Fishing for Men in Global Waters
“If, now, I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!”—1 CORINTHIANS 9:16.
1, 2. (a) Who have truly met the challenge implied at 1 Corinthians 9:16, and why do you so answer? (b) What responsibility have Jehovah’s Witnesses accepted?
WHO in this 20th century have truly met the challenge presented by Paul’s words above? Who have gone out into the world by the millions to fish for men and women who are “conscious of their spiritual need”? (Matthew 5:3) Who have risked imprisonment and death, and who have suffered such in many lands because of fulfilling Christ’s command at Matthew 24:14?
2 The record answers: Jehovah’s Witnesses. Last year alone over four million Witnesses went from house to house ‘declaring the good news’ in 211 countries and territories and in more than 200 languages. These were not just a select group of trained missionaries. No, all of Jehovah’s Witnesses feel a responsibility to preach and teach from house to house and on every appropriate occasion. Why do they feel that need to share their beliefs with others? Because they recognize that knowledge brings responsibility.—Ezekiel 33:8, 9; Romans 10:14, 15; 1 Corinthians 9:16, 17.
Fishing for Men, a Global Challenge
3. How extensive must the fishing work be?
3 This great fishing work is not confined, as it were, to some river or lake or even one ocean. No, as Jesus commanded, it is to be carried out “in all the nations.” (Mark 13:10) Before ascending to his Father, Jesus told his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.
4. (a) What must have surprised Jesus’ early Jewish followers? (b) How do Jehovah’s Witnesses view the extent of their preaching work?
4 To Jesus’ Jewish followers, that must have been a startling commission. He was telling his Jewish disciples that they would now have to go out to the “unclean” Gentiles of all the nations and teach them. It took some readjusting for them to absorb the impact of and act on that assignment. (Acts 10:9-35) But there was no getting around it; Jesus had told them in a parable that “the field is the world.” Therefore, Jehovah’s Witnesses today view the whole world as the scene for their fishing rights. There can be no “12-mile [20 km] limit” or “territorial waters” restricting their commission from God. Sometimes discretion is needed where religious freedom does not exist. Nevertheless, they fish with a sense of urgency. Why is that? Because world events and the fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicate that we are in the final part of the global fishing work.—Matthew 13:38; Luke 21:28-33.
Progress in the Global Fishing Work
5. What kind of people are responding to the global fishing work?
5 Most of the anointed Kingdom heirs were “fished” from the nations prior to 1935, so their full number has basically been completed. Therefore, especially since 1935, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been seeking those humble persons who might be described as “meek ones” who “will possess the earth.” (Psalm 37:11, 29) These are people who “are sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done.” They are making a move in favor of God’s Kingdom rule before the “great tribulation” strikes Satan’s depraved and corrupt system of things and his worshipers are assigned to “the fiery furnace” of final destruction.—Ezekiel 9:4; Matthew 13:47-50; 24:21.
6, 7. (a) What steps were taken in 1943 with regard to the preaching work? (b) What have the results been?
6 Has the global fishing work been successful so far? Let the facts speak for themselves. Back in 1943, World War II was still raging, yet the faithful anointed brothers at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York, foresaw that a vast global fishing operation would have to be carried out. So, what steps were taken?*—Revelation 12:16, 17.
7 In 1943 the Watchtower Society established a missionary school called Gilead (Hebrew, “Witness Heap”; Genesis 31:47, 48) that began training a hundred missionaries every six months so that they could be sent out as symbolic fishers earth wide. Back then, there were only 126,329 Witnesses actively fishing for men in 54 lands. Within ten years those figures had virtually jumped to 519,982 Witnesses in 143 lands! Surely, Gilead School was producing intrepid fishermen and fisherwomen, willing to go out to foreign cultures and adapt to new fishing waters. As a result, thousands of honesthearted people responded. Those missionaries, and local Witnesses they worked with, laid a foundation for the marvelous increase that is now taking place.
8, 9. (a) What examples might be cited of outstanding missionary work? (b) How have missionaries seen outstanding growth in their fields? (See also the 1992 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses.)
