Jehovah’s Witnesses—1998 Yearbook Report
WITH a tone of great urgency, the prophet Joel foretold the coming of the day of Jehovah. And he identified the key to survival when he wrote: “It must occur that everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe.”—Joel 1:15; 2:1, 28-32.
Such a day of Jehovah came upon Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. It was a time when Jehovah executed judgment. Years in advance he had warned the inhabitants of Judah and of Jerusalem that they faced serious accountability for treating him with disrespect. Oh, they knew his name and made use of it, but they did not sincerely inquire of Jehovah for direction. They did not really feel that Jehovah would call them to account for what they were doing. (Neh. 9:26; Zeph. 1:4-6, 12) For them to call out to Jehovah in the day of distress would be a mockery, and Jehovah said that he would not listen. (Jer. 11:10, 11) But when Jerusalem was destroyed, lovers of righteousness such as Jeremiah, Baruch, Ebed-melech, and the sons of Jonadab were spared because they were earnestly seeking to do what is right and pleasing to God.
The apostle Peter explained that Joel’s prophecy also had a first-century fulfillment. Directed by holy spirit, Peter showed that what occurred at Pentecost 33 C.E. was in fulfillment of what Joel had written about the outpouring of God’s spirit before the coming of Jehovah’s day. That day of Jehovah came in destructive fury upon Jerusalem in 70 C.E. (Acts 2:16-21) However, about 14 years before that, the apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Rome and quoted from Joel 2:32. (Rom. 10:13) Why? To emphasize God’s impartiality toward Jews and Greeks. As the prophet had written, salvation was available to “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah.” But why did Christians in Rome need to be warned about a destruction that was to come upon distant Jerusalem? So that they would stay out of the danger zone. Any who went up to the Jewish Passover festival in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. were trapped when calamity came upon that city. But nearly four years before that, those who heeded God’s word through his Son had cleared out of that doomed city.—Luke 21:20-22.
An even more far-reaching day of Jehovah now lies immediately before us. The execution of Jehovah’s judgment will reach into every corner of the globe. But salvation is possible for everyone—no matter what his nationality, race, or language—who with full faith calls on the name of Jehovah and exercises faith in the sin-atoning sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. (Rev. 7:9, 10) Yet, Romans 10:14 asks: “How will they call on him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard?” Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize the urgency of giving everyone that opportunity.
During the past service year, from September 1996 through August 1997, Jehovah’s Witnesses gave an impressive witness concerning Jehovah, his Son, and the Messianic Kingdom. They reported public witnessing in 232 lands, island groups, and territories. The report shows that over a billion, actually 1,179,735,841, hours were devoted to this activity! On an average, 4,552,589 home Bible studies were conducted, and a new peak of 375,923 individuals got baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah.
This global witness is especially impressive when we realize who share in it. They come from all nations, all races—speaking hundreds of languages. Many struggle with serious economic problems, as do people of the world around them. Thousands are in lands torn by warfare. Many who faithfully witness are struggling with serious illnesses. Despite the traumatic events that have occurred in Rwanda, the Witnesses there, apart from the pioneers, are spending over 20 hours per month each, on an average, in the field service. During the turmoil in Albania, the publishers made it a point to do their witnessing early in the day when there was relative calm—before shooting would begin.
Each month worldwide there were, on an average, 5,353,078 who shared in the work of Kingdom proclamation. A new peak of 5,599,931 participated in the field ministry at some time during the year. This includes a vast army of pioneers—706,270, on an average, each month. This is more than ever before. What contributed to it?
Enthusiastic Response to a Special Invitation
Early in 1997 the call went out: “Wanted . . . Auxiliary Pioneers.” Through Our Kingdom Ministry, practical suggestions were offered as to how a person could schedule his time to do it. Warm encouragement was given to share during one or more of the months from March through May. Each branch set its own goal. For example, 100,000 for the United States, 20,000 for the Philippines, 10,000 for the Republic of Korea, 2,000 for New Zealand, 350 for Liberia.
What was the response? Marvelous evidence that Jehovah’s servants truly “offer themselves willingly,” as foretold at Psalm 110:3. During March, Guadeloupe exceeded its goal of auxiliary pioneers by 43 percent; Ecuador, by 73 percent. Puerto Rico, with 4,173, had more than double the anticipated number. In spite of difficult economic conditions in Ukraine, when the call went out there for 5,000 auxiliary pioneers, 10,365 enrolled. In the United States, the combined figures for the three-month campaign showed 251,880 auxiliary pioneers; this represented 130 percent more than for the same period during the previous year.
