Girding for an Urgent Work—at “Peace on Earth” Assemblies
“AMAZING!” That word has expressed the consistent reaction on the part of observers at any one of the “Peace on Earth” Assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1969. Whether the gathering was in the Orient, in Southeast Asia, in the islands of the South Pacific or in the Americas, the story was the same. What they saw was hard to believe.
What so amazed the onlookers? It was the brotherly unity, the peace, the complete absence of racial or class distinction, the evident and genuine love that binds the Witnesses together. But it was more than that. It was their earnest conviction that they have a God-given work to do among the nations. It was their zeal for that work and for the training that will improve their ministry. It was the sense of urgency that motivates them.
That sense of urgency stems from the knowledge, gleaned from the Bible, that soon now, not many years hence, Jehovah’s judgment against a wicked system of things on earth will be executed. Meantime peoples of all nations and races must be warned and given opportunity to separate from the doomed world and take their stand for God’s sovereignty as represented in his kingdom under Christ.
Reports and experiences from these “Peace on Earth” Assemblies are thrilling to read, while also reflecting the spirit and tone of the assembled throngs.
CONSCIOUS OF NEED TO ACQUIRE POWER
An eminent educator of nineteen hundred years ago advised his pupil to “keep on acquiring power in the undeserved kindness that is in connection with Christ Jesus.” It was because of recognizing this need that tens of thousands of Mexicans, as well as delegates from twenty-eight other lands, rendezvoused at the Mexico Arena, Mexico City, late in December. The occasion was one of ten cultural assemblies held simultaneously throughout Mexico.
“Peace on Earth” was the delightful theme of these assemblies. Readings, lectures, dramas, personal experiences, all combined to produce a wonderful program—one well calculated to equip conventioners for effective activity in the urgent times that are now with us.
A unique feature at these assemblies was the discussion topic “Using the Art of Reading and Writing to Praise Jehovah.” Man, at creation, was originally gifted with this art, and so it was surely appropriate to develop and use that gift to the utmost in honor of the Creator. Indeed, during the past twenty-three years Jehovah’s witnesses had aided 36,262 Mexicans to master this art!
Many from remote regions of the country plainly demonstrated their consciousness of the need to acquire power in a spiritual sense. No effort was too much, no distance too great, so as to prevent them from getting to the assemblies. For example, one group of distant villagers walked for two days over the mountains to get to a bus route.
Another family planned well in advance, set aside a parcel of land on which they grew a crop the proceeds from which were to be devoted to their getting to the assembly. One man was refused time off from secular work to attend this educational convention. So, the day before the assembly he resigned. To his surprise, on the last day of the assembly came a phone message asking him to report back to work.
Then, there were two young girls who had to be away from home for three months prior to the assembly. Why? They went coffee picking in order to meet the cost of the assembly trip. And there was a seventeen-year-old boy who walked twenty miles over mountain paths to get to a bus. Also a mother and daughter walked just as far, at times with mud up to their knees because of the heavy rains.
The confidence of all these appreciative ones was not misplaced. The assemblies truly strengthened them and equipped them the better to share in the spread of true education. And at each assembly there were many who demonstrated that they had made satisfactory progress in education, for they signified their determination to devote themselves to God, not cooped up in convent or monastery, but out among their fellow Mexicans, aiding many more to learn the value of knowledge founded on God’s authoritative Word.
By nature happy, affectionate, hospitable, the Mexican people have their serious moments too. Many have come to realize that their entire future depends on their taking in knowledge of God and Christ, on being in a peaceful relationship with the Source of life. The “Peace on Earth” Assemblies showed them how to attain that goal. It means not only learning but doing the will of God, while also being a blessing to fellowmen. In Mexico there are somewhat over 43,000 Witnesses. Is it not, then, astonishing to note these total figures reported from the ten “Peace on Earth” Assemblies?—Attending main lecture: 89,239. Signifying dedication: 2,757.
