Part 5—Witnesses to the Most Distant Part of the Earth
In 1975 important decisions were made regarding the way that the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses would be supervised from their world headquarters. They did not then know what fields might yet open up for an extensive witness before the end of the present world system or how much preaching would still be done in lands where they had openly preached for many years. But they wanted to make the best possible use of every opportunity. Pages 502 to 520 relate some of the exciting developments.
THERE have been big changes in South America. It was not many years ago that Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ecuador faced Catholic mobs, Catholic priests in Mexico ruled as virtual kings in many villages, and government bans were imposed on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Argentina and Brazil. But circumstances have changed significantly. Now many of those who were taught to fear or to hate the Witnesses are themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses. Others gladly listen when the Witnesses call on them to share the Bible’s message of peace. Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known and widely respected.
The size of their conventions and the Christian conduct of those attending have attracted attention. Two of such conventions, held simultaneously in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1985, had a peak attendance of 249,351. Later, 23 additional conventions, held to accommodate interested persons in the rest of Brazil, raised the total attendance to 389,387. Results of the work Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil had been doing as teachers of God’s Word were clearly in evidence when 4,825 persons symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by water immersion at that round of conventions. Just five years later, in 1990, it was necessary to hold 110 conventions throughout Brazil to accommodate the 548,517 who attended. This time 13,448 presented themselves for water immersion. Across the country hundreds of thousands of individuals and families were welcoming Jehovah’s Witnesses to instruct them in God’s Word.
And what about Argentina? After decades of government restrictions, Jehovah’s Witnesses there were again able to assemble freely in 1985. What a joy it was for 97,167 to be present at their first series of conventions! Under the heading “A Kingdom That Is Growing—That of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the local news publication Ahora marveled at the orderliness of the convention crowd in Buenos Aires, their total lack of racial and social prejudice, their peaceableness, and the love they manifested. Then it concluded: “Whether or not we share their ideas and doctrines, this entire multitude deserves our greatest respect.” However, many Argentines went beyond that. They began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they attended Kingdom Hall meetings to observe how the Witnesses apply Bible principles in their lives. Then these observers made a decision. During the next seven years, tens of thousands of them dedicated their lives to Jehovah, and the number of Witnesses in Argentina increased by 71 percent!
Response to the good news of God’s Kingdom was even more extraordinary in Mexico. In years past, Jehovah’s Witnesses there had been frequently assaulted by mobs instigated by priests. But the fact that the Witnesses did not retaliate or seek revenge greatly impressed honesthearted persons. (Rom. 12:17-19) They also observed that the Witnesses based all their beliefs on the Bible, God’s inspired Word, instead of on human traditions. (Matt. 15:7-9; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) They could see that the Witnesses had faith that truly sustained them in the face of adversity. More and more families welcomed Jehovah’s Witnesses when they offered to conduct free home Bible studies with them. In fact, during 1992, 12 percent of the Bible studies being conducted by the Witnesses worldwide were in Mexico, and a considerable number of these were with large families. As a result, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mexico—not merely those who were attending their meetings but the ones who were active public proclaimers of God’s Kingdom—soared from 80,481 in 1975 to 354,023 in 1992!
In Europe too, extraordinary events contributed to the spread of the Kingdom message.
Amazing Developments in Poland
Although the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been banned in Poland from 1939 to 1945 (during the period of Nazi and Soviet domination) and again starting in July 1950 (under Soviet control), Jehovah’s Witnesses had not ceased preaching there. Though they numbered only 1,039 in 1939, in 1950 there were 18,116 Kingdom proclaimers, and these continued to be zealous (though cautious) evangelizers. (Matt. 10:16) As for assemblies, however, these had been held out of public view—in the countryside, in barns, in forests. But, beginning in 1982, the Polish government permitted them to hold one-day assemblies of modest size in rented facilities.
Then, in 1985 the largest stadiums in Poland were made available to Jehovah’s Witnesses for four large conventions during the month of August. When a delegate from Austria arrived by airplane, he was surprised to hear an announcement over the loudspeaker welcoming Jehovah’s Witnesses to Poland for their convention. Aware of the change in government attitude that this indicated, an elderly Polish Witness who was there to welcome the visitor could not help giving way to tears of joy. In attendance at these conventions were 94,134 delegates, including groups from 16 lands. Did the general public know what was taking place? Yes, indeed! During and after these conventions, they read reports in their major newspapers, saw the convention crowds on television, and heard portions of the program on national radio. Many of them liked what they saw and heard.
