Part 3—Rounding the World with the Vice-President
FRIDAY, January 11, dawned over the South China Sea, and as our PAA plane, now four hours aloft, neared its destination, we passengers were advised that it was cloudy over Hong Kong and it was drizzling. Losing altitude, our plane flew through clouds for a long time. Finally it dropped down into the clear and we could see rugged islands in the green waters. Here and there were vessels, looking so tiny. One was reminded of the harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We are approaching Hong Kong by the southwest passage. From our window we could see a city below to the right of our aircraft. We come lower and seem to scrape the mountaintops. But we make it safely and at 7:53 a.m. we touch the runway of the Kai Tak airport. Meantime, as dawn broke, there were eight interested witnesses of Jehovah crossing by ferry from the City of Victoria on the island of Hong Kong to Kowloon on the Chinese mainland, there to meet twelve others, Watch Tower Society missionaries and local Chinese witnesses, to ride out to Kai Tak airport to meet the eagerly awaited plane. That bleak and cloudy morning the mountains around seemed to hem them in to the dismal atmosphere, and the question bothered them, Would the weather hold up the plane’s landing? It was a relief to them to see how, like a bird that carefully glides and drops into its small nest, the plane approached and came down on Kai Tak airstrip surrounded by mountains and sea, although two hours late. No drizzle then, but overcast!
Not too long in getting through customs and other entrance formalities, the Society’s vice-president, F.W. Franz, was soon heartily shaking hands with the Watch Tower Society’s new Hong Kong branch servant and the other missionary graduates of the Bible School of Gilead and beaming Chinese witnesses. It was a short drive from the airport to the new missionary home on Prince Edward Road in Kowloon. There breakfast was waiting, and twenty-three of us gathered together in the dining room. This dining room is also used as a Kingdom Hall, where the meetings of the Kowloon congregation are held.
The three-day assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in Hong Kong was not scheduled to begin until 6:45 that night. Thus the afternoon provided the opportunity for two carloads of us to drive around to see some of the Kowloon peninsula, this British Crown colony at the mouth of the Canton River. In the course of this drive the vice-president was taken to the scene of the terrible Hong Kong rioting that broke out in and around the Shumshuipo area last October during the celebration of the independence of Nationalist China. The former missionary home was situated in this same area. From there Brother Franz saw the spot where missionary Joan Espley passed through her terrifying “ordeal during the Hong Kong riots” on October 10, her own report thereon being published in the December 22 issue of Awake! magazine. No howling, fanatical, murder-bent mob there now!
In the evening we took a ferry that glided across the strait of waters to Hong Kong Island to dock at the wharf where the City of Victoria nestles at the foot of the world-famous Victoria Peak, 1,809 feet high. Then we go up the Caroline Hill Road to the New Method College auditorium. Here all the arrangements have been made for the celebrating of the three-day assembly of the two congregations in the British Crown colony, together with all persons of good will. There are eighty-four of us here for the opening day’s assembly session. On time the assembly opens with songs and enjoyable experiences, conducted by a Chinese brother. During the next hour there were two instructive talks on good overseers for the blessing of Jehovah’s earthly organization and on the relations of servants of a congregation with all the other brothers of the congregation. It came as a surprise, but a pleasant one, when the Society’s branch servant now released the new field-service instruction booklet entitled “Preaching Together in Unity,” published in Chinese.
All this served as a good introduction to the next feature, the vice-president’s talk through a capable, energetically speaking, native Chinese translator. The conventioners were delighted when the speaker displayed to them the new 1957 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, although only in English, and also the new 1957 calendar with its unique illustration under the year’s Bible text. Displaying this, he spoke of the grand progress being made in the expansion of Jehovah’s visible organization and in the magazine-distribution work world-wide, which really had its source in the group of the Watch Tower Society’s factories in Brooklyn, as depicted on the 1957 calendar. Brother Franz appealed to the Hong Kong conventioners for full and wholehearted co-operation in distributing The Watchtower and Awake! The Chinese edition of The Watchtower, the first number of which was dated January 1, 1956, and which was published in Hong Kong, is now printed at the Brooklyn factory group portrayed on the 1957 calendar. This appeal was loyally taken up by the Hong Kong contingent of Jehovah’s witnesses, for they have since reached a new peak in the local circulating of copies of these New World magazines. However, after the evening’s sessions there was a pleasant bit of informal association of conventioners together at the cafeteria located in the rear of the assembly auditorium. It all smacked of the flavor of Old China, exotic.
