Grand Blessings of the “Men of Goodwill” Assemblies
“LOOK! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” This truth, recorded over 3,000 years ago by the Bible psalmist, was appreciated to the full by delegates to the “Men of Goodwill” District Assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses.—Ps. 133:1.
In just the United States over half a million persons attended these assemblies this summer! They gathered in many of the country’s largest and most beautiful baseball stadiums. To mention a few: The spacious Anaheim, California, stadium, the new Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the triple-deck Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, Tiger Stadium in Detroit, and Boston’s Fenway Park.
Huge, modern auditoriums and other facilities, such as Florida’s lovely Gulfstream Race Park, were also used for the nearly three dozen assemblies. But what a contrast there was to the sights, sounds and conditions usually experienced in these places!
A WELCOMED DIFFERENCE
Many observers said the change was a true blessing. Reported the Macon Telegraph, July 10, 1970: “These are happy, courteous people who take their religion seriously, hold convictions firmly and work unceasingly to spread the message.
“After the pop festival, it’s a blessed relief to have in our midst guests who will conduct themselves properly. Yes, this year Jehovah’s Witnesses are doubly welcome.”
The Charlotte Observer, July 8, 1970, reported: “The ‘Men of Goodwill’ assembly may be the best thing that has happened to the Charlotte Coliseum in a bushel of days.
“Unpaid volunteers of Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . are scrubbing and cleaning the big, domed center from one end to the other.”
The front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 31, 1970, carried this interesting report: “Religion came to Busch Stadium last night, and brought back the 20-cent hot dog, the quarter hamburger and the dime Coke. . . .
“Witnesses brought back also the knee-length skirt, the narrow tie, the well-behaved child and a cleanliness rare for today’s American crowd.
“Thirty minutes after 23,000 persons had eaten their evening meal, hardly a shred of litter was to be seen anywhere. No one smoked, and, for a crowd which included all ages, noise was at a minimum.”
In Boston this difference triggered an interesting news story. When George M. Collins, religion editor of the Boston Globe, learned that only one policeman was assigned to daytime duty at Fenway Park, he personally located the officer and wrote up a story. It appeared in the Globe of July 13 under the title “One patrolman has easy time with 20,000 ‘witnesses.’”
It began: “When Boston patrolman Tim Corcoran found out he was to be the only uniformed officer in attendance at Fenway Park with more than 20,000 members of Jehovah’s Witnesses attending a district assembly, he thought that perhaps his boss, Capt. Paul J. Russell, had flipped.
“But ask Tim Corcoran where he would like to be assigned for a crowd job now, and he’ll put in a claim for another Witnesses’ convention.”
Corcoran could not get over it. “I’ve never seen such orderliness,” he said. “I haven’t heard one argument or hard word. After a ball game it’s like a stampede of cattle. . . . But you people take it nice and slow—even to the little kids who I’d say are too young to know better. If everyone was like you people, I’d be out of a job.”
What particularly amazed religion editor Collins was the contrast between this and the meeting of the World Council of Churches that he attended two summers ago in Uppsala, Sweden. There, he said, 401 delegates and 403 reporters and television men were present; but also 864 policemen were on hand! And yet at some of the “Men of Goodwill” Assemblies, such as the one in Bloomington, Minnesota, not even one policeman was assigned!
WHY THE DIFFERENCE?
What is responsible for such a different spirit at Witness assemblies? The Miami News, July 11, 1970, pointed to the answer when it reported: “Unlike most Christian denominational meetings recently, the convention of South Florida Jehovah’s Witnesses at Gulfstream Race Track has had no dissension to disrupt it. . . .
“While most Protestants argue about the war, civil rights and college protests, the Witnesses have been unique in their uniformity of belief, familial leanings and strict adherence to the Bible.”
Yes, it is strict adherence to the Bible that makes possible such peaceful conditions among Jehovah’s witnesses, particularly their adherence to the Bible’s command to love one another. (John 13:34) It is amazing what this love can accomplish.
Writing in the Charlotte News, food editor Dora Gummerson observed: “The whole operation is a masterpiece of planning and organization. All help, for everything to do with the convention is volunteer. But the dedication of the workers makes the whole thing run like clockwork. There are 800 to 1,000 volunteers working for the food service.”—July 10, 1970.
What impressed a security guard at Sicks’ Stadium in Seattle is that there never was an argument over who was going to do the “dirty” work—all pitched in and helped. The spirit of willingness and desire to help was well exemplified by a paralyzed Witness at the Hallandale, Florida, assembly. He was wheeled up to the volunteer service desk, picked up a pencil in his mouth, and filled out his volunteer application form! He was assigned to care for a contribution box.
This spirit is catching. At the Amarillo assembly Gary Walsh, of Walsh Food Service, said: “After being here and seeing you people all working so hard, it made me want to volunteer.” And in St. Louis a policeman was so move by what he saw and heard that he asked: “How can I become one of Jehovah’s witnesses?”
