Jehovah’s Witnesses hope area residents answer the call to be informed
Convention concludes this weekend in Saginaw
Friday, August 11, 2006
By DENISE MITCHELL
TIMES NEWS SERVICE
SAGINAW – Jehovah’s Witnesses Gary C. and Evonne M. Bocksch park on Holly Lane and gather religious literature for their door-to-door ministry as sweltering temperatures roast the blacktop in Saginaw Township.
They choose their first house and gather their courage. There’s a vehicle in the driveway, but no one responds to the Saginaw Township couple’s knock. They repeat at a second house; again no response.
As the duo approaches a third house, the homeowner darts inside. A fourth homeowner tracking their movements from the front door closes it as they head that way.
”That’s OK,” Gary Bocksch (pronounced Botch) says without skipping a beat. ”We don’t push it. We typically find one in 100 genuinely interested in what we have to say. But it’s that one that makes it all worthwhile.”
Evonne Bocksch adds, ”Most of the people are nice. There are some who are not interested but will take the reading information.”
William P. McCarthy, 62, doesn’t close the door or rudely greet the pair when they ring the doorbell to his home.
”We need all the peace and help we can get, especially with this war going on,” McCarthy tells the Bocksches. Agreeing, the couple hands the General Motors Corp. retiree a ”personal invitation” to join them at the ”Deliverance at Hand!” District Convention, which concludes a three-weekend run today through Sunday at the the Dow Event Center’s Wendler Arena, 303 Johnson St., Saginaw.
Thrilled with McCarthy’s receptive response, the couple crosses to another home .
An elderly woman cautiously cracks open her iron security door to hear Evonne Bocksch’s invitation to join her at the convention.
”I’m a Republican,” the woman blurts out as she accepts a convention flier. Realizing she has misspoke, the woman clarifies, ”I’m a Presbyterian and a Republican,” before turning away.
Rejection comes with the territory, the couple admits. Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the most attacked and criticized religious groups in America.
Jehovah’s Witness organizers are hoping the convention will counter misperceptions.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the Trinity (God the father, the Son and Holy Ghost) – the cornerstone of mainline Protestant denominations.
Witnesses believe God is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator. The relationship between God and Jesus is like that of father and son: Jesus is the first creation of God. He was fully human when he walked on Earth. The Holy Spirit is an active force which intervenes for God on earth. The three – God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit – are separate entities.
If all goes as the Witnesses plan with the convention, more residents will welcome them into their homes, instead of greeting followers contemptuously.
This year, leaders of the 6.6 million-member denomination in 235 countries – including more than 950,000 in America – organized an extensive campaign requiring members to hand-deliver about 75,000 ‘personal invitations’ to their ”Deliverance at Hand!” convention.
Followers are using the fliers to convince nonmembers to reconsider long-held stereotypes characterizing believers as closed-minded, cultist pests.
The goal of the three-weekend convention was to enable attendance by thousands of followers from the 49 Michigan Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations. Bay, Midland and Saginaw counties are home to 11 congregations, representing more than 1,000 members.
”Ignorance is the worst enemy of anything,” said Daniel R. Ferriss, 45, an elder in the Grayling congregation. ”There are so many things people looking in from the outside don’t know or understand about us. We’re good people who tend to dwell on the positive.”
Ferriss, who wasn’t raised in the faith, trekked with his wife, Rene, to Saginaw for the first weekend of the convention. He joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses more than 18 years ago.
”My personal goal … is to learn how to be a better public minister, better myself as a Christian and improve my understanding of the Bible,” he said.