Jehovah’s Witnesses—1996 Yearbook Report
THROUGH the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah God addressed his beloved organization, saying: “All your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.” (Isa. 54:10, 13) Jesus Christ quoted those words when explaining the work that his Father was doing by means of him as a teacher. (John 6:45) Over a period of more than 1,960 years, that work of education has continued, preparing a little flock made up of people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” to serve with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom. (Rev. 5:9, 10; Luke 12:32) But the program of divine teaching is not limited to the little flock.
Jehovah also gave Isaiah a vision of a great throng of people out of all nations—prospective children of God—going up to the mountain of Jehovah to be instructed in His ways. (Isa. 2:2-4) In harmony with that vision, Jesus commanded his followers to “make disciples [or, make learners] of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things” that he had heard from his Father and had taught them. (Matt. 28:19, 20) Today that work of education is moving ahead at breathtaking speed.
During the past service year, there were, on an average, 4,950,344 who shared each month in giving a public witness concerning Jehovah’s Kingdom. The peak number of participants during the year totaled 5,199,895. Among these were people of all races, from nearly every nation. Some of these publishers of the good news are 80, 90, even 100 years old—including a faithful anointed brother in Pennsylvania, U.S.A., who is over 102 years of age and has been pioneering for the past 46 years. There are also many youths, such as the 13-year-old in Germany who views her school as her personal territory and the young publisher in Italy who made sure that her teacher and each classmate received a copy of Kingdom News No. 34.
The year’s report shows that the program of divine education is currently being carried out in 232 countries, island groups, and territories. And those sharing in this work have been very busy. During the 1995 service year, they devoted 1,150,353,444 hours to the field service, made 421,827,907 return visits and, on an average, conducted 4,865,060 home Bible studies. Many took to heart the instruction they were given; as a result, 338,491 were baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah. They came from a variety of backgrounds. Poland reports that those baptized were “mostly young people.” The Albania office says that a Witness who had formerly been an Italian Catholic nun helped an Albanian woman who was an atheist and an active Communist to become a baptized worshiper of Jehovah. Between them, these two are now conducting upwards of 50 Bible studies with others in Albania and are greatly enjoying doing so.
For many years The Watchtower and Awake! have been effective instruments in the global program of education carried out by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The primary focus of these magazines is the Bible and the marvelous things that it reveals in connection with God’s purpose for humankind. These magazines are truly international in outlook; they alert readers to significant events around the world and to ways in which people, regardless of where they live, can cope successfully with the pressures of life. This year, 456,995,181 magazines were actually placed with interested people. As of September 1, 1995, The Watchtower was being printed in 120 languages; Awake! in 75. Early in April some congregations gave special impetus to magazine distribution by arranging for a very special Magazine Day. A congregation in Piraeus, Greece, that generally reports 90 publishers planned four meetings for field service on their very special day. As a result of their united effort, 700 magazines were placed on that one day. During April the 538 publishers reporting in Albania placed 56,049 magazines—104 per publisher! The branches in Guatemala, Chile, Trinidad, and Fiji also reported excellent response to arrangements for such very special Magazine Days.
Using Videos to Educate
In recent years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have also made use of videos as educational tools. Thus far nearly four million videotapes in over 30 languages have been produced. The new ones released during the past service year were entitled United by Divine Teaching (based on the international convention series of 1993-94), To the Ends of the Earth (highlighting Gilead School and the work done by its missionary graduates), The New World Society in Action (providing historic glimpses of the modern-day organization when it was about one tenth the size it is today), and the first three chapters of the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life in American Sign Language.
Well-made videos are appreciated by educated people. They can also be used to teach illiterates, young ones who have not yet learned to read, and people who have only a short attention span, as well as those who are deaf. A teenager who received the video United by Divine Teaching as a gift from a Witness relative was so moved by it that she promptly asked her stepfather to take her to the Kingdom Hall. In Lebanon the elders are endeavoring to go along with the publishers on all their progressive home Bible studies, and if possible, they show the video Jehovah’s Witnesses—The Organization Behind the Name. The results have been excellent.
Global Distribution of Kingdom News
One of the outstanding aspects of the witness given during 1995 involved distribution of the tract Kingdom News No. 34. Anticipation had been built up for months in advance. Then on Sunday, April 23, after the public talk “False Religion’s End Is Near,” the Kingdom News was released, and simultaneous distribution in 111 languages began. It was distributed in another 25 languages later in the year. In many lands, new peaks in publishers and hours were reached during the time set aside for its distribution.
