Part 3—President Visits Europe and Middle East
This continues the report by the Watch Tower Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, of his service tour through Europe and the Middle East.
LAHORE, a very interesting city filled with Moslems, is in a Moslem state. Our missionaries are having a very difficult time, especially the sisters, because here women very rarely frequent the streets. But when one is in missionary service, with work to do of preaching the good news of God’s kingdom, she (or he) must appear before people in order to preach, for unless they hear the Kingdom message how can they ever put faith in it? The branch servant told me that the sisters certainly had wonderful success in distributing handbills and inviting people to the public talk. Because these women were on the street giving out handbills the men paid great attention to them. Moslem women who do appear in public have a covering, or burka, a tentlike cloak that normally covers from head to foot. Even over their face they have a cloth pierced with little holes so that they can see through, but no stranger can ever see the wearer. So when a European woman walks along streets of Lahore, or of any city in Pakistan, she is noticed. As the sisters stop for a moment, as they do when passing out handbills, a crowd of men immediately surrounds them, and they appear as if by magic. Therefore the sisters have to keep moving, trying to keep away from persons who feign interest in getting a handbill. Sometimes these persons are so interested in getting things from the sisters that they take their Bible, magazines, books, etc., unless the sisters have their bag on their arm and the top closed.
All the missionaries and congregation publishers and those attending the convention from other cities were working diligently in advertising among the Moslem people, inviting them to the convention and particularly to the public lecture. On Sunday morning I spoke to the brothers, seventy-two in number; and in the afternoon I spoke to 160 who attended the public meeting, eighty remaining for the final discourses of the assembly.
The branch servant mentioned to me that a new chapter in theocratic advertising in Pakistan had been opened because of my visit there. This was the first time that radio was used. The brothers had arranged with a man who interviews prominent persons to have me on his program, and I did answer questions for twelve minutes. The brothers were indeed pleased with this broadcast. I also had opportunity to talk about the Kingdom with a number of men in the radio station for about an hour.
Mode of travel in these Eastern countries is very different from that in the West. We might call it primitive, but it was not too many years ago, before the automobile, when even Americans still used the oxcart and horses. Here at Lahore, in Pakistan, bicycles are used considerably, but also many dongas. This two-wheeled carriage, drawn by a rather small horse, is so constructed that usually four persons can sit in it. At one time when coming back from the meeting to the hotel we decided to take a donga rather than walk a mile and a half; so the branch servant and I sat in the back seat while the driver sat in the front seat. But when he gave his very small horse the whip so that it would move ahead, the horse could not get any traction because the counterbalance was too great. So the driver had to ask Brother Pope to sit in front with him so that the horse could get down on the ground and do a little pulling. (This is not to imply that the branch servant is a fat man, for he is slender and keeps in good trim, but with the two of us in the back seat we just about equaled the weight of this very small horse.) We had our good laugh, but afterward, when needing to use a donga, one of us always sat in the front with the driver.
It certainly was wonderful to spend a few days with the missionaries at the missionary home and to hear of their experiences in this land where witnessing is very difficult. Thus far the only persons who have really taken a keen interest in the truth are so-called Christians who know something about the Bible and believe in Christ Jesus. With these our brothers can study. Moslems ask many questions, but when it comes to making a decision they find it much easier to keep their own religion, because they might be ostracized were they to change to Christianity. A few have taken their stand, but with very great difficulty. The twelve missionaries in the land are doing wonderful work, not only in the large cities (Karachi and Lahore), but they have gone off into smaller places. Using his bicycle, one brother goes to small villages, where he stays with the people as he preaches to them. It reminds one of the days of Christ Jesus when his apostles would travel from village to village, and as they traveled they would find people who showed hospitality, and these would invite them to stay at their homes. So one of our brothers, a missionary in Pakistan for many years, serves rural sections, with excellent success in distributing the Kingdom message. Five years ago, at my last visit there, an average of thirty-seven publishers was preaching the good news; now that average has increased to sixty-seven—a fine growth for only five years of work.
The convention aroused much interest. A university student, contacted during the assembly, called at the branch, asking for a study to be started with him. Later we had a visit from the professor of one of the colleges in the city, he too being interested in having a study.
