In the sun-fleckered Caribbean Sea, sweeping from the American Virgin Islands to Dominica some 350 miles (560 kilometers) south of Puerto Rico, lie the Leeward Islands. For centuries these tiny gemlike dots—Anguilla, St. Martin, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat and Dominica—remained unchanged in life-style. Yet, the search for treasure and power had its impact. Even before the arrival of Europeans, roving bands of Carib Indians overran the native Arawaks.
The first foreign salute to a warship of the infant United States boomed from the Dutch island of St. Eustatius in 1776. Sunbathed Antigua, haven for Admiral Nelson’s warships, was vital to British naval might in the Caribbean. And some say that it was limes from Montserrat, given to combat scurvy, that gave British seamen the nickname “limeys.”
Various cultural backgrounds are evident in these islands. For instance, there are the Norman-Bretons of St. Barthélemy with their frilled white bonnets, hardly changed since the arrival of their early forefathers. Then, too, there are the Dutch, French and Irish dialects—all reminders of early settlers.
FINDING REAL TREASURES
Today little material booty can be found on any of these islands, once famous for their treasures. But found here are certainly a lot of “desirable things”—people with deep appreciation for the Kingdom message.—Hag. 2:7.
Unlike explorers of the past armed with cutlasses and rapiers, early in the twentieth century courageous Christians began serving here with “the sword of the spirit,” God’s Word, in hand. (Eph. 6:17) They themselves sought real treasures, true understanding of the Scriptures. But they did not hoard these spiritual things. They gladly shared them with others on these scattered islands.—Compare Matthew 12:35.
About the years 1914 to 1920 travel was difficult aboard the schooners and steamships plying these waters. Dangerous reefs and violent storms were numerous. Moreover, after travelers reached one of these islands, they might have had to remain on it for weeks, even months, before a returning ship allowed them to continue their journey.
Despite these difficulties, however, a few persons in the Leeward Islands came in touch with the Kingdom message about 1914. How? Either through personal contact with Bible Students (as Jehovah’s Witnesses then were known), by receiving literature sent here, or by hearing such individuals as E. J. Coward give a witness in Barbados and Trinidad. W. R. Roch of Antigua recalls hearing Brother Coward speak (on the ‘second advent of Christ’) in the courthouse at Roseau, Dominica, back in 1914.
THE TRUTH REACHES MONTSERRAT
In a similar manner, Bible truth penetrated Montserrat, commonly called the Emerald Island because of the strong influence of its Irish settlers. It was on a street corner in Plymouth, capital of Montserrat, that James Lynch, a medical-shop keeper, could be heard in 1916 giving talks on ‘Christ’s second advent.’ Those who knew Lynch say that he was then over 60 years of age. About 1916, he developed a group, mainly of young men, with whom he studied the Bible in his home.
In 1919, the International Bible Students held a convention in Barbados. Among those present was W. H. Rock, then 19 and the only delegate from Montserrat. At that gathering, he met W. R. Brown and invited him to visit the island. Brother Brown did so with his new bride the very next year. Describing that visit, Brown wrote in later years: “In 1920 my wife and I were married, but there was work to be done. Two days after our wedding we left Trinidad for Montserrat with the Photo-Drama of Creation. We witnessed in Dominica, Barbados and Grenada, then returned to Trinidad. It was a joyful honeymoon in Jehovah’s service.”
The Photo-Drama of Creation (a photographic presentation regarding God’s purpose for the earth and man) was shown at a number of locations in Montserrat during the visit of Brother Brown and his wife. Edward Edgecombe, recently deceased, recalled one of these showings and said: “The lantern slides were excellently arranged and very encouraging to everyone. All were impressed with Brother Brown’s resource of facts and his ability to present them so clearly.” Brother Brown and his wife were quite busy during the visit, moving about and sharing the truth with many.
A START IN DOMINICA
On the way back to Trinidad in 1920, the Browns stopped in Dominica. Brother Brown had been there in 1915 and had placed volumes of Studies in the Scriptures with a businessman by the name of De Boin. He, in turn, passed them on to E. F. Dumas. Mr. Dumas read the books. His interest was aroused and he wrote the Watch Tower Society for a supply of literature to pass on to businessmen, the clergy and others. In the meantime, he wrote Brother Brown, inviting him to visit Dominica. The Browns stopped there in 1920 and the Photo-Drama was shown in a small hall.
Two years later, Brother Brown wrote to J. F. Rutherford, then president of the Society, saying: “By Jehovah’s help I have given the witness throughout the majority of the Caribbean islands and made disciples in many. Should I go over them again?” The reply he received said: “Proceed to Sierra Leone, West Africa, with wife and child.” So, early in 1923, Brother Brown and family embarked from Trinidad on the SS Orange Nassau, heading for their new home in West Africa, where he came to be known as “Bible Brown.”
Brother Brown’s zeal in declaring the Kingdom message in the islands had helped many. In the smaller islands of the Caribbean, first in Montserrat and then in Dominica, some had made joyful discoveries. They had found real spiritual treasures. But would they put these valuable things to good use and thus realize true blessings from their newfound spiritual wealth?
PUT TO THE TEST
A period of testing began here in about 1922. Some who had embraced Bible truth ‘buried their talents,’ so to speak, whereas others saw the need to invest. (Compare Matthew 25:14-30.) In Montserrat a division developed and all except Brother James Lynch followed a new group. It took real courage and strong faith to remain with the true Christian congregation, but Brother Lynch did so. He served faithfully until finishing his earthly course in 1926 at the age of 75.
