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“I Have Learned So Much From Others!”

“I Have Learned So Much From Others!”

IT WAS a pitch-black night in the mountains of Algeria, where my French regiment was camped, and the battles in Algeria had become especially fierce. Machine gun in hand, I was alone at my guard post, a stack of sandbags. Suddenly, the silence was broken by the crunch of approaching footsteps. I froze. I was just out of my teens and had no desire to kill or to be killed. I cried out: “God! Oh, God!”

That scary event changed my life because it marked the beginning of my quest for the Creator. But before I relate what happened next on that dark night, let me tell you about the childhood experiences that influenced my thinking and prepared my heart to search for God.


I was born in 1937 in Guesnain, a mining town in northern France. From my father, a coal miner, I learned the value of hard work. I also adopted his strong sense of justice, which moved him to act in behalf of miners who endured poor working conditions. In an effort to improve their situation, Father got involved in trade unions and strikes. He was also upset by the hypocrisy he saw among local priests. Many lived in relative luxury; yet, they asked for food and money from miners who were struggling to make a living. Father was so disgusted with the priests’ behavior that he gave me no religious education. In fact, we never even spoke about God.

As I grew up, I too began to hate injustice. That injustice included the prejudice shown by some against the foreigners living in France. I played soccer with the children of immigrants and enjoyed their company. Besides, my mother was Polish, not French. I longed for racial peace and equality.


When I was in the army

I was conscripted into the military in 1957. That is how I ended up in the Algerian mountains on the dark night described earlier. After I cried “God! Oh, God!” I came face-to-face, not with an enemy soldier, but with a wild donkey! What a relief that was! Still, that event​—and the war itself—​made me think more seriously about the meaning of life. Why are we here? Does God care about us? Will we ever have lasting peace?

Later, while I was on leave at my parents’ home, I met one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He gave me a copy of La Sainte Bible, a French Catholic translation of the Bible, which I began to read after I returned to Algeria. A particular passage that struck me was Revelation 21:3, 4. It reads: “The tent of God is with mankind . . . And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” * These words surprised me. ‘Could they be true?’ I wondered. At the time, I knew practically nothing about God and the Bible.

After I completed my military service in 1959, I met a Witness named François, who taught me many Bible truths. For example, he showed me in the Bible that God has a personal name, Jehovah. (Ps. 83:18) François also explained that Jehovah will bring justice to the earth, turn the earth into a paradise, and fulfill the words of Revelation 21:3, 4.

Those teachings made a lot of sense, and they touched my heart. But I also became very angry at the priests and wanted to denounce them for teaching things that are not in the Bible! It seems that I was still influenced by my father’s views, and I was impatient. I wanted to do something immediately!

François and my other newfound Witness friends helped me to calm down. They explained that our work as Christians is not to judge but to offer hope by means of the good news of God’s Kingdom. That is the work Jesus did and the work he gave his followers to do. (Matt. 24:14; Luke 4:43) I also had to learn to speak to people kindly and tactfully, regardless of their beliefs. The Bible says: “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all.”​—2 Tim. 2:24.

I made the needed changes and got baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1959 at a circuit assembly. There I met a young sister named Angèle, whom I was attracted to. I started visiting the congregation she attended, and we got married in 1960. She is truly an excellent woman, a wonderful wife, and a precious gift from Jehovah.​—Prov. 19:14.

On our wedding day


Over the years, I have learned many important lessons from wise and experienced brothers. High on the list is this: To succeed in any challenging assignment, we have to be humble and apply the wisdom found at Proverbs 15:22, which states: “There is accomplishment through many advisers.”

In the circuit work in France, 1965

In 1964, I started to see just how truthful those inspired words are. In that year, I began serving as a circuit overseer, visiting congregations to encourage the brothers and build them up spiritually. However, I was 27 years old at the time and lacked experience. So I made mistakes. But I tried to learn from them. Above all, I learned many valuable lessons from capable and experienced “advisers.”

An early example comes to mind. After I visited a congregation in Paris, a spiritually mature brother asked me if he could have a private word with me. “Sure,” I said.

He asked, “Louis, when a doctor makes a home visit, whom does he go to see?”