Plans for even larger conventions in Poland were under way when, on May 12, 1989, the government granted legal recognition to Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religious association. Within three months, three international conventions were in session—in Chorzów, Poznan, and Warsaw—with a combined attendance of 166,518. Amazingly, thousands of Witnesses from what were then the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) and Czechoslovakia were able to secure needed permission to travel and were in attendance. Was the disciple-making work of Jehovah’s Witnesses yielding results in these lands where atheism had been strongly advocated by the State for decades? The answer was evident when 6,093, including many youths, presented themselves for water immersion at those conventions.
The public could not help but see that the Witnesses were different—in a very wholesome way. In the public press, they read statements like the following: “Those who worship Jehovah God—as they themselves say—greatly value their gatherings, which are certainly a manifestation of unity among them. . . . As regards orderliness, peacefulness, and cleanliness, convention participants are examples to imitate.” (Życie Warszawy) Some of the Polish people decided to do more than just observe the conventioners. They wanted Jehovah’s Witnesses to study the Bible with them. As a result of such instruction in God’s Word, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Poland increased from 72,887 in 1985 to 107,876 in 1992; and during that latter year, they devoted upwards of 16,800,000 hours to telling yet others about the marvelous hope set out in the Scriptures.
However, it was not only in Poland that exciting changes were taking place.
More of Eastern Europe Opens Its Doors
Hungary granted legal status to Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1989. What was then the German Democratic Republic (GDR) removed its 40-year ban on the Witnesses in 1990, just four months after demolition of the Berlin Wall began. The following month the Christian Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Romania was officially recognized by the new Romanian government. In 1991 the Ministry of Justice in Moscow declared that the Charter of the “Religious Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the U.S.S.R.” was officially registered. That same year legal recognition was granted to the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bulgaria. During 1992, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Albania were granted legal status.
What did Jehovah’s Witnesses do with the freedom granted them? A journalist asked Helmut Martin, coordinator of the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the GDR: “Are you going to get involved in politics?” After all, that was what many of Christendom’s clergy were doing. “No,” replied Brother Martin, “Jesus gave his disciples a Scriptural assignment, and we see that as our main job.”—Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were certainly not just beginning to care for that responsibility in this part of the world. Although it had been necessary for them to carry out their activity under very difficult circumstances for many years, in most of these lands congregations (meeting in small groups) had been functioning, and witnessing had been done. But now a new opportunity was opening up. They could hold meetings to which they could freely invite the public. They could openly preach from house to house, without fear of being imprisoned. Here were lands with a combined population of more than 390,000,000, where there was much work to be done. With a keen awareness that we live in the last days of the present world system of things, Jehovah’s Witnesses acted quickly.
Even before legal recognition was granted, members of the Governing Body had visited a number of lands to see what could be done to help their Christian brothers. After bans were lifted, they traveled into more of these areas to help organize the work. Within a few years, they had personally met and spoken with Witnesses in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, and Belarus.
Conventions were arranged to fortify Witnesses living in these lands and to thrust prominently before the public the message of God’s Kingdom. Less than five months after the ban was lifted by what was then the GDR, such a convention was held at Berlin’s Olympia Stadium. Witnesses from 64 other lands readily responded to an invitation to attend. They counted it a privilege to enjoy that occasion with Christian brothers and sisters who had for decades demonstrated loyalty to Jehovah in the face of intense persecution.
Both in 1990 and in 1991, other conventions were held throughout Eastern Europe. After four local assemblies had been held in Hungary in 1990, arrangements were made for an international gathering at the Népstadion in Budapest in 1991. In attendance were 40,601 from 35 countries. For the first time in more than 40 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses were able to hold public conventions in Romania in 1990. A series of assemblies throughout the nation, and later two larger conventions, were held that year. There were eight more conventions in 1991, with an attendance of 34,808. In 1990, in what was then Yugoslavia, conventions were held in each one of the republics that made up the country. The following year, although the country was threatened by civil war, 14,684 of Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoyed an international convention in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. The police were astonished as they saw Croats, Montenegrins, Serbians, Slovenians, and others gathered in peace to listen to the program.
In what was then Czechoslovakia too, conventions were quickly arranged. A national convention in Prague in 1990 was attended by 23,876. Those who managed the stadium were so pleased with what they saw that they made available to the Witnesses the largest facilities in the country for their next convention. On that historic occasion, in 1991, there were 74,587 enthusiastic conventioners that filled the Strahov Stadium in Prague. Czech and Slovak delegates were delighted and enthusiastically applauded when announcement was made of the release of the complete New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in their own languages, for use in the public ministry as well as in personal and congregational study.
