Spreading Good News in Colorful Haiti
HAITI and the Dominican Republic share the tropical island of Hispaniola, which boasts the highest mountains in the Caribbean. A number of peaks reach well over 8,000 feet [2,400 m]. During the “cold” months, frost and thin sheets of ice may form on small ponds up in the highlands.
Mountains and valleys in the south of Haiti are covered with lush tropical forest. Elsewhere, the mountains are mostly bare, gaunt, often sharply chiseled—victims of deforestation. Were you to travel north or south, you would find Haiti to be picturesque. On some of the narrow, winding mountain roads, you would be rewarded with breathtaking, ever-changing panoramic views of the land and sea. You could see flowers in grand variety and brilliant colors everywhere.
The 8.3 million people in this colorful land are mainly rural folk of African origin. Though most have very little in a material way, they are kind and hospitable. For some 60 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have enjoyed taking the good news of God’s Kingdom to them and have been warmly welcomed.—Matthew 24:14.
Preaching in a Rural Town
One missionary’s experience on her first visit to a rural town was typical. She wrote:
“One day in March 2003, we went preaching in Casale, a small town about a half hour from Cabaret, our present missionary station, located 20 miles [30 km] north of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Witnesses had last preached in Casale in 1999, so we felt eager anticipation as we started our journey at 7:00 a.m. Twenty-two of us—almost our entire congregation—packed into two four-wheel-drive vans. Everyone was talking and laughing in excitement as we drove on steep dirt roads and came to a valley with many large trees. A river flows through the valley, and the town of Casale straddles it.
“The history of this quiet town goes back to the early 1800’s when some Polish soldiers who came to Haiti to help former slaves win independence settled in this fertile valley with their Haitian wives. A beautiful mix of people resulted. It is fascinating to see country folk with white skin, tan skin, brown skin, green eyes, dark-brown eyes, and so on.
“The person who answered the first door we knocked on was not interested. As we turned away, a man walked up the road to meet us. He wanted to know if we believe that there is a difference between Jesus and God. At our request, he got his Bible, and the Scriptural discussion that followed convinced him that Jesus is God’s Son and that Jehovah is ‘the only true God.’ (John 17:3) Many people invited us to sit down and talk with them. Some asked, ‘When will you come back and study the Bible with us?’
“At noon, we found a nice shady spot and got ready for lunch. Two sisters had cooked a large pot of fish. It was delicious! As we lingered, eating and talking, we also preached to passersby. Then, we crossed the river to the other side of the town. We enjoyed talking with these fine people who were sitting under the trees near their modest homes. How pleasant to note the sounds of children playing, women washing clothes in the river, and grandmas grinding coffee beans!
“It was soon four o’clock, and our happy group headed back to the vans to return to Cabaret. My husband and I truly enjoyed our first visit to Casale, with its welcoming and friendly people.”
Since the first Witness missionaries arrived in Haiti in 1945, the number of Kingdom proclaimers in this land has steadily increased, so that there are now some 14,000 engaged in preaching and in conducting more than 22,000 home Bible studies. They have touched the lives of the 59,372 people who attended the Memorial in March 2005 and have kept the good news of God’s Kingdom clearly in the public view. Consider the many ways in which the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses has affected people.
The Good News in Colorful Art
Most Haitians love color. They reflect this in their dress, in their painted houses, in the variety of flowers in their gardens, and in their artwork. Canvases painted in the vivid local style known as L’Art Haitien are on display on the streets all over Port-au-Prince. Buyers come from many parts of the world.
Vivid colors are seen not just on canvases. The streets of Port-au-Prince are alive with passenger vehicles called camionettes, or tap-taps, that are elaborately painted in imaginative designs. One often sees in such designs tableaux based on the Bible.
As you walk along the streets, a familiar scene—such as one of Adam and Eve in Eden—may suddenly come into view. Yes, there it is, painted on the rear window of the camionette that has just passed by. Scriptures or slogans containing the name Jehovah are frequently seen painted on these vehicles or included in the names of commercial enterprises.
Sharing the Good News in School
Young Witnesses in Haiti have fine opportunities to help fellow students learn about the Bible. The following report from a 17-year-old Witness girl is an example.
“A classmate approached me one day and asked what was meant by ‘fornication.’ Thinking that he wanted to get familiar with me, I ignored him. But when he asked a male student the same question, the whole class became interested. So the following week, after doing some research on the subject, I gave a presentation to the class, explaining why Jehovah’s Witnesses endeavor to be clean morally, spiritually, and physically.
