1973 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Life is something marvelous! It is precious, for without life we have nothing at all. So, how grateful we should be that we are alive! Daily our prayerful thanks can well ascend to “the God that made the world and all the things in it.” He is the One who “gives to all persons life and breath and all things.” Indeed, “by him we have life and move and exist.”—Acts 17:24, 25, 28; Ps. 36:9.
True, Job once declared: “Man, born of woman, is short-lived and glutted with agitation.” (Job 14:1) Similarly, concerning “the days of our years” the psalmist said that “their insistence is on trouble and hurtful things.” (Ps. 90:10) But, despite the pain and trouble, the many causes of agitation, who wants to die? Man desires to live. He clings to life!
Often we hear people boast about what they will do tomorrow—in the near or distant future. Yet, James wisely wrote: “You do not know what your life will be tomorrow. For you are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing.” (Jas. 4:14) A sobering thought, is it not? Yes, but this we know: We are alive today. We have breath. Most of us can see, we can hear, we can speak. We all can do something worth while at this moment. Especially should we be doing worthwhile things if we are Christians who have dedicated our lives to the One who made all things. Whatever we do should be “for God’s glory.”—1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:23, 24.
From the dawn of human history—the days of Adam and Eve—the vast majority of mankind have used their lives in a worthless way. They have enjoyed no proper relationship with their perfect Maker, Jehovah God. (Deut. 32:4, 5) They have not worshiped him in the way he desires, “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) In fact, to this very day the words of the Hebrew prophet Micah prove true: “All the peoples, for their part, will walk each one in the name of its god.” But that is not true of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. “We, for our part, shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God to time indefinite, even forever.” Those are their heartfelt sentiments.—Mic. 4:5.
But if Jehovah’s witnesses are going to walk in the name of their God, they must do worthwhile things. For instance, they must believe and follow God’s Word, the Bible, and must teach it to others. Adherence to it is the way of life, for ‘man does not live on bread alone, but on every expression from Jehovah’s mouth.’ (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3) Fittingly, the apostle Paul urged the Philippians to keep “a tight grip on the word of life.” (Phil. 2:16) Is that what Jehovah’s witnesses are doing?
Then, too, if Jehovah’s witnesses are going to walk in the name of their God, they will have to talk about him. They will have to tell the world of mankind about the love he showed in providing his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as a ransom so that those exercising faith in him might gain everlasting life. (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6) They will have to engage in worthwhile works like those of Jesus, who “went journeying from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God.” (Luke 8:1) Are Jehovah’s witnesses doing that?
Additionally, if Jehovah’s witnesses truly are walking in the name of their God, they must be carrying out the commission Jesus gave his followers: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) Are Jehovah’s witnesses carrying out that commission?
Furthermore, if Jehovah’s witnesses really are walking in the name of their God, they must be busy, having “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) Theirs, then, would be a life in which they “see good” because of its being filled with rewarding work. (Eccl. 5:18-20) They would be heeding Paul’s counsel: “Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment; to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.” (1 Tim. 6:17-19) The “real life” depends, not upon having material possessions, but upon seeking Kingdom interests first, fearing the true God and keeping his commandments. (Matt. 6:25-33; Luke 12:15; Eccl. 12:13, 14) Are Jehovah’s witnesses enjoying the prospect of the “real life”?
So, again we ask: Are Jehovah’s witnesses doing worthwhile things and keeping “a tight grip on the word of life”? Have they been telling mankind about Jehovah’s love and his kingdom? Are they fulfilling the commission to ‘make disciples and baptize them’? And are they truly enjoying the hope of the “real life”? We can judge for ourselves as we review their activities of the past year. To do so, we now embark on a brief armchair tour of the world.
ALASKA, ARGENTINA, AUSTRALIA, AUSTRIA
In the cold reaches of the north lies Alaska. There 892 Christian witnesses of Jehovah joyfully declare the good news. They are trying to reach a population of over 320,000. But this is not easy. Alaska is a big land and the people are scattered. The only way to reach many of them is by plane, and from time to time this is being done, with excellent prospects. Brother Ronco, the branch overseer, writes: “The great challenge for witnessing remains in trying to witness to the 178 villages that cannot be reached by roads. Our brothers are constantly making plans to contact these individuals with the message of life. We pray for Jehovah’s spirit and direction to reach the 43,424 individuals in those villages. Being busy in the Kingdom work brings results. It is a happy work.”
