Giving Impetus to Theocratic Expansion in Chile, Bolivia and Paraguay
OUR previous report closed with Mr. N. H. Knorr, president of the Watch Tower Society, emplaning late Saturday night, December 5, at Lima, Peru, for Antofagasta, Chile. It was 5:15 the following morning when his plane came down at the airport in the desert, near the coastline close to Antofagasta, where he was met by four missionaries.
The ride from the airport to the city was pleasant, as the air was brisk and clear. After a little rest all went to the public hall located in the public library building. The attendance of 140 at the afternoon’s public talk delighted the witnesses, who had worked hard advertising this lecture. Later in the day other meetings were held. It was a pleasure for our traveler to be with the local witnesses and to hear their field experiences.
Two of the missionaries then accompanied Brother Knorr to the hotel where he was staying because of lack of room at the missionary home. While they were talking in the lobby the floor began to move underfoot, the pictures on the wall began to swing, and the doors began to open and close by themselves. Yes, it was a real earthquake. The next day it was learned that a small town in the Andes, some ninety miles away had been destroyed by the quake, resulting in much suffering and millions of pesos’ damage.
Monday, the following day, with its overcast skies, was one of apprehension for many Antofagastans as to whether there would be more earthquakes, and perhaps even a tidal wave, or not. There were four more quakes in the two days but the first was by far the worst. That Monday evening the witnesses gathered for another talk by Brother Knorr. Then on Tuesday afternoon, which day, incidentally, was a national holiday in honor of “The Immaculate Conception of Mary,” the president of the Society, together with six missionaries and two local witnesses, left by air for Santiago, where the Chilean national convention of Jehovah’s witnesses was to be held. More than a hundred brothers were on hand to give a hearty welcome to the travelers upon arrival.
The ride from the airport to the branch office of the Watch Tower Society provided an interesting opportunity to see how a Chilean national holiday is celebrated in Santiago. There was a float of winged angels impersonated by young children and highlighted by small statues of Mary. Traffic was slowed down because of another procession of about two hundred miniature brides, little girls dressed in white. Each had a wreath of flowers crowning her veil and each carried a spray of lilies in her hand. These little brides were trailed by miniature grooms, all of whom had taken their first communion that morning. Hundreds of other children, together with women, but very few men, were marching along in this procession on its way to the Roman Catholic church. They were reciting and singing and saying their prayers under the direction of a priest; all of which was a common sight in Santiago that night.
The days that followed were spent by our traveler in making plans for theocratic expansion in Chile and in visiting the missionary homes in Santiago. The missionaries had been concentrating upon the densely populated city of Santiago, but now arrangements were being made for expanding their activity to other parts of the country. At present there are six zealous congregations in Santiago, with only ten in the rest of the country.
CONVENTION IN SANTIAGO
While these plans for expansion were being worked out a three-day convention began in the Manuel Rodriguez Theater, the stage of which had been made into a beautiful platform, featuring the yeartext in gilt letters, flanked by watchtowers exactly as they appear on the cover of the Watchtower magazine, and the front banked with flowers. An all-girl orchestra of about ten pieces provided a splendid accompaniment for the singing.
The convention program was well balanced; talks were given by the president of the Society, by the missionaries and also by some of the local ministers, who did very well in their talks based on themes taken from the New York convention. Many very interesting experiences were told that bore witness to the zeal and the effectiveness of the witnesses in Chile. The convention also gained an international flavor with two sessions in German.
The peak attendance of brothers was reached on Saturday night when Brother Knorr spoke to 703. On Sunday morning 71 were immersed, symbolizing their dedication to do Jehovah’s will. Then came the public talk, “After Armageddon—God’s New World,” given in Spanish by one of the Chilean witnesses, heard by 1,091. The concluding feature was a talk by Brother Knorr, for which 1,127 were present.
Sunday afternoon the missionaries all gathered at the branch office, where the Society’s president spoke to them for two hours and discussed their problems. Then on Monday morning he, with two companions, traveled to Valparaiso where, after checking over the missionary home, he spoke to an audience of 82 in the evening. By noon the next day our travelers were riding back to Santiago, this time by bus. This proved to be a most delightful journey, for as they left the seaside they started climbing over the hills on roads that twist and turn and they took in a most beautiful view of the principal port of Chile. In three hours our travelers were back to Santiago.
