“Keep On Seeking, and You Will Find”
As told by Richard S. Cotterill
HAVE you ever thought of a certain Bible verse as summing up part of your life? One scripture that is most pertinent to my life is Matthew 7:7: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.” Yes, these words of our Lord Jesus Christ have special meaning to me.
This is because as a young man I was constantly seeking for a real purpose in life. I wanted to know the truth about God.
As a youth, questions about life were frequently in my mind. Born in Manchester, England, in 1908, I had been baptized in the Church of England. When I was quite young, I would wonder whether God would really torture people eternally in a hellfire. I thought, too, about the Dark Ages, when religious people cruelly tortured one another, and I wondered how that could be right. I prayed earnestly.
In 1925 my father died suddenly. It was the first time that death had come into my own life. Life now seemed more uncertain. After my father’s death I studied law, accounting, economics and other subjects. But I was perplexed. For what was I aiming? What was my real purpose in life?
SEEKING IN A TIME OF CRISIS
As I was a shy person I took a course in self-improvement, but I experienced difficulties because I had not decided what my purpose was in life. That was the question I was asking.
As I was seeking, I visited an architecturally modern church. The clergyman there was associated with the “Oxford Group,” and he wanted me to get deeply involved in church affairs. I taught in the Sunday school, aided on the church council, was a crossbearer (leading the choir into the church dressed in cassock and surplice) and aided in the boys’ club at the church. I also helped with a boys’ club in the Manchester slums. Despite a wide variety of activities, I felt that something was missing.
I was searching for a purpose in life, so I read all kinds of books—many on psychology and philosophy. I also attended “Peace Conferences” and groups and joined in with activist pacifists. But at the same time I read the Bible regularly and attended all kinds of religious meetings, including Roman Catholic, Unionists and the Society of Friends. Who was right? Did any group really know God’s truth?
Finally I handed in my resignation from my job and decided I would try to serve God. But how? For months I lived on my savings, seeking to find just what I should do to serve God. I inquired about ordination in the Church of England, but there was too much emphasis on certain education qualifications and on money. I inquired about church missionary work in Canada. The more I investigated the church the more I began to dislike it. I felt out of harmony with many of its practices and with its support of war.
September 1939 came and Britain was at war with Nazi Germany. This intensified my searching and seeking. Then one day a friend of mine suggested that I speak with one of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses by the name of Richard Hayley. I did. For hours we discussed the Bible and what I believed and thought. This Witness lovingly answered my many questions from the Bible. I realized I had found something valuable. I asked: “Are there any Jehovah’s witnesses in Germany?” He told me about the faithful Witnesses there who also supported God’s kingdom and who were neutral in politics and wars. I was glad to learn about this because I really believed that true Christianity would embrace people of all nations and would unite them.
Soon I was going to the meetings of the Witnesses at their Kingdom Hall. Eventually so-called friends of an activist pacifist group tried to get me to stay with them. An activist group leader came with me to talk with the Witness who was answering my questions. We discussed the Bible and other matters late into the night. For the most part I sat back and listened. On one side I noticed that human philosophy and human wisdom predominated. On the other side, that of Jehovah’s witnesses, there were answers direct from the Bible—God’s wisdom predominated. So what would I choose, human philosophy or Bible truth? Witness Hayley concluded the discussion that evening by quoting the Bible’s words at Joshua 24:15: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah.”—American Standard Version.
I DECIDE FOR BIBLE TRUTH
So with whom would I go? I visited this witness of Jehovah again and again and studied the Bible regularly. Our studies would continue even though there were air raids, bombs dropping not far away.
Soon I realized I had found a real purpose in life. I had found what I was seeking. Now I knew how I could serve the true God. But first I wrote letters of resignation to break off all connections with the Church of England and other groups. I wanted to break free from all false religion and to be truly neutral with regard to political matters, and so live in harmony with Bible principles.
In June 1940, I began to share these Bible truths with others, going from house to house. I had been so shy and timid and introverted—and here I was now speaking to others about God’s Word, even sharing publicly in the distribution of The Watchtower. and its companion magazine, often using a magazine bag, wearing it in business districts through the war years.
Then on September 1, 1940, I was baptized at a convention in Manchester in symbol of my dedication to God. What now would be my course in life? I had the full-time ministry as a pioneer in mind.
