Glad Tidings in the Troubled East
N. H. Knorr, president of the Watch Tower Society, continues the account of his recent service tour. This installment relates his and his secretary’s experiences in the most distant lands touched and begins their return journey.
FAR beneath the wings of our Pan American Constellation the uniform blue of the Arabian sea changed abruptly to the even tan of the Sind desert. At length the fleeting terrain was broken by dusty, huddled, red-roofed houses. The big plane circled and came down and soon we stood on the airport, greeted by seven Watchtower missionaries, graduates of Gilead School, and thirty-one local publishers. This was January 3, 1952, at Karachi, Pakistan.
For our Karachi assembly the city’s largest hall, the Khalikdina, had been furnished free by municipal officials, who displayed much kindness despite a government ban on all public lectures. The average citizen, too, was interested. It surprised the people to see white men, usually aloof from menial work, going through the city with paste pot and brush sticking up 500 attractive posters advertising the talk “Will Religion Meet the World Crisis?” Even the 50,000 handbills were carefully read by the passers-by before being neatly folded and often passed on to a friend.
We thought that an attendance of 100 would be a very respectable showing for the public lecture in a place where the local company had enjoyed a peak of just thirty-four publishers. But the Pakistani is most inquisitive and before the lecture had begun more than that number were on hand. Now would they stay? The Moslem is capable of deep prejudice and fanaticism. As I developed my argument and referred to the Son of God, several walked out. Later I spoke of the ransom and mentioned Jesus again, and more left. But their seats were taken by others, and 364 persons paid close attention to the end.
Following this assembly Brother Henschel and I parted company, he going to Delhi and Calcutta and I to Bombay and the south.
My first stop in Bombay was hardly more than long enough to pick up Brother Skinner, the branch servant, after which he accompanied me across India and the Gulf of Mannar to the island of Ceylon. We were met there by a group of energetic missionaries who had vigorously advertised the assembly that was planned, using such means as a bicycle with mounted signs, which gave the appearance of a billboard on wheels. The effect proved the worth of such ingenuity when 235 turned out for the public meeting despite heavy rains for an hour beforehand.
My schedule called for departure early the next morning for Madras, an overnight stop for making connections to reach Malayalam-speaking brothers on the other side of the country. Good advantage was taken of this, because it was possible to meet with a group of missionaries from Bangalore and the two in Madras for two hours in the afternoon. At 4 p.m. fifty-seven of the brothers gathered to hear a discourse and at 6 p.m. ninety-five came to hear the public lecture. The day following we were moving again, this time on a 350-mile leg to Cochin, a jump that provided us with a view of India’s rugged interior streams, green hills, valleys and ranges.
This assembly found 260 smiling Travancore brothers waiting to greet us. Though we could speak to them only through an interpreter, their theocratic love was as manifest as that found with Jehovah’s people anywhere. This was the first time I had the pleasure of visiting Travancore; and a president of the Society had not been to this part of India since the days of Brother Russell, when he made a world tour in 1912. Our interpreter, Brother Joseph, was first contacted with the Kingdom message during this visit by Brother Russell. He has been a pusher for the work ever since and yet retains the buoyancy and step of others much younger, although he is well past three score and ten.
The afternoon session brought indescribable thrills to this audience with the release of the book “Let God Be True” in the Malayalam language. In the evening of what had been a very hot and sticky day, the public meeting was held. This was attended by 700 persons, and at first most of them sat inside, but the heat eventually drove many to the courtyard, where they heard equally well in greater comfort. I took time to set at ease a disturbance that had been caused by some who had forsaken the truth to preach a doctrine of “universal salvation”, apparently reasoning that for some reason God is obligated to save them. The Scriptural side, stressing salvation only to believers who demonstrate by godly works and devotion their faith in Christ’s sacrifice, brought comfort and assurance to all.
The next day we caught the plane for Bombay, where I rejoined Brother Henschel and heard his experiences in Delhi and Calcutta.
REMAINS OF MOGUL GLORY
New Delhi far outclasses Karachi in the eyes of tourist interest. A very wide boulevard is bordered on either side by green lawns and shapely trees and long pools or lagoons where people are seen boating. Surrounding the president’s palace are lovely gardens. Elephants carved in stone stand guard at the entrances and the turbaned caretakers and attendants dressed in crimson add to the color of the scene. This is the seat of ancient governments, and many interesting remains are evident. The old observatory, called Jantar Mantar, is a scientific marvel. Built like a huge sundial, these rocks can tell a story in time. The old city boasts a mosque which Brother Henschel contends is the largest he has yet seen, and nearby is the huge Red Fort, ancient luxurious home of Mogul rulers.
While out advertising his public talk, Brother Henschel found himself faced with a problem. The talk was to be in English only. To whom then would he give the limited supply of handbills? He considered offering them only to persons wearing shoes, but this proved inconclusive. Finally he decided to test the passers-by with a few words of English and give the handbills to those who responded. This proved very satisfactory. He found a number of interested persons, particularly while working from house to house with a local pioneer brother. His first night’s talk was much appreciated by the brothers and the second day seventy-three came for the public meeting, their largest attendance yet.
Early Wednesday morning Bharat Airways whisked Brother Henschel to Calcutta. En route he flew over the “sacred city” of Benares and was allowed a good view of superstitious Hindus performing their ceremonial bathing in the Ganges river. To unprejudiced eyes the waters appeared brown and uninviting. That evening provided a happy reunion with many acquaintances from 1947 along with an introduction to many new faces, as seventy-five packed out the Kingdom Hall.