“The students asked many questions and accepted the answers I gave from the Bible. Even the headmaster, who was hesitant at first, asked many questions and arranged for me to speak to other classes. I showed them the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work,* and many showed interest in it. The next day, I placed 45 books with schoolmates. Many quickly finished reading their copy, and some are now studying the Bible with Witnesses who live near them. One student who lives in my neighborhood now attends all the meetings.”
Using the Creole Language
The people and the land are colorful and interesting, and so is Haitian Creole, which combines French words with West African grammar. This is the Haitians’ mother tongue, the language of their heart. It is mainly in this language that Jehovah’s Witnesses carry out their ministry, and arrangements are in place to produce more Bible literature in Haitian Creole.
In 1987 the brochure Enjoy Life on Earth Forever! was translated into Haitian Creole, followed by the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life and then the brochure What Does God Require of Us? These publications have been of great help to new Bible students who want to gain a basic understanding of God’s Word. Beginning September 1, 2002, The Watchtower has also been published in Haitian Creole. French-language literature is still used, yet many prefer reading the publications in their own language.
Bringing the Good News to Those in Prison
Recently, Jehovah’s Witnesses have begun taking the good news to men and women in the State penitentiaries. The Witnesses doing this are happy to bring a message of consolation to those in this very sad situation. A Christian minister reports:
“On our first visit to one prison, the inmates were brought into a large room to meet us. We wondered how they would react. When we explained that we were there to help them understand the Bible, all 50 received us well. We presented the Creole editions of the brochures Apply Yourself to Reading and Writing and Enjoy Life on Earth Forever! and started Bible studies with 26 of them. Ten present were illiterate, but they showed interest when we demonstrated how to use the illustrations in the brochures as an aid to understanding the words.”
When the Witnesses returned, one man said: “I have read and reread the brochure. I constantly think of what it says, and I have been looking forward to your visit.” A man who was arrested for armed robbery said that he wanted to change, and he asked that someone be sent to study the Bible with his wife. A father of two who was in prison made the same request so that his wife could see the difference between true beliefs and false. A Protestant clergyman guilty of defrauding his church members of a large sum of money said that he had now found the truth and that after serving his sentence, he would help members of his church to become Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Another prisoner, lacking his own copy of the Require brochure in Creole, copied the entire text from a cell mate’s brochure and learned it by heart. A female prisoner started sharing with nine cell mates what she was learning, even studying with them. A male prisoner finished studying that brochure, and advancing to the Knowledge book, he began preaching to other inmates. Soon he was conducting Bible studies with four of them.
Mercony* used to study the Bible and has relatives who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. He encouraged other prisoners to read the Bible literature that his relatives brought him. He comments: “When I offer the literature to the prisoners, they call me Witness of Jehovah. I tell them that I am not, since I know what being a Witness means. I want to take this matter seriously now, to study and get baptized. When I was younger, if I had followed the course that my brothers did, I would not be here in prison.”
One of the inmates who had received literature from Mercony told the Witness who visited him: “Before you came last Monday, I was depressed and was going to take my life. But after I read the magazines, I prayed to God to forgive me for the bad things I have done and to send someone to show me the right way. How joyful I felt when you came the next day to offer to study the Bible with the prisoners! I would like you to teach me how to serve Jehovah.”
Awake! Brings the Good News to Many
The November 8, 2000, issue of Awake! featured the nursing profession. A woman obtained 2,000 copies, and she distributed them to the nurses attending a seminar in Port-au-Prince. The July 8, 2002, issue of Awake! with articles about the police and their work was widely distributed to policemen in Port-au-Prince. They appreciated this, and even now, some stop the Witnesses on the street and ask for more copies of that magazine.
Recently, an official of the World Health Organization arranged for a program to educate people about the problem of AIDS. She was invited to the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where she was shown information published in Awake! on the subject. She was impressed to see articles that discuss from the Bible the best way to prevent AIDS and how to help infected ones cope with their situation. She observed that Awake! is in the forefront in providing such information on the subject.
Yes, in many ways Jehovah’s Witnesses are spreading the Kingdom good news in colorful Haiti, just as they are doing in 234 other lands around the globe. Many are responding to this message of hope and are being helped to look beyond the present difficulties of life to a new world, where all who worship the true God, Jehovah, will enjoy perfect life in abundance.—Revelation 21:4.
The literature for which titles are given in this article is published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Name has been changed.
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Background: ©Adalberto Rios Szalay/photodisc/age fotostock