JULY 1, 2021
In March 2020, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, many could not even imagine that this virus would still grip the world more than one year later. Millions of people, including some of Jehovah’s Witnesses, have suffered the physical, emotional, and financial effects of the pandemic. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses organized and dispensed relief during this crisis?
Relief to Meet the Need
Under the direction of the Coordinators’ Committee of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, over 950 Disaster Relief Committees (DRC) have been established around the globe in response to COVID-19. In some cases, they have arranged for local assistance, and in other cases, Witnesses have benefited from governmental aid. The DRCs have also organized large-scale relief efforts.
Consider, for example, the situation in Paraguay. One newspaper reported that as a result of the economic effects of the pandemic, “large numbers of Paraguayans are going hungry in their own homes.” But the DRC in Paraguay had already started to distribute kits with two weeks’ worth of supplies—enough food, cleaning materials, and personal hygiene items for a family of four. Each kit has a value of about $30 (U.S.).
How do these relief workers protect themselves and others from COVID-19 infection? They wear masks and practice physical distancing. They also verify that the companies that supply food are using sanitary facilities and are taking strict safety precautions. This includes making sure that all who handle the kits are directed to wear personal protective equipment, to clean and disinfect their vehicles, and to store the kits on disinfected surfaces. Finally, those who deliver the kits maintain physical distancing from the brothers who receive them.
Using Donations Discreetly
As of January 2021, the Coordinators’ Committee had approved the spending of over 25 million dollars (U.S.) on COVID-19 relief. The branches and DRCs use these donated funds carefully and work hard to negotiate the best price for needed items. In Chile, for example, the brothers organizing the relief work wanted to purchase 750 kilograms (1,653 lb) of lentils. But the price of lentils had doubled in just one month! Two hours after they agreed to purchase the lentils for the higher price, the vendor informed them that another buyer had just returned his order of lentils. So instead of charging the higher price that had been agreed upon, the vendor resold the returned lentils to our brothers at the previous month’s price!
However, when our brothers went to pick up the lentils, the vendor tried to revoke the deal, accusing them of distributing food unfairly, as other organizations had. After a brief silent prayer, one of our brothers related to the vendor that each congregation had already been surveyed to discern who was truly in need. The brothers also explained that because the cultural backgrounds of the recipients varied, each relief kit would be personalized with products that would be most useful to the family receiving it. Finally, they assured the vendor that all donations of money and labor made to Jehovah’s Witnesses are voluntary. He was impressed. The vendor not only agreed to the reduced price but also added a donation of 400 kilograms (882 lb) of lentils to the brothers’ next order.
“Proof of Genuine Love”
Lusu, an elderly widow in Liberia, lives with five family members. As they ate breakfast and considered the daily Bible text one morning, Lusu’s seven-year-old grandson noticed that they had no more food in the house. He asked, “What are we going to eat?” Lusu assured him that she had already prayed for help and that she was confident Jehovah would provide for them. That very afternoon, Lusu received a call from congregation elders inviting her to collect some food relief. She relates: “My grandson says that he now knows Jehovah can hear and answer prayers because Jehovah answered mine.”
One woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo lives next door to a family of Witnesses. After she saw the family receive food from their fellow believers, she said, “After the pandemic, we will become Jehovah’s Witnesses because they have cared about their brothers and sisters during this hard time.” Her husband asked, “Are you going to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses just for a bag of rice?” She replied, “Of course not, but that sack of rice is proof of genuine love.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses have been able to respond quickly to the needs of our brothers and sisters during this pandemic because of your generous donations. Thank you for the contributions you have made using the methods described at donate.jw.org.