Part 2—Witnesses to the Most Distant Part of the Earth
The work of Kingdom proclamation from 1914 through 1935 is covered on pages 423 to 443. Jehovah’s Witnesses point to 1914 as the time when Jesus Christ was enthroned as heavenly King with authority over the nations. When on earth, Jesus foretold that a global preaching of the Kingdom message in the face of intense persecution would be part of the sign of his presence in Kingdom power. What actually occurred during the years following 1914?
THE first world war quickly engulfed Europe in 1914. Then it reached out to involve countries comprising an estimated 90 percent of the world’s population. How did events associated with that war affect the preaching activity of Jehovah’s servants?
The Dark Years of World War I
During the early years of the war, there was little hindrance except in Germany and France. Tracts were freely distributed in many places, and there was continued use of the “Photo-Drama,” though on a much more limited scale after 1914. As the war fever intensified, the clergy in the British West Indies had it rumored that E. J. Coward, who represented the Watch Tower Society, was a German spy, so he was ordered to leave. When distribution of the book The Finished Mystery got under way in 1917, opposition became widespread.
The public was eager to obtain that book. The Society’s initial order with the printers had to be increased over tenfold in just a few months. But the clergy of Christendom were furious over the exposure of their false doctrines. They seized on wartime hysteria to denounce the Bible Students to government officials. Across the United States, men and women identified with distribution of literature of the Bible Students were mobbed, also tarred and feathered. In Canada, homes were searched, and persons found with certain publications of the International Bible Students Association were subject to a heavy fine or imprisonment. However, Thomas J. Sullivan, who was then in Port Arthur, Ontario, reported that on one occasion, when he was put into jail for a night, the police in that city took home copies of the banned literature for themselves and their friends, thus distributing the entire available stock—some 500 or 600 copies.
The headquarters of the Watch Tower Society itself came under attack, and members of the administrative staff were sentenced to long prison terms. It appeared to their enemies that the Bible Students had been dealt a deathblow. Their witnessing in a manner that attracted widespread public attention virtually came to a stop.
Nevertheless, even Bible Students who were confined in prison found opportunities to talk to fellow prisoners about God’s purpose. When the officers of the Society and their close associates arrived at the prison in Atlanta, Georgia, they were at first forbidden to preach. But they discussed the Bible among themselves, and others were attracted to them by their deportment, their manner of life. After a few months, the deputy warden assigned them to give religious instruction to other prisoners. The number increased until about 90 attended the classes.
Other loyal Christians also found ways to witness during those war years. This at times resulted in spreading the Kingdom message into lands where the good news had not yet been preached. Thus, in 1915 a Bible Student in New York, a Colombian, mailed the Spanish edition of The Divine Plan of the Ages to a man in Bogotá, Colombia. After about six months, a reply arrived from Ramón Salgar. He had studied the book carefully, was delighted with it, and wanted 200 copies to distribute to others. Brother J. L. Mayer, from Brooklyn, New York, also mailed out many copies of the Spanish-language Bible Students Monthly. A considerable number of these went to Spain. And when Alfred Joseph, who was then in Barbados, took a work contract in Sierra Leone, West Africa, he seized opportunities to witness there about the Bible truths he had recently learned.
For the colporteurs, whose ministry involved calling at homes and places of business, it was often more difficult. But several who went into El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala were busy there in 1916 sharing life-giving truths with the people. During this period Fanny Mackenzie, a colporteur of British nationality, made two trips to the Orient by boat, stopping in China, Japan, and Korea to distribute Bible literature, and then she followed up interest by writing letters.
Nevertheless, according to available records, the number of Bible Students reported as having some share in preaching the good news to others during 1918 decreased by 20 percent worldwide when compared with the report for 1914. After the harsh treatment meted out to them during the war years, would they persist in their ministry?
Infused With Renewed Life
On March 26, 1919, the president of the Watch Tower Society and his associates were released from their unjust imprisonment. Plans quickly took shape to push ahead with worldwide proclamation of the good news of God’s Kingdom.
At a general convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, in September of that year, J. F. Rutherford, then president of the Society, gave a discourse that highlighted the announcing of the glorious incoming of God’s Messianic Kingdom as the truly important work for Jehovah’s servants.
The actual number who were then sharing in that work, however, was small. Some who had fearfully held back during 1918 became active again, and a few more joined their ranks. But the records that are available show that in 1919 there were only some 5,700 who were actively witnessing, in 43 lands. Yet Jesus had foretold: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matt. 24:14) How could that be accomplished? They did not know, nor did they know how long the witnessing would continue. Nevertheless, those who were loyal servants of God were willing and eager to get on with the work. They had confidence that Jehovah would direct matters in harmony with his will.
Infused with zeal for what they saw laid out in God’s Word, they went to work. Within three years the number having a part in publicly proclaiming God’s Kingdom nearly tripled, according to available reports, and during 1922 they were busy preaching in 15 lands more than in 1919.
