‘Jehovah Has Dealt Rewardingly With Me’
As told by Karl F. Klein
WHAT blessings there are in knowing and serving Jehovah! In looking back, I feel like David, who said: “I will sing to Jehovah, for he has dealt rewardingly with me.” (Psalm 13:6) He truly has done that! For instance, it is my privilege to be part of the headquarters staff of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I have seen that family grow from some 150 to more than 3,000. What a blessing that has been!
Yet, even before I learned the truth, God dealt rewardingly with me. My mother not only was most submissive and self-sacrificing but also was ever quoting scriptures when admonishing or correcting us as children. Let me tell you something about those earlier days.
We Start Walking in the Truth
My first contact with Bible truth took place back in the spring of 1917 when I found a handbill advertising a talk on the subject of hell. This keenly interested me as it seemed that I was always doing the wrong thing, and so I worried a lot about going to a burning hell when I died. When I showed the handbill to my mother, she encouraged me to go, saying: “It can’t hurt you, and it might do you some good.”
Ted, one of my younger brothers, and I went to hear the talk sponsored by the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were known in those days. By Scripture and logic, the speaker most effectively showed that the Bible did not teach a burning hell. It all sounded so reasonable to me that upon getting home I exclaimed: “Ma, there’s no hell, and I know it!” She agreed, adding that the only “hell” was here on earth, since she herself had suffered a lot.
Another talk had been announced for the following Sunday afternoon, but no one had spoken to us little boys 11 and 10 years old. After attending Sunday School and church that morning, we played games with other boys in the neighborhood. But everything seemed to go wrong that afternoon. Reflecting on the rewarding experience of the previous week, I told myself: “Karl, God is trying to tell you that you should not be wanting to have fun but should be going to hear another one of those fine Bible lectures.” So Ted and I went again, and this time the Bible Students spoke to us and urged us to return the following Sunday. We agreed, and we have been attending Christian meetings ever since. Looking back now, it is easy to see how, ever so often, Jehovah rapped my knuckles, as it were, when I was doing something I should not have been doing. I had to learn that life is never this AND that but this OR that.
All of that happened in Blue Island, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. (I was born a very sickly child in southwestern Germany, and when I was five our family emigrated to the United States and eventually settled in that town.) There the Bible Students also had midweek studies based on the book Tabernacle Shadows. At once I began attending these studies and found them very interesting, especially since the conductor used a model of the Tabernacle to explain all that was being discussed. However, it took a while before I saw the need to choose between these meetings and the Methodist Church, where I had just recently been confirmed.
Because I was just a boy and my folks were quite poor, the Bible Students generously supplied me with all the needed study aids. How I rejoiced to learn the truth about the soul, the Trinity, the Millennial Reign of Christ, and so forth! Before long, I was happily sharing in the distribution of Bible Students Monthly and Kingdom News. By the spring of 1918, I saw the privilege of making my consecration, as dedication was then termed, and of getting baptized. At home this posed no problem, for my mother was taking an interest in what I was learning, and my father, who had been a Methodist preacher for 20 years, was now traveling a lot. He would come home for just a few days three or four times a year.
A Test of Brotherly Love
In those days we were told: ‘If you want to stay in the truth, read the seven Studies in the Scriptures through each year.’ Of course, I wanted to stay in the truth and therefore I dutifully read these volumes through each year until I came to Bethel. This amounted to reading ten pages a day, something most enjoyable since I had an insatiable thirst for knowledge.
Shortly after my baptism in 1918, my loyalty to fellow Bible Students was put to the test. World War I was raging, and even though the most prominent brothers had been unjustly imprisoned over the war issue, the need for Christian neutrality was not fully appreciated by those then taking the lead. A few who saw the issue clearly took offense and separated themselves from the Bible Students, calling themselves Standfasters. They warned me that if I stayed with the Bible Students I would lose out on being of the “little flock” of Jesus’ anointed followers. (Luke 12:32) Mother, though not yet dedicated, helped me to make the right decision. I could not see myself leaving those from whom I had learned so much, and I therefore decided to take my chances with my Bible Student brothers. It really was a test of loyalty. Since then, I have observed many similar tests of loyalty. When mistakes are made, those not wholly loyal at heart seem to pounce upon them as an excuse for quitting.—Compare Psalm 119:165.
Of great encouragement to me in my efforts to serve Jehovah was the 1922 Cedar Point convention of the Bible Students. There we heard J. F. Rutherford (then president of the Watch Tower Society) give the rousing call: “Advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom.” Although from the beginning I had shared in various forms of witnessing, it was at that convention that I went from house to house for the first time, offering Bible literature for a contribution. That seemed so difficult to me!
