Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Unforgettable Conventions

(pgs 203 & 204 of the 2008 Yearbook)

"Because Finland is close to Russia, the Governing Body asked the Finland branch to assist in organizing the international convention in St Petersburg, Russia, held June 26-28, 1992. How did the brothers feel about having a convention in freedom after living under ban for more than five decades? One brother recalls: "There were thousands of us at the stadium. The tears flowed without stopping. What happiness, what freedom! We never even dreamed we would see such freedom in this system of things. But Jehovah made it possible. We recalled how five of us would be living in an isolation cell in a camp surrounded by a high fence, and four of us at a time would take turns keeping the fifth one warm. The stadium was surrounded by a high wall. But we wanted to stay here as long as possible. The feeling could not be described. Our eyes were moist with tears for the whole convention. We cried for joy at seeing such a miracle. Although we were already 70 years old, we flitted around the stadium as though we had wings. For 50 years we had waited for this freedom. First Jehovah allowed us to be exiled to Siberia, then we ended up in prisons and camps. But now we were at the stadium! Jehovah is more powerful than anyone. We stood looking at one another and sobbed. None of us could believe that this was really happening."

(pgs 212 & 226)
"District conventions were being held for the first time in some large cities, where the brothers had no previous experience in preparing for a convention. In Yekaterinburg in 1996, the brothers selected a suitable stadium to hold the district convention." (suitable? lol ... keep reading) "Grass was growing on the bleachers, and inside the stadium, birch trees stood seven feet high. Just three weeks remained before the convention, and there were only three congregations in the city and its suburbs. Fortunately, the stadium director was willing to cooperate with us even though he didn't understand how it would be possible to hold the convention in that stadium. The brothers took up the work, and by the appointed date, the stadium sparkled. The director could not believe his eyes!"
Out of gratitude, the director allowed the brothers to hold the Pioneer Service School in one of the stadium's buildings. A brother recalls, "After the convention, the stadium began to host sports events again, which were a source of revenue for the city."

Jehovah 'Speeds Up' the Harvest
"In his Word, Jehovah promised to 'speed up' the gathering of his "desirable things." (Isaiah 60:22, Haggai 2:7) In 1980 there were 65 publishers in St. Petersburg who despite close surveillance by the KGB tried to hold conversations on Bible topics with the residents of the city... In March 1991, the activities of the Witnesses in Russia were registered, and soon five congregations were active in the city. The international convention in St. Petersburg in 1992, as well as other theocratic events, resulted in rapid growth. In 2006 more than 70 congregations were active in St. Petersburg." (the chart on page 230 shows that as of 2007 more than 2,100 congregations and isolated groups of publishers were active in Russia)
The Luzhniki Stadium (shown in the photo above) which once hosted the Olympics, had an attendance of 29,040 at the 2007 convention, and 655 were baptized.
"From the sun's rising even to its setting my name will be great among the nations." (Malachi 1:11)
"Any weapon whatever that will be formed against you will have no success." (Isaiah 54:17)