Jehovah’s Witnesses—1995 Yearbook Report
“TRUST in Jehovah with all your heart.” That is the timely Scriptural reminder that was set before us by our yeartext for 1994. (Prov. 3:5) And reports received from around the world show that Jehovah’s servants took it to heart.
Such trust was manifested when arrangements were made for a district convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Gbarnga, Liberia, the stronghold of one of Liberia’s main warring factions. There were scores of brothers and sisters in this area, and because of the war, many had not attended any convention for four years. To reach Gbarnga, brothers from the branch office would have to cross the front line, but the road was officially closed. After taking the matter in prayer to Jehovah, the brothers requested special passes. With only a few days to spare, these were granted. There were 17 checkpoints between Monrovia and the front line. When the heavily laden “Watch Tower Relief” pickup pulled up at the checkpoints, the Nigerian soldiers manning them asked for copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines.
In Gbarnga, back in 1963, hundreds of conventioners, including Milton Henschel, who is now a member of the Governing Body and the president of the Watch Tower Society, had been arrested over the flag-salute issue. This time the authorities upheld the right of the Witnesses to assemble peaceably. The 651 in attendance at the Gbarnga convention, most of whom were displaced and refugee brothers and sisters, were delighted with the fine program. And how happy they were to receive the relief supplies that the brothers from Monrovia had brought with them! The success of that convention was proof to the brothers that “no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.”—1 John 5:14.
Similar trust was manifested on the island of Lifou in the South Pacific by brothers who did not retaliate when the clergy instigated local authorities to ban their meetings or when they were beaten for witnessing to others. (Rom. 12:17-19) Recently, the situation has improved, and our brothers are grateful to be able to witness more freely. Trust in Jehovah was demonstrated by an 11-year-old Witness in Myanmar who kept in mind Ecclesiastes 12:1 and, as a result, was busy in the field service after school and on weekends, even conducting ten home Bible studies. It was also shown by a former Muslim activist in England who became a baptized servant of Jehovah in spite of severe opposition from his former religious associates.
Jehovah Is Truly Speeding It Up!
Long ago, through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah foretold that, in the appointed time, He would speed up the ingathering of lovers of righteousness. (Isa. 60:22) The report for the past service year gives evidence that this is exactly what is taking place. There was a peak of 4,914,094 Witnesses, who set aside other interests to share in the work of Kingdom preaching. The average increase for the world was 5 percent. But increases of 20 percent or more were experienced in upwards of 20 lands, and increases of 10 percent or more in another 29 lands.
All together, the preaching of the good news is now being carried on in 232 lands and island groups. And it is being done with zeal. This past year, 1,096,065,354 hours were devoted to the field ministry, 400,393,880 return visits were made on interested persons, and, on an average, 4,701,357 Bible studies were conducted with individuals and groups. This yielded excellent fruitage to Jehovah’s praise, as 314,818 were baptized in obedience to Christ’s command regarding those who would become his disciples. (Matt. 28:19, 20) Said an elderly brother after watching the baptism of an international group of candidates in the northern Caucasus region of Russia: “What a wonderful bouquet God’s Son offered to his Father.”
A significant factor in the speeding up of the work is the number who adjust their affairs in order to share in the pioneer service. In many lands congregation publishers average ten hours or so in the field service each month, but auxiliary pioneers report six times that much, and regular pioneers do half as much again as the auxiliaries. No wonder the increase is often more rapid in areas where there are many pioneers. Last year, a peak of 869,917 worldwide shared in the various branches of pioneer service.
Among the full-time workers were 15,145 members of the global Bethel family. They help to provide literature, supervision, and other beneficial services in support of the worldwide work of Bible education. Of these, 5,082 serve at the world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, and at nearby facilities. All of them are members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants, a religious order that is devoted exclusively to the ministry.
The Memorial report for 1994 shows a total attendance of 12,288,917. This figure includes upwards of 7,000,000 who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses but who did not hold back from assembling with Jehovah’s servants and who have some interest in Bible truth. There is obviously much work that needs to be done to help them to get a clear understanding of the issues involved so that they can take their stand firmly on Jehovah’s side, if that is what their hearts move them to do. (Josh. 24:14, 15; Ps. 83:18) In some lands the Memorial attendance was five, six, or seven times as large as the number of Witnesses. That was true in Madagascar, Chad, and Central African Republic. In Liberia, despite civil war, two isolated publishers gathered 126 people for the Memorial. In Guyana an isolated group of 8 publishers reported an attendance of 867. Attendance in Togo increased 32 percent this year. In Russia the attendance was 55 percent over last year’s figure—a total of 128,049.
