report for 1914. After the harsh treatment meted out to them during the war years, would they persist in their ministry?
Infused With Renewed Life
On March 26, 1919, the president of the Watch Tower Society and his associates were released from their unjust imprisonment. Plans quickly took shape to push ahead with worldwide proclamation of the good news of God’s Kingdom.
At a general convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, in September of that year, J. F. Rutherford, then president of the Society, gave a discourse that highlighted the announcing of the glorious incoming of God’s Messianic Kingdom as the truly important work for Jehovah’s servants.
The actual number who were then sharing in that work, however, was small. Some who had fearfully held back during 1918 became active again, and a few more joined their ranks. But the records that are available show that in 1919 there were only some 5,700 who were actively witnessing, in 43 lands. Yet Jesus had foretold: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matt. 24:14) How could that be accomplished? They did not know, nor did they know how long the witnessing would continue. Nevertheless, those who were loyal servants of God were willing and eager to get on with the work. They had confidence that Jehovah would direct matters in harmony with his will.
Infused with zeal for what they saw laid out in God’s Word, they went to work. Within three years the number having a part in publicly proclaiming God’s Kingdom nearly tripled, according to available reports, and during 1922 they were busy preaching in 15 lands more than in 1919.
An Intriguing Subject
What an exciting message they proclaimed—“Millions now living will never die!” Brother Rutherford had given a discourse on this subject in 1918. It was also the title of a 128-page booklet published in 1920. From 1920 through 1925, that same subject was featured again and again around the world in public meetings in all areas where speakers were available and in upwards of 30 languages. Instead of saying, as Christendom does, that all good people would go to heaven, this discourse focused attention on the Bible-based hope of eternal life on a paradise earth for obedient mankind. (Isa. 45:18; Rev. 21:1-5) And it expressed the conviction that the time for the realization of that hope was very near.
Newspaper notices and billboards were used to advertise the lectures. The subject was intriguing. On February 26, 1922, upwards of 70,000 attended at 121 locations in Germany alone. It was not unusual for a single audience to number into the thousands. In Cape Town, South Africa, for example, 2,000 were present when the lecture was given at the Opera House. At the university auditorium in the capital city of Norway, not only was every seat filled but so many were turned away that the program had to be repeated an hour and a half later—again to a packed house.
In Klagenfurt, Austria, Richard Heide told his father: “I am going to hear that talk whatever anyone might say. I want to know whether this is just bluff or if there is any truth in it!” He was deeply moved by what he heard, and soon he and his sister, as well as their parents, were telling others about it.
But the Bible’s message was not just for people who would attend a public lecture. Others too needed to be made aware of it. Not only the public at large but also political and religious leaders needed to hear it. How would that be accomplished?
Distribution of Powerful Declarations
The printed page was used to reach millions of people who previously had only hearsay acquaintance with the Bible Students and the message that they proclaimed. From 1922 through 1928, an effective witness was given by means of seven powerful declarations, resolutions adopted at the annual conventions of the Bible Students. The number of printed copies of most of the individual resolutions distributed following those conventions totaled 45 to 50 million—a truly amazing accomplishment for the small band of Kingdom proclaimers then serving!
The 1922 resolution was entitled “A Challenge to World Leaders”—yes, a challenge to justify their claim that they could establish peace, prosperity, and happiness for humankind or, failing that, to acknowledge that only God’s Kingdom by his Messiah can accomplish these things. In Germany, that resolution was sent by registered mail to the exiled German kaiser, to the president, and to all the members of the Imperial Diet; and some four and a half million copies went to the public. In South Africa, Edwin Scott, carrying the literature in a bag on his back and with a stick in one hand to ward off fierce dogs, covered 64 towns, personally distributing 50,000 copies. Thereafter, when the Dutch clergy in South Africa called at the homes of parishioners to take up collections, many of the parishioners shook the resolution in their clergyman’s face and said: “You ought to read this and you would not come around again to get money from us.”
In 1924 the resolution entitled “Ecclesiastics Indicted” laid bare the unscriptural teachings and practices of the clergy, exposed their role during the world war, and urged people to study the Bible to learn for themselves about the marvelous provisions made by God for the blessing of humankind. In Italy at that time, printers were required to put their name on anything they printed, and they were held responsible for the contents. The Bible Student supervising the work in Italy submitted a copy of the resolution to the government authorities, who inspected it and readily gave permission to have it printed and distributed. The printers too agreed to publish it. The brothers in Italy distributed 100,000 copies. They particularly saw to it that the pope and other high officials of the Vatican each received a copy.
In France, distribution of this resolution brought a vehement and often violent reaction from the clergy. In desperation a clergyman in Pomerania, Germany, filed legal charges against the Society and its manager, but the clergyman lost the case when the court heard the contents of the entire resolution. In order to avoid interference with their work on the part of those who did not want people to know the truth, the Bible Students in the province of Quebec, in Canada, left resolutions at homes during the early morning hours, starting at 3:00 a.m. Those were exciting times!
Showing Gratitude for Satisfying Answers
During World War I, many Armenians were ruthlessly driven from their homes and the land of their birth. Only two decades earlier, hundreds of thousands of Armenians had been slaughtered, and others had fled for their lives. A few of these people had read the Watch Tower Society’s publications in their homeland. But far more of them were given a witness in the lands to which they traveled as refugees.
After the harsh experiences that they had endured, many had serious questions as to why God permitted evil. How long would it continue? When would it end? Some of them were grateful to learn the satisfying answers found in the Bible. Groups of Armenian Bible Students quickly developed in various cities in the Middle East. Their zeal for Bible truth touched the lives of others. In Ethiopia, Argentina, and the United States, fellow Armenians embraced the good news and gladly accepted the responsibility of sharing it with others. One of such was Krikor Hatzakortzian, who as a lone pioneer spread the Kingdom message in Ethiopia in the mid-1930’s. On one occasion, when falsely charged by opposers, he even had opportunity to witness to the emperor, Haile Selassie.
Taking Precious Truths Back to Their Native Lands
A burning desire to share vital Bible truths impelled many people to return to the land of their birth to engage in evangelizing. Their response was similar to that of the people from many lands who were in Jerusalem in 33 C.E. and who became believers when holy spirit moved the apostles and their associates to speak in many tongues “about the magnificent things of God.” (Acts 2:1-11) Just as those first-century believers carried the truth back to their homelands, so did these modern-day disciples.
Both men and women who had learned the truth abroad returned to Italy. They came from America, Belgium, and France and zealously proclaimed the Kingdom message where they settled. Colporteurs from the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino also moved into Italy to carry on their work. Although their numbers were few, as a result of their united activity they soon reached nearly all the principal cities and many of the villages of Italy. They were not counting the hours that they spent in this work. Convinced that they were preaching truths that God wanted people to know, they often worked from morning till night to reach as many people as possible.
Greeks who had become Bible Students in nearby Albania and as far away as America also gave attention to their homeland. They were thrilled when they learned that worship of icons is unscriptural (Ex. 20:4, 5; 1 John 5:21), that sinners are not roasted in hellfire (Eccl. 9:5, 10; Ezek. 18:4; Rev. 21:8), and that God’s Kingdom is mankind’s real and only hope (Dan. 2:44; Matt. 6:9, 10). They were eager to share these truths with their fellow countrymen—personally or by mail. As a result, groups of Jehovah’s Witnesses began to develop in Greece and on the Greek isles.
Following World War I, thousands of people from Poland moved into France to work in the coal mines. The French congregations did not pass them by because they spoke a different tongue. They found ways to share Bible truths with these miners and their families, and the number who responded favorably soon outnumbered the French Witnesses. When, as a result of a government deportation order, 280 had to return to Poland in 1935, this only served to reinforce the spread of the Kingdom message there. Thus, in 1935, there were 1,090 Kingdom proclaimers who shared in giving a witness in Poland.
Others responded to invitations to leave their homeland to take up service in foreign fields.
Zealous European Evangelizers Help in Foreign Fields
With international cooperation, the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) heard the heartwarming truths about God’s Kingdom. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, zealous brothers and sisters from Denmark, England, Finland, and Germany did extensive witnessing in this area. Much literature was placed, and thousands heard the Bible discourses that were given. From Estonia regular radio broadcasts of Bible programs in several languages reached even into what was then the Soviet Union.
From Germany willing workers during the 1920’s and 1930’s took up assignments in such places as Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, and Yugoslavia. Willy Unglaube was among them. After serving for a time at the Magdeburg Bethel, in Germany, he went on to care for assignments as a full-time evangelizer in France, Algeria, Spain, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.
When a call went out from France for help during the 1930’s, colporteurs from Britain gave evidence that they were aware that the Christian commission to preach required evangelizing not only in their own land but also in other parts of the earth. (Mark 13:10) John Cooke was one of the zealous workers who answered the Macedonian call. (Compare Acts 16:9, 10.) During the next six decades, he cared for service assignments in France, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa. His brother Eric left his job at Barclay’s Bank and joined John in the full-time ministry in France; thereafter, he too served in Spain and Ireland and shared in missionary work in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa.
In May 1926, George Wright and Edwin Skinner, in England, accepted an invitation to help to broaden out the Kingdom work in India. Their assignment was huge! It included all of Afghanistan, Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, and Persia (now Iran). On arrival in Bombay, they were greeted by the monsoon rains. However, not being overly concerned about personal comfort or convenience, they were soon traveling to the far corners of the country to locate known Bible Students to encourage them. They also placed large quantities of literature to stimulate interest among others. The work was done with intensity. Thus, during 1928 the 54 Kingdom proclaimers in Travancore (Kerala), in southern India, arranged for 550 public meetings attended by about 40,000 persons. In 1929 four more pioneers from the British field moved to India to help with the work. And in 1931 another three from England arrived in Bombay. Again and again they reached out to various parts of this vast country, distributing literature not only in English but also in the Indian tongues.
Meanwhile, what was happening in Eastern Europe?
A Spiritual Harvest
Before the first world war, seeds of Bible truth had been scattered in Eastern Europe, and some had taken root. In 1908, Andrásné Benedek, a humble Hungarian woman, had returned to Austria-Hungary to share with others the good things that she had learned. Two years later, Károly Szabó and József Kiss had also come back to that land and were spreading Bible truth especially in areas that later came to be known as Romania and Czechoslovakia. Despite violent opposition by irate clergy, study groups were formed, and extensive witnessing was done. Others joined them in making public declaration of their faith, and by 1935 the ranks of Kingdom proclaimers in Hungary had grown to 348.
Romania nearly doubled its size when the map of Europe was reshaped by the victors following World War I. It was reported that within this enlarged country, in 1920, there were about 150 groups of Bible Students, with which 1,700 persons were associated. The following year, at the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal, nearly 2,000 partook of the Memorial emblems, indicating that they professed to be spirit-anointed brothers of Christ. That number increased dramatically during the next four years. In 1925, there were 4,185 in attendance at the Memorial, and as was customary then, most of them undoubtedly partook of the emblems. However, the faith of all of these would be put to the test. Would they prove to be genuine “wheat” or only an imitation? (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) Would they really do the work of witnessing that Jesus had assigned to his followers? Would they persevere in it in the face of intense opposition? Would they be faithful even when others displayed a spirit like that of Judas Iscariot?
The report for 1935 indicates that not all had the sort of faith that enabled them to endure. In that year, there were just 1,188 who had some share in giving a witness in Romania, though more than twice that number were at that time partaking of the Memorial emblems. Nevertheless, the faithful ones kept busy in the Master’s service. They shared with other humble people the Bible truths that brought such joy to their own hearts. One outstanding way that they did this was by literature distribution. Between 1924 and 1935, they had already placed with interested ones upwards of 800,000 books and booklets, in addition to tracts.
What about Czechoslovakia, which had become a nation in 1918 after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire? Here an even more intense witness was contributing to the spiritual harvest. Earlier preaching had been done in Hungarian, Russian, Romanian, and German. Then, in 1922, several Bible Students returned from America to direct attention to the Slovak-speaking population, and the following year a couple from Germany began to concentrate on the Czech territory. Regular assemblies, though small, helped to encourage and unify the brothers. After the congregations became better organized for house-to-house evangelizing in 1927, growth became more evident. In 1932 a powerful stimulus to the work was given by an international convention in Prague, attended by about 1,500 from Czechoslovakia and neighboring countries. In addition to this, large crowds viewed a four-hour version of the “Photo-Drama of Creation” that was shown from one end of the country to the other. In a period of just a decade, upwards of 2,700,000 pieces of Bible literature were distributed to the various language groups in this land. All this spiritual planting, cultivating, and watering contributed to a harvest in which 1,198 Kingdom proclaimers shared in the year 1935.
Yugoslavia (known first as the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes) had come into existence as a result of the reshaping of the map of Europe following the first world war. As early as 1923, it was reported that a group of Bible Students were witnessing in Belgrade. Later the “Photo-Drama of Creation” was shown to large crowds throughout the country. When Jehovah’s Witnesses came under severe persecution in Germany, the ranks in Yugoslavia were fortified with German pioneers. Without concern for personal comfort, they reached out into the most remote parts of this mountainous country to preach. Others of those pioneers went into Bulgaria. Efforts were also being made to preach the good news in Albania. In all these places, seeds of Kingdom truth were sown. Some of the seeds bore fruit. But it would not be until later years that there would be a larger harvest in these places.
Farther south, on the continent of Africa, the good news was also being spread by those who deeply appreciated the privilege of being witnesses for the Most High.
Spiritual Light Shines in West Africa
About seven years after a Bible Student from Barbados first went to West Africa under a work contract, he wrote to the Watch Tower Society’s office in New York to inform them that quite a few people were showing interest in the Bible. A few months later, on April 14, 1923, at Brother Rutherford’s invitation, W. R. Brown, who had been serving in Trinidad, arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, with his family.
Promptly, arrangements were made for Brother Brown to give a discourse in the Wilberforce Memorial Hall. On April 19, there was an audience of some 500 in attendance, including most of the clergy of Freetown. The following Sunday he spoke again. His subject was one that C. T. Russell had often used—“To Hell and Back. Who Are There?” Brother Brown’s discourses were regularly punctuated with Scripture quotations made visible to the audience by means of lantern slides. As he spoke, he would repeatedly say: “Not Brown says, but the Bible says.” Because of this, he came to be known as “Bible Brown.” And as a result of his logical, Scriptural presentation, some prominent church members resigned and took up Jehovah’s service.
He traveled extensively to get the Kingdom work started in additional areas. To that end he delivered numerous Bible lectures and distributed large amounts of literature, and he encouraged others to do the same. His evangelizing took him into Gold Coast (now Ghana), Liberia, The Gambia, and Nigeria. From Nigeria others carried the Kingdom message into Benin (then known as Dahomey) and Cameroon. Brother Brown knew that the public had little regard for what they called “the white man’s religion,” so at the Glover Memorial Hall in Lagos, he spoke on the failure of Christendom’s religion. After the meeting the enthusiastic audience obtained 3,900 books to read and to share with others.
When Brother Brown first went to West Africa, only a handful of persons there had heard the Kingdom message. When he left 27 years later, well over 11,000 were active Witnesses of Jehovah in that area. Religious falsehoods were being laid bare; true worship had taken root and was spreading rapidly.
Up the East Coast of Africa
Quite early in the 20th century, some of the publications of C. T. Russell had been circulated in the southeast part of Africa by individuals who had adopted a few of the ideas set out in those books but had then mixed them with their own philosophy. The result was a number of so-called Watchtower movements that had no connection whatever with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some of them were politically oriented, stirring up unrest among the native Africans. For many years the bad reputation made by those groups presented obstacles to the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Nevertheless, a number of Africans discerned the difference between the true and the false. Itinerant workers carried the good news of God’s Kingdom to nearby lands and shared it with people who spoke the African languages. The English-speaking population in southeast Africa received the message, for the most part, by means of contacts with South Africa. In some countries, however, strong official opposition, fueled by Christendom’s clergy, hindered preaching on the part of European Witnesses among the African-language groups. Nevertheless, the truth spread, though many people who showed interest in the Bible’s message needed more help to make sound practical application of what they were learning.
Some fair-minded government officials did not accept without question the vicious charges made against the Witnesses by Christendom’s clergy. That was true of a police commissioner in Nyasaland (now Malawi) who disguised himself and went to the meetings of the native Witnesses to find out for himself what sort of people they were. He was favorably impressed. When approval was given by the government to have a resident European representative, Bert McLuckie and later his brother Bill were sent there in the mid-1930’s. They kept in touch with the police and the district commissioners so that these officials would have a clear understanding of their activity and would not confuse Jehovah’s Witnesses with any movements falsely called Watchtower. At the same time, they worked patiently, along with Gresham Kwazizirah, a mature local Witness, to help the hundreds who wanted to associate with the congregations to appreciate that sexual immorality, abuse of alcoholic drinks, and superstition could have no place in the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses.—1 Cor. 5:9-13; 2 Cor. 7:1; Rev. 22:15.
In 1930, there were only about a hundred of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the whole of southern Africa. Yet, they had an assignment that included, roughly, all of Africa south of the equator and some territories that extended north of that. Covering such a vast expanse of territory with the Kingdom message called for real pioneers. Frank and Gray Smith were of that sort.
They sailed 3,000 miles [4,800 km] east and north from Cape Town and then continued for four days over rough roads by automobile to reach Nairobi, Kenya (in British East Africa). In less than a month, they placed 40 cartons of Bible literature. But, sadly, on the return trip, Frank died of malaria. Despite this, a short while later, Robert Nisbet and David Norman started out—this time with 200 cartons of literature—to preach in Kenya and Uganda, also Tanganyika and Zanzibar (both now Tanzania), reaching as many people as possible. Other similar expeditions spread the Kingdom message to the islands of Mauritius and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean. Seeds of truth were sown, but they did not immediately sprout and grow everywhere.
From South Africa the preaching of the good news also spread into Basutoland (now Lesotho), Bechuanaland (now Botswana), and Swaziland, as early as 1925. About eight years later, when pioneers were again preaching in Swaziland, King Sobhuza II gave them a royal welcome. He assembled his personal bodyguard of a hundred warriors, listened to a thorough witness, and then obtained all the publications of the Society that the brothers had with them.
Gradually the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses grew in this part of the world field. Others joined with the few who had pioneered the work in Africa early in this 20th century, and by 1935 there were 1,407 on the continent of Africa who reported having a share in the work of witnessing about God’s Kingdom. Substantial numbers of these were in South Africa and Nigeria. Other large groups that identified themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses were located in Nyasaland (now Malawi), Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
During this same period, attention was being directed also to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking lands.
Cultivating Spanish and Portuguese Fields
While World War I was still in progress, The Watch Tower was first published in Spanish. It bore the address of an office in Los Angeles, California, which had been set up to give special attention to the Spanish-speaking field. Brothers from that office gave much personal help to interested ones both in the United States and in lands to the south.
Juan Muñiz, who had become one of Jehovah’s servants in 1917, was encouraged by Brother Rutherford in 1920 to leave the United States and return to Spain, his native land, to get the Kingdom-preaching work organized there. The results were limited, however, not because of any lack of zeal on his part, but because he was constantly followed by the police; so after a few years, he was transferred to Argentina.
In Brazil a few worshipers of Jehovah were already preaching. Eight humble sailors had learned the truth while on leave from their ship in New York. Back in Brazil early in 1920, they were busy sharing the Bible’s message with others.
George Young, a Canadian, was sent to Brazil in 1923. He certainly helped to stimulate the work. Delivering numerous public lectures through interpreters, he showed what the Bible says about the condition of the dead, exposed spiritism as demonism, and explained God’s purpose for the blessing of all the families of the earth. His lectures were all the more persuasive because at times he showed on a screen the Bible texts being discussed so that the audience could see these in their own language. While he was in Brazil, Bellona Ferguson, of São Paulo, was finally able to get baptized, along with four of her children. She had waited 25 years for this opportunity. Among those who embraced the truth were some who then made themselves available to help with translation of literature into Portuguese. Soon there was a good supply of publications in that language.
From Brazil, Brother Young went on to Argentina in 1924 and arranged for free distribution of 300,000 pieces of literature in Spanish in 25 of the principal towns and cities. That same year he also personally traveled to Chile, Peru, and Bolivia to distribute tracts.
George Young was soon on his way to care for a new assignment. This time it was Spain and Portugal. After being introduced by the British ambassador to local government officials, he was able to arrange for Brother Rutherford to speak to audiences in Barcelona and Madrid, as well as in the capital of Portugal. Following these discourses, a total of more than 2,350 persons turned in their names and addresses with requests for further information. Thereafter, the speech was published in one of Spain’s large newspapers, and in tract form it was sent by mail to people throughout the country. It also appeared in the Portuguese press.
By these means the message reached far beyond the borders of Spain and Portugal. By the end of 1925, the good news had penetrated into the Cape Verde Islands (now Republic of Cape Verde), Madeira, Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique), Portuguese West Africa (now Angola), and islands in the Indian Ocean.
The following year arrangements were made to print the powerful resolution “A Testimony to the Rulers of the World” in the Spanish paper La Libertad. Radio broadcasts and the distribution of books, booklets, and tracts, as well as showings of the “Photo-Drama of Creation,” helped to intensify the witness. In 1932 several English pioneers responded to the invitation to help out in this field, and they systematically covered large sections of the country with Bible literature until the Spanish Civil War made it necessary for them to leave.
Meanwhile, upon arriving in Argentina, Brother Muñiz had quickly started preaching, while supporting himself by repairing clocks. In addition to his work in Argentina, he gave attention to Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. At his request some brothers came from Europe to witness to the German-speaking population. Many years later Carlos Ott related that they began their day’s service at 4:00 a.m. by leaving tracts under every door in a territory. Later in the day, they would call to give a further witness and to offer more Bible literature to interested householders. From Buenos Aires those who shared in the full-time ministry spread throughout the country, first following the railroad lines that radiated for hundreds of miles from the capital like spread fingers on your hand, then using every other means of transport they could find. They had very little materially and endured much hardship, but they were rich spiritually.
