From the Philippines to Taiwan and Japan
Continuing the report of the service tour of the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, and his secretary, M. G. Henschel
BACK in 1947 when I had the privilege of serving in the Philippines they had reached a peak of 2,902 publishers. Now, in 1951, while I was at the branch office I received the March report that had just been gathered together and it revealed a new peak of 13,954. There are now 371 companies scattered throughout this republic of more than 7,000 islands, of which 70 are populated. The brothers appreciate the full-time service too, because 476 publishers are now pioneers. The greater portion of these were at the assembly and received the invitation to attend Gilead if they met the qualifications. About 40 filled out preliminary applications.
After the convention one of the company servants told about his experiences in working the New Bilibid Prison. He was given permission and the privilege of preaching and teaching in the prison, and at present 45 study regularly each week. The warden gave permission to use a pool inside the prison for a baptism, and many were baptized. Quite a number have gained release from prison upon expiration of their terms and are now working with the companies as faithful publishers. Knowledge of and hope in Jehovah’s purposes helped these people to change their course of life and live properly and in praise to Jehovah’s name. The brother is confident that the 45 now studying, many of whom are consecrated now, will join in the witness work when they can gain release.
Monday was devoted to talking to the circuit servants. Nine Filipino brothers have already graduated from Gilead and returned to work in the islands, and some are in the circuit work. It was interesting to talk to them about their problems, especially the one concerning the circuit servant’s taking out publishers in the work when visiting a company to show them how to do the work of going from house to house. In the Philippines the circuit servant usually has no trouble in getting someone to go with him, because the whole company often wants the instruction. There are so many coming into the truth and at such a rapid pace that they all want to learn in a hurry how the circuit servant witnesses. So it is not unusual for a circuit servant to be going from door to door with 25 or more company publishers accompanying him and listening to him and what he has to say. This does not frighten the householders, because they like people and they listen, and so do the other people in the house listen. Sometimes neighbors will come and listen and maybe 75 persons will be in the audience. So the circuit servants say that often their witnessing from door to door changes into a series of public meetings during the day and much literature is placed in this manner and private studies are arranged. Of course, this is not the best manner to give individual training, and as the new publishers in the Philippines learn how to do the house-to-house work they will stop going in such large groups. It is believed that on their next trips around the circuits the servants will be able to take one or two with them at a time while the others will go from house to house themselves.
The brothers in the Philippine Republic are working under very adverse conditions due to the revolutionary situation that exists in their country, especially in the island of Luzon. This has not dampened their zeal, but they appreciate better than ever how much the kingdom of God is needed. They know that all people are to have an opportunity to hear of the Kingdom; so they press on preaching the good news and comforting the worried people. How many thousands of persons will ultimately associate themselves with Jehovah’s witnesses in the Philippines is hard to determine, but all of those in the branch office and the circuit servants feel confident that before the end of this year they will have reached 15,000 publishers. They are well above the 34 per cent increase over last year’s peak already. Even though many tongues are spoken in this republic, as far as Jehovah’s witnesses are concerned they speak one pure language among themselves and by taking the truth of God’s Word to the people in all the islands. They are expansion-minded. If it is the Lord’s will they want to get the message preached to all the people before the great day of God Almighty begins to crush all of the Devil’s organization.
Our schedule called for our leaving the Philippines on Tuesday morning, April 27. We were at the airport at 6 a.m., and so were 30 others of our brothers who came down to say good-by. And it was not long until we were flying to the north toward Taiwan. We landed near the capital city, Taipeh, about 11 a.m. There were 13 of the brothers there to meet us. It had been previously arranged that Brother Henschel stop there for a day and go out on a flight that was to leave the following day at noon. I had to keep on going to Japan because the convention was opening there in another day. But when we talked to our brothers we learned there was no flight the next day. It had been advanced one day. So I immediately inquired at the airport as to any other flights, and there was one leaving on Friday; so it was arranged for Brother Henschel to leave on Friday for Japan. Brother Shinichi Tohara, a graduate of Gilead, had been sent to Taiwan four weeks earlier from Tokyo, to visit with the brothers and see what was going on in Taiwan, and he arranged to remain with Brother Henschel and would accompany him to Tokyo in a few days. This would give Brother Henschel more time to check on things in Taiwan and try to help the publishers who were carrying on under adversity. Less than a year before, two missionary graduates of Gilead had been refused permission to remain longer in the territory remaining under control of Nationalist China. The brothers at the airport did not seem dismayed, and during the hour’s stay at the airport I was able to talk to them through interpretation; and this was a real pleasure. The visit was too short.
