A Testimony to Love, Faith, and Obedience
THE morning of May 16, 2005, was pleasantly cool and bright at Watchtower Farms in Wallkill, New York. The manicured lawns and flower beds glistened from a predawn rain. A duck with eight ducklings glided quietly on the calm water near the edge of the pond. Visitors marveled at the beauty. They spoke softly, as if not wanting to spoil the tranquillity of the morning.
The visitors were Jehovah’s Witnesses who had come from 48 countries around the world. But they had not come to see the scenery. They were interested in what was happening inside an expansive red-brick building, the most recent addition to the United States Bethel complex at Wallkill. Inside that building, they marveled again, though the scene was neither quiet nor tranquil.
From a mezzanine, the visitors gazed down upon a maze of machinery. Five massive presses spread over a polished concrete floor larger than nine football fields. It is here that Bibles, books, and magazines are printed. Huge rolls of paper, weighing 3,800 pounds [1,700 kg] each, spin like the wheels of a fast-moving truck. Each 14-mile [23 km] roll of paper unwinds and passes through the press in just 25 minutes. In that time, the press applies and dries the ink and cools the paper so that it can be folded into magazines that speed along overhead conveyors to be boxed and shipped to congregations. Other presses are busy printing book signatures, which are swiftly moved to a floor-to-ceiling storage area until they are sent to the bindery. The operation is a computer-directed symphony of precise movements.
Leaving the pressroom, the visitors toured the bindery. Here machines produce hardcover books and deluxe Bibles at a rate of up to 50,000 copies per day. Book signatures are collated, bound, and trimmed. Covers are then attached. Cartons are slipped over stacks of finished books. The cartons are automatically sealed, labeled, and stacked on a pallet. Additionally, a paperback-book line assembles and packs as many as 100,000 books per day. This too is a world of machinery—countless motors, conveyors, gears, wheels, and belts—all moving at astounding speed to produce Bible literature.
Operating with the precision of a well-made watch, the printery’s high-speed, state-of-the-art machinery is a marvel of modern technology. As we will see, it is also a testimony to the love, faith, and obedience of God’s people. Why, though, were the printing operations moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Wallkill?
A major reason was to simplify printing and shipping by centralizing operations at one location. For years, books were printed and shipped from Brooklyn, and magazines were printed and shipped from Wallkill. Combining operations would reduce personnel and make better use of dedicated funds. Furthermore, since the presses in Brooklyn were getting old, two new MAN Roland Lithoman printing presses were ordered from Germany. These presses were too large to fit into the printery in Brooklyn.
Jehovah Backs the Work
The purpose of the printing has always been to further the good news of God’s Kingdom. It has been evident that Jehovah’s blessing has been on the work from the very beginning. From 1879 to 1922, the books were printed by commercial printing establishments. In 1922, a six-story building at 18 Concord Street in Brooklyn was rented and equipment purchased for the printing of books. At that time, some doubted whether the brothers could handle the task.
One of those doubters was the president of the company that had printed most of our books. When visiting Concord Street, he said: “Here you are with a first-class printing establishment on your hands, and nobody around the place that knows a thing about what to do with it. In six months the whole thing will be a lot of junk; and you will find out that the people to do your printing are those that have always done it, and make it their business.”
The printery overseer at the time, Robert J. Martin, observed: “That sounded logical enough, but it left out the Lord; and he has always been with us. . . . It was not long before we were making books.” During the next 80 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses printed billions of pieces of literature on their own printing presses.
Then on October 5, 2002, at the annual meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, it was announced that the Governing Body had approved the moving of printing operations of the United States branch to Wallkill. Two new presses had been ordered, with a delivery date of February 2004. The brothers would need to design and expand the printery and be ready within 15 months to receive the new presses. Then, the installation of new bindery and shipping operations would have to be completed within the following nine months. Some may have had doubts when they heard the timetable—the task seemed daunting. Yet, the brothers knew that with Jehovah’s blessing, it could be done.
“A Happy Spirit of Cooperation”
Knowing that Jehovah’s people would offer themselves willingly, the brothers started the project. (Psalm 110:3) Its magnitude required more workers than were available from within the Bethel construction departments. From the United States and Canada, over 1,000 brothers and sisters with construction skills volunteered to serve from one week to three months as part of a temporary volunteer program. Others from the international servant and volunteer programs were invited to share in the project. Regional Building Committees also contributed greatly.
For many, volunteering for the Wallkill project meant a significant expenditure on travel and time away from secular employment. Yet, they joyfully made these sacrifices. Housing and feeding these many additional volunteers provided opportunities for the Bethel family to exert themselves in support of the project. Over 535 Bethel family members from Brooklyn, Patterson, and Wallkill volunteered to work on the project on Saturdays, in addition to their normal weekday assignments. The overwhelming support that God’s people gave to this historic endeavor was possible only because Jehovah was backing the project.
Others contributed financially. For example, the brothers received a letter from nine-year-old Abby. She wrote: “I am so grateful for all the work you do—making all the wonderful books. I might be coming over soon. My daddy said next year! I’ll wear a badge so you know who I am. Here’s 20 dollars for the new printing press! It’s my allowance money, but I want to give it to you brothers.”
