‘Faith Talked About Throughout the Whole World’
—Displayed at “God’s Sons of Liberty” Assemblies
THE faith-displaying course of devoted servants of Jehovah in this day, as in the past, is truly a fit subject for upbuilding consideration. It moves other servants of God to inquire into how such strength of faith can be acquired. It leads them to examine their own attitudes and ways of thinking in order to root out any that raise obstacles to the growth of faith. As they apply the lessons learned, followers of Christ today are in effect saying what first-century disciples said to the Master: “Give us more faith.”—Luke 17:5.
Things learned and experiences reported at the 1966-67 series of “God’s Sons of Liberty” International Assemblies provide much food for thought along this line. Jehovah’s witnesses from the northern hemisphere had opportunity to visit Mexico, Central and South America and the islands of the Caribbean and see firsthand the background against which a vast campaign of Bible education is being pushed in those southern lands. They were thrilled by what they saw and heard, and felt they could react as did the apostle Paul when he informed the congregation of Christians in Rome: “Your faith is talked about throughout the whole world.”—Rom. 1:8.
For example, have you ever hesitated about attending some circuit or district assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses organized for your benefit, because of some seemingly insurmountable obstacles? Jesus taught that faith can surmount obstacles. (Matt. 17:20) And that has proved to be true of many of Jehovah’s witnesses in Latin America. One schoolteacher living some 200 miles distant from Montevideo, Uruguay, wanted to get to the assembly, but her opposed husband even made it difficult for her to attend local meetings. Was she discouraged? Did her faith waver? No, for she went ahead with preparations, confident that, if it was the Lord’s will, she would get there. The unexpected happened. A government department handling her retirement application called her to the capital for discussion at the very time when the assembly would be in session. So she was one of the happy participants.
A group of Witnesses from the coast of Honduras started out by train for the assembly in Tegucigalpa. They could not get through because high waters had rendered a rail bridge impassable. Did they give up? No! They went home and tried again next day and got through and finally arrived one day after the assembly had started. Obstacles could not extinguish their zeal for attendance at the spiritual feast prepared for them.
Jehovah’s witnesses from Manaus, in the Amazon basin, traveled four days on that mighty river to reach Belém on the coast, and then five days by bus to get to the Brazilian assembly in São Paulo. The prospect and the hazards of a twenty-day return trip could not shake their determination to attend.
Thirty-seven delegates from Nuevo Paraíso, Colombia, were undeterred by the hazardous trip in a large motor-powered canoe. As it turned out, the boat did capsize and they lost all their spare clothing and money. However, they turned up at the assembly in Barranquilla undaunted, happy to be alive to partake of the spiritual bounty of the Lord’s table.
Many Witnesses had to be resourceful in order to make the trip to the assembly site. One Uruguayan Witness began taking in washing early in July so that when January arrived she would have enough funds for the journey. Another with several children and an opposed husband made and sold ice cream to earn her travel expenses.
FAITH TO REACH OUT
How do you view the possibility of taking on enlarged privileges and responsibilities in Kingdom service? Those who have faith to reach out and grasp such opportunities are truly blessed by Jehovah, as experiences told at the “God’s Sons of Liberty” assemblies show. One Witness in a fishing town in Peru was informed that he could not qualify to be a special pioneer minister until he learned to read and write. That did it. He began studying right away, made excellent progress in but a few months, and now has his assignment as a special pioneer minister in his hometown. From his district two hundred persons came to the assembly in Lima.
How signally blessed was one Uruguayan Witness who, despite frail health, reached out for pioneer ministerial privileges! She has been instrumental in bringing some ninety persons into the organization of Jehovah’s witnesses, eighty of them already baptized. How rewarding it was for her to see a good proportion of these mount the platform at the Montevideo assembly in testimony to her zealous and diligent ministry!
Northern visitors at all these assemblies also met and talked with missionaries who years ago had the faith to reach out for service privileges. They accepted the invitation to train at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and were sent off to foreign assignments. But did they have the faith to stick with their assignments? They certainly did. Think of it! Eight graduates from Gilead’s first class back in 1943 are still faithfully serving in Mexico and others are to be found in various Central and South American lands. Surely their faith is like Abraham’s!