One of those zealous workers in Argentina was Nicolás Argyrós, a Greek. Early in 1930, when he obtained some literature published by the Watch Tower Society, he was especially impressed by a booklet entitled Hell, with subtitles that asked “What Is It? Who Are There? Can They Get Out?” He was amazed to find that this booklet did not depict sinners as roasting on a grill. What a surprise when he realized that hellfire was a religious lie invented to frighten people, just as it had frightened him! He promptly set out to share the truth—first with Greeks; then, as his Spanish improved, with others. Each month he devoted between 200 and 300 hours to sharing the good news with others. Using his feet and any other available means of transport, he spread Bible truths into 14 of the 22 provinces of Argentina. As he moved from place to place, he slept in beds when these were offered by hospitable folks, often out in the open, and even in a barn with a burro for an alarm clock!
Another who had the spirit of a real pioneer was Richard Traub, who had learned the truth in Buenos Aires. He was eager to share the good news with people across the Andes, in Chile. In 1930, five years after he was baptized, he arrived in Chile—the only Witness in a country of 4,000,000 people. At first, he had only the Bible with which to work, but he began to call from house to house. There were no congregation meetings that he could attend, so on Sundays, at the usual meeting time, he would walk to Mount San Cristóbal, sit in the shade of a tree, and immerse himself in personal study and prayer. After he rented an apartment, he began to invite people to meetings there. The only other person to turn up for the first meeting was Juan Flores, who asked: “And the others, when will they come?” Brother Traub simply replied: “They will come.” And they did. In less than a year, 13 became baptized servants of Jehovah.
Four years later, two Witnesses who had never met before teamed up to preach the good news in Colombia. After a productive year there, Hilma Sjoberg had to return to the United States. But Kathe Palm boarded a ship to Chile, using the 17 days at sea to witness to both crew and passengers. During the next decade, she worked from Chile’s northernmost seaport, Arica, to its southernmost possession, Tierra del Fuego. She called at business houses and witnessed to government officials. Using a saddlebag across her shoulders to carry literature, and toting such necessities as a blanket in which to sleep, she reached the most distant mining camps and sheep ranches. It was the life of a true pioneer. And there were others who shared that same spirit—some single, some married, young and old.
During the year 1932, a special effort was made to spread the Kingdom message in Latin American lands where little preaching had yet been done. In that year the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World was given a remarkable distribution. This booklet contained a discourse that had already been heard on an international radio broadcast. Now some 40,000 copies of the speech in printed form were distributed in Chile, 25,000 copies in Bolivia, 25,000 in Peru, 15,000 in Ecuador, 20,000 in Colombia, 10,000 in Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic), and another 10,000 in Puerto Rico. Indeed, the Kingdom message was being proclaimed, and with great intensity.
By 1935, there were in South America itself just 247 who had joined their voices to proclaim that only God’s Kingdom will bring true happiness to humankind. But what a witness they were giving!
Reaching People Even in More Remote Areas
Jehovah’s Witnesses were by no means taking the view that their responsibility before God was fulfilled if they simply talked to a few who happened to be their neighbors. They endeavored to reach everyone with the good news.
People who lived in places to which the Witnesses could not then travel personally could be reached in other ways. Thus, in the late 1920’s, the Witnesses in Cape Town, South Africa, mailed out 50,000 booklets to all farmers, lighthouse keepers, forest rangers, and others living off the beaten track. An up-to-date postal directory was also obtained for all of South-West Africa (now known as Namibia), and a copy of the booklet The Peoples Friend was mailed to everyone whose name appeared in that directory.
In 1929, F. J. Franske was put in charge of the Watch Tower Society’s schooner Morton and was assigned, along with Jimmy James, to reach people in Labrador and all the outports of Newfoundland. In the winter Brother Franske traveled the coast with a dog team. To cover the cost of the Bible literature he left with them, the Eskimos and Newfoundlanders gave him such items as leather goods and fish. A few years later, he sought out the miners, loggers, trappers, ranchers, and Indians in the rough Cariboo country of British Columbia. As he traveled, he hunted in order to have meat, picked wild berries, and baked his bread in a frying pan over an open campfire. Then, at another time, he and a partner used a salmon-trolling boat for transport as they carried the Kingdom message to every island, inlet, logging camp, lighthouse, and settlement along the west coast of Canada. He was only one of many who were putting forth special efforts to reach people living in remote areas of the earth.
Starting in the late 1920’s, Frank Day worked his way north through the villages of Alaska, preaching, placing literature, and selling eyeglasses in order to care for his physical needs. Though hobbling on an artificial leg, he covered an area that stretched from Ketchikan to Nome, a distance of about 1,200 miles [1,900 km]. As early as 1897, a gold miner had obtained copies of Millennial Dawn and the Watch Tower while in California and was making plans to take these back to Alaska with him. And in 1910, Captain Beams, the skipper of a whaling ship, had placed literature at his Alaskan ports of call. But the preaching activity began to widen out as Brother Day made his summertime trips into Alaska again and again for more than 12 years.
Two other Witnesses, using a 40-foot [12 m] motorboat named Esther, worked their way up the Norwegian coast far into the Arctic. They witnessed on the islands, at lighthouses, in the coastal villages, and in isolated places far back in the mountains. Many people welcomed them, and in a year’s time, they were able to place 10,000 to 15,000 books and booklets explaining God’s purpose for humankind.
The Islands Hear Jehovah’s Praises
It was not only those islands that were close to mainland shores that were given a witness. Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in the early 1930’s, Sydney Shepherd spent two years traveling by boat to preach in the Cook Islands and Tahiti. Farther west, George Winton was visiting the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) with the good news.
At about the same time, Joseph Dos Santos, a Portuguese-American, also set out to reach untouched territory. First he witnessed on the outer islands of Hawaii; then he undertook an around-the-globe preaching tour. When he reached the Philippines, however, he received a letter from Brother Rutherford asking him to stay there to build up and organize the Kingdom-preaching activity. He did, for 15 years.
At this time the Society’s branch in Australia was directing attention to the work in and around the South Pacific. Two pioneers sent out from there gave an extensive witness in Fiji in 1930-31. Samoa received a witness in 1931. New Caledonia was reached in 1932. A pioneer couple from Australia even took up service in China in 1933 and witnessed in 13 of its principal cities during the next few years.
The brothers in Australia realized that more could be accomplished if they had a boat at their disposal. In time they outfitted a 52-foot [16 m] ketch that they called Lightbearer and, starting early in 1935, used it as a base of operations for several years for a group of zealous brothers as they witnessed in the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia), Singapore, and Malaya. Arrival of the boat always attracted much attention, and this often opened the way for the brothers to preach and place much literature.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the earth, two pioneer sisters from Denmark decided to make a vacation trip to the Faeroe Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1935. But they had in mind more than a scenic trip. They went equipped with thousands of pieces of literature, and they used them well. Defying wind and rain and the hostility of the clergy, they covered as much of the inhabited islands as they could during their stay.
Farther to the west, Georg Lindal, an Icelandic-Canadian, undertook an assignment that lasted much longer. At the suggestion of Brother Rutherford, he moved to Iceland to pioneer in 1929. What endurance he showed! For most of the next 18 years, he served there alone. He visited the towns and villages again and again. Tens of thousands of pieces of literature were placed, but at that time no Icelanders joined him in Jehovah’s service. With the exception of just one year, there were no Witnesses with whom he could associate in Iceland until 1947, when two Gilead-trained missionaries arrived.
When Men Forbid What God Commands
While sharing in their public ministry, it was not at all unusual, especially from the 1920’s through the 1940’s, for the Witnesses to encounter opposition, usually stirred up by local clergymen and sometimes by government officials.
In a rural area north of Vienna, Austria, the Witnesses found themselves confronted by a hostile crowd of villagers agitated by the local priest, who was backed by the constabulary. The priests were determined that there would be no preaching by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their villages. But the Witnesses, determined to carry out their God-given assignment, changed their approach and returned another day, entering the villages in roundabout ways.
Regardless of threats and demands on the part of men, Jehovah’s Witnesses realized that they had an obligation to God to proclaim his Kingdom. They chose to obey God as ruler rather than men. (Acts 5:29) Where local officials tried to deny religious freedom to Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Witnesses simply brought in reinforcements.
After repeated arrests in one section of Bavaria, in Germany, in 1929, they hired two special trains—one to start in Berlin and the other in Dresden. These were joined together at Reichenbach, and at 2:00 a.m. the one train entered the Regensburg area with 1,200 passengers that were eager to have a part in giving a witness. Travel was expensive, and everyone had paid his own fare. At each railroad station, some were dropped off. A number of them had brought bicycles so that they could reach out into the countryside. The entire district was covered in a single day. As they saw the results of their united efforts, they could not help but call to mind God’s promise to his servants: “Any weapon whatever that will be formed against you will have no success.”—Isa. 54:17.
So zealous were the Witnesses in Germany that between 1919 and 1933, they distributed, it is estimated, at least 125,000,000 books, booklets, and magazines, as well as millions of tracts. Yet, there were only about 15,000,000 families in Germany at that time. During that period Germany received a witness as thorough as that given in any country on earth. In that part of the earth was found one of the largest concentrations of persons who professed to be spirit-anointed followers of Christ. But during the following years, they also experienced some of the most grueling tests of integrity.—Rev. 14:12.
In the year 1933, official opposition to the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany greatly intensified. The homes of Witnesses and the Society’s branch office were searched repeatedly by the Gestapo. Bans were imposed on the activity of the Witnesses in most of the German states, and some were arrested. Many tons of their Bibles and Bible literature were publicly burned. On April 1, 1935, a national law was passed banning the Ernste Bibelforscher (the Earnest Bible Students, or Jehovah’s Witnesses), and systematic efforts were made to deprive them of their livelihood. In turn, the Witnesses shifted all their meetings to small groups, arranged to reproduce their material for Bible study in forms that the Gestapo would not readily recognize, and adopted preaching methods that were not so conspicuous.
Even before this, since 1925, the brothers in Italy had been living under a Fascist dictatorship, and in 1929 a concordat had been signed between the Catholic Church and the Fascist State. True Christians were hunted down without mercy. Some met in barns and haylofts in order to avoid being arrested. Jehovah’s Witnesses in Italy at that time were very few in number; however, their efforts to spread the Kingdom message were reinforced in 1932 when 20 Witnesses from Switzerland crossed into Italy and carried out a lightning distribution of 300,000 copies of the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World.
In the Far East too, pressure was building up. There were arrests of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Japan. Large quantities of their Bible literature were destroyed by officials in Seoul (in what is now the Republic of Korea) and Pyongyang (in what is now the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).
In the midst of this mounting pressure, in 1935, Jehovah’s Witnesses gained a clear understanding from the Bible of the identity of the “great multitude,” or “great crowd,” of Revelation 7:9-17. (KJ, NW) This understanding opened up to them an awareness of an unanticipated and urgent work. (Isa. 55:5) No longer did they hold the view that all who were not of the “little flock” of heirs of the heavenly Kingdom would at some future time have opportunity to bring their lives into line with Jehovah’s requirements. (Luke 12:32) They realized that the time had come to make disciples of such people now with a view to their survival into God’s new world. How long the gathering of this great crowd out of all nations would continue they did not know, though they felt that the end of the wicked system must be very near. Exactly how the work would be accomplished in the face of persecution that was spreading and becoming more vicious, they were not sure. However, of this they were confident—since ‘the hand of Jehovah is not too short,’ he would open the way for them to carry out his will.—Isa. 59:1.
In the year 1935, Jehovah’s Witnesses were relatively few in number—just 56,153 worldwide.
They were preaching in 115 lands during that year; but in nearly one half of those lands, there were fewer than ten Witnesses. Only two countries had 10,000 or more active Witnesses of Jehovah (the United States, with 23,808; Germany, with an estimated 10,000 out of the 19,268 who had been able to report two years earlier). Seven other lands (Australia, Britain, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, and Romania) each reported more than 1,000 but fewer than 6,000 Witnesses. The record of activity in 21 other countries shows between 100 and 1,000 Witnesses each. Yet, during that one year, this zealous band of Witnesses worldwide devoted 8,161,424 hours to proclaiming God’s Kingdom as mankind’s only hope.
In addition to the lands in which they were busy during 1935, they had already spread the good news to other places, so that 149 lands and island groups had thus far been reached with the Kingdom message.
Part 3—Witnesses to the Most Distant Part of the Earth
A global report of the preaching of the Kingdom message from 1935 through 1945 is set out on pages 444 to 461. The year 1935 is highly significant because at that time the great multitude, or great crowd, of Revelation 7:9 was identified. In connection with the gathering of that group, Jehovah’s Witnesses began to discern that the Bible set before them a work of greater proportions than any that had preceded it. How did they go about it when the nations became embroiled in World War II and a majority of lands imposed bans on them or their Bible literature?
AS Jehovah’s Witnesses shared in their ministry during the 1930’s, their aim was to reach as many people as possible with the Kingdom message. If they discerned exceptional interest, some of them might stay up much of the night explaining Bible truths and answering questions to satisfy spiritually hungry ones. But in most cases, the Witnesses simply used brief presentations that were designed to stir up the interest of householders, and then they let the literature or public Bible lectures do the rest. Theirs was a work of informing people, sowing seeds of Kingdom truth.
Intense Effort to Reach Many People With the Good News
The work was done with a sense of urgency. As an example, early in the 1930’s, when Armando Menazzi, in Córdoba, Argentina, read the clear exposition of Bible truth in the booklets Hell and Where Are the Dead?, he acted decisively. (Ps. 145:20; Eccl. 9:5; Acts 24:15) Moved by what he learned, and inspired by the zeal being shown by Nicolás Argyrós, he sold his auto-repair shop to devote himself to preaching the truth as a pioneer. Then, in the early 1940’s, with his encouragement the Witnesses in Córdoba bought an old bus, installed beds, and used this vehicle to take ten or more publishers on preaching expeditions that lasted a week, two weeks, or even three months. As these trips were planned, different brothers and sisters from the congregation were given opportunity to go along. Each one in the group had his assigned work—cleaning, cooking, or fishing and hunting for food. In at least ten Argentine provinces, this zealous group preached from house to house, covering cities as well as villages and reaching out to scattered farms.
A similar spirit was manifested in the Australian field. Much witnessing was done in the heavily populated coastal cities. But the Witnesses there also sought to reach people who lived in remote areas. Thus, on March 31, 1936, in order to reach people on the sheep and cattle stations scattered across the outback, Arthur Willis and Bill Newlands struck out on a trip that took them a total of 12,250 miles [19,710 km]. For much of their journey, there were no roads—only bush tracks through the treeless desert with its oppressive heat and howling dust storms. But they pressed on. Wherever interest was found, they played recorded Bible discourses and left literature. On other occasions, John E. (Ted) Sewell went with them; and then he volunteered to serve in Southeast Asia.
The territory supervised by the Society’s branch in Australia reached far beyond Australia itself. It included China and island groups and nations stretching from Tahiti on the east to Burma (now Myanmar) on the west, a distance of 8,500 miles [13,700 km]. Within that area were such places as Hong Kong, Indochina (now Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam), the Netherlands East Indies (including such islands as Sumatra, Java, and Borneo), New Zealand, Siam (now Thailand), and Malaya. It was not unusual for the branch overseer, Alexander MacGillivray, a Scotsman, to invite a zealous young pioneer into his office, show him a map of the branch territory, and ask: ‘Would you like to be a missionary?’ Then, pointing to an area in which little or no preaching had been done, he would ask: ‘How would you like to open up the work in this territory?’
During the early 1930’s, some of these pioneers had already done much work in the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia) and Singapore. In 1935, Frank Dewar, a New Zealander, traveled with a group of these pioneers aboard the Lightbearer as far as Singapore. Then just before the boat went on to the northwest coast of Malaya, Captain Eric Ewins said: “Well, Frank, here we are. This is as far as we can take you. You chose to go to Siam. Now, off you go!” But Frank had nearly forgotten about Siam. He had been enjoying his service with the group on the boat. Now he was on his own.
He made a stopover in Kuala Lumpur until he could get together enough money for the rest of the trip, but, while there, he was in a traffic accident—a truck knocked him off his bicycle. After recuperating, with just five dollars in his pocket, he boarded the train bound from Singapore to Bangkok. But with faith in Jehovah’s ability to provide, he got on with the work. Claude Goodman had preached there briefly in 1931; but when Frank arrived in July 1936, there were no Witnesses on hand to welcome him. During the next few years, however, others had a part in the work—Willy Unglaube, Hans Thomas, and Kurt Gruber from Germany and Ted Sewell from Australia. They distributed much literature, but most of it was in English, Chinese, and Japanese.
When a letter was sent to the Society’s headquarters saying that the brothers needed literature in the Thai language but had no translator, Brother Rutherford replied: “I am not in Thailand; you are there. Have faith in Jehovah and work diligently, and you will find a translator.” And they did. Chomchai Inthaphan, a former headmistress of the Presbyterian Girls’ School in Chiang Mai, embraced the truth, and by 1941 she was translating Bible literature into Thai.
One week after Frank Dewar took up preaching in Bangkok, Frank Rice, who had pioneered the Kingdom work on Java (now part of Indonesia), came through on his way to a new assignment in what was then French Indochina. As he had done in his earlier territory, he preached to those who spoke English while he learned the local language. After covering Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), he taught some English lessons in order to buy an old car that he could use to reach the northern part of the country. His concern was not material comforts but Kingdom interests. (Heb. 13:5) Using the car he purchased, he witnessed in towns and villages and at isolated homes all the way to Hanoi.
To arouse interest in the Kingdom message and to alert people to the need to take decisive action, eye-catching means were used by the Witnesses in many lands. Starting in 1936 in Glasgow, Scotland, the Witnesses advertised convention discourses by wearing placards and distributing handbills in shopping areas. Two years later, in 1938, in connection with a convention in London, England, another striking feature was added. Nathan H. Knorr and Albert D. Schroeder, who later served together on the Governing Body, led a parade of nearly a thousand Witnesses through the central business district of London. Every other one of the marchers wore a placard advertising the public talk “Face the Facts,” to be delivered by J. F. Rutherford at the Royal Albert Hall. Those in between carried signs that read “Religion Is a Snare and a Racket.” (At that time they understood religion to be all worship that was not in harmony with God’s Word, the Bible.) Later in the week, to neutralize the hostile reaction of some of the public, signs reading “Serve God and Christ the King” were interspersed with the earlier ones. This activity was not easy for many of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they looked at it as another way to serve Jehovah, another test of their loyalty to him.
Not everyone was pleased with the bold publicity that Jehovah’s Witnesses gave to their message. The clergy in Australia and New Zealand put pressure on the managers of radio stations to suppress all broadcasts sponsored by Jehovah’s Witnesses. In April 1938, when Brother Rutherford was en route to Australia to deliver a radio address, public officials allowed themselves to be influenced to cancel arrangements that had been made for him to use the Sydney Town Hall and radio facilities. Quickly the Sydney Sports Grounds were hired, and as a result of the extensive news publicity surrounding the opposition to Brother Rutherford’s visit, an even larger crowd came to hear his discourse. On other occasions, when the Witnesses were denied the use of radio facilities, they responded by giving intense publicity to meetings at which Brother Rutherford’s lectures were reproduced with transcription equipment.
The clergy in Belgium sent out children to throw stones at the Witnesses, and priests would personally go around to the homes to collect literature that had been distributed. But some of the villagers liked what they were learning from Jehovah’s Witnesses. They would often say: “Give me several of your booklets; when the priest comes, I can give him one to satisfy him and keep the rest to read!”
The following years, however, led to even stronger opposition to Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Kingdom message that they proclaimed.
Preaching in Europe in the Face of Wartime Persecution
Because they would not abandon their faith and desist from preaching, thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands were imprisoned or sent to Nazi concentration camps. There brutal treatment was the order of the day. Those not yet in prison carried on their ministry cautiously. They often worked with just the Bible and offered other literature only when making return visits on interested persons. To avoid arrest, Witnesses would call at one door in an apartment house and then perhaps go to another building, or after calling at just one house they would go to another street before approaching another house. But they were by no means timid about giving a witness.
On December 12, 1936, just a few months after the Gestapo had arrested thousands of the Witnesses and other interested persons in a nationwide effort to stop their work, the Witnesses themselves conducted a campaign. With lightning speed they put tens of thousands of copies of a printed resolution in mailboxes and under the doors of people throughout Germany. These protested the cruel treatment being meted out to their Christian brothers and sisters. Within an hour after the distribution began, the police were racing around trying to catch the distributors, but they laid their hands on only about a dozen in the entire country.
Officials were shocked that such a campaign could be carried out after all that the Nazi government had done to suppress the work. Furthermore, they became afraid of the populace. Why? Because when the police and other uniformed officials went to the homes and asked whether the inhabitants had received such a leaflet, most of the people denied it. In fact, by far the majority of them had not. Copies had been delivered to only two or three households in each building. But the police did not know that. They assumed that one had been left at each door.
During the months that followed, Nazi officials loudly denied the charges made in that printed resolution. So, on June 20, 1937, the Witnesses who were still free distributed another message, an open letter that was unsparing in its detail about the persecution, a document that named officials and cited dates and places. Great was the consternation among the Gestapo over this exposure and over the ability of the Witnesses to achieve such a distribution.
Numerous experiences of the Kusserow family, from Bad Lippspringe, Germany, manifested that same determination to give a witness. An example involves what occurred after Wilhelm Kusserow had been executed publicly in Münster by the Nazi regime because of his refusal to compromise his faith. Wilhelm’s mother, Hilda, immediately went to the prison and urgently requested the body for burial. She said to her family: “We will give a great witness to the people who knew him.” At the funeral Wilhelm’s father, Franz, offered a prayer that expressed faith in Jehovah’s loving provisions. At the grave Wilhelm’s brother Karl-Heinz spoke words of comfort from the Bible. For this they did not go unpunished, but to them the important thing was honoring Jehovah by giving a witness concerning his name and his Kingdom.
As wartime pressures mounted in the Netherlands, the Witnesses there wisely adjusted their meeting arrangements. These were now held only in groups of ten or less in private homes. Meeting places were frequently changed. Each Witness attended only with his own group, and none would divulge the address of the study, not even to a trusted friend. At that time in history, when entire populations were being driven from their homes as a result of the war, Jehovah’s Witnesses knew that people urgently needed the comforting message that is found only in God’s Word, and they fearlessly shared it with them. But a letter from the branch office reminded the brothers of the caution that Jesus had demonstrated on various occasions when confronted by opposers. (Matt. 10:16; 22:15-22) As a result, when they encountered a person who showed hostility, they made careful note of the address so that special precautions could be taken when working that territory in the future.
In Greece widespread suffering was experienced by the populace during the German occupation. The most severe treatment meted out to Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, came as a result of vicious misrepresentation by the clergy of the Greek Orthodox Church, who insisted that the police and the courts take action against them. Many of the Witnesses were imprisoned or were banished from their hometowns and sent to obscure villages or were confined under harsh conditions on barren islands. Nevertheless, they kept on witnessing. (Compare Acts 8:1, 4.) Often this was done by talking to people in parks and public gardens, by sitting on the benches with them and telling them about God’s Kingdom. When genuine interest was found, a precious piece of Bible literature was lent to the person. Such literature was later returned and used again and again. Many lovers of truth gratefully accepted the help offered by the Witnesses and even joined with them in sharing the good news with others, though this brought bitter persecution upon them.
An important factor in the courage and perseverance of the Witnesses was their being built up by spiritual food. Though supplies of literature for distribution to others eventually became quite depleted in some parts of Europe during the war, they managed to circulate among themselves faith-strengthening material that had been prepared by the Society for study by Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. At the risk of their lives, August Kraft, Peter Gölles, Ludwig Cyranek, Therese Schreiber, and many others shared in reproducing and distributing study material that was smuggled into Austria from Czechoslovakia, Italy, and Switzerland. In the Netherlands, it was a kindly prison guard who helped by procuring a Bible for Arthur Winkler. In spite of all the precautions taken by the enemy, refreshing waters of Bible truth from The Watchtower reached even into the German concentration camps and circulated among the Witnesses there.
Confinement in prisons and concentration camps did not stop Jehovah’s Witnesses from being witnesses. When the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome, he wrote: “I am suffering evil to the point of prison bonds . . . Nevertheless, the word of God is not bound.” (2 Tim. 2:9) The same proved to be true in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Europe during World War II. Guards observed their conduct; some asked questions, and a few became fellow believers, even though it meant the loss of their own freedom. Many prisoners who were confined with the Witnesses had come from such lands as Russia, where very little preaching of the good news had been done. After the war some of these returned to their homeland as Jehovah’s Witnesses, eager to spread the Kingdom message there.
Brutal persecution and the effects of total war could not prevent the foretold gathering of people to Jehovah’s great spiritual house for worship. (Isa. 2:2-4) From 1938 to 1945, most of the lands of Europe showed substantial increases in the number sharing publicly in such worship by proclaiming God’s Kingdom. In Britain, Finland, France, and Switzerland, the Witnesses experienced increases of approximately 100 percent. In Greece, there was nearly a sevenfold increase. In the Netherlands, twelvefold. But by the end of 1945, details had not yet come from Germany or Romania, and only sketchy reports had come in from a number of other lands.
Outside Of Europe During Those War Years
In the Orient too, the world war gave rise to extreme hardship for Jehovah’s Witnesses. In Japan and Korea, they were arrested and subjected to beatings and torture because they advocated God’s Kingdom and would not worship the Japanese emperor. Eventually they were cut off from all contact with Witnesses in other lands. For many of them, the only opportunities to give a witness were when being interrogated or when on trial in court. By the end of the war, the public ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses in these lands had virtually come to a halt.
When the war reached the Philippines, the Witnesses were mistreated by both sides because they would not support either the Japanese or the resistance forces. To avoid being seized, many Witnesses abandoned their homes. But as they moved from place to place, they preached—lending literature when there was some available, and later using only the Bible. As the war front receded, they even outfitted several boats to carry large groups of Witnesses to islands where little or no witnessing had been done.
In Burma (now Myanmar), it was not Japanese invasion but pressure from Anglican, Methodist, Roman Catholic, and American Baptist clergymen exerted on colonial officials that led to a ban on the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses in May 1941. Two Witnesses working in the cable office saw a telegram that alerted them to what was coming, so the brothers quickly moved literature out of the Society’s depot in order to avert its being confiscated. Efforts were then made to send much of the literature overland into China.
At that time the U.S. government was trucking vast amounts of war material over the Burma Road to support the Chinese Nationalist government. The brothers tried to secure space on one of those trucks but were rebuffed. Efforts to obtain a vehicle from Singapore also failed. However, when Mick Engel, who was in charge of the Society’s Rangoon (now Yangon) depot, approached a high U.S. official, he was granted permission to transport the literature on army trucks.
Nevertheless, after that when Fred Paton and Hector Oates approached the officer controlling the convoy into China and asked for space, he nearly had a fit! “What?” he shouted. “How can I give you precious space in my trucks for your miserable tracts when I have absolutely no room for urgently needed military and medical supplies rotting here in the open?” Fred paused, reached into his briefcase, showed him the letter of authorization, and pointed out that it would be a very serious matter if he ignored the direction given by officials in Rangoon. Not only did the road controller arrange to transport two tons of books but he placed a light truck, with driver and supplies, at the disposal of the brothers. They headed northeast over the dangerous mountain road into China with their precious cargo. After witnessing in Pao-shan, they pressed on to Chungking (Pahsien). Thousands of pieces of literature telling about Jehovah’s Kingdom were distributed during the year that they spent in China. Among others to whom they personally witnessed was Chiang Kai-shek, the president of the Chinese Nationalist government.
Meanwhile, as bombing intensified in Burma, all but three of the Witnesses there left the country, most of them for India. The activity of the three who remained was, of necessity, limited. Yet they continued to witness informally, and their efforts bore fruit after the war.
In North America too, Jehovah’s Witnesses were confronted by severe obstacles during the war. Widespread mob violence and unconstitutional application of local laws brought great pressure on the preaching work. Thousands were imprisoned because of taking their stand as Christian neutrals. Yet, this did not slow down the house-to-house ministry of the Witnesses. Furthermore, beginning in February 1940, it became common to see them on the streets in business districts offering The Watchtower and Consolation (now Awake!). Their zeal became even stronger. Though undergoing some of the most intense persecution ever experienced in that part of the world, the Witnesses more than doubled in numbers in both the United States and Canada from 1938 to 1945, and the time they devoted to their public ministry tripled.
In many lands identified with the British Commonwealth (in North America, Africa, Asia, and islands of the Caribbean and of the Pacific) either Jehovah’s Witnesses or their literature was put under government ban. One of such lands was Australia. An official notice published there on January 17, 1941, at the direction of the governor-general, made it illegal for Jehovah’s Witnesses to meet for worship, to circulate any of their literature, or even to have it in their possession. Under the law it was possible to challenge the ban in court, and this was promptly done. But it was over two years before Mr. Justice Starke of the High Court declared that the regulations on which the ban was based were “arbitrary, capricious and oppressive.” The full High Court removed the ban. What did Jehovah’s Witnesses do in the meantime?
In imitation of the apostles of Jesus Christ, they ‘obeyed God as ruler rather than men.’ (Acts 4:19, 20; 5:29) They continued to preach. In spite of numerous obstacles, they even arranged for a convention at Hargrave Park, near Sydney, December 25-29, 1941. When the government refused rail transportation to some of the delegates, a group from Western Australia equipped their vehicles with gas-producing units operating on charcoal and struck out on a 14-day cross-country trek, which included spending one week traversing the pitiless Nullarbor Plain. They arrived safely and enjoyed the program along with the other six thousand delegates. The following year another assembly was held, but this time it was divided up into 150 smaller groups in seven major cities across the country, with speakers shuttling from one location to the next.
As conditions in Europe deteriorated in 1939, some pioneer ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses volunteered to serve in other fields. (Compare Matthew 10:23; Acts 8:4.) Three German pioneers were sent from Switzerland to Shanghai, China. A number went to South America. Among those transferred to Brazil were Otto Estelmann, who had been visiting and helping congregations in Czechoslovakia, and Erich Kattner, who had served at the Watch Tower Society’s office in Prague. Their new assignment was not an easy one. They found that in some farm areas, the Witnesses would get up early and preach until 7:00 a.m. and then do further field service late into the evening. Brother Kattner recalls that as he moved from place to place, he often slept in the open, using his literature bag as a pillow.—Compare Matthew 8:20.
Both Brother Estelmann and Brother Kattner had been hounded by the Nazi secret police in Europe. Did their move to Brazil free them from persecution? On the contrary, after just a year, they found themselves under prolonged house arrest and imprisonment at the instigation of officials who were apparently Nazi sympathizers! Opposition from the Catholic clergy was also common, but the Witnesses persisted in their God-given work. They constantly reached out to cities and towns in Brazil where the Kingdom message had not yet been preached.
A review of the global situation shows that in the majority of lands where Jehovah’s Witnesses were located during World War II, they were confronted with government bans either on their organization or their literature. Though they had been preaching in 117 lands in 1938, the war years (1939-45) saw bans on their organization or literature, or deportation of their ministers, in over 60 of those lands. Even where there were no bans, they faced mob violence and were frequently arrested. In spite of all of this, the preaching of the good news did not stop.
The Great Crowd Begins to Manifest Itself in Latin America
Right in the midst of the war years, in February 1943, with an eye on work to be done in the postwar era, the Watch Tower Society inaugurated Gilead School in New York State to train missionaries for foreign service. Before the end of the year, 12 of those missionaries had already begun to serve in Cuba. The field there proved to be very productive.
As early as 1910, some seeds of Bible truth had reached Cuba. C. T. Russell had given a discourse there in 1913. J. F. Rutherford had spoken on the radio in Havana in 1932, and there was a rebroadcast of the material in Spanish. But growth was slow. There was widespread illiteracy at that time and much religious prejudice. Interest shown was at first largely among the English-speaking population that had come from Jamaica and other places. By 1936 there were just 40 Kingdom proclaimers in Cuba. But the planting and watering of seeds of Kingdom truth then began to yield more fruit.
In 1934 the first Cubans had been baptized; others followed. Starting in 1940, daily radio broadcasts coupled with bold street witnessing reinforced the house-to-house ministry there. Even before Gilead-trained missionaries arrived in 1943, there were 950 in Cuba who had embraced the good news and were preaching it to others, though not all of them were sharing regularly. During the two years following the arrival of the missionaries, the numbers increased even more rapidly. By 1945, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cuba numbered 1,894. Although most of them had come from a religion that taught that all faithful supporters of the church would go to heaven, the vast majority of those who became Jehovah’s Witnesses eagerly embraced the prospect of eternal life on earth in a restored paradise. (Gen. 1:28; 2:15; Ps. 37:9, 29; Rev. 21:3, 4) Only 1.4 percent of them professed to be spirit-anointed brothers of Christ.
In yet another way, help was provided for the Latin American field by the Society’s world headquarters. Early in 1944, N. H. Knorr, F. W. Franz, W. E. Van Amburgh, and M. G. Henschel spent ten days in Cuba to strengthen the brothers there spiritually. During that time a convention was held in Havana, and arrangements for better coordination of the preaching work were outlined. This trip also took Brother Knorr and Brother Henschel to Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico to assist Jehovah’s Witnesses in those lands.
In 1945 and 1946, N. H. Knorr and F. W. Franz made tours that enabled them to speak and work with the Witnesses in 24 lands in the area from Mexico to the southern tip of South America as well as in the Caribbean. They personally spent five months in that part of the world, providing loving help and direction. In some places they met with just a handful of interested persons. So that there would be regular arrangements for meetings and field service, they personally assisted with the organizing of the first congregations in Lima, Peru, and Caracas, Venezuela. Wherever congregation meetings were already being held, they attended these and, on occasion, provided counsel on how to improve their practical value in connection with the evangelizing work.
Where possible, arrangements were made for public Bible talks during these visits. The talks were given intensive publicity through the use of placards worn by Witnesses and through handbills distributed on the streets. As a result, the 394 Witnesses in Brazil were pleased to have 765 at their convention in São Paulo. In Chile, where there were 83 Kingdom proclaimers, 340 came to hear the specially advertised discourse. In Costa Rica the 253 local Witnesses were delighted to have a total of 849 at their two assemblies. These were occasions of warm fellowship among the brothers.
The objective, however, was not merely to have memorable conventions. During these tours the representatives from headquarters placed special emphasis on the importance of making return visits on interested people and conducting home Bible studies with them. If people were going to become real disciples, they needed regular instruction from God’s Word. As a result, the number of home Bible studies grew rapidly in this part of the world.
While Brother Knorr and Brother Franz were making these service tours, more Gilead-trained missionaries were arriving in their assignments. By the end of 1944, some were serving in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. In 1945, other missionaries were helping to get the preaching work better organized in Barbados, Brazil, British Honduras (now Belize), Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, and Uruguay. When the first two missionaries arrived in the Dominican Republic in 1945, they were the only Witnesses in the country. The effect of the ministry of the early missionaries was quickly felt. Said Trinidad Paniagua about the first missionaries sent to Guatemala: “This was exactly what we needed—teachers of the Word of God who would help us understand how to go about doing the work.”
So the groundwork was being laid for expansion in this part of the world field. On the Caribbean islands, there were 3,394 Kingdom proclaimers by the end of 1945. In Mexico, there were 3,276, and another 404 in Central America. In South America, 1,042. For this part of the world, that represents an increase of 386 percent during the previous seven years, a very turbulent period of human history. But it was just a beginning. Growth of truly explosive proportions was yet ahead! The Bible had foretold that “a great crowd . . . out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” would be gathered as worshipers of Jehovah before the great tribulation.—Rev. 7:9, 10, 14.
When World War II began in 1939, there were just 72,475 of Jehovah’s Witnesses preaching in 115 lands (if counted according to the national divisions of the early 1990’s). In spite of the intense persecution that they experienced on a global scale, they more than doubled in number by the end of the war. Thus, the report for 1945 showed 156,299 Witnesses active in the 107 lands for which it has been possible to compile reports. By that time, however, 163 lands had actually been reached with the Kingdom message.
The witness given during the years from 1936 to 1945 was truly amazing. During that decade of world turmoil, these zealous Witnesses of Jehovah devoted a total of 212,069,285 hours to proclaiming to the world that God’s Kingdom is the only hope for humankind. They also distributed 343,054,579 books, booklets, and magazines to help people to understand the Scriptural basis for that confidence. To help sincerely interested ones, in 1945 they were conducting, on an average, 104,814 free home Bible studies.
[Blurb on page 455]
Though wartime conditions forced them to flee, they kept on preaching
[Box/Pictures on page 451-453]
They Refused to Stop Witnessing Even Though Imprisoned
Shown here are only a few of the thousands who suffered for their faith in prisons and concentration camps during World War II
1. Adrian Thompson, New Zealand. Imprisoned in 1941 in Australia; his application for exemption from conscription was rejected when Australia banned Jehovah’s Witnesses. After his release, as traveling overseer, he strengthened the congregations in their public ministry. Served as a missionary and the first traveling overseer in postwar Japan; continued to preach zealously until his death in 1976.
2. Alois Moser, Austria. In seven prisons and concentration camps. Still an active Witness in 1992 at 92 years of age.
3. Franz Wohlfahrt, Austria. Execution of his father and his brother did not deter Franz. Held in Rollwald Camp in Germany for five years. Still witnessing in 1992 at 70 years of age.
4. Thomas Jones, Canada. Imprisoned in 1944, then held in two work camps. After 34 years of full-time service, he was appointed in 1977 to be a member of the Branch Committee supervising the preaching work in all of Canada.
5. Maria Hombach, Germany. Repeatedly arrested; in solitary confinement for three and a half years. As a courier, she risked her life to take Bible literature to fellow Witnesses. In 1992, a faithful member of the Bethel family at 90 years of age.
6. Max and Konrad Franke, Germany. Father and son, both imprisoned repeatedly, and for many years. (Konrad’s wife, Gertrud, was also in prison.) All remained loyal, zealous servants of Jehovah, and Konrad was in the forefront of rebuilding the preaching work of the Witnesses in postwar Germany.
7. A. Pryce Hughes, England. Sentenced to two terms at Wormwood Scrubs, London; had also been imprisoned because of his faith during World War I. In the forefront of the work of Kingdom preaching in Britain down till his death in 1978.
8. Adolphe and Emma Arnold with daughter Simone, France. After Adolphe was imprisoned, Emma and Simone continued to witness, also to distribute literature to other Witnesses. Emma, when in prison, was put in solitary confinement for persistently witnessing to other prisoners. Simone was sent to a reform school. All continued to be zealous Witnesses.
9. Ernst and Hildegard Seliger, Germany. Between them, more than 40 years in prisons and concentration camps for their faith. Even in prison they persisted in sharing Bible truths with others. When free they devoted their full time to preaching the good news. Brother Seliger died a loyal servant of God in 1985; Sister Seliger, in 1992.
10. Carl Johnson, United States. Two years after baptism, imprisoned with hundreds of other Witnesses at Ashland, Kentucky. Has served as a pioneer and as a circuit overseer; in 1992, still taking the lead in the field ministry as an elder.
11. August Peters, Germany. Torn away from his wife and four children, he was imprisoned 1936-37, also 1937-45. After release, instead of doing less preaching, he did more, in full-time service. In 1992, at 99 years of age, he was still serving as a member of the Bethel family and had seen the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany grow to 163,095.
12. Gertrud Ott, Germany. Imprisoned at Lodz, Poland, then Auschwitz concentration camp; next in Gross-Rosen and Bergen-Belsen in Germany. After the war she served zealously as a missionary in Indonesia, Iran, and Luxembourg.
13. Katsuo Miura, Japan. Seven years after his arrest and imprisonment in Hiroshima, much of the prison where he was confined was destroyed by the atom bomb that desolated the city. However, doctors found no evidence that he suffered injury from the radiation. He used the final years of his life as a pioneer.
14. Martin and Gertrud Poetzinger, Germany. A few months after marriage, they were arrested and forcibly separated for nine years. Martin was sent to Dachau and Mauthausen; Gertrud, to Ravensbrück. In spite of brutal treatment, their faith did not waver. After release they devoted all their efforts to Jehovah’s service. For 29 years he served as a traveling overseer throughout Germany; then, as a member of the Governing Body until his death in 1988. In 1992, Gertrud continued to be a zealous evangelizer.
15. Jizo and Matsue Ishii, Japan. After distributing Bible literature throughout Japan for a decade, they were imprisoned. Though the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Japan was crushed during the war, Brother and Sister Ishii witnessed zealously again after the war. By 1992, Matsue Ishii had seen the number of active Witnesses in Japan increase to over 171,000.
16. Victor Bruch, Luxembourg. Imprisoned in Buchenwald, Lublin, Auschwitz, and Ravensbrück. At 90 years of age, still active as an elder of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
17. Karl Schurstein, Germany. A traveling overseer before Hitler came to power. Incarcerated for eight years, then killed by the SS in Dachau in 1944. Even within the camp, he continued to build others up spiritually.
18. Kim Bong-nyu, Korea. Confined for six years. At 72 years of age, still telling others about the Kingdom of God.
19. Pamfil Albu, Romania. After being brutally mistreated, he was sent to a labor camp in Yugoslavia for two and a half years. After the war he was imprisoned two more times, for another 12 years. He did not stop speaking about God’s purpose. Before his death he helped thousands in Romania to serve with the global organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
20. Wilhelm Scheider, Poland. In Nazi concentration camps 1939-45. In Communist prisons 1950-56, also 1960-64. Until his death in 1971, he unwaveringly devoted his energies to the proclaiming of God’s Kingdom.
21. Harald and Elsa Abt, Poland. During and after the war, Harald spent 14 years in prison and concentration camps because of his faith but continued to preach even there. Elsa was torn away from their infant daughter and then held in six camps in Poland, Germany, and Austria. In spite of a 40-year ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Poland even after the war, all of them continued to be zealous servants of Jehovah.
22. Ádám Szinger, Hungary. During six court trials, sentenced to 23 years, of which he served 8 1/2 years in prison and labor camps. When free, served as a traveling overseer for a total of 30 years. At 69 years of age, still a loyal congregation elder.
23. Joseph Dos Santos, the Philippines. Had devoted 12 years as full-time proclaimer of Kingdom message before imprisonment in 1942. Revitalized the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Philippines after the war and personally continued in pioneer service until his death in 1983.
24. Rudolph Sunal, United States. Imprisoned at Mill Point, West Virginia. After release he devoted full time to spreading the knowledge of God’s Kingdom—as a pioneer, a member of the Bethel family, and a circuit overseer. Still pioneering in 1992, at 78 years of age.
25. Martin Magyarosi, Romania. From prison, 1942-44, continued to give direction for the preaching of the good news in Transylvania. When released he traveled extensively to encourage fellow Witnesses in their preaching and was himself a fearless Witness. Imprisoned again in 1950, he died in a labor camp in 1953, a loyal servant of Jehovah.
26. R. Arthur Winkler, Germany and the Netherlands. First sent to Esterwegen concentration camp; kept preaching in the camp. Later, in the Netherlands, he was beaten by the Gestapo until unrecognizable. Finally he was sent to Sachsenhausen. A loyal, zealous Witness until his death in 1972.
27. Park Ock-hi, Korea. Three years in Sodaemun Prison, Seoul; subjected to indescribable torture. At 91 years of age, in 1992, still zealously witnessing, as a special pioneer.
[Map/Picture on page 446]
Alexander MacGillivray, as overseer of the Australia branch, helped to plan preaching expeditions to many countries and islands
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Place Names Are Ones That Were in Use During the 1930’s
[Map/Pictures on page 460]
By late 1945, missionaries from Gilead School had already taken up service in 18 lands in this part of the world
Charles and Lorene Eisenhower
John and Adda Parker
Emil Van Daalen
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[Picture on page 444]
Some colporteurs placed many cartons of literature; householders received numerous Bible sermons in each book
[Picture on page 445]
Armando Menazzi (center front) and a happy group that traveled with him on a preaching expedition in their “pioneer home on wheels”
[Picture on page 445]
Arthur Willis, Ted Sewell, and Bill Newlands—three who took the Kingdom message to the Australian outback
[Picture on page 447]
Frank Dewar (shown here with his wife and their two daughters) went to Thailand as a lone pioneer in 1936 and was still a special pioneer in 1992
[Picture on page 447]
Chomchai Inthaphan used her ability as a translator to reach the Thai people with the good news found in the Bible
[Picture on page 448]
In Germany, Jehovah’s Witnesses gave this open letter extensive public distribution in 1937, even though their worship was under government ban
[Picture on page 449]
Family of Franz and Hilda Kusserow—every one of them a faithful Witness of Jehovah, though all in the family (except a son who had died in an accident) were put into concentration camps, prisons, or reform schools because of their faith
[Pictures on page 450]
Some in Austria and Germany who risked their lives to duplicate or distribute precious material for Bible study, such as that shown in the background
[Picture on page 454]
Witnesses at convention in Shanghai, China, in 1936; nine of this group got baptized on that occasion
[Picture on page 456]
In spite of a ban on their worship, these Witnesses held a convention at Hargrave Park, near Sydney, Australia, in 1941
[Picture on page 458]
Cuban Witnesses at a convention in Cienfuegos in 1939
[Picture on page 459]
N. H. Knorr (left) at São Paulo convention in 1945, with Erich Kattner as interpreter
Part 4—Witnesses to the Most Distant Part of the Earth
While World War II was still in progress, Jehovah’s Witnesses were laying plans for intensified activity in the postwar era. The report on pages 462 to 501 sets out fascinating details of what actually occurred from 1945 through 1975 as they increased in numbers, reached out to many more lands, and engaged in preaching and teaching God’s Word in a more thorough manner than ever before.