Another 10 years would pass before the Kingdom message would again reach the shores of Montserrat. In the meantime, what was happening elsewhere in the Leeward Islands?
DEVELOPMENTS IN DOMINICA
First of all, let us see what was happening to the seeds of truth that had been planted in Dominica. It might be said that this is an island of “liquid sunshine,” for it has quite an unusual rainfall. In sea-level Roseau there is an annual average of 75 to 80 inches (190 to 200 centimeters), but this increases greatly with the rise in elevation. For instance, the yearly average is 360 inches (910 centimeters) at Fresh Water Lake, and the amount is undetermined on the highest slopes of Mount Diablotin, which rises to 4,747 feet (1,447 meters). But the precious waters of truth also began flowing in Dominica despite determined efforts to divert them.
Lennard Lee recalls the early 1930’s and the struggle to survive the bitter persecution leveled against true Christians in Dominica. Lee himself observed E. F. Dumas preaching on the street in Roseau, but he recalls that many treated Dumas very unkindly, even pinning donkey tails on him and throwing stones at him. A group of lawyers and other influential persons, including the jail keeper, formed what was called the Action Guild. They would come on the scene and warn Dumas that he would “get something” if he even mentioned the bishop’s name while preaching on the street. They threateningly waved sticks in Dumas’ face. Seeing the injustice of these actions, Lee investigated matters, and this led to his learning the truth.
In those days, Lee was working as a carpenter in the construction of a convent school. At certain times of the day the workmen were expected to make the sign of the cross. Although Lee did not then know all the reasons why this was wrong, he felt that it was improper and refused to do it. This cost him his job but strengthened his determination to stick to true Christianity regardless of the opposition he encountered.
Of course, the priests were bitter toward anyone breaking away from their control. This animosity was displayed in various ways. For instance, Lennard Lee recalls that on one occasion Mr. Dumas was having a house moved from one location to another. Men had been hired for this work, but a priest met them and ordered them to leave the job. Since they were Catholics, they obeyed him—and left the house right in the middle of the street! There it remained for several days until Dumas could get other men to finish the job of moving it.
In time, the town council passed a law requiring that all who desired to preach on the streets of Roseau had to obtain a license. Dumas refused. He was arrested while preaching and, upon conviction, had to spend two days in jail. As opposition to the Kingdom-preaching work continued, local witnesses of Jehovah got in touch with the Watch Tower Society’s branch office in Trinidad and were told that someone would be visiting Dominica that year. So it was that in 1934, as promised, a pioneer named Waldo Roberts arrived. In Roseau he found a group of 10 persons endeavoring to serve Jehovah. This visit resulted in the establishment of the first company (congregation) of Jehovah’s people in Dominica.
Just how active were these individuals in declaring the “good news”? Well, during what was called the “Kingdom Praise Period” (September 29–October 7, 1934) a report showed that there were 10 workers who gave 463 testimonies during 110 hours of field service. They placed 5 books and 145 booklets with those to whom they gave a witness. This, incidentally, was in addition to Brother Roberts personal service report. That nine-day period was a happy one, as it was marked by the first organized house-to-house witnessing work ever done in Dominica.
During that period, there was also a small group meeting for Bible study in La Roche, on the east coast of the island. So the waters of truth were becoming more than a mere trickle in Dominica. They were, in effect, welling up in readiness so that they might filter into all parts of the island.
TRUTH SPREADS TO ANTIGUA
At this point, we are going to do a little more island-hopping. So, for orientation, why not glance at the map accompanying our story? From Dominica look about 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the north. Skip over Guadeloupe and you should have little trouble finding Antigua. That is our next stop.
Around the mid-1930’s, the “good news” began to reach other islands in the Leewards. This was because zealous Kingdom proclaimers in Barbados and Trinidad were willing to move to new territories, one of these areas being Antigua.
Unlike Dominica, Antigua is affected by prolonged droughts. Why? Because it is almost mountainless, which is a factor contributing to an annual rainfall of only 42 inches (107 centimeters).
Compared with Dominica, where Catholicism is so strong, Antigua has a variety of Christendom’s leading religions. Predominant among these was the Anglican religion, although Methodists, Moravians, Roman Catholics and others came on the scene with the passing of time. But how did true Christianity reach this island?
In 1934, William Byam, an Antiguan who had learned the truth in Trinidad, returned to Antigua to spread the “good news’ on the island as a pioneer. Apparently, two Christian women from Trinidad also came to Antigua during that year. Their combined annual report indicates that they were quite busy in Jehovah’s service. They reported 1,008 hours in field service, 2,720 testimonies, the placement of many publications, as well as the holding of 20 congregation meetings. Reports of Kingdom-preaching activity in Antigua were received for four years thereafter, but then the work ceased as far as the records are concerned.
Nevertheless, some Witnesses today vividly recall that Brother Byam presented fiery truths from God’s Word on the street corners of St. John’s, the capital. For instance, Brother Donald Meade recalls: “Byam preached about the priests and the clergy and especially about their dress. He called them ‘long-gown men.’ I remember that he discouraged people from giving support to the clergy.” Brother William Tonge, now deceased, once reported that Byam “used to come to Pigotts every Tuesday and give lectures in the pasture.”
William Byam was a familiar figure walking from village to village, with a lantern in hand, giving sermons. Byam died in 1939, and it appears that for some time thereafter the only person declaring the “good news in Antigua was Brother Tonge, although he did not report any activity to the Society’s branch office in Trinidad. Nonetheless, seeds of truth had been planted and they awaited further watering.—1 Cor. 3:6.
