A Taste of Paradise Building
“Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for constructing churches in 48 hours. But this weekend they outdid themselves. For the first time, the Jehovah’s Witnesses constructed two Kingdom Hall churches with a connecting apartment in 48 hours.”
STAFF reporter Annette Lopez-Munoz gave this lead to her story in the South Dade News Leader of Monday, February 27. It referred to the weekend that had just ended, February 25 and 26.
Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Homestead, Florida, area were multiplying so rapidly that a catch-up program was urgent. As Jim Crosley, a traveling overseer in the South Florida area, told the reporter: “There is an added thrust to build these Kingdom Hall churches since our Cuban brothers were cast out in the Mariel boat lift. We also need to build five or six more halls in Miami.”
The twin halls built in the Homestead area serve four congregations—two Spanish and two English.
The Miami News quoted another Witness who explained the reason for building Kingdom Halls “instantly”: “Our philosophy is to build them as quickly as possible so that we can get to work on more important things.”
The “more important things” center around evangelical activities, preaching and teaching publicly about God’s incoming Kingdom, making disciples, baptizing and training them so they too “may render sacred service to the living God.”—Hebrews 9:14; Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20.
This calls for educational centers—Bible educational centers, Kingdom Halls. The halls, continued The Miami News, are practical. “They’re not ornate because we think of them more like school or education centers. They are places of worship, but the worship services are educational in nature.” Each hall has 4,000 square feet (370 sq m), an auditorium seating 250, two classrooms, a lounge, a magazine room and two restrooms.
Two Halls in 48 Hours?
Homestead Witness Beatrice Rogers made a five-acre (2-ha) avocado grove available at a location fairly central to four congregations. It was decided, after a year’s deliberation and planning, to build two halls side by side.
For the past two years Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States and Canada had been building an average of one Kingdom Hall a week by the “instant” construction method. But what about two on one lot? Did past experience indicate it could be done? Was enough volunteer help available? If it was a challenge to manage 200 to 400 workers on a single hall project, what would happen when 400 to 600 were involved? With all those people and all that building material to work with, might not the whole undertaking end up in colossal confusion?
There was a lot of heart-searching pondering over the warning of Jesus: “Who of you that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, he might lay its foundation but not be able to finish it, and all the onlookers might start to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man started to build but was not able to finish.’”—Luke 14:28-30.
But after months of prayerful discussions and counting of costs and studying of designs and procedures, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Homestead area reached a decision: “With Jehovah’s blessing we can do it!”
Friday evening, February 24, Nelson Crites, a coordinator of Kingdom Hall projects in South Florida, positively assured a meeting of more than 700 enthusiastic volunteers in South Dade High School auditorium: “This is a historic event. It will succeed in Jehovah’s power.”
The volunteers were marshaled into 11 basic departments organized under experienced contractors and craftsmen, many of whom had shared in two-day hall building before. This time crews had to operate in double units, one for each hall—carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and so on. In addition, all communication had to be translated into both Spanish and English. Outside of contracting two cranes to set the roof trusses early Saturday morning, virtually all labor and services were voluntary.
Starting in the Rain
A lumberjack-style breakfast was served at six o’clock Saturday morning. Then, spread before the work force of men, women and youngsters lay a quarter million dollars’ worth of building materials. Every item had been placed precisely and strategically where needed over the twin concrete foundation pads. Each pad, outlined by steel girders as required by Dade County in Florida’s hurricane zone, measured 4,000 square feet. At seven o’clock work would begin in transforming those stacks and mounds of raw materials into twin Kingdom Halls.
At exactly seven o’clock work did start. It started in the rain. Rain had been falling steadily since about midnight. But not a single work stage halted. Plastic tents and sheds were thrown up to provide shelter for electricians and other workers. Contractors and tradesmen worked out of their trucks and vans. Thousands of box lunches prepared at home were stored under plastic on long tables in the avocado grove. In their field kitchen, under a plastic roof, chefs and cooks manned their steam kettles, ovens and deep vats. The rain was simply ignored.
