Highlights of the Past Year
IT IS exciting to see what Jehovah is accomplishing through his people earth wide. This Yearbook reports on developments in the sign-language field and explains how our Writing Department does research. Learn about our international conventions, and discover interesting details about our new songbook. Bring yourself up-to-date on legal developments around the world, news from Haiti, and recent branch dedications. We trust you will enjoy what you read and be encouraged by it.
‘GOD WANTS THE DEAF TO KNOW HIM’
Consider what is happening in the sign-language field. Salvatore, in the United States, is a deaf man whose wife is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Despite years of contact with Bible truth, he made no spiritual progress. His wife suggested that he read the Bible daily for a year. However, after struggling unsuccessfully to understand what he read, he was discouraged. “I will never learn to love Jehovah,” he lamented.
Salvatore’s life began to change, though, when he was told that part of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was available on DVD in American Sign Language. After delving into God’s Word in sign language, he exclaimed, “I was certain that God wanted me to know him!” Salvatore studied the Bible, and he now serves Jehovah happily as a baptized Witness.
Like Salvatore, other deaf people throughout the world have felt Jehovah’s warm love and deep concern by means of sign-language Bibles and other publications available on DVD, as well as Internet downloads. Publications are already available in 46 sign languages, with more to come in another 13. The Watchtower is available in nine of these languages, and portions of the New World Translation have been released in the American, Brazilian, Colombian, Italian, Mexican, and Russian sign languages.
It is always very touching to see how publications in sign language move the hearts of new ones. “I first studied in 1981, using written Japanese publications,” relates Natsue, a deaf woman in Japan. “When I could not grasp the meaning and my family began opposing my study, I quit.”
“In April 2007, a publisher showed me the Japanese Sign Language edition of You Can Be God’s Friend!—On DVD. That was 26 years after my first Bible study. I resumed my study immediately and could feel that my spiritual needs were being satisfied. I was baptized in November 2008.”
Today, there are more than 16,000 deaf publishers throughout the world. With their hands and facial expressions, they praise Jehovah in sign language. The support they receive from the 30 books, brochures, videos, and Bible dramas that have been translated into various sign languages assures them of Jehovah’s love and appreciation for their loyal service.
The 54 branches that translate publications into sign languages are receiving many expressions of appreciation from brothers and sisters and interested people in the field. Their letters tell how thrilled the deaf are to discover deeper spiritual truths in their sign language. Typical is the expression of Emi, from Japan, whose parents are deaf.
“My parents were baptized many years before me,” says Emi, “but they struggled to understand written Japanese publications. When they did not understand, they would ask me for an explanation. Now they can discuss the truth with confidence. My mother said, ‘I began to understand the details of the Bible only after sign-language publications became available.’ As a result, they have drawn closer to Jehovah and our family relationship is better than ever.”
‘TRACING ALL THINGS WITH ACCURACY’
Jesus said that the faithful slave would be discreet in giving the domestics “their food at the proper time.” Christ thus indicated that those who dispense this “food” would be conscientious, prudent, and discerning in providing spiritual food for the household of faith.—Matt. 24:45-47.
In our time, Christ’s anointed brothers use the Writing Department in Brooklyn, New York, to provide spiritual information in the form of magazines, brochures, books, and other printed and electronic material. This spiritual food, like physical food, has to be well prepared. Even Bible writers, who were directed by holy spirit, made sure that they recorded information that was thoroughly researched and accurate. Luke, for example, spoke to many eyewitnesses and “traced all things from the start with accuracy.”—Luke 1:1-4.
The Writing Department follows the pattern of ‘tracing all things with accuracy.’ But where can reliable information be found? While the Internet is a convenient and quick source of vast amounts of information, our researchers do not rely on blogs or poorly documented Web entries written by unidentified or unqualified persons. For example, Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, warns that some articles on its own site “contain significant misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism,” adding that “users need to be aware of this.” Thus, the Writing Department looks to standard reference works, articles written by recognized experts, and books produced by respected publishers.
