Why Réunion Has So Many Kingdom Halls
ABOUT 400 miles [640 km] east of Madagascar, the small island of Réunion rises abruptly from the vast Indian Ocean. Though only about 40 miles [60 km] long by 30 miles [50 km] wide, the island is noted for its volcanic domes and periodic fiery displays. The highest peak, at 10,069 feet [3,069 m] above sea level, is the extinct volcano Piton des Neiges (Peak of the Snows). In the southeastern part of the island is the 8,612-foot [2,625 m] active volcano aptly named Piton de la Fournaise (Peak of the Furnace). What a spectacular sight when it erupts at night! Many roads zigzag up and down precipitous slopes, providing breathtaking views of what has been called Réunion’s terrifying beauty.
Why So Many Kingdom Halls?
The true beauty of Réunion, however, lies in the way that many of the islanders respond to the “good news of the kingdom” proclaimed by Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Matthew 24:14) Their preaching work began in 1960, when two full-time ministers arrived from France. Now, 30 years later, 1,665 Witnesses are busy spreading the Kingdom message among the 582,000 inhabitants—a ratio of 1 Witness to every 350 persons on the island.
Such growth has required the building of suitable meeting places so that the Witnesses can carry on their worship and spiritual education. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Already, 13 of Réunion’s 19 congregations have built their own Kingdom Halls. Because of the frequent cyclones in this area, these are solid masonry structures that require considerable time—and expense—to construct. So how has it been possible to build such halls, since most Witnesses on this island earn average wages and have large families to support? In the words of the Bible, the answer is that ‘Jehovah’s hand is not short.’—Isaiah 59:1.
For example, consider how Jehovah moved the hearts of people to help with the construction of the Kingdom Hall in the little town of Saint-Louis, situated in the southwestern part of Réunion. When the plans were first approved, a young Witness told his masonry-class teacher that a Kingdom Hall was to be built by volunteer labor. The teacher not only volunteered his own services but also brought his entire class to the site to help dig the foundation. Later, he donated the steel needed for the foundation.
When over a hundred volunteers came together on a public holiday to lay concrete over an area of some 2,000 square feet [190 sq m], they were surprised to find that the town had turned off the water supply. How could they prepare the concrete without water? One of the workers who knew the chief of the fire department decided that he would explain the predicament to this kind man. A little later, a fire truck arrived at the site. The vehicle contained enough water for the project, and the fire department allowed it to remain there for the entire day! Understandably, all the volunteers were moved to put their whole heart into the work.
Jehovah’s help was evident in the way other obstacles were overcome. For example, at one stage of construction, the ceiling was ready for the 22 special light fixtures that had been ordered eight months earlier. But the company notified the brothers that the model they wanted was no longer being produced. What could be done? Would the whole design and the ceiling have to be changed? No, for just at the right time, the brothers heard of a local contractor who had similar lamps on hand for a project that never materialized.
“How many do you have?” he was asked.
“About 25,” he replied.
With no further delay, the lights were bought and installed.
As the project progressed, a person who had just started to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses was deeply impressed by the fine building.
“Tell me,” he asked, “is there anything else you need?”
“Yes,” replied one brother. “We need sound-equipment.”
With that, this newly interested person immediately took out his checkbook and donated nearly enough for a completely new sound-system. Such contributions, along with a generous loan from the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters in the United States, helped the congregation to complete this fine Kingdom Hall.
To cap all of this off, the Saint-Louis Congregation was delighted to have Brother Carey W. Barber, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, come and dedicate the Kingdom Hall in December 1988. Brother Barber was scheduled to come from the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, to dedicate the new branch facilities on the neighboring island of Mauritius. When the brothers in Saint-Louis heard about this, in just three weeks, they raised enough money to cover the airfare for him and a member of the Mauritius Branch Committee to travel from Mauritius to Réunion. Because of growth since then, the Saint-Louis Congregation has had to divide. Now, two congregations share the new Kingdom Hall.
To Jehovah Goes the Credit
What about the other congregations in Réunion? Because of the fine response to the Kingdom-preaching work, meeting attendance at the Kingdom Halls has been from 150 to 200 percent of the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses on the island. So it is clear why many Kingdom Halls are needed in Réunion. In fact, three more have been built since the one in Saint-Louis, and that has brought the total number to 13 for the 19 congregations on the island.
For all of this, the credit goes to Jehovah, who foretold: “The little one himself will become a thousand, and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time.” (Isaiah 60:22) As in other parts of the earth, this prophecy has come true on this beautiful island.