Missionaries Push Worldwide Expansion
ZEALOUS activity of missionaries who are willing to serve wherever they are needed has been an important factor in the global proclamation of God’s Kingdom.
Long before the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society established a school for the purpose, missionaries were being sent to other lands. The Society’s first president, C. T. Russell, recognized the need for qualified people to initiate and take the lead in preaching the good news in foreign fields. He sent out men for that purpose—Adolf Weber to Europe, E. J. Coward to the Caribbean area, Robert Hollister to the Orient, and Joseph Booth to southern Africa. Sadly, Booth proved to be more interested in his own schemes; so, in 1910, William Johnston was sent from Scotland to Nyasaland (now Malawi), where Booth’s adverse influence had been especially felt. Thereafter, Brother Johnston was assigned to set up a branch office for the Watch Tower Society in Durban, South Africa, and later he served as branch overseer in Australia.
After the first world war, J. F. Rutherford sent out even more missionaries—for example, Thomas Walder and George Phillips from Britain to South Africa, W. R. Brown from an assignment in Trinidad to West Africa, George Young from Canada to South America and to Europe, Juan Muñiz first to Spain and then to Argentina, George Wright and Edwin Skinner to India, followed by Claude Goodman, Ron Tippin, and more. They were real pioneers, reaching out to areas where little or no preaching of the good news had been done and laying a solid foundation for future organizational growth.
There were others, too, whose missionary spirit moved them to undertake preaching outside their own country. Among them were Kate Goas and her daughter Marion, who devoted years to zealous service in Colombia and Venezuela. Another was Joseph Dos Santos, who left Hawaii on a preaching trip that led to 15 years of ministry in the Philippines. There was also Frank Rice, who traveled by cargo ship from Australia to open up the preaching of the good news on the island of Java (now in Indonesia).
However, in 1942 plans took shape for a school with a course specially designed to train both men and women who were willing to undertake such missionary service wherever they were needed in the global field.
In the midst of world war, it may have seemed impractical from a human standpoint to plan for expansion of Kingdom-preaching activities in foreign fields. Yet, in September 1942, with reliance on Jehovah, the directors of two of the principal legal corporations used by Jehovah’s Witnesses approved the proposal by N. H. Knorr for establishment of a school designed to train missionaries and others for specialized service. It was to be called the Watchtower Bible College of Gilead. Later that name was changed to the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. No tuition was to be charged, and students would be housed and fed at the expense of the Society for the period of their training.
Among those who were invited to help outline the course of study was Albert D. Schroeder, who had already gained much experience in the Service Department at the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn and as the Society’s branch overseer in Britain. His positive outlook, the way in which he gave of himself, and his warm interest in the students endeared him to those he taught during the 17 years that he served as registrar and as an instructor in the school. In 1974 he became a member of the Governing Body, and the following year he was assigned to serve on its Teaching Committee.
Brother Schroeder and his fellow instructors (Maxwell Friend, Eduardo Keller, and Victor Blackwell) outlined a five-month study course that emphasized study of the Bible itself and theocratic organization, also Bible doctrines, public speaking, field ministry, missionary service, religious history, divine law, how to deal with government officials, international law, keeping records, and a foreign language. Modifications in the curriculum have taken place over the years, but study of the Bible itself and the importance of the evangelizing work have always held first place. The aim of the course is to strengthen the faith of the students, to help them to develop the spiritual qualities needed to meet successfully the challenges of missionary service. Emphasis has been placed on the importance of total reliance on Jehovah and loyalty to him. (Ps. 146:1-6; Prov. 3:5, 6; Eph. 4:24) Students are not given pat answers to everything but are trained in research and are helped to appreciate why Jehovah’s Witnesses believe as they do and why they adhere to certain ways of doing things. They learn to discern principles with which they can work. Thus a foundation is laid for further growth.
Invitations to prospective students for the first class were sent out on December 14, 1942. It was mid-winter when the 100 students making up that class enrolled at the school facilities located in upstate New York, at South Lansing. They were willing, eager, and somewhat nervous. Although class studies were the immediate concern, they could not help but wonder where in the world field they would be sent after graduation.
In a discourse to that first class on February 1, 1943, the opening day of school, Brother Knorr said: “You are being given further preparation for work similar to that of the apostle Paul, Mark, Timothy, and others who traveled to all parts of the Roman Empire proclaiming the message of the Kingdom. They had to be fortified with the Word of God. They had to have a clear knowledge of His purposes. In many places they had to stand alone against the high and mighty of this world. Your portion may be the same; and God will be your strength thereunto.
“There are many places where the witness concerning the Kingdom has not been given to a great extent. The people living in these places are in darkness, held there by religion. In some of these countries where there are a few Witnesses it is noted that the people of good-will hear readily and would associate themselves with the Lord’s organization, if instructed properly. There must be hundreds and thousands more that could be reached if there were more laborers in the field. By the Lord’s grace, there will be more.
“It is NOT the purpose of this college to equip you to be ordained ministers. You are ministers already and have been active in the ministry for years. . . . The course of study at the college is for the exclusive purpose of preparing you to be more able ministers in the territories to which you go. . . .
“Your principal work is that of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom from house to house as did Jesus and the apostles. When you shall have found a hearing ear, arrange for a back-call, start a home study, and organize a company [congregation] of all suchlike ones in a city or town. Not only will it be your good pleasure to organize a company, but you must help them to understand the Word, strengthen them, address them from time to time, aid them in their service meetings and their organization. When they are strong and can go on their own and take over the territory, you can depart to some other city to proclaim the Kingdom. From time to time it may be necessary for you to return to build them up in the most holy faith and straighten them out in the doctrine; so your work will be that of looking after the Lord’s ‘other sheep’, and not forsaking them. (John 10:16) Your real work is to help the people of good-will. You will have to use initiative, but looking to God’s guidance.”*
Five months later the members of that first class completed their specialized training. Visas were obtained, travel arrangements were made, and they began to move out to nine Latin-American lands. Three months after their graduation, the first Gilead-trained missionaries to leave the United States were on their way to Cuba. By 1992, over 6,500 students from more than 110 countries had been trained and had thereafter served in well over 200 lands and island groups.
