From: Ian Renton
To: John Lunn
Sent: Thursday, October 04, 2001 5:32 PM
Subject: FW: Nigeria:
I hope this hasn't been posted before. I thought it was impressive.
From: Ian Renton [mailto: [email protected]]
Sent: 27. september 2001 17:38
To: Norman & Elsie Renton; Lynn & Steve Finch; Joanne Renton; Jeremy Ian Renton; Derik Renton
Hi all of you
Thought that you might like to read this that just came to us.
If you have received it just pass it on.
Käthe & Ian
Sent: 27. september 2001 15:10
Sometime in June, we received a letter from the office of the Secretary To the State Government, informing us that "His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion is proposing to visit your establishment." The letter asked us to propose dates for the visit.
This was a somewhat unusual request since people often clamor to invite the Governor, rather than him asking to be invited. Furthermore, the letter said nothing about the reason for or the purpose of the visit. We were therefore left to wonder. The Governing Body directed all tour arrangements.
The Governor was also invited to view the video Jehovah's Witnesses-The Organization Behind The Name.
Various matters concerning the visit were mentioned in our letter. These included the issues of National Anthem, group prayer, the bringing in of guns into the compound and religious exclamations during the visit.
He agreed to abide by our wishes on these matters except on the bringing in of the guns. He said that there would be armed security operatives following the governor but these would carry weapons concealed on their person. Those carrying larger weapons that could not be concealed would wait at the gate.
Arrangements were made for parcels containing our Bible and publications to be given as a parting gift to the Governor and even to his wife, who was not visiting along, the Deputy Governor, the Commissioners and all other members of the Governor's entourage, including the drivers and the security men. Some of the commissioners could not come, but we allowed them to take their gifts to them.
On Thursday, August 2, 2001, at 10:42 a.m. the Governor arrived in a convoy accompanied by a contingent of about 30 journalists. He was received at the Kingdom Hall by a member of the Branch committee and others.
In his welcome remarks, the brother said "It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the religious center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Nigeria and head office of our Legal Corporation, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. To Jehovah's Witnesses and many of those in the neighborhood, these premises are simply known as 'Bethel' and those resident here are collectively called 'the Bethel family.'
As some of you may know, 'Bethel' is a Hebrew word meaning 'House of God.' "At this juncture, I will like to introduce your Excellency to some members of our Bethel family who will be participating in the tour:
Video Show: "We would like to show a 17-minute video program of what goes on in Bethel homes around the globe, particularly at the World Headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses in Brooklyn, U.S.A." Following this, there was a 17-minute showing of the Organization Behind The Name video.
During the video, Brother Olih sat beside the Governor, who asked a number of questions. Brother Olih told the Governor that the whole earth will soon become a paradise where all could live without dying, according to Rev. 21:4. He asked "what about heaven?" The answer was that only those who would rule with Jesus as his cabinet would be up there with him. This, the Governor seemed to understand.
He then asked if our Bible is different from that of others. He was directed to Genesis 1:1. He read it and was told that the only difference is that our Bible is in modern English. He then asked, "If people do not die, will they not be stepping on each other?" He was referred to the original blessing on Adam: God asked him to multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. "If you asked someone to fill up something, when it is filled what would you expect the person to do?" He answered that the person should stop. So he was assured that when the earth is filled to the capacity that God wanted, he would stop reproduction.
He wanted to know why we believe that man was not meant to die. He was referred to the portion where Adam was commanded not to eat of a certain fruit or he would die. If Adam did not eat it, what would happen, would he die? He shook his head.
After the presentation, the tour brochure was distributed to all present and a Bethel member was invited to conduct the tour. The Governor asked several questions during the tour, to which one of the tour guide responded in a calm and respectful manner.
For instance, he wanted to know how one becomes a Witness? The Brother's response was that in the course of our public reaching activity when we meet persons who express an interest, we offer them a Bible study course lasting at least 19 weeks. The person can then make up his mind if he believes what we teach and wants to become a Witness. If so, and if he is putting into practice what he is learning then he could be baptized.
