Stay Awake, Move Ahead Courageously!
Report on Special Meetings
WHO can rightly deny that we are living in “critical times hard to deal with”? As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we are not immune to the pressures of living in “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) But we recognize that people need help. They do not understand the meaning of world events. They need comfort and hope. What, primarily, is our role in helping our fellowman?
We have a God-given commission to share the good news of God’s established Kingdom. (Matthew 24:14) People need to know that this heavenly Kingdom is the only hope for mankind. Our message, though, is not always favorably received. In some places our work has been banned and our brothers have been persecuted. Still, we do not give up. With full trust in Jehovah, we are determined to stay awake and to keep moving ahead courageously, declaring the good news without letup.—Acts 5:42.
That firm determination was evident at special meetings that took place in October of 2001. On Saturday, October 6, the annual meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania was held at the Jersey City, New Jersey, Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States. * The following day, supplementary meetings were held at four locations, three in the United States and one in Canada. *
In his opening remarks at the annual meeting, the chairman, Samuel F. Herd, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, referred to Psalm 92:1, 4 and then stated: “We want to show ourselves thankful.” Indeed, reasons for thankfulness were provided in five reports from around the world.
Reports From Far and Wide
Brother Alfred Kwakye reported on the progress of the preaching work in Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast. Our work in that land was banned for a number of years. People would ask: “Why the ban? What did you do?” This opened up opportunities to give a witness, explained Brother Kwakye. In 1991 when the ban was lifted, there were 34,421 Witnesses of Jehovah in Ghana. In August 2001, the total was 68,152—a 98-percent increase. Plans are under way to build a 10,000-seat Assembly Hall. Clearly, our spiritual brothers in Ghana are making the most of their religious freedom.
Despite the political unrest, our brothers in Ireland are actively sharing in the ministry, and they are respected for their neutral stand. Ireland has 115 congregations in 6 circuits, said Branch Committee member Peter Andrews. Brother Andrews told an experience about Liam, a ten-year-old boy who is fearless in witnessing in school. Liam placed My Book of Bible Stories, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, with 25 of his classmates as well as with his teacher. Liam wanted to be baptized, but someone asked if he was too young. Liam replied: “It is not my age but my love for Jehovah that should be the determining factor. My baptism will show how much I love him.” Liam’s goal is to become a missionary.
In 1968 there were 5,400 publishers of the good news in Venezuela. But there are now over 88,000, noted Stefan Johansson, Branch Committee coordinator. And there is potential for further increase because over 296,000 attended the Memorial in 2001. In December of 1999, torrential rains caused mud slides that killed an estimated 50,000 people, including a number of Witnesses. One Kingdom Hall was filled with mud up to two feet from the ceiling. When someone suggested that the building be abandoned, the brothers replied: “No way! This is our Kingdom Hall, and we do not want to abandon it now.” They went to work, removing tons of mud, stones, and other debris. The building was remodeled, and the brothers say that it is more beautiful now than it was before the disaster struck!
There are 87 languages and dialects spoken in the Philippines, said Brother Denton Hopkinson, coordinator of the Branch Committee. During the past service year, the complete New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was released in the country’s three main languages—Cebuano, Iloko, and Tagalog. Brother Hopkinson related an experience of a nine-year-old boy who read the book Good News—To Make You Happy, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. He obtained other publications from the branch, which he also read, but his family opposed him. Years later when he was in medical school, he contacted the branch and requested a Bible study. He was baptized in 1996 and soon entered the full-time ministry. He now serves with his wife at the branch office.
‘Puerto Rico is in the “Witness export” business,’ explained Branch Committee coordinator Ronald Parkin. There are about 25,000 publishers on the island, and the number has stayed the same for years. Why? Well, it is estimated that Puerto Rico “exports” about 1,000 publishers per year to the United States, many of them relocating for economic reasons. Brother Parkin told of a landmark court decision involving Luis, a 17-year-old Witness who had leukemia. Because Luis refused blood, his case was taken to court. The judge wanted to talk to him directly, so she visited him in the hospital. Luis asked her: “Why is it that if I committed a serious crime, you would judge me as an adult, but when I want to obey God, you treat me as a minor?” The judge was convinced that he was a mature minor and able to decide for himself.
Following the reports from faraway lands, Harold Corkern, of the U.S. Branch Committee, conducted interviews with four longtime servants of Jehovah. Arthur Bonno has spent 51 years in full-time service and is now serving on the Ecuador Branch Committee. Angelo Catanzaro has spent 59 years in full-time service, most of them as a traveling overseer. Richard Abrahamson graduated from Gilead School in 1953, and he was privileged to oversee the work in Denmark for 26 years before returning to Brooklyn Bethel. Finally, all were delighted to hear from 96-year-old Carey W. Barber. Baptized in 1921, Brother Barber has spent 78 years in the full-time ministry and has been a member of the Governing Body since 1978.
The annual meeting included a series of thought-provoking discourses. Brother Robert W. Wallen spoke on the subject “A People for His Name.” We are God’s name people, and we can be found in more than 230 lands. Jehovah has given us “a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) We must continue to promote God’s Kingdom, sharing the wonderful message of comfort and solace. (Isaiah 61:1) “May we day by day,” Brother Wallen concluded, “continue to live up to the name by which we are called, Jehovah’s Witnesses.”—Isaiah 43:10.
The last portion of the program was a symposium by three members of the Governing Body. It was entitled “Now Is the Time to Stay Awake, Stand Firm, and Grow Mighty.”—1 Corinthians 16:13.
First, Brother Stephen Lett spoke on the subject “Stay Awake at This Late Hour.” Physical sleep is a gift, explained Brother Lett. It reinvigorates us. Spiritual sleep, however, is never good. (1 Thessalonians 5:6) How, then, can we remain spiritually awake? Brother Lett outlined three spiritual “pills”: (1) Have plenty to do in the work of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58) (2) Be conscious of your spiritual need. (Matthew 5:3) (3) Be responsive to Bible-based counsel so as to act wisely.—Proverbs 13:20.
Brother Theodore Jaracz delivered a stirring talk entitled “Stand Firm Under Test.” Referring to Revelation 3:10, Brother Jaracz asked: “What is ‘the hour of test’?” That test comes “in the Lord’s day,” where we find ourselves. (Revelation 1:10) The test revolves around the key issue—are we for God’s established Kingdom or for Satan’s wicked system of things? Until that hour of test ends, we are bound to face trials or difficulties. Are we going to remain loyal to Jehovah and his organization? ‘We will have to display such loyalty as individuals,’ noted Brother Jaracz.
Finally, Brother John E. Barr spoke on the theme “Grow Mighty as a Spiritual Person.” Referring to Luke 13:23-25, he noted that we must exert ourselves “to get in through the narrow door.” Many fail because they are not diligent enough to grow mighty. In order to become full-grown Christians, we must learn to apply Bible principles in all aspects of life. Brother Barr urged: “I am sure you will agree that now is the time to (1) keep Jehovah first and foremost; (2) grow mighty; and (3) exert ourselves in doing Jehovah’s will. In this way we will be able to get through the narrow door that leads to wonderful life without end.”
As the annual meeting drew to a close, there was one question that had not been answered: What is the yeartext for the 2002 service year? That question was answered the following day.
Expectations were high on Sunday morning as the program for the supplementary meeting got under way. It began with a summary of the week’s Watchtower lesson, followed by a brief presentation of some highlights of the annual meeting. Next, all were delighted to hear a talk on the yeartext for 2002: “Come to me, . . . and I will refresh you.” (Matthew 11:28) The talk was based on study articles later published in the December 15, 2001, issue of The Watchtower.
Following that, some who had been delegates to the special “Teachers of God’s Word” Conventions in France and Italy in August 2001 shared their impressions. * Finally, as the highlight of the day’s program, two final talks were delivered by visiting speakers from Brooklyn Bethel.
The first was entitled “Courageously Trusting in Jehovah During These Critical Times.” The speaker developed the following main points: (1) Courageously trusting in Jehovah has always been vital for God’s people. The Bible contains many examples of those who displayed courage and faith in the face of opposition. (Hebrews 11:1–12:3) (2) Jehovah provides a sound basis for us to trust him implicitly. His works and his Word guarantee that he cares for his servants and that he will never forget them. (Hebrews 6:10) (3) Courage and trust are especially needed today. We are “objects of hatred,” as Jesus foretold. (Matthew 24:9) In order to endure, we need reliance upon God’s Word, confidence that his spirit is with us, and courage to keep on declaring the good news. (4) Examples show that we are facing opposition right now. All were deeply moved as the speaker related what our brothers have endured in Armenia, France, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan. Truly, now is the time to demonstrate courage and trust in Jehovah!
