Other Countries Where Jehovah’s Witnesses Work Under Difficulty
What has been happening world wide in the way of increase in publishers of the Kingdom has happened, on the average, in all the countries where Jehovah’s witnesses work under difficulty. In fact, they have enjoyed a 6.5-percent increase. It is very difficult to get accurate reports, but throughout the year we have had reports that 9,766 newly interested persons were baptized, symbolizing their dedication to the doing of Jehovah’s will. It is marvelous how Jehovah’s holy spirit works on his servants no matter where they are on the earth. Even though Jehovah’s servants in these troublesome countries do not have close communications with Jehovah’s visible organization in other parts of the world, they do manage to receive the spiritual food, and, of course, deep down in their hearts is the desire to preach the good news of God’s kingdom. It is with real joy that we set out some experiences of the activity of some of the great crowd of faithful witnesses working in truly difficult lands.
The situation for our brothers in Bulgaria has not improved. Public preaching is not possible. There are only a few brothers in Bulgaria. But in spite of the difficult situation, they do some preaching, using the Bible and what little they have in the way of the Society’s publications in their own language. As a result of this, some of Bulgaria’s friendly population become interested in the truth. Only time will tell, when the “great tribulation” is over, how many persons in Bulgaria took their stand for Jehovah’s kingdom, in spite of the many difficulties caused by the government.
A sister was conducting a Bible study with an interested family for one and a half years. In the course of time she learned that the wife had had a quarrel with a lady in the neighboring house for a long time. Once when the sister went to conduct this Bible study she happened to meet that other lady and she witnessed to her about the Kingdom. Surprisingly, this woman right away showed a keen interest in the message, and a Bible study was started with her immediately. The sister did not visit both ladies on the same day, in order to avoid complications. But, nonetheless, these came. One day the lady with whom the first study was held said to the sister: “I noticed that you also make visits on our neighbor, don’t you?” “That is so,” answered the sister. “In that case, please don’t visit us anymore. I don’t want your visits anymore,” was the reaction of the lady. Whatever our sister then said was in vain. The study was discontinued. Now our sister concentrated her efforts on the second study and this lady made progress almost day by day. When they got to the subject of prayer, it was shown to her that our acts have to be in harmony with our prayers. At this point the lady felt that she had to correct something in her life, namely, her relations with her neighbor. So she took the initiative and went to the other lady and showed her goodwill in order to settle the quarrel. She was successful. Not only was the quarrel ended, but the lady who actually was the first to have a Bible study said: “Now I see what I have lost by having ceased my study.” The first study was taken up again. There is peace between the two ladies and both are making fine progress toward maturity. Indeed, the truth has unifying strength.
A brother was driving his car through a Gypsy village when his car broke down. He needed help, and one of the villagers, a tractor driver, was willing to repair the car for fifty crowns. A number of onlookers came and, while the car was undergoing repair, the brother tried to give them a witness. By what he said the hearers became aware that he was one of Jehovah’s witnesses. They asked him where he lived. He told them the name of the town nearby. They were favorably impressed and told him that all Gypsy families in that town also are Jehovah’s witnesses and that since the time they started reading the Bible they became very nice people. And suddenly the man repairing the car turned to the brother and said: “If you are a witness of Jehovah I shall repair your car free of charge.” And he refused all payment when the brother wanted to pay for his work. This shows that, although there is much hatred in the world against Jehovah’s witnesses, there are also numerous people who are friendly because they observe the good conduct and the good works of Jehovah’s servants.
The publishers have been busy preaching and teaching to make disciples and their efforts have been richly blessed. Many people realize the futility of looking any longer to the promises of men for a better future. When they are reached with the Kingdom message they readily listen to the truth.