Right down to the time of his death 34 years after the inauguration of Gilead School, Brother Knorr demonstrated keen personal interest in the work of the missionaries. Each school term, he would visit the current class a number of times if at all possible, giving lectures and taking along with him other members of the headquarters staff to speak to the students. After the graduates of Gilead began their service abroad, he personally visited the missionary groups, helped them to work out problems, and gave them needed encouragement. As the number of missionary groups multiplied, he arranged for other well-qualified brothers to make such visits too, so that all the missionaries, no matter where they were serving, would receive regular personal attention.
These Missionaries Were Different
Christendom’s missionaries have established hospitals, refugee centers, and orphanages to care for people’s material needs. Casting themselves in the role of champions of poor people, they have also stirred up revolution and participated in guerrilla warfare. In contrast, missionary graduates of Gilead School teach people the Bible. Instead of setting up churches and expecting people to come to them, they call from house to house to find and teach those who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
Adhering closely to God’s Word, Witness missionaries show people why the true and lasting solution to mankind’s problems is God’s Kingdom. (Matt. 24:14; Luke 4:43) The contrast between this work and that of Christendom’s missionaries was emphasized to Peter Vanderhaegen in 1951 when en route to his assignment in Indonesia. The only other passenger aboard the cargo ship was a Baptist missionary. Although Brother Vanderhaegen tried to talk to him about the good news of God’s Kingdom, the Baptist made it clear that his consuming interest was in supporting the efforts of Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan to return to power on the mainland.
Nevertheless, many other people have come to appreciate the value of what is stated in God’s Word. In Barranquilla, Colombia, when Olaf Olson witnessed to Antonio Carvajalino, who had been a strong supporter of a particular political movement, Brother Olson did not take sides with him, nor did he advocate some other political ideology. Instead, he offered to study the Bible free of charge with Antonio and his sisters. Soon Antonio realized that God’s Kingdom really is the only hope for the poor people of Colombia and the rest of the world. (Ps. 72:1-4, 12-14; Dan. 2:44) Antonio and his sisters became zealous servants of God.
The fact that Witness missionaries are separate and distinct from Christendom’s religious system was highlighted in another way in an incident in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). When Donald Morrison called at the home of one of Christendom’s missionaries there, the missionary complained that the Witnesses were not respecting boundaries that had been set. What boundaries? Well, the religions of Christendom had divided up the country into areas in which each would operate without interference from the others. Jehovah’s Witnesses could not go along with such an arrangement. Jesus had said that the Kingdom message was to be preached in all the inhabited earth. Christendom definitely was not doing it. The Gilead-trained missionaries were determined to do a thorough job of it, in obedience to Christ.
These missionaries were sent out, not to be served, but to serve. It was evident in many ways that this really is what they endeavored to do. It is not wrong to accept material provisions that are offered freely (and not as a result of solicitation) in appreciation for spiritual help. But to reach the hearts of the people in Alaska, John Errichetti and Hermon Woodard found that it was beneficial to take at least some time to work with their hands to provide for their physical needs, as the apostle Paul had done. (1 Cor. 9:11, 12; 2 Thess. 3:7, 8) Their primary activity was preaching the good news. But when they received hospitality, they also helped with jobs that needed to be done—for example, tarring a man’s roof because they realized that he needed help. And when they traveled from place to place by boat, they gave a hand with the unloading of freight. People quickly realized that these missionaries were not at all like the clergy of Christendom.
In some places it was necessary for Witness missionaries to take up secular work for a time just to get established in a country so that they could carry on their ministry there. Thus, when Jesse Cantwell went to Colombia, he taught English in the medical department of a university until the political situation changed and religious restrictions ended. After that he was able to use his experience full-time in the ministry as a traveling overseer for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In many places, the missionaries had to start off with tourist visas that allowed them to be in a country for a month or perhaps several months. Then they had to leave and enter again. But they persisted, repeating the process over and over until needed residence papers could be obtained. Their hearts were set on helping people in the countries to which they had been assigned.
These missionaries did not view themselves as superior to the local people. As a traveling overseer, John Cutforth, who was originally a schoolteacher in Canada, visited congregations as well as isolated Witnesses in Papua New Guinea. He sat on the floor with them, ate with them, and accepted invitations to sleep on a mat on the floor in their homes. He enjoyed fellowship with them as they walked together in the field ministry. But this was amazing to non-Witnesses who observed it, for European pastors of Christendom’s missions had a reputation of keeping aloof from the local people, mixing with their parishioners only briefly at some of their meetings, but never eating with them.
The people among whom these Witnesses served sensed the loving interest of the missionaries and of the organization that had sent them out. In response to a letter from João Mancoca, a humble African confined in a penal colony in Portuguese West Africa (now Angola), a Watch Tower missionary was sent to provide spiritual help. Looking back on that visit, Mancoca later said: “I had no more doubt that this was the true organization which has God’s support. I had never thought or believed that any other religious organization would do such a thing: without payment, send a missionary from far to visit an insignificant person just because he wrote a letter.”
Living Conditions and Customs
Frequently the living conditions in lands to which missionaries were sent were not as materially advanced as those in the places from which they had come. When Robert Kirk landed in Burma (now Myanmar) early in 1947, the effects of war were still in evidence, and few homes had electric lights. In many lands, the missionaries found that laundry was done piece by piece with a washboard or on rocks at a river instead of with an electric washing machine. But they had come to teach people Bible truth, so they adjusted to local conditions and got busy in the ministry.
In the early days, it was often the case that no one was waiting to welcome the missionaries. It was up to them to find a place to live. When Charles Eisenhower, along with 11 others, arrived in Cuba in 1943, they slept on the floor the first night. The next day they bought beds and made closets and dressers from apple boxes. Using whatever contributions they received from literature placements, along with the modest allowance that was provided by the Watch Tower Society for special pioneers, each group of missionaries looked to Jehovah to bless their efforts to pay the rent, obtain food, and meet other necessary expenses.
