Tag Archives: Opposer

Random Thoughts About the 2018 Jehovah’s Witness Convention, Part 2

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More thoughts about my experience attending the 2018 Jehovah’s Witnesses convention:

(This is part 2; see part 1 here.)

I was able to have a good conversation with one of the attendants (ushers). He showed me (on his phone) the trailer for the Jonah film that would be shown in full the next day (Sunday). I brought up my concern about the “great crowd” believers being denied so many kingdom privileges, including having Jesus as one’s mediator. He (predictably) thought I was wrong. I told him that it’s spelled out very clearly in the Insight on the Scriptures book, which is accessible at the JW website, and also in several Watchtower articles. He still insisted that I must have misunderstood the information I had read. I encouraged him to research the subject, and we went on with just friendly talk. I hope he has or will research on the subject of mediator. I prayed that he would not forget, and would not be able to shake the subject from his mind and heart.

During the lunch break, I had a couple of good, friendly conversations with other attendees. I also asked several security team members whether there had been any protesters that day or the day before, but they said there had been nothing.

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Groom’s Procession (not the one I saw), from sareez.com

Later in the afternoon, when I left one of the “talking head” sessions to get a break from the tedium, I saw a procession coming down the street, with people banging on drums and playing loud music. I thought it was going to be a protest group, but it was an Indian wedding procession, joyfully celebrating the groom traveling on horseback to the wedding site. How fun! I joined in the song and dance for a few minutes, something that I’m sure none of the JW’s would be caught doing. Actually, I don’t know. Can anyone provide insight as to whether JW’s in India participate in their traditional wedding revelry? There didn’t seem to be anything pagan about it, but well, you know how the Watchtower is. Please comment below if you know anything about it.

At the end of the day, we finally encountered “protesters”. At least, that is how the attendees saw them. Just outside the main doors of the convention hall, on the public sidewalk, there was a man and (I assume) his wife and daughter. They all held signs, saying things like “Jesus is Lord.” He was preaching with a bullhorn. I snapped a picture of them, which you can see above. He’s in the white shirt, his daughter is to the right in a blue shirt, and you can see part of his wife at the far left. The great thing was that he was not obnoxious. The bullhorn was not too loud. He was not shouting. He was using scripture, and all the right verses that make JW’s think, verses that I use with my JW friends. I chatted briefly with the wife, letting her know that I was praying. I was so encouraged that this family had a burden to preach the gospel to Jehovah’s Witnesses. More power to them (aka God bless them).

Almost every JW I talked with asked me, “Are you enjoying the convention?” or “Are you enjoying the talks?” Without exception I gave them my standard answer: “I’m really glad I came.” I highly recommend this response. Using it will enable you to give an honest answer that will always satisfy your JW friends. It’s good for kingdom hall use as well. If you go to a convention, be sure to take a lunch and plenty of snacks to keep you awake. Coffee was essential for me. Hard candies to suck on work well too. Do your best to endure the talks, because the opportunities for conversation before, in between, and after are priceless!

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It’s Official. I’m an Opposer.

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From Pixabay

It’s official. I have been labeled, categorized, and marked as an “opposer.” I might as well have it printed on a t-shirt.

My first clue was when the elders at the local congregation in my town confronted me as I was about to enter the kingdom hall last time I visited. (See my account of that experience here.) But it was all confirmed as I prepared to attend the most recent convention with my friend Mark. I called and asked Mark whether we should go together. He was enthusiastic about the idea, but hesitant to have me join him in the carpool in which he would be riding. When I pressed him about it, he admitted that he was afraid that I would “say things that would weaken the faith of some of the weaker brothers and sisters.” This statement was out of character for Mark, and I could tell he was not comfortable saying those words to me. It was as if he were saying to me words that were not his own. I asked Mark where this was coming from. He admitted that the warning had come from his elders.

Naturally, we talked about how I’m not about weakening anybody’s faith, and quite the contrary, I’m about strengthening their faith in Jehovah, Jesus, and the Bible. He understood and admitted that he knew I wasn’t in the business of weakening others’ faith. Then, as we talked some more, things that he shared with me got really interesting.

Mark said that things that I had discussed with JW’s at their carts got back to the elders in Mark’s congregation.

What? Come again? Conversations I had with JW’s at the carts in the city (San Francisco), got back to the elders of the congregation in a small town in the Napa Valley, about 70 miles away? Can someone please say “Big Brother is watching you”? Oh, and there’s more. Word is, I was attempting to give the cart people my own literature. Oh, horror! Apostate literature! (Their paranoia rears its mole-like head.) The truth is, what I was trying to show them was their own literature, specifically my printout of the article on the subject of “Mediator” in their Insight book, which I downloaded from their own website, jw.org. Apostate literature? Shaking my evangelical head.

