Other Countries Where Jehovah’s Witnesses Work Under Difficulty
This year again we find that there are certain places in the world where the work of Jehovah’s witnesses is done with much difficulty, and yet in such lands the Lord’s people have continued to hold high the banner of truth and have done as much as possible to bring praise and honor to Jehovah’s name. Though greatly opposed for doing a work commanded by God to be done, they are happy and rejoice that they have been given the privilege by Jehovah to represent him, his Son Christ Jesus and the Kingdom that will bring everlasting peace and happiness to mankind. It is a pleasure to set out herewith some comments about the activity of these faithful servants of the Most High God.
Information reaching the Society during the service year indicates that the brothers in Albania continue to worship Jehovah under great difficulty. Some of the brothers are in work camps and otherwise restricted; however, the brothers continue faithful to Jehovah and are seeking to do his will. By their endurance they encourage one another, and it is evident that Jehovah is helping them.
There are some brothers in Bulgaria, and they speak cautiously about God’s kingdom with others. But the totalitarian rule of the Communist government is felt everywhere in the land, making it very difficult for our brothers to preach. Recently a sister of Bulgarian descent but of American nationality made a visit to Bulgaria. She carried some Bible literature with her. The Bulgarian border officials noticed it, and a few days later she was arrested and kept in prison for about three weeks. During this time she was often questioned by an examining judge. She was set free again, but had to leave Bulgaria without delay. It all shows that there is no freedom to preach for Jehovah’s witnesses in Bulgaria. But the Lord knows who are his “sheep” and he can care for them even in circumstances like those existing in Bulgaria.
Our old brothers cannot often do very much in Jehovah’s work now, but they do prove to be a real asset to the congregations by their faithful course and regular meeting attendance. In one congregation a young lady attended the meetings once in a while, not because she was really interested, but merely to please her parents. Recently when she attended a meeting she noticed a very old brother there. This old man was obviously ill and had difficulty walking and hearing. One could have thought, “Just what good does it do for this old man to be there?” At the conclusion of the meeting he was asked to say the prayer. He did it with such warmth that the young and indifferent woman was deeply touched and surprised. She also remembered that this old brother was always present a quarter of an hour before the meeting started, although he had to walk about two kilometers to the hall. All of a sudden this impressed her, and she concluded that actually this must be a very important matter. A study was started with her, but she did not keep the information to herself. Up till now she has found five interested persons. And by letter she wrote that she had never been so happy before. And it all started with the good example set by an aged brother.
Do we have to abandon all hope for brothers who have become inactive and who have kept away from the congregation for years? Not necessarily. A sister in a congregation was encouraged by the overseer to visit a married couple about eighty years of age who had not associated with the congregation for eighteen years! The sister made the call without delay. The old couple, having been dedicated Christians, were very much surprised at the interest shown in them. They listened attentively and gladly as the sister took out the “Look!” booklet and began reading from it. These old persons had tears in their eyes as they listened to the Kingdom hope, now being revived in them. Convincingly the sister told them that the time left is reduced. They all came to the conclusion that a Bible study should be started, and it was arranged to start it the very next day. The sister left the booklets with them, and the next day she found them waiting impatiently, with their Bibles ready. The difficulty in this study was not a lack of understanding, but the frequent interruptions by the tears on the part of this old couple when the wonderful Kingdom truths came back to their memories. Now, after a break of eighteen years, this old brother and sister enjoy again the blessed association of God’s people, and they look for opportunities to speak about the truth. Eighteen years is a long time, but there are many who could learn from this case.
Two vacation pioneers preached from house to house in a small village. They met a woman who let them in with great joy. She showed them a copy of the “Let God Be True” book and told them she was studying it. They wondered who was coming and studying with her. “I do it all by myself,” was her answer. They at once made arrangements for a regular home Bible study with her. She had received the book years ago from her mother-in-law, but her husband was opposed to the truth and kept her away. Recently he had died. Now the seed sown a long time ago was able to grow. The study is attended by her, her daughter and two of her grandchildren. The woman has left the church and is beginning to preach to her neighbors and fellow workers. She also made arrangements for another daughter of hers and her husband to be called on by the Witnesses. How happy the vacation pioneers are that they made this wise use of their opportunities and preached from house to house.
