The DAWN, Its Ministry
“Send out thy light and thy truth.” —Psalm 43:3
Sending out the truth and light of God’s word has been the principle objective of the Dawn. It is the Dawn’s endeavor to show that the true gospel is not a new theology, but the old theology, not a new gospel, but the old gospel, the one preached to Abraham, the one declared by the Lord Jesus himself and by all his apostles. To appreciate this proclaiming of the gospel today, we have to go back a few years.
The promulgation throughout the United States concerning the message of God’s Divine plan of the ages began in the late 1870’s, and reached a peak in 1916 when approximately 1,000 men and women were volunteering their time spreading the message as colporteurs; 70 more were traveling as public speakers; almost 4,000 newspapers carried this message to the public weekly; and millions of tracts were distributed. The year 1916 also was the year of the death of Pastor Russell, the head of the International Bible Students Association (IBSA). Several Bible Students’ groups arose out of the IBSA, all of them smaller in comparison to the IBSA in 1916.
Brother Norman Woodworth started a radio witness while in the IBSA, using dialogs that he wrote. The program was called “Frank and Ernest.” This was initiated in the early 1920’s, when radio was in its infancy. Radios could be built using a crystal as a channel finder, and therefore were called ‘crystal sets.’ The best radios of that period used vacuum tubes, and were battery powered. The radio station had the call letters WORD, because it was presenting the truth concerning the ‘Lord’s Word.’ However, the new management of the IBSA did not look favorably on this type of witness. Brother Woodworth was dismissed and “Frank and Ernest” went off the air.
Brother Woodworth found other brethren who had been put out of the IBSA and spoke to them of the success of the aforementioned “Frank and Ernest” radio program and the number of replies received. A few interested brethren raised $1,300 to sponsor “Frank and Ernest” on radio station WOR in New York—Norman Woodworth was ‘Frank’ and John Dawson was ‘Ernest.’ This was done for thirteen weeks under the auspices of the Brooklyn, NY, Congregation of Associated Bible Students. Interested listeners were offered a copy of the dialog under the title, “Radio Echo,” which was printed biweekly. The first program in April 1931 drew over 200 responses.
When first used, these dialogs were printed in a newspaper printing plant, as well as broadcast on the air. Brethren throughout the country were advised of their opportunity to help expand the subscriber list by becoming regular subscribers themselves, enabling the use of a permit for second-class mailing, which would be more economical. But after the thirteen-week contract ended in June, there was again a lack of funds, and the “Frank and Ernest” programs stopped again. The Great Depression had started, and the economy of the nation was poor. Meanwhile, the pamphlet “Radio Echo” had been received favorably by the brethren throughout the country, and postal regulations required that the paper be printed regularly. In 1932 the name “Radio Echo” was changed to “The Dawn,” and was published monthly instead of biweekly.
The cost of printing “The Dawn” commercially was high, and Brother Woodworth offered to do the printing. A used footpedal-operated press was bought and installed in the basement of an apartment building in Brooklyn, where one of the brethren lived. There, with volunteer assistants, Brother Woodworth printed “The Dawn.” As the work increased, it became evident that human power to operate the press by the pedal would not keep up with the demand.
To install power lines and a motor in the apartment building was prohibitive by insurance rates. A new location was needed. A member of the Brooklyn Congregation had noticed an ad of a Brooklyn printer who wanted to lease his building and equipment so he could retire. He had printed tracts for the old IBSA, and when he learned that the new work was using the same message, he leased the building and equipment located at 251 Washington Street in Brooklyn, NY at a very reasonable price. The upper floors of the building had two rooms, which provided lodging for brethren who volunteered to help.
When the owner of this building and equipment died, his heirs decided to sell everything to settle the estate. The Dawn moved to 136 Fulton Street, Brooklyn toward the end of 1935, printing the January 1936 “Dawn” magazine at the new location. Now they had to buy equipment that could be used for printing, whereas previously they had a reasonable lease for both the building and the equipment. In spite of the Depression, funds were found. As the work increased, a larger place was needed. An old bank building was purchased in East Rutherford, NJ in early 1944. The equipment had to be moved to the new location: “On the Triangle.”
More than fifty years later we are still at this location, and still sending out the message of the kingdom. Our equipment is quite varied and modern for this task, and the printed page continues to be the cornerstone of this witness activity. Our large offset press—for which we are observing its 25th silver anniversary—is capable of printing sheets of 25 X 36 inches, at 7,000 an hour. During the past 25 years, over 70 million copies have been run on this press. In addition, a small offset press, a high-speed duplicator, and an old letter press (which uses lead type) are all used for numerous printing projects. In this interval of time, the typesetting has gone from Linotype machine, to a Compugraph, to computer, utilizing software for typesetting.