An Intriguing Subject
What an exciting message they proclaimed—“Millions now living will never die!” Brother Rutherford had given a discourse on this subject in 1918. It was also the title of a 128-page booklet published in 1920. From 1920 through 1925, that same subject was featured again and again around the world in public meetings in all areas where speakers were available and in upwards of 30 languages. Instead of saying, as Christendom does, that all good people would go to heaven, this discourse focused attention on the Bible-based hope of eternal life on a paradise earth for obedient mankind. (Isa. 45:18; Rev. 21:1-5) And it expressed the conviction that the time for the realization of that hope was very near.
Newspaper notices and billboards were used to advertise the lectures. The subject was intriguing. On February 26, 1922, upwards of 70,000 attended at 121 locations in Germany alone. It was not unusual for a single audience to number into the thousands. In Cape Town, South Africa, for example, 2,000 were present when the lecture was given at the Opera House. At the university auditorium in the capital city of Norway, not only was every seat filled but so many were turned away that the program had to be repeated an hour and a half later—again to a packed house.
In Klagenfurt, Austria, Richard Heide told his father: “I am going to hear that talk whatever anyone might say. I want to know whether this is just bluff or if there is any truth in it!” He was deeply moved by what he heard, and soon he and his sister, as well as their parents, were telling others about it.
But the Bible’s message was not just for people who would attend a public lecture. Others too needed to be made aware of it. Not only the public at large but also political and religious leaders needed to hear it. How would that be accomplished?
Distribution of Powerful Declarations
The printed page was used to reach millions of people who previously had only hearsay acquaintance with the Bible Students and the message that they proclaimed. From 1922 through 1928, an effective witness was given by means of seven powerful declarations, resolutions adopted at the annual conventions of the Bible Students. The number of printed copies of most of the individual resolutions distributed following those conventions totaled 45 to 50 million—a truly amazing accomplishment for the small band of Kingdom proclaimers then serving!
The 1922 resolution was entitled “A Challenge to World Leaders”—yes, a challenge to justify their claim that they could establish peace, prosperity, and happiness for humankind or, failing that, to acknowledge that only God’s Kingdom by his Messiah can accomplish these things. In Germany, that resolution was sent by registered mail to the exiled German kaiser, to the president, and to all the members of the Imperial Diet; and some four and a half million copies went to the public. In South Africa, Edwin Scott, carrying the literature in a bag on his back and with a stick in one hand to ward off fierce dogs, covered 64 towns, personally distributing 50,000 copies. Thereafter, when the Dutch clergy in South Africa called at the homes of parishioners to take up collections, many of the parishioners shook the resolution in their clergyman’s face and said: “You ought to read this and you would not come around again to get money from us.”
In 1924 the resolution entitled “Ecclesiastics Indicted” laid bare the unscriptural teachings and practices of the clergy, exposed their role during the world war, and urged people to study the Bible to learn for themselves about the marvelous provisions made by God for the blessing of humankind. In Italy at that time, printers were required to put their name on anything they printed, and they were held responsible for the contents. The Bible Student supervising the work in Italy submitted a copy of the resolution to the government authorities, who inspected it and readily gave permission to have it printed and distributed. The printers too agreed to publish it. The brothers in Italy distributed 100,000 copies. They particularly saw to it that the pope and other high officials of the Vatican each received a copy.
In France, distribution of this resolution brought a vehement and often violent reaction from the clergy. In desperation a clergyman in Pomerania, Germany, filed legal charges against the Society and its manager, but the clergyman lost the case when the court heard the contents of the entire resolution. In order to avoid interference with their work on the part of those who did not want people to know the truth, the Bible Students in the province of Quebec, in Canada, left resolutions at homes during the early morning hours, starting at 3:00 a.m. Those were exciting times!
Showing Gratitude for Satisfying Answers
During World War I, many Armenians were ruthlessly driven from their homes and the land of their birth. Only two decades earlier, hundreds of thousands of Armenians had been slaughtered, and others had fled for their lives. A few of these people had read the Watch Tower Society’s publications in their homeland. But far more of them were given a witness in the lands to which they traveled as refugees.
After the harsh experiences that they had endured, many had serious questions as to why God permitted evil. How long would it continue? When would it end? Some of them were grateful to learn the satisfying answers found in the Bible. Groups of Armenian Bible Students quickly developed in various cities in the Middle East. Their zeal for Bible truth touched the lives of others. In Ethiopia, Argentina, and the United States, fellow Armenians embraced the good news and gladly accepted the responsibility of sharing it with others. One of such was Krikor Hatzakortzian, who as a lone pioneer spread the Kingdom message in Ethiopia in the mid-1930’s. On one occasion, when falsely charged by opposers, he even had opportunity to witness to the emperor, Haile Selassie.
Taking Precious Truths Back to Their Native Lands
A burning desire to share vital Bible truths impelled many people to return to the land of their birth to engage in evangelizing. Their response was similar to that of the people from many lands who were in Jerusalem in 33 C.E. and who became believers when holy spirit moved the apostles and their associates to speak in many tongues “about the magnificent things of God.” (Acts 2:1-11) Just as those first-century believers carried the truth back to their homelands, so did these modern-day disciples.
