Helping the Deaf
According to one estimate, some 3,000 to 5,000 people in Sierra Leone and hundreds of people in Guinea are deaf. Since Jehovah’s “will is that all sorts of people should be saved,” how would the deaf “hear” the good news?
Michelle Washington, a Gilead missionary who arrived in Sierra Leone in 1998, relates: “My husband, Kevin, and I were assigned to a congregation where four deaf people were attending meetings. Since I could communicate in American Sign Language, I wanted to help them. The branch office invited me to interpret for the deaf at meetings and assemblies and informed nearby congregations of this provision. The branch also sponsored sign-language classes for publishers interested in helping the deaf. We began searching out deaf people in the community and conducting Bible studies with them. Seeing our efforts to help the deaf, many people in the community praised us. However, not everyone was pleased with our activity. A pastor ministering to the deaf declared us to be ‘false prophets.’ He warned the people and their families to stay away from us. Some were told that if they associated with us their financial aid would be cut off. The deaf community quickly split into two camps: those who had not met us and supported the pastor and those who had met us and did not support the pastor. Some of the latter group took their stand for the truth and progressed to baptism.”
Femi, for example, was born deaf and could communicate only by using basic gestures. He was suspicious of everyone
In July 2010, the Freetown American Sign Language group became a congregation. There are also sign-language groups in Bo and Conakry.
Poor But “Rich in Faith”
The Bible reveals that most first-century Christians were materially poor. The disciple James wrote: “Did not God choose those who are poor from the world’s standpoint to be rich in faith?” (Jas. 2:5) Faith in Jehovah has also brought comfort and hope to the publishers in Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Faith prompts many poor Witness families in remote areas to save for months to attend district conventions. Some grow crops to finance their trip. Groups of 20 to 30 delegates cram into small trucks for hot, dusty, bone-rattling journeys that can last 20 hours or more. Other delegates walk long distances. “We walked the first 50 miles (80 km) to the convention, taking along a large supply of bananas,” says one brother. “We sold the bananas along the way, lightening our load and raising enough money to travel the rest of the way by truck.”
Faith has also moved many publishers to resist the temptation to move to more materially prosperous lands. “We trust that Jehovah will care for our needs,” says Emmanuel Patton, a graduate of the Bible School for Single Brothers. “Because we live in a land where the need for Kingdom preachers is great, we realize that our service is especially valuable.” (Matt. 6:33) Emmanuel now serves as a congregation elder, and both he and his wife, Eunice, work tirelessly to promote Kingdom interests. Other family heads choose not to move in order to protect the unity and spirituality of their families. “I refused to accept work that would take me away from my family for extended periods of time,” says Timothy Nyuma, who served as a special pioneer and substitute circuit overseer. “My wife, Florence, and I also educated our children locally rather than sending them away to be raised by others.”
Other brothers and sisters display faith by persevering in Christian activities despite various difficulties. Kevin Washington, mentioned earlier, observes: “Many publishers regularly preach and care for congregation responsibilities in the face of problems that might prompt us to stay home and be cranky. Some, for example, are chronically ill and do not have access to the medical care and remedies that are readily available elsewhere. Others make great efforts to become literate. If I am ever critical about the way a brother handles an assignment, I ask myself: ‘If I worked full-time, had major health problems, had poor eyesight without corrective glasses, and had a limited theocratic library and no electricity, would I have done as well?’”
In these and countless other ways, the brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone and Guinea glorify Jehovah. Like their first-century Christian counterparts, they recommend themselves as God’s ministers “by the endurance of much, by tribulations, by times of need, . . . as poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.”
Facing the Future With Confidence
Over 90 years ago, Alfred Joseph and Leonard Blackman reported that Sierra Leone’s fields were “white for harvesting.” (John 4:35) Some 35 years later, Manuel Diogo wrote from Guinea, saying, “There is plenty of interest here.” Today, Jehovah’s servants in both countries are convinced that many more people will yet respond to the good news.
In 2012, Guinea had a Memorial attendance of 3,479, over four and a half times the total publishers in the country. The 2,030 publishers in Sierra Leone had 7,854 people attend the Memorial, nearly four times the number of publishers. One old-timer present on the night of that Memorial was 93-year-old special pioneer Winifred Remmie. She and her husband, Lichfield, arrived in Sierra Leone in 1963. After 60 years in full-time service, she was still serving as a special pioneer. Winifred stated: “Who would have dreamed that Sierra Leone would be so rich with strong spiritual brothers and sisters. Although I am old, I still want to share in this joyful increase.” *
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Sierra Leone and Guinea heartily echo Winifred’s sentiments. Like stately, well-watered trees, they are determined to keep bearing fruit to Jehovah’s praise. (Ps. 1:3) In Jehovah’s strength they will keep on proclaiming mankind’s real hope of freedom
^ par. 16 Winifred Remmie died while this account was being prepared.