Visit to the Pacific
FEBRUARY, 1956, was a busy month for Jehovah’s witnesses on the Hawaiian Islands. They were getting ready for a convention and the third visit of the president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, N. H. Knorr, accompanied by Don A. Adams. Assembly dates were set for March 2 to 4, but February was the month of preparation. It was an important event coming up for Jehovah’s witnesses, and advertising it in as many ways as possible was an important part of the preliminary work. Fifty thousand handbills were printed and used as personal invitations in Honolulu, inviting people to come to the public lecture. Nine hundred posters and placards were placed in advantageous positions to attract the public. A special series of notices was run in the local papers to heighten interest. Several interesting articles about the work of the Society were published before and during the assembly, and news co-operation was good.
Television was used for the first time in Hawaii by the witnesses to demonstrate the international flavor of this Exclusive Devotion assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses. A special television program was presented by the local witnesses in native costume and in six languages, including English, Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Ilocano. This was very successful in announcing the public meeting topic, “Making All Mankind One Under Their Creator.” Certainly there was oneness here of the many nations represented. The radio was used, too, to reach a still greater invisible audience with spot announcements and interviews. A special program was arranged in the Japanese language using a question-and-answer arrangement, which caused many of the public to respond by telephone calls.
The climax of the advertising was reached on Sunday, March 4, when this widely advertised lecture, “Making All Mankind One Under Their Creator,” was tape-recorded and rebroadcast by KPOA, a local station, immediately following the live delivery of it at the assembly place, the American-Chinese Club Pavilion. So the Watch Tower branch office, through its public relations department, did excellent work in trying to get the islanders to hear this important message.
The president and his secretary were scheduled to arrive on Pan American Airways at 6:30 in the morning on March 1, but they got in a little ahead of time. Even at this hour just before dawn there were about 75 local Jehovah’s witnesses on hand to give them a typical Hawaiian welcome, as many present placed fragrant fresh flower leis around the visitors’ necks until they were piled high. And there were smiles and hearty welcomes so typical of the Hawaiian publishers. After a few pictures were taken by brothers and newsmen, Brothers Knorr and Adams were whisked away to the branch office and missionary home, there to look into local problems and make final assembly arrangements.
The American-Chinese Club Pavilion was fixed up beautifully for the assembly. The stage was a mass of colored tropical plants and flowers. All this variety of Hawaiian plants gave the Pavilion an exotic look. There were large wall panels on each side of the stage, and the one on the left as you faced the platform showed the extent of the work of Jehovah’s witnesses on the Hawaiian Islands in 1945. The islands themselves were cut out of cocoa-colored material and placed in their proper position on a sea of dark aqua. Lighter-colored stars indicated the five organized Hawaiian congregations, while chartreuse-colored letters announced that there were 102 Kingdom publishers living on the islands in 1945. On the opposite side a similar panel dated 1955 showed the islands with seventeen brilliant stars and indicating 948 publishers. This display showed ten years’ growth at a glance. Both panels were encircled with huge leis, giving it a distinctive Hawaiian touch.
With many conventioners of different nationalities it was a problem to operate a cafeteria; So the meals were quite varied but enjoyable. And to the American visitors the meals were unique. The whole assembly had a Far Eastern atmosphere and the grounds were surrounded with palms and tropical vegetation. Of course, the big thing was the spiritual food that the representatives from several islands came to hear. This Exclusive Devotion assembly proved to be the biggest gathering yet for the Hawaiian brothers.
On the opening day Brother Knorr spoke on the subject “Christians Must Be Happy.” He pointed out that Jehovah’s witnesses are the most fortunate people, for they have learned the way of salvation. They are in advantageous circumstances, with a close relationship to God, knowing the way to life and with good cause to be happy. He presented many scriptures to show that even under persecution and trial a Christian can be happy. Happiness comes from getting knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Happiness is assured because of one’s faith and belief. What he said was certainly reflected in the happy faces and in the joy expressed by those present at the assembly. The peak attendance at the Friday sessions was 874.
Saturday a baptism was arranged and thirty-eight persons symbolized their dedication to Jehovah God by being immersed. All of them were taken to a nearby beach and dipped beneath the waves of the blue Pacific.
On Saturday afternoon the program was devoted to the pioneer service. One portion was handled by a chairman who interviewed four pioneers whose total years in full-time service ran more than a hundred. Their remarks and experiences were an incentive to others, and showed that by careful planning and by depending on Jehovah’s spirit one could have a full and happy life in this blessed pioneer service in Jehovah’s New World society. There was much talk that day about pioneer service, and there is room for more pioneers and special pioneers on the islands of Hawaii.
