(the following photos and experiences are on pgs 99 & 102-105 of the 2007 Yearbook)
(Velloo Naicker and Gopal & Susila Coopsammy)
Heartening Response In Indian Communities
Between the years 1860 and 1911, contract laborers were brought from India to work in the sugarcane fields in Natal. Many remained after they had completed their work contracts, and a sizable Indian population—now numbering over one million—settled in the country. By the early 1950’s, interest in Bible truth was developing in the Indian communities.
Velloo Naicker was born in 1915, the fourth son in a family of nine children. His parents worked on a sugarcane plantation and were devout Hindus. Bible classes in school stimulated his interest, and when Velloo was a young man, someone gave him a Bible. He read it every day, completing it in four years. He wrote: “Matthew 5:6 appealed to me. When I read this, I realized that it makes God happy if one is hungry for truth and what is right.”
Velloo was finally contacted by a Witness and started to study the Bible. He was one of the first Indians in South Africa to be baptized, in 1954. The Hindu community where he then lived in Actonville, Gauteng, was strongly opposed to Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a prominent individual even threatened to take Velloo’s life. Velloo lost his job as the manager of a dry-cleaning business as a result of his firm stand for Bible truth. Nevertheless, he continued to serve Jehovah faithfully until his death in 1981. His fine example bore fruit, as over 190 family members (including family by marriage) through four generations are currently serving Jehovah.
Gopal Coopsammy was 14 years old when he first heard the truth from his uncle Velloo. “Velloo talked about the Bible with a few of us young ones, though I did not have a Bible study,” he recalls. “The Bible was a strange book to me, a Hindu. But some of what I read made sense. One day I saw that Velloo was going out to a Congregation Book Study. I asked him if I could go along. He agreed, and ever since then, I have attended the meetings. I wanted to further my Bible knowledge, so I went to the public library and found some publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There was much opposition from my family, but I always remembered the words of Psalm 27:10: ‘In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up.’ I was baptized in 1955, at the age of 15.”
Gopal is the presiding overseer of the congregation where he now serves, along with his wife, Susila. They have helped some 150 people to become dedicated servants of Jehovah. When asked how they accomplished this, he explained: “There were many family members living in our area, and I was able to witness to them. A number of them responded favorably. I also ran my own business, and this gave me some free time to spend in the ministry. I pioneered for four years. I worked hard in the ministry and diligently followed up any interest found.”
Doreen Kilgour and Isabella Elleray graduated from Gilead in 1956 and 1957 respectively. They served for 24 years in the Indian community in Chatsworth, a suburb of Durban.
Doreen described what working in the territory was like: “We had to have patience. Some had never heard of Adam and Eve. People were hospitable. Hindus think it is wrong to let you stand at the door. They used to say, ‘Have tea and go,’ meaning that we should have tea before we went to the next home. After a while, we felt as if our eyeballs were floating in tea. To us, it was a miracle every time an Indian left his deeply entrenched religious beliefs and became a worshipper of Jehovah.”
Isabella related this experience: “While sharing in the field ministry, I spoke to a man who accepted the magazines. His wife, Darishnie, who had just been to church, joined him. She was holding their baby. We had a lovely discussion, and I arranged to call on them. However, Darishnie was never at home. Later, she told me that her pastor had said that she must go out when I called. This, he reasoned, would make me think that she was not interested. I went to England to visit my family. While I was there, I kept thinking about Darishnie. When I returned to South Africa, I went to see her. She wanted to know where I had been. She said: ‘I was sure that you thought that I was not interested. I am so pleased to see you again.’ We started to study, though her husband did not join us. She was a keen student and in time was baptized.
“Her religion taught that a married woman wears a gold ornament attached to a yellow string around her neck. It is called a tali. She is supposed to take it off only if her husband dies. When Darishnie wanted to start sharing in the preaching work, she understood that she had to take off the tali. She asked me what she should do. I advised her to ask her husband first and see what his reaction was. She asked, but he did not want her to take it off. I told her to be patient, to wait a while and, when he was in a good mood, to ask him again. He eventually agreed that she could take it off. We encouraged our Bible students to be tactful and to show respect for Hindu teachings while at the same time taking a stand for Bible truth. They thus avoided unnecessarily hurting the feelings of friends and relatives, who in turn found it easier to accept the Bible students’ change of religion.”
When asked what helped them to endure for many years as missionaries, Doreen said: “We grew to love the people. We immersed ourselves in our assignment and thoroughly enjoyed it.” Isabella added: “We made many dear friends. We were sorry to leave our assignment, but our health is no longer good. We gratefully accepted the kind invitation to serve at Bethel.” Isabella passed away on December 22, 2003.