Serving as a Soldier of Christ
As told by Johan Henrik Eneroth
WHEN the nations were gripped in the throes of the first world war I was a young first lieutenant in the Royal Swedish Army. I had been a military man for five years, but then something happened that began to make me realize that there was a much more important war facing mankind than the one in which the worldly nations were engaged.
One day a package arrived in the mail containing Volume 4 of the Studies in the Scriptures, called “The Battle of Armageddon.” My mother had dropped in at a Bible lecture and after the talk obtained this book. Now she would be glad if I got as much out of it as she did. I replied that I saw it referred to the Bible, and as I had no Bible it would be impossible for me to read it. (To buy myself a Bible was out of the question. Fancy a Swedish army officer walking into a bookshop and asking for a Bible!)
However, mother wisely replied that I did not need a Bible in order to read the book, as the scriptures were quoted in it. So I had to start reading in order not to offend her. After a while I laid it aside. I had read enough to see that if this book was true, then I would be on the wrong side of the battle front at Armageddon. This I did not want to admit.
During the Christmas season I was granted two weeks’ leave and went home. There my mother tactfully dropped a word in season about Bible truth, and placed books within my reach. One night between Christmas and New Year’s Day I picked up a book from the table—it was Volume 3 of the Studies in the Scriptures, “Thy Kingdom Come”—and became so gripped by what I read that I continued reading for several hours. It convinced me that the Bible was really the Word of God. For the first time since I could remember I knelt down and prayed. Little did I know that this would, in the course of time, lead to a life career as a soldier in God’s army!
When my leave was up, I returned to my post in northern Sweden, where I continued to read the Watch Tower publications. My mother had the Watch Tower branch in Örebro send me the address of other Bible students, and, in time, I mustered up courage to call at their home. The man and his wife looked rather surprised when they saw a uniformed army officer standing at their door, but, when I explained that I was interested in studying the Bible, they welcomed me with open arms. Thereafter five of us met on Sundays to study the Bible with the help of the Watchtower magazine.
A CHANGE OF SERVICE
As time passed, it began to dawn upon me that I should not continue serving in the army; so I submitted an application for discharge. When my application was granted I went to work with a relative who had a farm near Gothenburg. There I began preaching the good news of God’s kingdom, as instructed by his appointed commander, Jesus Christ (Isa. 55:4; Matt. 10:7; 24:14), and attending meetings of the Gothenburg congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses.
In time I was invited to join the Bethel family at örebro, and in August 1920 I took up work there. My first job was translating the booklet Millions Now Living Will Never Die into Swedish. This was to be distributed in connection with a number of public meetings scheduled during the coming visit of A. H. Macmillan, a special representative from the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn.
SERVICE IN DENMARK
It was during this visit of Brother Macmillan in the fall of 1920 that a situation came to a head in the Swedish branch that resulted in my moving to Denmark. At Acts 20:30 the apostle Paul foretold that even in God’s congregation of spiritual warriors men would arise and try to “draw away the disciples after themselves.” Such was the case at the Örebro Bethel, and I felt it my duty to inform Macmillan.
The branch supervisor of the preaching work in Sweden had been directing attention to himself as leader, and had not been applying the instructions from headquarters. When I brought this situation to light, he received a heavy rebuke from Brother Macmillan. As a result, some weeks later the branch servant told me to leave the Swedish Bethel. It was then that some brothers in Denmark, who knew of the situation, invited me to come down there and stay awhile.
In Denmark I enjoyed many privileges of service on the front lines of the preaching work. I served as a full-time minister in the cities of Alborg and Arhus, working in the surrounding towns and rural territories as well. In time I was transferred to what was then called the pilgrim work, which involved traveling up and down the country strengthening congregations and study groups.
In March of 1925 I received a telegram from the branch office asking me to return to Copenhagen at once. There the branch servant handed me the March 1 issue of The Watchtower containing the article “Birth of the Nation.” He asked me to study it and let him know what I thought of it. I did so, and was then asked to prepare a talk for a two-day local assembly at Skive the following weekend. There I presented to the brothers the thrilling Scriptural proof that the Devil had been permitted to remain in heaven until the year 1914, at which time he was attacked by the newly installed king, Jesus Christ, and cast down to earth.
BACK TO SWEDEN
In Sweden things had gone from bad to worse, and the Watch Tower Society’s president, J. F. Rutherford, made arrangements for a Scandinavian convention in Örebro in May of 1925. I was planning to get married May 15, when on the 12th I received word to meet Brother Macmillan the next day at Gedser, where he would be arriving ahead of Brother Rutherford and Brother R. J. Martin from Switzerland. As it worked out, I was married on the 15th in Copenhagen, and the very next morning my wife, as a veritable soldier’s bride, waved good-bye to her husband as he left for Sweden. Brother Rutherford wanted me to assist in making preparations for the coming assembly.
Convention time arrived with 500 present. On the concluding day of the assembly when, instead of the Swedish branch servant, I stepped out to interpret for Brother Rutherford, there was a whisper of surprise. At the conclusion of his talk Brother Rutherford announced that a Scotsman, William Dey, was being put in charge of supervising the preaching work in all of Scandinavia and the Baltic States. I was to be secretary to Brother Dey and accompany him as interpreter on his journeys in Sweden. The Swedish branch servant promised to respect this arrangement.
