“Jehovah Will Give Increase”
JEWISH writings tell us that postexile Jews sang or recited Psalms 113 to 118 on the occasion of some of their festivals. These psalms, known as the Hallel, include the promise: “Jehovah will give increase to you . . . You are the ones blessed by Jehovah.”—Psalm 115:14, 15.
During 1984 these words were sung anew—not literally but in a symbolic way—at festivals of quite another kind. They were the 1984 “Kingdom Increase” District Conventions held by Jehovah’s Witnesses in many parts of the world. Did they have reason for choosing “Kingdom Increase” as their convention theme and for applying the psalmist’s words to themselves?
Outsiders Take Note of Increase
About the Witnesses in Belgium the newspaper Le Jour wrote: “The 1984 theme ‘Kingdom Increase’ very aptly describes this group . . . From only 600 strong in 1945, they number more than 22,000 today, which figure does not include proselytes and sympathizers.” And in France the newspaper Le Provençal reported: “One hundred and five years after the birth of their movement, the Witnesses are growing in numbers at an increased pace.”
What has been catching the world’s attention, however, is not just the Witnesses’ increase in numbers but also their matchless life-style. Outsiders are impressed by people obviously blessed with qualities all too seldom seen in a loveless, dirty, and disunited world. The stadium director in Florence, Italy, for example, commented: “Mine is a selfish viewpoint, I know, but I wish that Jehovah’s Witnesses would hold their assemblies here in the stadium every two months. That way it would always be clean. You are amazing.”
“They are an amazing people,” agreed a worker in a car showroom near the Southampton, England, convention grounds. The worker added: “When the world is fighting and quarreling, they are so peaceful and all of them are smiling. It is a shame that the whole world is not like them.”
Finnish journalist Heli Savin described them as “a crowd of seven thousand young girls and boys, fathers and mothers, grannies and grandpas, [who] . . . formed one large family among which good manners and respectfulness toward others prevailed.” The writer continued: “The best sight, in my opinion, was the boys at the age of our ‘troublesome teenagers.’ . . . I actually felt an urge to hug them and cry out: ‘Mankind does have some hope left!’”
Meeting the Requirements for Increase
In ancient times, divinely given increase was dependent upon God’s people rejecting idol worship, putting complete “trust in Jehovah,” and “fearing” him. (Psalm 115:4-13) Jehovah’s Witnesses today try hard to meet these requirements. That they truly do fear Jehovah was pointed out by a convention speaker who explained: “Jehovah’s Witnesses in all parts of the earth are earnest students of the Bible. Indeed they ‘tremble’ at God’s Word as they constantly take in accurate knowledge of the loving purposes of their Grand Instructor.”—See Isaiah 66:2.
This desire to please Jehovah was mirrored in the choice of material dealt with on the convention program. Divine standards of conduct were stressed. A moving Bible drama demonstrated how ancient Israel lost God’s blessing when Achan repudiated godly fear and embarked upon a course of disloyalty. Jehovah’s Witnesses want to prevent anything similar from happening in the Christian congregation today.
The conventions offered Jehovah’s Witnesses ample opportunity to manifest their trust in their God. For example, a Witness in Switzerland was told in May that he was being laid off work at the end of June for reasons related to religion. Despite this financial setback, he refused to compromise his stand and continued making convention plans for his family of nine. Then, during his last week at work, he was told he could keep his job, would be given a better one, in fact, and that the days he needed for convention attendance would be charged to vacation time. “The only problem left,” he reports, “was getting the children out of bed early enough to get to the convention grounds on time.”
This and similar experiences show how highly Jehovah’s Witnesses treasure the spiritual instruction their conventions provide. In fact, a mailman in Finland whose application for vacation was rejected paid one of his workmates $35 a day to do his work for him. Afterward he remarked: “The assembly was worth that price. Just think what I would have missed had I stayed at home!”
At 127 conventions in 15 European countries, there were 11,918 newly baptized Witnesses, many of whom had only recently turned their backs on idol worship.
Included in those who made such a public declaration, acknowledging that they now considered Jehovah “their help and their shield,” were N. K. and her 19-year-old sister E. G. from Sweden. (Psalm 115:11) They are Gypsies. Changing their traditional way of life meant breaking very strong social ties and freeing themselves from many deep-rooted traditions, including certain forms of idol worship. Upon being baptized, E. B., a member of the prominent cathedral choir in Graz, Austria, commented: “It was only after I started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses that I realized that choir activities were directly connected with idolatry.”
Of course, anything that crowds the Creator and his worship out of our lives and thoughts is a form of idolatry. This is what gambling was for one ardent poker player. But how insecure his life was! With thousands of dollars one day, he would be penniless the next. Coming to appreciate real riches—spiritual ones—he abandoned his idolatrous life of gambling and was baptized at Mo-i-Rana, Norway.
Others fall victim to the idolatry of trusting in human theories, philosophies, and governments rather than in God, whose very existence they either deny or ignore. Vito, a 37-year-old train engineer baptized at Avellino, Italy, illustrates this point. An atheist, a communist, and a firm believer in evolution, he considered religion “the opium of the people.” But his atheistic faith was shaken when Witnesses convinced him of the inconsistencies in the evolution theory. A Bible study resulted. No longer does he ask as the nations do: “Where, now, is their God?” but as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he declares: “Our God is in the heavens.”—Psalm 115:2, 3.
Increase From Among Small and Great
Jehovah is the “living God, who is a Savior of all sorts of men.” (1 Timothy 4:10) Or as Psalm 115:13 expresses it: “He will bless those fearing [him], the small ones as well as the great ones.” Thus among the newly baptized Witnesses were many ordinary citizens, small ones as it were, but also others who, from a worldly standpoint, might be considered great ones. “All sorts of men” were represented. Consider some examples.
