Searching for and Finding God
As told by Peter Photinos
WHEN I first left my home fifty-five years ago, I was searching for something satisfying in life. Though I did not fully appreciate it at the time, I was searching for God, this reminding me now of the Bible’s words that men should “seek God . . . and really find him.”—Acts 17:27.
But when I left home, I was young, inexperienced and adventurous. I came from a small island west of the Greek mainland that belongs to the Ionian group, perhaps familiar to some because of earthquakes there in recent years. The island is called Ithaca. The inhabitants of this small island are known as seafaring people, going to sea not only to make a livelihood but also for adventure.
That was my course in life at the age of sixteen, but it proved to be neither practical nor fruitful. It provided no hope for the future. I was looking for something beyond just a few years of sailing around in boats. Six years of my life I spent at sea, working hard for my daily bread. But that was the only fruitage it yielded me. My efforts to find some anchor on which to rest my future were fruitless. So I decided to set my feet on land and become a “landlubber” rather than a seafarer. At the age of twenty-two years, I chose America as the place of my residence.
IN SEARCH OF SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT
But at times I felt disheartened and discouraged, like an outcast. I just did not belong. The church of which I was a member had nothing to offer to relieve my distressed state. I began to wonder what there was in life for me. I received no spiritual nourishment from this church, and I began to compare the Greek Orthodox Church with a sandy, dry land—lifeless and dead.
For example, the trinity doctrine was a stumbling block. I had never seen a three-headed man and just could not bring myself to believe that the God I was to worship as my Creator was a God with three heads, which was my impression of the doctrine. Being taught the trinity nearly caused me to lose faith in a Supreme Being.
So I cannot give any credit to the Greek Orthodox Church for helping me to appreciate God and his true worship. I do thank the God I now know as Jehovah, the only true God, that I was able to glean from my mother’s teaching the faith that there is a Creator who is a wonderful, kind, loving and just God and who blesses all who put faith in him. These were thoughts in my mind as I searched for this God, longing to know about him and his purposes. But I did not know where to turn.
RESURRECTION MESSAGE GIVES DIRECTION TO SEARCH
Then one night as I was sitting in what was called a “coffee shop,” in New York City, a man came in and began to converse with people about a lecture that he had heard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He said that the subject of this lecture dealt with the resurrection of the dead, and I heard him quote 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 from the Bible:
“Moreover, brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant concerning those who are sleeping in death; that you may not sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope. For if our faith is that Jesus died and rose again, so, too, those who have fallen asleep in death through Jesus God will bring with him. For this is what we tell you by Jehovah’s word, that we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord shall in no way precede those who have fallen asleep in death; because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first. . . . Consequently keep comforting one another with these words.”
Although I had heard these words before in funeral sermons, this time they were like mollifying ointment to me, a healing of my mental wounds. I recall that I inquired if he had anything written so that I could read about this, but he had nothing.
One week later, in this same coffee shop, I was invited to go see what was called the “Photo-Drama of Creation.” The place was just two blocks away; but I did not go, for I failed to connect this with what I had heard the week previously. However, the next week, back in the same coffee shop, a man entered with a bag in his hand and in it were books. He explained about the interesting contents of the books, and I desired to have them but I had no money, since I had lost it gambling there at the coffee shop. The things he talked about registered with me as the same message I had heard about the resurrection two weeks before. Well, having no money, I asked him if he would come back the following Saturday. Alas, he never showed up! So I continued wondering how to find the people that had the truth and understanding of God’s Word.
Shortly thereafter I was again given an invitation to attend a Bible lecture. I intended to go, but I put it off, thinking that they would be there the next Sunday; I planned to go then. I did go but was disappointed when I went to the hall at the address given and was told that this hall had been rented just for the previous Sunday’s lecture. Now I was more determined than ever to find these people, for I felt that this was what I was looking for.
I was again invited to a Bible lecture, and this time I made certain to be there at the right time and place. But I was very disappointed in what the speaker had to say. I just could not tie it in with what I originally heard; and, much to my delight, I learned why this was so when, at a later time, I found that this speaker had been associated with the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s witnesses were then called, but had broken away and was now preaching his own ideas. I was still determined to find these people who had the message I initially heard and which was so refreshing to me.
MY SEARCH REWARDED
Finally, I was directed to a small hall on Twenty-third Street, near the East River in Manhattan. I went to this place and when I heard what was being discussed I felt confident that these people were the true followers of Jesus Christ.
Little did I know what this would lead to, but, looking back, I can see that it was the steppingstone to what I had been seeking. Here I heard people talking about the wonderful hope of everlasting life. When I began to hear the message of Bible truth it was not difficult to distinguish this from other things I had heard. It had a clear, true sound and was invigorating. When I found that these people had the waters of truth, it was like finding an oasis in a lifeless, waterless desert. From that day, when I went to that small meeting place on Twenty-third Street in New York City, I have never stayed away from congregational meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses, unless for sickness or some other valid reason. Continual attendance at meetings helped me to advance in accurate knowledge, and thus my faith became more firm in Jehovah God and in his Son, Jesus Christ.
