Part 4—President Visits Europe and Middle East
This concludes N. H. Knorr’s account of his service tour.
WHILE I was still in India the national convention in Ceylon began. A newly built hall was used for the general sessions of the assembly, namely, the Red Cross Society Hall; it was ideal and of just the right size. Situated right next door was the Colombo congregation’s Kingdom Hall, which was turned into a cafeteria; so things were really convenient for a successful assembly. During the convention they had the first public showing of the film “The Happiness of the New World Society.” This was surely appreciated by everyone, and more happiness was brought to the hearts of all when fifteen of our new brothers and sisters were baptized. This was done right in front of the missionary home, located along the Indian Ocean.
Because of the assembly sessions it was not at all reasonable that the brothers should come out to meet me at the airport, although the branch servant and a few of the others did come; before long I was at the Kingdom Hall to speak. The brothers were certainly warm in their reception. It was a pleasure to be with them again and to see the wonderful growth in the organization in just five years. Faces of the 145 assembled gave evidence of how much they appreciated this visit, and it could be appreciated too that most of these happy persons were new in the New World society.
While the old world was celebrating its new year with firecrackers, much noise and senseless revelry, Jehovah’s people were enjoying a remarkable assembly. At 5:30 that evening it was time for everyone to assemble at the town hall to hear the public lecture. Five years ago only 235 attended when I spoke at the same place. Now the hall was filled right to the last row, with a number standing. The final count showed 435 who listened very attentively to the public talk. Just before the talk began a brother whom I knew came up to me and said: “Brother Knorr, do you remember me from five years ago? I was a young lad then and I asked you a question.” I said: “Well, I don’t recall the question, but probably I would now give the same answer.” He said: “Well, my question was, Should I continue to go to school; I’m in my first year of college now, or should I go into the pioneer work? And your answer to me was: ‘Well, it is whatever you want to be; if you want to be a minister, then work at the ministry; if you intend to be some important man in the old world, then keep going to college. It is for you to decide.’” He continued, saying he had gone home that evening and told his father that he was going to quit college and go into the pioneer service. He realized from what I had said that if he wanted to be a minister then he had better get working at it. Now it was a real joy to talk to him, because he has been in the pioneer work all of these five years and now has advanced into the special pioneer activity. He married a very fine girl who was a pioneer, and both are now special pioneers, working in isolated territory. They have nine persons who are just about ready to dedicate themselves to Jehovah God. They signed up for the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and very likely these two will be over in 1958, going through school. Now he will get a real education in the highest school of learning. He certainly was happy and rejoicing that he had taken that course and wanted to thank me for the counsel that I had given him.
So the work in Ceylon moves ahead. The next two days I spent in the branch office, working on the problems of the country and checking the records of the Society. Thursday (January 3) when I went to the airport many of the brothers came also to say good-by. I was surprised to find a hundred there (and more, counting children); and to express their joy they sang the beautiful Kingdom songs. Many passengers were enthralled by their singing and many stopped conversation just to listen. On my going through the immigration section again one of the officers, when stamping my passport, said: “Well, Mr. Knorr, how was your public talk? Did you have a good crowd?” Also, the customs officials recognized that I was the one who had spoken at the town hall, and they were all very pleasant. Evidently the people of Ceylon knew that Jehovah’s witnesses had a convention. They know that the witnesses are very energetic and active in preaching the good news; and it is hoped and prayed that this assembly of the Lord’s people in Colombo will aid many in taking their stand now for the Kingdom.
Ceylon was the turning-around point; so when I said good-by there, I started on my way home. Back to Karachi we went, for a three-hour layover, and some of the brothers there came out to meet me, and this was most enjoyable. Then I flew to Beirut, arriving at 4:30 in the morning. I called the branch servant and he came out at that hour just to say a few words, and I certainly enjoyed seeing him again and hearing of his visit with the brothers in Baghdad and Teheran. Then I flew on to Rome. (This was just a changing place for Barcelona, my next stop.) In staying overnight at the Rome branch office it was my joy to meet with many of the missionaries who had come from different parts of Italy and we had a delightful time together. It was a joy to tell them about my visit to other countries and to answer their questions. Early the next morning I was away, flying over beautiful blue waters of the great Mediterranean, seeing the southern Alps, and then finally Barcelona.
The work in Spain is going along marvelously well. As everyone knows, this country is ruled by Catholic priests. Protestants or any non-Catholics are not welcome here, but it appears that people of Barcelona are very liberal and many are searching for truth, desiring knowledge of Jehovah and His Word. Persons who represent the Society in Barcelona are very energetic and have organized the brothers into small groups or congregations, appointing servants over all of these groups. It was my good pleasure to speak to all the groups in Barcelona. Some evenings I talked from five o’clock until eleven, giving five one-hour discourses in different homes, meeting with small groups. It was such a joy to see the happiness of the faces of these brothers and their delight in hearing the truth and to associate with one another.
