Our Guests Built Them!
Report from Japan
WHEN you hear the expression “guest,” what comes to mind? Likely you think of entertaining and otherwise showing hospitality to persons not in your household. Rather than expecting guests to work during their visit, hosts normally go out of their way to do things for their visitors.
Recently Jehovah’s Witnesses in Numazu, Japan, had some unusual guests. Numazu is the location of the branch headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Japan. These guests came prepared to work, bringing their own tools and equipment. This is not without precedent. In many parts of the world, skilled workers have volunteered to share in special work projects at branch offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses, also called “Bethel” homes. Here at Numazu the volunteer workers came from all over Japan and remained for more than a year.
What was the work assignment that they wished to fulfill? It was the construction of two buildings for expansion of the printing facilities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Japan. This might have surprised some, since two buildings for the same purpose were built in 1972. But after only two years, they proved to be inadequate.
Why? Back in 1971, when these structures were first planned, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Japan had reached a peak of 11,629. The printing of the magazines The Watchtower and Awake! at that time amounted to 192,000 copies per issue. However, by the fall of 1974 the number of Witnesses in Japan had jumped to 26,355 (an increase of 127 percent). The corresponding rise in demand for the magazines called for a printing increase of 93 percent, to an average of 371,445 of each issue. Clearly, larger facilities would be needed.
So plans were drawn up for a four-story building with total floor space of 15,683 square feet (1,457 square meters). Neighborhood opposition, however, made it necessary to abandon this plan. A new design calling for two buildings of lesser height proved to be acceptable. And as it turned out, this plan allowed for more floor space than the four-story structure. The two new buildings combined would offer 16,500 square feet (1,533 square meters).
Both buildings were to be 33 feet (10 meters) tall with one being divided into three stories and the other into two stories. The three-story building would have twelve rooms for living quarters. The other structure would have only one room for living quarters; the rest of the space would be used for shipping and storage.
While these buildings were under construction, the need for Bible literature produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses continued to rise. The demand for Watchtower and Awake! magazines brought the printing up to an average of 448,219 copies per issue. Happy indeed were all concerned when the two new buildings reached completion in December 1975. They have been a real asset toward keeping pace with the ever-expanding activities of the Japanese Witnesses of Jehovah, whose numbers increased to 41,201 by May 1977.
THE BIBLE CHANGED THEIR LIVES
This construction project was truly remarkable. Not only was the building work done by volunteers, but even the architectural designing and drawing up of the plans were handled by our guests. What could motivate persons to give freely of their labors for more than a year? Without exception the principal motivating force was the spirit aroused in them by study of the Bible.
Some of the guests related experiences that led up to their learning Bible truth. Two of them, for example, told of belonging to a radical student movement during their university days. At that time they would participate in protest demonstrations. This had been an expression of their sincere desire to do away with the widespread corruption of this system of things and to achieve true peace and security.
Then something unexpected happened. A young teacher who attended meetings of this radical student movement began giving them answers from the Bible. Though the teacher was not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he used as a basis for his answers the booklet “Look! I Am Making All Things New,” published by the Watch Tower Society. When unable to answer certain questions on one occasion, he invited the students to his home where they met his wife who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Interest on the part of the students in her Bible-based explanations also caused the teacher to respond more positively. As a result, all three young men became baptized Witnesses and began sharing with their neighbors the hope that they had been unable to find in their student movement. On hearing of the opportunity to come to Numazu Bethel for construction work, these former students were among those who gladly volunteered.
GUESTS INCLUDE CONSTRUCTION OVERSEER
There was no shortage of workers to put up the two new buildings. However, such a large project would require good organization and skillful direction. Who could provide that needed oversight? In August of 1972, at a Christian assembly in Nagoya, a man with such qualifications was baptized. This was Tadazo Fukayama who had served as supervisor for a large construction firm and had thirty years’ experience in the building trade.
His wife had become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses back in 1958. Having three small children, aged four years, two years and ten months, she felt the need of guidance for bringing her children up correctly. When a Witness called on her, offering a free home Bible study, she readily accepted. At that time, though, her husband did not show any interest. He was busy with his work, leaving home early each day and returning late at night. Eventually his work took him away from home for months at a time, allowing only two weeks a year for being with his family. And even this was scattered about over several holiday periods. This went on for twelve years.
During all that time, however, his wife, now a “pioneer” Witness, studied the Bible with her children and took them to Christian meetings. The effect of this Scriptural education favorably impressed their father. He noticed that his children were not only growing up but also developing fine attitudes and behavior patterns. In due course his daughter married and entered “special pioneer” work with her husband.
At length the father too accepted a Bible study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Upon learning the Scriptural counsel regarding a father’s responsibility in the family, this man decided to give up the employment that was keeping him away from home so much. He returned home to join his wife and two husky sons.—Eph. 6:4.
But Tadazo Fukayama was in for a surprise. A month after he left the construction firm a member of the staff from Japan Bethel approached him and asked if he would consider supervising the building work at Numazu. With mixed emotions he explained that his reason for giving up construction was to spend more time with his family. He was told, however, that the whole family could accompany him. There was no hesitation. Numazu Bethel could prepare for four more guests. Thus the guest workers at Numazu obtained experienced direction.
Did the volunteers succeed at working together smoothly? The comments of an outsider who came to clean the septic tank at Bethel provide a good answer. Being accustomed to the discourteous ways and foul language of most construction workers, he registered astonishment when observing the workers at this building project. “I knew they were different,” remarked the man, “because I’ve never been at a job where people hand tools to one another and say, ‘Thank you.’ Moreover, they say, ‘Gokurosama’!* It is out of this world!”
The volunteers have all gone now, but there are fond memories of their hard work and loving association. These memories were rekindled when a special meeting was held in the Numazu Bethel Kingdom Hall, on March 19, 1977. This was for the purpose of dedicating these fine buildings to Jehovah God, to be used to his praise. The dedication talk was given by the visiting zone overseer from the New York headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Happily, the audience included the twenty-five students of the Kingdom Ministry School for congregation elders, then in session at Numazu Bethel. And—most happily—the current two-week class of students included the former construction supervisor, Tadazo Fukayama, who had by now qualified to become also a spiritual overseer in the Christian congregation and was attending this class.
These two new buildings are now being used to capacity. Grateful indeed are members of Japan’s Bethel family when they point to these fine structures and say: “Our guests built them!”
Meaning, ‘Much obliged for your trouble,’ an expression often used when the mailman brings the mail or the newsboy delivers the newspaper, but seldom among fellow workers.
[Picture on page 494]
Tadazo Fukayama—construction supervisor and now Christian overseer