The harder it rained, the faster the roof trusses seemed to swing into place. In one and a half hours the trusses in both halls were set. Sheathing board went up around the walls in pace with the erecting of the trusses on the roof. In two hours the last truss was swung into place. By nine o’clock the crane operators were out of a job. All around the perimeters scores of hands were lifting up sheathing boards, and before another hour passed, both halls were almost sheathed. Structural shapes were rising and taking definition among palm trees that had been planted by heavy machines a day or two before.
The darker the clouds got, the faster the work went. And instead of people leaving, people kept coming. Out on the street, the policewoman kept saying that the biggest thing she had to do was to stay out of the way. Volunteer traffic directors managed traffic for blocks along 288th Street, at approaching intersections as well as in front of the building site. A neighbor had graciously opened a 15-acre (6-ha) field across the street for parking, free of charge.
The rain was helpful in that it kept the landscaper’s sod soaked and ready for spreading. Plants and shrubs went down into well-watered beds. Rock masons used rainfall to keep their mortar wet.
All the while walls kept going up. As fast as sheathing board covered the rafters, black felt covered the sheathing. Hundreds of workers formed silhouettes against the gray sky. On the ground, shiny air ducts were made to squirm and crawl like giant worms into the attics. Finished paneling was already being nailed around the exteriors. Heavy bundles of roofing shingles were shouldered and distributed over the roofs. Through a camera’s eye, it looked like acres of shingles and acres of workers.
What happened to the rain? It went away unnoticed. By the time it came back, both roofs had been completed.
Volunteers Kept Coming
A four-room apartment was structured to join the two Kingdom Halls. From the air the joined structures form a giant H.
A Volunteer Service Department in a plastic tent remained open, rain or shine. There were more workers than work to be done. Volunteers reported from as far away as Texas, Ohio, Idaho, England, Canada and Jamaica, not to mention neighboring states and all parts of Florida. The stack of applications numbered 810.
Dawn Brinklow, in charge of landscaping, said her volunteers didn’t know the names of the plants—a Philodendron selloum from a Malpighia. “So we color coded. Then we would send a crew after them by color—‘Bring a red, or a blue, or a green.’ Besides all that, every word had to be translated in both languages. There wasn’t a crew that wasn’t mixed with blacks, whites and Hispanos.”
Unity, Love and Jehovah’s Spirit
A gentleman who held a mortgage on the property was asked to come by Saturday and be paid off. He was so astounded to see two 4,000-square-foot buildings looming up on what had been concrete pads the day before that he rushed home to bring his wife.
The News Service Department welcomed and escorted reporters, photographers, TV cameramen and a continual flow of visitors. There were contractors hoping to discover how they could build like Jehovah’s Witnesses. There was a Baptist church educator hoping he could inspire his members like Jehovah’s Witnesses—“I can’t even get a leak fixed in our church without paying somebody.”
Archie Francis of Hialeah put in a long day Saturday with the Cleaning Department. That night his aunt arrived from the Central American country of Belize. He mentioned that he had been helping build two Kingdom Halls over the weekend.
“I don’t believe it,” she said.
“I can show you some video tapes.”
“No.” She would believe it only if she saw it.
At her insistence they drove 22 miles (35 km) to the building site in the middle of the night. The wall spacklers, who worked all night, were being cheered by a group of sisters singing Kingdom songs in Spanish. Archie’s aunt joined them. “I might become a Jehovah’s Witness,” she decided. “I work Witnesses in my business. They are honest. And I read their magazines all the time.”
Another relative reacted almost in shock, demanding: “How do you do it?”
“By unity. Love. Jehovah’s spirit,” Archie answered.
The South Dade beat of policeman Warren Brundage is a “slaughter ally” of killings, drugs and racial strife. He saw human nature in a different light here. “I think it is fantastic!” he told a reporter. “This many people working together with no quarrels, no fights . . . There are blacks, whites, Latins . . . they have different trades but yet they are all working together for a common cause. Yesterday there was a banker helping with the roof.” He stayed after his five o’clock shift—no banker’s hours for him!