“Godly Fear” Conventions
A highlight of the year was the “Godly Fear” District Conventions. As never before, the significance of godly fear and how it should be manifested in our lives was brought into focus. The talks were encouraging, fortifying the conviction that none who continue to serve Jehovah loyally will have done so in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58) There was also a strong note of urgency. After a review of the Bible account of Lot and his family as well as his prospective sons-in-law, the point was made that ‘the faithful slave’ has not been joking when warning of the impending destruction of the present wicked system. (Compare Genesis 19:14, 24, 25.) Now is the time to take action with a view to survival. Attention was also directed to the showdown between Jehovah and Baal in the days of Elijah, and we were reminded: “An even bigger showdown than the one in Elijah’s day is coming . . . And only those unequivocally on Jehovah’s side will survive.”—1 Ki. 18:21-40.
After hearing the program, a convention chairman in Denmark wrote: “There was a strong feeling that the faithful ‘slave’ is really preparing us to go through the great tribulation. Now is the time to live with godly fear so that we can cope with future challenges.”
Joyful International Conventions
This service year also saw a number of special international conventions. These were held in the Orient, in South America, and in Africa.
Two conventions were scheduled for Hong Kong. An outstanding feature of these was the open display of enthusiasm and appreciation on the part of the 3,800 delegates who had come from 33 different countries. For many of the local publishers, this was their first personal contact with the international brotherhood. Language was no barrier as all freely mingled between sessions. Expressions of genuine brotherly affection contributed much to the spirit of warmth and joy.
There have been many tangible results of these international conventions. One woman who had resumed her Bible study just prior to the conventions was so moved by the love and unity of the international brotherhood that she determined to qualify as a publisher and has since been baptized. Another Bible student and his wife were so encouraged by what they saw and heard that the husband handed in his resignation to his employer because the overtime work he constantly had to do was preventing him from attending meetings. Shortly afterward, he qualified to be a publisher.
The arrival of thousands of delegates for the international convention in the Philippines caused quite a stir at the airport in Manila. Overheard was the conversation between two customs personnel. “Are these Protestant delegates?” asked one. “No,” replied the other, “these are Witnesses. They are the only group who can have the whites and the blacks together.”
Five stadiums in Manila were required in order to accommodate the convention. Many were the appreciative comments received from the delegates. A sister from England wrote: “We all speak about the love you showed to us, true love. I myself can’t stop speaking about the pleasantness of the Philippine friends. They are so warm and genuinely hospitable and hardworking in the ministry.”
This series of international conventions also included Chile and Colombia, in South America. The brothers in Chile made great efforts to be present at the convention in Santiago, traveling from as far south as Porvenir on the island Tierra del Fuego, from the northern city of Arica on the Peruvian border, and from distant Easter Island. Although this involved great economic sacrifice, how glad they were that they had not missed this memorable event! Can you imagine what it meant to publishers from isolated groups where from 10 to 15 meet? Here they were in a crowd of 80,891 delegates filling the National Stadium! Their hearts were in their throats. Oh, they had read about large conventions elsewhere, but they had never fully grasped what it means to be among so many brothers and sisters! One special pioneer felt so motivated by the program that he took nine vacation days to read and study the new Proclaimers book and was bubbling over with the information—so much so that he could not keep quiet but had to share points with others whenever possible.
The convention in Chile was followed by one in Colombia, where 3,000 delegates from 31 countries joined local Witnesses in Bogotá. Initially, the immigration officials were somewhat skeptical. After hearing that we expected 40,000 delegates, one official asked: “How many police to control the crowd?” “None,” we replied. We explained that in Chile there were 80,000 in attendance. “How many killed?” he asked. “None,” we said again. “I don’t believe it,” he responded. After the first delegations arrived and he saw that they were all well dressed and orderly, he said: “Now I understand why you don’t need police at your convention.”
At a hotel where 1,500 delegates stayed, the brothers got together in the evenings in the hotel lobby and sang Kingdom songs in several languages. The spirit of this warm international family was truly impressive to onlookers. At the close of the convention itself, the farewell waving of handkerchiefs, the interchanges of gifts, and, of course, the many tears after the closing song deeply moved those who were present. No one wanted to leave even long after the program had ended.
