From Netherlands West Indies to Bethel
ON Wednesday morning, January 18, N. H. Knorr, president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, and his traveling companion, R. E. Morgan, left Caracas, Venezuela, bound for the island of Aruba in the Netherlands West Indies. In a little more than an hour’s time the Royal Dutch Airlines DC-4 was over the island, which could be seen in its entirety from the air; and it was not long until immigration and customs formalities had been completed and the visitors and brethren who came to greet them were traveling by car to the missionary home in San Nicolas. Aruba is an interesting little island, neat, clean, windy and warm. Its 69 square miles are quite well populated with Dutch- and English-speaking people. Of peculiar interest were the growing characteristics of the divi-divi tree, whose foliage extends out horizontally from the trunk all in one direction. This is due to the constant winds from the same direction. There is no natural water supply on the island, all fresh water being distilled from the ocean. Oil refining is the basis of the economic life, and the same is true in the nearby sister island of Curaçao. Venezuela is a large producer of oil, and much of its ‘black gold’ is carried by boat to the Netherlands West Indies and refined there. In fact, Aruba and Curaçao have two refineries that are among the largest in the world.
Jehovah’s witnesses are active in Aruba, there now being approximately fifty publishers in the San Nicolas company, as compared with the fifteen of a year ago. Two graduates of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead are assigned to this territory, and they are doing commendable work. There is more territory than two persons can handle. On Wednesday evening Brothers Knorr and Morgan gave service talks to an assemblage of sixty persons in the Suriname Club hall, and again on Thursday afternoon they spoke to the brethren in the local congregation at their Kingdom Hall. A great deal of advertising of the talk “Liberty to the Captives” had been carried out by the brethren, with posters, sound-car announcements and handbills. The Club Suriname had been leased for the public talk too, it being required that Jehovah’s witnesses pay only the janitor fees and electric bill. Extra chairs were rented, and on Thursday evening it was gratifying to see 332 persons in the Club Suriname, all listening attentively, having packed out the place, with “standing room only” when the speaker began. The fact that a Catholic priest strode back and forth outside the club, peering through the open door in an endeavor to ascertain whether any of his parishioners were in attendance, did not lessen enthusiasm of the audience for the message they heard. Nor did this priest’s calling at the homes of some who had attended the meeting frighten them, either, for many new faces are finding their way into the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses since the lecture was given. The members of the Club Suriname were so pleased with the public meeting that they subsequently voted to refuse any payment whatsoever for the use of the hall. And they are interested in having further lectures given by Jehovah’s witnesses. Undoubtedly new impetus was given the work on this island, and the two travelers were glad to have a share in the expansion program for Aruba.
Friday afternoon the two travelers from New York, along with the two missionaries assigned to Aruba, said good-bye to the brethren and flew over to the larger island of Curaçao to attend the assembly arranged for that weekend. The capital city of Willemstad was in a gala mood, for the prince of the Netherlands had just arrived for a visit. Buildings and thoroughfares were brightly lighted at night with colored lights; and the Dutch ensign was everywhere to be seen, alongside a great number of orange banners in honor of the Dutch House of Orange. Willemstad in many ways reminded Brother Knorr of his visit to the Netherlands. The city is not more than a few feet above sea level, and the style of building construction is similar to that in the mother country. One unusual feature of the town is the Queen Emma bridge which crosses St. Anna bay. This two-lane bridge rides on fourteen large pontoons, and it provides passage for both vehicles and pedestrians. The bridge has a hinge arrangement on one side, and when boats must enter the bay the entire bridge swings aside on this hinge, moving to a position parallel and close to the shore. While the bridge is open people are ferried across the water free, but vehicles must wait till the bridge is closed again. In a matter of minutes it is easily closed and traffic resumes.
Not far from this bridge one finds tied up at the wharf many small craft that bring tropical fruit from Venezuela, selling such directly from the boat to consumer. Within a few blocks of this site is the city market. A visitor cannot help but be amused by the curious custom of smoking adopted by many natives. Though they ‘light up’ in the usual manner, the lighted cigarette is at once reversed so that the glowing tobacco is inside the mouth. Thus the observer sees the customary puffing of smoke, but he is at first puzzled by the lack of glow on that portion of the cigarette protruding from the mouth. However, where there is smoke there must be fire, and he soon sees the cigarette removed from the smoker’s mouth to facilitate the removal of ash. Then the phenomenon becomes plain. The cigarette companies of America have not advertised this method yet. Maybe they can sell the public the idea of being “fire-eaters” instead of just being a smokestack.
