Seven Years in Red China’s Prisons—Yet Firm in Faith!
SEVEN years is a long time to spend in solitary confinement. Is there anything in life that you believe in deeply enough that you would be willing to face such an ordeal for it, when, by compromise, you might be set free? Surely a man who would be willing to face years in prison rather than to renounce his religion is one who is strong in faith. But what could he do to occupy his mind and to keep firm in faith during those long and lonely years of confinement in his concrete cell?
Keen interest in the experiences of one who had lived through it drew 34,708 persons to New York’s Yankee Stadium at 10 a.m. on October 30. They had learned of the meeting, at most, four days before, yet they were on hand from all over the northeastern part of the United States, some even from Canada, California and Florida.
They came to listen to a man few of them knew except by his name, Stanley Ernest Jones. They came because he was their Christian brother, and he had just been released from prison in Communist China. They believed that the things he would tell them would be a source of spiritual strength, strength that they themselves would need to maintain their integrity to God in difficult times ahead. They also came because it gave them the opportunity to show the warm love they felt for one of Jehovah’s servants who had endured such a long trial.
The morning of Saturday, October 30, had dawned clear and cold, the temperature just six degrees above freezing. The audience filling the entire lower and mezzanine levels of Yankee Stadium came equipped with blankets and thermos bottles as defense against the cold. They were a very quiet and earnest audience as they listened to the speaker. His first words reached their hearts:
“Brothers, after not being able to talk to any of Jehovah’s witnesses and being in solitary confinement for seven years, it just a little overwhelms me to be here among so many of you and talking to you this morning. The last time that I was among so many brothers, that is, in convention, was in 1946, when I attended the Cleveland convention.”
MISSIONARY WORK IN SHANGHAI
Then, by his description, Brother Jones took his audience with him over to Shanghai, China, where he and his partner, Harold King, were sent as missionaries in 1947, after graduating from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. The Chinese people were friendly and responded well to their ministry. But China was a country in the throes of civil war, and by the close of 1949 the Communist forces had reached the coastal city of Shanghai. One night, while in bed, the two missionaries heard the shooting come nearer and then gradually die down. When they looked out the next morning they saw Communist soldiers in the streets. They were behind the “Bamboo Curtain”!
Missionaries of other religions were leaving China by the hundreds. What would these witnesses of Jehovah do? ‘Yes, what would we do in such a situation?’ the audience thought as they listened to Brother Jones’ next words.
“Well, we had to decide what we were going to do. Would we stay and help the brothers, or should we run away as many other foreigners were doing? We didn’t hesitate in making a decision. We were going to stay, because we had come to love those brothers. We knew that many were immature, and we felt that if we went away we would be just like shepherds running away from the flock at the first sign of danger.
“Our work continued to prosper and we had freedom for about twelve months. Then in 1951 we were called to the police station and told: ‘You must not go from house to house to preach.’ We could still preach in the Kingdom Hall and have Bible studies with people, but ‘no house-to-house work.’ We told our Chinese brothers of this and we were very pleased to see that their response was: ‘This order applies to you who are foreigners; it doesn’t apply to us. We will keep on in the preaching work, and perhaps if we can find some who are interested, then you will be able to teach them in a Bible study.’ And that is exactly what we did. So, instead of the work diminishing, due to the zeal of the brothers our work continued to increase, very much to the surprise of the authorities.”
By 1955, Brother Jones said, their small hall was too crowded and a larger building was booked for their meetings. But the first Sunday they tried to use it, the police blocked them, saying: “You have a hall; you stay in that.” The government was clearly determined to stop further growth.
Everywhere Communist indoctrination was being pushed, in factories, offices, schools, hospitals, and in apartment blocks and streets. Political committees organized weekly meetings to teach Communist doctrine. The “Rectification Movement” was begun, designed to rectify wrong thinking and ways. This meant not merely getting the people to think progressively and improve their work methods, but, more particularly, to clear out their old political views, adopting instead the ideas of the Communist system. The workers were told they should criticize one another as well as themselves. Any previous comments not favorable to the Communist regime should be openly confessed. Pressure was put on the workers to expose others, and such ones were then badgered continually until they finally admitted having said wrong things, and professed repentance.
