Monday, August 31, 2009

Yearbook Experience -Witnessing-Samoan Style,pt2

-part two-

(photo & following experiences on pgs 107, 108, & 110, of the 2009 Yearbook)

Adapting to Island Life
Foreign Witnesses who moved to Samoa over the years soon discovered that even in this paradise, life has its challenges. One such challenge is transportation. "During our first two years of missionary service in Apia," writes John Rhodes, "we often walked long distances to attend meetings and go witnessing. We also used the popular and colorful island buses to get around." These highly decorated vehicles usually have a wooden cabin mounted on the back of a small-to-medium size truck. Crammed inside, passengers carry everything from farm tools to fresh produce. Loud music and merry singing complete the festive atmosphere on board. Bus stops, timetables, and bus routes tend to be quite flexible. "The bus to Vava'u," points out one travel guide, "is always punctual: it arrives when it gets there." "If we wanted to buy something along the way," says John, "we simply asked the driver to stop. After making our purchase, we reboarded the bus and continued our journey. Even so, nobody worried about the delay." If the bus was full, new passengers would sit on the lap of those already seated. So missionary husbands quickly learned to have their wife on their lap. At journey's end, children and adults often paid their fare by extracting a small coin from their ear - a convenient coin pocket! To travel between islands, missionaries and publishers used planes and small boats. Journeys could be perilous; delays inevitable. "We had to learn to be patient and cultivate a sense of humor," says Elizabeth Illingworth, who for many years served with her husband, Peter, in the circuit work throughout the South Pacific. (In Costa Rica they refer to the locals as being on "tico time" since people tend to show up late everywhere but its no big deal since that's just part of the culture...and it was perfect for me when I was there, because I'm always running late!)

On land, heavy rains can make travel difficult - especially during the cyclone season. Attempting to cross a flooded stream on his way to a Congregaton Book Study, missionary Geoffrey Jackson slipped and tumbled into the raging torrent. Emerging wet and bedraggled, he continued to the meeting, where the host family dried him off and dressed him in a long black lavalava (a Polynesian wraparound kilt or skirt). His companions had difficulty restraining their laughter when a newly interested person at the meeting mistook him for a Catholic priest! Brother Jackson now serves as a member of the Governing Body.
Other challenges confronting new arrivals involved mastering a new language, adjusting to the constant tropical heat, coping with unfamiliar health problems, having few modern conveniences, and evading a host of biting insects. "The missionaries really expended themselves in our behalf," writes Mufaulu Galuvao, "and as a result, many grateful parents named their children after these dear loved ones, who had lovingly assisted us."

(experience of Robert Boies, pg 99 of the 2009 Yearbook)

We found that even when we first arrived, the people of American Samoa appreciated our efforts to learn Samoan and overlooked many mistakes. One one occasion, I used Revelation 12:9 to explain Satan's influence on the world. However, the Samoan words for devil (tiapolo) and lemon (tipolo) sound very similar. Confusing the words, I explained that the "lemon" had been cast out of heaven and was misleading the entire inhabited earth. However, I said that Jehovah would soon crush and put an end to the "lemon." (hahaha) Naturally, the householder and my missionary companion laughed heartily. On another occasion, I recited a memorized presentation to a Samoan woman in the house-to-house work. I later learned that the only part of the presentation that she understood was a brief reference to Revelation 21:4. Sensing that my message must be important, she immediately went inside and read the verse from her Bible. That one scripture so touched her heart that the woman later accepted a Bible study, and she and her children came into the truth! Happily, we eventually mastered the Samoan language and enjoyed many fine experiences. When health problems forced us to return to the United States, we left Samoa with many tears.

daily text 08/31

Monday, August 31st, 2009
"You have neither heard his voice at any time nor seen his figure."(John 5:37)

Jehovah provided Adam and Eve with the gift of conscience, and we inherited our conscience from them. Genesis 1:27 tells us that humans are made in God’s image. That does not mean in God’s physical form, for he is a spirit and we are of flesh. We are in God’s image in that we have within us his qualities, including a moral sense with a functioning conscience. This reality provides a clue to one way that we can strengthen our conscience, making it more reliable. That is, learn more about the Creator, and draw closer to him. The Bible shows that in a sense Jehovah is a Father to all of us. (Isaiah 64:8) We should desire to draw ever closer to our Father and thus absorb his views and standards. (James 4:8) We have not heard the actual voice of God, yet we can have his word in us and thus come to be like him and feel as he does.
(Watchtower issue: 10/15/07, 1:14, 15)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Yearbook Experience -Witnessing-Samoan Style, pt1)

(The following is from the 2009 Yearbook, pgs 93-97)

The Samoan tongue has a soft, lilting sound that is gentle to the ear. However, "since many words appear as a jumble of vowels," observes Fred Wegener, "missionaries need plenty of practice (faata'ita'iga) and encouragement (faalaeiauina) to master the language."
Colorful oratory and proverbial speech play an important part in Samoan culture. Chiefs (matai) and orators (tulafale, talking chiefs) like to quote from the Bible and use elaborate language on formal occasions. The traditional courtesy of the Samoan people is particulary noteworthy in their meticulous use of formal and ceremonial language when required. Samoan has a highly developed polite "chiefly" language (tautala lelei) when speaking to or about God, chiefs, people in authority, and foreign visitors. On the other hand, for everyday conversation or when speaking of oneself, Samoan has colloquial language (tautala leaga), a less formal, more relaxed way of speaking. To avoid causing offense when discussing official and ceremonial matters or when talking about the Bible, the respectful "chiefly" form of Samoan has specially designated dignified terms. "Because politeness and respect pervade the entire language," explains Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body who served as a missionary in Samoa, "when witnessing to others, it is important to address Samoans with the politeness usually reserved for royalty, at the same time following the humble custom of using everyday words when speaking of oneself."

"It was such a joy to go witnessing in those early years," reflects Caroline Pedro, a pioneer from Canada who married Wallace Pedro in 1960. "At nearly every home, someone was willing to talk about the Bible. Bible studies were easy to start, and whole families often sat in. Preaching in outlying villages was especially memorable. Young children usually accompanied us from house to house listening intently to our presentation. They then ran ahead to let the householder know that we were coming. They even told the householder what we were talking about and what scriptures we were using! (lol) As a result, to stay ahead of the village children, we prepared several presentations." While sharing in the witnessing work, the brothers also remained conscious of good manners and proper local protocol. (1 Corinthians 9:20-23) Former missionary Charles Pritchard, now a Branch Committee member in New Zealand, writes: "Because of the hot tropical climate, village fale (houses) have no walls, so we could easily see if someone was home. It was considered the height of bad manners to speak either while standing or before the householder had formally welcomed us. So we approached each dwelling and silently waited for the householder to notice us. He or she would then place a clean mat on the pebble floor inside the door. This was an invitation for us to remove our shoes, enter the home, and sit cross-legged on the mat." Sitting like that on the floor for long periods was a painful experience for many missionaries. Thankfully, local custom allowed them to extend their legs and feet and modestly cover them with a mat. They thus avoided pointing their uncovered feet at the householder -a gross insult to Samoans.
"Householders would formally welcome us and explain that we honored them by bringing our Bible message to their humble home," says John Rhodes, who served as a missionary in Samoa and American Samoa for 20 years. "The conversation then turned to personal matters: Where do you come from? Do you have children? Where does your family live?" (it's interesting how in many cultures it's considered rude if you don't give a full introduction about yourself and your family before proceeding into a topic of conversation) John's wife, Helen, adds: "We always addressed the householder with respectful terms normally used on formal occasions. This language of respect dignified both the householder and our Bible message." "Through these introductions," says Caroline Pedro, "we became well aquainted with the individuals and their family, and they with us. It helped us to meet their spiritual needs more effectively." Once introductions were complete, the publishers were free to present the Kingdom message. "Householders customarily listened to us for as long as we wanted to speak," recalls former missionary Robert Boies. "They would then repeat to us many of the things we had said to show us that they felt our message was important." Since people were well versed in the Bible, long discussions on Bible teachings were common. "These discussions helped to sharpen my understanding of various Bible subjects," says Caroline Pedro. Most householders readily accepted literature. In time, publishers learned to tell the difference between those who were merely curious and those who were genuinely interested in spiritual things. Many newly interested people who began attending meetings were eager to start out in the field ministry. "Samoans have a natural flair for oratory," says John Rhodes, "and many new ones could confidently express their faith to others with little or no training. Even so, we encouraged them to use published witnessing suggestions and to reason with people on the Scriptures rather than rely solely on their natural speaking abilities." Such fine training eventually produced many accomplished evangelizers.