The final speaker developed the theme “Moving Ahead Unitedly With Jehovah’s Organization.” The talk covered a number of timely points. (1) The forward movement of Jehovah’s people is widely observed. Our preaching work and our conventions bring us before the public eye. (2) Jehovah has established an organization that is unified. In 29 C.E., Jesus was anointed by holy spirit with a view to his bringing “all things”—those with a heavenly destiny as well as those with an earthly hope—into God’s united family. (Ephesians 1:8-10) (3) Conventions are an outstanding demonstration of international unity. This was clearly evident at the special conventions held in France and Italy last August. (4) A stimulating resolution was adopted in France and Italy. The speaker shared a few excerpts from the stirring resolution. The full text of the resolution appears below.
At the conclusion of the last talk, the visiting speaker read a touching announcement prepared by the Governing Body. It said, in part: “Now is the time to stay awake and keep on the watch, discerning how events on the world scene develop. . . . We want to convey to you the loving concern the Governing Body has for you and for all the rest of God’s people. May he bless you richly in doing his will whole-souled.” Jehovah’s people everywhere are determined to stay awake in these critical times and to keep moving ahead courageously with Jehovah’s unified organization.
^ par. 5 The annual meeting program was tied in electronically to a number of locations, bringing the total attendance to 13,757.
^ par. 5 The supplementary meetings were held in Long Beach, California; Pontiac, Michigan; Uniondale, New York; and Hamilton, Ontario. The combined attendance, including those tied in electronically at other locations, was 117,885.
^ par. 23 Three special conventions were held in France—in Paris, Bordeaux, and Lyons. In Italy delegates from the United States were assigned to Rome and Milan, although a total of nine conventions were held simultaneously.
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In August 2001, special “Teachers of God’s Word” Conventions were held in France and Italy. At those conventions a stirring resolution was presented. Following is the text of that resolution.
“AS JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES, all of us assembled at this ‘Teachers of God’s Word’ Convention have been instructed by teaching that is highly beneficial. The source of this teaching has been clearly identified. The teaching is not of human origin. It comes from the One described by the ancient prophet Isaiah as our ‘Grand Instructor.’ (Isaiah 30:20) Note Jehovah’s reminder as stated at Isaiah 48:17: ‘I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.’ How does he accomplish this? The primary way is through the most widely translated and circulated book in the world, the Bible, wherein we are told in unequivocal terms: ‘All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial.’—2 Timothy 3:16.
“Today, mankind is in dire need of such beneficial teaching. Why can this be said? In considering the changing, perplexing scene of this world, what do thinking people acknowledge? Simply this: Although millions have been taught by the world’s educational systems, there is a woeful lack of real values and a failure to distinguish between right and wrong. (Isaiah 5:20, 21) Bible illiteracy abounds. While technology provides access to a glut of information through the use of computers, where are the answers to such vital questions as, What is the purpose of life? How are we to understand the events of our time? Is there a solid hope for the future? Will peace and security ever become a reality? Furthermore, on library shelves are found millions of pages in reference works covering virtually every field of human endeavor. Still, mankind repeats mistakes of the past. Crime soars. Diseases once thought to be eradicated recur, while others, such as AIDS, spread alarmingly. Family life disintegrates at a bewildering rate. Pollution ruins the environment. Terrorism and weapons of mass annihilation threaten peace and security. Problems without solutions keep piling up. What is our proper role in helping our fellowman in these critical times? Is there teaching that explains the cause of mankind’s plight and not only shows the way to a better life now but also offers a bright, sure hope for the future?
“Our Scriptural commission is to ‘go and make disciples of people of all the nations, teaching them to observe all the things that Christ commanded.’ (Matthew 28:19, 20) This commission was issued by Jesus Christ following his death and resurrection, when he received all authority in heaven and on earth. It transcends all activity promoted by humans. From God’s standpoint, our commission, which focuses on the spiritual needs of those hungering for righteousness, has first priority. We have sound Scriptural reasons for taking that commission seriously.