Now let us travel far to the south, to Argentina. This country’s 21,643 Christian ministers enjoy a more favorable climate. However, theirs, too, is a large territory, with a population numbering over twenty-three million. Jehovah’s witnesses there have “a tight grip on the word of life” and earnestly teach it to others. They are helping people to “get a firm hold on the real life.” (Phil. 2:16; 1 Tim. 6:19) The results? Just last year 1,132 persons were baptized at ten fine district assemblies. These individuals have dedicated their lives to Jehovah God. They have started walking on the way of life and can now enjoy the assurance of the “real life.”
The work of making disciples in Argentina is advancing rapidly, and the rich blessing of Jehovah is evident. (Prov. 10:22) Brother Charles Eisenhower, the branch overseer, reports that during the past year their staff moved into a new large addition to the present branch office. Now they have ample storage space, a fine shipping department, more bedrooms for the Bethel family and an excellent office. During a short visit in January 1972, the Watch Tower Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, gave instructions to buy adjacent property, and Brother Eisenhower is pleased to report that the purchase has been made. This paves the way for further expansion of the Kingdom-preaching work in Argentina.
As elsewhere, Jehovah’s witnesses in Argentina enjoy their life of praise to God, and they are eager to introduce others to that kind of life. But not everyone looks at life in the same way. Centuries ago in Antioch, Pisidia, the Jews stirred up some women and the city’s principal men, “and they raised up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas and threw them outside their boundaries.” (Acts 13:14, 50) Similarly, there has been some opposition to the Kingdom message in Argentina. Brother Eisenhower says: “In one state two of our Kingdom Halls have been closed by the border police. But this has not discouraged the brothers. They have just organized their activity and meetings in small groups and continue to work. Instructions have been given to these brothers to keep the meetings going, to give all the spiritual attention possible to the brothers and the new ones and to continue preaching the good news of the Kingdom.”
Now let us travel on to the “Land Down Under,” the island continent of Australia. Brother John Wilson, the branch overseer, writes: “The story of the year centers around our factory construction, with final approval being granted by the City Council in December 1971. Our location is in the best of two worlds, as it were, with the quietness of a residential area and the convenience of being hard up against the busiest railway hub in Australia. We even have shunting lines up to the door of our new factory. Strathfield is located in the geographical center of Sydney, Australia’s largest city.”
Digging of the foundations began during the worst rainy season Sydney had experienced in years. But brothers from that city and other parts of the land gladly rallied to the work. They offered themselves willingly, and their voluntary labor already has saved tens of thousands of dollars in construction costs. Part of the building was being used at the time that Brother Wilson made his report. Eventually this fine three-story structure will be in full use. The brothers are thrilled with the prospect of printing the English editions of The Watchtower and Awake! here and thus giving the nearly thirteen million inhabitants of this vast country a greater opportunity to get a grip on the “word of life.”
“The service year here in Austria began with much hard work and ended with it,” remarks Brother Turner, the branch overseer of that European country. “In between, Jehovah’s blessing was very evident.” Indeed, Austrian witnesses of Jehovah have had “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) After much hard work, they completed a new addition to their old branch building. The new structure houses a very fine Kingdom Hall and a large shipping department. Furthermore, the entire old building was renovated. Great joy prevailed at the dedication of these excellent facilities on October 23 and 24, 1971.
The branch overseer reports: “Five years ago, we shipped out approximately 40,000 books a year and had about that many in stock here. Now we ship out between 100,000 and 200,000 books and Bibles annually and have 200,000 books and Bibles in stock. How glad we have been to have this additional room in our building for literature supplies!”
The brothers in Austria also renovated a building that had been given to the Society in Salzburg. It serves as a fine depot from which to ship to western Austria magazines and other literature regularly coming in from Germany.
Long had Austrian Witnesses looked forward to receiving the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in German. Their first shipments of it were received during the year, and Brother Turner says: “The joy of the publishers at having it is hard to describe.” One brother showed a copy to a bookbinder, who estimated its value at 300 schillings. When told that he could cancel one zero, as the contribution suggested for this Bible was only 30 schillings, “the bookbinder exclaimed that one would have to have an edition of one billion to get down to such a price, or that millionaires must be supporting our work. Then the brother was able to explain how the literature is produced by persons working on a voluntary basis.”
