Highlights of the Past Year
WHILE the world staggers from crisis to crisis, God’s people enjoy a spiritual estate that grows ever more beautiful and bountiful. (Mal. 3:12, 18) This steady progress calls to mind the promise Jesus made to his disciples just before his ascension to heaven: “Look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matt. 28:20.
The activities of the past year provide further evidence that Jesus’ comforting promise is proving true. First, let us reflect on the spiritual banquet Jehovah’s servants enjoyed at the “Walk With God” District Conventions.
“Walk With God” Conventions
The prophet Micah showed the distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous when he foretold: “All the peoples, for their part, will walk each one in the name of its god; but we, for our part, shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God to time indefinite, even forever.” (Mic. 4:5) As the speaker explained in the keynote address, those words sum up the attitude of faithful men of old, such as Enoch and Noah, who walked with God during very turbulent times. (Gen. 5:22-24; 6:9, 22) What a privilege we have to walk in their footsteps!
Did the district convention fortify your resolve to continue to “walk in the name of Jehovah”? Why not review your convention notes? Doing so will refresh your memory and help you to reap lasting benefits from the program.
Is your congregation territory multilingual? Then you may already have used the new booklet Good News for People of All Nations. Prepared in three different editions, containing 32, 64, and 96 pages, the booklet has been tailor-made, so to speak, to fit the language needs of each country. So be sure to have this fine new tool in your witnessing bag. And when you meet someone who speaks an unfamiliar tongue, please follow through on the three steps outlined on page 2 of the booklet. Lives may well depend on it!
In accord with the 2004 yeartext—“Keep on the watch . . . Prove yourselves ready”—the final speaker on the second day of the convention released the brochure Keep on the Watch! (Matt. 24:42, 44) May this publication help many more to feel the urgency of our times and to think seriously about the future and the dramatic events that are to occur. And, as the speaker said, may it also help each of us to cope with life’s many pressures and anxieties and to keep our spiritual balance when faced with trials.
School for Traveling Overseers
Over the past six years, more than 600 circuit and district overseers from Canada and the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, have attended 13 classes of the School for Traveling Overseers held at the Watchtower Educational Center at Patterson, New York, U.S.A. During the 2004 service year, the school was greatly expanded, being held at 87 other branches. At 23 of these, classes included students from lands outside the host country. For example, Germany invited brothers from Austria, Israel, Macedonia, Switzerland, and Turkey. Portugal hosted students from Luxembourg and from a number of islands, namely, the Azores, Cape Verde, Madeira, and São Tomé and Príncipe. Kenya welcomed traveling overseers from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and other African lands.
The curriculum covers every aspect of the work of circuit and district overseers. The goal is to help these hardworking brothers to become more effective in fulfilling their many responsibilities, including teaching in the congregations and at assemblies and taking the lead in the evangelizing work. (2 Tim. 2:2; 4:5; 1 Pet. 5:2, 3) The course also encourages them to maintain their own spirituality and to apply scriptures with discernment and insight when assisting others.
Since most classes are held at branch offices, the traveling overseers and their wives enjoy a taste of Bethel life. One class wrote: “We benefited spiritually from the Bethel routine. We thoroughly enjoyed the morning worship program, which includes readings from the Bible and the Yearbook. Despite all our homework, we also attended the Bethel family Watchtower Study on Monday evening and profited from the wholesome association.”
For the first hour after lunch each day, some of the brothers work on a rotational basis in the Service Department. There they learn how to cooperate more fully with the branch office, how to follow through more effectively on direction received, and how to make out their reports in a more accurate and meaningful way.
Every Friday the students attend a lecture with their wives. This talk includes spiritual encouragement especially prepared for these loyal sisters. For example, they benefit from reminders to continue setting a fine example of wifely subjection, and they receive instruction on supporting their husbands by working along with the sisters in the congregations. One traveling overseer likened these weekly talks to “an exquisite spiritual dessert.”
