A Teaching Program That Succeeds in Africa
CAN you imagine an international educational program—with instructors, textbooks, school buildings and using effective teaching methods, even personalized home services—operating in at least 41 African countries? This international program includes counsel about morality, family life and how to display real love toward all persons.
It also is a teaching program made up entirely of volunteers, yes, almost a quarter of a million of them! These spend many hours teaching others, without any salary for their services.
Such a program seems impossible in today’s world. Nonetheless, this is exactly what Jehovah’s Witnesses have been doing in Africa for over 50 years. Just last year they devoted over 40 million hours to this public service. This averaged out to six minutes for every man, woman and child on all the African continent and neighboring islands! The populace of very few places in Africa is not familiar with their warm desire to help individuals on a personal basis.
The primary textbook, the basis of the “code of conduct” they teach, is the Bible. The Witnesses had weekly Bible discussions during last year with over 200,000 families, in addition to the meetings for instruction arranged weekly at their Kingdom Halls. Not only did they teach thousands to read and write (77 percent of Witnesses are literate, as compared with 20 percent of the population in some African countries), but, more importantly, they taught them the principles of right conduct.
“Victorious Faith” Conventions Play Key Role
Large conventions, or assemblies, are a vital part of this teaching work. During the closing months of 1978 and the early part of this year, 72 conventions were held throughout Africa and the neighboring islands. An astounding 524,571 were in attendance!
A very prominent king in Ghana, accompanied by the queen mother and the king’s chiefs and elders, attended one of these assemblies. “I have been impressed, enthralled, by your convention arrangements and your orderly conduct,” he exclaimed. Why were he and thousands of others so “enthralled”?
Not merely because of the orderly conduct, but principally because of the program. The practical talks, along with new supplementary textbooks like Making Your Family Life Happy, genuinely helped families cope with rising domestic discord.
Does the Program Really Work?
Among the conventioners in Nigeria was a former political-party thug. He had engaged in acts of violence against political opponents. He had burned down some of their homes and even cut off the limbs of some! So notorious was he that some people even feared to attend a certain cinema house because he was known to go there. It happened that the caretaker of this movie theater is a Witness. He began to discuss the Bible with this man and the result was that the man changed his way of life and became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This formerly violent man began to teach others about the Bible. When he first started going into the field teaching work, many people took to their heels when they saw him approaching! It required some effort to persuade them that he had changed. But he had changed! He is now helping others to make similar transformations in their lives.
An isolated case? Hardly! Prostitutes, thieves, drunks and drug addicts have been helped to change their lives. Others, noting the remarkable changes, have been so impressed that they also have become Witnesses.
For instance, a Witness approached the white owner of a large farm in Rhodesia and, as is the custom, asked permission to speak to some of the man’s field workers. “Just what are you going to teach my employees?” the man pointedly asked. “The Bible and its principles,” replied the Witness. “Such as?” queried the owner. “The Bible’s view on honesty, cleanliness, being moderate in habits, and attitudes toward work.” At this the landowner was amazed, as he often had problems with some of his workers over those very matters!
Now, upon realizing that some Witnesses were among his employees, he pressed the visitor, asking: “Just who are Jehovah’s Witnesses on this farm?” You can imagine his surprise when the Witness related the names of his very best and most trusted workers! Deeply impressed, he and his wife had to find out what form of teaching had reached these African minds and created such a change. Soon both were baptized Witnesses themselves, helping to teach still others.
The honesty of Jehovah’s Witnesses has become almost legendary in some parts of Africa. Visitors to the assemblies are often amazed to see a “Lost and Found Department.” “Lost money is considered gone forever to most Africans; the thought of returning money found is foreign to most African minds,” noted a native Kenyan Witness. Yet money—in large and small amounts—is turned in by finders and frequently is reclaimed.
What about family life? The mayor of the South African township of Mdantsane made this remarkable public statement:
“Over a period of six years, I have never heard of a single case of Witnesses failing to pay the rent, fighting with their wives, or applying for a divorce. It is for this reason that I have a high regard for them.”
To note the profound influence of Bible instruction, all anyone has to do is attend such assemblies and observe the thousands of obedient children that accompany their parents. After departing from the convention at Abidjan, Ivory Coast, one world traveler, who has seen scores of assemblies, remarked:
“And what children! You have never seen children as disciplined and well-behaved at assemblies as you will find here in Africa. Hours on end they sit with their parents, oblivious, it seems, to the heat and humidity and hard seats that are constructed for these temporary pavilions.”