The Writing Department itself has a comprehensive library with thousands of books. Additionally, our researchers make use of nearby public and academic libraries. They can also obtain specialized material from other sources by means of interlibrary loans. One of the large university libraries that our researchers use has some five million books, 58,000 periodicals, 5.4 million microforms, and thousands of electronic databases. The Writing Department also maintains a large archive of clippings, experiences, and historical information that is constantly being updated with material from local sources as well as from our branch offices around the world.
Of course, it is as Ecclesiastes 12:12 reminds us: “To the making of many books there is no end.” Even reputable sources may contain false information. So how do we check for quality, accuracy, and reliability?
Take, for example, the following statement in the brochure Was Life Created? about spider silk being one of the strongest materials on earth: “If enlarged to the size of a football field, a web of dragline silk 0.4 inch thick with strands 1.6 inches apart could stop a jumbo jet in flight!” Although the source for this statement was a reputable science magazine, it was not the original source, and the original source was ambiguous. Therefore, it became necessary to contact the researcher who made the original statement and check how he reached this conclusion. Our researchers also had to find the formula and the information needed to calculate for themselves what impact a jumbo jet might have on a spiderweb the size of a football field. Many hours of research and meticulous calculations eventually confirmed the accuracy of this astounding piece of information.
At times, though, even a seemingly reputable source may fail to corroborate details adequately. For example: Gandhi has been quoted as saying at his ashram (religious retreat) to Lord Irwin: “When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our countries but those of the whole world.” However, a thorough investigation of this statement revealed that there is no evidence that Lord Irwin ever visited Gandhi at his ashram, raising unanswered questions about where, when, and whether Gandhi made this statement. Hence, our publications do not use this particular quote anymore.
Or you may have read about the incident involving Sir Isaac Newton and a model of the solar system. Reportedly, a visiting atheist asked: “Who made it?” When Newton answered, “Nobody!” the atheist replied, “You must think I am a fool!” Newton is then said to have told the atheist that his puny imitation of the much grander solar system proves that there has to be a designer or maker. As appealing as this account may be, historical sources, as well as Newton scholars and biographers, cannot provide evidence that this conversation really occurred. Interestingly, the earliest references to this incident appeared in the early 1800’s using, not Newton’s name, but the name of German scholar Athanasius Kircher. Consequently, our Writing Department no longer uses this account in our publications.
Sometimes even minor statements require additional research to confirm their accuracy. For instance, a brother may say in his life story that he was born in Czechoslovakia in 1915. But Czechoslovakia did not come into existence until 1918. So, where was he born? Settling the question might require examining old maps or historical records.
Then, too, a brother may state in his experience that he was baptized in San Francisco on a specific date. Careful scrutiny, however, might reveal that there was no convention or assembly on that date in that city. How can such a discrepancy be reconciled? Individual memories can at times be fragile. While the brother would probably not get confused about the place of his baptism, he might not accurately recall the date of the event. It is usually possible to confirm the accuracy of details by cross-checking various sources of information.
In summary, the Writing Department insists on using only material that is accurate and truthful, even regarding seemingly insignificant details. As a result, “the faithful and discreet slave” can consistently supply spiritual food that brings honor to “the God of truth,” Jehovah.—Ps. 31:5.
HELPED TO “KEEP ON THE WATCH”
Millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world appreciated the practical and timely program presented at the many “Keep on the Watch!” District Conventions during 2009. Among those present were the more than 200,000 delegates who were invited from 136 lands to attend one of the 37 international conventions. The conventions were held in Austria, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Myanmar, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States. The combined peak attendance at the international conventions was 1,495,045, and 15,730 persons were baptized.
What is the purpose of international conventions? The Governing Body schedules these gatherings every few years in strategically located cities—sometimes in lands where Jehovah’s Witnesses were formerly under ban. Such conventions serve to strengthen the brothers and help to give impetus to the preaching of the good news in those lands.
These conventions also provide our brothers with a unique opportunity to experience firsthand the special “bond of union” enjoyed by our international brotherhood. (Col. 3:14) What a delight it is to observe the love, peace, and unity at such conventions—which transcend barriers of nationality, culture, and language! Genuine love is demonstrated by various ethnic groups as they mingle freely between sessions—eating together, exchanging simple gifts and contact information, taking many photographs, and embracing each other in brotherly affection. Many of the delegates and local Witnesses wear their traditional dress.