Of course, the school places much emphasis on the Bible—in particular, on the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References. Said a student in Germany: “I plan to use the Reference Bible for my personal study and at congregation meetings. Only now do I fully appreciate its value.” A longtime traveling overseer in Britain felt that both his spirituality and his teaching ability were enhanced by the attention given to God’s Word. He wrote: “I learned that while a good illustration is helpful when delivering a talk, reading and explaining the scriptures is more important.”
Many students wrote appreciatively of the school. Said a brother in the United States: “Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude to Jehovah and his organization for encouraging us and equipping us for our assignments. May we serve with greater constancy, with deeper appreciation for Jehovah’s ways, and with more love for his precious sheep.” A student in France wrote: “The course made me more conscious of the need to deal lovingly with our brothers and sisters and to do our best to make them happy in Jehovah’s service.” Summing up the feelings of many, a traveling overseer in Portugal said: “The school was the most rewarding experience of my theocratic career.”
Another comment comes from an instructor. “It is a privilege and a heavy responsibility,” he said, “to instruct men who, in turn, will give direction that affects the lives of thousands of our brothers and sisters. We trust that with Jehovah’s blessing, the benefits of this school will be long lasting.”—Jas. 3:1.
By the close of the 2004 service year, over 1,700 traveling overseers had attended the school, which had been conducted in 14 languages. The school will continue to be held in the larger branches during the 2005 service year.
On May 19, 2004, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) at Strasbourg, France, published its judgment in the case of Lotter v. Bulgaria. Former missionaries of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Lotters had filed the case because the government had tried to deport them from Bulgaria on the basis of their religion. The Bulgarian authorities agreed to pay damages to the applicants and to reverse the decision to withdraw their residency permits. The authorities also agreed to publish a clear acknowledgment of the legal status of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bulgaria, where they were officially registered as a religion in 1998.
The ECHR issued a judgment in favor of Séraphine Palau-Martínez on December 16, 2003. In a 6-to-1 vote, the court ruled that France had violated Sister Palau-Martínez’ rights with respect to her family. She filed her case with the ECHR when she lost custody of her two children because France’s appeals courts had decided that it was best “not to submit [the children] to the harsh, intolerant rules for child-rearing imposed on the children of . . . Jehovah’s Witnesses.” In its judgment, the ECHR ruled that the appeals courts had made their decision without being guided by the children’s true living conditions and best interests and that the resulting decision reflected religious discrimination.
After enduring years of mob attacks fomented by religious fanatics, some of whom have been imprisoned, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country of Georgia peacefully attended the “Walk With God” District Convention. A special treat for the brothers was the release of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in Georgian. Also, on November 28, 2003, the Ministry of Justice of Georgia registered the local branch of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Thus, although the Supreme Court of Georgia had issued a decision in 1998 to annul the corporate entity then used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, a new entity is now officially recognized, to the delight of the brothers.
There are, however, a number of cases in Georgia still pending before the ECHR. Yet, it is gratifying to see that the situation of our brothers there is improving.
Since 1990 the brothers in Germany have tried in vain to register our religious association under the law for public corporations. When the Federal Administrative Court required of Jehovah’s Witnesses a higher standard of loyalty to “Caesar” than the law demands, the Federal Constitutional Court overruled the decision as unconstitutional and sent the case back to be retried. (Mark 12:17) On March 25, 2004, the original court began its review of the case. The court requested additional information about our stand on blood, child rearing, disfellowshipping, and neutrality. The presiding judge stated that the government’s case must be based on reliable evidence—statistics and official documents—not on questionable quotes from the Internet and letters from individuals with personal vendettas.
A form used for a census of military recruits in Greece included “Chiliast or Jehovist” as a choice on the list of religions. Viewing these terms as derogatory, the Greece branch filed a complaint with the Ministry of Defense. On March 24, 2004, the ministry wrote to Jehovah’s Witnesses, saying that there was no intention to be offensive and that the ministry had “already proceeded with the immediate correction of the wrong expression.” The corrected form reads “Christian Witnesses of Jehovah.”
Peru has recognized Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religion for decades. However, in November 1997 the Ministry of Education began rejecting our requests for tax exemption for our literature and requiring large sums of money prior to releasing this literature from the customs office. The case went to court. On December 11, 2003, the judge issued her decision in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She declared that the ministry’s actions were “capricious, absurd, and incomprehensible.” The conduct of the officials, she said, was “discriminatory [and] offensive.” Problems with the importation of literature were rapidly resolved.
Puerto Rico, a self-governing commonwealth in union with the United States, has a law that permits public neighborhoods to be closed off by means of gates, walls, and security guards. These barriers restrict our field activity. State police have even removed publishers from some areas. Attempts to resolve the matter out of court have failed. A lawsuit has now been filed in the Federal District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, requesting that the law be declared unconstitutional, an infringement of the rights of free exercise of religion and freedom of speech. The court’s decision is pending.
On October 28, 2003, the Bucharest Court of Appeals issued Judgment No. 1756, obligating the government of Romania to include Jehovah’s Witnesses on the tax-regulations list of recognized religions. On February 6, 2004, the Official Gazette No. 112 published a list of “religions officially recognized in Romania.” Jehovah’s Witnesses were included.
On March 21, 2004, the Seoul District Court in the Republic of Korea acquitted three brothers of criminal charges relating to their refusal to serve in the military for religious reasons. This is the first time that a court in that land has recognized conscientious objection as a civil right. Hundreds of our brothers in Korea are presently incarcerated for the “crime” of ‘beating their swords into plowshares.’ (Isa. 2:4) Sadly, both the supreme court and the constitutional court refused to apply the Korea constitutional guarantee of religious freedom to protect our brothers. However, the Korea legislature recently introduced a bill to provide for civilian service for all eligible citizens of draft age.—Prov. 21:1.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Watchtower . . . v. Village of Stratton continues to benefit Jehovah’s Witnesses in their door-to-door ministry. For example, in one community in the state of New York, U.S.A., police officers continued to require permits from the Witnesses before they engaged in the public ministry. However, the chief of police, after being apprised of the situation and of the court decision, wrote: “I am personally embarrassed by the actions of my officers in this instance and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
A community in the state of Illinois instructed its police department to notify all patrolmen and other officers and staff that because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, “Jehovah’s Witnesses do not need a permit before going from door to door.” The instructions continued: “They do not need to notify us when they are out there.”
On October 8, 2003, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of Lester Campbell in a case involving his refusal of blood. Brother Campbell sued to recover damages for being transfused with his own blood after surgery notwithstanding his written and oral directives refusing this procedure. The trial court had ruled in favor of the surgeon and the hospital. The Iowa Supreme Court, however, reversed the trial court’s decision, ruling that Lester Campbell did not need a medical expert to establish that the transfusion without his consent fell below the standard of care. It also ruled that he could recover damages.
The Moscow Ban and Its Effect
The Golovinsky Intermunicipal District Court in Russia ruled on March 26, 2004, to ban all activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow and to liquidate their legal entity. This decision was appealed. On June 16, 2004, the Moscow City Court upheld the lower court’s decision, and the ban and liquidation entered into legal effect. The brothers have submitted an appeal to the ECHR and hope for an early hearing because of the many hardships the ban is creating.
Nevertheless, the ban has not dampened the brothers’ spirits. In fact, it has stirred many to do more in Jehovah’s service. Their zeal calls to mind the words of the apostle Paul when he was a prisoner in Rome. “My affairs,” he wrote, “have turned out for the advancement of the good news.”—Phil. 1:12.
For instance, March 2004 saw an all-time peak of 136,034 publishers and 136,903 Bible studies. This was the first time in seven years that the number of studies exceeded the number of publishers! And from March to June, the branch received over 1,000 applications for regular pioneer service, and in April there was an all-time peak of 15,489 regular pioneers. “Similarly,” the branch reports, “the June 16 ruling only served to galvanize our brothers into greater activity.” It also stirred others—including some unbelieving husbands—to begin attending Christian meetings.
A university student from the United States happened to be in Russia when the June ruling was issued. “He made a special trip to Bethel, on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, to learn more about the situation,” writes the branch. “He was impressed by the cleanliness of the facilities and by the welcome he received.” Dumbfounded as to why anyone would want to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses, he requested publications and videos to take back to California to show to his professors in the faculty of religious studies.