Much added effort was put forth to share in this special campaign. What were the results? The branch in Liberia reported: “The field really began to move ahead with the special March campaign. It is a great sacrifice to serve as an auxiliary pioneer in this war-torn country, where some of our brothers and sisters have suffered the loss of all their material possessions as many as three times. For the majority, simply providing the family with one basic daily meal, perhaps consisting of a simple bowl of ‘palm oil and rice’ or ‘bulgur’ wheat, is the main preoccupation. It seemed unlikely that we would reach our goal of 350 auxiliary pioneers, which was about 25 percent of last year’s average publisher figure. However, trusting in Jehovah, our brothers responded well, and an outstanding all-time peak of 496 shared in the auxiliary pioneer work during March! With the 150 regular pioneers and 29 special pioneers, a full 42 percent of all the publishers reporting in March shared in some form of pioneer service!”
What about areas where the territory was already being covered every week or even more often? In a community near the branch in Colombia, a man told a pioneer: “I can’t believe it. When I went to get on the bus in Faca, they approached me. All day long they’ve found me—in the bus, everywhere. It’s now 8:00 p.m., and you’re still at it.” Why? Because Jehovah’s Witnesses want to help people get on the road to life. They also want to be free from the blood of those who reject that opportunity.—Ezek. 3:19; Acts 20:26, 27.
March was, of course, the month when the Memorial of Christ’s death was held. In what finer way could we show appreciation for its meaning than by having an increased share in the work that God’s Son entrusted to his followers!—Matt. 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8.
“Keep Doing This”
The death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ have had a powerful influence on the life of every true Christian. The apostle Paul wrote: “The love the Christ has compels us . . . He died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.” (2 Cor. 5:14, 15) On the last day of his life as a human, Jesus Christ instituted a memorial of his death. Each year his spirit-anointed followers were to commemorate his sacrificial death. On March 23, 1997, they did that in obedience to Jesus’ command. (1 Cor. 11:25) Millions of others assembled with them as observers. The total attendance worldwide was 14,322,226, well over a million more than in 1996. What wonderful evidence of Jehovah’s favor and blessing!
In many areas, Jehovah’s Witnesses were truly zealous about inviting others to be present with them for the Memorial. In Togo, the 19 publishers in the village of Game Seva had the joy of seeing 820 attend. The 209 publishers making up the congregation in Aksu, Kazakstan, welcomed 1,080 for this special occasion. At Ekpe, Benin, the 56 publishers were surely amazed and pleased when 1,351 showed up for this event. A group of just four publishers located in Gbapa, Liberia, made repeated visits during March to remind people of the importance of the Memorial. As a result, 193 attended in that village.
Acting on Knowledge That Leads to Life
A vital part of the Christian ministry is the making of disciples. Before returning to heaven, Jesus commanded his followers to “make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . , teaching them.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) In harmony with that, Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide invite people to avail themselves of a free program of personal Bible instruction. This past year, on an average each month, 4,552,589 of such studies were being conducted.
Some of these were with people who were searching for the truth. A man in Lebanon found copies of The Watchtower and Awake! in the garbage. After reading them and noting the offer of a free home Bible study, he went looking for the Witnesses.
Others did not think they were interested. In Vanuatu, in the southwest Pacific, a son of a village chief who was learning the truth was angry that his parents had left the Presbyterian Church and were associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, one day a pioneer was able to talk to the son and offered to demonstrate a Bible study for him “just to try.” The brochure What Does God Require of Us? was used. After they had covered one subject, the young man wanted a second, and a third study. Soon he was studying twice a week and attending meetings.
Once they get a taste of it, quite a few people want to study several times a week. That was true of Lars, a man in Denmark who viewed himself as being an atheist. After he agreed to read the book Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? he quickly became convinced that there is a God. Then he was eager to learn more—so eager that soon he was having three studies each week in the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life. Three brothers took turns conducting the study.
Of course, merely having knowledge is not enough. A person needs to do God’s will. The changes are sometimes drastic. The conduct of a young man in Indonesia had been so appalling that his Confucian parents had turned him over to the authorities as incorrigible. But the sincerity and love shown to him when, at last, he went to the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses made him want to know Jehovah. After just two months of study, he made major changes in his life—no more smoking, no more drugs. Soon he became a publisher, then got baptized and became an auxiliary pioneer, next a regular pioneer—all in 15 months!