The flight from Taiwan to Japan was quite uneventful. Most of the way all I could see was clouds. When leaving Taipeh, however, I did get a good look at the city and the thousands of beautifully terraced rice paddies, all flooded because the rains had come. The countryside was beautifully kept by skilled farmers. As we passed the coastline I wondered what Brother Henschel would be able to learn about Taiwan’s attitude toward the work of Jehovah’s witnesses. Here I insert part of the report I received from Brother Henschel when he reached Tokyo a few days after I did.
“Conditions in Taiwan are difficult for most of the people. The Chinese Nationalist armies are camped in great numbers in the island, which cannot itself produce sufficient food and other materials to support all the people. Help must be received from outside, and much has come from America. The Chinese are determined that they must go back and take the mainland from the communists and they are working toward that end. Every resource, they say, must be devoted to attaining that goal, including food and people.
“The city of Taipeh is a busy one. Uniformed men are present in great numbers. Officially the people use Chinese, but by far the major portion of the people do not know that language. They know considerable Japanese, as well as Taiwanese or a tribal tongue. The streets of the city suffered as a result of lack of upkeep during the World War II period, and now money seems to be used for other things; so there are many rough and bumpy stretches. The population is considerable, perhaps a million, but no one would risk a guess. None of Jehovah’s witnesses reside in Taipeh; they are all in other cities and in the country places.
“The brothers who were at the airport were mostly from the east coast; in the Tai Tung and Hua Lien districts they say there are about 1,500 brothers and sisters. They are of the Ami tribe, which is third-largest in Taiwan. They live in small villages and towns and most of them are employed in agriculture. But they do love the truth and in most of the villages they meet together for Bible study and instruction from five to seven nights a week. Their language is not written, but since many know the Japanese tongue they use the Japanese Bible as the basis for their activities. They started to build a Kingdom Hall in which to hold meetings, but the police interfered and said they could not have a church without being registered. On the other hand they had been told they could not be registered without having a church in which to meet. So they had filed a petition with the district government asking to be allowed to have a place and to worship God. But it always seemed to turn out that there would be a delay or some other thing would be required. Up to the time I arrived they had not succeeded in solving the problem.
“Brother Tohara had made an attempt to speak to the governor of Taiwan, but when the governor found out it concerned the work of Jehovah’s witnesses he would not give any of his time. There appears to be great animosity against us in official circles. So it was thought best to approach the American Embassy. They had no information on the deportation of the missionaries and they suggested making a call at the foreign affairs section of the police. That meant waiting for a time until the chief of the section could complete a conference; and then it was time for tiffin (lunch). An immediate response came from the colonel, who knew all about the matter, and he suggested that an appointment be made for the next day, because he was ready for tiffin.
“It developed that the police had received some fantastic reports concerning Jehovah’s witnesses. They did not care to say from whom the reports came, but they said there were things like having great numbers of men and women strip off all their clothing and stand in a river while someone sprinkled water on their heads in baptism, teaching people not to pay taxes, and suspicion that this was a secret or subversive organization. Of course, all these things were ridiculous. The two principal company servants, Cheng Ah Pang and Lin Yee Yia, and Brother Tohara were present with me at the police headquarters. These servants were questioned in the presence of the colonel and other officers through Brother Tohara, because they could not speak English or Chinese, but only Japanese and Ami, and they categorically denied each charge. They had had a baptism at the home of Brother Cheng Ah Pang, but not at the river, and the people wore kimonos at the time. And it was pointed out that Jehovah’s witnesses would not tolerate such a “baptism” because it was not morally proper and because Christ Jesus was the example and he was not sprinkled with water but completely submerged under the water. There had never been a case either, Brother Cheng Ah Pang said, where the missionaries or the Ami servants had taught people not to pay taxes and there had not been one instance where any of Jehovah’s witnesses had failed to pay taxes. Also it was shown that Jehovah’s witnesses are not a secret organization and not subversive, but that in all totalitarian countries, especially the communistic ones now, Jehovah’s witnesses are persecuted and banned. There was something wrong with the reports the police had received, and the colonel said that he was going to investigate them. He proposed that there be an investigation into the entire affair, the police to send a representative at their expense and the Society to send a representative at its expense. There was no alternative, so this offer was immediately accepted on the basis that someone could be sent from Japan to represent the Society. Officials in Taiwan are usually extremely polite to Americans, but only passing time tells whether they mean all they say.