Because of this I did not share in such witnessing from house to house again until the Columbus, Ohio, convention in 1924. After that, there was at least one person sharing in this activity regularly in our local congregation. I have since come to appreciate how vital that ministry is not only for preaching the good news of the Kingdom but also for strengthening one’s own faith and cultivating all the other fruits of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) There is no question about it: Sharing regularly in the field ministry is rewarding in more ways than one.
“In Bethel Land I’ll Take My Stand!”
Arrangements within the congregation were somewhat different in those days. While still a teenager, I was elected an elder, conducted the Congregation Book Study, arranged for public speakers to come from Chicago and saw to it that these talks were advertised both in the local newspaper and by handbills. After the 1924 Columbus, Ohio, convention, I saw my way clear to apply for service at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s people. My heart had been set on such Bethel service for a long time, but a sudden change in circumstances at home made it seem that this was not Jehovah’s will for me. However, that was only temporary, for I did enter Bethel on March 23, 1925.
My joy was so great that, in writing home, I paraphrased the song “Dixie” in these words: “In Bethel land I’ll take my stand, to live and die in Bethel land!” After 59 years I still feel that way about Bethel. In passing, some comment seems appropriate as to how Jehovah has dealt with me time and again. Only after having resigned myself to not having something greatly desired if it did not seem to be God’s will did it come my way. This reminded me of Abraham’s being tested as to his being willing to give up the son ‘whom he so loved.’—Genesis 22:2.
In Bethel service, my first assignment was in the composing room of the Society’s factory at 18 Concord Street, Brooklyn, New York. Before long, I was transferred to the basement to assist in running “The Old Battleship,” as the Society’s one rotary press in those days was affectionately called. We used it to print tracts by the millions. And at that time each of our two magazines had a printing run of 30,000 copies. Today, for each issue the average printing of The Watchtower is 10,200,000 copies, and for Awake! it is 8,900,000 copies.
As a lad I had taken violin lessons for two years. So, upon coming to Bethel, I volunteered to play in the orchestra that practiced two evenings a week and broadcast on Sunday mornings over the Society’s radio station WBBR. Finding out that a cellist was needed, I bought a cello and began taking music lessons.* By 1927 ten of us were invited to play full time over the Society’s station on Staten Island. That was the beginning of my musical privileges that have continued through the years.
“Karl, Watch Out!”
How I enjoyed music! Being able to devote my full time to it was rewarding indeed. While serving on Staten Island, I also had the rare privilege of getting better acquainted with J. F. Rutherford, who was then president of the Watch Tower Society. This was because he spent half of each week there, as those peaceful surroundings were most favorable for writing—and what a lot of that he did!
Brother Rutherford was like an understanding and loving father to me, even though he repeatedly had occasion to reprove me for breaking some rule. I especially remember one time when he gave me a blunt reproof. The next time he saw me, he cheerily said, “Hello Karl!” But because of still feeling hurt, I just muttered a greeting. He countered, “Karl, watch out! The Devil’s after you!” Embarrassed, I replied, “Oh, there’s nothing, Brother Rutherford.” But he knew better, and so repeated his warning, “That’s all right. Just watch out. The Devil’s after you.” How right he was! When we harbor resentment against a brother, especially for saying something he has a right to say in the line of duty, we leave ourselves open to the Devil’s snares.—Ephesians 4:25-27.
Once, due to some misunderstanding, it was wrongly reported to Brother Rutherford that I had made a very critical remark about him. However, rather than becoming indignant, he remarked: “Well, Karl talks a lot, and he says things he doesn’t mean.” What a fine example for all of us, in case we hear someone saying uncomplimentary things about us! Yes, Brother Rutherford was bighearted and very understanding. He showed this to me on the one hand by repeatedly making exceptions in my case when unusual circumstances seemed to merit his doing so, and on the other hand by apologizing on more than one occasion when he had thoughtlessly caused me some hurt.* It might be added that Brother Rutherford’s prayers at morning worship also endeared him to me. Though he had such a powerful voice, when addressing God he sounded just like a little boy talking to his daddy. What a fine relationship with Jehovah that revealed! To have a man of such spiritual stature taking the lead was faith strengthening to me, and I felt that this was just as it should be in Jehovah’s organization.