daily text 08/30

Sunday, August 30th, 2009
"Search out who in [a city or village] is deserving." (Matthew 10:11)

The perfect man Jesus had discernment that enabled him to identify those who deserved to be taught. We find it much more of a challenge to locate those “rightly disposed for everlasting life.” (Acts 13:48) Like Jesus’ apostles, we must search for people who are willing to listen and to be taught Scriptural truth. We can find deserving ones by listening carefully to one person after another, taking note of the attitude of each individual. After leaving a person who has shown some interest in the Kingdom message, you will do well to continue thinking about his spiritual needs. If you write down what you have learned after conversing with someone about the good news, this will help you to keep on assisting the person spiritually. During return visits, you need to listen carefully if you are to learn more about the individual’s beliefs, attitude, or circumstances.
(Watchtower issue: 11/15/07, 2:11, 12)

*Taking a personal interest in others is always important, because you can tell when someone is genuinely interested in you -vs- being phoney and insincere. In fact, I was impressed by how Sister Tomiyasu (during Br Tomiyasu's first circuit overseer visit to our congregation) actually carried a notebook with her, so that she could write down the names of the members of the congregation as she was introduced to them, and also a brief description of their appearance, so that she would be able to place names with faces later on, (since being in the traveling work requires getting to know lots of new people in only brief increments).
But aside from learning about the personal interests of specific individuals, it's also important to learn about a person's culture and social backround as well (especially since there can be such a wide variety of customs and social manners which are considered 'PC' in a particular area of the world) which makes attentive listening skills even more valuable in the ministry. I'm gonna post some extra info along with the yearbook experience today, about how the missionaries in Samoa needed to not only learn the language, but needed to become familiar with the local customs of the Samoan people...and some of the humorous 'blunders' they experienced while trying to adapt. =)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Yearbook Experience - Lumepa Young

I thought this was a great story that applied to the theme of today's text, by showing how patience pays off in the end...

(photos & experience of Lumepa Young, on pgs 126 & 127 of the 2009 Yearbook)

I was raised on the island of Savaii as the daughter of a successful businessman and politician. Because my father owned a huge cocoa plantation and employed about 200 workers, Samoan newspapers called him the Cocoa Baron, and for several years he served as the prime minister of Samoa. I was one of 11 children. Father was not an especially religious man, but my mother gave us basic instruction in the Bible. When she died, I missed her terribly. Thus, when Judy Pritchard, a missionary sister, witnessed to me about the resurrection hope, the thought of seeing my mother again thrilled me! I bombarded Judy with questions, and she answered every one from the Bible. Soon we were studying the Bible together. Later, I started attending Witness meetings. At first, my husband, Steve, a prominent deacon in our village church, opposed my studies. He took me to visit several clergymen who tried to talk me out of attending Witness meetings. But I did not follow their advice. Next, he took me to my father, who merely suggested that I study someplace other than the family home. My fleshly brothers and sisters, however, ridiculed me for changing my religion. But I would not give up learning Bible truth.

When I finally qualified to be a Kingdom publisher, the first house that I visited in the preaching work belonged to one of my father's cabinet ministers. (yikes! talk about a nerve-racking moment!) He had often attended political meetings at Father's home and knew me well. I was so nervous that I hid behind my companion! People were shocked to see me preaching and asked, "What does your father say?" My father, though, was a reasonable man who defended my new faith. Furthermore, by then he enjoyed reading the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Eventually I overcame my fear of man and became a regular pioneer. I love conducting Bible studies, and I keep a list of about 50 potential students for when I have an opening in my schedule. My greatest joy, however, was being able to teach my four children the truth. My daughter Fotuosamoa and son Stephen and their marriage mates, Andrew and Ana, now serve in Samoa Bethel. I also helped my sister Manu to accept the truth. Even my husband, Steve, who had opposed me, began to study the Bible and attend meetings. Truly, Jehovah has blessed me a hundredfold.

(left: Fotuosamoa and Andrew Coe; right: Ana and Stephen Young)

*this experience reminds me of the part we just had on the school this week about "Meeting the Challenge of Witnessing to Men" and why it's so important for fathers and husbands to take the lead, and not slack off, when it comes to their spiritual responsibility within the family and the congregation. -Because did you notice how even after this sister was a grown, married woman, the people in her village wanted to know what her father thought about her involvement with the Witnesses? Obviously not all societies have such a 'patriarchal' structure nowadays, but the 'men of the house' still exert a strong influence on the opinions and actions of their family members, whether they realize it or not. You can see why families make more progress when men take their 'headship' responsibility seriously, by getting involved and initiating things. It's kinda funny, makes me think of how after Jesus' death when they discovered the tomb was was the women who believed it right from the start, and reported what they saw. -But the majority of the apostles and disciples (except for Peter and a couple others) didn't believe them. A similar thing happened when Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well...she put faith in him initially, and had to go and convince the men of her city about Jesus because they were skeptical at first, but then finally they did put faith in him afterward. I think if more men realized the impact that their example has on others (especially their own household) it would help speed up the spiritual progress of their family members & friends, as well as building up the congregation and making it stronger...which in turn, builds up the community as well.

daily text 08/29

Saturday, August 29th, 2009
"His brothers were, in fact, not exercising faith in him." (John 7:5)

Patience is a quality that helps us to make disciples. Our Christian message calls for urgent action, but making disciples often takes considerable time and requires patience. (1 Corinthians 7:29) Even appreciative people may need extended help to change their views, attitudes, and priorities in life. Jesus was not impatient with his half brother James. Although James apparently was well-acquainted with Jesus’ preaching activities, for a time something held him back from becoming a disciple. In the short period between Christ’s death and Pentecost 33 C.E., however, James evidently became a disciple, for the Scriptures suggest that he met for prayer together with his mother, his brothers, and the apostles. (Acts 1:13, 14) James made fine spiritual progress, later shouldering weighty responsibilities in the Christian congregation.—Acts 15:13; 1 Corinthians. 15:7.
(Watchtower issue: 11/15/07, 1:12, 14)

*and one of the greatest examples was how Jesus patiently dealt with the ongoing issue that his apostles kept having about which one was 'the greatest' among them. The men Jesus chose to be apostles obviously had outstanding qualities, and they proved themselves to be hardworking, loyal, and devoted to him. -However, that particular issue regarding 'position' must have been so deeply rooted, that they had more difficulty overcoming it than others,...despite spending so much time learning from Jesus during his ministry. I can't even imagine how frustrating it must have been for Jesus when that issue came up AGAIN on the Passover night before his death, right after he had already patiently corrected them about it earlier THAT VERY SAME DAY!
It just goes to show that if we want to imitate Jesus' way of teaching, we also need to CONTINUE being patient and "putting up with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2) ...even if it requires repeating the same information over and over, if we find that someone, including one of our brothers or sisters, is having difficulty understanding or applying a particular Bible principle or teaching.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Yearbook Experience -Cyclone Val Hits Samoa During Branch Construction

The following info is from the 2009 Yearbook...the large map looks kind of blurry but if you click on the photo for a closeup, it should be clearer...

(Samoa, American Samoa & surrounding islands - pg 73)

(closeup of Sinamoga & Siusega -locations of the original & current Bethel Branch & Assembly Hall facilities)

(the following info is from pgs 121, 122, 125 & 128)
The Need For Branch Expansion 1986, it was clear that the Sinamoga missionary home was too small to serve the branch's growing needs. Consequently, the Governing Body assigned brothers from Brooklyn Design/Build Department and the Regional Engineering Office in Australia to visit Samoa to assess the need for larger facilities. The recommendation? Purchase a seven-acre site at Siusega, three miles inland from Sinamoga, to build a new Bethel complex. Then, once the new branch office was complete, the old Bethel Home at Sinamoga could be dismantled to make way for a new Assembly Hall. Construction of the new branch began in 1990, and what an international undertaking it proved to be! A total of 44 international servants, 69 international volunteers, 38 full-time local volunteers, and many part-time workers labored unitedly on the project. Suddenly, though, when construction was well underway, disaster struck.

Disaster Strikes!
Cyclone Val, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the South Pacific, slammed into Samoa on December 6, 1991. Winds of up to 160 miles an hour battered the tiny islands for five days, defoliating 90 percent of the vegetation and causing $380 million (U.S.) worth of damage. Sadly 16 people lost their lives. "The branch office quickly set relief operations in motion," recalls John Rhodes. Within days, a cargo container filled with relief supplies arrived from the Fiji branch. Funds from other Pacific branches soon followed. "Immediate needs came first," writes Dave Stapleton, an international servant working on the new branch at Siusega. "This involved distributing clean water, tarpaulins, kerosene, and medical supplies to needy brothers. Then we restored Sinamoga Bethel to a usable condition and repaired damaged buildings at the branch construction site. Later, we repaired and rebuilt damaged Kingdom Halls, missionary homes, and homes of individual Witnesses. It took months to finish the work." When the government later provided funds for all religions - including Jehovah's Witnesses - to repair their premises, the brothers returned the funds with a letter suggesting that since all our damage was already repaired, the excess funds could be used to restore government buildings. Grateful government ministers subsequently reduced the import duty on branch construction materials arriving from overseas, resulting in considerable savings.