One year ago a top-ranking athlete and highly respected sports coach was baptized in Helsinki, Finland.a He began witnessing to a 14-year-old girl whom he was training. In her three-hour athletic training period, he even included one hour of Bible study! Now, in 1984, despite family opposition, she was baptized at one of the Finnish conventions.
The superintendent of Sunday schools at a Baptist Church in the United States, upon learning the truth, began opening her class with prayer to Jehovah. She says: “The students responded quite well to that, but then to my surprise some of the teachers, as well as fellow members of the church, became disturbed. Many of them walked out of my classes, saying that what I was teaching was so different from what the ‘Reverend’ had taught. Indeed, it was different because I was using material from My Book of Bible Stories. I had purchased 30 copies of the Bible Stories book, doing this out of my tithes for the class. I gave a copy to the ‘Reverend,’ seeking his approval. Later he approached me, saying: ‘The book is very well written, I really like it, it is very beautiful. . . .’ His attitude suddenly changed when he read who published the book—the Watchtower Society.” This hypocrisy helped her break free from bondage to Babylon the Great, and she was baptized at the Cicero, Illinois, convention.
In Sweden a 20-year-old girl picked up one of the Society’s books from her mother’s bookshelf and started to read it. Fascinated by what she learned, she began to answer the questions at the bottom of each page and wrote down the answers in a notebook. She read the book five times and filled two notebooks with her answers. After resigning from the Swedish state church, she called the local Kingdom Hall and made contact with the Witnesses.
Others baptized included a schoolteacher from Portugal who, in her own words, was formerly “fully dedicated to overthrowing the government.” Another kind of fighter, the former director of a karate school and himself a karate prizewinner, was baptized in Austria. In Spain a young woman, with a history of drug trafficking, robbery, and immorality behind her, was at age 22 an abandoned wife expecting a child. She was almost ready to give up fighting, for she was contemplating suicide before meeting Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Some accepted the truth within a few months. Others needed more time. A mother baptized in Germany had lived next door to Jehovah’s Witnesses for 11 years. But not until the Witness children began talking to her 8- and 11-year-old children did she begin to take an interest in their message. And in becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a 91-year-old German was following the example of his father, who had been baptized somewhat earlier—88 years earlier to be exact—in 1896!
Some experienced in a marvelous way that “Kingdom Increase” is proceeding under angelic guidance. (See Revelation 14:6, 7.) A 25-year-old man from the Netherlands believed in reincarnation and practiced spiritism. He worshiped the sun and even hoped one day to become part of it. To achieve this goal, he was determined to die, as he expressed it, ‘in one way or another in March 1983.’ The Witnesses met him in February!
In view of this great increase from among “all sorts of men,” both small and great, what can we expect for the future?
Still More to Come!
We can be sure that there is more to come. First of all, Jehovah has promised further increase. (See Isaiah 60:22.) Second, as the figures in the accompanying box show, there is still a tremendous potential for increase. Note the percentage of people in attendance at the conventions above the peak number of active Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1984. Notice, too, the number of Witnesses newly baptized during the last service year, all of whom will now be helping to preach the good news of God’s established Kingdom to others. Without doubt, the conventions have laid a proper basis for further increase. After the convention in Hannover, Germany, K. V. expressed it this way: “In a loving and pointed way, the convention program called attention to the basic conditions for contributing to Kingdom increase—things dealing with our personal lives, relationships within the congregation, attitudes toward the organization, and life in the family.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses take no personal credit for this increase. “To us belongs nothing, O Jehovah, to us belongs nothing,” they readily admit. It is rather “according to [God’s] loving-kindness, according to [his] trueness,” and his blessing that this increase has taken place and will continue to do so in the future.—Psalm 115:1; see also Zechariah 4:6.
Joyful in the service of their God, Jehovah’s Witnesses invite “all sorts of men” everywhere to become personally a part of Kingdom increase by joining them in saying the words of the Hallel: “But we ourselves will bless Jah from now on and to time indefinite.”—Psalm 115:18.
[Box on page 20]
WHAT CONVENTIONERS SAID:
“I think 100,000 words would be insufficient to describe my feelings of appreciation to Jehovah for this spiritual feast.”—R. S., Luxembourg
“In the release of the brochure The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever I saw a proof of Jehovah’s blessing. I had hoped to have something like this for a long time. Thanks a million!”—A. L., Federal Republic of Germany
“The release of the reference Bible is a personal blessing to me from Jehovah . . . Fantastic! I have read the Bible three times. The new Bible is an incentive to read it again.”—A. P. and J. J., United States
[Graph on page 22]
(For fully formatted text, see publication.)
1984 “KINGDOM INCREASE” DISTRICT CONVENTIONS IN THE UNITED STATES AND SOME EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
Peak number of Percentage of Newly baptized
Witnesses in 1984 convention Witnesses during
attendance over 1984 service year
Austria 15,618 37% 790
Belgium 20,499 39% 1,009
Britain 97,495 40% 5,166
Denmark 14,337 62% 391
Finland 15,263 54% 629
France 82,458 34% 4,708
Germany 109,102 29% 4,288
Italy 116,555 45% 9,060
Luxembourg 1,129 18% 54
Netherlands 27,812 51% 841
Norway 7,670 48% 328
Portugal 27,220 71% 1,859
Spain 56,717 49% 3,671
Sweden 19,526 29% 845
Switzerland 12,378 41% 713
United States 690,830 53% 35,618
Total of 69,970
[Pictures on page 19]
Top: Conventioners on their way to preach in Hannover, Germany
Bottom left: New reference Bible released in Edinburgh, Scotland
Bottom right: No racial barriers—Japanese Witnesses attending in Dortmund, Germany