Bearing Fruit in the “Isle of Spice”
IN THE warm, sparkling waters of the Caribbean Sea is the tiny “Isle of Spice.” Otherwise called Grenada, it is only 120 square miles (311 sq km) in area. Why, even with its island dependencies, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, the total area is a mere 133 square miles (344 sq km). Grenada earned the nickname “Isle of Spice” because of the prevalence of aromatic spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, tonka beans, and nutmeg.
From north to south, the island is traversed by a mountain range that drops steeply to the sea, especially on the western side. Rivers and streams of clear water course down to the sea, and lush tropical forests abound. During the dry season, the slopes and narrow valleys are covered with bright red and yellow flowers of the wild immortelle and poui trees. This colorful spectacle is enhanced by a variety of such flowering plants as the bougainvillea, hibiscus, snow-on-the-mountain, and the highly scented ‘belles’ of the night.
An outstanding feature of Grenada is its palm-fringed seacoast, edged with beautiful white, sandy beaches. The economy has traditionally been supported by the export crops of bananas, cocoa, and nutmeg, supplemented by tourism and significant sums sent by relatives who have migrated to such places as Aruba, Curaçao, England, Trinidad, the United States, and Venezuela. Grenada’s 112,000 friendly inhabitants have a ready smile and a knack for turning abbreviated remarks into witty topical commentaries.
Planting Seeds of Truth
The seeds of truth were planted on this colorful island during 1914, the year World War I broke out. A Grenadian, Elias James, then returned from Panama. As a migrant worker there, he had accepted the message of God’s Kingdom and had become a dedicated, baptized minister. He was eager to sow the seeds of truth among the friendly people of this spice isle. Before long, he contacted one Mr. Briggs, a Barbadian residing in Grenada. Briggs quickly embraced the Kingdom message, thus becoming the first fruitage in the “Isle of Spice.” Seeing the need for a meeting place, Briggs made the first floor of his house available as the first meeting place of Jehovah’s people in the capital city, St. George’s.
Being a devoted minister and an eloquent speaker, Elias James assisted many sincere people. Among them was his sister-in-law, Chriselda James. Today, at 88 years of age, she is the only person on the island professing to be an anointed Christian. She raised a family of nine children, and despite her husband’s persistent opposition, all nine became baptized Witnesses. Three have since died, but the others are still active ministers, with two in the pioneer service and one serving as a special pioneer and an elder.
By the time Elias James finished his earthly course, he had made a solid pioneering contribution to the planting of the seeds of truth in Grenada. Today, there are six congregations there and one on Carriacou, with a peak of 353 Kingdom proclaimers.
During the years of slow but steady growth, loyal Witnesses have lived through various political changes—from crown colony to statehood to independence from Great Britain in 1974. During that period, there was no marked opposition to the good news, and people were generally willing to listen, if at times only out of politeness. In 1979 a change in political attitudes among some led to a revolution that brought into power the People’s Revolutionary Government. Although many felt that religious activity would be controlled by the new socialist-oriented government, this did not happen, and the work of producing Kingdom fruitage moved ahead.
A dramatic change occurred on October 19, 1983, a date that Grenadians will remember for a long time. The RMC (Revolutionary Military Council) then took control of the government. Several government officials were gunned down along with an undisclosed number of civilians.
This was quickly followed by the imposition of a 4-day, 24-hour, shoot-on-sight curfew. These turbulent events, a new experience for the peaceful islanders, generated widespread fear and uncertainty. Since all were confined to their homes, great hardships were experienced, especially by the sick and the elderly.
Early on Tuesday morning, October 25, 1983, many Grenadians were awakened by the unusual droning of planes, punctuated by loud explosions and the staccato outbursts of heavy gunfire. Later, by means of the local radio station, they would learn that foreign forces had landed on the island. The combined forces of the OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States) and the United States Marines had militarily intervened, reportedly after the Governor-General had appealed for help. Within a few hours, both airports (Pearls and Point Salines) came under the control of the Caribbean and United States forces. By midmorning, Grenada became the center of international news.
