Living Assurance of Peace on Earth
—As exemplified by “Men of Goodwill” Assemblies in Canada
THE ten “Men of Goodwill” District Assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses held in Canada this past summer were a refreshing relief. To whom? To those tired of hearing about hate, riots, vicious crimes, war, drug abuse and soaring rates of illegitimacy and venereal disease.
These assemblies were living assurance to righteously disposed, thinking observers that there are on earth persons who, by their lives now, demonstrate that there can be a world of mankind without hatred, fear or war.
With a combined total attendance of 91,876, there were enough people on hand at the ten locations to preclude anyone’s claiming that what took place was coincidental or simply a happy accident.
Those attending the assemblies were interested in being God’s “men of goodwill.” This phrase comes from the Bible, which shows that man must have God’s goodwill or favor in order to gain lasting life and peace.—Luke 2:13, 14.
Willingly Working Together in Peace
To have attended all the conventions would have required quite a trip. The locations covered more than a 4,000-mile sweep of Canada from coast to coast. Of course, much work was required to prepare the program and to get the facilities ready at the ten assembly cities.
At Amherst, Nova Scotia, for example, because crowds were larger than expected, it took hard work to get enough chairs for seating. Through an arrangement with local officials every chair in every school within eighty-eight miles of Amherst was used. When these were not enough, Witnesses trucked in more from Halifax, 136 miles away.
How do the Witnesses get work like this organized? Many times simply by using methods found practical in their public ministry. An example is the cleaning up of the convention site in Edmonton, Alberta. Each of the seventeen local congregations had a “territory” assigned. The building was divided into that many sections. As volunteers reported for work they were asked which congregation they were from and were then assigned accordingly.
At these assemblies one saw a willingness to work in behalf of one’s fellowman that was truly remarkable. For example, at Prince George, British Columbia, in order to fill out the cafeteria menu, a Witness went out with his fishing boat and caught 2,800 pounds of salmon and halibut. He contributed this for the enjoyment of his Christian brothers.
But sometimes efforts did not at first seem to yield the desired results. In Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, great effort was made to persuade local officials to let the Witnesses use a blacktopped area near the assembly site for the cafeteria. No approach was successful. Another site had to be used. But how grateful the Witnesses were that it turned out that way. Why? During the assembly it was necessary for the city to dig up that blacktop in four places to try to locate the source of a sewer-backup problem. If they had been using that lot they would have had to move the cafeteria on the first day of the assembly.
Accommodating the Delegates
Locating accommodations for delegates is always one of the preconvention essentials. Thousands of Witness volunteers participated in the room search, glad to manifest Christian hospitality.
At Toronto, Ontario, York University offered its dormitories. This provided many rooms close together, and several hundred delegates were accommodated there. In Sherbrooke (Quebec), Edmonton and Amherst the dormitories of colleges and universities were also offered, the latter town’s Mount Allison University offering places for about 1,000 persons.
When it became obvious that the anticipated attendance of 2,500 persons at Amherst would be surpassed, the search had to be extended to Moncton, thirty-six miles distant. There, a woman, after turning down a caller, phoned in to say that she had a change of mind, that upon examining her motives she realized it was prejudice that caused her to refuse. Now she wanted to list rooms. Also, she explained that she was going to work on her neighbors who had been negative for the same reason. She did. For the next several days she called in repeatedly, saying, ‘Come on down and sign up Mrs. So and So. She’s ready to list.’ In this way accommodations for twenty-five were obtained.
Baptized as God’s “Men of Goodwill”
Many tears of joy were seen at the baptismal sites at the ten assemblies as sons, daughters and friends were hugged, congratulated and welcomed into Jehovah’s happy family of “men of goodwill.” At Sault Sainte Marie, as the 207 baptismal candidates stood to answer questions, it was interesting to note that among them youths predominated.
But there were many older ones baptized too. At Edmonton, where two local TV stations telecast the immersion, 208 persons were baptized. Among them were an elderly couple from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. They had long been searching for God’s truth, and had been affiliated with many different religions. About a year ago they started studying the Bible with the Witnesses. “We are no longer groping in the dark,” said the seventy-two-year-old wife. “We are so happy to have found the truth at last.” Her eighty-year-old husband added: “I never knew I had so many relatives.”
