Spanish-speaking Jehovah’s Witnesses on the rise online

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Loudonville

After working days as a school bus driver for the Shenendehowa School District, instead of falling asleep in front of the TV, Pascual Feliz would change clothes, have dinner with his wife Anabel, then take an electronic tablet loaded with videos to religious, cartoon and Spanish language theme. Bible verses. And he would spend evenings door-to-door telling people about Jehovah’s Witnesses.
When asked if this looked like an incredibly long day, Feliz shook his head, grinning his incredibly sweet smile. He finds it fun meeting new people. And people who have had a bad day tend not to answer the door.

“Door-to-door witnessing is energizing; I am sharing good news, ”he said happily.

And his job as a bus driver is less stressful than his previous job. For decades he was a correctional officer. The Felizes lived in the Bronx and would go door to door after their shift was over.

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that although Armageddon is imminent, the kingdom of Jesus will be the solution to all the pain and violence of the world. They do not celebrate Christmas or other Christian holidays because of their roots in ancient pagan rites. During World War II, their beliefs compelled them to be conscientious objectors to murder for a nation or state. But 25,000 were assigned to non-combat duties, mostly as medics who risked their lives on the battlefield.

Witnesses are known to go door-to-door in pairs to evangelize. Their determined and prolonged proselytizing is sometimes usurped in pop culture. On “Seinfeld,” the misanthrope George Costanza tells his colleagues that he is a Jehovah’s Witness, hoping they will hesitate to demand that he attend office parties. The denomination began training members to refine their initial message to a minute and a half. And the Witnesses are now carrying electronic tablets filled with icebreaker videos, music, and Bible quizzes.

The pandemic has put an end to door-to-door sales. The denomination has told members to stop in-person visits for safety reasons. Instead, members were asked to write letters, make phone calls, or go online to contact individual residents of a neighborhood.
He and Anabel were caring for his mother, Daisy, who was diagnosed with dementia. He had been door-to-door on his own for a while so Anabel could be with her mother. Zoom phone calls and meetings made it easier for Anabel to participate in conversations and meet people.
Jehovah’s Witnesses purchased cell phone number directories divided by street or block and focused on calling people in a selected neighborhood. The Felizes have concentrated on Loudonville where they live.

“And we looked for Spanish surnames to start with,” said Pascual who, like Anabel, immigrated from the Dominican Republic. When they called Spanish speakers from the capital region, “they introduced us to other Spanish speakers.”
They learned to love Zoom, using it to pray with new knowledge. Pascual founded several online and phone Bible study groups that are still thriving.

The Felizes networking provided a list of hundreds of Spanish speaking Christians. Not all are converts to Jehovah’s Witnesses, but what’s important to Pascual is that the people on his list enjoy talking about their concerns, studying and praying together.

And they’re part of a larger effort that many political campaigns and nonprofits would envy for energy. Jehovah’s Witnesses information officer Mark McLaughlin said the 83 Hispanic Latino and Hispanic worshipers in the capital region wrote about 14,940 letters and spent 8,715 hours volunteering during the pandemic.

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