A girl of sixteen years who went to high school learned the truth. After a study of just three months she understood that God requires of us exclusive devotion and that true Christians do not learn war anymore. So she asked her teacher to be excused from rifle training for reasons of conscience. She had to defend her decision before the school director the next day. He shouted at her, but even after a discussion of two hours he could not change her mind. Then she filed her resignation from the FDJ, a political Communist youth organization, and this proved to be even more of a test. They talked to her for hours, offered her a good social position and a place where she could study to become a veterinarian. They tried through her friend to talk her out of her new faith. Then the school put up the gist of her resignation on the notice board at school to have her fellow students express themselves about it. But all of these pressures did not make her give up her stand. Finally they made her leave school this year, because of “not being bearable for the school because of her social inactivity.” She has now taken up the ministry and is looking forward to getting baptized.
Another typical situation showing the circumstances under which the message is preached and how rapidly it spreads is reported by a publisher. She had a study with a young woman who soon started to tell her workmates of the fine things she learned. A young woman showed some interest. She wanted to attend the study, but the Witness felt it might be better not to have her come to that study before she really knew her and so suggested calling on her at her own home. The woman had some excuses, but then the sister learned that the woman’s husband was also interested. What was now to be done? The sister asked her husband to do some initial witnessing in the neighborhood where that new couple lived. He found real interest in that family and a Bible study was started with them. But very soon their faith in God and his Word was put to the test. They had just reached chapter two in the Truth book when the fleshly sister of the woman visited them. She had not been with them for several years. But her aim was just to keep them from continuing their Bible study. This was in vain though. A few days later a policeman called on them to inquire with whom they were studying and where that man lived. He pointed out to them that such a study is an unlawful thing. All these efforts only increased the interest of these people. They had learned in their study that neighbors and friends who want to prevent us from studying cannot give us everlasting life. In the meantime the woman got another workmate and her husband interested. A Bible study with them resulted after the second back-call.
The Truth book has helped many people to make fast progress. A man opened the door on an initial call of a publisher. The Witness started to give his presentation, but the householder interrupted him angrily, saying: “Go on, leave me alone. I am through with the church. How do things look in Ireland? There Christians fight each other.” The publisher was able to mention that there are Christians who do not share in these conflicts. The householder said Jehovah’s witnesses are the ones. “Look, I am one of them,” the publisher replied. He was invited in. He started a Bible study in the Truth book on the second call. Both husband and wife and three of their five sons attend the study. Chapter two caused them to resign from church. Chapter three brought the removal of the religious images they had hanging on the walls in their home. They no longer eat blood sausage, and Christmas was out for them even though grandma protested strongly. The woman has started in the witness work. When the recent political elections came up they took their stand for Christian neutrality, even though it meant a severe test for them because people are strongly pressed to vote. They are looking forward to getting baptized to symbolize their dedication to Jehovah.
Two young sisters used their school vacation to preach the message in a territory where the need is greater. Not being familiar with the territory, they unknowingly called at the home of the policeman of the village. They gave a witness to his wife and then he stepped in. The sisters told him they are Jehovah’s witnesses and desired to find people in that village who still believe in God and the Bible. He checked their personal identification cards. He expressed his best wishes and let them go on. But things did not run as smoothly as they thought. Another police official called the secret police, and at noontime the sisters were arrested and transported to the headquarters. They preached the truth to all the policemen with whom they came in contact and were able to give a good witness to several officers. Each sister was interrogated separately for three and a half hours. They tried to threaten the girls, to intimidate them; they shouted at them, then were kind again, and so on. Finally the officials decided to expel them from the county. The chief said he had never experienced such a thing, and one sister replied that he too needed to hear the good news in order to make a decision about his own future. The sisters expressed their appreciation to the officials for being able to preach God’s message to them and pointed out the wise counsel given by Gamaliel to stay away from the possibility of working against God.
While a brother was in a city to do some business, a young blind man approached him, asking him to lead him over to the other side of a broad street. The brother felt pity for the young man and started to tell him about the wonderful time when all the ailments of mankind that physicians cannot cure will be healed under the Kingdom rule of Christ. The blind man agreed, and the brother gave him a thorough witness. He promised to visit the man, who lived in an institution for the blind. He did so several times and after a while the back-call address was turned over to a publisher living closer. He was able to get to a regular study with that young man. The man severed his connection with false religion and he is now looking forward to symbolizing his dedication in the near future.
