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 Joseph Castano, a Traveling Minister, who reports a 30 percent increase in the Witnesses’ preaching activity in his region of northern Virginia and nearby parts of West Virginia. “In fact, I hear many saying, ‘I’m able to do more now.’” 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.”
83-year-old Florence Billhimer from Hesperia, California, experienced the loss of her husband just days before they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in 2020. She found that by shifting her focus from her grief to helping encourage her neighbors through individual letters and phone calls, she could better cope with her loss. “I’m no longer depressed. It helped me get through losing my husband, it gave me focus in my life again, and it renewed my joy and zeal,” related Billhimer. Billhimer’s health limited the time she could previously spend in the door-to-door ministry, but the pandemic allowed her to increase her efforts to share Bible-based hope with her neighbors. In April of this year, she spent nearly 40 hours writing and calling her neighbors. To stay connected with her community, she regularly uses Zoom, “I took it and ran with it,” she commented. By writing letters and making calls to neighbors from her home, she feels confident that she is reaching and “talking to people that either we have never talked to before.”
Castano has been reaching out to Witnesses who had long ago stopped associating with fellow Witnesses. “The pandemic has reignited their spirituality,” he said, adding that many are attending virtual meetings with some sharing in telephone witnessing and letter writing even after decades of inactivity. “It’s been pretty outstanding,” he said. Tony Fowler, also a Traveling Minister and Joe Castano both report about a 20 percent increase in online meeting attendance. But perhaps the most significant growth is in an area that cannot be measured by numbers. “I think we’ve grown as a people,” Fowler said. “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 of 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.