Two more international conventions were scheduled, for Kenya. Nearly 4,000 delegates came from 44 countries, swelling the total attendance to 17,875. The whole of Nairobi, as well as other parts of the country, was buzzing with excitement as the brothers displayed their lapel badges and witnessed informally.
In South Africa, four international conventions were held simultaneously—in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, and Pretoria. The combined attendance for the public lecture on Sunday was 75,312, and 1,360 were baptized. In addition, 20 smaller district conventions were held in South Africa and other lands served by the South Africa branch, thus more than doubling the above figures.
These conventions were special, as it was the first time that South Africa had had the opportunity to welcome so many delegates from other countries. Visitors came from 34 lands, including Japan, Britain, the United States, Suriname, and various parts of Europe. There were also two buses filled with joyful delegates from Zambia and one bus from Mozambique.
The various language groups met in separate halls. But between sessions they enjoyed associating and eating together. It was heartwarming to see people of different races talking excitedly, sharing little gifts, exchanging addresses, and hugging one another. Here was visible evidence of the foretold unity among Jehovah’s people.—Zeph. 3:9; John 10:16.
When delegates from the United States and Japan arrived at Louis Botha Airport in Durban, some 2,000 local Witnesses were on hand to welcome them with Kingdom songs. The brothers warmly greeted one another and embraced. Some of the other tourists who had arrived with the delegates did not want to go on to their hotels, preferring to remain and witness this remarkable scene. Among those watching was a prominent political leader. In conversation with some of the brothers, he said: “If we had the same spirit of unity as you, we would have solved our problems long ago.”
The joy and the love, the genuine international brotherhood, experienced at all those conventions as well as at the ones held earlier in Kiev, Ukraine, and in Moscow, Russia, can be both seen and felt by anyone watching the Watch Tower Society’s new video entitled United by Divine Teaching.
Only a few hundred—instead of thousands—of international delegates were invited to the convention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January, but the joy, the enthusiasm, and the love manifested there was no less than at the larger conventions. What a privilege it was for those who were present at that gathering of proved integrity-keepers! Details are reported in the August 15, 1994, Watchtower.
Relief Activity—Evidence of Heartfelt Love
Again this past year, there have been situations in which relief supplies were urgently needed. The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to be critical. During the service year, 66 tons of various items were shipped to them. This involved not only a vast amount of paperwork but also great physical danger to those who trucked the relief supplies into the danger zones.
However, with the latest relief shipment, the brothers received other special blessings. In what way? The convoy brought more than food, clothing, and literature. The enlarged team of this convoy was also prepared to encourage the brothers with a special assembly day program, the first that the brothers there had enjoyed in three years. The program was presented in Sarajevo, Zenica, and Tuzla. It was almost impossible to say who was encouraged most—the local brothers or the ones sent to encourage them. The results were outstanding: 726 in attendance and 55 baptized! What joy, and not only for the 219 publishers in the area but also for the visitors!
This has also been a difficult year for the brothers in Angola as civil war continues to ravage the country. Excerpts from a letter written by the presiding overseer of a congregation in an area where there has been intense fighting reflect the conditions these brothers face: “As for us, we are spiritually healthy, but our physical condition is serious. . . . Some brothers no longer have the strength to fulfill their congregation assignments, and this notwithstanding great effort they have put forth.”
When this letter was received, emergency measures were taken to hire a small plane to transport 1,800 pounds [800 kg] of food and medicine to the brothers in this dangerous war zone. Thanks to Jehovah, it reached them safely.
Tragedy in Rwanda
Especially prominent in the news has been the situation in Rwanda and nearby countries. Days before the gruesome pictures and stories on conditions inside Rwanda began appearing in the press, the branch office in Kenya was already involved in the evacuation of three missionaries and in providing support and direction for the brothers innocently caught up in the turmoil. Spontaneously, brothers in Europe, and from as far away as the United States and Hong Kong, offered help.
Right from the start of hostilities, brothers and sisters, both Hutu and Tutsi, risked their own lives to protect fellow Witnesses. Some were spared, but not all. Among the possibly half million Rwandans who lost their lives were hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
One of the traveling overseers in Rwanda risked his life on repeated trips, more than 120 miles [200 km] each way, to bring funds for the brothers not only to supply physical needs but also to evacuate Witnesses to safer areas.