Both men and women who had learned the truth abroad returned to Italy. They came from America, Belgium, and France and zealously proclaimed the Kingdom message where they settled. Colporteurs from the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino also moved into Italy to carry on their work. Although their numbers were few, as a result of their united activity they soon reached nearly all the principal cities and many of the villages of Italy. They were not counting the hours that they spent in this work. Convinced that they were preaching truths that God wanted people to know, they often worked from morning till night to reach as many people as possible.
Greeks who had become Bible Students in nearby Albania and as far away as America also gave attention to their homeland. They were thrilled when they learned that worship of icons is unscriptural (Ex. 20:4, 5; 1 John 5:21), that sinners are not roasted in hellfire (Eccl. 9:5, 10; Ezek. 18:4; Rev. 21:8), and that God’s Kingdom is mankind’s real and only hope (Dan. 2:44; Matt. 6:9, 10). They were eager to share these truths with their fellow countrymen—personally or by mail. As a result, groups of Jehovah’s Witnesses began to develop in Greece and on the Greek isles.
Following World War I, thousands of people from Poland moved into France to work in the coal mines. The French congregations did not pass them by because they spoke a different tongue. They found ways to share Bible truths with these miners and their families, and the number who responded favorably soon outnumbered the French Witnesses. When, as a result of a government deportation order, 280 had to return to Poland in 1935, this only served to reinforce the spread of the Kingdom message there. Thus, in 1935, there were 1,090 Kingdom proclaimers who shared in giving a witness in Poland.
Others responded to invitations to leave their homeland to take up service in foreign fields.
Zealous European Evangelizers Help in Foreign Fields
With international cooperation, the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) heard the heartwarming truths about God’s Kingdom. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, zealous brothers and sisters from Denmark, England, Finland, and Germany did extensive witnessing in this area. Much literature was placed, and thousands heard the Bible discourses that were given. From Estonia regular radio broadcasts of Bible programs in several languages reached even into what was then the Soviet Union.
From Germany willing workers during the 1920’s and 1930’s took up assignments in such places as Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, and Yugoslavia. Willy Unglaube was among them. After serving for a time at the Magdeburg Bethel, in Germany, he went on to care for assignments as a full-time evangelizer in France, Algeria, Spain, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.
When a call went out from France for help during the 1930’s, colporteurs from Britain gave evidence that they were aware that the Christian commission to preach required evangelizing not only in their own land but also in other parts of the earth. (Mark 13:10) John Cooke was one of the zealous workers who answered the Macedonian call. (Compare Acts 16:9, 10.) During the next six decades, he cared for service assignments in France, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa. His brother Eric left his job at Barclay’s Bank and joined John in the full-time ministry in France; thereafter, he too served in Spain and Ireland and shared in missionary work in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa.
In May 1926, George Wright and Edwin Skinner, in England, accepted an invitation to help to broaden out the Kingdom work in India. Their assignment was huge! It included all of Afghanistan, Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, and Persia (now Iran). On arrival in Bombay, they were greeted by the monsoon rains. However, not being overly concerned about personal comfort or convenience, they were soon traveling to the far corners of the country to locate known Bible Students to encourage them. They also placed large quantities of literature to stimulate interest among others. The work was done with intensity. Thus, during 1928 the 54 Kingdom proclaimers in Travancore (Kerala), in southern India, arranged for 550 public meetings attended by about 40,000 persons. In 1929 four more pioneers from the British field moved to India to help with the work. And in 1931 another three from England arrived in Bombay. Again and again they reached out to various parts of this vast country, distributing literature not only in English but also in the Indian tongues.
Meanwhile, what was happening in Eastern Europe?
A Spiritual Harvest
Before the first world war, seeds of Bible truth had been scattered in Eastern Europe, and some had taken root. In 1908, Andrásné Benedek, a humble Hungarian woman, had returned to Austria-Hungary to share with others the good things that she had learned. Two years later, Károly Szabó and József Kiss had also come back to that land and were spreading Bible truth especially in areas that later came to be known as Romania and Czechoslovakia. Despite violent opposition by irate clergy, study groups were formed, and extensive witnessing was done. Others joined them in making public declaration of their faith, and by 1935 the ranks of Kingdom proclaimers in Hungary had grown to 348.
Romania nearly doubled its size when the map of Europe was reshaped by the victors following World War I. It was reported that within this enlarged country, in 1920, there were about 150 groups of Bible Students, with which 1,700 persons were associated. The following year, at the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal, nearly 2,000 partook of the Memorial emblems, indicating that they professed to be spirit-anointed brothers of Christ. That number increased dramatically during the next four years. In 1925, there were 4,185 in attendance at the Memorial, and as was customary then, most of them undoubtedly partook of the emblems. However, the faith of all of these would be put to the test. Would they prove to be genuine “wheat” or only an imitation? (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) Would they really do the work of witnessing that Jesus had assigned to his followers? Would they persevere in it in the face of intense opposition? Would they be faithful even when others displayed a spirit like that of Judas Iscariot?
