Good News Reaches “the Most Distant Part of the Earth”
JUST before Jesus ascended to heaven he told his disciples that they would be witnesses of him “to the most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
Jesus meant, of course, that the good news of the Kingdom would be preached everywhere, even in lands farthest from Jerusalem. This is now being done. But in some areas there are obstacles greater than distance to overcome to get the good news to people. These are mountain fastnesses, jungles and places accessible only by one’s undergoing dangers from snakes, insects, bandits, and even the elements.
One of these lands is Honduras. This largest of the Central American republics (43,277 square miles [111,687 square kilometers]) lies across the 15th parallel, north of the equator. It is bordered on the west by Guatemala and El Salvador and on the south by Nicaragua. Columbus “discovered” the country in 1502 and gave the land its name, which means “depths,” apparently because of deep waters offshore. Most of its coastland is on the Caribbean Sea, with a small strip on the Pacific Ocean. The coastal plains are tropical, but the interior is very mountainous.
Honduras’ forests are rich in mahogany trees, while the coastal plains support huge banana plantations. Three million people live in this beautiful country, nearly 70 percent of them in more than 10,000 small villages and in isolated dwellings.
The Roman Catholic religion has been predominant in Honduras since the sixteenth century. Some Protestant sects have since come in. Accordingly, the people of Honduras have been taught that there is a Christ, a heaven and a hell, and that they should pray to the “saints.” But there has been very little knowledge of the Bible, and thousands could not read. It was a monumental task, therefore, that faced the first missionaries of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who arrived in 1946. To get the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom to the people meant the missionaries would have to speak to the people in their own language.
These first missionaries landed in the capital city Tegucigalpa and accepted the challenge. It called for perseverance and the sacrifice of many comforts.
The missionaries began their work with the people in the more populated places, notably Tegucigalpa. They found many persons eager to hear the good news of the Kingdom. But the real problem to tackle was that of reaching the hundreds of thousands living in distant places.
BIBLE BROUGHT TO MANY WHO HAD NEVER READ IT
One of the primary needs was to get Bibles into the hands of the people. In 1967 the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in the Spanish language was released at a cost well within the reach of the Honduran public. In that year, nearly 3,000 of these Bibles were put into the hands of the people.
The power of the Word of God as the people began to understand it is demonstrated by the fact that by 1968 a thousand persons had taken up the proclaiming of the good news! Now the missionaries had help so that they could turn their eyes toward reaching the more than two million people in isolated places who had not heard the message of truth. One obstacle was that there were so many new and inexperienced, though zealous, ones. These had to be trained. So an intensive program of home Bible study was instituted. The book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, introduced in that year, enabled those studying to get a quicker and stronger grasp of the Bible’s primary doctrines and principles.
At the conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the world, the call was made for some years for persons who desired to serve “where the need is greater.” Those whose circumstances permitted were invited to write to the branch headquarters for Jehovah’s Witnesses in these lands for information as to housing, living conditions, possible jobs or occupations, and so forth. ‘What will be the response?’ was the question in the minds of the Honduran missionaries.
Their answer came, particularly in 1968. From June to September of that year, 450 persons wrote to Honduras from twenty-four countries. In the next two years more than sixty families had selected Honduras as their new home. At the present time there are one hundred people from other countries proclaiming the good news in Honduras. Twenty-three of these are in the full-time preaching work. The people who thus voluntarily took up this work to help the people of Honduras to learn more about God and his Word had to have a real desire to serve God and a large share of love and patience, because taking this step meant learning a new language and bringing up their families in a new way of life.
OUTLYING ISOLATED PLACES REACHED
The real push to expand the spread of the message to outlying districts began in 1971. Congregations had by now been established in strategic places throughout the country. These were assigned wider territories. Rivers and mountains were used for boundary lines. Then, in 1972, at a series of small “circuit assemblies” in selected parts of the country, maps were provided for the congregations, and sections never before visited were assigned. The congregations organized carloads, even busloads of Witnesses for weekend sorties to call on every home in the territory, no matter how isolated.
The workers received a fine, warm reception from the people. Some offered mules and horses to transport the Witnesses to places difficult to reach. Others wanted to donate property, materials and labor to build Kingdom Halls in their communities, so that they could gather for Bible study. Often entire villages opened their homes and begged the Witnesses to stay and teach them. Several Catholic and Protestant lay leaders were among the first to accept the truth, despite opposition from their clergy.
It took endurance on the part of those who carried out this work of ‘hunting out’ the ‘sheeplike’ persons scattered in these untouched areas. Some spent days climbing mountains, exploring vast areas in search of homes. They slept where darkness found them. Almost every form of transportation was used, foremost being just plain walking. And distances, rivers, mountains, torrential rains and insects were not the only problems. Illiteracy was a big obstacle. But by the Witnesses’ patience, and due to a burning desire on the part of the people to understand the Bible, many learned to read and write. Then there was the moral problem. Couples were living together unmarried, in a mere consensual relationship. But the sincere seekers for truth saw the need to have a good conscience and to be clean in order to render acceptable worship to Jehovah, the God of the Bible, and these had their marriages legalized.
The quick response of these people is illustrated in the case of a Pentecostal lay preacher. He obtained the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life while visiting in the city. On another occasion one of Jehovah’s Witnesses showed him how Bible studies are conducted with the help of this book. On returning to his isolated village the man began preaching from house to house, soon conducting several Bible studies. When, later on, a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses visited the village to preach, they were very much surprised to have people welcome them with the greeting, “We are already studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses and have been expecting you.” Others would say, “Jehovah’s Witnesses here have convinced us that your religion is the true one.” When they located the source of all this preaching and teaching, they found the former Pentecostal lay minister, who had taken a strong stand for Bible truth, and consequently had stopped the former habit of heavy drinking and had effected a complete separation from the woman with whom he had been living immorally. In this village 320 persons attended a public talk.
Is the interest of these people in learning about God merely a superficial and passing emotion? The answer is clearly seen in the deep love they show for one another. When hurricane Fifi struck the Caribbean coast in September 1974 they quickly came to the aid of their fellow Witnesses and interested persons, relatives and any others they could help during this tragic period. One family of twenty-three members lost their two homes, garage and workshop in the disaster. Only two of them were witnesses of Jehovah. Nevertheless, the Witnesses in the community took them all under their wing. They housed, fed and cared for this dispossessed family for five months, obtaining new land and building new homes for them. Nineteen other members of the family, seeing this evidence of Christian love, have since started to study the Bible.
So Jesus’ words that the good news would be preached in all the inhabited earth are being fulfilled, and the work goes on apace in Honduras. Several of the Caribbean islands are also cared for by the Honduran branch office. Among the peoples there are English-speaking groups, a group of African descent that speaks the Moreno dialect, some Arabic- and Chinese-speaking people, and the Sambo Indian tribe living in a jungle area.
Much is yet to be done. But at present there are more than three thousand active proclaimers of God’s kingdom in Honduras. Nearly fifty congregations own the Kingdom Halls in which they meet, and the prospects are bright for much further expansion in every way. The basis for such an outlook is in the fact that, on March 27, 1975, 12,092 persons attended the celebration of the Memorial of Christ’s death. This is more than three times the number of active Witnesses in the country.
Certainly there is reason for the comment by those responsible for the work there that Honduras is breathtakingly beautiful, but its real beauty lies among its fine people, thousands of whom are zealously responding to the good news about the Kingdom rule of Jesus Christ that will soon make Honduras, and indeed all the earth, a paradise.—Rev. 21:3, 4.