Austria’s big event of the year was the “Divine Rulership” District Assembly in Vienna. Thousands of delegates, including the Society’s vice-president, F. W. Franz, came from other countries, and the excellent program was presented not only in German, but also in Greek, Turkish and Serbo-Croatian. Though there are only about 10,000 Kingdom proclaimers in Austria, 31,363 was the assembly’s peak attendance. So Jehovah’s servants in that land had to work hard to prepare for their convention guests. But in this, as in other ways, they are glad to have plenty to do in the Lord’s work. They feel just like their fellow believers earth wide, who can say as did Paul: “We are working hard and exerting ourselves, because we have rested our hope on a living God, who is a Savior of all sorts of men, especially of faithful ones.”—1 Tim. 4:10.
CANADA, DENMARK, FRANCE, GERMANY
Two milestones were reached in Canada during this year of joyful Kingdom service. The first was passing the 100,000 mark in the number of persons attending the celebration of the Lord’s evening meal. (1 Cor. 11:20-26) The exact figure was 100,755. Another milestone was reached in April 1972, when more than 50,000 Kingdom publishers engaged in the field ministry for the first time in Canada. By May the number had risen to 50,166.
In Canada many young persons are accepting Bible truth quickly, according to Brother Little, the branch overseer. Citing a typical example, he tells of a brother in Joliette, Quebec. His first contact with the truth was in November 1970. He began to preach in February 1971 and was baptized in May of that year. This former member of the Playboy Club operates a hairdressing salon for men. Once he had pornographic magazines and pictures there. Now, however, these are gone and the Society’s publications are prominently displayed. By the door is a rack with Bible tracts and this sign: “Take one—It’s free.” This brother witnesses to all his customers, and in one year he has placed with them well over 200 books, as well as many magazines and tracts. He recorded the district overseer’s public talk at a circuit assembly and over seventy times he has played this tape recording to his customers while working on their hair. “As a result of his witnessing,” writes Brother Little, “one young man has been baptized, even though he was disowned, more or less, by his very rich father.”
In Denmark, as elsewhere, concern exists over such things as rising prices and taxes and the increase of lawlessness. The lifting of the prohibition against pornography has resulted in a flood of pornographic books, pictures, movies and “live shows that would make a dweller of Sodom blush,” according to the branch overseer, Brother R. E. Abrahamson. “Regardless of what the problems are,” says Brother Abrahamson, “the National Church avoids confrontation, limping along between many opinions, itself a dying issue.”
Amid such circumstances, the “word of life” is being taught by Danish witnesses of Jehovah, and a number of those accepting Bible truth come from among disillusioned youth. For instance, at a recent district assembly a young man related how he had been drawn to the “hippie” movement because of their talk of love, equal rights and freedom. He said: “It all sounded fine. I smoked all the ‘hash’ I could get hold of and tried LSD several times, but I was still disappointed. Once some of my fellow hippies went through a well-known street in Copenhagen to declare their love for everyone they met. But they got into a fight. That was not my idea of love. Neither did their idea of sexual freedom appeal to me. So I began seeking something better.” He obtained a Bible and began reading Acts of Apostles, but was downhearted because he thought there were no people around like the first Christians. Then he recalled having had some contact with Jehovah’s witnesses as a child and so started attending their meetings. A Bible study was started with him in January 1971. He was baptized and now serves as a zealous pioneer, a full-time preacher of the good news, and is happily married to a theocratic Christian sister.
The Society’s branch office in Denmark also looks after the work in Greenland. Several pioneer couples now are preaching in a few isolated towns along the coast, and families are being encouraged to move to Greenland and serve where the need is greater. A district assembly held during August at Godthåb, the island’s main town, having over 8,000 inhabitants, brought delight to some seventy Witnesses preaching the good news in Greenland. They were joined by ninety-seven delegates who flew from Denmark by chartered plane. References to the assembly by press and radio, as well as an interview with the assembly chairman, made Jehovah’s witnesses the topic of conversation throughout Greenland. Climaxing the fine assembly was the public talk in Greenlandic, attended by 278. The Witnesses rejoiced when they learned that The Watchtower would be published in Greenlandic from January 1973 onward. “Everyone felt that the time is ripe for the ingathering of Jehovah’s sheep on this largest island in the world,” remarks Brother Abrahamson.
