YEAR BORN: 1951
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: GERMANY
HISTORY: PROUD, INDEPENDENT ATTITUDE
For the first few years of my life, my family lived near Leipzig, East Germany, not far from the Czech and Polish borders. When I was six years old, my father’s work took us abroad—first to Brazil and then to Ecuador.
At age 14, I was sent to a boarding school in Germany. Because my parents were far away in South America, I had to look out for myself. I became very self-reliant. I gave little thought to how my actions affected others.
When I was 17 years old, my parents returned to Germany. At first, I lived under their roof. But my independent attitude made it impossible for me to integrate back into the family. At the age of 18, I left home.
I became increasingly restless, searching for a purpose in life. After observing various lifestyles and movements, I became convinced that the best thing I could do with my life was to use it to explore this beautiful planet before humanity destroys it.
I left Germany, bought a motorcycle, and headed for Africa. Soon, though, I had to return to Europe for repairs to my motorcycle. Shortly thereafter, I found myself on a beach in Portugal. I decided to leave my motorcycle behind and find a floating means of transportation.
I joined a group of young people who were preparing to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. Among them I met my future wife, Laurie. First, we sailed to the islands of the Caribbean. Then, after a short stay in Puerto Rico, we returned to Europe. We hoped to find a sailboat that we could convert into a recreational boat. But after a short search of just three months, the project came to an abrupt end. I was drafted by the German military.
I spent 15 months in the German navy. During that time, Laurie and I got married and prepared to continue our traveling lifestyle. Shortly before my military service, we had purchased the hull of a lifeboat. While I was serving in the military, we progressively converted the hull into a small sailing vessel. We planned to live in it and keep exploring this beautiful planet. It was at this point—after my military service but before finishing the vessel—that we were contacted by Jehovah’s Witnesses and began to study the Bible.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE:
At first, I didn’t see the need to change much in my life. I was married to the woman with whom I was living, and I had already stopped smoking. (Ephesians 5:5) As for our plans to travel the world, I thought that devoting our lives to observing God’s marvelous creation was certainly a worthwhile endeavor.
In reality, however, I did need to make changes—especially to my personality. Being extremely proud and self-reliant, I was completely absorbed in my own abilities and accomplishments. My life was all about me.
One day, I read Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew, chapters 5-7) Initially, I was puzzled by the happinesses Jesus spoke about. For example, he said that happiness belongs to those who are hungry and thirsty. (Matthew 5:6) I wondered how being in need could make a person happy. As I continued to study, I came to realize that we all have a spiritual need but that we must humbly acknowledge that need before we can have it filled. It is as Jesus said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.”—Matthew 5:3.
After beginning our Bible study in Germany, Laurie and I moved to France, and later, to Italy. Wherever we went, we found Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was deeply impressed by their sincere love for one another and their unity. I saw that the Witnesses really are a global brotherhood. (John 13:34, 35) In time, Laurie and I were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
After baptism, I continued to make changes in my personality. Laurie and I had decided to sail down the African coast and then across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States. It was out there on the ocean—just the two of us in a tiny boat surrounded by thousands of miles of water—that I realized how insignificant I am compared to our magnificent Creator. Having a lot of time on my hands (there isn’t much to do out in the middle of the ocean), I devoted myself to reading the Bible. I was especially moved by the accounts of Jesus’ life on earth. He was a perfect man with abilities far beyond anything I could imagine, yet he never promoted himself. His life was not about himself but about his heavenly Father.
I saw that I needed to put God’s Kingdom first in my life
As I meditated on Jesus’ example, I saw that I needed to put God’s Kingdom first in my life rather than fitting it in around the various things that I wanted to do. (Matthew 6:33) When Laurie and I finally reached land in the United States, we decided to settle down there and focus on our worship.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED:
My former, egocentric lifestyle came with a large dose of uncertainty. Now, however, I have found a source of unerring wisdom to guide me. (Isaiah 48:17, 18) I have also gained a purpose in life that I never had before—worshipping God and helping others to learn about him.
By applying Bible principles, Laurie and I have strengthened our marriage substantially. We have also been blessed with a beautiful daughter, who has grown to know and love Jehovah.
It’s not that our life has always been smooth sailing. But with Jehovah’s help, we are determined never to give up or stop trusting in him.—Proverbs 3:5, 6.