Serving God During Difficult Times
IN THE winter of 1946, heavy snows were falling in the eastern European country where I live. On this particular day the snow interrupted train transportation, so I waited in vain at the station for a ride into the city. Someone pointed toward a small village where there was supposed to be bus service. But when I went there, I found that no buses were running.
On a number of occasions during the past several months I had left the city to be by myself in the woods. In the quiet setting, I would kneel and pray to God. After surviving the terrible years of World War II, only such prayer gave me peace and satisfaction. I was a Catholic who strongly believed in God, but praying in church before lifeless images brought me little comfort. In fact, observing the conduct of the priests made me determine not to go to church anymore.
On this day—temporarily stranded, hungry and tired—I noticed the sign “Bakery” on one of the houses of the village. Although the lady of the house informed me that the bakery was not in operation, she kindly gave me a little bread from her own supplies. I asked: “Please, could you allow me to sit down and rest up?”
While sitting, I noticed a book on the table. Learning that it was a Bible, I became very much interested. For a long time I talked with the woman and her husband, discovering that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. What I heard was like fresh water for a thirsty traveler. The couple said they would visit me the following Sunday.
The next Sunday I was ready. I even prepared a meal so we would have more time to converse freely. But the couple did not come. My husband wanted me to forget about this “new religion.” I was in deep despair, even thinking about taking my life. But then my older daughter brought a letter from the Witnesses. They had not forgotten! Soon we were being assisted to study the Bible in our home. My children took part, including my daughter, 15, my son, 10, and my younger daughter, nine. They all prepared their lessons well, writing down the answers to the questions in notebooks.
I began sharing with others the things we were learning, and this gave me spiritual strength and joy. In August 1947 my older daughter and I were baptized, thus symbolizing our dedication to Jehovah God.
OPPOSITION FROM MY HUSBAND
My husband often got drunk, and made real trouble for me. He forbade us to go to Christian meetings. So sometimes my daughter and I would go to bed early, and then, when he did not observe us, we would get dressed and leave the house. Once, with ax in hand, he yelled that he would put an end to me. He swung the ax, but, because he was so drunk, it missed, falling behind me. I was able to escape.
My husband increased his attacks, one day trying to kill me with a cleaver. My younger daughter and I escaped to the house of some Witnesses who lived nearby, with my husband pursuing right behind. Because the Witnesses did not let him in, he broke the windows, and the police had to intervene.
In the early spring of 1948 my husband gave the ultimatum: “It’s either the home or Jehovah!” I preferred to leave home, our furnished four rooms, instead of giving up what we had learned. I took only my personal things and my three children. Everything we took could be carried by one person.
A HAPPY TWO YEARS
After these experiences I was physically and mentally exhausted, but at least I was free from family persecution. Witnesses who lived outside the city took us into their home.
In May 1948 my older daughter began pioneering, as the full-time preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses is called. She went to the southern part of the country, and later encouraged us to join her. When we arrived, there was no congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses there. I was able to obtain work, as well as two furnished rooms. Our room with a piano was set aside as a Kingdom Hall.
We began preaching and locating interested persons. Witnesses from a nearby city came and gave public Bible talks and helped us to increase in spiritual maturity. During the school vacation in 1949 my younger daughter did vacation pioneer work, and the following year she and her brother were baptized. However, what happened in 1950 cut short the joyful, although hard, life that I had with my dear children.
FAITH STRENGTHENED BY TRIALS
The work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was banned, and practically all of those known to the police, including myself and my older daughter, were arrested. My 13-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter were thus denied my care. One family took in my son, and another my daughter.
My older daughter was freed from prison after three months. I was in jail four months more. On being released, I was ordered to leave the area. We took only our clothes and bedding, and the four of us went to another city where we were taken in by Witnesses. The experiences while in prison, and in moving to another territory, strengthened my faith and appreciation of Jehovah’s care and guidance.
After a few months my older daughter began pioneering again. Because of the ban, however, she could not preach from house to house. So she visited already interested ones, giving them Bible literature and studying the Bible with them.
In 1952 my son finished school. Then we moved to a town over 100 kilometers (60 mi.) away, where he and I got work at a sawmill. Since I worked only part time, it was a joy to be able to begin pioneering.
Shortly after this a number of Witnesses, including my son and me, were arrested for preaching the Bible’s message. However, because we held a secular job, we were freed after only two days. Several of the other Witnesses stood trial, and they received sentences of up to 15 years in prison. But we kept on preaching and in a short while 35 people were baptized in our area.
My older daughter was arrested again in 1953. During the investigation she was beaten and later sentenced to four years in prison. About this time my younger daughter finished school, and she and her brother began pioneering. The following year, when she was only 16, she was arrested and imprisoned for one month. Then she was put in a home for underage girls who were in trouble with the law.
