Highlights of the Past Year
JEHOVAH foretold that “in the final part of the days,” people would flock to his figurative mountain to be taught by him. (Mic. 4:1, 2) Over the last year, that prophecy continued to be fulfilled as many more acted in harmony with the 2003 yeartext, “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” (Jas. 4:8) A key provision that helped many to cultivate a closer relationship with Jehovah was the series of “Give God Glory” District and International Conventions.
“Give God Glory” Conventions
“Since Jehovah’s inanimate creation can bring him praise, how much more so should we who can think and speak glorify our Grand Creator!” exclaimed one of the speakers at the above-mentioned conventions. He then quoted Revelation 4:11, which states: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.”
The “Give God Glory” Conventions afforded a special opportunity to praise Jehovah, thanks to the 32 international gatherings. These were held in Australia, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Ghana, Hawaii, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United States. Missionaries and others in foreign assignments were able to return to their home countries, where they were interviewed concerning their Kingdom activity in far-flung territories. Thousands of foreign delegates also attended these conventions.
A special treat for the international delegates was a visit to the branches in the host countries. The United States branch had the privilege of extending hospitality to over 6,750 delegates from 36 countries, serving them almost 15,000 meals! After one noon meal, a busload of brothers and sisters from South Africa sang for the Bethel family in four-part harmony in six languages: Afrikaans, English, Sepedi, Sesotho, Xhosa, and Zulu. So powerful and beautiful was the singing that many listeners were moved to tears.
In another tour group, a delegate whose lapel card showed that he had traveled halfway around the world said: “To spend all this time with your spiritual brothers and sisters is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will never forget it. It is a foretaste of the new system.” A brother from Britain who had left the truth at age 17 but returned in recent years was moved when he saw a painting depicting the prodigal son. Later, while enjoying the noon meal with the Brooklyn Bethel family, he reflected on Jehovah’s mercy, and tears welled up in his eyes. A brother from Spain confided that in 29 years of marriage, his wife had never seen him cry. But he wept when his tour group was welcomed by a joyful throng of Witnesses at the international airport in Houston, Texas.
For large conventions, obtaining suitable facilities at a reasonable cost can be a challenge. Often, though, the good name that Jehovah’s Witnesses have built up over the years works in their favor. This is illustrated by what one branch reported: “After a diligent search, we found only one venue that would be suitable to accommodate some 50,000 delegates who were expected to attend the convention. However, after contacting the stadium officials, the brothers found that the cost would be too high. A few days after the branch representatives made their inquiries, the same officials approached the branch and requested a further discussion. Later, one of the senior managers commented: ‘Initially, we had little concept of what you were asking. But once we understood the nature of your conventions and your capacity to provide much of the organizational infrastructure, we were very excited about it. We are impressed by your high level of organization, your detailed planning, and your professionalism.’” The outcome was that the stadium was made available to Jehovah’s Witnesses for their convention at a reasonable rate.
Are you a diligent student of God’s Word? Then no doubt you were thrilled to receive the 36-page, full-color brochure “See the Good Land.” The diagrams, maps, pictures, computer renderings, and many other features should enrich your personal study. So be sure to keep a copy of “See the Good Land” with your study Bible and the study aids that you regularly use. And remember to take your brochure to congregation meetings when talks and discussions involve Bible lands.
During the talk “Our Children—A Precious Inheritance,” the speaker released the beautifully illustrated, 256-page book Learn From the Great Teacher. Parents who deeply appreciate this divine inheritance will enjoy studying this fine new publication with their little ones. “Children,” says the book, “need moral guidance, principles by which to live. And they need these from their tender years on. Heartbreaking things can and do happen when children do not receive help until it is too late.”
Learn From the Great Teacher includes over 230 pictures—almost double the number found in the Bible Stories book. Every picture and group of pictures has a caption, most in the form of a question. The answers can be found on the same page. These and the many other questions throughout the book can be a fine stimulus for conversation, allowing children to express themselves from the heart. For example, the caption on page 101 reads: “Why is it important to remember to say thank you?” And parents, be sure to read the prologue, “What Children Need From Parents.” If you apply the suggestions mentioned there, your family will reap the greatest benefit from this fine study aid.
