Highlights of the Past Year
RECENT years have seen an increase in natural disasters, and in many lands, the 2005 service year was no exception. Of course, such tragedies also affect our brothers. But as we shall see, trials bring Christian love to the fore, which strengthens the brotherhood and draws honesthearted ones to the truth.—Mal. 3:18; John 13:35.
The rise in disasters has also made many people think more seriously about the future and about what is truly important in life. What a privilege we had, therefore, to help such ones grasp the significance of our times by means of the special campaign to distribute the brochure Keep on the Watch! In many countries, the campaign began on October 18, 2004, and it produced some fine results.
Keep on the Watch! Campaign
Argentina: “If a disaster should occur, who would survive—a bad person, a good person, or one who heeded the warning?” That is how one sister effectively introduced the Watch! brochure in territory where there was much apathy.
A brother named Juan placed the brochure with a 16-year-old who read it and excitedly told his father what he had learned. Keen to know more, the father read it and looked up the scriptures as well. He was so impressed that he began to study the brochure with his family. When Juan returned, he offered the man a free home Bible study. “That’s exactly what we need—a family Bible study,” replied the man. Needless to say, just such a study ensued.
France: Jocelyne gave a copy of Keep on the Watch! to Alicia, a young woman who had previously studied. She happily accepted the brochure and agreed to study it with Jocelyne. Alicia also resolved to read the Bible regularly. “Just two weeks later,” says Jocelyne, “she said that the Bible accounts of Jesus’ life brought tears to her eyes.”
Alicia told her boyfriend that she desired to legalize their union in order to please God and that she wanted to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. To her surprise, he said: “OK. I don’t want to prevent you from doing what God requires.” Alicia has since attended her first circuit assembly.
Madagascar: Nana is the mother of two young girls. As a teenager, she had attended Christian meetings with her parents but ceased when they stopped serving Jehovah. During the special campaign, Nana accepted a brochure from a missionary sister and agreed to a Bible study. She now attends all the meetings with her two girls and is working toward becoming an unbaptized publisher. What is more, her parents also agreed to a study in the brochure. Their 14-year-old son, Josia, even conducts a study with a teenage friend, who now regularly attends Christian meetings.
Nigeria: “The death of my mother, which occurred during the campaign, gave me an opportunity to witness in my village,” says a pioneer brother. “Prior to the funeral, relatives cried and threw themselves on the ground. ‘Why are you behaving in this manner?’ I asked. ‘Mother’s death is painful to us all, but she is asleep in death. She will rise in the resurrection.’ Although weeping myself, I opened the Watch! brochure to page 8 and explained the resurrection scene. As a result, I placed 195 brochures, including 45 Watch! brochures. At the funeral, other brothers and I placed 100 copies of the May 1, 2005, Watchtower, which featured the subject ‘Will the Dead Live Again?’”
Russia: Irina, a special pioneer in Zelenogradsk, writes: “A sister and I offered the Watch! brochure to a woman named Alla, who invited us in. Life had lost all meaning for Alla because people had become so hard-hearted. We arranged for a return visit. A few days later, the same sister and I were walking together when we heard a woman calling us. It was Alla. She thanked us for the brochure, took it from her bag, and showed us points she had underlined. She now enjoys a regular study in the Require brochure.”
Elsewhere in Russia, Vera and her husband, Vitaliy, stopped at a roadside kiosk where Lyuda, an acquaintance of Vera’s, worked. Lyuda had indicated that she did not want to discuss the Bible with the Witnesses, so Vera was hesitant to offer the brochure. But with encouragement from Vitaliy, she offered it, and to her surprise, she placed the brochure. Two days later Lyuda phoned. “If I learned so much from one brochure,” she said, “how much more I would learn from a regular Bible study!” Despite opposition from relatives, Lyuda immediately began to study and to attend meetings. Her son and daughter are also studying. “It’s interesting,” said Vera, “that a few years ago, Lyuda was given a Knowledge book but showed no interest. The Watch! brochure, however, struck a chord with her.”
Venezuela: A circuit overseer’s wife had a doorstep discussion with a man, his wife, and their four children. Pointing to the Paradise scene on pages 16 and 17 of the Watch! brochure, the sister stressed the need for all in the family to learn about God. Then she invited all six to the Thursday night meeting, arranging to meet them at a nearby bus stop. The sister and her husband went to the bus stop at the appointed time, but nobody showed up. Unbeknownst to them, the family had caught an earlier bus and were already at the Kingdom Hall! Five members of this family now enjoy a regular Bible study and attend meetings, despite the long bus ride and the high fares.
