Part 1—Rounding the World with the Vice-President
FACED with nine days of quarantine after one’s arrival in a land far distant from home—that was the predicament of the vice-president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania Saturday morning, December 22, 1956, in the airport building at Karachi, Pakistan. F. W. Franz in company with N. H. Knorr, the president of the same Society, had arrived there from Istanbul, Turkey, almost two days late because of delay of planes owing to bad weather over Great Britain and Europe. In the emergency they had finally succeeded in getting a plane, a few hours earlier than the scheduled one for them, out of Istanbul. But this plane had, some days before, come from the yellow fever zone in South Africa. When it arrived with its passengers in Karachi the medical authorities there examined the plane’s official records and decided the plane had not been sprayed properly against yellow fever in New York city’s international airport and in Britain’s airport. All passengers arriving in Karachi had thus been exposed to the plague of yellow fever. Finally, after waiting almost two hours until noon, those passengers having valid, acceptable yellow-fever inoculation certificates were let through customs and out into the freedom of the city. That included the Society’s president, Brother Knorr.
Preparations went forward to transfer the detained passengers, about fifteen including the vice president, by ambulance to the distant airport quarantine building. About half past four p.m. the vice-president with two others climbed into the ambulance on its last pickup. But over four hours of further waiting had allowed the president to make two visits upon him, first talking through a glass window up to which he had climbed and later through a window screen of a corridor shortly before boarding his evening plane for Lahore, Pakistan. These unconventional visits were very encouraging to the detained vice-president with his uncertain future, he having now been relieved of both his passport and his air tickets and being practically helpless. At any rate, it was excellent that the Society’s president was free to get to the Lahore assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses before it closed on Sunday evening and thereafter to other appointments in India and Ceylon.
On entering the screened-in quarantine building the new arrivals were sprayed against further infection or infectiousness. The vice-president was assigned to a bed in a room with five beds. He sat down at a table and waited, confident that Almighty God would intervene to make it possible for him to meet his convention appointments in New Delhi and Calcutta, India, and in Rangoon, Burma. Darkness fell as the sun went down. Quarter after six p.m. came. A doorbell outside rang. There was a scamper of feet. Then a woman’s shriek! The vice-president dashed out into the hallway. A cry greeted him: “We’re free!” For over eight hours we had been held prisoner, and now the American traffic agent was outside with automobiles to take us away and get us through the airport customs and to a hotel and a good meal in freedom. “Gott sei Dank!” (”Thanks to God!”) exclaimed a passenger from Germany. Yes, our deliverance was an answer to victorious prayer to Jehovah. All day long a battle had raged between interested officials medical, immigration and traffic both for Pakistan and for the Pan American Airways company and the American embassy. Cablegrams had been exchanged between Pakistan and America and Britain involving medical procedures. Finally the Pakistani authorities felt themselves free, in accord with the International Health Laws, to pronounce the detained passengers no health risk, and these were loosed from further quarantine. The vice-president was again in position to meet his impending appointments within the next nine days without any delays. News of the deliverance was telegraphed that night to the Society’s president at Lahore, Pakistan.
The next morning Brother Franz was able to advance his departure from West Pakistan by one day, to fly to India that afternoon. Meantime, a man of good will in Karachi, a Mr. Britain, had been alerted by telephone from Lahore about the presence of the Society’s vice-president in Karachi. Providentially he was able to trail Brother Franz immediately after he had left the India Airlines Corporation offices. It was a heart-gladdening meeting on the pavement outside, and good-will Britain took over a half hour out of his heavy schedule of work, which had prevented him from attending the Lahore assembly, and motored Brother Franz to fine points of interest in Karachi and finally to his hotel. Brother Franz now somewhat regretted that he had advanced his departure from the capital city, preventing his visiting with three persons that had been deprived of the privilege of getting to Lahore for the assembly. But holding now to changed arrangements. he was safely piloted by a heavily bearded, turbaned, brown-skinned man at the airplane “stick” high over the Indus River channels and the burnt-looking Indian desert northeastward to the New Delhi airport. His effort to get in touch with the Watch Tower missionaries in the Indian capital that night resulted in no connections.
NEW DELHI, INDIA
It was a big surprise when Brother Franz called on the missionary home servant in New Delhi in the midmorning of Monday, December 24. The missionaries and local brothers in Delhi had arranged to meet him at the airport at 6:40 that evening, and here he was already in town, with the majority of the brothers unaware of it and probably all anticipating meeting him at the airport at night. So now the process was reversed. Brother Franz proceeded to go to the airport to meet our Indian brothers there. It was a very pleasant surprise when he came in the car of a good-will person and met the welcoming crowd. In the usual Indian fashion one young Indian sister of tender years garlanded him about the neck with a sweet-smelling wreath of roses and chrysanthemums, as a traditional welcome to this great subcontinent of India.
With extra time on his hands the vice-president decided to make the best use of it for the brothers’ sake. So from the airport to the Kingdom Hall not far away the entire company of thirty-seven welcomers went. One of the local families has graciously provided a large room for use as a Kingdom Hall. There all present followed with the greatest interest and enjoyment the official firsthand account of the round-the-world service tour right up to date. Beyond doubt they were all very much delighted and deeply moved to receive through an officer of the Society the messages of love from the Brooklyn headquarters home and the Watchtower School of Gilead and from the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Lebanon, and they felt more keenly the perfect bond of unity that binds us all together all around the globe. This was a feast the brothers here had not expected, and as they heard directly how their fellow fighters in other parts of the earth were standing firm in their right to “tell the good news of salvation by him [God],” it strengthened their own determination to carry on in this life-giving activity. The brothers were then advised of the arrangements made for all to meet the following morning, the traditional Christmas morning, at 8:30 for magazine activity.
In India the Hindus along with the nominal Christians make the best of December 25, sending cards to one another and getting the so-called Christmas spirit. As in Western countries, Christmas means good business for many shopkeepers. In no country do Jehovah’s witnesses follow that pattern. Along with the brothers in every other country where their activities identify them, the brothers in Delhi took advantage of the holiday to engage in magazine activity, thus through the magazines The Watchtower and Awake! drawing the attention of East Indians to the only thing that will totally establish peace among men of good will, namely, Jehovah’s New World government. So that morning, at the C.P.W.D. Assembly Hall, which had been hired for the day, there was a pleasant half-hour meeting, Brother Franz handling the discussion of the day’s text and a few demonstrations being staged to illustrate methods of introducing the magazines. About 9:15 a.m. it was off to the field for twenty-eight brothers and sisters. The vice-president worked every other house with the missionary home servant for an hour. At the end of the activity by all, the count showed that in the hour the twenty-eight publishers had placed 145 magazines and 36 booklets, or better than five magazines each, among this mixed religious population, besides distributing handbills. This demonstrated the capacity of many in the congregations for reaching over half their magazine-placement quota monthly in just a short time if they work with a will and take advantage of every occasion to enlarge the scope of this feature of Kingdom advertising.
At 11 a.m. the meeting was reopened for regular discoursing, to be addressed by the vice-president. The people of good will were invited to this session, and it was a delight to see a total of seventy-five in the audience. In view of the fact that those in India are so far away from the Brooklyn headquarters of the New World society, all those present felt truly blessed with the speaker’s careful unfolding of the pattern of things that makes up Jehovah’s incomparable visible organization on earth. A material dinner now intervened, but at 4 p.m. the audience, now enlarged, were back again in their seats, this time to hear the public lecture by the visiting speaker on “New World Peace in Our Time—Why?” Here in the audience were people of various religions, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Mohammedan and professedly Christian, and in spite of its being Christmas Day the audience numbered eighty-five. A number of those who had been invited to the meeting at the time of calling on their homes in the morning’s magazine distribution were present. During the course of the address, delivered in English alone, it was clearly established that Jesus’ prophecy about the present world distress was a sure vindication of him as a true prophet of God worthy of acceptance by those of all nations no matter of what religion at the moment. The peace of the new world that is to follow the war of Armageddon will be guaranteed by him as the reigning Prince of Peace. It is now the time to get into God’s organization of peaceable ones in order to survive the end of this world of warring nations soon at Armageddon and enter the new world of peace.
After the talk the speaker mixed freely with the audience and was very happy to be introduced to persons of good will that had come to hear this talk of international importance. With them he discussed in detail further points in which they are interested. There are many intelligent, thinking minds over there in the Orient. God’s Word the Bible has the only adequate message for them.
