“ILHA FORMOSA!” or “Island Beautiful!” is what the Portuguese sailors exclaimed when first they sighted this verdant island from their ships back in the sixteenth century. Many people still refer to the island as Formosa, in fact. The modern visitor will be just as pleasantly impressed by his first view of this 240-mile-long, 90-mile-wide island lying off mainland China, for it is always carpeted with green, from the shoreline right to the tops of its thirteen-thousand-foot mountains. Though small—just about 13,885 square miles—Taiwan is the most densely populated land in the world, having more than 1,000 persons per square mile.
Its varied history has brought to the island a population made up of tribes from remote parts of Asia. Among them, Malays came, and one large group of the present-day population, the Amis, are their descendants. At the close of the seventeenth century came an influx of mainland Chinese, and Taiwan became a province of the huge Chinese Empire. In 1895 Taiwan was ceded to a victorious Japan, and then came Japanese settlers. During the fifty years of Japanese domination, three generations were educated in Japanese, making that language the only common medium of communication among the various language groups.
Thirty-five years after the commencement of Japan’s rigorous rule and educational activities, several people came to Taiwan to conduct an educational campaign of a more important nature. In 1927 the Watch Tower Society assigned an American-born Japanese person to open a branch of the Society in Japan. Taiwan, at the time, was included in the territory coming under this new branch, so it was only natural that between 1928 and 1930 that branch servant visited Taipei, capital city of Taiwan, and gave lectures in the Kokaido or Civic Auditorium. At those meetings a young Japanese, Saburo Ochiai, grasped the importance of the Kingdom message and started to study. He gained in knowledge and zeal, and in the meantime aided a young Taiwanese to learn about the Bible’s message. These two later set out to preach to others, starting from Taipei.
At Taichung city, about a hundred miles south of Taipei, a Mrs. Miyo Idei, whose home was still farther south, happened to be visiting a Presbyterian friend when Brother Ochiai called. Here, for the first time, Mrs. Idei saw some publications of the Watch Tower Society—The Harp of God and Creation. She had no money and her hostess showed no interest, but she was deeply impressed by the fact that these young men were so zealous about this work.
Within two years the young men had worked their way to her hometown of Chiayi. Upon hearing that one of them was staying at a doctor’s house in a nearby town, she let it be known that she would like to meet him. Soon the two visited her and she recognized Ochiai. An earnest discussion got under way, lasting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a break for a simple meal. Miyo Idei says, now almost forty years later: “I was astonished at the things I was learning from the Bible. Amazed at their knowledge, I recall asking them two questions: ‘If such big things are to happen, why do the world rulers ignore God’s kingdom?’ and ‘When will Armageddon come?’”
Other discussions followed, and when these zealous proclaimers of the Kingdom departed, they left with Mrs. Idei the books Creation, The Harp of God, Government, Prophecy, Light and Reconciliation. These were to become her teachers and companions in the years following. Of course, the time came when she realized that she, too, must do some preaching. She ordered some 150 booklets from the Todaisha, as the Watch Tower Society was then called in Japanese, and started to distribute them in the early thirties. Her work did not go unnoticed by the authorities, as she herself recounts it: “The arrest of the Japan branch servant was announced in the newspaper after I had been preaching for a few months. The repercussions were felt immediately, because in making return visits on people who had obtained literature I was told that detectives had come and confiscated what I had placed with them. Then four detectives came to search our house. They took all our books and magazines. I was questioned by one of them at the local police box. He admitted, however, that I was not doing anything bad and released me.”
Meantime Brother Ochiai and Yeh Kuo Yin continued with their ministry southward, then crossed over the mountains and traveled up into the valley that divides two mountain ranges on the eastern side of the island. In this area a Taiwanese named Tu Chin Teng, operating a small business as public scribe in the little town of Kuan Shan, readily accepted the message and started telling others. For a time, after their return to Japan, Ochiai and his companion corresponded with the interested ones in Taiwan, but soon these latter were truly isolated. As world conditions worsened and Japan’s efforts to conquer China were intensified, great pressure was brought to bear on Taiwan’s population with a view to forcing them to worship the emperor of Japan as the direct descendant of the sun-goddess.
The sheeplike ones in Taiwan were not forgotten. As soon as a little more freedom came, two Japanese full-time pioneer ministers arrived in Taipei to help rebuild the Kingdom interests on the island. Raiichi Oe and Yoshiuchi Kosaka informed the Idei household of their arrival. The Ideis responded with an immediate and joyful ‘Please come!’ That day in December 1937 was an unforgettable one for them when the two boys arrived on bicycles in Chiayi. They had come the 150 miles from Taipei with their possessions piled high on their old cycles. A pair of chopsticks protruded from the shirt pocket of each. “Why the chopsticks?” asked Mrs. Idei. They explained that while traveling they ate at the cheapest places, and the public chopsticks were very unsanitary. Two days of Bible study were followed by a joyful event—the baptism of Brother and Sister Idei!
A few days later the pioneers tore themselves away from their new brother and sister and continued their bicycle tour around Taiwan—a trip that must have been grueling, what with their cycles loaded with literature and personal belongings, and the route over and around the mountains often deteriorating into a narrow dirt trail. A letter received from Brother Oe by Sister Idei told of their contacting some of the Amis tribe who were interested. Indeed, in January 1938 the Taiwanese scribe, Tu Chin Teng, and several members of the Amis tribe were baptized by the two pioneers.