MOST of the islands of the West Indies had been reached in some way with the Kingdom message by 1945. But a more thorough witness needed to be given. Missionaries trained at Gilead School would play an important role.
Missionaries Intensify the Witness in the West Indies
By 1960 these missionaries had served on 27 islands or island groups in the Caribbean. Half of these places had no congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses when the missionaries arrived. The missionaries proceeded to conduct home Bible studies with interested persons, and they organized regular meetings. Where there were congregations already, they gave valuable training to local publishers. As a result, the quality of the meetings and effectiveness in the ministry improved.
The early Bible Students had been witnessing in Trinidad since before World War I, but following the arrival of missionaries from Gilead in 1946, the conducting of home Bible studies with interested persons was given strong impetus. In Jamaica the preaching of the good news had been under way for almost half a century, and there were a thousand local Witnesses by the time the first missionary arrived; but they were glad to have help in reaching the more educated people, especially in the suburban area around the capital city. On the other hand, in Aruba much witnessing had already been done in the English-speaking community, so the missionaries directed attention to the native population. Everyone needed to hear the good news.
To make sure that people on all the islands in this part of the earth had opportunity to hear about God’s Kingdom, in 1948 the Watch Tower Society outfitted the 59-foot [18 m] schooner Sibia as a floating missionary home. The crew was assigned to take the Kingdom message to every island of the West Indies where no one was active in preaching the good news. Gust Maki was the captain, and with him were Stanley Carter, Ronald Parkin, and Arthur Worsley. They started with the Out Islands of the Bahamas group, then worked their way to the southeast through the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands. What effect did their visits have? At St. Maarten a businessman told them: “The people never used to talk about the Bible, but since you’ve been here everybody is talking about the Bible.” Later, the Sibia was replaced by a larger boat, the Light. There were also changes in the crew. Within a decade the special work being done with the use of these boats had been accomplished, and land-based proclaimers of the good news were following through.
Witnessing First in the Larger Cities
As was true in the West Indies, so also in Central and South America, there were already people in many areas who had some of the Watch Tower Society’s publications before missionaries from Gilead School arrived. However, in order to reach everyone with the good news and to help sincere ones to become genuine disciples, improved organization was needed.
By the time the second world war ended in 1945, there were hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Argentina and Brazil; some three thousand in Mexico; a few very small congregations in British Guiana (now Guyana), Chile, Dutch Guiana (now Suriname), Paraguay, and Uruguay; and a handful of publishers in Colombia, Guatemala, and Venezuela. But as for Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses was not established on any permanent basis until the arrival of missionaries that had been trained at Gilead School.
The missionaries directed special attention initially to principal centers of population. It is noteworthy that in the first century, the apostle Paul did much of his preaching in cities along the main routes of travel in Asia Minor and in Greece. In Corinth, one of the most prominent cities of ancient Greece, Paul devoted 18 months to teaching the Word of God. (Acts 18:1-11) In Ephesus, a crossroads for travel and commerce in the ancient world, he proclaimed the Kingdom of God for over two years.—Acts 19:8-10; 20:31.
In a similar manner, when Edward Michalec and Harold Morris, missionary graduates of Gilead School, arrived in Bolivia in 1945, they did not seek out a location with the most agreeable climate. Instead, they gave first attention to La Paz, the capital, which is located in the Andes at an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet [3,700 m]. It is a struggle for newcomers to climb the steep streets at this altitude; their hearts often pound like trip-hammers. But the missionaries found many people who were interested in the message of the Bible. There in the capital, it was not unusual for them to be told: “I’m an apostolic Roman Catholic, but I don’t like the priests.” In just two months, the two missionaries were conducting 41 home Bible studies.
During the following decade, as more missionaries arrived and the number of local Witnesses grew, attention was given to other Bolivian cities: Cochabamba, Oruro, Santa Cruz, Sucre, Potosí, and Tarija. Thereafter, more attention could be directed to smaller cities and towns and the rural areas too.
Similarly, in Colombia the missionaries began organized preaching in the capital, Bogotá, in 1945, and in the coastal city of Barranquilla the following year. After that, attention was progressively directed to Cartagena, Santa Marta, Cali, and Medellín. More people could be reached in a short period by working the larger cities first. With the help of those who learned the truth there, the message would soon be carried to surrounding areas.
If very little interest was manifest in a city, the missionaries were moved to other places. Thus, in Ecuador, when three years of work in the mid-1950’s had not produced one person who had the courage to take a stand for the truth in fanatically religious Cuenca, Carl Dochow was transferred to Machala, a city populated by easygoing, open-minded people. About a decade later, however, the people of Cuenca were given another opportunity. A different spirit was found, obstacles were overcome, and by 1992 in and around Cuenca, more than 1,200 people had become Jehovah’s Witnesses and were organized into 25 congregations!
Searching Patiently for the Sheeplike Ones
Much patience has been required in order to search out truly sheeplike persons. To locate them in Suriname, Jehovah’s Witnesses have preached to Amerindians, Chinese, Indonesians, Jews, Lebanese, descendants of Dutch settlers, and jungle tribes made up of Bush Negroes, whose forebears were runaway slaves. Among them have been found hundreds who were truly hungering for the truth. Some have had to break away from deep involvement in animism and spiritistic practices. One such was Paitu, a witch doctor, who took to heart the message of the Bible and then dumped his idols, amulets, and potions into the river. (Compare Deuteronomy 7:25; 18:9-14; Acts 19:19, 20.) In 1975 he dedicated himself to Jehovah, the true God.
A considerable number of the inhabitants of Peru live in small villages scattered up in the Andes and in the jungle surrounding the headwaters of the Amazon. How could they be reached? In 1971 a family of Witnesses from the United States traveled to Peru to visit their missionary son, Joe Leydig. When they became aware of the vast number of villages tucked here and there in the mountain valleys, their concern for these people moved them to do something. They helped to provide one house car at first, and then two more, as well as trail bikes for use on extensive preaching expeditions into these remote areas.
In spite of the effort put forth, in many places it seemed that only very few showed interest in the Bible’s message. You can well imagine how the group of six young missionaries in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, felt in the early 1950’s when, after a full year of diligent preaching, they saw hardly any progress. Although the people were quite friendly, most of them were steeped in superstition and viewed it as a sin for them even to read a text from the Bible. Any who did show interest were soon discouraged by family members or neighbors. (Matt. 13:19-21) But, with confidence that there must be some sheeplike ones in Barquisimeto and that Jehovah would gather them in his due time, the missionaries kept on calling from house to house. So, how heartwarming it was for Penny Gavette one day when a gray-haired woman listened to her and then said:
“Senorita, ever since I was a young girl, I have waited for someone to come to my door and explain the things you have just told me. You see, when I was a girl, I used to clean the home of the priest, and he had a Bible in his library. I knew that we were forbidden to read it, but I was so curious to know why that, one day when no one was looking, I took it home with me and read it secretly. What I read made me realize that the Catholic Church had not taught us the truth and so was not the true religion. I was afraid to say anything to anyone, but I was sure that some day the ones teaching the true religion would come to our town. When the Protestant religion came, I thought at first that they must be the ones, but I soon discovered that they taught many of the same falsehoods that the Catholic Church taught. Now, what you have just told me is what I read in that Bible so many years ago.” Eagerly she agreed to study the Bible and became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In spite of family opposition, she served Jehovah faithfully until her death.
Considerable effort was required in order to gather such sheeplike ones into congregations and train them to share in Jehovah’s service. As an example, in Argentina, Rosendo Ojeda regularly traveled about 40 miles [60 km] from General San Martín, Chaco, to conduct a meeting in the home of Alejandro Sozoñiuk, an interested person. The trip frequently took ten hours, some of it on a bicycle, some on foot, at times wading through water up to the armpits. Once a month for five years he made the trip, staying a week each time to witness in the area. Was it worth it? He has no doubt about it because the result was a happy congregation of praisers of Jehovah.
Promoting Education for Life
In Mexico, Jehovah’s Witnesses carried on their work in line with the laws governing cultural organizations there. The objective of the Witnesses was to do more than simply hold meetings where discourses were given. They wanted people to be like those Beroeans in the apostle Paul’s day who were able to ‘carefully examine the Scriptures to see whether the things taught them were really so.’ (Acts 17:11) In Mexico, as in many other lands, this has often involved providing special help to people who have had no schooling but who want to be able to read God’s inspired Word themselves.
Literacy classes conducted by Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mexico have helped tens of thousands of people there to learn to read and write. This work is appreciated by Mexico’s Department of Public Education, and in 1974 a director in their General Office for Adult Education wrote a letter to La Torre del Vigía de México, a civil association used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, saying: “I take this opportunity to warmly congratulate you . . . for the praiseworthy cooperation that your association has been extending year after year in benefit of our people.”
While preparing people for eternal life as subjects of God’s Kingdom, the education provided by the Witnesses also elevates their family life now. After a judge in El Salto, Durango State, had performed marriage ceremonies on various occasions for Jehovah’s Witnesses, he stated in 1952: “We claim to be such good patriots and citizens but we are put to shame by Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are an example to us because they do not permit a single person in their organization who is living consensually and has not legalized his relationship. And, you Catholics, almost all of you are living immoral lives and have not legalized your marriages.”
This educational program also helps people to learn to live together in peace, to love one another instead of hating and killing. When a Witness began to preach in Venado, Guanajuato State, he found that the people were all armed with rifles and pistols. Feuds led to the wiping out of families. But Bible instruction brought major changes. Rifles were sold in order to buy Bibles. Over 150 in the area soon became Jehovah’s Witnesses. Figuratively, they ‘beat their swords into plowshares’ and began to pursue the ways of peace.—Mic. 4:3.
Many God-fearing Mexicans have taken to heart what Jehovah’s Witnesses have taught them from God’s Word. As a result, the few thousand publishers in Mexico following World War II soon became 10,000, then 20,000, 40,000, 80,000, and more as the Witnesses showed others how to apply the counsel of God’s Word and how to teach it to others.
Assembling Together Under Adversity
As the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses increased, however, they found that in one land after another, they had to overcome difficult obstacles in order to hold assemblies for Christian instruction. In Argentina they were placed under government ban in 1950. Nevertheless, out of obedience to God, they did not stop preaching, nor did they forsake assembling together. Arrangements were somewhat more complicated, but assemblies were held.
For example, late in 1953, Brother Knorr and Brother Henschel visited Argentina to serve a nationwide assembly. Brother Knorr entered the country from the west, and Brother Henschel began his visits in the south. They spoke to groups gathered on farms, in a fruit orchard, at a picnic by a mountain stream, and in private homes. Often they had to travel long distances from one group to the next. Arriving in Buenos Aires, they each served on programs in nine locations one day, and in eleven homes the next day. All together, they addressed 56 groups, with a combined attendance of 2,505. It was a strenuous schedule, but they were happy to serve their brothers in that way.
When preparing for an assembly in Colombia in 1955, the Witnesses contracted for the use of a hall in Barranquilla. But, under pressure from the bishop, the mayor and the governor intervened, and the contract was canceled. With just one day’s notice, the brothers relocated the assembly, arranging to hold it on the premises of the Society’s branch office. Nevertheless, as the first evening session was getting under way, armed police arrived with orders to disband the assembly. The brothers persisted. An appeal to the mayor the next morning brought an apology from his secretary, and nearly 1,000 persons squeezed onto the Society’s property for the final day of the program of that “Triumphant Kingdom” Assembly. In spite of the circumstances that then existed, the brothers were thus fortified with needed spiritual counsel.
Serving Where the Need Is Greater
The field was large, and the need for workers was great in Latin America, as it was in many other places. In 1957, at conventions worldwide, individuals and families who were mature Witnesses of Jehovah were encouraged to consider actually moving to areas of greater need to take up residence and carry on their ministry there. Similar encouragement was given in various ways thereafter. The invitation was much like the one presented by God to the apostle Paul, who saw in vision a man who entreated him: “Step over into Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:9, 10) What was the response to the modern-day invitation? Jehovah’s servants offered themselves willingly.—Ps. 110:3.
For a family with small children, it takes a great deal of faith to uproot themselves, leave relatives and home and secular employment, and travel to a completely new environment. The move may require accepting a very different standard of living and, in some instances, learning a new language. Yet, thousands of individual Witnesses and families have made such moves in order to help others to learn of Jehovah’s loving provisions for eternal life.
Responding quickly, a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses made the move in the late 1950’s; others in the 1960’s; more in the 1970’s. And the movement of Witnesses to areas of greater need continues down to the present.
From where have they come? Large numbers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. Many from Britain, France, and Germany. Also from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, among others. As the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses has increased in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and other Latin American lands, these too have provided workers who are willing to serve in other countries where there is great need. Similarly, in Africa zealous workers have moved from one country to another to help give a witness.
To what areas have they moved? Lands such as Afghanistan, Malaysia, and Senegal, and islands such as Réunion and St. Lucia. About 1,000 moved into Ireland, where they served for varying lengths of time. A considerable number went to Iceland, despite its long, dark winters, and some stayed, becoming pillars in the congregations and providing loving help to newer ones. Especially has much good been done in Central and South America. Over 1,000 Witnesses moved to Colombia, upwards of 870 to Ecuador, more than 110 to El Salvador.
Harold and Anne Zimmerman were among those who made the move. They had already served as missionary teachers in Ethiopia. However, in 1959, when they were finalizing arrangements to move from the United States to Colombia to share in spreading the Kingdom message there, they were rearing four children, who ranged in age from five months to five years. Harold went ahead to look for work. When he arrived in the country, local news reports disturbed him. An undeclared civil war was in progress, and there were mass killings in the interior of the country. ‘Do I really want to bring my family down to live in conditions like these?’ he asked himself. He searched his memory for some guiding example or principle in the Bible. What came to mind was the Bible account of the fearful spies who took back to the Israelite camp a bad report about the Promised Land. (Num. 13:25–14:4, 11) That settled it; he did not want to be like them! He promptly arranged for his family to come. Not until their funds had dwindled to just three dollars did he find the needed secular work, but they had what was really necessary. The amount of such work that he had to do to support his family varied over the years, but he has always endeavored to keep Kingdom interests in first place. When they first went to Colombia, there were about 1,400 Witnesses in the country. What amazing growth they have seen since then!
Serving where the need for Witnesses is greater does not always require that a person go to another country. Thousands of individual Witnesses and families have moved to other areas within their own country. A family in Bahia State, Brazil, moved to the town of Prado, where there were no Witnesses. Despite objections from the clergy, they lived and worked in that town and the surrounding area for three years. An abandoned church building was purchased and transformed into a Kingdom Hall. Before long, there were over a hundred active Witnesses in the area. And that was only the beginning.
In ever-increasing numbers, lovers of righteousness in Latin America are responding to the invitation recorded in Psalm 148: ‘Praise Jah, you people! Praise Jehovah from the earth, all you national groups.’ (Ps 148 Vss. 1, 7-11) Indeed, by 1975 there were praisers of Jehovah in every country in Latin America. The report for that year showed that 80,481, organized into 2,998 congregations, were serving in Mexico. Another 24,703, in 462 congregations, were talking about Jehovah’s kingship in Central America. And in South America, there were 206,457 public praisers of Jehovah in 3,620 congregations.
Reaching Out to the Pacific Islands
While rapid expansion was taking place in South America, Jehovah’s Witnesses were also directing attention to the islands of the Pacific. There are hundreds of these islands scattered between Australia and the Americas, many of them scarcely pushing their heads above the ocean surface. Some of them are populated by only a few families; others, by tens of thousands of people. Early in the 1950’s, official prejudice made it impossible for the Watch Tower Society to send missionaries to many of these islands. But the people there too needed to hear about Jehovah and his Kingdom. This is in harmony with the prophecy recorded at Isaiah 42:10-12, which says: “Sing to Jehovah a new song, his praise from the extremity of the earth . . . In the islands let them tell forth even his praise.” Thus, in 1951, at a convention in Sydney, Australia, pioneers and circuit overseers who were interested in having a part in spreading the Kingdom message to the islands were invited to meet with Brother Knorr. At that time about 30 volunteered to undertake preaching in the tropical islands.
Among them were Tom and Rowena Kitto, who soon found themselves in Papua, where there were at that time no Witnesses. They started their work among the Europeans in Port Moresby. Before long, they were spending evenings in Hanuabada, the “Big Village,” with a group of 30 to 40 Papuans who were hungry for spiritual truth. From them, word spread to other villages. In a short time, the Kerema people sent a delegation asking that a Bible study be conducted with them. Then a headman from Haima came, pleading: “Please come and teach my people about the truth!” And so it spread.
Another couple, John and Ellen Hubler, went to New Caledonia to establish the work there. When they arrived in 1954, they had only one-month tourist visas. But John obtained secular work, and this helped them to obtain an extension. In time, other Witnesses—31 in all—made similar moves. At first, they carried on their ministry in outlying areas so as not to attract too much attention. Later, they began preaching in the capital, Nouméa. A congregation was formed. Then, in 1959, a member of Catholic Action got into a key government position. There were no more visa renewals for Witnesses. The Hublers had to leave. Watch Tower publications were banned. Yet, the Kingdom good news had a foothold, and the number of Witnesses continued to grow.
In Tahiti many people had shown interest in the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses when brothers made brief visits there. But in 1957, there were no local Witnesses, their work was banned, and Watch Tower missionaries were denied entry. However, Agnes Schenck, a citizen of Tahiti then living in the United States, had become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Upon learning of the need for Kingdom proclaimers in Tahiti, she, her husband, and their son sailed from California in May 1958. Shortly after that, two other families joined them, though they could obtain only three-month tourist visas. By the next year, a congregation was formed in Papeete. And in 1960 the government granted recognition to a locally organized association of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In order to spread the Kingdom message, two missionary sisters en route back to their assignment stopped to visit a relative on the island of Niue. The month they spent there was very fruitful; much interest was found. But when the next interisland boat arrived, they had to leave. Soon, however, Seremaia Raibe, a Fijian, obtained an employment contract with the Public Works Department in Niue and then used all his free time to preach. However, as a result of clergy pressure, Brother Raibe’s residence permit was canceled after a few months, and in September 1961 the Legislative Assembly decided not to allow any more of Jehovah’s Witnesses into the country. Nevertheless, the preaching of the good news there continued. How? The local Witnesses, though quite new, persevered in serving Jehovah. Furthermore, the local government had already accepted in its employ William Lovini, a native Niuean who had been living in New Zealand. Why was he eager to return to Niue? Because he had become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and wanted to serve where the need was greater. By 1964 the number of Witnesses there rose to 34.
In 1973, David Wolfgramm, a citizen of Tonga, with his wife and eight children, was living in a comfortable home in New Zealand. But they left that behind and moved to Tonga to advance Kingdom interests. From there they shared in pushing the work farther afield in the islands of Tonga, about 30 of which are inhabited.
Much time, effort, and expense have been required to reach the islands. But Jehovah’s Witnesses view the lives of their fellowmen as precious and spare nothing in their efforts to help them to benefit from Jehovah’s loving provision for eternal life in his new world.
A family that sold their farm in Australia and moved to one of the Pacific islands summed up their feelings in this way: “To hear these islanders say that they have come to know Jehovah, to hear them call our children their children, this because they love them so for the truth, to watch both Kingdom interest and attendance grow, to hear these lovely people say: ‘My children will marry only in the Lord,’ and this after being associated with many centuries of tradition and Eastern-type marriages, to watch them straighten and clean up marital tangles, . . . to see them studying as they mind the cattle by the roadside, after backbreaking work in the rice field, to know that they are discussing the wrongness of idolatry, the beauty of Jehovah’s name at the local store and other places, to have an elderly Indian mother call you brother and sister and ask to go with you to tell the folk about the true God . . . All this adds up to a priceless reward for having taken the step that we did in answer to the call from the South Pacific.”
More than these Pacific islanders were receiving attention, however. Starting in 1964, experienced pioneers from the Philippines were assigned to reinforce zealous missionaries who were already at work in Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
In the Face of Family and Community Pressure
Most of those who have become Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hong Kong have been young folk. But these young people have been under tremendous pressure in a system that makes higher education and better-paying jobs a priority. Parents view their children as an investment that will ensure their living comfortably in their later years. Thus, when the parents of a young man in Kwun Tong realized that the Bible study, meeting attendance, and field service of their son were going to interfere with his making money, their opposition became intense. His father chased him with a meat cleaver; his mother spit on him in public. Verbal abuse continued almost nonstop for months. Once he asked his parents: “Didn’t you raise me for love?” And they replied: “No, for money!” Nevertheless, the young man continued to put his worship of Jehovah first; but when he left home, he also continued to assist his parents financially to the best of his ability, for he knew that this would be pleasing to Jehovah.—Matt. 15:3-9; 19:19.