It was also during 1991 that, for the first time in history, Jehovah’s Witnesses were able to hold conventions openly in places that were then within the Soviet Union. After a convention in Tallinn, Estonia, there was one in Siberia. Four were held in major cities in Ukraine, and one in Kazakhstan. Attendance totaled 74,252. And as recent fruitage of the disciple-making work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in these areas, 7,820 presented themselves for water immersion. This was no emotional decision made because they felt excited about the convention. The baptismal candidates had been carefully prepared in advance over a period of months—and in some cases, years.
From where did all these people come? It was obvious that the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was not just beginning in that part of the earth. Watch Tower publications had been mailed to an interested person in Russia as far back as 1887. The first president of the Watch Tower Society had himself visited Kishinev (now in Moldova) in 1891. Some Bible Students had gone into Russia to preach during the 1920’s; but there had been strong official resistance, and the few groups that showed interest in the Bible’s message were small. However, the situation changed during and after World War II. National borders were reshaped, and large segments of population were relocated. As a result, more than a thousand Ukrainian-speaking Witnesses from what had been eastern Poland found themselves within the Soviet Union. Other Witnesses who lived in Romania and Czechoslovakia found that the places where they lived had become part of the Soviet Union. In addition, Russians who had become Jehovah’s Witnesses while in German concentration camps returned to their homeland, and they took with them the good news of God’s Kingdom. By 1946, there were 4,797 Witnesses active in the Soviet Union. Many of these were moved from place to place by the government over the years. Some were consigned to prison camps. Wherever they went they witnessed. Their numbers grew. Even before the government granted them legal recognition, groups of them were active all the way from Lviv in the west to Vladivostok on the Soviet Union’s eastern border, across the sea from Japan.
Many Now Willing to Listen
When the Witnesses held conventions in what was then the U.S.S.R. in 1991, the public had opportunity to take a closer look at them. How did they react? In Lviv, Ukraine, a police official told one of the conventioners: “You excel in teaching others what is good, you talk about God, and you do not engage in violence. We were discussing why we used to persecute you, and we concluded that we had not listened to you and had not known anything about you.” But now many were listening, and Jehovah’s Witnesses wanted to help them.
To carry on their work most effectively in these lands, Bible literature was needed. Great effort was put forth to provide it quickly. At Selters/Taunus, Germany, Jehovah’s Witnesses nearly doubled their printing facilities. Although this expansion was not yet completed, about two weeks after the ban was lifted in what was then East Germany, 25 tons [21,000 kg] of literature was dispatched to this area from the printing plant at Selters. From the time of the lifting of bans in Eastern European lands until 1992, nearly 10,000 tons [9,100,000 kg] of literature in 14 main languages was shipped into these various countries from Germany, another 698 tons [633,000 kg] from Italy, and more from Finland.
Having been largely isolated for many years, the Witnesses in some countries also needed help with matters of congregation oversight and organization administration. To fill this urgent need, experienced elders—those who could speak the language of the country, where possible—were contacted in Germany, the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. Would they be willing to move to one of these lands in Eastern Europe to help fill the need? The response was gratifying indeed! Where advantageous, elders who had been trained at Gilead School or in the Ministerial Training School were also sent.
Then, in 1992 a remarkable international convention was held in St. Petersburg, the second-largest city in Russia. About 17,000 of the delegates were from 27 lands outside Russia. Extensive advertising of the convention was done. Among those who came were people who had never before heard of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Attendance reached a peak of 46,214. Delegates were present from all parts of Russia, some from as far east as Sakhalin Island, near Japan. Large groups came from Ukraine, Moldova, and other countries that had formerly been part of the U.S.S.R. They brought good news with them. Reports showed that individual congregations in cities such as Kiev, Moscow, and St. Petersburg were having average attendances at their meetings that were double or more the number of Witnesses. Many people who wanted Jehovah’s Witnesses to study the Bible with them had to be put on waiting lists. From Latvia, some 600 delegates had come and even more from Estonia. A congregation in St. Petersburg had over a hundred ready for baptism at the convention. Many of those who show interest are younger people or individuals who are well educated. Truly, a great work of spiritual harvest is under way in this vast territory that was long viewed by the world as a stronghold of atheism!
Fields White for Harvesting
As attitudes regarding religious freedom changed, other countries, too, lifted restrictions on Jehovah’s Witnesses or granted them legal recognition that had long been denied. In many of these places, an abundant spiritual harvest was ready to be gathered. Conditions were like those Jesus described to his disciples when he said: “Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting.” (John 4:35) Consider just a few places where this was true in Africa.