After the cyclone damage was repaired, the new branch project moved ahead rapidly. A year and a half later, in May 1993, the Bethel family finally made the long-awaited move from Sinamoga to their new home in Siusega. Then, in September 1993, a group of 85 Witness tradesmen from Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, and the United States converged on Samoa to build the Sinamoga Assembly Hall. All traveled at their own expense. "Different building terms and measurement systems were used on the building site," writes Ken Abbott, who led the Australian tradesmen, "but Jehovah's spirit helped us cheerfully to overcome any problems that arose." "Seeing firsthand the international brotherhood in action," observed Abraham Lincoln (no relation. he he) who was with the Hawaiian team, "had a positive effect on everyone." Through the united efforts of the international construction team, the Assembly Hall was completed in just ten days. ( Assembly Hall in 10 days??? that's almost as quick as a Kingdom Hall build!) Local publishers learned valuable trade skills by working with the visitors, and they also benefited spiritually. Hence, after the project was completed, some publishers enrolled as pioneers or entered Bethel service. Finally, on November 20-21, 1993, the dedication of the branch office and Assembly Hall took place. John Barr of the Governing Body delivered the dedication talks. Summing up the feelings of many present on this happy occasion, long-time missionary Paul Evans said: "Jehovah has blessed us far beyond our fondest dreams."
(old branch facilities & missionary home in Sinamoga)

(new Samoan Branch built in 1992 - photo on pg 401 of the JW Proclaimers book)

*I wanted to include this one extra experience from Samoa, since it reminded me of today's text discussion...about how learning God's requirements and applying Bible principles can help people to live a clean, moral lifestyle, despite being surrounded by temptations or by other obstacles which can make living by Christian standards a challenge.

The Truth Transforms Lives (pg 128 & 131)
When the truth of God's Word touches people's hearts, it moves them to bring their lives into harmony with Jehovah's elevated standards. Many Samoans have experienced this transforming power of God's Word. (Ephesians 4:22-24; Hebrews 4:12)
For example, Ngongo and Maria Kupu were, as Samoans say, "living in darkness" -that is, living together without being married. "We had studied with Ngongo and Maria for some time," explains Fred Wegener, "but did not realize that they were not married. Then one day they proudly showed us their newly acquired marriage certificate. Soon afterward, they were baptized. Although Ngongo has since died, Maria still serves as a regular pioneer in American Samoa." Another challenge facing new ones in Samoa involves the sanctity of blood. Samoans customarily strangle pigs and chickens before cooking and eating them, a practice forbidden in God's Word. (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:13, 14; Acts 15:28, 29) One young woman in American Samoa expressed suprise when she saw in her own Bible God's clear commands on these matters. "Although her family attended church and read the Bible regularly," explains Julie-Anne Padget, "she had eaten unbled meat since childhood. Yet, she immediately accepted the Bible's direction and resolved not to eat any unbled meat." Today, the stand of Jehovah's Witnesses regarding the sanctity of blood is well-known throughout Samoa. Futhermore, medical professionals in Samoa are generally willing to respect our stand regarding blood transfusions.

daily text 08/28

Friday, August 28th, 2009
"Upon the young lion and the cobra you will tread; You will trample down the maned young lion and the big snake." (Psalm 91:13)

Using vivid imagery, the psalmist likens Satan’s tactics to those of a young lion or those of a cobra. Like a lion, Satan at times makes open, frontal attacks by means of persecution or legislative action against Jehovah’s people. (Psalm 94:20) Such lionlike attacks may cause a few to stumble. More often than not, however, these overt attacks backfire and result in a unifying of God’s people. What, though, of Satan’s more subtle, cobralike attacks? The Devil uses his superhuman intelligence to launch treacherous and deadly strikes like those of a poisonous snake from a hidden place. In this way, he has succeeded in poisoning the mind of some of God’s people, deceiving them into doing his will rather than Jehovah’s, with a tragic outcome. Happily, we are not ignorant of Satan’s designs.—2 Corinthians 2:11.
(Watchtower issue 10/1/07, 3:3, 4)

*this week's Biblestudy lesson from chapter 9 of the 'Keep Yourself In God's Love' book, gives the perfect example of Satan's most popular lure when attempting to get people to break their integrity to God's standards - which also tends to have the most success. He used the oldest trick in the book to ensnare the Israelites ... immorality. And they fell for it at the worst possible moment ...right when they were on the threshold of the Promised Land -getting ready to enter into it. That was the time when they should have been on guard the most, but instead, they let their guard down, and fell under the corrupting influence of the Moabite women and their low standards of morality.
This is another "deja vu" scenario ... since the very same thing is ensnaring people today. It's no coincidence that the entertainment industry is flooded with immorality (especially the internet) to the point that people have become so 'accustomed' to seeing it, that they hardly protest anymore, -but instead- buy into the popular 'new standard' of morality -hook, line, & sinker. It reminds me of that one statement someone made about how "dress standards have dropped so low, that pretty soon there won't be anything left for prostitutes to wear!" lol. thats so true though! But on a more serious note, on pg 30 of the new October Awake!, the 'Watching the World' section has 2 sobering statistics for parents to think about:

"About one-third of girls in the United States get pregnant before age 20" (Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, U.S.A.) and...
"Children are confronted with harmful pornographic and violent Internet videos at an increasingly early age. According to Heinz-Peter Meidinger, chairman of the German Association of Philologists, boys 12 and older often know how and where to find Web sites featuring extreme violence or degrading pornography."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Court Cases & Polish Brothers Released From Jail

The following court-case experiences are also in the 1994 Yearbook, along with the conclusion of what happened to the Polish brothers who were jailed, and the problems Witness children faced in school...

(photo & experience of Jan Śmieszko on pgs 193 & 194)

Attacks and Counterattacks
The Roman Catholic clergy resorted with increasing frequency to slander against Jehovah’s servants, especially in the press. They also demanded that the people turn in any literature received from the Bible Students so that it could be publicly burned. An instance of this that received much publicity took place in Chojnice. The public prosecutor’s office there charged Brother Śmieszko, a local pioneer, with blasphemy by means of printed material. The trial, in 1933, was attended by a large crowd. A Catholic priest named Janke was called to testify. He had a Ph.D. and was a teacher of religion in the local high school. Brother Scheider represented the Society. Immortality of the soul, eternal torment, and purgatory were among the subjects discussed. Afterward, Mr. Janke, acknowledging defeat, approached Brother Scheider, shook his hand, and said that never again would he allow himself to get involved in such a case.
The Kraków newspaper Ilustrowany Kurier Codzienny (Illustrated Daily Courier) joined in the attack upon the Witnesses, falsely accusing them of being covert Communists who sang Bolshevik songs, were trained in the Soviet Union, and received payment from there. In this instance, the brothers took the newspaper’s responsible ones to court, and the editor was punished.
Mieczysław Skrudlik, a Jesuit, personally published booklets that slandered the Witnesses. But when he was taken to court, he claimed that he was ill. Three times he asked that the case be postponed. In the meantime, he moved several times and could no longer be located.
Attacks by the clergy were not all verbal, however. They and their henchmen also resorted to violence, repeatedly so. When the Witnesses engaged in their house-to-house ministry, opposers attacked them. The opposers used fists, feet, sticks, and stones, destroying Bible literature and leaving the Witnesses bloody or unconscious on the ground. Witnesses traveling to distant territories to preach were intercepted, beaten, and ducked in water; their bicycles and motorcycles were smashed; their literature was confiscated and destroyed.
A longtime pioneer, Bolesław Zawadzki, wrote in his memoirs that when a meeting was being held at his parents’ home in Kielce, a mob of 2,000 angry, shouting people surrounded the house and hurled stones. Wheelbarrows were used to bring up fresh supplies. Not until long after midnight did the “game” end. The stones that had come through the roof filled six carts when gathered up! In an attempt to ward off this wave of persecution, the brothers sometimes succeeded in having the actual perpetrators punished. Less often they were able to bring to justice the real instigators, the clergy.