Video Welcomed by the Deaf
In the year 1915 in the United States, a pilgrim, or traveling elder, named John A. Gillespie signed songs to the small deaf audience attending a convention of the International Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known. Now there are over 1,200 congregations and groups of deaf publishers and interested ones around the world. How are these being fed spiritually?
At present, Bible study aids are available in 18 sign languages, and the number continues to grow. Those who use American Sign Language (ASL) received a special treat in September 2002. Starting that month, Watchtower study articles became available on video as a monthly edition. This provision is helping deaf people in ways that others might easily take for granted.
Consider: Most Witnesses who are not deaf can quote a variety of scriptures from memory. This is because they hear or read exactly the same words each time. Deaf publishers, though, do not always enjoy such consistent renderings. Why not? Because the Bible is not available in ASL, and those handling parts at congregation meetings do not always sign Scripture texts in precisely the same way. But this began to change with the introduction of ASL video publications. And now, with Watchtower study articles also available on video, deaf audiences can enjoy a consistent rendering of Bible passages.
Additionally, ASL congregations and groups no longer have to assign interpreters as readers for the Watchtower Study. In hearing congregations, an assigned reader might spend an extra hour or so preparing his Watchtower so that he can read well. But in a congregation of deaf publishers, those scheduled to sign an article would often spend many hours in preparation. Now, that valuable time can be used in other spiritual activities. How do the brothers and sisters feel about this new provision?
A group of deaf publishers in the state of Rhode Island, U.S.A., wrote: “We were overcome with joy when it was announced that we would have The Watchtower on video. In fact, some of our publishers were moved to tears.” A Watchtower Study conductor in Florida said that now so many raise their hand to comment that he has “the pleasant experience of having too many hands to choose from!” He added that “improvement in the quality of the comments is also evident.” Another elder wrote: “The results have been outstanding! The comprehension of even deep concepts has been wonderful.” Yes, thanks to Jehovah’s rich blessing, a growing throng of deaf ones rejoice in the privilege of knowing and glorifying God.—Rom. 10:10.
Help for Translators
The spiritual food provided by the faithful steward class is now available in at least 390 languages. (Luke 12:42) Translation, therefore, represents a major and constantly growing part of the work of Jehovah’s organization.
Proper translation is not simply a matter of substituting one local-language equivalent for each word that appears in the original text. Rather, it is a matter of conveying the precise thoughts. Clearly, then, translators need to understand the original text thoroughly before they begin to translate. At times, this can be a challenge.
Hence, at the direction of the Governing Body, a group of qualified brothers appointed to serve as instructors received training in a program called Course in Improved English Comprehension. After completing the course, which was held at the Watchtower Educational Center at Patterson, New York, the brothers visited translation teams worldwide during the 2002 and 2003 service years. They spent about three months with each team, going through the course and giving practical, on-the-job assistance. Thanks to this program, translators now feel better equipped to grasp the full sense of the English text.
Said one translation team: “In his kindness, Jehovah saw fit to help us be better qualified to handle our assignment. Now we feel much more confident. With Jehovah’s blessing, we look forward to seeing good results.” A translation overseer stated: “In the past, many of us labored for hours over difficult English expressions and sentences. This slowed down our work. So the Course in Improved English Comprehension has been most welcome. It showed us how to analyze the English text in a systematic way, and it gave us useful strategies for handling difficult text. As a result, we now experience less anxiety and are able to produce a more accurate translation faster.”
Another team wrote: “This course was more practical than any similar secular education in that it was tailored to our specific needs. We believe that this provision will help translators throughout the world, making it easier for sheeplike ones to ‘get the sense’ of the truth.”—Matt. 13:23.
To date, some 1,660 translators working in more than 150 languages have benefited from the course. Additionally, the program has been adapted to help those translating into sign languages and those translating Spanish text into the indigenous tongues of Central and South America.
Equipped to Be Better Teachers
Both Jehovah and his only-begotten Son—“the Word”—place a high value on communication. (John 1:1, 14; 3:16; Rev. 19:13) Reflecting that same view, the faithful slave class continues to work hard to help God’s people improve their preaching and teaching skills. With that goal in mind, Jehovah’s organization prepared the book Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education. Many publishers have expressed their appreciation for this textbook since its introduction into the Theocratic Ministry School in January 2003.
“There is no other religious group that cares so much about helping its members, both young and old, to communicate effectively,” wrote an elder in the Philippines. An elder in Brazil said: “For me, January 2003 was a teaching milestone in the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Another stated: “I have noticed that the younger ones in the congregation are showing more interest in participating in the school. Some have read the textbook from cover to cover and completed all the exercises—all this before the material has been considered at the school!” A traveling overseer has made fine use of the Ministry School book on shepherding visits. He writes: “Such chapters as ‘Apply Yourself to Reading,’ ‘Study Is Rewarding,’ and ‘Know How You Ought to Answer’ are of great help in preparing for meetings and the ministry.”
A sister in Britain said that “the inclusion of the exercises is an excellent part of the teaching process. If we want to develop the skills taught in the school, we need to practice these in our everyday lives. The exercises enable us to do this.” From Japan, a brother with a speech impediment writes: “Every time I have a reading assignment, I fight with the fear of not knowing whether I will be OK on the platform. I realize that my own negative thinking has made matters worse. So when I received my last assignment, I wrote down the points in the Ministry School book under the subheading ‘How to Speak Clearly’ (pages 87 and 88) and in the box ‘Coping With Stuttering’ (page 95). True, I do not expect to overcome my stuttering problem right away, but I am determined not to give up!”
“In Burundi,” writes the Kenya branch, “brothers have expressed appreciation for the new textbook, now available in the Kirundi language. In a country where many have had limited formal education, Theocratic Ministry School students can now understand the counsel points better. As a result, they are more enthusiastic when presenting their parts.”
The book has also helped some to improve their writing skills. Says an elderly, infirm sister in Mexico: “In the Ministry School book, on pages 71 to 73, I found some practical suggestions on writing letters. I witness this way because of my physical limitations. Even so, I used to avoid writing to my relatives. But with the guidance provided in the new book, I can now give them a better witness.” A district overseer in South Africa commented: “This is truly an outstanding handbook. It takes not just a mechanical approach to speech qualities but a spiritual one, showing how these qualities are the product of Christian love and concern for others.”
On June 17, 2002, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered a historic decision in Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. v. Village of Stratton. In its 8 to 1 decision, the highest Court of the land held that ordinances requiring a permit to canvass or solicit were unconstitutional as applied to the public ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In the wake of this victory, the Legal Department at the United States branch contacted municipalities throughout the country. As a result, problems related to our preaching work were resolved in 238 municipalities that previously attempted to apply to our public ministry an ordinance regulating canvassing or soliciting. Furthermore, because of the Stratton decision, Kingdom publishers in 216 other municipalities no longer need to check in with the police or other town officials prior to engaging in the field service. May Jehovah continue to level any such obstacles.—Isa. 40:4; Matt. 24:14.
Brothers continue to be arrested and imprisoned in Armenia for conscientious objection to military service. The prosecutor in Yerevan, the capital city, has appealed the convictions of several brothers for the purpose of obtaining longer prison sentences. The judges have granted his appeals, ordering harsher sentences.
In February 2003 the European Court of Human Rights declared as admissible an application by two former missionaries of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be heard by the Court. Ordered to leave Bulgaria in 1995, the couple felt that their right to freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination had been violated. The Court found that the complaint was “not ill-founded.”
Shortly after the conclusion of a congregation’s observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal in Asmara, Eritrea, police surrounded the meeting place and detained all 164 in attendance—men, women, and children. They were held in custody and interrogated throughout the night. The next day the authorities released the children and most of the sisters and interested ones. The others were moved to the largest prison in Asmara, where some were held for almost one month before being released. Apart from this incident, ten brothers are still in a prison camp because of their conscientious objection to military service. Three have been incarcerated for nine years.
Vicious attacks continue against our brothers in Georgia. District conventions were forcibly canceled by local officials and armed police who marched into conventions already in session. They took over the platform and dismissed the audience. In one instance they blocked off nearby roads to prevent the brothers from coming to the convention. The principal persecutor of Jehovah’s Witnesses is standing trial, but he is not under arrest. His trial has been postponed at least 19 times. On occasion his supporters have taken control of the courtroom, physically and verbally attacking the brothers. The Tax Department retroactively annulled the Witnesses’ tax registration number, which they need to import literature and to make transactions.
Good news comes out of Kosovo and Romania. On May 20, 2003, the 90 Kingdom publishers in Kosovo were legally recognized and their charter was registered. Similarly, on May 22, 2003, Romania issued a ministerial order officially confirming the status of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religion. Article 3 of the order states: “The Christian religion ‘The Religious Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ has all the rights and obligations provided by law for the religions recognized by the Romanian State.” The order was issued in compliance with a Romanian Supreme Court of Justice ruling from the year 2000.
In Russia the trial seeking to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow was suspended indefinitely on May 22, 2003. Without imposing a time limit, the judge ordered another “expert” study of the influence of psychological factors found in the literature published by Jehovah’s Witnesses during the past ten years. The scientific validity of such studies is questionable. Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights has started to process an application filed by the brothers. The application objects to the judicial harassment and discrimination experienced by the Witnesses in Moscow for the past seven years.
The Council of Ministers of the northern part of Cyprus, by means of its Decision No. E-1516-2002 of August 8, 2002, lifted the ban that prohibited Jehovah’s Witnesses from entering the northern part of the island. Pioneers had been deported from there in 1997, when the ban was imposed. Two Kingdom Halls that had been appropriated were returned to the brothers.
In Uzbekistan, Marat Mudarisov was found guilty of supposedly “inciting religious hatred and luring minors” into his faith. He was given a suspended sentence. In reality, all that he was “guilty” of was preaching the good news to his neighbors and conducting weekly Bible discussions at congregation meetings. Recently, an appeal was filed with the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan, and Brother Mudarisov’s unjust conviction was overturned.
Coping With Trials
As the present system of things nears its end, violence and political instability continue to increase, often causing great hardship. During the past year, civil war continued to wrack Liberia and its capital, Monrovia. “For a week street battles raged and the whole city was plunged into pandemonium,” says a Reuters news report. “After the retreat of the dissidents calm seemed to return, but then on 24 June there was a renewed, more intensive attack which resulted in extensive destruction of infrastructure and human life.” In one part of the city, the brothers had to lie flat on the wet floor of their Kingdom Hall because of bullets and shelling, explained the branch office. “The destruction in the city was terrible,” the brothers wrote. “We could smell the stench of dead bodies.” A cholera outbreak claimed additional lives.
Regularly and systematically, armed men looted homes and Kingdom Halls. Knowing that anything of value would be stolen, many brothers resigned themselves to obtaining life’s essentials and no more, explained a missionary couple from Monrovia. Families did not even replace stolen beds but slept on mats on the floor. Those unable to return home lived as refugees or fled to a neighboring country.
“People are just living one day at a time,” writes the branch. “Yet, it is very encouraging to see that the brothers are eager to attend the meetings and to share in the field service when conditions allow.” When relief supplies arrive, said the afore-mentioned missionaries, “among the first things that the brothers request are Bible-based literature and, in some cases, a witnessing bag to replace the one they lost.”
On September 1, 2001, seven brothers from different parts of the world were selected to serve as a Printing Study Group. The Governing Body asked these brothers to make a study of all the printing branches around the world and to recommend ways to use these existing facilities to a greater degree. On the basis of the study group’s recommendations, on October 17, 2001, the Governing Body gave approval to regionalize the printing, with each region taking care of its own printing needs. The regions are Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.
The new arrangement went into operation at the beginning of 2002. The results have been encouraging. Consider book production. In the year 2000, the United States branch produced almost 50 percent of the books for the world. But now, under the regional printing arrangement, it produces just 26 percent. This has resulted in a reduction in shipping costs, staff, machines, and needed floor space in the United States printery and in more efficient use of existing facilities in other countries.