Early Sunday afternoon, at the request of a photographer, an announcement in English and Spanish brought the workers and visitors to a pause long enough to assemble out front and lift their arms in a victory wave. Four thousand persons responded. That figure is based on the fact that shortly before, the Food Service Department had served 4,000 meals.
A Touch of Paradise, Earthly
What gave the scene an ever-heightening aura of a physical paradise was the landscaping. Two tropical gardens, one in front, one in the rear, took shape in rolling scapes of palm trees, fieldstone and flowers. A caravan of trucks delivered trees and shrubs. One Witness volunteered a gift of palm trees. The landscaper who went out to select the trees spotted a clump of three Phoenix reclinata, rare date palms. The owner did not even know they were growing there. What tender loving care the bulldozer operator exercised in moving them, on learning that the trees were valued at a thousand dollars (U.S.) apiece!
Planted in two days, the gardens covered about an acre and a half (.6 ha). A crew of six would take an estimated three weeks to do the job on a commercial basis, at a cost of $25,000 to $30,000 (U.S.). It was all donated.
A Special Time, a Special Sharing
Reporter Lopez-Munoz returned Sunday with her mother, who speaks only Portuguese. The young journalist had sensed something hard to describe. “What is this drive, this motivation in you people?”
“It’s from the Bible,” she was told.
“I read in the Bible how people were building a great tower when God confused their languages and they never got it finished.”
“That was because they were going against his will.”
“But now he is helping you overcome your language barriers?”
“That’s because we are doing his will.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses, she was told, bear in mind that “the word of God is alive and exerts power.” (Hebrews 4:12) Respond to it and you open yourself up for his spirit to operate in you.
“Part of what you sense is the enjoyment we get from special associations like in Kingdom Hall building,” someone in News Service explained. “The dynamism of Jehovah’s Witnesses is derived mostly from our being an evangelical society. We are united in preaching and teaching about God’s incoming Kingdom. That’s why we need Kingdom Halls as centers of worship and Bible education. In special times like this we can associate on an expanded plane. We can share our special skills and crafts and abilities. Or we can simply show willingness to do anything we can to help others. Each one gives his very best. And each one is appreciated for it. But even in this, our association is guided by Bible principles. Here, for instance, we are mindful of Galatians 5:26: ‘Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.’ Also, Proverbs 11:14: ‘When there is no skillful direction, the people fall.’”
A Touch of Paradise, Spiritually
Their faith is what makes it possible for Jehovah’s Witnesses to do what others cannot do. They begin by getting rid of the spirit of the world. That includes, as policeman Brundage quickly recognized, getting rid of the world’s spirit of racism, hatred, jealousy, social distinctions, drugs, obsession with sex and the like. He was in a different world, where all malicious bitterness, anger, wrath, screaming and abusive speech were taken away along with badness, and people were actually trying to be “kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.”—Ephesians 4:31, 32.
The spirit of the world, manifest in “the works of the flesh,” is at enmity with God. To get rid of that spirit makes way for the fruitage of God’s spirit, “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”—Galatians 5:19-23; Romans 8:5-8.
One visitor, a member of the Mormon Church, saw Witness children—black, brown and white—playing together. He commented: “We adopted a black child. Our church won’t let their children play with our child.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses, by responding to Bible teaching, find themselves drawn into a unity throughout more countries than belong to the United Nations.
It was mentioned that the two-day Kingdom Hall raising was “a taste of paradise building.” This expressed the firm conviction of Jehovah’s people that soon earth’s Creator will take out of the way all elements that ruin the earth and human society on it, to make way for Paradise building on a global scale.—Revelation 11:17, 18; 21:3, 4; Isaiah 65:17-25.
[Picture on page 14]
Sheathing and roof trusses went up simultaneously. By nine o’clock the crane had swung the last truss into place
[Picture on page 17]
The backhoe operator brings in three palm trees—part of the “instant” landscaping