Fast Work Far North!
By Awake! correspondent in Norway
“JUST fantastic. That is the only expression we can find that describes what Jehovah’s Witnesses did last weekend.”
Thus the Norwegian newspaper Finnmarken begins a report on the building of a Kingdom Hall, a meeting place for the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in the small town of Kirkenes up in northern Norway last summer. What was so fantastic about it?
The 2,258-square-foot (210 sq m) building, seating some 100 persons, was constructed in three days by over 200 volunteer workers from five nations. The building had to be carefully put together and well insulated because Kirkenes is situated in the cold area about 217 miles (349 km) north of the Arctic Circle where the borders of Norway, Finland, and Russia meet. How did this building work come about?
It began with the small congregation of about 30 members inquiring of the local authorities about the possibility of purchasing a lot. First they were told that no area was available for such a purpose. But being favorably inclined toward the project, the authorities rezoned a whole area for the building of meeting places, and the like. The three-day construction schedule was set for Friday, June 27, through Sunday, June 29, 1986.
The foundation walls were already completed, and the evening before the work was to be started the materials were on hand at the site. But what about the workers? In addition to members from the local congregation, fellow Witnesses had arrived from far and near. Entire families had come by car, bringing their trailers. A busload of volunteers had come from the Oslo area in southern Norway. It included Witnesses from Denmark, the United States, and Canada. A bus with 44 Finnish friends had also arrived. Altogether over 200 were there.
The same evening all the workers gathered for an information meeting in the nearby Sports House, which the congregation had rented for the construction period. All information given was translated into Finnish and English. The loving and cooperative spirit that would characterize the whole construction work was already felt.
Friday at 7:00 a.m. a Bible text for the day was discussed in Norwegian and Finnish. After prayer and breakfast everybody got ready for work. At eight o’clock sharp, the first hammer strokes were heard. By 9:45 a.m. five of the six walls were up. Then the scaffolding started. One hour later the first roof truss was put into place.
That morning a man in the neighborhood had noticed the crowd outside his window. He went into the kitchen, made himself a cup of coffee and a sandwich, returned to the window, and almost dropped his cup when he saw a building already taking form.
Under the direction of craftsmen—each assigned a certain task—the work progressed rapidly. Some worked till late in the night finishing the roof boarding. So far north the sun is up 24 hours a day that time of year, guaranteeing sufficient light. Inside, the work of putting plaster boards on the walls and ceiling was finished.
Sign language solved most of the language problems. It was found that a lot can be said that way. And when insufficient, those of the Finnish friends who knew English or Swedish—similar to Norwegian—acted as interpreters. Thus breaking through the language barriers added to the feeling of unity.
Helpful townspeople contributed to the speeding up of the work. When, for example, the Witnesses asked at a lumber merchant’s and at an electrical supply store if somebody would mind opening if supplies were needed during the weekend, they were given the keys and told to list whatever they took and return supplies not used.
The town gardener was asked on Saturday evening if flowers could be bought for the flower beds. Although having guests, the gardener—wearing a suit and tie—came over and planted the flowers himself. “This is the town’s gift to your building,” he said.
The electrical inspector came on Saturday. He astounded the workers by asking if he could come back the next day to connect the power. It usually takes weeks to get this done, and prior to this, it had never been done on a Sunday. After the power was on and the Witnesses had thanked the people from the power company for coming, the inspector said: “I would have come at five this morning if necessary. Something would be wrong with a person who would not want to help with a project like this. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Completing the Work
When Sunday arrived, the exterior of the building was almost finished and the trees were planted. By 9:00 a.m. the grass for the lawn was sown. Inside, the workers painted, papered, laid floor covering, and did other finishing work. Commenting on the tidiness of the site, a newspaper wrote: “We all know what a building site looks like—plastic, stubs, lots of trash lying around. But when Jehovah’s Witnesses were building their Kingdom Hall, not one single piece of wood or plastic messed up the place.”
At 6:00 p.m. the hall was finished, except for some plumbing and electrical installations. In addition to the main hall, the building contained a multipurpose room, a library, a storage room, a lounge, and rest rooms.
At 7:00 p.m. the first meeting was held, with 250 present. A Bible study based on a Watchtower article was held, and a video recording of the work was shown. All expressed appreciation for the privilege of working together in helping their Christian brothers to build a place of worship so fast in the far north.
[Map on page 24]
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[Pictures on page 25]
Different stages of the Kingdom Hall construction from Friday to Saturday