PICTURE yourself in the West Indies, on a small island south of Guadeloupe. You are in a town of just 6,000 inhabitants where very little that is exciting ever takes place. But today, from a boat that regularly hauls people and supplies, tons of iron pipes and aluminum sheeting are unloaded onto the wharf. Within a day that metal is moved to the edge of town and put together. An Assembly Hall with room for nearly a thousand people is erected. No signs are needed to advertise the event. Everyone knows that there is only one group that could organize such an assembly here.
Then a week later, three more boats land simultaneously. The whole town watches as a thousand people—men, women, and children—walk from the wharf to the assembly site. They are carrying suitcases, camp beds, and water supplies. These people are Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are in town not only to attend an assembly but also to talk to the residents about Bible truth. Over the years, everyone in Guadeloupe and on the surrounding islands has met them often.
How did Bible truth first reach these islands? What sort of people live here? What kind of islands do they inhabit?
A Mixture of Cultures
Island of Beautiful Waters—Karukera, as the Carib Indians called it—was the name of Guadeloupe long before Columbus reached here in 1493. No doubt the Indians had in mind the refreshment of Guadeloupe’s many waterfalls and the beauty of the water surrounding Guadeloupe. But we will tell you later about another kind of water that is flowing in abundance in Guadeloupe today. What it produces is even more beautiful.
Guadeloupe is, in reality, two islands, with a number of smaller dependencies (Marie-Galante, Les Saintes, La Désirade, Îles de la Petite-Terre, Saint-Barthélemy, and part of Saint Martin). On a map, the two principal islands look like a butterfly with outspread wings. In the west is Basse-Terre with its mountainous volcanic range; in the east is Grande-Terre, a tableland with a mosaic of hillocks. Their beauty is enhanced by beaches with turquoise water, green countryside, and tropical forest with numerous waterfalls.
People from a variety of races have come to the shores of Guadeloupe. The Arawak were the first inhabitants; later came the Caribs, preceding any European settlers. It was not until more than 140 years after Columbus’ voyage, which was financed by Spain, that Europeans settled in Guadeloupe; these settlers were French, not Spanish. Gradually they eliminated the Caribs, built sugar mills, and imported slave labor.
Politically, Guadeloupe is a department of France, and many Frenchmen have come to live here in recent decades. But the main islands are inhabited largely by black people whose ancestors were snatched away from the African coasts by the slave trade. However, about 10 percent of the population have descended from workers brought from India following the abolition of slavery in Guadeloupe in 1848. The islands of Les Saintes and Saint-Barthélemy, which are two of the six dependencies, are peopled mainly with Blancs-pays (local whites), whose Breton and Norman ancestors were among the first colonial settlers. There are also a few Lebanese and Syrian families who operate business establishments here.
Most of the population are viewed as being Roman Catholics. The Indian community, however, though Catholic through integration, keep up Hindu rites. Their sacred poles with brightly colored flags are seen here and there in the countryside. The beliefs of quite a few are still imbued with ancestral superstitions well maintained by the quimboiseurs (sorcerers).
Nevertheless, people here usually have respect for the Bible. They believe that it is God’s Word. To pray, many make use of excerpts from the Psalms. In fact, the Bible is often left open, sometimes beside a lighted candle, at a psalm supposed to bring protection and blessing to the home.
The mixture of various cultures—African, European, and Asian—has given birth to a way of life in which gentleness and kindness are prevalent. These good qualities make many of the people pleasant to talk with and receptive to the Kingdom message.
The history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Guadeloupe is a good example of what Jehovah’s spirit can accomplish with sincere and humblehearted people who accept the divine invitation to “take life’s water free.” (Rev. 22:17) Guadeloupe had been visited by the Witnesses as early as 1936. However, in 1938, on the docks of Pointe-à-Pitre harbor, some witnessing on a regular basis got under way.
Electrification of the island had only begun, and just a few cars could be seen in the streets. The harbor was busy. Boats of all sizes were anchored there. Merchants and their employees were moving about, as were the dockers, who handled voluminous bags, heavy crates, and huge barrels. During the noon break, a certain man had the custom of sitting in the shade on a doorstep, surrounded by workers. He spoke about the Bible. This man, in his forties, was Cyril Winston. He was married and was a native of Dominica, an island to the south of Guadeloupe. Tall, with gray eyes and fine presence, he spoke quietly in Creole. He was a full-time preacher, or pioneer, who also worked hard to provide for the physical needs of his family.
Condé Bonchamp was among the first who listened attentively to Cyril Winston. “We were working together as dockers at the harbor,” he said. “At noontime, several other workers and I sat around Cyril, as we enjoyed listening to his explanation of the Bible. In a short while, he gathered together a small group from Dominica who were working with us, and he organized meetings. There were five persons in attendance.”
As a meeting place, Brother Winston rented a room in the case of René Sahaï and his wife. The West Indian case is a structure made of boards nailed to a beam structure, with a corrugated-iron roof. Inside, the rooms are separated by partitions with openings at the top for air circulation. Voices can easily be heard over the dividing wall, so, on meeting days, Mrs. Sahaï would listen to the talks. In this way, she and her husband became interested in Bible truth.
Noéma Missoudan (now Apourou) recalls her first contact with this group: “I was disturbed by the fact that my husband had started to come home late on certain days. I was afraid that he could be interested in another woman. One evening I followed him. It was December 25, 1939. He stepped into a case in a Pointe-à-Pitre suburb. A few minutes later I got inside that house. What a surprise to find myself in the midst of a group of about 12 persons! I sat down and listened.” In this way she started to attend the meetings. As there was no electricity, each one had to bring along a candle.
After Germany invaded Poland, France declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. The French Antilles felt the impact, because commerce with France soon came to a virtual stop. In 1940, Guadeloupe came under the authority of the French Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazis. Communications with the United States came to a standstill. Guadeloupe could no longer export its rum and bananas, nor could it import food supplies and other products. A shipment of Bible literature sent from New York was even burned up on the docks of Pointe-à-Pitre harbor.
However, in 1940, the small group that had been meeting for Bible study in a suburb of Pointe-à-Pitre began to function as an isolated group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, under the direction of the Watch Tower Society. It was the first one in Guadeloupe.
Zeal Along With Freedom From Fear of Man
Some who were attending the meetings of that group quickly made the truth their own. Thus, in September 1940, Brother Winston baptized seven persons in La Lézarde River, near Petit-Bourg. But why in a river when there are many beaches that are easily accessible? The brothers thought that it was more appropriate. Jesus himself was baptized in the Jordan River, was he not? Of course, all that is really needed is any body of water that allows for immersion.*
Those early disciples in Guadeloupe manifested sincerity and zeal, along with absence of the fear of man. Recalling the early days, Brother Bonchamp said: “On Sundays we were out in the preaching work. We had no training and very little knowledge; each one would speak in whatever way seemed best to him. Convinced that I was responsible to convert as many people as possible, I took a position in front of the Catholic church at Pointe-à-Pitre just at the end of the Mass and shouted: ‘People of Pointe-à-Pitre, listen to Jehovah’s Word . . .’ I had read that such was the way prophets of old used to preach. After I spoke for a while, a crowd gathered. Some listened, while others started to make noise. The gendarmes’ headquarters was nearby, and my wife and I were arrested. We spent the following night in the station.” But that did not discourage them from future service.