The next day a trip was made to Concepción, where a similar program was carried out with one hundred in attendance. Then early on the following morning, Brother Knorr and his traveling companion, the Society’s Chilean branch servant, left by train for Temuco, an eight-hour trip through a very beautiful part of Chile. One really gets a different viewpoint of Chile when traveling south of Santiago. To the north are barren hills and sand, but in the south it is green and fertile.
Temuco proved to be an interesting city, with its main market displaying all kinds of fruits and vegetables and its streets filled with horse-drawn vehicles. There were a few automobiles, but the horse certainly still has its day in southern Chile. A friendly radio station manager offered a large radio studio for the meeting of the evening, at which 83 were in attendance.
The next afternoon our travelers returned to Santiago for a farewell assembly by the local congregations, 332 packing out the hall for Brother Knorr’s final talk to the Chilean brothers.
After the meeting a group of missionaries took Brother Knorr to see the city from Cerro San Cristobal. Situated in the northeast corner of the city, this hill, some 1,200 feet high, has on its crest a large statue of the virgin Mary, with the sun, moon and stars under her feet, and treading the serpent. Roman Catholics consider her to be the woman mentioned in Genesis 3:15 and Revelation (Apocalypse) 12:1. The statue is some seventy feet high and at night is spotlighted so that it can be seen from any point in the city. It is to this statue that the Catholic population looks for protection for their city. Many pilgrimages are made in fulfillment of vows or to ask favors because of her supposed miraculous powers.
The small group of Jehovah’s witnesses in Santiago is working to release the people of good will from these superstitions and this error and to point them to the true way of salvation that comes by means of being in the New World society.
CONVENTION IN WORLD’S HIGHEST CAPITAL
Leaving Brother Knorr poised for his trip to Argentina we now return to Brother Henschel, who, as we noted in our last report, remained for the conclusion of the assembly at Lima, Peru, and then left by plane the following day, Monday, December 7, for Bolivia.
The tourist who flies from Lima, Peru, to La Paz, Bolivia, may find the first part of his trip dull, because below are the sandy wastes stretching from the coast to the foothills of the Andes, so it seems. Arequipa, with its verdant green, presented a welcome change. After leaving it the plane followed the profound valleys of the Andes, winding higher and higher toward the city called “the highest capital in the world,” La Paz.
The waters of the renowned Lake Titicaca shone blue in the sunlight and sparkled around little sailboats finding their way among the islands. And across the lake was a range of the mighty Andes, resplendently white in the rays of the sun, which penetrated between the thick white clouds that floated leisurely across the blue sky. This was the top of things and it meant that La Paz was not far away. The weather, though usually bad in December, was good, and so the landing at the airport, 13,000 feet above sea level, was speedily effected on the dirt runway.
A group of missionaries and local witnesses was on hand to meet our traveler, who, in spite of the high altitude, was feeling fine, anxious to get to the work at hand. The trip down to the city, involving a descent of a thousand feet, was made along a tortuous winding road, without benefit of guard rails. Indians and Cholos (mixed, part Indian and part Spanish and civilized) in great numbers were walking along the roadside—the women, wearing the little derby hats, were proof that this was indeed Bolivia!
All the missionaries in Bolivia were heading for La Paz for the convention, as also were many of the local brothers from the interior cities, more of whom came to this convention than to any previous one. Though it meant putting up with many inconveniences and even hardships, both as to travel and rooming accommodations, they were glad to do it for the sake of theocratic expansion in Bolivia. The convention was held at the Yugoslav Home, which served the assembly well in all respects and was procured at a reasonable rental.
Before the assembly the brothers throughout Bolivia had worked hard, being able to show a 20 per cent increase over 1953. This was especially appreciated in view of their rather poor record for 1953. Friday evening saw 113 present, Saturday evening 120, and a peak of 160 attended the public meeting Sunday afternoon, when the talk “After Armageddon—God’s New World” was delivered by the Society’s Bolivian branch servant.
On Sunday morning there was also a baptismal service and eight symbolized their dedication by being immersed in the La Paz Stadium swimming pool. As at the previously held other South American conventions, new publications in Spanish were released to the delight of all present and the Resolution adopted at the New World Society Assembly in New York was here also enthusiastically adopted.
