Highlights of the Past Year
DURING the year 2000, Jehovah’s Witnesses around the globe prominently displayed in their Kingdom Halls this scripture: “We are not the sort that shrink back . . . but the sort that have faith.” (Heb. 10:39) What is stated in that text is characteristic of the spirit shown by them around the world as they carry on their ministry. True, some find it difficult to talk to strangers; certain circumstances may make them feel rather nervous. Yet, with faith in Jehovah, they continue to obey his commandments.
The worldwide report on page 31 provides a few highlights of what they accomplished with Jehovah’s blessing during the service year that ended on August 31. Further details are found in the chart on pages 32-9. Additionally, special mention must be made of the conventions that were held.
Conventions for Doers of God’s Word
In December 1999 a call was sent out for all of Jehovah’s Witnesses, along with other interested people, to attend the “Doers of God’s Word” District Convention. The first of these conventions was held in Long Beach, California, U.S.A., from May 19 to 21, 2000. Before this convention series is completed early in 2001, hundreds more will have been held worldwide.
The program focused attention upon Jehovah, the Doer of wonderful things. We were encouraged not to forget all his doings but to laud him with all our heart. (Ps. 9:1; 103:2) Practical counsel was given on family life and coping with thorns in one’s flesh. We were urged to work hard at cultivating spirituality, not to be forgetful hearers but to be obedient to God’s word, and to keep telling others about Jehovah’s wonderful works. The experiences and interviews, along with the talks, emphasized the practical value of what was being discussed and did much to touch the heart. A powerful Bible drama, “Warning Examples for Our Day,” helped to fortify us against conduct that could ruin a person’s relationship with Jehovah. And we were built up by in-depth discussions of prophecies from the Bible books of Isaiah and Zephaniah.
Among the convention sites was the Népstadion, the largest stadium in Hungary. More than 22,000 were on hand for the opening day. Those who had heeded the encouragement to be present right from the start will never regret it. At the conclusion of the morning program, there was a special talk by Gerrit Lösch, a member of the Governing Body, during which the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in Hungarian was released. That same month at other conventions, the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was also released in Romanian and Albanian.
In Albania, though there were to be more conventions in various locations later in the month, Witnesses from all over Albania, as well as Kosovo, responded to the invitation to attend the opening-day program in Tiranë. How they rejoiced when the Bible in Albanian was released! Said one young brother: “Reading this translation not only made the Bible clearer and more understandable for me but also made me love the Bible more!” And a regular pioneer sister in her 60’s, formerly a Communist member of the parliament, wrote: “How wonderful! Only after studying this translation have I been able to appreciate how beautiful the Bible is, with its prose, poetry, and flowing accounts. You can imagine the whole touching scene so clearly. When I read how Jesus performed miracles and was rebuked and mocked, I felt deep emotions that I had never felt before!”
At the conventions in the Czech Republic, in addition to the other good things provided at conventions in many lands, the delegates were delighted to receive the Reference Edition of the New World Translation, with copious marginal references and footnotes, as a further aid in their careful study of God’s Word. When announcement of this release was made, many conventioners in Prague and Ostrava rose to their feet with prolonged applause.
In the early part of the service year, of course, district conventions featuring the theme “God’s Prophetic Word” continued to be held in some parts of the earth. An earnest effort was made to reach people of as many nations and languages as possible with that vital information. In Mexico, as an example, 190 “God’s Prophetic Word” District Conventions were held, with a total attendance of 1,073,667. The program was presented directly in Spanish, English, Maya, and Mexican Sign Language and was interpreted into Mazateco, Mixe, and Tzotzil. Linguistic barriers came down as people of all sorts benefited from the insight that the Bible gives us regarding the marvelous things that God has in store for humankind.