Olga Laaland, a young man of 20 years, was another who did not hold back when he learned the truth. On the second Sunday that he met with the small group of Witnesses, he joined them in the witness work. He became a very zealous and progressive brother, one with no fear of man. Endowed with a stentorian voice, he could not be passed unnoticed.
However, the tests of faithfulness those Christians faced involved more than public witnessing.
Test of Humility During Isolation
The brothers had only a limited amount of material for Bible study. Most of the 30 persons who were associated with the isolated group of Witnesses here had not yet reached spiritual maturity. Wartime restrictions deprived them of further contact with the Society’s headquarters. Furthermore, at this same time, Cyril Winston fell sick and returned to Dominica, where he died three months later. The brothers loved him, but now they allowed serious difficulties to develop among themselves. They wanted to serve Jehovah, but they were seeing the organization largely from a human viewpoint. Brother Sahaï, in whose home the meetings were held, felt that he was in charge. Others disagreed. Internal strife reached a climax by November 29, 1942, when the great majority, led by Brother Missoudan, decided to withdraw and to meet in another place. Brother Sahaï continued holding meetings at his home. The differences between the two groups were not doctrinal; they involved personalities.
In spite of the rift, both groups shared in witnessing, and people listened. On both sides there were sincere brothers and sisters. But when Bible principles are not applied, conditions develop that are not proper for Christians. “There should not be divisions among you,” the Bible exhorts. ‘Earnestly endeavor to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.’—1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:1-3.
During this crucial period, Brother Sahaï succeeded in reestablishing communication with the Society’s headquarters. The Society appreciated his efforts in doing that as well as his persistent efforts to get Bible literature into the island during the war. A letter was sent to Guadeloupe on February 16, 1944, appointing Brother Sahaï to be company servant (presiding overseer). By that time, he was 30 years old. Though of humble status and frail in appearance, he was a very outspoken and resolute man.
After appointing Brother Sahaï to serve the congregation, the Society wrote to the other group, saying: “You brethren there, who are separated . . . , should from henceforth unite and cooperate with him in advancing the kingdom interests. As Christ is not divided . . . so the body of Christ on earth must be united . . . We believe that your devotion to the Lord and the kingdom will induce all concerned to lay aside any personal feelings you may have in the matter, and wait upon the Lord to render any judgments that he may feel necessary to execute upon anyone doing wrong, and each one go ahead and serve the Lord.” However, the efforts toward reconciliation were awkward. Not everyone agreed that Brother Sahaï had the needed qualifications for his assignment. Though many wanted the groups to be united, it was hard for them to lay aside personal feelings. Because the brothers lacked spiritual maturity, the cleavage continued until 1948.
In 1944 the congregation acknowledged by the Society reported just nine publishers.
Meetings That Were Definitely Public
To spread the Bible’s message of truth, the Witnesses delivered discourses right in the streets during the mild tropical evenings. The speaker talked loud enough not only to be heard by his immediate audience but also to draw the attention of passersby. Brother Laaland, with his mighty voice, often shared in this privilege of service. The scene that he recalls is this: “After sundown, we gathered together in a circle under a tree or on a street corner. In the midst of the group stood the speaker; others lighted the scene by means of torches. The program began with song and prayer. The talk itself might last 30 minutes or an hour, depending on what the speaker had prepared. The subjects did not vary much, as their main object was to strike down false religion.”
As a result of these meetings, a number of people were helped to learn the truth. But not everyone appreciated the talks. Sometimes, under the cover of night, people hurled stones at the group. Nevertheless, the brothers would not move away until the meeting had concluded. They reasoned: “If soldiers are ready to face guns during wartime, why should we not be ready to receive a few stones for the sake of the good news?” (2 Tim. 2:3) A few publishers even sustained head injuries. One evening when a sister was holding a big oil lamp for the speaker, a stone hurled at the lamp missed its target and hit the head of a listener instead. When that person died later in the hospital, the offender was taken to court and severely punished.
A Brother Receives Some Training
In 1945, Brother Laaland decided to go to French Guiana, where his mother was living. There was no congregation where he settled, near Saint-Laurent du Maroni, but that did not discourage him from witnessing.
The Yearbook later reported: “Two brethren went to French Guiana in January. While contacting the people in St. Laurent the brethren were told ‘there is a man farther up the river who speaks just like you.’ The brethren hired a car to seek this man, and, sure enough, there they found a man who had come from Guadeloupe and he was giving public lectures. He hadn’t any literature; but he was not quiet about the Kingdom. His greatest foe was the priest, who was busy warning the people not to listen to what this ‘crazy man’ has to say.”
When the brothers returned to Paramaribo, Suriname, where the Society had a branch office, Brother Laaland went with them. There he met pioneers who encouraged him to get into the full-time service. He learned how to follow up on interest and conduct home Bible studies. While in Paramaribo, he also learned much about the theocratic organization and how it functions—and he found that he had much to learn! After three months, he was appointed to serve as a special pioneer and was sent back to Saint-Laurent.
Cultivating Oneness of Spirit
Meanwhile, the Society was aware of the perilous condition existing in Guadeloupe, with two groups endeavoring to serve Jehovah but not in unity with each other. In 1947, Joshua Steelman, an English-speaking circuit overseer, was sent over from a neighboring island to visit the Pointe-à-Pitre Congregation. Brother Steelman was welcomed with much joy, and 26—obviously including individuals from both groups—shared with him in the field service during the week of his visit. However, he could not speak French and, as he explained in his report, the brothers could not read and translate instructions received in English. Organization was desperately lacking. The brothers were studying one of the Society’s books three times a week, but there were no Watchtower magazines. Nevertheless, Brother Steelman pointed out, there was a strong desire to share in the field service. However, his admonition given with a view to reuniting the two groups yielded no immediate results.
Then, at the Society’s request, Brother Laaland moved back to Guadeloupe in 1948. As soon as he arrived, he started to work toward the reconciliation of the two groups. Some of the brothers were so earnest in their desire to be reunited that they got up at 4:00 a.m. and went up onto a hill to pray for Jehovah to bless the efforts to achieve unity. That same year, about March, unity was restored after a rift of over five years. The average number of publishers jumped from 13 in 1947 to 28 in 1948, with a peak of 46. As Psalm 133:1 says: “Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”
Nevertheless, not everyone was pleased with this reunification. A few made it plain that they wanted no part of it. Some founded a sect called “Le Messager de Sion” and then prepared tracts and distributed them in front of the meeting place of their former Christian brothers. One of their leaders bought a motorbike so that he could follow the Witnesses and undermine their activity as they shared in the field service. However, on one of these expeditions, he collided with an ox-drawn cart filled with sugarcane, and he died in the hospital. After that his group was not heard from anymore.