In close-knit communities, severe pressure often comes from more than the immediate family. One who experienced this was Fuaiupolu Pele in Western Samoa. It was viewed as unthinkable among the people for a Samoan to reject the customs and religion of his forefathers, and Pele knew that he would be called to account. He studied hard and prayed earnestly to Jehovah. When summoned by the high chief of the family to a meeting at Faleasiu, he was confronted by six chiefs, three orators, ten pastors, two theological teachers, the high chief who was presiding, and older men and women of the family. They cursed and condemned both him and another family member who was showing interest in Jehovah’s Witnesses. A debate ensued; it lasted until four in the morning. Pele’s use of the Bible irritated some who were present, and they yelled: “Take that Bible away! Leave off that Bible!” But at last the high chief in a weak voice said: “You won, Pele.” But Pele replied: “Pardon me, Sir, I did not win. This night you heard the message of the Kingdom. It is my sincere hope you will heed it.”
When There Is Intense Clergy Opposition
Christendom’s missionaries had arrived in the Pacific islands in the 1800’s. Their arrival, in many places, had been peaceful; elsewhere it had been backed by military force. In some areas they had apportioned the islands among themselves by a “gentleman’s agreement.” But there had also been religious wars, in which Catholics and Protestants had fought one another for control. These religious “shepherds,” the clergy, now used every means at their disposal to keep Jehovah’s Witnesses out of what they viewed as their own domain. Sometimes they pressured officials to expel Witnesses from certain islands. Other times they took the law into their own hands.
On the island of New Britain, in the village of Vunabal, a group from the Sulka tribe showed keen interest in Bible truth. But one Sunday in 1959, while John Davison was conducting a Bible study with them, a mob of Catholics, under the direction of the Catholic catechist, pushed their way into the house and brought the study to a halt by their shouting and abuse. This was reported to the police at Kokopo.
Rather than abandon the sheep, the Witnesses returned the following week to continue providing spiritual help for appreciative ones in Vunabal. The Catholic priest was there too, though uninvited by the villagers, and he brought along several hundred Catholics of another tribe. After being agitated by the priest, those from his church swore at the Witnesses, spit on them, shook their fists, and ripped up the Bibles of the villagers, while the priest stood with folded arms and smiled. The police who endeavored to control the situation were visibly shaken. Many of the villagers became frightened too. But at least one of the villagers proved to be courageous and took his stand for what he knew to be the truth. Now, hundreds of others on that island have done likewise.
However, not all religious teachers showed an antagonistic spirit toward Jehovah’s Witnesses. Shem Irofa’alu, in the Solomon Islands, felt a sincere responsibility toward those who looked to him as their religious leader. After reading the Watch Tower Society’s book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, he realized that someone had lied to him. He and the religious teachers under his jurisdiction listened to discussions with the Witnesses, asked questions, and looked up the scriptures in the Bible. Then they agreed that they wanted to become Jehovah’s Witnesses, so they proceeded to convert the churches in their 28 villages into Kingdom Halls.
An Onrushing Torrent of Truth in Africa
Particularly beginning in the early 1920’s, much effort was put forth so that people in all parts of Africa would have opportunity to come to know Jehovah, the true God, and to benefit from his loving provisions. When the second world war ended, there were active Witnesses of Jehovah in 14 lands on the African continent. Another 14 African countries had been reached with the Kingdom message, but no Witnesses were reporting activity in these in 1945. During the next 30 years, through 1975, the preaching of the good news penetrated 19 more countries in Africa. In nearly all these lands, as well as on surrounding islands, congregations began to be formed—a few in some lands, over a thousand in Zambia, nearly two thousand in Nigeria. How did all of that come about?
The spreading of the Kingdom message was like an onrushing torrent of water. For the most part, water courses through river channels, although some overflows onto adjoining land; and if an obstruction blocks the way, the water finds an alternate path or builds up volume and pressure until it bursts over the top.
Using its regular organizational channels, the Watch Tower Society assigned full-time ministers—pioneers, special pioneers, and missionaries—to lands where little or no preaching had been done. Wherever they went, they invited people to “take life’s water free.” (Rev. 22:17) By way of example, in northern Africa, four special pioneers from France extended that invitation to the people of Algeria in 1952. Soon a fortune-teller there accepted the truth, recognized that she must abandon her profession in order to please Jehovah, and began to witness to her former clients. (Deut. 18:10-12) The pioneers made effective use of the book “Let God Be True” to help sincere individuals to see the difference between the Holy Bible and religious tradition. So powerful was it in liberating people from false religious practices that a clergyman displayed the book in his pulpit and pronounced a curse upon it, upon those who were distributing it, and upon those who were reading it.
In 1954 a missionary was expelled from Catholic Spain because of teaching the Bible without approval of the clergy; so the following year, he and his pioneer companion took up preaching in Morocco. Soon they were joined by a family of five of Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been deported from Tunisia, where considerable agitation had been caused when a Jewish couple accepted Jesus as the Messiah and quickly began to share their new faith with others. Farther to the south, pioneers from Ghana were directed into Mali in 1962. Later, French pioneers serving in Algeria were also asked to help in Mali. In turn, a considerable number of those who later became Witnesses there entered the ranks of full-time service. In 1966 eight special pioneers from Nigeria took up assignments in Niger, a sparsely populated country that includes part of the Sahara Desert. Burundi was given opportunity to hear the Kingdom message when two special pioneers were sent there from Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in 1963, followed by four missionaries trained at Gilead School.
There were also missionaries in Ethiopia in the early 1950’s. The Ethiopian government required that they establish a regular mission and teach school, which they did. But, in addition to that, they were busy teaching the Bible, and soon there was a constant flow of people coming to the missionary home, new ones arriving every day to request that someone help them to understand the Bible. During the three decades following World War II, 39 countries on the African continent benefited from the help of such Gilead-trained missionaries.
At the same time, the waters of truth were overflowing into spiritually parched areas by means of Jehovah’s Witnesses whose secular work brought them into contact with other people. Thus, Witnesses from Egypt whose work required that they move to Libya in 1950 preached zealously during their free hours. That same year a Witness who was a wool merchant, along with his family, moved from Egypt to Khartoum, Sudan. He made it a practice to witness to customers before doing business with them. One of the first Witnesses in Senegal (then part of French West Africa) went there, in 1951, as a representative of a commercial firm. He also appreciated his responsibilities as a Witness of the Most High. In 1959, in connection with secular work, a Witness went to Fort-Lamy (now N’Djamena), in what later became Chad, and he used the opportunity to spread the Kingdom message in that land. In countries adjoining Niger were traders who were Jehovah’s Witnesses; so, while special pioneers were busy in Niger from 1966 on, these traders were also preaching to people from Niger with whom they did business. And two Witnesses whose husbands went to Mauritania to work in 1966 seized the opportunity to witness in that area.
People who were refreshed by ‘the water of life’ shared it with others. For example, in 1947 an individual who had attended some meetings but was not himself one of Jehovah’s Witnesses moved from Cameroon to Ubangi-Shari (now Central African Republic). Hearing about a man in Bangui who was keenly interested in the Bible, he kindly arranged for the Watch Tower Society’s office in Switzerland to send him a book. Etienne Nkounkou, the recipient, was overjoyed with the wholesome spiritual food that it contained, and each week he read from that book to a group of others who were interested. They made contact with the Society’s headquarters. As their knowledge increased, that study group became a preaching group as well. Although clergy pressure led to a government ban on Watch Tower literature, these new Witnesses continued to preach with just the Bible. People in that land love to hear Bible discussions, so by the time the ban on some of the Society’s publications was lifted in 1957, the Witnesses there already numbered upwards of 500.
When Obstacles Were Raised Up
When obstacles hindered the flow of life-giving water, it soon got through in some other way. Ayité Sessi, a pioneer from Dahomey (now Benin), had preached in French Togo (now Togo) for only a short time in 1949 when the government forced him to leave. But the following year Akakpo Agbetor, a former boxer, originally from Togo, returned to his homeland along with his brother. Because this was the land of his birth, he was able to witness quite freely, even holding meetings. Although pioneers who had taken up assignments in Fernando Po (now part of Equatorial Guinea) in about 1950 were deported after a short time as a result of religious intolerance, other Witnesses later secured work contracts that enabled them to live in that area. And, of course, in harmony with Jesus’ command, they preached.—Mark 13:10.
Emmanuel Mama, a circuit overseer from Ghana, was sent to Upper Volta (now called Burkina Faso) for a few weeks in 1959 and was able to do much witnessing in Ouagadougou, the capital. But there were no Witnesses living in the country. Four years later, seven Witnesses, originally from Togo, Dahomey (now Benin), and Congo, moved to Ouagadougou and sought employment so that they could serve in this area. A few months later, they were joined by several special pioneers from Ghana. However, as a result of clergy pressure on the officials, in 1964, after the Witnesses had been there for less than a year, they were arrested, held for 13 days, and then expelled from the country. Had their efforts been worthwhile? Emmanuel Johnson, a resident of the country, had learned where Bible truth could be found. He continued to study with Jehovah’s Witnesses by mail, and he got baptized in 1969. Yes, the Kingdom work had a foothold in another country.
When application was made for visas that would enable Gilead-trained missionaries to serve in the Ivory Coast (now called Côte d’Ivoire), French officials withheld approval. So, in 1950, Alfred Shooter, from the Gold Coast (now Ghana), was sent to the capital of the Ivory Coast as a pioneer. Once he was established, his wife joined him; and a few months later, a missionary couple, Gabriel and Florence Paterson, came. Problems arose. One day, their literature was seized because it had not been approved by the government, and the brothers were fined. But they later found their books on sale in the marketplace, so they bought them back and made good use of them.
Meanwhile, these brothers visited numerous government offices in an endeavor to obtain permanent visas. Mr. Houphouët-Boigny, who later became president of the Ivory Coast, offered to help. “The truth,” he remarked, “has no barrier whatsoever. It is like a mighty river; dam it and it will overflow the dam.” When a Catholic priest and a Methodist minister tried to interfere, Ouezzin Coulibaly, a government deputy, said: “I represent the people of this country. We are the people, and we like Jehovah’s Witnesses and so we want them to stay here in this country.”
Disciples Who Truly Understand
When giving instructions to “make disciples of people of all the nations,” Jesus also directed that those who would become disciples—those who believed Christ’s teachings and applied them—should be baptized. (Matt. 28:19, 20) In harmony with this, there is provision for baptism of new disciples at the periodic assemblies and conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The number baptized on any given occasion may be relatively few. However, at a convention in Nigeria in 1970, there were 3,775 new Witnesses immersed. Large numbers are not the objective, though.
When it was realized, in 1956, that some in the Gold Coast who were getting baptized had not built their faith on an adequate foundation, an arrangement was instituted there to screen baptismal candidates. Responsibility was placed on local congregation overseers in the Gold Coast to examine personally each immersion candidate to make sure that he had a sound knowledge of basic Bible truths, that he was living in harmony with Bible standards, and that he clearly understood the obligations that go with being a dedicated, baptized Witness of Jehovah. In time, a similar procedure was put into effect worldwide. A detailed outline for use in reviewing basic Bible teachings with baptismal candidates was provided in 1967 in the book “Your Word Is a Lamp to My Foot.” After years of experience, a further refinement of that outline was published in 1983 in the book Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry.
With such an arrangement, were the needs of people who have had little or no formal schooling taken into account?
Coping With the Problem of Illiteracy
In 1957 the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization estimated that approximately 44 percent of the world’s population 15 years of age or older could not read or write. It was reported that in 42 countries in Africa, 2 in the Americas, 28 in Asia, and 4 in Oceania, 75 percent of the adults were illiterate. Yet, they too needed opportunity to learn the law of God so that they could prepare to be subjects of his Kingdom. Many who could not read had keen minds and could remember much of what they heard, but they still could not read the precious Word of God themselves and make use of printed Bible study aids.
For years individual Witnesses had been giving personal help to people who wanted to learn to read. However, in 1949 and 1950, literacy classes were inaugurated by Jehovah’s Witnesses in each of their congregations in many African lands. The classes were usually held in Kingdom Halls, and in some places the entire village was invited to benefit from the program.
Where the government was sponsoring a literacy program, Jehovah’s Witnesses gladly cooperated with it. In many areas, however, the Witnesses had to develop and use their own instruction manuals. Tens of thousands of persons, including thousands of women and elderly folks, have been helped to become literate by means of these classes conducted by Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a result of the way the course was designed, not only have they learned to read and write but at the same time they have become acquainted with basic truths from God’s Holy Word. This has helped to qualify them to share in the disciple-making work that Jesus commanded. The desire to do this effectively has motivated many to put forth earnest effort to learn to read.
When a new Witness in Dahomey (now Benin), West Africa, was turned away by a householder because the Witness could not read, the Witness made up his mind to overcome that problem. In addition to attending the literacy classes, he applied himself personally. Six weeks later he called on the same householder; the man was so amazed to hear this person, who such a short time ago had been illiterate, reading to him from God’s Word that he also showed interest in what the Witness was teaching. Some who have been instructed in these literacy classes have, in time, even become traveling overseers, with a number of congregations to teach. That was true of Ezekiel Ovbiagele in Nigeria.
Educating by Means of Motion Pictures and Slide Showings
To assist those demonstrating interest in the Bible to appreciate the magnitude of Jehovah’s visible organization, a motion picture was released in 1954. This film, The New World Society in Action, also helped to break down community prejudice.
In what is now Zambia, a portable generator was often needed in order to show the film. A white canvas stretched between two trees served as a screen. In Barotse Province the paramount chief viewed the film with his royal family, and then he wanted it shown to the public. As a result, the next evening 2,500 persons saw it. Total attendance for the film showings in Zambia over a 17-year period exceeded one million. Those in attendance were delighted with what they saw. From nearby Tanganyika (now part of Tanzania), it was reported that after the showing of the film, the air was filled with cries of the crowd saying, “Ndaka, ndaka” (Thank you, thank you).
After the motion picture The New World Society in Action, other films followed: The Happiness of the New World Society, Proclaiming “Everlasting Good News” Around the World, God Cannot Lie, and Heritage. There have also been slide showings, with commentary, on the practicality of the Bible in our time, the pagan roots of doctrines and practices of Christendom, and the meaning of world conditions in the light of Bible prophecy, as well as slide showings about Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization, featuring a visit to their world headquarters, thrilling conventions in lands where they were formerly banned, and a review of their modern-day history. All of these have helped people to realize that Jehovah does indeed have a people on the earth and that the Bible is His inspired Word.
Identifying the Real Sheep
In certain countries, people who simply had in their possession some Watch Tower publications claimed to be Jehovah’s Witnesses or used the name Watch Tower. But had they changed their beliefs and way of life to conform to Bible standards? When given needed instruction, would they prove to be truly sheeplike persons who heed the voice of the Master, Jesus Christ?—John 10:4, 5.
A startling letter was received at the Watch Tower Society’s branch office in South Africa, in 1954, from a group of Africans at Baía dos Tigres, a penal settlement in the south of Angola. The writer, João Mancoca, said: “The group of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Angola is composed of 1,000 members. These have as their leader Simão Gonçalves Toco.” Who was Toco? Were his followers really Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Arrangements were made for John Cooke, a missionary who could speak Portuguese, to visit Angola. After a long interview with a colonial official, Brother Cooke was permitted to visit Mancoca. Brother Cooke learned that in the 1940’s, when Toco was associated with a Baptist mission in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire), he had obtained some Watch Tower literature and had shared with close associates what he learned. But then, spiritists influenced the group, and in time Toco completely stopped using the Watch Tower literature and the Bible. Instead, he sought direction through spirit mediums. His followers were repatriated to Angola by the government and then were dispersed to various parts of the country.
Mancoca had been one of Toco’s associates, but Mancoca tried to persuade others to stop practicing spiritism and to adhere to the Bible. Some of Toco’s followers did not like this and, making false charges, denounced Mancoca to the Portuguese authorities. As a result, Mancoca and those who shared his views were deported to a penal colony. From there he got in touch with the Watch Tower Society and obtained more Bible literature. He was humble, spiritually minded, and keenly interested in working closely with the organization through which he had learned the truth. After Brother Cooke had spent many hours discussing Bible truths with this group, there was no question in his mind that João Mancoca was truly one of the Lord’s sheep. Under the most difficult circumstances, Brother Mancoca has proved that for many years now.
Interviews were also held with Toco and some of his followers. With some few exceptions, however, they did not give evidence of the sheeplike qualities of Christ’s followers. So, at that time, there were not 1,000 Witnesses of Jehovah in Angola but only about 25.
Meanwhile, in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire), another confusion of identity had developed. There was a religiopolitical movement known as Kitawala, which at times also made use of the name Watch Tower. In the homes of some of its members were found publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which they had obtained by mail. But the beliefs and practices of the Kitawala (including racism, subversion of authority in order to bring about political or social change, and gross sexual immorality in the name of worship) in no way represented those of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet, certain published reports endeavored to implicate the Watch Tower Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses with the Kitawala.
Repeated efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses to send trained supervisors into the country were rebuffed by Belgian officials. Catholic and Protestant groups were delighted. Particularly from 1949 on, cruel repressive measures were taken against those in the Belgian Congo who endeavored to study the Bible with the aid of Watch Tower literature. But it was as one of the faithful Witnesses there said: “We are like a bag of African corn. Wherever they shall take us, the Word will drop, one by one, until the time when the rain will come, and they shall see us raised up everywhere.” And so it was that in spite of difficult conditions, from 1949 to 1960, the number who reported activity as Jehovah’s Witnesses increased from 48 to 1,528.
Gradually the officials came to appreciate that Jehovah’s Witnesses are very different from the Kitawala. When the Witnesses were granted some freedom to assemble, government observers often remarked about their good conduct and orderliness. When there were violent demonstrations to demand political independence, people knew that Jehovah’s Witnesses were not involved. In 1961 a qualified Witness supervisor, Ernest Heuse, Jr., from Belgium, was finally able to enter the country. With much diligent effort, it was possible to help the brothers gradually to bring their congregations and their personal lives into fuller harmony with God’s Word. There was much to be learned, and it required great patience.
Thinking that it would enhance their position, the Kitawala from some areas sent long lists of their people who wanted to be recognized as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Wisely, Brother Heuse dispatched qualified brothers to these areas to find out what kind of people they were. Instead of accepting large groups, they conducted Bible studies with individuals.
In time, the real sheep, those who truly looked to Jesus Christ as their Shepherd, became manifest. And there were many of these. They, in turn, taught others. Over the years, scores of Watch Tower missionaries from abroad came to work along with them, to help them to gain a more accurate knowledge of God’s Word and to provide needed training. By 1975, there were 17,477 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Zaire, organized in 526 congregations, busy preaching and teaching God’s Word to others.
Breaking the Power of the Fetish
To the west of Nigeria lies the country of Benin (formerly known as Dahomey), with a population divided into 60 ethnic groups speaking some 50 languages and dialects. As is true in much of Africa, animism is the traditional religion, and this is coupled with ancestor worship. Such a religious environment clouds the lives of people with superstition and fear. Many who profess to be Christians also practice animism.
From the late 1920’s into the 1940’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses from Nigeria scattered many seeds of Bible truth in Dahomey by occasional visits to distribute Bible literature. Many of those seeds simply needed a little watering in order to become fruitful. That care was provided in 1948 when Nouru Akintoundé, a native of Dahomey who had been living in Nigeria, returned to Dahomey to pioneer. Within four months, 300 persons quickly responded to the truth and shared with him in the field ministry. This response surpassed all reasonable expectations.
As a result of this activity, agitation was quickly aroused not only among Christendom’s clergy but also among the animists. When the secretary of the fetish convent in Porto-Novo showed interest in the truth, the fetish chief proclaimed that the secretary would die in seven days. But this former convent secretary firmly stated: “If it is the fetish that made Jehovah, I will die; but if Jehovah is the supreme God, then he will vanquish the fetish.” (Compare Deuteronomy 4:35; John 17:3.) To make his prediction come true, on the night of the sixth day, the fetish chief indulged in all sorts of witchcraft and then proclaimed that this former convent secretary was dead. However, there was great consternation among the fetish worshipers the next day when she came to the market in Cotonou very much alive. Later, one of the brothers hired a car and drove her through Porto-Novo so that all could see for themselves that she was alive. Following this, many other fetish worshipers took a firm stand for the truth.—Compare Jeremiah 10:5.
Soon, as a result of intense religious pressure, Watch Tower publications were banned in Dahomey. But, in obedience to Jehovah God, the Witnesses continued to preach, often with just the Bible. Sometimes they would engage in door-to-door work as “traders,” with all sorts of goods. If the conversation went well, they would turn attention to the Bible, and they might even produce from within a large interior pocket of their garment a precious piece of Bible literature.
When the police gave them much difficulty in the cities, then they would preach in the rural areas. (Compare Matthew 10:23.) And when they were thrown into prison, they preached there. In 1955, Witnesses in prison found at least 18 interested persons among prisoners and prison officials at Abomey.
Within just a decade after the Dahoman pioneer brother returned to his homeland to preach, there were 1,426 sharing in the ministry—and that even though their work was under government ban!
More Workers Share in the Harvest
It was obvious that there were many people throughout Africa who were hungering for the truth. The harvest was great, but the workers were few. Therefore, it was encouraging to the brothers as they saw how the Master of the harvest, Jesus Christ, answered their prayers for more workers to help with the spiritual ingathering.—Matt. 9:37, 38.
Much literature had been placed in Kenya in the 1930’s by traveling pioneers, but there had been little follow-up work. However, in 1949, Mary Whittington, with her three young children, emigrated from Britain to live in Nairobi with her husband, who was employed there. Sister Whittington had been baptized for scarcely a year, but she had the spirit of a pioneer. Though she knew of no other Witnesses in Kenya, she set out to help others in this large territory to learn the truth. Despite obstacles, she did not back down. Other Witnesses also came—from Australia, Britain, Canada, South Africa, Sweden, the United States, and Zambia—personally arranging to move there to share the Kingdom hope with the people.
In addition, missionary couples were sent to help with the harvest. At first the men were obligated to do secular work in order to remain in the country, and so they were limited in the time they had available for the ministry. But their wives were free to serve as pioneers. In time, well over a hundred Gilead-trained missionaries came to Kenya. When independence neared, with an end to the segregation that British colonial rule had enforced, the European Witnesses studied Swahili and quickly broadened out their activity to reach the native Africans. The number of Witnesses in this part of the global field grew rapidly.
In 1972, Botswana too received help with the spiritual harvest when Witnesses from Britain, Kenya, and South Africa moved into its larger cities. Three years later, Gilead-trained missionaries also came. To a large extent, however, the population is scattered in rural villages. In order to reach them, Witnesses from South Africa have traveled across the desert region known as the Kalahari. In isolated communities they have witnessed to village headmen, to schoolteachers, and often to groups of 10 or 20 appreciative listeners. Said one elderly man: “You came all this way to talk to us about these things? That is kind, very kind.”
