Building for the Future—In the Netherlands
NOVEMBER 5, 1977, was a great day for the Bethel family at the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Amsterdam. From all parts of the Netherlands came a unique group of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What a sight it was to see hundreds of gray-headed brothers and sisters gathering in the Kingdom Hall and the shipping space connected with the Amsterdam Bethel home! Why had they come?
The occasion was the dedication of the new annex of the Bethel home. All those baptized before 1941 had been invited because these older ones had been the nucleus of the Christian organization in the Netherlands and had borne the brunt of the Kingdom proclamation work in the early days. How good it was to look around and see the beaming faces of all these aged brothers and sisters! Some were crippled, a few were in wheelchairs, others were bent with age, and many walked with canes—but here they were.
Listen to their remarks. “Brothers, this is a great day for me. Do you know that in 1940 I was a member of the family in one of the first pioneer homes in Leersum [Netherlands] and that we sometimes had no money for food until we placed some literature?” “I was an elder under the old arrangement [when congregational elders were chosen by voting]. Then when all those ‘elective elders’ went, I went with them. I became a company servant [presiding overseer]. I am old now, and I am a spiritual elder, and I thank Jehovah that I have lived to see this day.” These are typical of the expressions heard from these dear old brothers. Of course, the big, happy crew of hardworking builders also was present, bringing the festive crowd to the fine number of 789.
THE DEDICATION PROGRAM
The opening part of the dedication program fittingly set the theme that the literal construction project was the result of a spiritual building in the lives of thousands of people, an activity in which Christians share as “God’s fellow workers.” (1 Cor. 3:5-9) When C. T. Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, visited the Netherlands in 1891, the prospects for a spiritual building work here were not very bright. He remarked that the Dutch seemed more interested in material pursuits than in spiritual things. But what happened? Sprouting of the seed sown by a few scattered individuals could not be prevented by the strong religious elements active in those days. The work of declaring the “good news” began to grow.
In 1924 only 50 persons were present at a national assembly of Jehovah’s servants in the Netherlands. During 1927 two brothers from France took up disciple-making activity in the southern part of the country. But in 1932 our work gathered momentum because some German pioneers, or full-time Kingdom proclaimers, crossed the border to the Netherlands and began to sow seed in abundance. They were supplemented by the first Dutch pioneers and other early workers. Of course, the economic crisis of the 1930’s made life very hard. Cheerfully relating their experiences as part of the dedication program, some smiling pioneers said that in those days of privation they sometimes ate sandwiches composed only of ‘dry bread on top and dry bread underneath.’
But Jehovah surely blessed such earnest efforts. Growth could not be halted. When the din of World War II had died away and the cruel oppression of the Nazi concentration camps had come to an end, 2,184 witnesses of Jehovah emerged. Undaunted, they went forward faithfully. Ten years later there were more than 9,000 Witnesses in this part of the world, and 20 years thereafter, in 1975, 29,000 were happily announcing “this good news of the kingdom.”—Matt. 24:14.
OUR EXPANDED FACILITIES
Expansion in literal buildings has played a fine and necessary part in this spiritual building work. The dedication speaker, Lloyd Barry, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, pointed out that this building was standing because Jehovah had blessed the work of the builders and those who had laid the spiritual groundwork in the Netherlands. He referred to the faithful ones who had eaten “sandwiches” of dry bread and pointed out that this same self-sacrificing spirit among Jehovah’s Witnesses world wide had resulted in fine increase. Not all the builders had been professionals, but they had willing hearts.—Ps. 110:3.
If we could take you on a tour of our facilities here in Amsterdam, we might start with the new factory. Two job presses and a small Linotype machine can be seen in the large new extension. How happy we were to learn of plans to install a rotary press for magazine printing in this new factory!
Our tour next takes us to a large basement for the storage of literature and other items. The new annex is anchored to 190 pylons sunk deep into the subsoil. The basement floor actually lies some meters under the groundwater level, and has just the right weight to “float” at a constant height. Obviously, such construction called for skilled craftsmanship. In the smaller basement section of the original home, a walk-in cool cellar and a modern meat-processing room have been installed. A little higher up in the building, new bedrooms have been added on every floor, so that there are now 37 bedrooms, a sufficient number to house the present Bethel family and extra members. Wall-to-wall carpets in the new rooms, the offices and the hallways add to the delightful surroundings. How pleasant to live in such a home! We heartily invite you to come to see it for yourself.
With great appreciation for the new facilities, and the expectation of more work to come, the Amsterdam Bethel family agrees with the dedication speaker, who said: “This building and its new annex are tokens of Jehovah’s blessing and an indication that more work must yet be done to the glory of Jehovah’s name.”