Preparation of meals sometimes required a change in thinking. Where there was no refrigeration, daily trips to the market were necessary. In many lands cooking was done over charcoal or wood fires instead of on a gas or an electric stove. George and Willa Mae Watkins, assigned to Liberia, found that their stove consisted of nothing more than three rocks used to support an iron kettle.
What about water? Looking at her new home in India, Ruth McKay said: ‘Here is a home like none I’ve ever seen. The kitchen has no sink, just a tap in the corner wall with a raised strip of concrete to prevent the water from running all over the floor. It is not a 24-hour flow of water, but water has to be stored for times when the supply is cut off.’
Because they were not accustomed to local conditions, some of the missionaries were plagued with illness during the early months in their assignment. Russell Yeatts had one spell of dysentery after another when he arrived in Curaçao in 1946. But a local brother had offered such a fervent prayer of thanks to Jehovah for the missionaries that they just could not think of leaving. Upon arriving in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Brian and Elke Wise found themselves in a harsh climate that takes its toll on one’s health. They had to learn to cope with daytime temperatures of 109° F. [43° C.] During their first year, the intense heat along with malaria caused Elke to be sick for weeks at a time. The next year, Brian was confined to bed for five months with a severe case of hepatitis. But they soon found that they had as many good Bible studies as they could handle—and then some. Love for those people helped them to persevere; so did the fact that they viewed their assignment as a privilege and as good training for whatever Jehovah had in store for them in the future.
As the years passed, more of the missionaries were welcomed to their assignments by those who had gone before them or by local Witnesses. Some were assigned to lands where the principal cities were quite modern. Starting in 1946, the Watch Tower Society also endeavored to provide a suitable home and basic furniture for each missionary group as well as funds for food, thus freeing them of this concern and enabling them to direct more of their attention to the preaching work.
In a number of places, travel was an experience that tested their endurance. After it rained, more than one missionary sister in Papua New Guinea found herself carrying supplies in a backpack while walking through the bush on a slippery footpath that was so muddy that it sometimes pulled off her shoes. In South America, not a few missionaries have had hair-raising bus rides on narrow roads high in the Andes Mountains. It is an experience not soon forgotten when your bus, on the outer edge of the road, passes another large vehicle going in the opposite direction on a curve without a guardrail and you feel the bus start to tip over the precipice!
Political revolutions seemed to be a regular part of life in certain places, but the Witness missionaries kept in mind Jesus’ statement that his disciples would be “no part of the world”; so they were neutral as to such conflicts. (John 15:19) They learned to suppress any curiosity that would expose them to needless danger. Frequently, the best thing was simply to stay off the streets until the situation had cooled down. Nine missionaries in Vietnam were living right in the heart of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) when war engulfed that city. They could see bombs being dropped, fires throughout the city, and thousands of people fleeing for their lives. But appreciating that Jehovah had sent them to extend life-giving knowledge to truth-hungry people, they looked to him for protection.
Even when there was relative peace, it was difficult for the missionaries to carry on their ministry in some sections of Asian cities. Just the appearance of a foreigner in the narrow streets of a poor section of Lahore, Pakistan, was enough to attract a crowd of unwashed, unkempt children of all ages. Shouting and jostling one another, they would follow the missionary from house to house, often barging into the homes in the wake of the publisher. Soon the whole street had been told the price of the magazines and that the stranger was ‘making Christians.’ Under such circumstances, it was usually necessary to leave the area. The departure was frequently made to the accompaniment of screaming, hand-clapping, and, at times, a shower of stones.
Local customs frequently required some adjustments on the part of the missionaries. In Japan they learned to leave their shoes on the porch when entering a house. And they had to become accustomed, if possible, to sitting on the floor before a low table at Bible studies. In some parts of Africa, they learned that using the left hand to offer something to another person was viewed as an insult. And they found that in that part of the world, it was bad manners to try to explain the reason for their visit before engaging in some light conversation—inquiring mutually about health and answering questions as to where one is from, how many children one has, and so forth. In Brazil missionaries found that instead of knocking on doors, they usually needed to clap their hands at the front gate in order to summon the householder.
However, in Lebanon the missionaries were confronted with customs of another sort. Few brothers brought their wives and daughters to meetings. The women who did attend always sat in the back, never in among the men. The missionaries, unaware of the custom, caused no little disturbance at their first meeting. A married couple sat toward the front, and the single missionary girls sat wherever there was an empty seat. But after the meeting a discussion of Christian principles helped to clear the air. (Compare Deuteronomy 31:12; Galatians 3:28.) The segregation stopped. More wives and daughters attended the meetings. They also joined the missionary sisters in the house-to-house ministry.
The Challenge of a New Language
The small group of missionaries that arrived in Martinique in 1949 had very little knowledge of French, but they knew that the people needed the Kingdom message. With real faith they started out from door to door, trying to read a few verses from the Bible or an excerpt from a publication they were offering. With patience their French gradually improved.
Although it was their desire to help the local Witnesses and other interested ones, the missionaries themselves were often the ones that needed help first—with the language. Those who were sent to Togo found that the grammar of Ewe, the principal native tongue, was quite different from that of European languages, also that the voice pitch in which a word is stated may change the meaning. Thus, the two-letter word to, when spoken in a raised pitch, can mean ear, mountain, father-in-law, or tribe; with a low pitch, it means buffalo. Missionaries taking up service in Vietnam were confronted with a language that employed six variations of tone on any given word, each tone resulting in a different meaning.
Edna Waterfall, assigned to Peru, did not soon forget the first house at which she tried to witness in Spanish. In a cold sweat, she stumbled through her memorized presentation, offered literature, and arranged for a Bible study with an elderly lady. Then the woman said in perfect English: “All right, that is all very fine. I will study with you and we will do it all in Spanish to help you learn Spanish.” Shocked, Edna replied: “You know English? And you let me do all of that in my wobbly Spanish?” “It was good for you,” the woman answered. And, indeed, it was! As Edna soon came to appreciate, actually speaking a language is an important part of learning it.