A pioneer in Mexico had broken her foot and was afraid that she could not do her part. But she obtained a wheelchair, sat in front of her house from 7:30 to 11:00 in the mornings, and called out to people passing by. In three days she had placed all the copies of the tract she had and requested more.
In Naples, Italy, the brothers made a special effort to distribute the Kingdom News to students. A special pioneer reports that one headmistress immediately recognized him as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. After reading the tract, she said: ‘I can’t find anything objectionable in it. Give me 841 copies. All my pupils should have one!’ Later, as the students left the school, hundreds of them had the tract in their hand. The Witnesses in Naples also visited a school run by Benedictine nuns. The “Mother Superior” was surprised to read that a permanent solution to mankind’s problems really exists. She requested 350 copies of Kingdom News to distribute to the children’s parents, and she did distribute them, evidently with great pleasure, at one of the school plays.
Reactions to the message varied. Many people were indifferent, some were angry, but others responded positively. In Alaska a college student of Buddhist background who gratefully accepted a copy of the tract agreed to a Bible study, and he was present for part of the district convention two months later. In Australia a “lapsed Anglican” wrote that he had been “searching for the truth—the real meaning of life.” He was moved to request more information. A couple who were offered the Kingdom News on a beach in Belize finally accepted it when they were offered one again at a cabin in a remote part of Alaska. A Witness in Rwanda sent a copy in Kinyarwanda to her sister in Belgium and urged her to locate the Witnesses. She did; they were distributing the same publication. That very week she enjoyed her first Bible study.
The united effort of publishers in Cameroon moved some observers to ask: “What’s happening? Why are the Witnesses out preaching in such large numbers?” Some concluded that Armageddon must be near. A pioneer who distributed the tract in a very Catholic village there returned one week later and found an eager group waiting for him. They said: “Now we know the difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Catholics.” Thirteen Bible studies were started, and they asked to have a Kingdom Hall built.
In Denmark a young woman accepted a copy of Kingdom News and went indoors. However, she immediately opened the door again and asked, “Can you prove from the Bible what is said in this folder?” The publisher did, using the New World Translation. Then the woman asked, “Can you show me the same from my own Bible?” The Witness did. On the following visit, a regular study was arranged.
In Ethiopia the tract was put on a university notice board. In the Dominican Republic, its distribution was announced on the radio. In response to its distribution in Russia, one of the many letters received said: ‘This leaflet recommends starting an active study of the Bible. We have a lot of people who want to study, among them many youths.’ They urgently requested help.
In South Africa an elderly man who read the Kingdom News phoned the publisher who had left it and exclaimed: “I have found the truth!” That very day, he walked two miles to the Kingdom Hall, and he has not missed a meeting since then.
Zealous Full-Time Servants
In the forefront of the witness work are many who have arranged their affairs to be in the pioneer service. On an average, 663,521 served each month as pioneers. What fine work they did! A large proportion of these were regular pioneers, whose goal is 90 hours per month in the field ministry; upwards of 15,000 were special pioneers, whose schedule includes 140 hours of witnessing per month; many more were auxiliary pioneers, who devote 60 hours or more per month to proclaiming God’s Kingdom as mankind’s only hope. Were you able to share in such service during the year?
Among those in full-time service are 16,468 Bethel family members around the globe. Of this number, 5,709 serve at the world headquarters; all of these are members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants. Additionally, 4,374 care for assignments that require them to travel from one assembly to another in an assigned district or from one congregation to another in a circuit. One of the principal activities of all such traveling overseers is taking the lead in the field ministry.
Our Most Important Meeting
The Memorial of Christ’s death, commemorated after sundown on April 14, was the spiritual highlight of the year. It focused attention on the loving provision made by Jehovah through Jesus Christ for the salvation of all who would exercise faith. (Matt. 26:26-30; Acts 4:12) Worldwide, the attendance was 13,147,201. In some places the number present was truly outstanding. A congregation of about 150 publishers in Lilongwe, Malawi, reported that 1,202 attended. The 25 publishers in Uzhoor, Russia, had 247 at the Memorial, and a congregation of 103 publishers in Ashgabad, Turkmenistan, said that 1,053 were in attendance. In Benin, West Africa, a congregation of 45 publishers had 901 on hand for this important event. In Buchanan, Liberia, within earshot of the civil war then under way, the congregation of 50 publishers had an attendance of 705.
