Convention Delegates With “Living Hope”
‘IT IS a joy to be together again, to feast at Jehovah’s table, to rejoice in the happiest associations and to be encouraged to “continue in the Lord with hearty purpose.”’ (Acts 11:23) The delegates were in full harmony with these words of the chairman’s opening address at the “Living Hope” conventions. Their very presence indicated this.
While many of the assemblies were in progress, travel posed a problem in the United States because gasoline could not readily be obtained. One Witness said: “I filled my tank with gasoline days before the assembly when I found an open station. Then I parked my car and walked until it was time to leave for the convention.” Others made similar arrangements, to make sure that they would have enough gasoline to get to the convention city of their choice.
Not to be overlooked are the commendable efforts that mothers put forth to be in attendance with their babies and small children. How encouraging it was to see them tenderly caring for their little ones while striving to benefit from the assembly program! The presence of family groups also provided a fine testimony to observers, proving that hope has a wholesome effect on the lives of people. One woman in downtown Portland, Maine, commented: “I think it’s wonderful how you people bring your children with you—even little ones with their name badges pinned on them. I’ve been watching you people every morning going to the convention—it’s a beautiful sight.” A postman in the same city was moved to stop a Witness and his wife to tell them: “I really admire you people—all so well dressed, even the little ones.”
HOPE NOT MISPLACED
For some, their being able to attend the assembly confirmed that their hope in God rested on a solid foundation. Take the case of Robin and her two daughters Kim and Kari. On learning of their intention to attend the “Living Hope” convention, the husband, not a Witness, said: “I can’t afford any four-day vacation trip at my expense.” Robin tells of what happened, saying:
“We wondered and prayed. Could we raise enough strawberries in our modest patch and sell the berries for enough money to pay for our stay at the assembly city? Our neighbor was no encouragement. Compared with ours, his plants looked so strong and healthy. . . .
“However, our strawberries produced so well that we raised enough money for ourselves and also were able to help two other Witnesses to attend. In fact, people came from all around to look at the strawberry plants that produced so well. The whole time that we were picking strawberries, we talked to the berry buyers about the convention and the encouragement we would receive there. The neighbor just could not understand how our little plants greatly outproduced his.
“But this solved only one of our problems. We still had no means of transportation to the assembly. In due time, our prayers were answered again. My daughter Kari graduated from high school this year. One day, her uncle from out of town showed up with a graduation present—a car.
“So all obstacles were removed and we were able to attend the assembly, where my daughter Kim and I symbolized our dedication by baptism.”
SUSTAINED BY HOPE
The fact that hope has tremendous power was particularly in evidence among the handicapped individuals present for the conventions. There were persons confined to wheelchairs, others who were virtually helpless and those who were both blind and deaf but who were helped to benefit from the program by interpreters who used the touch method.
Fifty-five-year-old Marvin, for example, has been at many assemblies over the years. Appreciatively, he said: “The only reason I am able to attend is that my mother gets me ready and a kind, lovable, dependable fellow Witness does the backbreaking job of lifting me in and out of a wheelchair. As a cerebral palsy victim, I have been confined to the chair for the past nine years. During my 32 years as a witness of Jehovah, I have had the privilege and pleasure of attending many assemblies—international, district and circuit. I have learned something new and different at each one. Due to the fine instructions and advice given at them, a person becomes a better servant of Jehovah. Of course, an individual must not forget the joy and pleasure of seeing dear old friends and meeting new ones. I am looking forward to the day when ‘the lame one will climb up just as a stag does, and the tongue of the speechless one will cry out in gladness.’”—Isa. 35:6.
Wayne, another Witness, has been paralyzed from birth. But he, too, attended one of the “Living Hope” conventions. The family owns a motor home that is wired for sound, making it possible for him to hear the convention program from his bed inside. Relating how her son came to have a God-given hope, the mother stated:
“My son Wayne was injured with instruments at the time of his birth. This resulted in his having spastic paralysis, a form of cerebral palsy. As he began to develop, I was told that his mind was teachable but much repetition would be necessary.
I would take Wayne with me when sharing Bible truth from door to door, carrying him in my arms for many years until he got too heavy for me. Even from an early age, he showed a love for the truth, and the things that he was learning seemed to reach his heart. He had such a thirst for knowledge that he would spell words to me, asking me how to say them. Sometimes he would have me repeat a word several times until he could remember and get the sense of it. In 1960 Wayne was baptized at the age of 19.
“He is not able to attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall in person, since he is confined to his hospital bed at home. But we have closed-circuit television, and he is able to see what goes on at the hall. We also have a direct wire so that he can participate in the meetings regularly. From his bed, for over two years Wayne has been serving as an elder in the congregation. He conducts five Bible studies now with persons who come to his motor home, and has conducted as many as 11 at one time.”
Wayne himself made the following expressions: ‘I am convinced that if you can take in knowledge, Jehovah will open a way for you to give it out and to serve him. Even if you cannot speak or hear, your happiness, faith and endurance can help other people, and this will result in a witness.’