In conjunction with the change to regional printing, the Governing Body approved the purchase of seven new MAN Roland Lithoman printing presses. These will replace aging and less efficient equipment, thus helping to care for future printing needs. Five of the new presses, some of which have already been installed, are for the branches in Brazil, Britain, Japan, Mexico, and South Africa. The other two are for the printery at Wallkill, New York, where they are slated for installation in April and May 2004. Each press is 133 feet [40 m] long, will produce 90,000 magazines or magazine-size signatures for books per hour (25 per second), and will be able to print in full color on all pages.
Additional Changes in Brooklyn and at Wallkill
Along with the new presses, Wallkill will also receive new bindery equipment that is capable of producing hardcover books and deluxe Bibles at the rate of 120 per minute. The Shipping Department, which will be moved from Brooklyn to Wallkill, will benefit from a new high-rise storage system that will allow literature to be stored in less than half the floor space used in Brooklyn.
The vacated buildings in Brooklyn will be used for other purposes. Additionally, in June 2003 the Governing Body announced the possible sale of the million-square-foot [95,000 sq m] building located at 360 Furman Street, which has housed the Shipping and other departments. The other departments in the building have been or soon will be moved to different parts of the Brooklyn complex.
Kingdom Hall Construction
During the 2003 service year, 2,340 Kingdom Halls were completed around the world. This represents an average of 195 halls per month, or just over 6 per day! Since November 1999 when the construction program in lands with limited resources began, 7,730 Kingdom Halls have been built. In many areas, once a hall is finished, meeting attendance soars and halls are soon filled to capacity.
When the program began in Africa, there were 550 suitable places of worship in 38 countries on that continent. Less than four years later, those same 38 countries had over 5,060 Kingdom Halls—an average of 1 for every 3 to 4 congregations. In a report on the impact of Kingdom Hall projects on the public, the Malawi branch referred to a new dictionary published by the Christian Literature Association of Malawi. “The dictionary,” says the branch, “includes an entry for Jehovah’s Witnesses and correctly translates our name into Chichewa. Then to show how one might use the name in a sentence, the dictionary adds: ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses have built many churches.’”
The branch office in another African land wrote: “When the brothers went to a certain official’s office to register our application to build a Kingdom Hall, the man immediately tore up our papers and threw them away. When this happened the third time, the brothers left the matter in Jehovah’s hands. Soon thereafter, the authorities entrusted one of these brothers, who was known for his honesty, with the job of distributing certain loans to government officials.
“Among those applying for a loan was the very same official who had torn up our papers. So on seeing our brother, he promptly left the office, only to return a week later hoping to find a different loan officer. But this time our brother approached him, asked for his application, and approved the loan. Feeling ashamed, the official asked the brothers to resubmit their application papers. He personally presented these to his superior for approval and obtained a land grant for the Kingdom Hall. With newfound respect for the Witnesses, he said: ‘They do not pay back evil for evil.’”
The Ukraine branch relates: “While looking for a tract of land, the brothers in the city of Artsyz contacted a regional architect. They shared with her photographs of completed Kingdom Halls. Impressed, she said: ‘Such a Kingdom Hall should be close to our district administration area, as it would adorn the city center.’ Then she proposed a piece of land. Afterward, the main architect for the region added: ‘This is the first time that I’ve seen a religious community agree on the plans before initiating construction. Usually, it is just the opposite.’”
At a Kingdom Hall construction site in the city of Lysychans’k, a businesswoman from a neighboring city remarked: “I’ve been watching you. I think you should build a Kingdom Hall like this in my city. I’ll even support your efforts to secure a suitable site.” The brothers then told her that only five Witnesses live in that area—too few to form a congregation and build a hall. “Well, how many do you need?” she asked and then added: “Enroll me as the sixth one.” Perhaps she was joking. Nevertheless, she agreed to a Bible study.
New Assembly Halls
During the last service year, Assembly Halls have been completed and dedicated in Nhandeara and Goiânia, Brazil; El Trébol, Santiago, Chile; Morne Daniel, Dominica; Machala, Ecuador; Syracuse, Sicily, Italy; Gerehu, Papua New Guinea; Lomé, Togo; Newburgh, New York, and West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.A. Concerning the project in Newburgh, a local businessman said: “Your organization is amazing! You use volunteers who have different backgrounds, talents, and skills, and they all work together harmoniously. I have never seen anything like it!” A local building inspector was impressed not only with the workmanship but also with the brothers and sisters. “I enjoy coming here,” he said. “I feel better when I am around you people.”
