A New School Helps to Meet a Growing Need
Jehovah blessed the hard work of his servants in the Dominican Republic. In 1994 there was an average of 16,354 Kingdom publishers in 259 congregations. With that thrilling increase, there was a growing need for capable elders and ministerial servants. In that same year, the Governing Body gave approval for the Ministerial Training School, now replaced by the School for Kingdom Evangelizers, to be conducted in the Dominican Republic.
By October 2011, some 600 students had graduated from the 25 classes that had been held in the country. Currently, over half of the graduates are serving in some form of full-time service, 71 are assigned as special pioneers, and 5 are in the circuit work. The branch hosted the first ten classes of the school, but since the eleventh class, the school has been held at its own facility in Villa González.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses Take Care of Their Brothers”
On September 22, 1998, Hurricane Georges tore through the Dominican Republic with winds of 120 miles (190 kilometers) per hour, causing extensive damage. Thousands were left homeless, and over 300 were killed. A Disaster Relief Committee set up a relief center on a Kingdom Hall property in La Romana, with the help of a Regional Building Committee. Approximately 300 volunteers assisted with the relief work, including Witnesses from 16 other countries.
In total, 23 Kingdom Halls and over 800 homes of our brothers and sisters had to be repaired or rebuilt. For example, Carmen, an elderly regular pioneer, was devastated when the hurricane destroyed the house in which she had lived for 38 years. However, her joy could not be contained when a team of 15 brothers arrived to pour the foundation for her new home. “Jehovah always keeps us in mind,” says Carmen, “and he takes care of us. Look at this beautiful house that the brothers are building for me. My neighbors said: ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses take care of their brothers; they truly love one another.’” Similar expressions were heard countrywide as relief workers assisted their traumatized brothers and sisters.
Although Hurricane Georges was a major disaster, the loving efforts of Jehovah’s people brought physical and spiritual comfort to our brothers who were victims of that storm. Most important, the self-sacrificing effort of the volunteers brought praise to Jehovah, the source of genuine comfort.
Kingdom Hall Construction Accelerates
With the rapid influx of new disciples, there was an increasing need for more Kingdom Halls. Consequently, in November 2000, the brothers in the Dominican Republic began to construct Kingdom Halls with assistance from the program for lands with limited resources. As a result, a congregation can build a comfortable and attractive Kingdom Hall in about eight weeks. By September 2011, two construction groups had built or renovated some 145 Kingdom Halls.
These buildings as well as the construction volunteers have given a powerful witness. For example, in a small town in the northwest of the country, the brothers found a possible site for a new Kingdom Hall. A special pioneer asked the owner about purchasing the property. “Don’t waste your time,” responded the man, “I’m not going to sell you this property, especially if you are going to build a church on it.”
Shortly after that conversation, the property owner went to Puerto Plata to visit his elderly brother who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When he arrived, he discovered that a family of Witnesses had brought his ailing brother into their home to care for him. The family took him to the doctor, to the meetings, and out in the preaching work. The man asked his brother how much he paid for all the care that he was receiving. He said: “It costs me nothing. These are my brothers.”
“This is the most united and kind group of people I have ever seen”
The property owner was so moved by the outstanding kindness of the Witnesses that he called the special pioneer who had contacted him earlier and told him that he had changed his mind and was willing to sell the property. The brothers purchased the property and started building the hall. Previously, the property owner’s wife had a very negative opinion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But, when she saw the way the brothers worked together on the construction site, she said, “This is the most united and kind group of people I have ever seen.”