Johannesburg Triumphant Clean Worship Assembly
Report on African trip by N. H. Knorr, Watch Tower Society’s president
AS NOTED in our previous report, Brother Henschel and I spent several days at the new branch office in Johannesburg giving counsel and instruction so that the work may be better cared for. Then on Monday, December 8, Brother Phillips, the branch servant or overseer, and I flew to Windhoek, the capital of South-West Africa. Less than 50,000 Europeans live in its 317,725 square miles that are stretched along the coast for a thousand miles. In the south the chief occupation is karakul (sheep) farming and in the north cattle ranching. The country is very rich in minerals, a fact only recently appreciated; and so mining is fast replacing cattle and sheep raising in importance.
The people are complacent and indifferent; having plenty of this world’s goods, they are not inclined to look for a new world. Much literature is distributed in the three principal languages, English, Afrikaans and German. Due to South-West Africa’s having been a German colony before 1914, the German influence is very prominent.
Windhoek itself is a city of about 10,000 Europeans and as many Africans. Its hot springs, which first attracted people to this place, provide for most of the city’s drinking water, and the warm water directly from the pipes invites many a bath. The climate on the whole is healthful, Windhoek enjoying ideal year-round weather.
Three missionaries have been at work there for almost three years, and at this, their first assembly, the fruits of their work were seen. Only ten attended the regular sessions of the assembly. It was just like being with a few close friends and talking heart to heart with them. Even though not great in number they had come great distances to be at the assembly. All of them were men. One thing lacking is sufficient Bible studies conducted by the missionaries and part-time ministers. It may be that because there is no sister in the group as yet women are keeping shy of the work. In the evening 25 turned out for the public meeting, most of whom were recognized by the missionaries as being interested in the message. Since people often do not like to meet in someone else’s house, arrangements were made to get a Kingdom Hall and have weekly meetings in it.
The people in this territory are very honest. The missionaries told us that they never close their doors nor lock their windows. They have been leaving their bicycles outside for the past two years. In fact, people go away on their vacations for several weeks at a time and leave their doors open. This certainly is unusual.
On Wednesday, December 10, we drove to Pretoria, the capital, and visited the Native Affairs Department. For some reason still unknown to us the government has not seen fit to recognize the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society or Jehovah’s witnesses as a religious body. While this does not prevent the work from being carried on, it does affect to a considerable extent the African side of the work Jehovah’s witnesses are doing. Often the special traveling representatives of the Society are prevented from arranging for assemblies or giving lectures in the compounds, because the Society is not recognized or listed as a religious body. Several years ago an application had been made to the government to have the Society recognized, but no action was taken. and so we asked them to reconsider the matter. We were able to give them a good witness concerning the truth and our beliefs and our work.
MEETING IN UNITY
The next big event in our visit to South Africa was the Triumphant Clean Worship Assembly held in the Wembley Stadium at Johannesburg. The most outstanding thing about it was that Europeans, non-Europeans and Africans could meet together in peace and harmony. There were no riots and no misunderstandings. Those who were in charge of the Wembley Stadium were truly amazed at how well the three classes of people got along and how well people of different African tribes got along.
Of course, we had to recognize apartheid. The Europeans were in one stand directly in front of the platform. The non-Europeans had their section on the side. The Africans took up the greater section on the far side. The joyful part was that we were all together in the same stadium worshiping Jehovah in holy array. We had to give way to a previously-arranged-for program on Friday night, and so the program for that night was moved up a day, the convention actually beginning on Thursday evening and concluding on Sunday night, December 14.
Probably the biggest problem in getting this convention under way was that of obtaining passes for the African brothers living in Natal and Zululand. They needed outward passes to leave their own country and permits, if over eighteen years old, to enter the city of Johannesburg and stay for more than three days. It was possible to provide all the African brothers that could afford to come with such passes and permits.
The public meeting was advertised in Zulu and in English and all of the brothers at the assembly were spoken to in languages that they understood. The address of welcome was unusual. Brother Bartlett spoke in English to the Europeans. Ten minutes later Brother McLuckie spoke in Afrikaans. Then came Brother Ngobese who spoke in Zulu from the same speaker’s platform but facing the great crowd of African brothers on the other side of the stadium. All three talks were received with enthusiasm, the Europeans joining in the applause as the speaker addressed the African brothers. There certainly was oneness of spirit in this gathering.
As far as the Europeans were concerned, you often heard them speaking Afrikaans and English interchangeably. So this was done on the platform. Sometimes the chairman would introduce the next speaker in English who would then speak in Afrikaans. The whole program had these two languages interwoven and at times Zulu and Sesuto were used.
On Thursday night Brother Henschel addressed the assembly and his talk was interpreted into Zulu so that all the convention was able to understand, and his remarks were received with real joy and enthusiasm. Of the 3,492 in attendance at that time 2,126 were Africans, 140 non-Europeans and 1,226 Europeans.
The Friday morning session was devoted mainly to the African brothers, the Europeans going out in the field service. At eleven o’clock I talked to the convention for the first time and spoke through Zulu and Sesuto interpreters. The matter of maturity was stressed. They were shown the urgent need of learning to read and write and the advantages of gaining knowledge by themselves rather than being dependent on others. They listened intently.
