From Deathlike State to a New Life
As told by Inez Wiese
DIFFICULT years those were, from 1939 to 1945! We had been living in Hamburg, Germany, for over twenty years, my husband and I, and during those war years there got to be a scarcity of food. The situation could not get much worse—so we thought. But then late one night we were all awakened by a strange penetrating odor. We went out to the garden to investigate, and what a sight met our eyes! Everything in the garden—vegetables, flowers, fruit and the trees themselves—were destroyed by the powerful gases of a bomb. Night after night the bombers were at work. Hamburg was a shambles.
What a contrast from my youth in Colombia, South America! My British parents moved to Bogotá when I was very young. When I grew up I married a German citizen, and we moved to Hamburg to live. We had no children of our own, but there were three children who had lost their mother and whom we took to raise, and they became like our very own.
But now our girl was married and away from home. Our two boys died while serving in the war. Soon my husband took sick from a nervous ailment and died of a heart attack. I was all alone, without means, and unable to communicate with my relatives in Colombia. The German government took possession of the house, filled it with displaced persons, allowing me but one room.
Winter was the worst time of all. There was nothing to heat the house with—no electricity, no gas, no coal or wood. I would often go down to the Elbe River, not far from my home, to search along the banks for boards from the wreckage of ships and barges. With this material we could make a fire and thaw out ice for water, since all the piping in the house was frozen hard.
Over and over again I used to ask myself, What is the purpose of all this? The war was now over, but Germany was on the losing side, so I was interned in a displaced-persons’ camp for a year. The future looked very dark. However, I determined to make my escape. I fled with five other persons, penniless and hungry. We made it to Belgium, and there the Colombian consul helped me to get back to the land of my youth.
But it seemed as if there was nothing to live for. My nearest and dearest ones were gone forever, for all I knew at the time. It was as though I were going through a living death. I had very little interest in anything going on around me.
A NEW LIFE DAWNS
Then came the turning point. It was during 1947 in Barranquilla, where I was staying with some relatives in the better section of the city. One day a man called bringing the Watchtower magazine. He explained that he was a missionary, one of Jehovah’s witnesses. The magazine, he said, was about the Bible. I, for my part, had heard nothing about Jehovah’s witnesses and knew very little about the Bible. However, I decided to subscribe on account of his kind, considerate attitude.
The Witness came back the following week. When I admitted that I understood very little of the contents, he began to explain some things to me. In fact, the upshot was that I consented to have a regular weekly Bible study. I began to awaken from my deathlike state. Questions began arising. Oh, how I wanted to know all about the paradise earth that was to come under the Kingdom rule, according to the Bible promises! My earlier travels had convinced me that the earth was indeed a place of beauty in spite of its pollution by selfish humans.
The more I advanced in the knowledge of the Bible’s message the more I was filled with hope and the desire to live. Once again my eyes shone, this time because of genuine interest in God’s kingdom. True, I had lost my family, but now I found another family, a larger and growing family, all of them children of faith. How exciting!
Soon after this spiritual awakening, I determined to dedicate my life entirely to Jehovah God through Christ Jesus. It was the least I could do to show my appreciation for God’s love in rescuing me from the deathlike state of despair and offering me the opportunity to fill my life with activities in support of his kingdom. I symbolized my dedication by water baptism on July 4, 1948.
Strength and health came back to me, and, with these, much joy in aiding others to gain Bible knowledge. I kept on increasing the hours I devoted to spreading the message from house to house. Still it never occurred to me that I could serve as a full-time minister representing the Watch Tower Society, until one day my companion in the ministry, herself a full-time minister, suggested the thought. Right away I filled out and submitted an application to be a full-time or “pioneer” minister.
A HAPPIFYING CAREER
My assignment as a “pioneer” minister was dated March 10, 1949. Happily, I managed to get out early that morning with my handbag filled with literature. But then a strange thing happened when I arrived at the section of the town where I was to work. My vision clouded up, I felt suddenly weak and fell to the ground! Just then my relatives passed in a car, recognized me—imagine their surprise!—and took me home. I had to stay quietly at home for a few days.