Since I was being hunted by the police for my preaching activity, I could not be present at my daughter’s court trial. As she was without parental care, she was sentenced for an unlimited time to a correctional institution. Because of her fine reputation, she was trusted to run errands into town, and we were able to see each other several times. What happy occasions these were!
Then I was sent to another town to pioneer. It was a trying time for me. My two daughters were in prison. And I did not see my son very often, since he was pioneering in a different part of the country. However, we did see each other at pioneer meetings, which sometimes lasted several days. These spiritual feasts took place in the more isolated homes of Witnesses. What joyful occasions they were!
Toward the end of 1955 I was asked to help out in reproducing, as well as transporting, Bible literature. The work was hard, but we knew how important it was. We gained strength by seeing the joy of the brothers who were so happy to receive the “bread” (this is what we called The Watchtower) and the “pastry” (which we called the booklets). Also, whenever I had free time I preached in parks, starting up conversations with people and establishing return visits.
WE ALL PIONEER
Early in 1956 my younger daughter was set free, and she continued where she left off in the pioneer service. About three months later my older daughter was released from prison, and she, too, immediately resumed pioneering. After she was freed, the four of us met at a pioneer meeting, which we shall always remember.
For the next five years we met each other from time to time. At the beginning, each of us pioneered in a different area. So wherever we met was “home.” The ceiling above was always sky blue, and the floor was sometimes green, or white, depending on the season of the year.
We started to work with electrical mimeograph machines in reproducing the Bible literature. On one occasion the house with the printing equipment and paper burned down. The authorities found out that there was a printery in this burned-out home, but no one was arrested. Then we had a share in a special work. I helped set the type for the beautiful book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained.
Our summer vacation in 1961 was spent as a family with hospitable brothers in a fishing village. We were able to rest up by the sea and gain strength to work for the coming year. We did not realize what awaited us.
OUR WHOLE FAMILY IMPRISONED
In August my older daughter was arrested, as well as my son. Then, three months later, my younger daughter and I were arrested. We were held in the investigative process for over a year.
While being held, I applied to see the prison dentist. When waiting in line, the woman prisoner next to me asked why the ward head had yelled at me the previous day. On telling her that it was for conversing with fellow Witnesses while taking a walk, the young lady next to this woman grabbed me. She embraced me with joy, stating that she too was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was serving a three-year sentence for producing Bible literature. At the time I did not know that she would eventually become my daughter-in-law—“my third daughter.”
While imprisoned I had regular contact with my children through letters. Every letter was censored twice. We started to put more Biblical material into the letters so that the censors would get a witness about God’s purposes. Once an older woman, who was a department head, called me from my cell. She led me to another wing of the prison in order to converse, asking about how I had brought up my children. She told me how patiently they were enduring in prison. She also said that all the people on duty were very much interested in our letters.
It was not until early 1963, about a year and a half after our arrest, that they started the court trial. It lasted three days. My older daughter was sentenced to three years in prison, while my son got two years. My younger daughter and I were set free. Our time already spent in prison was considered our punishment.
AFTER RELEASE FROM PRISON
Upon our release, hospitable brothers took my daughter and me in and helped us to regain our health. Soon afterward my son was released, and the three of us lived with brothers. I took up work at a foundry, my son found work with the railroad and my daughter did office work. At home, after work, we all helped to set the type for the second edition of the book “Let God Be True.”
My older daughter was released from prison in September 1963. We returned to the territory where we had worked 15 years earlier. There we located an old house and, with the help of the brothers who lived nearby, we were able to repair it. The children all started pioneering again.
My husband had searched for us, but since we were in the full-time preaching activity, he never located us. I knew where he lived, and so after 10 years of separation I encouraged my children to visit him. At this time he was still an alcoholic.
Then, in 1963, I learned that my husband had stopped drinking. I sent him our address so that he could visit the children. When he came to visit the first time, my son was already married. He saw that we were living peacefully and in agreement. He was a guest at the wedding of our older daughter, afterward expressing a desire that Jehovah’s Witnesses visit him at his home.
Later he came once more to talk. It was a short conversation and very difficult. He confessed that he was guilty of violating God’s law and the law of the land. After 22 years of separation he came back to live with us. Shortly afterward, on April 4, 1971, he was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Today, my son and daughters have their own families and I am a happy grandmother, having four grandsons and two granddaughters. We have found much joy and have experienced Jehovah’s guidance, protection and help. I am deeply convinced that none of those who zealously endure in Jehovah’s service will experience disappointment. With my whole heart I have trusted Jehovah and his assuring words, “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5)—Contributed.