Theocracy’s Increase in China
This article continues the series reporting on the Asiatic travels of the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, and his secretary, M. G. Henschel
THE branch servant was at the Bangkok airport to meet us at noon, but when we got off the plane and came into the customs at 12:30 we saw no signs of him. We learned about ten minutes later when he found us in the customs room that he had been talking to a young Thai woman and she became very much interested in the truth. Brother Babinski was talking to her in the Thai language and after we cleared through customs he introduced her to us. She went by the title “Princess” because she is a first cousin to the present king. She is a writer and furnishes publications in Bangkok with historical and educational stories while also doing some supervisory work at the airport. She could understand and speak English quite fluently, but she prefers the Thai. We dropped her off at her publisher’s place and then we went on to the branch office. There we met the brothers again and in the evening the regular service meeting was on, so I talked after the program and gave them a report on the good work our brothers are doing in Burma.
Brother Henschel and I left Thailand at 1:30, which was 3:30 Hong Kong time, not far from sunrise. This time when we said good-by we did not promise to see them shortly again, but it was our hope to someday return and to then anticipate seeing a much greater organization established in Thailand. It is very evident that there are hundreds and maybe thousands of persons, even though Buddhists, who love life and will seek it. As the truth spreads, as Paul put it, they will hear, and if they hear they will believe, but they can never hear without preachers. So our Thailand publishers are determined, by the grace of our God in heaven, to preach so that many will hear and some will believe.
By 9:30 we would be at Hong Kong, Britain’s precious jewel of the Far East. Weather was a question. About the month of April there is a change in the monsoon and the gray fog sits on the hills and waterways around Hong Kong. Before our arrival there had been a series of thirty dull days.
This April 14 the clouds had lifted off the water, but it was still gray with blustery winds that fairly whistled around the foothills that border the airport. Five missionaries and as many company publishers had gathered there that day to welcome us from Bangkok. A friendly airways official gave information that the plane was overhead and would appear through the clouds any minute. We were up above wondering what we would see when we came down through the clouds. It was just four years before that we had flown past the granite-capped hills and looked down on a battle-scarred Hong Kong that had survived air raids and Japanese occupation. We remembered how the last time we were in Hong Kong there was an American brother who was employed temporarily in Hong Kong and who was doing some witnessing, but that was the extent of the work in Hong Kong then. We had been there at Memorial time and a bit of unleavened bread had to be baked for the occasion by a Chinese woman. We had four assembled in the cold confines of a hotel room. But even then we had hope that something could be done for the people of good will in Hong Kong in a theocratic way. Two years later two missionaries took up residence and started the work of witnessing in a new land. Many people showed good will. Some showed exceeding kindness to the missionaries. Other graduates of Gilead were added, to the number of five. After long and tedious studying and argument a few Chinese natives began to get the gist of the Kingdom message and the second year of heavy plowing finished with an average of six company publishers. We wondered how things were going there and we were glad when our plane came down over the sea and beneath that 500-foot ceiling of clouds we could see the hillsides and the many buildings—Hong Kong! One brother who was connected with an airline met us near the plane and behind the barrier we could see others. We were happy to be with them.
When we could be with them we inquired about how the work was going. They told us that by Memorial time they had 15 company publishers in the field; that was the March report. They were rejoicing because 91 persons of good will and publishers had packed out the Kingdom Hall and overflowed into two bedrooms next door where they could hear but not see what was going on. Ninety-one persons was the greatest attendance figure for any meeting up to that time. Before that it had been 40. Now there was a visit from the Society’s president and they were taking full advantage of it. For this special event 150 letters of invitation were mailed out, 1,000 posters were printed, as well as 20,000 handbills. What would be the harvest?
Two picture theaters had been offered free. A sound system was installed free in the Star Theatre which they chose. Persons of good will provided newspaper advertising. Willing servants distributed the leaflets. Everything seemed ready for a record witness. All of this advertising was done in Kowloon, on the mainland across from the island city of Hong Kong, for no regular witnessing had yet been done in Hong Kong proper. The publishers had been working diligently during the assembly which was opened on Friday and they were rejoicing in this first theocratic assembly ever held in Hong Kong. The missionaries had not attended an assembly for 2 1/2 years and now they were taking full advantage of the assembly blessings.
First we went to the missionary home and then over to the assembly hall on the main street of Kowloon, Nathan Road. This hall was given free for the occasion. The baptismal talk was just ending when we arrived and two Chinese youths had agreed to do Jehovah’s will and others were seriously contemplating doing so. Off they went to the immersion and soon again it was time for the meetings. Brother Henschel and I enjoyed talking to this audience, for they fairly drank in each word at this their first assembly. The interpreters spoke in Cantonese dialect so all attending could understand. There were 34 present.
