Jehovah God, My Hope and Trust
As told by Benno Burczyk
“FOR you are my hope, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah, my confidence from my youth.” The words of this psalm well express my sentiments, for I sincerely believed and trusted in God from my childhood, even though I was thirty years old before coming to an accurate understanding of his wonderful qualities and of his loving purposes for mankind.—Ps. 71:5.
I was born in the year 1889, seventy-nine years ago, in the village of Tannenberg, in the Ore Mountains of Saxony, Germany. Home training and schooling were Lutheran, with a strong emphasis on Bible reading and trust in God, and as a young child I learned to pray. Being quite frail, I was sent by my parents at the age of twelve to live and work with a middle-aged childless peasant couple. They were devout believers in God and were very kind to me. My day’s work began at five o’clock in the morning and continued until eight o’clock in the evening seven days in the week, including four hours of school, six out of the seven days. My one recreation was playing my accordion when I had the time, my favorite music being hymns. This couple with whom I lived greatly helped me in my hope and trust in God.
After four years, in 1905, I went to the city of Leipzig, but city life did not make me happy. Wanting to learn the French language, in the spring of 1908 I went to Paris, where I got a job in a restaurant. But in Paris I was very unhappy. While there I learned about Canada, a new country with great opportunities, and so I emigrated to that land. In those days the trip from Le Havre, France, to Quebec, Canada, third class, cost but 140 francs or 28 dollars. There I found employment with an English farm family in Quebec whose church I joined.
In the year 1910 I received a letter and newspaper item from my parents in Germany telling that I was to be court-martialed by the German army for not returning to Germany for military service. Because of this I was advised by the farmer I worked for to take out Canadian citizenship papers so as to be free from the obligation of going back to Germany for military service, which I did. When World War I broke out, the farmers just could not understand why people of Christian nations would hate and kill one another like that, but their preachers told them it was God’s will to fight for their country. During this war, in 1917, being a Canadian citizen, I was drafted into the Canadian or British army. At that time I received a letter from my father through the Red Cross saying that he was stationed with the German army at Lille in France, facing the British army. Not wanting to be found trying to kill my own father, I pleaded opposition to the war, and the Canadian government granted me military exemption.
In November 1918 after some ten years of farm life I felt I needed a change. Tears came into the eyes of the old farmer when I said good-bye to him after having worked for him and together with him during those years.
THIS WAS IT!
I went westward to Ontario and got a job in a factory, but again I did not find happiness there. Unable to find a home at which to stay, I slept in one place and ate in restaurants. The city was no place for me. And so I wrote to the Canadian government at Ottawa, applying for one of the 160-acre homesteads they were offering settlers. The government promptly sent me all the necessary papers and instructions. However, about the same time an elderly man who worked in the same factory had heard that I was looking for a home at which to stay, and he came to me and said in a very loving voice, “You come to our home!” That was the nicest and the greatest and the best thing that ever happened to me. Why? Because that was the home of one of the fully dedicated Christian Bible Students, as Jehovah’s witnesses were called in those days. It was the beginning of really living and true happiness for me. It came over me so quickly and strong. I at once ended my membership to the Lutheran Church where I was a Sunday School teacher and also dropped the idea of settling on that 160-acre homestead. God’s Word of truth and his work were the all-important things for me now.
The truth of God’s Word as explained to me by these Bible Students was all so reasonable and so satisfying. It showed our dear heavenly Father as so loving and kind that at times tears of gratitude would come to my eyes as I prayed to him. This was it! Now I was satisfied! No longer was I seeking, hoping for something, not really knowing what, as when I made one change after another in my life. It was all so clear now: The warring nations were not Christian as they claimed; God’s Word, the Bible, clearly proved that. In fact, our dear Lord Jesus, pointing to the things that were happening on this earth since 1914, said, “When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:31) At the same time a wonderful heavenly hope was held out, to be one of the remaining ones to fill out the number of the 144,000 called from the human race to rule as kings and priests with Jesus Christ as described at Revelation 14:1-3 and Re 20:5, 6, and whom our dear Lord Jesus calls his brothers, at Matthew 25:40, 45.
In November 1919 I dedicated myself to do God’s will and was baptized. There was so much to do in God’s work, and I felt like the prophet Isaiah when he said, “Here am I; send me.” (Isa. 6:8, AS) There was a lot of reading and studying of the Bible to do with the help of Bible literature, for there was so much to learn. The local congregation needed help, and there was door-to-door witnessing to be done. At the time we were busy getting subscriptions for the magazine The Golden Age, now Awake! We hired a theater to show the highly interesting production, consisting of slides and motion pictures, called the “Photo-Drama of Creation.” We also rented halls to give a Bible lecture pointing to the kingdom of God and announcing that “millions now living will never die.” All the time I was supporting myself by working for a tire company.
In 1922 I wanted to attend the great convention of Bible Students at Cedar Point, Ohio. But when I asked for time off to attend this convention, my employer told me that he could not let me have the time as he would have to hire someone else to do my work. I told him, “All right, I give up my job,” and I did. There were no regrets for my having done so, as that convention was truly a great feast of spiritual food and marked a milestone for Jehovah’s people. At that time I made application to serve at the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. Being single and unencumbered, I felt I could be doing more.
Early in 1923 the Watch Tower Society asked for volunteers to open up the witness work for God’s kingdom in French-speaking Quebec. Since I had learned some French in Paris, I volunteered and was joined by two other young Canadian Bible Students, Brothers Deachman and Robinson. We served as full-time preachers or colporteurs, as they were called in those days. After witnessing in such towns as Joliette, Grand’Mère and Shawinigan Falls and in the rurals for about six months, I received a letter from the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, telling me to come to Brooklyn to work at the headquarters where they had two months’ work for me. I had forgotten all about my having applied for such service, and now not wanting to leave my two companions, I wrote the Society that I could not come, explaining why. The Society was not taking No for an answer, but replied with a telegram telling me to come at once. So between the three of us we decided that the best thing for me to do was to go and to return after those two months of work. So about October 1, 1923, I came to Brooklyn.
My immediate assignment was to help build the Society’s radio station WBBR on Staten Island. But when the work was completed I was asked to help in the Society’s printing plant at 18 Concord Street. Although I had intended to go back to Canada to join my two colporteur companions, I took this direction to work in the Society’s printing plant as God’s will for me, and through the years it has surely had God’s blessing.
My job in the bindery was embossing or stamping the gold letters on the covers of such books as the seven volumes of the Studies in the Scriptures, The Harp of God, Deliverance and Creation. When doorstep preaching with the phonograph opened up, I was put in charge of the work of building phonographs. When that method of preaching was discontinued, I went back to embossing book covers. After some thirty years at my embossing job I received a change of work, and younger brothers were put on that job. I am now assigned to the export shipping department, where there is always very much to do. It is a great joy to me to send Bible literature and many other things such as the phonograph recordings of our new Kingdom songs to our dear brothers all over the earth.
While my activity in the factory has been my chief joy for the past forty-five years, I have also received much pleasure and happiness in sharing with all other Christian Witnesses in congregational activities and in the field ministry, as well as in attending the large assemblies. For a number of years I had the privilege of serving as overseer of the German congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses in Brooklyn. But early in the 1930’s the foreign-language congregations were largely dissolved, to encourage immigrants to learn and use the English language.
For some fifteen years now I have been associated with one of the congregations that meet in the Kingdom Hall that is located in one of the Society’s factories here in Brooklyn. We have seen a steady increase, several congregations being formed from our increase during that time. Recently we moved into the new Kingdom Hall in the Society’s newest factory in Brooklyn, and what a beautiful Kingdom Hall it is! When you come to visit the Society’s printing plant in Brooklyn, be sure to see that Kingdom Hall.
The territory for my field ministry is not far from Bethel, where I live. The only way for me to get to that territory is to walk, and it takes me about half an hour each way. But I am very glad for that, for walking is very healthful. The people that I meet there are largely low-income Negro families, who also comprise most of the Fort Greene congregation with which I am associated. I consider it a great privilege to witness to these humble people and to serve with them. It makes me so happy to be with them. Christian love unites us all as brothers and sisters, even as our dear Lord Jesus said would be the case with his true followers.—John 13:34, 35.
I would also like to mention the time the Watch Tower Society arranged for all those who had been serving at its headquarters for twenty years or more, to take in the European assemblies in 1955. We had a most delightful trip across the Atlantic Ocean by chartered ship, and we were able to attend the assemblies in London, Paris, Rome and Nuremberg. It was my privilege and joy to give a short discourse in the German language at the Nuremberg assembly to more than 93,000 Witnesses in attendance. I had not been back to Germany since I left in 1908 to go to Paris.
KEEPING BUSY AND HAPPY
Though now I am seventy-nine years old, I am still able to do a man’s work, five and a half days each week. While my evenings are now limited to personal study and attending congregational meetings, I still manage to enjoy the field ministry every Sunday, going from door to door with the good news of God’s kingdom, making return visits and assisting newer ones in this blessed work.
Every day I ask our dear heavenly Father in prayer for help and wisdom to keep myself spiritually as well as physically healthy and strong so that I can keep on doing his holy will. During these past forty-nine years in Jehovah’s service I have indeed enjoyed a happy, rewarding and blessed way of life. And with Jehovah’s undeserved kindness I am looking forward to continued service to his honor and glory and to the blessing of his people. When the Israelites were rebuilding Jerusalem in 455 B.C.E., back in Nehemiah’s time, they ran into much opposition, but Nehemiah strengthened them, saying, “The joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.” This joy of Jehovah helps me to keep up the good fight of faith, looking forward to the time when Jehovah’s enemies are no more and all the earth is filled with his glory.—Neh. 8:10; Num. 14:21.
Truly, as I look back upon my life, I can say that Jehovah God, my Sovereign Lord, has indeed been my confidence from my youth.