Two special pioneers in Sivia, Peru, rented a hall for the Memorial and invited sincere, religious people, including those in local government offices, to attend. The pioneers were excited to have 93 in attendance, mostly gentlemen. The local Catholic Church had scheduled a religious procession for that evening but had to cancel it because the men who were to carry the “saint” were at the Memorial with Jehovah’s Witnesses. In frustration, supporters of the church stoned the building where the Witnesses were meeting.
Though the Memorial is the most important event on the theocratic calendar, it is by no means the only time when we gather for divine instruction. Each week, we meet to study the Bible with the help of The Watchtower. As of September 1, 1995, that magazine was appearing simultaneously in 100 languages, which fact contributes to the oneness of spirit among Jehovah’s Witnesses. For 116 years The Watchtower has been used by the faithful and discreet slave as a principal means of providing spiritual food to Jehovah’s servants. And what a rich program of instruction it gave us this past year! Along with this we enjoy four other weekly meetings. Each year, we also have a circuit assembly and a special assembly day. In addition, we keenly anticipate the annual district convention.
Conventions Around the Globe
The series of “Godly Fear” District Conventions that began in 1994 continued into the early part of the 1995 service year. In Zambia, for example, 49 of such conventions were held, with a combined peak attendance of 327,856. Public transport for a great distance is often too expensive for a large family, so the convention sites were scattered throughout the country. Nevertheless, some of those depending on donkeys or oxcarts still had to travel as much as eight days in one direction to reach the convention. Many walked while carrying loads on their heads; others used bicycles; some climbed onto the back of heavily laden trucks; yet others used buses, trains, or whatever public transport was available. Their united effort to attend the conventions was an outstanding expression of faith.
In the latter part of the 1995 service year, the convention series featuring the theme “Joyful Praisers” got under way. One of the brothers attending in Denmark made this observation: “This gave us yet another loving appeal to get our lives back behind the limits provided by Jehovah and to live lives worthy of the truth. Satan’s pressures keep growing, but it was good to be reminded of our many reasons to remain joyful even in the face of trials or disease. How touching it was to hear personal experiences from brothers and sisters! After this convention program, we feel even more privileged to belong to Jehovah’s organization.”
The office in Russia reports that in the district of Volgograd, about 310 miles [500 km] from Chechnya, all big public events were officially canceled because of the war at that time. But the “Joyful Praisers” District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses was not canceled. On the first day, 50 or 60 policemen were present. On Sunday, there were only 10 or 15, and most of these wanted literature and more information from the Bible.
In Sweden ten district conventions were held in the spacious Assembly Hall at Strängnäs. No international convention was scheduled this year, but the population of Sweden includes people from many nations. As a result, among the 1,102 at the English-speaking convention, there were individuals representing at least 60 nationalities.
One of the highlights of the program was the release of the new book, Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life. The book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, released in 1982, has been published in 126 languages. It has proved to be a valuable educational instrument in all those languages. However, the conventioners showed keen interest as an accelerated program for disciple making was outlined in connection with the Knowledge book. They recognized the timeliness of such a provision. Already, the new book has been approved for translation into 131 languages; 86 of these, in addition to the English edition, either have been released or are printed and are ready to be released during the rest of the “Joyful Praisers” District Conventions. A man in Britain took the Knowledge book to bed with him. At eight o’clock the next morning, he told his wife that he wanted to study. Another man, in Albania, read the book straight through and, recognizing the importance of what it contained, asked to have a study three times a week. It appears that this new book will be a valuable instrument in the final part of the program of divine education being accomplished before the great day of Jehovah arrives.
Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah long ago foretold the spiritual abundance that His servants would enjoy, in contrast to other people. (Isa. 65:13, 14) Jehovah’s Witnesses are, indeed, a spiritually well-fed and happy people! And they are eager to share their spiritual abundance with others who are hungering and thirsting for truth.
Continued Emphasis on the Bible Itself
Our foremost textbook for divine education is the Bible itself. Much work has been done by Jehovah’s Witnesses to distribute the Bible. This has often involved using whatever translations were available in certain languages. However, in 1950, distribution of the New World Translation began. This excellent translation is now available in 25 languages. In 13 of these (in addition to English Braille and Portuguese Braille), the complete Bible has been published. In the other 12, the Christian Greek Scriptures has been printed. To date, 84,400,000 copies have been produced.
