martinican special pioneer.

Jeanne Maximin, who had borne children for her common-law husband, also wanted to get baptized. He had promised her many times that before the next assembly he would legalize their relationship, but he never kept that promise. Finally, in 1959, when another assembly was approaching, she took advantage of his absence to move out of the house. On his return, what a surprise it was for him to see that she was gone and much of the furniture was missing! The neighbors did not hesitate to tell him where she was. He insisted that she return home and promised that they would get married in two weeks, during which time he would make the necessary arrangements. Her answer was clear: “The day we get married, I’ll return, but not before.” The necessary arrangements were made, and they were legally married within ten days. Many of our sisters have gone through similar experiences.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have acquired the reputation of practicing a religion in which marriage is treated as a divine institution. A civil service officer of the village of Le Vauclin was surprised to see that in a short space of time, Jacques and Pierrette Nelson, local special pioneers, served as witnesses at the weddings of two couples who had been living together for many years without the benefit of marriage. That officer already had the book Making Your Family Life Happy, but now she promised to read it again because her situation was the same as had been the case with the ones that she had just married. Before concluding their discussion, she said in a relaxed tone to our two witnesses: “Jamais deux sans trois” (“Never two without three”). That proved true in this case, for not too long afterward, the pioneers were again before her, serving as witnesses for a third couple with whom they had studied.