Coping With Difficult Situations
Again during the past service year, an outstanding witness was given concerning Jehovah God and his Messianic Kingdom. A peak of 6,035,564 publishers shared in this activity. On an average during the year, 805,205 shared in the pioneer service. During April the total pioneers swelled to 1,418,062! More than a billion hours were devoted again this year to giving a public witness. Many who shared in the work did so in the face of situations that submitted their faith to fiery tests. Yet, in one situation after another, Jehovah’s Witnesses gave evidence that they are “not the sort that shrink back.”
As an example, for many months the Democratic Republic of Congo has been torn by war. In the eastern part of the country, largely cut off from direct communication with Kinshasa where the branch office is located, there are more than 30,000 Kingdom publishers. In some areas, soldiers frequently stop civilians, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, question them, and sometimes beat them. Yet, the Witnesses do not stop preaching. There are some 50 million people in this land. These too need the opportunity to hear the good news. On an average, publishers there devoted about 13 hours to the field ministry each month during the year.
Outstanding faith is also shown by the brothers and sisters in Liberia. The daily challenges they face include not only dealing with severe economic hardship but also struggling with the debilitating effects of such diseases as malaria and typhoid. Nearly everyone, young and old, is affected. So the response to the call “Can We Make April 2000 Our Best Month Ever?” was a forceful testimony to the faith of the brothers, their zeal for Jehovah, and the power of Jehovah’s spirit in their lives. There was a new all-time peak of 3,193 publishers. The combined total of auxiliary and regular pioneers was 32 percent of all the publishers reporting. With all this activity, the Memorial attendance of 16,875 exceeded everyone’s expectations, and in May the report showed that 10,164 Bible studies were being conducted.
Sri Lanka’s 19-year-old civil war continued unabated. During the month of April 2000, heavy fighting in the northern Jaffna Peninsula resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of people. Five congregations, including 600 publishers and associates, were affected. The publishers found it necessary to live on Kingdom Hall property and in abandoned homes nearby. What is it like to be living amid such conditions? An elder there wrote: “All around, poverty and malnutrition are very evident. . . . The brothers have lost their homes and belongings. Land mines have been planted all over. The brothers are without jobs; the children cannot go to school. Life is miserable. But the brothers are keeping up, with Jehovah’s spirit and spiritual help. . . . We see Jehovah’s hand, and we thank him.” These brothers continued with all their meetings, even finding safe places to hold their circuit assembly, though in smaller groups than usual. Instead of diminishing their efforts in the field, they increased what they were doing to take the good news to their neighbors.
The economic situation in Ukraine makes travel very difficult in some areas. Yet, for some years, a sister in her 80’s, who treasures the privilege of serving Jehovah, has walked four hours each way to reach the territory where she preaches. She also walks six miles [10 km] in the mountains to get to the meetings.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Romania serve in the face of intense opposition by the clergy of the Orthodox Church. In anticipation of a visit by Willy Gournon as zone overseer, the brothers rented a football stadium in Bucharest for a special talk. But because of pressure from the Orthodox patriarchate, the contract was canceled. Nevertheless, a few days before the scheduled visit, an influential person intervened to help the brothers rent the beautiful Sala Palatului (Palace Hall), where an audience of 2,184 heard a talk on the timely subject “Keep Testing Whether You Are in the Faith.” With tested faith, more than 38,000 publishers in Romania continue without letup to preach the good news. Among them, an average of 3,569 are pioneers, though most of these also find it necessary to hold full-time secular jobs.
In Ethiopia the government upholds the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, but the clergy instigate the members of their churches against the Witnesses. On any given day in the field service, a Witness there may receive many harsh verbal scoldings. But the opposition does not end with that. Fanatic householders also beat publishers with sticks and strike them with stones. Yet, with firm faith, 6,166 of Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to carry the good news of peace to the 62 million people in that northeastern section of Africa.
