Assemblies Manifest “Fruitage of the Spirit”
“IT’S AMAZING! I’ve never seen anything like it, and they are all so happy, and look at the number of young people!” So said the editor of the daily newspaper in Alberni, British Columbia, Canada, after observing the conduct and attitude of delegates to the “Fruitage of the Spirit” Assembly there. That assembly was just one of 231 assemblies in a series held by Jehovah’s witnesses during 1964 in 49 countries up to the time that this report was written. The reaction of this newspaper editor was typical, because the people attending these assemblies reflected the Christian qualities that make up the fruitage of God’s spirit.
Taking their theme from the Bible at Galatians 5:22, 23, the assemblies highlighted the nine Christian qualities mentioned there: “The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” Each of these nine fruits of the spirit was the subject of an assembly talk in which specific information was given as to how to manifest it.
That they were more than just theory to the many delegates was evident by their conduct. During the assembly at Rønne, Denmark, a family that never before had been in contact with Jehovah’s witnesses walked through the assembly grounds and were so impressed by the kindness of the delegates that they attended all four days of the assembly and consented to a home Bible study. It was the practical application of the spirit’s fruitage that particularly impressed them.
Brotherly love contributed to the delegates’ striking orderliness, cooperation and warm interest in others, regardless of race. This deeply impressed many strangers. A nurse that visited the assembly in Surinam remarked: “My, even Bush Negroes are warmly welcomed and taken to their seats.” The astounded officials of Alessandria, Italy, on seeing how love in action contributes to a smooth-working organization commented enthusiastically: “This is wonderful! Your organization is very, very good! We never believed that you were so well organized. We appreciate you very much. If you desire to have other assemblies in our city in the future, please inform us, and we will be very happy to help you again.” The manager of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau of Syracuse, New York, U.S.A., wrote regarding the assembly held there: “Frankly, it was the best organized and smoothest run convention of its size I have ever known. . . . From the State Fairground’s management to the hotels and motels we have heard nothing but the highest of praise.” Without real Christian love such smooth organization, cooperation and considerateness of other people’s property by such crowds of people would not have been possible.
It was with enthusiasm that Jehovah’s witnesses gathered in communities that, in many instances, never before had experienced a district assembly of Jehovah’s people. The impact that the assemblies made on such communities because the delegates manifested the fruits of the spirit proved to be a great witness that has helped to change local attitudes toward them. After one of the assemblies in Puerto Rico, the local congregation of twenty experienced an increase of 25 percent in home Bible studies, and attendance at the Kingdom Hall jumped nearly 200 percent. The townspeople of Old Harbour, Jamaica, expected only 800 delegates and were encouraged by the clergy to treat the Witnesses coldly. But when they saw 3,000 orderly delegates and observed their joy, they began changing their opinion of them. Since the assembly, Jehovah’s witnesses have been more respected and are now able to give their brief doorstep sermons more often than before the assembly.
New things were brought out in talks on the resurrection, conduct of God’s people and secular work that evoked a great amount of thoughtful discussion. At the assembly in Bandung, Indonesia, twenty Witnesses who were accommodated in the same lodging house became so absorbed in their discussions about such new information that, on one occasion, they talked until two o’clock in the morning. Their keen interest in what was said at the sessions reflected their faith in God’s Word of truth.
Many were the expressions of appreciation about the morally upbuilding talk on “Keeping the Organization of Public Servants Pure, Chaste” because of the frankness with which it stressed moral goodness and self-control. This was particularly so in Pakistan, where, because of social custom, such frank counsel on morals is rarely heard. At the Surinam assembly some of the Witnesses were heard to remark: “You can really see that Jehovah’s organization watches over us like a mother.” Even strangers were favorably impressed by this talk.
In Finland a stranger said: “Never before have I heard such good advice to young people. I have never been to your meetings before, but now I want to start attending.” A villager who listened to the talk at the Antigua assembly in the Leeward Islands commented: “No other organization could talk to its members like Jehovah’s witnesses do. It is too bad other religions do not show as much interest in people as your organization does.” Thus a good impression was made by the emphasis this talk placed upon the spirit’s fruits of goodness and self-control.
The session in which Bible questions were answered caused a searching of consciences when the matter of doing secular work for Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, was brought up. A delegate to one of the small assemblies in Lebanon exclaimed to a speaker there: “You don’t know how happy we are to know how to act in connection with such religious organizations.” On the other side of the globe, in New Zealand, a Witness who had a good-paying job teaching German in a Church of England school resigned the day after the assembly. Her conscience had been bothering her about it, and now she was pleased to have been shown the proper course to take. Others who were affected, immediately began to take steps to change their secular employment, thus reflecting the spirit’s fruitage of faith by trusting the guidance of God’s Word and his organization.
EFFORTS TO ATTEND
Many were the Witnesses who overcame great obstacles in order to attend one of the assemblies. By doing so they manifested their deep love for God. The Witnesses in Colombia, South America, for example, came to the assembly at Montería by mule, horseback, donkey, bus, jeep, dugout canoe and on foot. Some had to walk four days to reach a place where they could get a bus. One delegate sent his wife and children by boat and then by bus while he, to cut expenses, traveled for two days on a mule.