The work of preaching the Kingdom message certainly is on the move in France. During the past service year a new peak of 45,012 publishers was attained and during April 1972 Jehovah’s witnesses in that land were conducting 36,199 home Bible studies. There are marvelous prospects for increase and the Paris branch office is much too small now. With a view to expansion, the Society has purchased land in Louviers, sixty-five miles west of Paris. Work already is under way there on a new building.
Brother Jontès, the branch overseer, tells about a young native of Mali who left the Moslem religion because of the corruption he saw among those claiming to worship God, particularly leaders in the Islamic faith. He embraced Catholicism, only to find hypocrisy among fellow Catholics. Disillusioned, he began living just for himself. He came to France as a student and had to work part time to provide for his needs. At his place of employment, a young Witness spoke to him about God. He showed strong opposition, but something he said caused her to write to the Society to arrange for a brother to visit him. At first, this former Moslem argued against Bible truth, but after a while he began to see that Jehovah’s witnesses had something different. A Bible study was started on the second call. In less than three months this man had read The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life and two other books, and, after just three months of study (two studies a week), he began to engage in the preaching work. He was baptized in July 1972 at the district assembly in Marseilles. There he met a young woman, a former Moslem from his own country. He had known her from childhood. “She, too, unknown to him, had been baptized,” writes Brother Jontès, adding: “With tears of joy they blessed Jehovah for this reunion!”
Germany has had a fast-moving year, filled with activity. Noteworthy, indeed, was receipt of the first shipment from Brooklyn of 30,000 copies of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in German. Cameras were flashing as the cartons were unloaded. The brothers wanted souvenir photographs of this big event!
The New World Translation got fine newspaper and magazine publicity throughout Germany, and, as a result, the branch office in Wiesbaden received orders from persons who had read these articles about the new Bible. One well-educated gentleman called the branch office to obtain a copy for comparative study with other translations. Later, he called again, asking if he could have some other publications. As he was told the names of some books, he would say he wanted each one. Finally, he said that perhaps it would be best to send him all the books in stock in German. This was done, and now he can make a careful study of the fourteen bound books he received.
A special meeting was held in Wiesbaden on May 23-25, 1972. Brothers Knorr and Henschel then met with all the branch overseers in Europe. At this very profitable meeting these brothers discussed many matters pertaining to the various branches and the coordinating of their work. Especially was this important now that the branch office in Germany does much printing for Scandinavian lands and other countries of Europe. During the past year they produced 2,891,150 bound books and also 32,019,000 Watchtower and Awake! magazines in three languages. While in Germany, Brother Knorr arranged for the purchase of some new machinery, with a view to increased production of bound books for use in the work of disciple-making.—Matt. 28:19, 20.
West Berlin is one of the most frequently worked territories in Germany, and many fine experiences are being enjoyed by Kingdom proclaimers there. For instance, five times one brother called with the good news but found no one at home at a certain fourth-floor apartment. The fifth time he left a sample copy of The Watchtower and a Bible study folder. Then one day while driving through that area the thought came to him, “Perhaps today I should climb the steps.” Up he went to that apartment for the sixth time. The results? A lady responded to the ring of the doorbell. She had read the magazine, and a Truth book changed hands. A return visit was arranged and this led to a regular Bible study. Such persistence is worth while. In well-worked West Berlin 275 persons were baptized as Christians last year.
ISLANDS OF THE PACIFIC
Suppose we now do some island-hopping. The 1972 service year found Christians in Hawaii working “whole-souled as to Jehovah.” (Col. 3:23) For instance, in one Honolulu congregation having fifteen pioneers the eighty-two publishers each averaged 19.7 hours a month in the field ministry this past year. Also, during the year baptisms in Hawaii totaled 368, giving clear evidence of successful disciple-making.
Brother Kawasaki, the branch overseer, cites a bit of history and states: “In 1935 Brother Rutherford [then president of the Watch Tower Society] visited the Hawaiian Islands. A new branch was established in Honolulu and arrangements were made for the construction of an assembly hall in connection with the new branch building that was being erected. This meeting hall was called ‘Kingdom Hall,’ and this was the beginning of the practice of Jehovah’s witnesses the world over of calling their congregational meeting centers Kingdom Halls. Appropriately, this year a fine expansion and remodeling of this Kingdom Hall took place, and Brother Knorr was on hand to give the dedication talk. An overflow crowd immensely enjoyed his talk, in which he emphasized that it was not the building that would praise Jehovah or that was important, but the people coming to the building to worship and learn how to praise God. Three congregations [one of them Japanese] are now making full use of the ‘first’ Kingdom Hall in the world.”