It seems that about this time two baptized Witnesses from Taitung county moved to Chiayi in order to be with the Ideis. Upon hearing of this, Brothers Oe and Kosaka returned to the Idei home for about ten days to help them, then made their way to Taipei to continue operating a small depot of the Society there. The Kingdom work seemed to be on a firmer foundation at three locations in Taiwan—Taipei city, Chiayi and Taitung county. But trouble was brewing.
In the town of Kuan Shan, besides Brother Tu Chin Teng there was another scribe named Lin Tien Ting. Newly interested persons began patronizing Brother Tu rather than the other scribe. This, combined with other factors, led Lin Tien Ting to close his business and take a job with the police. As soon as he was well established, he began a campaign of intimidation against the brothers. Out of spite he accused them of slighting the emperor and refusing to comply with the requirements of worship at the Shinto shrines. He charged that the brothers were conducting nude baptisms and practicing adultery. This led to the arrest of some of the brothers and sisters. However, on hearing about the situation, Brother Oe hurried to Kuan Shan and obtained their release.
Meantime the tide of nationalism and intolerance was rising. It became advisable to close down the little depot in Taipei and move to the smaller city of Hsinchu, thirty miles to the south. Hardly had this change been effected in April 1939 when both Brothers Oe and Kosaka were arrested. A campaign to eliminate the Witnesses from Taiwan was launched. At midnight, June 21, Brother and Sister Idei were also arrested. He was kept in jail until October with one other brother. Sister Idei was released after one night in jail, mainly because she was a schoolteacher. But even though she had no other means of support, she quit teaching, for she could not as a Christian meet the requirements of teaching Shinto myths and other nationalistic propaganda.
When Brother Idei was finally released they moved to Taipei in the hope of having greater freedom to worship Jehovah. Of course, they were still concerned about Brothers Oe and Kosaka. After consideration it was decided that Sister Idei, who came from the same part of Japan as Brother Oe, should try to see him in prison, taking clothing, fruit and goodies to brighten the lot of the prisoners. She was told that no interviews were permitted, but that the things she had brought would be given to the boys. As they walked down the dank corridor the sound of Sister Idei’s geta (clogs) echoed back and forth. Behind the gate to each cell was a concrete wall so that the inside of the cells was not visible from the gate. As they neared the gate to Brother Oe’s area a figure appeared between the wall and the gate. It was Brother Oe, a broom in one hand and a dustpan in the other. Sister Idei ran and grasped his hands through the iron gate. Though forbidden to meet, Jehovah had brought them together!
In the fall of 1940 the two were transferred to the Hsinchu Minors Prison where greater freedom was granted, with the result that Sister Idei visited them a number of times. In October 1941, they were taken to the Taipei Prison, and this transfer was taken as indication that they would not soon be released. Sister Idei continued to care for their interests. She determined to try to see them even in Taipei, though the prospects were not good. To her surprise the officials were cooperative and soon she was talking to Brother Kosaka through a wire-mesh window. One glance told her that he was suffering from advanced tuberculosis. She got the impression, as she says, “of a face white as paper and lips as red as fresh strawberries.”
Then it was Brother Oe’s turn. Reports Sister Idei: “With a strong voice and a smile on his face, he said: ‘This is a good prison—no bugs, no lice. If you pay you get a cushion, noodles, good food and even a private villa.’ The watching prison guard laughed outright. It was an unforgettable prison interview, for it showed me that Brother Oe would never give up, and had the upper hand of his captors. This was my last meeting with him.” Ten days later, on the night of November 30, the Ideis too were arrested. About two months later Sister Idei was told that one of the prisoners had died of tuberculosis. No doubt it was Brother Kosaka. At the end of the war, when all prisoners were being released, Sister Idei wrote several prisons to try to find out what became of Brother Oe, but without result. Later investigations led to the belief that he had been killed. Having learned about God’s kingdom in Japan when he was but seventeen, he had truly fought a fine fight and finished his course around 1945.
From the time of her release in August 1942 until Taiwan reverted to Chinese rule after World War II, Sister Idei had no contact with Jehovah’s people, nor could she obtain any publications. How did she maintain strong faith? “The Bible,” she explains, “was always with me. Upon my release I located a Bible at a second-hand store. What a blessing! The encouraging accounts of the apostles and their suffering of prison bondage were a real source of strength to me. Also, Jehovah was always with me and sustained me.”
Meanwhile, in the eastern part of the island there was no letup in the troubles triggered by the malicious Lin Tien Ting. The proscription of the work in Japan and Taipei in 1939 added to the intensity of the opposition. Brothers were forced to do hard labor for the police and the government. On one occasion a feast was arranged in Ta Pi village, Chih Shang township. The main course consisted of a water buffalo that had been confiscated from one of the Witnesses. This loss to the owner was comparable to the loss of his tractor to a Western farmer. Some brothers were stripped and beaten mercilessly with bamboo poles. At least two sisters were stripped, thrown to the ground and the police proceeded to use sharpened bamboo poles to jab their genitals. One of these sufferers is still alive, and still serves as a faithful worshiper of Jehovah.
In a village of Chih Shang township a camp was set up as a center for brainwashing and propagandizing. The target was the minds of the young people of the area. As many as 500 persons at a time were forced to take this course, including militaristic and Shinto rites. All but the strongest brothers succumbed to these methods. Rumors, meantime, got around that some of the more prominent of the brothers had compromised, this bringing about much confusion.
With the change, in 1945, from Japanese to Chinese rule, the brothers hoped for relief. After all, the Nationalist Chinese Government was a charter member of the United Nations. So the brothers then put forth effort to get true worship moving again. However, because of the uncertainties of the changeover period the local officials were given greater authority, and these, for the most part, continued in the same unjust manner of dealing with Witnesses. The brothers had to meet in secret in remote valleys, leaving home early in the morning with hoes over their shoulders as though going to the fields, and then returning in the evening in the same way. Such meetings would last most of the day, with lookouts posted to warn of anyone approaching.
Meantime, opposer Lin Tien Ting was scheming to have the work banned once again. The same dossiers compiled by the Japanese police were used in order to have the Chinese officials act against the worshipers of Jehovah. Mail was intercepted and confiscated, so that no answer was received from repeated efforts to contact the Society either at the old Japanese address or in the United States. Early in October 1946 a special meeting was called in Chih Shang for the purpose of putting an end to the Witnesses. Nine police and other officials were present as well as some 300 witnesses. No opportunity was given to answer the vile charges leveled against God’s people. But later that night it was possible for some of the prominent ones among the brothers to present the facts to the officials, and that resulted in some measure of relief.
The Nationalist government made provisions whereby charges against corrupt and unjust officials might be heard. This was the opportunity awaited by the brothers, and charges were brought against police officer Lin Tien Ting. In January 1947, he was found guilty in the Hualien courts, but the respite was not for long, for he was later released under an amnesty and gained promotion in the police organization. Now he was more rabid than ever in his opposition.
Efforts continued to be made to answer the false charges against the Witnesses and have the authorities lift the ban. In 1947 one local judge in Taitung agreed that they should have freedom of worship, but referred the question to Taipei, the capital. Harassment continued, the brothers and sisters being arrested, held for a week or so and then released without ever appearing in court. It was also a concern at that time to try to spread the “good news” to greater numbers of the Amis tribe. First, instructions were given to a group of brothers, The Harp of God being used, and then they were sent out in pairs to instruct still others.
HELP FROM THE CHINA BRANCH
In 1947 a Shanghai Witness had moved to Hsinchu in Taiwan to take up a teaching position. He met the Ideis and they told him about the isolated Amis brothers on the eastern part of the island. He relayed the information to the newly appointed branch servant in Shanghai, Stanley Jones, who with his missionary partner had only recently come to China. The Society arranged for Brother Jones to visit Taiwan, and when he arrived in April 1948 Brother Idei and a Chinese brother met him at the airport. Eager to get in touch with the Amis tribe, Brother Jones determined to journey by train to Tainan, two hundred miles south of Taipei. This was necessary since the shorter route to the east coast was cut off at the time by floods. And this meant he was following the route taken by Brothers Oe and Kosaka almost ten years before.
He broke his journey to stay for a short time at the home of Sister Idei, now living in the country between Tainan and Kaohsiung. On reaching Taitung, Brother Jones checked with the police and received confirmation of permission to hold meetings with the Amis people. Three hours and many stops later they arrived at Chih Shang. How happy the brothers were to meet the first Western brother they had ever seen! Some of them walked thirty miles for the occasion! In his talks to some 600 persons Brother Jones tried to help them understand the worldwide organization of the Witnesses, how the headquarters operated, and the part branches played in serving the spiritual interests of the brothers. He told of large international assemblies, too, and there was great excitement when he passed around photographs of some of those assemblies. At this time there were many whose study had led them to dedication, so 261 candidates were immersed in one day!
Brother Jones used the opportunity also to show the brothers how to conduct their meetings and how to do the preaching work and make out simple reports of their hours in field service, their back-calls and their Bible studies. These reports were to be sent first to Hsinchu, from where they would be transmitted to Shanghai for inclusion in the Chinese branch report.
Though the branch servant met with the authorities in Taipei and was assured that the brothers would have full freedom of worship, reports received after his return to Shanghai showed that the situation for the Amis brothers had not improved. Police kept harassing the brothers, insisting that the work had to be registered with the central government before they could have meetings. Anyway, there was some response to the visit by Brother Jones, for in August 1948 there were reports of activity on the part of sixty-six publishers in Taiwan.
At the close of 1948 Brother Jones made another trip to Taipei, and this time with the help of a Chinese doctor from Shanghai he sought to explain the true nature of our work to various officers of the government. He sought to have the Commissioner of Civil Affairs give something definite in writing as to the status of the brothers and their right to carry on the Kingdom work. When he returned to Shanghai he received a letter from the Commissioner, but all it contained was a permit for him to travel anywhere in Taiwan and to preach freely. No guarantees, no freedoms for the local brothers. What a disappointment!
