Delighted That They Learned to Read!
IN SOME parts of the Solomon Islands, up to 80 percent of those who are now Jehovah’s Witnesses have had to struggle with illiteracy. This has not only limited their participation at weekly congregation meetings but also made it more difficult for them to teach Kingdom truths to others. Is it really possible for adults who have never even held a pencil to become literate?
The brochure Apply Yourself to Reading and Writing, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, has been used in literacy classes in nearly every congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the Solomon Islands. The following experiences illustrate how hundreds have been helped to a new level of ability through this program. More important, learning to read has enabled them to give a better witness about their faith.—1 Peter 3:15.
A missionary who was assigned to a congregation with over a hundred Kingdom publishers noticed that at the weekly Bible study using The Watchtower, few had their own copy of the magazine and even fewer commented. The reason? Illiteracy. When the congregation announced the formation of a school to teach reading and writing, the missionary gladly volunteered to be a teacher. At first, only a few students came, but soon over 40 people of all ages began to attend.
What were the results? The missionary relates: “A short time after the literacy class began, I went to the market at six o’clock in the morning to buy food for the missionary home. There I saw some of the students, even the very young ones, selling coconuts and vegetables. Why? Because they wanted to have enough money to purchase a pen and a notebook for use in the literacy class! Also, attending that class was an incentive to have a personal copy of the Watchtower magazine.” She adds: “Now during the congregation Watchtower Study, young and old alike participate, and our discussions are lively.” This missionary was particularly happy when four members of the class asked if they could share in the public preaching work because, as they put it, they were “not afraid anymore.”
The positive effects on the students in the literacy classes have extended far beyond learning to read and write. For instance, for many years the unbelieving wife of one Witness was a source of concern to the congregation. She hurled stones at people at the slightest provocation and even attacked other women with a piece of timber. When she occasionally attended Christian meetings with her husband, she was so jealous of him that he resorted to wearing dark glasses so that she could not accuse him of looking at other women.
Shortly after the literacy classes began, however, this woman quietly asked: “May I join the class?” The answer was yes. From then on she never missed a class or a congregation meeting. She worked hard at her reading lessons and made amazing progress, which made her very happy. Her next request was: “May I have a Bible study?” Her husband gladly began to study with her, and she continues to progress in her ability to read and write and in her knowledge of the Bible.
For a 50-year-old who has never touched a pencil, just to hold a pen and to form the letters of the alphabet can be a mountainlike obstacle. Some develop blisters on their fingers from the pressure they apply to the pencil and paper during the early stages of learning. After weeks of struggling to hold and control the pencil, some students exclaim with a big grin: “I can move my hand lightly over the paper!” Seeing the students’ progress also makes the instructors happy. One instructor said: “Teaching a class is sheer joy, and the students’ genuine appreciation for this provision from Jehovah is often expressed with applause at the end of a class.”
Along with the missionaries, these now literate Witnesses rejoice. Why? Because they can now use their ability to read and write to honor Jehovah.
[Pictures on page 8, 9]
Both young and old appreciate the literacy classes