(photo & experience of Jan W. Rynkiewicz on pgs 237-239)

In 1972, opposers thought they had found a new weapon. An officer in the security service had for many years collected slanderous material against the Witnesses. He was now using it to write a thesis in pursuit of his Doctor of Arts degree. Entitled “The Contents and Form of Propaganda Used by the Sect of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Polish People’s Republic,” it was designed to serve later as a manual for legal officials in their fight against the Witnesses.
Before the degree could be conferred, however, the thesis had to be defended in a public discussion. This was usually just a formality. But as soon as the brothers found out when and where this was to occur, they made it a matter of prayer. Despite having little time to prepare, they decided to use this as an opportunity to defend Jehovah’s name and his people.
Thus, on May 31, 1972, when Henryk Skibiński presented his venomous thesis at the University in Toruń, Jehovah’s Witnesses were in the audience. Skibiński claimed that Jehovah’s Witnesses were hostile to the State and its allies, were spies of an unfriendly superpower, and were enemies, among other things, of science, blood transfusions, and evolution. But he did feel obliged to mention that they were known to be conscientious and honest citizens. The professor who would confer the degree as well as the reviewers then spoke. Afterward, those in attendance were asked to express themselves.
Brother Jan Waldemar Rynkiewicz from Bydgoszcz seized the opportunity to speak at length, thoroughly refuting the charge that Jehovah’s Witnesses were hostile to the State and were spies. He pointed out inconsistencies in Mr. Skibiński’s thesis and the partiality in his argumentation. (He had, for example, entirely omitted the fact that the courts had abandoned the accusation of espionage and had vindicated many of the Witnesses.) Furthermore, Brother Rynkiewicz drew special attention to the contribution made by the Witnesses to nonblood surgery—another point that Mr. Skibiński had omitted. The examining board accepted the documents that Brother Rynkiewicz submitted. Brothers Zygmunt Sawicki and Józef Rajchel, who were also in the audience, then courageously presented the Bible’s view of Christian involvement in politics and worldly conflicts. All in attendance listened with rapt attention. During his attempted refutation, Mr. Skibiński lost his temper, and the chairman was forced to cut him off. The Doctor of Arts degree was not conferred, much to the chagrin of Skibiński’s relatives and friends, who were left standing with flowers in their hands but with no one to congratulate.
Thus, exactly 50 years after the Witnesses had had a famous discussion with Jesuits in Kraków, another group of Witnesses had also fought a victorious battle—this time with an equally desperate, atheistic adversary. From that time on, the authorities were somewhat less enthusiastic about trying to justify their persecution of the Witnesses. Also, the way in which officials dealt with Jehovah’s Witnesses began to change

(the conclusion of yesterday's 'part 2' post - on pgs 228-231)
...With loving concern for all the congregations, two district servants who had managed to avoid detention, along with several other experienced brothers, began making plans to supply the brotherhood with spiritual food. They devised a communications system that proved effective for almost 40 years. Circuit overseers were appointed to carry on the work formerly done by those imprisoned, and by the end of 1952, despite constant harassment, the number preaching to others about God’s Kingdom had increased to 19,991!
This was not what the security forces had expected. Their plan had been to rid Poland of Jehovah’s Witnesses within two years. Angered by their failure, they plotted what they viewed as a final, knockout blow. A new wave of arrests ensued. Four members of the Country Committee, as well as other zealous brothers and sisters, were seized. Plans were made for holding a show trial in Łódź. During the months before the trial, one of the brothers died, several suffered nervous breakdowns, and another, Zygfryd Adach, was released because of a serious illness he contracted while in prison. After more than two years of preparation, a five-day trial began on March 10, 1955. The result was the handing down of the severest verdicts since the Warsaw trial. Three members of the Country Committee, Jan Lorek, Tadeusz Chodara, and Władysław Szklarzewicz, were sentenced to 12 years in prison each.
Did that frighten other Witnesses into silence?

Youths Demonstrate Faith and Courage
Even young Witnesses attending school held firm to their faith. True, at school they were bombarded with atheistic ideas. Those who resisted were mocked. Political matters were often included in the curriculum, and attendance at marches or demonstrations was compulsory. Some schools introduced military classes. Those who conscientiously objected to participation were usually expelled. But instead of becoming disheartened, many of these young Witnesses went into the pioneer service, thereby making a major contribution to the spread of the Kingdom message. In 1954, with due caution, a number of special meetings lasting several days were held with the pioneers. They were given information from some of the talks delivered in New York during the 1953 international New World Society Assembly. What a source of spiritual refreshment! How strengthening to be reminded in this way that they were part of the loving worldwide brotherhood of Jehovah’s people!
And what were the brothers in prison doing?

Prisons—A Field for Evangelizing
Władysław Przybysz, imprisoned for the first time from 1952 to 1956 and released the fourth time in 1969, recalls: “A prison sentence was accepted as being a work assignment in territory not accessible to others.” As a result of the preaching done behind prison bars, many prisoners heard about Jehovah and his marvelous purposes. The imprisoned brothers also organized small groups and arranged to hold short meetings daily. Even behind prison bars, “the number of the disciples kept multiplying.”—Acts 6:7. Thanks to the exemplary behavior of the Witnesses, there was also a gradual change in the attitude of some of the prison personnel. Romuald Stawski remembers that in one prison the menu was changed so that the Witnesses were no longer tested by being given food containing blood. One day two large food containers were brought into the cell, one full of blood sausage, the other containing vegetable soup. “This [soup] is just for the Witnesses,” the guard stressed.

Prison Doors Swing Open
However, by 1956 the official attitude toward Jehovah’s Witnesses began to change. In the spring a district overseer from Kraków was released from prison and was told that the authorities were ready to negotiate with the Witnesses. The matter was given consideration, and an official delegation of three brothers was chosen to approach the Office for Religious Affairs.
The three brothers emphasized that they were interested only in getting information, that the only ones authorized to negotiate were the Society’s imprisoned directors. But the Office for Religious Affairs manifested no willingness to deal with convicts. A second meeting also ended without apparent results when the three brothers stressed that as far as the Witnesses were concerned, the imprisoned directors were innocent. Soon, however, many brothers and sisters, some imprisoned since 1950, were being released. Included were three members of the board of directors and the members of the Country Committee who had been sentenced later. Finally, in August 1956, Wilhelm Scheider was also freed. What had happened?
More was involved than political changes. The two brothers mentioned earlier who had given false testimony retracted it, and on this basis the charges against the directors were formally dropped. But there was more to it. Officials could see that Jehovah’s Witnesses were growing in numbers, and at a rapid rate. Within three years the number of Kingdom publishers had reached 37,411, an increase of 87 percent! Later, in 1972, a well-informed agent of the security service acknowledged: “We see that making announcements about the court trials of Jehovah’s Witnesses and about their propaganda has not weakened the organization but has had just the opposite effect.” Loyalty to Jehovah had won the day!

daily text 08/27

Thursday, August 27th, 2009
"The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes." (Genesis 49:10)

Of the descendants of Judah, the first one to be chosen by Jehovah to be king over his people was the shepherd David, son of Jesse. (1 Samuel 16:1-13) In spite of his sins and errors, David found favor with Jehovah because of his loyalty to Jehovah’s sovereignty. Shedding more light on the Edenic prophecy, Jehovah made a covenant with David, saying: “I shall certainly raise up your seed after you, which will come out of your inward parts; and I shall indeed firmly establish his kingdom.” That would involve more than David’s son and successor, Solomon, for the covenant stated: “I shall certainly establish the throne of his kingdom firmly to time indefinite.” That Davidic covenant made clear that the promised Kingdom “seed” would in time come through the family line of David.—2 Samuel 7:12, 13.
(Watchtower issue: 12/1/07, 1:13, 14)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yearbook Experiences - Persecution in Poland -pt 2

The following experiences are from the 1994 Yearbook...