Back to Brooklyn
The orchestra’s stay on Staten Island lasted for only two and a half years. Then we were transferred to Brooklyn where a new radio studio had been built. After I had played in the orchestra for some ten more years, it was disbanded, and I again began working in the factory, first in the book bindery and later on with the presses. But before long I was transferred to the Service Department where, for a number of years, it was my privilege to care for some 1,250 special pioneers—assigning them territories, answering their correspondence, and so forth. Each month I also had the privilege of compiling the field service report for the United States and outlying countries. What blessings! Not the least of these was the enjoyment of a fine relationship with Brother T. J. Sullivan, who was then the overseer of the Service Department. During the time that I worked in this department, the number of Kingdom publishers rose from 100,000 to nearly 375,000 worldwide. What a joy to see that since then Jehovah’s Witnesses have increased sevenfold, to more than two and a half million!
Beginning with the presidency of N. H. Knorr, I was glad to see more emphasis being placed on making each Witness a qualified minister able to give doorstep sermons. Also at that time brothers were being trained to give public talks. The beginning of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead was of special interest to me, as my brother Ted (who had accompanied me to that first Bible Student lecture and had been pioneering since 1931) attended the first class.*
A Change of Assignment
One day in the spring of 1950, Brother Knorr invited me and another brother to his office and asked us how we would like to serve in the Writing Department. When I told him that it did not matter where I served, he reproved me, saying that when an added privilege of service is extended to a person he should be eager to accept it. Actually, however, my attitude was due to my precarious health, which had always been a problem to me requiring that I take nutrition and exercise seriously. Really, nothing could have suited me more than to be able to spend all my time doing research and writing articles, especially on Scriptural subjects. But I knew the work would not be easy. In fact, regarding the Writing Department, Brother Knorr once told me: “Here’s where the most important and most difficult work is being done.”
In 1951 a number of us from Brooklyn Bethel enjoyed a great spiritual feast at the “Clean Worship” convention in London. After also attending the convention in Paris, several of us visited a few of the Society’s other branches, including the one at Wiesbaden. There I first met Gretel Naggert who 12 years later accepted my proposal to become Sister Klein. After serving at Bethel for 38 years as a single person, I felt that I could do better with her as my life partner. Since getting married I have had to agree with Solomon, who said: “Has one found a good wife? One has found a good thing, and one gets goodwill from Jehovah.” (Proverbs 18:22) Yes, here again Jehovah was dealing rewardingly with me, for Gretel has been a great help to me in ever so many ways.*
Brother Knorr—An Elder Brother
My relationship with Brother Rutherford had been like that of a loving father and his son. But now, since Brother Knorr was just a few months older than I was, our relationship was more like that of brothers—with the older brother being prone to express impatience with the younger one’s shortcomings. Gretel was very philosophical about such differences. ‘After all,’ she said, ‘it’s not to be expected that an efficient executive and a very romantic musician would always see eye to eye!’ But lest that remark be misunderstood, I should add that Brother Knorr was my favorite speaker. He once referred to me as his shadow, for I kept showing up where he gave talks. What is more, he was as fond of music as I was and reintroduced singing at our congregation meetings. He took a real interest in songbook publishing.—Ephesians 5:18-20.
Here also I could see that Jehovah had the right man directing His work on earth, for Brother Knorr was an excellent organizer. Especially did he appreciate the importance of the right kind of education, as can be seen from his arranging for the Theocratic Ministry School, the Gilead missionary school, the Kingdom Ministry School and the Bethel Entrants’ School.
All of this calls to mind a remark once made to me by the branch coordinator in Britain. He observed that Brother Knorr had the fine quality of not allowing personalities to influence him when making organizational appointments. That was a fact, for had he done so, I would never have received all the privileges that he allowed to come my way in connection with conventions, music, writing, and so forth. In this respect, Brother Knorr was a good imitator of Jesus Christ. How so? Well, of whom was Jesus especially fond? John. But to whom did he entrust “the keys of the kingdom”? To Peter, despite that apostle’s impetuousness.—Matthew 16:18, 19; John 21:20.
Truly, how rewarding Jehovah’s dealings have been with me despite my weaknesses and shortcomings! And yet, highly favored as I had been for close to 50 years, the greatest privilege was still ahead. In November 1974, I was invited to become a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This invitation so overwhelmed me that I needed encouragement to accept it. Among other things, it was pointed out to me that a goodly number of others had also been invited. Actually, seven others were invited, increasing the membership of the Governing Body at that time from 11 to 18.
The one who provided the encouragement to accept this latest assignment was Frederick W. Franz who in 1977 succeeded Brother Knorr as president of the Society. Ever since coming to Bethel, I had been drawn to him because of his Bible knowledge and his friendly disposition. In the early days, we used to attend the German prayer, praise and testimony meetings together. Since those days a number of my theocratic milestones have been associated with him. One of these was accompanying him, along with my brother and his wife, in visiting our brothers serving under ban in the Dominican Republic. Never before or since have I received such warm and heartfelt expressions of Christian love. It meant so much to our fellow believers there that we had risked getting into trouble with Trujillo in order to visit them!
