I Wanted to ‘Walk with God’
AS TOLD BY ENOK ÖMAN
I WAS born in northern Sweden, near the Finnish border, eighty-four years ago. The past sixty years I have lived as a dedicated Christian, and now as a white-haired man I am happy to look back upon fifty-three years of full-time service in the ministry of Jehovah God.
I still remember how I used to sit on my mother’s lap while she taught me about God and his power. When I was thirteen years of age my thirst for knowledge was awakened, and I began reading a great deal. The pleasures of the world seemed empty to me. As a young man it made a deep impression on me when I read in the Bible that “Enoch walked with God.” I wanted to do the same thing.
Thus it was that when I was twenty-two years old I stood outside our home on a starry night and looked up at the Milky Way, and that night I dedicated myself to the Maker of this wonderful, awe-inspiring universe. But it was a few years before I really learned how to ‘walk with God.’
When I was twenty-four I studied at a high school in the northern part of Sweden. In the same locality there was an agricultural school, and its director was head of both schools. When, in 1905, I became an agronomist, the director said to me: “I want to go back to southern Sweden. For several years I have hoped to find a pupil that I could help in further studies and then turn over to him my position as director for these two schools. I have now found that pupil. It is you, Öman. I will give you some time to think about this matter, and then I will be glad to have your answer.”
I thought seriously about the matter, since I had made up my mind to ‘walk with God.’ I prayed to God for guidance. After thinking about the matter for three days, the decision was clear in my mind. I told the director that I wanted to go back to my home as a farmer. He bowed his head in disappointment but said: “Öman, you have my fullest respect, and I believe I understand your fine motive. I wish you the greatest blessings.”
Since I wanted a home of my own, I constructed a farmhouse near my father’s farmhouse. It took me six years, because I did the work myself. But during those years I did not neglect the Bible. I often studied God’s Word, as well as religious books, in the hope of finding the truth on the proper way to ‘walk with God.’ The doctrine of eternal torment had caused me great sorrow. When I asked the religious leaders about it, they gave me no satisfactory answers. They said: “Enok, you are young, you should not think about such things.”
I LEARN HOW TO ‘WALK WITH GOD’
In 1911, a young pioneer or full-time preacher of Jehovah’s witnesses, August Abrahamson, brought me the message of God’s truth, and I obtained from him the first volume of the Studies in the Scriptures, “The Divine Plan of the Ages.” I read the book and understood that the time spoken of by the prophet Daniel had come. The book helped me to see the falsehood of the doctrine of eternal torment. After I had studied this first volume, I determined to ‘walk with God’ by spending all my time bringing people the knowledge of God and his kingdom; I would be a pioneer.
From the Swedish branch office of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, then in Örebro, I obtained the other five volumes and subscribed for The Watchtower in Swedish. I also obtained the address of Brother Abrahamson. I traveled by bicycle about seventy-five miles to get to his home. His wife and four other friends were present at my baptism in the river Lule in September, 1911.
I talked to my parents about this glorious light of truth that I had found. Both my father and my mother were very glad to hear about it, and my father said: “It must be as you say; such must a God of love be.” I said to him: “From now on, I will give all my time to ‘walk with God’ as a pioneer for his kingdom. You can sell your farmhouse and from now on live in my new house; it is a gift from me to you and my dear mother.”
When I started out as a pioneer, my parents stood on the veranda with tears in their eyes, my father saying: “I know that you are serving the Lord and may he bless you.”
So the next six years I traveled through the northern part of Sweden and part of northern Finland. One night I skied fifty-three miles, and another time by kick-sleigh (sparkstötting) I went fifty-four miles in one day. In the summertime I traveled by bicycle. In the wintertime I skied with my bag filled with Bible literature to the isolated families who lived behind the mountains. As a rule I did not know where I would sleep when night came, but it never happened that I was without a bed. I placed much Bible literature with the people. All the kind and hospitable people I met and the many experiences I had are very treasured and joyful memories in my life.
