President Serves in Taiwan, Okinawa and Japan
WEDNESDAY afternoon, April 18, Brothers Knorr, Barry and Adams flew from Hong Kong to Taipei, where they were met by the two missionaries recently assigned to that city, as well as by a number of local brothers. These brothers are rejoicing in the tolerance that the government is now showing to Jehovah’s witnesses. Certainly any government that lifts restrictions on freedom of worship and opens up its territory to the proclamation of Jehovah’s kingdom is to be commended. While the government of Taiwan continues its life-and-death struggle against the Chinese Communists, Jehovah’s witnesses in that land are now able to comfort the people in the knowledge that God’s kingdom will shortly sweep communism and all other forms of dictatorial rule from the face of the earth.
April 19 was to be the day of Taiwan’s first theocratic assembly. The travelers rose early—the two missionaries, three visitors and two others. It would be eight hours before they could reach the assembly site beyond the mountains. The first stage of the journey was a thirty-minute plane hop from Taipei to Hualien. This gave them opportunity to see some of the mountain terrain for which Taiwan is famous. Peaks rising more than 14,000 feet, and capped by snow, are skirted by tropical foliage and giant ferns.
After a stopover in Hualien the group set off down country by gasoline train. Now they had left the world of electricity, modern conveniences and comfort. Instead of the tractor, the caribou lazily plods the rice paddies and dirt roads. Agricultural implements are most primitive. For a livelihood Jehovah’s witnesses here have to work on their farms from dawn till dark to produce their two rice crops a year. It takes real zeal to find time for the all-important sowing and harvesting of Kingdom service.
Finally the brothers arrived at their destination, the village of Fuyuan. The young green rice shoots in the paddies were looking their best. It was a quiet, peaceful village, basking in the noonday sun. The brothers were escorted by some of the publishers to the local Kingdom Hall, for a fifteen-minute walk. This was one of the thirty Kingdom Halls recently constructed in Taiwan since the lifting of the ban on the Watch Tower Society’s work. Built of bamboo and earth, with straw-thatched roof, it was spotlessly clean. At the rear of the building was a new immersion pool, specially constructed for this assembly and measuring some 30 feet by 15 feet. A clear mountain stream ran into one end of the pool, which emptied at the other side into the nearby rice paddies. The travelers happily learned that here, during the morning session of this one-day assembly, 123 persons had been immersed.
Among those immersed were a number of the “mountain people,” of whom some 50 were in attendance at this assembly. According to government restriction, no one in the valley is allowed to enter the mountain territory, as the men of the mountains are considered dangerous. However, about eighteen months previously one of the mountain people, on a visit to the valley, had contacted Jehovah’s witnesses and learned about God’s kingdom. Back to the mountain he went and preached where no one else was permitted to go. One by one his own people listened, until now there are eighty persons associated in that area, of whom more than forty are Kingdom publishers. The mountain people are notorious for their unclean living and drunken brawls; but those of them who have become Jehovah’s witnesses have made a complete change and now are living exemplary moral lives, to the amazement of the surrounding tribesmen. It certainly was happifying that many of these people could attend this first assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in Taiwan.
While the brothers rested and took lunch at the Kingdom Hall they learned that the assembly had originally been planned and set up on a neighboring field. However, two days before, the field’s owner, a Catholic, had backed out of his contract. The brothers obtained another site nearby, but torrential rains hampered their moving the equipment. It seemed that the assembly would be “washed out.” But the brothers toiled on through the storm until everything was set up at the new site. As though it were a smile of approval on their zeal, the sun shone forth brightly on the morning of the assembly.
ASSEMBLY AT FUYUAN
The Taiwan brothers showed themselves to be masters of organization. Although this was their first assembly it had everything that the big 1953 Yankee Stadium assembly had had. In fact, all that these brothers knew about assembly organization was what they had seen in the motion picture “The New World Society in Action.” There were all the departments, including “Lost and Found,” First Aid, Territory and others. The cafeteria was a marvel of simplicity and cleanliness. A row of ovens had been constructed from baked earth, and here the rice and meat were cooked. There was an assembly line, where the brothers in turn made up rice cakes, put in the meat and put the lunch into a packet wrapped in a large green banana leaf. The lunches were then stored in racks until mealtime. The food had been paid for in advance by voluntary contributions from the brothers, so that now all the conventioners, even those who had been unable to contribute, could line up and each take his lunch in turn.