NEED OF ENDURANCE
“You have need of endurance,” wrote the apostle Paul to fellow Christians. (Heb. 10:36) It is wonderful to find many examples of endurance and the fine fruit it produces in the Far East. Visitors at the “Peace on Earth” Assembly in Seoul, Korea, heard how traveling representatives of the Watch Tower Society in that land must get around without benefit of automobiles, in severe cold and humid heat. But what a reward to find that their visits to the congregations are appreciated, attendances often running as high as 200 percent of the number of local Witnesses.
At Seoul, too, delegates had the opportunity to meet five faithful women who had been imprisoned seven years on account of their faith during the Japanese occupation. To try to cause them to break integrity with God, their jailers mistreated them, even chained them literally. Two of them are now in their seventies, one of them still devoting as much as 150 hours each month to preaching the good news of peace by God’s kingdom. Imagine their joy when they discovered that one of their erstwhile jailers is now interested in God’s kingdom and attended with them some of the assembly sessions.
In Tokyo’s Korakuen Cycling Stadium English-speaking visitors heard reports of expansion of the preaching work in Japan. During twenty-six consecutive months there had been reports of increases in the number of Witnesses. And while the visitors listened, they had evidence right before their eyes of the fact that Japanese Witnesses are girding for greater efforts in the immediate future. On the other side of the stadium a special session of instruction for full-time preachers of the message of peace was going on—attended by 1,200 Japanese of both sexes and all ages.
It is not easy for Japanese to break away from traditions and formalisms of the Oriental family. Yet many are doing so and enduring hardship as a result. Why, one woman from Hiroshima traveled the six hundred miles to the Tokyo assembly with her five young children, despite the fact that her unbelieving husband would give her no assistance.
Delegates from Canada, the United States, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Israel were happy to assemble at Taipei, Taiwan, with Witnesses from that island’s three ethnic groups, the Taiwanese, the Chinese and the Amis. They, too, are preparing for a greatly enlarged work ahead. A new branch office and missionary home has been provided, and there is evident increase in the number of those who are sharing in the preaching of the Kingdom.
Hong Kong’s City Hall was the site of another assembly of this series. It proved to be highly beneficial to the local Witnesses as well as to the many visitors from other lands. It is true that the Chinese people are not responding to the Kingdom message to the extent noted in Korea and Japan. Nevertheless, every preparation is being made to extend the Bible’s message of hope to all who will hear. There is such a great field here, and for this reason it was heartening to see seventeen new Witnesses submitting to baptism, as evidence that they have undertaken the training that will gird them for the work ahead.
Yes, endurance is what is needed, and endurance is what is being displayed by some of those Witnesses of the Orient. Here are some interesting figures relating to their assemblies:
WITNESSES PUB. MTG. ATTEND. BAPTIZED
Korea 10,610 14,644 1,511
Japan 7,637 12,614 798
Taiwan 1,087 799 27
Hong Kong 225 678 17
MINDS TRANSFORMED IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
One whose mind is not conformed to the Bible’s right standard of conduct cannot hope to be successful in spreading the message of peace to others. Christendom’s record in this respect is well known. However, there are multiplying proofs that the work done by earnest Witnesses in Southeast Asia is bearing an abundant fruitage. Filipinos, Papuans, and inhabitants of many islands are truly transforming their minds. And the change is noted even by outsiders.
In Manila, local citizens were happy to open their homes temporarily to the great crowd of delegates who came from all parts of the Philippines and from twenty-four other lands. A lawyer in a suburban area offered the use of his home, free meals and a car to convey delegates to and from the convention site. A former provincial governor offered his home free of charge. A Protestant bishop gave free rooms too, because, as he commented, “I know Jehovah’s Witnesses and can trust them.”
Many Philippine Witnesses are aware of the urgency of these times, for more and more of them, as they can so arrange their affairs, are taking up the full-time preaching as “pioneer” Witnesses. At the Manila assembly 4,106 of them received helpful counsel on how to make the most of this ministerial career of their choice. The Watch Tower Society’s vice-president told them of his own experience since entering the full-time ministry fifty-five years earlier.
Tremendous future expansion of the Kingdom work in the Philippines is foreseen. At the assembly 1,835 persons were baptized, and during the past year there has been an average of 500 baptized each month. These, too, are girding themselves for an urgent work.