Communication, though erratic, was maintained by the brothers with the branch office through the end of May. It then became necessary to evacuate Kigali, and as the brothers headed north, two of the translation staff were killed at a roadblock. Some 200 brothers and interested persons went east to refugee camps in Tanzania; some, north to Uganda; others, south to Burundi. About 2,000 fled to Goma, Zaire, and to other locations. Both physical and emotional suffering had touched every family. As the refugees crossed the border, what a welcome sight were the Zairian brothers and sisters who were holding up Bible literature as a means of identification. Relief committees were quickly set up in Goma, Bukavu, and Uvira.
Witnesses in Kenya promptly dispatched relief supplies for their Rwandan brothers. During the period from May 23 to July 27, a total of 5,218 pounds [2,367 kg] of clothing were shipped from Kenya to Goma and to the camps in Tanzania. In addition, some 2,437 blankets, 10,994 pounds [4,987 kg] of soap, and 1,515 pounds [687 kg] of medical supplies were shipped from Nairobi. Large canvas tents were also sent to provide shelter for the Witnesses who had become refugees. The brothers in Nairobi worked an extra shift to provide The Watchtower, Our Kingdom Ministry, and other publications in Kinyarwanda and other languages, and these were airlifted to the brothers for their spiritual nourishment.
On July 22 a faxed SOS was received at the branch office in France telling about the critical situation of the refugees. Six weeks earlier, 65 tons of clothing—most of it new—had already been sent from France for the refugees. Now, within minutes, the decision was made to load a cargo plane with further relief supplies. Upon learning of the urgent need for help, the brothers in France, Belgium, and Switzerland contributed the equivalent of some $1,600,000. Food, medicine, water filters, and other important supplies were boxed and transported to the airport in Ostend, Belgium. On July 27 the first shipment was dispatched to Bujumbura, Burundi, in a large cargo jet that the brothers chartered. The following day more medical supplies were sent, and still more two days later. Witnesses from Belgium and France, including a doctor and two nurses, also left for Goma. Working along with local brothers who had medical experience, they endeavored to help those already sick and to avert further loss of life by instituting strict rules of hygiene. Amid all of this, the brothers did not ignore their spiritual needs. They regularly discussed the daily text and made arrangements for meetings.
At the time of this writing, some have begun to return to Rwanda. But their possessions had been looted, and many homes had been completely destroyed. Despite the turmoil, there are apparently sheeplike ones in Rwanda who still need help. Before violence engulfed the land, the Witnesses there were, on an average, each conducting three Bible studies with interested people, and upwards of 10,000 had attended the Memorial.
Providing Vital Spiritual Food
The greatest need of people everywhere is for spiritual food. The Governing Body keenly feels its responsibility to make this available—generous supplies of it and in as many languages as possible.—Matt. 24:14, 45; 28:19, 20.
With that in view, not only does the Governing Body have, in a number of branches, brothers assigned to do writing but the Writing Committee also arranges for the translating of literature. Efforts are constantly being made to train new teams of translators and to equip established teams to do better work.
Among the nations of the world, only three are smaller than Tuvalu, an island country in the South Pacific. In 1994, there were 359 who attended the Memorial there, and of these, just 47 were publishers. But the people of Tuvalu, as those elsewhere, need opportunity to learn about God’s Kingdom. In order to make a regular supply of Bible literature available to them, when a Kingdom Hall was built in Funafuti, Tuvalu, in August, it included office space in which to do some translating. Sixty-four brothers and sisters from Australia, Hawaii, and New Zealand made arrangements to go there for two weeks in August to do the construction work.
Likewise, in Godthaab (Nuuk), the capital of Greenland, there is a new Kingdom Hall that includes offices for Greenlandic translators. In addition to local Witnesses, a team of 80 Danish brothers and sisters shared in this construction project. To care for the needs of the Baltic States, brothers from Finland helped to prepare a fine building in Tallinn, Estonia, and another in Riga, Latvia, with space for Service, Translation, and other departments. In Lithuania, too, a translation team is hard at work.
The translators around the globe have been intensely busy. As a result, this year the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was released in Polish, Korean, Cebuano, Iloko, Tagalog, and Indonesian. Translation teams in Africa also rejoiced to be able to complete work on the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in three more African languages, namely, Afrikaans, Yoruba, and Zulu, and to send these to Brooklyn for printing and binding. What a boon these will be to the ministry in lands where these languages are spoken!
Another major translation project has involved the book Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. Already it is available in 28 languages. In addition to English (also English Braille) and Spanish, that includes 11 European tongues, 7 languages of the Orient, and 7 of Africa.
Special emphasis has been given to preparing literature for lands in Eastern Europe and other places formerly under Communist control. This past year, 16 books, in addition to magazines, brochures, and tracts, translated into languages of Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Orient, were made available for use in these areas.