Saturday, January 12, saw a considerable crowd of us assemble in the other missionary home of the Watch Tower Society, two flights of steps up from the sidewalk of Castle Road, on Hong Kong island itself. Here too a Kingdom Hall is maintained, for the Hong Kong congregation. For many of the brothers from Kowloon on the peninsula it was the first time that they viewed and met in the Kingdom Hall and missionary home. The Hong Kong congregation were made very happy to have their Kowloon brothers there with them. Saturday is Magazine Day with Jehovah’s witnesses world-wide, and the morning session here was like a direct answer to Brother Franz’ appeal last night for greater distribution, because at this service meeting magazines were emphasized fair and squarely and the distribution this morning was to be made in the business section of the Central District. Brother Franz, the former branch servant, the present branch servant and a Cantonese-speaking Chinese sister formed one of the parties setting off into the field service. As one passes the busy and narrow streets, life in the Chinese way can be seen at a close up. It was not long till the vice-president found himself on the third floor, inside a Chinese home, listening to the branch servant witnessing in Chinese to a Cantonese-speaking mother of eight children. She had been a subscriber for the Chinese Watchtower and a local Kingdom publisher had been making return visits upon her. Literature was placed with her by the branch servant. Downstairs on the pavement we encountered Cantonese-speaking Sister Ng So Ching. So Brother Franz seized the opportunity at once to take her with him back up the steps to the home of the lady speaking the same Chinese dialect. She welcomed us in. We sat down, and after Sister Ng gave her an extended witness the lady, although a Roman Catholic religiously, readily subscribed again for The Watchtower in Chinese. Fast action! Rewarding!
The Chinese are an amazing people when it comes to utilizing space. Thousands of refugees have streamed into Hong Kong from Communist China, and they constitute quite a problem for the Crown Colony government. Quite to be expected, in the afternoon we passed by a small squatter area on a hillside. The homes were merely tiny huts, six feet by seven feet, made of patched sackcloth and tarpaulin. A family of six would be found dwelling in this matchbox home on a vacant demolished site. Water must be carried from a water main where hundreds of people would be lining up taking each one his turn in getting water supplies. There is no sanitation, just a dirt ditch. It was a relief to move along from here and see the colorful, busy market streets teeming with people selling their wares.
Supper we ate at the assembly auditorium, all of us seated together like a big family at four tables, refreshing ourselves on Chinese dishes and eating with chopsticks. In the experience meeting that featured the opening of the evening’s assembly sessions a Chinese special pioneer related her experience in the native tongue, followed by a missionary sister using an interpreter. All the missionaries are tackling the difficult task of mastering the official Chinese language. The two talks that followed in the succeeding hour were based on the year’s text, “From day to day tell the good news of salvation by him.” (Ps. 96:2, NW) They were delivered by former branch servant Carnie and his successor, C. W. Charles. The vice-president rounded off the program for the day by a talk on loyalty to the Society that the Most High God has been powerfully using in the earth in this closing century of his sixth millennium of the seventh creative day. Brother Franz exhorted the eighty-two of his audience to continue rendering heart-given loyalty to Jehovah’s instrument.
Sunday, January 13, came, with all its reason for expectancy but with the somewhat saddening realization that this was the last day of a warmth-giving assembly here in this isolated corner of the earth. The weather certainly did not seem to want to give up its cloudiness and bleakness. Field activities in the witness work distinguished this final morning of the assembly. In the course of the morning the vice-president was delighted to view picturesque City of Victoria with its ten-mile water front and Kowloon across the strait, from the peak-top 1,800 feet above sea level. From here one could appreciate why the place was called Hong Kong, which in English means “Fragrant Harbor.”