But what about those persons who claimed to be Christians? Many churches were ordered to sever their connections with foreign countries. As for the clergy, some were cleared out of the churches, and others were ordered to attend special classes where they learned Communist politics. So they developed a “patriotic” church movement and church organization.
“But we witnesses of Jehovah, although we lived in the midst of all this, could not take part in it. Our brothers knew that and kept separate. As Jesus Christ told us, we are ‘no part of the world,’ just as he was no part of the world. If we became a ‘friend of the world,’ we would be the ‘enemy of God.’—John 17:16; Jas. 4:4.
“So our difficulties in preaching increased, and brothers going from house to house were often taken by these political committee members to the police station. At first they would be released after an hour or two, but then the time came when three of our Christian sisters were detained for four days. We were anxious to see how our Chinese brothers would react to this, and were delighted when they came out rejoicing that they had been ‘counted worthy to be dishonored for His name.’ (Acts 5:41) They were determined to go on and preach just the same. We counseled them to take care to avoid any difficulties if possible, but they felt confident that they could face anything that might happen.
“Then Sister Nancy Yuan was taken from the house-to-house work to the police station and detained. She had four children, one of them only one year old. I approached a lawyer for assistance, and he said: ‘We cannot do a thing. If the matter is in the hands of the police, we cannot interfere.’ Her mother sent in a Bible for her, but it was returned. Now, that sister was detained for a period of four years before she was finally taken to court and sentenced. Just what her sentence was, I do not know. Another sister, a schoolteacher, likewise a mother of four children, was also arrested.”
A sigh of fellow feeling swept around the stadium on hearing of these incidents.
Brother Jones told of his efforts to attend the international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses at New York in 1958; but his request for an exit permit was denied by the Chinese government, with no explanation. After that assembly a brother traveled from Hong Kong to Shanghai to see them, but was refused permission to go ashore. The brothers could only pass near his boat in a small ferry, wave to him and shout a greeting, nothing more. He was the last brother from outside they were to see for many years.
“One morning as we were getting breakfast,” he continued, “Brother King looked out of the window and saw some policemen running into the lane. He said: ‘I wonder where they’re going?’ Well, we didn’t have long to find out, because they were hammering on our door in just a moment. And when we opened the door they were standing there with drawn guns, in real ‘gangster’ fashion, told us to put up our hands and handcuffed us. Then they searched all our premises, put the Watch Tower Society’s literature into bags and took us off in private cars to the detention house. There I was placed in a cell where I was kept alone all the time.”
Now began a period of interrogation for Brother Jones who, along with Harold King, was accused of ‘engaging in reactionary activities against the people’s government of China.’ This included two particular points. First: their doctrines and preaching activities. Second: their personal statements, things said in conversation with people over the previous nine years. The police had evidently been building up a file against them. Brother Jones told about their methods:
“They objected to the preaching of God’s kingdom as the only hope. They said they had cleared out of China the old imperialists and that now the country was in the hands of the people. The people should unite now to build up a new China and a ‘new world.’ And so they insisted that everyone must take part and that ‘if you are teaching neutrality, then you are opposed to the government.’ They said that to preach the Kingdom would be subversive. I don’t know whether they thought that by arresting us they could stop this Kingdom message from going out and defeat God’s purpose to establish this Kingdom rule over all the earth, but we know that no government, no matter what action they take against God’s servants, can prevent God’s kingdom from spreading to embrace all the earth and to consume all its enemies. We know that the day when it will do that is now at hand. How ridiculous it seems that a great nation of 650 million people should feel that fifty witnesses of Jehovah were a threat, and so call for this action!”
The foolishness of such attitude by the Communist Chinese government caused laughter to ripple through the audience. Brother Jones went on to describe the efforts made to win a confession from him by offers of a lighter sentence.
“Their method was to demand a confession. Well, I told them that I was not conscious of any offense. But they said: ‘You think of your past crimes.’ The idea was to make me begin to think: ‘Did I really do something bad? Have I broken the law?’ They think that perhaps the prisoner will feel guilty on some point and talk about it and then they will learn something they didn’t know. Therefore they give him time to think. If he doesn’t come up with something, then they may say something. In my case they said: ‘You slandered the Chinese newspapers.’ But when? how? They do not say. They want me to think of something. Then, after a time, they have to come out with it. They said that I slandered the Chinese newspapers when they reported that American troops were using germ warfare in Korea.
“Now, I can recall that years ago it was reported one time that a rat had been found in North Korea, infected with germs. It was stated then that this was evidence that the Americans had dropped this rat in North Korea to spread germs among the people. When someone told me this, I probably had said: ‘Well, that sounds like propaganda to me.’ But now they wanted me to acknowledge that what I said was a slander and a crime.
“Also, I had a Bible study with a woman, and at one time, just before the study, the woman asked if I had ever been to Hong Kong. I told her I had not. She said: ‘I hear it’s a very beautiful place. Perhaps sometime I will go there for a holiday.’ Because of those few innocent words now the police want to say that this person is dissatisfied with life on the mainland, dissatisfied with the government, wants to get away, and therefore is opposed to the government. Certainly in a free country one couldn’t be imprisoned for such matters that we would term merely ‘freedom of speech.’
“But they had to have a reason for arresting our Chinese brothers and shutting down our organization. So they made charges against the Society. They said the Watch Tower Society is not a religious organization; it’s an ‘agency of the United States government’; that the Society’s president is an ‘imperial agent’; that I was sent to China, not to preach, but to oppose communism. They wrote these things out in the form of a question-and-answer sheet, putting in some of my answers and some they wanted me to make, and then they read it to me. Of course, I was not prepared to sign it. They told me: ‘Go back to your room and think it over.’ About a week later I was awakened at night and taken back to the interrogation room, and they began to read this paper again. But I made it quite plain that the Watch Tower Society is a religious organization preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. They sent me back to my room to think again and gave me a sheet of paper and asked me to write out these things myself. Instead, I wrote out a statement in defense of the Society and of our own work in Shanghai and handed this to them. They were extremely angry, but they never again asked me to sign that paper.”
After four months Brother Jones was told he would be taken to a “pleasant home” in a “beautiful garden” for six months so he would be able to think. But there, every morning at five o’clock, a loudspeaker in the neighboring fields began to blare forth music, speeches and instructions to the farmers in their homes and fields. This kept up till nine o’clock at night. After six months his health was becoming affected and he was glad to return to the rather forbidding detention house in Shanghai. Now began a year of intense “political education” as his “instructor” cleverly stressed the wrongs and evils of the capitalist nations and presented communism as the solution to man’s problems. What were Brother Jones’ thoughts during all this?
“When I would listen to this I used to think: Well, you see the faults and failings, the need for a change; but you do not have the solution. I can see that you have your faults too. You commit crimes of your own particular kind, and man needs deliverance from you just as he does from anyone else. And so, while he was talking, I used to think about the Kingdom as the real hope. So such indoctrination never penetrated my mind at all. Being fortified with a knowledge of God’s kingdom, being sure of it, never doubting it for a moment, I couldn’t be moved, and I’m sure you wouldn’t have been either, although worldly people are.
“There were times in the midst of this that I tried to preach. There was always the urge to do so. But whenever I tried to talk about the Bible they would immediately stop me. One man said he was an authority on religion and the Bible. I thought I could explain better to him and he would have some goodness in his heart. But immediately he changed and said: ‘Don’t you preach to me!’ and became quite fierce. Well, I couldn’t preach in those places to those Communists, but I tried. And I did always have the satisfaction that: ‘Well, I’m still a Witness, I’m still preaching or trying to,’ and in this I used to feel good afterward. I know that, perhaps when you go in the house-to-house work and you preach and nobody listens, you feel the same way afterward: You have tried; you are still a Witness, regardless.”
A COMMUNIST TRIAL
“After two years in prison and just before I was taken into the court I was told: ‘You can have a lawyer to assist you; but he’s not permitted to defend you.’ They said: ‘He can ask the court for leniency, and the court will listen to him.’ First I was taken to a preliminary hearing of the case. There was no audience present and my lawyer was not in the court. The next morning we were taken to court and there were about eighty people sitting there. I was not asked to plead guilty or not guilty. I was just questioned by the judge. He asked me questions like this: ‘Were you sent to China by imperialist element Nathan Knorr? Did you organize groups to carry on underground activities if your church was stopped? Did you send a list of names of people to Hong Kong that they might receive the magazine The Watchtower?’
“I answered, stating just facts. I was prepared to take any sentence they gave. I knew the matter rested entirely in the hands of Jehovah God; so I did not worry. I felt free; I felt that Jehovah God was in control and the results would be according to his will.
“The following morning we were taken back to the court and the judge read out the sentence. Harold King was to receive five years’ imprisonment, after which he was to be deported from the country. I was to receive seven years and then be deported as well.”
LONG YEARS IN PRISON
“The Shanghai City Prison is a huge place. There are nine big prison blocks, each capable of holding at least a thousand prisoners. I was struck by the utter drabness of the whole thing. The prisoners were not in prison uniform; they wore their own clothes, and over the years they patched them so that with many prisoners the original garment had disappeared. They were walking around in patches. This was a very miserable, depressing sight, especially when the weather was warm and the prisoners marched around to exercise, or, rather, shuffled around—they appeared to be just ribs and veins sticking out.
“There was a corridor down the prison, and out from the corridor were a lot of gates, iron bars, to the cells. The cells were just like large cupboards. There was no window or opening, just the gate in front. The cell was eight feet long, four and a half feet wide and about eight feet high. There was a wooden platform taking up most of the floor, just leaving a place to open the gate. At nighttime I would have to unroll my bedding on this platform and sleep on the floor. Although it was disagreeable in the beginning, I couldn’t help, after living in a cell for a time, to get a little accustomed to it. I got to know every crack in the wall and every bump on the floor. I began to feel at home, so that later on when they moved me to another cell I began to feel a little displaced and had to get myself accustomed to a new home.
“In the summertime the place was very, very hot, and in the first four years in the prison I was pestered with bugs so that sleeping was very difficult. There were times when, due to loss of sleep and the trial, I began to feel dizzy and had to have medical treatment. But I got over it. In the wintertime it was bitterly cold. There was no heating, and I had to put plenty of clothing on—just as you have had to do this morning. I used to put my heavy woolen underwear on. I would put on four woolen sweaters, a padded waistcoat, a padded jacket, and then still I would be cold at times.”
THE MAIN PROBLEM: TIME
“I had so much time on my hands. I asked the man in charge for a Bible. He got embarrassed; he wouldn’t say Yes, he wouldn’t say No. Just about that time I had a visit from a British government representative, and I asked him if he would send me a copy of the Bible. This he did, but I never received it.
“Many Scripture texts began to come to my mind and I would write them down. I remember I used to think of 1 Peter 4:12, 13: ‘Do not be puzzled at the burning among you, which is happening to you for a trial, as though a strange thing were befalling you. . . . go on rejoicing forasmuch as you are sharers in the sufferings of the Christ.’ This scripture gave me pleasure because, sometimes, a person could think it strange that he got into so much difficulty and was being charged with things concerning the good news and some things concerning himself. All these accusations could undermine him. But the Scriptures gave me assurance and told me: Don’t consider it something unusual, just rejoice in it.
“And another scripture, in Revelation 2:10: ‘Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. . . . The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison . . . that you may have tribulation ten days. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life.’ This scripture gave me courage. First, it assured me that it’s not God who is displeased with us; rather, it’s the Devil. He is the one that casts the Lord’s people into prison, and we shouldn’t be afraid of any of the things that he can do. After all, we’re only going to have tribulation ‘ten days.’ In other words, there’s going to be an end to it. Everything comes to an end in its own time. Therefore we just endure; God will bring us through.
“I used to think also of 1 Peter 1:7, which talks about the trial of your faith being more precious than gold. And there in prison it is the trial of our faith. Will God always be with us? Will we come out right in the end? Well, in view of these scriptures, I thought that I would. And I know anyone in this condition would find comfort and assurance from these texts.”
DAILY TEXT, PRAYER, READING
“When I had written out enough scriptures I would select one for a daily text, copy it and keep it somewhere prominent so that I could consider it throughout the day.
“At this time I was able to receive copies of the Chinese newspaper, and in this they report the lunar calendar, so I was able to learn the time of the new moon. From this I could estimate the time of the Memorial of Christ’s death. When I thought the Memorial would be beginning among the congregations, I used to sit in the cell, pray to God, and then review in my mind all these scriptures connected with the Memorial. I used to think of how our brothers would now be assembling, and I would think how all through the next twenty-four hours congregations would be observing the Memorial. All this used to help me keep my mind on the Kingdom and on the brothers, make me feel I was part of them; because one of the things I missed most was a brother—someone to talk to and to give me a little fresh stimulus on the Word of God.
“Also, I received some newspapers from my sister in England, and these newspapers would sometimes carry a text from the Bible. One of them used to carry a sermon written by a clergyman. I always read this sermon through in the hope of finding some scriptures. But it’s just amazing how this man could often write a whole sermon and never quote a scripture.
“One scripture that I did find in a newspaper gave me a lot of comfort for the many, many months ahead. This was Romans 12:12. The translation read this way: ‘Rejoice in the hope ahead. In trouble stand firm. Persevere in prayer.’ I thought that was very appropriate. Even though my situation might seem hopeless at times—with many, many years to go—yet there was a hope ahead, the hope of the Kingdom. If I died, there was the hope of a resurrection. So there was no need to be sad. This scripture was telling me: Rejoice in the hope ahead. The more I thought about the hope, the happier I felt. I felt stronger and the troubles would disappear. And so, in this way, I could do as it said: Stand firm in trouble.
“I could have got out earlier if I had tried to please, made a compromise here and there. They always said they would reduce the sentence if I made concessions. But these concessions, I saw, could not be made. Make one small concession and then they want another one, until finally you’re speaking against your own brothers. But we cannot go that way, and so it’s best not to start. Let them be displeased. I must stand firm and wait for Jehovah’s deliverance. This I could do if I took the further advice and ‘persevered in prayer.’
“When I was first in prison I could fervently pray to Jehovah God. But when there is no stimulus from other brothers, as time goes by there is a tendency, I found, to feel that prayer was repetitious and therefore not so effective. The tendency may be to neglect it. This can happen over a period of many years. But here was a scripture saying: ‘Persevere in prayer; keep on, your prayers are effective and they can strengthen you.’ And they did. They kept me going when I felt down.
“Still I had a big problem as to how to fill in my time. When I rose at half past five in the morning, I had the whole day ahead of me. They would give me some magazines to read, but these were full of politics; these I didn’t read. So I decided to get, if possible, some textbooks that I could study. I got some on mathematics and on electricity and began to busy myself with these. The Bible tells us to think on the things that are good, wholesome, upbuilding and righteous. (Phil. 4:8) These are, of course, spiritual things. But in principle I could find the study of these books also good and profitable. They would not make me think of something that was not healthy, not upbuilding. And if, in later years, I didn’t use the knowledge I gained, at least I could keep my mind occupied. So I would busy myself in study, struggling to understand it, and I found that it gave my mind a lot of exercise. I enjoyed it thoroughly. In fact, I became so absorbed in it, struggling with problems of mathematics and electricity, that I began to realize that I must not neglect my Bible study. So I had to go back to my scriptures. Sometimes I would try translating the scriptures into Chinese just to give myself exercise and never neglect the Word of God.
“I was able to receive letters from my home once a month. I used to tell them what I had received and they would tell me what they had sent, and in this way we would know that everything was coming through; or if it was being withheld, I knew that too.”
CHINESE WITNESSES OF JEHOVAH
All over the world Jehovah’s witnesses were wondering what had happened to their Chinese brothers and sisters after the arrest of the missionaries. Brother Jones now conveyed to the assembly what information he had.
“I knew that there were some brothers arrested. I was always on the watch to see them, and once when I was having my photograph taken, there I saw three of our sisters, including the one sister who had been arrested four years before. The sister had been kept four years in detention and, instead of releasing her then as you might expect, they sent her to the court, sentenced her, and she was still in prison. It was good to see these sisters. We could not talk, but we could at least smile. I felt encouraged that they were together and that they could talk to one another. I was also able to hear in diverse ways that there were five others of our brothers all together and that they were still standing firm in faith and still full of hope and joy and that they were very, very concerned to know about myself and Brother King. I am sure that right down to this day those brothers are still firmly in the truth and keeping integrity.”
Strong applause by the audience accompanied this cheering news, and report of another event brought further applause. Brother Jones told them:
“From my cell I was able to look out through a corridor window into a courtyard below. When prisoners entered the prison or left, I often was able to see them. One day I just by chance happened to look through this window and I saw a prisoner walking out with a huge case on his shoulders. Then followed another one and another, and I thought to myself, ‘I’ve seen those cases before; I know them; they belong to Harold King.’ And there following behind the cases was Harold King going to freedom.
“I was very pleased. Of course, I began to think, ‘What is going to happen to me? Are they going to let me free early?’”
THE FINAL TWO YEARS
The Chinese officials again began to use psychological pressure. First, Brother Jones was moved into the cell that Harold King had been in, in another cell block. They began to show him attention, even arranging for him to talk with one of the guards. But soon they began to inject politics into the conversation, and when Brother Jones refused to go along with the discussion, they stopped talking. But they encouraged him to believe that he would soon be free. As his sentence reached its sixth year they gave him every indication he would get a release. Then they ignored him again, and he knew he would stay at least another year. He said:
“I know what had happened. The prison authorities had written a letter to the court saying they were satisfied with my conduct and recommended my release, but the court was not willing to grant it. You see, in my letters to my people I had never talked communism. Many Chinese prisoners, when they wrote, tried to please the authorities. They would start off a letter this way:
“‘You will be glad to know that I am now reforming. I am now following the works and teachings of our great Leader Mao Tse-tung. I’m supporting the Communist government and I want to be a worker in the interest of the people.’
“They would write all of this before they would say anything about the family. Of course, this is what they were taught in their meetings. In fact, the prisoners knew the Communist teachings well, but it wasn’t having any effect in their hearts; their conduct didn’t change. I knew that, because I could observe it daily; so could the warders. Although the warders liked them to write this way, sometimes it got to be too much, and I heard the warders say to them: ‘When you write your letters, quit writing like that, because you don’t mean it!’ But I never wrote anything like that. I always said that I was thankful for what I got; I was respectful, but I didn’t try to kowtow and please them. So I had to stay right to the end.”
Finally, about three weeks before the end of his seven years, the officials took Brother Jones out for five tours of a factory, a commune, an exhibition of industrial goods, an art center, and a worker’s village. He commented:
“I saw there was nothing unusual about it at all. They are building a lot, but they have done nothing that other countries are not doing.
“Then came October 13, 1965, the day of my release. I thought I was to be released in the morning, but they kept me in until half past eight at night. That means they made me serve my sentence of seven years almost to the hour, just giving me ten and a half hours off.”
After leaving the prison, Brother Jones was taken to a hotel by a policeman, and then on a two-day train trip to Canton, where he was put in another hotel—all of this at his own expense. The next morning he was escorted to the border between China and Hong Kong. He told what happened there:
“I was close to the white line. The British police were on the other side. I also saw an Englishman coming up to the line and looking at me. He hesitantly began to wave. I somewhat hesitantly waved back. I didn’t recognize him. He went away and then came back, this time with Brother Charles, whom I recognized right away. The British authorities told those brothers: ‘Come up and receive Mr. Jones. But don’t put your foot over that white line.’ And they didn’t.”
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE “BAMBOO CURTAIN”
“I was taken over the border and was overjoyed to be among the brothers once again. It was an overwhelming experience after being in solitary confinement so long. I was soon rather apprehensive, though, because they told me there were newsmen waiting to see me. In all the seven years in prison I never for a moment thought that there would be any special interest in my case. Of course, I knew our brothers were interested, and I am very glad that you did have an interest because I know your prayers have helped me.
“But you can imagine how I felt now, having to face the press. You see, seven years’ confinement, where you have to be so careful what you say, and innocent words are taken as an offense, has the effect of making you shut the doors on yourself, to close in and keep quiet. Now I was among free people, but it wasn’t easy to open the doors immediately and enjoy that freedom. The brothers in Hong Kong helped me immensely. I even had the opportunity to join them in house-to-house work. This was the first time I had been from house to house in fourteen years.”
The more than 34,000 Witnesses in Yankee Stadium relived with Brother Jones the days following his release, feeling his joy and frequently expressing their happiness for him in enthusiastic applause. He told of a grand time had in Japan, where he spoke to 230 in the city of Nagoya and later to about a thousand in Tokyo. His first stop in the United States was at Honolulu, Hawaii, where another thousand brothers turned out to hear him. As he put it:
“They had never met me before; I had never seen them before; yet they opened their hearts and welcomed me and I felt that I had come out of China to a large family of brothers and sisters. What a joy and blessing it is to be in the New World society!”
After a two-hour stop in San Francisco, where two hundred came out to greet him, Brother Jones arrived in New York City. He was deeply impressed with the changes from twenty years ago when he had worked for four months as a full-time minister in Manhattan, as well as working in the Watch Tower Society’s printing plant for a few months. But the audience in Yankee Stadium was hardly prepared to receive the humble expression that Brother Jones now made as to his reaction to all he had seen.
“It impresses me,” he said, “because I had seven years doing nothing. In those seven years I was hardly able to preach at all. Here I come out and I see that in those seven years you’ve all been busy. You’ve been going ahead day by day preaching. The Lord has blessed you and increased you. As I come out and see all this, it’s a wonderful inspiration to me and it gives me that urge now that I must quickly get busy.
“Of course, first I have a lot of studying to do. I have all the books to read right back to the book Paradise. I know that I can’t read much as I travel around, but I’m going back to England and after I have met my parents for the first time in nineteen and a half years, I shall then get busy studying.”
FINE COUNSEL FOR ALL
“I hope that what I have said has not in any way filled you with apprehension, feeling that, if these things came upon you, you would not be able to survive. When I was in Hong Kong a newspaper reporter said: ‘Why, I could never endure to be alone. If I had to be alone for seven years I would be climbing up the walls.’ But Jehovah’s witnesses are not that way, because we have something to think about. We have some spiritual food inside us that feeds us, and we can stand firm in faith. Of course, we have to study first. We have no inner strength if we don’t study. So the best thing is to keep studying your Bible, attending your meetings and building yourself up. And then when trouble comes, if it does come on you, you will be able to ‘stand firm.’
“You know my case as I have explained it to you. There is nothing spectacular, nothing heroic. It was just a case of ‘endure; keep faith in God.’ And that, I’m sure, is what you would do.
“In Honolulu a sister came up to me quietly and said: ‘Don’t be offended by my question, but there is something I feel that I want to ask you. Were you ever depressed and sad during those seven years?’ I told her: ‘Yes, I was!’ There were times when I felt the boredom, the utter uselessness of the situation, the waste of time. The mind will work and study and a person can enjoy study for a long time; he can think on things with profit. But after a time the mind wants a rest. Then there is the problem of how to occupy the mind. A person can become depressed by the situation.
“But under such conditions I never felt that I wanted to find a different way out. I never felt that I wanted to change my course of action and compromise. I knew there would be relief. And so it is, after a time, that the mind suddenly finds that it can feed on something else. I got happy again and busy once again. If I did become a little tired and stale in my mind, I knew that I would overcome it and feel better and revive again.
“So I would say: We are human. We have human feelings, human weaknesses. It’s no fault if we feel down sometimes, because even when we feel down it does not affect our feeling for the truth. We still have the same hopes. We just simply endure it, and God revives us and we feel good again.
“Some brothers have asked me about my impressions since I have been free. What do I think about the changes in this Western world? What about the contrast with the life in China?
“There is a tremendous contrast. In China today people are asked to make sacrifices in order that the new China may be built; so life is rather austere, drab, and very much controlled. Now I come into a freer world, find people nicely dressed, full of color. There is life, energy, free action, with every indication of prosperity. It is like going from one world into another. I begin to think to myself: These beautiful motorcars—wouldn’t it be nice to have one? Lovely homes—they also would be nice and the good clothes, fine television, fine fidelity music from radio and suchlike. So I notice all this material prosperity and I can see that these things could be a snare.
“I notice plainly that worldly people get their happiness from these possessions, all these material things they have. If these things were suddenly swept away, their happiness would go with them, and they just couldn’t live on.
“But, of course, we must not be like that. It’s not wrong to have a nice car and those good things of life. They can be had and enjoyed and be perfectly harmless, provided that we never make them the main source of our happiness and pleasure. And I know we will not do that if we put the spiritual things in their right place, that is, in the front.
“So that’s my impression on my coming into a different world, to see that there is prosperity, but there is also the need for care that that prosperity does not become a stumbling stone and cause us to fall.”
Hearty applause from the tens of thousands present showed that they appreciated this timely advice and agreed with it. They were also happy to receive the expressions of warm love and greetings that Brother Jones brought them from the brothers in Hong Kong, Japan and Honolulu, but they were especially moved by his concluding words as he said:
“Finally, I feel this, that if those few brothers still there in China knew that I was here talking to you today, they too would want me to express their love and good wishes to you all.”
The two-hour meeting drew to its close as sustained applause swept through the stadium. Following a song and prayer the crowd began to disperse and head for their homes in many places. They had learned much, and surely prayers would go up from thousands of lips and hearts on behalf of their brothers and sisters still in Communist China who are endeavoring to remain firm in faith.
[Picture on page 757]
Jones addresses 34,708 at Yankee Stadium
Questions From Readers
● What did the apostle Peter mean when he said that “no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation”?—E. M., U.S.A.
The apostle Peter wrote in reference to prophecy: “You know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.”—2 Pet. 1:20, 21.
The writer was not considering the application, meaning or interpretation of previously written prophecies. The context shows that he was discussing the surety of the prophetic word, why Christians can depend upon it. (2 Pet. 1:16-19) He then pointed out that they can have confidence in the prophecies recorded in the Scriptures because their source was not men’s imagination but Jehovah God himself.
For example, humans could of themselves observe the political or social conditions in some country and, on the basis of their own interpretation of the data, make some prediction for the future. Such a private interpretation and the subsequent prophecy would not be inspired of God. This occurred with four hundred false prophets during the reign of King Ahab of Israel. When asked whether Ahab and Jehoshaphat should fight against Ramoth-gilead, the professional prophets prophesied success for the two kings. (2 Chron. 18:4-11) That prophecy was the result of their personal interpretation of the situation.
In contrast, Jehovah’s prophet Micaiah foretold that Ahab would not return in peace. Was that a prophecy springing from his personal