Three high-speed folders are available to fold printed sheets into book or booklet form. One large sheet of paper printed on the large press may contain up to thirty-two pages of a booklet. Collating and stapling machines assemble, staple and trim booklets and magazines at the rate of 3,500 per hour. Additional equipment includes a hot glue binding machine; a large paper cutter; and various pieces of equipment that are used to assemble literature from single-page tracts to 1-1/2-inch vinyl-covered books. In addition to books and booklets: envelopes, letters, catalogs, forms, cards, labels, and convention programs are printed for distribution here at the Dawn, as well as for classes throughout the United States and other countries. The estimated number of pieces of printed literature produced and distributed through the Dawn is approximately two million pieces per year.
The full-color covers found on “The Dawn” magazine and on some small booklets are printed by brethren in the Chicago area. These brethren also assemble approximately 250,000 Dawn booklets for us annually.
Each month 12,000 copies of the English “Dawn” are printed and distributed worldwide. “The Dawn” magazine is also printed in six foreign languages, six times a year: Spanish, Italian, Greek, Polish, French, and German.
The booklet, “Hope” is used to provide comfort during time of bereavement. Throughout the United States and other countries, individuals and classes mail out hundreds and even thousands of copies free to family members of loved ones lost in death. The brethren in Chicago have greatly expanded this effort through use of a computer program, mailing out almost 50,000 “Hope” booklets each year. The Dawn continues to supply “Hope” booklets and postage for this large effort in Chicago.
Another popular booklet is “Hope for a Fear-filled World.” Here at the Dawn we mail out approximately 150,000 of these booklets each year. The brethren in Detroit have funded a project to mail out 25,000 of these booklets locally. In New Haven, CT the brethren are mailing out 50,000 copies of this booklet annually. The Dawn supplies booklets and postage for this effort. The cost of paper and in-house printing materials amounts to about $50,000 a year. The cost of postage keeps rising and this past year, $80,000 was spent for postage.
Outside printing companies are used to produce large quantities of vinyl and hard-cover books such as “Studies in the Scriptures”, “Photodrama” and hymn books. Much of this work had been done at the Dawn until we lost some of our shop help. Over the past several years, the Dawn has shared 50% of the printing costs with the brethren in New Brunswick for printing copies of “Studies in the Scriptures” in the Romanian language, and in Polish. Recently, a Polish Concordance was printed in Poland, and funded by the Dawn. This past year $93,000 was spent for outside printing.
In spite of the dwindling number of help, the admonition of our text continues to be observed: ‘Send out thy light and thy truth.’ In the Bible, silver is used to represent truth. Therefore, how appropriate it is to observe a silver anniversary for equipment used to send out the message of truth. Yet none of this equipment could ever run by itself. It requires dedicated, consecrated people to operate the machinery and to fulfill God’s purposes.
Psalm 43:3, RSV, also says of ‘light and truth,’ “Let them lead me.” In addition to our desire to follow light and truth, we hope that others receiving this message will also want to follow. The goal is clear, as we read further. This verse continues: “Let them bring me to thy holy hill and to thy dwelling.” This, then, is the grand objective of all involved in sending and receiving this message of light and truth—to come closer to God, to appreciate his plan more fully, and to worship him in Spirit and in truth.
“I heard a voice from heaven.” —Revelation 14:13
LAST MONTH WE MADE a review of the way the Dawn Bible Students Association started. We should have emphasized that broadcasting God’s plan through the “Frank and Ernest” radio programs played an important part. The Great Depression had come worldwide, and funds were lacking for financing the broadcast of programs. Thus the radio message was discontinued in 1932. All financing available could only be used for printing equipment to sustain publication of “The Dawn” magazine.
Apparently a brief attempt was made in California in the late 1930’s to broadcast God’s message, but details are lacking. The first resumption of the kingdom message by radio was on June 23, 1940, on a New York station, WMCA, 570kc, once every month on a Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. for half an hour. Station WIP in Philadelphia was also obtained. A half-hour lecture was given on both stations entitled, “God’s Remedy for a World Gone Mad.” Over a thousand requests for literature were received in three days after the broadcast. The congregations all over the country were urged to participate in this new witness, and in August 1940, four more stations were obtained.
In October the program name was changed to “The Voice of Tomorrow,” using a fifteen-minute dialog by “Frank and Ernest.” At that time there were five stations carrying these programs. Congregations were asked to find station outlets for the program. Various classes formed radio committees and explored station availability.
The Dawn offered to cover the cost of the stations, though in many cases congregations offered to share the cost, or in some cases, cover it completely . Opposition mounted to these programs by some denominational groups, but also in the meantime former Bible Students were found who came into a renewed association with their brethren. By March 1941, the number of stations carrying “The Voice of Tomorrow” was 22. “Good Hopes” donations for July to December, 1940 included a ‘Radio Fund’ for the first time. By April, 1941, the number of stations had increased to 25, and additionally two stations carried a Polish version of “The Voice of Tomorrow.”