The name Kowloon, meaning “Nine Dragons,” referred to the small range of hilltops, originally near the present Kai Tak airfield but now demolished. A million of the estimated total population of 2,500,000 live on the island of Hong Kong. Descending from peak-top to the other side of the island one comes upon Aberdeen, a small Chinese fishing port crammed with Chinese fishing junks laden with fish of all kinds. It is here that the famous Hong Kong “floating restaurants” can be seen. From sightseeing this part of the witnessing territory of the Hong Kong publishers one returns to the assembly auditorium in time to accompany a special pioneer Chinese sister in house-to-house witnessing in a poor section of the City of Victoria. The crammed conditions of these homes of poverty well emphasized the need for the inhabitants to hear the message then being so intensely advertised and to be given that afternoon in the public address, “New World Peace in Our Time—Why?” However poor these people may be materially, they are never stingy, though, with their hospitality.
After dinner at the assembly auditorium a baptism service was held for those who desired to give a public seal to their dedication of themselves to Jehovah God to walk in the footsteps of his Son Jesus Christ. There were seven that responded with Yes to the speaker’s two questions for ascertaining their worthiness. These were immersed in the bathroom of the not-distant Hong Kong Kingdom Hall, for in mid-January it was cold by the seashore.
As the announced hour of 3:30 p.m. drew near there was a drizzle that filled the air. Nonetheless the newspaper publicity giving excellent write-ups, the photograph of a group of Jehovah’s witnesses and another of the Society’s vice-president, the handbills, the placards and much advertising by word of mouth paved the way for many of the preoccupied public to come to the New Method College auditorium for the attractively titled talk. Despite the cheerless weather 167 made their way to the place. For this land of Buddhism and idolatry the attention given the visiting speaker was rapt. People of good will in attendance were very much impressed with what they heard through the Chinese interpreter. At the close of the public talk thirty-seven copies of the Chinese booklet “This Good News of the Kingdom” and seventeen copies of the English booklet World Conquest Soon—by God’s Kingdom were placed free with those eager for more information in print, and seven signed slips were handed in requesting a call at the home by one of Jehovah’s witnesses.
There were seventy-five that remained for the evening’s sessions with which the assembly concluded. The talk by branch servant Charles on the theme “Where Your Treasure Is There Your Heart Will Be” made it clear that the world can influence those taking up the Christian course and that the effective counterbalance is God’s kingdom. The soon-departing vice-president was given the final place on the program. Sensing the dangerousness of the times he focused his parting words on the need to stick close to the organization of Jehovah’s people that we might be kept in the lifesaving truth. No sooner was this talk finished than branch servant Charles stepped forward and read a resolution voicing recognition of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society as the instrument used by Jehovah to direct his people now on earth before Armageddon and pledging continued loyalty and support to it. Former branch servant Carnie, himself a certificated member of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, seconded Charles’ motion to adopt this resolution. The unanimous Aye! that arose in adoption of the resolution was full of conviction and determination. So the Hong Kong assembly ended on a splendid note indeed.
Next day, Monday, in the two hours before noon some of the Hong Kong brothers were reminded of Paul’s farewell to the brothers down at the beach on the stopover at the port of Tyre. (Acts 21:2-6) On the sands near Repulse Bay Hotel nineteen missionaries and special pioneers held a service meeting near the waters of this well-known bay. Brother Franz considered their field-service problems and gave them stimulating exhortation. A sumptuous material meal with them all followed in the Golden City Restaurant on Queens Road Center in the City of Victoria. Now we must retrace our steps to the Kai Tak airport outside of Kowloon. Precious last moments of contact and conversation with Hong Kong brothers are enjoyed there before the vice-president is called to board the flying Orient Star. A political congressman is among the passengers, and so all our baggage goes aboard this bimotored plane without inspection, out of courtesy to him. At about 4:36 p.m. our plane takes its final bounce off the runway and soon we are soaring out over the waters and islands of that area.