The company of fifty of Jehovah’s witnesses in Willemstad had looked forward to this first visit of the Society’s president to Curaçao, and they, along with the two missionaries assigned to the territory, had made good preparations. On Friday night there were 93 persons assembled to hear talks by the two brothers from New York. After each talked a summary of the talks was given in Papiamento. In view of the fact that Brother Knorr would be in Curaçao only one full day, Saturday, the public lecture was arranged for that evening in the fine public library building. This building is a bit unusual because, although it is entirely enclosed so far as entrance from the street is concerned, it has a large patio in the center specially designed for meetings and lectures. So, with the starry sky as a roof, 234 persons heard Brother Knorr discourse on the great freedom that the new world will soon bring to all lovers of righteousness. The people of the Netherlands West Indies particularly enjoy lectures of this kind, as had also been evidenced at Aruba, where many thought the hour talk much too short. So at Curaçao Brother Knorr went into greater detail, devoting the best part of an hour and a half to the subject. Many were the expressions of appreciation heard.
In reviewing the Kingdom work in the Netherlands West Indies, it was observed that there is a continually developing interest in the six islands of this group. The new Kingdom publishers need better attention and service than can be given them from the office at Brooklyn. So Brother Knorr arranged for the establishment of a new Branch commencing March 1, 1950, to be known as the Netherlands West Indies Branch. This will keep the brethren and companies of Jehovah’s witnesses in much closer touch with the Society and give them much better aid in performing their field ministry. Brother Thomas R. Yeatts, a Gilead graduate serving in that territory since the middle of 1946, was appointed Branch servant.
Early Sunday morning, January 22, Brother Knorr bade the brethren good-bye and departed by air for Paramaribo, Surinam (Dutch Guiana). Brother Morgan remained behind in Curaçao to conduct a baptismal service for the Willemstad company that morning; and in the evening he spoke to the brethren once again after the usual Watchtower study. As was true with practically all the talks given by the two visitors in Curaçao, a local brother gave a brief résumé in the Papiamento dialect for the benefit of those who did not fully understand English. The brethren in Curaçao are enthused over the prospects for the expansion of the work in the Netherlands West Indies; and they are especially happy with the fact that they now have a Branch office to serve them. Moreover, the missionaries serving in both Aruba and Curaçao were happy to learn that they would get help from graduates of the 14th Gilead class after the 1950 assembly.
Although Brother Knorr had been in Surinam only last year on his South American trip, it seemed advisable for him to now make a special journey from Curaçao down to Surinam. There had been some difficulties among the brethren and some problems had arisen that they did not feel able to handle. For the interests of the work it seemed advisable to make the trip. Brother Knorr was met by the brethren at the airport Sunday afternoon, drove into town and had dinner with the graduates of Gilead at the missionary home. That evening all attended the Watchtower study, 86 being present. One-half hour later the public meeting began. This was arranged for in the Kingdom Hall, and just the known people of good-will were invited. There was no public advertising. There were 112 in attendance, and much interest was shown by those present. This was the beginning of a three-day assembly.
Monday and Tuesday Brother Knorr spoke through an interpreter to about 75 of the brethren. The admonition given was to forget the difficulties that had arisen in the past and settle down to the principal work of preaching the gospel. Even though the people in Surinam gossip and say some bad things about Jehovah’s witnesses, the brethren should not be disturbed by that. “By the lives you lead and the message which you preach you will be able to comfort those seeking truth and righteousness,” Brother Knorr told them. It was pointed out, too, that we are not following man or an organization but the principles set out in God’s Word, and this we must do regardless of what other people have done or will do in the future. Our work has been, and will continue to be, ‘preaching the word.’ But while we “preach the word” our life and daily course of action must reflect that we believe the Word of God and will live up to it, even as Christ Jesus did. He took the proper course in his daily life and he also preached the truth, proving himself worthy to be the chief witness of all Jehovah’s witnesses. The brethren were greatly encouraged to press on. They realize that the maintaining of one’s integrity is essential regardless of what other people do or say.
A new Branch servant was appointed, Brother Simmonite from Canada. It is believed that he will pick up the Dutch language very quickly. Even after being there only two months he was able to read his speech in the Dutch language and this was greatly appreciated by all the brethren. The missionaries now in Surinam are cooperating well together, and they are doing everything they can to aid the company organization and carry on the expansion work. The three days in Paramaribo were very blessed, even though it was at the close of the rainy season and periodically throughout the day the downpour of rain was so great that there was a sheet of water from one side of the street to the other. It was good to be with the brethren again. They are all determined to continue on faithfully in the work, and they send their love and greetings to their fellow workers throughout the world.