At the Factory he asked if our printing is limited to our religious publications and is not commercial. On seeing the Services Building and Residence Building, the Governor, in surprise, asked who built these things. On being told that they were built by Jehovah's Witnesses he was obviously not satisfied until he was informed that there are engineers and other professionals among Jehovah's Witnesses who volunteered their assistance.
The tour terminated at the laundry, after which the Governor and 27 members of his entourage were shown to the Dining Hall. During the meal the Governor asked several questions, about childbearing, marriage and salaries/allowances. He was told that the member of the Branch committee that welcomes him does not have any children, though he has been married for 45 years, that we all receive the same reimbursement and that we are here on a voluntary basis and are free to leave anytime we choose to.
The 33 journalists were taken to the paillote where arrangements had been made for them to have their meal along with 40 drivers and security men. Sound was connected to the 3 paillotes used for these 33 journalists, drivers and security men. One of them wanted to leave after finishing his meal, but returned saying, "I heard that there is going to be a concluding prayer. Let me stay and get the last blessing."
Another commented on the deportment of the waiters serving them. He called for water and 2 waiters immediately approached him. He remarked that such type of workers are not seen outside. "Look at that, two jars of water from different directions in less than 30 seconds from the time you called for it. I mean the boys are really committed to what they are asked to do, each one smiling and none trying to dodge."
At about 12:13 p.m. another jokingly asked his friend to pray. His friend replied, 'No, I know they will pray again and I will rather wait for that because their prayer goes direct to heaven.' The pressmen asked a lot of questions, such as "How does one become a member of the Bethel?" "Are the members of Bethel paid some salary?" One remarked that in all his time working with the Governor, he has never entered such a beautiful place.
After the visit, we all returned to the Kingdom Hall, where a member of the Branch committee made the following closing remarks:
"On behalf of the Bethel family, I want to express gratitude to your Excellency for the time you have taken off your busy schedule to visit our religious headquarters in Nigeria. We are confident that this visit will move your Excellency and his entourage to a better appreciation of the work of Jehovah's Witnesses in fulfillment of the great commission given us by our Lord Jesus Christ at Matthew 24:14.
"We would encourage your Excellency to make a careful study of the Bible and Bible-based publications that explain God's purpose for the earth and for mankind. If your Excellency has any questions to ask in connection with the Bible, Jehovah's Witnesses are happy and readily available to answer them."
After that, the packages containing Bible literature were distributed to the Governor and his entourage and even to the Governor's wife and the commissioners who were not present. The Governor's package consisted of a Bible (Rbi8), Jehovah's Witnesses-The Organization behind the name video, Insight on the Scriptures, Knowledge book, Creation book (large) Require Brochure, Jehovah's Witnesses-Who Are They, and You Can Be God's Friend. His wife's package contained 1 deluxe Bible, My Book of Bible Stories, Secret of Family Happiness and Young People Ask videocassette. The Deputy Governor's package contained the same items as the Governor's package, with the exception of the Insight on the Scriptures. The other packages contained a reference Bible (Bi12), Secret of Family Happiness, Knowledge Book, Require Brochure, Jehovah's Witnesses who are they? And You Can be God's Friend. Altogether 466 books, 450 brochures and 3 videocassettes were presented.
Thereafter, the Governor gave the following speech at the Kingdom Hall to the audience made up of those in his entourage and the few Bethelites who accompanied him around during the tour:
"Very distinguished family of Bethel, on behalf of the state government and the good people of Edo State, we thank you most graciously for giving us the opportunity to tour your facility and know the work of God that is being carried out here. I must say, I am highly impressed and so are members of my entourage who have been so opportune to go round and see, first and foremost, how neat and how well kept the place is. It's highly commendable. And I'll also like to commend the maintenance culture of the family of Bethel. I'll also like to thank you very much for the meal you have provided for us. It's a meal that has been blessed and nourished and we shall continue to appreciate it. "It's most satisfying that you have people here that are volunteers, doing the work of God and I've been able to see these people and I'm highly impressed that they are being gainfully engaged in carrying out the work of God. These are young people and it is purely a voluntary will for them to come here. They are not forced; they are not in any way encumbered to remain after they so desire to leave. So I believe all I've heard and the little I've seen. I know there are more that we are not able to cover due to time constraints, but we will try as much as possible to have continued dialogue with the Bethel family. And also I want you to be rest assured of my administration's support and cooperation at all times that you so desire. So once again, on behalf of the state government and the good people of Edo State, I thank you very much."
Interestingly, he had come with a prepared 30-minute speech but while having lunch he discussed some of the points of his prepared speech with his secretary who sat next to him. After canceling some of the points, he gestured to him to put the whole speech away. When the time came for his speech he spoke extemporaneously for about 3 minutes.
One possible reason may be what was stated by one Government House staff: "In all my experience of traveling with the governor, either to government or private establishments or even to churches, it is a common practice for the host to read out a long list of their needs to the Governor shortly after the welcoming speech. But what a contrast I have seen at Watch Tower! Does it mean you do not have any need? Don't you want the Governor to do anything for you?"
There were several other comments about the fact that we did not make any demands to the Governor. One man said "This is the first time I have visited an establishment with the governor at which no demands were made of the governor". It was clear from the Governor's speech that he was impressed by his visit. Members of his entourage were also quite impressed, as shown by the comments which they made. They were commenting enthusiastically about the neatness of the premises. One of them remarked: 'What impressed me most is the factory. Everything there is neat and orderly. The machines are all new.' Some others commented on how clean the whole place was: "Every place is just clean. Even the oxygen one inhales here is different from the one we inhale out there. There is no pollution in this place."
The governor's chief press secretary also stated that he was "impressed by the cleanliness and maintenance of the complex." One of the assigned table heads, reported that those on his table were highly impressed by what they saw. Comments made include: "we have heard a lot about how good this place is, and it is really wonderful." "Just look at the floor of the dining room, how clean and neat it is!" Another brother who sat with some of the security officials heard one of them remark that "This is a replica of the Garden of Eden!" Another official on learning that married couples are permitted to serve at Bethel, said to one of his colleagues, "Then it may be possible for me to work here too, because this marriage matter has been the only impediment I feel will prevent me from working here."
One of the security men impressed by the heartfelt prayer said before the meal, commented that "these are really Christians." Several of the security men expressed appreciation for the meal, which they described as "blessed." After the closing prayer, a senior government official asked: "Please how can one be invited here to work? I will like to come here and stay." A total of 101 persons joined the family for the meal. 28 persons ate in the dining hall while 73 persons (comprising of drivers, security men and journalists) ate in the paillotes. During the tour, the security men were totally at ease. They, as it were, laid down their weapons and allowed us to guard them. The State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Bright Omokhodion, commenting on the smooth running of our complex said: "If everybody in [Nigeria] follows suggestions like you [Bethelites], things would run successfully."
Some other commissioners remarked that there was no need to travel outside Nigeria to see beautiful places, since those places would not be better than this [Bethel]. Another Commissioner was impressed that "it is possible to create an ideal community inside a jungle of rubber trees." Other commissioners were similarly impressed: "This place is serene. Hardly you see a place like this out there. I have traveled far and wide, yet many places overseas are not like this place. Instead of going to London, one should better come here and stay like a week or more." "People in Bethel do not experience sorrow and pains like others. The Kingdom is here, why not extend it to outside?" "This is a wonderful encounter. I never knew a place like this exists." "Anyone living here will be healthy, he will hardly fall sick." "This is paradise on earth." "This is the center of God." One wanted to leave after his meal at the paillotes but came back and said: "I heard that there is going to be a concluding prayer, let me stay and get the last blessing."
