Every summer Jehovah’s Witnesses attend what is referred to as their District Convention. This year’s theme is Safeguard your Heart.
It has been 10 years since I attended a District Convention, but a contact from our ministry team inspired me with the results of her first visit to one, so I put on my skirt, an official badge card, grabbed my New World Translation of the Bible and headed out to blend in unsuspected.
I went prepared to start up some conversations and also place some question cards to raise awareness:
Who is Candace Conti?
Why did the Watchtower
Bible and Tract Society
get sued for $28 Million
when it was only one publisher
who molested our sister Candace?
Get the facts
Make sure of all things;
hold fast to what is fine.
~1 Thess 5:21 NWT~
Keep testing whether YOU are in the faith,
keep proving what YOU yourselves are.
Or do YOU not recognize that Jesus Christ
is in union with YOU? Unless YOU are disapproved.
I truly hope YOU will come to know we are not disapproved.
2 Cor 13:5-6 NWT
I slipped these cards under chairs, on stairways, at drinking fountains, in bathroom stalls, contribution boxes, outside bushes and car windshields. I was even able to drop some literature off at two kingdom halls on my drive there. That’s just one person, I’m sure they thought the place was crawling with apostates by the end of the day–which is why I did not attend the next day. I’m sure my bathroom visits were becoming suspect.
At lunch I had the opportunity to engage in three separate conversations. My stance with all was that I had a relative who was a Witness, I studied at one time, and have attended meetings and conventions before. This is all true. I just left out the part that I was a disfellowshipped JW.
First I met a woman who was alone and wearing no badge card so I wondered if she was disfellowshipped. When I told her I was not a JW, she asked why I had not progressed and I used a part on the program to answer. The demonstration had been about two JWs being told at the door that all religions were hypocritical. The JW handled it by saying Jehovah’s Witnesses were known for exposing religious hypocrisy and pointed at Jesus’ example in Matthew 23. So I told this woman that I was curious how JW’s are handling questions about “the lawsuit” at the door. She responded by saying, “you mean the one in France?” I said I knew nothing about that but was referring to the child sexual abuse in California and proceeded to tell her about the $28 million lawsuit recently won against the Watchtower in the case of Candace Conti. She knew nothing about it and when I mentioned the elder’s manual, she said there was no such thing because “they only used the Bible.” She kept saying she’d have to know more to understand this so I encouraged her to do some research on it. I pray she does. I also was able to leave her with my reason for not “progressing in the truth.” I told her that I believed Jehovah was a holy and righteous God. She agreed. I told her how I realized I was not holy and not righteous and that when I read 1Timothy 2:5 and understood that Jesus acted as a mediator between me and Jehovah I was so relieved. I spoke about the need to be forgiven in Christ. She agreed. I said that I read the March 1, 2012 Watchtower which indicated Jesus was NOT my mediator but only one for the 144,000 and added, “this really holds me back because if I became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, then Jesus would no longer be my mediator and how would I stand before a holy God then?” This seemed to agitate her as she walked away. I pray she dwell on that question.
The next conversation I had was while I was in line for a bathroom break. A very friendly Witness woman and I chit-chatted and just before she went into her stall she asked what congregation I attended. I told her I was not a JW but had been to the kingdom halls in my area. She said it was very nice talking with me. I went in my stall and figured that was the last I’d see of her. When I came out of the restroom she was WAITING for me by the water fountain! She went right into Witness mode and began to detail for me why Jehovah’s Witnesses were the true religion through a process of elimination: Only JWs use the name of Jehovah, only JWs abstain from wars, only JWs take a stand on holidays, blood, etc. I corrected her on a few points stating non JWs I knew who followed the same ways but again brought up Candace Conti to ask how she felt about the Watchtower being sued due to their error in not reporting to the legal authorities the sexual abuse she endured as a child by a registered sex offender in the congregation where she and the abuser were both members. This sister started in with how Satan wants to attack the attributes of Jehovah and that one of those attributes was justice. I told her I was not stumbled at all by Jehovah and that I knew He was a God of justice and in fact I was glad that Jehovah, true to Romans 13, was using the superior authorities to bring about His justice in this case by suing the wrong in the Watchtower. I said perhaps He was clearing something bad out of the organization and she agreed to that. At one point she grabbed the Bible out of my hands to show me a scripture. I thought perhaps she was looking for evidence of my “apostasy.” Then she asked again my name while looking closely at my badge card and offered to sit with me. I declined of course.