GETTING STARTED IN ST. KITTS AND NEVIS
Now, please take another look at our map. Some miles to the west of Antigua are the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis. It was during the 1930’s and the early 1940’s that our work got off to a start in these islands.
During the early 1930’s the “good news” spread to St. Kitts, the mother island of the Caribbees, which had its first permanent English settlement in 1624. About 1932 a Dutch couple named Bennett visited the island and witnessed briefly, placing some Christian publications with the inhabitants. It was also in 1932 that Trinidadian E. P. Roberts (brother of Waldo Roberts, mentioned earlier) arrived in St. Kitts.
Some door-to-door witnessing work was carried on in St. Kitts in the 1930’s, and good results were forthcoming. Several individuals were baptized before Roberts left for Montserrat in 1936. After his departure, a group met for Bible study in the home of Edwin Saunders in Irish Town.
The Saunders family and Adina Day got our work off to a start in Nevis between 1939 and 1940. At that time there were four or five Kingdom publishers on that island.
TRUTH RINGS OUT!
Indeed, Scriptural truth was spreading in the Leeward Islands during the 1930’s. And, certainly, Jehovah was prospering our efforts to declare the “good news.” But, to round out our review of that decade, we would like to tell you about a particularly effective feature of our service to Jehovah.
In 1934 a new means of reaching the public was introduced in the Leeward Islands. At the time, the Watch Tower Society was producing recorded Bible lectures to be played on portable transcription machines. These recordings were used with great benefit here, for the people were not particularly inclined to read but were very eager to listen. So, much interest was aroused.
Before long, we were also using portable phonographs in our field service, even as Jehovah’s people were using them elsewhere. The relatively short four-and-a-half-minute recorded Bible talks that were played on these machines were received by many with interest and appreciation. We would call at the doors and people would invite us into their homes, where they could listen without a feeling of uneasiness, particularly in Catholic Dominica where the priests ruled by fear and threat over a predominantly illiterate populace.
The transcription machine served a good purpose at public gatherings. For instance, Sister Beatrice Pond, who then worked as a domestic servant in Plymouth, Montserrat, recalls open-air meetings in Salem. “The people would come out and hear and draw near,” she recalls, adding: “Some would say, ‘You had better listen,’ and others would remark, ‘Listen to that!’”
ANOTHER KIND OF REACTION
We must admit, however, that some brothers were not always very tactful in using the transcription machine. For instance, consider what happened back in June 1936 in Roseau, Dominica, during the Corpus Christi celebration.
There was a parade in the streets and some brothers thought that this would afford a good opportunity to give a witness. Hence, they set up the transcription machine on the second-floor veranda of a home and began playing their record that dealt with the “Holy Year. That recording really infuriated the crowd! A woman left the procession, ran up the stairs and tore down the loudspeaker, throwing it to the ground.
At that, a large mass of people charged the iron gates at the front of the building. A few brothers managed to shove large wooden shipping crates against the gates and thus hold off the crowd temporarily. In the meantime, the Witnesses fled to the backyard. But they did not succeed in evading the mob. One brother recalls: “We fought them and, of course, great tumult broke out.”
Although the bishop urged the police to arrest the brothers, the officers said that they could not do that because the Witnesses were on their own property. Because of this unfortunate incident, however, there was much opposition to the witness work for some time thereafter. In fact, the brothers even experienced stoning while going to meetings.
RESPONDING TO THE RING OF TRUTH
In general, however, the Bible talks recorded by the then president of the Watch Tower Society, J. F. Rutherford, were well received by the people. In fact, this was the way some of them first heard the good news.”
To illustrate: Charles Payne, a dusky native with a thick Irish brogue, first came in touch with the Kingdom message as it was being broadcast from a sound car in Montserrat back in the year 1936. A hardworking, hard-drinking mountain man who took pride in his carpentry, Payne hewed majestic cedars by hand and used the wood to make fine furniture for the more wealthy inhabitants of the island. Then a man of 31 and the father of two, he was the foreman of a construction group that was building a school in the northern part of Montserrat. He had discovered the Society’s book Deliverance in the kitchen of a neighbor and had taken it home to read. During a lunch-hour discussion on the job, a woman told Payne: “A man is preachin’ at the pierhead and payin’ folks two and six pence to join his religion.”
Payne had the opportunity to investigate this unusual report when E. P. Roberts called at his home while in the witness work. After obtaining a book, Payne asked Roberts if he was the man paying two and six pence to anyone who would join his religion. The mistaken report was corrected, an explanation of our work followed, and this led to Scriptural discussions with the Payne family.
Charles Payne was a lay reader and Sunday-school superintendent in the Anglican Church. Immediately, he began speaking about his newfound spiritual treasure. This was to cause him some difficulties, but he rode these out with firm determination.
Payne had entered into a contract to build a communion rail for one of the churches in Antigua. He was to be paid according to stages of completion. However, because of Payne’s zealous preaching, two Anglican priests sought to take the work away from him. They went to see Payne and, during the discussion, one of them said that he had received the second payment for his work. At this, Payne called the priest a liar and ordered both of them out of his yard.
Because of this, one of the priests brought a court action against Payne. In court, this priest insisted on being called “Reverend,” but Payne contended that the man was no reverend to him. The judge threatened to charge Payne with contempt of court if he did not refer to the priest as “Reverend.”
Payne answered: “I am in your hands to do with me what you like. But he is no reverend to me. If he wants ‘Rector,’ he can get it, but not ‘Reverend.’” Finally, the cleric said, “Go ahead, speak.” Payne was charged two guineas and costs, but in the end he was paid for building the communion rail as agreed. Sometime later, in the year 1939, Charles Payne and his wife were baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah God.
