Last month, devotees from the Harinama Ruci Team* completed a historic preaching tour across the Caribbean region, visiting nine far-off islands and countries rarely seen by the missionaries of Lord Chaitanya’s movement. The group’s members include Vicaru Das and Sandipani Muni Krsna Das from Harinam Ruci team, and they combined with Gopinath Das from Trinidad.
“After two years of waiting for COVID-19 to subside and several months of thorough research, I found the best way to travel through the Caribbean, which was both cost-effective and minimized the fatigue of traveling,” said Sandipani. “We didn’t have much of a budget, but we had faith that Krsna would send us Laxmi along the way.”
Among the countries visited, only three have a strong ISKCON presence (Trinidad, Guyana, and Suriname). Others had a handful of dedicated souls and some had no ISKCON presence, such as French Guiana and Dominica.
“Everywhere we went, we had a very good response. We tried specifically to reach the Afro-Carribean Creole community and the other ethnic groups and not only focus on the Indian community alone,” Sandipani noted. “Some countries were English speaking, some French, and one was Dutch.”
As mentioned, many devotees, temples, and projects exist in Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad. The team felt exceptionally well received in these places; the devotees were cultured and kind. They did several outreach programs in schools, Hindu temples, and homes. Everywhere they went subsequently, the team was very enthusiastically received, especially by the small pockets of devotees who noted it was rare to get traveling preachers visiting their countries.
In French Guiana, the team arranged to rent an apartment. Sandipani and Vicaru Das did book distribution and Harinama every day. The pair was surprised by how quickly the books went out, how many people had heard of Krishna, and how many joined in the chanting.
In Barbados, there are only a few devotees, but the response on the street was fantastic. Purna Avatar Das was their gracious host, housing four devotees in his one-bedroom house and organizing many public programs at local temples and homes. “I adjusted my approach to book distribution by referring to quotes about spirituality that the Rastafarians would connect with,” said Sandimani.
In St. Lucia, the team was surprised to see Mandakini Devi Dasi, an elderly devotee who had been through many struggles, and despite that, she organized the construction of a huge temple in St. Lucia. The traveling devotees were shocked to discover how many people on the island knew her. Although her health was weak, she served the deities daily with her daughter and granddaughter. The three worked tirelessly, and she suggested the traveling team stay and manage the temple. Unfortunately, just a few weeks after they left the Caribbean, the group received the sad news that Mandakini Devi Dasi passed away. She was a special soul.
In Martinique, the team met Rupanuga Bhakti Dasa, one of the leaders at ISKCON London who is connected to Martinique, and Jaya Bhakti Devi Dasi, a fantastic Harinama enthusiast. They were staying at the beautiful Sri Sri Radha Martinique-Isvara ashram, which Keshiha Prabhu and his family manage. So we had a wonderful response on the streets in Martinique.
The remote island of Dominica had no known Krishna devotees. So the team rented an apartment to extend their preaching and met many interested and responsive people. On these islands, the Creole community of African descent is the leading community we served. Many islanders are followers of Rastafarianism, a religious and cultural movement that originated in Jamaica in the 1930s. It promotes social justice, African identity, spirituality and emphasizes a vegetarian diet. In Dominica, the team dressed in Indian devotional clothing sparked queries from patrons of a local grocery store the devotees were visiting. A curious security guard and his friend bought books and several supermarket patrons all in one go.
Guadeloupe was the final island on the trip, where the team did a lot of kirtan on the street and distributed Srila Prabhupada’s books in French. There was always a positive response.
The inspired team encourages all ISKCON devotees to visit the Caribbean region and help support the devotees there in spreading the Sankirtan mission.
* The Harinam Ruci team comprises half a dozen devotees who travel and offer Harinama Sankirtana worldwide, focusing on sharing the Yuga Dharma Harinama Sankirtana in every town and village. The team has visited almost 108 countries and traveled the world for around ten years. It is led by HG Visnu Jana Das from Slovakia and notably travels regularly with Mahavishnu Swami.
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