“Bible Brown” had given powerful Bible discourses in Liberia during the 1920’s, but there was considerable opposition. The spiritual harvest work there did not really progress until the arrival of missionaries trained at Gilead School. Harry Behannan, who came in 1946, was the first. Many more shared in the following years. Native Liberians gradually joined them in the work, and by 1975 the number of praisers of Jehovah exceeded a thousand.
Even more preaching had been done by “Bible Brown” in Nigeria. This was a nation divided up into numerous kingdoms, city states, and social systems, with people speaking upwards of 250 languages and dialects. Religion was a further divisive factor. With little tact but with powerful Scriptural arguments, the early Witnesses there exposed the clergy and their false teachings. When their literature was banned during World War II, the brothers preached with the Bible alone. People who loved truth responded appreciatively. They quit the churches, then abandoned polygamy and forsook their jujus, which the churches had tolerated. By 1950 the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses sharing in proclaiming the Kingdom message in Nigeria was 8,370. By 1970, there were more than ten times that number.
Persistent legal obstacles had to be overcome in order to provide spiritual help to interested ones in Southern Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). Efforts to obtain legal recognition had begun in the mid-1920’s. In 1932, pioneers from South Africa were ordered to leave the country and were arbitrarily told that no appeal could be made. But they appealed anyway. Charges that Watch Tower literature was seditious had to be dealt with in the courts. In the early 1940’s, brothers spent time in jail because of distributing publications that explained the Bible. Not until 1966 were Jehovah’s Witnesses given full legal recognition as a religious organization in Zimbabwe. For over 40 years, the spiritual harvesting work had been carried on under considerable difficulty, but during that time courageous workers had helped over 11,000 to become servants of Jehovah God.
Witnessing to Governors and Kings
Jesus knew that his disciples would encounter opposition in their ministry. He told them that they would be delivered up before “local courts,” even before “governors and kings,” and that this would be “for a witness to them and the nations.” (Matt. 10:17, 18) Jehovah’s Witnesses have experienced exactly what Jesus foretold, and in harmony with what he said, they have endeavored to use the opportunity to give a witness.
Some officials have allowed fear to hold them back from doing good to Christ’s followers. (John 12:42, 43) Llewelyn Phillips saw evidence of this in 1948 when he had private interviews with a number of government officials in the Belgian Congo, with a view to bringing relief to persecuted Witnesses there. He explained the beliefs and activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses to these men. But during the interview, the governor-general wistfully asked: “And if I help you, what will happen to me?” He knew that the Roman Catholic Church exercised great influence in that land.
However, the paramount chief of the Swazi nation, King Sobhuza II, was not too concerned about the opinion of the clergy. He had often spoken with Jehovah’s Witnesses, had much of their literature, and was kindly disposed toward them. On “Good Friday” each year, he would invite the African clergymen to his royal kraal. He would let them talk, but he would also call on one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to speak. In 1956 the Witness spoke about the doctrine of immortality of the soul and honorary titles of religious leaders. When he was finished, the paramount chief asked the clergymen: “Are these things said here by Jehovah’s witnesses true or false? If false, state how.” They could not refute them. On one occasion the paramount chief even burst out in laughter at the consternation of the clergy over what a Witness said.
The police were often the ones delegated to demand from the Witnesses reasons for what they were doing. From the congregation in Tangier, Morocco, Witnesses made regular trips to Ceuta, a seaport under Spanish control but on the Moroccan coast. Stopped by the police on one occasion in 1967, the Witnesses were interrogated for two hours, during which time an excellent witness was given. At one point, two police inspectors asked whether the Witnesses believed in the “Virgin Mary.” When told that the Gospel accounts show that Mary had other children after the virgin birth of Jesus, and that these were Jesus’ half brothers and sisters, the officers let out a gasp of surprise and said that such a thing could never be found in the Bible. When shown John 7:3-5, one of the officers looked at it at length without saying a word; so the other said: “Give me that Bible. I’ll explain the text!” The first officer replied: “Don’t bother. This text is too clear.” Many other questions were asked and answered in a relaxed atmosphere. After that, there was very little interference from the authorities as the Witnesses preached in that area.
Men prominent in government have become well acquainted with Jehovah’s Witnesses and their ministry. Some of them appreciate that the work done by the Witnesses is truly beneficial for the people. Late in 1959, when preparations were being made for the independence of Nigeria, the governor-general, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, requested that W. R. Brown be present as a representative of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He said to his Council of Ministers: “If all the religious denominations were like Jehovah’s witnesses, we would have no murders, burglaries, delinquencies, prisoners and atomic bombs. Doors would not be locked day in and day out.”
A truly great spiritual harvest was being gathered in Africa. By 1975, there were 312,754 Witnesses preaching the good news in 44 countries on the African continent. In nine of those countries, there were fewer than 50 who were taking a stand for Bible truth and sharing in the evangelizing work. But the Witnesses view the life of each one as precious. In 19 of these lands, those who shared in the house-to-house ministry as Jehovah’s Witnesses numbered in the thousands. Dramatic increases were reported in some areas. In Angola, for example, from 1970 to 1975, the number of Witnesses increased from 355 to 3,055. In Nigeria, in 1975, there were 112,164 of Jehovah’s Witnesses. These were not merely people who enjoyed reading Watch Tower literature, nor were they merely those who occasionally might attend meetings at a Kingdom Hall. All of them were active proclaimers of God’s Kingdom.
The Orient Produces Praisers of Jehovah
As was true in many other places, the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Philippines expanded rapidly following World War II. As soon as possible after his release from prison on March 13, 1945, Joseph Dos Santos got in touch with the Watch Tower Society’s office in New York. He wanted to obtain all the Bible study material and organization instructions that the brothers in the Philippines had missed during the war. Then he visited congregations personally to unify and strengthen them. That same year a national convention was held in Lingayen, Pangasinan, where instructions were given on how to teach truth-hungry people by means of home Bible studies. The following years saw a concerted effort to translate and publish more material in the local languages—Tagalog, Iloko, and Cebuano. The foundation was being laid for expansion, and it came quickly.
Within a decade after the war ended, the number of Witnesses in the Philippines increased from about 2,000 to more than 24,000. In another 20 years, there were well over 78,000 praisers of Jehovah there.
Among the first countries of the Orient to which missionaries trained at Gilead School were sent was China. Harold King and Stanley Jones arrived in Shanghai in 1947; Lew Ti Himm, in 1949. The three German pioneers who had begun work there in 1939 were on hand to greet them. This was a land where the majority of people were Buddhists and did not quickly respond to discussion of the Bible. Inside their homes were shrines and altars. With mirrors over doorways, they tried to frighten away evil spirits. Red tags with ‘good luck’ sayings and fearsome pictures of Buddhist gods adorned gateways. But those were times of great change in China. Under Communist rule everyone was required to study ‘the thoughts of Mao Tse-tung.’ After their secular work, they were to attend lengthy sessions at which Communism was expounded. In the midst of all of this, our brothers kept busy preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom.
Many of those who were willing to study with Jehovah’s Witnesses had previously had some contact with the Bible through the churches of Christendom. That was true of Nancy Yuen, a church worker and housewife who was grateful for what the Witnesses showed her in the Bible. Soon she was sharing zealously in the house-to-house work and conducting Bible studies herself. Others to whom they preached were of typical Chinese and Buddhist background and had no previous knowledge of the Bible. In 1956 a peak of 57 publishers was reached. However, that same year, after being arrested six times for preaching, Nancy Yuen was kept in prison. Others were either arrested or forced to leave the country. Stanley Jones and Harold King were placed under arrest on October 14, 1958. Before being brought to trial, they were detained for two years. During that time they were interrogated constantly. When finally taken to court in 1960, they were sentenced to long prison terms. Thus, in October 1958 the public activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in China was forcibly brought to a halt. But their preaching never completely stopped. Even in prison and in labor camps, there were ways to witness. In the future would more be done in this vast country? This would be known in due time.
Meanwhile, what was taking place in Japan? Only about a hundred of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been preaching there before the second world war. When faced with brutal repressive measures during the war years, many of these compromised. Although a few maintained their integrity, organized public preaching came to a halt. However, the proclaiming of Jehovah’s Kingdom was given a new start in that part of the world when Don Haslett, a Gilead-trained missionary, arrived in Tokyo in January 1949. Two months later, his wife, Mabel, was able to join him there. This was a field where many people were hungry for the truth. The emperor had renounced his claim to godship. Shinto, Buddhism, Catholicism, and Kyodan (made up of various Protestant groups in Japan) had all lost face with the people because of going along with Japan’s war effort, which had ended in defeat.
By the end of 1949, 13 missionaries from Gilead School were busy in Japan. More followed—upwards of 160 in all. There was very little literature with which to work. Some of the missionaries had spoken old-style Japanese in Hawaii, but they had to learn the up-to-date language. The others had learned a few basics but had to resort frequently to their Japanese-English dictionaries until they became better acquainted with their new language. Before long, the Ishii and Miura families, who had not forsaken their faith during the war years, made contact with the organization and once again began to participate in the public ministry.
Missionary homes were progressively opened in Kobe, Nagoya, Osaka, Yokohama, Kyoto, and Sendai. From 1949 to 1957, the main endeavor was to establish the Kingdom work in the large cities on Japan’s main island. Then the workers began to move out to other cities. The field was vast. It was obvious that if all Japan was to receive a thorough witness, many pioneer ministers would be needed. This was stressed, many volunteered, and there was marvelous response to the united efforts of these hardworking ministers! The first decade yielded 1,390 praisers of Jehovah. By the mid-1970’s, there were 33,480 zealous praisers of Jehovah spread throughout Japan. And the pace of ingathering was speeding up.
In the same year that Don Haslett arrived in Japan, 1949, the Kingdom work in the Republic of Korea was also given great impetus. Korea had been under Japanese domination during the world war, and the Witnesses had been ruthlessly persecuted. Although a small group met together for study after the war, there was no contact with the international organization until after Choi Young-won saw a report about Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1948 in the American Army newspaper Stars and Stripes. The next year a congregation of 12 publishers was formed in Seoul. Later that year Don and Earlene Steele, the first missionaries from Gilead School, arrived. Seven months later, six more missionaries followed.
They were having excellent results—an average of 20 Bible studies each and meeting attendance of as many as 336. Then the Korean War broke out. Hardly more than three months after that last group of missionaries had arrived, they were all evacuated to Japan. It was more than a year before Don Steele was able to return to Seoul, and another year before Earlene could join him. In the meantime the Korean brothers had remained firm and had been zealous in preaching, in spite of the fact that homes had been lost and many of them were refugees. But now, with the fighting past, attention was given to providing more literature in Korean. Conventions and an influx of more missionaries gave stimulus to the work. By 1975, there were 32,693 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Republic of Korea—almost as many as in Japan—and there was potential for excellent growth, because over 32,000 home Bible studies were being conducted.
What Was the Situation in Europe?
The end of World War II in Europe did not result in full freedom for Jehovah’s Witnesses there to carry on their work of Bible education without opposition. In some places officials respected them because of their firm stand during the war. But elsewhere powerful tides of nationalism and religious animosity led to further persecution.
Among the Witnesses in Belgium were some who had come from Germany to share in preaching the good news. Because they would not support the Nazi regime, the Gestapo had tracked them down like wild beasts. But now Belgian officials accused some of these same Witnesses of being Nazis and had them imprisoned and then deported. Despite all of this, the number of Witnesses sharing in the field ministry in Belgium more than tripled within five years after the war.
What was behind much of the persecution? The Roman Catholic Church. Wherever it had the power to do so, it was unrelenting in its war to stamp out Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Knowing that many people in the West feared Communism, the Catholic clergy in the Irish city of Cork, in 1948, whipped up opposition to Jehovah’s Witnesses by constantly referring to them as “Communist devils.” As a result, when Fred Metcalfe was sharing in the field ministry, he was confronted by a mob that punched and kicked him and scattered his Bible literature on the street. Happily, a policeman came along just then and dispersed the mobsters. In the face of all of this, the Witnesses persevered. Not all the Irish people agreed with the violence. Later, even some who shared in it wished that they had not. Most of the Catholic people in Ireland had never seen a Bible. But, with loving patience, some of them were helped to take hold of the truth that sets men free.—John 8:32.
Though the Witnesses in Italy numbered only about a hundred in 1946, three years later they had 64 congregations—small but hardworking. The clergy were worried. Unable to refute the Bible truths preached by Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Catholic clergy pressured government authorities to try to get rid of them. Thus, in 1949, Witness missionaries were ordered out of the country.
Repeatedly the Roman Catholic clergy sought to disrupt or prevent assemblies of the Witnesses in Italy. They used hecklers to try to disrupt an assembly in Sulmona in 1948. In Milan they put pressure on the chief of police to cancel the permit for a convention at Teatro dell’Arte in 1950. Again, in 1951, they got the police to cancel permission for an assembly in Cerignola. But in 1957, when the police ordered a Witness convention in Milan to be closed down, the Italian press objected, and questions were raised in parliament. The Rome weekly Il Mondo, of July 30, 1957, did not hesitate to state that the action had been taken “to satisfy the archbishop,” Giovanni Battista Montini, who later became Pope Paul VI. It was well-known that for centuries the Catholic Church had forbidden circulation of the Bible in languages used by the general public. But Jehovah’s Witnesses persisted in letting sincere Catholics see for themselves what the Bible says. The contrast between the Bible and church dogma was obvious. Despite the intense efforts of the Catholic Church to prevent it, thousands were leaving the church, and by 1975 there were 51,248 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Italy. All of these were active evangelizers, and their numbers were multiplying rapidly.
In Catholic Spain when organized activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses was gradually revived after 1946, it came as no surprise that the clergy there also pressured secular officials to try to stop them. Congregation meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses were disrupted. Missionaries were forced out of the country. Witnesses were arrested for simply having the Bible or Bible literature in their possession. They were often detained in filthy jails up to three days, then released—only to be arrested, interrogated, and put in prison again. Many served sentences of a month or more. The priests urged secular authorities to track down anyone who studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even after the Religious Liberty Law was passed in 1967, changes came slowly. Nevertheless, by the time Jehovah’s Witnesses were finally given legal recognition in 1970, there were already over 11,000 of them in Spain. And five years later, they numbered upwards of 30,000, each one an active evangelizer.
And what about Portugal? Here too, missionaries were ordered out of the country. Egged on by the Catholic clergy, the police searched the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses, confiscated their literature, and disrupted their meetings. In January 1963 the commander of the Public Security Police of Caldas da Rainha even issued a written order forbidding them to ‘exercise their activities of Bible reading.’ But the Witnesses did not forsake their service to God. There were over 13,000 of them by the time they gained legal recognition in Portugal in 1974.
In other parts of Europe, secular authorities raised obstacles to the preaching of the good news by classifying the distribution of Bible literature as a commercial activity, subject to laws on commerce. In a number of the cantons of Switzerland, peddling ordinances were applied to the distribution of literature by Jehovah’s Witnesses on a voluntary contribution. As the Witnesses carried on their activity, they were subjected to numerous arrests and court actions. When the cases came to trial, however, some courts, including the High Court of the canton of Vaud, in 1953, ruled that the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses could not properly be viewed as peddling. Meanwhile, in Denmark an effort was made to limit the hours during which Witnesses could offer literature, restricting their activity to times authorized by law for the operation of commercial shops. This too had to be fought in the courts. Despite the obstacles, Jehovah’s Witnesses continued to proclaim God’s Kingdom as the only hope for mankind.
Another issue affecting Jehovah’s Witnesses in Europe, as well as in other parts of the earth, was Christian neutrality. Because their Christian consciences would not permit them to get involved in conflicts between factions of the world, they were sentenced to prison in one country after another. (Isa. 2:2-4) This took young men away from their regular house-to-house ministry. But one beneficial result was an intensive witness to lawyers, judges, military officers, and prison guards. Even in prison the Witnesses found some way to preach. Although the treatment in some prisons was brutal, Witnesses confined at the Santa Catalina prison in Cádiz, Spain, were able to use some of their time to witness through the mail. And in Sweden much publicity was given to the way cases involving the neutrality of Jehovah’s Witnesses were handled. Thus, in many ways people were made aware of the fact that Jehovah does have witnesses on the earth and that they adhere firmly to Bible principles.
There was something else that kept the Witnesses before the public eye. It also had a powerful, invigorating effect on their evangelizing work.
Conventions Contributed to the Witness
When Jehovah’s Witnesses held an international convention in Paris, France, in 1955, television news reports gave the entire nation glimpses of what took place. In 1969 another convention was held near Paris, and it was evident that the ministry of the Witnesses had been fruitful. Those baptized at the convention numbered 3,619, or about 10 percent of the average attendance. Regarding this, the popular Paris evening newspaper France-Soir of August 6, 1969, said: “What worries the clergy of other religions is not the means of spectacular distribution of publications used by Jehovah’s witnesses, but, rather, their making converts. Each of Jehovah’s witnesses has the obligation to witness or proclaim his faith by using the Bible from house to house.”
During a three-week period that same summer of 1969, four other large international conventions were held in Europe—in London, Copenhagen, Rome, and Nuremberg. The Nuremberg convention was attended by 150,645 from 78 countries. Besides airplanes and ships, some 20,000 cars, 250 buses, and 40 special trains were needed to transport the delegates to that convention.
The conventions not only fortified and equipped Jehovah’s Witnesses for their ministry but also gave the public opportunity to see for themselves what sort of people Jehovah’s Witnesses are. When an international convention was scheduled for Dublin, Ireland, in 1965, intense religious pressure was used to force cancellation of the arrangements. But the convention was held, and many householders in Dublin provided accommodations for delegates. With what result? “We have not been told the truth about you,” commented some of the landladies after the convention. “The priests lied to us, but now that we know you, we will always be happy to have you again.”
When People Speak Another Language
In recent decades Jehovah’s Witnesses in Europe have found that communicating with people of other nationalities has presented a special challenge. Large numbers have moved from one country to another to take advantage of employment opportunities. Some European cities have become the seats of major international institutions, with personnel who do not all speak the local language.
Of course, multilingual territory has been a fact of life for centuries in some places. In India, for example, there are 14 principal languages and perhaps 1,000 minor languages and dialects. Papua New Guinea claims more than 700 languages. But it was particularly during the 1960’s and 1970’s that the Witnesses in Luxembourg found that their territory had become one that included people from over 30 different nations—and after that at least another 70 nationalities arrived. Sweden reports that it has changed from a country with one language used by nearly everyone to a society that speaks 100 different tongues. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses dealt with this?
At first, they often simply endeavored to find out the language of the householder and then tried to obtain some literature that he could read. In Denmark, tape recordings were made in order to let sincere Turkish people hear the message in their own language. Switzerland had a large contingent of guest workers from Italy and Spain. The experience of Rudolf Wiederkehr in helping some of these is typical of how things started. He tried to witness to an Italian man, but neither of them knew much of the other’s language. What could be done? Our brother left an Italian Watchtower with him. Despite the language problem, Brother Wiederkehr returned. A Bible study was started with the man, his wife, and their 12-year-old son. Brother Wiederkehr’s study book was in German, but he supplied Italian copies for the family. Where words were lacking, gestures were used. Sometimes the young boy, who was learning German in school, served as interpreter. That entire family embraced the truth and quickly began to share it with others.
But literally millions of workers from Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and Yugoslavia were moving into Germany and other countries. Spiritual help could be given to them more effectively in their own languages. Soon some of the local Witnesses began to learn the languages of the guest workers. In Germany, language classes in Turkish were even arranged by the branch office. Witnesses in other countries who knew the needed language were invited to move to places where there was a special need for help.
Some of the workers from abroad had never met Jehovah’s Witnesses before and truly had a hunger for spiritual things. They were grateful for the effort being put forth to help them. Many foreign-language congregations were formed. In time, some of these guest workers returned to their homelands to carry on the ministry in areas that previously had not had a thorough witness regarding God’s Kingdom.
An Abundant Harvest in the Face of Obstacles
Jehovah’s Witnesses employ the same methods of preaching throughout the earth. In North America they have been actively evangelizing for over a century. It is not surprising, then, that there has been an abundant spiritual harvest there. By 1975, there were 624,097 active Witnesses of Jehovah within the U.S. mainland and Canada. However, this was not because their preaching in North America was being done without opposition.
Although the Canadian government had lifted its ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses and their legal corporations by 1945, benefits from that decision were not immediately felt in the province of Quebec. In September 1945, Catholic mobs attacked Jehovah’s Witnesses in Châteauguay and Lachine. Witnesses were arrested and charged with sedition because literature they distributed criticized the Roman Catholic Church. Others were put into jail because they distributed Bible literature that had not been approved by the chief of police. By 1947, there were 1,700 cases against the Witnesses pending in the courts of Quebec.
While test cases were being pushed through the courts, Witnesses were instructed to preach the gospel by word of mouth, using just the Bible—the Catholic Douay Version where possible. Full-time ministers from other parts of Canada volunteered to learn French and moved to Quebec in order to share in the spread of true worship there.
Many sincere Catholic people invited the Witnesses into their homes and asked questions, though they often said: ‘I’m a Roman Catholic and will never change.’ But when they saw for themselves what the Bible says, tens of thousands of them, because of love for the truth and a desire to please God, did change.
In the United States too, it was necessary to argue before the courts to establish the right of Jehovah’s Witnesses to preach publicly and from house to house. From 1937 to 1953, there were 59 such cases involving the Witnesses that were taken all the way up to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
Attention to Unassigned Territories
The objective of Jehovah’s Witnesses is not merely to do something in the preaching of the good news but to reach everyone possible with the Kingdom message. To that end, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has assigned each branch office responsibility for a specific part of the world field. As congregations are formed within the branch territory, each congregation is given a part of that territory in which to preach. The congregation then divides up the area into sections that can be assigned to groups and to individual ministers in the congregation. These endeavor to reach each household on a regular basis. But what about areas not yet assigned to congregations?
