“All Sorts of People Should Be Saved”
It is Jehovah’s will that “all sorts of people should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4) In harmony with this divine viewpoint, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Dominican Republic have made a conscientious effort to reach people in every corner of their territory, including those imprisoned in the country’s penal institutions.
In 1997 two special pioneers were making their weekly visit to the Najayo Prison in San Cristóbal when they met Gloria, a 23-year-old Colombian woman who had been imprisoned for drug trafficking. She had been having discussions with a sister who was wrongly imprisoned. To help answer Gloria’s Bible questions, the brothers brought her the book Reasoning From the Scriptures and other publications. Her enthusiasm and zeal for learning affected other prisoners, so the group that received the weekly visit kept increasing.
The truth produced extraordinary changes in Gloria, and in 1999 she qualified to be an unbaptized publisher. Each month she spent more than 70 hours preaching in her prison territory, and she conducted six progressive Bible studies with other inmates. Then, in 2000, she applied for and was granted a presidential pardon because of her good conduct. She was released and sent back to Colombia. In 2001, shortly after arriving in her home country, she was baptized, even though her family strongly opposed her decision.
After Gloria’s baptism, she began pioneering. She married a brother who is an elder, and they are both regular pioneers. They are currently serving in an area of Colombia where the need is greater. Gloria has helped several of her students to the point of dedication and baptism. She says that she feels indebted to Jehovah, and the best way to repay him is to do for others what was done for her
As Gloria’s experience shows, iron bars have not been able to stop prisoners from learning lifesaving truths. Representatives from the branch met with officials from the General Bureau of Prisons to request permission for the brothers to gain access to more prisons in order to conduct Bible studies. As a result, 43 brothers and 6 sisters have been issued permits to participate in Bible education work in 13 prisons.
“Lengthen Your Tent Cords”
By the end of the 20th century, the Dominican Republic was reporting 21,684 publishers of the good news in 342 congregations, and 34,380 Bible studies were being conducted. The Memorial attendance was 72,679. As a result of the growth, Jehovah’s people have responded with urgency to the words of Isaiah: “Make the place of your tent more spacious. Stretch out the tent cloths of your grand tabernacle. Do not hold back, lengthen your tent cords.”
One challenge was acquiring an Assembly Hall that would accommodate the growing number of publishers. In 1996 the Assembly Hall adjacent to the branch in Santo Domingo was completed, and it served the capital and its surrounding areas very well. However, the Assembly Hall in Villa González, which served the rest of the country, was in desperate need of repair or replacement.
In 2001, the Governing Body approved the construction of a 2,500-seat Assembly Hall on the property in Villa González. The brothers were thrilled to hear that, in addition, a facility would be built to host the Ministerial Training School (now replaced by the School for Kingdom Evangelizers). It would be adjacent to the Assembly Hall and would have residential rooms, a classroom, a library, a kitchen, and a dining room. In 2004, Theodore Jaracz of the Governing Body gave the dedication talk for the new facilities. Since then, 15 classes have graduated from the school.