Further Preaching in the Islands
IN OUR previous issue we reported on the travels of the Watchtower Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, and his secretary, M. G. Henschel, as they served Jehovah’s witnesses in the islands of Bermuda, the Bahamas and Cuba. Now it is our pleasure to follow the report of their continued journey to keep appointments in Jamaica, Haiti, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Brother Knorr had been to Jamaica before, but it was Brother Henschel’s first visit to this rugged mountainous island. The plane we were to travel in from Camaguey, Cuba, to Jamaica left Camagüey a little late. The convention had already started in Kingston, Friday, December 15. A number of brothers were at the airport to meet the travelers and it was not long until we were in the full swing of another convention; this time, however, it was all in English.
The branch office had arranged for the assembly to be held in Kingston, Jamaica, in the Jamaica Union of Teachers Hall. The cafeteria facilities were just 100 yards away and fine meals were served. Also a very good refreshment stand had been fixed up. This place was connected by direct wire so that all of the convention program could be heard by the volunteer workers in the cafeteria.
The Jamaican brothers put on a very good service meeting. One of the features was a vivid poetic drama depicting the preservation of the servant of the Lord through persistent preaching. It was an allegory; all of the characters spoke their parts in poetic rhyme. There were such characters as Legion, Enticement, Discouragement, Mr. Mockery; and others took their parts well and tried valiantly to overcome Jehovah’s servant. But with the “sword of the spirit” and the service of the Lord keeping him busy in preaching the good news, the young publisher was able to overcome all of these hindrances. The point was effectively made and it was really something done differently. The audience enjoyed the presentation.
Brothers Knorr and Henschel spoke every day at the assembly and there was one discussion that the brothers enjoyed immensely. That was the story of the rich man and Lazarus and its present-day meaning. The details of this have since been published in The Watchtower. Brother Henschel dealt with many service problems and particularly showed how the publishers of the Kingdom today must use their time to prove themselves to be real Christians.
Good publicity was carried on in connection with the public meeting arranged for 7 o’clock Sunday evening. On Sunday morning the baptismal talk was delivered and 145 brothers were immersed in the bay. The public talk attracted an unprecedented crowd of 4,500. The auditorium was packed, the yards on both sides were full, the cafeteria space was filled out and the sidewalks were blocked with people standing there listening to the talks through loud-speakers. Everyone was overjoyed with the excellent assembly. Kingston was talking about Jehovah’s witnesses. Of course, for the brothers the assembly ended much too soon, but all were determined to go back to their home companies and do better preaching of the gospel.
The last visit to the island of Jamaica made by Brother Knorr, in 1946, showed that there were only 899 publishers regularly engaging in the field service. Now there are 2,120, according to last year’s report, with a peak of 2,380. There is very little increase in the number of companies organized because there were many companies in 1946, but they have grown and the people of this lovely island, about 1,388,000, certainly know that Jehovah’s witnesses have a message of comfort for them and many are listening and allowing the publishers to study with them in their homes. The witnesses are sure of Theocracy’s increase in Jamaica. The Monday after the convention was devoted to checking over the branch work and taking care of matters about which the brothers wanted to see the president of the Society.
On Tuesday a trip was made in the Society’s sound-car, a 1936 Ford, without murmur or groan, all the way to the other end of the island to the famed resort center, Montego Bay. This gave us an opportunity to see some of the other cities. It was necessary to go over Mt. Diablo, one of the highest mountain peaks in the island, and then down through a fern gulley, one of the most beautiful gardens of tropical splendor in the world. At Montego Bay the Strand Theatre was rented for the one-day assembly so as to accommodate the brothers in the western end of the island. Thirteen were immersed on Wednesday morning. Advertising of the public meeting was done right after the immersion. We worked in the sound-car, making announcements and distributing handbills from the car. It was certainly interesting going through the winding roads of this city and talking to the inhabitants. In the afternoon session, 310 persons attended, and, in spite of the fact that this was the Christmas season when everybody was shopping, 554 persons attended the public talk.
The next day we were off on another long jaunt to visit the northeastern end of the island where the Capitol Theatre was obtained and a one-day session held for Jehovah’s witnesses in that part of the island. The island is only 144 miles long and 49 miles wide, and as we traveled through village and town we would hail different individuals whom we had met in Kingston and who recognized the sound-car, and one person would turn out to be a publisher and another one a company servant and the other a Bible study servant or some good-will interest. In fact, everywhere we went, even when we were eating at a restaurant, the people knew us. This shows how well Jehovah’s witnesses are known throughout Jamaica.
The trip from Montego Bay to Port Antonio was all along the north shore. The sea was a deep-blue color and the stiff north breeze created the contrasting white foam of big breakers. We could see the water most of the time, but occasionally we passed through large coconut palm estates and sugar estates. It was just past the rainy season and so Jamaica looked extremely verdant wherever the winding, hilly roads took us. It is a fertile island for agriculture and for the seeds of Kingdom truth.