A pioneer sister called at a house, but nobody came to the door. She returned later and met an elderly man, who had just stepped outside. He explained that he is almost deaf and either fails to hear people knocking on his door or is too slow to get there before they leave. The sister gave him a copy of the Watch! brochure and invited him to the congregation meeting.
During the meeting, the sister related this experience, unaware that the elderly man was actually in the audience! He now has a regular Bible study with a brother, attends all the meetings, and has expressed the desire to preach the good news. When asked why he attended that first meeting, he held up his copy of Keep on the Watch! and said, “Because of this brochure!”
Starting in the late 1800’s, Jehovah’s organization purchased Bibles in large quantities and distributed them to interested ones, sometimes at 35 percent of the list price. Beginning in 1926, the brothers began printing and binding some Bibles in their own printery, including The Emphatic Diaglott and the King James and American Standard versions. Then, in 1961, came the release of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in one volume in English.
What about other languages? Early in the 20th century, branches began to purchase Bible translations from various publishing houses and to distribute them at cost. Some of these Bibles were produced by sincere translators who even used God’s name—Jehovah—in the vernacular language. In time, though, most translators removed the divine name from their translations. Now some have gone a step further by replacing God’s name with that of a local deity! For example, the Chichewa Bible Buku Loyera, used in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia, renders the Tetragrammaton as “Chauta,” the name of a tribal god meaning “Great One of the Bow.”
Other corruptions also abound. For example, an African translation refers to Luke as a witch doctor. The Tuvaluan Bible takes liberties with Jude 23, saying: “Show intense love for sodomites; just be careful you are not affected by their sodomy.” Yet, the original text mentions neither sodomites nor sodomy!
In the past, Bible societies took the lead in producing and distributing Bibles. In recent times, though, some Bible societies have transferred their printing and distribution rights to churches of Christendom. Besides raising the price, churches in some lands do not want Jehovah’s Witnesses to purchase their Bibles. For example, in Kyrgyzstan a Protestant religion owns the rights to a modern Kirghiz translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. When brothers try to buy a copy, they are often asked, “Are you one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?” or “Do you know God’s name?” If they answer yes, their request is denied.
In view of these and other factors, the Governing Body has directed that Bible translation receive greater attention. At present, the complete New World Translation is available in 35 languages, and the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, in an additional 20 languages. Currently, of the 33 Bible translation teams around the world, 19 are working on the Hebrew Scriptures, 11 on the Christian Greek Scriptures, and 3 on the Reference Bible. A Bible team normally comprises from three to six persons. Aided by computerized translation tools and refined procedures, some teams have completed the Christian Greek Scriptures in less than two years.
How do the brothers feel when they receive the New World Translation in their own language? A pioneer in Albania summed up the feelings of many. “I wept,” he said. “I’ve never before felt this way when reading God’s Word. I want to drink in every verse!”
Armenia: After 15 applications, Jehovah’s Witnesses were finally registered on October 8, 2004. Nevertheless, young brothers continue to be imprisoned because of their conscientious objection to military service. (Isa. 2:4) We remain hopeful that this registration will allow our brothers religious freedom, enabling them to import literature and to hold conventions. In fact, in June 2005, the first officially imported literature shipment to Armenia was given customs clearance and released to the brothers.
Austria: For over 30 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses here have been waging a legal battle for full religious recognition. Regarding this problem, five applications are before the European Court of Human Rights. On February 1, 2005, the Court decided to admit two cases involving brothers who were denied ministerial exemption from military service because Jehovah’s Witnesses are not recognized as a religion. On July 5, the Court agreed to consider the application, although it did not state how it would rule.
Eritrea: On January 24, 2004, authorities arrested 38 men, women, and children associated with the Saba Congregation in Asmara. They ranged in age from 6 to 94. Some were not baptized. After three nights in police custody, the youngest were released. The remaining 28 were transferred to a prison outside Asmara and confined in metal shipping containers that were exposed to the heat of day and the cold of night. On September 2, 2004—over seven months later—the two oldest brothers, aged 94 and 87, were set free. Others followed. Six, though, are still confined along with 16 other brothers, 3 of whom have been incarcerated for 11 years. Please remember these dear brothers in your prayers.—Acts 12:5.