After 16 years of hard work, the entire Finnish edition of the New World Translation was completed. At its release this year, there was thunderous applause at the six district conventions in Finland. In addition, when they learned that a large-print edition was available, many older ones shed tears of joy. In August, at conventions in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Chinese Witnesses were also thrilled to receive in their language the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. It was bound with the common Chinese Hebrew Scriptures. Two more editions in African languages have been completed and now await printing and binding. Currently, Bible translation is also being done in five other languages.
Watchtower Educational Center, at Patterson
In 1988 work began on construction of the Watchtower Educational Center, in a lovely location amid wooded hills and valleys at Patterson, New York, just 70 miles [112 km] north of Brooklyn Bethel. When completed, the main residence buildings will provide housing for 1,200.
By the spring of 1995, enough of the facilities had been completed that it was possible to conduct the 99th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in this new location. Class sessions began on April 17, with a lecture on features of the New World Translation, presented by Albert Schroeder, who is a member of the Teaching Committee of the Governing Body and who served on the Gilead faculty when the school began in 1943.
During the weeks after the 99th class began, a number of departments of the Society’s headquarters offices were moved to the Patterson facilities. A few had been transferred earlier. As of September 1, those in Patterson included the Service Department, Writing Correspondence, Translation Services, Art Department, Photography Department, Video Services, and some aspects of the work associated with the Legal, Engineering, and Braille departments.
Kingdom Ministry School Promotes Godly Advancement
The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy, his fellow worker, to ponder over the inspired counsel he had been given and to apply it, so that his advancement would be manifest. Paul urged him to pay constant attention to his teaching. (1 Tim. 4:15, 16) The Kingdom Ministry School, which is part of the international program of theocratic education, has helped elders and ministerial servants worldwide to do just that! It has emphasized the fact that theocracy, or God rule, is an administration of love, for God is love.—1 John 4:8.
In the United States alone, 71 classes were held during the past service year, and a total of 136,480 brothers attended (69,771 elders, 66,709 ministerial servants). There were 35 representatives from Bethel and more than 500 traveling overseers who shared in providing the instruction for classes held in the United States. In Zambia a special meeting for 76 traveling overseers was conducted prior to the Kingdom Ministry School. Thereafter, 57 classes of the school were conducted throughout Zambia, with a total attendance of 6,418 elders and 4,349 ministerial servants. The brothers in Malawi also benefited, with 28 traveling overseers, 1,573 other elders, and 1,424 ministerial servants there receiving the valuable instruction. During the 1995 service year, this school was conducted in most countries of the world.
Anticipation for the school ran high, and the many thousands who attended were not disappointed. All the instruction and counsel given was Bible based. From the first session to the last, the elders and ministerial servants displayed Beroean eagerness of mind to receive the instruction and guidance being provided through the ‘faithful slave.’—Matt. 24:45-47; Acts 17:11.
From around the world, expressions of appreciation for the school have been received. Brothers in the Caribbean said: “From the opening prayer, it was evident that Jehovah is really concerned about his sheep, and he wants us as undershepherds to give them the maximum support and encouragement in a spirit of love.” From islands in the Pacific came this candid remark: “It was simply amazing what we gained from material we already knew. Or thought we knew!” Many newly appointed servants benefited. For example, in one location it was observed that 85 percent of the ministerial servants present were attending their first Kingdom Ministry School. Yes, the Kingdom Ministry School course has been a blessing for the entire organization, and the positive effects of it will undoubtedly produce an abundance of good fruitage.
Positive Effects of Ministerial Training School
During the year, classes of the Ministerial Training School also continued to be held. This school, with its own eight-week course, functions as an extension of Gilead School, which is now located at the Watchtower Educational Center, at Patterson, New York. More students attended the Ministerial Training School than in any other service year.
In the first five months of 1995, the school was inaugurated in the Central African Republic, the Dominican Republic, India, New Caledonia, Peru, Portugal, and Zaire. This now makes a total of 34 countries where the school has been held. During just the past service year, 79 classes were conducted and 1,836 students graduated. Assembly Halls, branch properties, and Kingdom Halls have provided suitable facilities for the classes.
