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1915-1947 Early Days (Part 3)

1915-1947 Early Days (Part 3)

To the Provinces and Beyond

Fired with enthusiasm for the truth, the Freetown Congregation became “intensely occupied with the word.” (Acts 18:5) Alfred Joseph relates: “I often tied a carton of Bible books to my big Norton motorcycle. Then with Brother Thomas or Sylvester Grant riding pillion [as a passenger], we headed out into the rurals and small towns around Freetown to canvass, as we called it.”

Up until 1927, the publishers preached mostly in and around Freetown in an area called The Colony. But starting in 1928, every year before the rains set in, the congregation would rent a bus and travel to the provinces. Those who could not go helped to finance the trips, which were led by Melbourne Garber. The bus groups preached in towns and villages east to Kailahun and south to nearly the Liberia border. The first Sunday of each month, they returned to cultivate the interest found.

 About that time, Brother Brown visited the West Indies and returned with a car, one of the first to enter Sierra Leone. The vehicle was equipped with a powerful sound system that was designed for public witnessing. Brother Brown would park the car in a public area and play stirring music to attract a crowd. He would then deliver a short talk or play a recorded lecture and invite the crowd to obtain Bible literature. The speaking car—as it came to be called—was a public sensation, and people flocked to listen to it.

Giving a bold witness

Brother Brown next turned his attention to spiritually untouched territory—the rest of English-speaking West Africa. During the late 1920’s, he embarked on a series of preaching tours to The Gambia,  Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria. Brother Brown found interest in each country, but Nigeria seemed to be exceptionally fertile. In 1930, he and his family moved from Freetown to Lagos. From there he continued to oversee the Kingdom work in West Africa.

More than 500,000 Witnesses now serve Jehovah in West Africa

In 1950, when poor health forced Brother Brown to return to Jamaica, he left behind a remarkable legacy. Over 27 years, he and his wife had seen the number of Witnesses in West Africa grow from 2 to more than 11,000. They had literally witnessed the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “The little one will become a thousand and the small one a mighty nation.” (Isa. 60:22) Today, just over 60 years later, “a mighty nation” of more than 500,000 Witnesses serve Jehovah in West Africa.

Steadfast Under Ban

When World War II cast its shadow over Africa, Jehovah’s people in Sierra Leone took their stand as Christian neutrals. (Mic. 4:3; John 18:36) The British authorities falsely branded them as subversive, so they monitored their activities and banned their literature. Customs officials in Freetown seized one literature shipment and burned it. Some brothers were arrested for possessing banned literature but were soon released. *

Despite the ban, the Witnesses kept on preaching. Pauline Cole explained: “A brother who was a steward  on a ship that visited regularly continued to supply us with copies of The Watchtower. From these we typed up extra copies for the meetings. We also printed leaflets on Bible topics and distributed them to the public. And the brothers continued to give public discourses and to play recordings of Brother Rutherford’s radio lectures, especially in the outer villages.”

Those efforts, while modest, clearly had Jehovah’s blessing. James Jarrett, a long-time elder and special pioneer, recalls: “During the war, I was working as a stonecutter when an elderly sister gave me the booklet Refugees. Since many refugees were landing in Freetown, its title intrigued me. I read the booklet that night and immediately recognized the truth. The next morning, I tracked the sister down and obtained copies for my three brothers. All four of us accepted the truth.”

When the war ended in 1945, the Freetown Congregation had 32 publishers. The publishers had kept their integrity and remained spiritually active. They were ready and eager to move ahead.

Public Meeting Campaign

On August 29, 1945, at the weekly Service Meeting, the Freetown Congregation discussed a new campaign announced in the December 1944 Informant (now called Our Kingdom Ministry). Each congregation was to advertise and hold a series of four public meetings in “every city, town, and hamlet” in its territory. Each meeting would feature a one-hour talk by a brother (aged 18 or older) who had done well in the Theocratic Ministry School. After the four meetings, the brothers  would arrange Bible study groups to assist interested people in each area.

How did the publishers react to this new direction? The minutes of the Freetown Congregation’s Service Meeting record the following comments:

Chairman: “How do you think we could go about this new campaign?”

Brother One: “We should not expect the same success as in America. People here are different.”

Brother Two: “I agree.”

Brother Three: “Why not give it a try?”

Brother Four: “But there will be difficulties.”

Brother Five: “Yet, we must follow the direction given by Jehovah’s organization.”

Brother Six: “But the odds in this country are against us.”

Sister One: “Nevertheless, the Informant’s direction is clear. Let’s try it!”

So they did. From the coast of Freetown to Bo in the southeast to Kabala on the northern plateau, the brothers held meetings in schoolrooms, marketplaces, and private homes. This activity energized the congregation, and “the word of Jehovah went on growing and spreading.”Acts 12:24.

Still, the publishers needed theocratic training. And that is what Jehovah provided.

^ par. 10 The ban was lifted in 1948.