The setting of the assembly field was magnificent. Its location was the greenest of valleys, beside which great mountains towered skyward. Green rice paddies, papayas, banana trees and tropical palms surrounded the brothers on every side. On the assembly field itself a tall platform had been built in the form of a watchtower, and this was beautifully decked out in tropical foliage and flowers. Even the stalls where assembly departments operated were bedecked with the same tropical flowers. The field was filled with benches constructed from bamboo, and the happy-looking people occupying these seats were themselves dressed brightly, like the surroundings. While the sun shone straight down in the heat of the day, the field was an ocean of colored and floral sunshades, mingled with black umbrellas. Each of Taiwan’s thirty congregations sat around a pole bearing the congregation’s name. In Taiwan it is the custom for the sexes to be segregated at meetings, men sitting on one side, women on the other. Here Jehovah’s witnesses too had observed this custom until one year ago. Now, at this assembly, they were all sitting in family groups. Why the change? Because they had seen the movie “The New World Society in Action.” They had noticed the pictured family groups and they wanted to do everything like their brothers all over the world. So out went tradition; and father, mother and the children all sat together to enjoy the assembly.
During the morning the brothers had enjoyed talks on “Exclusive Devotion,” 1,600 attending that session. No one came late for the assembly. Most of the brothers had arrived at 4 a.m. by train from the south. It was 1,600 attendance from start to finish! None, not even the children, walked around during the sessions. While the assembly was in progress all remained as glued in their seats, attentive, listening. If one, because of having traveled all night, did start to doze, an attendant flicked his ear, as a reminder to keep listening.
When Brother Knorr and his party arrived at 2 p.m. they were treated to a song session by all in attendance. There was no musical accompaniment, but all sang in perfect harmony, as they followed the conductor’s directions. These were Oriental Kingdom songs—the message of Jehovah’s glorious kingdom set to folk music written by the Taiwan brothers. Particularly moving was their “persecution” song, which had helped them fight through many a year of anxiety. This was music and singing that sprang from Oriental hearts devoted to Jehovah.
At 2:15 p.m. Brother Knorr commenced his public address “Making All Mankind One Under Their Creator.” As with all the talks that afternoon, it was necessary to interpret from English into an Oriental language and then into the local tribal Ami language. These humble children of the soil understood the message well. It went straight to their hearts and to the hearts of many local good-will persons who now had assembled with Jehovah’s witnesses, to make the total attendance 1,808. Almost the entire population of the village was there to hear Brother Knorr speak.
Following a thirty-minute intermission three more practical talks on Jehovah’s service carried the program on through to 7 p.m. Dusk was now falling and the umbrellas had disappeared, so that there was an unobstructed view of a field full of smiling faces. It had been a long day, but still all listened intently and the young children continued to sit quietly with their parents. Came the closing song and prayer, and now it was time for Brother Knorr and those with him to leave to make the train connection. The audience stood, remaining in one body while waving a united farewell to the visitors as they started along the road.
The return train journey gave further opportunity of happy association, for many conventioners traveled by the same train. As each group alighted at its home station, all of them would come to the window by Brother Knorr and shake hands heartily before they walked off into the night. We learned that one of these groups would have to walk across country one and a half hours, and then wade a swift-flowing mountain river before they could reach their home village. In that village all families except one are Jehovah’s witnesses. Here, too, we noticed something contrary to Oriental custom, which often makes a slave of the wife. Many of the husbands were now carrying the babies on their backs, thus showing consideration, after this tiring day, for the “weaker vessel,” the wife. As elsewhere in the New World society, there is a fine spirit of co-operation and love, and an overflowing happiness, among Jehovah’s witnesses of Taiwan. The visitors were happy, though tired; and at the train journey’s end when, in Oriental style, they had to sleep on the floor at a Hualien hotel, they slept soundly and well.
Shortly after noon on April 20 the plane carried them back to the capital, Taipei, and there they spent several enjoyable hours with the two missionaries at their Taipei home. The missionaries have made a fine start in learning the Chinese language. Although many people in Taipei can talk some English and would like to study in English, the missionaries have insisted from the beginning that their good-will students use the Chinese literature for Bible lessons. After three months they have more than twenty studies in Chinese, and are making some good progress with these. That same evening the visiting brothers took another plane for Tokyo, Japan.
At 8 p.m. the plane came down for a thirty-minute stop at Okinawa. The entire local congregation, American, Filipino and Japanese, was there to give the travelers a hearty welcome. It was indeed wonderful to see these different nationalities welded into one people, praising Jehovah. Their field service report for the previous month had shown a peak of 26 publishers (60-percent increase), and these 26 publishers had jointly placed the astounding total of 2,662 copies of the Japanese Watchtower and Awake! in just that one month. As one of the Japanese special pioneers (newly assigned there) said: “This is a pioneer’s paradise.” The brothers left Okinawa with happy memories of a congregation united in praising Jehovah.
Arrival time in Japan was 1:10 a.m. on April 21. Considering the early hour it was surprising to see a group of more than twenty missionaries on hand to meet the travelers. The Tokyo assembly, which started the same day, was held in a beautiful new hall of up-to-date Western construction, the Nakano-Ku Kokaido. In preparation for the assembly there were distributed 200,000 handbills, 2,500 window cards and 20,000 copies of a special issue of the Japanese Awake! carrying the story of this assembly as well as of the world-wide assemblies of recent years, with many pictures. Newspapers also gave good publicity, announcing the assembly and Brother Knorr’s arrival. For the first time in Japan extensive house-to-house rooming work was done and many visitors were accommodated in the people’s homes. This resulted in a fine witness, helping many to take an interest and to attend the assembly.
Lapel badges advertising the assembly caused great curiosity. As these were to be seen everywhere on the trains and in the streets, it was not unusual to be stopped by someone wanting to read your name and where you came from, giving plenty of opportunities to witness. Two publishers traveling by train from Kyoto to Tokyo witnessed the whole length of their car and placed many magazines.
Saturday, 7:30 a.m., found publishers from all over Japan and Okinawa at breakfast in the cafeteria, which had been set up in a banquet hall across the street from the assembly hall. This banquet hall was leased to us for the entire assembly, and some seventy of the brothers slept there each night. Each morning they rolled up their beds and stored them in cupboards, so that the floor space could be used for the cafeteria. As the conventioners sat at meals on the matted floor before low lacquered tables they could look out over a lovely old Japanese garden that surrounded the cafeteria. The assembly hall itself was striking in appearance, and for the three days of the assembly the spring sunshine streamed through the hall’s front wall of glass that was forty feet high.
In the field on the first morning were more than 200 publishers doing magazine work and advertising the assembly. The smallest publisher, complete with placard and handbills, was just four years old. Meanwhile, at the hall, more than eighty pioneers and prospective pioneers heard good counsel from Brother Knorr. Afterward one said: “I feel a hypocrite that I did not become a pioneer earlier!” The Saturday afternoon attendance was 425, and these thrilled to Brother Knorr’s talk on “Christians Must Be Happy.” The whole audience was taking notes and constantly flicking Bible pages to find the scriptures being quoted. As a happy surprise at the conclusion of this session, there came announcement of the booklet Songs of Praise to Jehovah in Japanese.
Some fine experiences were told by Japanese special pioneers who are working out in additional cities and finding much interest. One family of three special pioneers, now working in a territory where the very strict Buddhist Nichirenshu sect predominates, after just three months’ work reported thirty studies and six new publishers active with them in the field. Another special publisher called at a lodging house operated by the Tenrikyo sect, an offshoot from Shinto. An elderly lady showed good interest, a study was arranged and conducted in a low voice to avoid opposition. The lady herself is now witnessing to all who come there.