Cultivating oneness of spirit, however, involved more than meeting together and going into the field service together. (Eph. 4:1-3) Locally, at this time, sisters were forbidden to wear jewelry, to cut their hair, or to attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall without wearing a head covering. This was a result of misunderstanding certain counsel in the Scriptures. They needed further help in order to be at full unity with the worldwide association of Jehovah’s people. Some of that help came later in 1948 when the Society sent two missionary graduates of Gilead School to Guadeloupe.
The First Two Missionaries
The French authorities granted Kenneth Chant and Walter Evans, both Canadians, one-year permits of residence for Guadeloupe. With their presence, there was increased activity in the congregation. But this also gave rise to opposition, evidently instigated by the clergy. Early in 1949 the two missionaries were given official notice to leave the island at once.
Still, their short stay had strengthened the brothers spiritually. The local brothers more clearly understood Bible principles, and they were beginning to make progress in applying the same organizational arrangements that were being employed by Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.
A Congregation in Desbonnes
Gradually the seeds of truth began to sprout outside of Pointe-à-Pitre, the largest town in Guadeloupe. The foundation for the second congregation was laid in 1941 when Duverval Nestor was sick in the hospital in Pointe-à-Pitre. There he first heard the truth and accepted it. After he returned home, the brothers continued to visit him and to strengthen him. An Adventist preacher tried to dissuade him and even said: “I used to think that your house would be a fine temple for the Lord.” Well, as it turned out, when that second congregation was organized, in 1948, it was the home of Brother Nestor that was used as a Kingdom Hall. It was located in Desbonnes, a village nestled at the foot of a mountain, 16 miles [26 km] from Pointe-à-Pitre.
Today there is a thriving congregation of over one hundred publishers in Desbonnes, meeting in a beautiful Kingdom Hall that was built in 1989.
Zealous Noontime Witnessing
At Port-Louis, about 12 miles [20 km] north of Pointe-à-Pitre, Georges Moustache was privileged to sow further seeds of Kingdom truth after the good news was taken to him there in 1943. Recalling those early days, he said: “At the Beauport sugar factory, every day at the noon pause, I gave an extemporaneous talk in the carpentry shop where I used to work. An elderly seminarian who was harassing me challenged me one day: ‘If you are worshiping the true God, here is the smith’s hearth alight; try to walk on the fire!’ My voice resounding throughout the shop, I replied: ‘Go away, Satan, because it is written: “You must not put the Lord, your God, to the test!”’”—See Matthew 4:5-7.
On Sundays, Brother Moustache used to walk for many miles [kilometers] to witness further to fellow workers who showed a desire to hear more. He often stayed in the field service from eight o’clock in the morning until seven o’clock at night, sometimes without food. A leader of the little group of Adventists at Port-Louis was among those visited by Brother Moustache each week, and soon he became a Witness. Others also accepted the truth, among them Daniel Boncœur, who carries on faithfully until now, and Alfred Cléon, who was serving faithfully as an elder when he died in August 1993.
Waters of Truth Flow in Basse-Terre
During the decade of the 1940’s, the waters of truth began to flow, at first a little and then abundantly, in Basse-Terre, the administrative capital of Guadeloupe. When he was in Pointe-à-Pitre, Eugène Alexer, a carpenter, heard Cyril Winston explain Bible truths. In 1948, the Alexer family took their stand for true worship. Regular meetings were held in their home in Basse-Terre. One year later, a young man named Verneil Andrémont joined them. Every Sunday either Brother Missoudan or Brother Moustache—and later, Brother Laaland—traveled by bus the 37 miles [60 km] from Pointe-à-Pitre to Basse-Terre to help the interested ones there. Their efforts were rewarded. Now, some 45 years later, eight congregations flourish in that area: three in Basse-Terre, one in Gourbeyre, two in Baillif, and two in Saint-Claude.
At the same time, in the town of Moule, on the east coast of Grande-Terre, a small group was started after a brother from Pointe-à-Pitre went there to witness. The Ruscade family were among the early ones in that area to take their stand for the truth, and meetings were held in their home. Anasthase Touchard, the first one in that group to become a Witness, later proved himself to be a very devoted elder, and he served as such until his death in 1986. Five congregations, of over one hundred publishers each, are now active in that area.
A Priest Attracts Some Listeners
One Sunday in 1953, after a group of about 20 publishers had spent the morning witnessing in the village of Lamentin, in northeastern Basse-Terre, they held a public talk in the village square, which, of course, was in front of the Catholic church. After an opening song, the Bible discourse began. Infuriated, the priest banged the big church doors in an effort to drown out the speaker’s voice. As a result of the violent banging, however, a statue broke loose from the wall and smashed in front of the church. With redoubled rage, the priest set all the church bells ringing. Many people came running. Some were shocked by the priest’s conduct. It was impossible to continue with the talk in that location, but a shop owner invited the speaker to deliver the discourse in front of his house. This was done, with a fine attendance.
Today, three congregations of more than one hundred publishers each are flourishing in that parish (or district). This is also where we have built our spacious Assembly Hall.
Youths took the cue from the clergy and also endeavored to disrupt our public talks. During a talk delivered in the country near the village of Sainte-Rose, a group of Catholic boy scouts surrounded the speaker and the few other Witnesses present. Some started to blow their bugles, and others beat on the bottom of big iron cooking-pans to drown out the speaker’s voice. Léonard Clément did not try to shout over the noise; instead, as he continued, he simply mimed his talk, using gestures and lip motion. Before long, the boy scouts gave up and left. Then our brother went on with his talk. In this area, too, interest was gradually cultivated, and there are now three congregations.
The End of an Epoch
Those outdoor public meetings in Guadeloupe are now a thing of the past. In 1953, after riots broke out at political meetings, the authorities forbade all outdoor public meetings as well as use of loudspeakers in outdoor locations. From then on, the brothers had to find other places to hold meetings.
Nevertheless, from 1938 to 1953, the outdoor public talks helped to give a powerful public witness. The publishers were courageous and zealous in supporting this activity. Most of them traveled to the meeting locations on foot; some rode, with two on a bike. When they had some spare money, they rented a bus for the day. Back then, out of 100 publishers, only one had a car—an old Ford.
1954—A Marked Year!
When Brother Knorr, then president of the Society, and his secretary, Milton Henschel, were returning from South America early in 1954, their plane landed at the Pointe-à-Pitre airport. It was very early in the morning, but local brothers were on hand to meet them. Brother Knorr assured them that more missionaries would be sent just as soon as possible to help them.
