Led in Paths of Righteousness
AS TOLD BY GOTTFRIED FEUZ
I REMEMBER with pleasure my childhood days and how my mother taught me to pray. These were simple prayers, and yet they planted in my heart the consciousness of the existence of a loving and almighty God, the Creator of all things. As I grew older I learned the Lord’s Prayer, although I did not comprehend its deep meaning.
In winter, night fell early in our little alpine village in the heart of the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland. My mother could not see sufficiently in the twilight to mend, so she would lay her sewing aside and tell us Bible stories until it was quite dark and time to light up the lamp. We always looked forward to this quiet hour. I learned other things from the Bible in Sunday school and religious instruction in preparation for confirmation, but without gaining the slightest notion of the wonderful purpose of Jehovah.
When I was about to leave home to earn my own living, my mother counseled me not to neglect the privilege of prayer. At that time I believed there were only two different possibilities for eternity, either to endure torment in everlasting hellfire, or to enjoy endless bliss in heaven. Being conscious of my shortcomings, I prayed to God to lead me in the right way.
PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS MADE PLAIN
At the beginning of 1915 something happened in my life that was to lead me to the paths of righteousness I was praying for. When returning in the train from the burial of my eldest sister, grieved of heart, left dissatisfied and empty by the funeral service, I found myself in a small compartment with just one young man about my own age. He asked me what I thought about the war. When I told him my mother thought this probably indicated that the end of the world was near, he began to explain to me the meaning of these world happenings in the light of Bible prophecies. His explanations were naturally foreign to me, as I had never heard anything like it before.
This young man then handed me a tract entitled “The Establishment of the Messianic Kingdom of Peace on Earth,” at the same time promising to send me other publications to read if I would let him have my address. This I was very glad to do. I was most impressed by his beaming face, and said to myself that he must certainly be a true Christian.
Soon afterward I received a small booklet entitled “Withhold Your Voice from Crying and Your Eyes from Tears!” What a wonderful message! Now I understood the condition of death and why Jesus compared the death state to sleep. How thankful I was to learn that the dead were not conscious somewhere, but were in a condition of deep sleep from which there would be an awakening during the Kingdom rule of Christ! After I had thoroughly studied this booklet, I wrote to this Bible student and received the first volume of Studies in the Scriptures, which was The Divine Plan of the Ages. Following this I got in touch with the branch office of the Watch Tower Society in Switzerland and ordered the rest of these volumes and an Elberfelder Bible as well. Enclosed in their package was a kind letter telling me how I could come into closer contact with this work.
My joy in the knowledge I had gained was so great I believed everybody would accept this wonderful message and rejoice with me. But now came my great disappointment. What made me so supremely happy left my fellows completely indifferent! Even my family with whom I was so closely united showed no interest. When I went home they wanted me to go to church with them, saying the minister preached quite differently now. I declined, however, remarking that he probably preached about morals but said nothing about the wonderful Kingdom promises.
In the fall of that year, 1915, a one-day assembly with baptismal service was arranged in Vevey, and the whole assembly witnessed as we—three others and I—symbolized our dedication to Jehovah by immersion in the Lake of Geneva.
At first it seemed that none of my family had a hearing ear for the truth. However, I was not willing to relinquish the precious treasure of truth that had become mine by Jehovah’s loving-kindness. I prayed often to Jehovah that He might open the eyes of their understanding for the truth, and I had the joy of experiencing that Jehovah hears the prayers of the righteously disposed. Two years later one of my sisters symbolized by water baptism her dedication to God, followed by my mother and my elder brother in the year 1922.
A PERMANENT CHANGE OF OCCUPATION
In order to be able to attend the meetings regularly I changed my occupation and moved to Berne, where I could take an ever-increasing share in the preaching work. I did not have the excellent training that is the privilege of those today who dedicate themselves to Jehovah, but what I did have was a good knowledge of the truth as revealed at that time. So I was in position to make public declaration of the hope within me. It was a joy to speak about the blessings of the New World and show people the great benefits that could be derived from a closer study of the Bible.
After a time I was offered a better position in the firm where I was employed, but feared it would interfere with my attendance at meetings, so I declined. Shortly after this I was invited to enter the preaching work full time. At the beginning of 1920 I took up my service in the branch office of the Watch Tower Society in Berne. Most of the French literature was translated and produced in Berne and sent to all lands where the French language was spoken. I was privileged to help in this.
A few months later we arranged to give a good witness with the “Photo-Drama of Creation.” This presentation lasted four evenings. It began with pictures of the preparation of our planet as home for the human family, the creation of man as the crowning glory of earthly creation, and then went on to the history of man from paradise lost to paradise regained. It was a real pleasure to accompany the speaker and operator throughout the larger towns and villages of Alsace-Lorraine and the Saarland. It was most gratifying to see the interest of the people in these showings. The halls were always full to the last seat long before the presentation was due to begin, and often many had to stand. A series of public lectures followed the “Photo-Drama.” New congregations sprang up in various places as a result of this intensive work, and weak congregations were strengthened. I also assisted with the showing in various towns in the Canton of Berne, Switzerland.
