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. 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.”
For many, the change from knocking on doors to making phone calls and writing letters expanded and invigorated their ministry.
For the past 50 years, Chloe Crouch of Mena, Arkansas found great satisfaction in being able to help her community, by visiting with them at their homes. But during the pandemic, she adjusted her methods and has regularly participated in virtual ministry groups, writing letters and making phone calls to share the Bible’s message of comfort.
“The challenges brought on by the pandemic have prompted me to spend more time thinking about people’s feelings and concerns. This has helped me in considering what may help each individual to better cope with stress, anxiety, or discouragement.”
Across town, Karen Mitchell can relate to those feelings. She has been knocking on doors in Mena for 46 years. “Love of God and my neighbors has motivated me to search for those who need comfort,” says Mitchell. “The pandemic has only changed the way my ministry is carried out, not the motivation. It is a real blessing for me to hear someone say, ‘You’ve made my day!’, or ‘This has helped me more than you’ll ever know!’”
Although they are ready to go back to knocking on doors when it is safe to do so, Crouch and Mitchell have come to realize the value of these alternate avenues of the ministry. Crouch explains, “Adapting to these new methods has enabled me to better reflect God’s care and love for people.”
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.”