Jehovah’s Witnesses Around the World—Puerto Rico
BETWEEN the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean lies the lush, tropical island of Puerto Rico. Christopher Columbus claimed it for Spain in 1493 and named it San Juan Bautista after John the Baptizer. Its largest city was long called Puerto Rico, or “Rich Port.” In time, this name came to apply to the whole island, while the city came to be called San Juan.
Puerto Rico has proved to be a rich port in many respects. Much gold was shipped from here in the early years of Spanish rule. The island now exports sugarcane, coffee, plantains, and citrus fruits, although manufacturing and service industries account for much of the economy today. However, Puerto Rico has proved to be a rich port in a far more important sense.
The good news about God’s Kingdom began to be preached here in the 1930’s. Today, there are over 25,000 publishers of the good news in Puerto Rico. In 1993 the staff at this branch of the Watch Tower Society increased from 23 to over 100. This increase was necessary so that the branch could oversee the translation of Bible literature into Spanish, making such publications available to some 350,000,000 Spanish-speaking people worldwide.
A New Field
The branch office also reports: “A new field has opened up in Puerto Rico because we have been making efforts to take the Kingdom message to the deaf. One sister relates the following experience: ‘I was working among the deaf and visited a lady with two small children. When she realized that I was a Witness, she rejected me right away because her husband, who was also deaf, did not like Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“‘Some months later this same lady visited a friend who was studying the Bible with the Witnesses. She joined in and enjoyed it very much. I visited the lady again, and she repeated that her husband did not like the Witnesses. However, she wanted to understand the Bible and was tired of her church because they taught nothing. We started to study, using a tract. One day she told me to come back on Saturday because her husband would be there. “But he doesn’t like us, does he?” I asked. She replied: “He wants to find out what this is all about.”
“‘The next day both of them were knocking on my door! Since the husband had many questions, I invited them to our meetings for the deaf. He was there before I was and has not missed a meeting since then. He is preaching to other deaf persons, has attended an assembly, and is looking forward to baptism.’”
The branch report continues: “At our district convention this year, the whole program was presented in sign language, so many deaf people were in attendance with their families. A very emotional moment came during the final talk when the speaker mentioned the work being done among the deaf and said that about 70 were present. There was great applause, but, as the speaker noted, the deaf could not hear it. So asking the deaf to look at the audience, the speaker repeated the question, ‘Are you happy to have your deaf brothers here with you?’ and asked the audience to applaud by waving both hands. It was a wonderful sight to see 11,000 brothers and sisters applauding by waving their hands. Our deaf brothers and sisters were overjoyed and felt a part of the great brotherhood. Many shed tears of joy.”
As Jehovah’s Witnesses share in the harvest work in Puerto Rico, no doubt it will continue to be a rich port. God’s “sheep,” whom he calls “the desirable things of all the nations,” will keep coming in so that Jehovah’s house is filled with glory.—John 10:16; Haggai 2:7.
[Box on page 9]
1994 Service Year
PEAK NUMBER WITNESSING: 25,428
RATIO: 1 Witness to 139
MEMORIAL ATTENDANCE: 60,252
AVERAGE PIONEER PUBLISHERS: 2,329
AVERAGE BIBLE STUDIES: 19,012
NUMBER BAPTIZED: 919
NUMBER OF CONGREGATIONS: 312
BRANCH OFFICE: GUAYNABO