At one time, about 1915, I came to a place called Bergsjö. I wanted to get a room for the night. There were many houses, but somehow I picked a certain house. When I told the lady of the house something about my ministerial work, she at once answered: “My husband and I are in the truth, and we are very glad to see you; you are welcome to stay with us as long as you are here.” These two friends, Brother and Sister Brodin, were happy that I placed eight books and some booklets in the neighborhood. Indeed, the time I stayed in their home was a blessed time. Many years later, at the convention in Stockholm, in 1955, a brother came to me and said: “I am an adopted son of your old friends Brodin. I was four years old when you worked in Bergsjö, and I remember when you told me that I should be a witness for God’s truth. Your words I have never forgotten.”
During 1914-1915 I spent some time at the Swedish branch office of the Watch Tower Society. In September, 1914, we started showing in Sweden the “Photo-Drama of Creation,” a motion picture depicting God’s purpose for the earth and mankind. From then on to May, 1915, many thousands of persons saw it free. It stirred up great interest in the Bible and in the work of Jehovah’s witnesses.
During the winter of 1916-1917, I spent some time at the Society’s office in Örebro and from there I came to Oslo to serve as branch servant. It was the seventh of February, 1917, and I thought: “I know other brothers who are more capable than I.” But Hebrews 10:38 helped me: “If he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
For several years the Swedish branch office had oversight of the work in Norway, but in 1921 I received a letter from the Society’s president, Brother Rutherford, in which he told me that I should work directly under the guidance of the president’s office.
In 1922 I became a Norwegian citizen and that year Sister Maria Dreyer became my wife. Maria learned the truth in 1911, the same year I did. She died in 1944, seventy-one years old, having the hope “for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus.”—Phil. 3:14.
THE NAZIS BAN THE WORK
The Kingdom work increased in Norway; and in 1940 there were seven of us working at the branch office. A few days after the Germans had occupied Norway, they imprisoned me. After spending some time in prison I got permission to go home, but often I was taken back and had to answer their many questions. On July 8, 1941, the Nazis put a ban on our work, confiscating all the Society’s property. Only my wife and I were allowed to stay in the house; the other five had to leave. We lived in the house under very difficult conditions. After a while the Norwegian Nazis also visited the house, and I underwent more interrogations. During the five years of occupation, the Germans and the Norwegian Nazis took me to their office more than a hundred times. Every time I took my documents and left the house both my wife and I felt it might be the last time, since thousands of Norwegians were taken to concentration camps in Germany or were killed in Norway.
During the war we worked “underground.” In many marvelous ways The Watchtower was sent to us from Denmark and Sweden, and the Witnesses in Norway made copies so that many could have the spiritual food. All the time I had contact with the brothers; they wrote me indirectly, since the Gestapo had me under constant observation.
The experiences of the war years had taken much of my physical strength, and I thought that it was better for the Kingdom work that a younger brother take my position. When the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, visited us in Oslo in the last days of 1945, he told me that I could stay here at Bethel as long as I wanted. Another brother was appointed branch servant.
During the war years a Sister Haldis came to Bethel to help my wife and me. She was a very good helper and took care of the Bethel home and also my sick wife until her death. Years later, in 1953, I asked Sister Haldis if she would be my wife, and we married, moving to a private home and carrying on our work for God’s kingdom. I became a pioneer and Haldis worked as a nurse and also very much in the Kingdom ministry.
I am still a pioneer. It is a very precious privilege to be in the pioneer work. It also brings me great joy to be at the meetings in the congregation, and I feel it is a great loss when it is not possible for me to be there. It was really a grand privilege for me to attend the “Everlasting Good News” Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses at Stockholm, in 1963. At eighty-four years of age, I can look back with joy and thankfulness and see the fulfillment of my earnest desire to ‘walk with God,’ serving the interests of his glorious kingdom.