In Italy, when George Fredianelli tried to speak the language, he found that what he thought were Italian expressions (but were actually Italianized English words) were not being understood. To cope with the problem, he decided to write out his talks for congregations in full and deliver them from a manuscript. But many in his audience would fall asleep. So he discarded the manuscript, spoke extemporaneously, and asked the audience to help him when he got stuck. This kept them awake, and it helped him to progress.
To give the missionaries a start with their new language, the Gilead study course for the early classes included such languages as Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, and Urdu. Over the years, upwards of 30 languages were taught. But since the graduates of a given class did not all go to places where the same language was spoken, these language classes were later replaced with arrangements for an intensive period of supervised language study on arrival in their assignments. For the first month, newcomers totally immersed themselves in language study for 11 hours a day; and the following month, half their time was spent in language study at home, and the other half was devoted to using that knowledge in the field ministry.
It was observed, however, that actual use of the language in the field ministry was a principal key to progress; so an adjustment was made. During the first three months in their assignment, new missionaries who did not know the local language would spend four hours a day with a qualified teacher, and right from the start, by witnessing to local people about God’s Kingdom, they would apply what they were learning.
Many missionary groups worked as teams to improve their grasp of the language. They would discuss a few, or as many as 20, new words each day at breakfast and then endeavor to use these in their field ministry.
Learning the local language has been an important factor in their winning the confidence of people. In some places, there is a measure of distrust of foreigners. Hugh and Carol Cormican have served singly or as a married couple in five African countries. They are well aware of the distrust that often exists between Africans and Europeans. But they say: “Speaking in the local language quickly dispels this feeling. Further, others who are not inclined to listen to the good news from their fellow countrymen will readily listen to us, take literature, and study, because we have made the effort to speak to them in their own language.” In order to do that, Brother Cormican learned five languages, apart from English, and Sister Cormican learned six.
Of course, there can be problems when trying to learn a new language. In Puerto Rico a brother who was offering to play a recorded Bible message for householders would close up his phonograph and go to the next door when the person replied, “¡Como no!” To him, that sounded like “No,” and it took a while before he learned that the expression means “Why not!” On the other hand, missionaries sometimes did not understand when the householder said he was not interested, so they kept right on witnessing. A few sympathetic householders benefited as a result.
There were humorous situations too. Leslie Franks, in Singapore, learned that he had to be careful not to talk about a coconut (kelapa) when he meant a head (kepala), and grass (rumput) when he meant hair (rambut). A missionary in Samoa, because of mispronunciation, asked a native, “How is your beard?” (he did not have one), when what was intended was a polite inquiry about the man’s wife. In Ecuador, when a bus driver started abruptly, Zola Hoffman, who was standing up in the bus, was thrown off balance and landed in a man’s lap. Embarrassed, she tried to apologize. But what came out was, “Con su permiso” (With your permission). When the man good-naturedly replied, “Go right ahead, Lady,” the other passengers burst into laughter.
Nevertheless, good results in the ministry were forthcoming because the missionaries tried. Lois Dyer, who arrived in Japan in 1950, recalls the advice given by Brother Knorr: “Do the best you can, and, even though you make mistakes, do something!” She did, and so did many others. During the next 42 years, the missionaries sent to Japan saw the number of Kingdom proclaimers there increase from just a handful to over 170,000, and the growth has kept right on. What a rich reward because, after having looked to Jehovah for direction, they were willing to try!
Opening New Fields, Developing Others
In scores of lands and island groups, it was the Gilead-trained missionaries who either began the work of Kingdom preaching or gave it needed impetus after a limited amount of witnessing had been done by others. They were evidently the first of Jehovah’s Witnesses to preach the good news in Somalia, Sudan, Laos, and numerous island groups around the globe.
Some earlier preaching had been done in such places as Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Liberia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, and Vietnam. But there were none of Jehovah’s Witnesses reporting activity in these countries when the first missionary graduates of Gilead School arrived. Where possible, the missionaries undertook a systematic coverage of the country, concentrating first on the larger cities. They did not simply place literature and move on, as had the colporteurs of the past. They patiently called back on interested ones, conducted Bible studies with them, and trained them in the field ministry.
Other lands had only about ten Kingdom proclaimers (and, in many instances, fewer) before the arrival of the missionary graduates of Gilead School. Included among these were Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Burundi, Ivory Coast (now Côte d’Ivoire), Kenya, Mauritius, Senegal, South-West Africa (now Namibia), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), China, and Singapore, along with many island groups. The missionaries set a zealous example in the ministry, helped local Witnesses to improve their abilities, organized congregations, and assisted brothers to qualify to take the lead. In many instances they also opened up the preaching work in areas that had not been touched before.
With this help the number of Witnesses began to grow. In most of these countries, there are now thousands of active Witnesses of Jehovah. In some of them, there are tens of thousands, or even more than a hundred thousand, praisers of Jehovah.
Some People Were Eager to Hear
In some areas missionaries found many people who were willing and eager to learn. When Ted and Doris Klein, graduates of Gilead’s first class, arrived in the Virgin Islands in 1947, there were so many people who wanted to study the Bible that they frequently did not conclude their day of service until midnight. For the first public lecture that Brother Klein gave in the Market Square of Charlotte Amalie, there were a thousand in attendance.
Joseph McGrath and Cyril Charles were sent to the Amis territory in Taiwan in 1949. They found themselves living in houses with thatched roofs and dirt floors. But they were there to help people. Some of the Amis tribesmen had obtained Watch Tower literature, had been delighted by what they read, and had shared the good news with others. Now the missionaries were there to help them to grow spiritually. They were told that 600 persons were interested in the truth, but a total of 1,600 attended the meetings they held as they moved from village to village. These humble people were willing to learn, but they lacked accurate knowledge of many things. Patiently the brothers began to teach them, taking one subject at a time, often devoting eight or more hours to a question-and-answer discussion of a subject at each village. Training was also provided for the 140 who expressed a desire to share in witnessing from house to house. What a joyful experience that was for the missionaries! But much still needed to be done if there was to be solid spiritual growth.