FAITHFUL CONDUCT IMPRESSES
“Fine testimony from people on the outside” of the Christian congregation is, in fact, testimony to the faith of God’s servants. (1 Tim. 3:7) Let us never overlook the effect that good conduct has on persons who observe Jehovah’s witnesses under varying conditions. They really take note and talk about it, as convention delegates learned during the Central and South American tour of assemblies. A waiter in a Panama restaurant approached some Witnesses and asked: “Who are you people? You all seem so happy, and there is no discrimination among you—how can it be?” When told that the Witnesses were the same people who distribute the book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, which he already had, he declared he was going to get it out and start studying it.
The supervisor of a bus company in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after dealing with the assembly organization, said to his staff: “We must cooperate to the greatest extent with these people; they are the most organized people we have dealt with.” And a hotel manager in Mexico City declared: “You Witnesses are welcome here anytime. How many rooms do you want?” Another hotel manager, this time in Kingston, Jamaica, said: “Although I am not one of Jehovah’s witnesses, if I could employ only Witnesses here I would be happy. For with such a staff we could run a trouble-free hotel.”
A Government official in Ecuador said of the assembly organization: “They have every last detail planned out with mathematical precision. There is not much that we can do for them that they have not already done for themselves.” And an airline manager stated: “You people did a magnificent job of organization. Wish we had men like you in our firm.” A hotel manager in one South American city, remarking on the efficiency of the Witnesses, observed: “If you people were running the country I would not mind paying taxes, for I know I would get my money’s worth.”
The auditorium personnel at the Palacio Peñarol, Montevideo, Uruguay, were deeply impressed. At first they were smoking, but as they got to associating with and cooperating with the Witness workers it was noticeable that none of them smoked any longer, and they would address each Witness as Hermano or “Brother.” One of them declared: “This is the first time the Palacio has a clean smell, free of tobacco smoke and other odors.” Another said: “This is the first time the Palacio management has turned over the entire building, including rooms and private offices, to anyone, and they seem unconcerned about how the property will be handled.”
Time and again conventioners heard at these assemblies that Indians and the poorer natives in remote districts of all those southern lands were impressed, above all, by the willingness of missionaries and other Witnesses to come into their humble homes and even eat with them. They quickly gain confidence in teachers of this kind, teachers of the Bible who are prepared to put its fine principles into operation in their own lives.
HAVING DONE ALL, TRUST JEHOVAH
It often happens that servants of God have done their very best to carry out his will and yet reach the point where they must trust in Jehovah for the outcome, because it may be beyond their power to achieve. They need faith in God to meet such situations. For example, think of the position of the Watch Tower convention servant at Managua, Nicaragua, when he learned that the leaseholder who had rented the auditorium to him had lost his lease, and the contract with him was no longer valid. The opening of the assembly was just days away, with delegates on their way from all over Nicaragua, not to speak of the many foreign delegates. But everything finally worked out well. The owner of the auditorium consented to negotiate a last-minute contract.
Normally, January 1 marks the start of Ecuador’s rainy season, and with it come hordes of crickets and mosquitoes. In previous years the crickets had to be swept up by the bushel in the downtown areas, while mosquitoes made life unbearable to everyone. This year, sure enough, the rains did come on January 1, the very day that four planeloads of Witness delegates arrived from Panama. However, a successful assembly was held in Guayaquil’s Covered Coliseum. And what of the crickets? They arrived in their thousands one hour after the closing session, penetrating every corner of the Coliseum. As someone remarked, referring to the locustlike thoroughness of the Witness organization: “The locusts moved out and the crickets moved in.”
Witnesses in Santiago, Chile, had had their eyes on the huge Velodrome in the grounds of the National Stadium ever since the idea of an international assembly in their city became known. But the Velodrome was still unfinished, and even the cyclist association for whose use it was being built had tried and failed to get the use of it as late as the month of December. Nevertheless, by patient, continuing discussion with one group of officials after another, this new structure was finally opened to Jehovah’s witnesses, and the “God’s Sons of Liberty” Assembly was the first event to take place in it. Cycling fans were urged by a news reporter to attend the Witnesses’ assembly in order to get their first glimpse of the completed Velodrome.