“This calls for keeping such activity foremost in our lives. With God’s blessing and help, the work will be done, notwithstanding a host of distracting influences, obstacles, and opposing forces from religious and political elements, designed to impede the progress of this global teaching program. We are confident and have faith that this work will continue to prosper and reach its grand completion. Why can we be so sure? Because the Lord Jesus Christ promised that he would be with us in our God-given ministry right down to the conclusion of this system of things.
“The hour is late for distressed mankind. Our present commission must be fulfilled before the final end comes. Therefore, we, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, resolve that:
“First: As dedicated ministers, we are determined to keep Kingdom interests first in our lives and continue to grow spiritually. To that end, our prayer is in line with the words of Psalm 143:10: ‘Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.’ This calls for being good students, endeavoring to read the Bible daily, engage in personal study and research. To make our advancement manifest to all persons, we will make every reasonable effort to prepare for and benefit fully from theocratic education provided at congregation meetings, at assemblies in the circuit, and at district, national, and international conventions.—1 Timothy 4:15; Hebrews 10:23-25.
“Second: In order to be taught by God, we will feed exclusively at his table and carefully heed the Bible’s warning about misleading teachings of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:21; 1 Timothy 4:1) We will take special precaution to avoid harmful elements, including religious falsehoods, futile reasonings, disgraceful sexual perversions, the plague of pornography, debasing entertainment, and everything that is not in ‘accord with healthful teaching.’ (Romans 1:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 3:20; 1 Timothy 6:3; 2 Timothy 1:13) Out of regard for ‘gifts in men,’ who are qualified to teach what is wholesome, we will genuinely respect their efforts and wholeheartedly cooperate with them in upholding the clean and righteous moral and spiritual standards of God’s Word.—Ephesians 4:7, 8, 11, 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13; Titus 1:9.
“Third: As Christian parents, our wholehearted endeavor will be to instruct our children not only by word but also by example. Our primary concern is to help them from their infancy to ‘learn the holy writings so as to become wise for salvation.’ (2 Timothy 3:15) We will keep close in mind that our bringing them up in the discipline and mental regulating of Jehovah will give them the best opportunity to experience the divine promise that ‘it will go well with them and they may endure a long time on the earth.’—Ephesians 6:1-4.
“Fourth: When anxieties or serious problems are encountered, we will, first of all, ‘make our petitions known to God,’ having the assurance that ‘the peace of God that excels all human thought’ will safeguard us. (Philippians 4:6, 7) Having come under Christ’s yoke, we will find refreshment. Knowing that God cares for us, we will not hesitate to cast our anxieties upon him.—Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Peter 5:6, 7.
“Fifth: In expression of our gratitude to Jehovah for the privilege of being teachers of his Word, we will renew our efforts to ‘handle his word of truth aright’ and ‘fully accomplish our ministry.’ (2 Timothy 2:15; 4:5) Because we are acutely aware of what is involved, our heartfelt desire is to search out deserving ones and cultivate the seed sown. Furthermore, we will enhance our teaching by effectively conducting more home Bible studies. This will bring us more into harmony with God’s will that ‘all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.’—1 Timothy 2:3, 4.
“Sixth: Throughout the past century and into this one, Jehovah’s Witnesses in many lands have experienced various forms of opposition and persecution. But Jehovah has proved to be with us. (Romans 8:31) His infallible Word assures us that ‘no weapon formed against us’ to hinder, slow down, or stop our Kingdom preaching and teaching work will succeed. (Isaiah 54:17) Whether in favorable or in troublesome season, we cannot stop speaking the truth. Our resolve is to fulfill our preaching and teaching commission urgently. (2 Timothy 4:1, 2) Our aim is to share as fully as possible the good news of God’s Kingdom with people of all nations. Thus, they will continue to have opportunity to learn about the provision for gaining everlasting life in a righteous new world. As a united throng of teachers of God’s Word, our determination is to keep on following the example of the Great Teacher, Jesus Christ, and reflecting his godly qualities. All of this we will do to the honor and praise of our Grand Instructor and Life-Giver, Jehovah God.
“All in attendance at this convention who favor the adoption of this resolution, please say AYE!”
When the concluding question of the resolution was put to 160,000 assembled at three conventions in France and 289,000 in the nine locations in Italy, a thunderous “Aye” was shouted in the many languages represented among the delegates.