A special part of the program at international conventions is the feature “Reports From Other Lands,” presented on all four days. One traveling overseer from Italy observed that the reports helped all in attendance to “feel a part of a true international brotherhood pursuing the same objective—carrying out the Kingdom preaching work.” How heartwarming it was to listen to encouraging experiences from missionaries and other full-time servants who were visiting their home countries from their assignments in foreign lands! Their fine example continues to be a source of great encouragement to young and old alike!
And what a delight it was to have members of the Governing Body at the international conventions to impart timely spiritual instruction and loving encouragement! Talks delivered by Governing Body members as well as “Reports From Other Lands” were interpreted simultaneously for the benefit of all the language groups that were listening to the program. For example, at the second international convention held in Honolulu, Hawaii, Stephen Lett of the Governing Body presented four talks in English, which were interpreted simultaneously into Chuukese, Iloko, Japanese, Mandarin, Marshallese, and Samoan.
When planning international conventions, the Governing Body gives consideration to the size of available convention facilities, the number of local Witnesses and of Witnesses from other countries who will be attending, and the amount of lodging available for delegates. Thereafter, responsible brothers in each convention city obtain permission from local authorities and make contracts with the managers of the convention sites.
Because large sports stadiums are often used for these conventions, a tremendous amount of planning and work is done to ensure that the venues are dignified places of worship to Jehovah. In Peru, for example, because a game of soccer was scheduled before the convention, the brothers were not able to enter the stadium to clean it and get set up until the night before the sessions were to begin. Although 3,000 volunteers were asked to help, over 7,000 brothers and sisters arrived at 6:00 p.m. and worked tirelessly all through the night to get the work done.
At the conclusion of the international convention held in Long Beach, California, U.S.A., three maintenance men working at the arena remarked: “We have seen many other religions come into this place, but no one can do what you people do. This is simply amazing.” One of the men admitted that when Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked at his door, he used to say to himself, “Keep knocking because I am not opening the door.” Now, though, he said that the next time the brothers knock on his door, he will open it and listen. One of the men was even moved to say, “I’ve never belonged to any religion before, but this is the religion I want to belong to.”
What a resounding witness was given in all the convention cities to the glory of Jehovah! And how thankful we are to Jehovah for providing those faith-strengthening conventions so that we may continue to “keep on the watch”!—Matt. 24:42.
SINGING PRAISE TO JEHOVAH
Singing songs of praise to Jehovah is an integral part of our worship. At the 2009 conventions, therefore, God’s servants were overjoyed when they were told of a new songbook, Sing to Jehovah. But why was a new songbook needed?
From time to time, we have revised our songbooks to keep them in line with increased spiritual light. (Prov. 4:18) Preparation of a new songbook thus provides an opportunity for needed adjustments to be made to the lyrics of our songs. Wording has been selected that makes it easier to absorb the meaning of the song while it is being sung and to make the words easier to remember. To help further with memorization, many of the songs have been shortened. Where appropriate, choruses have been added to provide meaningful repetition of key thoughts. In addition, an effort was made to assign each syllable of each word to a single note, rather than to place more than one syllable on a note.
A careful analysis of our previous songbook, Sing Praises to Jehovah, revealed that some of the melodies needed adjustments to make them easier to sing. As a result, some of the songs have now been lowered in pitch so that the higher notes are easier to sing. Also, not all songs were being sung exactly as they were written in the book. So in some cases the melody itself has been adjusted to match the more natural manner in which the songs were actually being sung by our brothers internationally.
Details, such as how the music is printed on the page, were given careful consideration. While longer songs have been spread across two pages to accommodate the longer text of translated languages, songs have been placed so that there is no need to turn a page during any song. No songs are longer than three verses.
How was the mammoth task of preparing the new songbook accomplished? In August 2007, a team of experienced composers and lyricists were invited to assist the Governing Body with the project. All of the songs in the previous songbook were examined meticulously to identify problems with doctrinal content, word emphasis, and melodic issues. It was apparent that some of the older melodies were fine but that they required new lyrics. Other songs that required little adjustment to lyrics needed substantial changes to their melodies. Then, the Teaching Committee of the Governing Body approved a list of topics to be considered in songs for Christian meetings, assemblies, conventions, and dedication programs.
In addition, the composers took time to reexamine the style of music used by our brothers at our meetings. To produce reverent yet appealing songs, they avoided music that sounded like the hymns used in Christendom’s churches. At the same time, they did not want songs of praise to Jehovah to lean toward styles that have become popular in many charismatic churches.
Throughout the project, the Governing Body carefully monitored the composition and words of each song. Groups of new songs that the Governing Body was not familiar with were recorded by singers for the Governing Body to listen to and review. As soon as those songs were approved, they were sent to translating branches for translation of the lyrics so that vernacular songbooks could be released at the same time as the English songbook.
Additionally, in 2007, the Governing Body arranged for a chorus of singers to produce recordings that would help the congregations to learn the songs. For many years a volunteer orchestra from 14 branches has assembled about twice a year at Patterson, New York, to record music for educational programs produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, including dramas, video productions, and musical accompaniment for conventions and assemblies. These dedicated brothers and sisters, many of them full-time ministers, use their time and resources to travel and record music for the benefit of the international brotherhood. All are skilled musicians. The orchestral recordings are then shared with branches around the world to provide background music for their conventions and for the production of vocal renditions in dozens of local languages. Many of the vocal recordings made at the branches are now available for download from our Web site www.jw.org.
What has been the reaction to the new songbook, Sing to Jehovah? This letter from a sister is typical of hundreds of letters of appreciation that have been received: “Please allow me to begin this letter by thanking you for the beautiful new songs in our new songbook. They are moving, faith-strengthening, and comforting—a delightful gift from Jehovah.”
It is our desire that the songbook Sing to Jehovah will be a source of comfort and encouragement to our worldwide brotherhood. Whether we are alone or gathered together with our fellow worshippers, may we use it to express our love for our heavenly Father, Jehovah!
“HALED BEFORE GOVERNORS AND KINGS . . . FOR A WITNESS”
Jesus told his disciples that they would be brought before “local courts,” and “governors and kings.” Nevertheless, he said that this would be “for a witness to them and the nations.” (Matt. 10:17, 18) During the past year, Jehovah’s Witnesses have experienced precisely what Jesus foretold. And, as their Master said, their mistreatment has provided fine opportunities for them to give a witness.
Vahan Bayatyan, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison because of his conscientious objection to military service. After losing his case and appeals before the Armenia courts, he filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2003. Finally, on October 27, 2009, the ECHR issued its judgment in favor of Armenia in keeping with over 50 years of legal precedent. However, a dissenting judge found this ruling “incompatible with current European standards on the question of conscientious objection.”
In view of the importance of this issue, the European Court agreed to refer this matter to its Grand Chamber. The hearing was scheduled to take place in Strasbourg, France, on November 24, 2010. The Grand Chamber’s decision was not known at the time that this report went to press.
Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to have difficulty importing religious literature. The authorities approve importation of some religious literature but deny the importation of other publications because they claim that the “contents promote the exclusiveness of the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses and insult the feelings of other Christian religions.” As a result, the homes of some brothers and sisters have been raided, and their personal Bible literature has been seized.
On April 25, 2010, in the city of Qazax, about 250 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in five large buses and one minivan were returning from an assembly in Georgia. Police at the border control confiscated their personal Bible literature, including 33 Bibles. Many of the Witnesses, even the elderly and the infirm, were kept waiting at the border for up to eight hours before they were allowed to continue their journey. To prevent incidents such as this and to ensure that brothers in Azerbaijan continue to receive their spiritual food, this issue has now been presented to the European Court of Human Rights.
On November 6, 2009, Dmitry Smyk, who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was fined 3,500,000 rubles ($1,154 U.S.) for refusing to do military duty. “I try to be faithful to the Bible in every aspect of my life,” Brother Smyk stated, “and I follow the teachings it contains. For me, this includes believing that a person should not be trained for or participate in warfare.”—Isa. 2:1-4.