Two sisters were encouraged by the fine experiences of others while working from house to house to start witnessing in a village. They were quite in suspense as to what experiences they would have. They were able to talk to a number of people, but there was not really very much response. On their way home the publishers were suddenly stopped by the policeman of the village. He took down their names and told them to go home never to return. At the edge of the village one of the sisters found a beautiful wallet. She picked it up, and they wrote a few notes, saying: “Beautiful wallet found, to be claimed at . . . ,” and they fastened these notes to the fences in several locations in the village. The policeman again came across them and angrily chased them out of the village. But what a surprise! The next day the policeman called on one of the sisters at her home. He was quite embarrassed. The wallet found belonged to his wife. And she was the one who had told him that the sisters were preaching in the village and instigated him to take action against them. The sister used the opportunity to give him a good witness about the fine principles written down in God’s Word. When she noticed that he listened, she asked him whether he would permit them to talk to the people in the village about these good things too. He did not outrightly agree, but just said that they might try again, because he need not see and hear everything. They now have two Bible studies and several back-calls going in the village, and they have met the policeman several times already, but he has remembered his word and has not seen or heard anything.
The relatives of a Witness couple complained to them that they had not been visited by them for a long time. The publisher used the opportunity to offer to see them once every week. The next week he called on these relatives and started a Bible study with them. The son of the family was enthusiastic about the ‘Impossible to Lie’ book. He planned on becoming a medical doctor but still had nine months to go before getting to the university. During this time he made very good progress in learning the truth, although his parents did not come along as fast as he did. The boy started to talk the truth to others. He took his stand on a neutrality issue. Then he made his decision. He gave up his plans to study medicine and got baptized. He has become a zealous preacher of the good news. His parents are making steady progress too.
A brother in southern Hungary was making back-calls on interested persons when he was stopped by two policemen who took him to the police station. There he was questioned about his activity, and the police officer mentioned that he would bring the matter to the attention of his superior. The brother, however, continued his ministerial activity. His work was blessed and resulted in the forming of a study group of very zealous brothers and sisters, with some interested persons attending the study also. Quite a few times the chief of police of this town traveled on the same train as the brother when he went there to take care of the interest, and although the chief of police recognized the brother and knew what he was going to do, he never intervened. Then two of the interested persons decided to get baptized. When the son of one interested woman heard that his mother had decided to get baptized, he upbraided her severely. “Do you want to bring reproach upon our family?” he shouted. “When you die, the priest will not even bury you!” The chief of police, being a friend of this son, got to hear about it. When he met this man the next time, the chief of police said to him: “You should leave your mother in peace, you know, because she is doing something good. I talk to you as a believer in God. I know Jehovah’s witnesses. These are very honest people. Don’t hinder your mother in becoming a witness of Jehovah. The man who is a witness of Jehovah and who preaches in this town was brought to me by some officers. I did not take action against him, although I know what his activity is.” The son was so surprised to hear such words from a police officer that he regretted what he had said to his mother and asked her pardon. His mother is now a baptized and happy sister.
It is no wonder that Jehovah’s witnesses are known throughout Hungary, in view of their zealous activity. As a reaction, the public press quite often attacks our work. Recently there was even a play over the national radio station, lasting for one hour. The subject was Jehovah’s witnesses. The story was based on an actual experience in a young woman’s life. A young lady who was a teacher in the provinces was not taken care of properly by the Communist party. For example, she was not provided with a suitable room in which to live. In her class there were children of Jehovah’s witnesses. The brothers offered her a room, and the kind and loving atmosphere of their home impressed the girl. All the prejudice she had harbored against Jehovah’s witnesses was broken down, and she became a sister in the truth. The purpose of this radio play was to show that the Communist party should take good care of its people in order to avoid such conversions. As already stated, this actually happened in Hungary. The former schoolteacher is now the happy wife of a brother. Although it was not intended so, this radio play resulted in a witness for our cause. The brothers appreciated it especially when during the play the scripture at Psalm 83:18 was read: “That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”
The past service year saw us move a good step forward. The publishers are very enthusiastic about the new Truth book. Not only its contents but also its practical pocket size make it just the thing needed for the work here under ban. The number of Bible studies has gone up nicely.
How great the hunger for the truth is among the people was experienced by a sister who loaned her copy of the Truth book to the manager of the factory where she works. He took it home in order to read it with his wife and children. In order to do some more reading of it, he took the book along to the factory. Then he began talking to his colleagues about it. It did not take long before they borrowed it from him and started reading it also.
In our country the Catholic church for many years has wielded a tremendous influence, especially in the widespread rural areas. But now its internal crisis has brought a feeling of great concern to the clergy. The priests begin to wonder what true followers of Christ would be like today. Jehovah’s witnesses are a frequent topic of discussions among them. Many take a favorable view of us. This was disclosed by two priests who attended our Memorial celebration. When the meeting was over they commented that this was the way Jesus celebrated the evening meal with his disciples.
A young sister witnessed to her father by letter. When he received the letter, he went to the priest to show it to him. The priest read the letter and remarked that the man’s daughter had written him a fine letter. The father protested, saying: “But it is from Jehovah.” “No, not from Jehovah, but from Jehovah’s witnesses,” the priest corrected him, adding, “and they have the truth.” “And we?” the father asked. The priest answered: “We have deflected from the truth.” When the man heard this, he went to visit his daughter and told her about his discussion with the priest. It did not take long before the sister’s father also became one of the Witnesses. The priest left the Catholic priesthood and moved to another town where he continues to manifest interest in the truth.
But there are still other priests left. Sometimes people have a hard time when they begin taking a genuine interest in the truth, but the attraction of the words of life is powerful. A pioneer sister preached to an old man who lived somewhere out in the woods. The priest of the place learned of the sister’s visits there and he bribed a bandit to kill the sister. The man lay in wait for the sister outside the old man’s house. When the sister was ready to leave, the old man happened to step outdoors first. Thus the bandit hit him by mistake and injured him badly with an ax to his head. This shocked all the people in the neighborhood when they learned about it. But it did not kill the interest of the old man. A regular Bible study was started with him and his wife. They soon started to attend meetings. The meeting place was eight miles away, so the publishers wanted to take them home by car, but the old couple turned their friendly offer down. They felt it was always a joy for them to walk home and talk about all the good things learned at the meeting. The old man has started out in the ministry, and he is already putting in much time.
Being adaptable is a great asset to a publisher. An elderly sister worked as a house servant for a young teacher. She wanted to start a home Bible study with her, but wondered how to approach the matter. She suggested that the teacher could help her read and understand a magazine and in return she would clean up the teacher’s apartment. The teacher readily agreed. The next day the sister had along her copy of the Watchtower magazine, which she wanted to prepare for the meeting. The teacher read the main article to her, helping her to find and underline the answers. She explained to the sister that it was a theological magazine and offered her further assistance. Thus the sister got the study started with the teacher who otherwise might not have been willing to learn something from her house servant. When the teacher learned about the sanctity of blood, she ceased having blood sausage for herself and her children for their meals. The elderly sister is continuing her humble effort to help this person see the truth.
A number of brothers have been arrested and sentenced to prison terms of several years. We can help them by daily remembering them in our prayers, so that they may have the necessary strength from above to endure all this until the day of complete liberation dawns.
Although the work is banned, our brothers preach the Kingdom message, but only by incidental witnessing. The following experience shows that sometimes the seed of truth, sown in the soil of a good heart, bears fruit after a long time. A man working in a town far from his home was looking for a private room to stay in overnight. When he found a room, the owner of the house, a witness of Jehovah, started a conversation with this stranger, and soon they were talking about the truth. The conversation was prolonged until the middle of the night. In the morning the stranger left. Years went by, but the stranger never forgot what he had heard that night from this brother. Often his thoughts turned back to what he had been told about a new order of righteousness to come. But he could find no one with this faith who could explain more about it to him. So one day the man decided to travel back to that town and find the house where many years ago he had heard the truth for the first time. The brother was still at the same address, and how surprised he was at this man’s visit and to see the great thirst he had for the truth, and to learn that he had kept that conversation of many years ago in his memory. The brother directed this interested man to the Witnesses in the place where he lives, and they instructed him in the truth. Today this man is a baptized and very zealous proclaimer of Jehovah’s kingdom.
