“Divided by Language but United by Love”
Deliverance. Liberation. Salvation. For centuries, people have longed for relief from burdens and cares. How can we cope with life’s problems? Will there ever be a deliverance? And if so, how?
THAT was the subject of a series of three-day district conventions, organized by Jehovah’s Witnesses, that began in May 2006. The theme was “Deliverance at Hand!”
Nine of these conventions were attended by thousands of delegates from different countries. They were held during July and August 2006, in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic; in Bratislava, capital of Slovakia; in Chorzow and Poznan, Poland;* and in five German cities—Dortmund, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig, and Munich. The combined attendance of these conventions exceeded 313,000.
What kind of spirit pervaded the conventions? What sort of publicity did they receive? And how did conventioners feel after attending them?
There was keen anticipation among visitors and local Witnesses alike for what they knew would be memorable spiritual occasions. Arranging for adequate accommodations for the delegates was a big job. For the Chorzow convention, for example, Polish Witnesses offered to open their homes to almost 13,000 guests from Eastern Europe. Delegations came to that convention from Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, the United States, and Uzbekistan.
Many delegates had to begin preparations for their trip months in advance. Tatiana, a full-time evangelizer in Kamchatka, a Russian peninsula located northeast of Japan, began saving for the trip a year in advance. She had to travel some 6,500 miles [10,500 km]. First, she flew 5 hours by plane, then she traveled for nearly three days by train, and finally she spent 30 hours on a bus to reach Chorzow.
Thousands volunteered for preconvention work, making the stadiums and their surroundings fit locations for worship. (Deuteronomy 23:14) To cite just one example, in Leipzig the local Witnesses did a fine job cleaning up the stadium, and they promised to do so again after the convention. As a result, stadium officials canceled a clause of the rental contract that called for a substantial payment to cover cleaning costs.
Congregations worldwide gave extensive publicity to the “Deliverance at Hand!” Conventions. Those individuals who were to attend special conventions shared in this campaign with great enthusiasm. They continued publicizing the convention until late into the evening of the day before the convention began. Did their zeal produce any good results?
A Polish Witness named Bogdan met an elderly man who wanted to attend the convention but who said that his small pension would not allow him to travel the 75 miles [120 km] to Chorzow. It turned out that there was going to be an empty seat on the bus hired by the local congregation. Bogdan relates: “We told the man that he could go with us free of charge if he came to the place of departure at 5:30 in the morning.” The man accepted the invitation and attended the convention. Later he wrote to the brothers, saying: “After attending this convention, I am determined to be a better man.”
In Prague a man who was staying at one of the hotels used by delegates from Britain told conventioners one evening that he too had attended the sessions that day. What had moved him to be there? The man said that after receiving invitations from ten different publishers on the streets of the city, he just had to go! He was most impressed and was eager to learn more.—1 Timothy 2:3, 4.
Solid Spiritual Program
The program discussed how to handle a variety of problems. Straightforward Scriptural counsel explained how these problems can be solved or endured.
Individuals troubled by old age, poor health, loss of loved ones in death, or other personal problems received encouragement from the Bible to help them brighten their outlook on life. (Psalm 72:12-14) Married couples and parents heard Bible counsel on how to enjoy a happy marriage and how to rear their children successfully. (Ecclesiastes 4:12; Ephesians 5:22, 25; Colossians 3:21) Young Christians—who are exposed to unhealthy peer pressure at school but to wise counsel from God’s Word at home and in the congregation—received practical counsel on how to deal with social pressures and how to “flee from the desires incidental to youth.”—2 Timothy 2:22.
A Truly International Brotherhood
Jehovah’s Witnesses always receive good Scriptural guidance at their gatherings. (2 Timothy 3:16) What made these conventions different, however, was their international flavor. All the special conventions presented the same spiritual program in a number of tongues. Each day, members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses delivered talks, and reports from other lands added special interest. These talks and reports were interpreted for the benefit of the different language groups present.
Delegates were eager to meet their brothers and sisters from other lands. “Language differences did not present any real problems,” said one delegate. “On the contrary, it added to the spirit of the event. The guests came from a number of cultural backgrounds, but they were all united by the same faith.” Attendees at the Munich convention put it this way: “Divided by language but united by love.” Whatever their homeland and tongue, those in attendance sensed that they were among real friends—spiritual brothers and sisters.—Zechariah 8:23.