On Saturday evening Brother Adams gave a stirring talk on “The Right Kind of Warfare.” He showed that Christian service should not be overshadowed by the modern world of materialism. He likened this present situation to one’s looking through a plate-glass window to see a clear view of the new world and its blessings. If the window is kept clean and one’s vision of New World activity is clear and Kingdom truths are kept in view, then one will keep seeking first the Kingdom. But once one allows the window to get dirty or coated over with gold or silver, commercial interests, then it automatically becomes a mirror and all one can see is himself. Then the New World vision goes out of view. The talk was very practical and stimulating to the 903 ministers who were present at this session.
Sunday brought the big event looked forward to by all the witnesses of Jehovah. They were eager to see what the results of all their advertising and preliminary preparations would bring as far as the public lecture was concerned. All were overjoyed to see the Pavilion packed out and overflowing. The tents that were erected outside the Pavilion in anticipation of this extra crowd were filled too. Excellent attention was given to Brother Knorr as he developed his theme showing that the great Creator was going to bring all mankind into one new world and that mankind, regardless of nationality, color of skin or language, would be made one under their Creator. He pointed out that now is the time for people to take their stand in order to gain everlasting life. When the count was taken it showed there were 1,355 who had come from all walks of life and of different nationalities to hear this encouraging discourse, which has already been published in the April 1 issue of The Watchtower.
All of Jehovah’s witnesses, along with many of the people of good will at the public meeting, stayed to hear the president give his final talk, which was announced at the public meeting. It dealt with Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia, and it was inspiring to learn how Jehovah’s spirit is manifest on his people despite almost insurmountable obstacles put in the way of Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia to stop them from preaching the good news of the Kingdom. The Hawaiian brothers were delighted to hear of the zeal of brothers in Russia and it made them more determined than ever to continue on and make the good news of the Kingdom heard in every nook and corner of the islands. The brothers were also enthusiastic about sending their love and greetings to the brothers in all parts of the world, particularly to those in the South Pacific, where the two visitors were to be traveling.
There is still much to be done on the Hawaiian Islands in the way of preaching the good news, because there are still hundreds of thousands of people who have not yet taken their stand for the Kingdom. But it is certain that within a few years there will be very few who have not yet had the opportunity to hear about the wonderful provisions that Jehovah God has made to bring all mankind into one society under their Creator.
ON TO THE FIJI ISLANDS
Because of a hurricane in the South Pacific the Pan American airline announced to all travelers that planes going in that direction would be grounded for twenty-four hours. So it was not until Tuesday evening at 10:30 that Brothers Knorr and Adams left a group of more than 200 at the airport to be on their way to the South Pacific. A short stop was made at Canton Island for refueling. This is just a narrow strip of land, a coral island far out in the Pacific. The travelers landed there just before dawn, and it was surprising how quickly darkness changes to daylight on this Pacific island. It takes only a few short minutes.
Away again, it was not long before the travelers reached Fiji, but because of high winds and heavy rain the plane could not get in to the airport at Nandi at once. As the clouds hung low over the field the plane circled for about an hour until informed that the ceiling had lifted sufficiently for the plane to come in on the landing strip. On the ground the rain was pouring down. Even as the plane came in over the island it was observed that the roads were covered with water and great lakes had been formed. Surely the hurricane had been felt in this vicinity. Several brothers were on hand to meet the visitors at the Nandi airport. Arrangements had previously been made for Brother Adams to address a convention at Suva while Brother Knorr was to continue on a connecting plane to New Zealand, where a convention had already started in Auckland. The hour spent talking to the brothers was delightful, but then the time came for Brother Adams and the group to make their way to Suva, sink or swim.
A taxi was hired and the brothers started on their way over the muddy roads and through deep puddles to Suva, 130 miles away on the other side of the island. Before long they came to a swollen river that no truck or car could go through unless it could submerge and come out the other side. But not having that kind of vehicle they got out of the taxi, rolled up their trousers, took off their shoes and socks and waded out to a rowboat equipped with an outboard motor. The newly formed stream was fast flowing to the ocean, but the amateur navigator got them across safely. Again they had to hire a taxi, which carried them a few more miles, and then they went through the same procedure crossing the second swollen stream to reach the Land Rover, with which they were to drive on to Suva. They finished the journey in this, but it was rough going and many times the water in the road came up as high as the axles. Once they had to cross a flooded part of the road by driving along a railroad trestle, but after many harrowing experiences, never to be forgotten, the brothers reached Suva an hour before the public talk.
The convention was in session and all the brothers were delighted to know that the special representative from headquarters had gotten there and now they could hear him talk on “Making All Mankind One Under Their Creator.” Brother Adams had picked up a cold in Honolulu because of the change in climate, and now, with this rough travel and his getting wet coming to Suva, his voice was not in the best condition. He started to give the public talk but after about twenty minutes his voice failed; so he handed his manuscript to the chairman, the circuit servant, Brother Helberg, who did a masterful job of presenting the material even though he had never seen the copy before. The brothers were overjoyed with the message, as were also the public who had come to the talk, to the number of 170 in all at Suva’s Town Hall.