Fierce fighting broke out between the foreign forces and those loyal to the RMC. However, this was mainly in the St. George’s area. Many people there spent those turbulent days under their beds. Some were even too afraid to go to their kitchen to prepare food for their family. Happily, none of Jehovah’s Witnesses on the island were injured during the fighting. A few, however, came perilously close to death.
Christian Courage Amid Turmoil
One female Witness had what a local elder described as “a close shave with death.” He reported: ‘This sister sought refuge in her neighbor’s house, where she felt she would be more secure. She and the other occupants heard shots being fired from a hill overlooking the house. The U.S. marines started to fire at the house, believing the shots had come from it. All in the house quickly dropped to the floor. When there was a lull in the barrage of shots, the owner of the house nervously rushed outside with a white bedsheet in his hand. All in the house followed him outside, including our frightened sister. While they were standing in the yard, another burst of shots was directed at them, but this time from the hill where the firing had started in the first place. Amid the hail of bullets, the marines quickly dragged all of them away to a safe place. Remarkably, no one was hurt. The marines later told them that they were very fortunate, as they were just about to blow up the house, thinking the soldiers of the RMC were inside and were firing at them. When all the excitement had died down, our dear sister discovered a two-inch (5-cm) piece of thorn in her foot. She had not even felt the pain when it pierced her flesh!’
While the fighting was going on, another elder’s five-year-old daughter fell inside the family home and fractured her left arm. It was impossible to get medical help at that time. All the parents could do was to give the child some tablets to ease the pain. When things had calmed down several days later, they took the child to a bone specialist. Upon examination, it was found that the fracture was multiple. However, the bones were already back in place, and the healing process was well under way without any complications. Needless to say, the concerned parents were overjoyed.
Much to her surprise, one frail sister found out just how strong she was physically. Her husband, a diabetic of over twice her weight, became unconscious and fell to the floor sometime during the curfew. She was the only adult in the house and was unable to get outside assistance. So, what could be done? She reported: “I cried out to Jehovah and appealed for help. I can honestly say that Jehovah heard my earnest plea. With some strenuous effort, I was able to get my husband off the floor into a sitting position until he regained consciousness. I could only say that the strength I got there and then came from Jehovah.”
During the brief, though intense, fighting, the appointed elders had many opportunities to prove themselves ‘places of concealment from the rainstorm.’ (Isaiah 32:1, 2) To provide physical help and spiritual comfort, they risked their safety and even their life while visiting many brothers, especially in areas where there was fierce fighting.
One elder and his family were among hundreds evacuated from their homes and placed in a refugee camp. They had to endure the deafening explosions from the big guns. One such explosion literally threw the elder, his wife, and their daughter to the ground. When asked how he was able to keep calm during that ordeal, he said: “My fearlessness and calmness were a result of years of deep study of God’s Word, which built me up and prepared me for such an unusual situation.” Thus, this elder was able to calm and console the Witnesses in that camp.
A few weeks later, with the U.S. and Caribbean forces in control of the entire island, an interim administration was established. This provided a somewhat stable period for holding a general election. It took place on December 3, 1984. Under the New National Party led by the Prime Minister, Herbert Blaize, the turbulent past seems to have faded, and many are looking forward to a bright future.
Strengthened for the Work Ahead
Recent events have served to strengthen all of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Grenada. They have experienced Jehovah’s saving power and are determined to intensify their Kingdom-preaching efforts. Many sincere and honest-hearted people who are showing keen interest in the Kingdom message were among the 914 present for the celebration of the Memorial of Christ’s death on April 4, 1985. For each of the 350 Witnesses on the island, about two interested persons were in attendance on that occasion. What fine potential for future growth!
The natural beauty of Grenada gives some hint of what the promised Paradise earth will be like. Such a global Paradise is an assured promise of earth’s Creator, Jehovah. Soon the righteous “will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Psalm 37:10, 11, 29) All of Jehovah’s Witnesses are happy and anxious to share this thrilling message of hope with fellow Grenadians throughout this “Isle of Spice.”