In both cases with these women, I spoke of my security in Christ. One simply stated it was not enough. The other gave me the illustration of Noah’s ark pointing to the organization as today’s ark. I said that Paul spoke of judgment but he never said an organization we were in would spare us, rather he said in Romans 8:1 that those “in Christ” were no longer condemned and how happy I was to be “in Christ” and no church or kingdom hall I attended had anything to do with it hoping to point out to these ladies that our church or organization affiliation means nothing in comparison to being “in Christ” and yet both continually upheld the need to be in “Jehovah’s organization” while giving mere lip service to the one name under heaven by which we are saved, Jesus Christ.
During the afternoon session, I left. The convention was still in progress and I started walking toward my vehicle. An attendant was sitting at a picnic table alone crying. I walked past and asked if something was wrong and if I could help. She motioned for me to go away. I told her right away I wasn’t a JW and how the talks got a little long for me since I wasn’t used to them (I suspected she might be disfellowshipped and would not talk to me if she thought I was a baptized, active JW). I asked if something in the talks were upsetting her. She dismissed that and our conversation geared toward the conditions of the world in which she noted how close to the end we were. She was extremely end time focused and yet very aware how many good people there were “in the world” who had some measure of faith. She told me of some neighbors and friends she’d studied with. She gave me ample opportunity to tell her about my faith in Jesus. She asked if I ever felt unworthy. I honestly related that I used to. I told her how we each may have faith in Jehovah and His son Jesus Christ and not realize the victory we have. How we all know we’re sinners and when I came to Christ I knew in my head that I was forgiven because that is what the Bible said, but I didn’t fully realize the victory in his blood. How when the devil accused me, all I could do was agree because I knew I was a sinner. But as I grew in Christ, I understood that my sins were completely forgiven and the devil had no power to condemn me. I could agree with the devil that I was a sinner but I could dismiss his attempts to make me feel unworthy because Jehovah had already punished all my sins on the body of Jesus. I told her about VICTORY and that we need to claim it when those unworthy feelings come in. She seemed to straighten up when I was speaking about this.
I was led to share John 6 in which Jesus said unless we partake of his body and blood we have no life in us. I told her how my fleshly parents gave me life and how I inherited my DNA and blood through them but when I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I inherited his blood and became a new creation (2 Cor 5:17) and could now call Jehovah my Father. She listened and nodded a lot and indicated she’d heard these things before… “but”… sigh, again with the organization. We talked for about an hour undistracted, it was wonderful. She told me about a woman she was visiting in jail. She seemed delighted to share hope with her and I encouraged her to continue to do that. I felt like she needed that blessing and to know her faith was not in vain (even though it was being manipulated by the Watchtower ideology at present). I asked her if she ever shared with that woman the account of the man being impaled next to Jesus and how he never had any opportunity to “prove” his faith by attending meetings, going out in service or even being baptized but that Jesus promised he’d be with him in paradise simply because he expressed faith in Christ as King. I reminded her that Christ is enough and she did not challenge me on that.
I could tell she really cares about the people she ministered to. She spoke of seeing the goodness of this woman in jail even though everything on the outside is wrong. I commended her in endeavoring to see this woman’s heart. I related it to how Jehovah said that it was not the outward appearance that mattered. I brought up how in the Old Testament you could spot an Israelite simply by seeing the physical circumcision, but if we were to look over that auditorium for “God’s chosen people” neither of us could tell who had a circumcised heart. Only Jehovah can see that. She agreed. So I said it couldn’t have anything to do with what organization we belonged to could it? Only God sees the heart and who belongs to Him. And I told her I knew I belonged to Christ (I was hoping this would lead to Romans 8 but it didn’t go that way). She patiently listened as I told her about my own relationship with Jesus Christ and she did not interfere with that but said how I should continue searching… to which I added “like a noble-minded Beroean!” After an hour or so, she got up and said she should probably go back inside so I got up too. She smiled and opened her arms and came forward to hug me and said, “it was so nice talking to you today!” I really felt she was the reason I’d come. I am praying for her as I think Jehovah had invited me in to what He was already doing in her life. I sensed someone has been praying and sharing Jesus with her. I was just another seed along her path, that’s what we each are in God’s will. I was blessed to show up.
Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie