My Journey in Search of a Purpose
I HAD been in the Sri Lankan fishing village for nearly a month. It was calm and tranquil, really idyllic. I had a small hut, and for just 70 cents (U.S.) a day, a neighbor provided me with rice and vegetables and occasionally fish.
One morning, as if out of nowhere, a suntanned Caucasian walked across the sand toward me. My first reaction was that he might be a fellow New Zealander, but his greeting told me right away that he was an Australian.
“Do you have anywhere to stay?” I asked, surprised how Eastern hospitality was already rubbing off on me.
He seemed glad to accept my invitation, so he began to unpack his few belongings to settle in. My eye caught sight of a green hardbound book.
“What’s that?” I asked.
Now, I had a churchgoing background, and I thought I already knew everything “Western religion” had to offer. Besides, I had rejected it as being totally hypocritical.
“Why do you bother carrying a heavy thing like that around?” I asked rather cynically.
“It’s got some far-out stuff in it,” Adrian replied. “It even speaks about the end of the world as we know it!”
I was skeptical. “Can you show me that?”
Show me he did. And was I stunned!
My Journey Begins
What was I, a 21-year-old New Zealander, doing in Sri Lanka back in November 1976? Well, I was on a journey in search of knowledge, and it took me to many places: from balmy, moonlit nights on tropical Asian beaches to dingy opium dens in Penang; from near shipwreck off the coast of Africa to the crowded markets of Port Sudan.
In 1975, I said good-bye to my parents and my career-type job and headed for Australia. My plan was to earn money in the Australian mines to finance a round-the-world trip. Everything went according to plan. I obtained employment in a uranium mine, and the money was coming in. But even before I began my trip, my thinking began to change. I began to be troubled with questions about the meaning of life. So in hopes of finding answers, I started to read books on philosophy and religion.
First Stop, Indonesia
When I felt I had earned enough money at the mine, I set out for my first stop, Indonesia. Here I developed quite a fondness for the Asian way of life. Its reduced emphasis on material things and a far less pressured life-style appealed to me. Of course, for me it was easy—I was not affected by the malnutrition, poor hygiene, and extreme poverty that the majority of local people had to contend with.
I traveled by bus, train, boat, oxcart, and on foot, through the islands of Indonesia, including Bali, Java, and Sumatra. The longer I traveled, the more shallow and empty the Western way of life seemed to me. Yet, I couldn’t really see that the Eastern way—though less materialistic—could be the answer to my questions.
From fellow travelers, I bought LSD. I did not take the drug for kicks. I was looking for some hidden knowledge, some form of enlightenment. While under its influence, for a moment I thought I saw life as it really was with perfect clarity and understanding. But this was followed by a feeling of extreme nausea, and after it was over, I realized that I had found nothing concrete in the way of answers.
Leaving Sumatra, I traveled to Malaysia—a beautiful country with friendly inhabitants. In the center of the Malay Peninsula is the state of Pahang, a highland rain-forest area with wild orchids growing right along the roadside, thriving in the cool, moist air. My spirits would soar as I walked among these unspoiled beauties of nature.
Thailand, Burma, and India
From Malaysia I moved up into Thailand and then over into Burma. Each of these countries delighted and fascinated me with its own peculiarities, foods, customs, and people. But though they were intriguing, I was not finding any real answers to my many questions. So after just a short stay in Burma, I decided to cross over into India.
Ah! Ancient, mysterious, devout India! Perhaps this was the place to find what I was seeking. The teeming cities depressed me, so I moved out as quickly as I could into rural India. Life here seemed to have been little affected by the 20th century; a strong religious influence was everywhere.
I watched fascinated as a Hindu procession passed by. Everyone was dressed in garments of saffron color. Flower bearers scattered frangipani petals in front of the procession. People kissed the ground. ‘Holy men’ wearing only loincloths, with bodies shining from a coating of perfumed oil, chanted continually. But, again, I felt disappointed. While admiring the devotion of Indian people, I still did not find the answers I was seeking.
Next, Down to Sri Lanka
The months of rugged travel, along with the oppressive heat and poor diet, were taking a toll on me physically. I needed a place to rest up. More than that, I needed a reason for what I was doing, really a reason for doing anything—a reason for living.
I had heard of the beauty of Sri Lanka, the pear-shaped isle just off the southern tip of India. It was described to me as a tropical island with sandy beaches, coral reefs in crystal-clear waters, cool tea-growing plateaus, and tall mountain peaks. What better place for a rest and further meditation!
The east coast had been recommended as suited to my needs, so I settled there in a little fishing village. It was here that I had my chance encounter with Adrian. But why was I stunned when Adrian read from the Bible in answer to my question? Because the two passages he showed me were from the 24th chapter of Matthew and the 3rd chapter of 2 Timothy. I had never heard these read in church. Why, here were forecast for “the last days” increase in crime, love cooling off, constant skirmishes among the nations, people becoming fearful, and so forth! I couldn’t contain my astonishment.
Adrian laughed. “Oh, there’s more,” he said.
We sat on the beach under a starry sky and watched a giant orange moon rise out of the sea. Adrian explained what he knew of the great purpose that the Creator had for our planet. Although that purpose had been delayed for various reasons, it was going to occur, and very soon.
I didn’t understand all that Adrian said, but there was something about this whole conversation that moved me in a way I had never before experienced. The next day I wrote in my diary: “For the first time in all my dealings with Christianity, I feel truth. The prophecies are obvious; the end of the system is not far away.”
