“You Have Changed My Impression of Jehovah’s Witnesses”
THAT is how one Polish prison official reacted to an article about the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as reported on in our October 15, 1998, issue. The article, “When Hearts of Stone Turn Responsive,” documented the success that Jehovah’s Witnesses have had in working with the prison inmates in Wołów, Poland.
Before the release of the above-mentioned Watchtower magazine to the public, a special meeting to provide it for the inmates was arranged on September 13, 1998, at the Wołów penitentiary. Those invited to attend included local Witnesses, baptized and other interested prisoners, and a number of penitentiary officials. The following are some of the observations made by those in attendance.
Jerzy, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who was baptized in prison more than five years ago, said: “I am very happy, as I can read today about how much effort the brothers from the nearby congregations have put forth to help us.” He added: “I keep striving to improve myself, and I can see how Jehovah has been molding me.”
Another prisoner, named Zdzisław, said regarding the witnessing work in prison: “At present, four convicts are preparing for baptism, and newly interested ones continue to attend the meetings at our hall. This article is a powerful motivation to us for further activity in this field.” What a positive attitude, considering that Zdzisław still has 19 years to serve in prison!
After reading the article on the Wołów penitentiary, one prison official said: “We have been especially honored. I never thought that this penitentiary would receive such positive publicity in 130 languages in the world. I like you people, and I appreciate your efforts in behalf of the convicts.” Another official added: “You have changed my impression of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Previously, I viewed you as religious fanatics. Now I see that you are people of principle.”
The director of the Wołów prison, Marek Gajos, smiled and said: “At first we thought that you would accomplish very little. We thought that you were just another religion with aspirations for Biblical rehabilitation of the convicts. Seeing the results of your initial activity, however, we decided on close cooperation. You have been coming here untiringly for nine years now, and I appreciate very much what you have done so far.”
How, though, was the article received by the general prison population at Wołów? Interest among inmates was so high that the Witnesses in prison exhausted their supply of the magazine. Prison officials also showed interest by requesting 40 extra copies for themselves. To meet the increased demand, local congregations helped out and provided 100 extra copies for the brothers in prison. At the same time, meeting attendance in prison increased.
Piotr Choduń, a prison official who has cooperated closely with Jehovah’s Witnesses, said: “We decided to have this article displayed in all the showcases in our penitentiary. We hope that all of the inmates who are not yet studying the Bible with you will read the magazine.”
The Witnesses’ fine example and their determined preaching efforts continue to have good results. In addition to the 15 prisoners who have progressed to the point of baptism, 2 prison officials have dedicated their lives to Jehovah, and another prison official has asked for a Bible study. Of course, the brothers who preach in the Wołów prison give all credit to Jehovah God for their success.—Compare 1 Corinthians 3:6, 7.
[Picture on page 28]
Three Witnesses and an inmate at the magazine presentation in the prison lecture hall