Despite difficulties, however, the message of the Kingdom started to spread to the real mountain people, some of whom were seeking something more satisfying than the superstitious worship of the moon. Most of these people still lived very primitive lives and were influenced by demonism, though their headhunting was terminated at the end of World War II. There was a newly married woman known as Takako of the Bunun tribe who lived an eight-hour walk from the nearest rail station at Hai Tuan. On one of Takako’s rare visits to Hai Tuan she obtained a copy of the Bible, and her reading of this book caused her to abandon some of her superstitious practices. Opposition resulted in a divorce from her husband and her expulsion from the village with a year-old baby and only the clothes she was wearing. She went to live with some friends, and kept reading and telling others what she was learning.
Around March 1950 husband and wife were reunited, he having moved to Hai Tuan to be near his new job. Both now had greater opportunities to study the Bible and learn about Jehovah’s purposes. Together they started attending clandestine meetings, this often involving a two-hour walk from their home. On one occasion when stopped and searched by police, his Bible was taken but her copy was hidden in her baby’s diapers. From this small beginning little groups of interested ones from her tribe grew up in several villages. On May 13, 1953, Takako was baptized and in 1957 she was given three months’ training and appointed to the special pioneer service. Her zealous activity resulted in some sixty persons in the various Bunun villages accepting the message of the Kingdom.
In the 1940’s one Amis person doing secular work in the Paiwan tribe’s area, near the southern tip of the island, obtained a copy of The Watchtower in Japanese. He liked what he read and asked for more. This new-found truth he shared with various Paiwan tribesmen, his fellow workers. In similar manner other tribes such as the Taiyal, Lukai and Puma were brought in touch with the good news.
GILEAD GRADUATES ARRIVE
Two graduates of the eleventh class of Gilead arrived at the port of Chilung from Shanghai on February 2, 1949. There to greet them were a Chinese brother and two or three Amis brothers. After staying with the Ideis in Hsinchu for a short time, they proceeded to the territory of the Amis. What a change for them! No bathtubs, no electricity, no western-style beds! They would live Amis-style in a house with dirt floor, thatched roof and elevated platform for a bed. A corner of the pigsty would serve as toilet. They were there to help the brothers. That is what counted.
At Chih Shang they were told that there were, not just 300, but 600 interested in the message! They decided to visit all the villages where these people lived. Local brothers had several “runners” spread the tidings to the various groups. The word went out; not 300, not 600, but 1,600 responded to the invitation! It was fine that these two missionaries, Brothers McGrath and Charles, had had a brief course in Japanese at Gilead. With the help of a Japanese Bible and a dictionary they were able to tell those interested ones something about God’s organization. Their talks were translated into Amis for those who could not understand the Japanese. They realized that the new brothers needed a systematic course in Bible study to bring them on to maturity.
They decided to teach one subject at a time. As a basis, the book “Let God Be True” was selected. It took as many as five days of patient study and preparation before they were ready to give the lesson to the assembled brothers. “Runners” notified the interested ones where and when to assemble. Brother McGrath would go in one direction, Brother Charles in another. At each village eight or more hours were used in the actual teaching, with question-and-answer sessions. Evenings were spent in relaxed association with the brothers.
The local brothers needed this training. They were sincere, but there were evidently many blank spots in their understanding of the Bible’s message. For example, it was noted that various sisters were missing from meetings from time to time. Inquiry revealed that the restrictions of the Mosaic law concerning women during their menstrual periods were being applied. The sisters had been told not to attend meetings in those circumstances. Now the missionaries helped all to understand that Christians are “not under law but under undeserved kindness.”
Brother McGrath made many trips to the capital with the object of obtaining local recognition of the Kingdom work. Meantime Brother Charles came to the decision that he would do some regular house-to-house preaching in Kuan Shan. As soon as this became known, others expressed the wish to join him, and eventually 140 wanted to share in the field ministry for the first time, even though it might result in imprisonment! The group split into two, planning to make a circle of the Amis territory and meet on the coast east of Chih Shang. Rice was carried as their main item of diet. They slept in little village halls. Before entering each village they would have a service meeting so as to be prepared to meet the objections of the main religion in that village. Then they would go into the village and start work. They completed all the territory along the coast, and still no sign of the other group. They had walked for two weeks.
The hardest part of the trip was still ahead. They had now to cross the mountain range separating them from the home valley. Mountains on Taiwan are rugged, but, worse still, rain had made the clay path slippery. The trail snaked its way down a cliff face where one misstep could mean a 600-foot fall! Brother Charles’ rubber-soled shoes were dangerous. Brothers loaned him their shoes that had deep treads. They linked hands and with many a prayer made it to the bottom safely. How thankful they were when, after their long walk, they finally met the other group! But there was bad news. Several of that group had been arrested. A few days later there were more arrests.
Meantime, Brother McGrath was told that a letter had been sent to the Taitung magistrate instructing the police to refrain from interfering with the brothers and to give them protection as they traveled from village to village with their message. However, the magistrate denied the existence of such a letter, and proceeded on the basis of the false charge that the Witnesses were Communists. But the work went on, even under heavy handicap.
