Experiencing Jehovah’s Love
As told by Hugo Henry Riemer
IN 1883, my father, then a presiding elder over a district of the Methodist church in the middle western part of the United States, answered a knock at his door. There stood one of the early witnesses of Jehovah holding up a paperbound book entitled “Food for Thinking Christians,” written and published by C. T. Russell. After a greeting, he told my father, “Mister, here is a book that will make you happy with the only true happiness.” He then handed the book to my father, who thumbed through it, noting the many Scripture quotations and citations in it. Being impressed by the earnestness of the man, who had kept on talking to him, he gave a contribution for the book.
Mother was just packing father’s traveling bag for a weekend trip on the train. He handed her the book, requesting that she put it in his grip on the very top of his things. After he had taken a seat on the train, he opened his grip and took the book out and began reading. He finished reading it when the train arrived at his destination, and he said to himself, “Thank God! That is the truth.”
When father arrived home, he said to mother, after greeting her and us four boys, “Mamma, I have found the truth.” Mother said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Do you remember that book you packed in my traveling bag? I want you to read it and let me know what you think of it.” But he had some misgivings as to her reaction, because she was the daughter of a lay preacher. She read the book and then said to father, “If that is the truth, we have no place in the Methodist church.” With rejoicing father said, “Mamma, those are the most precious words I ever heard you speak.” I was five years old at the time, but from then until now, at the age of 86, Jehovah has not failed to show his love toward me as he poured it out on my father and mother.
CHANGE IN FAMILY LIFE
The Bible truths my parents learned from the Watch Tower Society brought a remarkable change in the family. As soon as father got the truth, he began to call for the Bible every evening after supper. He read a chapter from it, and we discussed it as he read. Then we all kneeled down right at our chairs for a prayer before we left the table. This was something that did not happen while he was a Methodist preacher.
It was not until graduating from high school in 1896 at the age of eighteen that I dedicated myself to Jehovah’s service and symbolized that dedication by water immersion. In 1905 I began serving Jehovah God full time by entering the colporteur work, which is now known as the pioneer service. During the time I was in that work, I proclaimed the truths of God’s Word throughout the territory in Missouri north of the Missouri River. I worked there in the summer and went to Texas and Alabama in the winter to carry on the work in those states. Jehovah manifested his love by causing all my needs to be cared for while I was doing this ministerial work.
In one of my territories was an Indian reservation. As a result of our work there, an Indian man became interested and dedicated himself to Jehovah God. Later his two nephews also became active in Jehovah’s service. One became a member of the Bethel family at the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, and the other volunteered to work on one of the Society’s farms. This good fruit of my ministerial labors was a blessing to me from God, an evidence of his love.
My colporteur work continued until 1915, at which time Brother Russell, president of the Watch Tower Society, asked me to engage in the Photo-Drama work. This consisted of a four-part moving-picture and colored-slide program that was accompanied with phonograph Bible lectures. I served as an advance man who went ahead to make arrangements for the showings in various movie theaters, but my work was short-lived because the funds ran out about six months after I had entered the work.
My colporteur work ended in 1916 when Brother Russell died. I might say here that the first time I met Brother Russell was at a convention in St. Louis in 1904. It was an outstanding assembly, although there were only a few hundred persons in attendance. Brother Russell spoke with a very deep, reverential and kind voice. He was an outstanding man whose figure attracted attention. Why, when people passed him on the street they would turn around and look back at him. He stood straight and had a pleasant, alert countenance.
After Brother Russell’s death, the next president of the Watch Tower Society, Joseph F. Rutherford, invited me to enter the pilgrim service. This service consisted of visiting congregations, or classes as they were called in those days. I would give private talks to the brothers, and on Sunday, and sometimes on an evening during the week, gave a talk to the public. The appointments of travel that I received from the Society’s headquarters took me into every state of the Union. I continued in the pilgrim service until 1918, when a ban was put on all public meetings on account of the flu. I telegraphed headquarters asking what I should do. The reply was to come to headquarters in Brooklyn. Here, too, I have experienced Jehovah’s great love.
I arrived at the Society’s headquarters, called Bethel, at a time when religious persecutors were taking advantage of the war to whip up a feeling of hatred for the Lord’s people. This resulted in the unjust sentencing of the directors of the Society, including Brother Rutherford, to four twenty-year prison terms that were to run concurrently. Hatred for us was so rampant in New York that no one would even sell us coal, although winter was coming on. So we got in touch with Brother Rutherford, who advised us to move to Pittsburgh and to keep the work going as much as possible.
One of the outstanding things that happened in those grim days was that Jehovah saw to it that The Watchtower never failed to be published. Not one issue was missed. There were enough manuscripts on file to keep The Watchtower going. In this Jehovah showed his love for his people.
When we moved to Pittsburgh, I had the privilege of taking the manuscripts for The Watchtower to the typesetter. The printed magazines were sent to us from a commercial printer, and we mailed them out. There were only about ten of us working there in Pittsburgh at the time. Every other feature of the Society’s work came to a standstill.
