Presidential Visit to Australia and Indonesia
AFTER the Triumphant Kingdom assembly in Auckland, New Zealand, the next stop for Don A. Adams and the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, was Sydney, Australia. But in order to get there they had to fly from Christchurch, N. Z., by way of Melbourne. They were to leave at five o’clock on the evening of Thursday, March 15, but after their large plane had taxied out to the end of the runway and stayed there while the crew tested the engines for about a half hour, the plane returned to the air station. It was not until 10:30 that the repair was made; so the travelers had to fly all night, arriving in Melbourne, Australia, at 3:15 in the morning. Here a brother had waited up all night for them. After they were cleared through customs and immigration, it was a pleasure for the travelers to be with him as he drove them many miles to his home, arriving there about 4:30. The travelers got to bed at 5 a.m. and had to rise again at 6 a.m. in order to get to the airport to catch their plane to Sydney, which left at eight o’clock.
As soon as they arrived at Sydney the brothers meeting them rushed them off to a radio station, where Brother Knorr had an interview with a popular commentator, and this was broadcast two hours later on the noon news broadcast. Brother Knorr had not made his appearance at the convention grounds as yet, but this broadcast was put on over the loudspeakers, so all the conventioners learned that Brothers Adams and Knorr had arrived.
The Australian branch office had arranged for a big national convention, and brothers came from all parts of Australia. Special trains were arranged for the brothers from Perth, the most western point of the continent. The largest special train ever arranged for brought Jehovah’s witnesses across the entire land to Sydney. It was reported that the Perth special was the biggest train-ticket sale ever made, and a check was given to the railroad company for £14,000. This train was twice the length of the regular West-East Express, as it carried 436 delegates. Other special trains were arranged to bring the brothers from Melbourne, Brisbane and other points. Thousands of others came by car, ship, chartered bus and by plane. It had been ten years since a national assembly embracing all the country had been held. It was good to see brothers coming from all parts of the land, some even coming from Perth by car, taking twelve days. They had to cross the famous Nullarbor Plain with its barren surface completely devoid of water for a thousand miles. This illustrates the earnest desire in the hearts of Jehovah’s witnesses to meet together and have fellowship together and worship the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. All were enthusiastic. A real family spirit existed at the assembly, and the brothers at Sydney did everything they could to make the visitors welcome and comfortable.
At the Sports Grounds there had been prepared in advance in the center of the playing field a giant stage 150 feet long with a dais 30 feet by 15 feet and a canopy 15 feet by 8 feet. Built within the two hedged wings were huge letters spelling Triumphant Kingdom. When these were illuminated at night it was a very impressive sight. The whole platform was beautiful and restful to the eyes. In a field adjacent to the convention grounds were located several large tents that housed the cafeteria and other departments of the convention organization.
Australia had been going through a terrible rainy season; in fact, many parts of Australia were flooded. Thousands upon thousands of animals were drowned and people were made homeless. The rains still continued and it rained every day of the assembly, not continuously, but sufficiently to let everyone know that the rains were not over.
The convention was in session from March 14 to 18 and by Friday evening the attendance had grown to 3,646, at which time Brother Knorr spoke after an absence of five years. His kindly and mature talk was much appreciated by all. Every day of the convention was filled with helpful counsel, and the illustrative talks delivered by Brother Adams made a very firm impression on everybody’s mind. Saturday’s feature was most impressive because brothers who were working in the Pacific islands gave their experiences, which brought real thrills to those listening. Here was a vast new field, almost untouched, and it was the responsibility of the Watch Tower Society’s Australian branch to get workers into this territory. The circuit servant, who had attended the convention in Fiji, was also in attendance at this assembly and he told of his many experiences at the different islands of the Pacific. The audience responded many times with applause.
After several hours of pioneer experiences on work in the Pacific a special meeting was held by Brother Knorr for all those interested in going to work on these islands in secular employment or as special pioneers. The meeting was held in one of the large tents and 300 brothers, including single brothers and sisters and married couples, some with children, came to get the information as to how they could get to one of these islands and obtain employment. All who were willing to go to these islands turned in their names and addresses so the Society could try to find employment for them as secular workers. The idea is to get people on these islands who are in the truth and, even though they can put in only congregation time as publishers, still the islanders will have the Bible explained to them and little congregations can be developed quickly. So congregation publishers can take on a load of responsibility that is usually given to pioneers, special pioneers and missionaries.