France: As reported in the 2001 Yearbook, the authorities applied a new tax against our brothers’ donations, including back taxes for four years (1993-96)—all at a crushing rate of 60 percent, plus penalties! The brothers appealed but lost at the lower, appellate, and supreme court levels. On February 25, 2005, they filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights, appealing on the basis of evident religious discrimination.
Republic of Georgia: Violent persecution has largely abated. Our literature can now be imported, and Christian gatherings are not being disturbed. Yet, many past abuses remain unresolved in the courts. The brothers have four applications against Georgia pending before the European Court of Human Rights. These deal with the violent persecution our brothers suffered, the liquidation of our legal entities, and the subsequent lack of judicial remedies. On July 6, 2004, the Court admitted for consideration the case Gldani Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses v. Georgia.
Germany: When the country was reunited, the brothers sought confirmation that the Religious Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses has the status of a corporation under public law. Thus began a 12-year legal battle. A favorable decision by the Federal Constitutional Court in 2000 rejected the notion that the State could demand of Jehovah’s Witnesses a degree of loyalty that infringed on their Christian conscience. The proceedings that followed resolved matters. On March 24, 2005, the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin ordered the State of Berlin to grant Jehovah’s Witnesses the rights of a corporation under public law. The State is attempting to appeal the decision.
Russia: As reported in the 2005 Yearbook, the Golovinsky Intermunicipal District Court ruled on March 26, 2004, to ban all our activities in Moscow. Since then, there have been problems securing rental contracts for venues for congregation meetings and larger gatherings. However, the brothers own one Kingdom Hall complex with five auditoriums, which are shared by 44 congregations and 2 groups. At considerable expense and inconvenience, 17 Moscow congregations meet outside the city, while 31 conduct some or all of their meetings in small groups in private apartments. There has been some police harassment, but no one has been arrested. The March 26 ruling has been appealed.
On September 9, 2004, an oral hearing of the case Kuznetsov and Others v. Russian Federation took place before the European Court of Human Rights. On October 4, the Court unanimously admitted the case for consideration. It concerns an official who ordered police to break up a meeting of a sign-language congregation in Chelyabinsk in April 2000. The case has been complicated by extreme irregularities that occurred during the earlier trial. We await the decision.
Turkmenistan: Three brothers—Mansur Masharipov, Atamurat Suvkhanov, and Vepa Tuvakov—were sentenced to 18 months each in prison for their conscientious objection to military service. A fourth—Begench Shakhmuradov—was sentenced to one year. On February 16, 2005, a letter was sent from the legal offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses to the Turkmenistan embassy in Washington, D.C., requesting the unconditional release of these four brothers. On April 16, all were released under a special amnesty granted by the president of Turkmenistan. During the year, police detained and interrogated many brothers and sisters in an attempt to pressure them to renounce their faith, but without success.
A Year of Natural Disasters
In some lands, the year 2004 set new records for natural disasters. How did these tragedies affect our brothers?
Carriacou, Grenada, and Petite Martinique: On September 7, 2004, Hurricane Ivan swept over these islands, damaging or demolishing over 90 percent of the homes. Shockingly, rampant looting may have caused as much loss as the hurricane itself! The brothers lost most of their possessions in the disaster, and two of the six Kingdom Halls on Grenada were severely damaged. No brothers were seriously injured.
The Barbados branch, which cares for these islands, had earlier advised the congregations to schedule a Service Meeting part on hurricane preparedness, even though the last hurricane to hit that region was in 1955. “Why do we have to waste time discussing hurricanes when there are more important matters?” asked a sister in Grenada. Needless to say, after Ivan hit, she resolved never again to question organizational directions! The branch quickly formed a relief committee, and the Guyana and Trinidad branches also helped out. Hundreds of brothers from the Caribbean and the United States assisted with reconstruction.
Jamaica and the Cayman Islands: Hurricane Ivan caused no casualties among the brothers, but many suffered material losses. As soon as the weather improved, the elders in the 199 congregations on the islands made contact with the publishers. “You people really take care of one another,” said onlookers.
Haiti: In mid-September, Hurricane Jeanne deluged northern Haiti, resulting in a devastating flood that engulfed the coastal town of Gonaïves and surrounding areas. Even people seeking refuge on rooftops ended up knee-deep in water! “All night we heard houses collapsing and people screaming,” says one brother. The flood claimed some 2,900 lives, including that of an 83-year-old sister.
