Jehovah’s Witnesses Resume Public Ministry Two Years After Going Virtual
If you happen to be in Madison’s downtown Isthmus area this week, you may notice that a pre-pandemic fixture is back on the sidewalks: smiling faces standing next to colorful carts featuring a positive message and free Bible-based literature.
Thousands of these carts will be rolling down the streets of communities like Madison all across the world this week as Jehovah’s Witnesses recommence their global public preaching work some 24 months after putting it on pause due to the pandemic.
“We are very happy to be able to talk to people face-to-face again,” said Dave Steuerwald, a regular volunteer at the site.
. “After 2 years away, I feel very excited to get back out in the community and be able to be a resource for people’s Bible questions,” Dave’s wife, Mia, added. “We have been enjoying reaching people through letters and phone, but we know that a lot of people prefer face-to-face interaction. So we are happy to be able to provide that again.”
The Christian organization will return to its public ministry for the first time since March 2020 when all in-person forms of their volunteer work were suspended out of concern for the health and safety of the community.
In response to the global decision, eight congregations in the local area are beginning to reopen their cart locations at some University of Wisconsin Campus locations, such as Library Mall (on the corner of Lake and Park streets). Other locations include: the Capitol Square on Mifflin St., State St., Shorewood Blvd., and Warner Park.
The local congregation(s) will also resume free in-person Bible studies along with personal visits to those who have invited them back to their homes. This comes two months after the organization began gathering at their Kingdom Halls once again for in-person meetings.
“While we understand that the pandemic is not over, we are entering into a phase of learning to live with COVID,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “We are sensitive to the risks that still face our communities and our volunteers, which is why we will not resume door-to-door ministry at this time. Each volunteer will make a personal choice as to whether their ministry will remain strictly virtual or whether they are ready to make in-person visits again. We are excited that we all have a choice!”
Mobile displays of Bible-based literature have been part of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ public ministry in the U.S. since 2011. While “cart witnessing” began in large metropolitan areas around the world, the practice quickly spread to the tens of thousands of smaller communities, becoming a fixture in rail and bus stations, airports, harbors and main streets.
In 2012, Witnesses in Madison began offering a selection of Bible literature in different languages at the carts during the morning commute and on weekends to be accessible to all community members.
“We’ve had a lot of people come up to us and say, “You guys are doing a good work. We’re happy you’re down here,” Dave said. “People recognize that there’s good from having a very positive presence in the community that’s trying to be upbuilding and encouraging.”
To learn more about Jehovah’s Witnesses, their history, beliefs and activities, visit their official website jw.org, featuring content in more than 1,000 languages.