Many brethren became involved in this new witness effort as it increased steadily, and they gave good reports of it. One such report was published in the June 1941 Dawn magazine, and was typical of those received. This was a report of radio activity in Chicago, and it read:
“Dear Brethren: April 27th we completed thirteen weeks of broadcasting over radio station WJJD, and the broadcasts are to continue for some time to come. By reason of the hearty financial cooperation of numerous classes in this region, it has been possible to use WJJD, which is a 20,000 watt station and practically covers the entire middle-west. The brethren have been supporting the programs very enthusiastically and are rejoicing in the privilege of having a share in this work. We have been gratified with the fruitage resulting from our efforts to thus proclaim the kingdom message. An average of twenty to twenty-five requests for literature are received weekly as a result of the radio witness. Many cards and letters of appreciation are received from the listeners, as well as small donations toward the cause.
“The ‘Voice of Tomorrow’ programs are chiefly advertised through the distribution of ‘kingdom cards.’ Three to four thousand of these cards are distributed weekly by the Chicago friends. A large number of cards are also distributed by surrounding classes whose supply of radio literature came from the Chicago class, serving as a central supply for their needs.
“Another interesting feature in connection with the radio activity is the follow-up work. This consists of brethren calling at the homes of those who have shown interest by their requests for literature. Many interesting experiences greet the workers in calling at the various homes. It is the attempt of the follow-up workers to keep alive the interest for the truth and to endeavor placing a First Volume wherever sufficient interest is shown. In some cases the volumes are loaned, and in other cases sold. We have twelve hundred names of people to call on in the Chicago area and over fifty percent of these are in the hands of the workers at present. Out-of-town inquiries are sent to the nearest class for similar follow-up work. Many volumes have been placed.”
Later the Chicago congregation helped support a Denver, CO, station, and a Shenandoah, IA, station that covered a large area of the midwest.
The radio witness reached a stable condition by 1943, averaging seventy stations. It was called the “Frank and Ernest” broadcast. There were an additional ten stations in the United States carrying these programs in the Polish language. An opportunity arose to air these programs on a national network, ABC (American Broadcasting Company). The contract cost was very high, but trusting in the Lord, Dawn management went ahead with the contract. Broadcasting began on ABC, October 16, 1949 over a network of 174 stations. The Dawn was barely able to finance this venture. After one year on ABC, the airing of these programs was switched to MBS (Mutual Broadcasting System). This was a larger network but, in many cases, made up of small stations and more within reach financially. Broadcasting on MBS started on October 15, 1950. There was a promise of having the program on more than 300 of their 500 stations, and this promise was kept. Broadcasting began over 352 stations. This was a peak in radio witness work.
The Dawn continued with MBS for ten years. However, the stations carrying the “Frank and Ernest” programs kept diminishing, and eventually all contractural agreements were made with individual stations as at the beginning of this witness.
Today the radio witness continues with 35 stations in the USA, 14 stations in Canada, and 10 stations outside the United States: in Africa, the Caribbean, the Philippines, South America, Mexico, and Central America. The Dawn continues to make efforts to procure radio stations for congregations that have requested one for a given area.
The arrangements used in the early days of radio witness continue in a few places, where classes cooperate with the Dawn in finding and financing stations. This cooperation of brethren is much appreciated by the Dawn. A continuous review of all stations is done periodically to ascertain good coverage. A large portion of the Dawn’s witness budget continues to be used for this radio message.
It can be said that the radio witness has been more effective in contacting brethren who had left the IBSA and were searching to find the message of truth again, than any other form of witness. Likewise, many new brethren were found that God was seeking. This was the principal objective of the radio witness. Many in the world heard this wonderful message, as if a ‘Voice from Heaven’ had spoken!
“The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” —Habakkuk 2:3
IN OCTOBER, 1958, the radio witness was proceeding well. A successful fiscal year ended on the Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS) during this month, and the contract was renewed for another year. Responses were increasing and the radio witness was finding ‘old-time’ Bible Students, who rejoiced in hearing the message of truth. It enabled them to have an opportunity for sweet fellowship with others of “like precious faith.” (II Pet. 1:1) The nationwide aspect of the radio witness also made it possible to serve thousands of isolated brethren.
THE ADVENT OF TELEVISION
It was now twelve years after the end of World War II, and new technology was being applied. People were excited about television, because, at long last, it was possible to transmit a signal via the airwaves that could be used to make a picture on a screen. Brethren saw a new witness opportunity and began talking about the possible use of television for experimental broadcasting. Chicago was one such class. They produced thirteen fifteen-minute programs in black and white, using scripts committed to memory by the moderator and panelists. The camera for the television showing served as a film shoot of the program. The film could not be edited; instead, the program was shown directly to the TV audience at the time of presentation.
The Chicago brethren made a film called “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords,” for Christmas and Easter showings on free time, using Brother Ed Fay. It was a one-shot affair, and color film was used, though all transmission was in black and white in those days. The dollar value of radio broadcasts was better than that for TV. Plans were made to start television programming, but progress was slow.
