Preaching in the Islands
THIS good news of the Kingdom must be preached in all the world, and in this world there are many islands inhabited by people who love living, like all other creatures on the earth. But even in these islands away from the hustle and bustle of the big continents the peoples have their problems. Because of their isolation men of influence gain power and soon control of these islands is centered in the hands of a favored few. If the government of the island works in the interest of the people, they are generally content. But as is so often the case when the controlling few are interested in themselves and not in the majority of those living on the islands, discontent and unrest are evident. No matter where one travels in the world, he sees the need of God’s kingdom.
The president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, N. H. Knorr, and his secretary, M. G. Henschel, both ministers of the gospel in the organization of Jehovah’s witnesses, recently made a trip to the beautiful island of Bermuda. They left on Saturday morning, December 2, 1950, about 11:30, and by 3:15 that afternoon they were circling over the coral-formed islands, dotted here and there with pink-, blue- and green-colored houses and cottages, with their spotlessly white roofs. These islands of some 40,000 people thrive quite well on the tourist trade. Of course, there is a little farming; store businesses, construction and other occupations keep the people employed also. The large naval and air bases also figure in the local economy.
The visitor is impressed by the picturesque, narrow walled roads, the small English cars, the beautiful flowers, the clean sandy beaches and rough pitted rocks along the coast, and the steep incline of the hills. About on the hillsides are surfaced water catchments, for all drinking water in Bermuda comes from the clouds. The only thing that mars the beauty of the islands is the brown cedar trees which were struck with a blight some two years ago.
About four years ago the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society sent two ministers, graduates of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in South Lansing, New York, to look after the spiritual needs of the small congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses in Bermuda. Like all other Jehovah’s witnesses, these two young men were very active in preaching the good news of the Kingdom, and they encouraged the inhabitants of the island to engage in home Bible study and get acquainted with the wonderful teachings of Christ. This was not to the liking of the principal religionists and it is reported that through their endeavors the government was influenced to arrange for the deportation of the two ministers. The two young men were sent back to Britain. This left the congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses without qualified ministers to take the lead in instructing and training other persons in Bible study.
It has long been the desire of Jehovah’s witnesses in these islands to have the Society send a qualified servant to look after their interests. It was to see if this could be accomplished that the president of the Society made the trip to Bermuda. He discussed the matter of sending another representative into the Bermuda islands with some of the officials of government, immigration authorities and lawyers, the latter being very much interested in the case of Jehovah’s witnesses and the deportation of the young ministers. It is the earnest hope that the way will be opened again for someone to go there to represent the Society, look after the congregation of the Lord’s people, and visit other interested persons in the principal settlements of the Bermuda islands.
A fine meeting was held with the theocratic publishers and interested persons. They were greatly encouraged on hearing about the Lord’s work in other parts of the world and they were also delighted with the Scriptural admonition that was presented to them by the two visitors.
The stay seemed much too short, but we visitors from Brooklyn were glad we were able to meet with those in Bermuda who are pressing on and preaching the good news of the Kingdom. The publishers, though they be few, are determined to continue the service come what may, and their enthusiasm is a joy to see. We certainly know that they are not alone in the world proclaiming the message of the new world. On this island they seem alone, but Jehovah knows those who belong to him.
On December 4, when it was time for us to leave, a very bad storm had blown up in the Atlantic. While the winds were heavy in Bermuda, they were much more severe toward New York where we were to go. It had been our hope to fly from Bermuda to Nassau, Bahamas, but the British airline serving that route was not in operation because of a strike. So we had to fly back to New York city and then down to Miami and from Miami to Nassau, in order to make the next appointment on Tuesday evening. Flying was rough that night and the plane did bounce around, but we arrived in New York in time to make connections with our midnight plane going out of Newark, New Jersey, to Miami, Florida.