Moscow Conventions Proceed Peacefully
From June 11 to 13, just prior to the appeals court’s unfavorable ruling, two “Walk With God” Conventions were held in Moscow, one being in Russian Sign Language. Originally, the conventions were to be held after the hearing, but the Branch Committee succeeded in having the case postponed. The brothers report that the conventions went smoothly and that city authorities cooperated. In fact, the police on duty at the entrances to the stadium were told by their superiors: “When you are letting people into the stadium, don’t smoke and don’t use foul language.”
On the Moscow subway, a man falsely accused a small group of sisters of stealing his money. He demanded that they accompany him to the police station. There he accused not just the sisters but also all of the “sectarians” of deliberately creating traffic jams so that they could rob people. In response, the policeman turned to the sisters and asked, “Who are you?”
Pointing to their lapel badges, they replied, “We are Jehovah’s Witnesses going to our convention.”
The policeman then faced the accuser and said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses do not steal. You must apologize to them, since you insulted them.” The officer then turned to the sisters and said, “Hurry to your convention.” “But you,” he said to the man, “stay here. I want to continue our conversation.”
The peak attendance at the convention held in the stadium was 21,291, with 497 baptized. At the sign-language convention, held at a Kingdom Hall, the attendance reached 929, and 19 were baptized!
Coping With Trials in Haiti
During 2004 the island nation of Haiti suffered from political unrest, violence, a scarcity of essential commodities, and soaring prices. Adding to these woes, catastrophic flooding in May killed more than 1,500 people and left thousands homeless. No Witnesses died, but several lost all they had, including their homes.
Still, the brothers were strengthened by the clear evidence of Jehovah’s help and direction and by the loving concern shown by the Governing Body and the international brotherhood. That love was expressed in a practical way by means of material provisions for disaster victims. Of course, the local brothers also helped one another to obtain food and other necessities.
The Haiti branch kept abreast of developments so that it could provide direction to the congregations. For example, as violence escalated in the capital, Port-au-Prince, the Branch Committee advised the elders to schedule one day earlier the meetings normally held on Sunday, February 29. That recommendation proved to be wise, for on that very Sunday, Haiti’s beleaguered president resigned and fled into exile. “Gunfire crackled throughout the capital as it fell into chaos,” said a news report. The branch writes: “No one had any idea that these events would occur. Getting to meetings on that Sunday would have been impossible. We thank Jehovah for the safety of our brothers.”
During that volatile period, the police and the rebel army as well as the robbers all set up roadblocks, and the government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew. But even before the curfew was introduced, congregations adjusted their meeting times so that all could safely return home before dark. Many congregations reported an increase in meeting attendance!
The brothers also kept busy in the field ministry, which impressed neighbors. “Seeing you Witnesses out there preaching as usual is reassuring,” said some. Of course, the publishers were very careful and kept one another informed of where conditions were safe enough to allow for field service.
Our Christian Identity—A Protection
The Haiti branch writes: “Being well-known in their neighborhoods and having a reputation for political neutrality served to protect many of our brothers from being beaten and robbed.” For example, at three roadblocks, groups of armed thugs stopped a missionary couple. The couple did two things: They identified themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they prayed—both silently and aloud. At all three roadblocks, someone spoke up for them, saying that Jehovah’s Witnesses are good people who stay out of politics. The couple made it home safely.
Armed groups also stopped members of the Bethel family. Like the missionaries, these brothers identified themselves as Witnesses, and they prayed, with similar results. In one instance a robber said: “Go in peace, and pray for us!” Another Bethelite was stopped at a police roadblock, where officers wanted to search his car for weapons. “The only weapons I have are the Bible and the Watchtower and Awake! magazines,” said the brother. The police smiled and waved him on. Thereafter, they recognized his car from a distance and allowed him to pass without question.
The branch reported that in the months that followed, things settled down somewhat. But problems persisted, and tensions remained. Hence, the brothers continued to be cautious.
United States Printery Upgraded
In 2002, at the direction of the Governing Body, printing operations began to be reorganized into five major geographic regions—Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. This arrangement has resulted in more efficient use of branch facilities, including those in the United States, which now have a reduced work load.