MANILA, PHILIPPINE REPUBLIC
After affording its passengers a beautiful view of Manila’s night lights from the air, our bimotored plane Orient Star made contact with terra firma at the P.A.L. airport about 7:35 p.m. As the arriving vice-president walked to the customs building a delegation of quite a number of expectant witnesses of Jehovah let out a shout. With the aid of a customs broker, a Philippine witness, it was quick work in getting through customs and coming in direct touch with the welcoming brothers. The Watch Tower Society’s branch in Quezon City extended its hospitality to the visiting official by assigning him a room and all the comforts of Brooklyn headquarters home for the next four days. But before retirement for the night the pleasure was seized of talking to a large gathering of branch family members, missionaries and native Philippine brothers till very late, and so getting better acquainted.
The visit of Brother Franz was made the occasion of a national assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the many islands of the Philippines for three days, January 15-17, 1957. For this the same stadium that was used the previous spring when the Society’s president and his secretary visited the Philippines was engaged, the beautiful Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. In spite of the shortness of time in notifying the scattered brothers, it was gratifying to observe that those who came to attend were from all over the Philippines. The missionary graduate of Gilead who was appointed as assembly servant did a good job in its behalf. The kickoff meeting that he arranged a couple of months before the actual event nicely geared the assembly organization for the big undertaking ahead. A successful assembly resulted.
The program of events offered all the conventioners a sumptuous spiritual repast for morning, afternoon and night. The speeches were to be presented in the two leading dialects of the Islands, Ilocano and Tagalog, as well as in English. An attractive platform featuring watchtowers and adorned with the 1957 yeartext on banners in the eight principal languages of the Philippines was erected on the grassy field, centered in front of the long-roofed grandstand that is flanked by the bleachers that extend all around the oval track of the great stadium. A novel feature was the displacing of a musical orchestra by a mixed chorus of voices accompanied by merely a piano. Under the musical direction of a Gilead graduate the chorus gave the assembly an introduction to each song selected by singing the first verse, after which the entire assembly took up the song and swelled it loudly. This functioned very well.
The public relations servant arranged for newsmaking interviews. So, on the morning of the assembly’s opening day, Tuesday, January 15, Brother Franz, accompanied by this servant, went to two radio stations for engagements. The first one, DZFM (The People’s Station), is owned by the Philippine government. The program director was very friendly. Despite not feeling too well he graciously kept his appointment for the interview. He even canceled a thirty-minute paid program over the radio in order to accommodate the vice-president of the Watch Tower Society. The half-hour interview was “right off the cuff” and was broadcast direct from the studio. The program director was pleased with the information of public interest that Brother Franz gave in replies to many questions, especially the stand of Jehovah’s witnesses toward godless communism. The Philippine Islands have no diplomatic relations with the Soviet government of Russia.
Immediately after the first interview it was necessary to proceed to CBN (Chronicle Broadcasting Network), a commercial station, to keep an appointment. There a fifteen-minute interview was recorded. This was broadcast the following day, and the sound department at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium was able to record it from the air and to replay it in the evening during an intermission of the assembly.
Meanwhile the Society’s branch servant, who was also the assembly chairman, was holding a two-hour session in the stadium grandstand with the district, circuit and congregation servants. The most of the other conventioners utilized the morning in field service. As the official assembly opening in the afternoon drew on, the sky was overcast and there were some showers. Nevertheless on this, the first day, the grandstand was full and some of the conventioners were sitting in the bleachers. The branch servant, as assembly chairman, gave the official address of welcome to this fine turnout of brothers, and thereafter the seven spiritual goals of Jehovah’s witnesses for 1957 were ably discussed by seven brothers.
