Unified Action for Worldwide Building
FROM Sweden to Korea, from Australia to the Ivory Coast, Jehovah’s Witnesses are building. Projects under way in over a score of countries range from renovations to major new factory and office buildings. Why all this building activity?
Jehovah’s Witnesses take seriously Jesus’ command to “make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matt. 28:19) Have you ever thought about all the work that commission entails? During 1980 alone, zealous Witnesses the world over distributed more than 22 million bound books and Bibles as well as over 218 million magazines—all containing the lifesaving message of God’s kingdom. From where did those books, magazines and Bibles come? They were printed in factories built and operated by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The workers operating those factories are housed as a large family in homes called Bethel, meaning “house of God.”
The Witnesses who distribute this literature meet regularly in 43,181 congregations, which are located in practically every country on earth. Those congregations are looked after by local branch offices. As congregations grow (last year 581 new ones were formed), branch facilities become strained and must be enlarged or replaced. Who does the construction work? The local Witnesses whenever possible. The same zeal that fires Kingdom-preaching activity and literature placement comes to the construction site.
UNITY ON THE JOB SITE
“Why is it you do not have any quarrels among you?” asked a non-Witness carpenter in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. “On other sites it is very difficult to work.” His comments have been echoed many times by other non-Witnesses helping in the construction of a modest-sized new Bethel home and branch office of the Watch Tower Society in Ivory Coast, where the number of congregations has quadrupled in 10 years.
Such unity should not be surprising among Christian witnesses of Jehovah in view of Jesus’ prayer that his followers would be united. (John 17:23; compare Psalm 133.) As a Witness in Abidjan put it: “This is Jehovah’s construction site.”
On another continent, South America, a large Bethel home and factory complex is being completed. This huge new project in Brazil contains almost six times the floor space of the previous facility. The number of Witnesses in that land is the second largest for any country in the world and is growing rapidly, having increased 6 percent last year. A local newspaper called the construction site in Cesario Lange “a city within a city,” adding: “There, there are no disorders or lack of cooperation as customarily found between workers on large constructions. . . . This Christian atmosphere makes it different here from that customarily seen in Brazilian civil construction.” And what a construction job it has been—requiring 10,000 truckloads of concrete, stone and sand, and enough concrete pilings to reach twice the height of Mt. Everest!
Another beehive of Witness construction is found in Australia, where the Campbelltown Ingleburn News commented, “Some would call work at the Jehovah’s Witnesses new Australian complex at Ingleburn a builder’s dream.” Why? “There are no industrial disputes of any kind.” Jehovah’s Witnesses comprise the entire work force of 220 workers at the site. When completed in 1982, this complex will greatly assist the Kingdom-preaching activities of 31,686 Witnesses scattered across Australia’s giant landmass.
ROLE OF GOD’S SPIRIT
These comments by newspaper writers and other observers are merely representative of what is being noted all over the world. As workers, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a noteworthy spirit of unity and purpose. What is its source? God’s holy spirit, or active force, which promotes unity and peace.—Gal. 5:22, 23; Eph. 4:3.
The motivating power of God’s spirit is evident in the comments of those who have volunteered to work on various construction projects worldwide. In Denmark, for example, the present branch facilities were built in 1957 and have become quite cramped. The new 50-room Bethel home now under construction will allow for a larger staff, and this will make it possible to print the Watchtower and Awake! magazines with the full 32 pages in the Danish language, instead of only 24 pages, as at present. The new facilities will also include a branch office and a large factory. “With the new branch buildings we will be able to improve our service to the brothers and to the territory in our care,” reports the branch. Such territory includes the scattered places of Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
In order to help out with this project, a Danish Witness who is a skilled plumber and a family man made this decision: “When the building work was due to start, I handed in my notice [to quit secular work] and we sold our furniture. We were confident that when we had finished the building work I would find both a job and a home again. We will think of that when the time comes. We have experienced how Jehovah provides when we put him to the test and seek his kingdom first.” Truly a fine expression of faith in Jesus’ advice at Matthew 6:25-33!
A similar spirit has been evident in Canada, where Witnesses from all over that large country have volunteered to help with the construction of a new branch office and factory near Toronto. The new factory building is half again as long as a football field and 240 feet (73 m) wide, and the new residence building will accommodate 250 Bethel family members. In Canada an all-time high of over 66,000 Kingdom publishers was reached in 1980.