Truly, as foretold at Revelation 7:9, 10, “a great crowd” out of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues is coming forward to serve Jehovah.
Resourceful in Reaching People
When Jesus Christ carried out his ministry, he went where the people were. This took him to private homes. He also witnessed where fishermen cleaned their nets, at a village well, and in the temple in Jerusalem. (Matt. 13:1, 2; 26:55; Luke 5:1-3; John 4:5-26) The apostle Paul too preached publicly and went “from house to house” because that was the best way to be sure that no one was missed. (Acts 20:20) In imitation of this, Jehovah’s Witnesses today go where the people are.
More witnessing is being done by telephone than ever before. This makes it possible for Witnesses to have regular contact with people who live in high-security apartments, locked buildings, and gated communities. The telephone is also used to reach inhabitants of the hundreds of small isolated cays that make up the Bahamas. The distance and the cost of reaching them have always been a formidable barrier. Now, however, regular “visits” are made via the telephone.
A publisher in the Dominican Republic enjoys witnessing at the airport. The publisher reports: “The airport territory is special. Without even owning a passport, I can speak to people of many nationalities. I present appealing articles that the travelers can take on board. I also approach those who are bringing travelers to the airport or waiting for incoming passengers. I place about 30 magazines in an hour. Now the airport employees are waiting for me so that they may obtain the latest issues. I have started a Bible study with one of the employees.” This past year the Witnesses in the Dominican Republic also opened a booth at the National Book Fair, which is a major event in that country. Fine conversations there led to several Bible studies.
The elders in a congregation in Taiwan arranged for qualified brothers and sisters to visit large hospitals in their territory. Two sisters visited the Dialysis Department. Their goal was to be friendly to the patients who have to be there for hours at a time. Have there been good results? As an example, when one man showed some interest, the sister brought her husband and introduced him. A study was started and is being conducted each week in the hospital. Soon the man began to attend congregation meetings regularly.
Some Witnesses in Australia made up a kit to offer to funeral directors. It contained the brochures When Someone You Love Dies and Does God Really Care About Us? as well as some tracts that are ideal for those who are mourning. These were well received. The brothers continue to make periodic visits to renew the supplies of brochures and tracts.
In many lands, the prison population has mushroomed. Where possible, Jehovah’s Witnesses also preach to those in prison. About 15 years ago, Witnesses in São Paulo, Brazil, began to visit a prison complex that includes a house of detention with about 6,000 inmates. Forty-five regular Bible studies are being conducted there. Nine inmates are now Kingdom proclaimers, all of them having learned the truth in prison. When they get baptized, they enroll as auxiliary pioneers. Some of the inmates conduct weekly Bible studies with their own families, and one has classes teaching about 30 other inmates to read and write. As a result, the prison authorities praise the work being done among the prisoners.
In South Africa two Witnesses called on magistrates, lawyers, and clerks in the court buildings. Here they met a marriage officer who asked: “Why didn’t you come earlier?” She explained that she had already married more than 20 people that morning. She accepted the book The Secret of Family Happiness; so did the three couples sitting in her office. Now the brothers go three times a week and give a five-minute talk to an audience of 60 to 100 people. They explain Jehovah’s view of marriage and mention that every Friday in the same court buildings more than 100 marriages end in divorce. They then offer the Family Happiness book to help these couples make a success of their marriages.
En route to a special assembly day, a member of the Bethel family in the Philippines traveled by long-distance bus. To occupy the minds of the passengers, the bus operators often use video players to run movies. But on this trip, our brother asked whether he could play a videotape that he had brought along. The conductor agreed. As a result, 70 passengers watched Jehovah’s Witnesses—The Organization Behind the Name. Indeed, there are many ways to let people hear the good news.
The Joy of Preaching in “Untouched Territory”
Like the apostle Paul, who took pleasure in preaching in areas where no witness had been given previously, some of Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses make themselves available to work “untouched territory” as well as areas where no witnessing has been done on a regular basis.—Rom. 15:23.
Large rural areas of Moldova, in Eastern Europe, are virtually virgin territory as far as preaching the good news is concerned. Yet, when given attention some of it proves to be very fruitful. A congregation in Tighina worked two villages in such a territory in January 1997. Studies were quickly started, and at the summer district convention, 13 from those villages got baptized. What a cause for rejoicing!
