The Good News Reaches Remote Areas
In time, more missionaries arrived, including Pete Paschal, Amos and Barbara Parker, Richard and Belva Stoddard, who had served in Bolivia, and Jesse and Lynn Cantwell from Colombia. The missionaries gave further support to the burgeoning preaching work. By 1973 there was much activity in the Bible education work in the towns and cities in the Dominican Republic, but the good news had not yet reached those living in remote areas. Hence, arrangements were made to care for the spiritual needs of the rural population. When volunteers were invited to spend two months preaching in the countryside, 19 regular pioneers made themselves available. Between December 1973 and January 1977, groups of pioneers were assigned to places where there had been little or no preaching activity.
“We exchanged publications for chickens, eggs, and fruits”
One pioneer who participated in this special work related: “After a day of introducing the Bible’s message and leaving literature with people, we would spend a second day making return visits on those who showed interest. As the country folk had little money, we exchanged publications for chickens, eggs, and fruits. Thanks to Jehovah, we never went hungry.” Many heard the Bible read to them for the very first time in their life. In some cases, religious leaders had told people that Jehovah is the Devil. How surprised they were to read Bible texts such as Psalm 83:18: “You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth”! In some places the interest was so great that public meetings were organized.
More Missionaries and a New Branch
In September 1979, Abigail Pérez and his wife, Georgina, arrived as missionaries. They were assigned to the circuit work. Later, in 1987, Gilead graduates Tom and Shirley Dean came to bolster the preaching work. The territory also benefited from an influx of special full-time servants from Puerto Rico. In August 1988, Reiner and Jeanne Thompson were assigned to the Dominican Republic, their fifth missionary assignment.
By 1989, the average number of publishers had increased to 11,081, and the potential for future growth was evident, as 20,494 Bible studies were reported. This kind of growth presented challenges. For instance, the existing branch building had served its purpose well, but by the late 1980’s, it was no longer adequate. “It was so overcrowded,” says Reiner Thompson, “that it became necessary to find housing and to use warehouses in different parts of the city.”
“Finding suitable land for a new branch proved to be difficult,” continues Reiner. “Then a businessman who heard that we were searching for land contacted us. He explained that he would like to sell some choice land, but only to Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the past he had owned a large sewing business, and his secretary and several other employees were Jehovah’s Witnesses. He had observed their exceptional honesty and respectful conduct for years and was greatly impressed. Because he had a high regard for Jehovah’s Witnesses, he offered the land at a greatly reduced cost.” The property was purchased in December 1988, and three adjacent sections of land were obtained later. In total, the branch and adjoining Assembly Hall occupy some 22 acres.
Hundreds of local and international volunteers helped with the construction of the new branch and Assembly Hall. The facilities were dedicated in November 1996 when Governing Body members Carey Barber, Theodore Jaracz, and Gerrit Lösch came and participated in the Saturday dedication activities. The following day special programs were held in two of the country’s largest stadiums, and over 10,000 visitors toured the new branch facilities.
‘Stepping Over Into Macedonia’
The history of Jehovah’s people in the Dominican Republic would be incomplete without telling about the large number of Witnesses who have moved to the country to serve where the need is greater. Spurred on by reports of a spiritually fertile field where one can conduct numerous Bible studies, many began migrating to the country in the late 1980’s to “step over into Macedonia,” as it were. (Acts 16:9) These volunteers spoke to others about the joys they were experiencing in the harvest work in the Dominican Republic. The result was that the migration dramatically gained momentum in the 1990’s.
Stevan and Miriam Norager from Denmark, for example, have served in the Dominican Republic since 2001. Prior to that, Miriam had served in the country for a year and a half with her sister. What motivated this couple to move to a distant land that has a different culture and language? “We both come from spiritually strong families with parents who served as special pioneers when they were young,” says Miriam, “and who served as regular pioneers after having children. Our parents always encouraged us to give our all to Jehovah in the full-time service.”
Stevan and Miriam have been special pioneers since 2006 and have helped many to learn the truth. “The blessings are countless,” says Stevan. “Whatever the difficulties or health problems, they are nothing in comparison to the wonderful experiences we have had and the joy of helping sincere people to get to know and love Jehovah. We have also gained a large family of loving friends. Serving in the Dominican Republic has taught us humility and patience, and leading a simple life has really strengthened our faith and trust in Jehovah.”
Jennifer Joy is one of many foreign single sisters who is preaching in the Dominican Republic. When Jennifer came in 1992 to visit her aunt, longtime missionary Edith White, she experienced good results in the ministry. She also met other foreign sisters who were serving as “need greaters.” “I was shy and not very confident,” says Jennifer. “But I thought, ‘If they can do it, perhaps I can too.’”
At first, Jennifer planned to stay for just one year but, year after year, she stayed and has now been serving in the Dominican Republic for more than 20 years. She has helped many of her Bible students to become worshippers of Jehovah. Jennifer has enjoyed helping with the development of the sign-language field in the country and has also assisted with the preparation of the curriculum for language classes.
‘Jehovah has cared for me up till now, so why doubt that he will take care of me next year?’
How does Jennifer support herself? “I go back to Canada to work for a few months every year,” she explains. “Over the years I have done a variety of jobs, such as photofinishing, photography, painting houses, cleaning offices, fabricating headlights, and making carpet. I have also worked as a tour guide, a travel agent, an English teacher, and an interpreter.” Jennifer likens her situation to that of the ancient Israelites in the wilderness. “They lived on every word coming from Jehovah’s mouth,” she says. “His word was that he would take care of them, and he did just that. They had food every day, and their clothes and sandals did not wear out. (Deut. 8:3-4) Jehovah promises to take care of us too. (Matt. 6:33) He has cared for me up till now, so why should I doubt that he will take care of me next year?”
Up to 1,000 self-sacrificing evangelizers have come from places as diverse as Austria, Japan, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United States. “Need greaters” from as many as 30 different nationalities have become integrated into American Sign Language (ASL), Chinese, English, Haitian Creole, Italian, Russian, and Spanish congregations. Like the apostle Peter, they have said: “Look! We have left all things and followed you.”