Panama Rejoices in Its Building Work
BUILDING projects are not new to Panama. Toward the beginning of this century, work began on the huge canal that cuts through the center of this narrow isthmus country, joining the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This prodigious building project earned tiny Panama the name “the crossroads of the world.”
On January 18, 1986, a building work of another sort reached its culmination. On that day Jehovah’s Witnesses held a dedication program for their newly constructed branch office facilities. While only 211 could attend the dedication program in person, thousands more listened by means of a telephone hookup. The new building houses the headquarters staff, missionaries, and a printery.
The construction of these facilities, however, is but a part of a spiritual building program that has been going on in Panama since the end of the 19th century. At that time seeds of Kingdom truth were sown here. By the year 1957, there were a thousand or so publishers of the “good news” in Panama. (Matthew 24:14) The small branch office and missionary home built in that year was sufficient. But in 20 years the number of Witnesses had tripled! So in September 1982 the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses approved the construction of a new branch office.
The location? About 12 miles (19 km) outside Panama City in a beautiful spot overlooking a lake.
The Challenge of Building
But who would design the building? How would it be built and by whom? Bearing in mind the words of Psalm 127:1, the brothers moved ahead, knowing that Jehovah would help them overcome these seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
A drawing of tentative plans was made, showing the amount of space required for an office, a library, literature storage, a small printery, and housing for the headquarters staff. A spacious Kingdom Hall was included. The architectural staff at the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, followed through by designing a building to meet these needs.
Next came the challenge of doing the actual building. Hundreds of local Witnesses volunteered. Brothers in the United States also offered their skills and services. Within a period of just six weeks, a total of 230 helpers had arrived, including some from other Central American countries.
The local brothers were happy to open up their homes. One family even moved into a tent temporarily so as to accommodate 11 volunteers. Some who owned small school buses provided transportation for these workers. Yet others shared in providing the 30,000 free meals that were served right on the construction site. Refreshing drinks made of pineapple, oranges, papaya, and mangoes, as well as coconut milk, were served frequently to quench the thirst of those toiling under the tropical sun.
No Tower of Babel
The work progressed rapidly. Within two weeks all the walls had been raised to the second-floor level, some of the steel beams were in place, and the floor of the Kingdom Hall on the second story was poured. Plumbing and electrical work proceeded simultaneously with the block laying, plastering, and installation of windows and doors. In less than a month the roof was put up, just in time to provide protection from a heavy downpour—unusual for this time of year.
There were some problems. At times, up to 800 volunteers were on hand, and a great deal of organization was needed to keep all of them busy. Furthermore, most of the visiting brothers did not know Spanish. Rather than this causing the building work to stop, as at the infamous Tower of Babel, the brothers evinced the fruitage of the spirit—and got the assistance of some interpreters.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
Throughout the project, spiritual matters were emphasized. Regular congregation meetings were held at the building site, and time was set aside for sharing in the field ministry. There were also periods of recreation, sight-seeing, and social gatherings. But the brothers were primarily there to work, and the buildings were soon finished!
In his dedication talk, John Booth of the Governing Body summed matters up nicely, saying: “What’s going to come from all this building we’ve been doing? Why, we’re building for the eternal future. Not that the building will last forever, but the result of this building and the work of the brothers throughout the country and throughout the world will be people who will live forever.” No wonder that the Witnesses in Panama rejoice over their ever-expanding building work!
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