A pioneer sister in Lima, Peru, wanted to expand her service by witnessing in an isolated area. She traveled 15 hours by bus to her hometown in the district of Andamarca. There were no Witnesses among the 7,000 people living in that area. To her amazement she quickly located a job. Her pioneer partner joined her. They found it surprisingly easy to witness to doctors, engineers, architects, and other professional people there. Some had genuine spiritual hunger. In just a couple of months, three of the congregation meetings were being held regularly, with 15 in attendance. For the Memorial, 66 attended.
A pioneer couple serving where the need is great in Guyana had excellent results even before reaching their territory. At an overnight stop, they preached to some of the local villagers. The following morning, before they could continue their trip, a young girl approached their tent and said that her mother wanted to speak to them. How surprised they were to find a woman who had been reading the Society’s literature for 14 years! Her sister had been sending it to her from the United States. Its influence in the family’s life had been so powerful that they had abandoned the Catholic Church, even enduring the ostracism of the community for doing so! The following Sunday a meeting was arranged. There were 47 present, including 23 members of the woman’s family. Arrangements were later made to celebrate the Memorial there, and 66 were present. How abundant the blessings are for those who answer the call to ‘step over into Macedonia to help’!—Acts 16:9.
Young Ones “Praise the Name of Jehovah”
It is encouraging to see many young ones among those who are zealously serving Jehovah. Psalm 148:7-13 invites: “Praise Jehovah from the earth, . . . you young men and also you virgins, you old men together with boys. Let them praise the name of Jehovah, for his name alone is unreachably high. His dignity is above earth and heaven.” Many thousands are accepting that gracious invitation. They are seizing opportunities to give a fine witness both verbally and by their Christian conduct.
A survey of the publishers in Ghana showed that 12 percent of the more than 50,000 publishers were between 6 and 20 years of age. The branch in Argentina reports that half of the 3,441 baptized at their latest series of conventions were young folks, from 12 years up. Most of these young people are still going to school. They have access to a unique territory that others cannot readily reach. And it often proves to be fruitful territory.
Daniel, a six-year-old unbaptized publisher in Ghana, conducts ten Bible studies, mostly with school friends. One of them, a 19-year-old, attended the Memorial last March. When Daniel’s teacher made a misleading statement in class about the origin of animal life, Daniel saw an opportunity. During the break period, he went to the teacher and politely told him that he had a publication that would throw more light on what they had been discussing. After the teacher read a brochure, he wrote a note to Daniel’s father. That teacher is now progressing in the knowledge that leads to everlasting life.
Even preschoolers who have been instructed by God-fearing parents can have an effective part in giving a witness. In Russia, when a mother and her five-year-old daughter ride the subway, it is often the young one who starts conversations. If there is somebody sitting next to them, the girl asks: “Excuse me, Ma’am, do you know that God’s name is Jehovah?” Usually the reply is, “No.” Then the girl turns to her mother and says: “Mom, explain that to her, please.”
Among our young folks are some very courageous and zealous Witnesses. Bjarki, now ten years old, has often preached to his schoolmates in Iceland. Recently they insisted that he was not a Christian because he believed in Jehovah, not in God, as they put it. When he tried to explain matters, they refused to believe him. On the way home from school, Bjarki asked one of the boys from his class to come home with him because he had something he needed to show him. There Bjarki opened his Bible to Genesis 2:5, where God’s name appears in the footnote in the Icelandic Bible, and he also used the New World Translation in English to convince his friend that God’s name is Jehovah. Then Bjarki said: “Now you have seen for yourself that according to the Bible, God’s name is Jehovah, so when the boys in school say that Jehovah is not God’s name, you can tell them that what they are saying is not right because you have seen it yourself in the Bible.” So Bjarki not only taught his friend the truth but also gave him instructions on how to preach.
Sometimes it has been possible to give a tactful witness right in the classroom. A young brother in Lebanon gave a report regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses to his classmates. In it he included a showing of the video Jehovah’s Witnesses—The Organization Behind the Name. When asked to write an essay about what she had done during the school’s “Easter” holidays, a young publisher in Portugal included the fact that she had attended the Memorial. As a result of the interest that this sparked, her teacher soon agreed to have a Bible study and is now an unbaptized publisher.
