Spiritual Refreshment Comes to Curaçao
INHABITANTS of the Caribbean island of Curaçao know how refreshing a glass of cool water can be. The average temperature of the island is a warm 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius). Furthermore, the ever-present trade wind blows constantly from the east, usually at 16 miles (26 kilometers) an hour, and dries up the moisture. Consequently the island, for most of the year, looks quite dry. During its wet season, between October and February, Curaçao gets 65 percent of its light rainfall of only 23 inches (58 centimeters) a year. Nevertheless, the island is quite beautiful, and has been called a “paradise for nature lovers.”
The water supply for the island has been a problem. Water from the wells is salty or brackish. Nonetheless, Curaçao has one of the purest water supplies in the world, because distilled water is obtained from a distillation plant that was first built in 1929. The lack of water has also affected agriculture. In modern times it has not been possible to grow sufficient food for the inhabitants. Therefore, most of the food must be imported. Meat and butter are shipped in from New Zealand; cheese, potatoes and powdered milk from Holland. Canned goods and cereals are obtained from the United States; wheat from Canada, sugar and fruits from Venezuela. Economically, Curaçao is quite sound, because it boasts one of the largest oil refineries in the world, which handles petroleum from Venezuelan fields. Also, the tourist trade has flourished within the past 10 years.
Curaçao is a sort of crossroads of the Caribbean. It is located about 500 miles (800 kilometers) south of Puerto Rico and some 40 miles (65 kilometers) off the coast of Venezuela along what used to be called the “Spanish Main,” where pirates roamed and all kinds of trade and smuggling were carried on. Curaçao is a relatively small island about 40 miles (65 kilometers) long and four to eight miles (6.5 to 13 kilometers) wide, having less than 200 square miles (520 square kilometers) of land area. The population is about 160,000 persons, made up of many nationalities and languages.
For about 135 years, during Spanish rule, the Indian population was converted to Catholicism. In the year 1634, the Dutch conquered the island and sent many Catholic priests and the majority of the Indians to the mainland of South America. After this, slaves were brought in to work the plantations. Conditions were very bad for them, but a little relief was afforded by Jewish slave owners, who allowed their slaves to rest on their weekly Sabbath day. Catholicism, however, has the most adherents in the island (about 90 percent).
Just as the island’s dryness and the brackish water have made the water supply a problem, so the doctrines that have long been taught in Curaçao—Trinity, hellfire, purgatory—have not quenched spiritual thirst. But when the truth came to the people about God’s loving-kindness expressed toward mankind through his Son—that he is not a God of torment nor a grotesque ‘God in three persons,’ but is one God, whose name is Jehovah—then the spiritual thirst of Curaçao’s inhabitants began to be satisfied. Now many have progressed to understand the deeper things of God’s Word and the way of Christian living in love of neighbor.
At present 711 active witnesses of Jehovah are taking this water of truth to the people, each one, on the average, having 220 of the population to serve. And many more are accepting this refreshment and manifest it by studying and associating with the Witnesses. A total of 964 Bible studies is being conducted regularly in the homes of truth-seeking persons. Thus a greater number of mature teachers will soon be available.
BIBLE TRUTH REACHES TO REMOTEST CORNERS
Since the year 1930 the Watchtower and Awake! magazines have become known in every household in Curaçao. In fact, there are persons who receive these magazines in Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish, English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese and in some other languages. This reflects the cosmopolitan makeup of the population. Through the Witnesses’ diligent efforts, the refreshing news about God’s kingdom and its blessings for mankind has penetrated into every corner of the island. Until recently, however, there was one place—the prison—that proved impenetrable. When efforts were made to visit the inmates, the warden replied: ‘The priest is taking care of the Catholics in here and the parson is looking after the Protestants. You people don’t have anyone in here.’ So permission to visit was denied.
But, in 1976, a United States citizen from New York was apprehended with drugs while passing through Curaçao and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. One day this man was sitting in the prison reading a Bible when a guard who was studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses saw him and asked him if he understood what he was reading. The prisoner said that he was reading the book of Ezekiel. The guard brought to his cell the book “The Nations Shall Know that I Am Jehovah”—How? that discusses Ezekiel’s prophecy. By the time that the prisoner had read half the book he recognized it as the truth, so he wrote a letter to the Watch Tower Society asking for more information. A missionary from the Society’s branch office in Curaçao took the letter to the prison, asking for permission to visit the prisoner and to hold a Bible study with him. Permission was granted and the study went well for about a year.
In the interim, the prisoner had been talking to his fellow inmates about the Bible, and now 17 of them sent a petition to the warden asking him to allow them to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The request was denied. When the Witness went to the prison for the weekly study he was told by the guard at the desk that his permission to see his student had been canceled. He went home and phoned the warden and arranged to have an interview. At the interview the warden was quite upset. He said that both the missionary and the prisoner had been talking to others in the prison and had caused a problem, because the policy of the prison is that anyone coming into the prison with a certain religion has to leave with the same religion. But the Witness was not content to let the matter drop there. He got in touch with two members of the prison board, both of whom have been subscribers to The Watchtower and Awake! for years, and with the Minister of Justice, an Awake! subscriber. The result was that permission was granted for the study in prison to continue.
The Bible says: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) With this powerful Word at work now in every corner of the island, we look for an outpouring of even greater spiritual refreshment from God upon Curaçao’s populace.