Although the Constitution of Belarus guarantees the right to choose alternative civilian service, there is no provision in the law for actually doing so. “On paper it appears that I have the right to alternative civilian service,” explained Brother Smyk, “but in reality I cannot exercise that right.”
To correct this legislative flaw, on February 18, 2010, the president of Belarus formed a commission to draft a law on alternative service. Shortly thereafter, the court found Brother Smyk innocent and canceled the heavy fine against him. Because other young Witnesses in Belarus are confronted with this same issue and do not wish to learn war, it is hoped that the government will soon make provision for alternative civilian service.
Until 1993, the Bethel property in Brussels, Belgium, was tax exempt, as were all religious buildings in Belgium. However, in 1993 the tax administration changed its position and refused full exemption. It claimed that Bethel is not exclusively used for religious purposes, that financial gain is one of its aims, and that Bethelites are not active full-time with their religious activities. The case was finally heard in 2008 in a lower trial court, but the judge decided in favor of the tax administration. The decision was appealed, and on May 4, 2010, the appeals court reversed the lower trial court’s decision. In their written verdict, the three judges stated: “Life at Bethel, for the Witnesses who live there, is associated with a deep religious conviction requiring a total surrendering to God’s service. . . . All these ministers are members of the Worldwide Order of Special Full-Time Servants, and they live, pray, sing and study the Bible together. They also assist at the local organized morning worship.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Eritrea continue to endure many hardships in their efforts to serve God faithfully. Currently there are 58 Witnesses in prison, including women and young children. Because of oppressive governmental restrictions and the constant threat of arrest, it is difficult to obtain information about those imprisoned. For years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have attempted to relieve the suffering of their Eritrean fellow worshippers through diplomatic channels. Witnesses have appealed to officials at the U.S. Department of State, the European Union, and various embassies. They have also met with numerous officials in the Horn of Africa, such as representatives of the African Union. Recently, Jehovah’s Witnesses have submitted a letter and a list of prisoners who were not of military age to 18 Eritrean embassies worldwide. The letter appealed to President Afewerki to release all prisoners who were not of military age, including children and the elderly. To date, though, the government has not responded.
On January 15, 2010, Greece’s highest court, the Council of State, found that Evangelos Delis, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, had the right to object to serving as a reservist in the military. Brother Delis served in the army prior to becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but when he was called up for reserve training, he was moved by his Bible-trained conscience to refuse to accept the training. Although the Administration denied his request to be viewed as a conscientious objector, the Council of State, citing articles of the European Convention of Human Rights, stated that an individual has the right to change his religion even after having served in the military and to claim conscientious objector status because of his newfound religious beliefs. This positive decision from Greece’s highest court will no doubt benefit conscientious objectors in Greece and in other countries, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, South Korea, and Turkey.
On September 25, 2009, the Ministry of Justice stated that the Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses was unanimously approved as a Long-Standing Religious Community. Jehovah’s Witnesses in Portugal now have the highest judicial and religious classification possible, which will help them to carry out their ministry. Their new legal status will bring numerous benefits to Jehovah’s people. These include having authorized ministers to perform legally recognized marriage ceremonies at Kingdom Halls as well as authorization to enter hospitals and prisons to give spiritual assistance to those who request it.
In a landmark decision, on January 27, 2010, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico upheld an adult patient’s right to refuse certain medical treatment. The Court also recognized a patient’s right to use an advance directive and appoint a health-care agent to represent his interests when unconscious. Victor Hernandez, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, prepared an advance directive before going into the hospital. A trial court had earlier refused to enforce Brother Hernandez’ medical decision as expressed in his directive and supported by his health-care agent. In overturning the trial court’s ruling, the Supreme Court recognized “the fundamental right that makes the inviolability of the human body an inalienable right of the people.” This victory benefits not only the more than 25,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Puerto Rico but also all other patients throughout the island.
