Expanding in All Directions in France
By “Awake!” correspondent in France
THE worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which includes their public preaching activities, involves a great deal of translating, printing, and shipping of Bible literature. All this work is done by volunteers who donate their time, energy, and skills. In each country, they are housed and fed in a building called Bethel, meaning “House of God.” In France, the first Bethel was established right in Paris. However, in 1959, after various moves within and outside the city, a new Bethel home, office, and printery were built in Boulogne-Billancourt, a Paris suburb. At that time, there were barely 14,000 witnesses of Jehovah in France.
In the early 1970’s, Bible literature for France was printed in Brooklyn, New York, and shipped by boat to Le Havre, Normandy. Since Louviers is conveniently located between Paris and the Normandy coast, it was decided that a depot should be opened there. This was done in 1973, and the shipping department as well as the small printery were transferred from Boulogne to Louviers. By this time the number of French Witnesses had grown to over 48,000.
In 1975 the French government legally authorized the circulation of The Watchtower. Later, the Watchtower and Awake! subscription files for France and 15 other French-speaking countries were transferred from Switzerland to Louviers. This greatly increased the quantity of magazines handled in Louviers and created the need for more personnel and living space. Thus, a 34-room residence was built in Incarville, just a few hundred yards from the Louviers printery. It was built entirely by Witness volunteers and was dedicated in 1978.
The magazines and other Bible literature are delivered to some 1,200 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in France by means of a fleet of trucks. To maintain and service these, in 1984 a fine new garage was built just across the street from the Louviers printery.
It was also in the early 1980’s that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York, decided to ship two offset rotary presses to France to enable the French Witnesses to print their own magazines rather than import them. This new printing load necessitated the building of a new three-story factory extension in Louviers. The new extension, which is connected to the small 1973 factory, provides about 140,000 square feet (13,000 sq m) of additional floor space, making it more than six times larger than the original Louviers building.
While all this building work took place in France, Jehovah’s Witnesses imitated God’s faithful servants of old and ‘honored Jehovah with their valuable things.’ (Proverbs 3:9; Ezra 1:4; 7:15, 16) For instance, when the French edition of Our Kingdom Ministry gave a report on the progress of the construction work and mentioned that very expensive fire doors needed to be fitted in the new factory, eight-year-old Sara and her brother Frédéric donated their savings “for the printery doors.” Some honored Jehovah by helping out with construction on weekends, while others were able to come for a period of weeks, or even months.
The shell of the new factory was built by a commercial firm, but all the woodwork, plumbing, electrical installation, and interior decorating were done by volunteer teams of Witnesses. The fine spirit manifested moved the non-Witness foreman to exclaim: “This is the best atmosphere I have ever experienced among a building crew!” One of the building firm’s non-Witness workmen even came in to help free of charge on his day off.
A Happy Inauguration
On the morning of May 4, 1985, guests invited to the inauguration enjoyed a tour of the new building. The afternoon dedication program was relayed to audiences in eight cities throughout France, with a total attendance of 56,537. M. G. Henschel, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, gave the dedication talk. He reminded the audience that all buildings erected for Jehovah’s worship and service give evidence of Jehovah’s goodness.
The new printery in Louviers is just one aspect of the expansion of Jehovah’s work in France. Large Assembly Halls near Lyons, Marseilles, Paris, and in northern France are being planned, or construction on them is already under way. Quickly built local Kingdom Halls are also being planned in various cities in France.
With nearly 90,000 active Witnesses preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom and over 178,000 attending the Memorial of Christ’s death last year, there is indeed expansion in all directions in France.
[Pictures on page 27]
The new factory in Louviers, France, and M. G. Henschel during the dedication talk