“Divine Victory” Assemblies Held World Wide Without Disturbance
DURING the northern hemisphere’s summer of 1973 and stretching into the southern hemisphere’s summer in late 1973 and early 1974, Jehovah’s witnesses held their “Divine Victory” assemblies—more than 140 of them. Beginning in North America, they reached across Europe and Asia, to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Central and South America, Hawaii, the Philippines and other islands of the Atlantic and Pacific.
The uncompleted report reveals that 2,594,305 persons showed their interest in the Bible’s answer to the problems of our day by attending. The program, dealing with Bible principles and prophecies, was planned and outlined by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s witnesses, so that all received the same Scriptural information wherever they attended. Members of the Governing Body also served the assemblies in most of the countries.
At the assemblies so far reporting, 81,830 persons were baptized. These had, over a period of months, made an intensive study of the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses. Their baptism symbolizes their dedication to do God’s will. It involves the application of the Bible’s principles in daily life and also active service as proclaimers of the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom.
The biggest crowd at any single assembly of the worldwide series—107,442 persons—gathered at Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Combined with two other conventions, this brought Nigeria’s total attendance to 214,237. As at the other conventions throughout the world, the number of newly interested persons was especially high. Nigeria’s attendance was more than double the number of active Witnesses in the country. At the three Nigerian assemblies, 7,153 new Witnesses were baptized. Likewise, across the Atlantic in El Salvador, the 3,700 Witnesses in the country were overjoyed to see 10,788 persons at their assembly. But their joy was even greater when 1,046 candidates presented themselves for baptism, equaling 28 percent of the active Witnesses in that land.
GOVERNMENTS RECOGNIZE PEACE-PROMOTING WORK
The attitude of governments and officials in permitting and, in many instances, even cooperating closely with the Witness officials handling the assembly serves as a testimony that Jehovah’s witnesses stand completely free from political affiliations and revolutionary movements. The Witnesses follow Jesus’ description of his disciples: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:14; Jas. 4:4) They ‘pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar’ by conforming to tax laws and all other laws not in direct conflict with God’s commands. But they also ‘pay back God’s things to God’ by using their lives to do his will and by looking to his kingdom, not to human governments, to bring peace and happiness to mankind.—Matt. 22:21.
At Nairobi, Kenya, Grant Suiter, a visiting member of the Witnesses’ Governing Body, along with one of the local Witnesses, was interviewed on television. The interview, scheduled for ten minutes, proved so interesting that the interviewer continued it for twenty-eight minutes. He asked the question, ‘Why do some governments ban Jehovah’s witnesses?’ The answer was given that in such cases the officials do not really listen and investigate to see what Jehovah’s witnesses are doing. They hear what the opponents of the Witnesses, especially the clergy, say, and then act on their word. Later, when they have found that the work of the Witnesses is actually in no way political or subversive, some governments have lifted their ban, despite clergy opposition. Many officials have come to appreciate that Jehovah’s witnesses have raised the moral standards of the people and have promoted peace among those studying the Bible with them. (Gal. 5:19-24; Eph. 6:15) Not only this, but, in the developing countries, literacy is much higher among Jehovah’s witnesses because of the program the Witnesses have established to teach people desirous of learning to read and write.
Jehovah’s witnesses also know that “in every nation the man that fears [God] and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:35) That they really practice interracial unity from the heart was evident on Sunday afternoon at the assembly in Johannesburg, South Africa. Visitors were impressed by the enthusiasm displayed by the South African delegates. The reason for their happy attitude was that, for the first time, they were able to meet together without regard to race or color. This was because they were permitted, for this one session, to meet in Rand Stadium, a sports stadium where the government allows mixed crowds to gather. Attendance on this occasion was 33,408.
Worthy of remark, too, is the way in which the local Witnesses in every country showed self-sufficiency in handling the organization of the assemblies—rooming, news service and cafeteria departments, as well as the program, with very little or no help from the trained missionaries. This was notable in Kenya, where Jehovah’s witnesses had experienced a ban on their work for a short period. But with the lifting of the ban, the assembly could be an international one, and the local Witnesses took great pleasure in being hosts to visitors from the United States, Canada, Europe and various African nations.