The report for 1935 indicates that not all had the sort of faith that enabled them to endure. In that year, there were just 1,188 who had some share in giving a witness in Romania, though more than twice that number were at that time partaking of the Memorial emblems. Nevertheless, the faithful ones kept busy in the Master’s service. They shared with other humble people the Bible truths that brought such joy to their own hearts. One outstanding way that they did this was by literature distribution. Between 1924 and 1935, they had already placed with interested ones upwards of 800,000 books and booklets, in addition to tracts.
What about Czechoslovakia, which had become a nation in 1918 after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire? Here an even more intense witness was contributing to the spiritual harvest. Earlier preaching had been done in Hungarian, Russian, Romanian, and German. Then, in 1922, several Bible Students returned from America to direct attention to the Slovak-speaking population, and the following year a couple from Germany began to concentrate on the Czech territory. Regular assemblies, though small, helped to encourage and unify the brothers. After the congregations became better organized for house-to-house evangelizing in 1927, growth became more evident. In 1932 a powerful stimulus to the work was given by an international convention in Prague, attended by about 1,500 from Czechoslovakia and neighboring countries. In addition to this, large crowds viewed a four-hour version of the “Photo-Drama of Creation” that was shown from one end of the country to the other. In a period of just a decade, upwards of 2,700,000 pieces of Bible literature were distributed to the various language groups in this land. All this spiritual planting, cultivating, and watering contributed to a harvest in which 1,198 Kingdom proclaimers shared in the year 1935.
Yugoslavia (known first as the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes) had come into existence as a result of the reshaping of the map of Europe following the first world war. As early as 1923, it was reported that a group of Bible Students were witnessing in Belgrade. Later the “Photo-Drama of Creation” was shown to large crowds throughout the country. When Jehovah’s Witnesses came under severe persecution in Germany, the ranks in Yugoslavia were fortified with German pioneers. Without concern for personal comfort, they reached out into the most remote parts of this mountainous country to preach. Others of those pioneers went into Bulgaria. Efforts were also being made to preach the good news in Albania. In all these places, seeds of Kingdom truth were sown. Some of the seeds bore fruit. But it would not be until later years that there would be a larger harvest in these places.
Farther south, on the continent of Africa, the good news was also being spread by those who deeply appreciated the privilege of being witnesses for the Most High.
Spiritual Light Shines in West Africa
About seven years after a Bible Student from Barbados first went to West Africa under a work contract, he wrote to the Watch Tower Society’s office in New York to inform them that quite a few people were showing interest in the Bible. A few months later, on April 14, 1923, at Brother Rutherford’s invitation, W. R. Brown, who had been serving in Trinidad, arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, with his family.
Promptly, arrangements were made for Brother Brown to give a discourse in the Wilberforce Memorial Hall. On April 19, there was an audience of some 500 in attendance, including most of the clergy of Freetown. The following Sunday he spoke again. His subject was one that C. T. Russell had often used—“To Hell and Back. Who Are There?” Brother Brown’s discourses were regularly punctuated with Scripture quotations made visible to the audience by means of lantern slides. As he spoke, he would repeatedly say: “Not Brown says, but the Bible says.” Because of this, he came to be known as “Bible Brown.” And as a result of his logical, Scriptural presentation, some prominent church members resigned and took up Jehovah’s service.
He traveled extensively to get the Kingdom work started in additional areas. To that end he delivered numerous Bible lectures and distributed large amounts of literature, and he encouraged others to do the same. His evangelizing took him into Gold Coast (now Ghana), Liberia, The Gambia, and Nigeria. From Nigeria others carried the Kingdom message into Benin (then known as Dahomey) and Cameroon. Brother Brown knew that the public had little regard for what they called “the white man’s religion,” so at the Glover Memorial Hall in Lagos, he spoke on the failure of Christendom’s religion. After the meeting the enthusiastic audience obtained 3,900 books to read and to share with others.
When Brother Brown first went to West Africa, only a handful of persons there had heard the Kingdom message. When he left 27 years later, well over 11,000 were active Witnesses of Jehovah in that area. Religious falsehoods were being laid bare; true worship had taken root and was spreading rapidly.
Up the East Coast of Africa
Quite early in the 20th century, some of the publications of C. T. Russell had been circulated in the southeast part of Africa by individuals who had adopted a few of the ideas set out in those books but had then mixed them with their own philosophy. The result was a number of so-called Watchtower movements that had no connection whatever with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some of them were politically oriented, stirring up unrest among the native Africans. For many years the bad reputation made by those groups presented obstacles to the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Nevertheless, a number of Africans discerned the difference between the true and the false. Itinerant workers carried the good news of God’s Kingdom to nearby lands and shared it with people who spoke the African languages. The English-speaking population in southeast Africa received the message, for the most part, by means of contacts with South Africa. In some countries, however, strong official opposition, fueled by Christendom’s clergy, hindered preaching on the part of European Witnesses among the African-language groups. Nevertheless, the truth spread, though many people who showed interest in the Bible’s message needed more help to make sound practical application of what they were learning.