(photo of Wilhelm and Amelia Scheider on pg 191)
Moving Ahead With the Lord's Work (pgs 208, 209, 212 & 213)
Those of Jehovah’s Witnesses who survived the concentration camps returned in the spring of 1945, ready to press ahead with public proclamation of God’s Kingdom. Among them was Wilhelm Scheider. (He had been a schoolteacher who had initial heard about the Bible Students from a friend of his, and had arranged to be transferred to Łódź in 1920, so that he could be in closer contact with them) ...In time he was able to arrange to use the property at 24 Rzgowska Street in Łódź once again. (The brothers weren't sure they would be able to afford this property initially, but then 3 days before the payment deadline, Sister Scheider was able to borrow the needed money from her comparatively wealthy stepsister, even though the stepsister had not been favorably disposed) ...Unfortunately, new literature could be received only when someone was able personally to bring it from abroad, because the public postal system was not yet functioning. But whenever literature did arrive, it was translated as soon as possible, and stencils were dispatched to each zone. Soon additional volunteers offered to help with the work. And Jehovah moved the hearts of others to support the work with material contributions...
During World War II, the brothers in Poland had no direct contact with the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even the Swiss branch office, which had the oversight of many European lands, had received only limited information about Witnesses living in German-occupied territories. It is therefore understandable that the Polish Witnesses knew little about the organizational changes that had been introduced in other parts of the world.
However, despite postwar obstacles, as soon as the Łódź office could obtain the needed information, the changes were quickly implemented. Prior to this, major emphasis had been put on literature distribution. But the May 1946 Polish Informant (now Our Kingdom Ministry) explained how to make effective return visits, how to study Bible literature with interested people, and how to report correctly. Changes were made too in the congregation meetings. A Course in Theocratic Ministry, now called the Theocratic Ministry School, was introduced. The arrangement for visits by servants to the brethren (now known as circuit overseers) was outlined. These organizational changes led to increased activity. And as in the first century, so in modern times, when the congregations applied directions from the governing body, “the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.”—Acts 16:5. ...The most amazing developments, though, were seen in the eastern part of the country. Living conditions were extremely difficult. A circuit overseer relates that, after arriving there in 1947, he saw not only burned-down houses but entire settlements that had been destroyed. Brothers lived in dugouts and cellars. Nevertheless, the congregations were growing at an astounding rate.

Our First Kingdom Halls
Within a short time after the end of the war, the brothers began searching for buildings suitable to remodel for use as Kingdom Halls. In Poznań a hall seating 60 persons was already in use by late 1945. Building materials were hard to get, but the brothers were resourceful. Even wood from boxes used by the Society for shipping was reclaimed. Where necessary, club rooms, movie theaters, or other public facilities were rented. When these were not available, meetings were held in private houses or apartments. Our brothers loved music, and they took pleasure in using this gift to praise Jehovah. During the early postwar years, some of them organized amateur choirs and orchestras. When they performed before public lectures were given, entire villages sometimes turned out to hear the talks.

(Branch Office at Łódź in 1948 - pg 216)
(Bethel family that served at the Branch Office)

Raid on the Office in Łódź (pgs 215 & 216)
As the organization expanded, the Witnesses were devoting their efforts to helping people benefit from the Bible. But opposition to their activity did not cease even though they were now living under socialistic rule. As early as February 1946, their office in Łódź was raided, and all the brothers working there were arrested. Only a few sisters were left. The building was put under 24-hour surveillance by guards from the UB, or Urząd Bezpieczeństwa (Office of Security). But one of the sisters was able to send a telegram to the branch office in Switzerland. Through that office an appeal was made to the Polish embassy in Bern. At that time, the authorities were eager to be well thought of in other lands, so within a week the brothers in Łódź were released.
Meanwhile, the UB (Office of Security) tried to get the brothers to work with them in keeping the Catholic clergy under surveillance, as if they were the “common enemy.” How little they understood the principle of Christian neutrality!
(Notice how even when the brothers were given a golden opportunity to "get even" for the horrible treatment they were dealt, and would continue to be dealt, by the Catholic Church, they STILL maintained integrity to Christian principles by refusing to return evil for evil ...and in the following experiences you'll see how much more 'evil' they were forced to endure)
Gilead-Trained Missionaries Arrive (pgs 214 & 215)
On March 19, 1947, Stefan Behunick and Paweł Muhaluk, two graduates of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, stepped ashore at Gdynia from the ship Jutlandia. Both spoke comparatively good Polish, and they quickly got to work on the assignment that had been especially entrusted to them. One of the more important of their duties was to organize the circuit and district work. This required that they train traveling overseers—brothers who would regularly visit the congregations, share with local Witnesses in the preaching work, and deliver helpful and encouraging discourses. District work was inaugurated, with arrangements for regular assemblies in each circuit. During the next few years, dozens of these assemblies were held throughout the country. In some instances public auditoriums were available, but when not, the assemblies were held on property belonging to the Witnesses. The first district encompassed the entire country. Its overseer, Edward Kwiatosz, faithfully served Jehovah in the branch office in Poland until the end of his earthly course in 1992. As part of the program to train brothers to fill various needs, pioneers were invited to Łódź in 1947 for special courses. One who attended wrote later: “The two weeks at the branch office were unforgettable. Daily I received what I needed the most.” Four from that group were invited to share in serving the congregations as traveling overseers. The missionaries did not merely give counsel on organizational matters but also kept busy in the field with the brothers. As far as possible, they visited the circuits and rendered practical assistance. Overseers and publishers alike treasured their help, and many remember it to this day.

(Missionaries Paweł Muhaluk & Stefan Behunick -photo on pg 223)
“A ‘Middle Ages’ Bloody September” (pgs 219 & 220)
Catholic clergymen had inculcated in their flocks fanatic intolerance of anything that was not in line with the Catholic religion. Representing Poland’s dominant religion, they often took unfair advantage of school youths as well as of adults, using them to commit acts of mob violence.
When Jehovah’s Witnesses held a district convention in Lublin in 1948, the clergy inflamed their flocks by claiming that the Witnesses had come from all parts of Poland to destroy local Catholic sanctuaries. The faithful were called upon to defend their churches and their city. A crowd of religious fanatics attacked. On that occasion, armed policemen, assigned to care for convention security, pulled the more aggressive ringleaders into cars and drove them as much as 20 miles [30 km] out of the city before freeing them far from transportation routes.
The situation was somewhat different on September 5, 1948, when the Witnesses were attending a circuit assembly in Piotrków Trybunalski, a town about 70 miles [120 km] from Warsaw. The missionaries, Brothers Behunick and Muhaluk, were present. By five o’clock in the afternoon, a large menacing crowd had gathered nearby, waiting for the program to end so that they could get their hands on “the bishops,” as they called the missionaries. When the Witnesses left the hall, a mob of several hundred attacked, beating some, including the missionaries, into unconsciousness. The injured were taken to Holy Trinity Hospital, where their wounds were dressed. But hospital personnel, under the influence of the nuns there, refused to permit them to remain in the hospital. Initially the press made no mention of the incident. But shortly after the American embassy in Warsaw was supplied with details as to what had happened, news services in the United States reported the mob action.

(Court in Warsaw - 1951 -pg 227)

