God Let Us Find Him
WHEN King David was ready to turn the kingship over to his son Solomon, he gave him this counsel: “Know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart and with a delightful soul; for all hearts Jehovah is searching, and every inclination of the thoughts he is discerning. If you search for him, he will let himself be found by you; but if you leave him, he will cast you off forever.”—1 Chronicles 28:9.
We found this to be true in our case. We searched for God, and we did find him—but only after being diverted into many false pathways. We believe that Jehovah discerned how powerfully the inclinations of our thoughts were focused on him and his service, and he let himself be found by us. Here is how it came about.
We were four brothers, raised in Florida, U.S.A. Our father worked long shifts as a cook to support the family, mother was the homemaker, and the four of us boys found work cutting grass, delivering papers—anything that would add to the family income. Mother was a Catholic, and Father a Baptist. All of us believed in God and the Bible but did nothing about it, and we seldom went to church. It was during the early ’70’s, when peace, bell-bottom jeans, long hair, and rock music were at their height. All this had an influence on our lives.
It wasn’t until 1982 that two of us, Scott and Steve—24 and 17 years old respectively—took a serious interest in the Bible and developed a growing concern over deteriorating world conditions. Scott had his own construction business. It was doing well, so we moved into an apartment together. We had become tired of the same old bar scene and that way of life and knew the grass must be greener somewhere. We began feeling hungry for spiritual things. Reading our Bible regularly helped us to desire more knowledge and insight into God’s Word.
We started going to different churches on Sundays. At the ones we went to near our home in Lake Worth, Florida, 25 minutes of the Sunday talk would be about giving money. “Give generously, reach down deep into your pockets,” the minister would say as he leaned halfway over the speaker’s stand. They would often pass the money plate three times at one meeting, which resulted in many leaving with their pockets turned inside out. We went to many churches, but we found only more collection plates being passed and social gatherings.
Warned About Jehovah’s Witnesses
We did become indoctrinated in what we thought were basic Bible teachings, and we accepted them because the teachers were professional theologians. One of the classes was about cults in America, and at the head of the list were Jehovah’s Witnesses. We were warned that they did not believe in Jesus, that they had their own Bible, that they weren’t going to heaven, and that they believed there wasn’t any hell. All of this, of course, led us to conclude that the Witnesses were wrong.
By now we had a strong zeal but not according to accurate knowledge. (Romans 10:2) We did know what Jesus said at Matthew 28:19, 20—we must preach the good news and make disciples. At that time we were attending a 2,000-member church called Bible Town, where we were part of a youth group of about 100 between the ages of 17 and 30. Scott tried to get them to do some form of preaching—but to no avail.
So we started our own preaching campaign. Scott got the idea to set up a stand at the local flea market and give out tracts and Bibles. So that’s what we did. We went down to a local “Christian” bookstore and bought a good supply of tracts and Bibles, went to a flea market, set up two sawhorses, put a sheet of plywood across the top, put our tracts and Bibles on them, and tried to become “doers of the word, and not hearers only.”—James 1:22.
As each week went by, the so-called flea market ministries grew, offering English literature as well as Spanish. Also, we had Bibles, 30 different kinds of tracts, and even hat pins that said “God loves you.” A short time later, Scott bought a decal machine to print small Bible messages on T-shirts—sayings like: “Have you read your Bible today?,” “Wonder why I am smiling? I have Jesus in my heart,” and many more. One said “Revelation” with a picture of the four horsemen.
We thought that by wearing the shirts everywhere, we were giving a silent witness. Every Saturday and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the flea market ministries showed up. If you were walking through a parking lot and saw tracts on the cars—well we had been there. All of the literature was on a donation basis, though very little money ever came in. One year we added up the year’s expenses, and they came to over $10,000.
We Meet One of Jehovah’s Witnesses
One time, while we were swimming at one of the beaches in Bonita Springs, an older man approached us and commented that he saw bumper stickers on our truck and noticed our T-shirts. He started talking about the Bible and reasoning from the Scriptures. He brought up the point at Acts 2:31, asking: “If there were a fiery hell and if only bad people went there, then why would the Bible say Jesus was there?” He continued on, discussing many other scriptures. Finally, Scott said: “You must be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” He replied: “Yes, I am.” Scott then said: “You people don’t believe in Jesus.” For the next 20 minutes, the Witness talked about Jesus, but somehow it made no impression on us.