When the project in Newburgh was near completion, a fire broke out, damaging about 20 percent of the structure. Instead of giving in to discouragement, the brothers responded overwhelmingly to help restore the building. As a result, the restoration project was completed in less than a month, making it possible for the dedication program to be held right on schedule, on October 19, 2002. Commenting on the volunteers, a local newspaper said: “Their faith burns hotter than the flames that scorched about one-fifth of the 60,000-square-foot building.” In recognition of the precious unity of God’s people, the brothers obtained permission to give the public road leading to the Assembly Hall the name Unity Place.
In the midst of civil and political strife, the brothers in Côte d’Ivoire assembled peacefully on March 29, 2003, to dedicate a number of new buildings at the branch in Abidjan. These included a new Kingdom Hall, two residence buildings, and a services building with a large dining room, a kitchen, a laundry, storage rooms, and maintenance shops. The new facilities are across the street from the original branch, which was built in 1982. Volunteers from 15 countries, many of whom came at their own expense, assisted the 110 members of the local construction team. Sébastien Johnson, zone overseer visiting the branch, delivered the dedication talk, “Set Your Heart Upon Pure Worship.”
On Saturday, February 15, 2003, the dedication of the new branch in Guyana was attended by 332. Richard Kelsey, from the Germany branch, delivered the dedication talk. He called attention to Jehovah as the Master Builder of the universe. However, Brother Kelsey pointed out that Jehovah’s greatest act of creation, which was also his first, resulted in a glorious spirit creature—his only-begotten Son. Many early missionaries returned for the dedication program, some for the first time in scores of years! Considering that Guyana has just over 2,000 publishers of the good news, all were thrilled to see 4,752 people from 12 countries attend a special program on Sunday.
At the inauguration of the Bethel extension in Haiti, old-timer George Corwin’s voice shook with emotion as he told of his recent visit to St. Marc, a seaport town 40 miles [60 km] north of Port-au-Prince. As a missionary in St. Marc over 40 years ago, he helped form their first congregation. Now the town has four large congregations. His Bible students, now long-standing, faithful Witnesses, were thrilled to welcome him. When Brother Corwin arrived in Haiti, the country had just under 900 publishers, and the branch office—a small, rented house—had a staff of two.
A new branch was built in Haiti in 1986, but it also became inadequate. The newly dedicated, enlarged branch accommodates a Bethel family of 40, who serve more than 12,000 publishers. Volunteers from Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, and the United States shared in the construction work. They also trained Haitian volunteers in valuable building skills.
Because of local shortages, the heavy equipment and almost all of the building materials had to be imported. This sometimes slowed down the work but did not stop it. Dedication day arrived on Saturday, November 23, 2002. The 3,122 in attendance included 240 delegates from 13 countries. David Splane of the Governing Body delivered the dedication talk. The following day, over 20,000 attended a special program at the Sylvio Cator Stadium in Port-au-Prince.
“Let us get up, and we must build.” (Neh. 2:18) These encouraging words, uttered by faithful Jews in Nehemiah’s time, appeared in the insert to the June 2000 issue of Our Kingdom Ministry in Hungary. Jehovah’s people from all over the country were invited to share in the construction of a new branch complex in Budapest. Representing all 251 congregations in the country, 13,741 volunteers shared in the project, which took two years and involved the remodeling of a former military installation. The dedication program, attended by 554 guests from 22 lands, was held on May 10, 2003. Governing Body member Guy Pierce delivered the dedication talk, “Jehovah Keeps Making It Grow.”