A ban had been imposed on the house-to-house ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Zambia in 1969. As a result, Witnesses there devoted more time to conducting home Bible studies with interested ones. Others too began searching out the Witnesses so they could receive instruction. Gradually government restrictions were eased, and meeting attendance increased. In 1992, there were 365,828 who attended the Lord’s Evening Meal in Zambia, 1 in every 23 of the population!
To the north of Zambia, in Zaire, thousands more wanted to learn what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach about Christian living and about God’s purpose for mankind. In 1990 when circumstances permitted the Witnesses to reopen their Kingdom Halls, in some areas as many as 500 people flocked to their meetings. Within two years the 67,917 Witnesses in Zaire were conducting 141,859 home Bible studies with such persons.
The number of lands that were opening up was astounding. In 1990, Watch Tower missionaries who had been expelled from Benin 14 years earlier were now officially given the opportunity to return, and the door was opened for others to come. That same year the Minister of Justice in Cape Verde Republic signed a decree that approved the statutes of the local Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, thus giving them legal recognition. Then, in 1991 official relief came to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mozambique (where former rulers had severely persecuted them), Ghana (where their activity had been under an official freeze), and Ethiopia (where it had not been possible to preach openly or to hold assemblies for 34 years). Before year’s end Niger and Congo had also granted them legal recognition. Early in 1992, bans were lifted or legal recognition was granted to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Chad, Kenya, Rwanda, Togo, and Angola.
Here were fields ready for spiritual harvesting. In Angola, for example, the Witnesses quickly experienced a 31-percent increase; furthermore, the nearly 19,000 Kingdom proclaimers there were conducting almost 53,000 home Bible studies. To provide needed administrative help for this vast program of Bible education in Angola as well as in Mozambique (where many speak Portuguese), qualified elders from Portugal and Brazil were invited to move to Africa to carry on their ministry. Portuguese-speaking missionaries were assigned to the newly opened territory of Guinea-Bissau. And capable Witnesses in France and other lands were invited to help accomplish the urgent work of preaching and disciple making in Benin, Chad, and Togo, where French is spoken by many people.
Among those areas that have yielded especially abundant crops of praisers of Jehovah are the ones that formerly were Roman Catholic strongholds. In addition to Latin America, this proved to be true of France (where the 1992 report showed 119,674 Witness evangelizers), Spain (where there were 92,282), the Philippines (with 114,335), Ireland (with a Witness growth rate of 8 to 10 percent per year), and Portugal.
When 37,567 attended a Witness convention in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1978, the newsmagazine Opção stated: “For anyone who has been at Fátima during pilgrimage time, this in reality is very different. . . . Here [at the convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses] the mysticism disappears, giving way to the holding of a meeting where believers in common accord discuss their problems, their faith and their spiritual outlook. Their conduct toward one another gives the distinctive mark of a caring relationship.” During the following decade, the number of Witnesses in Portugal increased by nearly 70 percent.
And what about Italy? A severe shortage of candidates for the Catholic priesthood has forced some seminaries to close their doors. Numerous churches no longer have a parish priest. In many cases former church buildings now house shops or offices. Despite all of this, the church has fought hard to stop Jehovah’s Witnesses. In years past they pressured officials to deport Witness missionaries and demanded that the police shut down their meetings. In some areas during the 1980’s, parish priests had stickers put on the doors of everyone (including some who happened to be Jehovah’s Witnesses), saying: “Do Not Knock. We Are Catholic.” Newspapers carried the headlines: “Church’s Cry of Alarm Against the Jehovah’s Witnesses” and “‘Holy War’ Against Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
When the first-century Jewish priesthood tried to silence the apostles, Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, wisely counseled: “If this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” (Acts 5:38, 39) What was the outcome when the 20th-century Roman Catholic priesthood tried to silence Jehovah’s Witnesses? The work of the 120 Witnesses in Italy in 1946 was not overthrown. Instead, by 1992, there were 194,013 active Witnesses associated with 2,462 congregations throughout the country. They have virtually filled Italy with their teaching of God’s Word. Since 1946 they have devoted over 550 million hours to talking to their fellow Italians about God’s Kingdom. While doing this, they have put into their hands millions of copies of the Bible itself as well as upwards of 400 million books, booklets, and magazines explaining the Scriptures. They want to make sure that the people of Italy have full opportunity to take their stand on Jehovah’s side before Armageddon comes. While doing so, they keep in mind what the apostle Paul wrote at 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5, namely: “The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things. For we are overturning reasonings and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.”
