Highlights of the Past Year
JEHOVAH’S organization on earth has continued to prosper during the past service year. God’s blessing is clearly evident in that in 235 lands, more than six million Witnesses of Jehovah demonstrate their loyalty to him and their faith in his promise to bring about a new world of righteousness. These millions are, not people who merely claim to be God’s servants, but those who actively proclaim the good news of God’s Kingdom, as foretold by Jesus and recorded at Matthew 24:14. In harmony with the 2001 yeartext, they continue to “stand complete and with firm conviction in all the will of God.”—Col. 4:12.
There were many exciting developments among God’s people during the year. Let us now consider a few of the highlights.
Conventions to Instruct Teachers of God’s Word
One of the memorable features of the year was the “Teachers of God’s Word” District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which was held in hundreds of locations throughout the earth from the middle of 2001 into the early part of 2002. Millions were in attendance. The theme of the convention was explained by a speaker on the first day of the three-day convention. He said: “Jesus was not interested in conferring the key of knowledge upon an elite group of Scripture scholars. He told his disciples: ‘What I tell you in the darkness, say in the light; and what you hear whispered, preach from the housetops.’ Jesus ardently desired to share the knowledge of God with as many people as possible. To him, knowledge of the Scriptures was to be shared, not hidden away.”
The convention program included talks that considered the meaning of Bible prophecy as well as on how Christians should apply Scriptural principles in their lives. On Sunday there was a costume drama entitled Respect Jehovah’s Authority. That drama focused on the Biblical account of Korah’s rebellion in the wilderness in contrast with the faithful course of his sons.
Two publications were released at the convention. The first was the book Isaiah’s Prophecy—Light for All Mankind, Volume Two. The second was the brochure entitled A Satisfying Life—How to Attain It. In addition, there was a new tract—Do You Have an Immortal Spirit?
During the month of August, special conventions were held in France and Italy. In France these special conventions were held in Paris, Lyons, and Bordeaux, with a combined peak attendance of 160,045. These conventions greatly encouraged the brothers in France, who have borne the brunt of prejudicial press coverage. One brother said: “Sometimes we feel so alone in our fight, but now after having thousands of our Christian brothers visit us, we are invigorated to press on.”
In Italy special conventions were held in Rome, Milan, Turin, and Bari. Five other convention cities were tied in by telephone line for portions of the program. The total attendance at these nine conventions was 289,133. At each of these conventions in France and Italy, a stirring resolution was presented to the audience. Delegates, who had come from scores of countries, indicated their response with a resounding aye! This declaration was followed by prolonged applause.
A Global Witness With Kingdom News No. 36
During the months of October and November 2000, nearly half a billion copies of Kingdom News No. 36 in 189 languages were distributed worldwide. The Scriptural message about the Millennial Rule of Christ Jesus, along with colorful illustrations, gave this Kingdom News a wide appeal. If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you probably shared in that distribution. Following are some reports about the campaign from various parts of the world.
Despite subzero temperatures in Alaska, the Witnesses there were not deterred. The presiding overseer in the North Pole Congregation said: “Although it is winter, some householders stood right in their yard and read Kingdom News No. 36. The simple message contrasting the way things are today with the blessings that will come to humankind is beautiful.”
In Albania 15 congregations in a few larger cities were invited to visit outlying villages. The brothers and sisters accepted this invitation with great enthusiasm and joy. Fifty-six villages with an estimated population of 50,000 were reached for the first time.
The Angola branch reports: “Thanks to the zeal and enthusiasm of the publishers, the campaign with Kingdom News No. 36 in our territory was an outstanding success. This was despite the difficult economic problems and war that continue to affect congregations throughout the country. When the Kingdom News was distributed, many people accepted it eagerly. As a result, during November, Angola reported a new all-time peak of 94,026 home Bible studies, an increase of almost 10,000 over the preceding month.”
In Cameroon, while traveling to a village, a group of Witnesses accidentally dropped a packet of Kingdom News No. 36. A man who had noticed the Witnesses distributing the Kingdom News was on his way to his farm when he saw the packet by the roadside. He picked it up and began distributing Kingdom News No. 36 himself! Eventually, he had distributed all but four copies. When householders asked for these four, he refused and said: “I will not work for nothing; I will keep these for my family. When the Witnesses come, they will give you your copies.”