At Port Antonio 160 brothers assembled at 5 o’clock to hear Brother Henschel talk for a half-hour and then he had to be on his way by car to Kingston, where a special meeting was arranged with the three units to take up matters pertaining to building additional Kingdom Halls. Brother Knorr spoke extemporaneously for the rest of the time prior to the public meeting which was to begin at 7 o’clock. Four hundred and five persons turned out that evening who were interested in living forever in happiness on earth.
Brother Knorr also had to get back to Kingston that night because they were flying the next day for Haiti. The bright moon was shining and the trip home through the mountains and valleys was most interesting. It was pleasant, too, just outside the city to pass many of the brothers who had come to the meeting and who were walking back to their homes in the rugged hills where they live. Some were riding bicycles, but the majority of them were walking. All of them greeted us as we passed.
Brother Henschel had a very fine meeting in Kingston, where 525 brothers packed out the Kingdom Hall of the Central unit. There he read a letter written by Brother Knorr to the three units in regard to ideas for expanding the work in this principal capital city of Jamaica. The suggestions were accepted unanimously and undoubtedly the work will move ahead rapidly. In 1946 when Brother Knorr made his first visit, there were 209 publishers and one unit. At that time the suggestion was made that they divide into three units and build three Kingdom Halls. This they did and since 1946 they have expanded to 800 regular and irregular publishers. So, now they are planning to go ahead building two more Kingdom Halls in different parts of the city and undoubtedly the work will advance with a similar increase.
Again the week went by much too quickly and it was time to depart. Thirty brothers accompanied us to the Palisadoes Airport, seven miles out of Kingston, to see us fly away at about 1:20 p.m. in Pan American’s man-made bird on our way to the next stop, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We thoroughly enjoyed the week in Jamaica with the thousands of theocratic servants of Jehovah.
Tropical Haiti takes up the Western portion of the island that most people know as Santo Domingo. It is very mountainous and fairly primitive. The Dominican Republic takes up the eastern end, the major area of the island. Haiti is a colored republic. The people speak French and Creole, around 90 per cent using the latter tongue. French is the governmental language, while Creole is the language that everybody speaks. The Catholic religion has been taught there for many centuries, but it does not make any difference to the Catholic clergy if their people practice voodooism, which it is said most of the country people do. It is all right with them to belong to two religions so long as they belong to the Catholic religion. What an odd way to teach the truth, if they had the truth! Such tolerance of demonism explains how it is that the Japanese people can worship their ancestors and still be what they call “good Catholics”.
It is not so much the matter of teaching people what is in the Bible, because that has not been the interest of the Catholic Church, for centuries. It is a matter of building up a powerful organization which today has proved to be more political than religious. In fact, the Vatican City is a Vatican state; not only is it a center for a religious organization but it must be recognized as a government. They have not separated themselves from the world, which was the admonition of Christ Jesus. He said he was in the world, but not part of it. But the Roman Catholic Hierarchy wants to be a part of the old world and, of course, will go down with it in the battle of Armageddon.
Jehovah’s witnesses have a real problem in Haiti, that is, in presenting the truth to the people. First, they must overcome the Catholic doctrines, which some of the people believe but in which they do not put much stock; and, secondly, they must combat the voodoo practices which deal with spiritism. Language is also a real barrier. Back in 1946, when Brother Knorr visited this country for the first time, there were only two missionaries there and two other persons who were interested in preaching the gospel. Since then the Society has sent more missionaries to the country and the work has grown until today there are 12 missionaries and an average of 86 publishers during 1950, with a peak of 99 for the year. These ministers are doing excellent work, going into the little villages and towns and working on the countryside. No matter where one goes he will find people to talk to. But to convince them of the truth is another matter. It takes patience, kindness, persistence and an understanding of the people.
When we arrived at the airport, the convention was already under way. So we went right to the Kingdom Hall to begin talking. The brothers from different parts of the country had gathered at the Kingdom Hall and there they enjoyed a feast of good things. Seventy-four different individuals attended the gathering and on Sunday afternoon, the day before Christmas, the public meeting was held in the outdoor Theatre de Verdue in beautiful Exposition Park at the edge of the harbor. There were 474 present. That morning 13 brothers were baptized at a beach called Club Thorland. A good cafeteria arrangement was made, so, though the meetings were small when compared with Cuba’s, all features of a convention were at hand.
The publishers were not at all backward in advertising the good news with placards, handbills, being on the streets with the magazines and seeing to it that the people of good will were informed. Everyone was pleased with the good attendance at the afternoon public meeting. It was quite evident that many were very well pleased, because that night at the Kingdom Hall, which is situated well over a mile away from the spot where the public meeting was held, 101 persons attended, and this on Christmas Eve when so many people like to be at home with their families. You can see, however, that the people are not too much taken up with the Christmas spirit as one might think religious people should be. They go about shooting firecrackers and having big voodoo celebrations, offering certain sacrifices, and all this, it appears, with the sanction of the Catholic Church. Throughout all of these islands in the Caribbean area it seems as though the celebration of Christmas is carried on similar to the way Americans carry on the celebration of the 4th of July. It certainly is not a peaceful scene nor a peaceful sound with which to celebrate the supposed birthday of the Prince of Peace.