It is not only to former Catholic strongholds that Jehovah’s Witnesses direct attention. They know that Jesus Christ said: “In all the nations the good news has to be preached.” (Mark 13:10) And this is the work that the Witnesses are doing. By 1992, there were 12,168 of them busy telling people in India about God’s Kingdom. Another 71,428 of them were preaching in the Republic of Korea. In Japan, there were 171,438, and their numbers were growing every month. They also continued to reach out to lands where little or no preaching had yet been done.
Thus, during the latter part of the 1970’s, they were able, for the first time, to carry the Kingdom message to people living on the Marquesas Islands and on Kosrae—both in the Pacific Ocean. They also reached Bhutan, which adjoins the southern border of China, and Comoros, off the east coast of Africa. During the 1980’s the first preaching work by Jehovah’s Witnesses was reported from the Wallis and Futuna Islands, as well as from the islands of Nauru and Rota, all in the southwest Pacific. Some of these are relatively small places; but people live there, and lives are precious. Jehovah’s Witnesses are keenly aware of Jesus’ prophecy that before the end would come, the Kingdom message would be preached “in all the inhabited earth.”—Matt. 24:14.
Contacting People Wherever and Whenever Possible
While house-to-house preaching continues to be the principal method employed by Jehovah’s Witnesses to reach people, they realize that not even by this systematic method do they come in touch with everyone. With a feeling of urgency, they continue to search out people wherever they can be found.—Compare John 4:5-42; Acts 16:13, 14.
When boats dock at the ports of Germany and the Netherlands, even for a brief stop, Jehovah’s Witnesses endeavor to visit them, witnessing first to the captain and then to the crew. They carry Bible literature in many languages for the men. In the native markets of Chad, in central Africa, it is not unusual to see a group of 15 or 20 persons gathered around one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who is talking to them about the hope of God’s Kingdom. Working in shifts, the Witnesses talk to stall holders and the thousands of Saturday-morning shoppers at the flea markets in Auckland, New Zealand. People who pass through the bus terminals in Guayaquil, Ecuador—many of them from distant parts of the country—are approached there by Witnesses who offer them a timely brochure or La Atalaya and ¡Despertad! Those who work the night shift in round-the-clock food markets in New York City are visited on the job by Witnesses so that they too can have the opportunity to hear the good news.
When traveling on planes, trains, buses, and subways, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses share precious Bible truths with fellow passengers. During lunch breaks at their secular work and at school, also when people come to their door for business reasons, they seize opportunities to witness. They know that many of these people may not be at home when the Witnesses make their regular calls.
While witnessing to others, they do not forget close family members and other relatives. But when Maria Caamano, a Witness in Argentina, tried to tell her family how deeply moved she was by what she learned from the Bible, they poked fun at her or were indifferent. She did not give up but made a trip of 1,200 miles [1,900 km] to witness to others of her relatives. Some responded favorably. Little by little, others listened. As a result, there are now among her relatives over 80 adults and upwards of 40 children who have embraced the Bible’s truths and are sharing these with others.
To aid his relatives, Michael Regan moved back to his hometown, Boyle, County Roscommon, in Ireland. He witnessed to all of them. His niece was impressed by the happy spirit and wholesome way of life of Michael’s children. Soon she and her husband agreed to a Bible study. When they got baptized, her father banned her from the family home. Gradually, however, his attitude softened, and he accepted some literature—intending to expose the “error” of the Witnesses. But he soon realized that what he was reading was the truth, and in time he got baptized. Upwards of 20 members of the family are now associated with the congregation, most of whom have already been baptized.
What about people in prison? Could they benefit from the message of God’s Kingdom? Jehovah’s Witnesses do not ignore them. At a penitentiary in North America, arrangements for personal Bible studies with inmates, coupled with attendance at regular meetings conducted in the prison by Jehovah’s Witnesses, produced such good results that the prison administration made it possible to hold assemblies there. These were attended not only by prisoners but also by thousands of Witnesses from outside. In other lands too, earnest efforts are being made to witness to men and women in prison.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Bible study will reform all prison inmates. But they know from experience that some can be helped, and they want to give them the opportunity to embrace the hope of God’s Kingdom.
Repeated Efforts to Reach Hearts
Again and again Jehovah’s Witnesses call on people. As Jesus’ early disciples did, they “go continually” to the people in their assigned territories to endeavor to stir up their interest in the Kingdom of God. (Matt. 10:6, 7) In some places they are able to visit all the households in their area just once a year; elsewhere, they call every few months. In Portugal, in the greater Lisbon area, where there is a ratio of 1 Witness to every 160 of the population, people are visited by the Witnesses every week or so. In Venezuela, there are cities where territories are regularly covered more than once a week.