It began to dawn on me that if almighty God had a purpose and if we acted in harmony with that purpose, we too could have a purpose in our life. The thought of living forever on a paradise earth—though still seeming a bit way-out—certainly would be a grand purpose, and I decided I would look into it more deeply.
Then another scripture really took me by surprise. Adrian told me that God has a personal name, and he showed me Psalm 83:18: “That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” I now began to see that this Creator was not just a force but was a real person with a personal name.
Change of Plans
I had planned to return to India when my health improved, then visit the Himalayas and see Nepal. But Adrian and I agreed to assist a retired American couple who were sailing around the world. They needed help in sailing their 56-foot [17 m] yacht on the next leg of their voyage, across the Indian Ocean to Kenya. I was happy for the opportunity to sail and also to learn more from the Bible by discussions with Adrian.
But where did Adrian learn all the wonderful things he was showing me from the Bible? He explained that he had studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia. He had not progressed to the point of becoming a Witness, but he hoped that he might some day. In the back of his Bible, there was a list of addresses where Jehovah’s Witnesses could be contacted. We scanned the list.
“There it is,” I said. “Nairobi, Kenya. I’m going to pay them a visit as soon as we reach Africa.”
Another Prophecy in Fulfillment
One morning I rose as usual and climbed up on deck to look out over the ocean. Instead of seeing the usual deep royal blue, I was horrified to see that the water was a dark coffee-brown color. Big lumps of brown sludge were everywhere. A thin layer of dirty grease covered the surface of the ocean as far as the eye could see. We had sailed into a crude-oil slick!
The brown muck clung to the waterline of the yacht. We sailed through it all that day and part of the next. It must have been at least a hundred miles [160 km] long. The skipper explained that supertankers sailing around the Cape of Good Hope en route to the Persian Gulf flush out their ballast tanks before arrival. Much of this waste oil then drifts south into the Antarctic region, damaging the plankton, the primary link in the ocean’s food chain.
Adrian took advantage of this to show me Bible verses telling that man would ‘ruin the earth’ in the last days but that God would in turn “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” (Revelation 11:18) ‘What doesn’t the Bible have something to say about?’ I thought to myself.
My First Contact With Witnesses
After stops in the Maldive and Seychelles islands, we dropped anchor in Mombasa, a major seaport. A few days later we visited the Watch Tower Society’s branch office in Nairobi, Kenya. We were warmly greeted and given a tour of the complex. On one wall there were large sheet maps of East Africa, with colored pins in different places. The Branch Committee coordinator explained that the whole area was being systematically covered by the Witnesses, who were preaching the good news about God’s Kingdom.
“But that’s all tsetse-fly country!” I protested. “And over here there would only be nomadic Masai tribes!”
“That’s right,” he said. “We cover all of that.”
He then referred me to Matthew chapter 24, the first part of which I remembered Adrian had shown me. He had me read Mt 24 verse 14: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘these people really seem to be doing that!’
Knowledge Has an Effect
With what I was learning, wandering the globe lost a lot of appeal. Still, Adrian and I continued on, visiting the Sudan, Egypt, and finally arriving in Israel. It was now May 1977, and we decided to part company with the yacht. We were glad we did because shortly afterward it sank.
Adrian decided to return to Australia, feeling the need to get more involved with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Somehow it wasn’t the same without him. I missed his friendship more than I had expected. I visited Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Germany. While all these places were intriguing, constant travel seemed to satisfy me less than ever. I realized that this was really no way to find a purpose in life.
There was only one thing to do: get back to a stable life-style and start in earnest to learn more about Jehovah God by a regular Bible study. I finally arrived in London, England, and bought an air ticket to Australia. Soon I was back in the uranium mine working—but also studying. Once a week a Witness drove 40 miles [60 km] from the nearest town to conduct a study with me.
Finding Purpose in Life
Early in 1979, I had the pleasure of rejoining Adrian, this time in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses at Woy Woy on the central coast of New South Wales. In July of that year we were baptized together. Since then we have made progress in the Christian way. Both of us married fine Christian girls. My wife, Julie, and I then began to share in the full-time preaching work as pioneers, and Adrian’s wife also entered the pioneer service.
Over eight spiritually productive years have passed since our baptism. We have been able to help a number of others also find purpose in their lives. For example, a Bible study with members of a rock band and some of their friends resulted in five of them accepting the truth and being baptized on the same occasion.
In 1986 Julie and I moved to serve in a part of New South Wales where there are fewer Witnesses. There we had the opportunity to spread knowledge of the true God Jehovah to Aborigines, farm owners, and people living in small country towns. This meant quite an adjustment for Julie, who had to move far away from her parents and seven brothers and sisters. However, she is happy in the knowledge that five members of her family also share in the full-time Kingdom service. In 1987 we were delighted to be invited to join the Australia Bethel family at Ingleburn to share in the construction of extensions to the printing factory and Bethel Home.
The love of travel is still in Julie and me. But we look forward to the time when the earth becomes a beautiful garden home. Then there will be time for travel that will be far more rewarding than anything we could experience now. In the meantime, Julie and I continue to experience God’s rich blessing as we press on, secure in the most rewarding purpose of all—serving Jehovah, a God of purpose and love.—As told by David Moffatt.
[Picture on page 23]
The Sri Lankan village where I met Adrian
[Picture on page 24]
With my wife in our pioneer assignment in Moree, New South Wales