Among the 151 immersed at the Sherbrooke, Quebec, assembly was a woman from Levis. After she started studying the Bible her husband opposed her, threatening to force her to move out of the house and destroying her Bible literature. But, while looking after matters at home, she continued to study. Now she was baptized. What about her husband? Oh, he was immersed some six months ago. What had happened? A year ago the six-year-old daughter had asked him to read to her before she went to sleep. He agreed. She handed him the book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. He liked what he read. Eventually this led to his accepting the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. He read it, asked for a Bible study and was immersed in 1969.
The largest number immersed at any of the ten assemblies was at Toronto. Here 662 persons took the step, showing that they wanted to be God’s men of goodwill. At all ten assemblies in Canada there were 2,012 baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah, the God who gives peace.
More Delegates than Expected
Tractors ground to a halt, men came in from the fields, and families from across the prairies left their farms in midsummer for the Regina assembly. For many it took weeks of good planning to make attendance possible, but how happy they were for coming! It had been anticipated that 3,500 would come, but it was good that some brought lawn chairs, because on the final day, during the feature talk “Saving the Human Race—in the Kingdom Way,” 5,533 were on hand!
As at all ten assemblies, when a person walked through the crowds at the Sault Sainte Marie assembly he could feel the spirit of peace and contentment. There was excitement too over the fact that there were on hand many more than the 2,500 anticipated. How many came to hear the public talk? A total of 11,054!
At Edmonton it was a good thing that a building the size of the Edmonton Gardens was engaged. Although 4,500 were expected, it was clear on the first day that the 7,000-seat capacity would be needed. Can you imagine the excitement as the attendance rose day by day to almost double what had been estimated—8,255?
In Sherbrooke at the French-language assembly a total of 4,564 persons flocked into the 4,200-seat Palais des Sports for the public talk. The attendance had taken almost a 40-percent jump since opening day. And at Amherst, where 2,500 were expected, 6,221 persons packed into the assembly location. What an impact on a town of only some 10,500 population! This was the largest convention of any kind ever held in the Maritimes.
It had been estimated that about 16,000 persons would attend the Toronto assembly. But for the public talk there was almost double that number, or 31,272 persons—the largest of this series of assemblies in Canada. Indeed, interest in the Bible’s message of hope is growing at a tremendous rate, and as a result, attendance at all ten assemblies surpassed expectations.
The news media gave excellent coverage at a number of the assemblies. For example, at Sault Sainte Marie, FM Station CKCY, quite concerned that not all would get to hear the program due to the large crowds attending, offered to record parts of the program and play them. They played the entire drama based on the Bible book of Esther live on Friday night and then repeated their tape of it the next night on their AM station.
The Canadian Broadcasting Company’s French network spent two days at Sherbrooke filming the highlights of the assembly. La Tribune, a French-language paper, devoted about 30 percent of its front page to the assembly on the second day. On succeeding days there was at times over half a page of pictures.
Observations as to Peaceful Conduct
Many were the comments heard at the assembly cities to the effect that the Witnesses exemplify peace and good order. The reaction of the people of Sault Sainte Marie to the assembly was well summed up by a policeman who said: “You people brought a spirit of peacefulness to our town.”
At Amherst a householder said of her Witness guests: “Don’t you people make any noise? I had eight people here for four days and I would hardly know they were here.” A motel owner observed: “The finest people ever to be here, they’re welcome any time. . . . Obviously Jehovah’s Witnesses have something we don’t have.” And the chief of police commented: “They can come back any year—twice a year as far as I’m concerned.”
The good order and cleanliness at the Prince George assembly were observed by a health inspector who said: “You probably know more about this than I do.”
A management official at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack said that the gardener was amazed when he came in Monday morning “because not one flower had been broken.” During the assembly a security guard employee of the racetrack who talked to a reporter pointed to a sign reading “Keep Woodbine Clean” and said about the Witnesses: “It’s the first time I saw somebody really trying.”