The stopover in Miami was very brief—5:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. There was a little time for rest and sleep at the home of the company servant. The opportunity of meeting with some of the brothers was afforded us and we also looked over two of the Kingdom Halls which were beautifully designed and well constructed by the local publishers. The halls are really inviting to the public and very comfortable in every respect.
At 2:00 p.m. we were away by plane for Nassau in the Bahamas group, a short hop over the Gulf Stream. Nassau is the principal city. When we arrived at the airport, we were met by some anxious brothers who knew there were no flights from Bermuda to Nassau due to the strike and who wondered how we would come.
The public talk, “Can You Live Forever in Happiness on Earth?” to be delivered that evening in the Mothers’ Club Hall, was well advertised during the week. Some brothers had come over from Florida the day before and had assisted in the advertising. The inhabitants of these islands are mostly colored people, and to find quite a number of white brothers walking the main street of the city with placards and distributing handbills caused a slight sensation. The people just had not seen that many white witnesses on the streets before. The residents in the city of Nassau are, of course, well acquainted with the missionaries who live there, three in number, but to be strengthened with four more was enough to cause considerable comment.
Throughout the numerous islands of the Bahamas group there are only a little more than 68,000 inhabitants, including the principal city of Nassau with about 17,000 inhabitants. Many buildings of Nassau take one back fifty years or more and one enjoys the simplicity in an old world atmosphere. It is partly for this that the tourists of America go to the city of Nassau to spend their vacations. Beautiful mansions are found along the seaside. The unusual blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean around the Bahama islands are very inviting. The waters are strikingly clear and one can peer down into the watery depths for a considerable distance. The travelers were told that numerous glass-bottomed boats take the tourists around to show them the gardens at the bottom of the sea.
That Tuesday 7:30 p.m. came quite quickly and it was not long before the hall was filled and people were standing on the front porch and finally had to overflow into the street. There were 350 persons present and they paid rapt attention to the heart-cheering message concerning God’s kingdom. Many questions were asked after the meeting and booklets were distributed to all those desiring a copy. A number of prominent men were in attendance; they were anxious to make further inquiry. The local paper the next day made favorable comment on the lecture.
The convention continued the next day with 123 brothers from different parts of the main island and other islands attending. Arrangements were made for serving the interested people on the other islands by sending a representative of the Society from place to place and giving them a sort of circuit servant’s attention. It is hoped that not many months will pass before companies can be started, not only on New Providence, the main island where Nassau is located, but also on Great Bahama, Great Abaco, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Andros Island, Great Exuma, Long Island and others. There are persons who are definitely interested on all of these islands, but they need the help of a minister calling on them regularly in order to answer their questions and get them started in the field service. To this end a visit was made to the acting colonial secretary concerning sending more missionaries into the islands. Word has come through since that visit to the effect that they have approved entry of another missionary to work in the city of Nassau.
On one of the days we were in Nassau a new governor was installed in office. He came there from Britain. There certainly were parades and big doings in the town while our assembly was in session at the Kingdom Hall. One of the newspapers commenting on the arrival of the governor said: “The ceremonies this afternoon were very rich and approximated those of the landing of the Duke of Windsor a number of years ago. The governor comes at a time when we have an empty public treasury, but also at a time when expectations for a bumper tourist season loom very high. He comes also at the Christmas season when most hearts are brimming with the coming holiday expectations. And so for the first few weeks he will find the going quite smooth. With the coming of the winter season and the controversial affairs of the House of Assembly, His Excellency might expect no less and no more than former governors have received, namely, plenty of hard work.”
Certainly the problems of state in all the nations of the earth cause rulers great anxiety and worry. In this troubled, old, selfish world things are not going to get easier, but more difficult, because we are getting nearer and nearer to that final day of judgment, the battle of Armageddon. The rulers of the world are trying to hold together the kingdoms of this world in one organization, the United Nations, and meanwhile Jehovah’s witnesses calmly and peacefully go about their work of educating the people in the Bible and showing them that the only hope is God’s kingdom. Many people are being comforted in Nassau and the islands of the Bahamas group. The report shows that in 1946 three publishers reported field service in Nassau. Thereafter Gilead graduates were sent in to do missionary work and the local publishers became better organized. In 1950 an average of 74 publishers reported and at this time there are 110 reporting.