Similarly, in Uruguay, South America, the missionaries stepped aside completely and the Uruguayan Witnesses demonstrated their training and ability by handling all the features of their large assembly of more than 7,000 delegates.
DESIRE TO LEARN AND TO HELP OTHERS OVERCOMES OBSTACLES
Though the same spirit prevailed at all the assemblies, there was great variety in other respects. In Fiji, for example, the convention “hall” was a huge thatched-roof shelter with open sides. Benches were provided for European visitors, but the Fijians, according to custom, sat on bamboo or straw mats. Rooming for the visiting islanders was provided in a large thatched shelter with walls, divided down the middle by a partition, one side for men, the other for women. These accommodations were provided free, for many from the numerous other islands in that area spent their life savings to get to the convention by plane and boat.
In São Paulo, Brazil, the scene of the second largest of the assemblies, a torrential rainstorm drenched everyone throughout Saturday. The entire audience was forced to stand because the seats of the mammoth Pacaembu Stadium, which were actually concrete “steps,” became minor waterfalls. But this inconvenience did not break up the crowd. On Sunday, as rainfall continued, 94,586 persons came to hear the public talk. Government officials congratulated the convention personnel on the work done and on the spirit that prevailed among the conventioners.—Rom. 13:3, 4.
As with the apostle Paul, a good number of Witnesses, some with their families, have left their homelands to serve in countries where the need is greater. At one assembly some of these reported that they had moved to Costa Rica, to the town of Escazú, where there were only eight of Jehovah’s witnesses, with another small isolated group not far away. Working together and encouraging one another, within six months they had a strong, active congregation of fifty Kingdom proclaimers, and at the present time they number eighty.
Large populations often live in isolated, scattered territories. Jehovah’s witnesses have tackled the problem with every means they could devise, not only to reach the people with the good news, but also to stay in the area, study with them and help them to come to an accurate knowledge of God. Conventioners at the Peruvian assembly, in Lima, heard an interesting account of one method used. A group of ten men drove two large house trucks into the remote areas of the Andes mountains. Five men used each truck as a “home base.” They also brought along a Jeep for smaller roads and trails and places difficult of access. In a few months they placed seventy-five thousand books and magazines explaining the Bible. Now they are busy helping these people to study and understand God’s Word.
Jehovah’s witnesses world wide recognize that the accomplishments they have enjoyed are not from their own power or wisdom. They feel as did the apostle Paul, who said: “Not that we of ourselves are adequately qualified to reckon anything as issuing from ourselves, but our being adequately qualified issues from God.” (2 Cor. 3:5, 6) Obstacles and barriers are overcome ‘not by power, but by Jehovah’s spirit.’—Zech. 4:6.
Accordingly, Jehovah’s witnesses give thanks to Jehovah God for allowing them to see the truth that sets men free. It is by his spirit that they have been able to change their way of life. They treasure the ministry that God has given them to help others to learn the truth.
And all of Jehovah’s witnesses world wide join in private and public expression of thanks to Jehovah, through his Son, for the direction of his spirit and for providing his angelic forces in opening the way for them to gather together in so many lands, under such widely varying conditions and governments during this time of unparalleled uncertainty and distress in world affairs.
Looking forward in faith, Jehovah’s witnesses have planned similar—though smaller—assemblies to begin in June 1974, if Jehovah wills. A spiritually upbuilding program is being arranged. In a number of countries many more sites will be used, so that it will be more convenient for all to attend. You will likely have a convention in your own area. Begin planning now to attend. We are sure you will not be disappointed, but will profit much from what you will hear. You will greatly enjoy association with people who have faith in God and his Word and who are applying Bible principles in their lives. We cordially invite you to attend, to “taste and see that Jehovah is good.”—Ps. 34:8.