(from right to left -Wilhelm Scheider, Edward Kwiatosz, Harold Abt, Wladyslaw Sukiennik, and a guard - pg 227)
UB Torture Chambers (pgs 224-228)
For many Witnesses this wave of arrests and investigations was the start of a long period of torture and suffering. Investigators tried to force them to confess to crimes of which they were not guilty, especially to acting in behalf of foreign intelligence services. Attempts were also made to persuade the brothers to become UB informants. According to unpublished UB statistics, 90 percent of what that source referred to as “the sect’s members” came in for repressive treatment. As a result, the number who were able to report sharing in the field service temporarily dropped to half.
Wilhelm Scheider was interrogated for eight days and nights without interruption. By administering beastly beatings, interrogators tried to force him to plead guilty to the charges they had fabricated. When he lost consciousness, he was doused with cold water until he revived. He was given nothing to eat and nothing to drink and once was forced to kneel for 72 hours at a stretch. Later he was transferred from Łódź to Warsaw and then was thrown naked into a cramped dungeon for 24 days. There he could not sit, lie down, or stand erect. In a further attempt to force him to compromise, the UB arrested and mistreated his wife and daughter. But nothing broke his integrity.
The same treatment was meted out to Harald Abt, the branch secretary. For six days nonstop, he was interrogated, all the while being beaten on the head and punched in the stomach. “Even though you spent five years in a camp because of being against Nazism, we will still be able to prove you to have been a Gestapo man,” he was told.
Edward Kwiatosz was brutally beaten and given no food for three days. Ruthless investigators threatened to hang him. They made him go without sleep for two weeks. He was beaten on the heels with rubber clubs. His ribs and nose were broken, his skull caved in, and an eardrum was perforated. Altogether, he suffered 32 days of ill-treatment. But he was not intimidated into falsely accusing his brothers in order to get relief for himself.—Compare Job 2:4.
Other brothers were mistreated similarly. Some of them, when interrogated by their tormentors, were made to sit on a stool with a spike protruding from the center of the seat. This was called the “Roman treatment.” All of this they suffered simply for being Jehovah’s Witnesses, for refusing to sign statements that were filled with lies, and for refusing to bear false witness against their Christian brothers.
Some brothers were taken to prison in Zawiercie in 1950 because they refused to sign the political Stockholm Appeal. First to arrive there was Władysław Drabek from Poręba. He was locked in a dark dungeon with water reaching to his knees. He could rest a little by sitting with bent knees on top of some timber in a corner. Two days later the cell was packed with brothers. All had refused to sign the Appeal. From time to time, the guards gave the prisoners buckets in which to relieve themselves. If they did not use them when provided, they were not given a second chance. Understandably, after a few days, the water stank abominably.
A lifetime would be too short to relate every example of mistreatment that Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered after the mass arrests of 1950. The integrity of God’s servants was severely tested, and not surprisingly, some died as a result of the inhuman treatment.
Faithful Even to Death
Brother J. Szlauer was only 20 years old when, in August 1950, he was summoned to UB quarters in Cieszyn for interrogation. He steadfastly refused to denounce fellow believers. Frustrated, the interrogator shot him twice during the inquiry, and after an hour this young servant of Jehovah died. But before his death he managed to tell the doctor: “I was shot by the UB officer because I was faithful to Jehovah.” Other Witnesses suffered for years before death finally brought release. A traveling overseer, Alojzy Prostak from Kraków, was arrested in May 1952 in Szczecin. After two years of being held in custody in Warsaw and Łódź, he was so battered and exhausted that he had to be hospitalized. Acting at the suggestion of an attorney, his wife succeeded in having him released in 1954, but he died a week later. About 2,000 persons attended his funeral. The brother who courageously delivered his funeral talk at the cemetery used the occasion to protest the sadistic methods UB agents used when interrogating the Witnesses. Afterward he himself was forced to go into hiding in order to avoid arrest.
By 1956, reports revealed that 16 brothers, in all parts of Poland, had died because of UB torture or because of having been refused medical care. (Additional cases later came to light.) The corpses of these brothers were usually sent to the bereaved families in closed coffins, which they were not permitted to open. In other cases, they did not learn about the death of a loved one until many months had elapsed.
A Trial Behind Closed Doors
Survivors of this inhuman treatment described attempts that were made to force them to testify against the Society’s directors. Two brothers did break down under torture and let themselves be forced to give false testimony. But the UB also fabricated “evidence” of its own.
Using this, they staged a trial in Warsaw behind closed doors from March 16 to 22, 1951. Despite the danger to themselves, other Witnesses of Jehovah gathered in front of the courthouse in large numbers, hoping by their presence to encourage their brothers to endure faithfully.
By using paramedic vans, which were driven into the inner courtyard, the officials tried to get the defendants into the courtroom without their being seen. However, when the prisoners emerged from the vans, children of our brothers who had been able to get close to the courtyard wall shouted words of encouragement, a reminder to the defendants that they were not alone.
Seven brothers sat in the prisoners’ dock: four members of the board of directors of the Society’s legal corporation in Poland and three other brothers who for various reasons were viewed as important to the organization. The public prosecutor demanded capital punishment for Wilhelm Scheider. The Court sentenced him to life imprisonment. The other three directors were sentenced to 15 years apiece, the rest to shorter terms. All were placed in a maximum-security prison.

daily text 08/26

Wednesday, August 26nd, 2009
"Trust in Jehovah with all your heart." (Proverbs 3:5)

Today, we may not clearly see why some organizational matters are handled in a certain way, but we have every reason to trust in Jehovah’s guidance through his faithful channel of communication. At times, our enemies may seem to be getting the upper hand. From our limited perspective, we may not be able to see the whole picture. Still, Jehovah is capable of maneuvering matters at the right moment. We can have confidence that he is with his people to guide, protect, and deliver them. We can take to heart the promise: “[Jehovah] will not leave his loyal ones. To time indefinite they will certainly be guarded.” (Psalm 37:28) Never let us forget those mighty angelic forces that are backing God’s servants today. With their support, we can “stand firm and see the salvation of Jehovah.” (Exodus 14:13) Wearing the spiritual armor described by Paul will enable all of us to “stand firm.”—Ephesians 6:11-18.
(Watchtower issue: 12/15/07, 2:16-18)

*a prime example, (still to come) of how God will manuever events so that it 'appears' as if his people are completely outnumbered and surrounded on every side, and all hope is lost,... is the prophetic account found in Ezekiel, describing Gog of Magog's attack on God's people. -Which is the final event that leads into Armageddon. (I wasn't able to post a link to the New World Translation), but here's the American Standard Version of Ezekiel 38 -which is another reason why being familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures is so important, because there are so many instances where Jehovah allowed similar circumstances to occur in ancient times.
The most familiar one is when the Israelites had just escaped Egypt, and God had them unexpectedly backtrack just prior to crossing the Red Sea, so that in the eyes of Pharoah and his army, the Israelites 'appeared' to be trapped. But there's some other really great examples, like the account in 2 Chronicles chapter 20, where a large army of the sons of Moab and Ammon, etc, came against Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoshaphat, and all the people were afraid so they gathered together to prayerfully consult God to know what they should do. And you can see from what happened, that the end result in that particular instance is similar to what's going to occur in the future...

"Eventually those of Judah were collected together to inquire of Jehovah. Even from all the cities of Judah they came to consult Jehovah. Then Je·hosh´a·phat stood up in the congregation of Judah and of Jerusalem in the house of Jehovah before the new courtyard, and he proceeded to say...
“O Jehovah the God of our forefathers, are you not God in the heavens, and are you not dominating over all the kingdoms of the nations, and are there not in your hand power and mightiness, with no one to hold his ground against you? ... O our God, will you not execute judgment upon them? For in us there is no power before this large crowd that is coming against us; and we ourselves do not know what we ought to do, but our eyes are toward you.” All the while all those of Judah were standing before Jehovah, even their little ones, their wives and their sons...
"Here is what Jehovah has said to YOU, ‘Do not YOU be afraid or be terrified because of this large crowd; for the battle is not YOURS, but God’s...YOU will not need to fight in this instance. Take YOUR position, stand still and see the salvation of Jehovah in YOUR behalf. O Judah and Jerusalem, do not be afraid or be terrified. Tomorrow go out against them, and Jehovah will be with YOU.’"
(2 Chronicles 20:4-6, 12, 13, 15, 17)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Resetting the Clock... plan.
Since my sleep schedule has gotton all thrown off, and my recent posts have had 'jetlag,' I've decided to skip posting today's (far-too-late) yearbook experience, and instead, post it for tomorrow so I can be back on track again.

daily text 08/25

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009
"All Scripture is inspired of God." (2 Timothy 3:16)

Jehovah saw fit to have a permanent record made of the earthly ministry of Jesus as well as His dealings with and counsel to first-century anointed Christians. Jehovah thus added the inspired Christian Greek Scriptures to the already existing inspired Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew Scriptures were written in the first place for the fleshly nation of Israel during the time that they had a special relationship with God. The Christian Greek Scriptures were written primarily for “the Israel of God,” those anointed as brothers of Christ and spiritual sons of God. (Galatians 6:16) Of course, that in no way suggests that non-Israelites could not derive great benefit from studying the Hebrew Scriptures. Similarly, Christians who are not anointed with holy spirit derive immeasurable benefits from studying and living according to the counsel found in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
(Watchtower issue: 01/15/08, 4:11)

*they are definitely interconnected ... you can't read one without the other if you really want a deep understanding of the Bible. I always notice that reading the Hebrew Scriptures, gives me a much clearer understanding of the Christian Greek Scriptures, and vice versa. Studying both helps to shed extra light on certain topics or points that you may have initially overlooked or not understood at first, and it adds so much more detail and backround info to the text as you're reading it. Plus, there's no way you could ever soak in any portion of the Bible thoroughly by reading it only once. It's kind of the same way when you're watching a movie for the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time around, and you always pick up on extra little details that you never noticed the first time...and each new piece of info you learn ties everything closer together, giving you a clearer picture.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Poland's Religious History

(picture on pg 170 of the 1994 Yearbook)
*Poland has a really interesting religious history which I didn't know before, and as I'm reading all these yearbook experiences, I'm realizing there's alot more involved than I can condense into 'part 2'...So before I get to the second part of the story, I want to post some modern day JW info and also the religious history of the country.

(aerial sketch of the Branch Office in Poland and the following info on pg 381 of the JW Proclaimers book)

"These facilities are being used to provide assistance to the more than 100,000 Witnesses in Poland. From 1939 to 1945, their worship was banned, but their numbers increased from 1,039 in 1939 to 6,994 in 1946. When banned again in 1950, they numbered 18,116; but shortly after that ban was lifted in 1989, reports showed that there were over 91,000."
Since those are old figures, here are the current stats in Poland according to the 2008 annual report: 127,154 peak publishers, with 3,242 baptized, 1,812 congregations, and a Memorial attendance of 213,105. (Not that numbers matter, its just that when you see how much persecution the Witnesses endured, and how hard they tried to stamp us out of the country altogether, it's encouraging to see so much increase)
Its also encouraging that our brothers & sisters no longer have to hold assemblies in the forest, but can enjoy large conventions in proper stadiums now that they are no longer under ban.