For the evening’s features the crowd increased appreciably, from 5,768 in the afternoon to 6,353 now. The vice-president’s talk to them on backing up Jehovah’s visible organization proved to be most timely as well as giving them a viewpoint many had not had previously. This gave them a basis for better understanding and more fully appreciating the climactic feature that followed, the presentation of the special resolution, which, since early last summer, had been undergoing adoption by assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses around the globe. The matter, presented first in English, was translated simultaneously by interpreters to the speaker’s right and left into Ilocano and Tagalog. When the speaker raised his hand for the vote to be expressed upon the motion before the assembled 6,353, there was enthusiastic applause with the viva voce adoption of this courageous, forthright resolution against Communist persecution, in English, Ilocano and Tagalog. Incidentally, the simultaneous translating of the talks from the English by the translators, each equipped with earphones that were wired in with the central microphone, into Ilocano and Tagalog saved much time, and each language group in its own assigned place in the grandstand heard distinctly without confusion of sound. The arrangement worked excellently, and many were the expressions of appreciation by the conventioners for this great improvement over the translation method at last year’s national assembly at this same place.
Wednesday, January 16, after the consideration of the day’s Bible text at the stadium there was again joyful, united field service. Also in the grandstand during the progress of the morning meetings were conducted in the various dialects—Cebu-Visayan, Hiligaynon-Visayan, Bicolano and Pampango—for the benefit of the conventioners that did not understand the three main languages used. The summary of the previous day’s program, especially the special resolution against communism, was presented at those dialect meetings. At the same time, in the cafeteria on grounds almost directly across the street from the football stadium, the branch servant conducted an exclusive meeting with the district and circuit servants for the Philippine Islands. In this way spiritual food as well as material food was dispensed at this New World Peace Assembly cafeteria, with its kitchen and its serving lines and many eating tables, all under sheltering roofs, ingeniously constructed by the witnesses of Jehovah themselves.
Some news reporters were smart enough to concern themselves with the biggest thing then taking place in the national capital. Shortly after 10 a.m. four of them sat facing Brother Franz in a room in the administration building and plied him with questions. The reporter from the second-largest newspaper turned out to be the most enthusiastic. His paper, the Manila Chronicle, published the interview on its front page, with the heading, “‘Witnesses’ Head Says They Will Stay Neutral in Case of War,” and under the vice-president’s picture appeared the words “ . . . no meddling in politics.” The write-up was very good. The newspapermen, having got enough information, left, but in trooped twenty-five missionary graduates of Gilead yet in the full-time service there in the Philippine Islands. Their questions, of a different kind, extracted valuable counsel concerning local problems faced by missionaries. These devoted hunters and gatherers of the Good Shepherd’s sheep were exhorted to be optimistic and to forge ahead in their lifesaving activities and hold fast to their invaluable assignment, not forsaking their post of duty.
In the afternoon, on the assembly platform, two symposia were conducted by speakers from the Society’s Philippine branch and the traveling circuit servants. The first symposium dealt with “Congregation Organization” and the second with “Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom with Magazines.” Also at 2:10 p.m. this afternoon Brother Franz was interviewed on the floating stage of Studio K of radio station DZRH at the Manila Broadcasting Company building, for fifteen minutes. However, when the “big wheels” heard the recording of the interview, they were loath to put it on the air. Evening came on and, under a clear sky and a full moon, Brother Franz addressed the assembly on “Keeping Within the Bounds of the New World Society.” The 6,919 in attendance showed rapt attention and broke out in applauses. They appreciated the point of one’s demonstrating unbreakable faithfulness within Jehovah’s favored organization.
Inexorably, as with all assemblies, the final day of the Manila assembly arrived. A crowded day it was. Baptism was scheduled as the first thing in the morning. The questions directed to the candidates for baptism to determine their worthiness for it were asked in as many dialects as were spoken by the candidates, besides in English—in Tagalog, Ilocano, Cebu-Visayan, Hiligaynon-Visayan, Bicolano, Samareno, Pangasinan, Pampango, Zambel and Ibanag. In spite of the difference of language all were alike in being dedicated to the same God Jehovah and in understanding his kingdom truth. Accordingly, 279 were favored with baptism in the YMCA swimming pool, not far from the Rizal Stadium, where 6,572 had heard them answer the decisive questions affirmatively.