The zeal of many young ones has moved them to enroll as auxiliary pioneers—some as regular pioneers. Marie Rose, in Rwanda, is one of these. While attending secondary school, she works hard to help her elderly mother, but she is also a regular pioneer and is conducting 15 Bible studies. In Cameroon, Glory was an auxiliary pioneer while attending school, though none of her immediate family were Witnesses. Now she is a regular pioneer, and three others in her family have become baptized Witnesses. Glory says: “Pioneering while attending school proved to be the best way of protecting myself from the drugs, immorality, and violence that pervade many schools these days.”
A School for Those Who Choose Pioneering
A special course of training is available to regular pioneers who have been on the list for at least a year. In November 1977, the first invitations to attend the Pioneer Service School were sent out in the United States. During the past 20 years, over 195,000 pioneers in the United States alone have benefited from this school. That includes the 10,345 students who attended during the past service year. Hundreds of thousands worldwide have received this training.
What is the objective of the school? The course is designed to help pioneers (1) walk with Jehovah in imitation of Jesus Christ, (2) abound more fully in love for the whole association of brothers, and (3) sharpen their preaching and teaching skills so as to shine more effectively “as illuminators in the world.”—Phil. 2:15.
Two instructors said that in addition to the practical training for the field ministry, the course helped the students “to be balanced in the pioneer work and not to let the things of this system cause them to lose focus.” As a result, more have been helped to pursue the full-time ministry as a satisfying career.
During the past eight years, when bans on the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Eastern Europe and Africa were lifted, arrangements were quickly made so that pioneers in these areas could benefit from the Pioneer Service School. Slovenia reports: “The positive effects of the school can be seen, as the quality and effectiveness of the individual pioneers are improving.” Enthusiasm expressed by those who have attended the school often moves others to pioneer. Such was the case in Hungary, where a congregation with 5 pioneers gained 21 more after some had attended the Pioneer Service School.
The harvest is indeed great. There is a need for willing, well-trained ministers in the field. No doubt the Pioneer Service School will continue to help fill this need.
Ten Years of the Ministerial Training School
About ten years after the Pioneer Service School began, the Ministerial Training School was inaugurated, on October 1, 1987, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Single elders and ministerial servants who receive this schooling may be invited to serve wherever there is a need in the worldwide field. Ten years ago there were 54,911 congregations worldwide; today we have 85,256. There is a great need for qualified men to shepherd, teach, and take the lead in the great evangelizing work. The Ministerial Training School prepares dedicated men to fill those needs.—2 Tim. 2:2.
Since it started, 3,698 have attended the school in the Americas, 1,208 in Africa, 1,804 in Asia and the islands of the Pacific, and 2,295 in Europe. Graduates of this school now serve in 126 different lands.
Quite a number of graduates are multilingual. Such abilities are put to immediate use either in their own lands where there are many ethnic groups or in foreign fields. Others have learned languages of the countries to which they were sent.
Hundreds of graduates are in the special pioneer work, helping to open isolated areas. Congregations in need of elders and ministerial servants have benefited from their services. Some are assigned to share in circuit work. Nigeria, for example, reports that 50 graduates are in the traveling work in that country. About the same number are serving in that capacity in Mexico, where many new congregations have been formed. In the Philippines 37 graduates are in the circuit work, and 111 serve as substitute circuit overseers. Some graduates who have technical skills have been assigned to fill needs in branch operations.
The school is proving to be a fine provision to give valuable training to brothers who are offering themselves willingly to serve the Kingdom interests. (Ps. 110:3) Because of their having been entrusted with greater responsibilities, more is demanded of them, yet their blessings are many.—Luke 12:48b.
“You Must Rejoice Before Jehovah”
In ancient Israel, worshipers of Jehovah gathered regularly for seasonal festivals. Those who went up to the annual Festival of Booths were commanded: “You must rejoice before Jehovah your God seven days.” (Lev. 23:40) Similarly in our day, the annual district conventions are a time for special rejoicing among Jehovah’s people. Early in the service year, “Messengers of Godly Peace” District Conventions were still being held in some lands.
What a fitting theme that was for a convention in war-torn Liberia! For weeks in advance, our brothers could be seen, in the towns and cities, proudly wearing their “Messengers of Godly Peace” badge cards. Jehovah’s Witnesses had every right to wear such a label of identification. The Liberian people know that during the years of war, it has been only Jehovah’s Witnesses who have proved to be true messengers of godly peace. While thousands of members of other religions joined armed factions and carried weapons of war, Jehovah’s people were seen everywhere, Bibles in hand, sharing messages of godly peace with war-weary Liberians.
