By Julia Jones, Correspondent
“Don’t Give Up” was the mantra of encouragement and the title for this year’s convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses held at the Garth Arena in the Bell County Expo Center July 21-23. Speakers, videos, baptisms, and more drew nearly 5,000 attendees to the free 52-part event. Media coordinator Michael Schmidt stated that this convention benefitted more than just Jehovah’s Witnesses in attendance.
“Ninety percent of the attendees are Jehovah’s Witnesses, 10 percent are visitors responding to the invitation, so the general idea of having the convention every year is Bible education, which is what Jehovah’s Witnesses stress,” Schmidt said. “In the times we’re living in, more than ever, people get weighed down, so a convention like this can build you up.”
The “Don’t Give Up” theme was chosen by the Jehovah’s Witness headquarters in New York and was the subject of conventions for all of the congregations around the world.
Symposiums and speeches based on Bible verses filled the weekend’s schedule, with breaks for songs, lunch, a three-part drama entitled “Remember the Wife of Lot,” and baptisms on Saturday morning. Loren Desaulniers spoke on Saturday about the need for endurance in faith and likened the strength God gives humans to take on daily challenges to the endurance alpine trees show through harsh conditions.
“Our Creator has given us the same capabilities that he has given those trees to endure under stressful circumstances, but we have to do so in a way that keeps us calm and helps us to see that there is generally a light at the end of every tunnel,” Desaulniers said.
Friday and Saturday’s activities began at 9:20 a.m. and continued until 4:50 p.m., while Sunday’s ended early at 3:30 p.m. to allow time for families to discuss what they had learned.
The convention was fully funded by donations, even though there was no obligation to donate. This generosity by the participants is common and extends far past monetary contributions. Kali and Timothy Barco dedicated months of their life as “pioneers” to help build the new headquarters in New York, and they claimed that it was part of their calling to constantly give back.
“We spent a total of about six months up there, helping out with the construction,” Kali said. “We don’t get paid for the volunteer work we do, but we do it because we love it and we enjoy it.”