An Adventurous Life—with Genuine Satisfaction
As told by George Gibb
MANY young people today are bored with life. Some immerse themselves in sports and entertainment, while others travel to distant lands seeking adventure. Unfortunately, many experience feelings of frustration and purposelessness.
I, too, traveled when young, leaving my native Scotland for distant shores thousands of miles away, including Egypt, Palestine and Australia. Besides enjoying many adventures, in time I also found real satisfaction in life. This was due to my finding a purpose in life, and being able to fulfill that purpose more fully in my move to Australia. But let me give you some background.
EARLY LIFE AND WAR TRAVELS
Although my parents were not churchgoers, they brought me up to have deep respect for the Bible and its grand principles. How pleasant were those winter evenings around a cozy fire as mother would read Bible stories and emphasize their morals! These stories certainly fired me with a desire for truth.
As I grew older, I attended the services of various religious groups and listened to Gospel meetings on street corners, but there always seemed to be something missing. Then, in the summer of 1914, the first world war, with frightening suddenness, disrupted the usual way of life. Zeppelins from Germany bombed Edinburgh, where we lived. Our happy family was torn apart. One brother after another—five in all—was called away by the army. Two of them never returned.
As a soldier in the British army, I arrived in Egypt in 1916. Next I was sent to Palestine, the Promised Land. It was surprising how many of us soldiers associated geographical locations with recollections of Bible events. At Gaza, we would recall Samson’s moving the city gate; at Beer-sheba, Abraham; at Bethlehem, Jesus, and at Jerusalem, David. One day I read in the Bible about Emmaus, and wandered there from Jerusalem and back again, picturing Jesus talking to those two disciples whom he met on the road. But I returned still wondering what the Bible was all about.—Luke 24:13-32.
The war finished with me no wiser. I returned to Edinburgh to conclude my apprenticeship in the printing field. The desire for Bible truth, however, was still with me. My uncle suggested that I join the local church. When I asked mother about it, she replied: “If you want to hear the Word of God, go. But, remember, you will find quite a difference between Christianity and Churchianity.” I soon found out how right she was.
FINDING WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR
One Saturday in 1921, while I was traveling by train from my employment in Glasgow to my home in Edinburgh, an elderly man in the same compartment began to tell me, in a most kindly fashion, unusual things from the Bible. He spoke about God’s having a “plan,” about the church’s wrong doctrines, and about a happy future. That started me thinking.
Another Saturday, while staying in Glasgow, I saw enormous placards stating “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.” That was cheery news for some people, I thought. At my lodging, I found a handbill advertising this talk, as well as a two-page spread in the newspaper about it. So I decided to go.
The hall was packed and the talk, given in an inspiring fashion, was unlike anything I had heard before. As the crowd left I just sat there. This was exactly what I had been yearning for! A zealous young man approached me. “How did you like it?” he asked.
“It’s the truth all right,” was my reply.
After ascertaining that I had not read anything on the subject, he suggested that someone call to talk to me. I declined at first, but he persisted; so I made an appointment. At the stated time there was a knock on the door. The most glorious hour I have ever spent was on that day when the wonderful truths about God’s kingdom were unfolded to me. The full-time worker left me some Bible publications to read and the addresses of the weekly meeting places. At these I was warmly received and learned much more about God’s purposes.
A MISSIONARY SPIRIT
There was an atmosphere of enthusiasm among those in attendance, and witnessing was often stressed at the study meetings. Curious to see what was involved, I arrived at the assigned place from which we were to go forth witnessing. There I located my newfound friends, equipped with Bible literature and street directories. They handed me a copy of the new book The Harp of God and a few booklets. One of the friends took me along with him. Approaching a set of apartments, he said: “Now you go to the top and I will start at the bottom.”
Timidly, I knocked on the first door, thinking, “What am I going to say?” Quick as a flash came the thought: “Tell them what you learned at the group Bible study.” A young woman came to the door and I quoted Daniel 2:44, which says: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”
Then I explained to the householder that, after destroying this wicked system of things, God’s kingdom will bring real blessings to the earth, and that even the dead will be resurrected. She responded favorably, telling that she had recently lost her husband in death. She gladly accepted the book. As I continued witnessing to people in those apartments, I began to recognize that the Lord has a work for Christians to do.
On Saturday afternoons bicycle parties were arranged to carry the Kingdom message to outlying areas. Sunday mornings saw massive distributions of handbills advertising talks held in the biggest hall in Glasgow. It was often filled to capacity. In those days there was no radio or television; so people responded very well to invitations to lectures.
One person who made a great impression on me was a crippled elderly Witness. She could not get to the meetings unless someone brought her in her wheelchair. Some of us younger ones would take turns bringing her. As we went along, she would emphasize the highlights of what she had been reading, stressing scriptures that encourage continual reliance on Jehovah, such as Isaiah 41:10 and Isa 54:17. It was not surprising that six of us who used to wheel her chair became colporteurs, as full-time preachers were then called.