Then difficulty on difficulty followed quickly. Brother Charles contracted jaundice. Then when the time came for him to renew his I.D. card, the police refused to return the old one or issue a new one. As a British subject, his was a precarious position, for the diplomatic recognition extended by the British government to the mainland Chinese rule was highly distasteful to the Taipei government. Realizing that his stay might now be short, Brother Charles called all responsible brothers together for a meeting at Chih Shang. For four days he discussed with them the requirements of the Christian organization. His listeners were urged to follow those instructions, to study the Bible and to wait on Jehovah for further guidance. Then the missionary tore himself away from those he had come to love so dearly. He spent a short time convalescing at Sister Idei’s home in Hsinchu and then made his way to the British Consulate in Tansui. He and Brother McGrath stayed at a small hotel. Brother McGrath was suffering from malaria at the time. Brother Charles decided to go and do some witnessing in Taipei, and he was able to get needed medicine and nourishment for Brother McGrath. In due course it seemed better to them to make their way to Hong Kong rather than await official expulsion from Taiwan. Sadly they waved good-bye to the group of Amis brothers who had come all the way to Chilung to see them off. They had been in Taiwan a little over one year.
SEEKING LEGAL RECOGNITION
In view of the developments the Society decided to place Taiwan once more under supervision of the Japan branch. Thus, on April 3, 1951, a missionary in Japan, Brother Tohara, came to the island to make preparations for a visit by the Society’s president, Brother Knorr. Brothers Knorr and Henschel held some meetings in hotel rooms with representative brothers from the Amis and Hsinchu groups. When Brother Knorr went on to Japan, Brother Henschel continued with Brother Tohara for the purpose of meeting with some government officials. Arrangements were made with Colonel Cheng Yi Kuan of the Foreign Affairs Office, Taiwan Provincial Police Administration, to send a representative of the Society to investigate the truth of charges that the Witnesses in Taiwan were engaging in immoralities and were teaching subversion. Donald Steele, a missionary evacuated to Japan from the Korean war theater, was assigned to make this investigation, but the Chinese authorities flatly refused his application for a visa.
The governmental structure on Taiwan greatly complicated the task of effecting a registration of the work of the Society. The central government supposedly has overall control, but the control in civil matters was in the hands of provincial governments, with some matters even being delegated to county governments. Thus it was often a matter of being referred from one to the other, without satisfactory result.
In 1952, the Society sent Brother Lloyd Barry to Taiwan. He traveled to various parts of the island, and, since he could speak Japanese, he could communicate directly with the brothers. He visited the Ideis at Hsinchu as well as an interested couple in Pingtung county, far to the south. He also met the brothers from the east coast and gave them much encouragement. During his stay he also prepared to file applications for registration of a local corporation, International Bible Students Association. While waiting for some necessary documents from Brooklyn, he had the opportunity to meet some very influential people. Here is his own account:
“One morning at breakfast in the Grand Hotel, Taipei, an elderly American gentleman politely asked if he might share my table. Soon he was inquiring, ‘What brings you to Taiwan?’ When I frankly answered that I was one of Jehovah’s witnesses, he got up, reached over and shook my hand vigorously. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘I have just written a chapter in one of my books about Jehovah’s Witnesses.’” He was Dr. C. Braden, Professor of Oriental Religions at Northwestern University in the United States. It appears that his research into the subject of the Witnesses had given him cause to have the greatest of respect for them and their teachings. It turned out that he was in Taiwan as the personal guest of Governor Wu, the very person Brother Barry wanted to meet. The upshot was that a half-hour interview with Governor Wu was arranged. This resulted in nothing really tangible, though the physical torturing of Jehovah’s witnesses was somewhat lessened.
It later turned out that Governor Wu himself had much to do with the many injustices perpetrated on Jehovah’s people. Note how an article in the China Post of June 5, 1971, in an excerpt from a book Christianity in Taiwan by the late Dr. Hollingworth K. Tong, confirms this: “Dr. K. C. Wu, then Governor of Taiwan, made inquiries among trusted church leaders concerning the nature and aims of the Witnesses. He was told that this sect had caused considerable trouble in both the United States and Canada and that 20 of their missionaries had been expelled from Russia for advocacy of the overthrow of the Soviet government.” Thus Christendom’s religious leaders in Taiwan are indicted as the instigators of the brutalities suffered by the brothers.
In 1952 a drought brought the brothers into a pitiful condition. Most of them had very little clothing. The brothers in New York quickly prepared a relief shipment. The distribution of this gift was a great witness to the local authorities and a demonstration to the brothers of the deep feeling of love for them on the part of their brothers overseas. Then, in 1955, Brother Barry brought the Society’s film “The New World Society in Action” and happily was given a license to show the film anywhere in Taiwan during the following three years. Hualien was the nearest city to the Amis territory with electricity, so here, after police helped him to locate a school auditorium, he showed it to different groups on four separate nights. In all, 2,865 brothers and interested ones enjoyed it, many seeing a movie for the first time. The narration was supplied in Amis so that all would clearly understand.
On returning to Japan, Brother Barry was delighted to learn that on March 23, 1955, the long-term ban on the activities of Jehovah’s witnesses had been lifted. Legal recognition was given to the International Bible Students Association. Now the way was open for the 1,782 brothers to meet openly and preach publicly! One of the requirements was that meetings should be held in registered meeting places. So, soon the brothers commenced building their Kingdom Halls. It was also required that the Chinese language and not Japanese be used in the meetings. Therefore classes were quickly organized so that the brothers would learn Chinese.