Less than a month later, however, the branch servant refused to cooperate any longer, and I was put in his place. After assuming my duties in June of 1925, it was necessary to unify the brothers for the preaching work. Brother Dey and I visited the congregations throughout the country. In many places we had to line up the brothers literally on two sides, for and against the Society. In time, the remaining brothers began to work in an organized way and experience Jehovah’s blessing.
In the years prior to the second world war I enjoyed many interesting service privileges. When the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World was presented to high government officials in 1932, I made the presentation to the king, to the crown prince, who is now King Gustaf VI Adolf, and cabinet ministers. The crown prince was especially friendly and I talked with him for twenty minutes.
Another assignment took me to Paris, where I recorded Judge Rutherford’s five-minute phonograph lectures in Swedish. From the use of these in the door-to-door ministry I remember a rather amusing experience. After playing one of these records for a couple in Stockholm, the woman said: “Your voice sounds so much like the one we heard. You must have listened to it many times.” Of course, I had!
On October 7, 1934, the brothers in Sweden joined in the worldwide protest to Hitler that demanded that he stop persecuting Jehovah’s witnesses in Germany. We know that a few of our telegrams reached Berlin, but within a few hours the telegrams were stopped. Such a warning was not considered fit to be sent to what was then considered a friendly government. Later the booklet Fascism or Freedom was banned because it called Hitler a representative of the Devil.
DURING WORLD CONFLICT
When Denmark and Norway were occupied by the Nazis in April of 1940, Sweden remained a neutral island in a war-tossed sea. So it became my job to gather information and reports, bring them to Brother Dey in Copenhagen, and then return to Sweden to mail them all to Brooklyn.
However, when I arrived in Copenhagen one morning late in 1940, instead of being met by someone from the branch office, two Danish police officers and German security men were waiting for me. They took all my papers and told me they would return them at my hotel. During the day I learned that Brother Dey had been seized, and was in prison. That evening one of the German security men called at the hotel to return my papers. He told me that he had been reading Dey’s correspondence and admired the spirit that marked our organization. I had the opportunity to tell him about Jehovah’s new order of things, and when I was about to explain what would then be the controlling power, he himself filled in, “Love!” We never did manage to find out what happened to this man.
It now became necessary to use theocratic war strategy in order to maintain desired contact with occupied countries. In order to get a visa to visit Norway I was appointed a commercial traveler, representing a brother who was a wholesale dealer in guts! We solved the problem of getting spiritual food into Norway by regularly sending them food packages, especially eggs, with each individual egg wrapped with several sheets of The Watchtower. When this was finally discovered by the Germans, we found another way.
During my visits to Norway I had contacted a friendly disposed commercial agent, who was forced to lodge a couple of German officers in his house. When these Germans asked him to have some extra foodstuffs brought from Denmark, this man said that he would arrange it if he could have a package for himself included in their shipments of food. They agreed, and so Watchtower magazines were always included in the foodstuffs that were taken to the military airport at Alborg, Denmark, and carried by Hitler’s own aircraft into Norway!
Magazines were taken into Denmark from Sweden in an equally unusual way. A young Danish sister was employed as a nurse in the home of an Axis diplomat in Copenhagen, and this man was very willing to bring gift packages back to her from Sweden. In such ways as this even God’s enemies came to be instrumental in helping his people to obtain spiritual food!
Another example of where worldly authorities were outmaneuvered occurred in Finland. There our literature was banned, and since the Watch Tower printing plant in Helsinki had nothing to do, it was in line for government take-over. But since the Finnish government was eager to get Swedish currency into the country, they agreed to let the plant print books and booklets to be exported to Sweden. As a result, not only was literature supplied for Sweden, but magazines were brought back into Finland!
GROWTH AND PROSPERITY
Although the army of Kingdom preachers in Sweden has met with much opposition, with the help of Almighty God it has come off victorious. For example, in 1951 we were turned down in our efforts to obtain the government-controlled Stockholm Stadium for our assembly. “It would not be consistent with the dignity of the stadium,” authorities explained. But four years later the use of the community-owned Johanneshov’s Sportsplace market a complete turnabout. At that time Stockholm streetcar conductors even cried out: “Johanneshov—Jehovah’s witnesses convention! Ever since then we been able to rent whatever hall or stadium we have wanted. In 1963 we used the largest stadium in the country, and over 25,000 were in attendance.
The growth of the Kingdom preaching through the years has indeed been marvelous. In 1926, when the branch office was moved from Örebro to Stockholm, we mustered together 325 spiritual warriors. At the outbreak of World War II in 1939 these had increased to 1,361, and by 1951 a new peak of 5,140 ministers necessitated purchasing a new site at Jakobsberg, about twelve miles outside of Stockholm. Here a beautiful Bethel home and printery were constructed. When we moved in on April 1, 1954, it seemed impossible that we would utilize all the space this side of Armageddon. But by 1961 construction had to be started on a new addition, which was completed about a year ago. Now there are 10,300 spiritual warriors serving in Sweden.
Nowadays the various armies find it necessary, because of the rapid development of new methods of warfare, to arrange special courses where strategy and cooperation between the various branches of the armed forces are studied. Jehovah’s army has made a similar arrangement, and I am happy that I could, at the age of seventy-one, attend the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in Brooklyn in 1964 to receive advanced theocratic training. My prayer is that “Jehovah, the God of armies,” and his appointed Commander in Chief, Christ Jesus, may strengthen all their spiritual warriors to carry on faithfully until the final victory.—Jer. 38:17.