The branch office in Honolulu also looks after the preaching work on various Pacific isles, among them the Marshall Islands. Highlighting the service year there was the expanding of the witness work to the outer islands. Traveling aboard copra ships, missionaries and publishers visited tiny isles with populations of a hundred or less. These advocates of the “word of life” distributed many copies of the booklet “This Good News of the Kingdom” in Marshallese. The missionaries report: “Almost at every stop the people were friendly, thanked us for coming and gave us coconuts, breadfruit and chickens. Once we brought home a live pig, given to us by an interested person.”
Bible truth transforms lives, as people put on the “new personality.” (Eph. 4:20-24) In Palau lived a drunkard notorious for violence and phenomenal strength. Due to fear of this man, barrooms emptied quickly upon his entry. Once he fought seven men and threw them all in the ocean. Despite his opposition, his wife studied the Scriptures. She began applying Bible principles and this so impressed him that he also began to study. After her baptism, he requested a study more than once a week and began making real changes in his life. He joined the Theocratic Ministry School. After conforming his life to righteous principles, he started sharing in the house-to-house ministry. Looking back, he comments: “In my thirty-eight years of life, more than half of them were spent inside false religion. For nearly twenty years I was a Lutheran, and for six years a Seventh-day Adventist. During these years, I got drunk every day, got into fights and spent more time in jail than in the village, experiencing much pain and sorrow. Now I am very happy to know the truth. I don’t drink anymore, and though materially poor, I am very happy in life. I hope to get baptized this year.”
INDIA, ITALY, SAN MARINO
What a contrast there is between tiny islands with populations of a hundred or less and the vast subcontinent of India, inhabited by about 560,000,000! Outstanding there this past year were the seven “Divine Rulership” District Assemblies attended by a total of 5,008, with 176 being baptized. The largest assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses ever held in India was the one this year at Kottayam, far to the south in the state of Kerala. More than 2,000 persons were present there. In addition to the fine spiritual feast enjoyed at that assembly, mountains of rice with accompanying curries were served in the cafeteria. Uniquely, rather than squatting on the ground and being served food on banana leaves, as usual, the delegates took their food on plates from a serving line.
Evidence that God’s Word is alive and exerts power to transform lives (Heb. 4:12) was furnished at an Indian assembly where this experience was related by one brother: “I was a rascal. Smuggling was my business. To cheat the government was a pleasure. I loved liquor and gambling. My gang thought we were kings of the village. What a change! The knowledge I gained from the Bible transformed me. I am no longer a drunkard, have no interest in gambling and I hate the smuggling business. I was a Roman Catholic. Now I have seen the light of truth and want to praise Jehovah for his undeserved kindness. . . . Jehovah, his Word and his organization have helped me to become a new person.”
The past year was one of great blessing for Jehovah’s people in Italy. A new Bethel home, built on the outskirts of Rome almost exclusively by Witnesses, was dedicated on May 27, 1972, during a visit by Brother Knorr. All who had shared in the construction work were invited to attend, along with the Bethel family, and 273 packed out the building’s Kingdom Hall. The next day Brother Knorr spoke to 15,700 at the Flaminio Stadium in Rome.
Beginning with the June 1 Watchtower and the June 8 Awake!, the Society began having these journals printed in Italy by a commercial firm. The magazines are mailed by brothers in the new branch home. Jehovah’s witnesses in Italy are delighted that they thus can receive the magazines sooner, and it is believed that now magazine distribution will increase greatly.
The past year’s new peak of 25,810 publishers in Italy is a 23-percent increase over the preceding year. Jehovah’s servants in that land are enjoying the prospects of the “real life.” (1 Tim. 6:19) They are preaching and people are hearing, putting faith in God and calling upon the name of Jehovah. (Rom. 10:13, 14) Just during this past year 3,738 persons in Italy were baptized as Christians, joining the ranks of those who are walking in the name of Jehovah.—Mic. 4:5.