PERSEVERING DURING THE WAR YEARS
World War II brought special problems to Kingdom proclaimers in the Leewards. During the years of that conflict, there was a ban on the importation of the Watch Tower Society’s literature, and it was greatly felt. Nevertheless, Jehovah’s people in this part of the world kept busy with the publications they could obtain. They also used the transcription machine and phonographs wherever possible.
In St. Kitts, publications shipped to the brothers were held in the government warehouse. On March 20, 1944, these cartons containing the books Children and The New World, as well as the Watchtower edition of the American Standard Version Bible, were taken to a sugar factory. For what purpose? Instructions were given to burn the literature in the boiler furnace.
However, Brothers Franklin Nisbett and Arthur Henry were working in the factory at the time. Someone excitedly ran up to them and said: “Some of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ books are in the boiler room and it looks like they are going to burn them this morning!”
The two brothers left their work and managed to save almost a full carton of the American Standard Bibles and enough books for the congregation. In fact, many workers carried books home so that, despite efforts to destroy the literature, some did get into the hands of the people.
In Montserrat, where the ban also was in effect, two Kingdom publishers were doing what they could and were keeping in touch with the Society despite mailing difficulties. In Dominica, during the 1944 service year three Kingdom publishers spent 74 hours in field service and placed 94 publications, besides making a few return visits. True, the brothers in Dominica, St. Kitts and Antigua were in need of some spiritual assistance. Nevertheless, they persevered in Christian activity and sought to please Jehovah during those difficult war years.
NEEDED—A HARD FIGHT FOR THE FAITH
Why was spiritual assistance so vital? Because internal problems had developed in certain congregations. Indeed, faithful servants of Jehovah had to put up a “hard fight for the faith.”—Jude 3.
Some would not associate with the congregation in St. Kitts, for example, because of the conduct of the company servant (presiding overseer). He was replaced, but divisive factions continued and three groups met separately. In time, Franklin Nisbett was appointed as company servant, but help still was needed.
With the passing of time the internal problems in St. Kitts came to an end. In the meantime, however, it was not easy to remain faithful and to continue serving Jehovah. Brother Arthur Henry of St. Kitts says that the words of Psalm 72:4 enabled him to stick with the congregation of God’s people during those times of trial. According to the Authorized Version he then used, this text reads: “He shall judge the poor of the people . . . and shall break in pieces the oppressor.”
DISSENSION IN DOMINICA
In Dominica, the brothers in general were not sharing in the door-to-door witnessing work. At that time, Phillip C. Pemberton was pioneering in Roseau, and he and Lennard Lee were having differences with each other and with E. F. Dumas. All three were holding meetings in their respective homes and were sending the Society critical letters about one another. However, the Society would write back encouraging them to stop quarreling and get on with the Kingdom work.
Many of the brothers would remain at home because of these petty differences, although they witnessed in an unusual way. They wrote scriptures on blackboards posted at the front of their homes. Passersby could read these texts. This practice continued for some years, but was finally discontinued.
Brother Hodge Dominique recalls that there were arguments at times, and on at least one occasion there was no service meeting because of the strife. When Dumas left for the United States in 1943, Brother Lee cared for congregational matters. Recalling what happened, he states:
“Well, I saw in The Watchtower that others were going from house to house. So I said to the brothers, ‘We have only a gathering like other denominations unless we go out and do the work.’ They refused, so I left and placed another brother in charge and went up to La Roche to encourage them also. But they would not go along with the idea of witnessing from house to house.
“When Dumas returned, he said that he understood I had started the house-to-house work, and maintained that I was threatening his position. We discussed the matter and decided that I was to do the door-to-door work and that the others in the group were not to be bothered.”
Like other Witnesses, Brother Lee was stoned and beaten many times while witnessing in small Catholic villages around Roseau. About this time, his sister-in-law died, apparently of grief, just three weeks after being excommunicated from the Catholic Church for refusing to put Brother Lee out of her home when she was told to do so by a priest. Brother Lee’s wife, Lictina, was thrown out of her parents’ home because she refused to stop associating with Jehovah’s people. Nevertheless, Christian activity continued in Dominica.
At that time, the brothers in Roseau were meeting at a hall in a building owned by E. F. Dumas. He was opposed to witnessing from house to house. Also, he resented the fact that the Society had not upheld him in connection with the use of the transcription machine in the way that had provoked the riot in 1936.
In June 1947, Joshua W. Steelman came to Roseau as a servant to the brethren (now called a circuit overseer). As a result of that visit, the local congregation was reorganized for better Kingdom service. Two months after Brother Steelman’s visit, the Witnesses were forced to leave the building owned by E. F. Dumas, and they began meeting in the home of Brother Lee.
Dumas later wrote tracts justifying himself and mailed these to the brothers and the Society. In February 1948, Dumas was disfellowshiped from the Christian congregation. He died in 1957.
OUR ACTIVITIES IN ANTIGUA
Now, let us see what had been occurring in Antigua and its ward island of Barbuda, centers of British slave trade in the early nineteenth century. When E. P. Roberts arrived on the island in 1939, he found Brother Byam still preaching on the streets, but with little fruitage resulting from his efforts.
In time, Roberts, who had demonstrated much unselfish zeal in declaring the “good news,” started to misuse the precious things entrusted to him. For some years, he kept the brothers in fear, teaching that they were “gatherers of wood and drawers of water” and making them think that they should slave for him because he professed to be an anointed follower of Jesus Christ. (Josh. 9:23) He even referred to himself as a “prophet.” Roberts was disfellowshiped in 1948, but by Jehovah’s great mercy he was accepted back into fellowship with Jehovah’s people in January 1962.
