“When I Am Weak, Then I Am Powerful”
I GREW UP in a little town north of San Francisco, California, called Petaluma. My mom was somewhat religious, but my dad didn’t have much use for religion. I always believed in a creator—I just didn’t know who he was.
Growing up, I was a happy child. How fondly I remember enjoying those carefree days! Little did I know that there were things happening inside my body that would take away much of my freedom. It was in 1960, my last year of high school, that I remember talking to my best friend about the pain I was having in a couple of fingers.
My feet soon began hurting me so much that my mom took me to a hospital in San Francisco, where I stayed for about six days. I was 18 then, and the test results revealed that I had rheumatoid arthritis. I started taking shots of gold sodium thiosulfate, then prednisone, and then another form of cortisone. In all, I took those drugs for 18 years, and in each case they diminished the pain for a few years but then gradually became ineffective, and I was moved on to the next one. The constant pain could not be ignored, and I became desperate in my search for a different kind of medical aid. I have found some alternative treatments that have helped somewhat. Thankfully, I am not experiencing as much pain as I was when the disease was in more aggressive stages of progression through my body.
One day in 1975, my son came across a record book my mom had kept about me as a baby. I found out that when I was six months old, a doctor had started X-ray treatments on me for an enlarged thymus. I believe that the radiation treatments prescribed for me in infancy may be the reason I am in this condition today. If that is so, what a terrible mistake that was!
I married in 1962. In 1968, during the earlier stages of the disease, my husband, Lynn, and I worked together in a bakery we owned. We would get up at about 4:00 a.m., and my husband would make the dough and then sometimes snooze on the flour sacks while the bread was in the oven. We would slice it and pack it up, and then Lynn would deliver it. On occasion an insurance salesman dropped by the bakery and told us about God’s promised Kingdom. We liked what we heard, but we were too busy. Our bread route was expanding, and we became burdened with even more secular work. To our delight, another bakery bought us out! Lynn went to work for them, and I went to work in a beauty shop. As the arthritis worsened, however, I could work only three days a week and finally had to quit altogether.
During that period, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses came by the house regularly and offered me the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. I always gave her a contribution and took the magazines, thinking I was doing her a favor. After she left, I would put them on the shelf unopened for a few days, and then one of us always threw them away. That was quite unfortunate, since now we appreciate their spiritual value. At the time, though, religious matters just didn’t seem very important.
Conscious of Our Spiritual Need
One evening my husband and I were discussing how there had to be more to life than eating and sleeping and working so hard. We started searching for the spirituality that was missing in our lives. We turned our attention to a little church down the street, but we did not find the spiritual uplift we had hoped for. The church members talked mostly about their local problems.
The Witness who brought the magazines had been coming by for about a year, but my routine did not change until I finally read the October 8, 1968, issue of Awake!, entitled “Is It Later Than You Think?” I liked what I read, and happily, it affected my husband in the same way. We began studying and absorbing the truth like sponges. We couldn’t get enough of all the wonderful things we were learning. In 1969 we were baptized.
As time went on, it became difficult for me to get up and sit down and much harder to walk. I would have to force my knees to bend in order to get in and out of the car. I had learned to live with limitations and pain that made me cry much of the time. So I’d touch up my makeup, and away we’d go to meetings or out in field service. I walked from door to door for as long as I could. I tried to get out in field service once or twice each week, until the stiffness and pain in my knees and feet made it no longer possible. I often worried about falling and not being able to get up. It helps when I talk to Jehovah. Sometimes I cry to him with many tears.
Resorting to tears, however, was not always possible. A person with rheumatoid arthritis can also develop dry eyes. I have had times when the dryness was so severe that it was difficult to read. When that happened, I listened to Bible tapes. I often walked around with my eyes shut because moving my eyelids scratched my eyes. I might as well have been blind. At times, I had to put artificial tears in my eyes every five minutes. Worse yet, I would have to put ointment in my eyes and keep them bandaged for five or six days until they were better. Remaining thankful is no insignificant task when one is struggling with a long-term illness that cannot be reasonably expected to reverse itself in this system.
In 1978, I had to resort to a wheelchair. Making that decision was difficult. I had put it off as long as I could, but I no longer had a choice. I had known that the day would come, but my hope was that God’s new world would come first. Lynn bought a tall draftsman’s chair that has a wide five-wheel base. With it, I could push myself around the house.