Close international cooperation has also made it possible to increase the number of languages in which The Watchtower is now published simultaneously. A year ago it appeared simultaneously in 81 languages. As of January 1, 1995, a total of 97 languages will have the same material simultaneously. What a fine unifying effect this is having on Jehovah’s people!
Ministerial Training School Extends Into More Lands
When printing that had long been done in Switzerland was assigned to the Germany branch, the size of the Bethel family in Switzerland was reduced. This made space available, and it was decided to use it for the Ministerial Training School. During the service year, the school was also inaugurated in Brazil, Ghana, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Kenya, Korea, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, and Zambia, making a total of 11 countries. Students from 28 different lands received training. Besides those students who were invited to serve in congregations in their home countries, there were some who were sent to other lands in Africa and Eastern Europe.
Classes were held in 15 countries where the school had been inaugurated prior to the 1994 service year. Students from 36 different lands attended, and they are now caring for congregation and other responsibilities.
When a student from Malawi, where the ban was recently lifted, arrived at the school in Zambia, he was surprised to see for the first time the volumes Insight on the Scriptures, bound volumes of The Watchtower and Awake!, the Reference Bible, the Watch Tower Publications Index, not to mention the Society’s videos and audiocassettes. One of the things he enjoyed most while at school was being able to go from house to house with the brothers.
A letter from students in Kenya expressed appreciation for the patience of the instructors and the personal assistance that was rendered. They were also grateful for the kind hospitality of local brothers who provided accommodations and meals and for the positive changes in themselves, including their heightened spiritual stature.
A student attending the first class of the school in the Philippines wrote: ‘The training has helped me to care for my congregation responsibilities, Scripturally and theocratically, with all seriousness.’ Another wrote: ‘Each day I experienced the joy of being taught by Jehovah. Truly, this is the most wonderful experience I have had in my lifetime.’
There are adjustments that students make in order to attend the school. Many come from congregations where there are few elders and ministerial servants. Some have problems getting leave from their part-time secular work. In a few cases, family members are dependent upon them for support, or they have unbelieving parents. One young brother who was invited to the school in Argentina had just finished a special course in the bank where he worked. He prayed to Jehovah and then approached his supervisor to request the two-month leave. After explaining the reason for the leave, he was told: “If it is for your own good, then you may go.” A young man in Bolivia who had just signed a construction contract received an invitation to the school. There was one problem after another on the job, but he finished the project on the day he was scheduled to travel to the school. “I see that this great privilege is worth any sacrifice. If a person seeks help from Jehovah and works in harmony with his prayers, he gets an answer and a great blessing,” he concluded.
Building on a Global Scale to Fill Urgent Needs
Long ago, Jehovah spoke prophetically to his womanlike organization through Isaiah, saying: “Make the place of your tent more spacious. . . . Do not hold back. Lengthen out your tent cords, and make those tent pins of yours strong.” (Isa. 54:2) What occurred in response to that declaration laid the foundation for the organizational growth that we are experiencing now. Once again, more space is needed. There is urgent need for more halls in which people can gather to be instructed in God’s Word. This involves building, and the past year has been outstanding in its accomplishments in this field.
In Malawi, after many years under ban, the brothers are just getting started again, but they are having large attendances at their meetings. There is a great need for Kingdom Halls. In rural areas they are happy to be able to build Kingdom Halls out of mud bricks and thatched roofing. In the cities they are still meeting in brothers’ homes, in community centers, or out in the open.
In South Africa, though, after decades of using private homes and school classrooms, the congregations are now building their own halls. And new halls often lead to large increases in attendance. When the violence had apparently receded following the elections in April 1994, the Regional Building Committee scheduled a quickly built hall to accommodate the two congregations in Tokoza. In spite of renewed violence in the area, all the volunteers, from a variety of races, were able to go into the township and complete a beautiful Kingdom Hall in a matter of days. A fine witness was given.
During the past four years, 657 new congregations have been formed in Nigeria. It is not unusual for seven congregations to share one Kingdom Hall. The high rate of inflation has made it difficult for the brothers to raise sufficient funds to buy land and building materials. But in 1994 the branch office was able to provide technical assistance and loans for the building or renovation of 709 Kingdom Halls. With this help, the brothers are constructing attractive and permanent Kingdom Halls.
