Jehovah’s Witnesses get a spiritual top-up
Portland convention – Thousands gather for practical advice based on the Bible as a tool for life
Monday, July 03, 2006
Many reasons brought nearly 7,000 people to Portland’s Memorial Coliseum during the weekend, but one theme tied them together: Following God’s teachings can make both your spiritual and practical life happier.
The three-day Jehovah’s Witnesses district convention, one of four to be held this summer in Portland, was designed to offer practical encouragement, said Dan Woodin, convention chairman and district overseer for southern Washington and Oregon. “Life is stressful today for everyone. Our talks help us face life’s challenges guided by Bible principles,” he said.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, a worldwide religion based on first-century Christianity that’s grown from 1 million members in 1963 to more than 6.5 million today, named the 2006 annual convention “Deliverance at Hand!” The theme centers on the belief that current events are a sign that a day of reckoning is not far off and that God will bring an end to suffering. The event will be held in 266 cities this year.
The gathering drew a large and well-dressed audience, with most of the men in suits and women in dresses. Even the children listened attentively in the cavernous coliseum during a dramatization of the ultimate authority of God — or Jehovah. Other sessions ranged from the practical, “Keep a Scriptural View of Health Care,” to the theological, “Searching Into the Deep Things of God.”
Ed and Benita Ebeling, Jehovah’s Witnesses ministers in North Bonneville, Wash., attended the convention “to be spiritually refreshed and encouraged,” Ed Ebeling said. The two, who volunteer 70 hours a month to go door-to-door sharing their faith, said they get strength from spending time with fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses and by being reminded of God’s message of hope.
“If we keep going, enduring,” Benita Ebeling said, “the promise is that soon problems will be over with.”
The Ebelings find the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be a practical road map for modern life. Children, for instance, don’t come with an instruction manual. “But we feel strongly that instruction manual is the Bible,” Benita Ebeling said. “When people apply Bible principles, they are happier. We watch it happen.”
It doesn’t have to be complicated, either.
“It’s like the Golden Rule,” she said. “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. People understand that. A lot of it is common sense.”
The event is free and open to everyone. About 15 percent to 20 percent of those who attend are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to Larry Zedwick, a Jehovah’s Witness from Eugene who volunteered at the convention.