I found it frustrating to reach for something, since I could not stretch my arm far and could not grip well with my bent and twisted fingers. So, then, I would use my “grabber” stick. With it, I can pick up things off the floor, open a cupboard and take out a dish, or get something out of the refrigerator. As I develop new skills with my “grabber” stick, I am able to take care of some household chores. I can cook, do dishes, iron and fold clothes, and mop. I feel some pride as my abilities improve, and I am happy I can still contribute to some of the household needs. However, what I used to be able to do in minutes now takes me hours.
Witnessing by Telephone
It took time, but I mustered up the courage to try witnessing by telephone. I didn’t think I could do that, but now I really do enjoy it and have had some good success. Much to my surprise, it is similar to going from door to door, in the sense that I am able to talk with people about Jehovah and his purposes.
One of the presentations I use begins this way: “Hello, is this Mr.——? I’m Mrs. Maass. I’m talking to people just briefly, and if you have a few minutes, may I speak with you? (A typical response is: “What is it about?”) It’s frightening to see what is going on in the world today, isn’t it? (I allow for comment.) I’d like to share this Biblical thought that gives us a real hope for the future.” I then read the Lord’s Prayer and possibly 2 Peter 3:13. I have given some calls to other Christian sisters or to Lynn to follow up for me.
Over the years, I have had many good conversations and have been able to send brochures, magazines, and books to those who showed interest. Some have begun to study the Bible by phone. One lady I talked to said she felt that just studying on her own would be enough. But after several discussions, she agreed to come to our home for a Bible study, since I told her of my circumstances.
Another time when I was making calls, a recording gave a new number. Although I always call locally and this was not in the local range, I felt motivated to call the number anyway. After talking for a while with me, the lady who answered the phone said that she and her husband wanted to get in touch with people who really are Christian. So Lynn and I went to their home, about one hour away, to study with them.
I still find joy and happiness in talking to others about Jehovah and his promise of new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is to dwell. Recently, a woman I’ve been speaking with for several months told me: “Whenever I talk to you, I realize I’m taking in more knowledge.” I know the knowledge I’m sharing with others leads to everlasting life and produces a joy that can shine through even a crippled exterior like mine. Sometimes I’m able to do more in service than at other times, but I wish I could do much, much more all the time! I know that Jehovah knows everyone’s circumstances and that he appreciates what we are able to do, no matter how little it might seem. I have often thought of Proverbs 27:11: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me,” and I do want to be among those who prove Satan a liar.
Being at the meetings is always encouraging, even though it is difficult for me to get there. Jehovah has made so many wonderful provisions for us to be well fed spiritually that I want to take full advantage of them. How happy we are that our two children have made the truth their own! Our daughter, Terri, is married to a fine brother, and they have four children whom I love very much. How it warms our hearts to see that our grandchildren love Jehovah too! Our son, James, and his wife, Tuesday, have made the choice to serve Jehovah at Brooklyn Bethel, the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in New York.
An Earthly Paradise Through Jehovah’s Power
I try to keep in mind Jehovah’s wonderful promise of a paradise earth. Even now, there is an abundance of his creation to find pleasure in. I enjoy a beautiful sunset. I delight in the variety of flowers and their fragrance. I love roses! I am not able to be out of the house very often, but when I can be, I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of warm sunshine. I close my eyes and picture a beautiful setting in the mountains, with my family enjoying themselves in an open meadow filled with wildflowers. There is a babbling brook and plenty of juicy, sweet watermelon for everyone! When I possibly can, I paint pictures of things that help me think of the promised earthly Paradise to come. While I am painting, I imagine myself there. I know Jehovah can make real the precious mental images I now hold dear.
I like to keep the scripture at James 1:12 in mind. It says: “Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him.” Paul compared the ailment he had to an ‘angel of Satan that kept slapping him.’ He prayed that Jehovah remove his disability, but he was told that God’s power was being made perfect in his weakness. So Paul’s success in spite of his weakness was evidence of God’s power upon him. Paul said: “When I am weak, then I am powerful.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) I feel that what little I can do now in spite of my limitations is only through God’s power upon me.
John recorded an account that really encourages me. It is about a man who was confined to a cot for 38 years. He, along with other sick ones, would lie hopefully by a pool of water, desiring very much to refresh himself in it. He was unable to reach the water, which he thought might heal him. One day Jesus saw him and asked him: “Do you want to become sound in health?” How my tears of joy would answer that question! “Jesus said to him: ‘Get up, pick up your cot and walk.’” (John 5:2-9) There are many of us eagerly waiting to hear such a call!—As told by Luretta Maass.
[Picture on page 25]
When in a vivacious mood, I envisioned an adventurous boy on stilts, with his dog underfoot
[Pictures on page 26]
Getting phone numbers together for field service
Dialing the phone