It was only a one-day assembly. So the following day allowed for the missionaries and a native pioneer to take the vice-president on a trip to see some of Delhi’s famous sights. Out the party went, first to the Kutab Minar, a beautiful, sky-scraping. artistically designed tower, built in stages between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries (A.D.). It is described as the seventh wonder of India, and lies nearly eleven miles to the southwest of Delhi. It is said that the original idea behind erecting this tower was the desire of the wife of Maharaja Prithvi Raj Chauhan to see the sacred river Jumna from its heights every day. The famous Red Fort in Delhi was also visited, after which the sightseeing group went to one of Delhi’s most modern temples, called Birla Temple after the name of the rich magnate who financed it. Here the party had to take off their shoes and travel around in special stockings, which they procured as an alternative to wearing used slippers that the temple authorities issued to visitors who did not go barefoot. It was hygienically safer to tramp the temple stairs and pavements with cheap new socks on than with old slippers that many other feet had worn previously. Here the gods of the Hindus were on display, including Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and the goddess Durga and others.
The party specially stopped to read the writing in black all-capital letters painted on the right side of the central main entrance of Birla Temple, written in Sanskrit and Hindi and English, which read: “He who is known as Vishnu* is verily Rudra,* and he who is Rudra is Brahma,* one entity functioning as three gods, i.e., Rudra, Vishnu and Brahma.” This evoked from the party the immediate comment on how amazingly alike this was to the trinity creed of Christendom and the similarity of expression used in trying to define it. The temple was also adorned with the swastika that was made the symbol of Hitler’s Nazism, with the hooks of the swastika turned to the right, clockwise. Under “Swastika” the temple guidebook says: “This (Swastika) symbol is most sacred and ancient. At least for more than the last 8,000 years, it has been the mark of Aryan (Hindu) civilisation and culture. This symbol signifies an implied prayer for success, accomplishment and perfection, in every walk of life, under the guidance of the Almighty. It is found not only in India, but in the Buddhist and other foreign countries.” (Page 20) It was also striking for our party to observe how the temple worshipers folded their hands in prayer and bowed to their temple images just the same as Roman Catholics do before their images in their church buildings.
So much for sightseeing. The oncoming evening was available for a final meeting with the brothers at their Kingdom Hall, for the following morning the vice-president had to be off early for Calcutta. At the agreed time, 6:30 p.m., the brothers eagerly came together, thirty-nine of them, and their visitor from Brooklyn addressed them on the thoughts contained in Psalm 96:1, 2, New World Translation. The listeners were absorbed with deepest interest in this stimulating array of facts marshaled before their minds in clear, vivid detail, to enable them the better to “sing to Jehovah a new song.” One and all sat with rapt attention for about ninety minutes and were sorry it had to come to an end. Finally the audience were instructed to get to every meeting including the theocratic ministry school. This, the speaker said, will help us to sing the “new song” without cracked voices, thus causing no obstacle to people’s listening. The meeting was fittingly closed with singing the musical number “The New Song!” The little congregation also asked the vice-president to take a message of love along with him to our brothers in Calcutta and to all others along the way clear back to Brooklyn, New York.
His final material meal of the day Brother Franz ate thereafter in true Indian style, with the usual rice, meat and chapatties, thus enjoying the hospitality of one of the kind families here who have taken their stand for pure worship, even setting aside their big room for the Kingdom Hall. The Delhi congregation then had an average of thirty-four congregation publishers together with seven pioneers, making a total of forty-one for the local group. They were part of the brothers throughout India who worked for an increase of 9 percent in the number of Kingdom publishers during the past year.
The alarm clock went off at 4 a.m. Thursday, December 27. But none too soon for the missionary home servant, Brother Stephen Smith, to prepare himself to take the morning train out for Bombay, twenty-four hours’ riding to the south, traveling third class, to attend the assembly there at which the Society’s president, Brother Knorr, was to serve. Also the vice-president made it in time to the distant Paalam airport to catch the 7:45 a.m. plane for Calcutta. Pleasant converse was held with another group of the friends before he boarded the plane, enriched with blessed memories of his short visit with the brothers in northwestern India. Soon his plane was aloft, bearing him southeastward toward the delta of the Ganges 850 miles away.
(To be continued)