The entire cast of a Bible drama, in full costume, came to see Wayne during the convention. They left greatly encouraged because of having observed such a remarkable example of faith and hope.
THEY GAINED A HOPE
Not a few persons attending the “Living Hope” conventions had come to appreciate how sad their plight was before acquiring an accurate knowledge of the truth. In some cases, they had a yearning for truth that was not satisfied until they were in their declining years.
There is 77-year-old Chris, who got baptized at the assembly in Billings, Montana. “In 1934,” he said, “I left the Catholic Church and began looking for truth.” Then he went from church to church and spent thousands of dollars, traveling to many locations in the United States. Several times he thought that he had found the truth. But, then, it always seemed that it ‘wasn’t quite enough’ and so the search for truth continued. “Finally,” he states, “I joined up with a ‘TV religion,’ sending them large sums of money and going on crusade trips to different parts of the world. After receiving a letter from one of the ‘TV preachers’ informing me that my dues had gone up to $295 per month, I came to realize that this couldn’t be the truth; it was highway robbery. I decided, ‘Hands off,’ but couldn’t shake him off. Letters kept coming, trying to gain my favor and my money.
“In view of my age, I decided to stop my search for truth and stay home on the farm. Then, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses made home visits in our isolated area and began talking with my son-in-law, who also lives and works on my farm. He wasn’t interested. But what the Witness said about the Kingdom made sense to me. So I asked him to come back to talk with me some more.”
What was the result? A Bible study was started. Chris concludes: “Learning the truth from the Bible has given me real hope for the future.”
A deaf Witness who is also legally blind made it very clear how the Bible’s message has given him hope and a real purpose in living. He stated:
“All my life I have been determined not to let my handicap become an obstacle to a full and happy life. I was on my high-school track team, held first place in the blind bowling league and eventually received an award for outstanding achievement as a handicapped person. All of this made me proud and self-confident but not happy. I became the first handicapped person to be employed by Polaroid, and had a responsible position. To attract women, I bought a large house and a boat. But neither material possessions nor immorality brought any sense of fulfillment. I had no goals in life, no future. As a Catholic, I sought to attain heavenly life by scrupulous observance of rituals. But the connection between God’s laws and my way of life was never explained. These disappointments made me a skeptic.
“One of Jehovah’s Witnesses found me in this condition. He returned the following week with a Witness who knew sign language. By holding her hand as she made the signs, I was able to communicate. My response to almost every sentence was, ‘Where’s the proof?’ A Scriptural answer would always be given.
“At first I really wasn’t interested in the Bible but wanted to test out Jehovah’s Witnesses, expecting them to be like the members of other religions. I kept waiting for the day that a bill would be presented for the Bible lessons, but that day never came. I would ask them to do little errands for me, not because I couldn’t do them myself but to see if they would be willing to do something other than study the Bible with me. When attending meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I would approach those present, smelling their breath to determine whether it carried any scent of alcohol or tobacco. I would invite the deaf Witness for a cookout in my yard and afterward check to determine whether anything had been taken from my home. Finally, I came to recognize that these people were different and that their message was the truth.
“How thankful I am to Jehovah for giving me time to develop a good heart and granting me a real hope for the future! It is a joy to share regularly in preaching the ‘good news’ to others, not only to the deaf people in our area but also from door to door. I look forward to the time when I will be able to hear and see. I have full faith in the promises of the God who cannot lie.”—Heb. 6:17, 18.
THEY TOOK TIME TO SHARE THEIR HOPE
On Friday morning of the assembly, many Witnesses availed themselves of the opportunity to share their hope with residents of the convention cities. The news media took considerable interest in this public witness. As observers, a number of newspaper reporters even accompanied the Witnesses in this activity.
In Providence, Rhode Island, a newspaper reporter heard a 72-year-old woman tell a Witness: “I was so mad this morning that I wanted to go to Washington and blow it up.” After the Witness turned her attention to the Bible’s answer to the world’s problems, she said: “I suppose you’re right. Maybe you have the right attitude—positive thinking. You know what? I feel more cheerful already. I don’t even feel like blowing up Washington anymore.”
The series of “Living Hope” conventions has indeed proved to be a blessing to all in attendance as well as to many other persons who were reached with the Bible’s message in the assembly cities. If you are among those who seek a bright hope for the future, we invite you to speak with Jehovah’s Witnesses the next time they call in your area. Why not find out for yourself how powerful a force a God-given hope can be in your life?
“I rejoiced when they were saying to me: ‘To the house of Jehovah let us go.’”—Ps. 122:1.
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Paralyzed from birth, Wayne Patrick, now a Christian elder, listened to the “Living Hope” program from his bed
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Five generations of this family enjoyed convention at San Antonio, Texas
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John C. Booth, of Brooklyn Bethel, examines convention release with three young Witnesses