Stand Complete and With Firm Conviction
Conventions—Joyful Affirmations of Our Brotherhood
FIFTY-YEAR-OLD Joseph F. Rutherford, in poor health after almost a year of unjust imprisonment, happily serves as a bellhop. He energetically totes suitcases and helps fellow Christians to their hotel rooms. Two of his former fellow inmates—fellow Bible Students—hand out room assignments to a huge crowd awaiting accommodations. Things keep humming till well after midnight. An infectious spirit of excitement overtakes all of them. What is the occasion?
The year is 1919, and the Bible Students (known today as Jehovah’s Witnesses) are recovering from a period of vicious persecution. To reinvigorate their ranks, they are holding a convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, U.S.A., from September 1 to 8, 1919. On the last day of the convention, an electrified throng of 7,000 listen intently as Brother Rutherford encourages each of the conventioners with the words: “You are an ambassador of the King of kings and Lord of lords, announcing to the people . . . the glorious kingdom of our Lord.”
Among Jehovah’s people, conventions date back to the time of ancient Israel. (Exodus 23:14-17; Luke 2:41-43) Such gatherings were joyful occasions, helping all those present to keep their minds on the Word of God. Similarly, the conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times center on spiritual interests. To sincere observers such joyful gatherings give undeniable evidence that the Witnesses are united by strong ties of Christian brotherhood.
Efforts to Attend
Modern-day Christians realize that their conventions are periods of spiritual refreshment and instruction in God’s Word. They consider these large meetings as an indispensable means of helping them to “stand complete and with firm conviction in all the will of God.” (Colossians 4:12) Thus, the Witnesses wholeheartedly support these gatherings, making great efforts to attend them.
For some, their very presence at such conventions requires exercising faith and overcoming mountainlike obstacles. For example, consider an elderly Witness in Austria. Though having diabetes and needing insulin injections daily, she made sure that she attended all days of a district convention in her country. In India, a large family of Witnesses living in deep poverty found it next to impossible to attend a convention. One member of the family came to the rescue. “Not wanting to miss the occasion,” she said, “I sold my gold earrings to finance the trip. It was worth the sacrifice, since the association and experiences strengthened our faith.”
In Papua New Guinea, a group of unbaptized, interested people were determined to attend a district convention in the capital. They approached a man in their village who owned a public motor vehicle and asked how much he would charge to get them to the convention. Since the amount required was beyond their means, they made arrangements to work on the man’s home, remodeling his kitchen. Thus they were able to get to the district convention and benefit from attending the entire program.
Distance is not an insurmountable problem for Witnesses of Jehovah intent on being present at conventions. In 1978, to attend a convention in Lille, France, a young delegate from Poland traveled 750 miles [1,200 km] by bicycle in six days. During the summer of 1997, two Witnesses from Mongolia made a 750-mile [1,200 km] journey to attend a Christian gathering in Irkutsk, Russia.
True Brotherhood in Action
The unity and brotherhood manifested by the Witnesses at their conventions is clearly evident to fair-minded observers. Many have been impressed that there is no partiality among the conventioners and that genuine warmth exists even among those who may be meeting one another for the first time.
During a recent international convention in Australia, a tour guide who accompanied visiting convention delegates for a week wanted to stay with them a little longer to enjoy their company. Impressed by their love and unity, he could not believe that they got along so well, since most of them were strangers. When it came time for him to leave, he called for their attention. Addressing them as “brothers and sisters,” he started to thank them but could not finish, for he choked up with emotion and gave way to tears.
In 1997, Sri Lanka held its first trilingual district convention in a large stadium. The entire program was presented simultaneously in English, Sinhalese, and Tamil. In a world of increasing ethnic tensions, such a gathering of three language groups did not go unnoticed. One policeman asked a brother: “Who is running this convention—the Sinhalese, the Tamils, or the English?” “Neither group is running the convention,” replied the brother. “We’re all doing this together.” The policeman reacted in disbelief. When all three language groups joined for the final prayer and a united “Amen” resounded throughout the stadium, the conventioners broke out in spontaneous applause. There was hardly a dry eye in the audience. Yes, conventions are indeed joyful affirmations of our brotherhood.—Psalm 133:1.a
a See pages 66-77, 254-82 of the book Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.