Surrounded by the territory of Italy on all sides is San Marino, called “the ancient land of freedom.” The local congregation of some twenty publishers wondered how to aid the tiny republic’s 18,000 inhabitants to see that only God’s kingdom will bring mankind true freedom. Why not hold a circuit assembly in the recently built Convention Palace? This was done on November 5-7, 1971. There was advance advertising by posters and radio, and a fine witness was given from house to house during the assembly weekend. Though only 929 publishers are associated with that circuit, 1,749 persons attended the public meeting. Nine months later, the brother presiding over the local congregation wrote: “The assembly impressed the whole local population and even now in the house-to-house work we meet people who attended the assembly and were amazed.”
IVORY COAST, NIGERIA AND CAMEROON
For years, the Society’s branch office in Ghana directed the disciple-making work in Ivory Coast. But the establishment of a new branch office in that land during the year did much to advance Kingdom interests, and a peak of 582 publishers was reached.
“No, I have an appointment.” With those words a Catholic priest in Ivory Coast refused to accompany the remains of an unbaptized four-and-a-half-year-old boy to the cemetery. The priest also said: “The child, not having been baptized, does not have the right to the honors reserved to the faithful servants of God.” Disgusted, the parent wondered why God was partial, for divorcées and suicides had been buried by the church with great ceremony. Wishing to hear no more about such a religion, this person prayed for knowledge of the true God. Shortly thereafter, the individual and a fleshly sister began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses. Both of them were baptized in June 1972, just ten months after the child’s death.
Jehovah’s blessing has been very evident on the work of his servants in Nigeria. On December 28, 1971, approval was granted by Lagos city authorities for the construction of a new extension to the branch and Bethel home. It will enlarge the Society’s property threefold, adding thirty-one bedrooms and including space for an enlarged printery. Brothers N. H. Knorr and M. H. Larson were in Nigeria on January 22-25, 1972, when digging of the foundation started. Brother Ward has been appointed as the branch overseer and is looking after the construction and the work in general. All the construction work is being done by Witnesses, some of whom are working at it full time. As one brother expressed it: “It is a pleasure to be working with brothers in the construction of this building which will advance the Kingdom-preaching work throughout the country.”
The attendance at the seventeen “Divine Name” District Assemblies held in Nigeria between November 1971 and February 1972 reached a new peak of 191,627, and 6,077 were baptized. A new peak also was reached in the number attending the Lord’s evening meal. For the first time more than 200,000 were present, the total attendance being 200,193.
The interests of Jehovah’s people in Cameroon are cared for by the Society’s branch office in Lagos, Nigeria. Since a ban was imposed on the work on May 13, 1970, there has been very little letup in the persecution of Jehovah’s witnesses in Cameroon. Threats, intimidation, harassment, beatings and imprisonment were all used against the Witnesses in an effort to force them to vote in a political referendum held on May 20, 1972. The governments of the former East and West states were merged into a “United Republic of Cameroon.”
Jehovah’s witnesses in Cameroon have had to live with the constant threat of being denounced by neighbors, relatives, acquaintances and party members. Often their homes are broken into without warrant and their personal property seized or damaged. They constantly are dragged before local officials to face such charges as “failing to vote,” “reconstituting a banned religion” and “holding illegal meetings.” But Christians expect to be persecuted, and faithful servants of Jehovah in Cameroon are finding many ways to carry on the God-given assignment to preach the good news of the Kingdom.—Matt. 5:11, 12.
PARAGUAY AND THE PHILIPPINES
A report comes from Paraguay via the branch overseer, Brother Pysh, concerning a missionary sister who was preaching in a very humble territory, in a literal “torrent valley” on the outskirts of Asunción. Running out from this wide gorge where many people of humble means have built their homes, there was a path. Where did it lead? The sister followed it just to be sure that she did not miss a home. Rounding a bend, she came upon a small house. Seven people lived there and they had a Bible. One of the younger children in the home had found it in a garbage dump and, thinking it was a dictionary, had brought it home. The father started reading this Bible and wanted to learn more. A Bible study was started immediately by this missionary. Two months later all seven in the family were attending Christian meetings regularly, though having to walk a long distance both to the Kingdom Hall and to the congregation book study in their area. Four months passed and two members of this family were engaging in the preaching work. Now the man is helping two other families to get a firm grip on the “word of life.”