His promise was fulfilled not long after that. On March 17, 1954, two passengers got off a plane that landed at the Pointe-à-Pitre airport. But no one was on hand to meet them because the flight was considerably behind schedule. However, the gendarmes offered to take the two over to Brother Laaland’s dry-cleaning shop. These travelers, brothers who had recently graduated from Gilead School, were from France. There was Pierre Jahnke, a tall brother, and Paul Touveron.
A few days after the two missionaries landed, Brother Henschel arrived. Meanwhile, the Society’s missionary boat Faith was in the harbor, and the crew were busy making arrangements for a convention to be held in a local school beginning on March 26.
As the program started, the atmosphere was joyful, though the brothers were a bit tense, anxious that everything should go smoothly. After a few talks and demonstrations, a makeshift screen was hung up. Then they saw for the first time the Society’s film The New World Society in Action. Right before their eyes, they could see clear evidence that strengthened their conviction that this is God’s organization. All in attendance were deeply moved as they saw how the organization operates in peace and unity. The sisters also took note of the fact that in other countries their Christian sisters wore jewelry, though not in a lavish way. Further, those attending the convention were encouraged by the knowledge that two missionaries were in their midst, brothers who had been sent by the organization and whose example in Jehovah’s service would strengthen the congregation. Great was the excitement that evening—too great for the presiding overseer of the Pointe-à-Pitre Congregation, Clotaire Missoudan. He went home and that same night died in his sleep, without his wife being aware of it until morning.
On the second day of the assembly, Brother Henschel announced the establishment of a branch office of the Watch Tower Society in Guadeloupe. It was to care for the preaching of the good news in Guadeloupe and Martinique. Pierre Jahnke was appointed to be the branch servant. The closer organizational direction that was greatly needed in these islands was being provided.
Following the assembly, the two missionaries got to work. They rented a small wooden house to provide a location for the branch office. Later, the Society bought a modest pavilion at the Raizet city garden, where the office operated until December 1966. In addition to caring for work at the branch, Brother Jahnke shared in the field service in Pointe-à-Pitre, spending as much time as possible with the brothers. Meanwhile, Brother Touveron visited congregations and isolated publishers as circuit overseer until he found it necessary to return to France, after about a year.
Help From a Floating Missionary Home
Appreciation for Jehovah’s organization was stimulated by the periodic visits of missionaries who traveled from island to island by boat. For about a decade, the Society had boats that served as floating missionary homes in the West Indies. At first it was a 59-foot [18 m] schooner called Sibia, and later this was replaced by a larger boat, the Light. A 72-foot [22 m] twin-screw boat named Faith was also used. Even though the missionaries aboard the boats spoke English (and most of the publishers in Guadeloupe did not), their visits were very much appreciated. The publishers here still remember the zeal of those missionaries as they worked along with local publishers, devoting full days to the field service.
On their last visit, aboard the Light in 1956, the missionaries spent July 26 to August 7 preaching on the islands of Marie-Galante and La Désirade. On Marie-Galante, they showed the film The New World Society in Action. Said one person in the audience: “If you had given me ten thousand francs, you could not have made my heart as glad as it is tonight!”
Pioneers Sent From France
Good progress was being made in Guadeloupe and its dependencies. To keep the work moving forward, the Society sent two more pioneers from France. Nicolas and Liliane Brisart arrived in December 1955. Brother Brisart is one whose disposition is both dynamic and jovial. On their arrival, they were assigned to the densely populated suburbs of Pointe-à-Pitre.
In that territory, many people live in wooden houses that each rest on four stones to keep the floor about 20 inches [0.5 m] off the ground. The houses are all very close to one another. While making calls there one day, Brother Brisart had an accident that is still a source of humor to him. He recalls: “I went along with my wife to a Bible study that she conducted with an elderly lady, but her wooden house appeared to be older than she was herself! Welcomed to step in, I moved toward the center of the small room when, all of a sudden, the floor gave way and I passed through it! I apologized profusely, but the poor lady was far more embarrassed.”
Brother Brisart and his wife worked that territory for about eight months and then were assigned to circuit work. In 1958 they were invited to the 32nd class of Gilead School and thereafter were reassigned to Guadeloupe. When Brother Jahnke got married and started a family in 1960, Brother Brisart became the branch servant. He still serves as coordinator of the Branch Committee, and Brother Jahnke, who remained in Guadeloupe, serves with him on that committee.
Opposition Presents a Test of Faith
Because of religious opposition that has at times been truly virulent, many among those who have accepted the truth as set out in the Bible have had to take their stand under very difficult circumstances. Flora Pemba was one of these. With her husband, she had started to examine the Bible. However, when some neighbors started to pressure them, her husband, who was running a small family grocery, gave up his study out of fear of losing his customers. But his wife endured and made good progress spiritually. The home atmosphere became tense. The man even threatened to kill his wife. After she discovered a big knife under his pillow, she ran away, fleeing 10 miles [16 km] through tropical forest and banana plantations, and took refuge with a family of Witnesses. While hiding from her husband, she decided to get baptized, saying: “If I must face death for my faith, I want to be counted among Jehovah’s servants!” Thus, in 1957, before sunup one morning she got baptized in the sea.
Despite her efforts at reconciliation, she lost her fleshly family. But in accord with Jesus’ promise at Matthew 19:29, she gained a large spiritual family. This faithful sister took up full-time service, and she is still a pioneer in Lamentin more than 30 years later!
An Unforgettable Convention
When the Divine Will International Assembly was held in New York City, in 1958, delegates from 123 countries and island groups were in attendance. Nineteen Witnesses from Guadeloupe were among them. What they saw and heard broadened their appreciation for the theocratic arrangement. Said Verneil Andrémont, who was one of those delegates: “That convention was a revelation for me. I understood how things must be done.” The branch overseer, expressing the general feelings of the entire group, wrote: “How wide open were our eyes to register all we could see, and our ears so we could understand! Not just the unusual extent of land, which is surprising when coming from one of the small islands of the Caribbean, nor the tremendous buildings towering high up in the air, nor the astonishing heavy traffic in the streets, but having before one’s eyes the amazing sight of great crowds, yes, all brothers and sisters from the four corners of the earth, peacefully and unitedly worshiping the one true God. Two huge stadiums were filled with them!”
Even in what some might view as small matters, that convention affected the lives of our brothers. For instance, Léonel Nestor, a 78-year-old brother whose house was also used as a Kingdom Hall, felt the need to paint it so that it would better represent Jehovah’s organization. As a result, that Kingdom Hall was the first house to be painted in his village.