By mid-1997 the “Faith in God’s Word” convention series was under way. Many expressed deep gratitude for the drama “Keep Your Eye Simple.” Others focused attention on the timeliness of the discourse “The Quality of Your Faith—Tested Now.” The brochure that was released—A Book for All People—has already been published in 58 languages. In Poland the high point of the convention came when the complete New World Translation in Polish was released simultaneously to enthusiastic audiences in Warsaw and Wrocław. In Greece, when the audience realized that the Greek edition of the entire New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures had been printed and was being released, then, even before the announcement was completed, a prolonged standing ovation broke forth accompanied by tears of joy and appreciation.
In addition to the district conventions, there were other outstanding assemblies in various places. One of these involved the dedication of the new branch, along with a 3,000-seat Assembly Hall and a Kingdom Hall, in the Dominican Republic in November 1996. Among those present were many who had lived through the ferocious ten-year persecution during the time of the dictator Trujillo. Ex-missionary Juanita Brandt related that missionaries had remained in the country, discreetly witnessing, doing some secular work, and encouraging the local Witnesses, many of whom were jailed and tortured. When he learned the truth, Luis Montás, a relative of dictator Trujillo, was treasurer of the political party. He was hunted, imprisoned, and at the point of death several times. But at 91 years of age, he was present for the dedication of the branch and was delighted to be among the 35,678 at the national assembly that followed.
Another outstanding meeting was held in March 1997 in connection with the expanded branch facilities in Brazil. At the dedication program, Witnesses from all 26 Brazilian states were present. Additionally, there were delegates from 24 other lands and missionaries who represented 43 classes of Gilead School and who had served in Brazil. What a festive occasion it was! At a special meeting held the following day, Milton Henschel, a member of the Governing Body, spoke in Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro while crowds in four other cities also heard the program. Total attendance was over 200,000. His heartwarming theme, developed from Ecclesiastes 12, was “Jehovah Loves Young People.” He urged youths, ‘Serve Jehovah fully, sharing in the pioneer service, before the calamitous days come.’
Later that month, an assembly in Argentina included the dedication of our own new 9,400-seat Convention Hall in Cañuelas. This facility will provide a place of meeting for district conventions and circuit assemblies for those living in and near the Argentine capital. Among other things, the dedication program included an enthralling account of the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Argentina, where, in spite of a ban and other restrictions for 33 years, theocratic growth continued. The day after the dedication program, a meeting was held in the large River Plate Stadium in the city of Buenos Aires. The stadium was packed out, and brothers poured onto the playing field. A total of over 71,800 were in attendance. Some had traveled long distances. A crowded coach came 1,900 miles from Patagonia. Altogether, about 1,200 coaches arrived at the River Plate Stadium from various parts of the country.
Carey Barber, then 91 years of age and a member of the Governing Body, spoke on these occasions. At the dedication he strongly urged regular Bible reading, saying: “Brothers and sisters, are we all reading the Bible daily? There are many who claim to be too busy to read the Bible daily; but they seem to have enough time to have three excellent meals a day, and that shows clearly, doesn’t it? If they read the Bible daily, that will also show clearly, won’t it?” The following day, at the stadium, when he spoke on “How to Resist the Spirit of This World,” the speech was interrupted repeatedly by applause from the enthusiastic and attentive audience. When encouraging all to keep on progressing in what is good and just, he also showed that we need Jehovah’s help, his spirit, in order to succeed. Brother Barber stressed the importance of “turning one’s back on the dirty speech and immoral conduct of the world.” Then he urged: “Find joy and happiness in serving, worshiping, and pleasing Jehovah.” The effect of this special program on those present was truly impressive.
‘Stretch out the Tent Cords’
In recent years there has been an amazing increase in the number of people worldwide who are going up to Jehovah’s great spiritual house to learn his ways and to walk in them. (Isa. 2:2-4) Within the past five years, 1,593,995 have submitted to water immersion in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah. Kingdom Halls are needed in which they can meet for instruction and worship. Assembly Halls are needed to accommodate them for special assembly days, circuit assemblies, and district conventions. Branch offices and printeries are required in order to provide facilities where translation of Bible literature into local languages as well as printing can be done and where the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses can be coordinated so that everyone possible has opportunity to hear the Kingdom message. How appropriate, then, is the prophetic declaration: “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.