In the fall of the year 1920 we had the pleasure of the first visit of J. F. Rutherford, the president of the Watch Tower Society at that time. A two-day assembly was organized and we heard the lecture “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” for the first time.
During 1924 and 1925 a new Bethel home and factory were erected in Berne. This building work was done almost exclusively by brothers who put their time and talents at the disposal of the work. Today there is thriving activity in this home that was dedicated for that purpose in 1925. It was also in that year that the German-Swiss Branch and Central European Office was moved from Zurich to Berne into the new Bethel, thus amalgamating the German and French work under one management and one roof.
Those were happy years. What a joy it was to keep in step with the ever-increasing light, and how we rejoiced each time a new truth was brought to our attention in the Watchtower magazine! How glad I was when we learned the proper attitude toward worldly authorities. It was also a relief when the Watchtower explained that it was not possible for imperfect men to develop a perfect character, but that we had to bring forth the fruits of the spirit and continually work at this to make our minds over in order to receive life in the New World, not by our own efforts, but by God’s kindness.
During the years before World War II, I was also privileged to join in weekend preaching activity in rural territories. We even penetrated into the villages and towns of France around the Swiss border. We combined pleasure with profitableness, using these opportunities to enjoy the wonders of Jehovah’s creation in the beautiful country around us, and at the same time bringing the lifesaving message to the people, singing Jehovah’s praises. Never would I exchange the joys I received in this work for the pleasures of this passing world. When World War II broke out we could not go into France anymore. After the war we learned with great joy that in many places congregations had been established and the people remembered that Jehovah’s witnesses had come over from Switzerland before the war to bring them this message. We were reminded of the words of the Bible which exhort us to “send out your bread upon the surface of the waters, for in the course of many days you will find it again.”—Eccl. 11:1.
The year 1940 was an especially eventful year. One day the Bethel home in Berne was occupied by the military authorities, who searched everything in the hope of finding something to use against us. Since we have nothing to do with politics, naturally nothing could be found. But all our literature was confiscated. We could print only the magazine Consolation and a few booklets for Switzerland in our factory. Communications and export abroad were entirely cut off.
I was then assigned to serve as a traveling minister, called “servant to the brethren” at that time. I served the congregations in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Gradually new congregations sprang up, and today it is a great joy to see the increase as a result of the practical help rendered by these traveling representatives who are now called “circuit servants.”
After World War II connections with the outside world began to be normalized. In 1945 we had the first visit of the present president of the Watch Tower Society, N. H. Knorr. He spoke to us on the Bible text, “Remember . . . your grand Creator in the days of your young manhood.” We were all ears! The talk was full of love and strengthened our faith. We could all study it in The Watchtower afterward, and how refreshing was this food at the proper time after the war years of isolation, when only a trickle of life-giving truth penetrated our borders! How grateful I am that through all the years I have been able to appreciate and perceive that Jehovah watches over and directs his work and sets men in positions of responsibility who are an example to his people in loving dedication to him and his organization!
In 1947 I was called back to Bethel. Nine months later, however, the brother serving the French circuit became ill and I was assigned to take over this service again. I was privileged to serve in this French territory until 1950, and then in a German-speaking circuit until 1954. In 1955 I returned to the Bethel home in Berne, where I now serve.
I am deeply grateful to God for all these privileges, and especially for the fact that I could serve in the field so many years as a full-time minister. I have been able to see Jehovah’s organization being built up ever more beautifully and efficiently according to the principles of the early Christian church. Even as mature brothers visited the congregations in the early church to teach them and help them to carry out their service of praise, to encourage them and build them up in the faith and to appoint mature men to serve as overseers to shepherd the flock, so now circuit, district and zone servants serve. They too make suggestions for the appointment of mature servants to shepherd the congregations.
I must not forget the international assemblies that I attended in Yankee Stadium, New York, in the years 1950 and 1953. How kind it was of the congregations I served as circuit servant at that time to enable me to attend those assemblies! And in 1958 I was there too, as the Watch Tower Society assisted me. I was deeply impressed by all these people out of all parts of the world, of all classes and races who had all put themselves under the one Shepherd, Christ Jesus, as their leader. What gratitude welled up in my heart as I meditated that they all speak of the one hope, they all believe the same and exercise the same ministry wherever they may be found on earth, just as the Bible foretold!
It has been a happy life that I have led as a full-time servant in the field ministry and as a co-worker at the Bethel home. True, my strength is failing now, but I appreciate the privilege that I can still help in Bethel wherever I am needed. So I enjoy every kind of work, striving always to be conscientious and reliable, taking pains to do all as to the Lord himself.
My great wish is that I may continue to share in Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, never forgetting all the goodness he has bestowed upon me. Trusting in him, the only true God, I want to continue to sing forth his praises as he continues to lead me in his paths of righteousness.