When Bejoma, at 61 years of age, learned the truth, he was illiterate. Hungry for the truth, he asked for a Bible study to be conducted with him every day. He also applied himself to learn to read and write so that he could teach people in his home village there in Madagascar. While still an unbaptized publisher, he returned to his village and began to hold meetings. The following year he got baptized. Three years later he enrolled as a pioneer. But witnessing in his village has not been easy. Great pressure has been put on interested ones. On one occasion, the whole community gathered in an effort to make them change their minds. Family members have resorted to spiritism in dealing with them. Relatives have threatened to shoot Brother Bejoma if he goes to the home of certain interested ones, so their Bible study is held at the brother’s home. Despite all this opposition, the preaching work and the meetings do not stop. At the time this was written, there were four publishers. About 40 were attending the meetings.
Extremist Jewish religious activists in Israel continued to hold noisy demonstrations protesting the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They followed publishers in their house-to-house and park witnessing, creating disturbances so as to interfere with conversations with interested persons. In prominent locations the opposers also mounted large photographs of publishers to warn the public against having conversations with the Witnesses. This past year they also threatened employers with a boycott of their products and services if they would not fire any employees who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a result, on TV and in the newspapers, much publicity has been given to Jehovah’s Witnesses and their beliefs. With Jehovah’s blessing, the number in Israel who serve him increased by another 7 percent this past year.
Because of the combats between armed groups in Colombia, it became necessary to prepare, under the direction of the Governing Body, a special tract entitled “You Are the Light of the World.” Nearly ten million tracts were distributed. The tract helped to make clear the neutral position of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding armed conflicts. It explained what Jehovah’s Witnesses do to teach moral values to the people, to provide instruction to those in prison, to help the deaf, to assist victims of natural disasters, and to give people a hope for the future. In Colombia, 107,613 of Jehovah’s Witnesses are busy making known “the good news of peace.” (Eph. 6:14, 15) The tract distribution covered both congregation territory and isolated areas. Two pioneers in the Cauca Department prayed for the opportunity to preach to an armed group active in that area. Their prayers were answered one day when they arrived in a town and found many of the group there. The pioneers were able to distribute many tracts in that place. After reading the tract, the mayor of a town in the Chocó Department requested permission to present all of the Society’s videos on the local television station.
In many lands, great patience is needed to obtain permits in order to build a Kingdom Hall, where people can gather to study God’s Word. However, in Kassándra, northern Greece, obtaining a permit from the Town Planning Department to build a place of worship was just the beginning. Threats against a building contractor, excavators, companies that supply mixed concrete and other building materials terrorized them so that they withdrew from the project or refused to do business with the brothers. Access to municipal water and electrical supplies was denied for this project. As work was under way on the construction site on October 21, 1999, church bells rang. A mob led by the local mayor and priests invaded the construction site, bent on destroying everything. Apprised of the situation, the minister of public order in Athens assured the Witnesses that full police support would be given. In the course of the project, over 300 policemen from various cities all over northern Greece were involved. On October 30, a fine Kingdom Hall was ready for use. Our brothers surely gave evidence that they are “not the sort that shrink back.” It is hoped that the outcome in this case will beneficially influence the building of houses of worship in other parts of Greece.
As is well-known, years of strained relations between Albanians and Serbs living in Kosovo led to international intervention in 1999. Hundreds of thousands of people fled to neighboring countries for safety. After many returned, Witnesses from Albania, and later from Austria, visited the brothers in Kosovo. What did they find? Devastation everywhere. During the winter, electricity, water, and heating oil were in very short supply. Temperatures in their places of meeting were often very cold, but meetings were not canceled. Brothers and sisters gave comments and talks by candlelight, and it was so cold that they could see their breath as they sang praises to Jehovah. Two homes belonging to Witnesses had been destroyed, but a fine witness was given as brothers and sisters from Albania and Italy helped them to rebuild. Because of the whipped-up ethnic hatred around them, great care is needed as the publishers share in the ministry, but they eagerly seize opportunities to witness—at the market, in the post office, on the street, and in their neighborhood.