Meantime, things began to move in connection with the work among the Chinese-speaking population. In 1951 Marion Liang, whose family had fled to Hong Kong from mainland China in 1949, attended her first assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses. There she heard Brother Knorr deliver the lecture “Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land.” She moved from Hong Kong to Taiwan in order to attend the National Taiwan University, but there found no Witnesses. She made progress in Bible knowledge, however, and in 1952, when back in Hong Kong for vacation, she was baptized. She returned to Taiwan. Thus it came about that the only Mandarin-speaking Witness in all Taiwan was waiting at Chilung for the arrival of two new missionaries from New York, Brother and Sister Halbrook. Brother Barry was there also. A small missionary home was set up on Chung Shan North Road, Section Two, in Taipei. It was quite an experience for these newcomers to go in the house-to-house work with Brother Barry and Sister Liang the very next day. They brought some Chinese booklets with them, but at the start they tried to find English-speaking people so they could start some studies right away. Sister Liang agreed to spend two hours of three days each week helping them to prepare sermons and conduct studies in Chinese.
The Halbrooks were not the only ones who were struggling with the Chinese language. The Amis brothers in Taipei, who had been educated under Japanese auspices, were now also anxious to use the Chinese language, and so be able to comply with the government’s requirements as to meetings. A Chinese-language group Bible study was arranged in the missionary home and a number of the young Amis publishers and other interested ones came. One of these, a young Amis brother, Lin Kao Ho, later progressed to become a most capable circuit servant and translator.
Three months after the arrival of these missionaries a most outstanding event in the history of the Kingdom work on this island took place. Brother Knorr returned to fulfill his promise to have an assembly for the Amis brothers and sisters. When the Society’s president, along with Brothers Barry and Adams, arrived in Taipei they arranged an early morning flight to Hualien, and from there traveled the remaining forty miles by train to the village of Fu Yuan. What a surprise awaited them! The brothers had noted well the details of the Society’s film, and so all the necessary departments of an assembly were organized. A baptismal pool, fifteen feet wide and thirty feet long, had been dug and lined with stones. A small stream had been diverted into the pool, this providing for the baptism of 123 persons. Among the baptized ones were members of the Bunun and other mountain tribes. Brother Barry translated the talks into Japanese and Sister Liang rendered them into Chinese, and thence they were converted into Amis. What a joy to see 1,808 at the public lecture!
BRANCH ESTABLISHED IN TAIWAN
Thereafter Brother Knorr decided to open a branch in Taiwan so that closer theocratic oversight and assistance might be given the brothers. Brother Paul Johnston was appointed branch servant. He and his wife had been Gilead classmates of the Halbrooks. An assembly in Ta Pu, Chih Shang, with Brother Franz, the Society’s vice-president, as the principal speaker, marked the beginning of this new chapter in the history of the Kingdom work in Taiwan. Brother Adrian Thompson, district servant from Japan, the Halbrooks and Sister Liang went ahead to the assembly village, while Brother and Sister Johnston met Brother Franz and accompanied him on the flight to Hualien and the journey on the narrow-gauge railway to Chih Shang. Once again the assembly organization amazed the visitors. Why, they even had a “water department” whose job it was to carry water from a well one hundred yards away! Teams of sisters did this job.
The special resolution against communism was adopted by the 2,029 persons attending one of the sessions. It was on this occasion that Brother Franz mounted the platform and gave an impromptu recital with his harmonica while the brothers were assembling for the commencement of the program. This touched the hearts of many. Peak attendance of 3,029 was reached for the showing of the film “The Happiness of the New World Society.”
Other provisions for the expansion of the Kingdom activity in Taiwan followed. New, larger premises were rented in Taipei to include improved missionary quarters, a Kingdom Hall and the branch office of the Society. In the fall of 1957 the ban on the activities outside the city of Taipei was lifted. This had been in force since early the previous year. And how did it come to be removed? The father of a young Bible student was a member of the legislature with a reputation for fight and determination. He was favorable to the Kingdom work and when he heard of our problem through his son, he agreed to arrange a meeting with the Minister of the Interior, a friend of his. The outcome of that meeting was the restoration of recognition of our Bible education campaign.
Also, soon after this, the first circuit assembly was held in Hualien. The branch servant delivered the public lecture in Chinese! One language hurdle had been negotiated. The next step was to care for the need of communication with the Amis brothers and interested ones.
The Society was still interested in obtaining legal recognition of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in Taiwan. To this end, property was purchased in 1958 for a branch and missionary home at No. 5 Lane 99 Yun-Ho Street, Taipei. The deeds were registered in the name of Paul Johnston as agent for the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. This was then used as a basis for the registering of the Society. Since early attempts brought little result, the assistance of the American Embassy was sought, but this too was without effect. However, when the matter was brought to the attention of the State Department in Washington, they sent instructions to the ambassador to see that the terms of the mutual trade agreement between Taiwan and the United States were applied fairly in the case of the Watch Tower Society. This turned the tide so that the registration of the Society was approved in 1963 and registered in the Taipei District Court on May 8, 1964.
