Friday, October 9, 2009

How The Ministry Got Started In Yugoslavia...

(following experiences & pictures from pgs 143-150 of the 2009 Yearbook)

At The Beginning
How did the work of Jehovah's people have it's start in this area? Our story begins with a young barber named Franz Brand, (photo to the left) a native of the northern region of Yugoslavia called Vojvodina. He had traveled to Austria in search of work. While there, he came in contact with the truth, which he brought back to his hometown in 1925. He joined a small group who had been reading and discussing the Bible study aids Studies in the Scriptures, which they had received from relatives in the United States. The group discerned the need to preach, and two booklets explaining Bible teachings were translated into Serbian. Sadly, before these booklets could be distributed, the group was visited by a prominent brother who had turned against the organization and formed his own sect. He persuaded everyone but Franz to leave the Bible Students. Franz then moved to Maribor, Slovenia, where he found work at a barbershop. He witnessed to the owner of the shop, Richard Tautz, who accepted the truth. Dubbed the Bible-believing barbers, Franz and Richard used the shop as a center for preaching. Their customers listened attentively - They did not seem to want to move or speak while being shaved! One customer was a politician named Đuro Džamonja. Another customer was Rudolf Kalle, the owner of a typewriter repair shop. Both Đuro and Rudolf made rapid progress and were soon baptized. Đuro abandoned politics and helped to establish The Lighthouse Society of Bible Students in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. This legal entity enabled the brothers to preach and hold meetings freely.
(Here's the link to a previous post about Rudolf Kalle )


The "Photo-Drama" Opens The Way
In 1931 the branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses in Switzerland sent two brothers to show "The Photo-Drama of Creation" in large cities throughout Yugoslavia. Halls were packed, and audiences were very attentive as Đuro presented the material. The "Photo-Drama" generated interest in Bible truth throughout the country. Meanwhile, in Maribor the brothers conducted meetings in both the Slovenian and German languages. And in Zagreb and surrounding areas, groups gathered to discuss publications that had been translated into Croatian.
Next, the brothers decided to begin translation of The Watchtower into both Slovenian and Croatian - a daunting task in those early days. After a magazine was translated, a sister typed it using carbon paper, which would produce only 20 copies at a time. Later, when a mimeograph machine was obtained, production increased to 200 copies of The Watchtower at a time.
Equipped with these magazines, brothers and sisters would travel by train to various parts of Yugoslavia to preach. At times, brothers in Slovenia rented an open-top truck and hired a non-Witness driver. He would drive them to the area where they wanted to preach and would wait the entire day until they finished. In the early days, these Kingdom proclaimers had little training and their message was at times blunt; yet, Jehovah blessed their efforts by helping them find "those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life." (Acts 13:48)


"I heard about the truth in 1931 from my aunt Terezija Gradič, and her husband Franc," remembers Franc Sagmeister. "He was among the first publishers in Slovenia. Though formerly a great opponent of religion, Franc began to read the Bible eagerly. That made a big impression on me, so I joined him in studying the Scriptures. Despite opposition from my family, I wanted to share my newly acquired knowledge with others. When this was brought to the attention of the parish priest, he promptly called me in to see him. He told me that I was not allowed to have a Bible because I could not understand it. I refused to give him my copy. Later, when my father died, the priest approached me on the street, furious that I hadn't paid for a single Mass to be said for my father. I told him, 'I would pay for a hundred Masses, even a thousand, if they would help my father.'
" 'It helps, it helps!' said the priest.
" 'If he is in heaven,' I said, 'he doesn't need your Mass, and if he is in hell, he wouldn't need one.'
" 'But what if he is in purgatory?' demanded the priest.
" 'Mister priest,' I said, 'you well know that I own a great deal of property. I am ready right now to go to the lawyer's office and sign it all over to you if you can prove to me from the Bible that man has an immortal soul that lives on after death, that hell and purgatory exist, and that God is some kind of Trinity.'
"He glared at me, lit up a cigarette, and left."