For the first time many brothers experienced the happiness of assembling in freedom with their brothers, enjoying a spiritual feast in Nuremberg. Great were the expressions of thankfulness for this arrangement, and also for the hospitality on the part of the German brothers. One delegate said: “There are things which cannot be expressed in words. This is true of the joy I experienced at the convention. To see the happiness of my brothers from so many nations, to eat together, to pray and worship together, to listen to the fine counsel and the feeling of security—no movie, no pictures, no words can express it. One has to experience it.”
Faithful endurance and applying Bible principles can finally lead to a family reunion as can be seen from the following experience: A sister’s husband bitterly opposed her for years, even to the point of abandoning her completely. So the sister had to take care of herself and her four children, two of school age and one under school age. Despite also suffering from a heart illness, she did not want to be a burden to anyone, so she worked in different tailor shops. Most of the people belonged to the same religion as her husband, the Gregorian church. The husband was very well known to the workers in the various shops, to whom he spoke abusively about his wife and her religion. But the sister did not retaliate, neither did she harden her heart against her husband, but quietly lived her life and at every opportunity witnessed to the workers. Finally her fine conduct and her industriousness were observed by the workers. They saw that the sister really was convinced about her religion, and that she did not become one of Jehovah’s witnesses for the sake of money, as she had been accused. So some of the workers started to speak to her husband, defending her, convincing him that his wife really lived the life of a true Christian and that it was his obligation to return to her and to his children. Finally the husband did this. Now he tolerates his wife’s religion and even gave permission for his children to continue studying the Bible, associate with fellow Christians and preach to others. When one traveling minister of Jehovah’s witnesses visited his home, he was even invited to have a meal with the whole family, including the husband. Although he has not yet accepted a Bible study, still it is hoped that in time he may listen to more of the good news. But how happy the sister is that her faithful endurance has been rewarded by a family reunion!
Since Turkey is a Moslem country, it should not surprise us that from time to time fanatical elements try to create difficulties, even though the government tolerates Jehovah’s witnesses. Last year in November a Moslem who had been studying the Bible for nearly two years turned out to be a traitor and falsely charged the brothers with mixing in politics, reporting them to the police. One day a house was raided by the police and all thirteen persons who were present for a peaceful study of the Bible were arrested and taken to the police station. However, the investigating officer could not find any proof for the accusation, namely, that they were trying to overthrow the government in order to establish God’s kingdom. So all were released the next day. However, the case was handed over to the court due to pressure from some officials who do not like the good news. But the two hearings before the court held until now have turned out to be very favorable for the brothers. No guilt could be established, and it is hoped that the trial will eventually result in a favorable decision as happened several years ago. Since the newspapers widely publicized the arrest of these brothers, the brothers have had a good opportunity to explain the truth to many people, even to high officials, and so a greater witness has been given.
UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
The preaching of the good news has made further progress, even though the people have been methodically indoctrinated by their government with atheistic propaganda for many years. But the authorities have not succeeded in rooting out from the minds of all the people the natural urge of man to worship God, and so the brothers continue to find people desiring to learn the truth about God from the Bible.
For some time all the brothers who have been sentenced to prison terms have been brought together in one camp to keep them from spreading their beliefs in other camps. But even here they have fine opportunities to witness by preaching to others and by their course of action. A brother was given some additional punishment in the camp and was put in isolation. He was assigned to share a prison cell with a cruel, unruly bandit who did not care about anything. This was meant to ruin the brother mentally and physically. He was treated very badly by the bandit, but the brother submitted himself to the treatment without kicking back. Many days went by. One night the bandit woke the brother up. He wept and asked the brother’s forgiveness for all the mean things he had done to him. The brother took the opportunity to give him a good witness, and the man listened carefully. From that day on he changed completely. He began to greet the prison guards as all of the prisoners generally do. Everybody was surprised. He asked to get assigned some work, which he had always refused before. When his mother visited him, he told her what he had learned from the Bible and roused her interest in the truth. She was so happy about it that she bought a lot of food to be passed on to the brother who had taught him these good things. Shortly thereafter he was transferred to another camp so the brother lost contact with him.