When Christ Jesus told his apostles to go and disciple all nations he meant Pakistan as well as other places. Kingdom missionaries who have gone into this land must be admired and should always be remembered in our prayers because of the wonderful work they are doing, and who keep on doing it under really difficult circumstances.
When time came for me to emplane at Lahore for Karachi we started to the airport and found that the highway was bedecked with flags and floral arches. Along the road crowds were beginning to throng. Soldiers and policemen were at their positions. Many school children were being brought to sit in places along the route in preparation for a big reception. A very prominent personage was visiting Pakistan, due to arrive at Lahore that morning. He was Chou En-lai, prime minister of China. So they were making a very big fanfare over this dignitary; he would make his triumphant entry, along with other dignitaries, and people would hail him as a wonderful man. So they give glory to men, but very little glory to God. They do not accept his Son, and they do not accept the true God of the universe. While the missionaries were fellowshiping at the airport before my time of departure, the plane came in carrying Chou En-lai; the bands struck up their music, the army came to attention, and the big reception was on. This big man to whom they give such honor cannot bring about peace, nor are such men able to bring even to people of their own nations the prosperity all mankind longs to have. So while the nations rage and are filled with anxiety, calmly Jehovah’s witnesses all over the world keep on going forth preaching the good news of the Kingdom. They have a glorious treasure of service and are moving along with the great theocratic host in Jehovah’s triumphant march to victory. Soon Jehovah will show his power and destroy the evil world and its rulers.
It was not long until I was back in Karachi, where I met the brothers and had a very interesting meeting with them in the evening at their own Kingdom Hall, twenty-nine being in attendance. There I spoke to the brother who had met Brother Franz and received the firsthand story as to how he was and I learned that he had gotten away safely. It was good to be with the two missionaries, Brothers Young and Moss, in Karachi for a little while and I very much appreciated their seeing me off for my next stop, Bombay.
On its way to Bombay the plane I took (a small two-motored DC-3) made two stops. First, it stopped at Bhuj, a sort of summer resort; next, at Ahmedabad, where some of our missionaries are working; but they were already in Bombay attending the convention. Flying over these cities in India is interesting. You see how closely compacted the cities are; they are busy cities of commerce, and in them are thousands upon thousands of persons to be spoken to about the Kingdom. The final stop was Bombay and I arrived there about 6:30, finding two hundred persons waiting to meet me. Among them were many old friends, missionaries particularly, and Brother Skinner, the branch servant, besides scores of new faces, persons just coming into the truth during the last five years.
India was really having a series of conventions. Brother Franz had been to Delhi and had gone on to Calcutta, and I was serving those who could get to Bombay. The branch servant was able to obtain the finest hall in Bombay for the public meeting. It usually has to be booked six months in advance. It had already been booked by the Railroad Passengers Association for a conference. When the branch servant got in touch with the association’s secretary he agreed to change their conference date so that we could use the hall while I was in Bombay. Their only charge to us was eight dollars to pay postage to notify their members that they had canceled their third day of the conference, and this we certainly appreciated. That made it possible for us to use this fine hall for the public meeting. Excellent advertising was carried on for weeks prior to the assembly and the brothers felt very well rewarded, because there were 1,080 packing out the auditorium, the biggest public audience they have ever had in India. The people heard discussed the subject “New World Peace in Our Time—Why?” Of course, the convention was held two days prior to this climactic public meeting, the brothers using another hall. The convention started out with 315 at its first session. That session I was unable to attend because of the great amount of work to be done in the branch office, as a result of the expanding witness in India. It was therefore necessary for Brother Skinner and me to travel to different parts of Bombay itself in trying to find a better location where we can construct a Kingdom Hall, a branch office and a small printing establishment to take care of our work.
One of the brothers was kind enough to drive us in his car to different locations. We were accompanied by the real estate man, and now it appears that soon we shall have a good location and be ready to construct our own quarters and move from our present place on Love Lane. We certainly need a new building to carry on our expanding work in India. When this was announced at the closing session of the convention the brothers became tremendously enthusiastic, happy to realize that something new would be built for India, for this was another evidence of the expanding activity in this great land of many millions of people.
India surely is a land of languages and this is one of the big problems not only for the missionaries but for our brothers throughout the country, and particularly for the branch office. Right now in India we print The Watchtower in five different languages of the country. Its circulation has been increasing, and this makes us very happy. Arrangements were made to organize this work better so that all the magazines will be alike—similar in appearance to the English edition.
