Many people have been affected over the course or nearly two years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has proved to be challenging times for Jehovah’s Witnesses as they are now meeting virtually for congregational services and their door to door ministries have come to a halt. But, they adapted, and their ministries are continuing with a virtual platform, using phone calls, writing letters, and the use of Zoom to continue their personal ministries in their own neighborhoods.
Regional elder Konrad Siegel lives in Imperial Beach and attends the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses Imperial Beach. He personally attends its Spanish version and said that the neighborhood ministry is extremely important to him, his family, and those he gets the opportunity to speak with.
“I received the wonderful hope from the Bible, and that hope is really something that has made my life better,” he said. “Since I have a hope for the future, and I have learned great practical things from the Bible that have helped me in my family life, my desire then is to share that with my neighbors. I want to help my neighbors to have a great life, to be able to pick what they have learned in the Bible and apply it to their lives. To have a family life and to have a hope for the future.”
Siegel said that the ministry is extremely positive and that they not only speak with people who may not know much about the Bible, but also serves to connect with people within the congregation, encouraging one another, reminding them about the hope for the future, and sharing practical points they learn to help have happier families. He said the pandemic has affected everyone in one way or another and that the ministry is an important part of helping people through these challenging times.
“It has affected our in-person meetings, in-person preaching in our public areas,” he said. “You may not find me or any other Witnesses at a preaching cart down in Imperial Beach, or in public areas right now. We are not knocking door to door, but we are still very active in our ministry. We still have our weekly meetings where we meet at a congregation on Zoom. We still study and learn from the Bible, and we also still try to do our best in trying to reach our neighbors by letter writing and telephone witnessing and sharing articles from our website. As far as the future is concerned, we hope that we can keep helping our neighbors as best as we can.”
Robert and Gwen Peterson have been part of the Alpine community for more than 30 years. Robert Peterson is a local elder at the Jehovah’s Witnesses Alpine. They raised their children in Alpine, created many friendships, kids have gone to school together and they often see them at the gym, or grocery store.
“We have been a big part of the community and we really love it here,” he said. “We thoroughly enjoyed our house to house ministry, but we cannot do that anymore, so we have had to adjust, with safety being a primary concern. With telephone witnessing, not being able to see people face to face has been hard but being able to share a phone conversation with them personally has been thoroughly enjoyable.”
Robert Peterson said one beneficial gift in the change of how he does his neighborhood ministry is that it has developed his listening skills, really understanding what people are saying and how they are saying it. He said the website has been a valuable tool for him.
“We do get people with different languages, and we have over 1,000,” he said. “What I have also noticed with people I talk to is that they are busy. Being able to draw one’s attention to a website with different articles, whether they have children, work issues, family, or they like science, whatever the case may be, being able to draw them to the website, they can do it on their time, their terms, and browse through things that might be a certain interest for them. People really do enjoy it.”
He said he recently spoke to an older woman on the phone who has had no visitors during the pandemic, and even her family has not been able to visit her.
“She has missed that,” he said. “It is nice to be able to engage with someone and you can just feel that people want to have that connection. But they do not always know where to go. So, we have had many expressions of appreciation for reaching out.”
With many of the people that he has talked with over the phone, Robert Peterson said the thing he is really looking forward to is meeting these people in person.
“It is kind of like a pen-pal or something of that nature where you do not know the person face to face and might have been standing in line at the grocery store with them and not even know it,” he said. “I am looking forward to meeting them face to face and perhaps inviting them to our Kingdom Hall for those who really want to learn more about the Bible. Closing that gap and having that connection rather than just having that voice or a letter.”
Gwen Peterson said they both love talking to people.
“It is kind of hard to do, it is not very natural, when it is from behind a mask,” she said. “This new form of reaching out by letter, or by calling people we previously visited, or people that we have heard may need some spiritual comfort, has been extremely rewarding. We miss talking face to face, but we have had some really nice experiences.”
One of those experiences was a text from a friend who thanked her for mailing a brochure because she missed reading the literature she normally received at her door.
“Now, when we first meet somebody on the phone or in our letters, we also direct them to our website,” she said. “Let’s face it. The world is going to technology, so having electronic copies of information that they can receive on their own time, and study about on their own time, which has been really beneficial also.”
She said you never know what you are going to find when you call people.
“Last week, we had someone that when we called, she had just lost her husband,” she said. “Our call came just at the right time. She really needed comfort from the scriptures. Not only were we able to share that with her, but we were also able to make arrangements to continue to assist her spiritually and emotionally and help her.”
Siegel said everyone has watched the pandemic come in different waves, going up and down, but that the witnesses are still doing the best they can to share the good news with its neighbors with messages of hope.
“As we talk with our different friends and congregations, we can see that many are having the same experiences as me and my family,” he said. “Even with the pandemic, we keep enjoying our meetings with one another in our different congregations. From what I have seen personally, we are all just keeping on, keeping on. We are preaching to our neighbors. We are trying to help them out. We are encouraging one another, and we keep moving forward through this pandemic. Not just moving forward and staying afloat, but we are all thriving. We are all seeing that we can still worship together, share hope with our neighbors, and keep doing what we can do to help people in our community.”
Siegel said that it may not appear as easy because witnesses are not as accessible as before the pandemic, but that they are just a phone call or a letter away, still working hard to spread hope. He said the Jehovah’s Witnesses website at jw.org has become a powerful tool for witnesses to utilize in their personal ministries, as it has many videos, articles, teachings, and give people the opportunity to find a Kingdom Hall near them and for now, attend virtually.
Because the San Diego region is extremely diverse with many distinct cultures, backgrounds and languages, the website is translated in more than 1,000 languages, the Bible is translated in full in more than 200 languages, so that every single person in the community has access to its teachings.
In the past, neighborhood ministries would go in groups, in car groups of five to seven, go into a neighborhood and knock on doors. Now they work together through Zoom. continuing ministry activities, such as letter writing and phone witnessing as they break out into rooms and work on that part of ministry in smaller groups.
For more information visit www.jw.org.
The original version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of Konrad Siegal. The article has been changed to reflect the correct spelling of Konrad Siegel. The Alpine Sun regrets the error.