Jehovah’s Witnesses convention likely to draw 65,000 to Osceola
Members of congregations from Central and Southwest Florida will head to the forum opening Friday at the Silver Spurs Arena.
Monica Scandlen | Special to the Sentinel
One of the first things to strike attorney Emanuel Moore at his first Jehovah’s Witnesses convention, in 2002, was the people.
“They treat everybody the same. People are from all races, religions,” said Moore, 64, a Kissimmee real-estate broker. “Jehovah’s Witnesses do not see differences in race. What is most important is, you see love.”
Two years later, Moore, who was raised Roman Catholic, was baptized at the first Jehovah’s Witnesses convention held at Kissimmee’s Silver Spurs Arena.
This year’s gathering, titled “Deliverance at Hand!” opens Friday in the arena at Osceola Heritage Park. It is expected to draw about 65,000 people from Naples to Daytona Beach during the seven consecutive weekends of three-day events, spokesman Michael Roth said. The convention is for Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who want to learn more about the faith known for its door-to-door proselytizing.
“We very much believe that the Bible is God’s word and we can trust it, and it is not simply myth and human reasoning that is recorded for our benefit,” Roth said. “It is actually from God.”
To prepare, each of the approximately 58,000 members of about 400 congregations across Central and Southwest Florida were given 50 invitations to distribute — a total of 2.9 million invitations, Roth said.
Three of the seven three-day conventions will be in Spanish — the weekends of Aug. 4, 11 and 18. The last one of the seven is Sept. 1-3. Each weekend program is expected to draw between 9,000 and 9,500 people.
Programs include a baptism ceremony each Saturday and a biblical drama at 11:30 a.m. each Sunday titled “To Whose Authority Do You Submit?” The drama is being staged primarily by a Deltona congregation, Roth said.
At 2 p.m. each Sunday, a speaker will talk about why deliverance is so important to Jehovah’s Witnesses and how they believe God will provide salvation.
“We’re actually looking for deliverance from two things: inherited sin and death, and removal of wickedness from the earth permanently,” Roth said.
Woven throughout are sessions about strengthening family, raising children and using biblical principles to handle problems.
For Moore, the annual gathering is geared toward how to be a better person, how to find happiness and how to keep life simple through biblical principles.
“The convention is not there to convert anybody to be a Jehovah’s Witness. It is there for people to receive information,” Moore said. “The Bible says we should spread the good news of the Kingdom, and we’re spreading the good news of the Kingdom.”
Each day’s sessions start at 9:30 a.m.; they are free and open to the public.