From this brief résumé, it is evident that conditions were not very favorable to the advancement of Kingdom interests when Joshua W. Steelman visited Antigua as a servant to the brethren from July 2 to 5, 1947. However, in St. John’s he worked closely with the brothers in the field service, and he gave a spiritually upbuilding service talk before departing. At that time, Brother Steelman also visited congregations elsewhere in the Leewards.
From May 28 to 30, 1948, a fine assembly was held in St. John’s, Antigua. Five visiting brothers, along with one or two local speakers, put on the entire assembly program. Four individuals were baptized at that gathering. And a bicycle parade had been put on to advertise the public address “The Coming Gladness of All Mankind.” How pleased the brothers were to see 184 persons in attendance for that public talk! Indeed, the hearts of Jehovah’s people were stirred by the good things heard at that assembly.
True, the brothers in Antigua had been shaken somewhat by the trials they had endured. But, in the final analysis, their faith had been strengthened. In 1947 there were 26 active publishers in the St. John’s congregation. That year, 67 persons attended the Lord’s Evening Meal. However, in the year 1948, Memorial attendance was up to 91 at St. John’s.
‘NEW ERA’ DAWNS
With the coming of 1949, a ‘new era’ dawned in the Leewards. Emphasis began to be placed on spiritual assistance and training of Kingdom proclaimers. For instance, in February 1949 the first circuit assembly was held in Roseau, Dominica. Hodge Dominique (then the presiding overseer there), along with Peter Brown and A. E. Tharp from Trinidad, put on the entire assembly program. All present were elated over the fact that 76 persons attended the public talk despite heavy rains. Two individuals were immersed in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah God. Yes, the entire assembly was a success, and the brothers thanked Jehovah for his loving direction and the spiritual development then in evidence.
Lionel Williams, a beekeeper from Barbados, came to Dominica in 1948. The brothers really appreciated his help in connection with the service meetings and the Theocratic School. When B. H. Berry visited the island as a circuit overseer, Brother Williams accompanied him on an 18-mile (29-kilometer) journey over jungle-like paths and across rivers to organize a group of persons meeting at La Roche.
So, during the late 1940’s, there were fine developments in the work of Kingdom proclamation in the Leewards. Truly, a ‘new era’ had dawned. But before that decade ran out, the preaching work in these islands was bolstered by yet another development.
AID FROM GILEAD
Additional wielders of ‘the sword of the spirit, God’s word,’ began to enter the Leewards in 1949 after graduating from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. (Eph. 6:17) In fact, 1949 was a peak year for the entry of Gilead-trained missionaries into these islands. Brother and Sister E. F. Krueger and Brother and Sister L. M. Frazier arrived in St. Kitts, while Brother and Sister Wilfred A. Howlett went to Antigua.
What happy days those were! A typical reception was the one received by Brother and Sister Howlett upon their arrival in Antigua by steamer. Why, the whole congregation was waiting on the pier the morning they arrived, and they were greeted by smiling faces and open arms! In St. Kitts, the Kruegers and Fraziers found a fairly well-organized group of 15 dedicated Kingdom publishers. However, permission to enter the island had not been obtained from the local officials without difficulty. Strong opposition had come from the St. Kitts council members, many of whom were Catholics. Robert Bradshaw, then union representative on the council, argued that if others were allowed into the island, these missionaries should also be granted entry. Until his death in 1978, Mr. Bradshaw, who was premier of the state, was favorable toward the missionaries.
The goals of the new arrivals were to give personal training to the brothers in the Kingdom-preaching work and to help them congregationally. Hence, aid from Gilead was sure to produce some good results.
NEW “SAILORS” IN THESE WATERS
Buccaneers once roamed these waters preying on Spanish ships. It is said that these buccaneers originated on the island of Tortuga but had been former settlers of St. Kitts who had fled from the French. In fact, the name “buccaneer” seems to have originated with the seafarers’ custom of roasting meat over a fire or boucaner and selling the meat to passing voyagers. Different from the buccaneers of old, however, was a new type of “sailor” that appeared in these waters late in 1949. With these men came an exciting method of spreading the “good news” to the islanders.
On November 18, 1949, the Society’s 65-foot (20-meter) schooner Sibia set sail from St. Thomas and headed for St. Martin in the Leewards. On board were four preachers of the “good news”—Gust Maki, Ronald Parkin, Arthur Worsley and Stanley Carter. And, of course, the boat was loaded with many cartons of Bibles and Christian literature.
Details gleaned from the diary of Brother Parkin help us to relive the Sibia’s first voyage. Come aboard!
“We reach St. Martin on the evening of November 19, landing at the French port of Marigot. This is a French and Dutch island. Some young folks, burning with curiosity, meet us upon arrival and we are very happy that they can speak English. They listen to the Kingdom message attentively. Surprisingly, we learn that there already is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses on this island. We meet him four days later.
“He is George Manuel, who comes to the dock to greet us and spends the entire day with us in the field service. The people are hospitable and we enjoy some fine discussions. But the Seventh-day Adventist preacher certainly is not pleased with our presence.
“On November 25, we meet a Mr. Duchene, who shows great interest in the Kingdom work. Others, too, are interested and this causes quite a stir in the town. On the evening of November 27, Brother Carter gives an open-air public talk, and around 200 people attend. We answer many questions afterwards.
