Advancing Under Difficulty in Europe

Will normal times return soon?

By E. R. COLSON, Treasurer of the Northern European Division

We are living in serious, momentous days. Even men of the world, who are little of eternal and religious themes, realize and believe this. Great changes and events take place rapidly. Nations and countries lose their independence overnight, or before breakfast. Destruction reigns on every -hand. The Spirit of prophecy says that the final movements will be rapid ones. This will be true not only in the social and political worlds, but also in the religious realm. At a time like this, our leaders and people need to be alert, watching and praying, so that they be not overtaken unawares.

Satan uses every means within his power to disrupt and disorganize our work, and he is well acquainted with the most effective means. He knows, as it is also our privilege to know, that external influences and powers are not to be feared by God's people so much as are those that come from within our organ­ization. War, government restrictions, intoler­ance, persecution, famine, pestilence, and kin­dred disturbances may hinder the work to some degree and in certain respects, but if our lead­ers and members are loyal and true to the prin­ciples of our movement, our work will become stronger in spite of all external opposition.

I fear that some may be deceived into think­ing that normal times will soon return again, and that our work in the near future can be carried on as hitherto. Normal times may re­turn to certain sections of the world again, but other large sections may never see them again. Great revolutionary tendencies have taken place in nearly every realm of thought and practice. Times will never again be what they have been. The Spirit of prophecy bears this out.

Old standards of government, principles, and security are being replaced, or have been replaced, by new ones. The Lord has told us that as the end nears, travel from place to place will become more and more difficult. We have experienced this during the past year. It is getting next to impossible for our world leaders to contact many countries even by letter, to say nothing of making personal visits in these fields. Letters are censored and many times lost in passage. Telegrams and telephonic messages are tapped, censored, con­troled. and even prohibited.

Before the war of 1914-18, passports were used very little. Visas were still more infre­quent. Even a year ago there were six or seven countries in Europe that did not require a visa. But conditions have now greatly changed.

In December of last year, before leaving England to visit the Scandinavian and Baltic countries, Elder W. E. Read and I needed to secure four or five different permits, each of which required from two to four weeks. A valid passport was, of course, necessary, and this was not the easiest thing to secure for an American. A valid visa for each country was also necessary, and most of the author­ities required guaranties that visitors would not be stranded within their borders. These papers are often impossible to get. No coun­try in these uncertain days wants to guarantee anyone passage after two or three months' time. As I had lived in Sweden a number of years, I was able to secure a visa for that country, valid for two months and for several trips, which greatly facilitated my traveling over there.

At another time, we had to get exit per­mits in order to leave England. I understand that now such a permit is nearly impossible to secure. No country wants either its own subjects or others to leave its shores with valuable information that might be available for a hostile power. Then again we needed a permit to take documents along, such as letters, sermon notes, statistics, and balance sheets. Photographs and pictures were abso­lutely prohibited. Lastly, we needed a permit for the export of traveling money.

After having secured these permits, one's troubles were not over. No traveling bureau is able to give definite information in regard to the time of departure of boats. If this were given, it might come to the knowledge of the enemy, and thus result in the loss of life and property. Boats leave whenever they have enough cargo, and weather and conditions permit. One might be compelled to spend several weeks at a hotel near the port of embarkation, waiting for a boat to leave. These traveling difficulties prevailed during the past winter. At the present time, travel in large sections of Europe is utterly out of the question. It is next to impossible to get passports, exit permits, or visas, and it is dangerous to travel even if these permits could be secured.

Personal visits or contacts with the fields of Northern Europe are therefore nearly out of the question. The same is coming to be true also in other parts of Europe. Postal service is irregular and uncertain. Reports and letters are often not delivered. Communi­cation between belligerent or occupied coun­tries is impossible. For this reason many of our fields are entirely isolated, and no counsel can be sent in or out. Our work and workers there are entirely cut off from the rest of our work, What has taken place in Europe and in the Near East may soon take place in other parts of the world. According to prophecy, conditions will not improve. It is Satan's plan to isolate our work as much as possible and then bring in division, dissension, and dis­organization. Unless our leaders are well balanced, well grounded, and versed in the principles of our message, loyal and true to our high standards, and having a knowledge of the times and perils, it will be easy for Satan to accomplish his purpose.

In a time like this, our people may be tempted to lose sight of our mission program and our world-wide work unless our leaders are wise in their leadership. In Europe today it is impossible to export money for mission purposes except from three countries. In several of the European countries, the trans­mission of mission offerings is being made through the regular channels.

Unless we as leaders use tact and wisdom, our people may feel that it is impossible to make any effort along foreign mission lines. We are a mission-conscious people. We should ever remain so. Our eyes should ever be on the ripening fields, and our prayers ever con­cerned with the progress of the harvesting. If we lose sight of our interest in these essen­tial things, we are bound to lose out spiritually.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for leaders of foreign nationality to work in many of the European fields. The work permits and visas needed are often refused. Several of our leaders have been compelled to leave for this reason. The responsibility falls more and more on indigenous workers. We need to de­velop strong, able local leaders in each field, men who know the truth and our organization, men of firm conviction and character, loyal and devoted, who will be able, by the help of God, to stand alone and lead the work and workers on to victory. Some of these men may have to stand alone without outside coun­sel for years at a time.

Will normal times return soon? No one knows, but it seems probable that such coun­tries as the Baltic States, eastern Poland, and Bessarabia may be isolated for some time to conic. Undoubtedly other fields besides these will have their difficulties. All need to learn to hold steady under adversity and to go for­ward with our allotted work, in spite of isola­tion and other obstacles. I am glad to state that during the last few years the leaders of the Northern European Division have been endeavoring to train and educate strong na­tional leaders in all our fields. We believe that during these crisis years, be they many or few, our leaders in the different fields will hold steady and firm to our organization and doctrines, and will keep the work intact, even though they may be separated from other fields.

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By E. R. COLSON, Treasurer of the Northern European Division

November 1940

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