About 12 years later, Harvey and Kathleen Logan, Gilead-trained missionaries who had been serving in Japan, were assigned to provide further assistance to the Amis brothers. Brother Logan spent much time helping them to understand basic Bible doctrine and principles as well as organizational matters. Sister Logan worked with the Amis sisters in the field service each day, after which she endeavored to study basic Bible truths with them. Then, in 1963, the Watch Tower Society arranged for delegates from 28 lands to assemble with the local Witnesses there in the village of Shou Feng, in connection with an around-the-world convention. All this began to lay a solid foundation for further growth.
In 1948, two missionaries, Harry Arnott and Ian Fergusson, arrived in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). There were already 252 congregations of native African Witnesses at that time, but now attention was also given to the Europeans who had moved there in connection with copper-mining operations. The response was exciting. Much literature was placed; those with whom Bible studies were conducted progressed rapidly. That year saw a 61-percent increase in the number of Witnesses active in the field ministry.
In many places it was not unusual for the missionaries to have waiting lists of people who wanted Bible studies. Sometimes relatives, neighbors, and other friends would also be present when studies were conducted. Even before people were able to have their own personal Bible study, they might be regularly attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall.
However, in other lands, though great effort was put forth by the missionaries, the harvest was very limited. As early as 1953, Watch Tower missionaries were sent to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), where the population, which now exceeds 115,000,000, is predominantly Muslim and Hindu. Much effort was put forth to help the people. Yet, by 1992, there were only 42 worshipers of Jehovah in that land. However, in the eyes of the missionaries who serve in such areas, each one who takes up true worship is especially precious—because they are so rare.
Loving Help to Fellow Witnesses
The basic work of the missionaries is evangelizing, preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. But as they have personally engaged in this activity, they have also been able to provide much help to local Witnesses. The missionaries have invited them along in the field ministry and have shared with them suggestions on how to deal with difficult situations. By observing the missionaries, local Witnesses have often learned how to carry on their ministry in a more organized manner and how to be more effective teachers. In turn, the missionaries have been helped by local Witnesses to adjust to local customs.
On his arrival in Portugal in 1948, John Cooke took steps to organize systematic house-to-house work. Though they were willing, many of the local Witnesses needed training. He later said: “I shall never forget one of my very first outings in the ministry with the sisters in Almada. Yes, six of them went to the same house together. You can just imagine a group of six women standing around a door while one of them gave a sermon! But bit by bit things began to take shape and started to move.”
The courageous example of missionaries helped Witnesses in the Leeward Islands to be bold, not intimidated by opposers who tried to interfere with the work. The faith shown by a missionary helped brothers in Spain to get started in the house-to-house ministry, in spite of the Catholic Fascist dictatorship under which they lived at the time. Missionaries serving in Japan after World War II set an example in tactfulness—not harping on the failure of the national religion, after the Japanese emperor had renounced his divinity, but rather presenting persuasive evidence for belief in the Creator.
Local Witnesses observed the missionaries and were often deeply affected in ways that the missionaries may not have realized at the time. In Trinidad, incidents that showed the humility of the missionaries, their willingness to put up with difficult conditions, and their hard work in Jehovah’s service despite the hot weather are still talked about many years later. Witnesses in Korea were deeply impressed by the self-sacrificing spirit of missionaries who for ten years did not leave the country to visit their families because the government would not issue reentry permits except in a few emergency “humanitarian” cases.
During and after their initial Gilead schooling, most of the missionaries had a closeup view of the operation of the headquarters of Jehovah’s visible organization. They often had considerable opportunity to associate with members of the Governing Body. Later, in their missionary assignments, they were able to convey to local Witnesses and newly interested persons eyewitness reports as to the way the organization functions as well as the appreciation that they themselves had for it. The depth of appreciation that they imparted regarding the theocratic operation of the organization was often an important factor in the growth that was experienced.
In many of the places to which the missionaries were sent, there were no congregation meetings when they arrived. So they made the needed arrangements, conducted the meetings, and handled most of the meeting parts until others qualified to share in these privileges. Constantly they were training other brothers so that they could qualify to take over the responsibility. (2 Tim. 2:2) The first meeting place was usually the missionary home. Later on, arrangements were made for Kingdom Halls.
Where congregations already existed, the missionaries contributed toward making the meetings more interesting and instructive. Their well-prepared comments were appreciated and soon set a pattern that others tried to imitate. Using their Gilead training, the brothers set a fine example in public speaking and teaching, and they gladly spent time with local brothers to help them to learn the art. In lands where people were traditionally easygoing and not particularly time conscious, the missionaries also patiently helped them to appreciate the value of starting meetings on time and encouraged everyone to be there on time.
Conditions that they found in some places indicated that help was needed in order to build up appreciation for the importance of adhering to Jehovah’s righteous standards. In Botswana, for example, they found that some of the sisters still put strings or beads on their babies as protection against harm, not fully appreciating that this custom was rooted in superstition and witchcraft. In Portugal they found circumstances that were causing disunity. With patience, loving help, and firmness when necessary, improved spiritual health became evident.
Missionaries assigned to positions of oversight in Finland devoted much time and effort to training local brothers to reason on problems in the light of Bible principles and thus to come to a conclusion that is in agreement with God’s own thinking. In Argentina they also helped the brothers to learn the value of a schedule, how to keep records, the importance of files. In Germany they helped loyal brothers who were in some respects quite rigid in their views, as a result of their fight for survival in the concentration camps, to imitate more fully the mild-tempered ways of Jesus Christ as they shepherded the flock of God.—Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 20:28.
The work of some of the missionaries involved dealing with government officials, answering their questions, and making application for legal recognition of the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For example, over a period of nearly four years, Brother Joly, who was assigned to Cameroon with his wife, made repeated efforts to obtain legal recognition. He spoke to French and African officials often. Finally, after a change of government, legal recognition was granted. By this time the Witnesses had been active in Cameroon for 27 years and already numbered more than 6,000.