“On November 29, Brother Parkin gives a public talk out of doors, and around 250 persons come to listen. In an area called Columbier Brother Worsley gives a public talk the next day. A Mr. Flemming has let us use his yard for this purpose and furious priests threaten to excommunicate him. And that Seventh-day Adventist preacher has really become angry. Things are getting ‘warmer’ as we give more public talks, and the priest begins to warn his flock at morning Mass. But with the people the situation remains the same. They are still listening to the Kingdom message.
“By December 5 we have come to the Dutch side of the island, arriving at Philipsburg. We have to get government permission to give public talks, but our activities go well. After about two weeks we return to Marigot and hold some Bible studies.
“On December 25, we set sail for the British island of Anguilla. There is no transportation on the island at this time; so we must walk from place to place. But our efforts are rewarded as we spread the Kingdom message and place Christian publications. At Sandy Ground Village, Brother Carter gives a talk and around 100 persons attend.
“On December 31, we head back to Marigot, where we refuel. Then, it is back to Anguilla for more witnessing. By January 11 we have returned to Marigot, and the next day we leave the island of St. Martin behind, but with pleasant memories of our first witnessing voyage in the Leewards.”
GREATER USE OF BOATS
When the Watch Tower Society produced Bible-based motion pictures, the brothers manning the Sibia showed the films in various places. At times, the only way to run the projector was to use the boat’s portable generator. So the vessel was pressed into service in more than one way.
Those early days of witnessing by boat were filled with satisfying experiences as sheeplike ones were sought in these outlying islands. Yes, those days “were full of missionary work and joys of Jehovah’s service,” recalls Ronald Parkin. There were “blessings that cannot be described in words,” he says, exclaiming: “How good Jehovah is to let us have a share in this great harvest work!”
The Society’s boat Light eventually replaced the Sibia. This later vessel plied the Caribbean waters in a circuit including the Leewards and other southern islands until the year 1957. And, what were some of the developments during those years?
Well, in the early 1950’s a nucleus of Jehovah’s people had its start at South Hill, Anguilla, at the home of Eugene Bradley. In 1957, two special pioneers were sent elsewhere on the island—to a place called Stoney Ground. The Kingdom work continued to make advancement, and today there are 14 Kingdom proclaimers associated with the congregation in Anguilla.
It was on November 18, 1951, that the first baptism of a dedicated Christian took place in St. Martin. Two brothers were then immersed, George Dormoy and Leonce Boirard, the harbor master. Today there are two congregations with 100 Kingdom proclaimers serving in St. Martin.
So, partly due to the use of boats in spreading the “good news,” there has been Christian progress in the Leewards. As we look back to the days when the vessels Sibia and Light were used extensively in the Caribbean, we have some vivid recollections. For example, in those days the brothers used various methods to attract an audience. E. F. Krueger, deceased, once related how he would stand on the street playing his mouth organ until a good crowd gathered. Then he would take out his Bible and start giving a talk.
Of course, there were some humorous incidents too. Brother Parkin recalls: “I was giving a talk under a tree with a big gas lamp overhead. During the talk a rat chased another animal up the tree and they both dropped at my feet fighting. Then, Whoosh! They were gone, and after them half of the young people in the audience.”
At that time, the Society’s branch office in Trinidad was supervising the disciple-making work in the Leewards. So we feel justified in telling you what happened in conjunction with a talk to be given by one of the boat’s crewmen, Brother Parkin, at a public square in Trinidad. His subject was “Hell Is a Scare.” However, the newspapers announced it as “Hell Is a Square.” Well, 300 persons showed up for the discourse. Perhaps some were curious about the shape of hell. Was it really square?
OUR WORK GROWS
The Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work was growing in the Leewards during the early 1950’s. For instance, it was progressing in St. Kitts, that fertile island noted for its sugar and molasses production. In fact, the growth was sufficient to warrant the holding of the first circuit assembly in St. Kitts from November 17 to 19, 1950. Samuel McKenzie and Arnold Stoute, two more Gilead graduates who had recently arrived, shared in the program.
Soon Brothers McKenzie and Stoute took up their assignments in Charlestown, Nevis, where they found Brother Walter Joseph, his wife and two other persons proclaiming the “good news.” They started to hold regular meetings at the Joseph home, and the small group that had been organized as a congregation back in 1947 began to make notable progress.
In nearby Gingerland, pioneer Benjamin Smith was busy working with nine other publishers. However, the missionaries discovered that six of them were still attending services held by false religious organizations. So they were immediately dropped from the ranks of Kingdom proclaimers.
True, our work was making some advancement in such islands as St. Kitts. Obviously, however, there was need for further spiritual assistance and there was a great work ahead. So, could more be done to advance Kingdom interests in the Leewards?
BRANCH OFFICE ESTABLISHED
The year 1954 was an eventful one for Jehovah’s people in these islands. By early spring, the Watch Tower Society arranged for the speeding up of our work by establishing a separate branch office for the Leewards. This arrangement brought our activities under more effective supervision. Brothers Roy F. Bruhn and Kenneth Gannaway were sent here to care for the new branch. Under this arrangement, two new congregations were formed in Antigua, at All Saints and Pigotts.
Initial difficulties in housing the branch office at St. John’s, Antigua, were overcome with the aid of a local businessman. Despite pressure from his associates, he insisted that, as long as the Society wanted his building, it was available. So the new branch office had its start at that location. A little later it was moved from that building to a better one on the same block, and there the branch office, a missionary home and a Kingdom Hall remained for the next 14 years.
Milton G. Henschel, from the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, visited the Leewards from March 30 to April 1, 1954, and a three-day assembly was arranged in conjunction with that visit. The local Witnesses surely appreciated the fine Scriptural counsel provided during Brother Henschel’s assembly talks. Imagine, too, the joy of the brothers as a result of the unexpected showing of the Society’s film “The New World Society in Action”! Brother Henschel returned to the Leewards as zone overseer in 1962 and again in 1966.