In later years Brother Franz, my wife and I, together with several others, including A. D. Schroeder, visited Bible lands and a number of South American countries, including Bolivia, where Gretel had served as a missionary for more than nine years. Traveling with Brother Franz invariably meant added privileges of service, as he insisted on sharing the platform with his associates. More recently we have shared convention privileges in Europe and Central America. Looking back, it seems that Brother Franz has always been a balancing factor for me. For example, during our trip to Bible lands one brother in our group got into real trouble with the police for taking forbidden photographs, thus causing us delays. I expressed strong indignation, but Brother Franz just smiled and said, “I think he is learning his lesson.” And that he was! No question about it: My association with Brother Franz has been another way in which Jehovah has been dealing rewardingly with me.
Not All “Smooth Sailing”
Nor can I overlook the way that Jehovah has dealt rewardingly with me as regards my assigned work. So often a project has turned out especially well because of factors over which I really had no control. (Compare Psalm 127:1; 1 Corinthians 3:7.) And I have seen this frequently on an organizational level. For example, some 40 years ago the Society bought a carriage house on Willow Street for our use as a garage. Now if we had not owned that property, we could not have built a tunnel connecting the Towers building with the rest of the Bethel complex. When we needed more living space, we were able to buy the Towers Hotel. When we required more office space, we were able to purchase the Squibb complex. And these facilities are within walking distance of Bethel. Many similar things have happened to the benefit of Jehovah’s organization in other lands.
Due to inherited weaknesses and my impulsive nature, my life has had its share of trials and tribulations, including a nervous breakdown after I had been at Bethel for nine years. At that time, Psalm 103 truly was comforting to me, as well as Paul’s words at Romans 7:15-25. It might be added that I have had more than my share of mishaps, such as a broken kneecap, fractured vertebrae, and so forth. Both my own failings and those of others have kept my life from being all “smooth sailing.” But with Jehovah’s help I have come to appreciate the fact that ‘if he permits it, I can take it,’ as indicated at 1 Corinthians 10:13. Also, ‘the less I live, the more I can give.’ Among other lessons I have had to learn is the need to cultivate “a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation,” and to be willing to conduct myself as “a lesser one.”—Micah 7:7; Luke 9:48.
Then, too, repeatedly I have had reason to feel as did David after the incident involving Nabal. (1 Samuel 25:2-34) He was grateful to Jehovah and Abigail because they kept him from becoming bloodguilty by wiping out Nabal’s entire household. Yes, Jehovah has kept me from making very serious mistakes. He has done this through his angels, his providence and the help provided not only by mature brothers but also by ever so many fine Christian “Abigails.” It may be added that I am thankful to Jehovah that when I was spiritually weak the opportunity for yielding to temptation did not lie close at hand and that when it did I was spiritually strong enough not to yield. In other words, the inclination toward wrongdoing and the opportunity for it never coincided, for Jehovah knew that at heart I really wanted to keep doing the right thing. How grateful I am that errors are not what Jehovah watches!—Psalm 130:3.
Nor would I overlook how rewardingly Jehovah has dealt with me and others by providing excellent spiritual food through the years. (Matthew 24:45-47) There is no question about the fact that the light of truth is flashing up ever more brightly for the righteous. (Psalm 97:11) Since I first began taking in ‘the milk of the word,’ here are but a few of the many excellent spiritual truths Jehovah’s people have come to understand: the distinction between God’s organization and Satan’s organization; that Jehovah’s vindication is more important than the salvation of creatures; that the restoration prophecies apply to spiritual Israel; that Christian conduct and preaching are equally important; and that weak, imperfect creatures like us can make glad the heart of our God, whose peerless name we are privileged to bear as Jehovah’s Witnesses.—1 Peter 2:2; Proverbs 27:11; Isaiah 43:10-12.
Do I have reason for singing to Jehovah because he has been dealing so rewardingly with me? Indeed I do!
Carey Barber was playing second violin in that orchestra. Little did either of us think that 58 years later we would still be in the same “orchestra” but making a different kind of music! The August 15, 1982, issue of The Watchtower contained C. Barber’s life story.
Regarding his misguided statements as to what we could expect in 1925, he once confessed to us at Bethel, “I made an ass of myself.”
His life story appeared in The Watchtower of June 1, 1957, pages 329-31.
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The WBBR orchestra in 1926, including K. F. Klein and C. W. Barber
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J. F. Rutherford was like a father to me
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With Gretel, my wife—one way Jehovah has dealt rewardingly with me
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N. H. Knorr was like an older brother
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F. W. Franz—a true friend and balancing factor