Says one brother, “I thank Jehovah that our family left our possessions behind and survived.” A few days later, Witnesses from neighboring towns brought food and fresh water, and the branch distributed a truckload of supplies. Despite the work involved to clean up, by week’s end all were again attending Christian meetings and preaching. “Forty volunteers worked on my home for four days,” says a sister. “They even gave it a coat of paint! All of this impressed those in my family who are not Witnesses. One has since started studying.”
United States: During August and September 2004, the state of Florida was pounded by four hurricanes: Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne.* More than 4,300 homes of brothers and at least ten Kingdom Halls were damaged. In the aftermath, the chairman of Florida’s Emergency Operations Committee (EOC) checked to ensure that EOC supplies were being properly used. He said that no other group was as well organized as Jehovah’s Witnesses were. He told the relief committee that they could have whatever supplies they needed.
One congregation had been temporarily using a building that they rented for $50 a meeting. But this building also suffered damage when the first hurricane hit. Men were hired to make repairs, but they did not finish the work. Offering their services to the owners, the brothers received approval and promptly completed the job. In return, the owners waived the rent for three months.
Japan: “The number of typhoons to strike Japan [in 2004] is the highest since Japan started keeping records in 1551,” said a news report. In Niigata and Fukui prefectures, extreme weather in July damaged well over 34,000 homes and other buildings, including a Kingdom Hall and 60 homes belonging to our brothers. Hundreds of Witnesses from neighboring congregations rushed to help. The Kingdom Hall was fully restored within two weeks.
The brothers also helped to clean and disinfect the homes of non-Witnesses who lived close to the hall. A man who had been opposed to the Kingdom message wept with gratitude. The local government even sent a letter of appreciation to the relief committee in acknowledgment of the brothers’ efforts.
When two typhoons swept across Japan in September and October, flooding and landslides killed one brother and one sister and caused hardships for about 100 other Witnesses. Toyooka City in Hyogo Prefecture was inundated. Even though his own accommodations were flooded, the circuit overseer helped to organize relief work.
After several feet of muddy water subsided from a pioneer sister’s apartment, local publishers scrubbed it clean. The owner, not a Witness, was deeply moved. The sister said: “I’ve heard of the relief activity of Jehovah’s organization, but this time I experienced it firsthand. I’m very proud of our God, Jehovah, and of his organization.”
Also in October, a major earthquake shook northern Japan, taking 40 lives and forcing over 100,000 to evacuate their homes. No brothers were injured or killed, although over 200 families were affected and one Kingdom Hall became unusable. The tremors began while the elders in the circuit were gathered to prepare for a circuit assembly. What did they do? In conjunction with direction from the branch office and the local Regional Building Committee, they immediately began to organize relief. “We were reminded to view these events as spiritual people would,” says one elder. The circuit assembly was held, and even those affected by the quake attended.
“The earthquake shook my husband’s heart,” relates a sister whose mate is not a Witness and whose house was damaged. Having seen Christian love in action during the relief work, the husband attended a congregation meeting for the first time in his life. “I can trust your organization completely,” he said. “It will never let us down.”
Philippines: When typhoons swept through Quezon and Aurora provinces in the latter part of 2004, one family of Witnesses, including four children, died when their home was overwhelmed by floodwaters and mud. Circuit overseer Felimon Maristela was in Quezon when a flash flood struck. “The Kingdom Hall was inundated in moments,” he writes, “and the water carried away my jeep. My wife and I and two other brothers spent the night on the roof of the hall, the water lapping at the eaves. At 3:00 p.m. the next day, I climbed down. The water was still chest deep.”
Despite the dangers, Brother Maristela sought out the publishers to see if they were all right. In Dingalan, Aurora, an elder had the opportunity to be evacuated by helicopter, but he chose to stay so that he could help his Christian brothers and sisters.
The Deadliest Tsunamis Ever Recorded
On December 26, 2004, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake just off the western coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia, triggered the most devastating tsunamis in recorded history. According to estimates, the dead and missing exceeded 280,000! Even in Somalia, Africa, an ocean away to the west, waves claimed approximately 290 lives.