PROCLAIMING BIBLE TRUTH FULL TIME
In September 1940, I turned in an application for the pioneer ministry, full-time preaching under the direction of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. My first assignment was Carlisle, not far from the lovely English Lake District. Here I had to find accommodations. So I left my few belongings in the Kingdom Hall and happily I found a person interested in God’s Word who offered me a place to stay.
In wartime fire-watching duties were imposed. I was assigned to fire-watch Carlisle Cathedral! Having abandoned the churches, I refused this duty; moreover I had already been accepted to fire-watch for the building where the Kingdom Hall was located. I was summoned to court and fined, with an alternative of one month’s imprisonment. As I refused to pay the fine, I was given one month to pay—or prison. I landed in Durham prison, with meager wartime rations. After my release I was back in the pioneer ministry.
As I preached the Word of God in Chester-le-Street and later in Washington, County Durham, and Sunderland, the war years passed by quickly. In 1945 I had the privilege of visiting the Minister for War in the British war cabinet to request that the ban on the import of Watchtower magazines be lifted. He listened kindly, and I urged him to approach the Minister for Information to do something about it. I also visited local members of Parliament. How Jehovah strengthens one for such assignments, prayerfully undertaken! Happily, in due time the ban was lifted. But in spite of the ban, we never missed a study of The Watchtower, as the main articles were printed locally.
GILEAD AND ASSIGNMENT TO INDIA
After World War II, I filled out an application for Gilead School, a school to prepare one for a career as a missionary. I could hardly believe it when shortly thereafter I was invited to Gilead. What a privilege! By mid-June 1946, I was at the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. It was a privilege to be in the eighth class of Gilead School, the first international one. I thoroughly enjoyed the association with classmates from many lands. Eventually I was assigned to India.
So here I am in India twenty-four years later and still pressing on in the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom. During this time I have had many privileges. When the Watch Tower Society’s president visited India for our assembly in Bombay in April 1947, I received a surprise: I would be privileged to go round India and visit our first circuit assemblies here. In September 1947, about two weeks after the partition of India into India and Pakistan, I began this tour. Thousands of people were being killed because of religious hatred. How appropriate was the public talk I gave at these assemblies: “Blessed Are the Peacemakers”!
After preaching God’s Word for eight years in the cities of Bombay, Ahmednagar and Poona, I was given the privilege to act as circuit servant or supervisor to encourage the Christian congregations. So for the best part of thirteen years I traveled from the snowcapped Himalayas to near Cape Comorin at India’s southern tip. At one time I covered about half of India twice a year, traveling thousands of miles. As a result I have seen something of the animal creation in the wild: elephants, peacocks, monkeys, cobras—and one tiger!
Naturally, life in India is different. One is surrounded by much poverty and difficult conditions. But I love my Indian Christian brothers, whether they live in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Mysore, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bengal, Andhra Pradesh or Delhi or any other part of India. In all these parts I mentioned they speak different languages, but all are united in the worship of the true God, Jehovah.
My Indian Christian brothers have been so kind to me, and we have many mature Indian Witnesses now. When I arrived in India in 1947, we had about two hundred proclaimers of God’s kingdom. Now we have over 3,300. I have lived with the Indian Witnesses, sitting on the floor at times and eating from banana leaves, which served as plates. But what kindness!
It was a surprise that I got early in 1953 when I was invited to attend the New World Society Assembly in New York! What a wonderful assembly that was! In 1958 again I attended the memorable “Divine Will” International Assembly in New York. In 1966 I returned to England for a long vacation, after being away for eight years. Another memorable year was 1969, when, on the way to the London “Peace on Earth” International Assembly, I visited Israel and went to Caesarea, Megiddo, Galilee, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho and other places associated with Jehovah’s works and the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.
In India I have many spiritual brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. I never married, deciding that singleness would be the better course for me. I know many from all parts of this vast country, and I can say that I love my Indian brothers very much. My heart wells up and thrills when I meet them at assemblies. With all of Jehovah’s people in all the world we are one.
I am sixty-two years of age and still cycle around in Delhi, India, one of the hottest capitals in the world in June! I go to my Bible studies and from house to house, preaching and teaching the good news. Really, what a wonderful life! I thank Jehovah God for all the provisions that he makes through his organization to supply us with so much to use, for example, The Watchtower in seven of our Indian languages. I also have a lovely home in which to live. Truly, serving God full time is a grand work. How grateful I am that I ‘kept on seeking’ and so found what I had long looked for—God’s truth!