By this time the rains had just about stopped and the weather was much better. The next day the convention continued and Brother Adams was able to give two lectures on the work of Jehovah’s witnesses, providing the brothers with good spiritual food. To all the attenders it seemed as though joy had no bounds as Jehovah’s witnesses came together for their first full-scale assembly ever to be held in Fiji.
At the Kingdom Hall the brothers had prepared a unique platform with live banana trees bearing fruit, flowers, multicolored crotons and Fijian tapa and woven mats to decorate it. Conventioners came from Samoa 600 miles to the east, from the island of Rotuma 400 miles to the north and from the two main islands of the Fiji group. With such a mixture of South Sea islanders, the scene was bright with color. The Fijians with their sulus, the Samoan lavalavas and Indian saris all helped to decorate the auditorium. There were signs around the walls painted in the Fijian, Hindustani, Samoan and Rotuman languages. There were no racial difficulties, as all had gathered together for one purpose as a part of God’s New World society. These good people from different places in the South Pacific said: ‘Now we really know what an assembly is, meeting with brothers from overseas and from different islands.’ It was a small assembly, but truly lively.
Interesting experiences were given at the Fijian assembly concerning the work in the islands and the splendid progress that is being made. A special pioneer working in Samoa told of one schoolboy who accepted the truth and stuck by it even though his family disowned him and forced him to leave home. He is living with the brothers now and growing stronger daily in maturity and understanding. Though he lost his home for the sake of the Kingdom, now, as Jesus said concerning similar cases, he has brothers and sisters a hundredfold, as well as the hope of life in the new world.
The circuit servant told of hearing of a group of interested persons on one of the islands. When he tried to make arrangements to enter the island to help them get organized for theocratic activity, the officials advised that there were no accommodations, so they had to refuse him entry. But when the people of good will heard of that, they arranged to set aside a plot of land and build a place for him to live so that he can come and help them learn more of the truth and of God’s new world of righteousness. He hopes to be able to visit these scattered “sheep” on his next trip through the islands.
ACTIVITIES IN NEW ZEALAND
While Brother Adams and his companions were making their way to Suva, Brother Knorr was delayed at the Nandi airport (Fiji) owing to the fact that one of the engines on the plane got so wet they had to dry out certain parts before they could go on. Finally he got away and, after twenty-four hours of traveling from Honolulu, he arrived in New Zealand near the close of the day’s convention sessions. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were busy days filled with meetings with circuit and district servants and pioneers, an interview on the radio and with giving discourses to the brothers at the convention. The Carlaw Park Football Ground had been chosen for this Triumphant Kingdom assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses as there was no other place in Auckland, New Zealand, that they felt would hold the Sunday attendance. Having the sessions outdoors made it very pleasant. They did not expect rain, but the hurricane that came near Fiji started south and some of the rain it brought along fell during the latter days of the assembly, but not enough to interfere with the sessions, as the program went right ahead, rain or shine.
They had arranged for the speaker’s platform out in the playing field and it was fixed up with beautiful shrubs, flowers and ferns. During the evening sessions it was brightened by colored lights scattered through the floral display, which added to its beauty. But one evening while Brother Knorr was speaking as the rains came down, these hot light bulbs began to explode, which added to the adverse speaking conditions. The first day’s attendance at the Auckland assembly was 1,726. This was just 200 short of New Zealand’s previous best convention attendance. The next day the attendance rose to 2,200, and by Saturday it had climbed to 2,317. Saturday morning was of great interest as 173 new ministers dedicated their lives to the service of Jehovah and symbolized it by water baptism. This was almost double the number of any previous group baptized at one time in New Zealand.
All the talks that were delivered during the sessions by local speakers were those that were used at the Triumphant Kingdom assemblies throughout North America and Europe the previous summer. The brothers found them to be most enlightening and encouraging and they were strengthened to continue on in the service of Jehovah. The speeches of Brothers Adams and Knorr were all different from those of the summer of 1955. Brother Adams flew in on Saturday night from Fiji. His plane was a little behind schedule, but a few brothers picked him up and rushed him to the convention grounds, where he was scheduled to talk at 7 p.m. He got there about 7:07, but the brothers had telephoned from the airport to keep the program going until he arrived.