An instructor said about the class held in the Dominican Republic: “The students were a fine group, . . . young men full of zeal, heartfelt appreciation, and eager to learn. . . . It was noticeable in their conduct, speech, manners, and dress. One could not help but feel gratitude to Jehovah and the faithful slave for providing this education for these young men.” A student from the first class in Portugal initially thought that it would not be possible to cover all the material. However, later he said that he had benefited by learning to study and work, not in the way he was accustomed to do, but in the way the faithful and discreet slave was recommending.
Typical of how the students have appreciated the instructors’ efforts are the following expressions. A letter from the 19th class in the United States said: “Our many thanks for the spiritual men that you directed to instruct us. Their many years of experience, their patience, their diligence, and their loyal devotion to Jehovah will have a lasting effect on us. A true blessing.” And the 20th class added: “The instructors have put their heart into their teaching, so that our love for our Grand Instructor and his organization has grown.” Truly it can be said of the students that their eyes have ‘become eyes seeing their Grand Instructor.’—Isa. 30:20.
Besides the 34 countries where the school has been conducted, graduates of this school are serving in 67 other lands and territories. They have been assigned to most of the territories in Eastern Europe and the lands of the former Yugoslavia, as well as to Malawi and Mozambique, where the work had been banned for many years. Theocratic education provided through this school is having far-reaching results.
Brochures to Fill Special Needs
In recent years we have used a variety of brochures as educational tools. At our recent district conventions, we received another timely one—Jehovah’s Witnesses and Education. This brochure is more international than was the former School brochure. Instead of answering questions that our own young folks have about school activities, the new brochure is directed mainly to educators. It is designed to help them to understand the moral principles that we uphold, to appreciate how we view secular education, and to be aware of the comprehensive program of ongoing education from which we benefit as Jehovah’s Witnesses. No doubt, many of our young folks have already taken copies to their teachers and school counselors.
At the Chinese convention in New York, a new brochure entitled Lasting Peace and Happiness—How to Find Them was released. It was made available in both traditional and simplified Chinese. This brochure is designed for the Chinese field and will be given extensive distribution wherever possible. It is not at present scheduled for translation into English.
Other specially designed brochures have been prepared in the past couple of years to counteract the gross distortions regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses that the clergy and apostates have fed to officials and the media. Such brochures have been delivered to government officials, those in the legal field, and other professionals in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Bulgaria. In Greece such material was not only delivered to officials but also made available to the general public.
In Germany religious opposers have been especially active in using the media to blaspheme Jehovah and defame his people. (Compare Romans 2:24.) With the approval of the Governing Body, a brochure was produced that is entitled Jehovah’s Witnesses—Your Neighbors. Who Are They? It is printed in German. In its initial distribution, it has been given to anyone that the brothers might meet in the field service who would evidently benefit from it. This brochure is also very helpful to officials, judges, lawyers, teachers, and other persons who are especially under pressure from the clergy of Christendom to take a negative view of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many people are grateful to know the facts. One brother reports: “When we visited the principal of the school that our daughter attends, he requested an additional 20 brochures so that they could discuss them at their next meeting.”
It is beneficial to keep in touch with government officials so that they know us and the work that we are doing. Our brothers in Mexico have done that. Trusting in Jehovah to direct their steps, they have left literature with people in various areas of government. The results have been constructive.
Education for Medical Personnel, Judges, Social Workers
When it was organized in 1988, Hospital Information Services (HIS) was also designed to educate, in fact, to carry out a program of highly specialized education. First, selected elders were trained to visit hospitals in major cities in order to talk to doctors and the administrative staff about treating Jehovah’s Witnesses with methods that do not involve blood transfusion. The elders were also taught how to assist fellow Witnesses when these are confronted with faith-challenging medical situations. They do this either by reasoning with doctors about viable alternatives or by explaining various medical procedures and products to the Witness involved so that he can make informed decisions. At present, 6,465 trained elders serve as members of Hospital Liaison Committees (HLCs) worldwide.
Presentations have been made by these HLCs at the leading medical centers of the world. Most doctors and hospital staffs have expressed genuine appreciation for this effort to communicate and cooperate. Prior to this, there had, at times, been some unpleasant confrontations. Many doctors were not aware of all the medical alternatives to blood transfusions.