All printing, binding, and shipping operations in the United States were consolidated at Wallkill, New York, during 2004. The general plan and concept were presented to the town planning board on August 6, 2002. A public hearing was held on September 3, after which final approval was granted. At the annual meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania on October 5, 2002, an announcement was made that the Governing Body had approved the consolidation at Wallkill. Two new MAN Roland Lithoman rotary presses were ordered, and the additional building to house them was scheduled to be ready by February 2004.
How could this mammoth project be accomplished in just 14 months? The brothers looked to Jehovah to direct matters and to move individuals to offer themselves willingly. This confidence was not misplaced. Site work commenced in February 2003, and the addition to the printery was ready by September. The first of three existing presses at Wallkill was dismantled and relocated to the new extension in December. The two new presses arrived in April and May 2004 and began production in June and July. All five presses were fully operational by September.
Previously, the bindery occupied 11 floors in three buildings of the Adams Street complex in Brooklyn. Now the entire bindery is located on one floor at Wallkill and occupies 58 percent less space. Paperback bookbinding began in July 2004. Later that month, the first hardcover books came off the new bindery line, which is over a quarter of a mile [400 m] long and consists of 33 machines connected by 70 conveyors. Book parts are handled just once, at the start of the line. Running at 120 books per minute, the hardcover line requires only 25 operators—a 66 percent reduction in personnel. The entire bindery became fully operational in October 2004.
As of November 2004, the new Wallkill Shipping Department has been processing congregation literature requests by means of a new computerized system that occupies 45 percent less space than its predecessor in Brooklyn. Computers calculate the size of the shipment and select the appropriate carton. A half-mile-long [800 m] conveyor transports each order to a special platform where consignments are prepared for shipment. A drive-through area gives local congregations convenient access to pick up their orders.
Heartfelt thanks go to the many brothers and sisters who helped with this project. They include Bethel and temporary volunteers, teams of brothers working under the direction of Regional Building Committees from five states, and brothers who generously contributed equipment and materials from their own businesses. Of course, thanks also go to the many ‘cheerful givers’ who provided financial support.—2 Cor. 9:7, 11.
Brooklyn’s Changing Face
The move of the printing, binding, and shipping operations to Wallkill has changed the face of Brooklyn Bethel. A historic and emotional moment occurred on April 29, 2004. That evening, amid cheers and tears, Max Larson, printery overseer for more than 60 years, shut down the last printing press in Brooklyn, ending 84 years of continuous printing there. The bindery closed down a few weeks later.
Aware that these changes would considerably reduce the amount of floor space required at Brooklyn, the Governing Body, in June 2003, announced the possible sale of the building at 360 Furman Street. The contract was finalized on Friday, June 18, 2004. The laundry, offices, and workshops housed in that million-square-foot [93,000 sq m] building are being transferred to the vacated space at the 117 Adams Street complex.
In addition, the 107 Columbia Heights building is now undergoing a major renovation. The residential section is slated for completion by the latter half of 2005, and the entire project, by September 2006. The renovated building will accommodate over 300 Bethel family members and have a commissary, Kingdom Hall, library, lobby, offices, personal laundry, and a new courtyard garden.
Geared for Increase Worldwide
Brazil, Britain, Japan, Mexico, and South Africa have also received new MAN Roland Lithoman printing presses. Britain was the first branch to install the new machine, which arrived in July 2003 and began production in October. It prints 750,000 magazines a day—1.5 million in a double shift—almost three times that of the former press.
The new presses can also print signatures for Bibles and other publications. The South Africa branch, for example, has already printed signatures for the New World Translation in Sesotho, a South African tongue. The Japan branch reports that previously it took a whole day to switch from producing small books to large ones. Now it takes only one hour. And whereas it used to take ten days to produce one million tracts, it now takes just five hours. In its first three months, the press in Japan turned out 12 million tracts; 12 million magazines and brochures; 240,000 books; and 48,000 Bibles.