Surely the spirit of love is apparent at assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses! As a motel manager in Salt Lake City acknowledged: “It’s quite noticeable to us that the Witnesses have real love for one another.” But this love does not just happen. It must be cultivated. And spiritual food is vital for this.
A PROGRAM RICH WITH BLESSINGS
The program at the “Men of Goodwill” assemblies was a rich blessing because it offered in abundance this valuable spiritual food. Delegates were all encouraged by the convention chairman’s opening address, “One Hundred Years of Divine Direction.” What a pleasure it was to review highlights of the modern-day history of Jehovah’s witnesses, and see the sure evidences of God’s direction over these past one hundred years!
Especially rewarding spiritually were the feature discourses of the assembly, the principal one of which was the public talk “Saving the Human Race—in the Kingdom Way.” How good it was finally to see a combined total of 523,799 present at thirty-three assemblies in the United States!
The assembly keynote address, “Taking Final Advantage of the ‘Year of Goodwill,’” also attracted attention. It emphasized that we are now living in the prophetic “year of good will.” (Isa. 61:2) But the speaker showed that this “year” will soon end with God’s destruction of this wicked system of things. So then, he urged, now is the time to take final advantage of God’s goodwill!
How can this be done? By repenting, turning away from the sins repented of, and pursuing a course of life in harmony with Jehovah’s requirements. Have we each done this, and are we doing it? The speaker encouraged all to do so.
Choice morsels of spiritual food were also enjoyed in the keenly anticipated discourse “The Desolating of Christendom by the Disgusting Thing.’” What is that “disgusting thing” about which Bible prophecies speak? many wondered.
The speaker made clear that in the first century the Roman “encamped armies” proved to be the “disgusting thing that causes desolation.” (Luke 21:20; Matt. 24:15; Dan. 9:27) Thus, the “disgusting thing” was not the alliance that the religious rulers of Jerusalem made with the Roman Empire in order to procure the death of Jesus Christ.
But what is the “disgusting thing” in this twentieth century? It is the international organization for world peace and security, now known as the United Nations organization, the speaker explained.
Reaching a climax, he added: “The membership of the United Nations will shortly lay desolate the religious organizations of Christendom.” “Excitedly,” he said, “we wait to see how members of the world organization will act together as the ‘disgusting thing that causes desolation.’”
Another feature discourse entitled “We Worship What We Know” emphasized the fact that Christians know the One whom they worship. It drew upon Jesus’ words at John 4:22-24, making plain that to mature Christians God is real; he is no figment of the imagination. Thus the speaker said of true Christians: “They persist in worshiping the Bible God Jehovah whom they know.” At the conclusion of this talk the speaker released the 1970 revised deluxe edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. There were 120,000 of these beautiful new Bibles sent to the various assemblies in the United States for distribution.
ACTING FROM THE HEART WITH LOVE
The requirement truly to love fellow Christians from the heart was highlighted in a wonderful way by the Bible drama entitled “Love Is a Perfect Bond of Union.” At the outset a modern-day scene showed a young Christian girl who had allowed hate to grow in her heart for another girl in the congregation. To help this girl appreciate the necessity to replace this hate with love, her father decided to tell the family the events recorded in the Bible book of Esther. These events were then dramatized by a costumed cast.
The audience was enthralled as the terrible scheme of the Amalekite Haman to exterminate the Jews unfolded. The lives of all servants of the true God Jehovah in the Persian Empire were in danger! But Queen Esther, herself a Jewess, motivated by love for her family and friends, risked her life to seek a reprieve. Living in equally dangerous times today, the audience felt the need truly to love one another, yes, to be willing to sacrifice their lives for one another if the need should arise.
At the assembly in Monroe, Louisiana, the senior deacon of one of the city’s largest Negro churches attended this drama on Friday night. He exclaimed: “That was the best program I’ve ever heard.” He said that he was going to bring his whole family Saturday, and added: “Our entire congregation is going to come Sunday, about 300 of us. We’ve already talked about it and the congregation decided they wanted to come.”
Also focusing attention on the heart was the edifying talk “Serving Jehovah with a Complete Heart.” When the Bible refers to the heart, it was explained, the literal heart and not the mind or a figurative heart is meant. So, as the Bible says, the heart, yes, one’s literal heart, can impel and incite. (Ex. 35:21, 26, 29) How vital it is, therefore, that we guard the heart by always filling it with good impressions!
Since it is our heart that motivates us, it is vital that we be wholehearted in support of Jehovah’s interests. A speaker delivering the talk “‘Exert Yourselves Vigorously’—Do Not ‘Beg Off’” in Jersey City noted: “Suppose your doctor said, ‘Half of your heart will have to come out!’ You would reply, ‘But, Doc, that’ll kill me!’ Well, being halfhearted in Jehovah’s service will kill you too!”
