She Loved What She Learned
NOT long ago a letter was found that had been written by a woman just prior to her death from cancer in May 2004. She had not finished the letter, evidently because of a sudden turn for the worse in her health. Yet, those who later read that unmailed letter were moved to tears, and their faith in God was built up.
In the letter, the writer, Susan, described herself as having been a young teenager when she first telephoned a Christian elder of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Connecticut, U.S.A. She went on to explain the situation she faced during those teen years. It was late last year that Susan’s mother came into possession of that moving letter and sent a copy of it to the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York.
Susan wrote that she had found the phone number of the elder in Connecticut in the telephone book in 1973. “That year was the year, at age 14,” she explained, “that from reading copies of The Watchtower and Awake! I decided this must be the truth. Never having met one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I looked for them in the phone book and chose the number that had the same prefix as mine. When Brother Genrich answered, he was surprised to learn that I had never met a Witness.”*
A Dramatic Problem
Susan explained in her letter that when she was ten, she had been sent to live with her mother’s sister in Connecticut. The stay was supposed to be temporary, but after a while Susan told her mother, who lived alone in Florida, that she wanted to stay where she was. In her letter Susan wrote that her situation had resembled “what is called the Stockholm syndrome, where a person forms a bond with his oppressors.”* She was terribly mistreated.
“My aunt and her companion,” Susan wrote, “were extremely abusive to me. Furthermore, few outsiders ever entered the house. When I was allowed to go to school, I was provided no lunch or decent clothes, even though Mom sent generous support money. I had only one set of underwear, while my aunt’s two daughters, who were a few years younger than I, had everything.” She related this to make it clear why she knew she would be in serious trouble when her aunt found out about her interest in learning more about the Bible.
How Susan Grew in Bible Knowledge
“Brother Genrich introduced me to Laura, a mature Christian sister,” Susan wrote, “and she spent a lot of time answering my many Bible questions, often meeting me at a laundromat.” Susan explained that she had never made an independent decision about anything until then but that after these discussions and reading such Bible-based literature as the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, she did.
“It was a Friday night,” Susan continued, “when I told my aunt that I had been talking with the Witnesses. She forced me to stay up all that night, standing in the middle of the kitchen. Afterward, I was more determined than ever to become a Witness.”
From that time on, Brother Genrich kept Susan supplied with literature to help her understand the Bible. “The 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses stands out in my mind,” Susan wrote, “because it told about how the Witnesses in Nazi Germany endured persecution prior to and during World War II. . . . That is when I asked the elder to put the Kingdom songs on tape so I could learn them. Within a year I could sing in order all 119 songs in the 1966 songbook, ‘Singing and Accompanying Yourselves With Music in Your Hearts.’”
“In the meantime, Brother Genrich also left me tapes of Bible talks, dramas, and assembly programs. He would drop them off on Route 10 near a certain telephone pole, and I would retrieve them from there. . . . My situation now began to frustrate me because I’d made about as much progress as possible without going to even one meeting. So I guess I ran out of steam.”
Susan said that the next couple of years were very hard. She had discontinued any contact with the only two Witnesses she knew. But then she said that “learning all the songs became a ‘curse.’” Why? “Because the words of a song would come to me, such as ‘Soldiers of Jah do not seek a life of ease.’ I knew those words had been written by a Witness while in a German concentration camp during World War II, and this added to my misery. I felt like a coward and thought that Jehovah had given up on me.”*
Freedom at Last
“The turning point was my 18th birthday. No Witness had called at our house for years because we were listed as a ‘do not call.’ But that day someone from another congregation visited the house, and I got to talk to her because there was no one else at home. That was the first time I could remember ever being alone at home on a Saturday. I took this as proof that Jehovah hadn’t given up on me. So I phoned Brother Genrich, whom I had originally called, told him I was ready to leave, and asked him if he had any ideas. Eventually, I was helped to move out.”
Susan moved to another location in April 1977. Her letter added: “During the next year, I was finally able to attend all the meetings and assemblies, and I began sharing in the ministry. I got in touch with my mother again. She hadn’t realized how terribly I had been mistreated all those years and was devastated. She immediately stepped in and made sure I had everything I needed. Mom had moved to Alaska a few years earlier. Since she showed a lot of interest in Bible truths, I moved to Alaska in 1978 to be with her. She eventually became a Witness and has remained faithful to this day.
“After I started attending meetings, Brother Genrich planned a group trip to the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York, and invited me to accompany the group. That was one of the most lasting gifts anyone has ever given me, for it sparked a lifelong appreciation for Jehovah’s organization. Well, that’s about it. This is condensed because I wanted to get this done in time.”
The statements above are actually only excerpts from a single-spaced, six-and-a-half-page letter. Toward the end of what Susan had written, she said: “I had a very bad bout at the hospital last month and thought I was a goner for sure . . . I prayed to Jehovah that if I could just have two more weeks of good health, I would get some things in order. . . . I don’t expect to be around much longer, but I’ve got to say that these years in the truth have been so wonderful, the best life anyone could ever expect.”
There was no complimentary close or signature, nor was the letter ever mailed. Those who found it did not know to whom it should be delivered. But, as mentioned earlier, the letter was eventually sent to Susan’s mother.
Learning More About Susan
After Susan’s baptism on April 14, 1979, her mother returned to Florida. Susan stayed in Alaska, since she had formed a close relationship with those in the North Pole Congregation. She began the full-time ministry as a pioneer shortly afterward. Eventually, she moved to Florida and, in 1991, married a Christian elder and a fellow pioneer minister, who died shortly after Susan did.
Susan and her husband were a dearly loved couple who shared in the full-time ministry together right up until her illness made it impossible for them to continue. All told, she enjoyed over 20 years in the full-time ministry. Her funeral services in Florida were tied in with the North Pole Congregation.
Susan’s letter can help us appreciate even more the spiritual blessings enjoyed by those who serve Jehovah and have the wonderful resurrection hope. (Acts 24:15) This life experience also makes it clear that God is near to all who draw close to him!—James 4:7, 8.
Brother Genrich and his wife died in a tragic accident in 1993.
Sing Praises to Jehovah, Song 29, “Forward, You Witnesses!”
[Blurb on page 23]
“These years in the truth have been so wonderful, the best life anyone could ever expect”
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When Susan was ten years old
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Susan with her husband, James Seymour