One Canadian Witness closed down his business and moved 2,200 miles (3,540 km) to supervise the installation of the extensive roofing system at the new complex. Eventually his wife and two sons followed. The Witness reports: “Our spirituality has been lifted high by the experience. It has made our family pioneer-minded and we propose to pursue pioneering [full-time preaching activity] after leaving the project. It has given us a pioneer spirit that we never had before.”
Very interesting is a comment from an Australian Witness. Married, with two children, he closed down his building contracting business, sold his home and moved his family 930 miles (1,500 km) to the construction site of the new Australian Bethel. “Until we made the decision to come we did not appreciate how deeply we were involved in our secular business activities and just how long it would take to break free from these worldly ties,” he admits candidly. “We have come to be so much more satisfied with ‘the things we really need’ and are determined to maintain our freedom for a fuller share in ‘sacred service.’”—Rom. 12:1; Heb. 13:5.
MOTIVATED TO LEARN
Of course, not all the workers helping to build new Bethel homes and factories are experienced builders. Even as Jehovah’s spirit has motivated master craftsmen to volunteer for Bethel construction, it has also moved young and inexperienced ones to come, and has helped them to master new trades.
In Sweden there are about 17,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Five thousand of these volunteered to help build the new Swedish Bethel! That is more than one out of every four Kingdom publishers in the country. The new facility contains over an acre (.4 ha) of floor space just for printing, allowing greatly improved service to the Swedish field. Although 85 percent of the volunteers were unskilled, they did good work. One sister, a hairdresser by profession, learned to survey so well that she was immediately hired by a building firm when she returned home from helping on the project.
In Brazil, when it proved impossible to buy good-quality aluminum windows, 20 Witnesses with no previous experience fabricated over 700 of them after brief training. And in Italy, where a new factory was recently completed, young Witnesses learned to operate cranes, use a Caterpillar tractor, make concrete, operate a plaster machine and lay bricks. The new factory is badly needed in Italy, where the 90,191 Italian Kingdom proclaimers were overjoyed to have a Memorial attendance this year of 187,165!
A young Witness in Australia was about to return to college when he heard some experiences that made him want to help with the building program in that country. “After a year I decided to go into the full-time preaching work rather than go back to the university,” he says. “Looking back now, I can see how the project gave me experience spiritually and was a stepping-stone for me to break away from the university life that I enjoyed but that was leading me in the wrong way.”
UNIFIED SUPPORT IN THE FIELD
Not all of Jehovah’s Witnesses can work full time on branch construction crews, but all can support that work—and support it they do! In Spain, for example, where the number of Witnesses has grown from 10,000 to well over 47,000 in the last decade, there is urgent need for new branch facilities. An ideal site was found with a partially completed building of the right size already located on it. The problem was that the owner wanted payment in cash, a considerable sum!
There was little time to raise the money. Could the Spanish Witnesses help out? The answer was an immediate and wholehearted Yes! Some “came forward with their gold and silver rings, bracelets and necklaces,” reports the branch. “Little children sent in their savings. Special pioneers asked that portions of their annual clothing and medical allowance be used for the Bethel project. Many brothers sacrificed their vacation plans. A congregation in Huelva regularly goes en masse to a brother’s junkyard to sort scrap, and a group of youngsters in Barcelona stuff envelopes for a yogurt company. In each case, the proceeds from these activities add up to goodly sums sent in monthly for the Bethel project.”
So it goes around the world. In the Netherlands, where 845 new Kingdom publishers were baptized in 1980, a new Bethel and printery is under way. In addition to 80 persons at a time helping on weekends, the local brothers have helped in other ways. Huge amounts of tools and work clothing have been donated, some in touching ways. “One sister,” reports the branch, “very ill and knowing she had only a short time to live, undertook to knit a pair of woolen stockings for each of the workers for the winter period.”
In South Africa, where The Watchtower is printed in 13 languages, additional space is needed for translators and printing equipment. So work has begun on a new complex. “Support from the brothers has truly been heartwarming,” the branch tells us. “One congregation arranged to pick oranges for a farmer who offered them two thirds of the proceeds for the building fund. Many sisters sold secondhand clothing . . . one elderly couple gave a silver tea set to be sold.”
Young ones manifest the same spirit. In the Federal Republic of Germany, where books are printed for most European countries, the original branch in Wiesbaden has been enlarged five times, and possibilities for further expansion have been exhausted. So a completely new complex in Selters, some 25 miles (40 km) away, is now under construction to help meet the needs of the European field by supplying literature in 14 languages. The large new factory building will have more floor space than four soccer fields. It is a striking example of “organic” architecture, designed to function harmoniously with the needs of those using the complex, where there will be accommodations for 450 Witness volunteers to live and work. Little Matthias, only six years old, “slaughtered” his piggy bank to contribute to the construction effort, giving the equivalent of over 25 dollars!
