I Will Be With You

Part 6: My Experiences at the Mission House in Essen by Salomon Weissburger (1887-1968)

One day, Brother Karl Arbeiter pointed out one of the books on our distribution list and told me, “That book cannot be sent out anymore!” 

We still had a lot of copies in stock, so I asked, “Why not?” 

He answered, “The information this book contains is true, but it is not presented in a good spirit!” At that moment, I realized that the truth has to come from the right place, that is, a place of love. I think that will always be true!

The scripture from 1 Corinthians 13 surely applies here as well, where we read, “And though I have…all knowledge…but have not love, I am nothing.” We know that love does not seek its own, but people are quick to cite “the truth” in pursuit of their selfish ends.

The mission house was built on faith and prayer, and God honored our faith by providing us with what we needed to survive. With so many young sisters and brothers in the mission house, romance may have seemed natural, but romantic interludes were not permitted. People who wanted to enter into a relationship with deliberation and honorable intentions first had to discuss this with the head of the mission house.

My spiritual work begins

By the summer of 1908, I had largely overcome my inner struggles and was assured of my salvation and sanctification. It was at this time that I was first asked to say something about the kingdom of God in an evening service. While I did so from where I was sitting in the pew, it was not long before I had to speak from the pulpit. However, I was not in the least thinking about preaching; I only wanted to help out.

Thanks to my good memory and all the reading I had done, I was very familiar with the Holy Scriptures and had a strong foundation in the truth. God’s Word, spiritual literature, my experiences, and doctrinal teachings all played a role. Back then, as today, my primary task was to interpret the Bible with regard to doctrine. Later, I was able to serve as a shepherd in Essen and the surrounding areas.

On January 19, 1910, I married Sister Sophie Finkbeiner, and in 1911, I began working with congregations in a practical capacity. I was sent to Tipolno in the district of Schwetz, West Prussia, where I served in the community and its surroundings. During this time, I also visited congregations in East Prussia, in and around Königsberg and in Tilsit. I still remember the camp services in the district of Schönsee. I spent around four weeks in the district of Ortelsburg, in Georgensgut with the Hard family, in Willenberg, and in other places.

We had to learn

I would like to mention one lesson we had to learn as we came to realize that we had made a number of mistakes in our organization. The core issue was that young, inexperienced preachers were sent abroad, or went of their own accord, without necessarily having a strong foundation in their soul and in the truth. That turned out not to be a good thing; it was unwise and caused many problems. Whether in Germany or abroad, nobody should work as an itinerant preacher or be sent into the field without having successfully served at home in at least one congregation.

Even if they have attended Bible school, young men simply going into the field lack experience and firm foundations. Not infrequently, this ends up causing damage, for example if they develop an inflated ego that gets in the way when they attempt to establish, build, or maintain congregations. 

The same goes for traveling pastors and Bible school teachers. Only people who have earned the general trust of the congregations should be in these positions. The key factor is not age but practical experience. That is why the apostles and the leaders of the Early Church first had to spend so many years in Jerusalem together; otherwise, they would not have been able to properly serve as apostles and itinerant preachers. 

Thanks to Timothy’s good reputation in his home congregation, Paul took him along on his trips (Acts 16:1–3). Even for the apostle Paul, around 17 years passed between his conversion and his recognition by the other apostles (Galatians 2:9). Despite the miracle of his conversion (Acts 9) and the clear mission that God had for him (Acts 9:15–16), around 15 years passed before he was sent out into the mission field by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1–3). Certainly a capable man, Paul was not all that young anymore and had already amassed significant influence, but even he first had to find a firm footing in his spiritual life. Others might take even longer to reach that stage. There is no shortage of bad experiences to back this claim up.

God was with us

When I was in eastern Germany back then, the community of Heinrichsberg, West Prussia, began opening up as Brother and Sister Adam recognized the truth. Brother Wilhelm Adam was a man who exercised great influence in the work in that region. After World War I, I was able to return to the congregation in Heinrichsberg with Brother Zuber. Since we did not have access to a suitable meeting room, we met in a barn. Being winter, it became so cold that it was impossible to stay in the barn, but we fortunately found a man who provided access to two rooms in his house. For having helped us, this man was later excluded from the local religious community, but God led events so that Brother Wilhelm Adam became the local mayor, and his community then let us use their church for the next revival service we held in that area.

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