1998 “God’s Way of Life” District and International Conventions
1 Proverbs 10:29 reminds us that “the way of Jehovah is a stronghold.” What an appropriate theme this year’s convention has—“God’s Way of Life”! Just how will this theme be developed throughout the three-day program? All of us look forward with keen anticipation to what is in store. And significant points will be featured.
2 Missionaries, international servants, or others serving in foreign assignments may be attending your convention. It is expected that there will be thousands of delegates from other lands present in cities where the international gatherings are held. Perhaps you will meet some of these visitors. The convention program will feature reports on how Jehovah is blessing the work in various territories.
3 It Is Worth the Effort to Attend: Many of our brothers in Africa have experienced hardships because of war and turmoil occurring in some parts of that continent. They view the conventions of Jehovah’s people as their lifeline. Some must walk long distances to attend a convention, yet they would not think of missing one. A 73-year-old brother in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) walked some 280 miles [450 km] to attend a convention. He arrived 16 days after he had started out, feet swollen, but happy to be there. Following the convention, overjoyed and spiritually strengthened, he returned home on foot. This has been his routine for years!
4 In Mozambique a district overseer and his wife climbed a high mountain and crossed a large desertlike area on foot to attend a circuit assembly. They made the 55-mile [90 km] trip in 45 hours. All in attendance were greatly encouraged by the fine example of this couple. Many families present had made similar efforts to attend. The district overseer reported that some brothers, including one who is 60 years old, traveled 130 miles [200 km] on foot!
5 Have you made definite plans to attend this year’s convention? It is not likely that you will have to walk long distances, but some effort and sacrifice will be necessary in order for you and your family to be present. Arrange to attend the entire program from beginning to end. Many Bible students are progressing toward dedication. Their attendance at the convention will help them make the right decision. Have you invited your Bible students and other interested ones to attend with you?
6 A Three-Day Program: This year the program will be presented at 198 conventions in the contiguous United States. In addition to English, conventions will be held in American Sign Language, Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. The February 15, 1998, Watchtower lists the dates and locations of these conventions. By now you have been informed of the convention to which your congregation is assigned.
7 Special Note: It is particularly important that you attend the convention to which your congregation has been assigned. Please do not plan to attend one of the international conventions unless your congregation has been assigned there. Convention facilities where international conventions are to be held will not accommodate even a portion of all who would like to attend there. Your individual respect for and cooperation with these arrangements will ensure that everything takes place decently and by arrangement.—1 Cor. 14:33, 40.
8 On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, the program will begin at 9:30 a.m. On Friday and Saturday, the program will end at 5:00 p.m., and on Sunday, at 4:00 p.m. Doors will open each day at 8:00 a.m. Only those with work assignments will be permitted to enter earlier than that. However, no one will be allowed to save seats until after 8:00 a.m.
9 As we travel to and from the convention, we should look for opportunities to do informal witnessing. Gas station attendants, store clerks, toll collectors, hotel personnel, and waiters may be interested in the Kingdom message. Prepare for this by bringing tracts, current magazines, brochures, or other literature with you so that you can take advantage of opportunities to witness to people who may not otherwise be reached with the good news.—2 Tim. 3:17.
10 “Pay Attention to How You Listen”: Convention delegates are wise to heed the advice found at Luke 8:18. All are encouraged to bring a Bible as well as a songbook and a notebook. Listen carefully for key points from each presentation, and make brief notes. Ask yourself how you can make personal application of the material. Each night of the convention, before you go to bed, why not review your notes and analyze how closely you are adhering to Jehovah’s way of life.—Prov. 4:10-13.
11 It has been noticed that during the sessions, some leave the auditorium and sit in their vehicles, thus missing the presentation of the program. Others have been observed walking aimlessly in the corridors when they should be sitting in the auditorium and listening. Groups of young people have been seen leaving the convention site in the midafternoon. Some of Jehovah’s servants in times past made serious errors in their lives because they did not carefully listen to Jehovah’s reminders. Surely we would want to avoid making a similar mistake. (2 Ki. 17:13-15) “The faithful and discreet slave” has prepared instruction that all of us need. It is especially important that we “pay more than the usual attention to the things heard” during each session of the three-day convention program. Something of special interest to us will be featured each day, including information that will surely have a wholesome effect on our way of life in the future. By our being attentive and making full use of what Jehovah provides spiritually at the upcoming convention series, our hope will be firmly anchored, so that “we may never drift away” from God’s way of life.—Matt. 24:45; Heb. 2:1.