In 1919 the appeal of the case of the Society’s directors was applied for and heard, and they were immediately released on bail, which had previously been denied them. Finally the conviction was reversed, with all of them being exonerated. All the equipment that we had shipped to Pittsburgh now had to be taken to freight houses for shipment back to Brooklyn. Another brother and I were the last to return, because there were many odds and ends that had to be cared for in Pittsburgh.
While in Pittsburgh, I worked in the treasurer’s office and also took care of transporting the Watchtower manuscripts to the typesetters. Doing some purchasing for the Society also became my responsibility. When I got back to Brooklyn, I was put in the purchasing department, and I continued working there until 1958, at which time I had an operation that affected my nerves, making it necessary for me to turn the work over to another brother. I helped out for a couple more years, which made a total of forty-two years in doing the Society’s purchasing. Since then I have been doing other work. Buying things for the Society was a big job, and it increased mightily when the Society began doing its own printing and binding of its publications.
As might be expected, we had difficulty getting supplies during World War II because so many things we needed were being rationed, but Jehovah showed his love by providing for us. Several times, Brother M. H. Larson, the overseer of the Society’s Brooklyn printing plant, and I went to Washington, D.C., to appear before a government-appointed committee that had charge of the rationing of printing paper and other supplies. We had to make an appeal to this committee for such things.
One of the prominent Bible societies had lawyers, big-business men, preachers and others there, about a dozen in all to represent them before the committee. After they finished presenting their requests, the chairman called for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. When Brother Larson and I came up before the committee, the chairman said, “Just the two of you?” We answered, “Yes. We hope that Almighty God is with us too.” The chairman responded, “Well, let’s hope so.” We got all the supplies we needed, but the other Bible society was granted far less than they wanted.
Since then the years have passed rapidly, and in recent years my physical strength has waned. While I was bedfast after an operation I told Brother Knorr, who is now president of the Watchtower Society, that the worst pain I had was not being able to engage in the ministry. As he left the room he suggested, “Write letters.” Write letters, I thought, but to whom? Once again God lovingly helped me by bringing to my mind the business contacts I had while in the purchasing department for over forty years. During that time I had contacted many salesmen and company executives. What a field for letter writing! I could write to them and tell them about the good things Jehovah has lovingly provided for obedient mankind.
A campaign was on for obtaining subscriptions for the Watchtower magazine. Out of the 100 letters I wrote during that campaign, I was blessed with 140 subscriptions. I called those subscriptions “prescriptions for everlasting life.” After the campaign ended, I still had 100 more persons to contact by mail with the good news of God’s kingdom. On a sort of private campaign with the New World Translation of the Bible and the Bible-study aid From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, I succeeded in placing 170 books. Such success in making known God’s purposes from a sickbed was, to my mind, an expression of Jehovah’s love.
APPRECIATION FOR THE TRUTH
Not all the persons I have known in the organization have maintained their appreciation for the truth. To illustrate this, I want to mention an experience I had while in the pilgrim service. I was in Philadelphia at the time, and, after I had given a talk, an elective elder who claimed to be a brother came up to me and said: “Brother Riemer, I got my Watchtower this morning. The only reason I read that Watchtower is to find out what you fellows in Brooklyn are trying to put over on us.” That was the spirit of some of the elective elders. They were causing splits in the congregations and in the work.
In contrast to the attitude of these elective elders was that of an elderly couple with whom I stayed on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. The brother went down to get the mail before breakfast, and when we had breakfast he said, “Brother Riemer, I got a new Watchtower this morning, and do you know the first thing that Ma and I do when we get that Tower? We kneel down before we take the wrapper off and ask Jehovah to make us worthy to see what the message is that Jehovah has for us. Now, before we take the wrapper off, will you kneel down and pray with us?” How different that elective elder was from this humble couple who appreciated Jehovah’s organization!
Another experience I had clearly showed God’s love toward me by permitting me to be instrumental in bringing his blessings to a number of persons. It happened during my first month in his service. I contacted a young bank clerk and his wife. Both were deeply impressed by The Watchtower, and when I called back on them they readily took more Bible-study aids. They lived in the country near a schoolhouse. After a back-call chart talk, which was a talk based upon a chart of God’s purposes that appeared in the first volume of Studies in the Scriptures, he arranged for me to give another chart talk in the schoolhouse. Both were soon dedicated to God and immersed in water. Their two daughters also were immersed. One of them had a fiancé, a former major in the army, who also became interested and made a dedication to God. He later became a traveling representative of the Society, now called a circuit servant. One of their children later became a member of the Bethel family at the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn. Thus God showed his love toward me by permitting me to be instrumental in causing three generations to become his servants.
The Bethel family was very small when I became a member of it forty-six years ago. Today it numbers around seven to eight hundred. I never have seen a collection of people that are so sweet and desirable as those who make up the Bethel family today. Bethel has been for me, from the very first day I arrived, “my home sweet home, the dearest spot on earth to me.” I never have had a thought of leaving. I feel that Jehovah has shown his love toward me by allowing me to be here at the visible headquarters of his great work. Really, the theme of my life from the time I got hold of the truth until now has been the compelling force of the Scriptural statement: “God is love.”—1 John 4:8.
[Picture on page 571]
H. H. Riemer addressing “Everlasting Good News” Assembly, New York, 1963