Much Kingdom Hall construction is also taking place in the eastern section of Germany. After more than 40 years of Communist rule, the first Kingdom Hall in eastern Germany was dedicated in July 1992. In the past two years, 36 new Kingdom Halls have been built. These are being used by 94 congregations, so 37 percent of all congregations in that part of the country are meeting in new halls.
While the public watched in amazement, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Estonia built their first Kingdom Hall, at Maardu, with accommodations upstairs for four missionary couples. Brothers and sisters from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Canada, and the United States joined the local brothers to accomplish the task in three months.
For decades our brothers in Greece were denied the right to have Kingdom Halls, but to a large extent that has changed. In Athens the former Bethel premises have now been converted into a Kingdom Hall complex, with six halls to care for 18 congregations. In Halkida, as the first quickly built Kingdom Hall in Greece was erected with the help of brothers from all parts of the country, the press and the neighbors watched in amazement.
In Panama seven new Kingdom Halls were built this year with the help of a newly formed Construction Department at the branch. Using 40 full-time volunteers, they are able to complete a new hall in one month. In Colombia the brothers have designed a prefabricated package for Kingdom Halls. Prefabrication is done at the branch; erection, on the building site. Thirty-seven new Kingdom Halls were put up there during the year.
During the 1993 service year—the last for which complete figures are available—50 new Kingdom Halls were constructed or refurbished in Italy. Between September 1993 and May 1994, the paperwork for the construction or refurbishing of about another 60 halls was begun, and it was estimated that 30 more projects would be added to that figure by the end of August 1994.
Spacious Assembly Halls have also been built in many lands. During the year, six new Assembly Halls in Brazil were dedicated to Jehovah, two in the northern part of the country (Recife and Fortaleza), two in the south (Pôrto Alegre and Curitiba), one in Niterói, and one in Pindamonhangaba near São Paulo. Five of these were dedicated on the same weekend, September 11 and 12, 1993. The two halls in the tropical north were left open on three sides to take full advantage of the ocean breezes. At the year’s end, there were 15 Assembly Halls in use; two of these (Queimados, RJ, and Vargem Grande, SP) can each accommodate 7,000 persons comfortably.
Sweden now has five Assembly Halls. The latest one, which was formerly a sports and exhibition arena located at Strängnäs, has been renovated to become an Assembly Hall that seats 10,000 in the main hall. A 156-room hotel only a short distance from the hall was also purchased by the brothers, and this provides housing especially for older ones during convention time. With this large Assembly Hall in the center of the country and smaller ones to the north and the south, it is now possible for the brothers to use their own halls not only for circuit assemblies and special assembly days but also for district conventions. They were especially happy to have with them for the dedication program C. W. Barber and T. Jaracz of the Governing Body, along with about 400 other guests from nearby countries.
Germany added another Assembly Hall during the year; this one in Glauchau, in the former Communist territory of eastern Germany.
In Nigeria, plans and, in some instances, actual construction have been moving ahead on 11 new facilities for circuit assemblies and district conventions. One of these facilities, completed during the year at Akure, will seat 5,500 persons. When a high court judge who was visiting the construction site learned that the workers were all unpaid volunteers, he said: “If something like this was done by my own religion, whoever won the contract would become a millionaire. The workers would steal all the equipment. When my church has a project that will cost ten million naira, we budget twenty million because people are so corrupt.” After observing how the brothers were working so enthusiastically, another visitor, a young man, turned to his father and asked: “Do they read the same Bible as we do?” His father replied: “It is the same Bible. It is only that the way they follow the Bible is different from the way we follow it.” Yes, the contrast between true religion and the false is evident in many ways.
This is by no means the full report. If space permitted, we would like to relate details regarding the fine new Assembly Hall erected by our brothers in South Auckland, New Zealand; the first Assembly Hall in Norway, located so that it can be used by about half the publishers in the country; the sixth Assembly Hall in Japan, making use of tilt-up construction; the new hall in the second-largest city in Portugal, with generous seating facilities as well as overflow provisions that allow for district conventions; the complex of four Kingdom Halls in southern Ukraine, Transcarpathia, with walls that retract in order to form an Assembly Hall; the Assembly Hall in Trinidad that was so urgently needed that it was put to use for nine assemblies even before construction was completed; the open-sided hall that was erected in ten days in Sinamoga, Western Samoa, with international cooperation; the modest-sized Assembly Hall erected in Bethlehem, Israel, when the brothers purchased the roof of a new building with the right to add a second story; the new Assembly Hall, with accompanying district convention facilities, on the Italian island of Sardinia; the accommodations for district conventions added to the Assembly Hall at Prato, Italy; the fifth Assembly Hall in Colombia, to help accommodate the more than 8,000 new ones who were baptized this year; the spacious Assembly Hall built in French Guiana, in addition to four Kingdom Halls equipped with living quarters for special pioneers and missionaries, all built with the help of 761 brothers who paid their own way and flew in shifts from France to accomplish the work in just two months.