To acquaint physicians with these alternatives and to buttress the facts given in the presentations, the committees offered much material from medical literature to show what capable doctors have been doing successfully for years without using donor blood. Bound volumes of these articles are now in many major medical libraries. In addition, a file of articles is maintained at HIS in Brooklyn for use when responding to emergency calls from all over the world.
What have been the results of this educational program? Efforts to force blood transfusions on adults have dropped to practically zero in many lands. At most medical centers, there is now a spirit of friendliness and of cooperation with us. A Health Services Medical Director in Chile said: “Even though it is true that some years ago it seemed that your stand was just dogmatic, through time it has been proved that your position has scientific support. . . . Your international network works much better than ours.”
More than 58,900 doctors/surgeons around the world are now kindly treating Jehovah’s Witnesses without making an issue of blood. One hundred and two hospitals worldwide have even arranged for special programs for bloodless medicine and surgery within their existing systems, to care for Jehovah’s Witnesses and for others who do not wish to have blood transfusions. These two developments make possible another service by the HLCs to the medical community: free consultation with these experienced specialists and/or hospitals so that our medical problems can be treated.
Most of the problems that remain are those involving children, especially the newborn. Therefore, a second series of seminars was worked out to train HLC members to make presentations that would educate juvenile or family court judges, social service workers, and anyone else involved in the process of taking children away from parents for the purpose of forcing a transfusion of blood. These people needed to be helped to avoid the assumption that blood is the only treatment available. Seminars to deal with this have now been held in the United States, Western Europe, and the Pacific.
Presentations to judges and others involved in these cases include providing them with a copy of a specially designed handbook entitled Family Care and Medical Management for Jehovah’s Witnesses. This indexed manual contains details about our networked support system of congregation elders, HLCs, branch HIS Office, and HIS in Brooklyn. It also has legal/ethical items as well as items from respected medical journals that explain what is being done in treating childhood diseases and medical problems without using blood. Judges, social service workers, and others are being helped to appreciate that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not religious fanatics who want to make martyrs of their children by refusing all medical treatment. They are learning that the real issue is whether loving parents have the right to decide which medical treatment will be used.
An American law professor stated: “Hospital Liaison Committees and Jehovah’s Witness lawyers have done a tremendous job to change the thinking of the court and the medical community. Most of the early decisions against the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses were based on prejudice against the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses and in favor of the infallibility of the medical community in the United States. The trend in the case law has been turned around by Jehovah’s Witnesses in educating doctors and judges on the credibility of the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the extent to which medicine was massively overusing blood transfusions.”
Of course, we are not primarily educators in medical practice or legal rights. But this program of education has done much to fortify the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses in their determination to obey the divine prohibition on the use of blood.—Acts 15:28, 29.
New Facilities Fill Pressing Needs
As the pace of the work of Bible education increases and the number of Kingdom proclaimers grows, more buildings are needed to accommodate new congregations as well as assemblies, schools, and branch offices.
During the 1995 service year, hundreds of new Kingdom Halls were built around the world, many of these being financed from loving “contributions for the worldwide work.” (2 Cor. 8:14, 15) The following are just a few of these. Thirty have been completed in Ukraine. In the Czech Republic, where there were no Kingdom Halls six years ago, there are now 35. In Germany, 58 new Kingdom Halls were built last year, including 15 in the eastern section of the country. A Kingdom Hall was erected in Greece in a village that has a population of just 600 but that has two congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, with a total of 128 publishers. In an 18-month period, 81 new Kingdom Halls were erected and dedicated in Poland. But more are needed. In some parts of Poland, brothers rent fields, cultivate crops, and sell the produce, or they pick berries in order to get money so that in time they can build a Kingdom Hall. Forty halls were built in South Africa within the year. In rural areas of South Africa where money is scarce, some brothers in the congregation might sell some of their livestock to buy the cement, others would purchase the bricks or the roofing, and so forth. In this manner and with help from the Regional Building Committee, a Kingdom Hall soon took shape.
The 40 publishers in Brewerville, Liberia, urgently needed a suitable hall. At their meetings, held in an open-sided “palaver hut,” most of the audience of 150 were standing outside exposed to the weather. With financial help from loving brothers in other lands, they obtained needed materials, then molded their own concrete blocks, and built a beautiful Kingdom Hall that is a witness to all in that area. In Britain a complex of three Kingdom Halls at Edgware was designed so that walls could be opened up to make an Assembly Hall with 800 seats, suitable for foreign-language conventions there.
