A Happy Day in Brazil
SATURDAY, March 21, 1981, was a happy day for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil. That day saw the dedication of their spacious new headquarters complex in Cesario Lange, 140 km (87 mi.) from São Paulo. It was a noteworthy day for the rest of Brazil, too. Why? Because sooner or later, the lives of most Brazilians will be touched by the activities of the volunteer workers in these new buildings.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have experienced a rapid growth in Brazil. In the 1920’s, eight sailors, who had obtained Bible literature in New York, returned home there and shared their newfound knowledge with others. From that small beginning, their number has mushroomed to more than 117,000.
As Christians, witnesses of Jehovah are always busy speaking to their neighbors about the Bible, and they make extensive use of Bible literature. This explains the need for a headquarters from which their work can be organized and where their literature can be printed. They call their headquarters in each country “Bethel.”
Due to the increasing number of Witnesses in Brazil, the former Bethel home and printery in São Paulo had been outgrown, extended and outgrown again. So it was decided to construct a brand-new building complex. In 1977, property was purchased in Cesario Lange.
The new property, comprising 115 hectares (280 acres), was uncultivated. So volunteers moved in, braving snakes and painful beestings, to subdue the land. They cleared the area that would be needed for building and prepared some that would be used for gardening and cattle raising. They tried, however, to save as many trees as possible and were able to preserve 20 hectares (50 acres) of virgin forest. So now the Bethel family shares the site with armadillos, porcupines, deer, wildcats, skunks, squirrels and many colorful and unusual birds.
The new Bethel is truly beautiful in its rural setting. It is also large. Since it is almost six times as big as the previous one, it will be able to handle much future expansion. The eight buildings (including a printery) have a floor space of 46,000 square meters (495,139 sq. ft.). A total of 15,000 meters (16,404 yds.) of piles were driven into the ground for the supporting pillars—that is nearly twice the height of Mount Everest!
Who did the constructing? Well, as soon as the land was bought, many Jehovah’s Witnesses from all around the country volunteered their skills and professions. Additionally, employees of a private contractor, who were not Witnesses, worked on the site. At one time there were 800.
That is a lot of people. Were they disorganized? No. The project was so well managed that a local newspaper reported: “There is no disorder, as is common among the workers on a big project; alcoholic beverages do not exist or are rare on the job, where tranquillity prevails. All the food is prepared there. Really, the site is a miniature city, totally self-sufficient.”
Serious accidents are also common on big building projects. However, on this one, good organization and adherence to safety regulations paid off. During all the period of construction there was no major accident. The Witnesses are grateful to Jehovah for this.
How was the project paid for? Largely through the voluntary contributions of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil and other lands. One young Witness sent a piggy bank with this note: “Every year I save money in a piggy bank to buy a toy for myself. My father encouraged me to send my piggy bank to the [Watch Tower] Society. I know Jehovah will bless me for it.”
So finally the day for dedicating the new headquarters arrived, March 21, 1981. On hand were 3,607 Witnesses from all parts of the country. Some had traveled 4,000 kilometers (2,485 mi.) to be there. Others, unable to attend, sent written greetings, including one message in Braille.
Among those present were some with many years of experience. Charles D. Leathco, a graduate of the very first class of the missionary school of Gilead, told the assembled crowd what it was like to visit the different congregations back in 1945. At that time, there were only 30 congregations in the whole country, compared with 2,100 today. Agenor da Paixão remembered when he first started working at Bethel in 1949. There were only 20 volunteer workers at the Brazilian headquarters then. Now there are 280.
Maud Yuille’s reminiscences went even further back. She and her husband arrived in Brazil in 1936, when there were only about 60 witnesses of Jehovah in the country. Now there are over 117,000. Ninety-two-year-old Maud Yuille is still working faithfully in Bethel.
Finally, Lloyd Barry, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, gave the dedication talk, based on 1 Chronicles 29:9-13. He also used the beautiful words of King Solomon at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, and gave all credit to Jehovah God for the fine new buildings that were now ready to be used in His service.
At the end of the program, everybody felt joyful because of the day’s events. And doubtless the words of Karl Rietz, who opened the program, were still in their minds: “Bricks cannot preach. Therefore, without the preachers of the ‘good news’ these buildings would never have been put up.” How true! It was the zeal of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil, and the blessing of Jehovah on their hard work, that made the whole construction project necessary.
Now that it is completed, Jehovah’s Witnesses will keep working hard to carry the “good news” to the farthest reaches of this vast country. Thus, this day of dedication proved to be a happy occasion not only for Jehovah’s Witnesses but for all right-hearted people in Brazil.
“Yours, O Jehovah, are the greatness and the mightiness and the beauty and the excellency and the dignity; for everything in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Jehovah, the One also lifting yourself up as head over all. And now, O our God, we are thanking you and praising your beauteous name.”—1 Chron. 29:11, 13.