The first week that I attended this meeting, I was given a package of invitations with which I could invite people to the Bible lecture the next Sunday. So I put them to use, going to the coffee house I frequented and then from coffee house to coffee house, offering invitations to the Bible lecture.
BAPTISM AND SERVICE AT BETHEL
In 1920 when I first began to learn of Jehovah’s purposes and how it was incumbent upon me to dedicate my life to him and serve him in the preaching work, I realized, too, that I must also be baptized, as Jesus was, in symbol of my dedication. I learned that there was to be a baptism in Brooklyn, and, having made a dedication in my heart to do Jehovah’s will, I determined to symbolize my dedication. It was my privilege to be baptized at 124 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York, in the Bethel home, the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters. I am very happy for this, although I know that baptism at any other place would have been just as acceptable; but here is where, eight years later, I started my full-time service to Jehovah; and, if it be his will, I hope that it is here that I will finish my earthly course.
It was in 1928, after making application, that I was called to serve as a member of the Bethel family, and what a joy it has been to be used at the headquarters of Jehovah’s visible organization! Having found the true worship of Jehovah God, I was happy that there was something worthwhile for which my life could be used. Not only did I have the satisfaction of knowing that I was serving Jehovah full time, but I had the inward feeling of contentment, that peace of God that passes all understanding. Oh, it wasn’t always easy. We had to work hard, and still do. But now the work has a real purpose.
Also, there are other joys and times of happiness that have come to me while serving as a member of the Bethel family. One of the very finest was that while here I met a fellow servant, Sister Ivy Brown. It was in 1933 that Ivy and I were married, and thereafter we spent thirty years together serving Jehovah, receiving his blessings by engaging in the field ministry, attending congregation meetings and assemblies together. What a help she was to me! And she was an example to other sisters in the congregation by assisting others to learn the truth of God’s Word.
My wife has passed away, her hope being the heavenly reward. A few days before she passed away, though suffering physically but still mentally rejoicing in the knowledge of Jehovah, she was comforted by things I shall never forget. Just to mention one of them that was so strengthening; this was a letter she received from a Chinese girl with whom she had conducted a Bible study. Let the letter speak for itself:
“Dear Sister Ivy: I was sorry to hear that you weren’t feeling well, and I hope to see you soon. I also hope that you are recovering from your illness. . . . Oh, Ivy, I was never and am not sorry that I have dedicated my life to do Jehovah’s will. I know that in these last days life is not and will not be easy; but with his help and blessings we will survive Armageddon. I have always been thankful to Jehovah for receiving the message of life through you. Because of this message I am able to look to the future with hope and joy. . . . With love, Mary.”
Shortly after this my wife died, but she was faithful to the very end and gave testimony of her faith to the doctors and nurses in the hospital. She took her stand for God’s law on blood. (Acts 15:28, 29) We could not agree to use of blood transfusions. Even the doctors who strenuously endeavored to make her take transfusions had to admire her faith. In trying to reason with the doctor, I explained that, even though this might extend my wife’s life for a short period of time, eventually, because of violating Jehovah’s law concerning the sanctity of blood, she would die and be dead forever, whereas if she died now, refusing to violate her Christian conscience trained by a study of God’s Word, she would be assured of a resurrection to everlasting life. Though the doctors could not understand, we made our decision, and Jehovah has given me the strength to bear up under the loss of my wife, in the faith.
RICH BLESSINGS FROM FINDING GOD
So now I near the end of my story, without a wife, but not by any means alone. I have Jehovah God to worship, his Son Jesus Christ as my Leader, the rich association of my fellow dedicated servants and Bethel as my home. I am among those who serve the same God that I do. I have many young friends as well as old and they have the same faith and, above all, the same God. Yes, rich blessings come to those who search for and find the true God.
What a full life I have had since learning about Jehovah! I have been privileged to live nearby and within the Bethel home ever since I learned the truth of God’s Word and have been able to see firsthand the astonishing expansion of Jehovah’s visible organization. What an evidence this has been to me of God’s blessing! I have seen the expansion of the printing facilities of the Watch Tower Society, and I have seen the Bethel family grow from 150 members to nearly 700. And little was it known to me back in 1910 that one day I would be associated with an organization that had a training school for Christian overseers in New York State near a town with the same name as my home island—Ithaca.
Many other blessings were mine as I attended national and international assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses, all of which strengthened my faith in Jehovah even more. What a joy for this old man, once a youth searching for something, to see so many people from all over the world who were also searching and to meet with them, knowing they have the same faith and hope!
Through theocratic training in the ministry school and attendance at the congregation meetings, I have been able to advance from a timid little soul to one who is not afraid to preach from house to house and tell people about the good news of the Kingdom. I am still enrolled in the theocratic ministry school and am privileged to deliver public Bible lectures. My time is still spent in the service of Jehovah, and I pray that I may continue to serve faithfully, knowing that I will continue to receive rich blessings from Jehovah, the God I searched for and found.
Look! A nation that you do not know you will call, and those of a nation who have not known you will run even to you, for the sake of Jehovah your God . . . Search for Jehovah, you people, while he may be found. Call to him while he proves to be near.—Isa. 55:5, 6.