Small Beginnings at Anse-Bertrand
Up to 1958, not many people living in the parish of Anse-Bertrand, located at the north tip of Grande-Terre, Guadeloupe, had had opportunity to hear the Kingdom message. But that year, Marc Edroux showed a Bible to Donat Tacita, a friend who was a baker, and said: “This book is the Word of God!” Both of them were practicing Catholics. Later, when a door-to-door salesman offered Donat a Bible, he bought one for himself and started to read it. Though he could not read French well, he made use of a dictionary. He also invited his friend Marc Edroux to come to his house, and the two of them, along with Donat’s wife, read and endeavored to discuss the Bible on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Eager to understand more, Donat looked for the man who had sold him the Bible, but in vain. However, a neighbor said that he had a cousin, Georges Moustache, who was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and who would be glad to help. Based on what he learned from his neighbor about Jehovah’s Witnesses, Donat even visited some people to witness to them, because he did not want his faith to be a dead one.—Jas. 2:26.
About half a year later, when Donat heard from the neighbor that Jehovah’s Witnesses were going to hold a convention near Pointe-à-Pitre, Donat, his wife, and Marc Edroux decided to attend and get baptized. Up to that time, they had never met one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When they arrived, the Witnesses welcomed them. The three explained their wish to serve Jehovah and be baptized. The brothers kindly asked them a number of questions and then explained that, before baptism, they needed a home Bible study. The hearts of that group were touched by the warm brotherly atmosphere of the assembly. They went back to Anse-Bertrand filled with strength and determination. Their progress in Bible study was rapid, and about half a year later they got baptized.
They eagerly shared Bible truth with others in their village. But there was intense opposition. When Brother Brisart visited them as circuit overseer, the local Catholic priest did everything in his power to prevent him from staying. Donat had rented a room in which the circuit overseer and his wife could stay. But after the first day of field service during their visit, the priest intervened and demanded that the key be returned. Failing in that, he went to the owner of the place and threatened to excommunicate the owner’s mother if he did not get the key returned. Hearing that, the poor woman fainted! The next day, the priest tried again, through a lawyer, but without success, because such a thing was illegal. During that visit of the circuit overseer, a number of sheep were located and Bible studies were started. Some months later, early in 1960, a circuit assembly was held in that village, to give a further witness. When the baptism was held, more than 500 people from the village went to the beach to watch. No house-to-house work was done that day. Every Witness was down at the beach, surrounded by a group eager to learn more about Jehovah’s Witnesses and the message they preach.
Since then two congregations have been formed in Anse-Bertrand. Donat Tacita has served as a special pioneer for 22 years and is an elder in Anse-Bertrand.
Seeking a Thief—Finding a Sheep
One day in the early 1960’s, a gendarme visited the missionary home in Le Raizet. He was inquiring about a theft that had occurred in the neighborhood. Brother Brisart and his wife were at home, and they seized the opportunity to witness to the officer. After listening, the man asked: ‘How can I get a Bible? Have you any address to which I can write? The things you are talking about are very serious ones and they give me food for thought!’ Right away, he received a Bible, along with some other literature. One week later, he wrote a letter with many questions. Soon a Bible study was being held twice a week.
Brother Brisart, telling about the outcome, said: “Even if that gendarme did not find the thief, we, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, found a sheep!” That former gendarme is now an elder in one of the Pointe-à-Pitre congregations.
Finding a Place for Assemblies
As the organization grew in Guadeloupe, there was a problem that needed to be solved. Where could we find facilities in which to hold our assemblies? For more than ten years we had used a private school in Pointe-à-Pitre as well as the city festival halls at Abymes and Capesterre. But these halls had become too small for us. We had to try something else.
Next to Brother Laaland’s shop was an empty lot. The owner kindly made it available for us free of charge for our circuit assembly in late December 1964. Within a few days, we erected a wooden structure of posts set into the ground and joined together overhead by boards. Over this we spread tarpaulins as a roof covering. The sides were wide open, thus making access to the seating area easy. The joy and diligence of the local brothers as they worked were a source of great encouragement to those Witnesses who came to help. And what a blessing to have nearly 700 in attendance—a new peak! It was obvious that we needed our own facilities for future assemblies.
The brothers designed a unique structure, using iron pipe for framework and aluminum sheets for roofing. There was room for 700 seats. And the entire “Assembly Hall” was portable! There were about 450 publishers in Guadeloupe at that time, so we felt that there would be plenty of room.
The structure was first used for an assembly in the vicinity of Basse-Terre, in January 1966. When it came time for the public lecture, an enthusiastic crowd of 907 persons crowded in and around the Assembly Hall to listen. Already it was too small! In the years that followed, we had to enlarge it again and again.
Circuit assemblies often fell in November, a rainy month. Because of bad weather, there was often much mud, and we learned that it was wise to come fitted out with high-top boots! The full-moon weekend was customarily chosen for the assembly so that the brothers could return home at night with the help of that natural lighting. The moonlight also made it easier to do some of the dismantling immediately following the closing session of the assembly.
The ability to move our hall and thus to hold our assemblies in any parish in our territory had an excellent effect on the preaching of the good news in Guadeloupe. Furthermore, setting up and dismantling that hall three times a year provided opportunity for our brothers to learn to work together and to cultivate the spirit of self-sacrifice. No doubt about it, the blessing of Jehovah was upon that arrangement!
A Different Way of Life
When Armand and Marguerite Faustini moved from France to Guadeloupe in 1963 to help with the ministry, they found that life here was a little different. At first they were surprised when householders, without coming to the door, would simply call out: “Please come in.” People were of humble circumstances and had little money but were often glad to exchange fruits and vegetables for Bible literature. So, as the Faustinis proceeded in the field ministry, they sometimes found themselves carrying not only literature but also bananas, mangoes, yams, and eggs.
They were assigned to do circuit work, and Brother Faustini recalls: “The brothers welcomed us very warmly, but on the matter of punctuality, serious progress had to be made. In the country, most of them had no watch and so determined the time by looking at the sun. Sometimes, as a result, meetings started as much as an hour late. With the change of seasons, we had some surprises!”
Some Help for Marie-Galante
The same year that the Faustinis arrived in Guadeloupe, the island of Marie-Galante, about 25 miles [40 km] south of Pointe-à-Pitre, was given a special witness. Brother Faustini along with a group of 16 auxiliary pioneers spent a whole month there witnessing to the island’s 14,000 inhabitants. The Society’s film The New World Society in Action was shown there several times during that month. Then, a few years later, special pioneers were assigned to witness on that island. Two of them, Frédéric Ferdinand and Léo Jacquelin, reared their families there.