In 1958 Sister Liang was invited to attend the thirty-first class of Gilead School in the United States. That summer she and her fleshly brother graduated at the Yankee Stadium assembly. They remained at the Brooklyn headquarters of the Society for two more months as they worked to complete the translation of the Paradise book into Chinese. Then Sister Liang, the first and only Chinese graduate of Gilead to come from Taiwan, returned to take up missionary service in Taipei. Here her bilingualistic ability was much needed. The work of typesetting the Chinese literature had been transferred to Taiwan from Hong Kong. Chinese hand type was to be set by outside firms and proofread at the Taiwan branch. Paper matrices were pressed from this type and mailed to the United States, there serving as molds for the recasting of the material into metal to be run on the Society’s presses in Brooklyn. Eventually Sister Liang became a full-time member of the Bethel family at Taipei with the job of proofreading the increasing material for the Chinese magazines. Her brother in Hong Kong did most of the actual translation.
Other missionaries continued to arrive in the years that followed. In 1959 the decision was made to spread the services of the missionaries to other cities. A small home was rented in Kaohsiung, the second-largest city of Taiwan, 200 miles south of the capital. Brother and Sister Halbrook and Brothers Peel and Johansson were assigned there.
Then Brother Henschel from headquarters of the Society again visited Taiwan in April 1960, when another large assembly in the Amis territory was held. These visits by brothers from Brooklyn, as well as the more regular provision of circuit and district assemblies, were giving the brothers a sense of being part of Jehovah’s organization. This proved to be fine preparation for a fast-approaching trial of their faith and devotion to Jehovah and the principles of his Word.
While progress was slow among the Chinese-speaking people, it appeared on the surface that good results were being had among the Amis and other-language groups. The peak of publishers in the country had risen from 417 in 1951 to 2,009 in 1957. An all-time high of 2,459 publishers was reported in August 1961. How many of these were truly devoted to Jehovah and his righteous principles? The organization of the Kingdom Ministry School, started in April 1961, helped to clarify the situation.
All the special pioneers and overseers spent four weeks studying God’s Word and organizational matters under the supervision of Brother Halbrook. Language was still a problem, but the brothers gained much from this training. The school was then moved to the east to care for the majority of the responsible brothers in that area. This course made a deep impression on all who attended. They began to understand the importance of living the truth. There resulted a cleansing period for the work in Taiwan. Many, as a result, left off from following the Christian example of service to Jehovah. They had been in the organization merely for what they could get out of it for themselves.
CLEANSING AND REBUILDING
Emboldened by their studies of Bible principles at the Kingdom Ministry School, brothers now began to speak of irregularities taking place within the organization of the Witnesses in Taiwan. Even responsible brothers were charged with dishonesty, favoritism, immoral activities and lack of loyalty to the theocratic organization. And, unfortunately, some of the charges were true. Some had to be disfellowshiped, others removed from service either as overseers or special pioneers, and still others were disciplined. Some of those disfellowshiped turned against the Society openly and began to use their influence with the brothers in a number of congregations to turn them away also.
The opposed ones who had been expelled from the organization even went so far as to lodge charges against the organization of the Witnesses in various departments of the government. Congregations were urged to refuse the visit of Society-appointed circuit servants. It also came out during the investigations that many had been recommended and eventually appointed to serve as special pioneers, overseers in congregations and even as circuit servants, not because they were Scripturally qualified, but because they were related to or under the influence of the one recommending them.
The Society determined to have someone who could speak Japanese and who could communicate directly with the majority of the brothers and sisters to come into the country. Brother and Sister Logan, who had been missionaries in Japan for seven years, were the ones selected. They arrived late in 1961 and after taking a two-month course in Mandarin-Chinese, Brother Logan attended special meetings for the circuit servants held for one week at the branch office. He was then assigned to work with the Amis circuit servants on the east coast, he endeavoring to train them for better work and at the same time helping the servants in congregations to become better qualified. In the course of time he found that the inability of overseers to answer questions in Chinese was not entirely due to a poor knowledge of the language. Many of them had a poor understanding of the basic doctrines of the Bible. In view of this, steps were taken to raise the standard of Bible education among the brothers.
To this end circuit assemblies were now organized semiannually. The servants who would form the assembly organization came to the site several days in advance, using the daytime to make all preparations for the gathering, while in the evenings Brother Logan would spend time with them discussing Bible principles and organizational matters. In this way many of those brothers became qualified to communicate the same valuable information to the brothers in their congregations. Sister Logan, the first missionary sister to live among the Amis, also was kept busy, for she also could speak Japanese and was learning Chinese. She took the sisters with her in the field ministry each morning and in the afternoon she would study with them such basic material as the “Good News” booklet. A strong bond of affection between the missionaries and the Amis publishers was thus developed.
Week-long study courses for all servants in the congregations were conducted by Brother Logan, for the purpose of helping them with basic doctrines and organizational arrangements. Practice sessions in conducting the congregation book study and other meetings in the Amis language were also held. This educational campaign brought advancement, but it also reduced the publisher figure. Why? Because it revealed that some were not even at the stage where they could be invited to share in the preaching work. The matter to be stressed at this time was quality, not quantity.