Meeting the Challenges of Traveling Service
Some of the missionaries have been assigned to serve as traveling overseers. There was a special need in Australia, where some of the efforts of the brothers had been unwisely diverted from Kingdom interests to secular pursuits during World War II. In time, this was set straight, and during a visit by Brother Knorr in 1947, emphasis was given to the importance of keeping the work of Kingdom preaching to the fore. Thereafter, the enthusiasm, fine example, and teaching methods of Gilead graduates who served as circuit and district overseers further helped to cultivate a genuine spiritual atmosphere among the Witnesses there.
Sharing in such traveling service has often required a willingness to expend great effort and face danger. Wallace Liverance found that the only way to reach a family of isolated publishers in Volcán, Bolivia, was to walk 55 miles [90 km] round-trip across rocky, barren terrain in the scorching sun at a height of about 11,000 feet [3,400 m], while carrying his sleeping bag, food, and water, as well as literature. To serve congregations in the Philippines, Neal Callaway frequently rode on overcrowded rural buses on which space was shared not only with people but also with animals and produce. Richard Cotterill began his work as a traveling overseer in India at a time when thousands of people were being killed because of religious hatred. When he was scheduled to serve the brothers in a riot area, the railroad booking clerk tried to dissuade him. It proved to be a nightmare journey for most of the passengers, but Brother Cotterill had deep love for his brothers, regardless of where they lived or what language they spoke. With confidence in Jehovah, he reasoned: “If Jehovah wills, I shall try to get there.”—Jas. 4:15.
Encouraging Others to Share in Full-Time Service
As a result of the zealous spirit displayed by the missionaries, many whom they have taught have imitated their example by getting into the full-time service. In Japan, where 168 missionaries have served, there were 75,956 pioneers in 1992; over 40 percent of the publishers in Japan were in some branch of full-time service. In the Republic of Korea, the ratio was similar.
From lands where the ratio of Witnesses to the population is quite favorable, many full-time ministers have been invited to receive training at Gilead School and have then been sent out to serve in other places. Large numbers of the missionaries have come from the United States and Canada; about 400 from Britain; over 240 from Germany; upwards of 150 from Australia; more than 100 from Sweden; in addition to sizable numbers from Denmark, Finland, Hawaii, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and others. Some countries that were themselves helped by missionaries later also provided prospective missionaries for service in other lands.
Filling Needs in a Growing Organization
As the organization has grown, the missionaries themselves have taken on further responsibilities. A considerable number of them have served as elders or ministerial servants in congregations that they helped to develop. In many lands they were the first circuit and district overseers. As further development has made it advantageous for the Society to establish new branch offices, a number of missionaries have been entrusted with responsibility in connection with branch operation. In some cases those who have come to know the language well have been asked to help with translating and proofreading Bible literature.
They have especially felt rewarded, however, when those with whom they had studied God’s Word, or brothers to whose spiritual growth they had made some contribution, became qualified to take on such responsibilities. Thus a couple in Peru were delighted to see some with whom they had studied serve as special pioneers, helping to strengthen new congregations and open up new territory. From a study conducted by a missionary with a family in Sri Lanka came one of the members of the Branch Committee for that country. Many others of the missionaries have had similar joys.
They have also faced opposition.
In the Face of Opposition
Jesus told his followers that they would be persecuted, even as he had been. (John 15:20) Since the missionaries usually came from abroad, often when intense persecution broke out in a country, this meant deportation.
In 1967, Sona Haidostian and her parents were arrested in Aleppo, Syria. They were held in prison for five months and were then expelled from the country without their belongings. Margarita Königer, from Germany, was assigned to Madagascar; but deportations, one after another, led to new assignments, in Kenya, Dahomey (Benin), and Upper Volta (Burkina Faso). Domenick Piccone and his wife, Elsa, were expelled from Spain in 1957 because of their preaching, then from Portugal in 1962, and from Morocco in 1969. However, in each country while seeking to forestall expulsion orders, good was accomplished. A witness was given to officials. In Morocco, for example, they had opportunity to witness to officials in the Sécurité Nationale, a Supreme Court judge, the police chief of Tangier, and the U.S. consuls in Tangier and Rabat.
Expulsion of the missionaries has not resulted in putting an end to the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as some officials expected. Seeds of truth already sown often continue to grow. For example, four missionaries carried on their ministry for only a few months in Burundi before the government forced them to leave in 1964. But one of them kept up correspondence with an interested person, who wrote to say that he was studying the Bible with 26 persons. A Tanzanian Witness who had recently moved to Burundi also kept busy preaching. Gradually their numbers grew until hundreds were sharing the Kingdom message with still others.
Elsewhere, before ordering deportation, officials resorted to brute force to try to make everyone submit to their demands. At Gbarnga, Liberia, in 1963, soldiers rounded up 400 men, women, and children who were attending a Christian convention there. The soldiers marched them to the army compound, threatened them, beat them, and demanded that everyone—regardless of nationality or religious belief—salute the Liberian flag. Among those in the group was Milton Henschel, from the United States. There were also some missionaries, including John Charuk from Canada. One of the Gilead graduates compromised, as he had done on an earlier occasion (though he had not made that known), and this no doubt contributed to compromise on the part of others who were at that assembly. It became evident who truly feared God and who were ensnared by fear of man. (Prov. 29:25) Following this, the government ordered all the Witness missionaries from abroad to leave the country, although later that same year an executive order from the president permitted them to return.
Frequently, the action taken against the missionaries by government officials has been as a result of clergy pressure. Sometimes that pressure was exerted in a clandestine manner. At other times, everyone knew who was whipping up the opposition. George Koivisto will never forget his first morning in field service in Medellín, Colombia. Suddenly a howling mob of schoolchildren appeared, hurling stones and clumps of clay. The householder, who had never seen him before, hustled him inside and closed the wooden shutters, all the time apologizing for the behavior of the mob outside. When the police arrived, some blamed the schoolteacher for letting out the students. But another voice cried out: “Not so! It was the priest! He announced over the loudspeakers to let the students out to ‘throw stones at the Protestantes.’”