EXPERIMENTAL USE OF TELEVISION
Experimental trials of television programming continued in Chicago, IL; New York, NY; Madison, WI; Meridian, MS; and Buffalo, NY. A series of fifteen-minute programs called “The Bible Answers” were made in black and white, and were available for stations with free time. The television industry was growing, but it was still in its infancy. Letters sent to the classes solicited getting free time on neighborhood TV stations. Class response was good. During the closing month of 1959, the fifteen-minute series of “The Bible Answers” was being shown on a number of stations, and the half-hour film, “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” was televised free in Philadelphia, PA, and Wheeling, WV.
Meanwhile, the production of half-hour films was progressing. Charter Oaks Studio was used to film the programs, permitting advance preparation and improved quality. Brethren in California took on the task of promotion and distribution of programs. The radio response was adversely affected by television, resulting in fewer radio responses. Since we could only afford the cost of making the programs, we needed free time to show them.
TELEVISION FREE TIME
By 1960, the half-hour programs in black and white were completed, and by June they were used successfully on seven stations; and the fifteen-minute programs were scheduled on three stations. During the year 1960, the number rose to eleven stations televising the half-hour programs, and the fifteen-minute programs were on six stations. The next year these grew to 30 stations. By the end of 1961, twenty-six programs had been made, some in color. Color television was rapidly becoming available, and several of the original black and white programs were reproduced in color. By 1967, all programs were made in color.
By April 1962, forty programs were available. Under the direction of Brother Foss, the Los Angeles Class was sending out the films to TV stations which aired the programs on forty stations, all on free time. Stations were also being contacted by local classes, and Brothers William Bertsche, J.Y. MacAulay, Stephen Roskiewicz, and Sam Baker were asked to make personal contact with many stations during their travels.
At this point, responses from television programs were four times greater than those from radio. To facilitate getting more free time on television, services were solicited from the agency, Modern Talking Pictures Service. A reasonable fee was charged for every television station placement, and by June 1962, sixty-three TV stations had been acquired. This agency also placed our films for viewing at churches, schools, nursing homes, and senior citizen clubs.
As the television witness grew, the brethren were made aware that the value of the free time was $6,000 per week, or over $300,000 per year. It was costing the Dawn $2,000 to produce a program. Paying for time on television would be prohibitive. Some of these films could be made an hour long simply by splicing two together for use at public witness efforts.
Programs continued to be made, and by 1974 there were 100 available for use, of which more than half were in color. Some free time was still available. Producing new programs ceased for a while, until, “The Bible Family” series was made in 1970. It was during this period that the television expenditures exceeded the radio expenditures for the first time, but only for a short period. Television free time was becoming unavailable also, as television stations were able to fill in the time with programs sponsored by commercial customers.
END OF FREE TIME
A network of stations was acquired by paying for time on Modern Cable Network, which carried about 100 small stations. Free time was only available on cable TV, however, and eventually 270 cable stations carried the program.
Television entered the ‘Eighties’ with the use of Satellite Cable for “The Bible Answers” programs. It was in 1977 that film distribution in California came to the Dawn as an activity to be managed by the Dawn. It supplied films as needed. These were sent to churches, schools, nursing homes, clubs, and television stations. Modern did a similar work.
Not much change occurred in television through the ‘Eighties,’ since the single outlet was Satellite Cable Network. In 1990, “The Bible Answers” programs went on Channel America, airing at 12:00 to 12:30 p.m. It carried thirty-seven stations, but these were either cable or low power stations. Free time was rarely available, and we now depended on paying for televising “The Bible Answers” programs. In mid-1992 we added Nostalgia Network in the U.S.A., and Cable Vision in Canada. Funds were made available by the Canadian brethren for the Canadian witness. Nostalgia Network had good response, but was very expensive, so it was used only for a limited time.
NEED FOR NEW PROGRAMS
It was now apparent that all of our films for television and public showings were old and outdated, having been made in the 1960’s—thirty-some years ago. New films had to be made. Two 42-minute films were produced for public showings, and were also made into three 28.5-minute formats for television. The cost of making films in the ‘Nineties’ had dramatically increased, each film costing $40,000. To reduce the cost, we tried using parts of an old film while reshooting the rest, but the cost was still high. Four new films were made. Techniques were changing and video cassettes were being used by television stations. All of the programs on film had to be converted into cassette format.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Class had produced a very effective, automated slide presentation of “For this Cause.” This program was also made into a film; and later into a cassette format. They offered to work with us on making more new programs, with the Dawn supplying funds for necessary equipment. “For this Cause” was split into two half-hour presentations for television. “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” was redone to make it a new video. Additionally, four more new programs were made in video format. “The Bible Answers” was now acquiring a new look. Five old programs were revised making them more presentable, and eight of the older programs were used ‘as is’; making a total of twenty-four programs.
These are now being used on Cable television. Several stations and networks have been tried, at a cost of $100,000 to $150,000 per year. Responses have been good. When responses drop off, we seek another station, area, or network. Many brethren have contacted local television stations to obtain “Public Service Free Time.” Where acceptable, the Dawn has supplied the twenty-two regular cassettes, and two special occasion tapes (Christmas and Easter) for this purpose.
VIDEO CASSETTE SERVICE
The advent of video cassettes to replace films has had a direct impact on the Dawn Film Service. Gradually, film service slowed down to a trickle, and is almost zero at present. Meanwhile, some of the Los Angeles brethren volunteered to make video cassettes for home player VCR’s to replace 16mm films. Today, all schools and churches, clubs and nursing homes prefer using a VCR instead of a film projector. This service has grown well in the last several years since the shift was made. The Video Cassette Service also produces videotapes to be used in keeping the service for the Memorial of our Lord’s death. The Bible Students General Convention, and other convention programs, are also taped. A video cassette catalog advertises thirty-one tapes containing fifty-six “Bible Answers” programs. These can be purchased, or obtained as a loan.
So then we ask: ‘What is this vision which Habakkuk wrote about, and which the Lord’s people at the end of this age are endeavoring to make plain by means of television?’ It is, as the prophet states, “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14) Can our faith reach out and fathom the immensity of the situation that the God and Creator of the universe has invited us to be coworkers with him in presenting this wonderful message of truth?
Let us endeavor to grasp the full importance of this matter, so that the joys and cares of this present life will seem to be trifling compared to the glorious message of God’s great love and plan!
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.” —Matthew 28:19
When the message of truth, or God’s Plan of the Ages, was presented with vigor in the United States of America, the first country to be visited by evangelists of the movement was Great Britain. Having the same language was an advantage. Two missionary efforts were made in 1881, and in six months the first Bible Student congregation of twelve people in Glasgow started meetings. Over the following thirty-five years, there were many brethren that heard the message. Every Sunday the 1,200 seats of the London Tabernacle were filled.
When Pastor Russell died in 1916, turmoil set in. The ‘power struggle’ in the United States had an impact on England. Those sent by the IBSA (International Bible Students Association) to assist in making a smooth transition, instead made matters worse. By 1924 one hundred and eighty-one local centers had left the IBSA.
It was into this atmosphere that Brother Woodworth of “The Dawn” went by invitation of the Committee of England, and his arrival was described as a ‘bright star.’ He gave a chain of public talks in nine cities, with attendance varying from 80 to 360. The newly formed “Dawn” was interested in their brethren overseas, and eager to help them. The involvement of Great Britain in World War II curtailed much of the activity that had been regenerated by the brethren of England, as well as by the visits of pilgrim brethren from the U.S.A.
From the time of Brother Woodworth’s first visit, a close relationship developed with Great Britain, and in 1946 a branch office to store and distribute Dawn literature was set up there. The Dawn sent pilgrims regularly to Great Britain for the Yeovil Convention, and other conventions. Visits continue to Great Britain, and literature continues to be distributed, although a considerable number of the old stalwarts have passed on, as in other congregations worldwide.
World War II caused communications with brethren in Denmark to come to a halt. The Bible Students in Great Britain were the first to contact them again. They had enjoyed a close association with them in the past. In 1942, a letter from an old time pilgrim brother of Denmark said: “I myself, and the friends I have the privilege to serve, are faring very well.” He told of their freedom to study the Bible, to meet at conventions, and to send out a little ‘paper.’ At Christmastime he was able to visit brethren in Sweden. After the war, contact was also made with brethren in other Scandinavian countries. Brother Luttichau made visits to England to serve the brethren as a pilgrim.
Prior to World War II, Norwegian-Danish brethren in the United States had their own meetings. There was a need in the late ‘Thirties’ for Volume One in Dano-Norwegian, and the Dawn acted as a central clearing house in collecting these volumes from those who had them. As conditions began to ease in Europe, the Danish brethren continued to translate Dawn articles, and to print a Danish Dawn in Copenhagen, Denmark. This was initiated in 1931, but they were limited by funds, until in 1954 they announced that they would be able to increase the size of the Danish Dawn by several pages.
In that same year they held an annual convention that was attended by 75 brethren. Ten were from Sweden, and two from Norway. Although this was not their first convention, nor their last, this represented the peak attendance of all their conventions. As later conventions were held, fewer brethren attended, and eventually most of the ‘old-timers’ passed away. At one point the class dwindled down to three elderly sisters, and one new couple, and a visiting sea captain.
A letter from the brother who was in charge of the Dawn office (for fourteen years) in 1968 said, “Only a few are left this side of the veil in Scandinavia and there is not a great deal that we can do.” Because of meager finances they had to reduce the number of pages in the Danish Dawn, and to curtail much of their former work; but they were faithful to the end.
Following World War II, the principal Scandinavian meetings were in Denmark. Although there were brethren in Norway, Sweden and Finland, the brethren were few in number and elderly. Nevertheless the Swedish brethren managed to print a condensed version of “The Dawn” in their language every month. A convention was held in Stockholm in 1957, and was well supported. It was their first convention in many, many years. The meetings in Sweden became smaller and smaller, until attendance was meager. Only a few brethren remain in that country currently.