Indonesia: Although this country suffered the greatest loss of life, no brothers or interested ones were killed. Because of earlier violence, many Witnesses had fled the region of Aceh—the worst-hit area—and moved inland. The island of Nias was also badly hit, but the brothers managed to flee to safety.
India: No brothers died, although many lost homes and other possessions. In the city of Pondicherry, Lakshmi was out in field service when she heard about the tsunami. She went to her home, a mud house about two miles [3 km] inland, and found it badly damaged. The brothers helped to clean and repair it.
In Madras, 13-year-old Naveen was playing cricket when he saw huge waves. He alerted his mother and sister and fled with them to safety. Even so, they waded through inrushing water that carried along all kinds of household items as well as many bodies.
Seven-year-old Lini was with her uncle and her cousin at a beach near Kanniyākumāri when waves carried her inland until she got jammed in a wooden fence. Water kept washing over her. Her uncle and cousin survived, but the uncle lost his glasses and could not see well. Still, he kept searching for Lini. Before long, he heard her cry out to Jehovah between surges of water and was able to rescue her. Lini now tells everyone that Jehovah heard her prayers.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands: Mary and her eight-year-old son, Alwyn, were visiting relatives when the quake shook the house. All ran outside. Mary saw a wall of water racing toward the shore. Just then, a bus arrived. She and her son jumped in and got away. Others, however, ran back into their homes to grab belongings and were washed away. After traveling a short distance, everyone on the bus felt another tremor. They fled the bus and ran to a high point where about 500 people had gathered. Before their eyes, surging water carried the bus away and came within two feet [half a meter] of where the people were standing.
After the water receded, Mary returned briefly to her home. She managed to find her Bible and the booklet Examining the Scriptures Daily, which were a source of strength in the ensuing days. When news came that ships would take the people off the island, hundreds ran to the shore and waded out in the ocean in anticipation of boarding a boat. For hours each day, Mary and her son waited in waist-deep water, surrounded by floating corpses. Six days after the tsunami, a boat finally took them away. Because many blamed God for the tragedy, Mary was able to give a fine witness. In fact, her sister-in-law is now studying the Bible and attending Christian meetings.
Prasanthi and her five-year-old son, Jehoash, had gone to Hut Bay to visit her aged father, Brother Prasad Rao. While there, they felt the earthquake, saw the waves, and fled to higher ground. Water rose 15 feet [5 m] above the road and covered Prasad’s home. His beds, refrigerator, and television and the congregation’s supply of Greatest Man books all floated away. Later, survivors found some of the books and began reading them. For five days, Prasad, Prasanthi, and Jehoash ate salvaged food and endured clouds of mosquitoes and flies. When boats arrived, Prasanthi and Jehoash, along with many others, waded in chest-deep water to their rescuers, even though crocodiles were swimming nearby! Prasanthi, incidentally, was six months pregnant. Her father joined them later.
All the houses on Teressa Island were washed away. The 13 brothers and sisters there spent six days in the jungle, suffering from hunger and insect bites, before being evacuated to Camorta Island. There they found shelter with Mark Paul, a brother who lives on high ground and whose home is used as the Kingdom Hall. Earlier, on the day of the tsunami, instead of the usual 10 to 12 attending the congregation meeting, 300 were there! Since then, 18 new Bible students regularly attend meetings, having seen firsthand the loving support Jehovah’s people extend to one another.
Sri Lanka: Waves hit two thirds of the coastline of this island, causing extensive damage. The tsunami struck on Sunday morning when most of the brothers were at congregation meetings outside the danger zone. Ten congregations were affected, and one sister lost her life when her house was dragged out to sea. The brothers deeply mourn the loss of this fine sister. A number of interested ones were also killed, and many brothers lost relatives. One elder lost 27 family members! Nevertheless, “the brothers have come through this tragedy without a spiritual ‘dent,’” writes the branch.
Bethel was packed with relief supplies, and most of the Bethel family focused on relief work. Local brothers with vehicles ferried supplies to the disaster areas. Within four days, all the brothers had been contacted and given food and clothing. When asked what else they needed, they replied: “Bibles and books! Ours were washed away.” Their needs were promptly filled.
Circuit overseer Gerrad Cooke was in Colombo at the time. He drove for seven hours on a road that is dangerous after dark because of wild elephants. When he arrived at 10:30 p.m., he and a local brother—whose own house had been inundated—immediately set off to visit families and distribute supplies, working well into the early morning hours.