The travelers were very happy to meet with the faithful missionaries in this land, and to talk to them about their problems and to observe the good work that is being done in forwarding the Kingdom interests. They have done well to learn the language and study with the people even though no literature is yet available in Creole. They were delighted that the Society will soon publish a booklet in Creole to help push the expansion work. More workers are required and more patience and persistence, too, are needed in this land, because it does have some difficulties not found in many other countries in the way of travel, accommodations, etc. But it must be said that the people are humble and, it is believed, ready to accept the truth.
WORK IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
The Society has a branch office in Puerto Rico and this office looks after the work in the island of Puerto Rico and also the Virgin Islands. The Society’s president had never been to the Virgin Islands, but missionaries had been sent there some years back and they have been doing splendid work. It was decided that the district assembly should be held at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. A number of brothers from Puerto Rico chartered a Pan American plane and 52 of us flew from San Juan on Friday morning, December 29, to St. Thomas and there we were greeted by the conventioners from St. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas who were already assembled. The meetings were held in the Kingdom Hall on Garden street and there were 120 persons present enjoying this small assembly on this little island.
The city of Charlotte Amalie—there are perhaps 10,000 people on the island—certainly got a witness, because all of the publishers from Puerto Rico, many of them being missionaries, witnessed along with the local brothers. They utilized handbills, placards, magazines, and some door-to-door work was done. Everybody in town had read in the papers that Jehovah’s witnesses would have a big gathering and the field service left no doubt in anyone’s mind. It was interesting to work with the publishers in the market place where on Saturday morning people come from all parts of the island with their goods to sell. The natives of the island are well acquainted with the truth, because the missionaries who have been there for four years have certainly made their presence known by their earnest endeavors to preach the gospel of the Kingdom, and they took all the magazines the publishers had to offer.
On Saturday the convention moved from the Kingdom Hall to the Charlotte Amalie High School. The high school was built many years ago on a small peninsula which juts out into the harbor. Its location is a favored one. The island of St. Thomas has one of the prettiest harbors you can find. While it is not the largest by far, it is almost a full circle of land with a comparatively small mouth, and it is very deep. The island is very hilly, which makes the land rise from the water’s edge right up to meet the clouds. Hotels and homes dot the hills, which are very green in the month of December. On some hills we could see the smooth surfaces of water catchments, for the Virgin Islands depend upon rain for drinking water. Yes, St. Thomas is a small green jewel in a setting of crystal-clear water—a tourist’s playground of the best type.
The fine location of the high school meant there were always cool breezes for the enjoyment of those attending the meetings. On New Year’s Eve, December 31, the public meeting was held and there were 320 persons present, a very fine number for that day of the year. They showed excellent interest and undoubtedly the witness work will continue to progress on this island and other islands of the Virgin Islands group. It was certainly a pleasure to be associated with all of these missionaries and the company publishers and local pioneers and to see their zeal. For some time in the Virgin Islands it was difficult to convince the brothers that Jehovah’s witnesses were there to stay, and they had a longing to hold back to the church organizations. But now they have pulled free from the churches and the brothers and sisters are getting baptized and going out in the field and making proclamation there, as all other witnesses of Jehovah are doing throughout the world. This, of course, has caused a disturbance among the churches because many of the good church workers have left.
On Monday morning, January 1, the conventioners who had come over from Puerto Rico were all assembled at the airport awaiting their chartered plane, a DC-4, and 54 persons traveled back to San Juan and they enjoyed a very pleasant flight. The municipally-owned Teatro Tapia in downtown San Juan—truly a beautiful opera house—had been engaged for a public assembly that afternoon. First, Brother Henschel talked to the publishers who had gathered at San Juan on New Year’s Day. There were 281 brothers there. Brother Knorr gave his public talk and the branch servant interpreted. There was a short intermission of fifteen minutes and then Brother Knorr spoke to the brothers again, on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. It was certainly a joy to have the opportunity to visit with the Puerto Rican brothers once more. Puerto Rico seems to be one of the junction points for traveling to South America and the islands of the Western Hemisphere. So it has been Brother Knorr’s pleasure to be with these brothers a little more often than with other branches.
Arrangements were made to fly back from Puerto Rico to the United States and this flight was effected on Wednesday, January 3, a rapid change from tropics to winter.
And so we see that the islands, through their inhabitants, cry out praise to their Creator, Jehovah God, as the theocratic expansion reaches out to affect even small portions of land that are but a speck on a map. It is a wonderful thing to see how the spirit of Jehovah has gone throughout the earth, operating in His witnesses, to draw to Him and the theocratic organization the ones who love righteousness and believe his promise of the new world. We are pleased that people of all kinds, all nationalities, are coming into line for the blessings of life and taking up the preaching of the good news. And as we see the good news stretch out to insignificant islands in these days of mighty world political powers we have good cause to rejoice, for we know that when the good news has been preached in all the world for a witness the accomplished end is sure to come.