The great problem for many publishers is to contact people who can be preached to without getting straight into trouble. The authorities consider any discussion about God’s kingdom to be propaganda inimical to the Communist government. Often the publishers go into their territory and there try to get talking to someone about any general matter. If the person is willing to speak to him, the publisher asks him whether he knows someone who has a Bible that he might want to sell. That way the one talked to often reveals his own mind about the Bible and religion. When it appears advisable, the publisher then starts his sermon on the Bible, the Book of all books. This opens the way for a back-call, if the response is favorable.
In one section of the country there have been brothers who have even been able to use their vacation time to do vacation pioneer service. They camped in tents at the shore of a lake and went into a nearby city to do their initial preaching work. They contacted a number of people who were favorably inclined toward the message, although the majority of the inhabitants showed a negative response. The brothers had much joy in enlarging their preaching activity and reaching people outside their regular territory.
Many years ago a woman met the Witnesses in Germany. Then she moved to Russia. She looked for some Witnesses there, but did not find any. Then one day there was an item in the newspaper reporting that Jehovah’s witnesses had been arrested in such and such a city. Their activity was described in detail, but with many lies about it. The woman’s son read the article and brought it to his mother. The report also mentioned the name of a sister involved in the case. The woman decided to write a letter to this sister, just writing her name and the name of the city where she lived on the envelope, because no further details were given in the newspaper. The sister actually got the letter, in which she was asked to be so kind as to visit this woman. The sister made the trip and found this old lady waiting for her. She was so happy that the sister had come, and she had many questions. The sister was able to help her understand the truth, and she gave her some literature to read. Thus even a derogatory article in the newspaper can serve a very good purpose.
A young woman who was brought up in the Mennonite religion had many questions about things she read in the Bible. Her preacher sometimes gave her a short answer, but often he would say: “Read what you can understand.” Finally she was arrested with several others because of their religious activity and imprisoned in a camp. She got seriously ill and was transferred to a hospital in another camp. One day a fellow prisoner asked her why she was in prison. She mentioned the reason, and then asked her in turn why she was there. She said: “Also because of religion; I am one of Jehovah’s witnesses.” The young woman wondered about this answer while they were walking on together. She never had heard of the Witnesses, but she liked the name very much. She thought: Jehovah, being God, would have witnesses. Well, I have witnessed of him too.” So she said to her companion: “That is also what I am.” The Witness smiled. She then asked the young woman: “So, don’t you believe in an immortal soul getting to heaven at death? Yet you also believe in a resurrection, don’t you? But you would not need any resurrection if you have already gotten to heaven, would you?” The young woman felt that the sister was right. And then the sister continued in a friendly way, telling her: “You see, you are not in the right faith.” The young woman was quite surprised that her companion who had just made her acquaintance would tell her such a thing. A few days later she decided to ask the sister more about it. The sister told her that she would have to study the Bible in order to have the right faith. She brought her in contact with other Witnesses in the camp, and she was permitted to attend their secret meetings. In time she became one of Jehovah’s dedicated witnesses. She said she had lost everything, even her health, but now she was happy to have found what her heart had been longing for all her life.
UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC
The brothers in the U.A.R. have had a relatively calm year, with little or no interference from the authorities. The letters that the brothers wrote to the officials in protest of their mistreatment of Jehovah’s witnesses are believed to be a cause for this. There has been only one brother who was deported from Egypt this year because of being one of Jehovah’s witnesses.
The brothers are meeting together regularly in small groups. They also had the opportunity to have the “Good News for All Nations” assembly. The Memorial was celebrated without incident, with forty more in attendance than last year.
Witnessing to others is becoming easier, and more interest is being found. The brothers are returning to all the people they know even if they have not shown interest. Through this method they get the names and addresses of others who do show interest. One of the special pioneers reports that he is getting good results and has started several studies in this way.