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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Jehovah’s Witnesses to gather in Spokane for first time in 20 years

Editor’s note: With a big Jehovah’s Witness convention coming to town, a Spokesman-Review online developer talks about his faith.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses, they don’t celebrate Christmas, right?”

I could hear some of the editors of this paper discussing Jehovah’s Witnesses, who they are, what they believe. My ears perked up, like a dog when he hears a stranger come to the door.

Partly out of fear of the unknown, I’ve mostly kept my faith to myself. The newsroom has to deal with a vocal minority of crackpot religionists who decry us as the mouthpiece of the beast, so I’ve always erred on the side of discretion.

This time though, I had to say something. Ignoring the queasy feeling in my stomach and saying a private “now or never,” I walked over, sat down and said quietly “I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

I didn’t really know what I was expecting in response, but I can tell you it wasn’t the warm curiosity I received.

“Really?” they said. Did you know that there was a Jehovah’s Witness convention coming up in Spokane? Would you be willing to write something about it, telling us from your perspective about the upcoming convention and who Jehovah’s Witnesses are?

How much space do I have?

Having our regional convention in Spokane is a pretty big deal, since the last time we had our convention here was 20 years ago at the Spokane Arena, when it still had that new-car smell. Some 6,200 people are expected to attend.

The three-day event – July 1-3 – is one of the few times of the year we can get together as a large group to worship our God, Jehovah. For the past few weeks we’ve been inviting the public to attend the program, so you may have found a tract in your doorjamb.

It’s free to attend, whether you’re a Witness or not, and everyone from the toilet cleaners to the keynote speakers are volunteers. My current assignment is to organize volunteers from my congregation to sweep and mop Section 122 of the Arena at the end of the final session. There were 300 volunteers scrubbing the place from top to bottom on Thursday morning, and we’ll scrub it again Sunday as a courtesy to the people who rented us their facility.

This year’s theme is “Remain Loyal to Jehovah,” so we’ll be examining from the Bible the loyalty displayed by Jesus, Job and Hezekiah and how we can apply the principles we discern regarding loyalty into our day-to-day lives. Highlights of the event are the two video dramas, which promise to make me weep like a wee babe – I ain’t ashamed – and the baptism talk.

Given the political and social climate that we live in, the keynote address on Sunday is particularly appropriate: “When Will Loyal Love Triumph Over Hatred?” based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:38-45.

Now, about Jehovah’s Witnesses: We’re known mostly for the things we don’t do, like blood transfusions, holidays, politics or war. (Check out jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/ if you’re wondering why.) Honestly though, we spend the majority of our time focusing on how we can be nicer people, how to be loving and loyal husbands, wives, parents and children, the importance of hard work and honesty, and of course, our preaching activities.

We take our preaching work seriously, more seriously than most people probably know. Did you know we’ve won more Supreme Court battles in defense of free speech than anyone else, or that our website, JW.org, supports 817 languages, hundreds more than any other website in the world, including Google or Wikipedia?

We’re treated as radical extremists in Russia, we’re thrown into prison for refusing to take up arms in South Korea, and we’re the butt of late-night comedy in the U.S., but in my mind it is all worth it, knowing that we’re doing what we can to help others.

If you happen to stop in at the Arena, feel free to say hi. I’ll be in Section 122, with a mop and a broom.

Contact Dan Gayle at dang@spokesman.com, or (509) 459-5404.

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