By 1960, Trujillo’s dictatorship was experiencing growing international criticism and internal opposition. In the midst of all this political tension, Milton Henschel from the world headquarters visited the country and attended a three-day assembly in January 1961. There were 957 at the public meeting, and 27 were baptized. During his visit, Brother Henschel helped the brothers to begin reorganizing the work and mapping out the territory.
Two circuit overseers, Enrique Glass and Julián López, were assigned to visit congregations. “My circuit,” explained Julián, “consisted of two congregations in the east of the country and all the congregations in the north. Enrique’s circuit covered the rest of the east and the entire south.” Those visits restored contact between the congregations and the organization and helped to build up the brotherhood spiritually.
Salvino and Helen Ferrari, graduates of the second class of Gilead, arrived in 1961. Their experience as missionaries in Cuba proved to be very useful in the great spiritual harvest in the Dominican Republic. Salvino eventually served on the Branch Committee until his death in 1997, and Helen has been in the full-time service for 79 years, most of which she has spent as a missionary.
Shortly after the arrival of the Ferraris, Trujillo’s reign of terror was brought to a violent end on the night of May 30, 1961, when assassins riddled his car with bullets. However, his assassination did not result in political stability, so the country continued to experience civil and political upheaval for several years.
The Preaching Work Moves Forward
In the meantime, more missionaries arrived. William Dingman of the first class of Gilead and his wife, Estelle, along with Thelma Critz and Flossie Coroneos, were transferred from the Puerto Rico branch to the Dominican Republic just two days after Trujillo’s assassination. “The country was in a state of upheaval when we arrived,” explained William, “and there was quite a bit of military activity. A revolution was feared, and soldiers were searching everyone on the highway. We were stopped at several checkpoints, and at each one our luggage was searched. Everything was taken out of our suitcases, even the smallest items.” It was a challenge to preach in such a volatile political climate.
“During Trujillo’s dictatorship,” said William, “the public had been told that Jehovah’s Witnesses were Communists and were the worst kind of people. . . . Little by little, though, we were able to break down prejudice.” As a result of the renewed activity, a growing number of sincere individuals were responding to the Kingdom message. By the end of the 1961 service year, there were 33 special pioneers in the country.