Persecution sometimes comes in a very severe way from members of one’s own family. This happened in a family in Hungary. In Hungary, as in other lands, a goodly number of young folks are joining God’s organization. Two fleshly brothers, aged seventeen and eighteen, often visited their grandmother and she witnessed to them about Jehovah’s kingdom. This lady has been studying with Jehovah’s witnesses for many years and yet she was not dedicated. So these boys were not satisfied with what they heard from her. Therefore a young sister started a study with them based on the Paradise book. The truth greatly impressed the boys and so one day they came home and told their parents that they had decided to become Jehovah’s witnesses. Their father, a post official, became so indignant that he took a piece of cable, and, getting rid of every humane feeling, he started to beat his sons brutally. The unpleasant scene lasted for a considerable time, so that the boys fainted. The father got a bucket with cold water and poured it over the boys; then he took up his beating again after they had regained consciousness. On one boy he even broke a handle of a shovel. But the two boys remained steadfast. Theirs was the truth backed by the power of Jehovah’s invincible spirit. Then their father began to cry and urged his sons to stop having anything to do with this new religion. This also did not work, so the father expelled them from his home and upon this he denounced himself and his sons to the police.
The father then hired his relatives to attack the sister who studied with the boys. The young sister was threatened, insulted and beaten, but a brother living in the same house intervened and finished all this. The two boys encountered difficulties at their place of work and were molested by the police. But they were of good courage, whereas their parents had to consult a nerve doctor, since their nerve condition had become so bad. They, told the doctor that their condition was due to the “mental disease” of their sons. The doctor asked the parents to send their sons to him for examination. The boys showed up to see the doctor. They told him with conviction about their wonderful hope, based upon the solid foundation of God’s Word. After hearing this the doctor held that they were perfectly normal and sound. He told them that they had a legal right to have the religion of their own choice, seeing that they were over sixteen years of age. This surprised and impressed the parents and they changed their minds somewhat. The boys were admitted to the home again and they show love and respect for their parents, and obedience except in matters having to do with principles of their “new religion.” The study continues.
A peculiar situation has developed in the country. The publishers in many places can call upon people at their homes without being molested by the police, and they appreciate such considerate treatment by the authorities. Government officials occasionally pick up publishers to talk to them kindly about improved relations and more tolerance toward Jehovah’s witnesses. Yet in the course of the year several other publishers were arrested and imprisoned. Among them there are individuals who suffered in Hitler’s concentration camps and under interrogation and in prisons during the harsh Stalin era because of their faith as Christians.
A number of brothers arrested were put on trial for their Christian activity. Their defense attorneys endeavored in court to show the absurdity of such trials. One brother had been given a sentence of four years and six months in prison. Upon his appeal his case was reheard in the superior court. The lawyer told, the court: “Let us stop deceiving ourselves. Jehovah’s witnesses have been in existence for a hundred years now. Can their existence then still be looked upon as a secret thing?” He called to attention their high moral standards and their good influence upon the community and pleaded for the acquittal of the brother. The judge indicated that he would agree, but . . . The sentence was lowered, though, to two years and six months and, because of an amnesty, the brother has to serve only one year and three months.
Another incident demonstrating how many officials personally feel about our work was reported from Warsaw. An attorney of the prosecution saw his friend reading a copy of the local issue of the Watchtower magazine. “What are you reading there? Don’t you know that it is banned?” His friend told him: “What do I care whether it is legal or illegal? The important thing is that it is good material.” The attorney said: “Just keep on reading; read it. I read it too.”
A young girl had shown some interest at the initial call of a publisher. He made a back-call and introduced the Truth book right at the beginning. When he began to read from it, the girl’s brother stepped in from his room telling the publisher they did not need such instruction. The publisher replied that the girl had invited him and he wanted to keep his promise. As he continued, the man tried to interfere again, but then the parents calmed him down, because they found the book to be very interesting. The young man left the room. But after a while another young man joined the study group and, shortly thereafter, a second one. Finally the girl’s brother came in again and began to listen attentively. The contents of the book overcame even the strong bias of this man.
A group of brothers went into the service to preach in a village on a Sunday morning. At the same time a group of trackers of the governmental radio and television service went into that same village to search for sets being operated without having been registered. Somebody informed the police of the brothers’ activity. When they arrived, both groups had already completed their work and were waiting at the bus stop for the next bus. The police happened to start checking the identity of the group of radio workers. After they had checked a number of them and learned the reason why all of them had come into the village, the police terminated their investigation. When they passed by the brothers, one of the policemen remarked to the other, “These are no cats.” “Cat” is a derogatory expression meaning heretic and is commonly used as an abusive word for Jehovah’s witnesses. Thus they were blinded and did not see the people they were looking for.
Our brothers in Romania are going through many hardships. There were inundations that flooded vast regions of the country and due to this many of our brothers suffered material loss. Besides that, the Romanian government has not stopped its persecution of Jehovah’s witnesses. In 1970 two brothers were sentenced to prison terms of nine and ten years. It sounds almost unbelievable that honest men whose only “offense” was the private study of the Bible and telling others about it are treated in such a way. No doubt the government takes such action to frighten Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the land. A brother from Romania wrote in a letter: “We in Romania are severely persecuted by the state and there were a number of condemnations, because we spread the gospel. We have been tortured and taunted. Drugs were given to some brothers and due to this a number of them had to be brought to a mental clinic. We implore you to remember our imprisoned brothers in your prayers. We know that all this is a test that we have to endure. But we shall go on courageously preaching the good news as commanded in Matthew 24:14. But once again we urge you with all our heart, don’t forget us!”
That Jehovah’s witnesses in preaching the good news are doing an educational work in the real sense of the word can be seen from the following experience. A sister writes: “I became acquainted with a Moslem woman who could not read or write. Although her family had tried many times to teach her, they could not succeed. Of course, after I began to talk about the truth to her I suggested that we should study the Bible together. However, since she was unable to read, she progressed very slowly. So I encouraged her to learn to read and write, otherwise she would never be able to prove her faith from the Bible. Fully understanding that she was really learning the truth gave her so much incentive to accept my offer to help her to learn to read and write—besides learning the truth—that really in a comparatively short time she learned to read. Since then she has always prepared her lesson very well and never misses an opportunity to assemble together with other fellow believers. After several months she has progressed so well that she is now a publisher and has expressed the desire to be baptized at the next opportunity. All this was related to her aged mother, and especially that she had now become a Christian. Of course, this fact upset her Moslem mother very much, so that she decided to see her daughter immediately. When her mother came, I had a good opportunity to witness to her. After learning all the facts, and particularly after seeing her daughter so well educated, a thing that the family had tried in vain for many years to achieve, she was so much impressed that she said: ‘The first thing that I have to do now is to return to my village and let everyone know that my daughter has found the true religion!’”
God’s Word can also make a great moral change in one’s life. A brother reports the following: “One day when engaging in the field ministry I passed by a traditional ‘kahvehani’ (a so-called coffee shop). Screaming voices hit my ears, and through thick clouds of cigarette and pipe smoke I could see young and old men sitting around tables, talking, drinking and playing cards or gazing with dull eyes into emptiness. Yes, this was the place in which I had spent a great part of my life. Day after day, sometimes all day long until late into the night, I had sat in such a ‘time-killing’ place slowly killing myself too, because my health became weaker and weaker. At that time I had no hope, but just wanted to die. Then one day a Witness came to my door and spoke about the wonderful hope God’s kingdom holds out for all mankind. Although studying was certainly nothing I was accustomed to, I immediately realized that this is the truth and eagerly began to study the Bible. Now I am baptized and a happy man, because I have a hope and a purpose in life. Of course, my change in life did not go unnoticed by my friends. As a result I have wonderful opportunities to witness to them, hoping that one day at least some of them may change and follow the way toward everlasting life. I am certainly very grateful to Jehovah, who has helped me to become free from my former futile life.”