The 1972 service year was outstanding for Jehovah’s witnesses in the Philippines. Construction began on a large printing plant on the branch office property in Quezon City. There, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, eventually The Watchtower and Awake! will be printed in nine languages. It all began on July 25-28, 1971, when Brother Knorr visited the Philippine branch and laid out the preliminary plans for a new Bethel home and factory. When he announced the prospective expansion to an audience of 17,076 persons gathered in Marikina, Rizal, they were thrilled. Enthusiastically the Filipino brothers have volunteered and shared in the work, and it was arranged that almost all the construction work would be done by dedicated persons, with the exception of the steelwork. On February 9-12, 1972, Brothers Knorr and Larson visited the Philippines “to give much valuable assistance just as the construction work got under way,” reports Denton Hopkinson, the branch overseer.
Tremendous floods—the worst in recent history—ravaged a large area of Central Luzon in July and August 1972. At least 5,000 witnesses of Jehovah were affected. Though none of them lost their lives, some did lose their homes to the raging rivers. However, it was heartwarming to see how the brothers not so badly affected organized to aid their needy fellow believers. Witnesses in Manila, and even some in other lands, made generous contributions of food and clothing.
One presiding overseer reports: “For fifteen days the water was so deep I could not leave the house. However, meetings were held to the extent possible, with brothers using bancas (small boats) to get to the meetings.” Another overseer says that during July the water was knee deep in most parts of the congregation’s territory, and in some parts neck deep. “It was not practical to do house-to-house work,” he states, “so we concentrated on return visits and Bible studies. Some publishers had to walk five to six kilometers to attend meetings. All were soaked, but they brought dry clothes to use in the Kingdom Hall.” These Christians did not forsake the gathering of themselves together, to their great spiritual benefit in a time of hardship. (Heb. 10:24, 25) Also, the aid given to needy ones by fellow Witnesses certainly proved that they all have the identifying mark of love as true followers of Jesus Christ.—John 13:34, 35.
SOUTH AFRICA, SPAIN AND MALAWI
“Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day of your military force,” declared the psalmist David. (Ps. 110:3) Such willingness was evident among Jehovah’s people in South Africa during the 1972 service year. This took place in connection with the extending of their double-story factory and Bethel home by 15,411 square feet. A number of well-qualified Witnesses who are builders, carpenters, electricians, and so forth, made themselves available for the whole construction period. Others came for several months, and hundreds from nearby congregations helped on weekends. Building operations began on May 6, 1971, and by January 30, 1972, the job was completed and many members of the Bethel family had already moved into some of the seventeen beautiful new bedrooms in the new wing of the Bethel home. Brothers Knorr and Larson arrived the next day and expressed their delight with the new building. Brother Knorr was privileged to speak to 577 Witnesses who attended the new building’s dedication on February 2, 1972.
Legal recognition as a religious association was granted to Jehovah’s witnesses in Spain on July 10, 1970. From that day onward they have made full use of their liberty. In just twenty-one months (December 1970 to August 1972) 144 Kingdom Halls have been legalized and inaugurated. How happy this has made Jehovah’s people in Spain! Jehovah’s witnesses are now the second-largest religious group in the country, with over 16,000 active ministers and 40,000 attending their meetings.
A big problem that still persists in Spain has to do with men who maintain their Christian neutrality. (Isa. 2:2-4; John 15:19) While Catholic priests and divinity students are exempt from military conscription according to Spain’s concordat with the Vatican, the Religious Liberty Law clearly declares that such exemption will not be extended to non-Catholic ministers. Hence, Jehovah’s witnesses who constantly declare their conscientious objection to military service find themselves subject to a never-ending series of prison sentences. This year two witnesses of Jehovah were granted pardon by General Franco after completing eleven years of such imprisonment, but 240 still are serving time, many of them already having been in prison more than five years. Yet, the imprisoned brothers are well treated. They have regular meetings for Bible study and keep their minds on spiritual things. (Col. 3:2) Their determination is to remain faithful to Jehovah and, upon release, to join their fellow ministers in preaching the good news of the Kingdom throughout Spain “for a witness.”—Matt. 24:14.
Jehovah’s witnesses in Malawi have increased in spite of the wicked persecution during 1972. May and June are part of the harvest season. People have money because of the sale of their crops. At this time young members of the Malawi Congress Party roamed the country in “strong-arm gangs” trying to intimidate everyone into buying President Banda’s political party identification card. They go so far as to use rubber thongs to tie around a person’s limbs, stopping the flow of blood for a long time, if one does not buy a card. One young brother lost the use of his hands because of such treatment. One morning when the children entered the schoolroom the teacher asked everyone: “Who is the greater, President Banda or God?” Three children of Jehovah’s witnesses answered “God.” They were punished. From the youngest to the oldest the brothers in Malawi have had to take their stand firmly on Jehovah’s side. The persecution has become so severe that by October of 1972 more than 18,000 witnesses of Jehovah had to flee the country. Others have been killed. Jehovah’s witnesses in Malawi have magnified Jehovah’s name.