12 Attire That Honors Jehovah: In these critical times, we need to pay more than the usual attention so that we will not be overtaken by the spirit of this world. (1 Cor. 2:12) Our dress and grooming should be modest and should reflect the dignity of the God whom we worship. (1 Tim. 2:9, 10) Expensive clothing is not required in order to be among those who “adorn the teaching of our Savior, God.” (Titus 2:10) Note the excellent practical and Scriptural counsel on pages 17 and 18 of the June 15, 1997, issue of The Watchtower, paragraphs 14-18. Never underestimate the powerful witness we can give by dressing in a way that honors Jehovah.
13 A 16-year-old Witness related that when she and her brother went to a restaurant one evening after the sessions, they noticed that some of the brothers and sisters who were there had changed into inappropriate attire. However, many patrons of the restaurant reacted favorably upon seeing Witnesses who were neatly and appropriately dressed and wearing their badge cards. This opened the way for giving a witness to some of the patrons.
14 Conduct That Praises Jehovah: We know that our Christian conduct can affect how others view true worship. Therefore, we want to conduct ourselves at all times in a way that is worthy of the good news and that brings praise to Jehovah.—Phil. 1:27.
15 Last year, a district convention was held for the first time in the north of Angola. On the second day of the convention, two local police officers were sent to the site to ensure that public order was kept. They stayed the whole day. At the end of the day, they expressed their admiration for what they had heard and for the orderly conduct they had observed. One of them commented: “Why were we sent here? We know that Jehovah’s Witnesses keep order at their gatherings.”
16 A member of a political party in an African country fled to Europe when all other members of his party were murdered. He experienced many personal problems and became very discouraged. Eventually he accepted a Bible study. While attending his first district convention, he was impressed that people from a variety of backgrounds were meeting together in peace and harmony. He was convinced that he had found the truth, and during that convention he decided to break off all his political connections. Later he was baptized, and now he and his children are serving Jehovah.
17 How will our conduct at the conventions this year affect those who may be attending for the first time? Will they notice the spirit of cooperation evident when we work together as volunteers? Will they be impressed by the cleanliness of our surroundings and by seeing that before leaving the site, we and our children pick up any trash that may have accumulated near our seats? Will they observe our fine conduct as we travel to and from our accommodations and the convention site? Will they notice that as parents, we closely supervise our children at all times? Let us ensure that we make the best possible impression on all who observe us.
18 Covering Convention Expenses: An admission ticket for a seat at a sporting event or other performance in a stadium or convention hall can be expensive in today’s secular world. This is partly due to costly rental fees in metropolitan areas. The Society has always had a “seats free, no collections” policy at conventions. How, then, will rental fees and other convention expenses be met? By the generous contributions of those in attendance. We are sure that you will show a spirit of generosity like that manifested by God’s servants in the past in imitation of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 8:7) Great care is taken to make sure that all contributions are secured, accounted for, and used for their intended purpose. Any contributions made by check should be made payable to “Watchtower.”
19 Seating: The directions that have been given for a number of years will continue to apply, namely, SEATS MAY BE SAVED ONLY FOR YOUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBERS AND ANY WHO MAY BE TRAVELING WITH YOU IN YOUR CAR. It has been good to see fine improvement in this matter, and this has heightened the loving atmosphere displayed at the conventions. At most sites, some seats are more easily accessible than others. Please show consideration, and leave the more convenient seats for the elderly and others whose circumstances require them. Remember that ‘love does not look for its own interests.’—1 Cor. 13:4, 5; Phil. 2:4.
20 Hearing Impaired: You will be pleased to know that provision has been made for those with impaired hearing to receive the program through FM radio broadcast. If you are hearing impaired, you will need a small Walkman-type FM receiver with earphones in order to hear the program.
21 Cameras, Camcorders, and Audiocassette Recorders: Cameras and recording equipment may be used at conventions. However, your use of them must not be distracting to others. Walking around taking pictures during the sessions would disturb others who are trying to concentrate on the program. No recording devices of any sort are to be connected to the electrical or sound systems, nor should this equipment block aisles, walkways, or the view of others.
