GEORGIA | 1991-1997
“God Kept Making It Grow.”
—1 Cor. 3:6.
GEORGIA became independent in 1991, the year the Soviet Union was dissolved. But political changes and civil unrest caused a rapid deterioration in living conditions. Genadi Gudadze, who served as a circuit overseer in those years, recalls that people would stand in line for bread almost an entire day.
During this time it was not unusual for the Witnesses to share the Bible’s message with groups of people waiting in line. “In those difficult years,” Genadi says, “it seemed that everyone was favorably disposed to the truth. We received hundreds of slips with addresses of those who wanted a Bible study.”
At the end of each meeting, responsible brothers would read a list of names and addresses of individuals who had asked for a visit. Publishers would then make themselves available to call on them.
Brother Levani Sabashvili, who served as an elder in Tbilisi, remembers a married couple who asked to be visited. “All the addresses were taken by various publishers,” he recalls, “but no one volunteered to visit this couple. They lived far away, and many of us already had several Bible studies.”
A few months later, the same couple sent another request. They eventually sent a third request, but this time with a note in which they begged the Witnesses to remain free of bloodguilt. (Acts 20:26, 27) Levani recalls: “It was New Year’s season, and we usually avoided visiting people at that time. But we felt we could no longer postpone our visit.”
This spiritually thirsty couple, Roini and Nana Grigalashvili, could hardly believe their eyes when one chilly morning they saw Levani and another brother at their door. They immediately started to study the Bible. Roini and Nana now serve as regular pioneers along with their children.
Tireless Efforts to Reach Interested Ones
Because they were so grateful, those who accepted the truth gave selflessly of their time, energy, and resources to share the good news with others. Despite family responsibilities, Badri and Marina Kopaliani were among those who traveled tirelessly to remote villages in order to help sincere individuals.
On weekends, Badri and Marina, along with their teenage sons, Gocha and Levani, organized trips to the Dusheti region, a beautiful mountainous area north of Tbilisi. At times, they traveled some 90 miles (150 km) on winding roads to reach distant villages.
One day a woman invited Badri and his wife to her workplace. Badri relates: “We found ourselves in a large room where about 50 people were waiting for us! At first, I was taken aback, but after praying to Jehovah, I began discussing verses from Matthew 24 on the features of the last days. One surprised person asked, ‘Why don’t our priests tell us these things?’”
The Memorial Attracts Attention
The Memorial of Jesus’ death gave many sincere Georgians further opportunity to hear about the truth. In 1990, for example, the Memorial held at Sister Ia Badridze’s home in Tbilisi caused a great deal of interest in the neighborhood.
Sister Badridze offered to host the Memorial in her apartment. With the help of her children, she emptied the living room to make space. But how would she find enough chairs for her guests? In Georgia, it was customary for families to rent tables and chairs for large gatherings. Since she only rented chairs, store owners kept asking: “Don’t you need tables? How are you going to eat?”
Sister Badridze managed to accommodate all those who came to her 13th-floor apartment to commemorate Jesus’ death. Amazingly, 200 people attended! No wonder many neighbors asked questions about Jehovah’s Witnesses!
A Memorable Memorial
In 1992, large auditoriums were rented for the Memorial in various parts of the country. Davit Samkharadze, who lived in Gori, recalls how the traveling overseer inquired about their plans for the Memorial.
On learning that publishers were planning to meet in a private home, he asked: “Don’t you have a large auditorium in the city? Why not try to rent it?” Since the auditorium could hold more than 1,000 people, the local publishers
The traveling overseer then suggested: “If each publisher can get ten people to come, all the seats will be filled.” Although his advice may have seemed unrealistic at first, the local publishers put forth great effort to follow it. To their amazement and great delight, no fewer than 1,036 persons attended the Memorial! *
Zealous Pioneers Reach New Territories
By 1992, there were still a number of regions in Georgia where Jehovah’s people had not yet preached the Bible’s message. How could these new territories be reached when the country was facing a deep economic crisis?
Tamazi Biblaia, who lived in western Georgia at the time, recalls: “A traveling overseer met with a few of us to discuss what could be done. We did not have much information about how the special pioneer arrangement should be organized. But we knew that the good news had to be preached urgently.” (2 Tim. 4:2) Consequently, they selected 16 pioneers and assigned them to various locations throughout the country.
In May 1992, a three-hour meeting was held in Tbilisi to encourage the pioneers who were assigned to work those territories for five months. Each month, elders visited them to provide spiritual support as well as material aid if needed.
Two pioneer sisters, Manea Aduashvili and Nazy Zhvania, were assigned to the town of Ozurgeti. Manea, who was 60 years old at the time, remembers: “We knew that an interested person lived close to Ozurgeti. So, as soon as we arrived, we arranged to meet her. When we arrived at the woman’s house, she was waiting for us, as were about 30 others whom she had invited. That day we started several Bible studies.”
The following months were just as productive. After only five months, 12 individuals were ready for baptism!
Their Self-Sacrificing Spirit Paid Off
Two pioneer brothers, Pavle Abdushelishvili and Paata Morbedadze, were sent to Tsageri. It is located in aregion that is a stronghold of ancient traditions mixed with teachings of Christendom.
As the harsh winter approached, the pioneers’ five-month assignment was about to end, and Paata was invited to help with translation work elsewhere. So Pavle had to make a decision. He relates: “I was aware that spending winter in Tsageri would be tough. But our Bible students needed more help, so I decided to stay.”
“I stayed with a local family,” recalls Pavle. “Most of the day, I was out preaching. In the evening I joined the family around the woodstove in the living room on the first floor. But when the time came for me to go up to my room, I put on my warm hat and then slept under a thick blanket.”
When elders were able to visit Pavle in the spring, 11 individuals had qualified to become unbaptized publishers. Soon, all were baptized.
^ par. 20 In 1992, Georgia had 1,869 zealous publishers and a Memorial attendance of 10,332.