In Colombia the Witnesses made a return visit on a woman who had accepted a copy of Kingdom News No. 36. The woman said that she had always refused to talk with Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, after reading Kingdom News No. 36, she realized that she had been missing something very good. She then fell to her knees and begged God for forgiveness. Afterward, she contacted the Witnesses, and presently, she is studying the Bible.
In one village in Congo (Kinshasa), a policeman in uniform read Kingdom News No. 36 with keen interest. Sometime later he found the Witnesses and told them that the message was powerful and comforting. He then left for a while but returned dressed in civilian clothes and with a Bible in his hand. He said: “I want to join you in distributing this message in view of its importance and urgency!” The Witnesses kindly explained the need for him to study the Bible first. The man accepted, and his study is progressing well.
A young woman named Joy found a copy of Kingdom News No. 36 under the door of her home in Greece. After reading it, she immediately telephoned her aunt who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She told her aunt that the message had touched her heart and that she wanted to talk with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Her aunt contacted a sister who is serving as a special pioneer in the area, and this pioneer met with the young woman. Much to their surprise, they discovered that they knew each other. Joy told the pioneer that though she had a Bible, she was unable to find the Scriptures that were relevant to the problems she was facing. She immediately agreed to have a home Bible study.
A Witness in Korea offered Kingdom News No. 36 to a woman who opposed her son because he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Three days later the Witness visited her again and explained what the Bible says about Paradise. The woman responded favorably, and a Bible study was started. Her son, with tears in his eyes, said: “I cannot believe that my mother has begun to study the Bible.” She is progressing well.
In the interior of Liberia, some Witnesses were walking from village to village to distribute the Kingdom News when they strayed off the main road and ended up at an isolated farm deep in the bush. When the Witnesses told the farmers that they had lost their way, one young man remarked: “It was God’s spirit that directed you this way so that we could receive our copies.”
People in the Netherlands eagerly accepted Kingdom News No. 36. Over two million copies were quickly distributed. The branch in Selters, Germany, printed an extra 100,000 copies, but congregations requested even more. In the city of Helmond, a Witness told a householder that the tract was being distributed throughout the world. The man said: “Please wait.” He went inside and made a phone call to a friend in France to check the publisher’s statement. He said to his friend: “I have one of Jehovah’s Witnesses at my doorstep who has a tract that he says is being distributed worldwide. Did you receive a copy?” His friend answered: “Yes, ten minutes ago.” The man hung up the phone, returned to the door, and accepted a copy for himself.
The Russia branch received an interesting letter from a young person in the seventh grade. He wrote: “Hello. I was very much delighted to find in our mailbox a tract about the new millennium! The greatest happiness that we have had all year is this tract that you gave us! Please send us further information.”
Besides helping the public, the Kingdom News No. 36 campaign benefited the Witnesses themselves. One Witness in Saipan commented: “I really enjoyed distributing the Kingdom News. I was baptized in 1998, so this was my first time to share in this feature of the ministry. It encouraged me to try evening witnessing, which has enabled me to speak to more people. Because of this work, my faith has been strengthened, and I feel closer to Jehovah.”
The Witnesses went to a remote part of Malaita, Solomon Islands, to distribute Kingdom News No. 36. After walking for more than five hours, they came to a village where the local pastor welcomed them and showed great interest. He said that in over nine years, no outside representative from his church had visited or taken interest in them. Yet, here was a group of strangers who took the trouble to cross the mountains to help them understand the Bible’s message. Bible studies were started with all of the families in the village. The brothers went back every two weeks, and soon ten studies were progressing well. The pastor said that if someone could stay with them to get a group started, the village church could be used for meetings. A special pioneer is now regularly visiting the group. At last report, a representative from the church visited and offered food to the villagers if they would agree to stop studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, all have said that they are going ahead with their study of the Bible.
While vacationing in a remote area of Venezuela, some Witnesses placed a copy of Kingdom News No. 36 with their guide, a Pemón Indian. Thrilled with his copy, he read it again and again. When it got wet in a rainstorm, he carefully hung it out to dry. He asked for additional copies to take back to his tribe.