In order to give support to the special pioneers on Marie-Galante, we decided to transport our Assembly Hall to the island in April 1969 and hold an assembly there. The circuit overseer, Brother Faustini, reported: “It has been a unique assembly. Imagine the amazement of the people of Grand-Bourg, a little town of 6,000 inhabitants, as they witnessed the ‘invasion’ by one thousand Witnesses who landed from three boats, each one with a jerrican containing 20 liters [5 gals] of water in his hand! In that period of drought, water was scarce, and the island’s inhabitants were appreciative that their visitors brought along some water, thus saving the cistern supply. It was the first time that they had watched such a scene—an unending line of people who went from the docks through the town to the assembly site. The inhabitants of the whole island received visits from the Witnesses, in some cases several times the same morning. Within a few days, they had the opportunity to know and appreciate God’s organization.” There are now three congregations on Marie-Galante.
After about ten years, Brother and Sister Faustini had to go back to France. Later, they were able to return to the Caribbean, and Brother Faustini is now a member of the Martinique Branch Committee.
Waters of Truth Shared on La Désirade and Les Saintes
After the last visit by the Society’s boat Light in 1956, little witnessing had been done on La Désirade, another of Guadeloupe’s island dependencies. But in 1967, the Society assigned Médard and Turenna Jean-Louis, special pioneers, to serve there. The island, 7 miles [11 km] long and 1.5 miles [2.4 km] wide, was mostly barren and had no running water, but 1,560 people lived there, and they needed to be given the opportunity to hear the Kingdom message. From 1969 to 1972, two more special pioneers served there. Another special pioneer, Jacques Mérinon, endured from 1975 to 1988, despite the hard conditions.
After many years, a small congregation was established. Henri Tallet, a doctor, along with his family, was serving there in 1987. With the help of many brothers, especially those from Moule and Saint-François, he organized the building of a Kingdom Hall.
Two years later, La Désirade was devastated by Hurricane Hugo. A brother observed: “The Kingdom Hall was greatly damaged. But the love of the brothers came to the rescue, and soon we received what was necessary to fix the hall and the damaged houses of the publishers. We were the first on the island to start repairing, while keeping up our preaching work, and people in the territory took due note of it. Since then, we are better accepted when we preach.”
Eight miles [13 km] from Basse-Terre are Les Saintes, islands with 3,000 inhabitants. By September 1970, two special pioneers, Amick Angerville and Jean Jabés, were assigned there. Much patience was required, but finally in 1980, a small congregation was established, and now there are 18 publishers.
Saint Martin Hears the Good News
The northern part of Saint Martin, located about 155 miles [250 km] northwest of Pointe-à-Pitre, is also a dependency of Guadeloupe. The island is half French and half Dutch, but English is generally spoken. Regardless of the language used by individuals, however, they need to hear the good news.
It was early in the 1940’s that Georges Manuel, a native of Saint Martin, learned the truth while he was in Guadeloupe. In 1949 the Society’s boat Sibia anchored off Saint Martin for the first time, and the crew went ashore to talk to the people about the Bible. Next, Georges Dormoy and Léonce Boirard, the harbormaster, got baptized. By 1953, there were six publishers on the island.
Among those who accepted literature was Charles Gumbs, though he was not a very religious person. But when he read The Watchtower, he became convinced that he had found the true religion. He shared with his brother Jean and his sister Carmen what he had learned. After she had studied for a while, Carmen Gumbs and her daughter Léone Hodge went to the missionary home at seven o’clock one morning and asked to be baptized. Satisfied that they knew what they were doing, the brother on hand called another brother, and the baptism service took place before breakfast!
They truly did understand what dedication to Jehovah means. The next year, 1959, Léone began to engage in full-time service, followed a little later by her mother. Thirty-five years later, these two faithful Christian sisters are still special pioneers.
A Congregation on Saint Martin
In time, a considerable number of Haitians started moving to Saint Martin to work. Some of them accepted the truth, and in 1973 a French-speaking congregation was established. Two special pioneers, Jonadab and Jacqueline Laaland, helped to build up that congregation until their departure for Gilead School.
Then, in 1975, there was an event that was a real turning point for the Kingdom work in Saint Martin. On February 13 and 14, a convention was held on Marigot soccer field. Parts of our portable Assembly Hall had been taken there by boat in order to provide covering. This assembly made a very strong impression on many of the islanders. It helped them to appreciate that the handful of Witnesses on their island were part of a great organization.
Within a few years, Saint Martin’s population has increased from 8,000 to 28,000 inhabitants because of the development of tourism. A beautiful Kingdom Hall with 250 seats has been built in the residential district of Marigot, and there are now two French-speaking congregations on that island.
Some Opposition on Saint-Barthélemy
Saint-Barthélemy, 130 miles [210 km] northwest of Guadeloupe, is another one of its dependencies. At one time it prospered because of the buccaneers who used it as their center of operations. Today it is a location for luxury vacations. The inhabitants, about 5,000 in number, are descendants of Breton and Norman sailors, as well as Swedish settlers. They are people with pleasing manners; they work hard and are devoutly Catholic. Would some of them accept the Kingdom message?
In September 1975, Jean and Françoise Cambou, a young couple from France who served as special pioneers, moved to the island to give the inhabitants that opportunity. Despite strong opposition from the clergy, they sowed seeds of truth abundantly during the three years that they were on the island. Years later, Jean’s brother Pierre, along with his wife, Michèle, spent two years on Saint-Barthélemy as special pioneers. Their work was fruitful. A small study and service group was established, and it was built up afterward by four dynamic sisters, special pioneers: Patricia Barbillon (now Modetin, a special pioneer with her husband in the Dominican Republic), Jéranie Bénin (now Lima, a member of the Guadeloupe Bethel family with her husband), Angeline Garcia (now Coucy, and working Spanish-speaking territory in Guadeloupe), and Josy Lincertin. Eighteen publishers now report activity with that congregation.
Maintaining Christian Neutrality
In all nations, Jehovah’s Witnesses are neutral as to the world’s conflicts. Since they do not share in such conflicts, they do not train for them. No man tells them what to do; it is God’s own Word that they obey. (Isa. 2:2-4; Matt. 26:52; John 17:16) Adhering to that Word presents individual Witnesses with tests of faithfulness.
When a young man in Guadeloupe got baptized in the mid-1960’s, he knew that he would soon face such a test. To strengthen his faith, he immediately entered the auxiliary pioneer service. When called up for military service, he explained to the authorities his position as a Christian. What resulted? He was put into jail, alone in a cell. Threats were made: “If you do not change your mind, you will be held in prison for at least two years. Moreover, you will be alone in a cell all that time, so think well—alone for two years!” But our brother replied: “Well, that is what you think, but I will not be alone as you say, not at all! Jehovah God will be with me and will strengthen me by his spirit.” Surprised by his answer, they left him. His firmness, calmness, and good conduct impressed them, and as a result, they began to show respect for him. They realized that nothing could change his decision to stay faithful to “his Jehovah,” as they put it.
