Thousands Baptized Each Week
JEHOVAH’S Christian witnesses recognize that they must preach to others. They have taken to heart the words of Jesus Christ: “Make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matt. 28:19, 20.
During the service year for 1973 (running from September 1, 1972, to August 31, 1973) they did just that in 208 lands. Each week Jehovah’s witnesses conducted more than one million two hundred thousand Bible studies with interested persons, and they continue to do so. As a result of their spending more than twenty-five million hours each month, tens of thousands have been helped to become baptized disciples of Jesus Christ, able to teach still others. The 1973 service year saw an average of more than 530 of such new disciples baptized every day—about 3,700 each week. The total number baptized during the entire service year was 193,990.
Courageous Efforts Blessed
This work of disciple-making often calls for courage. Consider, for example, what happened in a village in southeastern Nigeria, Africa:
Opposition arose to the work of Jehovah’s witnesses. Fanatics murdered a “special pioneer” minister who was devoting about 150 hours each month in helping people to understand the Bible better. The family of three Witnesses with whom this “special pioneer” minister lived was also killed. Eventually the criminals were brought to justice, and twelve persons were executed.
With such tragic developments in connection with their work, one might conclude that Jehovah’s witnesses would forget all about this village. But not so. A young Witness couple moved in and began to serve there, with genuine concern for the people in that locality. Soon they were conducting home Bible studies and spending additional time in teaching illiterate ones to read and write. The attitude of many people of the village began to change. It became necessary to look for a place to accommodate those wanting to attend Bible study meetings.
Later, at one assembly during the 1973 service year, twenty persons from this area presented themselves for baptism. Now there are over seventy who attend meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses and share Bible truth with others. They are all looking forward to the time when the four Witnesses who were murdered will be brought back in the resurrection.
Changes Made in Their Way of Life
These newly baptized Witnesses and others like them had to make changes in their lives in order to conform to the Bible’s lofty requirements. Often these changes involved their whole way of life.
Take the case of a former police commissioner in Dahomey, Africa. He was a Methodist but respected other religions, for his father had taught him to listen to anyone who came in God’s name. So when Jehovah’s witnesses called on him, he listened to what they had to say and accepted Bible literature. Later, a home Bible study was started.
After attending several meetings at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, this man decided that he, too, would like to share in telling others about what he had learned. But when the Christian requirement of having only one marriage mate was called to his attention, he was grieved. At one time he had had seven wives, and five were still in his family home.
Wanting to be pleasing to God, he started to take legal steps to have only one wife. As he was united in marriage legally to three wives, he needed to get a divorce from two of them. Divorce in Dahomey is not readily granted except for adultery, attempted poisoning or incompatibility. So it looked as though it would be very difficult for him to get a legal divorce in court from the two secondary wives. The judge who heard his case said that divorce based on the Scriptural reasons presented would not be possible. But the jury was favorably impressed with this man’s sincerity and the facts he related from the Bible. He was therefore granted his divorces. Thereafter, though having put away his former secondary wives, he continued providing for them and their children.
After his baptism as one of Jehovah’s witnesses he continued to face much opposition from relatives because of his refusal to follow the tribal and family custom relating to ancestor worship and fetish religion. He was the hereditary head of his collective family and, as such, was supposed to preside over all religious and family ceremonies. Without him, the religious rites could not be conducted. But, despite the fact that many relatives avoided association with him and considered him repugnant, he held firm.
He used his time wisely to teach his thirty-two children about the Bible. Seven of these are now baptized Witnesses and twenty-three of them are associated with the congregation. His one legal wife attends the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses and, along with him, declares the Bible’s message to others.
People have been willing to give up, not only polygamy and fetish worship, but also all other practices that are disapproved in God’s Word.
Note the experience of a man in El Salvador. He relates:
“All my life I had thought only of myself. From my early youth on, I dedicated myself to enjoying life and playing music. In 1920 I was a singer for a marimba band in El Salvador called ‘Marimba Atlacatl.’ When World War II broke out we were touring Europe. Since Latin America was supporting the Allies, we were later put in a concentration camp on the Austrian border for almost two years.
“Shortly before the end of the war we, with the aid of others, were able to get to New York city. I eventually made my way back to El Salvador to continue my musical career and heavy drinking.
“In the 1960’s I discovered that, due to drinking, I had not only lost my health but also my wife. Things began to look very dark to me. But around this time the real light was about to shine. My brother began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses and would speak to me about the things he was learning.
“I was too stubborn to pay attention to him. However, one day I found my two youngest daughters studying with a young lady who said that she was one of Jehovah’s witnesses. I didn’t like it, but thought that it was better for them to study the Bible than to run around. I even accompanied my daughters to the Kingdom Hall a few times, but I had no interest. What really bothered me was that I thought I had been too bad ever to receive God’s forgiveness. After all, I had spent my whole life engaged in all kinds of bad practices, freely fathering children in many parts of the world and then abandoning both children and mothers. What love, help or concern had I given even to my legal family in El Salvador? How could God ever forgive me?
“The young lady who studied with my daughters always said that Jehovah was a loving and forgiving God. So I decided to investigate the matter further. My wife now claimed my daughters. Their study was cut short, but I was determined to continue seeking. I went to the Kingdom Hall and there arrangements were made for someone to help me further. Now after almost two years of study I am a ‘new old man.’ I am over seventy years old, but new as a Christian, since I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s witnesses in June of 1973.”
Advanced Years No Hindrance to Changing Religion
Others, while not leading a debauched life, have had to have their eyes opened to the error of the religious beliefs to which they adhered for many years. Among these have been men and women of advanced years.
A case in point was a retired carpenter in Denmark. He was over eighty years of age and satisfied with his religion.
About one and a half years ago two of Jehovah’s witnesses called on him. He asked them to leave, as ‘he had his church.’ But after he closed the door and went back into the parlor, he began to think that, perhaps, he should have talked with the two young ladies. To their surprise, he came outside and asked them to come in. They did so and very quickly had their Bibles out, answering many questions. The book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life was shown to him and a Bible study was started. Soon afterward he began to attend all the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses.
Three months later he went to the parish clergyman to withdraw from the church. The clergyman simply could not understand this. “It is your own fault!” the old man exclaimed, and told the clergyman how he had often requested that a Bible study course be arranged so that the church members could get to know the Scriptures. The clergyman replied: “No one comes to such a thing.” The old man answered: “I would have come.” Whereupon the clergyman explained that one does not arrange a Bible study course for just one person. “No,” retorted the old man, “the church doesn’t, but Jehovah’s witnesses do, and in three months I have learned more from the Bible than in all the years I have been in church. So I will just withdraw.”
In spite of being nearly eighty-three years old, he attends all the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses and shares in house-to-house preaching. Since the summer of 1973 he has served faithfully as a baptized witness of Jehovah.
Whether old or young, Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the earth have kept themselves very busy in preaching to others. Their diligent efforts testify to the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) Are you responding to that message so as to survive the end of the present ungodly system and gain the blessings that God has in store for those sincerely desiring to serve him?