GRADUAL EXPANSION IN EVIDENCE
At this point, perhaps some comparative statistics would help to show the progress of our work after the branch office was established in the Leewards. In 1954, field service reports came in from seven islands—Antigua, Anguilla, Dominica, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts and St. Martin. During that service year there were 193 Kingdom proclaimers and they devoted, 34,367 hours to the work of declaring the good news. Combined Memorial attendance was 303. Ten years later, during the 1964 service year, there were 396 Kingdom publishers reporting 114,047 hours in the disciple-making work. During that year, a total of 575 persons attended the Lord’s Evening Meal throughout these islands.
There had been some other notable developments during the intervening years. For instance, brothers aboard the Society’s boat Light had continued visiting the outlying islands until mid-1957, when the craft was sold and three members of the crew received assignments to missionary homes. For years now, the other crew member, Arthur Worsley, has been serving as a member of the Bethel family in Brooklyn, New York.
In 1957, Alban Joseph became the first native brother to enter the circuit work in the Leewards. Also, during the 1958 Divine Will International Assembly in New York city, Carlton Hull of St. Kitts was the first of three Leeward Islanders to graduate from Gilead School within a year’s time. In 1959, Gerald Christopher and Kennedy Phillip, both Kitticians, attended the School.
Jehovah continued blessing our efforts, despite the departure of some for England and the United States in quest of employment. Other ‘harvest workers’ arrived here to help with the work. For instance, in 1966 Brother and Sister Ernest Jackson, from the United States, took up their missionary assignment on Montserrat. Brother and Sister Paul Ondejko, Canadians, entered St. Kitts a year later. And, of course, the growing number of local Kingdom proclaimers carried on faithfully in their service to Jehovah.
CIRCUIT WORK PLAYS ITS PART
Ever since Joshua W. Steelman visited the Leewards as a traveling overseer back in 1947, this work has played a significant part in the advancement of the Kingdom-preaching work in these islands. So, permit us to tell you a little about this activity through the years.
During the early days of circuit work in the Leewards, the traveling brothers often carried along little folding beds and did their own cooking, since their humble fellow believers simply could not accommodate them. Particularly in Dominica was travel extremely difficult. So, in those days, no circuit overseers were married men. Not until 1956 were Roseau and Portsmouth linked by road. Even then, because of the winding roads, it would take nearly two and a half hours by auto to cover the more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) between these cities, although the actual distance is but 20 miles (32 kilometers). One observer remarked: “The island is such a mass of peaks, ridges and ravines that in proportion to area it is more rugged than Switzerland.” Patois, a broken French dialect spoken by nearly 70,000 inhabitants, presents yet another barrier for Bible truth to overcome.
When visiting Dominica, it was over rugged mountain trails that circuit overseers often had to walk from one town to another. Fred Snow’s stamina and zeal moved him to strive to better his previous travel time during each visit as he walked from Grand Bay over Paix Bouche Mountain to La Roche.
Over the years, of course, many brothers have shared in circuit work throughout the Leewards. We cannot possibly recount all their experiences. But one thing is certain: Their efforts have been appreciated.
Looking back to early visits of circuit overseers to Dominica, Hodge Dominique remarks: “When I used to get a letter from the Society stating that a brother was coming to visit us, we would stay by the pier until well past eleven o’clock at night looking out to sea for boats. There was a French boat they used to come on often in those days before the Society opened a branch office in Antigua. I remember how the circuit servant was always so happy to see us, and I would take him right to my house.” Indeed, such appreciation, close association and resulting interchange of encouragement have through the years benefited both traveling overseers and those they have visited.—Rom. 1:11, 12.
In the late 1950’s, airstrips began appearing at the edge of jungle-like areas on most of the islands, and this resulted in greater tourist trade. However, it also enabled circuit overseers and their wives to travel between islands in minutes. This certainly was much better than waiting for weeks, and sometimes months, for the two boats serving the island chain.
Also, with financial aid coming from Britain, Canada and the United States, improvements began to be made on the islands in connection with the electricity, water and roads. Naturally, these developments benefited the people in general, including the local Witnesses and the traveling overseers.
CHANGES IN LIFE-STYLE
The passing of time has brought many changes to these islands and their inhabitants. Yet, nothing has affected the lives of people more than the Word and spirit of Jehovah God. As the Kingdom message has been spread here, ‘desirable ones’ have been found and have taken a stand for Jehovah. (Hag. 2:7) By nature, many of these islanders are cautious, though friendly. Some, while being shy like the original Carib inhabitants, are changing their attitude and accepting home Bible studies.
Every part of our territory, each isolated village, has become important to us as we have declared the “good news.” For instance, some 400 descendants of the Caribs inhabit a reservation in the Gaulette River area on the Atlantic side of Dominica. These people still hand-shape dugout canoes once used for war but now sold to outsiders for use in fishing. Yes, the Kingdom message has reached these descendants of the Caribs and has affected their lives in a good way. What a delight it was to see the first two of these people get baptized during the 1970 service year!
Encouraging, too, is the fact that younger brothers and sisters have enthusiastically accepted responsibility and have reaped Jehovah’s blessing. For example, in recent years several of these younger individuals, like earlier proclaimers of the “good news” in these islands have organized interested persons into small groups in scattered villages. Such work has had a tremendous strengthening effect on the central congregations, particularly in Antigua, St. Kitts and Dominica.