The number of Assembly Halls has also continued to multiply. After ten years of negotiation and work, another one was dedicated in Britain. Two more were dedicated in Italy and another two in the Republic of Korea. The 5th Assembly Hall in Spain was dedicated; the 15th, in Brazil. Others were built in Côte d’Ivoire and Sri Lanka. And around the world, more are under construction.
In addition to building being done at the world headquarters, work on new or expanded branch facilities was under way in 54 lands during the past year. Some of it was in preliminary stages. Other projects were completed. It was a joy to our brothers in the following six countries to have branch facilities dedicated during the service year:
REPUBLIC OF KOREA. Forty-two miles [67 km] south of Seoul, in Kongdo, stands the Korea branch. Since the branch was moved to Kongdo in 1982, it has been necessary to expand the facilities four times. The latest expansion nearly doubled the size of the branch. The new buildings were dedicated on October 8, 1994, with Lloyd Barry of the Governing Body delivering the discourse “Rejoice Before the Master Builder!” And Jehovah’s Witnesses in Korea do rejoice in the evidence of divine blessing on their ministry.
Seeds of Bible truth first reached Korea before World War I. Thirteen years ago, when the branch was moved to Kongdo, the peak number of publishers was 30,237. As of August 1994, the peak was 77,542, with 40 percent in the pioneer service!
Branch facilities needed to be enlarged. What has been added? The entire office building is new, with a spacious area for the Service Department, Hospital Information Desk, Correspondence Office, Accounting Office, and Translation Department. The Factory Office as well as the Electronics, Computer, MEPS, and Graphics departments are in new surroundings, and other factory operations have had their floor space increased. The Bethel Home has 56 new rooms, a new kitchen, a pleasant dining room, a new medical services room, a new library, and a new laundry. There is also an attractive and comfortable new Kingdom Hall.
The day after the dedication, at Suwon Gymnasium, a special meeting was held at which Brother Barry spoke again. Thirteen additional locations were tied in, with a total attendance of 95,883! Clearly, there are still many in Korea who are eager to learn Jehovah’s ways so that they can walk in his paths.
TAIWAN. The following weekend, on October 15, new branch buildings were dedicated in Taiwan, an island 90 miles [145 km] off the coast of China. Brother Barry also dedicated these facilities. He had first visited Taiwan 42 years earlier, when only a handful of Jehovah’s Witnesses—mainly of the Amis tribe—were associated.
Brothers from abroad as well as local Witnesses built the branch. In fact, at one time or another, 50 percent of the local publishers worked at the project. Some traveled as much as nine hours one way by bus in order to share in the work. Of an eight-woman Amis crew that helped to put in sod outside the dining room, the youngest was 60 years of age; the oldest, 84! This crew began work at 4:30 in the morning. They wanted to start at 4:00 a.m., but it was too dark outside. This same zeal is seen in their preaching activity.
On the dedication program, Cyril Charles, a Gilead graduate now living in Hong Kong, reminisced about his service in Taiwan in 1949, when he was 28 years of age. Living among the Amis, he had no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and no mattress. But the Amis people showed love for Bible truth. When Brother Charles was going to train a few in the house-to-house work, everybody desired to join in. En route to the territory, 70 from the south and another 70 from the north met Brother Charles. Soon 100 more joined them. All of them wanted to work from house to house with him. Since then, much training has been given to those who have shown a sincere desire to serve Jehovah.
Succeeding missionaries, who began to arrive six years later, spearheaded the work among the Chinese, who make up a large section of the population. Twenty-six ex-missionaries made it back to Taiwan for the dedication weekend. How pleased they were not only with the fine new branch facilities but also with the evidence that those they had taught have helped many others to become praisers of Jehovah!
Harvey Logan, the Branch Committee coordinator, and his wife, Kathleen, both Gilead graduates, have served here since 1962. In just the past ten years, they have seen an increase of 150 percent.
ECUADOR. During the next month, November, expanded branch facilities were dedicated in Ecuador. These are located 14 miles [23 km] from the port city of Guayaquil.
