“The Way of Faithfulness I Have Chosen”
As told by Paul Wrobel
IN AUGUST 1914 the world was shaken by news of mobilization for war. We lived on the German border, in the province of East Prussia. We six children had enjoyed peaceful times with our parents, but as my eldest brother was called to war, my mother cried bitterly. I tried to comfort her, but she said: “We are now entering dreadful times.”
As I was only fifteen years old at the time, I wondered how my mother could know what troublesome days were lying ahead. It turned out that mother based her views on Bible prophecy about the “last days.” She had often been visited by a traveling minister, whom she hospitably received and who left a few tracts, which mother kept in her Bible. Mother read the Bible often and taught us good principles. Father, too, read to us from the Bible. So from our youth on we were raised to fear God.
We were soon surrounded by war. We saw the bombers, heard cannons boom, saw Russian soldiers, the dead and the wounded. We had to flee. In 1918 I also became a soldier.
After the war and my release from the Army, I moved to the Ruhr territory, where I found some of my relatives, and took up work in the mines. In this territory I also met a girl who has been my life’s companion now for over fifty years.
I CHOOSE “THE WAY OF FAITHFULNESS”
In time the Watch Tower Society’s books The Harp of God and Studies in the Scriptures came into our home. I read them thoroughly. By means of these books I began to understand the Bible. This kindled within me the desire to serve God and to follow the way of His truth. I felt as did the psalmist: “The way of faithfulness I have chosen.”—Ps. 119:30.
I put forth every effort to grow in Bible knowledge. And when a minister representing the Watch Tower Society invited us to a meeting of the Christian congregation, we accepted. The first public Bible talk I heard captured my interest so much that I invited the speaker to visit us, and until late in the night we sat and profited from his Bible knowledge. From that time on down until this day, Bible reading and study, with the help of the Watch Tower Society’s publications, have become part of my daily program.
However, from a human standpoint, I felt weak and unqualified to share Bible truths in the house-to-house ministry. But now that I was associating with the Christian congregation and attending meetings regularly, I took to heart the encouragement to have a part in the field ministry. So one morning I put my Bible in a new leather case, went to a Christian brother and asked him to take me with him in the house-to-house ministry. After listening to him for about an hour, I asked him for a few books. I went to the doors with three books and a few magazines, and soon had placed all these Bible study aids in the hands of householders.
From that time on I went alone in the field ministry. I felt I had now overcome a big weakness. At that time I had no idea what a blessed door of activity was then opened to me.
The congregation with which I associated, Bochum-Langendreer, was made up of about forty persons. Association with this congregation continued to build me up. And in August of 1925 I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah by water baptism. In 1928 my wife was also immersed, and from then on we have traveled together the Christian road of activity and faithfulness and have enjoyed Jehovah’s goodness.
Ever since my baptism I had wanted to enter the full-time preaching work, but since we had three children, I had to be patient. I kept busy in the congregation, promoting Kingdom interests, taking care of various assigned duties, and increasing in zeal and ability.
Our family enjoyed many blessings through association with mature Christian brothers. We appreciated the words in 1 Peter 4:9: “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” How often I admired the ability of my wife to prepare a delicious meal from a few things we had. My Christian brothers always felt at home with us, and we never lacked the necessities of life.
TEST OVERCOME BY JEHOVAH’S UNDESERVED KINDNESS
After Hitler banned Jehovah’s witnesses, we had to carry on our preaching work underground. On October 7, 1934, our entire congregation took part in sending a protest resolution to Hitler. Then came April 27, 1936, when I was arrested by the Gestapo. The Gestapo wanted me to write down all the names of the “leaders” of Jehovah’s witnesses. In the face of torture, would I hold to the “way of faithfulness” to God? Jehovah strengthened me to do so. I made a resolve not to betray my Christian brothers, even if I had to die. What I wrote down for the Gestapo to read was a witness about God’s kingdom.
During my two years of imprisonment, I was able to strengthen some of my Christian brothers who were in spiritual need. In May 1938 I was released from prison, and now I fell into spiritual need myself. This is because shortly before my release nearly all of my Christian brothers in the area had been arrested. I seemed to have no contact with God’s organization. There was little spiritual food available.
I was under police surveillance and was without work because of refusing to join the “workers’ front.” As a jobless person, I was finally sent back to my old place of work in the mine by the employment office. Toward the end of World War II, as the “people’s troop” was conscripted, I thought I would soon be with my Christian brothers in the concentration camps. However, I unexpectedly received a double “UK” (unabkömmlich, indispensable) certificate due to the military importance of mining. Officials of higher rank in the mine began to show interest in Bible truth, and I was often able to give a witness about God’s kingdom.
In the meantime, however, I had depleted my entire supply of Bible literature. I prayed as the psalmist: “Do not take away from my mouth the word of truth entirely, for I have waited for your own judicial decision.” (Ps. 119:43) After a heavy bombing raid, I remembered an old Witness and decided to visit him and see how he was getting along. After traveling through rubble-strewn streets, I arrived just as he was trying to hide a great number of Watchtower magazines in his wrecked chicken house. He was happy when I took the priceless cargo of spiritual food on my bicycle and brought it to a more secure place.
Jehovah had heard my prayer. We now had spiritual food. The Watchtower articles “The Theocracy,” “The Little Flock,” “The Drama of Ezekiel,” “The Ransom,” “Religion,” “Deliverance,” “Government and Peace” and the articles explaining the prophecies of Zechariah and Micah, and many others, provided a rich spiritual feast from Jehovah in the midst of our enemies. I was now able to share this spiritual food with those of my Christian brothers whom I could reach. How could I ever repay the kindness of Jehovah for all these spiritual benefits? Only by showing greater zeal in fulfilling my dedication.
In the summer of 1945, as the Witnesses came out from underground, fifteen of us met together in happy reunion to discuss the future. On Sunday twenty-seven Witnesses were present, willing to support the Kingdom work in an organized manner. Love and appreciation for one another unified us, and Jehovah began to bless our congregation with great increases.
INCREASED PRIVILEGES IN FULL-TIME PREACHING
Because I love people and desire to speak to their heart, I enjoy the house-to-house ministry so much. In fact, for twenty years it was my desire to enter the full-time preaching work. Now the favorable time arrived. Our two eldest children had become of age and were steadfast in God’s truth. However, sad to say, our youngest son was a victim of the war; to this day he is still listed as missing.
But now a physical ailment loomed up and seemed to prevent me from entering the full-time ministry. My doctor predicted that in two years I could expect a paralysis of my right hip. That was in 1946, so I decided to use those two years in the full-time ministry and to do my best.
In the meantime, twenty-seven years have slipped by! Although I have never been able to walk without difficulty, still the predicted paralysis did not set in. In 1947 I was called to Magdeburg to be trained for the ministry as a traveling overseer of the Watch Tower Society. For nearly twenty years, up to the time of a severe illness in October 1966, I was able to serve in that capacity and taste the goodness of Jehovah in bountiful measure. An abundance of joy was my daily portion.
Organizing new congregations and strengthening small groups brought many joys and blessings. However, one had to be willing to suffer some privation. For example, one presiding overseer of a small congregation of seven Witnesses wrote me that my visit would have to be canceled as he had to go to a sanatorium, and the congregation was so small that there was no place for me to stay. Despite this, I traveled to the town and looked up another overseer in the congregation. He lived with his family in a very crowded room. His landlord had some farming land, so I asked the Witness if he would speak with his landlord. The result was that I was able to sleep in a small room above the cow stall. There was a small army cot with a straw mattress for me to sleep on, and I shared the room with a traveling salesman. Since it was autumn, I had to sleep with my clothes on to keep from getting cold.
During the week I was able to obtain a room in the school for a public Bible talk and to visit all the Witnesses, who, on Sunday, took part in distributing invitations to the talk. Sunday afternoon, to the astonishment of all, fifty-six persons filled the room and all listened attentively. From that time on, the congregation grew, and soon they had their own Kingdom Hall.
Another experience I had was in connection with a circuit assembly that the Watch Tower Society arranged to be held in Paderborn in the 1950’s. The city gave us neither a hall nor a lot where we could have our assembly. We were able, however, to rent from a restaurateur a rifle corps clubhouse about two kilometers away in a small village called Nauhaus. The local priest, who was also chairman of the rifle corps, tried to pressure the restaurant owner by threatening him with excommunication if he did not break the contract. The restaurant owner, however, said that he was a businessman and had already received the rent from the Witnesses in advance, whereas the Catholic Church still owed him money for two Christmas celebrations.
During the assembly the priest cursed the Witnesses, the restaurateur, the people who gave the Witnesses accommodations and the businessmen who sold groceries to us. The priest’s conduct prompted many persons to leave the church. The restaurateur was excommunicated but had the sympathy of the townspeople. Today we are able to have circuit assemblies in Paderborn, and there is a flourishing congregation of over one hundred Witnesses.
DESPITE WEAKNESS—STILL BUSY
In October 1966 I was in the Society’s branch office building in Germany attending the Kingdom Ministry School for overseers when I took ill with pneumonia. Until I was able to return home, I enjoyed the loving care of the Bethel family. Since some of my internal organs ceased to function, my physical condition deteriorated, and I concluded that my earthly service would soon end. But after some time I recuperated and was able to get back on my feet with at least half of my strength, which was satisfying. And I have been able to continue on in the full-time preaching work.
For the past four years I have had the privilege of serving as an overseer in my home congregation, Bochum-Langendreer, and of enjoying the hearty association and loving support of my Christian brothers in furthering Kingdom interests.
When I look back after nearly forty-eight years of dedicated service to God, I realize that Jehovah has helped me to walk in the way of faithfulness; he has let me have a part in the goodness shown his people. Looking to the Source of strength and salvation, my decision remains: “The way of faithfulness I have chosen.” “I will sing to Jehovah, for he has dealt rewardingly with me.”—Ps. 119:30; 13:6.