The explosive growth in the field has also necessitated new and enlarged branch facilities. Some of these were dedicated during the past service year.
On September 25, 1993, the expanded facilities at the Canada branch were dedicated. Added to the existing facilities, there are a large new administration building, a two-story 200- by 200-foot [60 m by 60 m] section to be used as part of the Printing and Distribution Center, a new residence building that will accommodate some 330 Bethel volunteers, and service buildings. Among the many longtime servants of Jehovah on hand for the dedication program were two members of the Governing Body: Milton Henschel and John Barr.
Why the expansion? The office here supervises the preaching of the good news in a vast territory extending over 3,200 miles [5,100 km] from east to west, and north from the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes up into the Arctic. This is one of the largest countries in the world. There had been an increase of 59 percent in the number of Witnesses in Canada since the branch had moved to its present location at Halton Hills in 1981. More room was needed at the branch to care for the needs of this growing throng. Although the good news has been preached in Canada for some 110 years, this work has taken on new dimensions in recent years as special attention has been directed to foreign-language groups. There are now congregations and regular meetings in a dozen languages in addition to English and French.
Out in the middle of the South Pacific, lovely new branch facilities were dedicated in Tahiti on December 11, 1993. Milton Henschel, a member of the Governing Body, who spoke at the dedication program, reminded all present that, not the beauty of the construction, but the work that will be done inside the building is most important.
The building of such a structure with voluntary contributions and volunteer labor was certainly newsworthy, and TV news reported on the dedication in its international broadcast. Sixty-two years earlier, in 1931, Sydney Shepherd, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, had landed in Tahiti and endeavored to preach. He was followed by Frank Dewar. But neither one of them was permitted to stay very long. Now, however, there are over 1,700 Witnesses in Tahiti and other islands of French Polynesia.
The gathering of the precious things of the nations reaches out beyond the major nations of the world to the small island groups in the vast Pacific Ocean. Since the work began in earnest in these countries in the 1950’s, 26 Gilead graduates and 24 other missionaries and special pioneers from overseas have served in the five countries under the Western Samoa branch. Fruitage of their work is seen in the 650 publishers now serving on these remote islands. About five years ago, a crucial need developed for new facilities. Why was that?
In addition to brothers scattered among the 59 inhabited islands under the branch, congregations using Pacific-island languages had developed among the large expatriate communities in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and California. Although they are few in number, the spiritual feeding of these dear ones is important. (Isa. 42:10, 12) Jehovah shows concern for his people no matter where they are found. Reflecting this viewpoint, the Governing Body has worked to strengthen translation into the four Polynesian languages used in these islands, namely, Samoan, Tokelauan, Tongan, and Tuvaluan. Brothers and sisters have been trained in translating, proofreading, and the composing of publications on a computer.
Regardless of the small circulation, the same amount of work, manpower, and facilities is needed for translating publications into these languages as for those spoken by millions of people. By 1990 space at the old branch (a converted missionary home) was at a premium. A much larger building was needed, and the Governing Body approved the project.
However, how was the construction work to be done? Traditional houses in Samoa are built with local materials and have no walls, only poles to support the roof, so most local brothers are totally unfamiliar with the building systems used for constructing a modern branch.
The answer came by means of our international brotherhood. The Brooklyn Construction Office and the Regional Engineering Office in Australia prepared the plans, designing the building to withstand earthquakes and cyclones. Forty-four international servants and 69 international volunteers provided the needed expertise during the three and a half years of construction. Not only did they train 38 local brothers and sisters who worked full-time on the project as well as many part-timers but they also enhanced the spirituality of the local congregations. The experience and skills gained on the construction site have already helped local brothers in building Kingdom Halls.
Dedication day was November 20, 1993. John Barr of the Governing Body delivered the dedication talk. All in attendance enthusiastically responded to the resolution dedicating the branch to Jehovah’s service.
The largest branch-expansion program completed during the past service year was the one in Selters/Taunus, Germany. This marked the culmination of a three-and-a-half-year project during which over 18,600 volunteers helped to more than double the size of what was already the Society’s largest branch office and printery.