Other new, automated machines trim, count, stack, label, and wrap literature. Printing plates are being made more efficiently and accurately by means of a technique called the computer-to-plate method. This process eliminates the need for photographic film, thus cutting out one entire step. The Britain branch reports that all these improvements have not only boosted production but also reduced the number of workers needed.
Off to Germany for Training
Teams from the six branches went to the MAN Roland company in Germany for press training. From their experience in training non-Witness pressmen, the instructors expected the brothers to view their time there as somewhat of a vacation. So the instructors were both surprised and impressed by the brothers’ conscientiousness. In fact, the Witnesses asked to start early and work late in order to make the most of the course.
Language was a challenge for some trainees because both the oral instruction and the machine manuals were in English. Thinking ahead, the delegation from Japan worked hard to improve their English skills prior to leaving for Germany. Many even transferred temporarily to English-speaking congregations.
Bethelites Give a Fine Witness
Later when the presses arrived at the branches, engineers from MAN assembled them while Bethel personnel helped. In all six branches, the happy, wholesome Bethel environment had a good effect on non-Witness workers. A man working on the London installation said to the brothers: “I went home last night and saw my neighbor in his garden. I had never really liked him, but last night I talked with him for 20 minutes and discovered that he is really quite a nice chap.” This same technician added that his wife had noticed changes in his attitude and manner. “You are friendly, you are smiling, and you are greeting people,” she said.
“I have been working with the Witnesses for six weeks,” he replied. “And for the last two, I have not used swearwords even once. In fact, I hope never to use them again.”
When the installation at the London branch was complete, a MAN executive called the branch to thank the brothers for the way they had looked after the company staff. He said that it was a flawless installation.
Some branches arranged for an on-site dining room for those installing new machinery. Having neatly dressed waiters serve lunch was a novel experience for many, especially for non-Witnesses. A technician in Japan had never seen such a clean, well-organized printery as the one at the branch. “There is no better place in the world to work,” he said. He also appreciated the brothers’ honesty. Nowhere else could he leave his tools unattended, confident that they would not be stolen. Wanting to learn more about Jehovah’s Witnesses, he accepted a number of publications and toured the branch.
The brothers in Mexico invited the MAN technicians to the Memorial. Four accepted the offer. However, they did not have suitable attire. Because the men wanted to buy suits, a Bethelite took them shopping. The brothers gave the men Bibles and during the Memorial discourse helped them to find the scriptures. After the meeting, the technicians took photographs and smiled so much that many in the congregation thought that they were Bethelites from Germany.
At all the branches, local contractors and suppliers also received a fine witness. A contractor in the United States wrote: “I am deeply impressed by the quality of your organization and especially of the people. I don’t think that I have ever enjoyed a construction project more than I have yours. Your organization gives me hope for the future of mankind. If enthusiasm and caring could be bottled and sold, your group would certainly have the product everyone would want to buy.”
A man who provided ducting for the new press in Mexico was amazed at the tranquil atmosphere at the branch. He asked many questions, and now he and his family are studying the Bible and making fine progress. The foreman of a local crew of contractors made an unusual request. “Normally,” he said, “people give us a tip to show their gratitude for our work. Would you mind giving us each a Bible instead? From what I have seen here, I think that a knowledge of the Bible is of greater value than money.”
India Branch Dedication
“The long-awaited day finally came on December 7, 2003,” writes the India branch. “It was the day for the dedication of our newly constructed branch at Bangalore, in the south-central part of India.”
Set on 43 acres [17 ha], the 320,000-square-foot [30,000 sq m] complex is like a small township. The first large branch in the world to be constructed by a commercial firm, it has a purification plant for drinking water, a wastewater treatment-recycling plant, and its own electric-power generation. The complex has 122 offices, including 80 for translators; an attractive Kingdom Hall; and a large printery. The residence buildings have comfortable rooms, a laundry, a dining room, and a well-equipped kitchen. The entire project, which made extensive use of local materials, was completed in two years.
The Kingdom work began in India in 1905. Now translation and printing are done in 26 Indian languages. At the dedication, missionaries who had served in India for decades related encouraging experiences, and Stephen Lett of the Governing Body gave the dedication discourse. The 2,933 in attendance included 150 visitors from 25 foreign countries.