The Scottish winters were cold and bleak, preventing us from doing as much witnessing as we desired. So, since we were eager to have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord,” my partner and I decided to write to the Watch Tower Society, requesting that we be sent where we could accomplish more. (1 Cor. 15:58) After weeks of anxious waiting we were thrilled to receive a reply. We were given a choice: “Canada or Australia.”
OFF TO AUSTRALIA
In February 1928, we arrived in Melbourne, Australia, 13,000 miles (21,000 kilometers) away. What a change! Sunshine every day and fruit in abundance, including some kinds that we had never seen before. Our Christian brothers welcomed us and showed us much kindness, increasing our appreciation for Jehovah’s Word.
Our first assignment was the island state of Tasmania. And what adventures we had! We preached around the northern townships; first by car, and then, when it collapsed, by horse and cart. Time and again, when problems arose—whether with accommodations, food or transportation—we found that Jehovah would provide help, either by means of our Christian brothers or by means of kindly people whom we met while doing the Lord’s work.
A NEW ASSIGNMENT
In 1929, a letter arrived inviting me to help in the branch headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which was being moved to Sydney. Little did I realize then that I would still be here 49 years later. It was an exciting time, with the door-to-door preaching work becoming better organized and radio stations being used to broadcast the Kingdom message.
At the branch headquarters, I was soon introduced to a small foot-operated platen printing press, which I have come to treasure over the years. Before long I was producing assembly programs, handbills, special radio leaflets and many needed forms. When clergy pressure limited the use of the radio, sound cars were introduced to broadcast the Kingdom message. The amplified message was boomed across towns throughout the country.
In 1932, the branch headquarters facilities were expanded, heralding more activity. There was digging and hammering to be done, along with the usual printing, dispatching and trucking of Bible literature. How thrilled we were to see a paneled dining room, a new office, a meeting room and new bedrooms take shape!
When an automatic printing press was sent from the United States, we were really delighted. We were quite a group of enthusiastic young volunteer workers, just like a family. And our work was not confined to union hours. When there was a need, we would work into the early hours of the morning. At the same time, we were conscious that there was much to be done in talking to people about God’s kingdom, and we often used evenings and weekends for this activity.
With so much to do, the years seemed to fly by. Suddenly the second world war broke out. Then, in 1941, we found ourselves banned here in Australia on the clergy-inspired false charge of being subversive. Still the preaching work continued, and we kept on meeting in small groups. The printing work did not stop either. Magazines and books were produced in various underground locations, much to the annoyance of the local authorities who tried to discover these places.
To satisfy the law, all these publications carried the statement: “Printed by George Gibb, Strathfield.” Who and where was this “George Gibb”? The police tried to find me. But whenever they called, I just happened to be not at home. At times police officers would come to locations where Jehovah’s Witnesses were having a Bible study. Often, they asked the question, “Is George Gibb here?” or, “Where can we find George Gibb?” But they never found me.
Then, in 1943, our case was decided by the High Court of Australia, and the ban was lifted. Everything went back into full swing again. Since then our work at the branch headquarters has continued to expand, with Bible literature now being provided in many Pacific Islands languages, as well as in English. In 1973 we completed a modern three-story factory, and moved a 40-ton rotary printing press into it. Now over three quarters of a million copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines are shipped from our factory each month to about 25 countries or islands.
Twenty-five years after moving to Australia, I had the wonderful experience of attending the 1953 international convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York. On the way, our plane landed at Canton Island. We sallied down to the kiosk for a drink and, while there, introduced the Kingdom message to our handsome Fijian waiter. He listened with interest and accepted an English Bible tract. I suggested that he check the scriptures in his Bible, and we headed back to the plane.
After a thrilling time in the United States, we started home, refueling at Canton Island. As I was having a breath of fresh air, I felt a gentle tap on the back, and there was our Fijian friend. He said that he could see that the tract we had left him spoke the truth. He was very pleased when I offered to send him some Bible literature in his own language. He ran back to the kiosk, returning with a feathered fan as a present. How often I have experienced the unique joy that comes when someone shows appreciation for the Kingdom message!
Then, in 1973, I was able to attend a series of Christian conventions in Asia. What a thrill to see the results of the work of other missionaries and their local companions, such as in Japan, where 30,000 heads of jet-black hair bowed together in prayer to Jehovah!
What do you want out of life? Is your life now ever boring? I can assure you that it need not be. By being willing to follow Jesus’ example, and instruction: ‘Go, make disciples of people of all nations,’ you can enjoy a truly satisfying, yes, and a very adventurous life.—Matt. 28:19.
How happy I am now that over 50 years ago my heart moved me to use my life fully in Jehovah’s service! At 81 years of age, I still find delight in working here in the printery, sharing in the preaching work and going to assemblies. There is no better life than one spent doing Jehovah’s will!
[Picture of George Gibb on page 24]