It was just seven years earlier, in 1987, on the same property, that a new branch building had been inaugurated. However, since then, the average number of publishers had increased 130 percent. In the same period, Bible studies had risen 120 percent. In 1987, Daniel Sydlik had given a talk to an audience of 14,322 at a soccer stadium here. In this same stadium on November 19, 1994, Brother Henschel gave a stirring discourse to 35,992! True worship is on the move in Ecuador, and the enlarged branch will provide a fine center from which education in Jehovah’s will can be pressed to the farthest corners of the land.
SRI LANKA. By January of 1995, the branch in Sri Lanka was also ready to dedicate its two fine new buildings. What a change after having moved the office from one bedroom to another in rented houses ever since the branch was formed in 1953! Here at last were facilities that would be an honor to our God, with grounds landscaped in a way that reflects our belief in Jehovah’s purpose for all the earth to be transformed into a paradise.
Among those present for the program were Claude Goodman, who had served here back in 1930-31; Matilda Rajapakse (née Chapman), who is now in her 90’s and who has been associated with the local congregations here for at least 80 years and serves as a regular pioneer; Douglas King, who had been the second branch servant (as it was then known); David Mercante, zone overseer from the world headquarters, who gave the dedication talk; and many more.
Sri Lanka is a large island off the southeast tip of India, where some 18,000,000 people live. For many of them, “Ayubowan!” is a common greeting; it means “May you live long!” Among Jehovah’s people, that is not merely a customary greeting; it is their heartfelt desire. In harmony with it, they want to reach all the people in Sri Lanka with the Kingdom message in their own languages. These new facilities will help.
Building the branch has in itself provided an education—not only in construction methods but also in spiritual matters. The project drew the brothers in Sri Lanka closer to Jehovah’s global family of servants. Engineering expertise was provided by brothers in America and Australia. Brothers from abroad gave of themselves to supervise the construction and to teach local Witnesses how to do the work. Needed materials and funds came from other branches. Volunteers patiently overcame language differences in order to work together. All have grown in appreciation of the worldwide aspect of Jehovah’s organization and the spiritual bonds that make it function smoothly.
SURINAME. The branch dedication in Suriname was held on February 12, 1995. But what led up to it was amazing to watch and a joy to share in. Property for new branch facilities was obtained ten miles [16 km] west of the city of Paramaribo. Brothers from many lands came to help with the construction work. People from all over the city of Paramaribo came to see this evidence of loving international cooperation, and they watched in amazement as they saw our sisters driving bulldozers and other heavy equipment. Schoolteachers even brought their classes to let them see what could be done when people work together in one spirit. When the work was done, a program concerning it was shown on both television stations in Suriname.
For the dedication program, our brothers were present from the Netherlands, Germany, French Guiana, Guyana, Curaçao, and other lands. Dominick Piccone, as zone overseer, gave the dedication talk. The office in these facilities will help to coordinate the preaching of the good news throughout this country of 400,000 people.
CAMEROON. Witnesses in many lands are keenly interested in what is taking place in Cameroon. In fact, some of them were on hand on April 1, 1995, from Benin, Canada, France, Gabon, Nigeria, and the United States for the dedication of the four two-story buildings making up the new branch complex in Bonaberi, Douala. Among the guests were seven who had served as missionaries in Cameroon during the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Jean-Marie Bockaert, from France, served as the dedication speaker.
In 1948, only 81 Witnesses were active in Cameroon. Now there are over 24,000 who render glory to God, in spite of the severe restrictions that the Witnesses labored under for 23 years. Assuredly, these new Bethel facilities will be of great value to the brothers in overseeing the activity of Jehovah’s people as they extend to all in Cameroon the generous invitation to go up to Jehovah’s house, to learn his ways, and to walk in his paths, with a view to rendering him sacred service forever in his new world.
This has, indeed, been a year in which a gigantic program of Bible education has been carried out worldwide, and it will continue to accelerate right down to the end of the present system of things. After Armageddon, it will take on new aspects as billions of persons are raised from the dead and are educated in Jehovah’s ways. Then, as never before, the knowledge of Jehovah will truly fill the earth.
[Pictures on page 12]
Above: The book “Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life” being released in Germany
Left: New brochure on education being examined in Japan
[Picture on page 13]
A convention drama featured caring for faithful older ones
[Picture on page 13]
338,491 new disciples were baptized during the year
[Pictures on page 20, 21]
Watchtower Educational Center at Patterson, N.Y.
[Pictures on page 28, 29]
Branch facilities dedicated in
3. Sri Lanka