Philippines Branch Dedication
“We want a Watch Tower finish on our work too!” That is what some non-Witness builders in Manila said when they saw the beautiful workmanship at the Philippines branch. In fact, when a television crew doing a documentary on building codes visited the city engineer, he told them: “If you want to see a place that follows building codes to the letter, go to Watch Tower.”
The brothers constructed a new ten-story residence and some auxiliary buildings and renovated an existing ten-story residence built in 1991. Why was the expansion needed? From 1991 to 2003, the publisher figure grew by 34,000, resulting in a new peak of just over 144,000 Kingdom proclaimers!
The dedication took place on November 1, 2003. Attending on that sunny Saturday morning were the Bethel family, former missionaries and other overseas guests from 13 countries, and over 2,000 brothers and sisters from the Philippines, making a total of 2,540. Stephen Lett discussed the theme “Appreciating Jehovah’s Past and Present Houses of Worship.” On the following day, a throng of local pioneers as well as elders and their wives, totaling 8,151, enjoyed a special program at the Metro Manila Assembly Hall.
Worldwide, a total of 20,092 ordained ministers staff such branch facilities. All are members of the Worldwide Order of Special Full-Time Servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Box on page 21, 22]
Kidnapped in Broad Daylight
At midday on Friday, March 19, 2004, Carl, a 20-year-old Witness, was walking along a busy street in Pétionville, Haiti. Suddenly, armed men dressed in black forced him into a pickup truck, put a hood over his head, and drove off at top speed. Carl relates:
After we got out of the pickup, I was taken into a room where there were other victims, apparently university students who were being accused of participating in political demonstrations. Becoming increasingly aggressive, our captors fired a barrage of gunshots, killing one of the captives. I felt his head against my feet. Then they began questioning and threatening me. Frustrated, they hit me and threw me onto the dead man.
“Answer our questions!” their leader demanded.
“But I know nothing at all about politics,” I replied.
“Then I am going to kill you right now!” he shouted.
“Before you do,” I asked, “please let me pray to my God, Jehovah, to ask him to help my parents and siblings, since they will not see me again.”
“Do it quickly! I’m in a hurry,” he snapped.
While I was praying aloud, the man left the room. When he returned, I said to myself, ‘Carl, this is it. Be ready to die.’ But I was in for a surprise.
“Are you Carl So-and-so?” the man asked.
“Yes,” I replied, wondering how he knew my name.
He went on to explain that I had given him a ride in my car on a number of occasions, and now that he knew who I was, he could not harm me. Evidently, he recognized me by things that I had said in prayer, even though my head was covered. He went outside again and had an animated discussion with his companions. Finally, someone put me in a pickup, drove away, and eventually pushed me out onto the road. It was a terrifying ordeal that greatly strengthened my faith in Jehovah and in the power of prayer.
[Chart/Pictures on page 12, 13]
SOME EVENTS OF THE 2004 SERVICE YEAR
September 1, 2003
September: During the 2004 service year, the School for Traveling Overseers is held at 88 branches.
October: Britain branch begins printing with MAN Roland Lithoman press.
October 28: Court in Romania rules to include Jehovah’s Witnesses on the tax-regulations list of recognized religions.
November 1: Philippines branch dedication.
November 28: Ministry of Justice of Georgia registers local branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
December 7: India branch dedication.
January 1, 2004
March 26: Golovinsky court rules to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow. Case is appealed.
April: Russia has an all-time peak of 15,489 regular pioneers.
April 29: After 84 years of continuous printing, Brooklyn printery is closed down. New printery is at Wallkill.
May 1, 2004
May: In the midst of political turmoil, catastrophic floods hit Haiti. No brothers are killed.
June 16: Moscow City Court upholds March 26 decision. Ban and liquidation enter into legal effect. Case is appealed to ECHR.
August 31, 2004
[Picture on page 11]
The “New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures” is released in Georgian
[Pictures on page 27]
Brothers operate one of two new MAN presses at Wallkill, New York, U.S.A.
[Picture on page 29]
Recently dedicated branch in Bangalore, India
[Picture on page 30]
Enlarged Philippines branch