How are these facilities being provided? By means of Jehovah’s blessing upon the united efforts of his Witnesses. Where possible, local Witnesses do the building and care for expenses through voluntary donations. Where needed—and this is frequently the case—help is given by Witnesses from other parts of the country or by the international brotherhood. At times, volunteers from five, ten, or more nations help out with the construction of major branch-facility projects.
Among the projects completed and dedicated during the past service year were numerous Kingdom Halls, some Assembly Halls, and a number of branch facilities. These included building completely new branch facilities in the Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Jamaica, Madagascar, Mauritius, Russia, and Sierra Leone, also enlarging branch facilities in Argentina, Australia, and Brazil. What has taken place in these lands so that these facilities are needed?
ARGENTINA: Since the government ban on the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Argentina was lifted in 1980, there has been an “explosion” in the number of Kingdom publishers in the country. In 1981 there were 38,869 active Witnesses—a ratio of 1 Witness to 717 of the population. There are now 116,151 publishers, and the ratio is 1 to 281. It has been necessary to enlarge the factory facilities several times. Recently, two more buildings were purchased and modernized, and the living quarters were expanded. All of this was added to the already extensive branch complex.
AUSTRALIA: Since the branch moved to its present location on the outskirts of Sydney, the number of Witnesses in the country has nearly doubled, to 60,946. New departments have been added: a Regional Engineering Office, a Hospital Information Services desk, a Legal Department, and others. The Shipping Department is now a literature warehouse for much of the Pacific region. To help fill the needs, three buildings—office, services, and residence—have been added to the Australia branch complex.
BRAZIL: Since the branch buildings in Cesário Lange were dedicated, in 1981, those facilities have been tripled in size. Why? Upwards of 338,600 more people have been added to the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil. They devoted more than 80,300,000 hours to preaching the good news this past year, distributed millions of pieces of Bible literature, and conducted, on an average, 443,028 home Bible studies. The activities of 6,960 congregations and 340 traveling overseers are coordinated by this branch.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: This is a fruitful field. The 21,007 Kingdom publishers in the Dominican Republic are conducting 35,362 home Bible studies. The new branch facilities were urgently needed to care for the work there.
FRENCH GUIANA: There was a time when the preaching done here was largely by Witnesses who came from Guadeloupe and Martinique. By 1990, there were 660 publishers reporting and a branch office was opened—with what result? Within five years the number of publishers doubled. Preaching of the good news is flourishing in this land that is largely covered by the Amazon rain forest. There is now 1 Witness here to every 100 of the population. The fact that 2,167 Bible studies are being conducted by 1,468 publishers and 5,506 attended the Memorial in 1997 points to further growth.
JAMAICA: The good news was first preached in Jamaica in 1897, so the dedication of the beautiful new branch facilities in 1997 coincided with the hundredth year of witnessing in this land. The complex of new buildings includes a new branch office/services building, a Bethel Home, an Assembly Hall, and a Kingdom Hall. These facilities will undoubtedly contribute significantly to further theocratic expansion in the country.
MADAGASCAR: Much has been done in Madagascar since Jehovah’s servants first visited there in 1925. In recent years the pace of activity has greatly accelerated. During March 1997, when 8,404 publishers were sharing in the field service and conducting 22,321 Bible studies, 45,300 attended the Memorial. The new branch complex will help to care for the needs of this growing crowd of worshipers of Jehovah.
MAURITIUS: An attractive new branch office and an open-sided Assembly Hall have been built on this island in the Indian Ocean. Why? Because here in the islands, people are responding to the Bible’s appealing invitation to join in praising Jehovah. (Isa. 42:10) During the past eight years, the number of Witnesses has nearly doubled in this area.
SIERRA LEONE: Prolonged civil war and political turmoil in this land have made many people long for the security that only God’s Kingdom can bring. Amid these conditions, construction of the new branch gave a fine witness. Building tradesmen from various lands volunteered their services without charge—unbelievable at first to the public. And the fact that fair-skinned foreigners shared in the physical labor along with Sierra Leonean Witnesses became the “talk of the town.” It was evident that Jehovah’s Witnesses have learned how to live and work in peace and true brotherhood.
RUSSIA: Dedication of the new branch facilities in Russia drew special international attention. Outstanding theocratic developments had taken place in this part of the world. On hand for the program on June 21, 1997, were people from 42 lands.