In view of the fact that the close of the day was to be devoted to the public meeting, the afternoon speakers on the platform were the ones to give parting admonitions to the brothers themselves. They were aware that during the past year the Philippine witnessing organization had suffered a considerable loss in the number of active, publishing ministers. So they encouraged the conventioners to strive to recover from the past losses and to keep pace with the rest of the New World society in ministerial expansion. Appropriately the Philippine branch servant, Earl K. Stewart, delivered the closing talk of the afternoon and spurred them on to greater efficiency as New World ministers. The 7,652 listeners took the matter to heart.
A forty-five-minute intermission, and then in the cool of early evening the public meeting crowd that overflowed the grandstand into the bleachers gave ear to the presentation, in English, Ilocano and Tagalog, of “New World Peace in Our Time—Why?” This, the largest attendance at the assembly, 9,463 by count, was very responsive. They applauded the fact that the speaker, Brother Franz, appeared before them in formal Philippine attire, wearing a barong Tagalog, the handsome gift to him of appreciative Philippine brothers, and they vigorously applauded the soul-stirring points of his talk so unhesitatingly and animatedly rendered by the translators at his right and left. They heard, they understood, they felt! Their appreciation of the New World message was further displayed by their accepting at the close thousands of free copies of the booklet “This Good News of the Kingdom”. This public lecture and all the field activities that had been carried on prior thereto by the thousands of visiting witnesses in the city left the foundation for a tremendous amount of follow-up work to be shouldered by the congregations in the capital city.
As a whole the assembly showed much spiritual growth over previous ones. An improvement in the behavior of the conventioners was to be noted, the different assembly departments were better organized and showed more efficiency, especially the New World Peace Assembly cafeteria and the vital sound department. The publicity department sent out news releases eight different days, to six English dailies, two Tagalog, three Chinese, and to six weeklies and fourteen provincial papers. There were at least 346 column inches of news releases, especially to the widely circulated daily newspapers. At the time of this report one weekly magazine came out with a feature article based on the information from the publicity department, in English, on February 2, and another weekly, in Tagalog, on February 10.
Inasmuch as the Philippine Republic does not maintain diplomatic relations with the Soviet government at Moscow, what was to be done with the first carbon copy of the special resolution that had been adopted and officially signed on the assembly platform before 6,353 conventioners the first night? There had to be an intermediary to get it to the proper Russian diplomatic channels. Timelily, the last thing before his departure from the national capital on Friday, January 18, Brother Franz, accompanied by the branch servant and our customs broker, proceeded to the Department of Justice building in the hour before noon. There we were ushered into the office of the then vice-president of the Philippine Republic, Mr. Carlos García, who was also acting as secretary of Foreign Affairs. It was especially in this latter capacity that this high official was approached. The honorable Mr. García proved to be very affable and considerate. He sat down with the Society’s vice-president on a settee and talked particularly with him very conversationally. He seemed to become oblivious to time. So, before the interview closed because the Society’s vice-president had to get away to the airport, the Philippine vice-president had granted forty minutes of his valuable time. Democratically and in support of constitutional freedom to worship God according to the dictates of one’s conscience he accepted from Brother Franz’ hands the signed copy of the special resolution and said he would forward it to the proper Russian official through the American government. Due appreciation was sincerely expressed to Vice-president García for his kindness. Two months later, on March 18, he was sworn in at Manila to succeed in office the air-crash victim, President Ramón Magsaysay.
At the Manila international airport a number of brothers, Filipinos and missionaries, gathered to see Brother Franz off. Eventually, about 2:30 p.m., the former Flying Tiger soared into the air and out over Manila Bay, bound for Brother Franz’ next stop.
(To be continued)
[Picture on page 473]