I thought these experiences tied in nicely with today's text - both, in not allowing the actions or thinking of those around us 'pressure' us into conforming or caving into un-Christian behavior, but also to remind us that our conduct is noticed by others (even the authorities, in this case) which is why it's so important that we always "behave in a manner worthy of the good news about the Christ" (Philippians 1:27)
(photo & experience of Nikolai Gutsulyak on pgs 194 & 195 of the 2008 Yearbook)
The brothers took advantage of opportunities to witness to others, and at times their efforts were richly rewarded. Nikolai Gutsulyak recalls: "We often obtained food products from the camp food kiosk. Every time it was my turn to get food, I tried to say a few words on some Bible topic. The woman who handed out the food always listened carefully and once asked me to read something to her. Three days later, an officer called me to the gate. He told me and another Witness to install glass in a window of the camp commander's home. "Accompanied by soldiers, the brother and I went into the city. When we got to the house, the door was opened by the woman who worked at the food kiosk. She was the camp commander's wife! One soldier stood inside, and two stood outside on the street next to the window. Treating us to some tea, the woman asked us to tell her more about the Bible. That day we put glass in her window and gave her a thorough witness. When our conversation ended, she said: 'Don't be afraid of me. My parents were God-fearing people, just like you.' She read our literature in secret, without the knowledge of her husband, who hated the Witnesses."
Bonuses For Good Conduct (pgs 193 & 194)
Camp employees who worked directly with Jehovah's Witnesses in one camp received a bonus of up to 30 percent of their salary. Why? Viktor Gutshmidt (the brother from this previous post) explains: "A former cashier in the camp told me about this. She said that in camps where many of our brothers were held, the camp employees were told not to lose their temper or swear and always to be tactful and polite. For this good conduct, they would receive an increased salary. It was done purposely to show everyone that Jehovah's Witnesses were not the only ones who lived exemplary lives and that nothing differentiated them from others. So the employees were paid for their good conduct. There were many working in the camp - medical personnel, workmen, accountants, foremen - a total of about a hundred people. No one wanted to lose the chance to make extra money. One day a brother working outside the camp overheard a brigade overseer cursing loudly. The next day the brother met him inside the camp and said: 'Someone in the guardhouse must have made you really angry. You were swearing so loudly!' The man admitted: 'No, it's just that everything was building up inside of me during the course of the day. So I went outside the camp to let off steam.' Really, it was a burden for people to conduct themselves in the same way that Jehovah's Witnesses did."
He Arrived At "Another Country" (pgs 180 & 181)
Even in the most unexpected situations, it was evident what Jehovah's Witnesses were really like. Viktor Gutshmidt recalls: "At the end of one workweek when we were sitting around in the garden, some expensive electrical appliances were brought into the camp where we were being held. The driver making the delivery was, not our spiritual brother, but a prisoner from our camp, and the purchasing manager accompanying him was from another camp. Since the storeroom was closed and the man in charge was on vacation, the Witnesses were asked to accept the delivery of the merchandise and unload it. We unloaded the appliances and stacked them next to the storeroom not far from the barracks where our brothers lived. The purchasing manager was very nervous about making this unofficial delivery without a signed confirmation of receipt from the storeroom manager. But the driver assured him: 'Don't be afraid. No one here will touch anything. You've arrived at "another country." Forget what happens outside the territory of the camp. Here you can take your wristwatch off and leave it anywhere, and tomorrow you will find it in the same place.' The purchasing manager insisted that because the merchandise was valued at half a million rubles, he could not just leave it unsigned for. Soon men from the camp administration arrived, demanding that the truck leave the camp. One of them told the purchasing manager to leave the delivery invoice and pick it up the next day. Reluctantly, he left. The next morning he returned and asked to enter the camp to get the invoice signed, but the guard handed it to him already signed. Later the guard told us that the purchasing manager could not bring himself to leave the camp. For half an hour, he stood and stared at the gate and at the documents, turned to leave, and then turned again and stared some more. It was probably the first time in his life that he had seen anything quite like it. The delivery of valuable merchandise had been completed and the invoice had been signed without him, and everything had been done honestly. But most interesting of all, this had occured at a maximum-security labor camp where prisoners labeled 'especially dangerous offenders' were serving their time. Yes, no matter how propaganda was directed against the Witnesses, when similar incidents occurred, all observers could clearly understand what Jehovah's Witnesses were really like."
"And this is what I continue praying,...that YOU may make sure of the more important things, so that YOU may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ, and may be filled with righteous fruit, which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise. Now I desire YOU to know, brothers, that my affairs have turned out for the advancement of the good news rather than otherwise, so that my bonds have become public knowledge in association with Christ among all the Prae·to´ri·an Guard and all the rest; and most of the brothers in [the] Lord, feeling confidence by reason of my [prison] bonds, are showing all the more courage to speak the word of God fearlessly."