It was pointed out to them at this meeting that any who wanted to enter the special pioneer work could do so and the Society would see about getting them to the islands. But as a usual thing the way to get to these islands is not by the missionary or pioneer route but by being employed. There are many tradesmen needed, such as plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, engineers and others. At the conclusion of the meeting it was really thrilling to see the brothers turning in their names and addresses as an indication of their desire to take up this new field, and then they talked to the brothers present who were already in the islands to find out how to make application for employment and what was required. It would be a big step for each one to take his wife and family with him and start life anew to preach the Kingdom message in places where it has not as yet been spoken.
The day before that Brother Knorr had a meeting with pioneers who were interested in the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, and 129 attended that session. Many came to the Saturday meeting with the hope of getting into the missionary work more quickly. Of the 129 present there were sixty-five who filled out preliminary applications, expressing their desire to come to Gilead and someday be sent by the Society into foreign fields as missionaries.
Saturday was really a service day, because in the morning all the congregation servants and circuit servants, to the number of 315, assembled together and Brother Knorr gave them an hour’s talk on field activity and then answered questions for an hour. It was felt that by this fourth day of the convention the brothers were truly enthusiastic about the great work yet to be done in the earth and many were seeing their way clear and taking steps, even adventurous ones, to advance the Kingdom interests in places large and small in the Pacific. Some of the islands have only two to three thousand people on them and some of the villages where missionaries and congregation publishers work have but two to three hundred inhabitants. Already there are on these islands twenty-five congregation publishers who moved out from Australia since Brother Knorr’s last visit there five years ago, but it is hoped that we can have at least a hundred more within the next few years to get into these little places, which are reported to be bits of paradise scattered over the blue Pacific.
THE PUBLIC MEETING AND AFTER-ACTIVITIES
The convention was coming to a conclusion much too quickly, and Sunday was the big day that everyone was looking forward to. At the morning session there were 3,791 and, despite the pouring rain, many sat in the open space to enjoy the lectures. By noon it let up and became quite cool. Heavy clouds overhead threatened all the time, but the rains had ended for that day. A little before three the people moved in in big crowds. The stands were packed out and the seats set in the paddock before the speaker’s stand were soon all taken and hundreds were standing. When the count was taken there were 8,149 present. Announcement was made that shortly after the public talk the president of the Society would speak again, on conditions in Russia and their effect on Jehovah’s witnesses, and 6,573 remained.
Australia is a growing country. Thousands are emigrating there from all parts of Europe. It was no surprise to find twenty-two different nationalities represented at this assembly. For the first time in Australia meetings were arranged in different languages and 95 attended the German session, 69 the Greek, 31 the Dutch, 63 the Italian, and 42 the Polish. Then, too, there were some from the Pacific islands, both natives and Australians, who worked out there but came to Sydney for the big assembly. Many of these people had felt the ravages of war and the persecutions of Hitler or Stalin or of other European countries, so it was most interesting to observe how the brothers listened with almost breathless silence to what Brother Knorr had to say about actual experiences of their faithful companions under the Communist regime. This last discourse will be long remembered and quoted and undoubtedly struck deep into the hearts of all present. The singing of song 16 brought to a conclusion another “Triumphant Kingdom” assembly, but for many of the visiting brothers it was not over yet. On Monday about a thousand came to the branch office at Sydney and inspected the Society’s Bethel home and factory at Strathfield, which is a suburb of Sydney. Many others visited some of the new Kingdom Halls that were built in Sydney recently to see how the construction was accomplished. After seeing the fine Kingdom Halls the congregations have built in Sydney, when these visitors return to their own territory they will probably want to build one of their own.
Monday morning Brother Knorr had a meeting with all the circuit and district servants in one of these Kingdom Halls, outlining the work of the circuit servants, answering their questions and preparing for greater expansion in the country through their efforts.
By Thursday, right after the convention, a number of the brothers were going to the theaters in Sydney to see the newsreel of the baptism that took place in Sydney just a few days earlier. One of the large newsreel companies had its cameraman at the baptism and got some fine scenes, and it was reported that the news commentary was wonderfully stated, telling of the 220 brothers who were baptized. This screening began on Thursday, and within just a few days the majority of the theaters throughout the nation would be showing these pictures. Undoubtedly millions of persons throughout Australia will learn of this wonderful convention and of the New World society through this publicity and it will give Jehovah’s witnesses from one end of the country to the other the opportunity to tell why the brothers were baptized in water and what the Kingdom of heaven means.
The days after the convention were spent in checking the office records and seeing what could be done to advance the work in Australia and the islands of the Pacific. The time moved much too fast to handle all that was necessary even though the travelers were delayed one day because the airline discontinued a flight. They were put on the following day’s flight to Jakarta. A good crowd was at the airport to say good-by, all hoping that it would not be five years again before somebody came to Australia from the American office. But all felt greatly refreshed because of the wonderful “Triumphant Kingdom” assembly and because of the constant, healthy growth of the New World society in Australia.
CONVENTION AND MEMORIAL IN INDONESIA
The next stop, a day late, was Jakarta, Indonesia. The flight was long and tedious, but there were some beautiful sights, like a towering 12,000-foot high volcano with a crater big enough to swallow a town. The hundreds of little islands below were emerald green with sparkling silver rims around them, making them look like jewels in the sea. The convention was already under way and in session when the visitors landed at Jakarta. On getting to the convention hall the president observed a great change since his first visit to Indonesia in March, 1951. Then there were only twenty brothers in the city of Jakarta who were doing some preaching work. Now there were 223 in attendance, some of them coming from all the principal islands in this newly formed government of Indonesia. It was good to renew old acquaintances again and the visitors enjoyed meeting many new faces. Here was proof that good response to the preaching of the message of the Kingdom was had during the five-year period, for there was a new peak of publishers in Indonesia of 261. In addition to this many of the Dutch people who had learned the truth and also Eurasians had emigrated to Europe in the past five years. Many capable brothers had been developed and there were now several strong, healthy congregations on the three large islands with isolated groups on other islands round about the principal ones. In the city of Jakarta alone there were two Indonesian units and one Dutch-speaking unit.
In this fast-moving, overcrowded city of Jakarta it was difficult for the brothers to find accommodations for the visiting brothers, but it was finally accomplished. In order to hold the sessions it was necessary to engage three different halls. A cafeteria setup was arranged in the back yard of the home of one of the brothers. For quite a few this was the first assembly and also the first time a number of the brothers had left their native island. This shows the power the truth has on the brothers to make them want to assemble together in these last days. All were very grateful for the provisions that Jehovah God made for them in their young theocratic lives. For some of them it meant eight days of traveling by boat over 1,400 sea miles, and owing to the fact that many of them were poor they could not use comfortable cabins but set up camp on the decks of the ships they traveled on. Still others came by train from the thriving congregation of Surabaya.
All the brothers were happy and eager to get out into the field service, and wonderful experiences were had. It was a pleasure for all to be sitting in the audience and listening to different brothers from various parts of the country deliver discourses and take part in the demonstrations. Here is a new organization, young and vigorous, with not many in it who are mature, but still they are trying and succeeding in being one. It was a most educational convention. One missionary remarked that the service meeting would have been a credit to a convention anywhere in the world. Jehovah’s spirit can accomplish much in a short time when the individual’s heart is right toward him. The missionaries that are in this land have warm hearts. They can look back over the short period of years of hard work as they see these students they have helped taking part in the program and co-operating so well with such fine results. It makes them feel well rewarded for having left their homes and countries to travel over thousands of miles across land and sea to a new land with a new language and new people. Here they have found new brothers.
The congregation of God’s people in assembly certainly appreciated the good words presented by Brothers Adams and Knorr and they were indeed grateful for the announcement that the Watchtower magazine would be increased from twelve pages to sixteen and glad to hear the complimentary remarks on what good work the Indonesian brothers were doing with the Watchtower magazine in their own language. They are now printing as high as 5,000 copies of The Watchtower, which is translated and printed right there in Jakarta. Back in 1952 the magazine’s study article used to be translated from English and stenciled, but as the work grew and the demand for the magazine became greater the work of printing the magazine was turned over to a local printer. In 1952 the first issue was 250 copies. Now in 1956 the April 1 issue had grown to 5,000 copies. The audience was overjoyed to know the magazine would be of sixteen pages, and then they were surprised even more when they were told that when the regular edition of The Watchtower stayed at 5,000, because of their good efforts in distributing it, the Society would translate the Awake! into the Indonesian language. This good news was received with typical New World society enthusiasm. Magazine distribution by the publishers in Indonesia is splendid, and it is easy to distribute the magazine in a number of languages. Placing twenty-five magazines in store-to-store or even house-to-house work in an hour is not difficult for a publisher, and distributing forty magazines in a morning’s witnessing work is not unusual. One of the missionaries obtained nine new subscriptions in the store-to-store work in one morning. People who live in Indonesia appreciate very much that the magazine is published in their own language. As the Society does not have many publications in Indonesian, the stressing of the Watchtower magazine in weekly distribution, it is felt, should cause the circulation of the magazine to grow very rapidly.