Being alert in the field service makes one a useful instrument in the hands of the angels. A young sister relates: “Although it was a very hot day, I still decided to make one more call. Seeing an elderly woman sitting in an open door, I approached her, asking where I could find a certain house, but she could not help me. However, seeing that I was very tired, she said, smiling and in an ambiguous way: ‘Who knows whom you are really looking for?’ Well, this gave me a good opportunity to witness to her, explaining the work I was doing. The woman, about seventy years of age, was really very happy to hear about the promise of a new paradise that will be very soon established here on earth. She was surprised that, although she had read her Bible from childhood on, she never had found such a wonderful hope in it. So she invited me to step in, and our discussion continued. Now we are studying the Truth book each week and the woman is making good progress. Really a lost ‘sheep’ had been found.”
Many of our readers will still remember from last year’s report about the court case pending against thirteen brothers. We have to report that this case is still pending because the required report from law experts has not yet been presented. Meanwhile, some other arrests have taken place in various cities. Although the Witnesses were always released after several hours of inquiry, in one instance a trial will be held. In two other cases the judges dismissed the cases because they immediately understood that Jehovah’s witnesses are law-abiding people, that they do not mix in politics or make propaganda for selfish gain or for exploiting the people as has been falsely charged by ignorant and fanatical persons. Of course, all this interference has not dampened the zeal and joy of our brothers, and they faithfully carry on to help honest people gain a real hope. Their efforts were blessed with an 8 percent increase last service year.
UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
The brothers in Russia send their heartfelt greetings to all their brothers throughout the earth. They have had another fine year of progress, despite increased efforts by the authorities to keep the people from learning the truth. They tried to do so by means of massive atheistic propaganda and by putting pressure on the publishers of the good news. In general, the people have become somewhat more approachable as to conversation about God and the Bible. Several years ago everybody strictly avoided listening to such talk.
The authorities published a new book of 216 pages entirely devoted to Jehovah’s witnesses, one specially designed to equip their atheist propagandists and to scare the population away from involvement with Jehovah’s witnesses. The title of the book is “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Our work is portrayed as making good friends with the Capitalistic Western world, aiding them by means of our doctrines to keep the masses subdued under their exploitative grip and at the same time instigating the people in Eastern countries to reject the Communist system. Falsified quotations from our literature are offered as “proof” of these lies. Just to give you an idea of how brazenly they twist the truth, we here quote a statement that they say came from our booklet Healing of the Nations Has Drawn Near. They assert that it says: “The USA are that blessed people whose God is Jehovah.”
But such insincere and unreasonable handling of our work by the authorities is having the opposite effect. Instead of keeping the people away from Jehovah’s witnesses, they hasten the decision of those who somehow get acquainted with us. As soon as these find out how deliberately they have been misinformed by their authorities, it is not hard for them to see where truth is offered and where error is found.
A few years ago some brothers moved to a small city where the need was great. Their faith and effort have been blessed richly. There are now thirty associating with the group, and ever more people continue to show interest in the good news. In another congregation there are ten new publishers who got baptized this summer.
The strong prejudice planted in the minds of the people will be overcome by what they learn of Jehovah’s witnesses themselves. A family was called on at their home. They listened to the presentation of the publishers, but then suddenly said they did not want such a heavenly kingdom and sent the publishers away. Sometime later the publishers made another call on that same family. This time the sixteen-year-old daughter was present and showed keen interest. When the publishers were again told to leave, she followed them outside and asked them to return. She suggested that they call when her grandpa was out at his work. The publishers did so. After a while the girl felt that her grandfather ought to hear about it. “He is not very good to us and is a drunkard too, but maybe he will listen to you,” she said. When the publishers talked to him, he got angry and told them to leave the house. The girl then started to attend meetings. Her grandfather got to know about it, but it must have made him think the matter over. He asked the girl to send the publishers to him again. Now he showed a different attitude toward the truth. He was really interested. He changed his way of life and became a publisher himself. He did much to help the other members of the family, and all of them have become dedicated Christians.