Thursday afternoon was the time for departure. Again the plane that we travelers were to take was late on leaving Nassau and therefore late in arriving in Miami, where connections were to be made for Havana, Cuba. Approximately 100 brothers came out from Miami to greet the travelers and the two traveling brothers were delighted to see them, but due to the lateness of the plane and the Pan American Airways’ trying to get us onto the very next plane for Havana, we were rushed through immigration and customs, with tickets changed and baggage checked within ten minutes’ time. So it meant just a wave of the hand in bidding the group good-by. It did our hearts much good to see them, though, and we wished that we could have remained a few minutes to tell them about the good things that had happened over in Nassau. However, this was not possible and soon the big plane was off into the darkness of the night, racing down the concrete ribbon and rising gracefully into the sky on the way to Havana. It seemed that we were just about settled down in our seats when it was time to fasten safety belts again and in a matter of minutes we were rolling onto the Rancho Boyeros airport of the principal city of Cuba.
Here in Havana the brothers certainly had worked up a reception committee. Never had we seen anything like it. Seven hundred of the Havana publishers and some early arrivals at the convention were gathered at the airport earlier in the afternoon, but they waited until 7:00 p.m. that night to give us greetings. Their enthusiasm radiates, bubbles over and falls on one like a shower. The Cuban brothers were certainly expressive in showing their joy in having the president of the Society and his secretary there with them and we were certainly delighted to be in their midst. This zeal of the Cubans is not only expressive in this form, but in their door-to-door witnessing and their back-calls and Bible studies it is manifested, and it brings results.
It was in 1946 that the president made his last visit to Cuba and at that time there were 2,250 publishers regularly engaging in the field service. But in 1950 there were 6,619 on the average and they now have a peak of 7,820 ministers proclaiming the good news. The Society has had as high as 54 Gilead graduates at one time doing missionary work in Cuba during the past few years. Due to the tremendous increase in company publishers and local pioneers, practically all of these missionaries have been moved out to other assignments.
On this beautiful island of Cuba, almost anything will grow. As a matter of fact, one can put a post in the ground and it will begin to sprout leaves. Cuba has a population of approximately 4,800,000 people. It is easy to see that, with 7,820 publishers in the land, the people are being witnessed to very regularly. In fact, companies spring up as rapidly as flowers and plants. In 1946 there were 69 companies in all of Cuba; now there are 178.
The branch servant worked out a heavy schedule for us. In the one week’s time it was arranged to have three separate conventions in Cuba—one in Havana, the second in Santa Clara and the third assembly in Holguín, in the eastern part of the island. All of these conventions were well advertised. Four hundred and ten thousand handbills were distributed; 6,000 placards were used. Five thousand nine hundred personal invitation letters were mailed to persons of good will. The newspapers carried excellent reports and the brothers saw to it that write-ups were furnished to the newspapers concerning the work of Jehovah’s witnesses and especially the Yankee Stadium meetings of last summer. The Havana daily papers El Mundo, Avance Información, Prensa Libre and El Nuevo Pueblo wrote excellent articles about the convention and the coming visit of President Knorr. The newspaper El Mundo, which has the largest circulation of any Cuban newspaper, wrote an excellent article about the coming assembly and the past New York international convention and described the great educational work that Jehovah’s witnesses are carrying on. In closing, this newspaper stated: “We will have to arrive at the conclusion that this is the most intensive educational campaign of all times ever effected with such a feeling of altruism.”
