I unexpectedly received a telegram ordering me to return home immediately. It was signed by my brother, but as it turned out, the actual sender was a Jewish teacher who wanted to guide me back to Judaism. In response to the telegram, I returned home, where I spent several days locked in intense conflict. I was urged to return to my old job with the Jewish businessman, which I very much did not want to do. I prayed a lot until an inner voice called, “Flee!”
Secretly, I left southern Germany by taking the train north, to Brother Karl Arbeiter in the city of Essen. When I told him what had happened, he said, “You did not do the right thing! You should submit to your parents but still remain true to the Lord!”
He asked, “Do you want to return home?”
I answered, “If that is God’s will, then I will return home.”
When God saved me, He laid the spirit of obedience into my heart so that I would be willing to do God’s will under any and all circumstances. I wrote to my parents, asking for forgiveness for having left home without their approval and saying that I would be willing to return if they wished me to. It took around three weeks for a reply to arrive. In the meantime, it had been a great blessing to me to spend time with Brother Karl Arbeiter. I was baptized and took part in the ordinances in accordance with the New Testament. The letter to my parents was answered by my uncle, who asked me to join his business.
Return to My Family
Before I left Essen again, Brother Karl Arbeiter prayed with me. He admonished me to submit my life and death to the Lord. I followed that instruction with all my heart, and I believe that I experienced sanctification at the time. The power of the Holy Spirit, with His fruits, became evident to me in the conflicts that I faced soon after.
You can imagine how I felt on the journey home and how I was greeted by my family. However, I had a strong certainty that the Lord Jesus was with me. For a few weeks, I was placed under the utmost pressure to return to the Israelite religion. They took my Bible away, and any correspondence with sisters and brothers of the Church of God was cut off. However, a few letters were held at the post office for me, as was a New Testament, which I guarded like a precious treasure—in my shirt pocket during the day and under my pillow during the night—until it was discovered and taken away too. That is one example of why it is so important to love the Word of God and keep it in our heads and hearts, not only as words on a page. Those weeks were filled with the most intense battles, but the Lord stood by me and was wonderfully near to me. I spent a lot of time in secret prayer. In response, the Lord gave me complete victory and took away almost all temptations. My heart was also filled with sincere pity and compassion for my family. It was a good thing that Brother Karl Arbeiter had prayed with me before this big battle began and that I had received the power of the Holy Spirit, which helped me to successfully endure these trials with love, peace, and patience. The fruits of our actions show whose spiritual children we are.
When my relatives realized that they would not be able to separate me from Jesus through direct pressure, they took a different approach. At that time, Germany was waging a colonial war in Africa, and they asked me to join up. Since I had promised to submit to my parents in all things, I did as they asked. However, the Lord prevented me from being accepted. When this approach failed, they wanted me to sign on as a cabin boy in a ship, probably thinking that my peculiar new beliefs would be beaten out of me by the other crew members. However, the application process required them to pay a bond of 300 German Marks, which they were unwilling to do; in 1905, that was still a lot of money, so that approach failed as well.
When my relatives saw that they were making no progress with me—keeping in mind that they were probably ashamed that one of them, who had high status in the community, had rejected Judaism to accept Christianity—my father reluctantly gave me permission to go wherever I wanted. These events took place between May and September 1905.
I immediately set out for Essen to be with the community of believers there, having so personally experienced the truth of the Lord’s promise, “I will be with you!”
Looking back on this time in my life, there is one thing that stands out to me. As a young child in Christ, I was powerfully drawn to the meetings and congregations of children of God and to a pastor in order to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord. Earthly advantages or disadvantages did not enter the equation. I was driven by the urge to make spiritual progress.
These things are taken much less seriously today. People leave congregations or move to cities without a community of believers for the sake of worldly advantages. Many end up in similar situations to Lot, who prioritized material considerations and moved to Sodom; they, too, move to places where they lose their spiritual life. But the Lord says, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:24).
It is another matter if we move somewhere with the goal of beginning a new congregation to lead people to Jesus; that motivation can come from the Lord. As I look back, I can only praise and thank the Lord for having given me complete victory in all the intense conflict with my relatives.