Toronto’s Telegram also made observations about the Witnesses, such as: “Honesty and integrity of Witnesses is a constant. Whatever one may think about the Witnesses—and a lot of people think a lot of negative things—they live exemplary lives. And they all believe exactly the same thing about everything.” The Telegram further described them: “They also appear to be the kindest people one could hope to meet.” “Although there were thousands, there was no pushing, no shoving—not even a frayed temper from the heat.” “They are not anti-country; they are just pro-Jehovah,” the Telegram observed. “They don’t burn draft cards, rise up in rebellion . . . or engage in any form of sedition.”a
As the present system in all parts of the world continues to deteriorate at a rapid pace it is becoming more evident to those who think clearly that there is a body of earth’s inhabitants who stand out as a different society, exemplifying peace on earth.
That this peace-pursuing conduct is really based on love was evident when disaster struck a delegate and his family at Amherst. Their camper trailer caught on fire. Everything was lost. Within a half hour the family had been given the use of another trailer. Witnesses outfitted the husband, wife and children with clothes and contributed enough money to keep the family for the rest of the assembly and to get them back home.
What Does It Prove?
Primarily these were assemblies for the instruction and benefit of Jehovah’s witnesses. So what should all this mean to you?
Do you remember some of the things said about the Witnesses by observers?—‘Honest people.’ ‘People of integrity.’ ‘The finest people ever to be here.’ A news photographer in Toronto would not dispute that. He had left his keys in the lock of his car’s trunk. The car was located in a parking lot at the assembly grounds. In that trunk were hundreds of dollars’ worth of photographic equipment. When he remembered and rushed back to the car, the trunk was locked. It had been locked by a Witness who spotted what had happened and who turned the keys in to the Lost and Found Department. What a relief when the photographer got them back! Might not life be more pleasant if you lived among people of that sort?
Clean and orderly? Yes. The Sherbrooke city manager remarked: “One of the council visited the assembly. . . . He said that never before in his life had he been in a building with four thousand other people and not been able to find a piece of paper or a cigarette butt on the floor. You people are the cleanest and most orderly I have ever seen.” Is that the kind of people with whom you would like to associate?
That the Witnesses enjoy unity to the extent that they bridge the “generation gap” is seen in the observation of a reporter in Sherbrooke: “For the ‘profane’ that ventured into the Palais des Sports, Jehovah’s Witnesses appeared as peaceful individuals who were trying hard to live according to what the Bible says. Furthermore it is strange to see conventions where whole families participate. At this convention young and old were rubbing shoulders, even babies who could not yet understand.”
True Christianity transcends national and racial barriers erected by selfish men. There were no outcries here against discrimination at these assemblies. Indeed, special sessions were arranged for many immigrant peoples who have become Jehovah’s witnesses. In Vancouver, British Columbia, there were 65 at Greek sessions; 106 at Italian ones. Regina had 146 and Winnipeg had 209 at Ukrainian meetings. Sixty-seven Finnish-speaking persons were at Sault Sainte Marie. Edmonton had 35 at an Italian session. Toronto’s cosmopolitan population was mirrored in the arrangement for complete program coverage in Italian with 1,565 attending. And key portions were reproduced in Spanish for 111 persons, in Portuguese for 84 and in Greek for 334.
The depth of devotion of some of these delegates can better be understood when one remembers that not all were in good health or able to get about easily. When a man who is in his seventies and who has cancer comes and follows through with his determination to be baptized, one must pause to consider what it must have meant to him to come into this intimate relationship with his God.
With people like these to populate the earth after Jehovah God has cleansed it in the coming “great tribulation,” do you doubt that there can be unending peace on earth? A dispassionate review of what is recorded here clearly shows that there is a people who even now pursue peace. (1 Pet. 3:8-11) Not just at conventions, but each week at their Kingdom Halls you can experience this peace and wholesome association.
Why not investigate these things further for yourself? Enjoy happiness, moral companions, unity and peace even now. Find out why they flourish and grow among Jehovah’s witnesses in an era when they are notably lacking in society in general. It can mean eternal happiness for you and your loved ones.
a The Telegram, issues of July 11, 25, 28, 1970.
[Picture on page 17]
Esther’s banquet for the Persian king and Haman, as presented in the drama in Sherbrooke, Quebec
[Picture on page 18]
Some of the 31,272 at Toronto in the largest of the “Men of Goodwill” Assemblies in Canada