(a 'forest convention' in 1981, pg 240 of the 1994 Yearbook)

(a 'real' convention held in 1985, in Poznan, photo on pg 381 of the JW Proclaimers book)
*the following info taken from pgs 172-175 of the 1994 Yearbook
How the Bible Found Its Way to Poland
Poland has been considered a “Christian” country ever since 966 C.E., when Prince Mieszko I was baptized according to rites of the Roman Catholic Church. Mass baptisms of his subjects also took place—not meaning, of course, that they suddenly became good Christians. Actually, people continued observing pagan Slavic traditions and superstitions for hundreds of years. Some still do.
For centuries after the country became Catholic, the Bible was not available to the Polish people, not even to the clergy. The Psałterz floriański (Florianski Psalter) of the 14th century and the Biblia królowej Zofii (Queen Zofia Bible) of the late 15th century are the oldest preserved Polish translations. But only one manuscript of each of these Bibles was made, and just a chosen few had access to them. In the 16th century, however, in many European countries, including Poland, religious views underwent drastic changes. Catholic dogma was challenged. The Holy Scriptures were increasingly viewed as the sole criterion. As a result, translators more frequently made the Bible available in vernacular languages so that the public could read it.
A Polish “New Testament” that appeared in 1574 used the Creator’s name, Jehowa (Jehovah), in several passages. It was published by Szymon Budny, who belonged to a small group of people desirous of adhering to God’s Word and who called themselves simply Christians or brethren. Later they adopted the name Polish Brethren. As a result of what they learned, they rejected the Trinity dogma.
In 1658, however, the Polish Sejm, or parliament, decreed that the Polish Brethren, under penalty of death, be given three years’ time—and later a year was shaved off that period—either to become Catholics or to leave the country. How did this come about?
A marked change had come over the land. For years, Poland had been a land known for its religious toleration. Victims of religious persecution in other lands had sought refuge in Poland. The oath administered to Polish kings from 1573 onward had included such guarantees as this: “I . . . promise and solemnly swear by Almighty God that . . . I will preserve and maintain peace and quiet among those that differ with regard to religion, and will not in any way . . . suffer anyone to be influenced or oppressed by reason of his religion.” Indeed, John II Casimir Vasa, during whose reign the Polish Brethren were banished, had taken that oath. But there can be no doubt that his training for the Jesuit priesthood, prior to his becoming king, influenced his attitude regarding religious freedom.
The Jesuits had begun operations in Poland in 1564, some 84 years before John Casimir came to the throne. They had shrewdly directed their influence toward the royal court. At the same time, they sought to gain control of the schools and thereby mold the thinking of the populace. The guarantee of religious freedom was gradually eroded. Those trained in the Jesuit-controlled schools were imbued with a spirit of religious intolerance, manifest in violent attacks on those who adhered to other faiths as well as on their homes and on their places of worship. The Bible came to be viewed as a forbidden book. During this period, Poland lost much of its territory. Surrounding nations seized one portion of the country and then another, until, in 1795, Poland as an independent nation disappeared from the map of Europe.
Once again, however, religious freedom has been established by law in Poland. No longer does the law forbid Roman Catholics to change to another religion, as it did under the Polish Constitution of 1791. As of 1993, the Constitution declares: “The Republic of Poland shall guarantee freedom of conscience and religion to its citizens.” More of the Polish people are availing themselves of that freedom and are turning to the Bible for direction. The Roman Catholic Church has been forced to abandon the policy of keeping God’s written Word away from the people. Since the end of World War II, several good Polish Bible translations have been published, and Jehovah’s Witnesses make good use of them. When the Witnesses share with others the good news of God’s Kingdom, many, like those noble-minded people referred to in the Bible at Acts 17:11, are eager to examine ‘whether these things are so.’

daily text 08/24

Monday, August 24th, 2009
"[God] has paid attention to the voice of my prayer." (Psalm 66:19)

If we keep Jehovah before us, he will answer our prayers. (Psalm 65:2) We have proof of this in the case of Abraham’s oldest servant, likely Eliezer. Abraham sent him to Mesopotamia to obtain a God-fearing wife for Isaac. Eliezer prayed for divine guidance and recognized it as such when Rebekah watered his camels. Because he was prayerful, Eliezer found the one who became Isaac’s beloved wife. (Genesis 24:12-14, 67) Should we not be just as confident that Jehovah hears our prayers? At times, we may need to pray quickly for God’s help. On one occasion, Persian King Artaxerxes noticed that his cupbearer Nehemiah was gloomy and asked why. “At once [Nehemiah] prayed to the God of the heavens.” Nehemiah could not linger in that apparently silent prayer. Yet, God answered it, for Nehemiah was given the king’s support to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 2:1-8) Yes, even a brief, silent prayer can be effective. (Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 1:4, 5)

*This is a good point to mention to new Bible students, since many people tend to think of prayer as being something which is very 'involved' or that requires an outward physical display or specific position,...such as getting down on your knees, or in some religions -prostrating yourself on the ground and saying specific words. But the fact that Jehovah had these examples included in the Scriptures, shows that he wants us to know that he is just as aware of short, inwardly spoken words to him, and is ready to respond to our petitions based on whatever situation we find ourselves in at the time. There's a ton of modern-day examples of this, but for anyone who hasn't seen this interview yet, you can listen to an assembly experience given by a sister who found herself in just such a predictament -where she didn't have time to offer a long prayer because she was driving on the bridge in Minneapolis when it collapsed.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yearbook Experiences - Persecution in Poland -pt 1

*the following experiences are prime examples of how even religious communities with normal church-going citizens, can turn into angry mobs when they are misinformed and roused to action, by respected authority figures who abuse their position. The first story is pretty amusing, but the second one is very upsetting (just to warn you)

(photo & experience of Franciszek Puchała on pgs 182-185 of the 1994 Yearbook)

Theologians Try to Discredit Bible Students
...Brother Winiarz, a wealthy but self-sacrificing man, bought a house in Kraków to use as a meeting place. In 1922 that house served as the site of a debate between three brothers and three Catholic theologians. The previous year Franciszek Puchała had returned from America and privately published a leaflet containing a list of 13 church doctrines. He offered 10,000 Polish marks to anyone for each doctrine that the person could prove to be based on the Holy Scriptures. Included were immortality of the human soul, hellfire, purgatory, sacrifice of the Mass, celibacy of the clergy, confession to priests, use of the rosary, and so forth. “It was like poking a stick into an anthill,” Brother Puchała later wrote. The clergy, speaking through Catholic papers, demanded a public renunciation of the leaflet. Otherwise, they declared, they would prosecute Franciszek Puchała for slandering the church. Not to be intimidated, he called for a public discussion. After consulting the Roman Curia, the clergy agreed to a discussion, but only behind closed doors, ‘because of the sacred nature of the things involved,’ as they put it. Brother Puchała agreed. So sure were the clergy that they would win that they arranged to have present a lawyer who was to launch legal action against the brothers as soon as they were defeated. Arrogantly the church newspaper declared: “We will see who is right—the centuries-old Roman Catholic Church or this pitiful handful of misled creatures who are incapable of even correctly reading the Holy Scriptures.”
The well-known Jesuit theologian Jan Rostworowski led the Catholic delegation, accompanied by two other priests. The Bible Students were represented by Franciszek Puchała and two other brothers. Stenographers, as well as several persons to serve as witnesses, were also present. The Jesuits came equipped with two large suitcases full of books. The brothers had only their Bibles and Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. The clergymen asked that point 13 on the leaflet (immortality of the soul) be considered first. After two hours or so, the theologians excused themselves, saying they had no more time, and left. Although never publicly conceding defeat, they did confess in a newspaper article: “We must admit that the Bible Students . . . are not totally ignorant.” The entire discussion was published in a booklet entitled Bitwa na niebie (The Battle in the Heavens), which had an initial circulation of 10,000 copies and was reprinted a number of times. The traditionally religious community of Kraków along with the surrounding area was forced to sit up and take notice.

The clergy, of course, never forgave Brother Puchała for publicly undermining the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. They tried everything possible to make his life difficult. A policeman was sent to take notes at meetings held in his home, and he was later hauled into court several times. More than once hired killers threatened his life, but Jehovah protected him.
During a sermon in the village of Wawrzeńczyce, a priest incited the people to attack Brother Puchała with wooden clubs when he came to give a discourse. A group of overly zealous women were anxious to do the priest’s bidding. They lay in wait for Brother Puchała from early morning until late afternoon. When he arrived, he addressed them calmly, saying: “The one among you without sin should strike me with her club first.” Eventually the women withdrew. Upon returning home, however, they were struck by their husbands with the very clubs they had taken to use on Brother Puchała. Why? Because the husbands were upset at having been forced to wait so long for dinner!