BUILDING WITH A VIEW TO THE FUTURE
Besides changes in life-style, in recent years the very contour of these islands has changed. Mechanized giants have gouged out huge sections of land for housing developments and swank hotels. But Jehovah’s Witnesses also have been building with a view to the future.
Back in 1966, with the continued expansion of our work, a problem developed in connection with housing the branch office and missionary home, then located on the second floor of a rented building in St. John’s, Antigua. A sincere effort to locate more suitable living quarters and branch facilities was undertaken that year. This effort, too, had Jehovah’s blessing. Accordingly, in November 1966 a piece of land was purchased in St. John’s, and there a fine two-story building was erected by the Society. On the ground floor is a spacious Kingdom Hall, as well as literature storage and branch office facilities. Comfortable accommodations for up to eight missionaries were provided on the second floor. The building was dedicated on January 26, 1968, during a zone visit by Robert W. Wallen of the Society’s headquarters staff in Brooklyn. Over 200 persons were present on that happy occasion.
Yet, that has not been the extent of our work of building with a view to the future. In various parts of these islands Jehovah’s people have constructed fine places of worship. Today Kingdom Halls are owned by all but two congregations in the Leewards. One of the largest halls, which seats 500 inside with provisions for overflow, was constructed during 1976 by the brothers in Antigua.
STRONG BONDS OF CHRISTIAN LOVE
Today, true Christians in the Leewards have no reason to feel that they are isolated islanders far removed from fellow believers in other parts of the earth. Rather, they can sense the bond of love and the closeness characteristic of Jehovah’s people earth wide. (John 13:34, 35) Doubtless many factors contribute to this attitude, but it seems especially fitting to mention one of them.
The brothers and sisters on these islands have been greatly stimulated spiritually by visitors from Brooklyn headquarters. For instance, back in November 1968 we were very much encouraged by the first visit of Brother N. H. Knorr, then president of the Society. The 281 persons present to hear his talk were given the opportunity to see themselves in the “mirror” mentioned by the disciple James. They were urged to ‘accept with mildness the implanting of God’s word,’ and were helped to see themselves in the light of the dangerous times in which we live. (Jas. 1:21-24) Thereafter, a group of about 20 to 30 brothers and sisters lingered for an hour at the airport under a canopy of tropical stars while engaging in warm discussion as Brother Knorr waited for the plane that would take him on the next leg of his trip to Caribbean and South American branches.
We have also been upbuilt greatly during recent visits by members of the present Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Brothers Lloyd Barry, Albert Schroeder and John Booth all visited St. Kitts and Antigua during the month of August 1976. Brothers Barry and Schroeder took an evening out of their busy schedule to fly to St. Kitts. That evening, with less than an hour left before they were to address an audience, the visitors expressed their desire to sample the territory. Doubtless you can imagine the joy of the local Witnesses and their guests as they walked off into the evening dusk and shared in witnessing to the islanders. Just a little later the brothers were delighted when 375 persons gathered to hear the encouraging talks given by the visiting brothers.
John Booth served a district assembly in the Leewards toward the end of August 1976. But other brothers of the Governing Body also have visited us. In October 1976 Lyman Swingle spent two days encouraging the brothers in Dominica. E. C. Chitty paid us a zone visit in 1977, as did Daniel Sydlik in 1978. So, it is not surprising that the brothers and sisters in the Leewards feel close to their fellow servants of Jehovah at the Society’s headquarters. And, surely, God’s people in these islands treasure the bond of Christian love that unites them with worshipers of Jehovah earth wide.
“VICTORIOUS FAITH” INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION
How thrilling it was for the brothers and sisters in the Leeward Islands to host the “Victorious Faith” International Convention held from August 23 to 27, 1978, at St. John’s, Antigua! They were delighted that the delegates included brothers and sisters from Sweden, England, the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. The peak assembly attendance was 1,717, and 35 persons were baptized.
Most encouraging to the missionaries, and attesting to the spiritual stature of the local brothers, was the fact that the entire operation of the assembly was handled by Leeward Islanders. Brother Karl Klein of the Governing Body served the assembly, and a number of members of the Brooklyn and London Bethel families shared in the program.
EVER REJOICING IN JEHOVAH’S SERVICE
“Should I go over them again?” wrote W. R. Brown to Brother J. F. Rutherford in 1922 after having made disciples in these lovely islands. Brother W. R. Brown was then sent elsewhere, but in the years since then many others like Brother Brown have ‘gone over these islands again and again,’ and many precious ones have rallied to Jehovah’s house, serving him in faithfulness. (Isa. 2:2-4; Hag. 2:7) But what of the future? The prospects are excellent! Today there are 716 Kingdom proclaimers in the Leewards. At the Lord’s Evening Meal on March 23, 1978, there were 1,594 present in the 18 congregations and two isolated groups.
In reviewing the years of Kingdom witnessing in the Leewards, it is apparent that an inerasable record of faithfulness is in evidence. We have enjoyed Jehovah’s great love and patient direction through the “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45-47) And, we are joyful in God’s service. Until he says the work is finished, true Christians in the Leeward Islands will continue rejoicing as they spread the grand news: “Jehovah himself has become king! Let the earth be joyful. Let the many islands rejoice.”—Ps. 97:1.
[Map on page 176]
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ST. MARTIN (Neth. and Fr.)
ST. BARTHÉLEMY (Fr.)
ST. EUSTATIUS (Neth.)
ST. KITTS (Br.)
[Picture on page 188]
The “Sibia,” a schooner once used to spread the “good news” throughout the Leewards and elsewhere in the Caribbean