The work in Spain is well organized. In various cities there are congregations, the brothers regularly coming together to study the Word of God and, as they have opportunity, to preach the good news to their neighbors and friends. While I was there the reports were coming in for the month of December, and great was our joy when we saw that there had been an increase of 47 percent over last year’s average, or a total of 650 publishers now preaching the good news.
After a very pleasant time with our brothers in Barcelona I went on to Madrid, spending one day with our brothers there. I spoke to various small congregations, four of them in one evening; I also visited with friends who had been to Gilead school and who are now living in Spain. What a happy people they are! Their relief is great now that they have come away from the Catholic church and have the freedom to study their own Bible and to be able to speak freely about the good things they have learned, helping still others. Yes, my stay in Spain was delightful. While every minute was taken up talking to someone—to persons in the full-time service, those there from Gilead school and servants on special occasions—still it was all joy; and a work is now started in Spain that will never die out, for the brothers there are zealous. They want to preach, and God is blessing them. From Madrid I went on to Tangier in Morocco, and here a few missionaries met me and we had a pleasant time.
After my arrival that evening (January 10) a meeting was arranged in the home of one of the brothers. In Tangier the work was opened up just a little over a year ago and, much to my surprise, fifty-eight persons packed out the two rooms in the apartment being used for the meeting. The hallway was crowded, with persons standing, and every seat was occupied.
It was so good to talk to these people. Their interest was so keen. Of course, I had to speak through an interpreter, who spoke in Spanish right after I spoke each sentence in English. Back in one corner of the room was a small group of French-speaking people, huddled together, and for them another brother interpreted in a low voice the things that I was saying in English. So everyone understood and they rejoiced that they could hear the good news. Also present was one person working with the United Nations organization who had told the missionaries that his only hope for world peace was in the United Nations. Every time the missionaries had called upon him he had told them of the charter that he had on his wall and that this was really the thing that would bring peace to the world. However, he came to the meeting and listened very attentively; the next morning he went to the missionaries and said: “I have taken the charter down off my wall, because I don’t think the U.N. is going to work. I am positively sure that what was said last night is the thing that is going to bring peace and happiness to the world of mankind and I want to know more about God’s kingdom.”
Many others here are truly interested in life and they long for happiness, not in this old world but in the new world of righteousness. Tangier is an interesting city and I had opportunity to see some of it with some of the friends before I left for Lisbon. I was in Tangier only one day, but it was a pleasure to associate with the missionaries, to learn of their problems, their joys, their experiences, and to see the progress made in such a short time.
Arriving on time at Lisbon by plane, soon afterward I again spoke twice in one evening at meetings with the brothers here, first to seventy-five and at another place to forty-five. Portugal is another Catholic country where Jehovah’s witnesses are not allowed the freedom that they enjoy in many other countries of the world. Still they do meet together here in fine Kingdom Halls and in large numbers. It is not as in Spain, where the government allows only twenty persons to be together in private homes. While in Portugal our brothers do not have government approval to meet together, they are not prevented and they keep carrying on the work with great energy and zeal.
Several times I was able to talk, in all to about 190 different persons, besides checking the branch office in Lisbon and arranging to advance the work, putting on more special pioneers to see what can be done to preach the good news in a greater way throughout this country. At Lisbon reports on work for December were coming in from all parts of the territory—the Azores, Madeira Islands and Portugal itself; and they had a 41-percent increase. Were they happy! Yes, in these countries where oppression prevails and no freedom of assembly is enjoyed our brothers continue working diligently. They are fighting the right kind of warfare.
This was my last stop before coming back to America, but I had to reflect on the past seven weeks of traveling. I could not help but think of the text at 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage warfare according to what we are in the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things.” (NW) These brothers of ours in Greece, Turkey, Spain and Portugal and countries like Pakistan, India and Ceylon, where people neither respect God nor believe his Word—yes, these brothers of ours certainly are waging a warfare, but not according to the flesh. And they are powerful by God. Upon them Jehovah has richly poured out his spirit and they have pressed on against great odds. In all these lands Kingdom missionaries have gone forth, opening up new fields, new cities, new territories; they have gone into isolated places and Jehovah has richly blessed them. Their only weapon, the sword of the spirit, they wield with dexterity and they are overthrowing strongly entrenched things. Yes, people are pulling away from paganism, they are pulling away from idol worship in Catholic churches and from false doctrines in Protestant organizations. Those who have no religion are pulling away from the old world and are associating themselves with the New World society. This is the time when the good news of the Kingdom must be preached in all the world for a witness and it is being done. I am very grateful to Jehovah God for the opportunity of serving these brothers and of working shoulder to shoulder with them.
Everywhere I went the brothers asked me to carry along their love and greetings and to give it to the brothers in other lands. This I have done; and now I take opportunity through The Watchtower to express to all of Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the world the warm love, joy and gladness of our brothers in countries I have visited during these last winter months. My prayer is that Jehovah will strengthen them all and build them up in the most holy faith so that they may continue on in this great work of announcing the King and the Kingdom. May they all be ever faithful. It was so good to hear the missionaries and many others say, “Hope to see you in 1958!” Jehovah willing, we shall.
[Pictures on page 365]