In mid-December 1999, the coastal state of Vargas, Venezuela, suffered the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. After torrential rainfall, a mountainside virtually collapsed onto the heavily populated coastal area, killing an estimated 50,000 people and leaving 400,000 homeless. Among those who had to flee from their homes were over 1,200 Witnesses. In the face of the disaster, what did the 11 congregations remaining in the Vargas area do when a call went out for auxiliary pioneers in April? The report shows that 112 enrolled—an average of ten per congregation—to join the 77 regular pioneers already serving there.
In Suriname, two brothers who are unable to walk get around on tricycles that they pedal with their hands. Both serve as pioneers. One was injured in both legs; the other has had both legs amputated. In the rainy season, they may get stuck in the mud, but they always arrive at their Kingdom Halls with smiles on their faces.
While all congregation meetings are important, the Memorial is outstandingly so. On April 19, 2000, at the meeting in Awaso, Papua, there were 11 interested persons who had traveled in a small boat for 17 hours through rough seas in order to be present. After the Memorial observance, the audience could not hold back their tears when they learned of the zeal shown by these interested ones and of their love for the Christian brotherhood. “We wanted to celebrate Christ’s Memorial with fellow worshipers of Jehovah; so the trip was all worth it,” they said.
Reaching More People With the Good News
The apostle Paul wrote: “Both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to wise and to senseless ones I am a debtor.” (Rom. 1:14) By means of the ransom, Jehovah has made it possible for people of all sorts to have eternal life. Knowledge of that was entrusted to Paul, and Christ commissioned him to be an apostle to people of the nations. Paul realized that he was obligated to do everything possible to share that good news with others. He did so zealously. Similarly, in our day, “the faithful and discreet slave” takes seriously the commission to preach the good news in all the inhabited earth for a witness. (Matt. 24:14, 45-47) Of course, for people in all the earth to understand clearly the import of the good news, they need to hear it or read it in their own language. This requires extensive translation work.
During the past year, Bible literature was produced for the first time by Jehovah’s Witnesses in 22 languages in addition to those used in the past. These added languages are spoken by over 31 million people. Besides these, the Quechua-speaking people in Bolivia and Peru who are not schooled in reading were not overlooked; the Knowledge book was made available for them on audiocassette. Biblical material is now produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses in 360 languages.
The Watchtower and Awake! are two of the foremost publications used to spread Bible truth. Preparing four separate magazines in English each month is itself a big undertaking. But providing magazines monthly, semimonthly, or quarterly in many languages requires much more. This past year it involved the preparation of 4,078 separate issues. The Russia branch alone now translates The Watchtower not only into Russian but also into seven other languages, spoken by 36 million people in 13 countries.
The Yearbook is regularly translated into 31 languages and Examining the Scriptures Daily into 114. Additionally, this past year 119 other books, 265 brochures, 34 booklets, and 273 tracts were translated in order to spread Bible truth. The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was made available in four more languages (Albanian, Hungarian, Romanian, and Shona) during the year, and the complete New World Translation was released in Xhosa. Also, 24 videocassettes were produced. Besides these, the Society is currently producing Braille publications in 11 languages. And this past year the convention drama was presented on videocassette in the American, Brazilian, Japanese, and Korean sign languages. All of this is done so that the life-giving message in God’s Word will reach as many people as possible.
Sharing Bible truth with people who speak Creole is another challenge. Creole is a language that has developed from a mixture of two or more other languages and has been simplified. It has become the primary tongue of a people and reflects their culture. Yet, people who speak Creole generally do not read it. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses are teachers, so in Mauritius and Réunion, they are learning to read and write the local Creole in order to be able to read to people in their mother tongue and teach them to do the same. Since there was no standard for writing the Creole languages of Mauritius and Réunion, the Society developed an orthography that would be suitable. Then Creole editions of the brochures Apply Yourself to Reading and Writing and What Does God Require of Us? were printed as tools for the ministry. After starting to use these, one sister reported that she had started five new Bible studies. A brother said: “Since using these new tools, we find that persons studying with us understand better the thoughts presented from God’s Word. Even though they do not read Creole easily, when we read it for them, they grasp the point really wonderfully.”
Another factor in reaching more people with the good news has been the simplified literature distribution arrangement. Jehovah has blessed the faith shown by his servants in this matter. The voluntary donation arrangement is explained to people, but no charge is made for the literature. As of January 2000, that arrangement was extended to all lands where it was not already in operation. The Central African Republic branch wrote: “This means that anyone, no matter what his or her financial situation may be, can have the necessary printed material to become a disciple of Christ. This arrangement has been greatly appreciated by both the publishers and the public.” Indonesia said: “Accordingly, the brothers looked for those interested in reading our publications more than those who could afford the printing cost.” The South Africa branch reports: “Magazine production has more than doubled, with some languages increasing more than fourfold! . . . All of this indicates that more ‘seeds’ of truth are being sown now than ever before.—Matt. 13:3-8.”
A further aspect of the year’s work involved sending temporary special pioneers into certain areas for a limited period. This made it possible to benefit people who had not yet received a witness. Côte d’Ivoire reported good results. Some city officials welcomed the pioneers and were reluctant to let them leave. In Sipilou, the deputy mayor kindly provided free accommodations and even let them use his yard for meetings. When two pioneer sisters assigned to Tiemelekro went to say good-bye to the mayor, he responded: “No! You can’t just leave that way. . . . I assume that you made disciples during these three months. That’s why you came to me in order to get a piece of land for building your church. I am now ready to give you that land. So please tell me who is going to replace you!”
Many individual Witnesses also seized opportunities to share Bible truth with people who would not otherwise have been reached. When a sister in the Marshall Islands accepted work as a teacher on the outer atoll of Jaluit, she found that she was the only Witness on the island. She zealously proceeded to preach to all her neighbors, conducting nine home Bible studies and taking the lead in a weekly meeting for the group. When a ministerial servant from Majuro went there on April 19 to give a talk for the Memorial of Christ’s death, there were 175 in attendance. Our isolated sister had invited as many as she could to that important event. In order to help these people to grow spiritually, the brother and his wife now plan to move to Jaluit to work along with the sister who is already there.
“Speaking With Boldness” to Overcome Misinformation
Christians of the first century were no strangers to controversy. In Iconium, for example, when a great multitude accepted the teachings of Christianity, opposers “stirred up and wrongly influenced the souls of people of the nations against the brothers.” Instead of backing off, Paul and Barnabas “spent considerable time speaking with boldness by the authority of Jehovah.”—Acts 14:1-7.
Today opposers continue to stir up public opinion against Jehovah’s Witnesses, sometimes using the media or other public avenues to further their aims. In response, the Public Affairs Office in Brooklyn and Public Affairs Desks in many of the Society’s branch offices spend considerable time in providing information that is used boldly to make known the truth to editors, journalists, and others.
In May 2000 the Society arranged for a new video, Transfusion-Alternative Strategies—Simple, Safe, Effective, to be shown at a medical conference in Geneva, Switzerland. The video includes interviews with some of the world’s leading surgeons and demonstrations of techniques used in bloodless surgery. It introduced medical doctors in Europe to ways of treating Jehovah’s Witnesses and others without using donor blood. Doctors in attendance immediately submitted orders for some 300 copies of the video.
In Belgium, a historical exhibit was arranged regarding the use of the name Jehovah in Bible translations. The exhibit highlighted the work of early translators and printers, such as William Tyndale, and the obstacles they faced in making the Bible available to the public. Visitors included students from 13 schools.
More than 70,000 people visited the itinerant Purple Triangles Exhibition in Brazil last year. Jehovah’s Witnesses hope that, as in ancient Iconium, many people will not allow their minds to be closed by those who distort the facts but will listen with appreciation when Bible truths are presented to them.
‘Legally Establishing the Good News’
In harmony with the precedent set by the apostle Paul in “the defending and legally establishing of the good news,” legal issues were given attention by Jehovah’s Witnesses in various lands this past year. (Phil. 1:7) In such places as Azerbaijan, Benin, Romania, and Sweden, it was possible to get Jehovah’s Witnesses formally and officially recognized, not merely as an association, but as a religion, thus providing greater protection under laws guaranteeing freedom of worship.
However, in the Republic of Georgia, bordering the Black Sea, opposers sought to have the legal registration of Jehovah’s Witnesses revoked. At a trial involving one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, extremists identified with the Orthodox Church packed the entrance to the courthouse and used physical force to bar entry to anyone who refused to kiss a hand-held wooden cross. Religious icons and wooden crosses were held aloft during the proceedings, and votive candles were burned in the courtroom during the recess. Violence erupted inside the court as extremists turned on lawyers, journalists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The brothers in Georgia have filed an appeal of the adverse decision to the Supreme Court of Georgia, where they hope that reason and truth will prevail. In the meantime, the 14,855 publishers in Georgia devoted 2,887,835 hours during the year to teach people the liberating truths of God’s Word.
The court case in Moscow, Russia, that was designed to liquidate the legal representation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in that city has not yet been concluded. In the meantime, brothers in Moscow have not been permitted to build much-needed Kingdom Halls. However, on November 23, 1999, a favorable decision was rendered by the Constitutional Court of Russia. It resulted from a case on behalf of the Yaroslavl Congregation. Because the congregation could not document its existence for the 15-year period required by the 1997 law on religions, local authorities demanded that the congregation cease importation and distribution of religious literature and that a brother from Germany cease his activity in the city. The court ruled that the 15-year requirement could not be applied to congregations that are part of a “centralized religious organization” that is already legally registered on a nationwide basis, as is the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The reregistration of Jehovah’s Witnesses by the national Russian Ministry of Justice was approved on April 29, 1999. While such matters were being handled by the Legal Department, the publishers in Russia devoted a further 24,782,467 hours to their public ministry last year. They registered a further increase of 7 percent and reached a peak of 114,284 publishers.
The brothers in France also continue to deal with a difficult situation. Over the past four years, they have obtained 921 favorable decisions from trial courts and 65 from appellate courts on the issue of exemption from property tax for Kingdom Halls. As a result of the Tax Department’s policy of vigorous appeal of such decisions, the issue went to the French Conseil d’État, the highest administrative court in France. On June 23, 2000, that court ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses qualify as a religion under French law and that their Kingdom Halls are therefore entitled to exemption from property tax. More important, the court held that the activities engaged in within those Kingdom Halls “do not adversely affect public policy.” However, just 11 days later, in another case, one designed to uphold the Tax Department’s action in imposing a 60-percent tax on donations made to the religious activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in France, a trial court in Nanterre issued a written decision to the effect that Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot claim tax exemption because they are not a recognized religion in France. The brothers are preparing a petition to the Court of Appeals in Versailles. Meanwhile, the French National Assembly has given first reading to a bill that is designed to facilitate the disbanding of any so-called sectarian movement if such a movement or its directors have been convicted in court twice. While adversaries ‘frame trouble by decree,’ Jehovah’s Witnesses put their trust in the Great Judge before whom all men must render an account.—Ps. 94:20; Rom. 14:10.
Filling an Urgent Need for Kingdom Halls
As the number of people who love and serve Jehovah continues to grow, there is a great need for Kingdom Halls in which they can assemble for worship. To deal with this need, Regional Kingdom Hall Offices are now in operation at the Society’s branch offices in Australia, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, and South Africa. From these locations, qualified brothers visit other branches to help them to develop organizational arrangements commensurate with their needs. At present, assistance is being provided to 72 countries in Asia/Oceania, Eastern Europe, East and West Africa, Central and South America, and islands of the Caribbean.