Said one visitor in Manila: “I never realized that such a tremendous work was taking place in this small country.” That was after hearing some experiences and learning that the number of Witnesses had risen from 1,000 right after World War II to the present figure of more than 49,000!
At Port Moresby, Papua, the convention site was cleared and buildings were constructed by Witnesses themselves in the bush some fourteen miles from town. Here the same heart-searching Bible dramas, discourses and experiences were eagerly heard by audiences averaging some 1,000 persons. Many of those attending had learned the Bible’s vital message through pictures drawn by Witness missionaries. Illiteracy had been overcome. More importantly, superstitions had been put aside.
Among the seventy who offered themselves for baptism in the nearby river was an ex-Methodist minister. Another pastor of one of Christendom’s sects, who is just about to sever all ties with Christendom, lived happily among the Witnesses throughout this assembly. Both want to be trained as effective ministers for this “time of the end.”
Jehovah’s spirit is moving natives of Southeast Asia to render themselves for his service, as these convention figures testify:
WITNESSES PUB. MTG. ATTEND. BAPTIZED
Philippines 49,257 64,715 1,835
Papua 486 1,116 70
STEPPED-UP TEMPO IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
Melbourne’s Showgrounds, just within a few miles of the city’s two and a quarter million inhabitants, with its grandstands and many other structures on twenty-one acres of territory, comfortably housed another “Peace on Earth” Assembly. For that event, October 26-31, throngs of Australian Witnesses came, so much so that 25,837 heard the assembly’s public lecture. That is over 5,000 more than the total number of Witnesses in the land!
An excellent orchestra of 150 musicians supplied music, while a chorus of 208 led the songs of praise to Jehovah. It was also arranged for the orchestra to play at the world-famed Olympic Pool as a long line of baptism candidates went into the water. Over 7,000 spectators watched the actual immersion, and according to the Melbourne Herald, “The ceremony caused the biggest early morning traffic jam in Swan Street, Richmond, since the Olympic Games in 1956.”
The stepped-up tempo of things here having to do with the Kingdom-preaching work was noticeable in the larger attendances, in the efficiency of the assembly organization, in the crowd of baptism candidates, in the 2,154 Witnesses who attended the special meeting for full-time preachers. “We are amazed to see how many are here,” said a representative of the Melbourne Newsday, “but what amazes us most of all is how spotlessly clean everything is. It’s the people themselves, they don’t throw anything down!”
Another assembly of this same series was held in Auckland, New Zealand. It, too, was marked by a feeling of greater urgency, for swift expansion was again evident. For example, 421 offered themselves for baptism. They know the time allotted for the preaching work is now greatly reduced. They want to have a larger share.
The public lecture, “The Road Back to Peace in Paradise,” was attended by 8,400, indicating that over 2,000 newly interested ones had come from the Auckland area to hear.
As in so many other convention cities, the Witnesses are being viewed with greater respect by those who appreciate peace and good order. An official letter of the Auckland Trotting Club said: “As your convention has now drawn to a close, may I take this opportunity to express my Committee’s appreciation to you and to all your delegates for the outstanding way in which your meetings at the Alexandra Park Raceway were conducted.”
That Australians and New Zealanders are grasping for opportunities to share in a ministry that must soon be accomplished, may be noted from these interesting figures:
WITNESSES PUB. MTG. ATTEND. BAPTIZED
Australia 20,624 25,837 1,315
New Zealand 5,266 8,400 421
ISLAND PEOPLE KEEN TO SHARE
Populations of distant island groups were also reached by the “Peace on Earth” Assemblies—in such places as Fiji, Tahiti and Hawaii. People in these islands are hearing the message, and they too are showing themselves willing to shoulder responsibilities for the urgent preaching work that must soon be accomplished.
Delegates came to Suva, Fiji, from seventeen different lands as well as from many scattered islands of the Pacific, Samoa, Tonga, and so on. To local inhabitants the attendance of 1,621 at the assembly’s public lecture was a real eye-opener. Imagine their surprise, too, when 77 persons indicated that they were willing to be girded for the urgent work ahead by offering themselves for baptism! Why, not even that number had been baptized in the entire year ending August 31, 1969!