8 Many faithful veterans from those early classes of Gilead are still serving in their foreign assignments, even though they are now over 70 or even 80 years of age. One example that typifies many of these is that of 82-year-old Eric Britten and his wife, Christina, who graduated from Gilead’s 15th class in 1950 and are still serving in Brazil. When they went to serve in Brazil, there were fewer than 3,000 Witnesses in that country. Now there are over 300,000! Surely, the ‘small one has become a mighty nation’ in Brazil because the fishing work has been productive.—Isaiah 60:22.
9 And what can we say about the missionaries in Africa? Most have adapted to a very different culture and have come to love the African peoples. Typical are the brothers John and Eric Cooke and their wives, Kathleen and Myrtle, presently serving in South Africa. John and Eric were graduated from the eighth class in 1947. Between them they have served in Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa. Some missionaries died in Africa because of disease, and others because of war and persecution, such as Alan Battey and Arthur Lawson, who died during the recent civil war in Liberia. Yet, the African waters have proved to be very productive. There are now over 400,000 Witnesses spread throughout that vast continent.
All Have a Part
10. Why and in what way are pioneers doing a commendable work?
10 However, it has to be recognized that while the foreign missionaries have numbered some thousands, the local publishers and pioneers* have become millions. They are doing the bulk of the preaching work earth wide. In 1991 there was an average of over 550,000 pioneers and traveling ministers. What an impressive figure that is when we think of all these faithful Witnesses making a special effort to participate in the great fishing work, averaging anywhere from 60 to 140 hours of preaching each month. Many do this at great personal sacrifice and expense. But why? Because they love Jehovah their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and they love their neighbors as themselves.—Matthew 22:37-39.
11. What sure evidence is there of Jehovah’s spirit at work among his people?
11 What can we say of the over three and a half million other Witnesses who are not in full-time service but nevertheless give 100 percent in Jehovah’s service, according to their circumstances? Some are wives, even mothers caring for small children, who nevertheless devote some of their valuable time to the global fishing work. Many are husbands or fathers with a full-time secular job; yet, they set aside time on weekends and evenings to teach the truth to strangers. Then there is the great crowd of single men and women and young ones who share in preaching and who recommend the truth by their conduct. What other religious group has over four million unpaid volunteers who every month preach the good news of God’s Kingdom rule? Surely this evidences Jehovah’s spirit at work!—Psalm 68:11; Acts 2:16-18; compare Zechariah 4:6.
Factors That Contribute to Growth
12. Why and in what numbers are people responding to the truth?
12 This vast preaching work is bringing remarkable results every year. In 1991 over 300,000 new Witnesses were baptized by total immersion in water. That is the equivalent of over 3,000 congregations of 100 Witnesses each! How is all of this achieved? Let us remember what Jesus said: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him . . . It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by Jehovah.’ Everyone that has heard from the Father and has learned comes to me.” Therefore, it is not just by human effort that one responds to the global fishing. Jehovah perceives the heart condition and draws toward himself those worthy ones.—John 6:44, 45; Matthew 10:11-13; Acts 13:48.
13, 14. What fine attitude have many Witnesses manifested?
13 Human fishers are the agents, however, that Jehovah uses to draw people to him. Therefore, their attitude toward the people and the territory where they fish is important. How encouraging it is to see that the vast majority have taken to heart Paul’s words to the Galatians: “So let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Galatians 6:9.
14 Many faithful Witnesses have been preaching for decades, while closely watching world developments. They have seen the rise and fall of Nazism, Fascism, and other totalitarian systems. Some have witnessed the many wars that have taken place since 1914. They have seen world leaders pin their hopes on the League of Nations and then on the United Nations. They have seen Jehovah’s work banned and later legalized in many lands. Through all of this, Jehovah’s Witnesses have not given up in doing what is fine, including serving as fishers of men. What an outstanding record of integrity!—Matthew 24:13.
15. (a) What help have we had in adapting to the needs of our worldwide territory? (b) How have publications helped in your assignment?