In recent months the spirit-directed activity of Jehovah’s people has faced its most serious threats since the collapse of the Soviet Union. On December 8, 2009, the Russian Supreme Court upheld a decision of a lower court in Rostov that resulted in the liquidation of the local religious organization in Taganrog, confiscation of its Kingdom Hall, and a declaration that 34 of our publications were considered to be extremist, including such widely read books as What Does the Bible Really Teach?, My Book of Bible Stories, and “Come Be My Follower.”
A few weeks later, the Supreme Court of the Altay Republic, in southern Russia, made a similar decision regarding the local religious organization in the city of Gorno-Altaysk, which resulted in a further 18 publications’ being listed as extremist. These court decisions have made it impossible, for the time being, to import any of the listed publications into Russia. In addition, the court decisions have emboldened Christ’s enemies to threaten and attack his peaceful followers in various cities. Since the December 8 decision, there have been over 300 recorded incidents of raids, arrests, house searches, and other disruptions of worship.
In response to this growing threat, the Governing Body approved the distribution of 12 million copies of a special tract entitled Could It Happen Again? A Question for the Citizens of Russia. The tract drew clear parallels between the harassment Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced under Communism and the problems they are facing today. Jehovah’s Witnesses distributed this special tract throughout Russia between February 26 and 28, 2010. Despite the frigid temperatures, as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40°C), many congregations distributed all their tracts in just two days.
In a counterattack, on April 26, 2010, the Federal Service for the Oversight of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) revoked our license to import any subsequent issues of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines.
However, “the hand of Jehovah has not become too short that it cannot save.” (Isa. 59:1) On June 10, 2010, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) handed down a landmark decision against Russia and in favor of Kingdom interests. The ruling in this case, entitled Jehovah’s Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia, declared that the liquidation and the banning of the activities of the Moscow Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses was unlawful and in violation of the fundamental human rights of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. The liquidation and the ban have been in force in Moscow since March 26, 2004, resulting in increased harassment and ill-treatment. This judgment explicitly states that the Russian government “has a legal obligation . . . to put an end to the violation found by the Court and to redress so far as possible the effects.”
This sweeping decision refers favorably to nine high-court victories that Jehovah’s Witnesses have won in Canada, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as to eight earlier decisions handed down by the ECHR itself in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In so doing, the court has confirmed that the ECHR continues to believe that the earlier cases were decided correctly. Drawing upon the European Convention of Human Rights and earlier decisions, the court held that Jehovah’s Witnesses were not guilty of any of the charges brought against them by the Russian authorities.
“The applicant community of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” noted the court, “had existed and legally operated in Moscow for more than twelve years, from 1992 to 2004. During the entire period of its lawful existence the applicant community, its elders and individual members had never been found responsible for any criminal or administrative offence or a civil wrong.” Accordingly, the court ruled that the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been violated and that, as it further noted, “the respondent State has a legal obligation . . . to select . . . measures to be adopted in their domestic legal order to put an end to the violation found by the Court.”
On September 9, 2010, the Russian government requested referral of the controversy to the court’s Grand Chamber, no doubt as a tactic to delay its responsibility to comply with the decision. Whether Jehovah’s will permits the review by the Grand Chamber or not, we can be sure that a great witness will continue to be given.
After a legal fight that continued for almost four years, the Serbian Ministry of Religious Affairs finally entered “Jehovah’s Witnesses—Christian Religious Community” into the Register on Churches and Religious Communities in Serbia. Until then, the ministry had refused three applications for registration, although groups of International Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were once known, have been present in the region since the early 1920’s. However, after the Serbian Supreme Court made two positive decisions in our favor, the Ministry of Religious Affairs granted the request for registration.
In the past, adversaries—with the help of the media—often tried to paint Jehovah’s Witnesses as a dangerous sect. Registration as a legal religious community will no doubt help sincere people in Serbia to see that Jehovah’s Witnesses are good citizens who respect the law and do not pose any threat to the community or to individuals. As the first positive result of this registration, Bible literature and other items used in connection with the meetings and preaching can be imported without paying any customs or taxes.
