Honoring God’s Gift of Marriage
As William Nushy settled into his assignment, he saw that some publishers were not upholding Jehovah’s standard for marriage. Some couples had common-law marriages, living together as man and wife without registering their union with the civil authorities. Others followed the local custom of putting off marriage until the woman became pregnant, thus ensuring that their union would be fruitful.
Accordingly, in May 1953, the branch office wrote to each congregation and clearly explained the Bible’s standard on marriage. (Gen. 2:24; Rom. 13:1; Heb. 13:4) Couples were given time to register their marriage. If they did not do so, they would face being removed from the congregation.
Most publishers rejoiced at this refinement. Yet, some were permissive and independent. More than half the publishers in two congregations stopped associating with Jehovah’s organization. Those who stayed loyal, though, actually increased their activity, clear evidence that Jehovah was blessing them.
After much effort on the part of the brothers, the Freetown Kingdom Hall was recognized as a proper place to solemnize marriages. On September 3, 1954, the brothers performed their first official marriage ceremony. Later, the government supplied marriage registers to qualified brothers in seven districts throughout the country. This allowed more interested people to legalize their marriages and to qualify as publishers of the good news.
Many interested people who practiced polygamy also took steps to conform to God’s standards. Samuel Cooper, who now lives in Bonthe, relates: “In 1957, I began attending meetings with my two wives and soon enrolled in the Theocratic Ministry School. One day, I was assigned a talk on the topic of Christian marriage. As I researched the talk, I realized that I needed to dismiss my junior wife. When I told my relatives, they all opposed me. My junior wife had borne me a child, whereas my senior wife was barren. But I had made up my mind to abide by Scriptural principles. To my great surprise, when my junior wife returned to her family, my senior wife began bearing children. Now I have five children by my wife who was once barren.”
When another interested person, Honoré Kamano, who lived across the border in Guinea, dismissed the two youngest of his three wives, his senior wife appreciated his stand and started taking the truth more seriously. One of his younger wives, although disappointed at being dismissed, also admired his high regard for Bible principles. She asked for a Bible study and later dedicated her life to Jehovah.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known as a people who honor marriage
Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known throughout Sierra Leone and Guinea as a people who honor marriage. Their marital fidelity adorns God’s teachings and praises him as the Author of the marriage arrangement.
Dissent in Freetown
In 1956, two more Gilead graduates, Charles and Reva Chappell, arrived in Freetown. On their way to the missionary home, they were taken aback by a large sign advertising a Bible lecture at Wilberforce Memorial Hall. “The advertised speaker was C.N.D. Jones,” says Charles, “a representative of the ‘Ecclesia of Jehovah’s Witnesses.’”
Jones, who professed to be one of the anointed, led a splinter group that had broken away from the congregation in Freetown several years earlier. His group claimed to be “true” witnesses of Jehovah and labeled the missionaries and those loyal to the organization’s representatives as “impostors” and “Gilead cowboys.”
Matters came to a head when Jones and some of his supporters were disfellowshipped. “This announcement shocked some brothers who favored showing tolerance towards the dissenters,” says Chappell. “A few voiced their dissatisfaction publicly. They and others kept associating with the rebels and tried to disrupt meetings and field service arrangements. The disgruntled ones sat together at the meetings in an area dubbed dissenter’s row. Most eventually fell away from the truth. But some regained their spiritual balance and became zealous publishers.”
The loyal stand taken by the majority kept the way open for a free flow of God’s spirit. When zone overseer Harry Arnott visited Freetown the following year, he reported: “This is the first solid increase that we’ve had in Sierra Leone for some years. This gives good cause for optimism for future progress.”
Teaching the Kisi
Soon after Brother Arnott’s visit, Charles Chappell received a letter from a brother in neighboring Liberia. The brother wanted to open up the preaching work among his kinsmen in Sierra Leone. He belonged to the Kisi tribe, who occupied the forested hills and valleys spanning the junction of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. It seemed that many Kisi-speaking people wanted to understand the Bible.
Since most of the Kisi could not read or write, literacy classes were arranged in Koindu to teach basic Bible truths. These classes attracted hundreds of students. “Soon the group had 5 new publishers, then 10, then 15, then 20,” Charles recalls. “People came into the truth so fast that I doubted whether they were genuine publishers. But I was wrong. Most of them were not only faithful but zealous as well!”
The eager new publishers soon spread the good news beyond Koindu and eventually into neighboring Guinea. Trekking for hours across the rolling landscape, they preached on farms and in villages. “For weeks, sometimes months, we never heard the sound of a motor vehicle,” says Eleazar Onwudiwe, a circuit overseer at the time.
As the Kisi brothers and sisters spread and watered the Kingdom seed, God made it grow. (1 Cor. 3:7) When one young blind man heard the truth, he memorized the 32-page booklet “This Good News of the Kingdom.” Later, he recalled paragraphs at will while preaching and conducting Bible studies of his own. This amazed onlookers. One deaf woman who accepted the truth made such big changes that her sister-in-law started attending meetings, walking more than six miles (10 km) to get there.
The work among the Kisi grew by leaps and bounds. Another congregation was formed, and then another. About 30 publishers took up the pioneer ministry. The Koindu town chief became interested in the truth and donated a plot of land to build a Kingdom Hall. When over 500 people attended a circuit assembly at Kailahun, a congregation was formed there too. Soon half of the Witnesses in Sierra Leone were Kisi, although the tribe made up less than two percent of the population.
This progress did not please everyone, especially the Kisi religious leaders. Filled with jealousy, they determined to stamp out this “threat” to their authority. The question was, How and when would they strike?