Legal Developments During the Service Year
For reasons of conscience, Ivailo Stefanov refused to join the military in Bulgaria. Consequently, he was sentenced to one and a half years in prison. Brother Stefanov took the case to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that his religious freedom had been violated. When the court announced that it would hear the case, the Bulgarian authorities arranged for a friendly settlement that completely exonerated Brother Stefanov and other Witnesses who faced the same issue. On May 3, 2001, the court accepted the friendly settlement. As part of the settlement, the Bulgarian authorities also agreed to decrease the length of alternative civilian service, which previously had been twice as long as compulsory military service.
In Quebec, Canada, the city of Blainville enacted a bylaw stating that people going from door to door for religious purposes must first purchase a permit. The permit authorized door-to-door visits only from Monday to Friday, was valid for just two months, and could not be renewed until 12 months had passed. On April 17, 2001, a superior court judge in Quebec ruled that the bylaw does not apply to the public ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The judge stated that Jehovah’s Witnesses were exempt from obtaining a permit and were not bound by limitations of hours, days, months, or years in their door-to-door religious activities. He referred to the ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses as “a Christian community service” and found that their publications are “serious literature, dealing with subject matters such as religion, the Bible, drugs, alcoholism, youth education, marital problems and divorce.” To compare the Witnesses to peddlers, the judge said, is “insulting, degrading, hurtful, and defamatory.”
On February 22, 2001, the Supreme Court in Tbilisi, Georgia, issued a decision to annul the registrations of the two legal entities used by Jehovah’s Witnesses there: the Union of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Georgia and the Representation of the Watch Tower Society in Georgia. The court made it very clear that this decision did not ban Jehovah’s Witnesses. On the contrary, the court stated that Jehovah’s Witnesses could carry on their religious activities, including holding meetings, importing literature, and renting or owning property. However, religious extremists have ignored the court and carried out a series of vicious attacks described by one human rights organization as a “reign of terror.” On June 29, 2001, Jehovah’s Witnesses filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights protesting the government’s inaction over the unrestrained violence, and on July 2 the court ordered that the application be considered on a priority basis. On a positive note, on May 30, 2001, the Customs Department in Georgia released approximately 20 tons of our Bible literature, which had been illegally seized on March 14, 2001. The literature was immediately distributed to congregations throughout Georgia.
In 1997 the Federal Administrative Court in Berlin, Germany, refused to grant Jehovah’s Witnesses the legal status of a public law corporation. This refusal was based on the claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses were not sufficiently loyal to the State because of their neutrality in political elections. The Witnesses appealed. On December 19, 2000, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled that no such enhanced loyalty is required. However, the case was sent back to the administrative courts to reconsider the request for legal status, this time from the angle of whether Jehovah’s Witnesses violate the rights of individuals. Beliefs and practices regarding blood, child rearing, disfellowshipping, and family relationships have become the new focus of the case.
Until recently, over 3,500 Witnesses in Greece had criminal records because they had been imprisoned for maintaining their neutrality. Having a criminal record meant that these Witnesses were denied employment in civil-service positions, welfare organizations, and banks. Some had been denied permits to work in certain professions. Now a law that has been passed in Greece holds that these Witnesses no longer be viewed as former criminals. Undoubtedly, the favorable decision from the European Court of Human Rights on Thlimmenos v. Greece on the question of an individual’s right conscientiously to object to compulsory military service laid the groundwork for the new law.
The Kobe District Court in Japan handed down a favorable decision on March 30, 2001, in a case involving one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A sister had been kidnapped and forcibly confined for 17 days in order to “deprogram” her religious beliefs. The court held that the defendant—a Baptist minister—conspired with the sister’s former husband and his family members to confine her against her will. The defendant was ordered to pay 400,000 yen ($3,300, U.S.) compensation.
The Supreme Court of Romania has unequivocally asserted in two decisions that the Religious Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a legally recognized religion and should enjoy all the rights conferred by law upon religions. The State Secretariat for Religions attempted to overturn these decisions but was unsuccessful. On April 2, 2001, the Supreme Court upheld its previous decisions. Thus far, the State Secretariat for Religions has not recognized the full legal status of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in spite of instructions from the Supreme Court to do so.