When the British Isles branch was dedicated in 1959 it was more than adequate, but now the story is different. The number of Kingdom proclaimers has more than doubled since then, so the Bethel home is being enlarged to accommodate more personnel. Also, a factory a few miles away has been purchased to house a new four-color offset press. As needs become known, Jehovah’s spirit motivates the brothers to respond. A brother was asked to obtain a price on protective helmets for construction workers. Two days later he reported: “I haven’t got the price. I’ve got the helmets instead.”
WILLING “WEEKEND WORKERS”
In many countries “weekend workers” are making a large contribution to branch construction. In the Ivory Coast, four of the 16 Abidjan congregations are invited to assist in branch construction every Sunday, and so far well over 10,000 hours have been spent by the brothers in this work. In Italy, between 30 and 50 brothers help out on a weekly basis, supplementing the permanent work crew. They come from all over Italy as well as the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. “In this way,” comments the branch, “all the Italian brothers are involved in this building work.”
There were 10,711 Witnesses in Japan in 1971, but by June 1981, the number was up to 62,381, or a 482-percent increase! No wonder the Bethel home and printing factory built in the early 1970’s were quickly found to be too small! The new complex being built in Ebina is one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken by Jehovah’s Witnesses anywhere in the world. The main building covers about nine acres (3.6 ha) of ground and includes space for two large color offset presses. Work started on the new Bethel home and factory in 1978, and volunteer response has been overwhelming. The first and third Saturdays of each month are designated volunteer service days for branch construction in Japan, and persons from congregations near and far come by car, train or chartered bus to share in the work. More than 1,000 have appeared on one Saturday, bringing their lunches to make a day of it. With hundreds of willing hands, even nail pulling becomes enjoyable work.
In Australia, where the new Bethel home will accommodate 135, very good use has been made of temporary workers. In August of 1980 a special two-week program was instituted for workers who wanted to help but could not arrange to move their families for a long period. “Within the first six months, around 500 brothers have traveled in and stayed with us,” reports the overseer of the program. “Most have had a round trip of at least 2,000 kilometers [1,240 mi.], while some have covered a return distance of 8,500 kilometers [5,270 mi.].”
These willing workers, ‘aglow with God’s spirit,’ are happy to bear the expense of travel to the work site, as well as the loss of income for two weeks. (Rom. 12:11) “One group of brothers, nine all told, pay their own fares to travel by air from the Gold Coast to Sydney, a distance of approximately 1,000 kilometers [620 mi.], each time they are needed for a major concrete pour,” says the branch, adding: “And each time they radiate a spirit of joy in being able to have a share in the work. The only compensation they ask is to be invited again.”
Others in Australia are making a contribution too. They are doing so with their Christian hospitality. “As we usually try to organize coach travel for each interstate group, congregations en route supply meals and association at each rest point,” explains the program overseer. “To see how each congregation has been willing to do that is wonderful! One small group of 30 publishers was prepared to pay the cost of a restaurant breakfast for the busload because at the time the bus was due to go through their town they would be away attending a circuit assembly in another area.” Truly, these Australian Witnesses are doing a “faithful work,” sending their brothers “on their way in a manner worthy of God.”—3 John 5, 6.
“SACRIFICE OF PRAISE”
Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses are willingly giving of their time, energy and money in building projects all over the world. Printing equipment will be installed, or has been installed, in new buildings in Canada, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Federal Republic of Germany, England, Ghana, Zambia, South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil and Japan. And the list constantly grows longer.
The true sacrifice being made in all these lands is ‘a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to Jehovah’s name.’ (Heb. 13:15) It is because of their zealous public declaration of Jehovah’s name that his faithful witnesses need to build offices and factories, to oversee the preaching work and to print magazines and bind books. So it should be no surprise that God’s unifying spirit is helping his people to work in love and unity on these building projects, for they are in harmony with his will that the “good news” be preached the world over in these “last days.”—Matt. 24:14; Acts 2:17-21.
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Among the 175 volunteer workers on construction of the new Danish branch are 46 family groups. To volunteer, the Jensen family sold their home and business
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New Bethel home in Canada, from which the activity of over 66,000 Canadian Witnesses is directed
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In Germany, hundreds of male and female volunteers assist on weekends in constructing Bethel home and printery at Selters
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To assist in building the new Australian printery, many Witnesses, like Peter and Raelynn Johnson, traveled thousands of miles