Some fair-minded government officials did not accept without question the vicious charges made against the Witnesses by Christendom’s clergy. That was true of a police commissioner in Nyasaland (now Malawi) who disguised himself and went to the meetings of the native Witnesses to find out for himself what sort of people they were. He was favorably impressed. When approval was given by the government to have a resident European representative, Bert McLuckie and later his brother Bill were sent there in the mid-1930’s. They kept in touch with the police and the district commissioners so that these officials would have a clear understanding of their activity and would not confuse Jehovah’s Witnesses with any movements falsely called Watchtower. At the same time, they worked patiently, along with Gresham Kwazizirah, a mature local Witness, to help the hundreds who wanted to associate with the congregations to appreciate that sexual immorality, abuse of alcoholic drinks, and superstition could have no place in the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses.—1 Cor. 5:9-13; 2 Cor. 7:1; Rev. 22:15.
In 1930, there were only about a hundred of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the whole of southern Africa. Yet, they had an assignment that included, roughly, all of Africa south of the equator and some territories that extended north of that. Covering such a vast expanse of territory with the Kingdom message called for real pioneers. Frank and Gray Smith were of that sort.
They sailed 3,000 miles [4,800 km] east and north from Cape Town and then continued for four days over rough roads by automobile to reach Nairobi, Kenya (in British East Africa). In less than a month, they placed 40 cartons of Bible literature. But, sadly, on the return trip, Frank died of malaria. Despite this, a short while later, Robert Nisbet and David Norman started out—this time with 200 cartons of literature—to preach in Kenya and Uganda, also Tanganyika and Zanzibar (both now Tanzania), reaching as many people as possible. Other similar expeditions spread the Kingdom message to the islands of Mauritius and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean. Seeds of truth were sown, but they did not immediately sprout and grow everywhere.
From South Africa the preaching of the good news also spread into Basutoland (now Lesotho), Bechuanaland (now Botswana), and Swaziland, as early as 1925. About eight years later, when pioneers were again preaching in Swaziland, King Sobhuza II gave them a royal welcome. He assembled his personal bodyguard of a hundred warriors, listened to a thorough witness, and then obtained all the publications of the Society that the brothers had with them.
Gradually the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses grew in this part of the world field. Others joined with the few who had pioneered the work in Africa early in this 20th century, and by 1935 there were 1,407 on the continent of Africa who reported having a share in the work of witnessing about God’s Kingdom. Substantial numbers of these were in South Africa and Nigeria. Other large groups that identified themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses were located in Nyasaland (now Malawi), Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
During this same period, attention was being directed also to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking lands.
Cultivating Spanish and Portuguese Fields
While World War I was still in progress, The Watch Tower was first published in Spanish. It bore the address of an office in Los Angeles, California, which had been set up to give special attention to the Spanish-speaking field. Brothers from that office gave much personal help to interested ones both in the United States and in lands to the south.
Juan Muñiz, who had become one of Jehovah’s servants in 1917, was encouraged by Brother Rutherford in 1920 to leave the United States and return to Spain, his native land, to get the Kingdom-preaching work organized there. The results were limited, however, not because of any lack of zeal on his part, but because he was constantly followed by the police; so after a few years, he was transferred to Argentina.
In Brazil a few worshipers of Jehovah were already preaching. Eight humble sailors had learned the truth while on leave from their ship in New York. Back in Brazil early in 1920, they were busy sharing the Bible’s message with others.
George Young, a Canadian, was sent to Brazil in 1923. He certainly helped to stimulate the work. Delivering numerous public lectures through interpreters, he showed what the Bible says about the condition of the dead, exposed spiritism as demonism, and explained God’s purpose for the blessing of all the families of the earth. His lectures were all the more persuasive because at times he showed on a screen the Bible texts being discussed so that the audience could see these in their own language. While he was in Brazil, Bellona Ferguson, of São Paulo, was finally able to get baptized, along with four of her children. She had waited 25 years for this opportunity. Among those who embraced the truth were some who then made themselves available to help with translation of literature into Portuguese. Soon there was a good supply of publications in that language.
From Brazil, Brother Young went on to Argentina in 1924 and arranged for free distribution of 300,000 pieces of literature in Spanish in 25 of the principal towns and cities. That same year he also personally traveled to Chile, Peru, and Bolivia to distribute tracts.
George Young was soon on his way to care for a new assignment. This time it was Spain and Portugal. After being introduced by the British ambassador to local government officials, he was able to arrange for Brother Rutherford to speak to audiences in Barcelona and Madrid, as well as in the capital of Portugal. Following these discourses, a total of more than 2,350 persons turned in their names and addresses with requests for further information. Thereafter, the speech was published in one of Spain’s large newspapers, and in tract form it was sent by mail to people throughout the country. It also appeared in the Portuguese press.
By these means the message reached far beyond the borders of Spain and Portugal. By the end of 1925, the good news had penetrated into the Cape Verde Islands (now Republic of Cape Verde), Madeira, Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique), Portuguese West Africa (now Angola), and islands in the Indian Ocean.
The following year arrangements were made to print the powerful resolution “A Testimony to the Rulers of the World” in the Spanish paper La Libertad. Radio broadcasts and the distribution of books, booklets, and tracts, as well as showings of the “Photo-Drama of Creation,” helped to intensify the witness. In 1932 several English pioneers responded to the invitation to help out in this field, and they systematically covered large sections of the country with Bible literature until the Spanish Civil War made it necessary for them to leave.