15 There are other factors that have contributed to this worldwide growth. One is the flexible attitude of the fishers of men toward the needs of the territory. With the migration of peoples of different cultures, religions, and languages, Jehovah’s Witnesses have broadened their understanding of these diverse viewpoints. And the worldwide congregation has helped tremendously by preparing Bibles and Bible literature in over 200 languages. The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, whole or in part, is now in 13 languages, including Czech and Slovak. The brochure Enjoy Life on Earth Forever! is now available in 198 languages, ranging from Albanian to Zulu, with a printing of 72 million copies. The book The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived is already available in 69 languages. Mankind’s Search for God, published in 29 languages, gives insight into the origin and beliefs of the major religious systems of the world and is proving a unique aid in the global fishing.
16. How have some responded to the needs in other lands?
16 What else has furthered the global fishing work? Thousands have been willing to respond to the ‘Macedonian call.’ Just as Paul was willing to move from Asia Minor to Macedonia in Europe, at God’s call, many Witnesses have moved to lands and territories where there is a greater need for Kingdom preachers, as well as for elders and ministerial servants. They have been like literal fishermen who find their local waters to be well fished and move out into waters where there are fewer boats and the fish are plentiful.—Acts 16:9-12; Luke 5:4-10.
17. What examples do we have of those who have responded to the ‘Macedonian call’?
17 Recent classes of the Gilead missionary school have included students from various European countries who have learned English and have then offered themselves for service in other lands and cultures. Likewise, through the Ministerial Training School, many single brothers are given two months of intensive training and are then sent to other nations to strengthen the congregations and the circuits. Other unique fishing grounds are in the territories that are now opening up in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics.—Compare Romans 15:20, 21.
18. (a) Why are pioneers usually effective ministers? (b) How can they help others in the congregation?
18 An additional aid in the worldwide fishing work is the Pioneer Service School that regular pioneers attend. Through two weeks of intensive coverage of the publication Shining as Illuminators in the World, prepared exclusively for pioneers, they improve their ministerial ability as they consider such subjects as “Pursuing the Way of Love,” “Follow Jesus as a Model,” and “Developing the Art of Teaching.” How grateful all the congregations are to have these teams of qualified house-to-house fishers who can train many in this great fishing work!—Matthew 5:14-16; Philippians 2:15; 2 Timothy 2:1, 2.
Can We Improve?
19. Like the apostle Paul, how can we improve in our ministry?
19 Like Paul, we want to have a positive, forward-looking attitude. (Philippians 3:13, 14) He adapted to all kinds of people and circumstances. He knew how to find common ground and how to reason on the basis of local attitudes and culture. We can start Bible studies by being alert to a householder’s reactions to the Kingdom message and then adapting our presentation to the person’s needs. With the wide variety of Bible study aids we have, we can offer the one that suits the individual’s outlook. Our flexibility and alertness are also important factors in productive fishing.—Acts 17:1-4, 22-28, 34; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
20. (a) Why is our fishing work so important now? (b) What is our individual responsibility now?
20 Why is this unique global fishing work so important now? Because from Bible prophecies reflected in the events that have taken place and that are taking place, it is evident that Satan’s world system is heading for a disastrous climax. So, what should we, Jehovah’s Witnesses, be doing? The three study articles in this magazine have highlighted our responsibility to be industrious and zealous in our fishing activity in our portion of the global waters. We have the solid assurance from the Bible that Jehovah will not forget our diligent fishing activity. Paul stated: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering. But we desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end.”—Hebrews 6:10-12.
See also Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand!, pages 185 and 186, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
“Pioneer publisher . . . A full-time worker of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”—Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.
Do You Recall?
□ Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses view the whole world as the scene for their fishing activities?
□ What blessing has the Gilead missionary school been to the fishing work?
□ What are some factors that have contributed to the success of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
□ How can we individually improve in our Christian ministry?
[Chart on page 24]
RESULTS OF INTERNATIONAL FISHING
Year Lands Witnesses
1939 61 71,509
1943 54 126,329
1953 143 519,982
1973 208 1,758,429
1983 205 2,652,323
1991 211 4,278,820
[Picture on page 25]
The witness work is still being done among Galilean fishermen