In Uruguay it seemed that a strike that tied up all buses and taxies would have a grave effect on attendance at the assembly. However, this obstacle, too, was surmounted. How? Many of the incoming delegates simply walked to their accommodations, some many blocks. Many types of transportation were pressed into use, including a fire department bus and a huge dump truck. But the visitors got to their hotels and rooms, and they also managed to be at the Palacio Peñarol for the unforgettable sessions of the assembly.
ASSEMBLIES IN THE HEADLINES
Without exception the 1966-67 series of assemblies produced the greatest amount of favorable public attention ever given to the activities of Jehovah’s people in Central and South America. But not without a great deal of hard work and faith in Jehovah as to the outcome was this result achieved. Newspapers in Jamaica gave an unprecedented 730 column inches to reports on the activities of the Witnesses at Kingston’s National Stadium. One entire page of a leading paper was filled with pictures of cafeteria activity, and carried favorable comment on the cleanliness observed among the Witnesses.
In Guatemala the Government-owned radio station provided three hours of free time for interviews and other reports on the assembly, while Guatemalan papers published 400 column inches, including eighteen photographs relating to the Witnesses’ gathering. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, five banners announcing the public lecture were strung across the streets at strategic points. In Brazil an excellent job was done of bringing the assembly to the attention of the press, with the result that the final count in column inches amounted to 4,263.
The illustrated Flash magazine of Santiago, Chile, featured the baptism on its cover, with the four succeeding pages of pictures and explanatory text under the heading: “Swimpool of National Stadium Converted into Baptismal Font.” Quite different in motive was the article published by the Communist daily in the same city, El Siglo (The Century), under the headline: “Jehovah’s Witnesses Convert National Stadium into Temple of Anticommunism.” Other local papers, however, explained truthfully that the Witnesses are entirely neutral as to political questions and are exclusively devoted to preaching and teaching the Bible’s message for our day.
Puerto Rico’s illustrated magazine Bohemia, in its issue of February 26, 1967, carried a six-page story of the assembly, including twelve pictures, drawing attention to the baptism and the Bible dramas. The article concluded: “With the sincerity that flows from the words of Jehovah’s [witnesses], countless boricuas [Puerto Ricans] are deeply convinced that they will make it to the era of ‘Mankind’s Millennium Under God’s Kingdom.’”
All of Costa Rica’s national newspapers published items on the assembly in San José, in all, over seventy column inches. Here, too, an interview in Spanish with F. W. Franz, vice-president of the Watch Tower Society, was broadcast over a nationwide network. So by radio, television and printed page, news about the faith of Jehovah’s people was spread and talked about in many parts of this western hemisphere.
MISSIONARIES TELL THEIR STORY
Visiting Witnesses to Mexico and other lands to the south will never forget hearing firsthand accounts by genuine missionaries of their tribulations and joys in foreign assignments. Special English sessions at each assembly furnished the opportunity to get to know these missionaries who, many years ago, left homes, families, conveniences and luxuries, to serve in areas where the need for Kingdom preaching was particularly great. Also, at each branch home of the Watch Tower Society the president and directors of the Watch Tower Society enjoyed a special get-together with these missionaries, including a fine meal. How wonderful it was to talk with faithful ministers who have been diligent in their missionary assignments for periods up to twenty years or more!
One missionary recounted how three interested families in a small Peruvian town got together and started having meetings in a home. Soon they had an attendance of thirty. A Witness offered his garage and obtained some chairs so as to care for the growing attendance. From this same town came thirty-two delegates to the “God’s Sons of Liberty” Assembly. Another missionary, assigned to Colombia two years ago, told that in all that time he could recall only one door being slammed in his face.
Those missionaries have been privileged to witness marvelous growth of the Kingdom interests. As one remarked in connection with the ministry in Colombia: “In the matter of assembly places we have progressed all the way from backyards to stadiums.” And those faithful missionaries look at their assignment as “home.” They tell how once in a while relatives will write and urge them to come home to the comforts of a more modern land. But the view they have adopted is that the simplicity of life in a foreign assignment permits them to give far greater care to the interests of the Kingdom, unhampered by distractions. Besides, when they do go back north for a brief vacation, they are eager to get back to these lovable people who have become their children in the faith. They feel like fish out of water being anywhere other than in their assignments.