The conventioners showed a keen interest in the various features of the program and especially enjoyed Brother Henschel’s closing remarks Sunday, made through an interpreter. He pointed out the need of knowledge before one can show love and that Christians must mature and learn to show love. After the apostles and disciples had been with Jesus for a while he did not beg them to do God’s will but gave them orders to preach, which orders the speaker then showed to apply at the present time to the witnesses in Bolivia.
During the assembly many interesting experiences were related, the assembly itself also serving to arouse interest among men of good will. The stress put upon the full-time ministry during the programs resulted in a number of part-time ministers’ responding to the call. There is much interest in Bolivia and much work to be done. The Bolivian brothers who attended the New York convention were able to compare their own standard of living with that in other places and so learned to appreciate that the Watch Tower missionaries that come to Bolivia do so not for the purpose of having an easy life, but to help the Bolivians who want to serve Jehovah. Had they wanted a life of ease they would have stayed where the living standards are higher.
These missionaries in Bolivia do not act superior to the Cholos and others, but work right with them. In La Paz, one of the Chola witnesses is particularly active and the people there seem amazed that a North American woman missionary would be walking with this sister, conversing together as they go in the service of the King. And this Chola witness, though lacking worldly education, knows how the early Christians preached, and so she goes from door to door with the message, appreciating that everyone can learn to preach if he wants to and does not let the most difficult door stop him—the door to his own house!
It seems that the increase of interest in the Kingdom good news may be partly due to the political unrest. Not long ago opposers of the present government tried to overthrow it and in their failure the power behind the revolution was exposed: ammunition and guns stored in a Roman Catholic church. Also there is the evil of inflation, prices are rising but wages are not keeping abreast with them. Many who left Europe seeking a haven in South America are now beginning to learn that their real haven is the Kingdom hope of all mankind.
CONVENTION IN PARAGUAY
From La Paz Brother Henschel flew to Asunción, Paraguay, where another convention was to be held. However, due to the plane’s leaving Texas a day late he arrived a day behind schedule and so disappointed the brothers who came to the Asunción airport on December 15 to meet him. Returning on the following day they were on hand to meet this special representative of the Society and gave him a warm welcome.
That evening a meeting was had with the missionaries. To solve the problem of the long siesta, which lasts from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., it was suggested that the missionaries arrange their working schedule to suit this custom of the people. Another problem that needed adjusting was the contribution rate for the literature, made necessary because of the inflation.
Because of pressure on the part of the “state religion” Jehovah’s witnesses in Paraguay were unable to procure a meeting place suitable and adequate for their assembly and so it was held in their Kingdom Hall. Among those attending were some from Argentina, witnesses who had not been able to attend an assembly for a long time because of the opposition to their work in their country. Many also came from the interior of Paraguay.
The two-day assembly program began with a discourse on baptism, after which eight symbolized their dedication to Jehovah, the immersion taking place in the Paraguay River, which river is the main artery of life for Paraguay.
The assembly was officially opened with the address of welcome by the branch servant of Paraguay, who gave impetus to the assembly spirit by showing the conventioners the importance of taking notes during the assembly. The afternoon’s program emphasized the theme of love, in the field, in the meetings and among the brothers. The evening session began with songs and experiences; then followed a report on the New World Society Assembly held in New York, after which came a talk stressing the privileges, opportunities and responsibilities of the full-time ministers. The concluding talk was given by Brother Henschel.
Friday morning the program began, dealing with the various problems such as language and transportation. Then our traveling representative again addressed the assembly and among other things pointed out to the Paraguayan brothers their responsibility to engage in the field ministry. Many of these had come from Europe, and, living in colonies speaking their native tongue, had not needed to learn Spanish. They were shown, however, that they are ministers, and since the principal language of the land in which they are now dwelling is Spanish, they should learn Spanish. The need for more full-time ministers was also stressed.
The attendance had averaged over a hundred thus far and all were wondering how many would come to hear the public lecture. To their joyful surprise, the final count of those who packed out the Kingdom Hall, the adjoining room, the patio downstairs, or who stood in the doorway or outside listening, was 230, making it the largest ever held in Paraguay.
Theocratic expansion is taking place in Paraguay. Last year they had a ten per cent increase in the number of Kingdom proclaimers and they look forward to at least the same increase this year. Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the world will watch with interest whether their brothers in Paraguay go over the top or not.