We continued the flea market ministries on the weekends. We had been doing this for three years—all the time believing that we had the truth and were doing the right thing. We were still visiting the churches, one every Sunday night, and were never satisfied with any of the ones we attended. We were running out of churches to visit, so one night we decided to go to one of “Jehovah’s Witnesses’ churches,” as we put it. We were going to preach to them about Jesus. We found the address in the phone book and went there one Sunday evening. Upon learning that they didn’t have a meeting Sunday evening like all the other churches, we concluded that they really didn’t believe in Jesus. We saw the Monday night book study on the sign showing the meeting times. So we returned carrying our Bibles and wearing our T-shirts. We remember taking a few minutes to decide which one of the T-shirts to wear—which one would be a good witness. We arrived there a little early, and a few brothers approached us. They were warm and friendly. Right away we got into a deep discussion about Revelation. They asked us to stay for the meeting. They gave us the United in Worship book, so we sat down.a One brother opened the study with prayer.
We listened intently. In concluding, he said: “In Jesus’ name. Amen.” We looked at each other in shock. “Did we hear him correctly? He prayed in Jesus’ name!” At that time it was as though our eyes opened and the thick scales fell off. If our hearts were right, this was the time to hear. The brother asked all to turn to chapter 21 of the United in Worship book, which was about Jesus and not being any part of the world. There wasn’t a better study to sit in on. It was about Jesus’ life and ministry, the last days, and neutrality. We heard younger ones commenting on many points we never knew. Then again, in concluding the meeting, the brother prayed in Jesus’ name!
We Get Spiritually Fed
We had walked into the hall thirsting for truth, and there it was, never far away. We left knowing that we had been fed spiritually, and we never stepped into a church again. The next night, while doing our laundry in a Laundromat, we noticed a large stack of Watchtower and Awake! magazines by the soda machine—at least 150 of them. Never before would we read them, but now we bundled them up, interested in many subjects.
One of the articles asked, “Do you believe in the Trinity?” Another, “Is there really a hell?” In an Awake! there was an article on images. That night Steve read the one on the Trinity, did a lot of research, looked up all the scriptures, and woke Scott up at 12:30 a.m. because of what he had learned. The next day, Wednesday, after work, Steve read the article on hell. It reasoned on John 11:11, where Jesus said that Lazarus was asleep. When Steve saw Scott, he said: “My Bible does not teach that there is a fiery hell.” After reading the Awake! on images and the different forms of crosses, we threw ours on a truck and watched while they were carried away. We looked at each other, shook our heads, and smiled. We knew we had found something very special—the truth.
A day later two boxes arrived. In them were 5,000 tracts saying that if you didn’t repent, you would go to hell. We now knew many of these tracts were not right according to Bible teaching. A little confused, we again attended the book study on Monday night and brought in many of our tracts. We asked, “Is this one OK?” One night we went through all of them. Soon a pile of tracts were lying on the floor; not one of them was able to stand up to Bible teaching. We got rid of all of them. We knew our newfound faith meant our lives and the lives of those we preached to. We wanted to get away to study the Bible without any interference.
We moved to Alaska. At our first meeting there, we asked an elder if he would study with us every day. I think all in attendance heard us. We made fine progress, finished the Live Forever book, and wanted to get baptized at one of the two-day assemblies.* But we had to wait a little while. Our goal was to pioneer. Unexpectedly, our father fell ill, and we had to return to Florida to help out.
We Advance to Spiritual Maturity
In Florida we made fine progress, finished the United in Worship book, and then got baptized in 1987. It had been 11 months since we first started. Right away we became auxiliary pioneers for six months and then regular pioneers. Just a year and a half later, we were both appointed ministerial servants. Two years after baptism, we found ourselves serving at Brooklyn Bethel, where Scott is still serving today and has been studying Chinese for two years. Steve is now serving in Moscow, Russia, as a regular pioneer. We both found the truth and the search for it to be just as Proverbs 2:1-5 describes it: “My son, if you will receive my sayings and treasure up my own commandments with yourself, so as to pay attention to wisdom with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment; if, moreover, you call out for understanding itself and you give forth your voice for discernment itself, if you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God.”
How Steve Ended Up in Moscow
Living in New York, where knowing an extra language would make the preaching work more interesting—and thinking that perhaps Jehovah would open the door to Russia soon—I decided to take up Russian. At that time, while serving at Brooklyn Bethel, I started to attend the Russian book study. There was only one Russian book study group that met on Fridays. As time went by, I started to get more involved in the Russian group. I joined them in the preaching activity, which was very enjoyable because of the warmth of the Russians. I wrote to the Service Department asking to transfer to the Russian group. I was happy when they agreed to this.
One day at Bethel morning worship, the president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Milton G. Henschel, told the family that there would be a special report. Then he announced that Jehovah’s Witnesses had been legally recognized in Russia and that our brothers would now enjoy freedom of worship. I don’t think that any in Bethel that morning will forget the joy we felt on hearing such wonderful news. I thought at that moment that it would be a great privilege to be able to be a part of that vast new territory.
I started to correspond with a Russian brother named Volodeya, who lives in Krasnodar, Russia. He invited me to visit Russia. So in June 1992, I packed my bags and was on my way to Moscow. Upon arriving, I was so glad to see Brother Volodeya waiting at the airport. I stayed with Brother Stephan Levinski—45 years in the truth. He was the first Witness I met in Moscow, and he had spent many years in prison because of his stand for the truth. The hospitality of the brothers was truly wonderful.
So there I was in Moscow, not knowing much of the language. At that time, there were only four congregations, and we seemed to know all the brothers. Since then, through trial and error, I have managed to extend my visas. I am able to work from time to time to cover my expenses. The biggest difficulty I had was to learn enough Russian to communicate and to get fed spiritually at the meetings. It came slowly, and of course, I am still working at it.
I have had the privilege of attending many conventions and of witnessing amazing growth and record baptisms. Seeing the pure zeal of our brothers here has been an enormously faith-strengthening experience. I would not trade it for anything. Many of the brothers and sisters that I met who were just studying or were just baptized when I came are now serving as full-time pioneers or ministerial servants or as Bethelites at Solnechnoye, near St. Petersburg, Russia.
The congregation I attend is packing out 530 every Sunday, and every month we average 12 new unbaptized publishers. The last count was 380 publishers, 3 elders, and 7 ministerial servants. Our congregation is reporting over 486 home Bible studies. In February 1995, I had the privilege of visiting our 29 book studies to give a service talk. I visited four groups a week. We are also very busy before each convention with the questions for baptismal candidates. In May 1995, we had a special assembly day where 30 were baptized from our congregation. In all, there were 607 baptized with about 10,000 in attendance. At the summer district convention, 24 from our congregation were among the 877 baptized! We have 13 pioneers in our congregation and 3 special pioneers. They are reporting some 110 studies between them! At present, we have 132 unbaptized publishers.
At our Memorial in 1995, we had 1,012 in attendance! The Society just sent a Polish brother, Mateysh, to our congregation. He graduated from the Ministerial Training School and will be of great help. We now have three elders. So an additional congregation will be formed, and our territory—close to one million in population—will be divided in half. Each of the two congregations will have about 200 publishers. One congregation will have two elders, and the other one elder. We have another assembly coming up, so we are now going over the questions with the 44 who will be ready for baptism then. Sounds incredible! A spiritual paradise indeed! It’s amazing! It’s truly Jehovah’s hand at work. His chariot seems to be blazing through Russia at this time. As of October 1995, there are some 40 congregations in Moscow. It could easily double if there were enough elders.
The days of our flea market ministries are long past. Scott is at Brooklyn Bethel, Steve is serving as an elder in one of the Moscow congregations—both of us so thankful God let himself be found by us. We pray that millions will yet seek him and that God will let himself be found by them.—As told by Scott and Steve Davis.
a Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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One Moscow congregation has over 530 in attendance every Sunday