Climbing to The Bottom of Saba
THE Dutch island of Saba once served as a stronghold for buccaneers who sailed the waters of the Caribbean Sea in search of plunder. Today, this tiny island, located 150 miles [240 km] east of Puerto Rico, is home to some 1,600 inhabitants, 5 of whom are Jehovah’s Witnesses. These intrepid ministers are searching for something far more valuable than plunder, however. They are diligently searching for people who are “rightly disposed for everlasting life.”—Acts 13:48.
The good news of God’s Kingdom first reached the island on June 22, 1952, when the 59-foot [18 m] schooner Sibia, operated by Jehovah’s Witnesses, anchored off Saba’s coast. (Matthew 24:14) Missionaries Gust Maki and Stanley Carter climbed The Ladder, a pathway of over 500 stone steps up to The Bottom, Saba’s capital.* For centuries, this narrow path was the only means to reach the island’s inhabitants.
The first published report of Christian witnessing work on Saba appeared in the 1966 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses. According to that report, there was only one active Witness on the island. Later, a family from Canada spent several years preaching the good news there. Recently, Russel and Kathy, a retired couple from the United States, went to Saba and shared in the preaching work there. Consider their story.
Visit to Saba
My wife and I arrive by plane as guests of Ronald, who was the island’s only Witness during most of the 1990’s. Our host is waiting for us at the airport. He is delighted with the small box of vegetables that we brought as a gift, since no commercial farming is done on the island. Boarding a small truck, we slowly zigzag up the side of Mount Scenery to the peak of this extinct volcano.
We stop at the village of Hell’s Gate while Ronald checks the public information board to see if an invitation for Sunday’s public talk is still posted. We are glad to see that it is. He hops back in the truck, and we continue our climb to the island’s largest hamlet, Windwardside. As its name suggests, this picturesque village is located on the windward side of the island, situated some 1,300 feet [400 m] above sea level. As we pull into the driveway of Ron’s cottage, we see a colorful sign on the front porch identifying it as a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
During lunch I raise the question that has prompted our visit, “How did you come to be a Kingdom proclaimer on Saba?”
“When construction on the Puerto Rico branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses ended in 1993,” says Ron, “my wife and I were interested in remaining in a foreign assignment. Earlier, we had visited Saba with another pioneer couple and had learned that there were 1,400 inhabitants but no Witnesses. So we spoke to the Puerto Rico Branch Committee about our moving here.
“One thing led to another, and we finally received approval to relocate. Sadly, two years later my wife became seriously ill, and we returned to California. Following her death, I came back to Saba. You see, I don’t like to start something and not finish it.”
House-to-House Witnessing on Saba
The living room of Ron’s one-hundred-year-old house doubles as a Kingdom Hall.* As we enjoy breakfast and prepare to go into the ministry, rain from a passing cloud dampens the open-air kitchen. After breakfast, we leave under scattered clouds for a morning of door-to-door witnessing in The Bottom. At each home, Ron greets the householder by name. Our discussion focuses on a recent local news event. Most people are familiar with Ron and his ministry, and many readily accept Bible literature.
Keeping a record of those who are interested in the Kingdom message can be a challenge if you are not acquainted with the villagers. Why? Because “the law requires that all homes are painted the same color,” says Ron. Sure enough, I look around and observe that all the houses on Saba are white with red roofs.
After concluding our Bible discussion, we invite the householder to attend the public Bible talk held on Sunday at the Kingdom Hall. When Ron is at home on the island, he gives a public talk every week. Presently, 17 Bible studies are conducted on Saba. Twenty people attended the Memorial of Christ’s death in 2004. And while that number may seem quite small, it represents 1 percent of Saba’s entire population!
Indeed, Jehovah’s Witnesses have spared no effort to reach as many people as possible with God’s message of salvation. Whether it is a tiny island like Saba or an entire continent, Jehovah’s Witnesses are faithfully carrying out the commission to “make disciples of people of all the nations.”—Matthew 28:19.
Sadly, our visit has come to an end. As we board our plane, we wave farewell. We will always remember our visit to Saba and the time we spent climbing to The Bottom!
It seems that pirates called it The Bottom because they thought it was at the bottom of a volcanic crater.
On September 28, 2003, volunteers from Florida, U.S.A., went to Saba and remodeled a building nearby, which now serves as the Kingdom Hall.
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