On November 27, 2009, “Jehovah’s Witnesses—Christian Religious Community” was entered in the register of churches and other religious communities that is kept by the government of the Republic of Slovenia. The director of the government’s Office for Religious Communities informed our representatives that out of 40 religious organizations and groups in Slovenia, “Jehovah’s Witnesses—Christian Religious Community” was the eighth to reregister successfully under the new Religious Freedom Act. This registration will enable full-time ministers to receive certain benefits afforded by the government to all those who perform religious activities on a full-time basis.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mersin had been using their Kingdom Hall for some 20 years. Then, in August 2003, it was sealed by the authorities on the basis of a violation of a zoning law. Despite the brothers’ efforts to resolve the issue by appealing to the courts, on December 30, 2009, Turkey’s highest court rejected the appeal in favor of the Mersin governor’s office. An application has now been filed with the ECHR.
BROTHERLY LOVE IN ACTION IN HAITI
On January 12, 2010, a powerful earthquake devastated Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding areas. Hundreds of thousands were killed, and many more were displaced. Several thousand of Jehovah’s Witnesses lost their homes, and 154 lost their lives. Many others were seriously injured or had narrow escapes.
Acloque was at home when the quake struck. Walls buckled, and blocks tumbled like dominoes, pinning him between the floor and the collapsed ceiling. He was not seriously hurt, though, and began feeling around in the darkness with his hands. “I felt the side of a water bucket,” Acloque recalls. “It would not budge, but I could dip my fingers into the water and bring a few drops of water to my lips. I also found a loose stone to tap with, hopefully to draw attention to my plight.” He began praying for help and kept tapping with the stone and waiting.
“I had no watch and no idea what time it was,” says Acloque. “At first, I wept and begged Jehovah to rescue me. But as time passed, my prayers changed. ‘I know you will resurrect me,’ I prayed. ‘But I’m a young man! If I don’t die, I can go on serving you.’”
Gradually, Acloque felt his life ebbing away, and eventually he lost the strength even to tap with the stone. Then he passed out.
When Acloque regained consciousness, Witness rescuers were trying to break through to him. “Suddenly the concrete fell away by my leg,” he relates. “I realized that the next blow would strike my knee, so I reached through the opening in the dark and grabbed the rescuer’s arm.” Soon Acloque was free. He had been under the rubble for four days.
PROMPT RELIEF EFFORTS
Within 24 hours of the quake, the first Witness doctor arrived from the Dominican Republic branch. He was followed by a steady stream of Witness medical and relief personnel, along with donated materials. A field hospital was quickly set up on the branch property, where more than 1,000 Witnesses and non-Witnesses received treatment.
Among the patients were two young women, both of whom had lost their right arm. “Like all the other single patients who lost limbs,” recalls Mylène, a volunteer at the branch, “they worried that they would never be able to marry or have a family.” Mylène therefore contacted a sister she knew in France who as a child had lost an arm in a car accident and asked her to encourage the two women. The sister in France e-mailed photos of herself with her husband and two beautiful children. Seeing them brought much comfort to the two young patients, who are now adapting well to their new circumstances.
Besides food, clothing, and medicines, survivors urgently needed housing. Witness volunteers from Haiti and abroad designed and built more than 1,700 temporary dwellings to provide shelter from the rain and a measure of security for Witness families whose homes had been destroyed. By June the relief teams had begun erecting temporary Kingdom Halls, and in July authorities issued the first building permits for permanent Kingdom Halls to be constructed.
PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, AND SPIRITUAL HEALING
In March a Witness doctor who specializes in treating post-traumatic stress disorder met with the elders of the 115 congregations affected by the quake. The doctor provided the elders with practical suggestions on giving spiritual support to the emotionally traumatized members of their congregations. Thereafter, the doctor met individually with more than 100 brothers and sisters who needed specialized treatment.
Shortly after the quake, David Splane of the Governing Body traveled to Haiti to provide comfort and encouragement. Brother Splane, who speaks French, addressed the brothers at a circuit assembly and met with the Bethel family, missionaries, and circuit overseers. All deeply appreciated his loving concern and the tender care of the Governing Body.