Godly courage coupled with love for the sheep was needed. Elfriede Löhr and Ilse Unterdörfer were assigned to the valley of Gastein in Austria. In a short time, much Bible literature was placed with people who were hungry for spiritual food. But then the clergy reacted. They urged schoolchildren to shout at the missionaries in the streets and to run ahead of them to warn householders not to listen. The people grew afraid. But with loving perseverance, a few good studies were started. When a public Bible lecture was arranged, the curate stood challengingly right in front of the meeting place. But when the missionaries went out into the street to welcome the people, the curate disappeared. He summoned a policeman and then returned, hoping to disrupt the meeting. But his efforts failed. In time a fine congregation was formed there.
In towns near Ibarra, Ecuador, Unn Raunholm and Julia Parsons faced priest-inspired mobs again and again. Because the priest caused an uproar every time the missionaries showed up in San Antonio, the sisters decided to concentrate on another town, called Atuntaqui. But one day the local sheriff there excitedly urged Sister Raunholm to leave town quickly. “The priest is organizing a demonstration against you, and I do not have enough men to defend you,” he declared. She vividly recalls: “The crowd was coming after us! The Vatican flag of white and yellow was waved before the group while the priest shouted slogans like ‘Long live the Catholic Church!’ ‘Down with the Protestants!’ ‘Long live the virginity of the Virgin!’ ‘Long live the confession!’ Each time, the crowd would echo the slogans word for word after the priest.” Just then a couple of men invited the Witnesses into the local Workers’ House for safety. There the missionaries busily witnessed to curious people who came in to see what was going on. They placed every bit of literature they had.
Courses Designed to Fill Special Needs
During the years since the first missionaries were sent out from Gilead School, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has experienced growth at an astounding rate. In 1943, when the school opened, there were only 129,070 Witnesses in 54 lands (but 103 lands according to the way the map was divided in the early 1990’s). By 1992, there were 4,472,787 Witnesses in 229 countries and island groups worldwide. As this growth has taken place, the needs of the organization have changed. Branch offices that at one time cared for less than a hundred Witnesses grouped in a few congregations are now supervising the activity of tens of thousands of Witnesses, and many of these branches have found it necessary to print literature locally in order to equip those sharing in the evangelizing work.
To meet the changing needs, 18 years after the opening of Gilead School, a ten-month course of training at the Society’s world headquarters was provided especially for brothers who were carrying heavy loads of responsibility in the branch offices of the Watch Tower Society. Some of them had previously attended the five-month missionary course at Gilead; others had not. All of them could benefit from specialized training for their work. Discussions of how to handle various situations and meet organizational needs in harmony with Bible principles had a unifying effect. Their course featured a verse-by-verse analytical study of the entire Bible. It also provided a review of the history of religion; training in the details involved in operating a branch office, a Bethel Home, and a printery; and instructions on supervising field ministry, organizing new congregations, and opening up new fields. These courses (including a final one that was reduced to eight months) were conducted at the world headquarters, in Brooklyn, New York, from 1961 to 1965. Many of the graduates were sent back to the countries where they had been serving; some were assigned to other lands where they could make valuable contributions to the work.
As of February 1, 1976, a new arrangement was put into operation in the branch offices of the Society in order to gear up for further expansion anticipated in harmony with Bible prophecy. (Isa. 60:8, 22) Instead of having just one branch overseer, along with his assistant, to provide supervision for each branch, the Governing Body appointed three or more qualified brothers to serve on each Branch Committee. Larger branches might have as many as seven on the committee. To provide training for all these brothers, a special five-week Gilead course in Brooklyn, New York, was arranged. Fourteen classes made up of Branch Committee members from all parts of the world were given this specialized training at the world headquarters from late 1977 to 1980. It was an excellent opportunity to unify and refine operations.
Gilead School continued to train those who had years of experience in the full-time ministry and were willing and able to be sent abroad, but more could be used. To expedite the training, schools were put into operation in other countries as an extension of Gilead so that students would not have to learn English before qualifying to attend. In 1980-81, the Gilead Cultural School of Mexico provided training for Spanish-speaking students who helped to fill an immediate need for qualified workers in Central and South America. In 1981-82, 1984, and again in 1992, classes of a Gilead Extension School were also conducted in Germany. From there the graduates were sent to Africa, Eastern Europe, South America, and various island nations. Further classes were held in India in 1983.
As zealous local Witnesses have joined with the missionaries in expanding the Kingdom witness, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses has increased rapidly, and this has led to the formation of more congregations. Between 1980 and 1987, the number of congregations worldwide increased by 27 percent, to a total of 54,911. In some areas, though many were attending meetings and sharing in the field ministry, most of the brothers were quite new. There was an urgent need for experienced Christian men to serve as spiritual shepherds and teachers, as well as to take the lead in the evangelizing work. To help meet this need, in 1987 the Governing Body put into operation the Ministerial Training School as a segment of the Gilead School program of Bible education. The eight-week course includes an intense study of the Bible as well as personal attention to each student’s spiritual development. Organizational and judicial matters, along with the responsibilities of elders and ministerial servants, are considered, and specialized training is provided in public speaking. Without interfering with the regular classes for training missionaries, this school has used other facilities, convening in various lands. Graduates are now filling vital needs in many countries.
Thus the expanded training provided by the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead has kept pace with the changing needs of the rapidly growing international organization.
“Here I Am! Send Me”
The spirit shown by the missionaries is like that of the prophet Isaiah. When Jehovah alerted him to an opportunity for special service, he responded: “Here I am! Send me.” (Isa. 6:8) This willingness of spirit has moved thousands of young men and women to leave behind familiar surroundings and relatives to serve for the furtherance of God’s will wherever they are needed.
Family circumstances have brought changes to the lives of many missionaries. A number who had children after becoming missionaries were able to stay in the land to which they were assigned, doing needed secular work and working with the congregations. Some, after years of service, had to return to their homeland in order to care for aging parents, or for other reasons. But they counted it a privilege to share in missionary service as long as they could.