Branch expansion has been a regular feature in Mexico. The 14 new buildings, dedicated March 15, 2003, complement those dedicated in 1974, 1985, and 1989. Laying the 860,000 square feet [80,000 sq m] of foundation for the new buildings was a special challenge for two reasons. First, because the site had once been a lake, the soil’s load-bearing capacity was poor. Second, the region is subject to earthquakes. Hence, to provide a firm, safe foundation, workers had to drive 3,261 pilings into the ground, each to a depth of about 80 feet [24 m]! Planning and construction took 12 years and involved 28,600 volunteer workers from Mexico and 734 from abroad.
Three members of the Governing Body shared in the dedication program. Guy Pierce spoke about the greater happiness that results from having a close relationship with Jehovah. Theodore Jaracz explained how the blessings of a faithful course in God’s service far outweigh the trials that Christians face in this time of the end. And Gerrit Lösch, speaking in Spanish, delivered the dedication talk, “Worship the God of Truth!”
On November 23, 2002, the Peru branch dedicated a number of facilities, including a beautiful new five-story office and residential building. Gerrit Lösch gave the dedication talk, “Expansion Results in Praise to Jehovah.” The following day, Sunday, 59,940 gathered at the San Marcos Stadium in Lima, where a special program focused on Jehovah’s rich blessing on the Kingdom work in Peru. And how that blessing has been evident! In 1946 when the first missionaries arrived to spearhead the work, there was just a handful of publishers and interested ones in the country. Now Peru has 87,318 publishers and 916 congregations.
At the Russia branch, 600 guests and the 350 members of the Bethel family—together representing 30 different countries—gathered on May 17, 2003, to witness the dedication of new residence buildings, offices, and storage facilities. The previous dedication had been held just six years earlier, so why the need to expand so soon?
The Russia branch, located at Solnechnoye on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, cares for the Kingdom-preaching work in ten countries. Well over 100 languages are spoken in this vast region, which embraces 11 time zones. Thus, translation represents a major and growing part of the work at the branch. At present the brothers translate Bible-based literature into 34 languages. Additionally, since the last dedication, the number of publishers in the region had grown by over 40,000—almost 7,000 a year! “And the growth continues unabated,” writes the branch. So in response to Jehovah’s rich blessing, the brothers in Russia were delighted to ‘lengthen out their tent cords.’—Isa. 54:2.
Present at the dedication on Saturday were many faithful older ones who had suffered much persecution during the Soviet era. All listened attentively as David Splane delivered the dedication discourse, “I Will Fill This House With Glory,” based on Haggai 2:7. He explained that although new buildings are beautiful and bring praise, it is chiefly the godly conduct and spiritual qualities of each individual Christian that glorify Jehovah and adorn true worship. On Sunday, 9,800 braved the cold drizzle to enjoy a special program at the Kirov Stadium in St. Petersburg.
Worldwide, a total of 19,848 ordained ministers staff such branch facilities. All are members of the Worldwide Order of Special Full-Time Servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Chart/Pictures on page 12, 13]
SOME EVENTS OF THE 2003 SERVICE YEAR
September 1, 2002
September 1: Watchtower study articles are made available on video in American Sign Language.
November 23: Branch dedications in Haiti and Peru.
January 1, 2003
January 1: Congregations begin using the new textbook Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education.
February 15: Guyana branch dedication.
March 15 and 29: Mexico and Côte d’Ivoire branch dedications.
April 16: Police in Asmara, Eritrea, detain 164 attending the Memorial.
May 1, 2003
May 10 and 17: Hungary and Russia branch dedications.
May 20: Jehovah’s Witnesses are legally registered in Kosovo.
May 22: Romania officially confirms status of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religion. Trial seeking to ban the Witnesses in Moscow suspended indefinitely.
August: New MAN Roland Lithoman press installed at Britain branch.
August 31, 2003
August 31: In developing lands, 7,730 Kingdom Halls have been completed since November 1999. 6,429,351 publishers are active in 235 lands.
[Graph on page 11]
Growth in the number of languages:
1880 1920 1960 2000
[Picture on page 14]
Instructors for Course in Improved English Comprehension, and their wives
[Picture on page 22, 23]
Press compared to a city bus
Length: 133 feet
Height: 18 feet
Weight: 201 tons
[Pictures on page 28, 29]
Recently dedicated branch facilities in (1) Guyana, (2) Hungary, and (3) Côte d’Ivoire