Meanwhile, upon arriving in Argentina, Brother Muñiz had quickly started preaching, while supporting himself by repairing clocks. In addition to his work in Argentina, he gave attention to Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. At his request some brothers came from Europe to witness to the German-speaking population. Many years later Carlos Ott related that they began their day’s service at 4:00 a.m. by leaving tracts under every door in a territory. Later in the day, they would call to give a further witness and to offer more Bible literature to interested householders. From Buenos Aires those who shared in the full-time ministry spread throughout the country, first following the railroad lines that radiated for hundreds of miles from the capital like spread fingers on your hand, then using every other means of transport they could find. They had very little materially and endured much hardship, but they were rich spiritually.
One of those zealous workers in Argentina was Nicolás Argyrós, a Greek. Early in 1930, when he obtained some literature published by the Watch Tower Society, he was especially impressed by a booklet entitled Hell, with subtitles that asked “What Is It? Who Are There? Can They Get Out?” He was amazed to find that this booklet did not depict sinners as roasting on a grill. What a surprise when he realized that hellfire was a religious lie invented to frighten people, just as it had frightened him! He promptly set out to share the truth—first with Greeks; then, as his Spanish improved, with others. Each month he devoted between 200 and 300 hours to sharing the good news with others. Using his feet and any other available means of transport, he spread Bible truths into 14 of the 22 provinces of Argentina. As he moved from place to place, he slept in beds when these were offered by hospitable folks, often out in the open, and even in a barn with a burro for an alarm clock!
Another who had the spirit of a real pioneer was Richard Traub, who had learned the truth in Buenos Aires. He was eager to share the good news with people across the Andes, in Chile. In 1930, five years after he was baptized, he arrived in Chile—the only Witness in a country of 4,000,000 people. At first, he had only the Bible with which to work, but he began to call from house to house. There were no congregation meetings that he could attend, so on Sundays, at the usual meeting time, he would walk to Mount San Cristóbal, sit in the shade of a tree, and immerse himself in personal study and prayer. After he rented an apartment, he began to invite people to meetings there. The only other person to turn up for the first meeting was Juan Flores, who asked: “And the others, when will they come?” Brother Traub simply replied: “They will come.” And they did. In less than a year, 13 became baptized servants of Jehovah.
Four years later, two Witnesses who had never met before teamed up to preach the good news in Colombia. After a productive year there, Hilma Sjoberg had to return to the United States. But Kathe Palm boarded a ship to Chile, using the 17 days at sea to witness to both crew and passengers. During the next decade, she worked from Chile’s northernmost seaport, Arica, to its southernmost possession, Tierra del Fuego. She called at business houses and witnessed to government officials. Using a saddlebag across her shoulders to carry literature, and toting such necessities as a blanket in which to sleep, she reached the most distant mining camps and sheep ranches. It was the life of a true pioneer. And there were others who shared that same spirit—some single, some married, young and old.
During the year 1932, a special effort was made to spread the Kingdom message in Latin American lands where little preaching had yet been done. In that year the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World was given a remarkable distribution. This booklet contained a discourse that had already been heard on an international radio broadcast. Now some 40,000 copies of the speech in printed form were distributed in Chile, 25,000 copies in Bolivia, 25,000 in Peru, 15,000 in Ecuador, 20,000 in Colombia, 10,000 in Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic), and another 10,000 in Puerto Rico. Indeed, the Kingdom message was being proclaimed, and with great intensity.
By 1935, there were in South America itself just 247 who had joined their voices to proclaim that only God’s Kingdom will bring true happiness to humankind. But what a witness they were giving!
Reaching People Even in More Remote Areas
Jehovah’s Witnesses were by no means taking the view that their responsibility before God was fulfilled if they simply talked to a few who happened to be their neighbors. They endeavored to reach everyone with the good news.
People who lived in places to which the Witnesses could not then travel personally could be reached in other ways. Thus, in the late 1920’s, the Witnesses in Cape Town, South Africa, mailed out 50,000 booklets to all farmers, lighthouse keepers, forest rangers, and others living off the beaten track. An up-to-date postal directory was also obtained for all of South-West Africa (now known as Namibia), and a copy of the booklet The Peoples Friend was mailed to everyone whose name appeared in that directory.
In 1929, F. J. Franske was put in charge of the Watch Tower Society’s schooner Morton and was assigned, along with Jimmy James, to reach people in Labrador and all the outports of Newfoundland. In the winter Brother Franske traveled the coast with a dog team. To cover the cost of the Bible literature he left with them, the Eskimos and Newfoundlanders gave him such items as leather goods and fish. A few years later, he sought out the miners, loggers, trappers, ranchers, and Indians in the rough Cariboo country of British Columbia. As he traveled, he hunted in order to have meat, picked wild berries, and baked his bread in a frying pan over an open campfire. Then, at another time, he and a partner used a salmon-trolling boat for transport as they carried the Kingdom message to every island, inlet, logging camp, lighthouse, and settlement along the west coast of Canada. He was only one of many who were putting forth special efforts to reach people living in remote areas of the earth.