One night a sister living in a house near a railroad freight yard heard a knock on the door of her house, where she was living with her sister. There was an elderly man outside in the dark. He had to watch the remainder of a carload that had not been taken off by the trucks. He asked for something to read, because it would be a long night for him. There were several other houses in the neighborhood, but the man had called at her house. The sister started witnessing to him and offered him part of her handwritten copy of “Let God Be True” to read. He took it and left. After a while he knocked again and asked for a copy of the Bible. The next night he again had to do watchman’s work and he again talked to the sisters about the truth. This was the last night for him as a watchman, but the sister arranged to call on him at his home and she started a fine Bible study. It did not take long until the man talked to his daughters living in town and they joined the study too.
There was a publisher in Siberia who had accepted the truth with all his family. He wanted to bring the truth to his relatives who lived several thousand miles away. He traveled there and started to preach to his cousin, a young woman of twenty-eight years. She actually became interested. Now they tried together to locate a Witness in that city of about half a million population. They searched for four months, but had no success. Finally the brother learned that in a neighboring city people knew a woman who had been preaching to them when they made their purchases in the market or when waiting in line for their turn in the stores. They found the sister, but, having been through many a sad experience, she did not trust them, as they were complete strangers to her. So she did not show up for the appointment made with them. They had to go to her a second time and beg her to come. Then she brought them into contact with other publishers who were able to put her in contact with publishers in her own city. A publisher who came to the first appointment with that interested woman was very much impressed with the great interest of the woman. The appointment was to be at eight o’clock at night at a bus stop. But the publisher went there with another sister at six o’clock because they were able to go earlier than expected. When they arrived at the bus stop they were surprised to see this woman and her cousin already sitting there, waiting for them two hours in advance, because they wanted to be sure not to miss them. They went to the woman’s home and talked the truth to her for three hours, because the young woman wanted to hear ever more about it. The publisher never in all her life had met anyone who paid attention as incessantly as this woman did. They all were overjoyed. The brother left the next morning to go back to Siberia, having accomplished his heart’s desire. The woman made fine progress and has already expressed the desire to get baptized.
UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC
In spite of continued persecution from the police and other officials, the witness work has gone ahead in the United Arab Republic during the past service year. More brothers were deported, but, even so, the number of Witnesses in the country has increased. Jehovah keeps blessing his people for their firm stand on his side.
During the year one of the overseers whom the police had been hunting for a long time was arrested. Through treachery they were able to locate the house where he was staying and came early one morning to arrest him. He was in bed with a painful illness at the time. After searching his house and taking various items, they carried him to the car and took him to the police station. There he was questioned as to the whereabouts of other Witnesses they were looking for and was beaten severely for refusing to betray his brothers. This treatment continued for eleven days, the first three of which he was not given any food. At night he was put in a cell so badly infested with vermin that at times he had to spend the whole night standing. At other times he was put among depraved prisoners who were worse than the vermin. Finally he was sent to a desert prison camp where he remains till now, nearly ten months at this writing. He is not treated so badly now, and he is able to do considerable witnessing among the other prisoners. From there he was able to smuggle out a letter in which he writes, among other things, the following:
“I do not know what the result will be, nor till when I will be in this concentration camp, but I thank Jehovah that I have the Bible, and I pray always to him to strengthen me for the sake of his name and to enable me to keep my integrity before him. I am confident of your prayers that he may strengthen me and encourage me. To all of you I send my warm Christian love.” We do, indeed, pray that Jehovah will continue to be with this faithful brother.
When unbelieving relatives come to visit, why not turn the conversation to the truth, especially when they come at a time when you are just ready to leave for field service anyway? That is how one of our sisters reasoned, and with good results. While waiting for a sister with whom she had an appointment for field service, a knock came at the door right at the appointed time. Feeling sure it was her field service companion, the sister opened the door and was surprised to find her unbelieving relative standing there. Something had detained the sister and she never did come for the appointment. So why not witness to the relative? The person listened with rapt attention to all the sister had to say and then began to ask many questions. Noting such interest, the sister started a study with her relative in the Truth book right then, and the study has continued regularly. Later the relative confided to the sister that she felt God had answered her prayer. She had been reading the Bible but had not been able to understand it and had prayed to God to give her understanding. She is now very zealous for the truth, declaring it to all who will listen. How glad our sister is that she took the opportunity to witness to a visiting relative.