“This House Is Yours”
“THIS house is yours—to it we’ve added.” How fittingly these words summed up the feelings of those who had just completed two years of hard work at the Watch Tower Society’s Australia branch office! The words were addressed to Jehovah God, and they were part of a song composed for a special occasion. What occasion? The dedication of new extensions to the Bethel home and factory.
Expansion So Soon?
Surprisingly, less than seven years earlier, a similar dedication had taken place for the then newly built Bethel complex at Ingleburn, on the southwestern outskirts of Sydney, Australia. Why was further expansion needed so soon?
For one thing, the number of Witnesses in Australia has grown from fewer than 32,000 in 1981 to a peak of 51,152 in October 1989, and that necessitated an increase in the Bethel staff. In addition, there was a dramatic increase in the amount of literature that Australia sent to other branches. At present, Australia produces publications in 37 different languages to serve the needs of Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Vanuatu, Niue, Western Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Wallis Islands, as well as Australia. Hence, the Bethel family has grown rapidly to 164 members.
To accommodate this growing family, early in 1987 a new three-story office extension was completed, providing much-needed additional office space. Next, the Governing Body approved the construction of a three-story factory enlargement and a five-story residence extension. In January 1988 work began on the new factory addition, which would provide a further 38,800 square feet [3,600 sq m] of floor space. A few months later, work began on the residence extension, which would provide 51 more bedrooms.
Sacrifices and Generous Giving
Invitations were sent to congregations throughout the country calling for volunteers who could become part of a “construction family” for up to two years. The response was overwhelming, and volunteers from all trades responded readily. More than 700 separate application forms were received, and over the construction period, a total of 270 volunteers came and worked on the project for periods ranging from two weeks to almost two years.
One Witness owned an earth-moving business in the northern state of Queensland. He sold part of his business, and he and his wife became part of the construction family from its inception. He purchased a large tracked excavator and did most of the necessary excavating work at no cost to the Society. When the bulk of the excavation was completed, he sold the machine and then stayed on to work in other areas of construction. This is just one example of the fine, selfless spirit shown by all throughout the project.
Witnesses donated the use of concrete truck pumps to pour the 4,300 cubic yards [3,300 cu m] of concrete needed for the eight floors in the two buildings. Others donated the materials needed for three 5,800-gallon [22,000 L] concrete water tanks, and Witnesses working at the factory donated their labor to construct the tanks.
Not all the volunteers were skilled tradesmen, of course. Indeed, many young men learned new skills right on the site. Several became competent bricklayers as they helped to lay the half million bricks needed for the project. Others learned to lay wall and floor tile, and in just a few weeks, one sister became very proficient at hanging wallpaper.
Dedication day, Saturday, November 25, 1989, dawned clear and sunny—a beautiful, late spring day. The second level of the new factory addition had been cleared to form the main auditorium for the dedication program. Closed-circuit television tied in sections of the other two factory floors and the shipping floor, the Bethel auditorium, and the Bethel dining room. This allowed comfortable indoor seating for more than 3,000.
Because space was limited, only those baptized for about 40 years were invited to attend, along with personal guests of the Bethel and construction families. Refreshments were available during the morning, and a tasty box lunch was provided at midday. At 9:00 a.m., the annual meeting of the Watchtower Society of Australia was held, and all 21 members of the Australia corporation attended. After the necessary legal details had been cared for, others were invited into the meeting, and all were delighted to hear a discourse by Theodore Jaracz of the Governing Body.
At 1:45 p.m., 15 minutes of Kingdom music introduced the dedication program. The audience was happy to hear reports, interesting anecdotes, experiences, and comments by the three members of the Governing Body present. Of these, Carey Barber and Daniel Sydlik were making their first visit to the land down under. Brother Barber spoke on the subject “The Harvest Is the End of the Age,” while Brother Sydlik handled the theme “Happy Is the People Whose God Is Jehovah.” Brother Jaracz, who was serving the Australia branch as zone overseer, delivered the dedication discourse.
A delightful feature of the program was the singing of a four-stanza song just before the dedication discourse. Based on Isaiah’s words at Isaiah 60:22, the title of the song was “The Little One Becomes a Thousand.” In the lyrics gratitude was expressed to Jehovah that many willing volunteers had been privileged to add to ‘his house’ in this part of the worldwide field.
[Pictures on page 15]
New addition to Watch Tower printery at Ingleburn, N.S.W., Australia