I Climbed the Finest Mountain of All
I WAS born and raised in a small town in the mountains of Eastern Europe. My parents were Roman Catholics, but they did not make me attend church, and at home we did not pray together or talk about religion. So, like many other young people, I spent my time and energy in sports, education, and travel.
In our town, there was a very active group of mountain climbers led by a kindly, experienced man who knew a lot about the mountains. Thanks to him, I became very skilled at mountaineering. I was 18 years old then, and I quickly fell in love with the magnificent views from high peaks, the excitement of facing up to and surviving dangerous situations, and the friendships with others who shared such dangers.
I remember one occasion after I had been in the group for five years. I was climbing on a mountain where the terrain was easy, and I relaxed my concentration just at the moment when I was reaching the summit. As I neared the top of a rock-mass, it started to come loose. All I could do was jump aside and shout a warning to my fellow climber. A falling rock cut the rope that linked us together, and I fell. Happily, my fall was arrested by a small grass plateau just 12 feet [4 m] below. However, things do not always turn out so well in this sport!
At 24 years of age, I graduated from university and assumed the leadership of the small group of mountaineers in my hometown. After a while, we got together some money to buy a minibus so that we could get ourselves and our equipment to more distant mountains. But the vehicle was in bad condition, and I spent three months, day and night, fixing it up. When it was ready, all of us looked around for dangerous jobs that paid well, such as high work in construction, and in this way we eventually collected enough money to make a trip to Iran. There, in 1974, we climbed an 18,900-foot-high [5,800 m] volcano named Damavand. While the climb started quite easily, toward the top we had to endure deep snow, shortage of breath because of altitude, and noxious fumes from volcanic vents.
On the way back home in the minibus, we planned an ascent of Mount Ararat but had to cancel it because of political tensions. In 1975 we went skiing in the Austrian Alps, and at the same time, we founded a nationwide photographic competition that we named “Men and Mountains.” This competition is still run each year. All of us had the feeling that our lives were full and satisfying.
However, when I got to be about 30, I began to get bored with mountaineering and wondered: ‘Is this really all there is to life?’ Some told me to get married, but I had friends who were married, and they did not seem very happy. Even couples whose relationship was forged in the danger and excitement of mountaineering seemed to lose their happiness in the reality of day-to-day living. I did not know why their marriages were not happy, but much as I would have liked to be married myself, I did not want to be unhappy like them.
Additionally, I noticed a change in the young people who went mountaineering. Before, there had always been a spirit of discipline, cooperation, and friendship in Alpine mountaineering camps. Now, young and inexperienced boys were undisciplined and not content to make progress gradually. They wanted to show off and take on climbs that were far too difficult and dangerous for them. Feeling more and more disenchanted, I had long, deep discussions with my friend Bonjo. He finally suggested that I speak with a fellow mountaineer, Henry.
Henry lent me a book, The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, and upon reading it, I was astonished to see how it discussed questions that I had been wondering about in my heart. It turned out that Henry was studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I asked if I could join in. He agreed, and for two years I engaged in an intensive study of the Bible and of any Bible literature I could get my hands on.
As my knowledge deepened, I felt an increasing joy. I was only superficially acquainted with the Roman Catholic religion, but I was astonished to see that the Christianity of the Bible did not rely on ceremonies, traditions, and unreasoning emotions. Rather, it involved high moral principles that affected every aspect of the Christian’s life. Additionally, I was astounded to see that the Bible is very logical and does not contradict scientific theories that are solidly proved.
The Witness who led the discussions with Henry and me did not force us to change our opinions and our way of life. All he did was explain clearly what the Bible says. Hence, I kept up mountaineering for those first two years of study. But as my knowledge deepened, I came to realize that for me mountaineering was like an addiction. The accident with the falling rock also reminded me of Jesus’ words to Satan when Satan challenged him to hurl himself off the battlement of the temple: “You must not put Jehovah your God to the test.” (Matthew 4:5-7) I realized that this activity showed disrespect for the life that Jehovah had given me.
I therefore handed responsibility for our group of mountaineers over to another experienced climber and found that it was not difficult to cross over from mountaineering to Christianity. As I gave away or sold all my equipment—skis, climbing irons, carabiners, hammers, hooked nails, and ice ax—I can honestly say, in the apostle Paul’s words, that to me they were now just “a lot of refuse.” (Philippians 3:8) A feeling of deep contentment came over me as I was able to join in the grand work of praising God’s name in public. In 1977 both Henry and I symbolized our dedication to Jehovah by water baptism.
Witnessing to Others
At that time, there were about 15 members of the mountaineering group in our town, and gradually Henry and I witnessed to all of them. What a joy it was when my brother, who was also a member, together with his wife, began to study the Bible and was baptized in 1981. Some time later, Bonjo joined us, as well as one other, the fifth of the mountaineers’ club. We did not have to climb high mountains anymore. Our greatest pleasure was to visit people in the valley who appreciated Bible truth. This change was also received with great relief by my mother, who had been very nervous about the climbing activities of my brother and me. Eventually, she too joined us in the clean worship of Jehovah.
Now my desire to get married had lost its urgency. Thanks to God’s Word, I knew the principles that would help me make a success of marriage, but now I was happy being single and serving Jehovah without distraction. Solomon declared: “A discreet wife is from Jehovah.” (Proverbs 18:22; 19:14) Therefore, I decided to wait patiently for Jehovah to give me this gift, meantime living in such a way that I would be a worthy husband when it happened. It was in 1982 that Jehovah gave me the wonderful blessing of a fine wife.
My wife and I still live in the mountains, and I still love them. But our main concern now is to help people to climb another mountain. Which mountain is that? The one mentioned in the prophecy of Isaiah: “It must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream. And many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion law will go forth, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:2, 3) What a joy to have been able to ascend this, the finest mountain of all!—Contributed.