NEW WITNESSES NEED HELP
A real high point of each assembly was the baptism. And what a blessing it proved to be! A grand total of 10,527 symbolized, by being immersed in water, that they had given themselves to Jehovah God in full dedication. These many thousands have come from all walks and stations in life.
At the Butte, Montana, assembly an eighty-eight-year-old man was baptized! Also, a principal of an elementary school in Washington, D.C., was immersed at the Laurel, Maryland, assembly. She said that she was deeply impressed by the good conduct of the some fifty Witness youths in her school. In El Paso the public press took note that one of those being baptized had given up a promising professional football career to serve Jehovah. He explained: “I love to play ball, but I realized that I couldn’t do both.”
The speaker handling the hour presentation “Help Them to ‘Press On to Maturity’” noted that in just the past two years each congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses has added an average of eight to ten newly baptized ones. That is a total of more than a quarter of a million! He asked: “What is being done to help them?”
It was then shown by means of demonstrations how they can be assisted to comment at the Watchtower study, to give talks in the Theocratic Ministry School, to give effective sermons at the homes of people, make back-calls, conduct Bible studies, and, in the case of dedicated males, to prepare to take on servant responsibilities in the congregation. As these matters were discussed, those in the audience were moved to examine whether they themselves were doing these things.
In his closing remarks at an assembly in Jersey City the Watch Tower Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, also stressed the importance of helping new ones. He said that these persons are “babies” in God’s truth, and added: “That places upon every one of us a great responsibility to help them—HELP is what they need.”
The Society’s president went on to offer these suggestions: “How fine it would be for you to find out who these new ones are in your congregation, and get acquainted with them! Then some evening when you have nothing particular to do, maybe on a Saturday night, ask them over to your home just for a visit. But before they come, your family is going to do something to help them, not that you have anything in mind about them.
“Maybe during the week you ran across some particular chapter in the Bible in your reading of the lesson for the Theocratic Ministry School. Maybe those particular chapters in the Bible intrigued you. So now this night, when having these new ones in your home, you are just going to talk about these verses, and read them.
“Read them out loud, and ask them what they think about it, and express what you think about it. And in two hours’ time, you can go through a portion of the Bible—maybe you could take the Sermon on the Mount, or maybe something in Ephesians, or something about overseers—anything; but talk about the Scriptures. The Scriptures are what is going to help them become mature. . . . They will go home refreshed, spiritually built up, and you will be built up too.”
“These 250,000 new people need all the spiritual help we can give them,” President Knorr stressed. Can you help?
ASSISTING YOUNG ONES
Several portions of the assembly program also were designed to assist young ones. Outstanding was the presentation entitled “Who Needs Your Help?” It provided assistance particularly for teenagers, dealing with problems they frequently have.
One part considered the problem of masturbation. Although this is a practice frequently considered normal by worldly persons, it was shown that it is a bad practice that can cause much harm. It can lead to homosexuality. But what can be done to break this practice? “To stop seems to be easier said than done,” observed one teen-ager on the program.
A number of suggestions were given by the boy’s father and a doctor friend. Particularly was the need of spiritual help stressed—turning to Jehovah in prayer and filling the mind with other matters when this urge arises.
Many were the expressions of appreciation for this frank and helpful consideration. A youth at the Anaheim, California, assembly said: “I’ve always wanted to talk to my dad about these things but didn’t know if it would be right or not. Now I feel I can talk to my parents without any embarrassment.”
Other parts of this program emphasized the danger to unmarried persons of necking and petting. In one of them a mother wisely counseled her daughter that necking was not going to help her find the qualities she was seeking in a marriage partner.
Also greatly appreciated was the assembly discussion “Inculcate God’s Word in Your Children.” This demonstrated to parents how they can best use the articles designed for teaching children, which are now appearing in issues of The Watchtower. The need of a lively presentation of these articles was stressed. “Read in a lively and enthusiastic way to stir the child’s imagination,” the speaker said.
Yet further information to help young people was presented in the talk “Assisting Others to Acquire Faith in the Creator and His Word.” The speaker noted that evolutionary thinking often saturates school textbooks. “If you are a parent,” he asked, “do you take time at the beginning of each school term to examine the textbooks that your children will be using so you know what they are going to be taught?” This was encouraged as the loving and wise thing for parents to do.
RECEIVING BLESSINGS DESPITE OBSTACLES
The blessings of the “Men of Goodwill” assemblies were indeed manifold. Contributing to these blessings is the fine reputation that Jehovah’s witnesses have established in the past for holding peaceful and smooth-operating conventions. Thus in Anaheim, California, city officials gladly welcomed the Witnesses. The comments of the head of the Orange County Health Department were typical. He said that ‘it was not necessary for him to come in and discuss anything with the Witnesses because he was familiar with our ways and anything we did would be alright.’ When city officials visited the assembly they were deeply impressed by the zeal and fine conduct of the tens of thousands of Witnesses.
Non-Witnesses were also impressed by the fine blessings of the assembly program itself. One wrote the Watch Tower Society:
“I feel the inward compulsion to express heartfelt thanks for this assembly. The excellent balance of program topics, the excellent manner of presentation of formal talks, informal experiences, dramatic productions, etc., all marvelously facilitated the main purpose: knowledge and understanding of the Bible and dedication to your God, Jehovah. I became a most absorbed listener and student throughout the four days.
“One could not escape the spirit of this assembly: the brotherly love and compassion, the trustworthiness and respect that went from each person to each other person.”
How blessed were those that made every effort to attend! And many persons, in anticipation of these blessings, overcame extreme obstacles to be there. A case in point is a woman involved in an automobile accident the day before the Hallandale assembly. Her husband was killed and she was left unable to walk. Yet she was present at the assembly with her children, a three-month-old infant and a four-year-old!
A real obstacle threatened the Corpus Christi Spanish assembly, scheduled to be held in the spacious Coliseum and the accompanying Exposition Hall. On Monday, August 3, just three days before the assembly was due to begin, hurricane Celia swept across the bay, ripping like a bull. She punched out a wall of the Exposition Hall, gored up the roof of the Coliseum and drenched both areas with water and debris.
The next morning inhabitants investigated the wreckage. Celia’s fierce 160-mile-per-hour winds had been vented impartially on all sections of the city, toppling structures from flimsy shacks to huge brick buildings. A reporter remarked that the city looked much like Hiroshima after the atomic bomb.
With the city a disaster area, holding an assembly there was impossible. What could be done? Quickly arrangements were concluded and a contract signed to use the HemisFair Arena in San Antonio, where an English assembly had concluded just two days before. But now it was late Tuesday evening. How could word of the assembly change reach the far-flung congregations in time?
To some extent by radio, but largely by word of mouth. Word traveled throughout the South that night and the next day. And what a thrill to see 5,827 on hand for the assembly’s very first day! Sunday saw 7,500 at the public talk, more than were originally anticipated for Corpus Christi! What blessings were realized at this marvelously smooth-operating assembly!
Truly the blessings of the true God Jehovah were with his people as they enjoyed the pleasantness of dwelling together in unity at the “Men of Goodwill” District Assemblies! Already Jehovah’s witnesses are looking forward to the five-day assemblies that were announced for next year. Will you be there?
[Chart on page 605]
ASSEMBLY CITY PUBLIC TALK BAPTIZED
Alexandria, La. 9,075 157
Amarillo, Tex. 10,023 203
Anaheim, Calif. 49,091 1,067
Anchorage, Alaska 1,488 48
Bismarck, N. Dak. 4,275 73
Bloomington, Minn. 20,777 377
Boston, Mass. 22,623 469
Butte, Mont. 6,555 117
Charlotte, N.C. 17,431 392
Detroit, Mich. 37,111 733
El Paso, Tex. 4,731 132
Eugene, Ore. 16,370 317
Fort Worth, Tex. 16,137 295
Fresno, Calif. 13,256 262
Hallandale, Fla. 15,777 407
Hampton, Va. 13,786 247
Jacksonville, Fla. 12,261 238
Jersey City, N.J. #1 18,886 228
Jersey City, N.J. #2 21,791 399
Jersey City, N.J. (Span.) 10,609 359
Laurel, Md. 19,756 292
Macon, Ga. 9,589 203
Monroe, La. 7,623 115
Oakland, Calif. 29,031 574
Pittsburgh, Pa. 22,432 359
St. Louis, Mo. 30,247 697
Salt Lake City, Utah 8,724 176
San Antonio, Tex. 11,398 290
San Antonio, Tex. (Span.) 7,500 268
San Bernardino, Calif. (Span.) 10,996 275
Seattle, Wash. 15,675 319
Tuscaloosa, Ala. 10,546 168
Wilmington, Del. 18,229 271
Totals 523,799 10,527
[Picture on page 600]
The crowd of 22,623 at Fenway Park. This was only one of 33 assemblies held in the United States
[Picture on page 601]
Anaheim Stadium with a crowd of 49,091. Throughout the United States 523,799 persons assembled to hear the public talk
[Picture on page 602]
Watch Tower Society’s president giving keynote address in St. Louis
[Picture on page 603]
A scene from the Bible drama put on at Anaheim portraying King Ahasuerus and Haman at banquet prepared for them by Queen Esther
[Pictures on page 604]
Included on the assembly program was a mother giving counsel to her daughter on the danger to unmarried persons of necking and petting
A father, along with a doctor friend, gives guidance to his son regarding sex, the program illustrating how this could be done by fathers