1946 - After the War

(Postwar convention, held in September 1946, at Katowice - with 5,300 in attendance / photo on pg 215 of the 1994 Yearbook)

(15-year old Henryka Żur, martyred 3 years after this photo because she would not make the Catholic sign of the cross)

(the following experiences on pgs 217 & 218)
In 1946, reports began reaching the branch office telling of vicious acts of brutality against Jehovah’s Witnesses in various parts of the country. Particularly ruthless in their opposition were the guerrilla squads of the Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (National Armed Forces). Their activity was directed not only against the Communist government but also, as a result of the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy, against Jehovah’s Witnesses. What they demanded was remarkably similar to what Satan wanted from Jesus Christ. Satan urged: ‘Do just one act of worship to me.’ (Matthew 4:9, 10) These Catholic guerrilla squads demanded: ‘Do just one act of worship to show you are a Catholic.’
On March 1, for example, 15-year-old Henryka Żur from near Chełm accompanied a brother from her congregation to visit interested persons in a neighboring village. It was to be her last return visit. Both publishers fell into the hands of members of the Narodowe Siły Zbrojne who were staying overnight in the village. The brother was severely beaten but escaped with his life. The sister was horribly tortured for many hours. “Think inside whatever you want to,” suggested one of her tormentors, “just make the Catholic sign of the cross. Otherwise a bullet awaits you!” Finally, her integrity unbroken, the young sister was dragged into a nearby forest and shot.
Less than three weeks later, on the evening of March 18, a mob of 30 people raided Jan Ziemcow’s home in eastern Poland. At first they tried to force the family to go to the local Catholic priest for confession and to obtain a certificate from him verifying that they had done so. When Bible truths were presented, the mob went mad. They mercilessly struck Brother Ziemcow with clubs and repeatedly ordered him to kiss a cross. In their efforts to force him to renounce the Bible and return to the Catholic Church, they beat him into unconsciousness. Then, after reviving him with cold water, they literally beat him to death. After committing this murder, they calmly sat down and ate supper before beating the rest of the family into unconsciousness.
On June 12 another murder occurred. Aleksander Kulesza, from the Podlasie area, had gone to care for Brother Kadziela and his family, who had been attacked the previous night. A terrifying sight awaited him. He found it difficult even to recognize the victims! After administering help, Brother Kulesza and his family returned home, little knowing that they had already been singled out as the next victims. That evening a gang surrounded their house and, egged on by the local parish priest, mistreated the family for six hours. So determined was the mob to force Brother Kulesza into returning to the Catholic Church that they beat him to death. His son Jerzy, though severely beaten on that occasion, entered the full-time ministry two years later and continues in that service to this day.

In 1947 a review of acts perpetrated against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Poland to try to convert them to Catholicism revealed that 4,000 persons had been mistreated—60 of them murdered. The Narodowe Siły Zbrojne had launched some 800 attacks against Jehovah’s Witnesses in their homes. Of these modern-day Witnesses of Jehovah, it can truthfully be said, even as of Jehovah’s ancient witnesses: “The world was not worthy of them.”—Hebrews 11:38.

daily text 08/23

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009
"Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ."

(1 Corinthians 11:1)

The apostle Paul imitated the greatest Missionary, Jesus Christ. Paul also urged his fellow Christians to imitate him in the same way that he imitated Christ. After Jesus gave his apostles an object lesson in humility by humbly washing their feet, he told them: “I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also.” (John 13:12-15) As present-day Christians, we have an obligation to imitate Jesus Christ in our words and deeds and in the qualities we display. (1 Peter 2:21) A missionary is one who is sent as an evangelizer—one who brings good news to others. Even if you have not been appointed and sent forth to serve as a missionary in a foreign assignment, you can have the evangelizing spirit, imitating Jesus as a zealous proclaimer of the good news. In 2007, 6,957,854 Kingdom publishers ‘did the work of evangelizers’ in 236 lands.—2 Timothy 4:5.
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 4:1, 2)

*Here's some stats from the 2008 service year:
the number of Kingdom publishers increased to 7,124,443.
I also noticed a much bigger increase in the amount of Bible studies. In 2007 there were less Bible studies being conducted than the total number of publishers world wide. But in 2008 the number of Bible studies being conducted rose to: 7,133,760 -which actually exceeded the total number of publishers. And the Memorial attendance for 2008 was 17,790,631.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Through Wind & Snow -The Truth Reaches Norway

*I'm gonna post the yearbook experience that I didn't get to post yesterday-tomorrow, since I wanted to post this experience from the JW Proclaimers book, since it ties in well with today's text discussion about leaving no stone unturned in our ministry. And talk about extreme weather! How would you like to preach in this territory? =)

(photo of Andreas Øiseth, experience on pgs 407 & 408 of the JW Proclaimers book)

Scandinavians Share With One Another
Many Swedes were living in America. In 1883 a sample copy of the Watch Tower translated into Swedish was made available for distribution among them. These soon found their way by mail to friends and relatives in Sweden. No Norwegian literature had yet been produced...As the Swedish group began to grow, some went over to Norway to distribute Bible literature. Even before that, literature had arrived in Norway by mail from relatives in America...
One young man who received some literature was Andreas Øiseth. Once convinced that he had the truth, he left the family farm and undertook colporteur work. ('colporteur' was what they used to call the early pioneer ministers) Systematically he worked his way north, then south along the fjords, not bypassing any community. In the winter he carried his supplies—food, clothing, and literature—on a kick-sled, and hospitable people provided places for him to sleep. In an eight-year trip, he covered nearly the entire country with the good news.

(Branch Office in Norway - photo on pg 383 of the JW Proclaimers book)

Talk about reaping what you sow! Can you imagine the determination and willingness it took to systematically preach the 'good news' throughout the entire country of Norway, all by yourself, during an 8-year trek, in one of the coldest regions on earth??? But look how God made it grow! -the 2008 annual report shows that there are 10,560 peak publishers in 168 congregations, who spent over 1.4 million hours in the ministry during the 2008 service year, with a Memorial attendance of 16,676.
Another Witness who had an active share in the ministry in Norway, was a sister named Anna Andersen, (who had once been an officer in the Salvation Army) she's mentioned on pg 559, which says she "persevered in this service for decades, usually traveling on a bicycle, and she personally reached nearly every town in Norway with the good news."

daily text 08/22

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009
"Broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction."(Matthew 7:13)

Jesus taught that most of mankind are traveling along the broad road that leads to destruction. Some have made a deliberate choice to reject what the Bible teaches, but many others are there because they have been deceived, or kept in the dark, as to what Jehovah really requires of them. Jesus said that his disciples would preach the good news of the Kingdom and make disciples. (Matthew 28:19, 20) True Christians, therefore, have always considered participation in the preaching work to be a matter of loyalty to God and a fundamental requirement of their faith. Hence, Jesus’ early followers persevered even in the face of opposition. They relied upon Jehovah for strength, praying that he would enable them to continue “speaking [his] word with all boldness.” In response, Jehovah filled them with holy spirit, and they boldly spoke the word of God.—Acts 4:18, 29, 31.
(Watchtower issue: 01/15/08, 1:7, 8)

*even though not everyone responds to the preaching work, we can fortify our own resolve to keep going when we reflect on WHY it's so important. It also helps to remember why a person might be stand-offish, or unwilling to listen at first. -If a person has been taken advantage of, by unscrupulous individuals in the past, they will naturally have a greater tendency to be suspicious and distrusting of anothers motives, and who could blame them? Which is why showing them from the Bible THE REASON we engage in the ministry is so important. It's not just a matter of 'duty' because we're commanded to, but it's because Jehovah and Jesus consider every single human life so precious, that they don't want to lose even one! Jesus himself stated that was the reason he was sent:
"For the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10)
In order to SEEK something, we have to go out and look for it...which is exactly what we're doing when we participate in the ministry. The parables Jesus gave about the one lost sheep and the one lost drachma coin, at Luke 15:4-10, really drives the point home. Think of the deliberate effort involved (in verse 8), where the woman lights a lamp and carefully sweeps her house to find that one missing coin. A small coin could easily get buried among larger objects and could be just about anywhere in the if she really wanted to find it, she would need to really look hard for it. But it's worth every bit of effort, because look at the end result: "Thus, I tell you, joy arises among the angels of God over one sinner that repents." (Luke 15:10)