Months went by, and the time came for the 1966 district assembly bearing the theme “God’s Sons of Liberty.” What a surprise when that brother was released and was present on the opening day! During one of the sessions he related his experience. He did not know that an army officer was present, in civilian clothes. After the session, the officer went up to the brother and warmly congratulated him for holding firmly to what he believed. Then, turning to another brother present, the officer said: “All your brother said is exactly true; all happened as he told us. I was in that affair. Here you have a man of value, worthy of respect, faithful to his God, firm in his decision. He knows what he wants, and when he has said No, it is No, and nothing can change his mind in that.” Then he added: “Do you know what my wife said to me? She said: ‘Don’t think that you men have done that by your own will. No, but it is his God, Jehovah, who has done that for him in order for him to attend his convention. His God, Jehovah, is stronger than our god!’” The officer was visibly moved and concluded by saying: “I have admiration for you, and if in the past I had had the chance to know what you know about God, I certainly would not be what I am today.”
With the development of tourist trade and commerce since 1970, Guadeloupe has become more prosperous. Changes have taken place in the territory. People have moved in from other islands, especially from Dominica and Haiti. By January 1987, it was necessary to form an English-speaking congregation in Pointe-à-Pitre. Additionally, people seemed to be more and more in a hurry. In our door-to-door ministry, it became necessary to use direct and effective introductions in order to get people to listen.
Within the theocratic organization, there were also important changes. By 1972, in harmony with what was taking place worldwide among Jehovah’s Witnesses, a body of elders, instead of a single overseer, was providing supervision for each congregation. Before that, we used to refer to “Brother So-and-So’s congregation.” The congregation overseers enjoyed the respect of all and had much authority. Nevertheless, these brothers welcomed the changes that brought organizational arrangements into closer harmony with the Scriptures. After the changeover, Brother Brisart declared: “We are touched by the fine spirit demonstrated by our brothers. Doubtless, it was a test of humility for each one of them. We are proud to see that all of them have passed it with success.”
The Kingdom Ministry School also contributed to an improved spiritual condition in the congregations. The first class in Guadeloupe, back in 1961, was attended by 19 elders. But 30 years later when elders from the entire archipelago gathered for instruction, there were 300 present. On an average, each congregation now has five elders caring for its spiritual needs.
These spiritual shepherds have demonstrated loving concern for the flock not only under relatively normal conditions but also during times of crisis.
Respect for God’s Law on Blood
Because some medical personnel do not show sufficient respect for the rights of patients, Jehovah’s Witnesses have faced difficult situations in their efforts to conform to Jehovah’s requirement to abstain from blood. (Acts 15:28, 29) The elders wanted to provide more help for Witnesses faced with a medical crisis. Thus, early in 1987, the Branch Committee met to discuss the situation with two Witnesses who were also doctors. It became apparent that better contacts were needed with medical staffs. A committee was assigned to care for this. They set up a meeting with anesthetists at the hospital, and this proved to be very beneficial.
Along with Jehovah’s Witnesses in most other parts of the world, the brothers in Guadeloupe now have Hospital Liaison Committees. Seventeen brothers have been well trained for this service at seminars conducted by the Society.
A Volcano Threatens
Other crises have involved natural disasters. In 1976, Soufrière, a volcano that had long been dormant, came to life again. Early in the year, tremors became more and more frequent. About nine o’clock in the morning on July 8, a fault ripped open on the side of the mountain, releasing a big cloud of gas and vapor. Volcanic ash began to fall on Basse-Terre and neighboring villages. People as well as the land became coated with gray dust. On August 15, because of intensifying seismo-volcanic activities, the authorities ordered the complete and immediate evacuation of 72,000 persons. It was not until five months later that they were permitted to return to their homes.
Seven congregations were evacuated. Immediate help was provided to see that our brothers had lodging during this time of distress. Publishers who had formerly met and worked together were now scattered here and there. In order to provide needed spiritual help, a special meeting was held with the elders and the ministerial servants. They were all urged to seek out and find the publishers from their respective congregations and to keep in close contact with them. Special arrangements were made to keep the flock from scattering. They would attend the congregation meetings in the area where they were housed, but arrangements were also made for them to attend a Congregation Book Study specially established for them and to be presided over by an elder or a ministerial servant from their original congregation. This proved to be a real blessing. Not one of the sheep got lost!
A Nightmare Night
Thirteen years later, another crisis struck. On Saturday, September 16, 1989, Hurricane Hugo mercilessly pounded Guadeloupe. This was not the first time the island had been ravaged by a hurricane. In 1966, Hurricane Ines had ripped the roofs off most of the wooden houses, and the electric power was shut down for a month. But what happened in 1989 was far more devastating. Wind gusts, some of them reaching over 160 miles per hour [260 km/hr], pounded the island for hours. It seemed that the night would never end. When dawn at last came, the sight was staggering. The streets looked like battlefields littered with debris. Some 30,000 were homeless. Among the Witnesses, 117 houses were destroyed, and 300 others were seriously damaged. Eight Kingdom Halls were partly destroyed, and 14 others were damaged.
When Hurricane Ines had brought ruin back in 1966, Jehovah’s Witnesses from Puerto Rico, Martinique, French Guiana, and Saint Croix had brought in relief supplies. But when Hurricane Hugo ravaged Guadeloupe in 1989, the Governing Body quickly made relief funds available. Then the brothers from Martinique, France, and elsewhere rushed in needed food, clothing, and materials for rebuilding. Some came personally to offer help. The brothers and sisters in Guadeloupe were deeply touched by this outpouring of love. They have not forgotten what was done in their behalf.
Other events, too, have strengthened the ties of international brotherhood.
First International Convention
In 1978 the publishers in Guadeloupe had the great privilege of hosting an international convention. Attendance reached a peak of 6,274, and that at a time when we had only 2,600 local Witnesses. What a joy to welcome delegates from Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, the United States, and elsewhere! When a local hotel manager suggested that the brothers in charge of rooming raise the hotel rates by 10 percent and that this amount would go to them, the brothers refused, explaining that it would be dishonest. The manager felt ashamed for having made the suggestion and said: “Well, you Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are truly different. I made that suggestion because it had already been accepted before by other religious groups. . . . But, truly, you are different!”
The success of that convention made more obvious the urgent need to find a permanent location for our assemblies.
A New Assembly Hall
Our portable Assembly Hall had been enlarged several times. It had become a group of structures weighing some 30 tons, with a seating capacity of about 5,000 persons. It was a gigantic task to transport, erect, and dismantle it for every assembly. But it is obvious that Jehovah was aware of our needs.
With the generous offerings of all the congregations on these islands, a well-situated plot of over 13 acres [5 ha] was purchased. The next year, 1980, we used the new location for the first time—still with our portable Assembly Hall. On that occasion, for the “Divine Love” District Convention, attendance reached a new peak of 7,040. But this time it was not necessary to dismantle everything after the last session. What a relief!