In an endeavor to further the advertising, all the major radio stations in Havana were visited and given news releases. One of the largest stations in the country, CMQ, a 25,000-watt station, put on a nationwide broadcast of an interview with one of the brothers. Another station, CMBC, broadcast an interview between two brothers and this was heard countrywide. On December 8 at 5:30 in the evening Brother Knorr, through an interpreter, was interviewed by one of the major radio stations, Station RHC. This program went out over a chain hookup from one end of the country to the other. In the interview Brother Knorr stated the purpose of his visit and that he was very glad to be in Cuba again. After the interview and on this very same nationwide broadcast, the branch servant, Brother Papadem, gave a six-minute talk on the coming convention and he invited the people of Cuba to attend any one of the three assemblies. All of this was free broadcasting and in the public’s interest.
The biggest assembly in Cuba was held in Havana on December 9 and 10 at the Sociedad de Pilar. It was operated just like the assembly in New York. There was an excellent cafeteria about four blocks away at Club Latino and this was tied in by direct wire connections with the convention hall. The new Spanish books and booklets released at Yankee Stadium were printed in sufficient supply and sent to Cuba so that the brothers attending the convention could get “Equipped for Every Good Work” in Spanish. This was announced by Brother Henschel when he spoke at one of the meetings. Brother Knorr presented “This Means Everlasting Life” in Spanish, as well as introducing the new Watchtower in Spanish, La Atalaya, the January 1 issue now a 32-page magazine exactly like the English edition. All the conventioners were overjoyed with these releases.
Even though the Cuban publishers are moving ahead with great speed, the matter of 10-percent-increase quota and 34-percent-increase peak was presented to all the publishers from one end of the country to the other. If Cuba is going to reach its 34 per cent increase as a new peak for 1951, they will have to get up to 10,057 publishers for the year. Even with all the marvelous increases going on in Cuba, this announcement made them really open their eyes. Ten thousand and fifty-seven seemed quite a distance away for the small group of 7,800 publishers, but they are going after it with all the zest and zeal and determination they have, just as they handle any other work that is given them to do. They are trusting in the Lord that there are many “other sheep” in the island who need to be found and by His undeserved kindness they are going to try to find them and feed them and aid them in being publishers for the Kingdom.
At all three assemblies the same fine spirit of co-operation and determination to take care of the Kingdom interests was well demonstrated. In Havana at the public meeting there were 3,493, and 124 were immersed. Two days later the public meeting at Santa Clara showed there were 2,223 present, packing out the theater that was used. At the immersion there they baptized 74. At Holguín the theater they had obtained was packed out with 2,142 and early in the morning 76 were baptized. So, for the convention report of Cuba, it is indeed a pleasure to report that 7,858 people attended these gatherings with 274 being baptized. This was the greatest assembly of the Lord’s people for this island.
Traveling from one city to the other was accomplished by plane or auto and it meant keeping on the go constantly. It certainly was good to hear the experiences, such as that related by a schoolteacher. His wife was not enthusiastic about his taking up this “new religion”, but the more he studied the more he wanted to get out in the work. Finally he decided to be a pioneer in addition to taking care of his teaching position. His wife insisted that he could not do it because of his health, but after he became a pioneer his health improved and he gained over 30 pounds. Before many months had passed the wife was publishing too and entering into the same joy of the Lord that he had. And so it goes with many experiences from one end of Cuba to the other.
To climax the whole convention spirit, one of the brothers spoke on behalf of Brother Knorr for ten minutes over radio station RHC and its nationwide hookup, telling the people of Cuba about the three assemblies and the work accomplished by Jehovah’s witnesses world-wide. Brother Knorr was invited to make this speech in Havana, but he could not return because of appointments in Jamaica. He had to fly from Camagüey to Kingston on Friday. Undoubtedly the three assemblies will aid the publishers of the Kingdom greatly in Theocracy’s increase in Cuba.
We reserve for our next issue the account of the trip on to Jamaica, and the further preaching accomplished in the beautiful islands of the West Indies.