“The brothers were all well pleased that action might be taken to clear away their problems, because they are confident that if they can have a free hand at the preaching work they will be able to gain thousands more brothers and sisters from the Ami tribe and then from other territory too. They have seven who want to enter the pioneer work. It was interesting to hear how Brothers Cheng Ah Pang and Lin Yee Yia found it possible to devote so much time to their work. They had come from large families, and, though they had children and land of their own, their brothers and families had said that these brothers should be dedicated to the Kingdom work and helping the others learn the truth and so their farms and families would be taken care of and these two brothers would push the spreading of the truth. They have the appearance of being fearless and confident in Jehovah, and there is no doubt that they meant it when they said that no matter what would come, whether the investigation would materialize and clear away the interference or not, they and the others would stick to Jehovah’s service and help people learn of God’s purposes. They had been in prison camps under the Japanese during World War II and also last year under the Chinese, but they felt that Jehovah had allowed them to live to carry on the ministry and they want to perform it well. Even under present circumstances the work is growing in Taiwan and surely it will continue to do so. As more publications become available to them in the Japanese language they will be able to push the teaching work throughout the districts beyond the 21 villages where companies now exist.
“It was a privilege to be associated with such zealous, fearless fighters for Jehovah’s new world, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking to them on the Bible and answering some of their questions. They are thorough students and go deeply into the meaning of the Scriptures. They appreciate the theocratic organization and showed a genuine desire to organize the Kingdom work thoroughly in their companies. If it is ever possible to send more graduates of Gilead to Taiwan and keep them there, I feel sure there will be much fruit of increase in Taiwan.”
So Brother Henschel concluded his report.
As I was writing before I injected this report on Taiwan, I was en route to Tokyo on the afternoon of April 24. We flew over Okinawa and through the broken clouds a small island could occasionally be seen. Then came darkness, followed shortly by a view of the lights of the city of Yokohama. We were flying low, making ready to land at Haneda Air Base. We circled over the sprawling city of Tokyo and thirty minutes later I heard a loud cheer from an excited crowd behind the big wire fence as I stepped out of the plane. It was good to see that enthusiastic crowd; it made me feel right at home. Customs gone through and official questions disposed of, I was surrounded by dozens of smiling faces and no one seemed to know what to say. We were all happy. It was easy to imagine being at Gilead School. There were 45 missionaries there in the crowd. I did not know where to begin to say hello and we were blocking all traffic in the air terminal. Better keep moving, I thought!
Brother Haslett, the branch servant, suggested that I speak to all the brothers at the Kingdom Hall in Tokyo, and although I was tired from fifteen hours of travel this group of Japanese publishers and missionaries was enough to keep anyone up. So let’s go! The seventy-odd brothers packed into the buses and soon traveled the short distance through the dimly lit streets back to Tokyo. On the way there was lots of talking to do and love and greetings were delivered to those in the bus in which I was riding. I had seen friends and relatives of many along the way through many countries. Then at the hall I related some of the many experiences of the past two months. It grew quite late; no one wanted to go to bed, but there was tomorrow for more.
The next day, Wednesday, April 25, I found out the Kingdom Hall, which is the front room of the branch and missionary home, is already too small to accommodate the increasing numbers that attend the meetings in Tokyo. The hall itself attracts people, because it faces the street and the front is made almost entirely of glass, which enables passers-by to get a good view of what goes on inside. The hall, dining room, hallways and office have wooden floors, but the other rooms, as in all other Japanese houses, have straw floors, called tatami, and are used by the Japanese to sleep on. They sleep between two soft mats: the bottom one is called a shiki buton and the top a futon. In the morning they roll up the mats and the floor is cleared for the day’s activity. The floor is also used for sitting when one wishes to read, write, eat, or just relax. Under these circumstances it is obvious that one does not walk about the floor with his shoes on, but rather leaves these on the hard floor just inside the main entrance. You may use soft slippers to walk on the wooden floor in hallways, but you take these off too when you step on a tatami. Would you like some one to walk over your bed or chair with his shoes on? As for the walls inside the home, most of them are made of paper which is stuck onto a lightly made wooden frame, made into sections which will slide to one side, making a doorway. The houses are cool in the summer, not too heavy in an earthquake, and make a well-ventilated refrigerator in the winter. The doors are very low and, judging by the number of bumps on the branch servant’s head, he (being a six-footer) seems to have found this out the hard way. I did too, and from then on I walked about Japanese houses with stooped shoulders.