A similar convention to the one arranged in Stockholm, was held in Finland. The situation in Finland paralleled the one in Sweden, but, nevertheless, they were very active in promulgating the message of truth. Several booklets were translated into Finnish, and unlike Sweden, whereas the elderly died and finished their course upon earth and there were no young people ready to step in and continue the work, in Finland there were young people who kept the work going.
Prevailing among the Scandinavian brethren in the United States was a movement called, “Stand Fast.” These believed that brethren who consecrated before a certain date were the last ones called to the Heavenly reward. As might be expect-ed, these had an influence on brethren in all Scandinavian countries. Young brethren were told that the door was closed, and their consecration was in vain. How glad we are that these younger brethren persisted in serving the Lord in spite of this discouraging philosophy. The younger members of one class in Finland made plans to translate all six volumes from English into Finnish. The few copies which had survived into the sixties were almost gone. The plan was also to print many small Dawn booklets. Thus, the work has continued in Finland, where the brethren have used magazine advertising and other means to spread the news about the kingdom. A picture of a small Finnish congregation was published in the December, 1989, Dawn magazine.
Whereas we have virtually lost complete contact with the brethren in Denmark and Sweden, we have continued to have close contact with Finland. When a young Finnish couple first subscribed to the English Dawn magazine, they liked it so much that they translated some articles into Finnish to enable them to share the message with their brethren. In a phone conversation to seek permission to do this, contact was made with the Dawn, and a cooperative arrangement ensued. The booklets, “Life after Death,” and “The Blood of the Atonement,” were the first to be printed. Then Volume 1 was translated and printed, and later Volume 5. The brethren in Finland continue to be active, and the Dawn is pleased to help them.
The first contacts made with Italian brethren occurred after World War II. Prior to the war there was no semblance of religious liberty in Italy. The change from a monarchy to a republican form of government made possible the breaking of religious restraints that existed for many centuries.
Italian-speaking brethren in the United States were quick to proclaim the glad tidings to ‘whomsoever would hear’ in that nation. The Dawn shared this opportunity by translating in Italian and printing the First Volume, “God and Reason,” and “God’s Remedy for a World Gone Mad.” Additionally, old Italian literature in the possession of these Italian-speaking brethren was made available to the brethren in Italy.
The witness in Italy was successful. By June of 1952, there were a considerable number of brethren who were rejoicing in the Truth message. Jesus said, “the harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few.” (Luke 10:2) Assistance was sent to Italy in the form of an old-time pilgrim of Lausanne, Switzerland.
By 1953, an Italian Dawn office was established in Italy, forging strong ties between the Italian brethren and the Dawn. It was the beginning of the regular publication of the Italian Dawn magazine. In addition to the First Volume and booklets printed, the Dawn also printed an Italian “Manna,” and “Hymns of Dawn.” At a convention in 1954 held in Naples, 75 brethren attended, and 22 were immersed.
But all was not going smoothly. The clergy opposed the work, and at times took matters into their own hands, trying to hinder the distribution of literature and the holding of meetings. In 1954, one such attempt went to Court and was won by the brethren, granting them freedom in the witnessing work. Several Protestant churches asked the Dawn office for a transcript of that trial to be used for their situations.
Also, in that year, twelve thousand copies of the Aurora (Italian Dawn magazine) were sent out. Subscription renewals now came from countries such as Argentina, Spain, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Turkey, Greece, Israel, North Africa, East Africa, and the United States. Each year since the war ended, Italians emigrated to other countries. The Dawn broadcasts Italian programs on Radio Monte Carlo, and the Italian brethren received many requests for literature.
An important part of the work in Italy was an Italian Pilgrim Service. This was needed because the brethren were widely scattered. Economic problems affected many of the brethren in Italy, as well as old age. The work diminished during the ‘Sixties,’ but revived again in the ‘Seventies,’ and continues to this day.
In Sicily, between 1950 and 1962, there were twenty classes of Bible Students. These decreased to one or two, as brethren changed viewpoints. A class was set up in Agrigento in Sicily, and this class has flourished. They held a convention in l979. One of the members of that class has devoted much time to the Pilgrim Service.
Two Italian-speaking brethren from the United States have served as liason for the Dawn, one having served about 25 years. From the ‘Seventies’ onward his successor has been able to acquire several radio stations to broadcast “Frank and Ernest” programs in Italian and has made many trips to see the brethren.
The Italian Dawn continues to be published, and God’s people in Italy are being blessed with the message of truth.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.” —Matthew 28:19
THE ACTIVITIES OF OUR overseas brethren, and the Dawn involvement with them, was briefly summarized for the countries of Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Italy. This is a continuation of the experiences of brethren from other countries.
There was quite a large number of German brethren in the early days of the Truth movement. Volume I was translated and printed in the German language in 1888, and Volume II in 1892. A German Tower was printed also. The brethren in England were mainly responsible for taking the message of God’s Divine plan to Germany, though we have little information on how they began, or how the different ecclesias came into existence. The two World Wars that were fought involved the German people deeply. In between these wars, there was turmoil in the International Bible Students Association (IBSA), and, as a consequence, we do not have a clear picture of the experiences of the brethren in Germany during that period of time.