On hand for the dedication program on May 14-15 were four members of the Governing Body: Carey Barber, Milton Henschel, Karl Klein, and Daniel Sydlik. In the audience were people of 55 nationalities. In his discourse, Brother Barber pointed out that the upheavals in Eastern Europe had given the brothers greater freedom. “But it would be impossible for them to provide all the literature and magazines needed” to satisfy the spiritual hunger of the people there, he explained. “So the Germany branch supplies it to them, leaving them to get on with the preaching work.” How appropriate, then, that many of the guests at the dedication came from those Eastern European lands! They were delighted as they toured the facilities, observing the bindery and watching the large new offset press in operation. The enlarged facilities will enable the Germany branch to produce up to 1.6 million magazines and 80,000 books per day. Publications are already being printed there in 42 languages for 58 countries.
Only 3,658 were able to attend the dedication program at the branch on Saturday. But all the Witnesses in Germany had contributed to the construction in one way or another, and everyone wanted to benefit from the spiritual upbuilding of that occasion. So on Sunday the program continued at Bethel and at six sports stadiums throughout the country, at which time 177,902 joined in giving praise and thanks to Jehovah. Brother Sydlik summed up how so many felt when he said: “This has been the dedication of dedications. It will linger in our memory for a long, long time to come.”
Other Building Projects
Construction continues at a rapid pace at the world headquarters in New York—on new facilities in Brooklyn, at Patterson, and at Wallkill. At these various locations, upwards of 1,040 brothers and sisters are currently sharing in the construction work. It is hoped that by March of 1995, Gilead School will move to the Watchtower Educational Center at Patterson.
The Society also maintains an office in the Czech Republic. A new ten-story building, donated to the Society, has been renovated and put to use as a Bethel Home and office in Prague. A newly built Kingdom Hall and missionary home complex at Maseru, Lesotho, includes an office and a depot for literature.
When three new missionary homes were needed in the Solomon Islands, international cooperation made it possible to fill the need. Groups of brothers in Australia prefabricated some of the essential parts. The Australia branch then collected everything together for shipping to the Solomon Islands. In the meantime brothers in the Solomon Islands prepared the building sites and cut over 40 tons of timber in the forests, carrying it out by hand. Everything was ready just in time for the arrival of 96 brothers from Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii who volunteered their time and the airfare to help with the construction that was to be done quickly on two islands. The three homes were completed in just three weeks.
There was also much work done this past year to bring to a completion the work on branches in Korea, Taiwan, Ecuador, Suriname, and Sri Lanka. In addition, many other projects are under way. There is extensive branch construction that is being done in Mexico (see pages 244-5), Spain, Dominican Republic, Australia, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Ireland, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Jamaica, and New Caledonia. After many delays due to opposition, the brothers in France are moving ahead with expansion of the branch facilities in Louviers. Near St. Petersburg, Russia, over 300 volunteers—from Scandinavia as well as from all parts of the former Soviet Union—are working hard to prepare an Administrative Center for the Religious Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.
There is also much construction going on in southern Africa. At present the branches in South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Zaire are building. South Africa is in a position to supply building materials and equipment to several of these branches. For this reason the branch has large purchasing, export, and trucking departments to take care of the needs of that branch and of others as well.
Another huge building, a 13-story branch construction project, is in the planning and design stage in Japan. In addition to ongoing construction at Cesário Lange, Brazil, preliminary work is being done with a view to the building of an office, a warehouse, and residence facilities in São Paulo. And there are numerous other projects in various stages of planning that will help care for the spiritual needs of the great crowd that is embracing true worship.
How is it all possible? By means of Jehovah’s spirit. In response to its operation, Jehovah’s people—those who may have very little materially as well as those who have more—generously give of themselves and of their material means to advance Kingdom interests. And what joy they have as they see Jehovah’s blessing on the outcome!
[Pictures on page 6]
During the past five years, 1,514,287 persons were baptized, thus identifying themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses
[Pictures on page 12, 13]
Warm and happy fellowship was evident at the “Divine Teaching” International Conventions
1. Hong Kong; 2. Philippines; 3. Kenya; 4. Chile; 5. Colombia; 6, 7. South Africa
[Pictures on page 14]
Relief supplies were quickly airlifted to the Rwandan Witnesses
[Pictures on page 21]
Assembly Hall in Strängnäs, Sweden, that seats 10,000 in the main auditorium
[Pictures on page 27]
New branch facilities (clockwise from the top): Canada, Western Samoa, Tahiti, Germany (with its most recent printing press)