Starting in the late 1920’s, Frank Day worked his way north through the villages of Alaska, preaching, placing literature, and selling eyeglasses in order to care for his physical needs. Though hobbling on an artificial leg, he covered an area that stretched from Ketchikan to Nome, a distance of about 1,200 miles [1,900 km]. As early as 1897, a gold miner had obtained copies of Millennial Dawn and the Watch Tower while in California and was making plans to take these back to Alaska with him. And in 1910, Captain Beams, the skipper of a whaling ship, had placed literature at his Alaskan ports of call. But the preaching activity began to widen out as Brother Day made his summertime trips into Alaska again and again for more than 12 years.
Two other Witnesses, using a 40-foot [12 m] motorboat named Esther, worked their way up the Norwegian coast far into the Arctic. They witnessed on the islands, at lighthouses, in the coastal villages, and in isolated places far back in the mountains. Many people welcomed them, and in a year’s time, they were able to place 10,000 to 15,000 books and booklets explaining God’s purpose for humankind.
The Islands Hear Jehovah’s Praises
It was not only those islands that were close to mainland shores that were given a witness. Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in the early 1930’s, Sydney Shepherd spent two years traveling by boat to preach in the Cook Islands and Tahiti. Farther west, George Winton was visiting the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) with the good news.
At about the same time, Joseph Dos Santos, a Portuguese-American, also set out to reach untouched territory. First he witnessed on the outer islands of Hawaii; then he undertook an around-the-globe preaching tour. When he reached the Philippines, however, he received a letter from Brother Rutherford asking him to stay there to build up and organize the Kingdom-preaching activity. He did, for 15 years.
At this time the Society’s branch in Australia was directing attention to the work in and around the South Pacific. Two pioneers sent out from there gave an extensive witness in Fiji in 1930-31. Samoa received a witness in 1931. New Caledonia was reached in 1932. A pioneer couple from Australia even took up service in China in 1933 and witnessed in 13 of its principal cities during the next few years.
The brothers in Australia realized that more could be accomplished if they had a boat at their disposal. In time they outfitted a 52-foot [16 m] ketch that they called Lightbearer and, starting early in 1935, used it as a base of operations for several years for a group of zealous brothers as they witnessed in the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia), Singapore, and Malaya. Arrival of the boat always attracted much attention, and this often opened the way for the brothers to preach and place much literature.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the earth, two pioneer sisters from Denmark decided to make a vacation trip to the Faeroe Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1935. But they had in mind more than a scenic trip. They went equipped with thousands of pieces of literature, and they used them well. Defying wind and rain and the hostility of the clergy, they covered as much of the inhabited islands as they could during their stay.
Farther to the west, Georg Lindal, an Icelandic-Canadian, undertook an assignment that lasted much longer. At the suggestion of Brother Rutherford, he moved to Iceland to pioneer in 1929. What endurance he showed! For most of the next 18 years, he served there alone. He visited the towns and villages again and again. Tens of thousands of pieces of literature were placed, but at that time no Icelanders joined him in Jehovah’s service. With the exception of just one year, there were no Witnesses with whom he could associate in Iceland until 1947, when two Gilead-trained missionaries arrived.
When Men Forbid What God Commands
While sharing in their public ministry, it was not at all unusual, especially from the 1920’s through the 1940’s, for the Witnesses to encounter opposition, usually stirred up by local clergymen and sometimes by government officials.
In a rural area north of Vienna, Austria, the Witnesses found themselves confronted by a hostile crowd of villagers agitated by the local priest, who was backed by the constabulary. The priests were determined that there would be no preaching by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their villages. But the Witnesses, determined to carry out their God-given assignment, changed their approach and returned another day, entering the villages in roundabout ways.
Regardless of threats and demands on the part of men, Jehovah’s Witnesses realized that they had an obligation to God to proclaim his Kingdom. They chose to obey God as ruler rather than men. (Acts 5:29) Where local officials tried to deny religious freedom to Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Witnesses simply brought in reinforcements.
After repeated arrests in one section of Bavaria, in Germany, in 1929, they hired two special trains—one to start in Berlin and the other in Dresden. These were joined together at Reichenbach, and at 2:00 a.m. the one train entered the Regensburg area with 1,200 passengers that were eager to have a part in giving a witness. Travel was expensive, and everyone had paid his own fare. At each railroad station, some were dropped off. A number of them had brought bicycles so that they could reach out into the countryside. The entire district was covered in a single day. As they saw the results of their united efforts, they could not help but call to mind God’s promise to his servants: “Any weapon whatever that will be formed against you will have no success.”—Isa. 54:17.
So zealous were the Witnesses in Germany that between 1919 and 1933, they distributed, it is estimated, at least 125,000,000 books, booklets, and magazines, as well as millions of tracts. Yet, there were only about 15,000,000 families in Germany at that time. During that period Germany received a witness as thorough as that given in any country on earth. In that part of the earth was found one of the largest concentrations of persons who professed to be spirit-anointed followers of Christ. But during the following years, they also experienced some of the most grueling tests of integrity.—Rev. 14:12.
