It has been a year since Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world adjusted their door-to-door methods.
“The Witnesses have adapted well to these circumstances in these difficult times, ”said Seth Hatfield, who reports up to 25% increase in Witness preaching activity in many congregations in Tulare and Kings counties. “In fact, I hear a lot of people say, ‘I can do more now. “”
In March 2020, 1.3 million Witnesses in the United States suspended their door-to-door and face-to-face forms of public ministry and moved congregation meetings to video conferencing.
“This is a very deliberate decision based on two principles: our respect for life and love of neighbor, ”said Robert Hendriks, US spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “But we are always witnesses, and as such we must bear witness to our faith. So it was inevitable that we would find a way to continue our work.
Erica Castillo, 40, of Porterville, is no stranger to the heat of Central Valley. Summer highs in the 100s meant finding the shady side of the street during door-to-door ministry. Since the pandemic, she has been sharing Bible messages by phone from her table.
Castillo notes that “most people today feel overwhelmed by current events. As a result, she feels confident “being able to share an encouraging thought from God’s Word the Bible is the best thing I can do. “
De Tulare, Barbara Smith, 77, whose mobility issues had limited her ability to go door-to-door and participate in the prosecution service to just a few hours a month before the pandemic. When knocking on doors turned to phone calls and letters, Smith said she was thrilled to have an increased stake in the ministry.
She now looks forward to continuing her increased time in the ministry in these alternate formats, “I appreciate my service so much that when COVID is over I plan to continue,” Smith explained.
During the extremely cold winters of Arden Hills, Minnesota, Terri Whitmore normally bundles up for door-to-door ministry in a long down coat and snow boots – sometimes with removable crampons to help navigate. on icy sidewalks.
Now she’s sitting at her dining room table, sipping hot tea, and calling people on her cell phone to share the same message. In December, she conducted more than twice as many Bible studies as in previous months.
“I’m having a blast, “she said.” After a good phone call, it energizes you. You can’t wait to make the next call.
His favorite topics of conversation with his neighbors are COVID-19, civil unrest, and the government. “Some people feel like they have nothing for sure to hold onto,” she said. “The power of the word of God is incredible. You can just share a scripture and feel like they’re settling down. “
Almost 51,000 people in the United States last year asked a Witness to contact them, either through a local congregation or jw.org, the official website of the organization, according to Hendriks. Since the outbreak, the Witnesses have responded to these requests through letters and phone calls instead of in-person visits.
“Our love for our neighbors is stronger than ever, ”said Hendriks. “In fact, I think we need each other more than ever. We find that people are perplexed, stressed and feel isolated. Our work has helped many people regain a sense of balance, even normalcy, in very unstable times. “
In rural areas of Salina, Kan., Where wheat and corn fields stretch for acres, the Milbradt family sometimes travel miles from house to house to reach their neighbors. Now, instead of buying gasoline to fill their vehicles for the ministry, they are spending money on paper, envelopes, stamps and pencils.
“We are looking for ways to add variety to our ministry, ”said Zeb Milbradt. He and his wife, Jenny, help their boys – Colton, 8, and Benjamin, 6 – write letters to children’s book writers, local police and hospital staff. Sometimes the boys even include hand-drawn pictures of the Bible’s promise of a new heaven and a new earth in the letters.
“We were able to get the message out to people we wouldn’t necessarily reach otherwise, ”said Jenny Milbradt.
A letter Benjamin sent to nurses at a regional health center included a quote from Bible prophecy from Isaiah 33:24 about a time to come when no one will say, “I am sick. The centre’s marketing secretary responded to Benjamin, informing him that she had scanned and emailed his letter to 2,000 employees. It “made so many people smile,” she said.
Witnesses also made a concerted effort to check out distant friends and family – sometimes text links to Bible articles on jw.org which cover hot topics, such as isolation, depression and how to beat pandemic fatigue.
“Former Bible students have started studying again, ”said Tony Fowler, who helps organize the ministry in Michigan’s northern lower peninsula.
“Co-workers have now started to show interest. Some have started Bible studies with family members who showed very little interest before the pandemic. “
Castano contacted Witnesses who had long since ceased to associate with other Witnesses.
“The pandemic has rekindled their spirituality, ”he said, adding that many attend virtual meetings with some sharing of phone testimonials and letters, even after decades of inactivity. “It’s quite exceptional,” he said.
Both Fowler and Castano report about a 20% increase in online meeting attendance.
“I think we grew up as a people, ”Fowler said. “We have grown in appreciation of other ways of ministry, our love for our neighbor, and love for one another. We are a stronger people because of all of this, and it is a beautiful thing to see.
For more information on the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses, visit the website jw.org, with content available in over 1,000 languages.