22 First Aid: The First Aid Department is for emergencies only. Please bring your own aspirin, digestive aids, bandages, safety pins, and similar items, as such things will not be dispensed at the convention. Any known to be at risk of seizures, insulin shock, heart problems, and so forth, should bring the necessary medication with them. They should be accompanied by a member of their family or a congregation member who understands their situation and can respond to an emergency, should one arise. Problems have arisen at conventions when individuals with chronic health problems were left alone and became ill. If some with special health needs do not have family members who can assist them, the elders will need to be apprised of the situation and should make necessary arrangements for help. It is not possible to make provisions at the conventions for special rooms to accommodate those who have environmental illnesses or allergies.
23 Food at the Convention: Each person in attendance should bring his own food rather than leave the facility during the short noon break to purchase something outside. A light snack that is nourishing and easy to transport will likely be sufficient. The May 1995 Our Kingdom Ministry insert, paragraph 26, gives some ideas of what to bring. Glass containers and alcoholic beverages are not permitted in convention facilities. Food coolers or bags must be small enough to fit under your seat. Some in the audience have been observed eating and drinking during the program. This shows disrespect for the occasion.
24 How glad we are that the 1998 “God’s Way of Life” Convention will be starting soon! Have you completed your plans to attend? May you have a safe journey and return home refreshed, determined to press on in Jehovah’s precious service and to keep pursuing God’s way of life for your eternal blessing.
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▪Baptism: Baptismal candidates should be seated in the designated section before the program begins on Saturday morning. Each one who plans to be baptized should bring a modest bathing suit and a towel. In the past some have worn attire that was not appropriate and that detracted from the occasion. Elders reviewing the questions in the Our Ministry book with baptismal candidates should make sure that each one understands these points. Baptism in symbol of one’s dedication is an intimate and personal matter between the individual and Jehovah. Thus, it is inappropriate for candidates to embrace each other or to hold hands while being baptized.
▪Badge Cards: Please wear the 1998 badge card at all times while in the convention city and when traveling to and from it. This often creates opportunities for us to give a fine witness. Badge cards and holders should be obtained through your congregation, as they will not be available at the convention. Do not wait until a few days before the convention to ask for cards for you and your family. Remember to carry your current Advance Medical Directive/Release card.
▪Rooming: We are asking for the cooperation of everyone in using ONLY the listing of accommodations provided by the convention. Have in mind that the convention room rates also apply on Thursday and Sunday nights. IF YOU EXPERIENCE A PROBLEM WITH A HOTEL, please do not hesitate to notify the Rooming Department while you are still at the convention so that they can assist you in resolving the matter right away. Please realize that it may not be possible for everyone to get a nonsmoking room at a hotel, even if the request was made when the reservation was booked. The same applies to your preference for king-size, queen-size, or double beds. Congregation secretaries should be sure that Special Needs Room Request forms are promptly forwarded to the appropriate convention address. If you must cancel an accommodation made through the special needs arrangement, you should immediately notify the landlord or hotel and the convention Rooming Department so that the room can be reassigned.
▪Baby Strollers and Lawn Chairs: In most locations, baby strollers cannot be used in places of public assembly. Fire regulations prohibit placing them in corridors and aisles or between rows of seats. Since large crowds may cause congested conditions, strollers are potentially dangerous, both to the baby and to any who might stumble over them. So please do not bring strollers to the convention site. Infant or child safety seats secured in seats next to the parents are permissible. Please do not bring lawn chairs. Use of them is not allowed at large public facilities. Your cooperation is important and appreciated.
▪Volunteer Service: Can you set aside some time at the convention to assist in one of the departments? Serving your brothers, if only for a few hours, will be very helpful and brings much personal satisfaction. If you can assist, please report to the Volunteer Service Department at the convention. Children under 16 years of age can also make a fine contribution by working with a parent or another responsible adult.
▪Words of Caution: Be sure your vehicle is locked at all times, and never leave anything visible to tempt someone to break in. Thieves and pickpockets focus their attention on large gatherings. It is not wise to leave valuables at your seat. You cannot be sure that everyone around you is a Christian. Why offer any temptation? Reports have been received of attempts made by some outsiders to lure children away. KEEP YOUR CHILDREN IN SIGHT AT ALL TIMES.
Television and video services available in many hotels often feature pornographic programs. Do not permit children to have unsupervised access to the television in the room. Parents may wish to prevent their children from activating “pay TV” in their room by requesting the hotel to lock out this feature during their stay.
Please do not phone or write the management of the convention auditorium, seeking information about any convention matters. If the information is not available from the elders, you may write to the address of a specific convention, as found on the back of the Special Needs Room Request form.