A sister wrote: “Please accept my gift of crocheted hats that I made with my own two little hands. I would like these hats to be given to the workers who are working on the Wallkill project. An almanac said it’s going to be a very bad winter. Whether they’re right or not, I don’t know. But I know that much of the work at Wallkill will be done outside, and I want to make sure that my brothers and sisters will keep their head warm. I don’t have any of the skills that the brothers are looking for, but I can crochet, so I decided to use this skill to contribute what I could.” Enclosed were 106 crocheted hats!
The printery was completed on schedule. John Larson, printery overseer, said: “There was such a happy spirit of cooperation. Who could doubt that Jehovah was blessing the work? Things moved so quickly. I recall standing in the mud in May 2003 watching the brothers lay the foundation of the building. Less than a year later, I stood on the same spot observing a printing press in operation.”
The program to dedicate the new printery, along with three residence buildings, was held at Wallkill on Monday, May 16, 2005. The Bethel complexes at Patterson and Brooklyn, as well as Canada Bethel, were tied in by video line. In all, 6,049 enjoyed the program. Theodore Jaracz, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, served as chairman and gave a brief overview of the history of the printing work. By means of interviews and video presentations, Branch Committee members John Larson and John Kikot reviewed the history of both the construction project and the printing operations in the United States. John Barr of the Governing Body delivered the final talk, dedicating the new printery and three residence complexes to Jehovah God.
During the week that followed, Bethelites from Patterson and Brooklyn were given the opportunity to tour the new facilities. In all, 5,920 visited during that time.
How Do We View the Printery?
In the dedication talk, Brother Barr reminded his listeners that the printery, impressive though it may be, is not about machinery. It is about people. The literature we print has a profound impact on people’s life.
Each of the new presses can print a million tracts in just over an hour! Yet, a single tract can have a far-reaching effect on someone’s life. For example, in 1921 a team of railroad-maintenance men in South Africa worked their way along a stretch of railway track. One of them, a man named Christiaan, noticed a piece of paper wedged under a rail. It was one of our tracts. Christiaan read it with intense interest. He ran to meet his son-in-law and announced excitedly: “Today I have found the truth!” Shortly afterward, they wrote for more information. The South Africa branch sent additional Bible literature. The two men studied, got baptized, and shared Bible truth with others. As a result, many accepted the truth. In fact, by the early 1990’s, more than a hundred of their descendants were Witnesses of Jehovah—all the result of one man’s discovering a single tract on a railroad track!
The literature that we print, Brother Barr said, brings people into the truth, keeps them in the truth, motivates them to greater zeal, and unifies the brotherhood. And most of all, the literature, which we all have a share in distributing, glorifies our God, Jehovah!
How Does Jehovah View the Printery?
Brother Barr also asked the audience to consider how Jehovah views the printery. He certainly does not depend on it. He could make the stones preach the good news! (Luke 19:40) Furthermore, he is not impressed by the complexity, size, speed, or capabilities of machinery. Why, he created the universe! (Psalm 147:10, 11) Jehovah knows more advanced ways to produce literature, ways that have been neither devised nor even imagined by humans. So, what does Jehovah see that he truly values? Surely he sees in this printery the precious qualities of his people—their love, faith, and obedience.
The aspect of love was illustrated. A girl bakes a cake for her parents. Likely, the parents will be touched. Yes, however the cake turns out, what touches the parents is their child’s love, as shown by her generous act. Similarly, when Jehovah looks at this new printery, he sees beyond the building and the machinery. Primarily, he sees it as an expression of love for his name.—Hebrews 6:10.
Furthermore, just as Jehovah viewed the ark as an expression of Noah’s faith, he sees this printery as tangible evidence of our faith. Faith in what? Noah had faith that what Jehovah foretold would come true. We have faith that we are living in the last days, that the good news is the most important message being sounded on earth, and that it is vital for people to hear it. We know that the Bible’s message can save lives.—Romans 10:13, 14.
Doubtless, Jehovah also sees in this printery an expression of our obedience. As we know, it is his will that the good news be preached worldwide before the end comes. (Matthew 24:14) This printery, along with those in other regions of the globe, will play a role in fulfilling that commission.
Yes, the love, faith, and obedience shown in the financing, construction, and operation of these facilities is also reflected in the zealous activity of Jehovah’s people everywhere as they continue to proclaim the truth to all who will listen.
[Box/Pictures on page 11]
EXPANSION OF PRINTING IN THE UNITED STATES
1920: Magazines printed with first rotary press, at 35 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn.
1922: The printery relocated to a six-story building at 18 Concord Street. Books now printed.
1927: Printery moved to a new building erected at 117 Adams Street.
1949: A nine-story addition doubled printery size.
1956: Adams Street printery doubled again when new building is erected at 77 Sands Street.
1967: Ten-story building erected, making possible an interconnected printery ten times larger than original building.
1973: Subsidiary printery at Wallkill built, primarily for magazine production.
2004: All printing, binding, and shipping operations in the United States consolidated at Wallkill.