Members of the Ellis County Jehovah's Witness congregations are gathering this weekend for fellowship and encouragement.
The Jehovah's Witnesses Regional Convention began Friday morning and will extend through Sunday at the Irving Convention Center. Saturday sessions begin at 9:20 a.m. and last until 5 p.m. and the Sunday session begins at 9:20 a.m. and last until 3:45 p.m.
The annual convention is a chance for members of congregations around the Dallas and Forth Worth area to meet members of other churches and refocus on their faith, said Mark Summersett, an elder serving the Midlothian congregation. He grew up in Midlothian, graduated Midlothian High School and moved to Nashville before returning to Midlothian in 2007.
“We are looking forward to the spiritual encouragement we receive here. It will encompass all aspects of our lives, from being a good husband or wife to raising children to ministry. We look forward to these times and we get to spend time with other congregations,” he said.
About 18 Jehovah's Witness conventions are held in the DFW area each year, but not all are in English, said Phil Harris, media representative for the convention. This weekend, the Swahili National Convention is also being held at the Irving Convention Center, and a Korean convention was held last week.
The convention helps Jehovah's Witness members retain their focus and reach out to their communities, Summersett said. Every Jehovah's Witness is called to be a minister, he explained, and the Midlothian congregation is active in reaching out to those around them. Their two main outreach campaigns center around issuing the general invitation to conventions which are free and open to anyone and during the spring when they invite others to celebration the Memorial of Jesus's Death.
The outreach is aimed at encouraging people to consider their faith, not forcing anything on them, Summersett said.
“Most people will tell us they have their own religion,” he said. “We are not there to convert anyone, we are there to encourage them to read the Bible and to share God's word with them. If they need help in that regard, we are certainly there to help.”
All four Ellis county congregations meet at the Jehovah's Witness building off Brown Street in Waxahachie. There are two Waxahachie congregations and one Ennis congregation that was formed in 2000. The Midlothian congregation began in 2010.
“I was part of the original Waxahachie congregation,” said Pedro Peña, an elder with the Norther Waxahachie congregation. “We can only handle about 150 in each congregation. One you get that high, we split the congregation to be able to better shepherd our member.”
Jehovah's Witness do not have pastors, Harris explained, but seven or so elders per congregation provide leadership, similar to the New Testament church, he said.
“The biggest responsibility of an elder is to shepherd, to take care of the members. We have 20 – 25 member service groups, and I take care of one service group. I check on them, help with medical needs, transportation, answer Bible questions or if they have needs,” Peña said.
About 90 percent of his congregation members will attend the convention this weekend, he said, though some may not come for the full three days.
He is most looking forward to the drama presentation of the story of Job, Peña said.
“In everything he underwent, the loss of his family and livelihood, he never lost his faith and was rewarded. We all have that, we lose jobs, end up in the hospital, but that will pass,” he said. “This convention is the spiritual food that we get. It is a good reminder and we get new information, new publications, and we get to see brothers and sisters from other congregations. It's like a family reunion,” Peña said.
“It is like a family reunion, you can't walk 100 feet without shaking hands with someone,” Harris agreed as he moved from familiar face to familiar face as he walked across the convention room floor.
For those who can't attend the convention, it is being broadcast on 101.3 and 102.5 FM radio, according to convention information. Videos are also available online at jw.org.
Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.