When Jehovah’s Witnesses make repeated calls, they are not trying to force the Bible’s message on people. They are simply endeavoring to give them opportunity to make an intelligent decision. Today, some people may say they are not interested; but drastic changes in their lives or in world conditions may make them more receptive at another time. Because of prejudice or because of simply being too busy to listen, many people have never really heard what the Witnesses teach. But repeated friendly calls may make them take notice. People are often impressed by the honesty and moral integrity of Witnesses who live in their neighborhood or are their workmates. As a result, in time, some become interested enough to find out what their message is all about. Said one such woman in Venezuela, after she gladly accepted literature and the offer of a free home Bible study: “Never before had anyone explained these things to me.”
In a kindly way, the Witnesses endeavor to reach the hearts of those to whom they talk. In Guadeloupe, where there was 1 Witness for every 57 of the population in 1992, it is not uncommon for householders to say, “I’m not interested.” To that, Eric Dodote would reply: “I understand you, and I put myself in your place.” Then he would add: “But I ask you, Would you like to live in better conditions than those existing today?” After listening to what the householder said, he would use the Bible to show how God will bring about such conditions in His new world.
Covering Territory Even More Thoroughly
In recent years it has become increasingly difficult in some lands to find people at home. Frequently, both husband and wife are secularly employed, and on weekends they may pursue recreation away from home. To cope with this situation, in many lands Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing an increasing amount of their door-to-door witnessing in the evening. In Britain, not only do some Witnesses follow up on not-at-home calls between six and eight in the evening but others, in an effort to contact people before they leave for work, make such calls before eight in the morning.
Even where people are at home, it may be very difficult to reach them without a previous invitation, on account of high-security measures taken because of the prevalence of crime. But in Brazil when some who are hard to contact go for an early-morning stroll on the boardwalk at Copacabana Beach, they may be approached by a zealous Witness who is out there just as early engaging others in conversation about how God’s Kingdom will solve mankind’s problems. In Paris, France, when people return to their apartments late in the afternoon, they may find a friendly Witness couple near the entrance of the building, waiting to talk to individual residents who are willing to spend a few minutes to hear about the means that God will use to bring true security. In Honolulu, New York City, and many other places, efforts are also made to reach occupants of high-security buildings by telephone.
If they manage to contact someone in each home, the Witnesses still do not feel that their task is accomplished. Their desire is to reach as many individuals as possible in each house. Sometimes this is accomplished by calling on different days or at different times. In Puerto Rico when a householder said she was not interested, a Witness asked if there was anyone else in the house to whom she might talk. This led to a conversation with the man of the house, who had been ill for 14 years and was largely confined to his bed. His heart was warmed by the hope set out in God’s Word. With renewed interest in life, he was soon out of bed, attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall, and sharing his newfound hope with others.
Intensifying the Witness as the End Draws Near
Another factor has contributed greatly to the intensifying of the witness in recent years. This is the upsurge in the number of Witnesses who are serving as pioneers. Keenly desiring to devote as much of their time as possible to the service of God, and with loving concern for their fellowmen, they arrange their affairs to spend 60, 90, 140 or more hours each month in the field ministry. As was true of the apostle Paul when preaching in Corinth, Greece, those who take up pioneer service become “intensely occupied with the word,” seeking to witness to just as many people as possible about the Messianic Kingdom.—Acts 18:5.
In 1975 there were 130,225 pioneers worldwide. By 1992 there were 605,610 on an average each month (including regular, auxiliary, and special pioneers). Thus, during a period when the number of Witnesses worldwide grew by 105 percent, those who made room to share in the full-time ministry increased 365 percent! As a result, the amount of time actually being devoted to witnessing soared from about 382 million to over a billion hours a year!
‘The Little One Has Become a Thousand’
Jesus Christ commissioned his followers to be witnesses of him to the most distant part of the earth. (Acts 1:8) Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah had foretold: “The little one himself will become a thousand, and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time.” (Isa. 60:22) The record clearly shows that Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing the work that Jesus foretold, and they have experienced the kind of growth that God himself promised.
At the close of World War II, they were found principally in North America and Europe; there were some in Africa; and others, in smaller groups, were scattered around the globe. By no means had they reached every country with the Kingdom message, nor had they reached every part of those lands where they were preaching. With amazing speed, however, that picture has been changing.
