A Unique Family That Serves Others
PERHAPS you received this magazine from Jehovah’s witnesses in your community. Do you know where they got it, or by whom it was produced?
Both Awake! and its companion The Watchtower are printed at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s witnesses in New York, and at sixteen of their printing branches in other countries. Last year over 471 million copies were produced, as many as 10,000,000 of some issues. The Watchtower is printed in 79 languages; Awake!, in 31. Did you realize that, of all periodicals in the Western world, only one weekly and a single monthly magazine have a greater distribution? And those two print principally television program schedules or digest articles from other publications.
No doubt you noticed how inexpensive Awake! and The Watchtower are—just five cents (U.S.) a copy—whereas other magazines today often cost seventy-five cents per copy and more. Do you know why? It is because Awake! and The Watchtower are produced by a unique family that is interested, not in material gain, but in providing information that they believe is of vital importance to others. Thus all members of this family, in effect, volunteer their services without pay. Each receives board and room and $14 (U.S.) a month for incidental expenses, plus a small amount for clothing and transportation.
But more publications than Awake! and The Watchtower are produced by the “Bethel family,” as they are called. (Bethel means “House of God.”) Last year they made over 51 million hardbound Bibles and books in their various plants. At times they bind over 300,000 books a day!
You may be surprised to know that some books that make best-seller lists have a distribution of fewer than a day’s production by the Bethel family. In fact, the hardbound book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, released in 1968, has a printing of 74 million copies in 91 languages, about three times as many as the next all-time best-selling book in the Western world, aside from the Bible.
The Bethel family in New York has about 2,100 members, twice as many as just six years ago. About three quarters of the family live and work at the facilities in Brooklyn, and the rest operate the factory and farms outside the city, some ninety miles away. Bethel families also run printing plants in other countries.
To give you some idea of the expansion: In Brooklyn, 5,972,489 Bibles and books were bound in just the first five weeks of this production year (starting in September), more than were produced in the entire year 1965! From 1968 to 1973 the Brooklyn plant more than doubled its number of huge forty- and fifty-ton rotary printing presses. Now forty of these presses are in operation, and on order is an extra-large sixty-one-foot-long giant that is capable of printing 150,000 complete 192-page books each day. Also, ten rotary printing presses are in operation at the factory outside New York city, with four more on order.
What has necessitated this tremendous expansion in facilities and production are people like yourself who are interested in the type of wholesome information that is found in this magazine. Thus the number of bindery lines in the Brooklyn factory have also doubled in recent years. Now there are ten, and six more are on order. Members of the Bethel family have made special engineering changes on one bindery line so it binds two books at a time. As a result, this one line, working double shift, has produced a peak of over 50,000 books a day!
You perhaps are acquainted with Jehovah’s witnesses locally; certain ones may even visit you periodically. Who, though, make up the New York Bethel family? What are they like?
It is, for the most part, a family of young men. By far the majority are from eighteen to twenty-four years of age, and physically strong so that they are able to care for the hard work. But there are women too, about 300 of them. They share principally in office work and housekeeping. A six-month evening school course is provided for all new family members, which includes review of Bible doctrines, training in public speaking, and a reading of the entire Bible.
While most of the family are young, some have served at Bethel for over fifty years, and scores of others for twenty, thirty or forty years. Yet all, from the youngest to the oldest, are dedicated to the service of God’s kingdom. In fact, most had served as full-time Kingdom preachers before coming to Bethel.
Since the majority become members of the Bethel family soon after completion of high school education, they have little experience in the secular world. But this is by no means true of all.
Varied Professional Backgrounds
One family member, for example, received his bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering at St. Louis University. Later, during the early and mid-1950’s, he was employed by Chance Vought Aircraft (later absorbed into Ling Temco Vought) as a field propulsion engineer. He worked for years on the development of a military jet-propelled pilotless vehicle, which later was superseded by the more advanced ballistic missiles of today. When coming to appreciate God’s certain purpose to do away with all causes of war, he gladly took up the full-time preaching work and in 1961 became a member of the Bethel family.—Isa. 2:4.
An office worker at the Brooklyn factory had a different professional background. He received his master’s degree in business administration at Michigan State University, and in 1961 became a certified public accountant. After working for five years for a national accounting firm, a partner and he set up their own office. The business grew and, in time, they had four offices and fifty employees.
In the meantime, however, he and his wife began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses. Soon they grew to appreciate that in this very generation, according to the Bible, God will wipe out this corrupt system of things and set up his righteous new order. (Matt. 24:3-14; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 2 Pet. 3:13) So he left his business, and he and his wife went into the full-time preaching work. In 1971 they joined the Bethel family.
A thirty-two-year-old man with still different training studied chemistry and mathematics for four years at the University of Texas. In 1968 Standard Oil of California employed him as a geophysical technician. For a year and a half he served with the company in Alaska. There he worked on projects to locate oil drilling sites on the North Slope. In 1969 he quit his job so he could share in the full-time preaching work, and later he came to Bethel.
Female family members also have had professional backgrounds. For example, one obtained her doctor’s degree in chemistry and physics at the University of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Moving to New York city, she was hired to head a biochemistry laboratory, a position she held for five years.
While employed in that laboratory, she was called on by one of Jehovah’s witnesses who spoke to her regarding God’s purposes for mankind. She was delighted to learn how God himself will soon, under his Kingdom rule, eliminate human suffering. (Rev. 21:3, 4) Later she married a member of the Bethel family, and they are now happy to be serving together at Bethel.
Another family member graduated from Harvard University in the late 1940’s. He rose in the business world to circulation-promotion manager for a New York newspaper, where he was in charge of a department of some thirty people. Desiring to be more useful in furthering the Kingdom-preaching, he gave up that position to come to Bethel.