There were 10,000 Witnesses in the whole Soviet Union in 1972. In 1991, when the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was at last granted legal recognition there, 49,171 Witnesses were reporting in the Union’s 15 republics. In May 1997 over 215,000 Witnesses were active in that area, and some 600,000 had attended the Memorial in March.
Russia and nine of those former republics come under the supervision of the Russia branch. In order to coordinate their activity and translate literature for them, new branch facilities have been built about 25 miles [40 km] northwest of St. Petersburg, near the community of Solnechnoye. This was done in accord with the legal registration of the Administrative Center of the Regional Religious Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Russian Federation. This beautiful complex includes seven residences that accommodate about 250, a Kingdom Hall and a dining room that seat over 500 each, and a spacious office and storage complex.
At the dedication program, Theodore Jaracz, a member of the Governing Body, gave the principal talk, “Building for the Future.” Others related interesting historical developments. On large display boards in the reception area were photos and experiences documenting the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia for over 100 years. Viewers learned that as early as 1892, at the instance of the Orthodox metropolitan of Moscow, a man who told others what he had learned from the Bible Students (as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known) was sent into exile in what is now Kazakstan. They read about the hundreds of Russians who learned Bible truth from Jehovah’s Witnesses when in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. They read experiences about the thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses who were exiled to Siberia and the Russian Far East in 1951, during the dictatorship of Stalin.
Among those present for the dedication were many who had endured long years in prison and Siberian labor camps for their faith. Can you imagine the utter amazement and joy of these old-timers as they toured the beautiful facilities located in this gardenlike, 17-acre [7 ha] setting? Tears filled many eyes, especially as brothers recognized ones they had not seen since prison days. What a joy it was to be present when brothers and sisters in the large courtyard spontaneously began singing in four-part harmony Kingdom songs that they had sung when they were exiles in Siberia decades earlier!
Many construction workers, from some 20 countries, had worked together for over four years to build these facilities. Some had given up their homes and had made radical changes in their lives to help their Russian brothers. What an emotional event the dedication was for them, as they prepared to move on to other theocratic assignments!
Altogether, there are 16,982 volunteers who regularly work at the Society’s headquarters and branch facilities worldwide. Because of the circumstances under which they serve, these Bethel family members are all included in the Order of Special Full-Time Servants.
‘Fields Ripe for Harvesting’
“Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting,” Jesus said. (John 4:35) This is true in a greater sense now than ever before. Since 1919, when a campaign of global Kingdom witnessing was launched, vast amounts of “seed” have been planted in the world field. Billions of pieces of Bible literature have been distributed. Tens of billions of conversations have been had with people about Jehovah’s purpose. Every appropriate means of publicity has been used to place before people the vital message of God’s Kingdom as the only hope for humankind. Now is the time of harvest.
In Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean islands, 590,760 have been baptized in the past five years. And during the past year, 1,858,462 Bible studies, on an average, were being conducted in these areas with others who show a desire to know and serve Jehovah.
Africa and nearby islands report that since 1993, there are 274,724 who have become dedicated and baptized servants of Jehovah. At the Memorial in those lands, 2,863,594 were in attendance. In Malawi, there were over 125,000. In Angola, 160,414. In war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), 574,736. Surely, many more of these people will embrace true worship.
Since the Berlin Wall began to be demolished in 1989, there have been 309,589 who have learned the truth and been baptized in lands that made up the former Soviet bloc of nations. These are showing a willingness not only to be taught by Jehovah but also to do his will.
In North America and in Europe, where Jehovah’s Witnesses have been preaching for well over a century, large immigrant populations are providing a fertile field for disciple making.
Indeed, when Jehovah’s day arrives, “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe.” (Joel 2:32) How vital it is, then, for us to help people now to know Jehovah, to trust him, and to conform their lives to his righteous standards! If they take such steps, when the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah does arrive, they may be among those whom Jehovah will look on with favor.—Zeph. 2:3.
[Pictures on page 4, 5]
The apostle Paul quoted Joel’s prophecy and stressed the urgency of preaching
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Luis Montás, a longtime Witness
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At River Plate Stadium, Carey Barber urged over 71,800 to resist the spirit of the world
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New 9,400-seat Convention Hall in Cañuelas, Argentina
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(3) Sierra Leone
[Pictures on page 28]
(5) French Guiana
(8) Dominican Republic
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