On February 23, 2001, a judge finally dismissed the lawsuit to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow, Russia, after almost a six-year legal process and a three-year court case. The brothers’ relief was short-lived, however, because on May 30, 2001, the Moscow City Court annulled the lower court’s decision and ordered a complete retrial of the case. This will be the sixth time since 1996 that Jehovah’s Witnesses have had to defend themselves against the same baseless charges.
A decision on February 21, 2001, by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, United States, was a resounding endorsement of a patient’s right of bodily self-determination and the validity of durable powers of attorney for health care. The decision involved Maria Duran, who had consistently made known her adamant refusal to accept blood transfusions. Despite Maria’s precautions, her non-Witness husband, with the support of Maria’s doctors and the hospital, obtained a court order appointing him as her emergency guardian, even though Maria had specified a fellow believer as her health-care agent. The superior court reversed the emergency order and held that even in the face of opposition by the patient’s spouse, relatives, and doctors, her explicit health-care instructions and personal appointment of an agent should have been honored.
Needed—More Kingdom Halls
In many countries, building Kingdom Halls was very challenging and used to take a long time. Some congregations would meet in rented facilities for months—or even years—while construction continued. In one unfinished Kingdom Hall in an African land, a wild parrot took up nesting in the ceiling rafters. Soon the parrot was whistling along with the Kingdom songs, which no one seemed to mind. Work progressed so slowly that the parrot learned to imitate the Watchtower Study conductor, even calling brothers and sisters by name! Eventually, the Kingdom Hall was finished, and the parrot had to find another residence.
Today, because of an exciting new building program, Kingdom Halls are being completed at an astonishing pace. Why, in most developing lands, Kingdom Halls are now built and dedicated in just three or four weeks! In Africa alone, 1,074 new Kingdom Halls were built during the past service year—a rate of nearly 4 per working day!
The goal of the new Kingdom Hall construction program is really twofold. First, to catch up. The South Africa branch writes: “This is a thrilling development that we feel sure will result in the building of many Kingdom Halls in countries where they are sorely needed.” Second, to stay caught up by organizing the building work using capable local Witnesses. In Benin, for example, the building program is now fully administered locally and can care for future Kingdom Hall needs.
Along with the Design/Build Office in Brooklyn, five Regional Kingdom Hall Offices provide organizational assistance to branches in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, Central and South America, and the islands of the Caribbean. These offices cooperate closely with Branch Committees to help them take full advantage of the guidelines and provisions now available. For example, a Kingdom Hall Construction Desk is set up at each branch to coordinate building work in the field. This desk also helps congregations during the property-selection process and has developed standardized plans based on local building materials and methods.
In 92 lands where a serious lack of funds and skilled workers once hampered building efforts, upward of 4,000 long-term and short-term volunteers now staff 352 full-time Kingdom Hall Construction Groups. Fundamental to the success of these groups has been the introduction of Kingdom Hall construction servants, a new category of special full-time service for qualified local brothers in selected countries. Additionally, 152 international servants train local brothers to fill key roles in a building program. Of course, Kingdom Hall building is a congregation project, so congregation members willingly make up the bulk of the volunteer labor force.
How are people reacting to this new building program? In Trujillo, Venezuela, the first Kingdom Hall was recently built in Sara Linda. With tears of joy, a publisher remarked: “It’s so touching that Jehovah remembered us. Our town doesn’t even appear on the map!”
A sister in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was moved to write: “For ten years I walked four kilometers [2 miles] to the meetings, crossing a footbridge even during my pregnancy. Finally, my dream came true. A Kingdom Hall in our area! Many Bible students have already started to attend meetings. My father, who studied in the past but later opposed me, has not missed a meeting since the dedication. This week he started to study again.” One non-Witness observer admits: “I am 60 years old and have never seen anything like it! The Witnesses work quickly and happily together. I am employed as a bricklayer for the town council, and whenever a job takes too long, someone will say: ‘I guess we’ll have to call on Jehovah’s Witnesses to help us!’”
An elder in Ukraine comments: “We were able to build a standardized Kingdom Hall in just one month, so we were not distracted from our families and congregation responsibilities for a long time.” A sister there adds: “We feel a great joy. We saw with our own eyes how Jehovah helps his people. Previously, because of our economic situation, we had no hope of having our own Kingdom Hall.”
Interested ones in Malawi are especially eager to associate with us when there is a suitable meeting place. The Nafisi Congregation reports: “Now we have a beautiful Kingdom Hall that serves as a fine witness. As a result, it is easy to start Bible studies when preaching. People everywhere are amazed. Be it at school, at work, or in their homes, our Kingdom Hall has become the center of conversation.”
Community leaders in Mozambique are also favorably impressed by the Kingdom Hall construction program. A traditional chief was asked for property on which to build a Kingdom Hall. In granting permission, he replied: “I heard about the construction of Kingdom Halls in other areas and became concerned, since there are none in my area. Thank you, Jehovah’s Witnesses, for planning to build our Kingdom Hall!”
What effect do well-organized projects have on the volunteer spirit at the congregation level? A member of a construction group in Zimbabwe relates: “After traveling in the rain for hours, we arrived at the rural Kingdom Hall site. Our waiting brothers and sisters were huddled under a tree with a small campfire at their feet. Despite the wet conditions, they greeted us with welcome smiles. In preparation for our coming, 60 from the congregation dug trenches for the foundation. They had started at four o’clock the morning before and finished at six o’clock that evening.”
In the same country, the Zongoro Congregation did not have a Kingdom Hall. Nathan Muchinguri has served there since his baptism in 1924. For many years, he translated Bible publications into the Shona language. Because he was living outside Bethel, the branch office offered to help with his living expenses, but he declined the offer. He did, however, express the desire to meet in a Kingdom Hall before finishing his earthly course. On April 8, 2001, 93-year-old Brother Muchinguri got his wish. The Zongoro Congregation met for the first time in their new Kingdom Hall. The occasion was the observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal.
Since this construction program began in November 1999, 2,097 new Kingdom Halls have been built in 92 lands—an average of 22 per week! The loving contributions of our worldwide brotherhood make this “equalizing” possible, so that “the [congregation] with much did not have too much, and the [congregation] with little did not have too little.” (2 Cor. 8:14, 15) Is Jehovah blessing this global endeavor? Consider: Within one month of building a suitable Kingdom Hall in many of these places, meeting attendance often doubles.
Bloodless Medicine and Surgery—Three Videos
A series of three videos has been produced by Audio/Video Services, together with brothers from Germany and other countries, that presents the reasonableness and effectiveness of bloodless medicine and surgery. In all three videos, well-known surgeons contrast the effectiveness of transfusion-alternative strategies with procedures that use blood. The first video in the series is entitled Transfusion-Alternative Strategies—Simple, Safe, Effective. It was designed particularly for doctors and medical students. Computer animation is used to illustrate the function of blood components.
That first video was completed in time to qualify for entry in the 34th annual U.S. International Film and Video Festival. In all, there were 1,500 entries from 33 countries. The Transfusion Alternatives video was evaluated in three categories. In two of the categories—Research Documentation and Professional-Educational—the video was awarded second place and received the Silver Screen Award. In the third category, Current Issues, the video won first place and received the Gold Camera Award. The awards show that experts within the film industry recognize the quality, accuracy, and professionalism of the video, thus contributing to the credibility of its message.
The second video is entitled Transfusion-Alternative Health Care—Meeting Patient Needs and Rights. It was designed especially for medical journalists, health officials, social workers, and the judiciary. As the title suggests, this program considers how to care for patients’ medical needs while also recognizing their legal rights. Additionally, bloodless surgical techniques are shown to be cost-effective.
The third video in the series is entitled No Blood—Medicine Meets the Challenge. Designed primarily for the general public, this video has already aired on television networks in the United States. Doubtless, the positive comments from non-Witness professionals interviewed in the video will do much to educate people about the value of bloodless surgery and to offset prejudicial thinking of those who are uninformed.
New Branch Facilities Bring Praise to God
Following are reports on five branch dedications during the past service year. Let us travel in our imagination, first to South America, where new branch facilities were dedicated in Venezuela and Uruguay. Then we go to Ukraine, in Eastern Europe, where the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was banned for over 50 years. Next, we turn our attention to Malawi, in southern Africa, where the Witnesses endured many years of ban and persecution. Finally, we look to Barbados, a beautiful island in the Caribbean.
VENEZUELA: On March 3, 2001, some 1,600 visitors from 22 countries converged on a beautifully landscaped property 50 miles [80 km] west of the capital, Caracas, for the dedication of the new branch complex. March is the dry season, and the Aragua Mountains were dry and brown, but thanks to irrigation from on-site wells, the lawns and palm trees around the branch buildings were lush and green. The delegates—dressed in their best and many carrying cameras—walked around the grounds and in and out of the buildings, expressing admiration and delight.
Venezuela’s first branch office was opened in September 1946, when just 19 publishers were preaching the good news in the country. Over the next half century, several different branch buildings were outgrown because of expanding needs. The new branch presently cares for the 88,541 publishers of the good news in Venezuela.
Many who attended the dedication had shared in the six-year construction of the facilities. One international servant reflected: “It was so encouraging to see that the brothers were willing to travel for hours to share in the construction project. For example, a group from one congregation rented a bus, set out at 11:00 p.m., traveled through the night to arrive by 6:00 a.m., had breakfast, worked with us all day, and then got back on the bus for the seven-hour trip home.” The association during the construction was pleasant, as brothers worked together in unity.—Ps. 133:1.
Gerrit Lösch of the Governing Body delivered the dedication address “Expansion Bringing Praise to Jehovah.” The following day a record audience of 113,260 Witnesses and interested ones from all parts of the country converged on the city of Valencia to listen to another thrilling program, including a summary of the dedication program.*
URUGUAY: “What wonderful people! It surely is nice to see so many people, men and women, working hard and with so much happiness. This can only be accomplished if you have the right motivation and are not seeking material gain. Congratulations, and keep up the good work!” This is just one of the many comments by a series of observers who visited the branch building project in Uruguay.
The spirit of zeal and cooperation displayed by Jehovah’s Witnesses during the construction project has also been shown over the years by Jehovah’s people in carrying out their educational work. Sixty years ago, there were few Witnesses in Uruguay, including six German pioneers, who traveled throughout the country by bicycle. Now Jehovah’s Witnesses in Uruguay make up a solid, well-known, respected organization with a ratio of 1 publisher to 287 inhabitants and an average of five elders to each congregation. Of course, along with expansion comes a need for larger branch facilities.
During the dedication program on March 31, 2001, appreciation was expressed for the many Witnesses who contributed their skills and experience to this project. The program also included interviews with many former missionaries who had served in Uruguay. They had traveled from distant lands to be present at the dedication. The dedication talk was given by Brother Lösch. He stressed that the main reason for the preaching activity is to bring praise and glory to Jehovah.*
UKRAINE: For over 110 years, there have been preachers of the good news in Ukraine. The past decade, however, has seen especially rapid growth. The 530-percent increase in the number of publishers during the 1990’s resulted in an urgent need for branch facilities. To meet this need, a beautiful rural setting about three miles [5 km] north of Lvov was chosen as the site to build the branch. The complex consists of a 104-room residence, modern offices, a kitchen, a laundry, a garage, and literature storage.
Two years and three months after receiving the construction permit, the brothers had transformed the site of a former youth camp into an attractive complex of buildings to make up the branch. It is located in a forest used by the brothers to hold meetings during the years the work was banned.
Local authorities required that the road leading to the branch be paved. The brothers hired a local construction company to do the work, stating that the road, which is three quarters of a mile [1,200 m] long, had to be completed by the end of October 2000. This was because snow usually begins to fall in November. The company was unable to finish by the date agreed upon. Since the weather was still suitable for road construction, however, the brothers decided to help finish the project. Everyone worked hard, and finally, on Saturday, December 16, 2000, the road was completed. That night the neighborhood was covered with a blanket of snow. If you ask residents of the area why the autumn of the year 2000 was so unusually warm and long, they reply: “Because Jehovah’s Witnesses had to finish the road.”
The dedication program was held on May 19, 2001. Brothers and sisters from 35 lands were present for the program, which featured talks by Theodore Jaracz and Gerrit Lösch of the Governing Body. The following day a crowd of 72,023 gathered for a special program held in the largest stadiums in Lvov and Kiev. Many who served for decades under ban were present. They were thrilled to see such a beautiful branch, which will bring great honor and praise to Jehovah.*
MALAWI: Toward the end of the afternoon on Saturday, May 19, 2001, more than 2,200 Malawian Witnesses gathered with 200 visitors from 21 countries under a sunshade made of long poles of the eucalyptus tree, bamboo, and dried grass. In the fading light, it was not possible to see the words in the songbook for the concluding song. From the attractive platform, the song conductor led the audience in singing Song 56 in the typical African way—without musical accompaniment and in four-part harmony. The audience did not need songbooks; they knew the words by heart. A wave of emotion swept the guests from other lands as they listened to these faithful servants of Jehovah, most of whom had been baptized for 40 years or more and had suffered severely for their faith.
That morning when the brothers and sisters toured the new branch complex, they burst into spontaneous singing of Kingdom songs and waved to all they met along their tour route. Prior to this occasion, airport officials had agreed to play Kingdom Melodies Volume 1 over the airport public address system to welcome the international visitors. What a warm and theocratic welcome it had proved to be! The music is still being played at the airport.
“Do You Show Yourself Thankful in Jehovah’s Service?” was the question posed by Sébastien Johnson, who was serving Malawi as zone overseer. As he examined Micah 6:6-8, Brother Johnson showed that Jehovah is not asking too much of us. The speaker encouraged reading the Bible every day and applying its wholesome principles. Guy Pierce of the Governing Body centered his dedication discourse on the theme “Exult and Rejoice in What Jehovah Is Creating.” Brother Pierce said: “Your activity and long history of faithful service have laid the foundation for the increase taking place today. Continue to do all you can in your sacred service to the Most High God, Jehovah.”
On Sunday, May 20, at a stadium in Lilongwe, the 17,378 persons in attendance were reminded that the publisher figure in Malawi was about 30,000 when the ban was lifted in 1993. Today, there are almost 50,000 Witnesses in Malawi! Yes, the dedication of the newly built Bethel complex was truly a time to remember, a day of victory for Jehovah!*
BARBADOS: The new Barbados branch and adjoining Kingdom Hall are set in a landscape of lawns and flowering plants on an elevated two-and-a-half-acre [1 ha] site that offers a splendid view of the nearby Caribbean Sea. These beautiful facilities, constructed in 18 months, are situated in a quiet district in Prospect, St. James, about two and a half miles [4 km] from Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados.
The new branch building houses a Bethel family of ten. It contains eight residence rooms, offices, and a dining room. There is also a Kingdom Hall that seats 275. These facilities replace the former branch complex located about a ten-minute drive away in the heart of Bridgetown. When these former premises—set in a relatively quiet inner suburb of the Barbados capital—began to be used in 1969, the total number of publishers in the branch’s six major and several smaller islands was about 1,200. By the year 2000, that number had increased to 2,390 publishers in 25 congregations and one isolated group. By then that branch facility had become much too small to care for the increasing number of congregations, and its once quiet suburb location had become a noisy commercial area.
On Saturday, June 2, 2001, 676 invited guests from the islands of the Barbados branch and 15 other countries enjoyed the dedication program, which included a history of the work in Barbados. The highlight of the program was the talk “Making Jehovah’s Heart Rejoice,” delivered with infectious warmth by John E. Barr of the Governing Body. For the benefit of those who could not be accommodated at the dedication program itself, a special meeting was held on the following day. It was attended by 3,332.*
Staffing such branch facilities worldwide are a total of 20,133 ordained ministers. All are members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants.
The theocratic history of Venezuela appeared in the 1996 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, pages 187-252.
Uruguay’s theocratic history appeared in the 1999 Yearbook, pages 225-55.
The history of the Witnessing activity in Ukraine appears on pages 119-255 of this Yearbook.
You can find Malawi’s theocratic history in the 1999 Yearbook, pages 149-222.
The theocratic history of Barbados appeared in the 1989 Yearbook, pages 149-97.
[Pictures on page 6]
“Teachers of God’s Word” District Conventions included the release of the “New World Translation” in traditional and simplified Chinese, in Hong Kong
[Pictures on page 11]
Nearly half a billion copies of “Kingdom News” No. 36 were distributed worldwide
[Picture on page 13]
The European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France
[Picture on page 21]
Brother and Sister Muchinguri in front of the new Kingdom Hall
[Picture on page 22]
The three awards received for the video “Transfusion-Alternative Strategies—Simple, Safe, Effective”
[Pictures on page 28, 29]
Newly dedicated branch facilities