On Wednesday, June 25, 1997, it was related that the Society now translates and publishes literature in 311 languages and is working on 44 additional languages. There are over 1,500 translators.
On July 7, Brother Schroeder read from a letter that had been recieved from a Professor of Greek at Indiana University. This professor related how he lived next door to a Witness. He had asked 2 questions and the brother passed these on to the Society. He wanted to thank the Society for their answers. He studied the Bible with his neighbor every Monday evening. He had given long and careful consideration to the Society's answers, looked up the citations, and examined the arguments presented. He knows that God's people will be identifiable by their fruits. The Witnesses are who they claim to be. 'This is some step for me to take as I have generally avoided religion. I am largely sympathetic to Jehovah's Witnesses. I accept your punctuation of the Greek at Luke 23:43.'
At one of the "Faith in God's Word" District Conventions in Syracuse, New York, the following experience was related during the talk "Reaching People Everywhere With the Good News": The 10-year-old daughter of a ministerial servant told of when she was six years old and in the first grade she placed eight My Book of Bible Stories with her classmates. She brought the book to class and left it on her desk. Three of her classmates saw the book, looked through it, and asked if they could get copies. She told them, 'Yes, if your parents approve.' All three received permission and then they showed their copies to other classmates who also wanted copies. Now our sister is in the fourth grade. The class project for the year is the rain forest. So when the recent Awake! came out, she asked her teacher if she could give her classmates copies. The teacher looked through the magazine and agreed. The teacher also suggested that she show the Awake! to the other fourth grade teachers. So she went next door and asked the teacher there. This teacher liked the magazine but thought that our sister should receive permission from the principal first. Our sister went right down to the principal's office and showed her the magazine. The principal thought that she should distribute copies to all the fourth grade students and told the sister to bring in 69 copies and some additional copies for her and the guidance counselor. She went home and told her family the good news. Her eight-year-old sister then related how she wanted to help her older sister distribute the magazines but she could not leave her third grade classroom. She prayed to Jehovah about the matter. The next day her third-grade teacher informed the class that there would be a class trip the following afternoon and if any did not want to go then they could attend a fourth grade class. Of course our sister volunteered and so both sisters were able to share in distributing the magazines to the fourth grade students.
On Wednesday, July 16, Brother Jaracz gave a report on the dedication of expanded translation offices and residence rooms in a 5-story building in Tallinn, Estonia, on June 14. This provides additional space for offices, storage, residences, and three Kingdom Halls, one of which seats near 500. Another new Kingdom Hall on the other side of Tallinn was tied in and also dedicated. The program was translated into Russian and Estonian. The attendance of 1,238 included many from Finland who assisted with the project. The next day, Sunday, a special meeting was held at an auditorium near the sea for publishers living in the greater Tallinn area. The attendance of 2,894 was notewworthy, as there are some 3,500 publishers in the entire country. The following Saturday, June 21, was the dedication of the new branch facilities in Solnechnoye, Russia. There are about 100 offices, plus laundry, and distribution facilities. On Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, thousands toured the branch. Saturday afteroon was the dedication program for the branch, its large Kingdom Hall, and seven additional Kingdom Halls located in two buildings (five in one and two in the other, each seating about 300) in nearby St. Petersburg. Delegates representing 42 countries totaled 2,747 in attendance. The program related the history of the work in Russia. Records indicate that in 1887 the first literature was mailed into Russia. In 1991 the work was legally registered. On Sunday a special meeting was held and the attendance was 8,417. The seven Kingdom Halls dedicated in St. Petersburg care for 21 of the 45 congregations in that city. In 1992 there were only six congregations.
On June 29 a large Kingdom Hall in Germany was dedicated. This facility in a very good location near public transportation in Nuremberg is able to care for congregations speaking seven different languages, including German, Greek, Spanish, Turkish, Croatian, and English. Additionally, there are groups in Chinese, Polish, and Russian. The attendance was 1,130.
On July 21 an experience from Nigeria was related. A woman was raised as part of the family of a famous Penecostal preacher, who had his own television show, his own school, and was a friend of the head of state and other politicians. She grew up and became his secretary. As such, she saw much corruption. One time the preacher claimed to heal a woman from cancer. She asked him why he had said that. He did not want to answer her and finally told her that it was not good for her to know some things. He would bring individuals from other countries like Zaire so that no one in Nigeria would know them, and claim to heal them of cancer and other diseases. She again asked why, and he said that 'people want a miracle and so I give them one.' Tessie grew disillusioned and left his household. She found a job in town that happened to be near Bethel. One of her workmates was a sister who witnessed to her and invited her to tour Bethel. Her visit impressed her very much. She said that Jehovah's Witnesses were indeed God's people. Tessie attended all the meetings the first week she was witnessed to. The third week joined the Theocratic Ministry School. The third month she qualified as an unbaptized publisher. Tessie is now baptized and serves as an auxiliary pioneer. The preacher has sent people looking for Tessie and on occasion, she has had to go into hiding, fearing for her life.
On Thursday, July 24, the Publishing Committee announced that our work has been legally registered in Pakistan. This follows two years of diligent work by the branch there and the Legal Department. This is an Islamic Republic where 96% of the population is Muslim. The branch prays Jehovah's continued blessing that 'this is the right time for things to be done.'
On Wednesday, July 30, in his text comment, Brother Rick Rittenbach noted that despite continued tribal and ethnic violence, Rwanda reports over 4,900 publishers. Recently the brothers went ahead and arranged for six circuit assemblies. The attendance was 8,338 and 306 were baptized. This brings the total baptized this service year to 1,008.
The same day Brother Mark Questell, representing the Operations Committee, gave a report in the progress of the installation and implementation of computer hardware and software standards. The goal is to unify and consolidate the Watchtower Information System. This will enable the sharing of information and material. Volume buying will result in purchasing discounts. The right information should be available to the right people at the right time. Computer software will reduce paperwork and streamline communication. The first phase is hoped to be in operation by the end of 1997.
On Wednesday, July 30, the purchase of a convention center in West Palm Beach, Florida, was announced by the Convention Office. This facility will be used for district conventions and as an Assembly Hall. The previous week the city commission gave its preliminary approval, and on July 28 final approval of the sale and it was granted. Before the meeting on Monday night, the mayor was overheard telling the clerk, 'Save the front row for the brothers from Bethel.'
On Monday, August 4, Brother Jaracz mentioned that the recent floods in Poland caused some of the district conventions in Poland to be postponed. A number of Kingdom Halls and homes of brothers were damaged by the flood waters. Over 1,000 other Polish brothers volunteered to assist in the relief work, and nearby branches also helped.
On Wednesday, August 6, greetings were received from 2 congregations in Russia that have 341 Bible Studies between them.
Love and Hugs
Veg and Lisa While
South African Bethel
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Jeremy & Sally Adkins