Thailand: No local brothers were injured or killed, and none lost their means of livelihood. However, some foreign vacationers are missing, presumed dead. They include one Finnish brother, one Swedish couple, an Austrian brother, and a sister’s unbelieving mate. Two Swedish couples had joined the local group for field service away from the coast. When they returned to their hotel, they saw nothing but death and devastation.
On the Monday morning after the quake, the presiding overseer of the Phuket Congregation received a phone call from the Thailand branch informing him that a Finnish sister, Kristina, was in a hospital 90 minutes away. He and another brother immediately went to the hospital. Writes the presiding overseer: “I have never seen so much misery in my life—people without mates, parents without their children, children without their parents. Some were crying for help; others were staring at the ceiling or the floor. The situation was so emotionally heartrending that occasionally we had to leave the room to regain our composure and pray for strength.”
The brothers found Kristina as she was being prepared for surgery on her broken leg. She had lost all her documents. After the operation, the two local brothers prayed with her and stayed by her side until midnight. A few days later, she flew back to Finland. Despite her adversities, “Kristina was courageous and strong,” the brothers report. Sadly, her husband died in the tsunami.
Angola, January 8, 2005: This special day was a milestone in the preaching work in Angola, a country that had been embroiled in civil war for almost 40 years. Stephen Lett had the double privilege of giving the dedication discourse for the branch facilities in Angola and of being the first Governing Body member to visit that land. Some 730 delegates from 11 countries attended the program. Why the need for a new branch complex? In 1975 the branch reported a peak of 3,055 publishers. By the end of 2004, the figure had increased 18-fold to over 54,000!
Bulgaria, October 9, 2004: Over a three-year period, 150 international volunteers and about 300 local brothers assisted with the construction of the new branch facilities in Sofia. Gerrit Lösch of the Governing Body delivered the dedication talk to an audience of 364 representing 24 countries.
Ethiopia, November 20, 2004: By early 2004, the 60 members of the Bethel family were scattered over nine locations—a very undesirable situation! Their fine new Bethel is situated on a slope at the eastern edge of the capital, Addis Ababa, and is over 8,000 feet [2,400 m] above sea level. On some nights, the quiet is disturbed only by the laughter of hyenas. Gerrit Lösch spoke to an audience of 2,230, including 200 foreign delegates from 29 countries. Among those interviewed were several who had endured imprisonment and even torture for their faith. The daughter of a brother who was executed said, “In the resurrection, Father will be happy to know that I followed his example of godly devotion and served at Bethel.”
Ghana, March 5, 2005: Before an audience of 3,243, Malcolm J. Vigo of the Nigeria branch gave the dedication talk. The newly dedicated additions to the existing branch include three residence buildings, 50 offices, a maintenance building, a Kingdom Hall, and a dining room, kitchen, and laundry complex.
Guam, June 25, 2005: This was the third dedication program held since 1980, when Guam had just one congregation. Now there are ten. Besides renovations, the latest project included a new Kingdom Hall and a two-story residence. The 100 international volunteers came from Australia and the United States—all at their own expense. When a local building inspector heard of this and saw the quality of the work, “he shook his head in disbelief,” writes the branch. Lorence Shepp of the Peru branch delivered the dedication talk.
Mauritius, November 6, 2004: Gerrit Lösch had the privilege of presenting the discourse when extensions to the existing branch were dedicated. The additions include 12 new offices for the Translation Department and a new maintenance building. Visitors came from Europe, Madagascar, Mayotte, Réunion, Seychelles, and South Africa.
Nicaragua, December 4, 2004: Over 330 international volunteers as well as hundreds of local brothers had constructed new offices and residences at the branch and also an open-sided Assembly Hall with a seating capacity of 2,400. Governing Body member Samuel Herd gave the dedication talk. Delegates included missionaries who had served in Nicaragua. Imagine how thrilled they were to meet not only some of their former Bible students but also their students’ children and, in some cases, grandchildren!
Panama, March 19, 2005: Samuel Herd spoke to an audience of 2,967, the majority of whom had been serving Jehovah for over 20 years. When work on the project commenced, the brothers hired a crane and an operator to move some storage trailers. When the operator arrived at the site, he refused to do the job, claiming that the site had not been properly prepared. The brothers reasoned with him but to no avail. Then just as he was about to walk away, he asked, “By the way, what religion are you people?”
