Missionaries Carry On the Work Underground
The ban on the work was the beginning of a very difficult time for the brothers. ‘Our Kingdom Halls were closed, and the work was prohibited,’ explained missionary Alma Parson. ‘Many were the trials and sufferings of the dear ones there.’ There was also loss of employment and imprisonment. However, she fondly remembered: ‘Jehovah’s guiding hand and protection were clearly manifest so many, many times.’ Trusting in ‘Jehovah’s guiding hand,’ the brothers continued the work underground.
We were not permitted to have congregation meetings. Lennart Johnson recalled: ‘The brothers began meeting quietly in small groups in private homes. There we studied Watchtower articles that were copied by mimeograph. All the loyal ones greatly cherished the spiritual strength that Jehovah kept giving us in these small study groups.’
In the meantime, government surveillance and harassment intensified. But the brothers and sisters were not intimidated. On September 15, 1950, in a communication to the President of the Republic, Secretary Hungría wrote: “Mr. Lee Roy Brandt and other directors from the group Jehovah’s Witnesses have been repeatedly called into this office and admonished to cease all propaganda regarding this society, which was legally dissolved in this Republic—an order which they apparently are not following. Daily, we receive reports from different parts of the country that they are continuing secretly with their propaganda, mocking government dispositions.” The letter concluded by recommending the deportation of the “principal foreign directors” of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“A Source of Strength”
At the end of 1950, Brothers Knorr and Henschel visited the country. Thereafter, some of the missionaries were reassigned to Argentina, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico. Others obtained secular work so that they could stay in the country. For example, Brother Brandt worked for the electric company, and others worked as English teachers. A report in the 1951 Yearbook says of those missionaries: “Their very presence in the land, not running away, is a source of strength to the faithful followers of the Lord who have learned the truth from them. All are glad to see their courage manifest by sticking to their work.”
‘Their very presence was a source of strength to the faithful’
Dorothy Lawrence was one of the missionaries who taught English classes. In addition to teaching English, she was also giving Bible studies to interested ones. As a result, she helped several into the truth.
Jehovah’s loyal worshippers took other steps to continue going in field service in the face of constant surveillance. At times, they took books apart and carried a few folded pages in a shirt pocket or in a bag of groceries so that they could preach without attracting attention. Field service report slips were made to look like grocery lists. In place of books, booklets, magazines, return visits, and hours, the field service report listed papaya, beans, eggs, cabbage, and spinach. Mimeographed copies of The Watchtower were called yuca, after the yuca, or cassava, plant commonly found in the region.
The Disciple-Making Work Continues
On June 16, 1954, Rafael Trujillo signed a concordat with the Vatican that granted special privileges to the Roman Catholic clergy in the Dominican Republic. At the time, the ban had been in force for some four years. Nevertheless, by 1955 there were 478 publishers in the Dominican Republic. How was it possible to experience such growth in spite of the difficult circumstances? “The whole secret of our strength is Jehovah’s spirit,” stated a report in the 1956 Yearbook. “The brothers are unified and strong in faith and they go ahead with courage.”
In July 1955, a formal, notarized letter from world headquarters was delivered to Trujillo. The letter explained in detail the neutral position of Jehovah’s Witnesses and requested that Trujillo ‘lift the proscription against Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.’ What was the outcome?