For a few, secular employment presented a barrier to attending, but they did not permit that to stop them. A family man in Southern Rhodesia was confronted with such a barrier. He had just obtained a new job and was not eligible for a leave of absence. What made matters worse was that the assembly at Umtali was scheduled for the very time when his employer needed all the employees for the annual inventory. Taking the matter to Jehovah in prayer, he decided that in all fairness to his employer the best thing for him to do was to hand in his resignation, because he intended to be at the “Fruitage of the Spirit” Assembly at Umtali. His decision was motivated by strong love for God and a desire to do His will. He had faith that Jehovah would help him get another job when he returned home. His employer was concerned over his resignation, and, after a discussion with the Witness, he consented to letting him have the time off.
Places were found for the conventioners to stay even in places where the prospect at first seemed hopeless. At Sparta Amfi, Norway, a furniture exhibition was canceled just three weeks before the “Fruitage of the Spirit” Assembly because 400 accommodations could not be found for the people who intended to attend the exhibition. The Witnesses needed 1,000 accommodations. Would it be possible to find them? They succeeded in getting more than enough, but this required a great amount of work visiting the people. Lovingly, the local Witnesses put forth the needed effort on behalf of their visiting brothers.
To overcome a shortage of accommodations in the cities of Korea where assemblies were held, dormitories were set up in Kingdom Halls, school classrooms and judo halls. Patiently the Witnesses put up with the inconvenience of having families split up so men and women could be in separate dormitories. In so doing they reflected the spirit’s fruitage of mildness. At Masan, Korea, Witnesses went from house to house asking householders, not for rooms, because few are to be had in private Korean homes, but for floor space. Many local families moved over and made room for convention delegates. Hundreds of Witnesses were taken care of in this manner at a small fee. This resulted in a number of Bible studies being started with hospitable householders. Having Jehovah’s witnesses in their homes during the assembly proved to be a spiritually stimulating experience for them.
By manifesting the fruits of the spirit, the delegates instilled complete trust in the people with whom they stayed. A motel owner in San Bernardino, California, U.S.A., felt so secure with no one but Jehovah’s witnesses in his motel that he turned the master key over to them and went on a vacation. In Switzerland, a number of families did the same thing. They left the keys to their homes with the Witnesses and went away on a vacation trip.
OBTAINING ASSEMBLY SITES
Problems in obtaining places for the assemblies were many. In some cases long-standing religious opposition and misrepresentation had to be overcome, requiring the Witnesses to manifest the spirit’s fruitage of long-suffering. This was the case in France, where in a region called Lorraine Jehovah’s witnesses had always been refused permission to hold assemblies. After much effort, permission was finally obtained for an assembly at Metz, but with certain provisions, one of which was that only persons with programs could attend the assembly. No outsiders could come. This was consented to so that Witnesses in the area could have an assembly for their edification.
During one of the sessions at Metz the chief of police arrived to check on the assembly. He was so impressed by the order and quietness of the assembly that he said that he could see no reason why future assemblies of the Witnesses could not be held in that region.
In Tanganyika, Africa, Jehovah’s witnesses rejoiced to learn that they would be permitted to hold an assembly in Mbeya for the first time. This is where more than half of the 855 Witnesses in the country live. By reflecting the spirit’s fruitage of peace, the Witnesses were able to get the cooperation of the officials, who went so far as to cancel the football matches for the Saturday and Sunday of the assembly and to let the assembly have the football stadium free of charge. The town council provided a portable platform for the assembly, and the welfare department loaned 400 chairs free of charge. This good cooperation on the part of the officials of Mbeya was in contrast to the conduct of the officials in Rotorua, New Zealand.
Although Rotorua is advertised as ideal for conventions, the officials proved to be inhospitable. When request was made for 1,000 chairs to supplement the 400 in the auditorium, they refused to rent them. Newspapers stated that the officials refused to let the Witnesses have the chairs on the grounds that “things were being made easy” for a subversive group of people. It seems strange that a people who strive to produce the fruitage of God’s spirit, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness and self-control, should be regarded as subversive. But this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the convention delegates. Reflecting long-suffering, they put up with the inconvenience caused by this opposition. They traveled for miles around Rotorua gathering up chairs from the Kingdom Halls until they had enough to provide seats for the 1,647 persons who attended the public talk.
It was a thrilling sight to see at these assemblies the many new persons who symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by water baptism. For the 231 assemblies there was a total of 10,672 that showed by baptism their decision to serve and obey the Almighty God. Seeing their baptism helped the delegates to appreciate the new point brought out in the public talk about persons of goodwill. Instead of being those who have goodwill toward God, it was explained that they are persons toward whom God has goodwill because of their obeying and serving him. Thus by baptism these more than 10,000 people came to be numbered among God’s men of goodwill.
The fine, spiritual instruction contained in the public talk “‘Peace Among Men of Good Will’ or Armageddon—Which?” was heard at the assemblies by a total of 681,550 persons. A few hours after this talk concluded, Jehovah’s people began heading for their homes with uplifted hearts. They had been spiritually refreshed by the assemblies and encouraged by the way those in attendance manifested the fruitage of God’s spirit. They were anxious to continue this manifestation of the fruits of God’s spirit in their local territories as they zealously engage in the proclamation of the good news of God’s kingdom.
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