Gilead Missionaries Arrive
In June 1947, three graduates of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead
The missionaries saw that the local publishers were eager to preach, but they needed to become more effective teachers. (Matt. 28:20) So the missionaries started by teaching the publishers how to follow up on the interest shown and how to conduct Bible studies. They also passed on up-to-date direction about congregation meetings and theocratic organization. A public meeting was held at Wilberforce Memorial Hall. To the missionaries’ delight, 450 persons attended! Later, the missionaries introduced a weekly Magazine Day. This training galvanized the congregation and laid the foundation for future increase.
Meanwhile, the missionaries struggled to adapt to the climate. A 1948 branch report states: “Climatic conditions in Sierra Leone are very trying. The rainy season lasts six months of the year, and the rain is heavy, torrential, and continuous. Sometimes it rains for two weeks without letup. During the dry season, the heat is intense and the humidity high.” Early European visitors to Sierra Leone had dubbed it the white man’s graveyard. Malaria, yellow fever, and other tropical diseases ran rampant. One by one the missionaries fell sick and had to leave.
Understandably, the local publishers were dismayed by these developments. But they did not give up. Between 1947 and 1952, the peak publishers increased from 38 to 73. In Waterloo, a town near Freetown, hard-working pioneers helped to establish a new congregation. New study groups emerged in Kissy and in Wellington, both located on the outskirts of Freetown. Sierra Leone seemed ready to expand. All that was needed was the right catalyst.
A Strengthening Visit
In November 1952, a slender American in his early 30’s stepped ashore at the jetty in Freetown and joined the hubbub of the city. The visitor, Milton G. Henschel from world headquarters, recalled: “I was quite amazed to see a modern city much cleaner than many in most parts of the world. . . . Paved streets, busy shops, new cars, and an endless stream of people passed by.”
Brother Henschel walked to the Freetown missionary home, located two blocks from the famous Cotton Tree. There he informed the assembled brothers that Sierra Leone would receive more help. The following Sunday, 253 people crowded into Wilberforce Memorial Hall to hear him deliver a series of exciting announcements: Sierra Leone would have its own branch office, circuit overseer, and circuit assemblies; a new congregation would be formed in Kissy; and the preaching work in the provinces would be greatly expanded. The audience was thrilled!
Brother Henschel related: “They kept saying kusheh, a very expressive word meaning ‘well done!’ The brothers were in high spirits. Groups departed from the hall in the evening darkness, . . . some conventioners singing songs.”
A newly arrived missionary, William Nushy, was appointed to oversee the new branch office. William had previously worked as a card-and-dice dealer in casinos across the United States. After becoming a Christian, he left that work and firmly upheld righteous principles