What now are we to conclude? Have Jehovah’s witnesses been keeping “a tight grip on the word of life” by telling others about Jehovah’s kingdom? And have they been fulfilling their commission to ‘make and baptize disciples’ of Christ? Certainly this is true as far as the countries we have visited on this brief armchair tour. But is it also true of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses world wide? (See chart pages 24-31.) For an answer let us look at a summary of their activity during the 1972 service year as reported by the 95 branches directing the work in 208 countries and islands of the sea in which the Witnesses have been busy preaching, including 11 countries where their good work is made difficult by anti-God rulers.
These reports show that Jehovah’s people have had “plenty to do in the work of the Lord,” and it certainly has not been in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58) They had a new peak in Kingdom publishers, a total of 1,658,990. So, Jehovah’s witnesses have been helping thousands to see the need of taking their stand for God’s kingdom and their privilege of preaching the good news about that established heavenly government to still others. During the past twelve months lovers of righteousness who have dedicated their lives to do Jehovah’s will were baptized to the number of 163,123. This truly is remarkable, to have so many people baptized as true Christians in a single year!
Now look at what all those getting a firm hold on the “real life” as Christian ministers were able to do with Jehovah’s help during the past service year. (1 Tim. 6:19) Indeed, they have been very busy spreading knowledge of the “word of life.” (Phil. 2:16) They spent 291,894,945 hours in that joyful work—going from house to house, making return visits, conducting home Bible studies, and so forth, while distributing Bibles, books, magazines and other literature. Upon finding interested persons, these witnesses of Jehovah made 135,898,447 return visits and conducted 1,269,277 home Bible studies. Generally, these are conducted weekly with the same people for about six months and then new studies are started. So this figure is merely an average. Probably the number of persons in the homes in which such Bible studies were conducted by Jehovah’s witnesses is well over two and a half million. The Christian witnesses of Jehovah are not an idle people. They feel the urgency of the times and diligently have gone forth to “make disciples of people of all the nations.”—Matt. 28:19, 20.
At their one annual celebration, the Memorial of Jesus Christ’s death, Jehovah’s witnesses had a total attendance of 3,662,407 persons world wide on the evening of March 29, 1972. Of this great number, only 10,350 professed to be anointed followers of Jesus Christ who hope to be associated with him in heavenly glory. (Luke 12:32; 22:19, 20; Rom. 8:16, 17; Rev. 14:1-4; 20:6) Undoubtedly, therefore, the vast majority of those in attendance at the Lord’s evening meal this past year look forward with delight to joyous eternal life on earth in God’s promised new order after the end of this wicked system of things in the “great tribulation” just ahead.—Matt. 24:3, 20-25; 2 Pet. 3:13.
The publishers of God’s kingdom had a very fine year in placing literature in the hands of the people, making it possible for them to read and study God’s Word, the Bible, at their leisure. During the past twelve months Jehovah’s witnesses placed 18,360,561 bound books and 9,747,270 booklets. They obtained 1,696,260 new subscriptions for The Watchtower and Awake! and distributed 217,109,764 copies of these journals in their ministry.
Many Kingdom proclaimers are in the full-time preaching work. During the past year, 13,995 were in the special pioneer work and missionary service throughout the world, and 78,031 served as regular pioneers with the congregations world wide. This is not as many as the previous year, but it is hoped that during the 1973 service year many will prayerfully consider their circumstances and will find it possible to enter the regular or temporary pioneer service. If they do, we will surpass the many hours devoted to the preaching work in 1971, when a peak was reached. Though we were down 57,430 hours this year, as compared with 1971, we certainly had many more people in the preaching work and a higher number of persons baptized.
Jehovah’s witnesses earth wide are certainly enjoying the rich blessing of the God in whose name they have chosen to walk. (Mic. 4:5) Without a question he is prospering the happy work in which they are engaged to his praise. Just think of it! In the last five years 680,871 have dedicated their lives to do his supreme will!
[Chart on pages 24-31]
1973 SERVICE YEAR REPORT OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES WORLDWIDE