On a number of occasions visiting delegates heard President N. H. Knorr of the Watch Tower Society bid them, when back home, tell fellow Witnesses what a large and satisfying field there is in these lands of the south for those with the true missionary spirit. There are still many places to which whole families could move and serve where the need is greater. Young married couples and single boys and girls should inquire how they can qualify for Gilead training and be equipped for a lifetime career as missionaries. The spirit of Isaiah is needed, the “Here I am! Send me” attitude. (Isa. 6:8) Just imagine! The crying need of the vast field in those southern lands is for at least a thousand more missionaries right now!
The faith of a multitude of new Witnesses was displayed at the baptism sessions of the “God’s Sons of Liberty” assemblies. Not lightly, but after sober consideration and many months of Bible study, did those groups of every age bracket, from the teen years up to the seventies, step forward and declare themselves ready to submit to immersion in water as a public testimony of their dedication of their lives to God. In all, a grand total of 6,131 persons were baptized during the entire assembly tour.
The Bible dramas presented on the program at each assembly were hailed by the Witnesses as a most effective means of impressing the fine principles of the Bible on young and old. After seeing the vivid counsel portrayed in “Look to the Bible as Our Guide in Life,” one Ecuadorian parent, who had saved for months so as to bring his family to the assembly, declared: “It was worth every sucre I spent for my children to see that one demonstration. None of us will forget the counsel given in such a striking way.” Another delegate commented: “Never has the Bible had such force. Now, when I read the Bible, I’m going to try to see the things I’m reading, to remember them.”
The public lecture on the theme “Mankind’s Millennium Under God’s Kingdom” drew unprecedented crowds, with a total of more than 175,000 persons hearing it at the twenty-one assemblies. It was very evident that people are interested in the future that God’s Word envisions for the earth and obedient men upon it. The peak number attending some of the assemblies was several times the total number of Witnesses in the country.
Such figures speak eloquently about the increase of active Witnesses in all these lands in the past twenty years. They also reveal something of the magnitude of the field in which there is still need for those who have the faith to reach out for greater privileges of Kingdom service. Multitudes in those lands are anxious to learn how to study the Bible and to serve God acceptably. They need teachers who will show them how. Considering the whole of the western hemisphere south of the continental United States together, it is noted that there is but one Witness for each 1,600 of population. How urgent the need for qualified missionaries and others who can plan their affairs so as to spend a greater share of their time, in the few years remaining for this system of things, in spreading the good news to waiting multitudes!
The faith of missionaries already active in this and other parts of the world field is talked about throughout the whole world, wherever Jehovah’s witnesses are located. They have truly spearheaded a grand work of enlightening peoples of many nations. Do you, too, have such faith, and will it move you to volunteer your services?
[Chart on page 268]
Witnesses Witnesses Peak Number
active in active in Assembly Baptized
Location of Assembly 1947 Jan. ‘67 Attendance
Mexico City, Mexico 4,125 33,257 36,556 1,082
Guatemala City, 75 1,446 2,950 102
San Salvador, 80 1,026 4,989 105
Belize, 38 370 755 10
Tegucigalpa, Honduras 45 837 1,422 60
Managua, Nicaragua 36 824 1,654 71
San José, Costa Rica 449 2,677 2,974 73
Panama City, Panama 175 1,413 2,110 60
Barranquilla, Colombia 29 4,203 5,777 179
Kingston, Jamaica 1,185 5,162 9,458 189
Guayaquil, Ecuador 14 1,616 2,723 172
Lima, Peru 22 2,484 6,925 265
Santiago, Chile 137 3,888 7,693 441
La Paz, Bolivia 16 562 1,150 66
Asunción, Paraguay 34 535 489 37
Buenos Aires, Argentina 679 12,331 15,238 692
Montevideo, Uruguay 175 2,264 3,958 212
São Paulo, Brazil 648 38,109 46,151 1,723
Caracas, Venezuela 29 4,171 10,463 195
San Juan, Puerto Rico 87 3,488 8,604 225
Santo Domingo, Dom. Rep. 59 2,312 5,154 172
8,137 122,945 177,193 6,131