It’s been one year since Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide adjusted their hallmark methods of sharing comfort and hope from the scriptures due to the pandemic.
For many, the change from ringing doorbells and knocking on doors to making phone calls and writing letters expanded and invigorated their ministry.
“Witnesses have embraced this shift, finding the good in these trying times,” said Aurelius Ransom from Redondo Beach, California, who reports a 30 percent increase in the Witnesses’ preaching activity in his region of Los Angeles County. “In fact, I hear many saying, ‘I’m able to do more now writing letters, making phone calls and sending text messages.’”
In March 2020, the some 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 videoconferencing.
“It has been a very deliberate decision based on two principles: our respect for life and love of neighbor,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “But we are still witnesses and, as such, we must testify about our faith. So it was inevitable that we would find a way to continue our work.”
Nearly 51,000 people in the United States last year made a request for a Witness to contact them, either through a local congregation or jw.org, the organization’s official website, according to Hendriks. Since the outbreak, the Witnesses have followed up on these requests via 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 have needed each other more than ever. We are finding that people are perplexed, stressed, and feeling isolated. Our work has helped many regain a sense of footing–even normalcy–at a very unsettled time.”
Kylia, Sophie, and Natalie Cariaga of Lomita, California, enjoyed participating in the door-to-door preaching work with their parents Nathan and Lorrie, which many times ended with a trip to a frozen yogurt shop. But even as they engaged in the ministry–and school–from home this past year, the three sisters have found opportunities to share the Bible’s message with others by simply taking an interest in them.
After hearing that her principal’s daughter was battling cancer, Sophie, 14, wrote her principal an email, expressing her concern and sharing the Bible’s hope for the future.
Likewise, when 7-year-old Natalie’s teacher shared that her family had contracted COVID, Natalie wrote to her about the Bible and let her know that she was praying for her. Her teacher wrote in response: “My heart is full of love, and I am so blessed to have such a kind and caring student.”
Kylia, who is 16-years-old had never preached by telephone before the pandemic. She now enjoys how it brings her into contact with her neighbors. “It’s nice to actually talk to people,” she said. “People really need comfort right now, and I feel a responsibility to bring them that comfort from the Bible.”
Witnesses have also made a concerted effort to check on distant friends and family—sometimes texting links to Bible-based articles on jw.org that cover timely topics, such as isolation, depression, and how to beat pandemic fatigue.
Ransom, who has been reaching out to Witnesses who had long ago stopped associating with fellow Witnesses, commented that “the pandemic has reignited their spirituality.”
Some areas report about a 20 percent increase in online meeting attendance. But perhaps the most significant growth is in an area that numbers cannot measure.
“I think during this difficult time, we’ve grown as a people,” said Ransom. “We’ve grown in appreciation for other avenues of the ministry, our love for our neighbor and love for one another. We’re a stronger people because of all this, and that’s a beautiful thing to see.”
For more information on the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses, visit their website jw.org, with content available in over 1,000 languages.
This piece was submitted by Oscar Hidalgo, who works with the United States branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses.