Fifty years ago, 583 of Jehovah’s Witnesses embarked on a ten-week trip that would take them around the world. But they were not typical tourists. Their primary purpose was to find upbuilding Christian association at the series of 1963 “Everlasting Good News” Assemblies. Because delegates traveled to meet with Witnesses in over 20 countries, this series of conventions was dubbed the “Around the World” Assembly.
A highlight of each assembly was the talk entitled “When God Is King Over All the Earth.” Nathan Knorr, from the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, gave this talk at most of the assemblies. He described the world’s worsening conditions and contrasted them with the Bible’s grand promise of a restoration of Paradise to the earth. Worldwide, the combined attendance for this talk was 580,509.
“Around the World” in Ten Weeks
The assemblies began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A. From there, the delegates traveled eastward. After the New York assembly, they stopped in England, Sweden, Germany, and Italy. At each location, they found opportunities to share the good news spoken of in the Bible.
Many local people appreciated that the Witnesses took the time to call on them. One young woman in Stockholm, Sweden, said: “Your visit will be a memory for the rest of my life. . . . Did you really come all this way to talk to me about your faith in God? You people are really admirable.”
The delegates were somewhat disappointed when they reached Athens, Greece. Bowing to pressure from local religious leaders, the government canceled the permit for the assembly to be held at the Panathinaikos Stadium. But the zealous Witnesses were not deterred. By the end of August, nearly 10,000 were able to attend the program, which was presented in private homes and local congregations.
After Athens, the delegates moved on to Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Cyprus. Their fellow believers extended warm hospitality, sometimes with humorous results. In Nicosia, Cyprus, one delegate related a mystery involving his shoes: “Every time I would return [to my host’s] home and take my shoes off . . . , they would disappear . . . , only to reappear within five minutes, polished and shining!”
The final leg of the journey took the conventioners through Asia and the Pacific. India, Burma (now Myanmar), Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, New Zealand, Fiji, and Korea all played host to the delegates and to thousands of local Witnesses. Many people rearranged their schedules to attend the assembly, but none so much as a young engaged couple from Yokosuka, Japan. When the man asked his employer for time off to attend the Kyoto assembly, he was told that time away from work was granted only for funerals and weddings. Since they were already planning to get married, the couple arranged to get married a little earlier than they intended. They spent their honeymoon at the assembly!
The trip drew to a close in early September with assemblies in Hawaii and California, U.S.A. In Pasadena, California, the final stop, the actual attendance far exceeded expectations. As a result, there were huge backlogs of traffic after the closing session. In spite of this, a local newspaper quoted the police chief as calling it the “best-behaved convention of its size I have ever seen.”
The effects of those assemblies are still being felt. The Bible reference work “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial” was released at that assembly, and this publication continues to be used at meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A new song was introduced at the New York assembly. It was written by Harold King, a Witness who was released from a Chinese prison in 1963. The song was entitled “From Door to Door.” Harold King composed this song while in solitary confinement, and Jehovah’s Witnesses still sing a version of this song, now known as “From House to House.”
Today, conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are very different. Smaller venues make for smaller crowds. More locations mean less travel time for those attending. These and other simplifications mean that more people can concentrate on the program. More than seven million of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their guests attend our conventions each year. Would you like to join us this coming summer? Find the location of a convention near you.