“Jehovah’s Witnesses,” answered the brothers.
He thought for a moment and said, “OK, I’ll do the job.” Why the sudden change of mind? Two sisters were studying the Bible with his children, and he appreciated what the sisters were doing.
Slovakia, April 16, 2005: Theodore Jaracz of the Governing Body delivered the dedication talk to 448 guests from 21 lands. A special meeting was held at the sports stadium the following day, and many delegates arrived by bus. “You are such pleasant and happy people,” said one driver, “and everyone greets me! I know why. It is because of your faith. I usually transport school children and teachers. The children I have to greet first; and the teachers—they don’t even bother to say hello!”
Wallkill, New York, U.S.A., May 16, 2005: “All of us resolve to dedicate this beautiful new printery and the A-, C-, and D-residence buildings to the one and only true God, Jehovah,” said Governing Body member John Barr during his dedication talk. Work started on the footings of the new printery on May 1, 2003, and just over eight months later, the first of the existing presses was moved to the new pressroom.
Regional Building Committees from across the United States, but primarily from nearby states, provided tradesmen. Some work was done by outside contractors. “I can’t pay my men to work like you people,” said one. “You work with your heart.” Another, a project manager, remarked, “I have appreciated and learned more regarding my trade in the few months at Watchtower than I did in five years at school!” A representative of the company that supplied a conveyor system said: “Thanks to you people, this is the fastest installation we have ever done. Everyone here is so happy that it makes me happy! This place is beautiful.”
A few years earlier, the United States branch had 15 web-offset presses—11 at Brooklyn and 4 at Wallkill. Now there are just five, thanks to more efficient technology and the distribution of work to other branches under the regional printing arrangement. The new printery also includes a paper collection system that carries trimmings from the pressroom and bindery through overhead air ducts to automatic balers. The bales are recycled by an outside company, saving the branch about $200,000 a year!
Zambia, December 25, 2004: Of the nearly 700 present for the dedication of the expanded facilities, 374 had been serving Jehovah for more than 40 years! During his dedication talk, Stephen Lett told those who shared in the project that like the servants in one of Jesus’ parables, they deserve a hearty “Well done!”—Matt. 25:23.
The brothers also gave a fine witness during the construction. “You people live in a paradise,” said one contractor.
“Do you mean physical or spiritual?” asked the brothers.
“Both!” he answered.
Details about Hurricane Katrina will appear in a future report.
[Box/Pictures on page 29]
“Godly Obedience” Conventions
As explained at the “Godly Obedience” District Conventions, only those who “know God” and who “obey the good news” will survive Jehovah’s day of vengeance. (2 Thess. 1:6-9) Hence, we want to do all that we can to help those who have become confused about God or even embittered against him because of the suffering in the world. Fine new provisions to help us are the tract All Suffering Soon to End! and the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?
The new tract will no doubt comfort many victims of wars, poverty, disasters, injustice, and sickness by helping them to see that God is not the cause of these things. Similarly, the new book will appeal to those who yearn for spiritual truth. The writing is warm, simple, and clear, and key points are well illustrated, both visually and verbally. Before you use it to conduct studies with others, be sure to read the 14 additional subjects in the appendix.
[Chart/Pictures on page 12, 13]
SOME EVENTS OF THE 2005 SERVICE YEAR
September 1, 2004
October 8: Jehovah’s Witnesses are legally registered in Armenia.
October 9: Bulgaria branch dedication.
October 18: Start of Watch! brochure campaign.
November 6: Mauritius branch dedication.
November 20: Ethiopia branch dedication.
December 4: Nicaragua branch dedication.
December 25: Zambia branch dedication.
December 26: A magnitude 9.0 earthquake near Sumatra, Indonesia, triggers the most devastating tsunamis in recorded history.
January 1, 2005
January 8: Angola branch dedication.
March 5: Ghana branch dedication.
March 19: Panama branch dedication.
March 24: The Higher Administrative Court of Berlin directs that Jehovah’s Witnesses in Berlin be granted the rights of a legal corporation.
April 16: Slovakia branch dedication.
May 1, 2005
May 16: Dedication of printery and residences at Wallkill, New York.
June 25: Guam branch dedication.
August 31, 2005
[Picture on page 20]
Cleaning a flood-damaged Kingdom Hall in Niigata Prefecture, Japan
[Picture on page 24]
Handling relief supplies in Sri Lanka