In discussing problems with the different brothers concerning New Zealand, especially with the circuit servants, it was learned that practically all the large towns within the country have congregations and there is very little isolated territory. They have more than 2,500 publishers to preach to the 2,131,000 inhabitants of New Zealand. While this gives each publisher an average of about 840 people to talk to, still it must be remembered that there are approximately 2,128,500 persons who do not have the truth. By proper organization and coverage of the territory all these can be given the opportunity to learn of the new world, and the brothers in New Zealand are determined to give the territory systematic coverage and let the people decide whether they will choose God’s kingdom or hold on to the old world of unrighteousness. Sometimes Jehovah’s witnesses may feel content in that they have one publisher for perhaps every four or five hundred people in a land. While the average may be good and shows a healthy condition as far as giving ministerial service to all the population, still one must never lose sight of the tremendous numbers of people who still do not accept Jehovah and the way to life eternal. This is the case in New Zealand. The brothers are very confident that within a short time they will have 3,000 publishers, probably this year; but they too appreciate that the witness work is not done, even though there is no isolated territory.
The president of the Society made arrangements to send special pioneers into some of the larger cities and block off a section of the city for a concentrated effort. It has been found that the more a territory is covered by the witnesses of Jehovah the faster the congregation grows. Jehovah’s witnesses should never be satisfied with their progress, for as long as Jehovah wants this gospel of the Kingdom preached in all the world for a witness they must be diligent in their service. They must plant and water and Jehovah will give the increase.
Sunday morning broke with an overcast and a little drizzle of rain, but this did not keep the witnesses from attending the morning sessions. Brother Adams gave the concluding Sunday morning talk, “Offering a Sacrifice of Praise to God,” which was truly a fitting conclusion to the morning’s feast.
Around noon the sky cleared and by three o’clock, the time announced for the public meeting, the people were flowing into the grounds to hear the widely publicized talk—not widely publicized by the newspapers or radio stations, but by Jehovah’s witnesses. All were happy to learn that 3,510 were there to hear this important lecture given by the president of the Society. The fact that there were 1,200 of the public from Auckland who attended this lecture certainly shows that there are many who are interested in the message of God’s kingdom. Many people turned in their names as wanting more information, and undoubtedly the work will grow very rapidly in Auckland. It is the city of activity in New Zealand, and the Society is planning to purchase property in that city and move its branch office from Wellington to Auckland. Of course the brothers in Auckland are very enthusiastic about this and are eager to see the branch office of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society established in their midst. The brothers in Auckland will give good support to the construction of this building. While Brother Knorr was in Auckland he spent considerable time visiting different locations, finally deciding on a lot to buy and drawing up rough sketches of the kind of building that might be constructed. While the capital of the country is Wellington and the branch office is there, still Auckland is the faster-growing city. It is the first port of call for commerce coming into the country and will bring things to New Zealand at least a week earlier than by having them go to Wellington and then be redistributed. The work in New Zealand certainly has moved ahead by leaps and bounds, the publishers jumping from 536 to 2,519 in the last ten years, with bigger prospects for the next few years.
In the concluding talk to all the brothers the president of the Society gave them information about the work in Russia and pointed out that no amount of brainwashing or harsh treatment of Jehovah’s witnesses will dampen their zeal for the preaching of the Kingdom message. Certainly the brothers working behind the iron curtain as well as in Russia are not retarded in their activity because of persecution, but they remain happy in Jehovah and in the work that is committed to their care. If our brothers in Russia and other parts of the world can work with such zeal in lands where there are such unfavorable conditions, why, certainly Jehovah’s witnesses in lands favorable to freedom of speech should accomplish much more. The prospects in New Zealand are great for future ingathering.
Immediately after the convention was over a flying trip was made to Wellington to check the branch office, and ways and means were worked out for further expansion. Then the brothers flew to Christchurch, where a public meeting had been arranged for Wednesday night. Not many of the witnesses of Jehovah had returned to this large city on the South Island, as many traveled by car and boat and some were on their holidays. So probably there were not more than a hundred of the 130 publishers in Christchurch in attendance at the Wednesday night meeting, but even so the total attendance came to 257. The people were very much interested in the thoughts expressed and it is believed that this meeting will aid the local congregation to grow still more because of the interest aroused by the advertising and by the lecture itself.
New Zealand is a beautiful country. Flying from the northern part to the southern part gives one an opportunity to see a great variety of scenery, snowcapped mountains, cone-shaped, the sea, rugged hills and green pasture. Just to the west of Christchurch is a range of mountains referred to as the Southern Alps, and away to the south, it is said, the terrain is some of the most beautiful in the world, with fiords, mountains and luxuriant growth. Of course, New Zealand is a great sheep country and it is a common sight to see these peaceful animals roaming over the hills. It makes one think of Jesus’ words, ‘Other sheep I have which are not of this fold, and these also I must gather.’ The gathering work goes on in New Zealand all to the honor and glory of Jehovah’s name.
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Hawaii Fiji Islands New Zealand
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D. A. Adams
N. H. Knorr