In 1947, the Dawn was contacted by German brethren desiring literature. Those who survived the horrors of war were eager to resume their association and activities in the truth, and the Dawn promised thorough cooperation with them. Shortly after their initial contact, Brothers Joseph Heinen and Norman Woodworth went to Europe to visit these brethren; but only Brother Heinen was able to obtain a permit to enter the country.
He found that the German brethren were doing well spiritually. They had endured almost fourteen years—from the beginning of Nazi control to the end of World War II—without meetings, which had been banned. Many had their books and Bibles confiscated; others were put into concentration camps where many died; and still others were shot for refusing to obey military laws.
Travel through Germany at that time was still difficult, and living conditions were hard. Brethren from America, Switzerland, Denmark and Great Britain sent packages of food and clothing. For some it meant survival. Some of the principal classes that had resumed meetings were in Hanover, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart. Brethren began to reassemble in large numbers. At Leipzig, in the Russian Zone, a convention was held where 850 consecrated brethren attended, all living behind the Iron Curtain.
In the city of Kerschlengern, word was somehow transmitted to those in the city and around it, that Brother Heinen was coming, and 200 brethren attended the meeting. Plans were made to have closer cooperation with the “Dawn” once a “Dawn Office” was established in Freiburg. Although printing could be done in Germany, paper was scarce. A German “Dawn” magazine became available in 1950, and has continued to the present time.
At first, there were only 29 subscribers. Five years later, the subscription list had increased to 1000. The German “Dawn” is now printed at “The Dawn” plant in East Rutherford, NJ. In 1955, a German General Convention was held for the first time, and since then it has occurred annually. This convention averaged close to 200 brethren in the earlier years; but has become fewer in recent years. It is noteworthy that there were at that time, thirteen ecclesias of German-speaking brethren in Switzerland, totaling about 500 brethren.
A letter written some years ago from Germany expresses their sentiments well, in spite of the declining number of brethren. We quote, “We continue to trust in the Lord, who has brought us thus far, and who has kept us in the Truth. We shall not become weary during the years in doing good, but will be full of zeal in the service of the Lord.”
Very little can be learned about the French brethren in the early days of the Truth movement. At the beginning of the twentieth century, France set aside the Concordat that allowed the Church to live off the support of the state. France continued as a strong Catholic country, but it also included many disinterested skeptics and revolutionists. France, too, as was true of Germany, was deeply affected by the two World Wars, and recovered slowly from their effects. It was during this time that many Polish-speaking brethren, living in Poland, emigrated to France, to form a nucleus of French brethren in that country.
In 1947, Brothers Norman Woodworth and Joseph Heinen made a trip to Switzerland, where they visited brethren. Their itinerary also called for going to Germany, Denmark, and England. They met with French-speaking brethren in Lausanne, in the Western zone of Switzerland. One of the brethren had been rejoicing in the message of Truth since 1903, and had served as a pilgrim in those early days. They were interested in issuing a French “Dawn”. A committee appointed by the French-speaking brethren met with the American visitors and established a Swiss branch Dawn office in Lausanne for the French-speaking brethren, which was also to serve the interests of the brethren in France.
This Swiss branch office continued until early 1959, when it was moved to Nice, France. A few years later (1962), it was changed to Mulhouse, France, and was established at Sister Schoenberg’s home. There it continued until she was unable to do the work due to old age; at which time a committee of French brethren took over the translation and publication of the French “Dawn”. Currently, The Dawn plant in East Rutherford, NJ prints the French “Dawn”, since the cost for it to be done here is much less. Throughout its existence, the French “Dawn” has been financed by the brethren in America.
The most successful witness attempt made in France was the offering of the booklet, “Hope Beyond the Grave,” as advertised in the French Readers’ Digest in 1964. More than 1700 responses were received, and about 250 of these asked for additional literature. There were later witnesses given, but none were as successful as this one.
In 1974, 270 brethren attended a General Convention in France. Most of these were French-speaking Polish brethren.
Among the Polish immigrants to the United States in the early days of the Truth movement, there were some who had become acquainted with the Truth message and accepted it. Ecclesias for Polish-speaking brethren were formed in a few cities, notably: Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo and New York City. Some English First Volumes got into Poland in the 1880’s, and one Polish brother, who could read English, obtained one of these. He visited another Polish brother living in England, and they were determined to translate Volume One into Polish.
Meanwhile, the Polish-speaking brethren living in the United States were busy translating Truth literature into Polish. Eventually, many copies of Polish Volume One became available. This factor, plus the return to Poland of some of the immigrants after World War I to visit or to stay, was responsible for reaching many new brethren by bringing the message of Truth to the new country. Before the war, when Poland was divided into three parts—one under Russia; a second under Austria-Hungary; and a third under Germany—it was difficult for brethren in one sector to communicate with those in the other sectors. After the war, it was possible to unify brethren all over Poland.