On Wednesday, January 25, rising time was 5:30 a.m., for it was a long ride out to the airport where Brother Knorr was to get his Pan American flight for the trip back home. He said good-bye to the brethren at 8:45 and was on his way to Trinidad. While the stop-over at Trinidad was only twenty minutes, previous arrangements had been made for the Branch servant to meet the president at the airport to go over any problems with regard to the work in the British West Indies. The twenty-minute stay in Trinidad was just like a minute. But it was good to see Brother Newton again before continuing the flight to Puerto Rico.
At 10 p.m. Monday evening, January 23, Brother Morgan left Curaçao for San Juan, Puerto Rico, arriving there in the wee hours of the morning. Brother R. V. Franz, the Branch servant, and another Gilead graduate were on hand to meet him, and by 3 a.m. they were retiring for a few hours’ rest before undertaking the busy schedule outlined for Tuesday. Inasmuch as Brother Knorr would not arrive in Puerto Rico from Surinam until Wednesday afternoon, on a Pan American through flight to New York, the Puerto Rican Branch arranged for Brother Morgan to serve two meetings. Wednesday morning a group of brethren accompanied Brother Morgan to the town of Caguas, where a new missionary home had just been established. En route the party drove through some very beautiful country. In the afternoon 64 brethren and persons of good-will assembled to hear a discourse, in English and Spanish, packing out the two rooms in the missionary home that are used for a Kingdom Hall. In the late afternoon the party returned to San Juan, and that evening 190 persons, including 23 graduates of Gilead, gathered together in a hall specially rented for the occasion. All were delighted to hear of the good progress the Kingdom work is making throughout Central America and the other points visited. And yet the Puerto Rican brethren are happy with their own progress and the Lord’s evident blessing upon their efforts, for during December, 1949, Puerto Rico exceeded 300 Kingdom publishers for the first time.
Some time Wednesday morning was devoted to going over Branch matters and inspecting the Society’s recently purchased home in San Juan. In the early afternoon a large group of brethren accompanied Brother Morgan to the airport where he would join Brother Knorr for the final leg of the long trip. At 3 p.m. Brother Knorr arrived by plane from Surinam, and the forty-odd brethren who had come to the airport were able to talk to him for an hour’s time. Of these, 27 were graduates of Gilead. Also, the Branch servant was able to consult Brother Knorr on certain matters regarding the work in Puerto Rico. At 4 p.m. the loudspeakers called for all New York-bound passengers to board the four-engine plane, and so Brothers Knorr and Morgan were off on their final flight, Puerto Rico to New York. Passengers were advised that the weather in New York was bad and that the only airport open was the new International Airport at Idlewild. However, when the plane had covered about half of the scheduled eight hour nonstop flight the stewardess announced that landing would have to be made at Washington National Airport, as now all the New York area was blanketed in fog. At 12:10 a.m. the ship put down at Washington; and at 1:05 a.m. all passengers boarded a special bus for the trip to New York city. At 9 a.m. Thursday morning several brethren from Brooklyn Bethel met the tired travelers at the airlines terminal in the heart of New York.
Looking back over the trip, which was made in eight weeks by Brother Morgan and in six weeks by Brother Knorr, it is seen to have been a profitable one. Much had been accomplished and many plans made for expansion. In 1946 the president of the Society visited these same thirteen countries, with the exception of the Netherlands West Indies, and at that time there were 3,810 publishers in the field. Three years later we find that there are 8,219 on the average every month preaching the message of the Kingdom, or an increase of 115 percent. From reports that are coming in from these places concerning work being done in the respective countries it is believed that 1950 will show well over 10,000 publishers working under the thirteen Branch offices. So the work goes on. The brethren continue to “preach the word” and Jehovah’s name is honored. In 1950 new territory will be reached in all these countries; and, by the Lord’s grace, the plans made for the future will mean that immediately after the 1950 assembly in New York city many more missionaries will go into these territories. As long as Jehovah God shows his patience so that salvation may come to others we, his servants in the earth, will, with him, be patient and present the good news in all the world for a witness. We are grateful for the mercy shown to us and for the opportunity to “preach the word”.
Rejoice in Jehovah, O ye righteous: praise is comely for the upright. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise. For the word of Jehovah is right; and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loveth righteousness and justice: the earth is full of the lovingkindness of Jehovah.—Ps. 33:1, 3-5, A.S.V.