For a number of years this new arrangement was used. Then we realized that the time had come to build something more permanent. Qualified brothers set to work, and a spacious hall was designed, one with open sides for natural ventilation. The new Assembly Hall was to be semicircular, with seating for 4,000. The construction permit was obtained, and work started in 1987. By July, six months after work at the construction site had begun, two thirds of the project was completed, and we were able to use it for our two district conventions that year. Henceforth, no more mud and high-top boots!
Changes at the Branch
While all of this was going on, changes were taking place at the branch office. In February 1976, throughout the world, oversight at the branches of the Society was changed. Instead of having one principal overseer at each branch, arrangements were made for a committee of three or more members to care for that responsibility, under the supervision of the Governing Body. In Guadeloupe, Nicolas Brisart, Pierre Jahnke, and Jean-Pierre Wiecek were entrusted with this oversight. When Brother Wiecek, who was a missionary, found it necessary to return to France, he was replaced by Flavien Bénin. Then Paul Angerville and, later, Jean Cambou, a circuit overseer, were invited to serve on the Branch Committee.
Technical advances made at the world headquarters and in various branches also benefited Guadeloupe. The Watchtower for study was received at the same time as it was by the brothers in other lands. Our Kingdom Ministry in French was printed at the same time as the English. Thus, in various ways we felt more at unity with the rest of the organization. Although situated on a few islands in the midst of the sea, we do not feel isolated. We are serving “in unison” with our Christian brothers.—Isa. 52:8.
Suitable Quarters for a Growing Branch
Back in 1966, the Society had purchased a house at 46 Morne Udol, close to Pointe-à-Pitre, to serve as the branch office. Later, this was enlarged by constructing another building next to the house, one that included offices and literature storage as well as a Kingdom Hall. But in view of the increase in the number of praisers of Jehovah in Guadeloupe, something larger was needed. Thus, at the end of 1988, the Governing Body approved the construction of a completely new Bethel Home and branch office.
However, finding suitable property on an island as small as Guadeloupe is a challenge. But Jehovah, the Owner of the earth, can provide what is needed, and he did. We were able to obtain a plot of land of about 2.5 acres [1 ha] located on a hill overlooking the sea at Sainte-Anne. Preliminary drawings, as well as blueprints, were supplied by the Society’s construction office in New York. Michel Conuau, a French architect, provided valuable assistance. Approval to build came through in record time, thanks to the mayor of Sainte-Anne, the local council, and the city planning offices.
Construction work began in September 1990. Volunteers from 14 lands shared their knowledge and experience and helped with the work. In two years, not only had the construction work been completed but strong bonds of friendship had been forged between the Witnesses in Guadeloupe and the volunteers from other lands alongside whom they had worked. Back in 1954, when Milton Henschel was on hand to announce the formation of the Guadeloupe branch, there were 128 publishers here. He was also present on August 29, 30, 1992—when we were reporting 6,839 publishers—to dedicate our fine new branch facilities to Jehovah God. With a friendly spirit, our neighbors have named this “the small village of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Our Territory, a Challenge
The limited territory in Guadeloupe is a challenge that each publisher has to accept. On an average, we have just 12 homes for each publisher. How do we deal with that situation? Preparation is essential. A pioneer sister explains: “I get people used to seeing me. I still find new studies by means of a deeper work. I think of my territory in terms of individuals.” A service overseer in one of the Pointe-à-Pitre congregations, where the ratio is one publisher to every 28 inhabitants, says: “People are ready to listen if only we have something interesting to say.” Although once in a while a publisher will ask: “Where are we going to preach?” the ever-increasing number of Bible studies (now over 8,500) encourages us to keep on preaching the good news.
Direct use of the Bible is a major factor in the effectiveness of our ministry. The people in general in Guadeloupe respect the Bible as the written Word of God, and they are impressed when we show them how it explains current events. Effective use of illustrations also encourages people to think. Our aged brothers and sisters in particular bubble over with imagination in that field. The way of life here when they were young encouraged contemplation of nature. So they may illustrate the Kingdom message by referring, as Jesus did, to the natural things around them.—Matt. 6:25-32.
Fairer Than Ever
Jehovah has accomplished great things in Guadeloupe by means of his spirit. He has found humble people who, like the potter’s malleable clay, have not refused to be shaped according to his will. In this, his day for ‘rocking’ all the nations with his judgment messages, Jehovah is also gathering out “the desirable things” and bringing them into the earthly courtyard of his great spiritual temple. (Hag. 2:7) In 1968, thirty years after Cyril Winston’s arrival in Guadeloupe, we reported 1,000 publishers for the first time. By 1974, that figure doubled. The 3,000 mark was attained in 1982. Seven years later, the 3,000 had become 6,000. Today, more than 7,250 publishers gather in 86 congregations. Even though the ratio is 1 publisher to every 53 inhabitants, we are still determined to keep busy preaching and teaching, looking to Jehovah for his blessing. The “Island of Beautiful Waters” has become, in a spiritual sense, fairer than ever. No doubt many more people will yet answer the call “Come!” And they will receive “life’s water free.”—Rev. 22:17.
Compare Acts 2:41, which tells of the baptism of about 3,000 people, evidently not in the Jordan River—which would have required a walk of about 20 miles [30 km] one way for the baptismal candidates—but in pools in or near Jerusalem.
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Îles de la Petite-Terre
[Picture on page 120]
Condé Bonchamp, one of the first in Guadeloupe to listen appreciatively to the good news
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The husband of Noéma Missoudan (now Apourou) was coming home late; she followed him—into a meeting of Bible Students!
[Picture on page 124]
René Sahaï baptizing new Witnesses in 1945
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Olga Laaland at convention in France, reporting on work in Guadeloupe
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Duverval Nestor first heard and then accepted the truth while in a hospital
[Picture on page 131]
Georges Moustache did daily noontime witnessing at his place of employment
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Basse-Terre Congregation at the end of the 1950’s
[Picture on page 136]
Busload of publishers leaving for field service in the countryside
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Missionaries on the boat “Light” shared zealously in giving a witness
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Nicolas and Liliane Brisart were first sent to Guadeloupe from France, in 1955
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Flora Pemba, who took her stand for Jehovah in the face of severe tribulation
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Left to right: Mickaëlla and Donat Tacita, with Marc Edroux, in 1994
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Verneil Andrémont, one of Guadeloupe’s 19 delegates at the 1958 international convention
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Guadeloupe’s portable Assembly Hall
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Armand and Marguerite Faustini, who served for 10 years in Guadeloupe; now in Martinique
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Over 100 years of age; each serving Jehovah for upwards of 30 years
[Pictures on page 161]
Assembly Hall at Lamentin
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Guadeloupe branch office and Bethel family
[Picture on page 167]
Branch Committee (from left to right): Paul Angerville, Nicolas Brisart, Pierre Jahnke, Jean Cambou