Sharon White would rarely go more than a few days without knocking on a door or visiting a Bible student as part of her volunteer ministry. That abruptly changed in the spring of 2020 when Jehovah’s Witnesses suspended their in-person public ministry, meetings, and large conventions.
Two years later, the Roanoke, Virginia, resident is busier than ever. White is now a retired administrative assistant who now receives phone calls at all hours from people responding to her messages of comfort from the Bible.
With this historic change, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses grew 3% in the United States in 2021 alone, matching the most significant increase for the organization over the past decade and the second-largest percentage increase since 1990.
For congregants like Sharon White, the virtual pivot has meant trading her bookbag for a laptop, iPad, and smartphone and her walking shoes for slippers. Her tools have changed, but her message is the same. She regularly shares scriptures with dozens of community members and conducts free Bible courses via telephone and Zoom with about ten people a month.
Last year, the international organization reported all-time peaks in the number of people participating in their volunteer preaching work, increased attendance in Zoom meetings, and more than 171,000 new believers baptized. In the past two years, more than 400,000 have been baptized worldwide.
Some whose ministry or attendance at religious services had slowed because of age and poor health said they feel reenergized with the convenience of virtual meetings and a home-based ministry.
Like many octogenarians, Sarah Fuoco, 88, deals with memory loss and diminished energy. Yet she and her 81-year-old husband, Joseph, have been given the nickname “the dynamic duo.”
The Fuocos use Zoom to worship twice a week with their Hollis, New Hampshire congregation and regularly join online ministry groups to comfort neighbors and family through phone calls, letters, texts, and email.
By sharing the Bible’s hope remotely, the fewer than 3,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Alaska can rapidly preach across the 586,000 square miles of their sparsely populated state. The official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, translated into more than 1,000 languages, has also leveraged the organization’s outreach.
After starting a free self-paced Bible course on jw.org in December 2019, Lisa Owen requested a free, interactive Bible study over Zoom. She was one of nearly 20,000 baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses last year in the United States in private settings, including backyard swimming pools, tubs, and even rivers.
To start an online Bible study course, receive a visit or attend a virtual meeting locally, visit jw.org.
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