Jehovah’s Witnesses tout weekend convention

Jehovah’s Witnesses tout weekend convention
By Christine Morente, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area
BELMONT — The click-clack of black heels echoes on Furlong Street, cutting through the faint noise from downtown a few miles away.Two women, dressed modestly yet stylishly, walk past home after home with shades drawn. While they ignore a sticker on a mailbox that forbids solicitors, their ears are primed to hear the slightest of sounds inside.

Hermelinda Lunardelli and Gina Rosario, with smiles on their faces, wait a couple of beats before leaving. They walk and stop at another home.

Success. The door opens.

“Good morning,” Rosario said. “We’re extending a special invitation to our convention we’re having this weekend.”

The 51-year-old hands over an invitation for the “Follow the Christ!” District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Cow Palace in Daly City.

For the past three weeks, Jehovah’s Witnesses have undertaken a massive effort to invite as many people as they can from their community to the three-day convention that starts Friday.

More than 9,000 people from Northern California and western/central Nevada are expected to attend the event, where they will be reminded to see Jesus Christ as “the model for all true Christians.”

There will be sessions revolving around family dynamics, a symposium on the Sermon on the Mount and a full-costume Bible drama. On Saturday, about 100 people will be baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

On Tuesday, Lunardelli and Rosario, along with David Altieri, partnered to walk the Belmont neighborhood to hand out invitations. They faced many empty homes that morning, but still managed to push invitations through the slit of front doors or place them in mailboxes or underneath welcome mats.

“It’s life-saving work,” Rosario said. “It’s also positive work because it brings good news and hope to people. When you look at the condition in the world today, many see it going in a different direction than they want it to. They want things to get better. To have a better family life, to have more security today.”

Rosario, who is originally from Guam, was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness when she was a teenager. Lunardelli, 33, can remember knocking on closets and bedroom doors when she was younger to practice her door-to-door techniques for the weekends.

Now, the Belmont residents are full-time pioneers and walk the area that spans Foster City, Redwood Shores and parts of San Mateo and San Carlos, as well as their own city.

As members of the Foster City Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they try to complete 70 hours of volunteer work a month. Volunteer work involves holding Bible studies with non-Witnesses, writing letters and going door-to-door. On average, they accomplish 840 hours a year, Altieri said.

Jehovah is seen as God’s personal name and Witnesses’ beliefs are based on the Bible. Of the slightly more than one million Jehovah’s Witnesses nationwide, many take to heart that God is loving and they were given the Bible to find hope and comfort. According to the 2007 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are 6.7 million Witnesses worldwide.

Knocking on people’s doors is the backbone of their ministry.

“Jesus took disciples door-to-door and they taught in public places,” Altieri, 65, said. “It’s a tradition of Christianity.”

Paul Demosthenes of Burlingame said it is not unusual for people to bemoan why God allows illnessand wars, then wonder if there is hope for the future. The 50-year-old said it is prophesied by Jesus Christ in the Bible that the majority of people will not have a strong faith in God.

“We strive to be model citizens in our community and to preach the good news of the kingdom,” said Demosthenes, who will talk about how the elderly’s life experience can benefit the youth. “It’s a challenge.”

Like him, his wife Kim is optimistic.

“There is hope for the future,” the 48-year-old said. “We see and we can cope with the problems of the world.”

There are many who are yearning for something. They’re trying to achieve a more satisfying marital life, a stable life,” her husband added. “While injustice occurs in the world, the Bible is the source.”

Back on Furlong Street, Rosario is excited about the convention.

“It’s about renewing and strengthening our faith,” Rosario said. “We need constant reminders.”

Meanwhile, she shrugs off any type of frustration when rebuffed by people when she goes door-to-door.

“There are those who will accept the message.” Rosario said. “Circumstances do change and when they respond that way, we don’t know what they’re going through. We know it’s not something personal.”

Rosario will return to the block in three to four months.

“It’s too bad when people don’t listen because we do have a beautiful message,” she said. “Scripture says every good and perfect gift comes from Him.”

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