Over 100 international servants are busy training local brothers so that they can function together within their respective countries as Kingdom Hall Construction Groups. With this arrangement, in 30 countries, 453 Kingdom Halls have been completed thus far, and another 727 buildings are under construction. Emphasis has been placed on developing standard Kingdom Hall plans for each country that utilize local building materials and methods. In Kenya quarried stone is used; in Togo it is common to use brick; in Cameroon concrete blocks that are later plastered are popular. In this way, local brothers are quickly able to acquire the skills necessary to fulfill key roles within a national program.
As the brothers in the various lands have learned what is being done, many have displayed a keen desire to participate. Hundreds of capable local brothers and sisters have volunteered. In certain lands where local circumstances would otherwise make it impossible for them to share, arrangements are made to provide food and housing for approved applicants so that they can give their full attention to this urgent work of constructing and renovating Kingdom Halls in their own country.
What effect does the construction of these Kingdom Halls have on the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the community? From Benin, West Africa, comes this report: “You will be happy to know that the Kingdom Hall in Krake was dedicated yesterday. This congregation of 34 publishers has an average attendance of 73 on Sunday, but for the dedication, 651 were present. The brothers have had to endure much prejudice and ridicule in this town in the past because the former Kingdom Hall was very primitive compared to some churches. Now the new Kingdom Hall is one of the most beautiful buildings in the town. Most of those in attendance were townspeople who now have changed their opinion after having witnessed what the brothers were able to do in just a few weeks’ time.” The Nafisi Congregation in Malawi says: “Now that we have a beautiful Kingdom Hall, it is giving a fine witness. As a result, it is easy to start Bible studies when preaching. Everywhere people are amazed.”
With the increases in recent years, the need for Kingdom Halls had become desperate in Liberia. However, there was no way the brothers could afford to build. They are barely able to afford the rent for their own meager accommodations. In many places they were simply meeting in brothers’ houses, with large audiences overflowing into the street. Alternatively, they met in some sort of temporary structure. There seemed to be no solution to this problem until news came of the marvelous arrangement for Kingdom Hall construction in lands with limited resources. Funds contributed by the brothers in other lands were to be used to build halls where there was genuine need. Five new halls have already been built in the past six months. The brothers have demonstrated their “readiness” in spite of what they ‘do not have’ (in terms of funds) by their tremendous willingness to give their physical strength to the work. (2 Cor. 8:12) The New Georgia Congregation, for example, made over 1,000 cement blocks by hand in one day!
New and Expanded Branch Facilities
To care for the growing number of Jehovah’s Witnesses and to equip them for their ministry, it has also been necessary to provide suitable branch facilities. A number of these were dedicated within the past year. Such facilities worldwide are staffed by a total of 19,587 ordained ministers, all of whom are members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants.
SOUTH AFRICA: The branch facilities in Krugersdorp seemed more than adequate when they were completed in 1987. Why, just 12 years later, were they dedicating an enlargement of the office block, three new residence buildings, a trucking garage, and a spacious new export shed?
One reason is the increased freedom enjoyed by Jehovah’s people as a result of the end of the Cold War. Bans on Jehovah’s Witnesses were lifted in such countries as Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique, and Angola. Since the completion of the branch facilities in 1987, ten of the countries to which South Africa sends supplies have seen a total increase in publishers of 148 percent! (Mozambique alone had a 523-percent increase in those 12 years.)
Furthermore, a new government in South Africa and the dismantling of apartheid resulted in greater freedom of movement to and from other countries in Africa. The South Africa branch has thus been able to do more to send supplies to neighboring branches. In addition to printing magazines, brochures, and other material, this branch stores literature and processes congregation orders for a number of nearby countries. As the construction of Assembly Halls and Kingdom Halls gains momentum in Africa, more branches are obtaining building supplies from South Africa.
Other factors: The South Africa branch territory itself enjoyed a 62-percent increase in Kingdom proclaimers since 1987. In the last few years, the Translation Department had to be enlarged to handle the additional work of translating the Bible into seven local languages—Afrikaans, Sepedi, Sesotho, Tsonga, Tswana, Xhosa, and Zulu. Little wonder, then, that crucial areas of the South Africa branch had to be expanded.
