The Chief of Police

When my wife, my  five-year-old son and I went to Greece for the first time in 1978 to visit my "dying" mother-in-law, (who had moved back to their little farm in the mountains of the Peloponnesus with her husband after twenty years in Canada, where they had learned the truth. By the way, my mother-in-law lived another twenty years) we had stopped  by at the newly build Bethel in Athens first. The brother behind the reception desk took an interest in us, showed us around the Bethel and asked us where in the Peloponnesus my wife's parents were living. When my wife told him he gave kind of a short whistle and said that that particular area was one of the two worst provinces in all of Greece for the Witnesses. The other being on the island of Crete. The brothers had a particularly hard time there during the ban and things weren’t much better now. Even the Circuit Overseer usually had to sneak in to visit the brothers and then leave after a day or two. He made us promise that before we returned to Canada we would come by the Bethel again and report any experiences we may have in the short three weeks we were going to stay. And what pleasant experiences we had. We returned to the Bethel before our departure back home and the brother was expecting us. He made notes, laughed and wiped his eyes as he got involved with what my wife was telling him. He told us that if we love Jehovah we would move to Greece as he was sure Jehovah had send us, since we could be used in an area not readily accessible to others. We too had come to that conclusion.

Sorry for the long intro but there are a few details I need to share to appreciate about the chief of police. Back home I made this situation a matter of fervent prayer to Jehovah. I asked him how I could possibly be of any use to him in a foreign country as I did not know the language nor had the talent to learn. Like a baby I would have to learn to speak again. I was blessed with many privileges where I was living, had a good job and a comfortable house and it would be a huge move to uproot my family. But I was willing to move anywhere in the world if I was sure that is what Jehovah wanted. So, I asked him for one sign to make sure the moving to Greece had his blessing. I needed a car once we were in Greece. We would be staying with my in-laws and they lived in a small mountainous village. Without transportation we would be stuck to the village and surrounding area and not accomplish much, and in a short time would get discouraged and want to go home again. Since I had no money to buy a car in Greece, which were very expensive as they were considered luxury items and heavily taxed, I asked Jehovah that if we had his blessing on the move to Greece he would have to provide us with a car once we were there. And he did. A 1967(?) Volkswagon Bus. It turned out to be the ideal means of transportation. It had previously belonged to a journalist and had a desk and sleeping facility, and we could stay away from our home base overnight and also transport the brothers to our meetings. (How we were able to get the VW, keep it running and fixed up when necessary, on our modest special pioneer allowance is an amazing story in itself.) And this VW bus turned out to be a huge blessing, as we will see.

We had a couple of zealous brothers who lived an hour walk from where we lived and who regularly joined the five of us for our Sunday meetings. I would drive to pick them up and along the way give any villager we saw walking also a ride into town. Sometimes my VW was cramped beyond capacity. The priests got to see that and imagined that all those people were coming to our meetings. I should mention that in our area there was a famous monastery and thus had quite a few priests residing there, and always others visiting. Our presence became well known in a short time. And remember this was one of the two worst areas for the Witnesses in all of Greece. Daily they went to the chief of police in the principal town for our district and a twenty minute drive from us, to complain about us and our meetings we were having at my father-in-law's home. And as we discovered later, were sending letters of complaints about us to the Minister of Immigration and Interior in Athens. They were complaining about us stealing their sheep. In Greece there was a law against proselytizing.

I was having problems with the steering box of our VW and had noticed a wrecked older VW abandoned off the side of the road. So, one day my wife and I decided to go to the police to see if we could find out who the old VW belonged to that maybe I could buy the gear box. We were ushered into the office of the chief of police who ordered us a cup of Greek coffee. We talked small talk. He wanted to know how it is that my wife had married a non-Greek, and if she had changed her religion from the Greek Orthodox Faith, as is often the case. And that is when he discovered that we were the ones the priests were daily complaining to him about (that's how we found out). He confided in us that he had no respect for the priests. Valuable icons were going missing from the monastery and there was a big fight among the priests as they were accusing each other of stealing the icons in order to sell them for the gold frames. He inquired about our meetings, wanting to know what they were about, and expressed the desire to attend one sometime. He was a little familiar with the Witnesses as they had been banned for many years. We had some literature with us which we left with him.

This town was the main shopping center for the entire district and so we would occasionally drive there to do our shopping. We also had a kind, elderly brother there, a blacksmith, who had endured much persecution in previous years and we would always visit him. We soon learned that the chief of police would often look out the window of his little office, overlooking the plaza, hoping he would catch sight of us. And when he did he would come down to the little plaza with a friendly smile and tell us that he wanted to see us in his office in about ten minutes. Coffee would be waiting for us as he warmly welcomed us. He would inform us about the latest news and be full of questions about the Bible. He was so hungry for the truth. We would sometimes spend almost an hour in his office and leave with him the latest literature we’d have with us.

He learned that we were driving to Athens once a month (to pick up our allowance at the Bethel) and he would arrange his schedule so he could come with us. He would wait for us just outside the town early in the morning, hop into our VW bus and we would spend the whole trip, six hours, talking about the truth. He assured us we did not need to worry about the priests as all they could do was complain, although sometimes he had to caution us about not doing something on a particular day or in a certain village. He surely must have been provided by Jehovah. The brothers in Bethel were amazed at how we were able to function in that area and the studies we had. Even the circuit overseer enjoyed accompanying us in our territory. And he took me along on his circuit tour as I had a vehicle while he didn't.

In a short time the chief of police was promoted to four stars. He told us a few times that once he was retired, in another five years, he would study the Bible in earnest with the Witnesses. His actual home was in a large seaport on the northern coast of the Peloponnesus and that is where he would retire. What happened to him? I am certain that Jehovah remembers the loving-kindness of this man towards us and has blessed him accordingly. We felt a sense of gratitude and deep affection for this humble man. After about a year we were reassigned by the Bethel to work with a tiny congregation in a different province further south and so did not have much contact with him anymore. He came to visit us once in our new home.

But no matter how helpful and protective the chief of police had been to us he could not prevent all those letters of complaint from the priests being send to the Minster responsible for immigration. We were to discover that they had a thick file on us. We had to renew our visa every three months. It would have been easy for the government to get rid of us simply by not renewing our visa. That was about to happen, but again Jehovah's angel had found someone to help us, and what was about to become a curse turned into a blessing. But that is another story.


Make Sure of All Things