The feeding of the African brothers had to be done at the convention grounds, rain or shine. Their diet was simple, cooked mealie meal (ground maize) and meat and gravy. Each carried his own pan or dish. They stood patiently in line, many being women with babies on their backs. When it rained some stood in line for an hour without a murmur until they could be served. For everyone present this was a lesson in patience and appreciation for what was done for them.
The four days of the convention passed quickly. The various speakers, members of the branch office, Gilead missionaries and traveling representatives gave one fine talk after another. If you did not understand a language you patiently sat and listened, knowing that many others were being fed spiritual food and were being strengthened for further service and true worship. By Saturday evening 5,441 were in attendance and at six o’clock that night the baptism took place. A total of 339 were immersed. Though much rain fell during the four days, the brothers were all very joyful and there were sufficient covered sections of the stands for all to have a dry place.
Sunday morning the public lecture on the subject “It’s Time to Consider God’s Way” was given for the benefit of those speaking Zulu. It had been widely advertised and was interpreted for the 5,094 who attended that morning in spite of heavy rain. In the afternoon at four o’clock the same public lecture was given in English only and there were 2,173 more people there; all those having heard it in the morning remaining in the afternoon to hear it again were a total of 7,267 Europeans, non-Europeans and Africans.
After having seen the unity and good spirit among all Jehovah’s people, one would wish that the government officials who are so afraid that preaching the good news of the Kingdom will do harm in their protectorates had been there to observe the unity and peace and oneness of spirit. Then they would no longer have any cause for concern. Our commission from Jehovah is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom and to teach the people high moral standards of living and how to carry on the true worship of the Creator, Jehovah God.
REPORT FROM EAST TRANSVAAL
Among the many interesting experiences reported by the traveling representatives of the Society (district servants) showing the progress of the work among the Africans was the following:
“I arrived by train at the nearest little station and rode 12 miles out to the mine on an ore lorry (truck). My arrival was not only keenly awaited by the score of African brothers, but news had also reached the European authorities. Surprisingly, instead of being asked for long explanations about our motives or our religious work, I was told I might freely enter the compound and hold talks any evening in the lighted open-air theater. The management provided me with a nice bungalow and food at the mess. Why this friendly attitude? The ‘Watchtower boys’ had gained the confidence of the Europeans by their good work, cleanliness and obedience.
“So, instead of giving the talk on how to carry on the ministry in the hut of the presiding minister or outside of the compound at their ‘Kingdom Hall’ (a few rows of whitewashed stones in a clearing in the bush) we spoke at the open-air theater. Our joy was great as 202 came uninvited to hear how clean worshipers remove all lingering traces of heathen living and live and serve as a part of the New World society. Many stayed after the meeting to ask questions and promised to come with their friends for tomorrow’s public talk.
“Wednesday evening brought relief from a scorching sun, and under a lovely moon beaming down upon this isolated mine, 354 came for the public talk. This talk attracted so many because it was translated into Shangaan, the language spoken by the majority of the compound.
“The opening of the circuit assembly on Friday evening saw the people of good will greatly outnumbering the few witnesses of Jehovah that came from the several small congregations in the circuit. The friendly compound boys gave good attention to the discourses and demonstrations, and the 400 on Friday evening grew to over 550 on Saturday evening.
“Sunday’s public talk had been thoroughly advertised. But instead of finding an expectant audience at 3 p.m. we found a howling mob of African dancers, including local talent and visitors from a neighboring mine. What a deafening bedlam of stamping feet, throbbing drums and shrill whistles! The compound ‘boss-boy’ agreed that we should have the theater, but he could not get the dancers and spectators moved away. We retreated to the Kingdom Hall in the bush, hoping that by the time our short concluding discourses were finished we could get the use of the theater for the public talk.
“By 5 p.m. the ‘boss-boy’ had moved the dancers away into another section of the compound and 707 were listening to our public talk in competition with all the noise and distant drums. All went nicely until halfway through the talk we heard the increasing volume announce the return of the now completely obsessed dancers. Soon the swarms of perspiring lightly clad Africans, intoxicated by the pulsating rhythm, came into view. Straight toward us they came in wild loping strides, their bulging eyes staring, advancing first their spear in the right hand and leather shield in the left. It was quite a sensation when part of the crazed crowd lunged through the small space between me and the audience.
“We had to interrupt the talk as they milled around the theater area and their dance reached its climax. Five minutes later, as the visiting team left and the noise slowly subsided, we resumed the talk. Long after the close of our assembly we were busy talking to the many newly interested ones who were thrilled and happy with their introduction to the good news of God’s glorious new world. All of the brothers were most thankful that Jehovah had so blessed us and prospered all the arrangements for our circuit assembly.”
Indeed, such experiences as this one show how expansion is taking place in South Africa. The erection of the new Bethel home in Elandsfontein is another indication of Jehovah’s blessing upon the work. The joys of the Wembley Stadium Assembly of Triumphant Clean Worship show it. On they go, by the thousands, our South African brothers working for increase.
And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.—Isa. 2:2, 3, AS.
[Map on page 269]
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South Atlantic Ocean
ORANGE FREE STATE
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE