EL CENTRO — The Jehovah’s Witnesses found new ways of reaching out to their neighborhood at a time when assembling in churches was banned, travel mobilities restricted, and gathering in public places regulated.
In Mach 2020, the pandemic curtailed the movement of individuals and isolated many. As a result, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States “suspended their door-to-door and face-to-face forms of public ministry,” according to a released statement from the Jehovah’s Witnesses United States of America public information desk.
“We follow the commandments of Jesus Christ, according to Matthew 24:14, to speak about the kingdom,” said Juan Castro, information officer for both San Diego and Imperial counties. This tenet is what motivates a Jehovah Witness to seek ways to reach out to their neighborhood and communities.
During the pandemic, Jehovah’s Witnesses returned to traditional letter writing or using a telephone to call residents at their homes.
“We use comforting words to console people affected by the pandemic,” said Castro, who quoted a passage from Revelation 21 — that in the future, there would be no more tears, death, and pain.
Newspapers, radio, televisions, social media, and healthcare organizations provide incessant COVID-19 updates on infections, deaths, and recoveries at the local and national level, and around the world — add to these the loss of jobs and social unrest.
“I got very depressed during the pandemic,” said Anabela Chabolla, who was isolated in her residence with her family and could not meet with her sisters-in-the-faith. She missed the outdoor activities, “I loved the door-to-door ministry.”
And yet the reaching out to her neighbors was strong. In preparation for the letter writing ministry, Chabolla gathered a Bic ballpoint pen, notebook or a bond paper, and a bible. If she knew the residents, she addressed them by their names. However, if she didn’t know the occupants, Chabolla uses the generic address — “To Whom It May Concern” or “To the Current Resident.”
“There is beauty in writing a letter,” said Chabolla. “The love I feel for my neighbor is expressed in the letters. I write or talk from my heart guided by the Scriptures. It brings me joy.”
According to Chabolla, she uses both Yellow Pages and White Pages to call people in her community. “When residents do not respond, I leave short and comforting messages.”
“We use Zoom meetings daily to plan on reaching out to the community,” said Castro. On a given day, there may up to 15 Witnesses in attendance.
Letter writing and calling has expanded the reach of a Jehovah Witness. A fence was no longer a barrier; and they no longer had to avoid dogs guarding the residence.
“We were able to reach residents in gated communities.”
Each letter is personally customized and, for the most part, handwritten. This is true also when calling individuals. According to Castro, there have been adjustments for many Jehovah’s Witnesses to write and call because they have not done these before. But many Jehovah’s Witnesses find this rewarding.
“If we speak with one person about Jesus Christ, it is satisfying,” said Castro.