The special pioneers brought newly interested persons with them to the assembly. Another interested person, who could not make the trip with the others, traveled all night so he could join his friends at the assembly the next morning and then immediately on arrival went with them in the service—his first time. Special pioneers from one town reported that in eight months they had fourteen studies and two publishers. One of these special pioneers, while street witnessing, was handed an envelope addressed to the “Watch Tower Parson.” In it were some Bible questions. Next week the same person came back to the street location and collected the answers. An invitation to a public talk was given to him and he came. A study was started, but still he would not tell the publisher where he lived. Having had experience with the churches, he was afraid of being booked for contributions. However, when he finally convinced himself of the genuineness of Jehovah’s people, he later willingly gave his address. Now he was in attendance at this assembly in Tokyo.
Baptismal service was held in a natural hot-spring pool at one of the assembly lodging houses. Fifty-four were immersed.
On Saturday evening Brother Adams’ talk hit right out at one of the obstacles to the Japanese—opposition from their own families. Micah 7:6 has real meaning for many of the young publishers in Japan. One of such, who had received much opposition because of coming to the assembly, said she was greatly comforted. Her parents had argued with her till two o’clock in the morning, but she persisted and came, and now is filled with the further desire to break right away and become a pioneer. Another, considering pioneer service, said: “This talk really hit the point.”
Brother Knorr’s public talk “Making All Mankind One Under Their Creator” was most enthusiastically received. The fruits of weeks of diligent advertising now were seen in the hall filled with 974 eager listeners, a big increase over the 400 brothers who had been attending throughout the assembly. Of the 974, 660 stayed on to hear Brother Adams’ talk that followed after an intermission. Some expressions that were heard afterward:
“This organization shows real hope for uniting the world.”
“Jehovah’s witnesses are not interested in money, as other religions are.”
“A wonderful talk for the new interest; anyone could understand well.”
To cope with the crowd after the public talk box lunches were provided for the first time at an assembly in Japan. These lunches could be taken anywhere and eaten, and proved very successful.
By the time Brother Knorr came onto the platform for his final talk on Monday evening, enthusiasm had reached its highest peak. There was spontaneous and enthusiastic applause. The thrilling story of Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia was relayed to an attentive audience through fine interpretation. Several times clapping broke out. What a joy to realize that the brothers even in iron-curtain countries are active and fighting along with Jehovah’s organization world-wide! All left the assembly with hearts filled with joy, determined to put more into the service here where we are free.
On the evening following the assembly Brother Knorr met with the fifty-five missionaries in Japan, at the branch home, and an informal dinner and a pleasant evening of association were enjoyed by all. The missionaries in Japan have done fine work over the past seven years. When the first missionary came to Japan after World War II, there were no Kingdom publishers reporting. However, March, 1956, had just brought a new peak of 567 publishers, a 21-percent increase over the previous year, and of these more than forty are native Japanese pioneers. Particularly interesting in the March report was the new peak of 20,368 magazines placed. The publishers are rejoicing in having both the Watchtower and Awake! magazines in Japanese. These magazines are arousing much interest among the people of Japan.
AN INTERESTING BACK-CALL
Last summer, while returning from the European assemblies to New York, Brother Knorr had witnessed to the passenger in the seat next to him on the plane. He happened to be Mr. Ohama, president of Waseda University, one of Japan’s great universities, having an enrollment of 25,000 students. Brother Knorr sent Mr. Ohama some of the Kingdom literature in Japanese. Later, when he heard that Brother Knorr would be coming to Japan, he invited him to give a lecture at the university in the language students’ auditorium. This meeting took place on Wednesday afternoon, April 25, Brother Knorr speaking through an interpreter to an audience of 386 professors and students, who listened most intently. They applauded enthusiastically at the close of the talk. Brother Knorr was then invited to tea with the professors, and this gave a further opportunity to talk about the work of Jehovah’s witnesses to the faculty. By their questions they showed that they had followed the address very closely. It was a most enjoyable and pleasant experience for Brother Knorr. The local missionaries are hopefully following up this interest.
So another delightful visit and encouraging assembly came to a close. The six days in Japan had passed all too quickly but with good memories of happy hours; and then the three brothers departed again, this time for Korea.