The convention halls were very well decorated. A brother who is in the motion-picture business donated the stage setting, which consisted of a typical Indian architectural façade with an open arch in the center, through which was seen a splendid view of the new Brooklyn factory. It showed the factory as just across the river, showing the part built in 1927, the later addition to that and now the thirteen-story structure with its large tower on top. This made a beautiful setting for the convention and showed the keen interest on the part of our brothers in India in the American activity, for it is from here that we supply many of the things that keep them equipped and busy in preaching the good news. To all present at the assembly it was a delight to observe sixty-five persons standing up and answering the questions in declaring themselves before all as dedicated to serve Jehovah God. They were baptized in the blue waters of Bombay Back Bay.
I had the opportunity, too, of speaking to sixty-five of the pioneers, special pioneers and missionaries. There is certainly a big field in India for more special pioneers, even as is the case in every other part of the world. If any are really interested in getting into the special pioneer work, preaching the good news 150 hours a month, the Society is interested in knowing about them. A wonderful work is being done by the sixty-five publishers in the pioneer service there in India.
The brothers in India were delighted that they were able to operate their own cafeteria, India’s first; and they did very well. The brothers at the branch would get up early and go down to the hall to get things started for the feeding of the crowds. Because of the fact that there were so many things to do in the office in checking the branch and handling the country’s problems, the branch servant and I would always prepare our own breakfast and be at work by eight o’clock in the morning. After the public talk in the Sir Cawasji Jehangir Hall, 560 remained to hear the final talk, in which I related some experiences of the trip I had already made and also explained the plans for expanding the work in India.
Jehovah is undoubtedly pouring out his blessing upon all of his witnesses in India, inspiring them to press on so as to ‘bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.’ Everyone knows there is still work to be done. The question is, Can we do it before Armageddon and how much does Jehovah want us to do? Our brothers in India certainly have a task on their hands. It is difficult to sit down and have a discussion with a Hindu. He is so interested in his own gods, of which he has many, that he is not particularly interested in the true God, nor does the true God appeal to the philosophical mind of the Hindu. They are very intelligent people and can ask very catchy questions, but it is not because they want to learn the truth but because they love to think their way rather than be guided by the true principles of Jehovah as set forth in his Word.
The three days in India were just too full of activity, but they were very happy ones and it was early Monday morning that we left the branch office to go to the airfield for my plane to Ceylon.
Ceylon is another non-Christian community. About the only response we get from people in this country is from those who know something about the Bible and call themselves Christians. When the Kingdom missionaries in this land and their associate publishers talk to members of various church organizations they say they will never join Jehovah’s witnesses but “have no objection to studying the Bible with you.” Many are the experiences that change very stanch Catholics (whose faith “could never be shaken”) after a few months of studying the Bible. They leave the Catholic church, take a firm stand with the New World society, and really become ministers of Jehovah God. All of us have had such interesting experiences and we shall have more like them the more time we spend in the field service.
Ceylon heard present truth away back in the year 1912 when the Society’s first president visited the island. Brother Russell, on a round-the-world preaching tour, found much interest there, but no one was there to follow up, to develop the interest into a congregation. Five years ago (1951) when I visited Ceylon there were only twenty-nine publishers reporting in the one congregation located at Colombo. However, on this second visit three congregations already were established in different locations and three missionary homes, total publishers having reached 112. This certainly makes the hearts of the missionaries glad, and mine too, for that is growth in five years from 29 to 112 in a land where not many people believe the Bible.
Publicity-minded, the brothers in Ceylon did everything they could with newspapers, handbills, placards and sound cars. They kept news releases flowing into the newspaper offices and the papers published them. In this country the brothers have never been able to use the radio to give information to the people, but they did not think it was impossible; so they called on the Director of Radio in Ceylon and, much to their surprise, arrangements were made for an interview. The only time available for the broadcast was on January 1 at 7:30 p.m., after the public talk; but much information was then given to the people generally throughout Ceylon. It was a successful broadcast and I appreciated very much being interviewed by a man prominent in Ceylon.
The account of my trip will be concluded in the next issue of this magazine.
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