Consider North America. The mainland extends from Canada in the north to Panama, with nine lands in between. By 1945 there were 81,410 Witnesses in this vast area. Four of the lands reported fewer than 20 Witnesses each, and one country had no organized preaching work at all. Since then, an intensive and sustained witness has been given in all these lands. As of 1992, there were 1,440,165 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in this part of the earth. In most of these lands, each Witness, on an average, now has only a few hundred persons to whom to witness. A large proportion of the population is visited by the Witnesses every few months; many are called on every week. Over 1,240,000 home Bible studies are regularly being conducted with interested individuals and groups.
What about Europe? This part of the globe extends from Scandinavia south to the Mediterranean. Outside most of the area formerly known as the Soviet Union, an extensive witness had already been given in Europe before World War II. Since then, new generations have grown up, and they too are being shown from the Scriptures that God’s Kingdom will soon replace all human governments. (Dan. 2:44) From the few thousand Witnesses who carried on their preaching activity under severe restrictions during the war, the number of Kingdom proclaimers in the 47 lands on which reports were published in 1992 had risen to 1,176,259, including those in places that previously were part of the U.S.S.R., in both Europe and Asia. In each of five countries—Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Poland—there were well over 100,000 zealous Witnesses. And what were all these Witnesses doing? Their report for 1992 shows that during that year, they devoted more than 230,000,000 hours to preaching publicly, making house-to-house calls, and conducting home Bible studies. In their evangelizing, these Witnesses did not bypass even the small republic of San Marino, principalities such as Andorra and Liechtenstein, or Gibraltar. Truly, the foretold witness was being given.
Africa too is receiving an extensive witness. The records show that up till 1945, the good news had reached into 28 countries on that continent, but very little actual witnessing had been done in most of these countries. Since that time, however, much has been accomplished there. By 1992, there were 545,044 zealous Witnesses on the African continent, preaching the good news in 45 countries. At the commemoration of the Lord’s Evening Meal that year, there were 1,834,863 present. So, not only has the growth been amazing but the potential for further expansion is extraordinary!
The report for South America is no less remarkable. Although all but one of the 13 countries had been reached with the Bible’s message before World War II, at that time there were only 29 congregations on the entire continent, and there was as yet no organized preaching activity in some of the countries. Most of the Kingdom-preaching work was then in the future. Since that time the Witnesses there have worked vigorously. Those who have been refreshed by the water of life gladly invite others, saying: ‘Come, and take life’s water free.’ (Rev. 22:17) In 1992, there were 683,782 of Jehovah’s servants in 10,399 congregations in South America happily sharing in this work. Some of them were reaching out into areas that had not had a thorough witness. Others were calling again and again where a witness had already been given, to encourage people to “taste and see that Jehovah is good.” (Ps. 34:8) Regularly they were conducting 905,132 home Bible studies to help interested ones to make Jehovah’s ways their own way of life.
Consider also Asia and the many islands and island groups around the globe. What has been accomplished there? Up till the postwar era, many of these places had scarcely been touched with the proclamation of the Kingdom. But Jesus Christ foretold that this good news of the Kingdom would be preached “in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matt. 24:14) In harmony with that, during the decades since World War II, the preaching of the good news that had previously reached 76 of these countries, islands, and island groups spread out to another 40 and was intensified in places reached earlier. In this vast territory, in 1992 there were 627,537 devoted Witnesses who took great delight in making known Jehovah’s “mighty acts and the glory of the splendor of his kingship.” (Ps. 145:11, 12) Their ministry was not easy. In some places they had to travel for hours by boat or plane to reach remote islands in their territory. But during 1992 they devoted upwards of 200,000,000 hours to the evangelizing work and conducted 685,211 regular home Bible studies.
Fulfillment of the promise that ‘the little one would become a thousand’ has surely come to pass, and abundantly so! In each of more than 50 lands where there was not even a ‘little one’—where there were none of Jehovah’s Witnesses back in 1919, where they had done no preaching at all—there are today more than a thousand praisers of Jehovah. In some of these lands, there are now tens of thousands, yes, even more than a hundred thousand, of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are zealous proclaimers of the Kingdom of God! Worldwide, Jehovah’s Witnesses have become “a mighty nation”—more in number as a united global congregation than the individual population of any one of at least 80 self-governing nations of the world.
How Much of a Witness in “Other Countries”?
Included in all the above, as of 1992, there were still 24 “other countries”—the ones where Jehovah’s Witnesses were under severe government restrictions and for which no detailed reports are published. Much witnessing has been done in some of these countries. Yet, in certain lands the number of Witnesses is quite limited. There are still people who have not heard the Kingdom message. But Jehovah’s Witnesses are confident that the needed witness will be given. Why?