One pressman asked, "How does one become a member of the Bethel (meaning the Bethel family)?" Answer: "First requirement is that such a person would have to study the Bible with one of Jehovah's Witnesses, make needed changes in order to conform his life to the teachings of the Bible. Then he will qualify to become one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Thereafter, if he wishes to serve at Bethel, he can then indicate his desire through his local congregation." In the course of the answer, others were taking notes. Another asked: "Are the members of Bethel paid some salary?" Answer: "No, they are only given a little reimbursement to take care of their basic needs." "I will donate my first daughter to this church," said a Policeman "Your arrangement here is more than an oil company."-Mobile Policeman "Oga, (sir) you people are very wonderful."-State Security Service official.
On the evening of the same day, one of the local television stations gave the following report on the visit: EBS TV NEWS COVERAGE OF GOVERNOR'S VISIT
August 3, 2001 Broadcast lasted: 3 minutes Newscaster: "The State Governor, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, today undertook a facility tour of the religious center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Nigeria, otherwise known as Bethel, at Igieduma in Uhunmwode Local Government Area. He was accompanied in the tour by some commissioners and Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Mat. Akhionbare. For details, over to Government House correspondent, Benjamin Osagie: "Welcoming the Governor and his entourage, Mr. Albert Nwafor Olih disclosed that in harmony with its name, everything done in Bethel was guided by Bible principles and the fear of God. Mr. Olih explained that all residents are baptized Jehovah's Witnesses and members of a religious Order known as the Order of Special Full-time Servants and the Bethel Family. He said they have voluntarily taken a sacred vow to perform their duties geared towards promoting the preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom.
The Governor and his entourage, before a guided tour of some of the facilities, watched a 20-minute video program of what goes on in Bethel homes around the globe, particular at the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses in Brooklyn, USA. The tour, which was to afford the Governor a better appreciation of the work of the Jehovah's Witnesses, took him to the Office complex, Printing press with state-of-the-art equipment, and the Laundry. Responding, Governor Lucky Igbinedion applauded the maintenance culture exhibited by the Bethel family. The Governor remarked that the cleanliness and peaceful atmosphere was inspiring and expressed satisfaction that people could volunteer their services to God with all sense of enthusiasm.
He gave an assurance that the State Government will continue to dialogue with the Bethel family." Replayed a clip of Governor's vote of thanks: "It's most satisfying that you have people here that are volunteers, doing the work of God and I've been able to see these people and I'm highly impressed that they are being gainfully engaged in carrying out the work of God. These are young people and it is purely a voluntary will for them to come here. They are not forced; they are not in any way encumbered to remain after they so desire to leave."
Correspondent continues?" It was gathered that the facility and work done at the Bethel, like similar facilities in some 105 countries worldwide is financed entirely by voluntary donations from Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the world, coordinated by the World Headquarters in Brooklyn, USA. Benjamin Osagie, reporting."
During the presentation of the Jehovah's Witnesses-The Organization Behind The Name video, the Governor asked Mr. Olih whether we translate our publications into the Edo language. Mr. Olih responded that he did not think we have a complete Bible in Edo. The Governor thereupon promised to send a copy which he had. Less than two weeks later, we were surprised to receive a package containing the Bible in Edo, along with a covering letter from the office of the Secretary to the State Government. The letter headed "Donation Of Holy Bible In Edo Language," expressed "the gratitude of His Excellency, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, Governor of Edo State . . . for a most revealing and fulfilling visit." The letter also said it was the governor's hope that we would "find use" for the Bible. Interestingly the copy of the Bible in Edo had been presented to the Governor by the Bible Society of Nigeria. The inscription on the first page of the Bible reads: Presented by:
THE BIBLE SOCIETY OF NIGERIA
To: His EXCELLENCY
CHIEF LUCKY NOSAKHARE IGBINEDION
THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR
OF EDO STATE.
I need more BOE letters, KMs and other material. Those who can send it to me - please do! The new section will be interesting!!
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