In the year 1933, official opposition to the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany greatly intensified. The homes of Witnesses and the Society’s branch office were searched repeatedly by the Gestapo. Bans were imposed on the activity of the Witnesses in most of the German states, and some were arrested. Many tons of their Bibles and Bible literature were publicly burned. On April 1, 1935, a national law was passed banning the Ernste Bibelforscher (the Earnest Bible Students, or Jehovah’s Witnesses), and systematic efforts were made to deprive them of their livelihood. In turn, the Witnesses shifted all their meetings to small groups, arranged to reproduce their material for Bible study in forms that the Gestapo would not readily recognize, and adopted preaching methods that were not so conspicuous.
Even before this, since 1925, the brothers in Italy had been living under a Fascist dictatorship, and in 1929 a concordat had been signed between the Catholic Church and the Fascist State. True Christians were hunted down without mercy. Some met in barns and haylofts in order to avoid being arrested. Jehovah’s Witnesses in Italy at that time were very few in number; however, their efforts to spread the Kingdom message were reinforced in 1932 when 20 Witnesses from Switzerland crossed into Italy and carried out a lightning distribution of 300,000 copies of the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World.
In the Far East too, pressure was building up. There were arrests of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Japan. Large quantities of their Bible literature were destroyed by officials in Seoul (in what is now the Republic of Korea) and Pyongyang (in what is now the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).
In the midst of this mounting pressure, in 1935, Jehovah’s Witnesses gained a clear understanding from the Bible of the identity of the “great multitude,” or “great crowd,” of Revelation 7:9-17. (KJ, NW) This understanding opened up to them an awareness of an unanticipated and urgent work. (Isa. 55:5) No longer did they hold the view that all who were not of the “little flock” of heirs of the heavenly Kingdom would at some future time have opportunity to bring their lives into line with Jehovah’s requirements. (Luke 12:32) They realized that the time had come to make disciples of such people now with a view to their survival into God’s new world. How long the gathering of this great crowd out of all nations would continue they did not know, though they felt that the end of the wicked system must be very near. Exactly how the work would be accomplished in the face of persecution that was spreading and becoming more vicious, they were not sure. However, of this they were confident—since ‘the hand of Jehovah is not too short,’ he would open the way for them to carry out his will.—Isa. 59:1.
In the year 1935, Jehovah’s Witnesses were relatively few in number—just 56,153 worldwide.
They were preaching in 115 lands during that year; but in nearly one half of those lands, there were fewer than ten Witnesses. Only two countries had 10,000 or more active Witnesses of Jehovah (the United States, with 23,808; Germany, with an estimated 10,000 out of the 19,268 who had been able to report two years earlier). Seven other lands (Australia, Britain, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, and Romania) each reported more than 1,000 but fewer than 6,000 Witnesses. The record of activity in 21 other countries shows between 100 and 1,000 Witnesses each. Yet, during that one year, this zealous band of Witnesses worldwide devoted 8,161,424 hours to proclaiming God’s Kingdom as mankind’s only hope.
In addition to the lands in which they were busy during 1935, they had already spread the good news to other places, so that 149 lands and island groups had thus far been reached with the Kingdom message.
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Though confined in prison, they found opportunities to preach
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Willing and eager to get on with the work!
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They defied wind, rain, and the hostility of the clergy
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A witness of extraordinary proportions was given in Germany before the “Ernste Bibelforscher” were banned there
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While the world was embroiled in war, R. R. Hollister and Fanny Mackenzie were busy taking a message of peace to the people of China, Japan, and Korea
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When emigrants from the countries named on this map learned about God’s marvelous purpose to bless humankind, they felt impelled to take that news back to their homelands
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During the 1920’s and 1930’s, evangelizers moved out from Germany to many lands to give a witness
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Zealous pioneers such as Frank Smith and his brother Gray (shown in the upper picture) spread the good news up the east coast of Africa
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Throughout South-West Africa (now Namibia) people received this booklet by mail in 1928
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Aboard the “Lightbearer,” zealous pioneers spread the Kingdom message in Southeast Asia
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In many lands the lecture “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” attracted large audiences
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Edwin Scott, in South Africa, personally distributed 50,000 copies of “A Challenge to World Leaders”
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Responding to the call for evangelizers, Willy Unglaube served in Europe, Africa, and the Orient
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By 1992, Eric Cooke and his brother John (seated) had each been in full-time service for over 60 years, enjoying thrilling experiences in Europe and Africa
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When he went to India in 1926, Edwin Skinner had an assignment that included five countries; faithfully he kept on preaching there for 64 years
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Alfred and Frieda Tuček, equipped with necessities of life and literature for witnessing, served as pioneers in Old Yugoslavia
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Throughout West Africa, “Bible Brown” vigorously shared in exposing false worship
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George Young shared in widespread proclamation of God’s Kingdom in South America, Spain, and Portugal
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Juan Muñiz (left), who had been preaching in South America since 1924, was on hand to welcome N. H. Knorr when he first visited Argentina over 20 years later
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Nicolás Argyrós spread the Bible’s liberating truth into 14 of Argentina’s provinces
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F. J. Franske, traveling on land and by boat, sought to reach remote settlements with Bible truth