Others have been able to make missionary service their life’s work. To do it, they have all had to come to grips with challenging circumstances. Olaf Olson, who has enjoyed a long missionary career in Colombia, acknowledged: “The first year was the hardest.” That was largely because of inability to express himself adequately in his new language. He added: “If I had kept thinking about the country I had left, I would not have been happy, but I made up my mind to live both bodily and mentally in Colombia, to make friends with the brothers and sisters in the truth there, to keep my life filled with the ministry, and my assignment soon became home to me.”
Their persevering in their assignments was not because they necessarily found their physical surroundings to be ideal. Norman Barber, who served in Burma (now Myanmar) and India, from 1947 until his death in 1986, expressed himself in this way: “If a person rejoices to be used by Jehovah, then one place is as good as another. . . . Frankly speaking, tropical weather is not my idea of the ideal weather in which to live. Neither is the way tropical people live the way I would personally choose to live. But there are more important things to take into consideration than such trivial matters. Being able to render aid to people who are really spiritually poor is a privilege beyond human powers to express.”
Many more share that view, and this self-sacrificing spirit has contributed greatly to fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy that this good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth, for a witness to all nations, before the end comes.—Matt. 24:14.
The Watchtower, February 15, 1943, pp. 60-4.
[Blurb on page 523]
Emphasis on the importance of total reliance on Jehovah and loyalty to him
[Blurb on page 534]
A good sense of humor helped!
[Blurb on page 539]
Patience, loving help, and firmness when necessary
[Blurb on page 546]
‘Rendering aid to people who are really spiritually poor is a privilege beyond human powers to express’
[Box on page 533]
1943-60: School at South Lansing, New York. In 35 classes, 3,639 students from 95 lands graduated, most being assigned to missionary service. Circuit and district overseers serving in the United States were also included in the classes.
1961-65: School in Brooklyn, New York. In 5 classes, 514 students graduated and were sent to lands where the Watch Tower Society had branch offices; most of the graduates were entrusted with administrative assignments. Four of these classes had 10-month courses; one, an 8-month course.
1965-88: School in Brooklyn, New York. In 45 classes, each with a 20-week course, another 2,198 students were trained, most of these for missionary service.
1977-80: School in Brooklyn, New York. Five-week Gilead course for Branch Committee members. Fourteen classes were held.
1980-81: Gilead Cultural School of Mexico; 10-week course; three classes; 72 Spanish-speaking graduates prepared for service in Latin America.
1981-82, 1984, 1992: Gilead Extension School in Germany; 10-week course; four classes; 98 German-speaking students from European lands.
1983: Classes in India; 10-week course, conducted in English; 3 groups; 70 students.
1987- : Ministerial Training School, with an 8-week course, held in key locations in various parts of the world. As of 1992, graduates had already been serving in more than 35 lands outside the country of their origin.
1988- : School at Wallkill, New York. Twenty-week course in preparation for missionary service is currently conducted there. It is planned that the school will be moved to the Watchtower Educational Center at Patterson, New York, when this is completed.
[Box on page 538]
International Student Body
Students who have attended Gilead School have represented scores of nationalities and have come to the school from over 110 lands.
The first international group was the sixth class, in 1945-46.
Application was made to the U.S. government for foreign students to be admitted under nonimmigration student visa provisions. In response, the U.S. Office of Education gave recognition to Gilead School as offering education comparable to professional colleges and educational institutions. Thus, since 1953, U.S. consuls throughout the world have had the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead on their list of approved educational institutions. As of April 30, 1954, this school appeared in the publication entitled “Educational Institutions Approved by the Attorney General.”
[Pictures on page 522]
Students of the first class of Gilead School
[Picture on page 524]
Albert Schroeder discussing features of the tabernacle with Gilead students
[Picture on page 525]
Maxwell Friend lecturing in the Gilead School amphitheater
[Pictures on page 526]
Gilead graduations were spiritual highlights
. . . some at large conventions (New York, 1950)
. . . some on the school campus (where N. H. Knorr is shown speaking in front of the school library, in 1956)
[Pictures on page 527]
Gilead School campus at South Lansing, New York, as it appeared during the 1950’s
[Picture on page 528]
Hermon Woodard (left) and John Errichetti (right) serving in Alaska
[Picture on page 529]
John Cutforth using visual aids to teach in Papua New Guinea
[Picture on page 530]
Missionaries in Ireland, with district overseer, in 1950
[Picture on page 530]
Graduates en route to missionary assignments in the Orient in 1947
[Picture on page 530]
Some missionaries and fellow workers in Japan in 1969
[Pictures on page 530]
Missionaries in Brazil in 1956
. . . in Uruguay in 1954
. . . in Italy in 1950
[Picture on page 530]
First four Gilead-trained missionaries sent to Jamaica
[Picture on page 530]
First missionary home in Salisbury (now Harare, Zimbabwe), in 1950
[Picture on page 530]
Malcolm Vigo (Gilead, 1956-57) with his wife Linda Louise; together they have served in Malawi, Kenya, and Nigeria
[Picture on page 530]
Robert Tracy (left) and Jesse Cantwell (right) with their wives—missionaries in traveling work in Colombia in 1960
[Picture on page 532]
Language class in missionary home in Côte d’Ivoire
[Picture on page 535]
Ted and Doris Klein, who found many people eager to hear Bible truth in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1947
[Picture on page 536]
Harvey Logan (center front) with Amis Witnesses in front of Kingdom Hall, in the 1960’s
[Picture on page 540]
Victor White, Gilead-trained district overseer, speaking in the Philippines in 1949
[Picture on page 542]
Margarita Königer, in Burkina Faso, conducting a home Bible study
[Picture on page 543]
Unn Raunholm, a missionary since 1958, had to face priest-led mobs in Ecuador
[Pictures on page 545]
Ministerial Training School
First class, Coraopolis, Pa., U.S.A., in 1987 (above)
Third class in Britain, at Manchester, in 1991 (right)