In 1963 family obligations took Brother Johnston from full-time service, so Brother Logan was appointed to care for the branch. Soon after, in August, the “Around-the-World” Assembly was held in the village of Shou Feng. At this time the publisher total had dropped below 1,200. The assembly, held this time in the name of the Watch Tower Society, proved to be a great milestone in the advance of pure worship. The 535 foreign delegates attracted much attention. Police and security officers, who were on hand for the occasion, were evidently impressed by what they saw and heard, for thereafter it was noticeably easier to obtain permits for assemblies. The loving spirit of the assembly was in marked contrast to some earlier assemblies in Taiwan. No one lorded it over the volunteers who served in various departments. Everything, including the material support of the assembly, was entirely voluntary.
And what a pleasure for the local brothers to meet fellow publishers from around the world! The Negro delegates were very popular; also the Japanese sisters in their colorful kimonos. Those of the local brothers who could speak Japanese had a wonderful time of fellowship with the Japanese visitors.
In 1964 the branch servant, accompanied by the Amis circuit servant, spent fifteen days visiting eleven special pioneer assignments and working in the field ministry with the special pioneers. This quickly revealed who were and who were not qualified for the service. Changes were made; some were given special training courses; others were removed. It turned out that many of those who were removed became totally inactive, confirming charges that had been made to the effect that some were serving for the sake of the monthly special pioneer allowance rather than from love for Jehovah. The special pioneer service was now placed on a good, solid footing.
In the congregations trained overseers gradually weeded out those lacking knowledge or failing to meet other Christian qualifications. The publisher total for the country dropped to 1,004 in 1967—the lowest figure since 1953. This was no cause for discouragement as we reflected on the greatly improved sacrifice of praise that was going up to Jehovah from the lips of those who really loved his Name. In the 1970 service year sixty-three were baptized and again in 1971 another sixty-three were baptized, and this was a cause for real joy, for those candidates had all first been carefully examined as to their qualifications and were felt to be truly devoted to Jehovah God.
By May 1971 it was believed that the brothers were far enough advanced to benefit from the Kingdom Ministry School, so that provision was again put into operation. The first class, in Mandarin, was held at the branch. Subsequent classes were held in convenient locations in Amis territory. As a result of all this improvement of the conditions in the congregations, there can be noticed corresponding changes in attitude. Now the brothers in general are willing to set aside their farm work and other work, even in harvesttime, just to be at the assemblies or to hear some special visiting representative of the Society.
During his visit in 1968 Brother Knorr gave approval for the building of a larger Kingdom Hall and enlarged missionary quarters on the Society’s property in Taipei, to the joy of the 205 persons who were present. It turned out that, due to local building requirements, the old buildings had to be demolished and an entirely new structure erected. It took but nine months to complete the fine two-story building, with its beautiful Kingdom Hall, nine missionary bedrooms, branch office quarters and shipping department. It was a delightsome occasion when 165 persons assembled in October 1969 for the dedication program.
Immediately following came the second international assembly in Taiwan, held in the National Arts Academy auditorium in Taipei. Though a completely Chinese program was presented, not understandable to some 60 percent of the brothers in the whole country, nevertheless more than 500 brothers chartered buses and attended, just to be with their brothers. Those who could not understand the language certainly could understand the love and unity that was everywhere in evidence. A later assembly in the Amis language was conducted in Chih Shang, and was attended by more than 1,400.
Looking at the field here in Taiwan from this vantage point of 1971, it can be seen that there are two distinct fields of activity among the population. There are about one-half million tribal or aboriginal people, including the Amis. In this scattered mountainous territory there are about 950 publishers. It is not uncommon for them to spend two hours walking in order to preach for one hour. The problem of illiteracy has been greatly reduced, but there are still many who need loving instruction. There are certainly wonderful possibilities among this humble people, from among whom many have served Jehovah faithfully under severe handicaps.
The other field is the Chinese population—close to twelve million Taiwanese-Chinese besides other millions who have moved here from the mainland. Nine million of those Chinese live in territory not now being worked by the Witnesses, and this includes at least five cities of over 200,000 population each. In the Chinese portion of the country there are 150 publishers in the one circuit. The missionaries have been the spearhead of the work among the Chinese. Indeed, the Society, during the years 1956 to 1959, assigned a total of fifty missionaries to Taiwan. Of these, thirty-nine have had to leave the missionary service over the years, but it is fine to note that some of these couples have elected to remain in Taiwan and keep on contributing toward the advancement of the Kingdom work, and many are being replaced. The Society’s continuing concern for the welfare of the brothers here is shown by the fact that eight graduates of the fiftieth class of Gilead and six missionaries from the Philippines have been assigned to this branch territory in 1971. How happy we are too that visas for nine more graduates of the fifty-first class of Gilead have been approved, and these left New York right after graduation, September 7, 1971, for Taiwan.
The efforts of the missionaries, pioneers and congregation publishers among the Chinese are producing excellent results. Thus, while Taiwan as a whole reported 1,150 publishers, country wide, they have placed 20,622 books and booklets, obtained 3,546 new subscriptions for the Watchtower and Awake! magazines, along with distributing 103,069 individual copies. As to weekly Bible studies, they are conducting 761 and have spent 207,135 hours in the field ministry during the year 1971.
It brought great happiness to all of us when we learned that the Memorial celebration of April 9, 1971, brought together an attendance of 3,068, many of them from the most populace of all races. What a fine potential for further increase on this “Island Beautiful” in one of the most distant parts of the earth!