An 89-year-old member of the New York headquarters staff of the Witnesses was warmly greeted by the African Witnesses. Upon her return after a month attending one assembly after another, Grace DeCecca was asked, “What impressed you the most about your trip?” Without hesitating, she said: “It was the tenderness of the people, especially the menfolk. You saw whole family units coming to the assembly together and the fathers were so considerate in helping out with the children.”
Imagine if all Africa were filled with families and people who are orderly, tender and honest! Would not any rational individual appreciate the security this would bring?
Tribal and Racial Unity
How would you feel toward someone of a different “family” who drove your relatives from their home and killed many of them? Do you think you could love that person?
This is precisely what happened between the world-famous Watutsi (Tutsi) tribe and the Hutu people. Their fighting goes back over 400 years! In 1963 the fighting exploded into all-out war with over 10,000 Tutsi killed and the rest of the tribe forced to wander as refugees. Hatred between the tribes is red-hot! Yet, a report concerning the assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, contained the following details:
“From Rwanda, male and female Witnesses from the renowned Tutsi tribe were worshiping side by side with others from the Hutu tribe. While there yet exist grave differences among these people in general, it is happifying to note that those who have become worshipers of Jehovah have put such differences behind them and now see each other as ‘brother’ and ‘sister.’”
Black and white worship together in areas where there are strong racial tensions. South Africa’s first completely interracial large assembly was held in racially troubled Cape Town. The 6,959 in attendance were noticeably thrilled to be able to associate with those of other races. A report from South Africa said: “The Witnesses acted as if they had been doing this for years. There was a lovely spirit of peace and unity.”
This racial unity is not mere “surface toleration” but is deeply rooted in the feelings of the Witnesses. For decades many white Witnesses have labored as missionaries with black local Witnesses. A bond of genuine love has been developed. Illustrating this, one missionary serving in Africa for over 30 years had become very sick, even being confined to bed for three months. He was asked by a traveling overseer if he wanted to return to his home country of Canada. “No!” he firmly replied. “This is my home, with these people, and I desire to remain here as long as I am alive!”
The visiting Witness official was somewhat taken aback by the response but concluded his report by writing:
“It is this wholehearted devotion to Jehovah that binds the brotherhood of Jehovah’s Witnesses together into an unbreakable unity that is not weakened by international boundaries, different races, customs or languages.”
Instilling the “Mind of Christ”
Hundreds of thousands of individuals have become persons governed by a firm moral code, resulting in strong families that display love for all persons. Would you not enjoy having such persons as your neighbors? They have had instilled in their minds the “mind of Christ,” in that they pattern their thinking and conduct after the example and teachings of Jesus Christ.—1 Cor. 2:16.
These have achieved a success such as is desired by the world. Noting this, Oxford sociologist Bryan R. Wilson, after making an extensive study of the Witnesses in Africa, stated:
“Witnesses . . . have been uniquely successful in getting their following to keep high standards of moral rigour and self-discipline.
“They instill the values of hard work, punctuality, sobriety and self-respect. Their members reach a quality of family relationships that is highly exceptional in East Africa. Their techniques of instruction and indoctrination are extremely effective. . . .
“The stock rhetoric of African politicians is the condemnation of tribalism. Paradoxically, the Witnesses are perhaps more successful than any other group in the speed with which they eliminate tribal discrimination among their own recruits.”
Those with the “mind of Christ” also find that their lives become meaningful and as happy as possible amid the distressing world conditions. Additionally, they eagerly contemplate the Bible-based hope of a whole world without injustice, wherein “righteousness is to dwell” and all persons will enjoy total security. It will be an order of God’s making, replacing an old system built on selfishness. Those living under such perfect conditions will be there because they allowed a massive Bible educational program to mold their lives successfully.—2 Pet. 3:13; Ps. 85:8-13; 145:20.
[Box on page 26]
What Africans Said About Conventions
“I have never seen people who worked so hard! You really live your faith; especially so your youth.”—Club grounds caretaker—Senegal.
“After observing for two days, I am moved and impressed by the orderly manner in which your convention is drawing people of all races together.”—Moslem watchman—Ghana.
[Picture on page 25]
An African family enjoys vital Bible instruction