The “Good News” Reaches Chile
The good news of God’s Kingdom reached Chile in 1924, when Brother George Young toured a number of South American countries. Although he was only able to stay in Chile for a few days, the first seeds of truth were nevertheless sown.
Later, Brother Richard Traub arrived in 1930. Brother Traub had learned the truth in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and had dedicated his life to Jehovah in 1925. While he was pioneering in Argentina—near the Andes Mountains—he developed a strong desire to open up the preaching work in Chile. The branch servant in Argentina, Brother Juan Muñiz, agreed, and so Brother Traub was assigned to Chile.
Brother Traub arrived with no literature to offer, but with full confidence in Jehovah and a true missionary spirit, he began to preach from house to house. At that time, he was the only Kingdom publisher among Chile’s 4,000,000 residents. On February 13, 1931, Brother Muñiz delivered the first baptism discourse in Chile. Eight persons were baptized on that occasion, and within a year, five more symbolized their dedication to Jehovah.
One of the early pioneers to come to Chile was Kathe Palm, who arrived in February 1936. Her assigned territory was the entire country! She took her assignment seriously, though, and during her earthly ministry she preached from one end of the country to the other. In those early days of humble beginnings, a number of self-sacrificing pioneers worked to lay a fine foundation. By the time graduates from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead arrived in 1945, many seeds of truth had been scattered from the northernmost city of Arica to the southernmost city of Punta Arenas, and beyond to Tierra del Fuego, where the land ends.
In 1944, construction began on Chile’s first Kingdom Hall. A sister donated the property in Santiago, and the brothers went to work with brick and mortar. It was finished in August of that year, just in time for the first convention ever on Chilean soil.
First Missionaries and a Branch Office
Brothers Joseph Ferrari and Albert Mann, Gilead-trained missionaries, arrived in 1945. There were then only 65 publishers in the country. During that year, a branch office was set up in the capital city, Santiago, with Brother Ferrari as the branch servant. Up to that time, the work had been directed from the Argentina branch. By the end of 1945, ten more missionaries had arrived. Brother Mann was assigned as the first circuit overseer in the country in July 1946. His circuit was comprised of just nine congregations, with a total of 93 publishers.
By 1949, Brother Ferrari’s health did not permit him to continue as branch overseer, so he was invited to help with the work in Concepción. Brother Mann was placed in charge of the branch office, where he served for the next ten years. He was encouraged to begin looking for a new location for the branch office and missionary home nearer the center of Santiago. The branch was subsequently moved to Moneda Street, just a few blocks from Santiago’s bustling business district.
Legal Corporation Formed
During the year 1960, steps were taken to form a legal corporation in Chile with a view to buying property and constructing needed Kingdom Halls. On September 29, 1960, the Ministry of Justice approved the formation of the corporation “Comunidad Religiosa Testigos de Jehová” (Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses). During that same year, the Memorial attendance reached an outstanding 5,995! Looking back, the year the missionaries arrived just 103 persons had attended the Memorial. What a remarkable increase in just 15 years!
A New Branch Office Building
In December 1968, Brother Nathan Knorr visited Santiago to select a site on which to build a new branch building. A fine location was found in a quiet residential section situated near the towering Andes Mountains. The construction began in August 1969, and the dedication took place on November 21, 1970.
Good News during Difficult Times
Chile entered a period of political upheaval in 1973. All the same, in October of that year, Jehovah’s people passed the 10,000 mark for the first time, with a total of 10,119 publishers reporting activity. Although a state of siege had been proclaimed in the country and virtually all large meetings were forbidden, permission was nonetheless granted for the use of the Santa Laura Stadium in Santiago for the “Divine Victory” international convention. What an encouragement it was for the brothers, and especially for the new ones who symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by water baptism—1,502 of them! The attendance of 21,321 was the highest for any one convention site. That convention spurred the brothers on, and we finished the 1974 service year with an average of 10,962 Kingdom proclaimers; a 22 percent increase!
As growth continued, a new branch office was needed, and a suitable location was found in Puente Alto, toward the south of the Greater Santiago area. The construction began in 1984 and the dedication took place in 1986. Brother Albert Schroeder, a member of the Governing Body, gave the dedication discourse.
Starting in 1993, the Ministerial Training School (later named Bible School for Single Brothers) began to provide advanced instruction to single brothers who made themselves available to serve more fully. Later came the Bible School for Christian Couples and the School for Kingdom Evangelizers. To date, a total of some 60 classes have been held in Chile.
The new El Trébol Assembly Hall began to host district conventions in 1998. The Assembly Hall’s 10,000 seat auditorium has proved to be a marvelous blessing for thousands of brothers and sisters who can now comfortably enjoy assemblies and conventions in a facility designed specifically for our use.
Memorable international conventions were held in Chile during the decade of the 2000’s. The “Give God Glory” International Convention was held in 2003, with more than 104,000 in attendance. Then, in 2009, the “Keep on the Watch!” International Convention was held in four different locations: two in Santiago, one in Viña del Mar and one in Concepción. A combined attendance of 114,792 persons enjoyed that special occasion.
By that time, the branch office again needed expansion and renovation. The construction began in 2007 and Brother David Splane, Governing Body member, delivered the dedication talk in October 2010.
In recent years, translation has been speeding up in order to accelerate the evangelizing work in native languages. In Chile, we are currently translating to Chilean Sign Language, Mapudungun and Pewenche (native tongues in the south of Chile), as well as Rapa Nui (native tongue of Easter Island). Lately, increasing numbers of immigrants have led to a greater need in the foreign-language field. The branch now oversees the work of congregations and groups in some 23 different languages.