An Open House That Touched Hearts
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN GERMANY
“SUPER! It was really great!” “Thank you for the hospitality and the lovely exhibits. We really felt at ease.” What moved scores of visitors to make appreciative expressions like these? The weekend open house held by the Germany branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On three days, from Friday, May 24, to Sunday, May 26, 2002, the doors of the facilities at Selters-Taunus were open for visitors to come and join the more than 1,000 branch volunteers in marking the centennial of the Germany branch office.
Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the vicinity of the branch office eagerly participated in a special invitation campaign. Two weeks before the big event, more than 100,000 invitations were handed out to people or were left at their homes. This campaign was augmented by advertisements and long articles in newspapers and by radio broadcasts. Personal invitations were issued to suppliers and officials. A total of well over 7,000 accepted—a substantial portion being non-Witnesses.
Visitors roamed through the printery, bookbindery, shipping department, workshops, and laundry, as well as parts of the administration building. Exhibits informed people about the firm stand for Bible principles that was taken by Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany under the Nazi and the Communist regimes. And a Bible exhibit with more than 700 items focused on the use of the divine name, Jehovah. To repeat all the appreciative comments heard would be impossible, but here we present a selection of expressions.
“Everyone is so friendly here. Things are so clean, so tidy. Everything fits well together—the people who live here and the surroundings. We hope we can take along some of your friendliness with us.”—An elderly couple.
“Thank you for the good food and for taking care of us in such a nice, friendly way. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and we would love to come again. The people here were really, really nice!”—Guest-book entry made by a group from a glass technology college.
“Thank you very much for the warm reception at your facilities. [We] found the visit very interesting. Our compliments to the people in charge of the laundry and dry cleaning departments, for we have never visited such neat and tidy facilities.”—E-mail from a representative of a detergent and laundry equipment company.
Eva, who served as a tour guide, reported: “In each tour that I gave, there was always someone who said about the residential rooms: ‘Just wait till we get our suitcases. We’re moving in!’”
As a woman in an electric wheelchair was studying a sketch of the facilities, a volunteer asked her if she could be of assistance. “Not really!” the woman replied. She said that she had already been on the premises for five hours and actually could not sit in an upright position anymore. Normally she was bedridden, and she was presently in real pain. However, she explained: “I can lie down at home, but open house is only once!” She added: “Everything is so interesting that I want to make sure I see it all!”
Little Georg, about five years old, was asked what he liked best. Thrilled with the rotary printing presses, he answered: “The rolls of paper! They put them in one end, and out they came at the other end as newspapers. That was super!”
One Witness had a nice surprise. Her husband, a non-Witness who had only attended one Christian meeting, agreed to come along to visit the open house on Saturday. On Sunday when his wife came home from the congregation meeting, he was all dressed up and ready to go out. “What’s going on?” his wife asked. “Well, I didn’t quite get to see everything yesterday,” he replied. “So as soon as you are ready, we’ll leave for Selters. I want to get a better look.”
At the Bible exhibit, an elderly, well-dressed lady timidly asked where she could use a phone because she had to place an urgent call. As it turned out, her husband is a bookbinder, specializing in the restoration of old books. She and her husband regularly meet with a circle of other book lovers, one of whom is a Protestant pastor, a passionate Bible collector. He was the one she desperately wanted to call. Since he was not at home, she left a message on his answering machine: “Be sure to come over here today if at all possible. You’ve never seen anything like it, I’m sure. You shouldn’t miss it!”
A couple with their child came to visit from the nearby town of Limburg. They had never heard of Jehovah’s Witnesses until they received an invitation at their home. The couple decided to come and have a look at these large facilities in Selters. Marlon and Leila, volunteers at the Germany branch, met them and explained more about Jehovah’s Witnesses and life at the branch office. The family was so impressed that the parents asked for someone to call on them for a regular home Bible study.
“It was really nice here and a lot of fun. I only saw the printery, but it was so nice. You are just great, friendly people, and that’s what I like.”—Stefanie (12 years of age), a guest-book entry.
A woman from the neighboring village said: “I have to tell you something. I’m Muslim, but I have always wanted to see how it is here. You are all so pleasant and easygoing. You make us [foreigners] feel welcome in Germany. You reach out to people. That’s marvelous! Tomorrow I’m going to come again with my husband.” In the guest book, she wrote: “It was wonderful! I feel like I’m in Paradise.”
The driver of one of the shuttle buses operating between the parking area and the entrances overheard one passenger saying to another: “What friendliness! And to think I didn’t have a clue about what was being produced here. I’ve just come to know what these people are doing here. Look at how they conduct themselves. It must have something to do with their religious upbringing and education.”
Two hours after closing time, a man walked back and forth in the courtyard in front of the administration building. He was very thoughtful and kept shaking his head and looking back at the building. Then he approached a branch volunteer, saying: “You could see that everything was done out of love. I am not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I wish you Jehovah’s blessing.”
And a Witness wrote: “With this short letter, I would like to send you my heartfelt thanks. You spared no effort in making these open house days as pleasant as possible. . . . All in all, it was a foretaste of the time when all mankind will live together in unity! . . . These days of open house certainly contributed to the glory of our God, Jehovah.”—Sandra.
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Shuttle service for those who were aged, disabled, or just tired
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A display of preaching methods used in the past
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Welcome to our open house
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A volunteer explains technology in simple terms
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