In 1951 a tabulation was made of all the counties in the United States to determine which were not receiving regular visits from Jehovah’s Witnesses. At that time, nearly 50 percent were not being worked or were being only partially covered. Arrangements were made for Witnesses to carry on their ministry in these areas during the summer months or at other appropriate times, with a view to developing congregations. When people were not at home, a printed message was sometimes left, along with a piece of Bible literature. Bible studies were conducted by mail. Later, special pioneers were sent to such territories to follow up on interest located.
This activity was not limited to the 1950’s. Around the world, in lands where the principal cities are receiving a witness but unassigned territory exists, an earnest effort continues to be made to reach the people who are not contacted regularly. In Alaska in the 1970’s, about 20 percent of the population lived in remote villages. Many of these people could best be found in the winter when fishing nearly comes to a standstill. But that is the time when severe icing and whiteouts make flying hazardous. Nevertheless, the Eskimo, Indian, and Aleut population needed the opportunity to learn of the provision for everlasting life under God’s Kingdom. To reach them, a group of 11 Witnesses using small planes flew to some 200 villages scattered over an area of 326,000 square miles [844,000 sq km] during a two-year period. All of this was financed by voluntary contributions provided by local Witnesses.
In addition to such preaching expeditions, mature Witnesses have been encouraged to consider actually moving into areas within their own country where the need for Kingdom proclaimers is greater. Thousands have responded. Among those in the United States who have done so are Eugene and Delia Shuster, who left Illinois in 1958 to serve in Hope, Arkansas. They have stayed for over three decades to locate interested persons, organize them into a congregation, and help them to grow to Christian maturity.
At the encouragement of their circuit overseer, in 1957, Alexander B. Green and his wife left Dayton, Ohio, to serve in Mississippi. First they were assigned to Jackson and two years later to Clarksdale. In time, Brother Green served in five other locations. All of these had small congregations that were in need of assistance. He supported himself by doing janitorial work, gardening, furniture refinishing, automobile repair work, and so forth. But his principal efforts were directed toward preaching the good news. He helped the local Witnesses to grow spiritually, worked with them to reach the people in their territory, and often assisted them in building a Kingdom Hall before he moved on.
In 1967, when Gerald Cain became a Witness in the western United States, he and his family strongly felt the urgency of the evangelizing work. Even before any of them were baptized, they were making arrangements to serve where the need was greater. For four years they worked with the congregation in Needles, California. It had responsibility for a territory that included parts of three states in the western United States. When health considerations required a move, they again selected a place where there was special need for help, and they converted part of their home there into a Kingdom Hall. Other moves have followed, but always a major consideration has been getting located in a place where they could be of the greatest help in witnessing.
As the number of congregations has multiplied, in some areas the need for qualified elders has been keenly felt. To meet this need, thousands of elders have volunteered to commute regularly (and at their own expense) to congregations outside their community. They make the trip three, four, five, or more times a week—to share in the meetings of the congregation and in the field ministry and also to shepherd the flock. This has been done not only in the United States but in El Salvador, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, and many other lands. In some instances the elders and their families have moved, in order to fill this need.
What have been the results? Consider one country. Back in 1951, when arrangements to work unassigned territory were first announced, there were about 3,000 congregations in the United States, with an average of 45 publishers per congregation. By 1975, there were 7,117 congregations, and the average number of active Witnesses associated with each congregation had risen to nearly 80.
The witness given to Jehovah’s name and Kingdom from 1945 to 1975 was far greater than all that had been accomplished up till then.
The number of Witnesses had grown from 156,299 in 1945 to 2,179,256 around the globe in 1975. Each one of these had a personal share in publicly preaching about the Kingdom of God.
In 1975, Jehovah’s Witnesses were busy in 212 lands (counted according to the way the map was divided in the early 1990’s). Within the U.S. mainland and Canada, 624,097 of them were carrying out their ministry. In Europe, outside what was then the Soviet Union, there were another 614,826. Africa was hearing the Bible’s message of truth from the 312,754 Witnesses who were sharing in the work there. Mexico, Central America, and South America were being served by 311,641 Witnesses; Asia, by 161,598; Australia and the many islands earth wide, by 131,707.
During the 30 years down to 1975, Jehovah’s Witnesses devoted 4,635,265,939 hours to public preaching and teaching. They also placed 3,914,971,158 books, booklets, and magazines with interested people to help them to appreciate how they could benefit from Jehovah’s loving purpose. In harmony with Jesus’ command to make disciples, they made 1,788,147,329 return visits on interested persons, and in 1975 they were conducting an average of 1,411,256 free home Bible studies with individuals and families.
By 1975 the preaching of the good news had actually reached into 225 lands. In more than 80 lands that the good news had reached by 1945 but where there were no congregations that year, congregations of zealous Witnesses were thriving by 1975. Among these places were the Republic of Korea with 470 congregations, Spain with 513, Zaire with 526, Japan with 787, and Italy with 1,031.
During the period from 1945 to 1975, the vast majority of persons who became Jehovah’s Witnesses did not profess to be anointed with God’s spirit with heavenly life in view. In the spring of 1935, the number who partook of the emblems at the Lord’s Evening Meal totaled fully 93 percent of the those who were sharing in the field ministry. (Later in that same year, the “great multitude” of Revelation 7:9 was identified as being made up of persons who would live forever on earth.) By 1945 the number of Witnesses who looked forward to life on a paradise earth had increased to the point that they made up 86 percent of those who shared in preaching the good news. By 1975 those who professed to be spirit-anointed Christians were less than one half of 1 percent of the total worldwide organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Though scattered in about 115 lands at that time, these anointed ones continued to serve as a unified body under Jesus Christ.
[Blurb on page 463]
“Since you’ve been here everybody is talking about the Bible”
[Blurb on page 466]
“What you have just told me is what I read in that Bible so many years ago”
[Blurb on page 470]
Thousands moved to areas within their own country where the need for Witnesses was greater
[Blurb on page 472]
“A priceless reward”
[Blurb on page 475]
Qualified Witnesses were sent into lands where there was a special need
[Blurb on page 486]
With powerful Scriptural arguments, early Witnesses in Nigeria exposed the clergy and their false teachings
[Blurb on page 497]
Where words were lacking, gestures were used
[Blurb on page 499]
The objective? Reach everyone possible with the Kingdom message
[Box/Picture on page 489]
Much effort was put forth to reach the people of China with the good news of Jehovah’s Kingdom
From Chefoo, thousands of letters, tracts, and books were sent out between 1891 and 1900
C. T. Russell spoke in Shanghai and visited 15 cities and villages, 1912
Colporteurs distributed much literature up and down the China coast, with trips to the interior, 1912-18
Japanese colporteurs served here, 1930-31
Radio broadcasts were made in Chinese from Shanghai, Peking, and Tientsin during the 1930’s; as a result, letters requesting literature came from many parts of China
Pioneers from Australia and Europe witnessed in Shanghai, Peking, Tientsin, Tsingtao, Pei-tai-ho, Chefoo, Weihaiwei, Canton, Swatow, Amoy, Foochow, Hankow, and Nanking during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Others came in over the Burma Road and witnessed in Pao-shan, Chungking, Ch’eng-tu. Local pioneers served in Shensi and Ningpo
Gilead-trained missionaries, such as Stanley Jones (left) and Harold King (right), served here from 1947 to 1958, along with families of zealous local Witnesses
[Map/Pictures on page 462]
The “Sibia” served as a floating missionary home in the West Indies
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VIRGIN ISLANDS (U.S.)
VIRGIN ISLANDS (BRITISH)
[Map on page 477]
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Life-giving waters of truth flowed over national borders in many directions in Africa
[Pictures on page 464]
As missionaries in Bolivia, Edward Michalec (left) and Harold Morris (right) preached first here in La Paz
[Picture on page 465]
The boat “El Refugio,” built by Witnesses in Peru, was used to take the Kingdom message to people along rivers in the upper Amazon region
[Picture on page 467]
Literacy classes conducted by the Witnesses in Mexico have enabled tens of thousands of people to read God’s Word
[Picture on page 468]
Brother Knorr (front right) met with Witnesses in small assemblies on farms and in the mountains in Argentina when they were denied freedom to assemble more openly
[Picture on page 469]
Among the thousands of Witnesses who moved to other countries to serve where the need was greater were families, such as Harold and Anne Zimmerman with their four young children (Colombia)
[Picture on page 471]
In response to a call for volunteers, Tom and Rowena Kitto moved to Papua to teach Bible truth
[Picture on page 471]
John and Ellen Hubler, followed by 31 other Witnesses, moved to New Caledonia. Before they had to leave, a congregation was firmly established there
[Picture on page 473]
As a young man in Western Samoa, Fuaiupolu Pele faced intense family and community pressure when he decided to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses
[Picture on page 474]
After Shem Irofa’alu and his associates became convinced that what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach is really the truth, churches in 28 villages in the Solomon Islands were converted into Kingdom Halls
[Pictures on page 476]
To preach in Ethiopia in the early 1950’s, the Witnesses were required to establish a mission and teach school
[Picture on page 478]
When threatened with deportation, Gabriel Paterson (shown here) was reassured by a prominent official: ‘The truth is like a mighty river; dam it and it will overflow the dam’
[Pictures on page 479]
In 1970 at a convention in Nigeria, 3,775 new Witnesses were immersed; care was taken to be sure that each one really qualified
[Pictures on page 481]
Film showings (in Africa and around the world) gave audiences a glimpse of the magnitude of Jehovah’s visible organization
[Picture on page 482]
João Mancoca (shown here with his wife, Mary) has loyally served Jehovah for decades in the face of very difficult conditions
[Picture on page 483]
In 1961, Ernest Heuse, Jr., with his family, was able to enter Zaire (then called Congo) to help provide spiritual instruction for those who truly wanted to serve Jehovah
[Pictures on page 485]
Though she had been baptized only a year and knew of no other Witnesses in Kenya, Mary Whittington set out to help others learn the truth
[Picture on page 487]
Mary Nisbet (front center), flanked by her sons Robert and George, who pioneered in East Africa in the 1930’s, and (in the rear) her son William and his wife Muriel, who served in East Africa from 1956 to 1973
[Pictures on page 488]
At a convention in the Philippines in 1945, instructions were given on how to teach by means of home Bible studies
[Pictures on page 490]
Don and Mabel Haslett, the first postwar missionaries in Japan, engaging in street witnessing
[Picture on page 491]
For 25 years Lloyd Barry (right) served in Japan, first as a missionary and then as branch overseer
[Picture on page 491]
Don and Earlene Steele, the first of many missionaries who served in the Republic of Korea
[Picture on page 492]
In years past, mobs sometimes chased Fred Metcalfe when he tried to preach from the Bible in Ireland; but later when people stopped to listen, thousands became Jehovah’s Witnesses
[Picture on page 493]
In spite of clergy opposition, thousands flocked to Witness conventions in Italy (Rome, 1969)
[Picture on page 494]
During bans, congregation meetings were often held in the countryside, picnic-style, as here in Portugal
[Pictures on page 495]
Witnesses in prison in Cádiz, Spain, continued to preach by writing letters
[Pictures on page 496]
Large conventions gave the public opportunity to see and hear for themselves what sort of people the Witnesses are
Paris, France (1955)
Nuremberg, Germany (1955)
[Pictures on page 498]
To reach everyone in Luxembourg with the good news, Jehovah’s Witnesses have had to use literature in at least a hundred languages
Part 5—Witnesses to the Most Distant Part of the Earth
In 1975 important decisions were made regarding the way that the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses would be supervised from their world headquarters. They did not then know what fields might yet open up for an extensive witness before the end of the present world system or how much preaching would still be done in lands where they had openly preached for many years. But they wanted to make the best possible use of every opportunity. Pages 502 to 520 relate some of the exciting developments.
THERE have been big changes in South America. It was not many years ago that Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ecuador faced Catholic mobs, Catholic priests in Mexico ruled as virtual kings in many villages, and government bans were imposed on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Argentina and Brazil. But circumstances have changed significantly. Now many of those who were taught to fear or to hate the Witnesses are themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses. Others gladly listen when the Witnesses call on them to share the Bible’s message of peace. Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known and widely respected.
The size of their conventions and the Christian conduct of those attending have attracted attention. Two of such conventions, held simultaneously in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1985, had a peak attendance of 249,351. Later, 23 additional conventions, held to accommodate interested persons in the rest of Brazil, raised the total attendance to 389,387. Results of the work Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil had been doing as teachers of God’s Word were clearly in evidence when 4,825 persons symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by water immersion at that round of conventions. Just five years later, in 1990, it was necessary to hold 110 conventions throughout Brazil to accommodate the 548,517 who attended. This time 13,448 presented themselves for water immersion. Across the country hundreds of thousands of individuals and families were welcoming Jehovah’s Witnesses to instruct them in God’s Word.
And what about Argentina? After decades of government restrictions, Jehovah’s Witnesses there were again able to assemble freely in 1985. What a joy it was for 97,167 to be present at their first series of conventions! Under the heading “A Kingdom That Is Growing—That of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the local news publication Ahora marveled at the orderliness of the convention crowd in Buenos Aires, their total lack of racial and social prejudice, their peaceableness, and the love they manifested. Then it concluded: “Whether or not we share their ideas and doctrines, this entire multitude deserves our greatest respect.” However, many Argentines went beyond that. They began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they attended Kingdom Hall meetings to observe how the Witnesses apply Bible principles in their lives. Then these observers made a decision. During the next seven years, tens of thousands of them dedicated their lives to Jehovah, and the number of Witnesses in Argentina increased by 71 percent!
Response to the good news of God’s Kingdom was even more extraordinary in Mexico. In years past, Jehovah’s Witnesses there had been frequently assaulted by mobs instigated by priests. But the fact that the Witnesses did not retaliate or seek revenge greatly impressed honesthearted persons. (Rom. 12:17-19) They also observed that the Witnesses based all their beliefs on the Bible, God’s inspired Word, instead of on human traditions. (Matt. 15:7-9; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) They could see that the Witnesses had faith that truly sustained them in the face of adversity. More and more families welcomed Jehovah’s Witnesses when they offered to conduct free home Bible studies with them. In fact, during 1992, 12 percent of the Bible studies being conducted by the Witnesses worldwide were in Mexico, and a considerable number of these were with large families. As a result, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mexico—not merely those who were attending their meetings but the ones who were active public proclaimers of God’s Kingdom—soared from 80,481 in 1975 to 354,023 in 1992!
In Europe too, extraordinary events contributed to the spread of the Kingdom message.
Amazing Developments in Poland
Although the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been banned in Poland from 1939 to 1945 (during the period of Nazi and Soviet domination) and again starting in July 1950 (under Soviet control), Jehovah’s Witnesses had not ceased preaching there. Though they numbered only 1,039 in 1939, in 1950 there were 18,116 Kingdom proclaimers, and these continued to be zealous (though cautious) evangelizers. (Matt. 10:16) As for assemblies, however, these had been held out of public view—in the countryside, in barns, in forests. But, beginning in 1982, the Polish government permitted them to hold one-day assemblies of modest size in rented facilities.
Then, in 1985 the largest stadiums in Poland were made available to Jehovah’s Witnesses for four large conventions during the month of August. When a delegate from Austria arrived by airplane, he was surprised to hear an announcement over the loudspeaker welcoming Jehovah’s Witnesses to Poland for their convention. Aware of the change in government attitude that this indicated, an elderly Polish Witness who was there to welcome the visitor could not help giving way to tears of joy. In attendance at these conventions were 94,134 delegates, including groups from 16 lands. Did the general public know what was taking place? Yes, indeed! During and after these conventions, they read reports in their major newspapers, saw the convention crowds on television, and heard portions of the program on national radio. Many of them liked what they saw and heard.
Plans for even larger conventions in Poland were under way when, on May 12, 1989, the government granted legal recognition to Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religious association. Within three months, three international conventions were in session—in Chorzów, Poznan, and Warsaw—with a combined attendance of 166,518. Amazingly, thousands of Witnesses from what were then the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) and Czechoslovakia were able to secure needed permission to travel and were in attendance. Was the disciple-making work of Jehovah’s Witnesses yielding results in these lands where atheism had been strongly advocated by the State for decades? The answer was evident when 6,093, including many youths, presented themselves for water immersion at those conventions.
The public could not help but see that the Witnesses were different—in a very wholesome way. In the public press, they read statements like the following: “Those who worship Jehovah God—as they themselves say—greatly value their gatherings, which are certainly a manifestation of unity among them. . . . As regards orderliness, peacefulness, and cleanliness, convention participants are examples to imitate.” (Życie Warszawy) Some of the Polish people decided to do more than just observe the conventioners. They wanted Jehovah’s Witnesses to study the Bible with them. As a result of such instruction in God’s Word, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Poland increased from 72,887 in 1985 to 107,876 in 1992; and during that latter year, they devoted upwards of 16,800,000 hours to telling yet others about the marvelous hope set out in the Scriptures.
However, it was not only in Poland that exciting changes were taking place.
More of Eastern Europe Opens Its Doors
Hungary granted legal status to Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1989. What was then the German Democratic Republic (GDR) removed its 40-year ban on the Witnesses in 1990, just four months after demolition of the Berlin Wall began. The following month the Christian Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Romania was officially recognized by the new Romanian government. In 1991 the Ministry of Justice in Moscow declared that the Charter of the “Religious Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the U.S.S.R.” was officially registered. That same year legal recognition was granted to the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bulgaria. During 1992, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Albania were granted legal status.
What did Jehovah’s Witnesses do with the freedom granted them? A journalist asked Helmut Martin, coordinator of the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the GDR: “Are you going to get involved in politics?” After all, that was what many of Christendom’s clergy were doing. “No,” replied Brother Martin, “Jesus gave his disciples a Scriptural assignment, and we see that as our main job.”—Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were certainly not just beginning to care for that responsibility in this part of the world. Although it had been necessary for them to carry out their activity under very difficult circumstances for many years, in most of these lands congregations (meeting in small groups) had been functioning, and witnessing had been done. But now a new opportunity was opening up. They could hold meetings to which they could freely invite the public. They could openly preach from house to house, without fear of being imprisoned. Here were lands with a combined population of more than 390,000,000, where there was much work to be done. With a keen awareness that we live in the last days of the present world system of things, Jehovah’s Witnesses acted quickly.
Even before legal recognition was granted, members of the Governing Body had visited a number of lands to see what could be done to help their Christian brothers. After bans were lifted, they traveled into more of these areas to help organize the work. Within a few years, they had personally met and spoken with Witnesses in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, and Belarus.
Conventions were arranged to fortify Witnesses living in these lands and to thrust prominently before the public the message of God’s Kingdom. Less than five months after the ban was lifted by what was then the GDR, such a convention was held at Berlin’s Olympia Stadium. Witnesses from 64 other lands readily responded to an invitation to attend. They counted it a privilege to enjoy that occasion with Christian brothers and sisters who had for decades demonstrated loyalty to Jehovah in the face of intense persecution.
Both in 1990 and in 1991, other conventions were held throughout Eastern Europe. After four local assemblies had been held in Hungary in 1990, arrangements were made for an international gathering at the Népstadion in Budapest in 1991. In attendance were 40,601 from 35 countries. For the first time in more than 40 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses were able to hold public conventions in Romania in 1990. A series of assemblies throughout the nation, and later two larger conventions, were held that year. There were eight more conventions in 1991, with an attendance of 34,808. In 1990, in what was then Yugoslavia, conventions were held in each one of the republics that made up the country. The following year, although the country was threatened by civil war, 14,684 of Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoyed an international convention in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. The police were astonished as they saw Croats, Montenegrins, Serbians, Slovenians, and others gathered in peace to listen to the program.
In what was then Czechoslovakia too, conventions were quickly arranged. A national convention in Prague in 1990 was attended by 23,876. Those who managed the stadium were so pleased with what they saw that they made available to the Witnesses the largest facilities in the country for their next convention. On that historic occasion, in 1991, there were 74,587 enthusiastic conventioners that filled the Strahov Stadium in Prague. Czech and Slovak delegates were delighted and enthusiastically applauded when announcement was made of the release of the complete New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in their own languages, for use in the public ministry as well as in personal and congregational study.
It was also during 1991 that, for the first time in history, Jehovah’s Witnesses were able to hold conventions openly in places that were then within the Soviet Union. After a convention in Tallinn, Estonia, there was one in Siberia. Four were held in major cities in Ukraine, and one in Kazakhstan. Attendance totaled 74,252. And as recent fruitage of the disciple-making work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in these areas, 7,820 presented themselves for water immersion. This was no emotional decision made because they felt excited about the convention. The baptismal candidates had been carefully prepared in advance over a period of months—and in some cases, years.
From where did all these people come? It was obvious that the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was not just beginning in that part of the earth. Watch Tower publications had been mailed to an interested person in Russia as far back as 1887. The first president of the Watch Tower Society had himself visited Kishinev (now in Moldova) in 1891. Some Bible Students had gone into Russia to preach during the 1920’s; but there had been strong official resistance, and the few groups that showed interest in the Bible’s message were small. However, the situation changed during and after World War II. National borders were reshaped, and large segments of population were relocated. As a result, more than a thousand Ukrainian-speaking Witnesses from what had been eastern Poland found themselves within the Soviet Union. Other Witnesses who lived in Romania and Czechoslovakia found that the places where they lived had become part of the Soviet Union. In addition, Russians who had become Jehovah’s Witnesses while in German concentration camps returned to their homeland, and they took with them the good news of God’s Kingdom. By 1946, there were 4,797 Witnesses active in the Soviet Union. Many of these were moved from place to place by the government over the years. Some were consigned to prison camps. Wherever they went they witnessed. Their numbers grew. Even before the government granted them legal recognition, groups of them were active all the way from Lviv in the west to Vladivostok on the Soviet Union’s eastern border, across the sea from Japan.
Many Now Willing to Listen
When the Witnesses held conventions in what was then the U.S.S.R. in 1991, the public had opportunity to take a closer look at them. How did they react? In Lviv, Ukraine, a police official told one of the conventioners: “You excel in teaching others what is good, you talk about God, and you do not engage in violence. We were discussing why we used to persecute you, and we concluded that we had not listened to you and had not known anything about you.” But now many were listening, and Jehovah’s Witnesses wanted to help them.