Artistry House, famed for painting and weaving exhibits, was rented for the public talk and 205 heard the question answered, “Will Religion Meet the World Crisis?” Here again was an encouraging margin of new interest to further develop in the future. One Moslem youth had been invited by a missionary on the street and he was on hand. He expressed his fear of having anyone in his family know of his interest in Christianity, so he was invited to accept a personal Bible study at the Kingdom Hall. Other missionaries also have people come to see them for their studies, thus affording this splendid use for the Kingdom Hall in Calcutta. This same use might be encouraged throughout the earth.
MISSIONARIES TRUE AND FALSE
Some pioneers and others from north of Calcutta came, bringing interested persons, many of them former Buddhists. One pioneer working in Darjeeling, on the border of Nepal, told of hundreds of sectarian missionaries there who came in from China because of the persecution. Darjeeling is not a very large city, and one wonders what so many missionaries could be doing there. The brother explained that they do not do much. Some of them gather little children together and teach them hymns, for which the children receive promised portions of rice. It is the food that brings the response, and when food is scarce in the land greater numbers come. However, the children learn nothing concerning what the Bible teaches. Other missionaries put on afternoon teas without charge, and when people assemble for the tea and the children are singing, photographs are taken which the missionaries are fond of sending to America or elsewhere to prove what they are “accomplishing”. On this basis they ask for more money, thus making the practice a fraud.
Because the truth shows up such rackets and hypocrisy, these sectarians much resent Jehovah’s witnesses and the presence of their missionaries in India. They often try to force the people into rejecting our message by threatening loss of job, health treatment or education for their children. But it quickly becomes plain as to who are the people’s true friends. When government changes from time to time place the so-called heathen in control, the pseudo-Christian missionaries frequently pull out to move on to a place where living is easier. Therefore, not living up to the apostolic requirements, not enduring inconveniences for the sake of their ministry, a weighty blame must fall upon them for the way in which their false religion has thus failed mankind.—2 Cor. 6:3-13.
We are thus brought up to where Brother Henschel flew to Bombay and met me.
ASSEMBLY IN BOMBAY
The principal assembly that had been scheduled for India, in Bombay, found great numbers of those interested in the Kingdom on hand for its opening, Monday morning, January 14. In a private session with the missionaries we discussed their problems, a prominent one involving language. Since so many speak English the missionaries had tended to neglect learning the native tongues. It was made emphatically clear that they were sent forth to aid not only English-speaking persons but the native inhabitants as well, thus necessitating learning that tongue spoken by the majority in each locality. I believe that this will be given attention now.
Great joy seized this assembly with the release of “Let God Be True” in Kanarese. A further high light came in the public meeting. I had received a threatening note marked by communism’s hammer and sickle. The writer referred to a previous disturbance which had interrupted a public meeting in Poona some months earlier. The police were notified, but all went smoothly and a grand attendance of 784 heard the talk. Many asked questions afterward. It must be mentioned that forty-three presented themselves for water immersion, and in this connection a highly interesting experience was related:
Not long ago one of the Kanarese-speaking brothers of the Bombay company placed a magazine with a young Kanarese man on the street corner who lived in a community club. Clubs are very common in Bombay. A number of young men leave their homes in various parts of India and come to the big city to work, and often they group together, forming a club, living community style, sometimes as many as thirty or forty to a house. When the brother who had placed the magazine called on the interested party the man was out. The brother called again, and a third time. He never gave up calling. Each time he talked to other persons who were at home. On his fourth visit he met the man who had taken the magazine originally. Many questions were asked and discussed and interest was aroused. This went on for about three months, when a regular Bible study was started in this club. At first only two attended. Gradually more men attended the study and some began to attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Then some began to engage in the service. Finally, at this convention twenty-nine of the men in this one club symbolized by water immersion their dedication to do God’s will.
This land has experienced splendid progress and can apparently anticipate even finer results henceforth. In 1947 there were but 198 publishers in British India. In 1951 an average of 438 was seen, and November 1951 found India with a peak of 514. Now there are twenty-three missionaries in India itself and eighteen local pioneers. This left us with a feeling of optimism for an intensifying of the good news for the coming year as we flew away and headed for Cairo, Egypt, through the afternoon and night of January 17.
Restless Egypt is torn by riots and demonstrations which often leave the foreigner at a loss to determine whether they are denouncing the British, some other external power, or their own government. Amid such tension it was surprising that even 354 persons came out to our public meeting the Saturday night of our visit. In the auditorium there was no disturbance at all. Only after emerging did we learn that some students had been killed and many police and other students injured. In spite of these things the Egyptian publishers are untroubled and glad. In 1947 there were but sixty-eight publishers in their ranks, now there are 229, and many have had to move away for employment or like reason.
When we left Egypt we flew to Cyprus, which we had already served on our route east. Now we stopped there to secure visas for Israel and were greeted by brothers we had seen a month previously. Arrangements were made for us to give talks to the companies in Nicosia and Limassol and surrounding areas. Two days after arrival we were once more aboard plane and soaring toward Lydda in the State of Israel.
Our experiences in these lands of the distant east revealed how troubled and perplexed all humanity is over the entire globe. Certainly the superstitious religions of heathendom have done nothing to lift this; but worse still, neither have the many sects of so-called Christendom. Their professions to help have no abiding roots, are but skin deep, do nothing beyond caring for a few surface needs of the moment. All false religion has failed mankind! Yet thankfully, the good news of God’s kingdom is sounding out in all these troubled lands and grows louder year by year as Armageddon’s reckoning for this old system of things nears and spiritual prison walls are smashed and the liberating call reaches the ears of prisoners within to ‘go forth’.—Isa. 49:9.