Preaching the “Good News” in the Frozen North
“TODAY it is 30 degrees below zero with 10-mile-per-hour winds. With those winds the effect on human flesh is equivalent to 45 degrees below zero,” reported one of Jehovah’s witnesses in the far north, and he added: “Preaching from house to house this morning was a challenge.”
This minister of Jehovah’s witnesses and hundreds of thousands of others like him regularly bring the Bible’s message to others—even in the frozen north. The Witnesses have put forth special efforts to reach people everywhere, including the inhabitants of isolated places.
In 1971 a group of Jehovah’s witnesses went to remote Indian villages of Canada’s Manitoba Province. As to the conditions they encountered, Donald Anders, a member of this group, remarks:
“The temperature often drops to 40 degrees below zero. The wind can really bite into a person and freeze parts of his face before he knows it. At times it would get so cold that the air would actually crystalize, becoming thick, preventing aircraft from landing due to the resulting poor visibility. Frost often forms on eyelids, nose and mouth.
“In such severe cold one must dress properly. We had to wear clothing that would prevent the wind from penetrating. Often the only thing visible about us were our eyes and mouth. A person could not survive otherwise.”
“EVERY HOUSE HAS TO BE VISITED”
One of Jehovah’s witnesses in Alaska observes: “Perhaps the greatest challenge to getting the ‘good news’ preached here is not so much the sub-zero temperatures as the distance between settlements.” Many settlements can be reached only by boat or aircraft. Nevertheless, Jehovah’s witnesses have exerted themselves to contact people living in these distant areas. The minister quoted above mentions a technique employed to reach people in lone cabins of “bush” areas:
“When a lone cabin is sighted, Witnesses in the airplane ‘buzz’ the cabin by circling above it until the resident appears. On the next pass over the house, a small parcel containing samples of Bible literature and a letter explaining basic Bible truths is dropped for the householder. So, even in these secluded spots the Witnesses can ‘drop in’ with the ‘good news.’”
An elder who visits congregations in the north of Norway describes efforts that have been made to reach isolated people there. “The congregation in Alta [over 200 miles above the Arctic Circle] has found some interest in five houses in Garkolobold, which is in the open country. To get there, they first have to go by car 53 miles [85 kilometers] to where the road ends, and then by snow scooter 22 miles [35 kilometers]. We often stay longer with those living far away, studying several chapters and discussing different questions.”
Mattie Tiainen, a traveling minister of Jehovah’s witnesses in the far north of Finland, tells of efforts by local Witnesses to reach isolated people in that area: “Some would take a bicycle and skis with them on a bus and travel more than 100 kilometers [62 miles] to distant villages, doing their preaching on the way back. The skis were necessary to work side roads, for they were not plowed.”
Some houses were inaccessible in winter, but a careful record of them would be kept in order to return in the summer. It was at such a house located across a river that was impassable in the winter that Jehovah’s witnesses found Kustaa Nurmela and his family. This quiet farmer readily accepted a Bible study. He became one of Jehovah’s witnesses and trained his family to serve Jehovah too. How happy Brother Nurmela is that Jehovah’s witnesses did not overlook his isolated house!
Brother Tiainen also tells of Kaisa Aho, a woman who learned of the Bible’s promises when a witness of Jehovah called at their isolated house:
“Sister Aho had called at every house in the area. Sometimes her husband Veikko allowed her to make preaching trips to other villages, some of them quite far away. Journeys were made on foot in summer and on skis in winter. At times this sister skied 20 to 30 kilometers [12 to 18 miles] a day. A trip of several days might add up to 100 kilometers [62 miles].”
Why did she put forth such efforts to a reach people? She explains: “Every house has to be visited, as that is the way that my husband and I were found.”
EAGER TO LEARN BIBLE TRUTH
Many natives of the frozen north are humble and eager to learn the truth about God. They respond favorably to the idea of paradise being restored to earth. But simple speech, illustrations and pictures are often necessary to reach these humble people.
During the summers of 1972 and 1973 Morris Charland and Bryce Smith, two full-time ministers from Sept Îles, Quebec, set out to visit twenty-seven villages in the northeastern part of that province. Did they find residents of these places eager to hear the “good news” of God’s kingdom? They report:
“Many villagers were not content with hearing the message only once. They followed us from door to door until a large procession developed. In one house it became so crowded that I had trouble bending down to get literature from my briefcase. There must have been at least thirty gathered in that house to hear the Kingdom message.”
In the little village of Shaktolik, Alaska, one of Jehovah’s witnesses approached an elderly Eskimo who was about to leave on his snow machine to get his wife and grandchildren who were fishing a few miles away. But when he learned the purpose of the visit, the man sent his son instead, saying: “This is too important for me to go. Please come in and tell me all about it.” Soon his wife arrived and she, too, was overjoyed to hear the Bible’s comforting promises. As the brother got up to leave, they ran to the door, saying: “No, please do not go. We want to hear all of it!”
Sometimes it takes only one visit of Jehovah’s witnesses to spark the interest of a lover of truth. In 1972 the book “Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie” was placed with a young pop band leader in the north of Norway. After reading the book this man called the local office of the Watch Tower Society for more information. Given the address of an elder in Bodø, he traveled half a day to meet him and get more questions answered, using a tape recorder so as to be able to play back the conversation, which lasted several hours. Soon he broke up his band, resigned from the church and discontinued his membership in a political party. In June 1972, a few months after first hearing the truth, this young man was baptized as one of Jehovah’s witnesses.
Most natives of the frozen north are friendly and receptive to Bible truth. But preaching the “good news” in these areas presents some difficulties too. For one thing the natives are often very shy, making it difficult to detect real interest. As a result, they are frequently reluctant to make changes in their lives that would cause them to appear different from their neighbors.
Religious prejudice can also cause difficulties. A clergyman in northern Finland wrote in a newspaper: “Jehovahites a pest in Pudasjärvi.” He also falsely accused them of Communist teachings. Because of this opposition two of Jehovah’s witnesses in that area had to search for more than a year to find permanent lodging. In another case a businessman was given three public warnings and was finally expelled from his church because he “allows Jehovah’s witnesses to hold meetings in business premises that he owns.” But in spite of some opposition, “all the people in those areas have heard the ‘good news’ of God’s kingdom,” according to a recent letter from the Watch Tower Society’s Finland branch.
FROM OPPOSERS TO ZEALOUS SERVANTS OF GOD
But even where opposition is shown, the “good news” is reaching responsive hearts. In fact, some former opposers are now zealous witnesses of Jehovah. For example, in eastern Quebec one of Jehovah’s witnesses called on a young married man who was hostile at first, accusing the Witness of trying to ‘sell his religion.’ When it was explained that Jesus himself preached from “village to village,” the man accepted a copy of the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. (Luke 8:1; 13:22) He read it in one night and then suggested having a meeting with the local Catholic priest. Here is how it turned out:
“The priest was very polite. I directed the conversation to subjects that I knew interested this young man, including the Trinity. The priest continually agreed with the Bible, asking many questions. Unable to contain himself any longer, the man insisted that the priest defend himself. ‘Defend myself?’ he replied. ‘I am looking for the truth just as much as you are!’
“The next morning at Mass this priest announced that if anyone wanted to learn the Bible, he should talk to Jehovah’s witnesses. A few months later I was surprised to learn that the young man had heartily embraced Bible truth, even going from house to house on his own to tell his neighbors about it. I do not know what happened to the priest, as he was transferred to another district shortly after our conversation.”
In another experience Jehovah’s witnesses met a man who had left his home in southern Canada to move north seeking true brotherhood and happiness among the Indians. This man was opposed at first. But later he read an article in The Watchtower entitled “How the Good News Unites Mankind.” This information impressed him so much that he requested a home Bible study. A few months later he was baptized and shortly thereafter this formerly opposed man became a full-time preacher of the “good news.” How did he feel about learning Bible truth? He expressed himself this way: “All that I was looking for—unity, peace, true Christian love among all races, and a hope of seeing a world without injustices—I have found in Jehovah’s Word and earthly organization.”
As Jesus foretold, the good news is being preached in all the inhabited earth—even in sparsely inhabited areas of the frozen north.