Witnesses building many Kingdom Halls
Jehovah’s Witnesses are perhaps best known as the people who show up at your door to talk about the Bible. But in many parts of the world they are also known for something else: their ability to construct Kingdom Halls, as their places of worship are known, in a very short space of time.
The Kingdom Hall in Orangeville, located on Blind Line, was erected – and essentially completed – in the space of one weekend in October 1993.
This past week, local congregations of Witnesses learned more about a remarkable project undertaken by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York. The program is designed to provide modern, functional Kingdom Halls to congregations of Witnesses in developing countries, where local congregations would never have the means to construct a building on their own.
Visiting minister David Clark explained that, since the 1990’s, growth among the Witnesses in developing countries has been an astonishing 83%. Yet many congregations in these countries lack a suitable meeting place for their congregation meetings.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Witnesses are now able to build places of worship in 20 additional countries, places where their work was previously banned. Local congregations this week viewed a special DVD presentation, presented by Mr. Clark, to explain how this extraordinary building program was conceived and implemented.
To meet the need, Witnesses in Canada, the United States and Western Europe have been contributing to a special fund to supply adequate meeting places for those interested in Bible education. Five regions of need were pinpointed: the Mexico branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses cares for Central America and the Caribbean, Brazil looks after South America, Germany oversees the program for Eastern Europe and Russia, South Africa for the African continent, and Australia for the Pacific islands and Asia. In all, 60 branch offices of the Witnesses are involved, affecting construction projects in 100 different countries.
Beginning in 1999, specialized construction teams were set up in these different parts of the world. The emphasis was on simplified design and construction methods, with a view to building as many meeting halls as possible in a short space of time.
Several designs were made available, but emphasis was placed on using local materials, so that there was no need to import expensive materials from abroad.
Project overseers from developed countries traveled to the various construction locations, providing skills and tools, and staying with the local congregation until the hall was completed. The actual building was done by Witness volunteers, as was the case with the Kingdom Hall in Orangeville. Training in construction
skills was provided by the project overseers, with the local Witnesses being joined by volunteer workers from North America and Europe.
The video presentation showed how one Witness congregation in Zambia (in southern Africa) mixed, molded and baked over 35,000 bricks, all made by hand, to construct their new Kingdom Hall.
Men, women and children in the congregation gathered sand, broke the stone needed to make concrete, and formed the bricks. The colour of the Kingdom Hall was determined by the colour of the local soil!
At another construction site on Lake Malawi, materials were brought in by boat, and carried by hand to the hilltop location of the new Kingdom Hall. Over 12 tonnes of building materials were moved 1,000 feet up the mountain to the building site.
The average completion time for the new meeting halls was from six to eight weeks.
In the video, Witnesses who have benefited from this program expressed their appreciation through translators for the generosity and kindness of their fellow Christians in other lands. Whereas previously they had met in shabby rented facilities, they were now delighted to have a spacious, dignified building of their own to serve as a centre for Bible education.
The video showed local Witnesses a series of “Before and After” shots from such far-flung places as the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Honduras, Kenya, Madagascar, Samoa, Sri Lanka and
the Ukraine. The “Before” pictures showed various buildings where congregations had been obliged to meet in previous years, with the “After” shots showing modern, well-equipped Kingdom Halls constructed in all these places, complete with plumbing, heating, a sound system, and even landscaping.
Witnesses from the former Soviet Union, who had previously met in forests and along river banks to avoid the authorities, were particularly delighted to have a place of worship they could call their own.
The video concluded with a remarkable statistic: since the program’s inception in 1999, a total of 11,560 Kingdom Halls have been constructed in developing countries, all by volunteer labour. This works out to an average of 40 per week.
It is estimated that 13,450 are still needed, due to the growth among the Witnesses in these lands.
The three Orangeville congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses will be attending their annual District Convention at Kitchener Memorial Auditorium from June 23 to 25. It is estimated that 5,000 Witnesses from this part of Ontario will attend.