What a colorful throng the conventioners made, dressed in their national costumes, as they fed on the same spiritual food from Jehovah’s table! Even though language barriers sometimes prevented them from freely conversing, each one knew the reason for the other’s joy.
At Papeete, Tahiti, features of the assembly program were presented in French and Tahitian. For the first time many islanders had the pleasure of meeting fellow Witnesses from foreign lands. Twelve different countries were represented, and the number of visitors outnumbered the local Witnesses 180 to 132.
From New Caledonia forty delegates had traveled 4,000 miles by plane and ship to be present at Papeete. Among them was a family of ten, the youngest just eleven days old. It took this family two years to save enough to meet the expense of the trip, but to judge from their expressions they had no regrets.
Over 2,000 of Hawaii’s approximately 3,000 Witnesses volunteered their services to make the “Peace on Earth” Assembly in Honolulu a time of joy and happiness to hundreds of delegates, many of them from foreign lands and far-flung islands. They surely succeeded. And what a pleasure it was to sit in the International Center with so many others of different national background, all peacefully united in love for Bible truth!
Foreign visitors participated in delightful tours, one of them to the Watch Tower Society’s branch office. They learned that J. F. Rutherford, former president of the Society, visited here in 1935 and initiated the establishment of a branch office complete with an auditorium that was called a “Kingdom Hall.” That was the start of the practice, now widely known around the earth, of calling the meeting places of Jehovah’s witnesses Kingdom Halls.
Visitors were also introduced to many Witnesses from the Micronesian islands. Groups representing the Marshall Islands, Ponape, Yap, Guam, Saipan and Palau extended greetings in their respective native tongues. Some of these islanders sang Kingdom songs delightfully in their own languages.
A feature writer in Honolulu’s largest newspaper, The Sunday Star-Bulletin & Advertiser, wrote: “Jehovah’s witnesses impressed more people here than any other big convention outfit that ever has come to town. . . . Neat, clean, well-behaved, polite . . . All sorts of people—black and white, ranging to those well off and those of very modest means . . . They have kept the HIC [International Center] immaculate and even picked up rubbish that all other convention-goers left.”
Even more outstanding, however, is the willing spirit of the youth of Hawaii’s Witnesses to leave these beautiful islands and take up missionary work in other lands. It is believed that Hawaii has contributed more missionaries than any other state in the Union.
The assembled delegates derived immense satisfaction from the knowledge that the greatest witness ever had been given in Hawaii and the name of Jehovah had made a tremendous impact on the population of Honolulu and its environs.
The peoples of the islands are witnessing a fine growth in the Kingdom activity and preparation for still more urgent work in the immediate future. Note how these figures bear this out:
WITNESSES PUB. MTG. ATTEND. BAPTIZED
Fiji 403 1,621 77
Tahiti 132 488 29
Hawaii 2,980 15,443 314
At all of these “Peace on Earth” Assemblies of 1969 the most striking feature was the very practical counsel provided for Witnesses of all ages, so they might be equipped for greater privileges in the service of Jehovah’s kingdom. Here are some of the thought-provoking titles of discourses and dramas presented from the platform: How Do You View Authority? Show Respect for Jehovah’s Appointments. What Are You Living For? Making My Home a House of God. “With All That You Acquire, Acquire Understanding.” Should There Be a Generation Gap in the Christian Home? What Is Your Security? How to Stand Firm in This Time of the End.
Conventioners, one and all, regardless of race or color, now have a stronger conviction that Jehovah is directing the ministry of his witnesses in all the earth and girding them now for joyous privileges in the short time now remaining before Jehovah’s earth-wide judgments against Babylon the Great and at Armageddon. How comforting, how strengthening to know that Jehovah is backing up his own great witness work with illimitable power!
[Picture on page 122]
Five on right endured prison and torture in Japanese-occupied Korea; still zealous Witnesses
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Philippine householders hear a Bible sermon
[Pictures on page 124]
In Papua, some of the candidates on way to immersion; 120,905 baptized world wide last year
[Picture on page 125]
Display at Melbourne assembly shows how the urgent work of Kingdom preaching has spread on this island-continent