Expressing a viewpoint voiced by other family members with college degrees, he said: “Those who apply themselves to the educational provisions here at Bethel are not a whit behind the person who spends four years in college insofar as general knowledge, and speaking and thinking ability are concerned.”
Medicine, Education and Art
Also among the members of the Bethel family are four registered nurses, a licensed practical nurse, a laboratory technologist, numerous nurse’s aides, and an experienced surgeon with fourteen years of study and training in premedical and medical schools.
One of the registered nurses also received midwifery training in Glasgow, Scotland, studied public health at London University and had training in tropical diseases. Later she worked at the leper colony in Surrey County, England. Another obtained her bachelor of science degree at Teachers College, Columbia University, and received letters inviting her to join the teaching staffs at Toronto University, Pittsburgh University and other colleges.
A number of members of the family, both men and women, held teaching positions. One received his master’s degree at the University of Tulsa, and taught five years in high schools prior to coming to Bethel in 1961. A female member of the family since 1966 studied to be a doctor, receiving her master’s degree in chemistry. She gave up the idea of pursuing a medical career, and taught for six years in New York city high schools.
Other members of the family pursued art careers. One graduated from the New England School of Art in Boston and received a bachelor of arts degree by attending night courses at St. Anselm’s College. After working as staff artist for the Manchester, New Hampshire, Union Leader, she set up her own successful advertising agency.
After getting out of the Coast Guard in 1959, an aspiring young artist went to the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. Eventually he obtained a position as art director for an advertising firm in San Francisco, California. Now he is working as a plumber at Bethel.
Former Civil Service Workers
Other family members performed civil service work. One such young man served on the Alhambra, California, police force. Now he works in the factory bindery. Another spent over twenty years as a fireman in Los Angeles County, a number of those years as fire captain. But since 1969 he has been at Bethel.
With the intent of preparing himself to be of service to others, one who is now a family member obtained a degree in psychology at San Diego State University. He then served eight years with the California Youth Authority, the criminal correctional agency for California. While with the Authority he moved to the Paso Robles School for Boys, a correctional institution, where he ran a drug-treatment program. From 1970 to 1972 he assisted in supervising the staff at the main youth parole office in San Diego. With what effect?
He was heartsick with the total inability of the system to cope with the crime problem. How glad he was, therefore, to learn God’s remedy, and that soon now Jehovah God will eliminate this wicked system and bring in his long-promised government. (Dan. 2:44; Matt. 6:9, 10) Almost immediately he began the full-time preaching work, and in 1973 he came to Bethel.
Among the hundreds of clean-cut, hardworking youths in the Bethel family he found living proof of the marvelous effect of God’s Word on people’s lives. For he learned that quite a few, prior to coming to Bethel, had been drug abusers. But when learning the truth of God’s purposes these persons had received motivation to ‘kick the habit,’ a motivation he realized that worldly agencies had been incapable of providing.
Another family member had spent nearly nine years working at a large correctional institution, the Illinois State Training School for Boys. As chief clerk, he had oversight of all requisitioning, purchasing and accounting for the institution, and directed a staff of about a dozen people. He, too, is convinced that his services at Bethel are of infinitely greater and more lasting benefit to humankind.
Family members who, before becoming Jehovah’s witnesses, had served in the military feel even more strongly about this. Among them are World War II veterans, including one who flew thirty-five bombing missions over European axis-held territory, an Air Force flight instructor, a naval officer, another navy man whose squadron was the first to land on Iwo Jima and who was highly decorated during four years of war service, to name just a few. Also, one female member of the family served in the Air Force during the Korean war.
Countless Other Skills
If you like a little Worcestershire sauce with your meat, the bottle you use may have come in a paper jacket that was applied and sealed on a machine designed by one who is now a member of the Bethel family. If you buy phonograph records, perhaps they were packaged and addressed for the mail automatically on a machine he designed. Before coming to Bethel this man was a designer of special packaging machinery and automation equipment. Now he works in the Brooklyn factory helping to design machinery used in connection with binding books.
Before coming to Bethel other members of the family worked as electricians, mechanics, carpenters, painters, bricklayers, farmers, building contractors, machinists and architectural designers, and these persons, too, have used their skills in furthering the work at the headquarters of Jehovah’s witnesses. Even a former professional Shakespearean actor has used his talents to portray characters in Bible dramas. These dramas are taped by members of the Bethel family for use in presentations at large district assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses.
All of these who are now members of the Bethel family were moved by the urgent need of people to hear the good news of God’s kingdom, and so came to Bethel to share in furthering the preaching work from there.
Yes, what especially makes the Bethel family unique is their individual desire to help others to learn the purposes of God. Actually, this course of serving others, in imitation of Jesus Christ’s example, is what true Christianity is all about. Above all else, the desire of dedicated Christians is to please Jehovah God by copying this example of his Son.—1 Pet. 2:21.
Thus, with this Christian spirit, hundreds of young men and women who never before had their hands on a printing press, linotype machine, ink mill, bindery or composing equipment, diligently apply themselves to the Bethel assignments they are given. In an amazingly short time they become expert press operators, compositors, typesetters, ink makers and bookbinders, or they master whatever job is necessary to carry on the publishing of the Kingdom message.
The Bethel family cordially welcomes you to visit its home and printeries to see for yourself how it functions. Free tours of the New York factories and farms are conducted all day Monday through Friday, and during the forenoon on Saturday.
[Picture on page 15]
Bethel family members printing books on 40-ton printing presses. Last year they produced over 50 million Bibles and books