Because the Scriptures show that Jesus Christ, from his heavenly throne, is himself supervising the work. (Matt. 25:31-33) Under his direction an “angel flying in midheaven” is entrusted with the responsibility to declare everlasting good news and to urge “every nation and tribe and tongue and people” to “fear God and give him glory.” (Rev. 14:6, 7) There is no power in heaven or on earth that can stop Jehovah from drawing to himself those who are “rightly disposed for everlasting life.”—Acts 13:48; John 6:44.
No part of the earth is so isolated that the Kingdom message cannot reach it. Relatives visit. Telephones and mail carry news. Businessmen, laborers, students, and tourists come in contact with people of other nations. As in the past, so now, the vital news that Jehovah has enthroned his heavenly King with authority over the nations continues to be made known by these means. The angels can see to it that those who are hungering and thirsting for truth and righteousness are reached.
If it is the Lord’s will for more direct preaching of the Kingdom message to be done in some areas where governments have hindered it until now, God can bring about conditions that cause those governments to change their policies. (Prov. 21:1) And where doors of opportunity may yet open, Jehovah’s Witnesses will gladly give of themselves to see that people in those lands receive as much assistance as possible to learn of Jehovah’s loving purpose. They are determined to continue to serve without letup until Jehovah by means of Jesus Christ says the work is done!
In 1992, Jehovah’s Witnesses were busy preaching in 229 lands. By that year the good news of God’s Kingdom had in various ways reached into 235 lands. Ten of these were first reached following 1975.
How intense a witness was given? Well, during the first 30 years after World War II, Jehovah’s Witnesses devoted 4,635,265,939 hours to preaching and teaching about Jehovah’s name and Kingdom. However, with more Witnesses and a larger proportion of them in full-time service, during the next 15 years (just half as many years), 7,858,677,940 hours were devoted to witnessing publicly and from house to house as well as to conducting home Bible studies. And the intensity of the work continued to grow, as they reported another 951,870,021 hours in this activity during 1990/91 and over a billion hours the next year.
The amount of Bible literature distributed by the Witnesses to publicize the Kingdom, along with the diversity of languages in which it has been made available, finds no equal in any human field of endeavor. The records are incomplete; but the reports that are still available show that in 294 languages, 10,107,565,269 books, booklets, brochures, and magazines, as well as uncounted billions of tracts, were put into the hands of interested people between the years 1920 and 1992.
At the time of this writing, the global witness is not yet completed. But the work that has been accomplished and the circumstances under which it has been done give convincing evidence of the operation of the spirit of God.
[Blurb on page 502]
Large conventions and Christian conduct of the delegates attracted attention
[Blurb on page 505]
“As regards orderliness, peacefulness, and cleanliness, convention participants are examples to imitate”
[Blurb on page 507]
Historic conventions were held in places where Witnesses had for decades been under ban
[Blurb on page 508]
Thousands of tons of Bible literature was shipped into Eastern European lands
[Blurb on page 509]
Qualified elders volunteered to move to lands where there was special need
[Blurb on page 516]
Their desire is to reach as many individuals as possible in each house
[Blurb on page 518]
Amazing growth and the potential for further expansion
[Graphs/Pictures on page 513]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
Increase of Kingdom Proclaimers in the Orient
1950 1960 1970 1980 1992
Republic of Korea
1950 1960 1970 1980 1992
1950 1960 1970 1980 1992
[Picture on page 503]
Morumbi Stadium, in São Paulo, Brazil (shown below), and Maracanã Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, were needed simultaneously in 1985 to accommodate crowds for the convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses
[Pictures on page 504]
Some of the baptism candidates in Chorzów, Poland, in 1989
[Pictures on page 506]
Some Historic Conventions in 1991
Tallinn, Estonia (right)
Zagreb, Croatia (right)
Budapest, Hungary (above)
Baia-Mare, Romania (right)
Usolye-Sibirskoye, Russia (below)
Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan (above)
Kiev, Ukraine (left)
[Pictures on page 511]
International convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1992
A warm international spirit
Many younger folks were present
M. G. Henschel (left) discusses program with Stepan Kozhemba (center), with aid of interpreter
Foreign delegates brought Russian Bibles for use by Witnesses throughout Russia
[Pictures on page 512]
In the 1980’s the Catholic Church declared war on the Witnesses, according to these Italian news clippings
[Picture on page 514]
When ships dock at Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Witnesses are there to talk to the men about God’s Kingdom
[Picture on page 515]
Even where territory is covered often, as here in Guadeloupe, the Witnesses continue to try to reach the hearts of their neighbors with the good news