“The sick,” I replied.

He said: “That’s right. But I have observed that you spend most of your time with ones doing well spiritually, such as the congregation overseer. Our congregation has many brothers and sisters who are discouraged, new, or shy. They would deeply appreciate your spending time with them, even going to their homes for a meal.”

That dear brother’s counsel was both valid and invaluable. His love for Jehovah’s sheep touched my heart. So I swallowed my pride and immediately began to apply what he said. I thank Jehovah for brothers like that.

In the years 1969 and 1973, I was appointed to oversee the Food Service Department at two international conventions in Colombes, Paris. At the 1973 convention, about 60,000 people had to be fed for five days! I was intimidated, to say the least. But once again, the key to success was Proverbs 15:22​—consult the wise. I sought the advice of spiritually mature men who had experience in the food industry. They included butchers, vegetable growers, cooks, and purchasers. Together, we were able to fulfill a mountainlike assignment.

In 1973, my wife and I were invited to serve at Bethel in France. My first assignment there proved to be yet another big challenge. I had to get literature to our brothers in the African country of Cameroon, where our work was banned between 1970 and 1993. Again, I felt overwhelmed. Perhaps detecting that, the brother then overseeing the work in France encouraged me, saying: “Our brothers in Cameroon are in great need of spiritual food. Let’s feed them!” And feed them we did.

At a special meeting in Nigeria with Witnesses from Cameroon, 1973

I made several trips to countries bordering Cameroon to meet with elders from that country. Those courageous and discreet men helped me to make the needed arrangements to get a regular supply of spiritual food into Cameroon. Jehovah blessed our efforts. In fact, for some 20 years, his people in that land never missed a single issue of The Watchtower and of a monthly publication then called Our Kingdom Service.

In 1977, Angèle and I enjoyed visiting in Nigeria with circuit overseers and their wives from Cameroon


From the very start of our courtship, I observed Angèle’s spiritual qualities. Those qualities became even more evident in our married life. In fact, on the very evening of our wedding day, she asked me to pray about our desire to serve Jehovah to the full as a married couple. Jehovah answered that prayer.

Angèle has also helped me to trust more fully in Jehovah. To illustrate: When in 1973 we were invited to serve at Bethel, I hesitated because I loved the circuit work. But Angèle reminded me that we had dedicated our lives to Jehovah. Should we not do whatever his organization asks us to do? (Heb. 13:17) How could I argue with that! So off to Bethel we went. Throughout our long life together, my wife’s discretion, soundness of mind, and spiritual outlook have strengthened our marriage and helped us to make good decisions.

With Angèle in the garden of Bethel, France

In our advancing years, Angèle continues to be an excellent, supportive wife. For example, in order to attend theocratic schools, many of which are conducted in English, Angèle and I began working hard to improve in that language. That included joining an English-speaking congregation, even though we were in our mid-70’s at the time. Because of my responsibilities as a member of the France Branch Committee, studying another language was a challenge. But Angèle and I helped each other. Now in our 80’s, we continue to prepare for our congregation meetings in both English and French. We also try to share as often as we can in the meetings and ministry with our congregation. Jehovah has blessed our efforts to learn English.

One outstanding blessing came along in 2017. Angèle and I had the privilege of attending the School for Branch Committee Members and Their Wives, held at the Watchtower Educational Center at Patterson, New York.

Jehovah truly is the Grand Instructor. (Isa. 30:20) So it is no surprise that his people​—old and young—​get the very best education possible! (Deut. 4:5-8) Indeed, I have observed that young ones who listen both to Jehovah and to experienced brothers and sisters make fine spiritual progress and become successful adults. Proverbs 9:9 reminds us: “Share with a wise person, and he will become wiser. Teach someone righteous, and he will add to his learning.”

Occasionally, I reflect on that dark, scary night in the mountains of Algeria some 60 years ago. Little did I know then what good lay ahead for me. I have learned so much from others! Jehovah has truly given me, as well as Angèle, a rich and rewarding life. So we are determined never to stop learning from our heavenly Father and from wise and experienced brothers and sisters who love him.

^ par. 11 New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.