Opening the Haitian Creole Field
The Spanish-speaking field has been very productive. Over time, though, people who speak other languages have moved to the country and have also been responding to our message of hope. In neighboring Haiti, Haitian Creole is the primary language. Although the relationship between the countries of the Dominican Republic and Haiti has at times been difficult, thousands of Haitians make up a sizable part of the workforce in the Dominican Republic, and their numbers have increased dramatically in recent times.
For years, Haitian Creole-speaking individuals who showed interest in the truth were directed to Spanish congregations for spiritual assistance. However, to provide better spiritual help for such ones, in 1993 the Governing Body directed the Guadeloupe branch to invite special pioneers from their territory to serve in the Haitian Creole field in the Dominican Republic. Barnabé and Germaine Biabiany were one of three couples who volunteered to move. “At first we had only two brochures in Haitian Creole,” says Barnabé. “All the other literature was in French, so we had to translate everything from French to Haitian Creole.”
In January 1996, there were nine publishers in Higüey and ten publishers in Santo Domingo who were willing to support a Haitian Creole group. So a group was formed in each of those cities, and in time both groups became congregations. However, those congregations were dissolved, since it seemed that many Haitians wanted to learn Spanish and so preferred to attend a Spanish congregation. “We met with the brothers from the Service Department,” explains Barnabé, “and it seemed advisable to stop the work in the Haitian Creole field for the time being.”
Haitian Creole Field Revitalized
In 2003, the Governing Body assigned missionary couple Dong and Gladys Bark to work in the Haitian Creole field in the Dominican Republic. For two years, they worked the territory in Higüey and began to see good results. On June 1, 2005, a Haitian Creole congregation was formed. Dong Bark, Barnabé Biabiany, and another missionary named Steven Rogers, traveled tirelessly throughout the country cultivating the Haitian Creole field.
The work progressed well, and more congregations were established. On September 1, 2006, the first Haitian Creole circuit was formed. There were seven congregations and two groups, and Barnabé Biabiany served as circuit overseer.
In subsequent years, several more missionaries were assigned to the Dominican Republic to work in the Haitian Creole field. Also, many other volunteers arrived from Canada, Europe, the United States, and elsewhere to offer their help. A team of qualified brothers was assigned to prepare a language course in Haitian Creole for foreign as well as local brothers and sisters.
Many assume that non-Haitians who speak Haitian Creole are Jehovah’s Witnesses
The fact that so many Dominicans are making an effort to learn Haitian Creole is having a beneficial impact on the Haitian people. Now, when a Dominican publisher explains Bible truths in Haitian Creole, it dissipates tension and creates a favorable atmosphere for sharing the Kingdom message. So many of our brothers have learned the language that many assume that non-Haitians who speak Haitian Creole are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
To illustrate the powerful effect of showing interest in people of a different culture, consider the experience of a Dominican pioneer sister who attended a language course in Haitian Creole. While in the ministry, this sister found an interested Haitian couple. She made a return visit on them to begin a Bible study. “When I arrived,” she relates, “I greeted the wife with a kiss on the cheek, as is the custom among women in the Dominican Republic. The woman began to cry. I asked her, ‘What’s the matter?’ She replied, ‘This is the first time in all the years that I’ve lived in this country that someone has greeted me with a kiss.’”
Jehovah’s blessing on the hard work in this field has resulted in phenomenal growth. By September 1, 2009, there were 23 Haitian Creole congregations and 20 groups, so a second circuit was formed. The Memorial attendance in 2011 highlighted the potential for future growth. For example, the 11 publishers in the small town of Río Limpio were delighted to have 594 at their Memorial. And when arrangements were made to have the Memorial in the town of Las Yayas de Viajama, where there are no publishers, 170 attended the Memorial. By September 2011, there were 33 congregations and 21 groups in the Haitian Creole field. Thus, another circuit was formed in 2012.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti branches have worked together to train brothers from both countries. Five classes of the Bible School for Single Brothers were conducted in Haitian Creole as well as four classes of the Bible School for Christian Couples.