To carry on their work most effectively in these lands, Bible literature was needed. Great effort was put forth to provide it quickly. At Selters/Taunus, Germany, Jehovah’s Witnesses nearly doubled their printing facilities. Although this expansion was not yet completed, about two weeks after the ban was lifted in what was then East Germany, 25 tons [21,000 kg] of literature was dispatched to this area from the printing plant at Selters. From the time of the lifting of bans in Eastern European lands until 1992, nearly 10,000 tons [9,100,000 kg] of literature in 14 main languages was shipped into these various countries from Germany, another 698 tons [633,000 kg] from Italy, and more from Finland.
Having been largely isolated for many years, the Witnesses in some countries also needed help with matters of congregation oversight and organization administration. To fill this urgent need, experienced elders—those who could speak the language of the country, where possible—were contacted in Germany, the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. Would they be willing to move to one of these lands in Eastern Europe to help fill the need? The response was gratifying indeed! Where advantageous, elders who had been trained at Gilead School or in the Ministerial Training School were also sent.
Then, in 1992 a remarkable international convention was held in St. Petersburg, the second-largest city in Russia. About 17,000 of the delegates were from 27 lands outside Russia. Extensive advertising of the convention was done. Among those who came were people who had never before heard of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Attendance reached a peak of 46,214. Delegates were present from all parts of Russia, some from as far east as Sakhalin Island, near Japan. Large groups came from Ukraine, Moldova, and other countries that had formerly been part of the U.S.S.R. They brought good news with them. Reports showed that individual congregations in cities such as Kiev, Moscow, and St. Petersburg were having average attendances at their meetings that were double or more the number of Witnesses. Many people who wanted Jehovah’s Witnesses to study the Bible with them had to be put on waiting lists. From Latvia, some 600 delegates had come and even more from Estonia. A congregation in St. Petersburg had over a hundred ready for baptism at the convention. Many of those who show interest are younger people or individuals who are well educated. Truly, a great work of spiritual harvest is under way in this vast territory that was long viewed by the world as a stronghold of atheism!
Fields White for Harvesting
As attitudes regarding religious freedom changed, other countries, too, lifted restrictions on Jehovah’s Witnesses or granted them legal recognition that had long been denied. In many of these places, an abundant spiritual harvest was ready to be gathered. Conditions were like those Jesus described to his disciples when he said: “Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting.” (John 4:35) Consider just a few places where this was true in Africa.
A ban had been imposed on the house-to-house ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Zambia in 1969. As a result, Witnesses there devoted more time to conducting home Bible studies with interested ones. Others too began searching out the Witnesses so they could receive instruction. Gradually government restrictions were eased, and meeting attendance increased. In 1992, there were 365,828 who attended the Lord’s Evening Meal in Zambia, 1 in every 23 of the population!
To the north of Zambia, in Zaire, thousands more wanted to learn what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach about Christian living and about God’s purpose for mankind. In 1990 when circumstances permitted the Witnesses to reopen their Kingdom Halls, in some areas as many as 500 people flocked to their meetings. Within two years the 67,917 Witnesses in Zaire were conducting 141,859 home Bible studies with such persons.
The number of lands that were opening up was astounding. In 1990, Watch Tower missionaries who had been expelled from Benin 14 years earlier were now officially given the opportunity to return, and the door was opened for others to come. That same year the Minister of Justice in Cape Verde Republic signed a decree that approved the statutes of the local Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, thus giving them legal recognition. Then, in 1991 official relief came to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mozambique (where former rulers had severely persecuted them), Ghana (where their activity had been under an official freeze), and Ethiopia (where it had not been possible to preach openly or to hold assemblies for 34 years). Before year’s end Niger and Congo had also granted them legal recognition. Early in 1992, bans were lifted or legal recognition was granted to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Chad, Kenya, Rwanda, Togo, and Angola.
Here were fields ready for spiritual harvesting. In Angola, for example, the Witnesses quickly experienced a 31-percent increase; furthermore, the nearly 19,000 Kingdom proclaimers there were conducting almost 53,000 home Bible studies. To provide needed administrative help for this vast program of Bible education in Angola as well as in Mozambique (where many speak Portuguese), qualified elders from Portugal and Brazil were invited to move to Africa to carry on their ministry. Portuguese-speaking missionaries were assigned to the newly opened territory of Guinea-Bissau. And capable Witnesses in France and other lands were invited to help accomplish the urgent work of preaching and disciple making in Benin, Chad, and Togo, where French is spoken by many people.
Among those areas that have yielded especially abundant crops of praisers of Jehovah are the ones that formerly were Roman Catholic strongholds. In addition to Latin America, this proved to be true of France (where the 1992 report showed 119,674 Witness evangelizers), Spain (where there were 92,282), the Philippines (with 114,335), Ireland (with a Witness growth rate of 8 to 10 percent per year), and Portugal.
When 37,567 attended a Witness convention in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1978, the newsmagazine Opção stated: “For anyone who has been at Fátima during pilgrimage time, this in reality is very different. . . . Here [at the convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses] the mysticism disappears, giving way to the holding of a meeting where believers in common accord discuss their problems, their faith and their spiritual outlook. Their conduct toward one another gives the distinctive mark of a caring relationship.” During the following decade, the number of Witnesses in Portugal increased by nearly 70 percent.
And what about Italy? A severe shortage of candidates for the Catholic priesthood has forced some seminaries to close their doors. Numerous churches no longer have a parish priest. In many cases former church buildings now house shops or offices. Despite all of this, the church has fought hard to stop Jehovah’s Witnesses. In years past they pressured officials to deport Witness missionaries and demanded that the police shut down their meetings. In some areas during the 1980’s, parish priests had stickers put on the doors of everyone (including some who happened to be Jehovah’s Witnesses), saying: “Do Not Knock. We Are Catholic.” Newspapers carried the headlines: “Church’s Cry of Alarm Against the Jehovah’s Witnesses” and “‘Holy War’ Against Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
When the first-century Jewish priesthood tried to silence the apostles, Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, wisely counseled: “If this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” (Acts 5:38, 39) What was the outcome when the 20th-century Roman Catholic priesthood tried to silence Jehovah’s Witnesses? The work of the 120 Witnesses in Italy in 1946 was not overthrown. Instead, by 1992, there were 194,013 active Witnesses associated with 2,462 congregations throughout the country. They have virtually filled Italy with their teaching of God’s Word. Since 1946 they have devoted over 550 million hours to talking to their fellow Italians about God’s Kingdom. While doing this, they have put into their hands millions of copies of the Bible itself as well as upwards of 400 million books, booklets, and magazines explaining the Scriptures. They want to make sure that the people of Italy have full opportunity to take their stand on Jehovah’s side before Armageddon comes. While doing so, they keep in mind what the apostle Paul wrote at 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5, namely: “The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things. For we are overturning reasonings and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.”
It is not only to former Catholic strongholds that Jehovah’s Witnesses direct attention. They know that Jesus Christ said: “In all the nations the good news has to be preached.” (Mark 13:10) And this is the work that the Witnesses are doing. By 1992, there were 12,168 of them busy telling people in India about God’s Kingdom. Another 71,428 of them were preaching in the Republic of Korea. In Japan, there were 171,438, and their numbers were growing every month. They also continued to reach out to lands where little or no preaching had yet been done.
Thus, during the latter part of the 1970’s, they were able, for the first time, to carry the Kingdom message to people living on the Marquesas Islands and on Kosrae—both in the Pacific Ocean. They also reached Bhutan, which adjoins the southern border of China, and Comoros, off the east coast of Africa. During the 1980’s the first preaching work by Jehovah’s Witnesses was reported from the Wallis and Futuna Islands, as well as from the islands of Nauru and Rota, all in the southwest Pacific. Some of these are relatively small places; but people live there, and lives are precious. Jehovah’s Witnesses are keenly aware of Jesus’ prophecy that before the end would come, the Kingdom message would be preached “in all the inhabited earth.”—Matt. 24:14.
Contacting People Wherever and Whenever Possible
While house-to-house preaching continues to be the principal method employed by Jehovah’s Witnesses to reach people, they realize that not even by this systematic method do they come in touch with everyone. With a feeling of urgency, they continue to search out people wherever they can be found.—Compare John 4:5-42; Acts 16:13, 14.
When boats dock at the ports of Germany and the Netherlands, even for a brief stop, Jehovah’s Witnesses endeavor to visit them, witnessing first to the captain and then to the crew. They carry Bible literature in many languages for the men. In the native markets of Chad, in central Africa, it is not unusual to see a group of 15 or 20 persons gathered around one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who is talking to them about the hope of God’s Kingdom. Working in shifts, the Witnesses talk to stall holders and the thousands of Saturday-morning shoppers at the flea markets in Auckland, New Zealand. People who pass through the bus terminals in Guayaquil, Ecuador—many of them from distant parts of the country—are approached there by Witnesses who offer them a timely brochure or La Atalaya and ¡Despertad! Those who work the night shift in round-the-clock food markets in New York City are visited on the job by Witnesses so that they too can have the opportunity to hear the good news.
When traveling on planes, trains, buses, and subways, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses share precious Bible truths with fellow passengers. During lunch breaks at their secular work and at school, also when people come to their door for business reasons, they seize opportunities to witness. They know that many of these people may not be at home when the Witnesses make their regular calls.
While witnessing to others, they do not forget close family members and other relatives. But when Maria Caamano, a Witness in Argentina, tried to tell her family how deeply moved she was by what she learned from the Bible, they poked fun at her or were indifferent. She did not give up but made a trip of 1,200 miles [1,900 km] to witness to others of her relatives. Some responded favorably. Little by little, others listened. As a result, there are now among her relatives over 80 adults and upwards of 40 children who have embraced the Bible’s truths and are sharing these with others.
To aid his relatives, Michael Regan moved back to his hometown, Boyle, County Roscommon, in Ireland. He witnessed to all of them. His niece was impressed by the happy spirit and wholesome way of life of Michael’s children. Soon she and her husband agreed to a Bible study. When they got baptized, her father banned her from the family home. Gradually, however, his attitude softened, and he accepted some literature—intending to expose the “error” of the Witnesses. But he soon realized that what he was reading was the truth, and in time he got baptized. Upwards of 20 members of the family are now associated with the congregation, most of whom have already been baptized.
What about people in prison? Could they benefit from the message of God’s Kingdom? Jehovah’s Witnesses do not ignore them. At a penitentiary in North America, arrangements for personal Bible studies with inmates, coupled with attendance at regular meetings conducted in the prison by Jehovah’s Witnesses, produced such good results that the prison administration made it possible to hold assemblies there. These were attended not only by prisoners but also by thousands of Witnesses from outside. In other lands too, earnest efforts are being made to witness to men and women in prison.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Bible study will reform all prison inmates. But they know from experience that some can be helped, and they want to give them the opportunity to embrace the hope of God’s Kingdom.
Repeated Efforts to Reach Hearts
Again and again Jehovah’s Witnesses call on people. As Jesus’ early disciples did, they “go continually” to the people in their assigned territories to endeavor to stir up their interest in the Kingdom of God. (Matt. 10:6, 7) In some places they are able to visit all the households in their area just once a year; elsewhere, they call every few months. In Portugal, in the greater Lisbon area, where there is a ratio of 1 Witness to every 160 of the population, people are visited by the Witnesses every week or so. In Venezuela, there are cities where territories are regularly covered more than once a week.
When Jehovah’s Witnesses make repeated calls, they are not trying to force the Bible’s message on people. They are simply endeavoring to give them opportunity to make an intelligent decision. Today, some people may say they are not interested; but drastic changes in their lives or in world conditions may make them more receptive at another time. Because of prejudice or because of simply being too busy to listen, many people have never really heard what the Witnesses teach. But repeated friendly calls may make them take notice. People are often impressed by the honesty and moral integrity of Witnesses who live in their neighborhood or are their workmates. As a result, in time, some become interested enough to find out what their message is all about. Said one such woman in Venezuela, after she gladly accepted literature and the offer of a free home Bible study: “Never before had anyone explained these things to me.”
In a kindly way, the Witnesses endeavor to reach the hearts of those to whom they talk. In Guadeloupe, where there was 1 Witness for every 57 of the population in 1992, it is not uncommon for householders to say, “I’m not interested.” To that, Eric Dodote would reply: “I understand you, and I put myself in your place.” Then he would add: “But I ask you, Would you like to live in better conditions than those existing today?” After listening to what the householder said, he would use the Bible to show how God will bring about such conditions in His new world.
Covering Territory Even More Thoroughly
In recent years it has become increasingly difficult in some lands to find people at home. Frequently, both husband and wife are secularly employed, and on weekends they may pursue recreation away from home. To cope with this situation, in many lands Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing an increasing amount of their door-to-door witnessing in the evening. In Britain, not only do some Witnesses follow up on not-at-home calls between six and eight in the evening but others, in an effort to contact people before they leave for work, make such calls before eight in the morning.
Even where people are at home, it may be very difficult to reach them without a previous invitation, on account of high-security measures taken because of the prevalence of crime. But in Brazil when some who are hard to contact go for an early-morning stroll on the boardwalk at Copacabana Beach, they may be approached by a zealous Witness who is out there just as early engaging others in conversation about how God’s Kingdom will solve mankind’s problems. In Paris, France, when people return to their apartments late in the afternoon, they may find a friendly Witness couple near the entrance of the building, waiting to talk to individual residents who are willing to spend a few minutes to hear about the means that God will use to bring true security. In Honolulu, New York City, and many other places, efforts are also made to reach occupants of high-security buildings by telephone.
If they manage to contact someone in each home, the Witnesses still do not feel that their task is accomplished. Their desire is to reach as many individuals as possible in each house. Sometimes this is accomplished by calling on different days or at different times. In Puerto Rico when a householder said she was not interested, a Witness asked if there was anyone else in the house to whom she might talk. This led to a conversation with the man of the house, who had been ill for 14 years and was largely confined to his bed. His heart was warmed by the hope set out in God’s Word. With renewed interest in life, he was soon out of bed, attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall, and sharing his newfound hope with others.
Intensifying the Witness as the End Draws Near
Another factor has contributed greatly to the intensifying of the witness in recent years. This is the upsurge in the number of Witnesses who are serving as pioneers. Keenly desiring to devote as much of their time as possible to the service of God, and with loving concern for their fellowmen, they arrange their affairs to spend 60, 90, 140 or more hours each month in the field ministry. As was true of the apostle Paul when preaching in Corinth, Greece, those who take up pioneer service become “intensely occupied with the word,” seeking to witness to just as many people as possible about the Messianic Kingdom.—Acts 18:5.
In 1975 there were 130,225 pioneers worldwide. By 1992 there were 605,610 on an average each month (including regular, auxiliary, and special pioneers). Thus, during a period when the number of Witnesses worldwide grew by 105 percent, those who made room to share in the full-time ministry increased 365 percent! As a result, the amount of time actually being devoted to witnessing soared from about 382 million to over a billion hours a year!
‘The Little One Has Become a Thousand’
Jesus Christ commissioned his followers to be witnesses of him to the most distant part of the earth. (Acts 1:8) Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah had foretold: “The little one himself will become a thousand, and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time.” (Isa. 60:22) The record clearly shows that Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing the work that Jesus foretold, and they have experienced the kind of growth that God himself promised.
At the close of World War II, they were found principally in North America and Europe; there were some in Africa; and others, in smaller groups, were scattered around the globe. By no means had they reached every country with the Kingdom message, nor had they reached every part of those lands where they were preaching. With amazing speed, however, that picture has been changing.
Consider North America. The mainland extends from Canada in the north to Panama, with nine lands in between. By 1945 there were 81,410 Witnesses in this vast area. Four of the lands reported fewer than 20 Witnesses each, and one country had no organized preaching work at all. Since then, an intensive and sustained witness has been given in all these lands. As of 1992, there were 1,440,165 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in this part of the earth. In most of these lands, each Witness, on an average, now has only a few hundred persons to whom to witness. A large proportion of the population is visited by the Witnesses every few months; many are called on every week. Over 1,240,000 home Bible studies are regularly being conducted with interested individuals and groups.
What about Europe? This part of the globe extends from Scandinavia south to the Mediterranean. Outside most of the area formerly known as the Soviet Union, an extensive witness had already been given in Europe before World War II. Since then, new generations have grown up, and they too are being shown from the Scriptures that God’s Kingdom will soon replace all human governments. (Dan. 2:44) From the few thousand Witnesses who carried on their preaching activity under severe restrictions during the war, the number of Kingdom proclaimers in the 47 lands on which reports were published in 1992 had risen to 1,176,259, including those in places that previously were part of the U.S.S.R., in both Europe and Asia. In each of five countries—Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Poland—there were well over 100,000 zealous Witnesses. And what were all these Witnesses doing? Their report for 1992 shows that during that year, they devoted more than 230,000,000 hours to preaching publicly, making house-to-house calls, and conducting home Bible studies. In their evangelizing, these Witnesses did not bypass even the small republic of San Marino, principalities such as Andorra and Liechtenstein, or Gibraltar. Truly, the foretold witness was being given.
Africa too is receiving an extensive witness. The records show that up till 1945, the good news had reached into 28 countries on that continent, but very little actual witnessing had been done in most of these countries. Since that time, however, much has been accomplished there. By 1992, there were 545,044 zealous Witnesses on the African continent, preaching the good news in 45 countries. At the commemoration of the Lord’s Evening Meal that year, there were 1,834,863 present. So, not only has the growth been amazing but the potential for further expansion is extraordinary!
The report for South America is no less remarkable. Although all but one of the 13 countries had been reached with the Bible’s message before World War II, at that time there were only 29 congregations on the entire continent, and there was as yet no organized preaching activity in some of the countries. Most of the Kingdom-preaching work was then in the future. Since that time the Witnesses there have worked vigorously. Those who have been refreshed by the water of life gladly invite others, saying: ‘Come, and take life’s water free.’ (Rev. 22:17) In 1992, there were 683,782 of Jehovah’s servants in 10,399 congregations in South America happily sharing in this work. Some of them were reaching out into areas that had not had a thorough witness. Others were calling again and again where a witness had already been given, to encourage people to “taste and see that Jehovah is good.” (Ps. 34:8) Regularly they were conducting 905,132 home Bible studies to help interested ones to make Jehovah’s ways their own way of life.
Consider also Asia and the many islands and island groups around the globe. What has been accomplished there? Up till the postwar era, many of these places had scarcely been touched with the proclamation of the Kingdom. But Jesus Christ foretold that this good news of the Kingdom would be preached “in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matt. 24:14) In harmony with that, during the decades since World War II, the preaching of the good news that had previously reached 76 of these countries, islands, and island groups spread out to another 40 and was intensified in places reached earlier. In this vast territory, in 1992 there were 627,537 devoted Witnesses who took great delight in making known Jehovah’s “mighty acts and the glory of the splendor of his kingship.” (Ps. 145:11, 12) Their ministry was not easy. In some places they had to travel for hours by boat or plane to reach remote islands in their territory. But during 1992 they devoted upwards of 200,000,000 hours to the evangelizing work and conducted 685,211 regular home Bible studies.
Fulfillment of the promise that ‘the little one would become a thousand’ has surely come to pass, and abundantly so! In each of more than 50 lands where there was not even a ‘little one’—where there were none of Jehovah’s Witnesses back in 1919, where they had done no preaching at all—there are today more than a thousand praisers of Jehovah. In some of these lands, there are now tens of thousands, yes, even more than a hundred thousand, of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are zealous proclaimers of the Kingdom of God! Worldwide, Jehovah’s Witnesses have become “a mighty nation”—more in number as a united global congregation than the individual population of any one of at least 80 self-governing nations of the world.
How Much of a Witness in “Other Countries”?
Included in all the above, as of 1992, there were still 24 “other countries”—the ones where Jehovah’s Witnesses were under severe government restrictions and for which no detailed reports are published. Much witnessing has been done in some of these countries. Yet, in certain lands the number of Witnesses is quite limited. There are still people who have not heard the Kingdom message. But Jehovah’s Witnesses are confident that the needed witness will be given. Why?
Because the Scriptures show that Jesus Christ, from his heavenly throne, is himself supervising the work. (Matt. 25:31-33) Under his direction an “angel flying in midheaven” is entrusted with the responsibility to declare everlasting good news and to urge “every nation and tribe and tongue and people” to “fear God and give him glory.” (Rev. 14:6, 7) There is no power in heaven or on earth that can stop Jehovah from drawing to himself those who are “rightly disposed for everlasting life.”—Acts 13:48; John 6:44.
No part of the earth is so isolated that the Kingdom message cannot reach it. Relatives visit. Telephones and mail carry news. Businessmen, laborers, students, and tourists come in contact with people of other nations. As in the past, so now, the vital news that Jehovah has enthroned his heavenly King with authority over the nations continues to be made known by these means. The angels can see to it that those who are hungering and thirsting for truth and righteousness are reached.
If it is the Lord’s will for more direct preaching of the Kingdom message to be done in some areas where governments have hindered it until now, God can bring about conditions that cause those governments to change their policies. (Prov. 21:1) And where doors of opportunity may yet open, Jehovah’s Witnesses will gladly give of themselves to see that people in those lands receive as much assistance as possible to learn of Jehovah’s loving purpose. They are determined to continue to serve without letup until Jehovah by means of Jesus Christ says the work is done!
In 1992, Jehovah’s Witnesses were busy preaching in 229 lands. By that year the good news of God’s Kingdom had in various ways reached into 235 lands. Ten of these were first reached following 1975.
How intense a witness was given? Well, during the first 30 years after World War II, Jehovah’s Witnesses devoted 4,635,265,939 hours to preaching and teaching about Jehovah’s name and Kingdom. However, with more Witnesses and a larger proportion of them in full-time service, during the next 15 years (just half as many years), 7,858,677,940 hours were devoted to witnessing publicly and from house to house as well as to conducting home Bible studies. And the intensity of the work continued to grow, as they reported another 951,870,021 hours in this activity during 1990/91 and over a billion hours the next year.
The amount of Bible literature distributed by the Witnesses to publicize the Kingdom, along with the diversity of languages in which it has been made available, finds no equal in any human field of endeavor. The records are incomplete; but the reports that are still available show that in 294 languages, 10,107,565,269 books, booklets, brochures, and magazines, as well as uncounted billions of tracts, were put into the hands of interested people between the years 1920 and 1992.
At the time of this writing, the global witness is not yet completed. But the work that has been accomplished and the circumstances under which it has been done give convincing evidence of the operation of the spirit of God.