Sunday dawned warmer and brighter. What attendance could we expect at the Star Theatre? Placards were donned and remaining handbills in English and Chinese were put out. Fifteen minutes to go and a crowd hung around outside. When they saw the doors were open they rushed in. By 10:30 a.m. they poured in like water. The ground floor of the theater was filled, so the gallery had to be opened up. The start of the talk was held up a few minutes for all to get settled. There were 707 there to hear “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land”. Everyone was thrilled at such an attendance and they were glad that the visit had provided the stimulus to aim high. Attention was the best and at the end of the talk hundreds of booklets were given away free. More than twenty names were handed in for future contact. The talk had been ably translated into Cantonese, the local Chinese dialect. The number of publishers that had part in the advertising of the meeting had grown to 20, which meant a 100 per cent increase over last year’s peak.
The afternoon and evening were joyful, for this rich blessing at the public meeting had almost overwhelmed the publishers. Brother Henschel spoke at the hall on Nathan Road and I had the privilege of going across the harbor to Hong Kong to visit a sister who was lying ill in a hospital. She was one of the most zealous publishers of the company and her sudden illness had been a great blow because she so much wanted to be at the convention. She had been busy writing out letters of invitation to her friends and she was delighted to learn that over seven hundred persons had been at the meeting that morning. Visiting the sick is a Christian privilege and here I saw how much good it can do for an afflicted one. The sister did not know how to express her thanks.
While Brother Henschel was talking a stranger entered the hall. He had a Bible in his hand and he sat and nodded when the prophecies were quoted. After the meeting he was approached by one of the publishers and he told how that morning he had been to church and when he returned home some ladies who attended the public lecture told him of their experience and the fine talk they had heard. They told him where other meetings were to be held and he came right on down. He had been a secretary of the Y.M.C.A. years ago in Swatow and then went into business in Shanghai. Then came the Communist rule of Shanghai and he had to get out. His wife, however, was not permitted to leave because she is a doctor and the Communists retain all professional people, if possible. His Bible was well worn and he said he was looking for a place where people were interested in the study of the Bible. He showed joy over what he heard and said he would return. Sure enough, that night when I spoke he was back again. So arrangements were made to regularly study the Bible with him and he will attend all the meetings. This shows how the truth can spread in a city of two million with only five missionaries.
Brother Carnie met a doctor’s son while in the service and arrangements were made for a home Bible study. The study is held right in the surgery room. The interest of this young man is so great that he invites all kinds of people to attend: teachers, students and people of all religions. He opened up the way with the headmaster at school for the missionary to give a lecture in the Church of England. Then one of the Scripture teachers opened his home for a Bible study and some of the students attend.
Another experience was with the son of a Buddhist. The Buddhist joined a church but the son showed interest. One day the preacher came by and told the boy to burn the books, but he did not comply and it aroused greater interest in the Kingdom message. He studied and brought in school friends. Now six of the boys come to the Kingdom Hall and two publish regularly.
One day while working in a Chinese section one of the missionaries came in contact with an English literary club. Much interest in the message was shown and now the missionary speaks every week to a class of about 25, using the book “The Truth Shall Make You Free”.
Another time while going from house to house a woman invited the publisher in and said the daughter was keen on the Bible, but she did not know what to think about her son. He did not care about such things at all. Back-calls were made. The boy became ill and the publisher would call and talk to him. The boy took to the truth very quickly. Soon he was coming to the Watchtower study. Now he is a regular publisher putting in about 60 hours a month in the service. He put out most of the handbills for the public meeting at the time of the assembly. Meanwhile the mother has not progressed, though she shows good will. So the truth is becoming known in Hong Kong and Kowloon and already one of the religious organizations has published literature denouncing the faithful ministers of Jehovah for their teaching work.
Living is not easy in Hong Kong. Robberies are many and sometimes there are shooting frays between police and bandits on the streets. People are often afraid to open the door because so many have been dealt with violently. The crisis in China has brought all kinds of people into Hong Kong. The buildings are overcrowded and often many persons live in one room. To get a room requires payment of exorbitant fees of “key money”. Educated and wealthy businessmen from the cities of China may be found in Hong Kong. They fled and left behind their business and wealth, preferring to hold onto life and not be accused by communist agents and penalized. Their stories were only of troubles for the people of China, the stories that always go with Communism.
MESSAGE FROM SHANGHAI
We had a message from our brothers in Shanghai to confirm that things are not good for the people there. It is especially difficult for the foreigners to do anything. They are often insulted or they may have their face slapped and there is no recourse to the police. It is just a matter of bearing it. The missionaries there are sticking with the local Chinese publishers and they want to help them as much as they can to grow mature in the truth and keep going in the service. In 1947 there were 9 publishers in China, and the report for 1951 shows 46; so there has been an increase. One hundred five attended the Memorial in Shanghai this year. There are also a few publishers in other cities. We pray that the good work will continue in China and that the suffering people may have some opportunity to hear the truth.
Perhaps some day there will be a large organization of publishers in Hong Kong and they may have an opportunity to go into China and tell the people the truth. The progress made in Hong Kong is very encouraging and we hope it will continue. More missionaries could well be used there now, for great is the interest in Jehovah’s new world. It is truly a privilege to know of Jehovah’s blessed provision for those who love righteousness and that that new system of things is going into operation under the reigning King, Christ Jesus. That is the knowledge the people of China and all the world need and it is happifying to see that there are prospects for some of the Chinese people to share in the blessed new world of righteousness.