During the period following World War I, a power struggle occurred for control of the IBSA. Actions taken by the English-speaking brethren were mimicked by the Polish-speaking brethren. Some left the IBSA very shortly after Pastor Russell’s death. Others stayed with the IBSA for ten years more before leaving. One of the brethren who left the IBSA early was Brother Stahn, who traveled throughout Poland in the 1920’s and 30’s to assist brethren in establishing ecclesias. To this day, the Polish brethren speak reverently of him. Assistance was also given by the Polish-speaking brethren in the United States. Eventually, they set up the Polish Bible Students Association in Chicago, and supplied pilgrims and literature to brethren in the USA, Canada, and Poland.
When World War II broke out, and the Nazis invaded Poland, matters changed. At first brethren were able to meet freely, but later they were prohibited, with severe penalties being imposed. Brother Stahn was among the first to be arrested and sent to a concentration camp. After one and one-half years in this camp, he was transferred to another camp, where he was severely beaten and died because of his wounds several days later. Many brethren died violent deaths during the war period. Elders were sent to concentration camps where some died, and those that returned were physically shadows of their former selves. Some were shot to death in their homes, or nearby; and some were buried alive. Sisters died, too; and young men were beheaded. During this entire violent period, brethren continued the work of the Lord underground.
When the war came to an end, there were difficulties with communication and transportation. However, in 1945 twenty conventions were held throughout Poland, with an average of 600 brethren attending these. At these early conventions, baptismal services were held, in which a total of 200 brethren were immersed. Conventions have continued in Poland ever since. As many as 2000 brethren have attended their General Convention.
One local convention illustrates the strong desire that Polish brethren have for hearing the Word and having fellowship. There were 120 brethren attending this local convention. The main room, where the speaker stood, accommodated thirty people. An adjoining room, allowing a partial view of the speaker, accommodated another thirty people. A third room held twenty more, as did the sunporch; and two vestibules held ten each. The sound system was piped into these remote areas; and the sisters prepared a huge pot of nutritious soup which, with bread, was the main meal.
The ecclesias all over Poland continue to grow in number. The key factor for this growth is the involvement of the children in the worship of God. In contrast, in the United States, all of the Polish classes have dwindled, or disappeared, because the children became members of the English-speaking classes.
Truth activities continue in Poland, where a committee in Krakow handles Bible Student projects, including a bimonthly magazine. The Dawn has been involved in assisting the Polish brethren from the time that a Polish Association was set up in Chicago, to the present time. Assistance is given in financing the purchase of paper, as well as joint assistance with others who are publishing the six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures translated into modern Polish. Immediately after the war, there was a great need for food and clothing. The Dawn served as a forwarding agent for such donations.
Very little is known about how the message of God’s Plan came to Lithuania. This is a small country that, prior to World War I, was under German and Russian dominion. No mention of the early days of the Truth movement in Lithuania can be found. There were immigrants from Lithuania to the United States in those days, who settled among other Lithuanians in various cities. Another wave of immigrants arrived after World War I.
But it is not clear how the Lithuanian brethren in the USA received the Truth. Whether they first heard of it in Lithuania or in the USA is not known. What is more important is that ecclesias of Lithuanian-speaking brethren sprang up in Chicago, IL; LaSalle, IL; Detroit, MI; Pittsburgh, PA; and Bridgeport, CT. Some of these brethren, in later years, went back to Lithuania—some to visit; others to stay. Those in this country sponsored “Frank and Ernest” radio programs in the Lithuanian language in Lithuanian communities, with Dawn assistance, and received many responses.
Meanwhile, the ravages of World War II, and the occupation of a country like Lithuania, brought many hardships which made contact with the brethren impossible. At that time the Russians took over the country, confiscated the land, and sent the former owners of the land to Siberia. This was at the beginning of the Lord’s program to bring the message of Truth back to Lithuania.
One who had been sent to Siberia in 1949 was a boy of 14. His engrossing story of finding the Truth message was reported in an article in the April, 1996 Dawn magazine. In essence, he received Truth literature from Ukrainian brethren who had also been sent to Siberia. Later, when he was able to return to Lithuania, he received a Lithuanian Volume One from a Lithuanian brother who had returned to Lithuania from the USA, and had been there in 1956. We observe with amazement how brethren were used to bring this message back to Lithuania—from brethren of the Ukraine, to the United States brethren in Lithuania.
Contact was made with the Dawn to seek assistance in printing literature, and to receive films to be used with an audio tape in Lithuanian. Regular meetings of 30 to 60 brethren continue on Sundays in a Kuanas Library building. Pictures of this meeting place and congregation, were brought to the General Convention in Johnstown, PA, for many to see. These brethren continue to be active, and when they hold a public meeting, as many as 100 attend.
World War II brought changes of language in many places in Europe. All literature in the old Lithuanian language has been sent to these brethren since it is useful although it is in old Lithuanian. The Dawn has offered financial assistance to publish in modern Lithuanian.
The zeal of these brethren has been an inspiration to all of us.