Thus, on October 23, 1999, enlarged branch facilities were dedicated in South Africa. On hand for the occasion was Daniel Sydlik, a member of the Governing Body, who delivered a stimulating discourse entitled “Dedications Reflecting God’s Glory.”
JAPAN: A few weeks later, on November 13, expanded branch facilities were dedicated in Ebina, Japan. The additions included two 12-story residence buildings and a 4-story service building. Over 70 skilled international servants and volunteers working together with some 2,000 local long-term and short-term workers had brought the project to completion in three and a half years.
This dedication program took place 50 years after the first Watch Tower missionaries arrived in Japan following World War II. Some of those missionaries, still serving in Japan, were present for this occasion, along with all the traveling overseers in Japan, other long-time servants of Jehovah, and 344 delegates from 37 other lands.
When the first missionaries arrived in Tokyo and restarted the preaching activities after World War II, only a handful of Jehovah’s faithful worshipers were to be found in Japan. Now there are over 221,000 active Kingdom proclaimers spreading the good news in every corner of the land. Additionally, Bible literature printed in Japan in 27 languages is shipped to other countries, and at the direction of the Governing Body, the branch is giving direct help to the field activities of some Asian countries.
At a special meeting the day following the dedication, Theodore Jaracz, a member of the Governing Body, spoke to an audience of 61,323 in the Yokohama International Stadium. Altogether, with 41 locations throughout the country tying in, there was a total attendance of 269,376. The program, which included reports from foreign delegates and a talk by Brother Jaracz on the subject “Being Taught by Jehovah—Beneficial Today and Eternally,” gave strong encouragement to all present to keep on making spiritual progress.
BENIN: This country in West Africa is proving to be a productive field in the spiritual harvest. There are 6,343 publishers of the good news, and well over half of these got baptized during the 1990’s.
To serve this growing throng of true worshipers and those in Niger, new branch facilities, a new Assembly Hall, and a missionary home were dedicated in Abomey-Calavi, Benin, on January 1, 2000. Gerrit Lösch, a member of the Governing Body, used the occasion to emphasize two vital points: (1) The principal reason we serve Jehovah is, not our hope to gain everlasting life, but our love for him. (2) Read God’s Word, the Bible, every day. What practical reminders!
MYANMAR: A few weeks after the dedication in Benin, new branch facilities were dedicated in Myanmar. The branch office had been established there in 1947. In 1977 the Society came into possession of land on which to build suitable facilities. But, oh, what obstacles had to be overcome! It had not been possible for Jehovah’s Witnesses to get registered, so how could they get a permit to build? It would be necessary to import building materials, but how could that be done, since such permits were never granted to any organization? Bringing brothers from abroad to help with construction also seemed impossible, since visas for such work would be granted only for projects sponsored by the government itself. To top it all off, a woman went to court claiming that the property that the Society had held for over 20 years was actually hers. Suddenly, however, the problems melted away. Government policy changed on every point that had been an obstacle. And as construction began, the court rejected the claim of the woman who sought to take the property.
Most of the construction materials were sent as a gift from the brothers in Australia; more came from Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. Brothers came from Australia, Britain, Fiji, Germany, Greece, New Zealand, and the United States to help with the work, and the local Witnesses assisted. When the completed facilities were dedicated on January 22, 2000, during a visit by John E. Barr, a member of the Governing Body, those present felt compelled to say: “Jehovah has done a great thing in what he has done with us. We have become joyful.”—Ps. 126:3.
That well expresses how Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide feel as they review the events of the past year.
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“Isaiah’s Prophecy—Light for All Mankind” being released by Samuel Herd
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Bible drama “Warning Examples for Our Day”
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Delegates in Hungary rejoicing over new Bible
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Joyful Witnesses gathered for a meeting in a garage in Kosovo
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Kingdom Hall in Krake, Benin—before and after
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(1) Myanmar, (2) Benin, (3) South Africa, (4) Japan