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The Sound Car Known to Millions

The Sound Car Known to Millions

“There is but one sound car in the Lord’s service in Brazil, and that one is known to millions of people, ‘the Watch Tower sound car.’”—Nathaniel A. Yuille, in 1938.

PROGRESS of the Kingdom work in Brazil was relatively slow in the early 1930’s. But in 1935, pioneers Nathaniel and Maud Yuille wrote to Joseph F. Rutherford, who was then taking the lead in the preaching work. They volunteered for service and wrote that they would be “glad to go anywhere.”

Nathaniel, a retired civil engineer, was then 62 years old. He had been the service director of a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in San Francisco, California, U.S.A. There he had organized the preaching work and had used sound equipment in spreading the good news. His experience and willing spirit proved to be a blessing in his new assignment as branch servant in a vast, multilingual territory—Brazil.

Nathaniel and Maud arrived in Brazil in 1936, along with fellow pioneer and interpreter Antonio P. Andrade. They brought with them precious cargo—35 phonographs and a sound car. The fifth largest country in the world in land area, Brazil then had only about 60 Kingdom publishers! Yet, these innovative sound tools would help them reach millions in just a few years.

One month after the Yuilles arrived, the branch office arranged Brazil’s first service convention, held in the city of São Paulo. Apparently with Maud as the driver, the sound car went into operation advertising the public lecture, which drew an attendance of 110! The convention program boosted the morale of the publishers, who  were moved to increase their share in field service. They learned how to preach using literature and testimony cards, as well as phonograph recordings in English, German, Hungarian, Polish, Spanish and, later, Portuguese.

This sound car reached millions in Brazil with the good news

Three service conventions, held in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Curitiba in 1937, provided fresh impetus to the evangelizing work. The sound car went along with conventioners in the house-to-house work. José Maglovsky, a young lad at the time, later wrote: “We would place our Bible publications on a stand, and as the sound car broadcast a recorded message, we would talk to the people who came out of their homes to see what was happening.”

Baptisms took place in rivers, while bathers basked in the sun nearby. What an opportunity to preach the good news with the help of the sound car! With Brother Rutherford’s baptism talk booming from the amplifiers, curious people surrounded the car, listening as the talk was interpreted into Portuguese. Afterward, baptism candidates were immersed to the sound of Kingdom songs recorded in Polish. Brothers and sisters sang along in different languages. “It reminded one of how at Pentecost each one understood in his own language,” reported the 1938 Yearbook.

Following the conventions, every Sunday, rain or shine, recorded Bible lectures from the sound car reached people in parks, residential areas, and factories in the center of São Paulo and in nearby towns. The sound car provided a monthly program to 3,000 residents of a leper colony 60 miles (97 km) northwest of São Paulo. In time, a thriving congregation was formed. Despite their grievous affliction, those Kingdom publishers obtained permission to visit another leper colony with the Bible’s comforting message.

Kingdom recordings in Portuguese finally arrived in late 1938. On All Souls’ Day, the sound car went from cemetery to cemetery playing the records “Where Are the Dead?,” “Jehovah,” and “Riches,” reaching over 40,000 mourners!

Indignant clergymen resented the bold public proclamation of Bible truth and often pressured local authorities to silence the sound car. Sister Yuille recalled one occasion when a local priest incited a mob to swarm around the sound car. But the mayor and police officials arrived and listened to the entire program. The mayor left with Bible literature in hand. There was no riot that day. Despite such opposition, the 1940 Yearbook report for Brazil pronounced the year 1939 “the best time of all to serve the Great Theocrat and proclaim his name.”

The arrival of “the Watch Tower sound car” truly marked a turning point in the preaching work in Brazil. It played a key role in reaching millions with the Kingdom message. Though that famous car was sold in 1941, throngs of Jehovah’s Witnesses have continued to declare the good news to honesthearted ones in the vast territory of Brazil.From our archives in Brazil.