Expressions of Gratitude
The weather during the conventions in Poland tested the spirit and endurance of the delegates. Not only did it rain most of the time but it was also quite chilly—about 57 degrees Fahrenheit [14°C]. A brother from the United States observed: “It was the worst weather and the lowest temperature I have ever experienced at a convention, and I understood little of the program. But the incredible international atmosphere, the wonderful spirit, and the unique hospitality made up for all of that. This convention was unforgettable!”
Something that was unforgettable for Polish-speaking conventioners was the announcement of the release of Insight on the Scriptures in Polish—a wonderful reward for their endurance of the cold and rain. The release of the new publication Live With Jehovah’s Day in Mind was also met with joy at all the “Deliverance at Hand!” Conventions.
Many of those present will remember the convention for other reasons. Kristina, a Czech sister who volunteered to accompany a bus group of delegates from overseas, recalls: “During our farewell a sister took me to one side, hugged me, and said: ‘I felt so well cared for! You brought food right to our seats and even provided us with water to drink. Many thanks for your self-sacrificing love.’” What she referred to was the provision of lunch for overseas delegates. “It was a kind of work for which we had no previous experience,” explained one brother. “The task involved the delivering of nearly 6,500 lunches each day. It was touching to see how many, including children, volunteered to help.”
A sister who traveled to Chorzow from Ukraine for the convention said: “We are deeply moved by the love, care, and generosity shown by our fellow believers. We cannot find the words to express our gratitude.” And eight-year-old Annika from Finland wrote to the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Poland: “The convention was even more wonderful than I could have imagined. It is excellent to belong to Jehovah’s organization, since one has friends all over the world!”—Psalm 133:1.
Comments From Onlookers
Before the conventions, sightseeing tours were arranged for some of the delegates. In the Bavarian countryside, the visitors stopped at Kingdom Halls, where local Witnesses welcomed them. One tour group’s non-Witness guide was most impressed with this expression of brotherly affection. “On the bus back to our hotel,” a delegate reports, “the tour guide said that we were very different from other tour groups. We were nicely dressed, and all cooperated with those taking the lead in the group. There was no cursing and no confusion. She was amazed at how strangers could instantly become such good friends.”
A brother who worked at the News Service Department at the Prague convention relates: “On Sunday morning, the officer in charge of the policemen assigned to the convention visited us. He noted that peace reigned and said that he had nothing to do. He also mentioned that some local residents in the area around the stadium had inquired regarding the nature of the program. When he mentioned Jehovah’s Witnesses, they usually shuddered, at which the officer would tell them: ‘If people behaved half as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses do, the police wouldn’t even have to exist.’”
Many Already Delivered!
God’s Word, the Bible, serves as a bridge between cultures, bringing Christians together in peace and unity. (Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:22-24; Philippians 4:7) The “Deliverance at Hand!” special conventions proved this. Jehovah’s Witnesses have already been delivered from many of the plagues that afflict this world. Intolerance, aggression, and racism—to name but a few of society’s ills—have all but been eliminated among them, and they look forward to the time when the whole world will be free of such problems.
Those who attended these conventions experienced firsthand the unity that exists among Witnesses from different lands and cultures. This was very evident at the conclusion of the conventions. All were applauding, hugging new friends, and taking the last photos. (1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Peter 2:17) Happy and convinced that deliverance from all troubles and cares is at hand, the delegates returned to their homes and congregations with renewed determination to keep a very tight grip on God’s “word of life.”—Philippians 2:15, 16.
Six other convention sites throughout Poland and one in Slovakia were tied in electronically for the international parts of the program.
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Twenty-Five Languages Speaking as One
At all nine conventions, the program was presented in the local language. During the conventions in Germany, the discourses were also delivered in 18 other languages. In Dortmund talks were presented in Arabic, Farsi, Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian; at Frankfurt in English, French, and Serbian/Croatian; at Hamburg in Danish, Dutch, Swedish, and Tamil; at Leipzig in Chinese, Polish, and Turkish; and at Munich in Greek, Italian, and German Sign Language. The Prague convention had all the discourses in Czech, English, and Russian. At Bratislava the program was in English, Hungarian, Slovak, and Slovakian Sign Language. At Chorzow the languages were Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish Sign Language. And in Poznan, they were Polish and Finnish.
Twenty-five languages in all! Truly, the conventioners were divided by language, but they were united by their love.
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Croatian delegates in Frankfurt were delighted to receive the “New World Translation” in their own language