Despite what appeared to be insurmountable obstacles, the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in Haitian Creole was completed, printed, and shipped to the branch. The new Bibles arrived just hours before they were to be released at the district convention in July. Throughout the fast-moving events of 2010, from the initial relief efforts until now, everyone involved has seen and felt Jehovah’s constant guidance and support in ways great and small. Over and over, needed supplies, transportation, and personnel all came together at just the right time and in ways that were too perfect to have been merely coincidental. In the words of one longtime missionary, “You had to be here to appreciate how clearly Jehovah’s hand was in evidence.”
BRANCH DEDICATIONS BRING GLORY TO GOD
February 13, 2010, was an unforgettable day for Jehovah’s Witnesses on the Solomon Islands. Stephen Lett, a member of the Governing Body, gave the dedication talk at the new branch facilities there. Among the 368 in attendance was the first local Witness, Clement Fa’abasua. A month earlier an open house was held for those who live in the vicinity of the new branch facilities, and 273 persons were given a tour. One of the visitors, an architect, wrote in the leading national newspaper: “Overall, the total [branch] facility gets a triple A. It serves as a model for the Solomon Islands community to see what can be done here regardless of who the designated user may be. The designer, the conglomerate labor force, and the current administrators could be said to have created a jewel in paradise.”
A memorable dedication program was held at the Estonia branch on Saturday, April 3, 2010. The 438 in attendance thoroughly enjoyed the program, which included the dedication talk by Christian Muntean, from the Greece branch. A two-story building, located on a piece of property adjacent to the branch, had been purchased from the local water company. The remodeled building contains audio and video studios as well as a classroom for schools, such as the Bible School for Single Brothers.
The branch in neighboring Latvia enjoyed its dedication program on April 10, 2010. After the good news was first preached in Latvia in 1918, our work experienced decades of stiff opposition. Now, though, the preaching work is thriving in Latvia, and 248 delegates from nine countries were present with the local brothers and sisters to hear Christian Muntean give the dedication talk.
On Saturday, May 8, 2010, more than 2,200 enjoyed the dedication talk given at the Paraguay branch by Gerrit Lösch of the Governing Body. A 32-room residence and a new office complex were built, and the present residence was repaired and remodeled. In addition, a 10,000-gallon [40,000 L] subterranean water tank was constructed. From the outset, local authorities have been very pleased with the quality of work done by the international and local volunteers. One official commented that there had been many problems with other religious buildings but that Jehovah’s Witnesses had a reputation for doing everything correctly. As a result, it was never difficult to obtain the building permits for the branch construction.
At the Papua New Guinea branch, on Saturday, May 29, 2010, nearly 500 brothers and sisters from 12 countries gathered to hear the dedication talk delivered by Winston Payne, from the Australia branch. The expanded branch facilities include a four-story building with bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, and laundry; a services building with a Kingdom Hall; and a spacious translation office. The audience included a group of Witnesses who walked six days over rugged mountains to attend the event. The group dressed in traditional Orokaiva clothing and warmly welcomed the other visitors with dance and song. With tears in her eyes, one longtime sister expressed the feelings of many when she said, “Today I feel as though I am already in Paradise!”
“KEEP BEARING MUCH FRUIT”
There can be no doubt that the united efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to glorify God. “My Father is glorified in this,” said Jesus, “that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” (John 15:8) With Jehovah’s blessing and loving direction, they will endeavor “to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as [they] go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God, being made powerful with all power to the extent of his glorious might so as to endure fully and be long-suffering with joy.”—Col. 1:10, 11.
[Picture on page 8]
Natsue resumed her Bible study
[Pictures on page 11]
Researchers carefully verify information
[Picture on page 13]
[Picture on page 14]
[Pictures on page 14]
[Picture on page 15]
Stephen Lett at one of the international conventions in Hawaii
[Picture on page 22]
[Picture on page 25]
[Picture on page 25]
The certificate issued by the Ministry of Justice
[Picture on page 33]
Witness medical personnel arrived soon after the quake
[Picture on page 33]
Witness volunteers from Haiti and abroad designed and built more than 1,700 temporary dwellings
[Picture on page 34]
The “New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures” was released in Haitian Creole
[Picture on page 36]
Estonia branch expansion
[Picture on page 37]
The Paraguay branch
[Pictures on page 37]
Winston Payne gave the dedication talk for the Papua New Guinea branch