On Sunday morning, March 25, everyone was made especially happy as the branch servant delivered a very excellent discourse on dedication and water baptism. Although he has been there less than five years as a missionary, he speaks very fluently in the native tongue. Sixteen brothers from various parts of the far-flung territory answered in the affirmative to the baptismal questions put to them.
In the afternoon a meeting was held with pioneers, missionaries and those interested in pioneer work. Brother Knorr had the opportunity of answering questions and encouraging a number to take up the pioneer service. He pointed out that some who even had good records as congregation publishers might be able to get right into the special pioneer work and would not have to begin pioneering first, if they were willing to devote all their time to the preaching of the good news in some island section. It is believed the response will be good. There were about thirty in attendance at this meeting.
The talk “Making All Mankind One Under Their Creator” was delivered Sunday afternoon at five o’clock in the Gedung Kesenian and translated into Indonesian. This talk could not be publicly advertised, as at the moment no public meetings are allowed, but religious organizations may have their own meetings and persons interested in their work may attend. Two hundred and seventy-one persons came to the assembly and 241 remained to hear the closing remarks relating to experiences that Jehovah’s witnesses are having behind the iron curtain. Certainly, it was pointed out, “if under such conditions they can preach and maintain their integrity, then we here living under much more favorable conditions should be determined to preach and extend our ministry at every opportunity while conditions are still favorable.” The convention was brought to a close on a high note, but for those in Indonesia it meant another day of blessing because the time was at hand for the yearly celebration of the memorial of the death of Jesus Christ.
Monday evening, March 26, was the 14th day of Nisan, and after six o’clock on this day Jehovah’s witnesses around the world would be keeping the memory of the wonderful sacrifice that Christ Jesus laid down or offered on Jehovah’s altar. Eating his flesh and drinking his blood in symbol, they were partaking of the communion sacrifice pictured in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is in this part of the world that the day begins, so probably those in Jakarta were among the first to celebrate the feast at Jehovah’s table, to be followed by thousands in Asia and then Europe and finally North and South America, all celebrating the same evening meal. Here at Jakarta 268 were gathered together, along with hundreds of thousands of others elsewhere, but only one of this group partook of the emblems. Everyone else did not, indicating they are of the “other sheep” and looking forward to gaining perfect earthly life in the new world of righteousness under the kingdom of heaven, but at the same time recognizing the wonderful provision Christ Jesus made and recognizing him as King with the government upon his shoulders.
There is still a great work to be done in Indonesia. This is just a new country that has acquired independence and liberty and self-government. There is a great reconstruction work that must go on. Along with this reconstruction work of Indonesia, Jehovah’s witnesses have a very important announcement to make, namely, that God’s kingdom is the hope of all mankind. Back in the year 1947 there were only thirteen publishers. Today there are 261 and these must serve over 80 million inhabitants who speak more than 200 dialects. So a great work lies ahead of the few publishers there. The missionaries were a great help to the few publishers in the land when they arrived in 1951, but today circuit work is organized as well as district work. The circuit and district brothers travel great distances to serve the congregations and the Society is pleased to be able to pay these expenses to bring the proper instruction and comfort to Jehovah’s witnesses in all the islands. The response has been very good over a period of years until now they have reached a new peak of 261 publishers. Jehovah’s witnesses everywhere rejoice that they are moving ahead so well and maturing so fast.
Many of the Indonesian brothers were at the airport to say good-by to Brothers Knorr and Adams as they prepared to fly away to Singapore. In two hours’ time they flew over many islands of Indonesia, and, when they came down at the airport, here again there were about thirty brothers to give them a hearty welcome to the pleasant city of Singapore.