True Worship Progresses in Northern Africa and on the Iberian Peninsula
Concluding the report on the African trip of the president of the Watch Tower Society, N. H. Knorr, and his secretary
IT WAS a happy group that I left behind in Ethiopia as I flew away to Cairo. En route we stopped for a few hours at Eritrea for engine repairs. By the time I got to Cairo, Brother Henschel, my secretary, had already left for his visit to Tripoli, Libya. During his stay in Cairo he had addressed 92 witnesses of Jehovah at their assembly and gave a public discourse at which 182 were present.
It was arranged for me to go to Alexandria to talk to the brothers there. At 6 p.m. the various congregations in Alexandria, French, Arabic and Greek, came together and I spoke to them through two interpreters, one speaking Greek and French and the other Arabic. Present were 257, a much bigger crowd than I had served five years before. The next morning we returned to Cairo by train. In the evening 116 brothers attended the central meeting and again the talk was given through three languages.
I flew to Algiers by way of Paris, where I had a twelve-hour stopover permitting me time to go over the problems of the Paris branch office with the one in charge, the branch servant, who then accompanied me to Algeria. The work of spreading the true worship in Algiers has just started. The Society recently sent some missionaries and other full-time ministers to this capital of Algeria to see what could be done, and they are doing well. The Arab section of the city, called La Casbah, is in the ancient Arab town, which was the original city of Algiers. Now the city has spread out and this has become more or less the center of town.
The missionaries find it very interesting to witness to these Arab people. When they knock at the door of a Moslem home the woman checks to see who is there. If the man happens to be an Arab, the Moslem woman will cover her face with a veil before she speaks to him; but if it is a European she does not. No one seems to understand just why; but it is observed that even when an Arab woman is in a shop making a purchase, if she is speaking to a European she unveils her face, but should an Arab enter she immediately puts her veil upon her face.
This was the first time an assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses had been arranged for the city of Algiers. The Watch Tower Society had written to all who were interested in its work and told them of the visit of the president and the meetings that were to be held. On Saturday morning a group of thirteen came together and went forth to engage in the field ministry. A small hall had been rented for the afternoon meeting, and much to our surprise 39 were in attendance. Very good interest was shown and many questions were asked at the conclusion of the meeting. On Sunday the public meeting was held at 9:30 a.m., at which thirty were present.
Right now there are ten part-time ministers assisting the eight full-time ministers in the work of making known the Kingdom message to the people of Algeria. So for the few months that the brothers, the full-time ministers, have been there good work has been done, and if it keeps up at that rate it will not be long before a fine congregation of Jehovah’s ministers will be organized.
From Algiers I flew to Madrid and there met Brother Henschel and the brothers who work in the Iberian field. Regarding Libya, to which Brother Henschel went after his visit to Cairo, he had the following to report:
“This land was formerly held by Italy, but now an attempt is being made by the British and the United Nations to help the Libyans to organize their own government. It is a major task because few Libyans have had experience in such matters. A king has been enthroned and Arabic has become the official language. The religion of Islam predominates.
“With the rise of this new nation to a place among the countries of the world, there has also arisen within it the proclamation of the Kingdom message. Begun in 1950, the seeds of truth planted are already bearing good fruit. The brothers in the Tripoli company show great enthusiasm for the work. During the past year as many as 19 different ministers have had a share in the preaching work in one month. The local congregation is Italian. While the work cannot be carried on as freely as in some other countries, missionary work being frowned on officially, the truth is nevertheless spreading. Some of those who attended the assembly in Tripoli live out on farms near the city. Among the experiences they told is the following regarding a sister and her priest:
“A new Catholic priest, upon coming to her parish, visited all his parishioners in it and made arrangements for having dinners with them. He told her, then also one of his parishioners, that he would come on Thursdays. However, he came back on Wednesday and found the family eating beans. He was invited to join them in their meal if he cared for beans. This highly insulted him and he asked for meat and eggs, of which there was none in the house. Angrily he left the house and on the next Sunday in church he denounced the family for offering beans to the priest. That was the last time they attended church.
“During my visit meetings were held at the Kingdom Hall, the peak attendance being 27 at the public meeting. My departure from Libya was delayed at the airport, which meant that I would miss connections at Rome for Barcelona. The delay in Rome I spent with the brothers there, who were rejoicing in the fact that they recently had a new peak of 2,150 Kingdom proclaimers in Italy.
“On January 10, I arrived at Barcelona via Madrid and immediately began discussing local organizational problems with the brothers there. Special field service efforts were on and new ministers were taking part in the preaching work for the first time. That night I gave a talk to an audience of 50 in a private home.
“On the following day two more gatherings were held in private homes and it was a thrill to see 193 in attendance, which was almost double that of the previous year, when 100 were present. This was partly due to the presence of brothers from Barbastro and Palma de Marjorca. The field preaching activities and the series of meetings caused the brothers in Spain to exhibit a spirit among them that I had not seen before. Many home Bible studies are now being conducted and the prospects for future growth are excellent.
“Some of the brothers from Barcelona, desiring to continue their ‘convention’ joys, as well as to meet the president and brothers from other parts of Spain, accompanied me by plane to Madrid Tuesday morning. That afternoon we had a meeting in Madrid at the home of one of the witnesses, with 26 present. In the evening, at another home, 32 were present.”
As Brother Henschel was speaking to those brothers I was arriving by plane from Algiers. Naturally I found many problems that needed attention. For some years the Iberian Peninsula has been a dark corner of Europe where true freedom of worship does not exist. Since World War II a little handful of Kingdom publishers have boldly continued with pure worship in Spain, where the cult of saints and virgins predominates.
Two separate meetings were held on the afternoon of the following day with a combined attendance of 46, I speaking to one group and Brother Henschel to the other. Later that evening, I made it very plain to fifty brothers and newly interested ones gathered in a private home that their advancement must be made manifest, and pointed out to them the various ways in which they could do this.
From Spain we flew to Portugal and within a few hours of landing we were giving talks to a group of 43 brothers at the central meeting place of Jehovah’s witnesses in Lisbon. That night we crossed the river to Almada and had a similar meeting with 53 attending. It was the beginning of a week of special ministerial activity and the brothers were in high spirits as they engaged in Kingdom service and worship. On Sunday all came together at Almada, and in spite of the rain the count was 73 brothers and persons of good will.
Early Tuesday morning we left Europe, winging our way homeward to New York. We watched the sun come up behind us and could see the light increase each minute until finally the sun broke forth in all its splendor from above the fluffy clouds. It is just that way with the light of truth now, for it is shining brighter each minute through the spiritual darkness of Satan’s system of things on this earth. It had just been our privilege to see expansion on a large scale in Africa and southern Europe, with thousands more ministers of the good news letting their light shine than when we last were there. What an indescribable privilege it is to serve Jehovah!