When reviewing matters later, it almost seemed to me that I was supposed to be thoroughly discouraged from keeping on with pioneer activities. But to the contrary, I soon recuperated and resolved to make up for lost time. My relatives, who were Catholic, could not understand my zeal for Jehovah. Still, they did not try to hinder me. And it has been my joy to continue in the full-time preaching work to this day. To Jehovah goes the credit, for from him has come the measure of physical and spiritual strength that I have needed during these wonderful twenty years.
It was in Barranquilla that I spent the first seven of those years. What a joy it was to see the theocratic growth from just ten publishers of the Kingdom to four congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses! And today the city has twenty congregations. From this city, too, forty of us Colombian delegates were thrilled to attend the big international convention at Yankee Stadium, New York city, in 1953. Words fail to express our reaction to the sight of those thousands upon thousands of Witnesses, and the large banners announcing the greetings from our Christian brothers in Brazil, Ecuador, China, Colombia, and so forth. How apropos the words of the apostle John at Revelation 7:9: “I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations.”
At the close of the assembly I could not get back to Colombia quickly enough so I could tell those with whom I was conducting Bible studies all about it. They needed to learn that Jehovah’s witnesses are not just a few people calling from house to house in their own town or village. Indeed, Colombians have since then learned this from experience. Circuit, district and national assemblies have grown ever larger. And our international assembly (1966-1967) in Barranquilla had almost 6,000 in attendance. That truly was a treat to us, for we had the very pleasurable association with Witnesses from a number of countries.
PREACHING FROM CITY TO CITY
Cali was the next Colombian city to which I was assigned. It is wonderful to think that there are now five congregations there. And it was here that I had the joyous privilege of living with missionaries in the missionary home. How secure and content I could feel, under the spiritual oversight of mature brothers in the faith! It was grand, too, that I could aid new missionaries to learn Spanish. But I could see that the major factor that enabled them to make good progress and soon start giving sermons in Spanish was Jehovah’s spirit.
In 1960 the need arose for more full-time workers in Bogotá. It happened that I was in position to go, and soon I was at work there with five other “pioneers.” In the years that followed, our service there was truly blessed, for now there are ten congregations in Bogotá.
It was in Bogotá that I realized the need to persevere in laying a strong groundwork for the faith of those whom we teach. I was studying with a young woman, her three children and her parents. The husband was opposed, threatening to take the children away from her. One night after a drinking spree with his cronies, he came home brandishing a revolver and, in the presence of the children, threatened to shoot her if she refused to give up Bible studies. The children, thoroughly alarmed, tearfully pleaded in their mother’s behalf. But she quietly and courageously stood up to him, saying: “You can kill me, but I will not quit studying the Word of God. First, you should know that our children are going to be witnesses of your act, and above all you will have to answer to Almighty God for the blood you are about to spill.” With that he strode out of the house. In time she was baptized, and is now busy preaching and attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall with her children. Her husband never again forbade her to study.
Three years ago I came to Medellín. This second city in the country is located high in the Andes. Here, too, I am privileged to live with missionaries who graduated from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. That is a great comfort, for I am now over seventy-nine years of age and no longer have the physical strength that I long enjoyed. We have no car and must walk a great deal to accomplish our ministry. However, several of the people with whom I study the Bible are so appreciative that they come to “my home” for each weekly session. That way I can conserve energy and fulfill my 100-hour goal each month. And Jehovah’s blessing is surely on our labors, for the congregation here grew so much that it became necessary to divide it into three separate congregations. At every meeting we see new faces.
In retrospect these twenty years as a “pioneer” minister have been happy ones, filled with hard work, but bringing also deep satisfactions. How marvelous to me that Jehovah drew me out of a deathlike state and granted me a new lease on life! Even now as my physical strength is reduced, he keeps the way open for me to serve in some small way the grand interests of his kingdom. He ‘does not throw me away in the time of old age,’ neither does he ‘leave me because my power is failing me.’ (Ps. 71:9) Always underneath are the everlasting arms! For my part, I am determined to be “steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord.”—1 Cor. 15:58.