Let me just pause and say that I love my JW friend Mark. He knows that their accusations are outrageous, and he wants to continue to meet with me. We talked about how I like talking with atheists and others who challenge my faith, causing me to research and become stronger in what I believe. He likewise appreciates my questions and challenges to him. He’s “old school” JW, from back when they relished discussing, debating, and dialoguing with evangelical Christians. That’s no longer the case for most almost all current JW’s. Recent rhetoric is warning them not to talk at all with apostates and opposers. No dialogue. None. At. All. We have a gag order out on us.

So where does that leave me and Mark? Is my time of opportunity over? Far from it. I drove myself to the convention, intending to find Mark there and sit with him. We did not find each other, but we were able to talk quite a lot on the phone the next day.  And we’re planning on getting together soon. Take that, Pharisees.

I plan on continuing my visits to the local kingdom halls, until they threaten to call the police on me (which is funny, since they’re so anti-military and anti-police). If and when that happens, maybe I’ll stand on the sidewalk holding signs with scripture verses on them. Maybe. I don’t know.

Additionally, I’ll always take advantage of opportunities where JW’s don’t know of my “opposer” status. Jehovah will provide opportunities for ministry, regardless of any human labeling, judgment, and other efforts. The one thing they can’t control is the sovereign work of God!

Your and my identity are wrapped up in our status as children adopted by Jehovah, not by how anyone might attempt to categorize us. Keep doing the ministry God has called you to do!

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Keeping Friendships with Jehovah’s Witness Alive

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This is the challenge: Keeping friendships with Jehovah’s Witnesses alive. It should be your number one goal.

Yes, above winning an argument, or insisting on your “rights,” or getting your brilliant point expressed, or pointing out the logical absurdity of a JW teaching or practice, or even sharing the gospel.

What? More important than sharing the gospel? Well, I didn’t say that we shouldn’t share the gospel. In fact, sharing the good news of Jesus should be a priority. But keeping the friendship alive needs to be THE priority. Why? Because:

  1. Our friendship with them is tenuous, and likely limited in terms of length. At some point they may begin to avoid us, either because of their discomfort with the truth, their fear of “apostates” and “opposers”, or because of a directive by their elders. I had this happen with my friend Aaron, who used a number of excuses to explain his not returning my calls and texts. When I called one of his bluffs and asked “Is that the real reason you can’t meet?” he changed the subject. I replied with “Okay, I love you.” Once we hung up, I haven’t heard from him since. It goes to show that we have a limited time window to influence our JW friends and relatives.
  2. They are not likely to hear or receive the truth of the gospel until they trust you as a friend, and that takes time. It took years for my old friend Mark to realize that I valued my friendship with him unconditionally, whether he left the Watchtower or not, and so he could also value our friendship, even though he knows I’m an active challenger to his faith system.
  3. Being their friend will blow their minds. Yes it will! Why? Two reasons: (a) They don’t experience real friendships within their congregation. (Okay, there will be exceptions to this, but it is difficult to be real with someone who is obligated to turn you in when you have doubts or question the governing bully.) And (b) they don’t think it’s possible for someone within “Christendom” to care about them and be a real friend to them. As I recently learned from a missionary reaching out to Europeans who are jaded against Christians, we need to provide to lost people “good experiences with Christians.” It’s their first step toward being open to the truth of the gospel.

So do all you can to keep the friendship alive, no matter how tenuous it is. Go out of your way to help Jehovah’s Witnesses, or to do little acts of kindness that say “I was thinking of you.” Help unclog a drain. Give a plate of cookies (try to pick the ones that don’t look too Christmas-y). Provide a ride to the airport. Love-bomb them, but in a way that is far more genuine than their phony conditional expressions of love. In short, care. Show them the fruit of the Spirit, so they will want to become grafted into Jesus the vine.

Pray for me as I seek to develop additional friendships with JW’s. My last two visits to the local kingdom hall had me talking with “Jim” and his son “Alton.” I think we’re hitting it off pretty well. I’m hoping we can meet off-campus sometime. May Jehovah provide to you the spirit of Jesus as you share with your JW friends, relatives, and acquaintances.

 

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Attending a Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall Meeting

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All seats filled? Never seen that.

Recently there have been a number of signs indicating to me that I have been “blacklisted” by the local Jehovah’s Witnesses. It began with one of the local elders questioning my motivations for engaging the JW’s in conversations. (See my accounts of encounters with him here and here and here.) Next, when I attempted numerous times to schedule Bible studies with my friend Aaron, he continually offered lame excuses as to why he couldn’t meet with me. When I asked him in a phone conversation what the real reason was, he avoided the question and said he had to go. Finally, I had a good visit at my front door with two new JW’s, who promised to return the next week, but they haven’t shown up since. I think someone got to them.

So I approached the kingdom hall last night with concern that I would be shunned, ignored, avoided, and otherwise given the cold shoulder. But far from it! Everyone was very friendly and willing to talk. I discussed nothing doctrinal, limiting my conversations to friendly talk about work, remembering peoples’ names, health, weather; essentially anything except what really matters. That was difficult. I was itching to share with my JW friends what they have been missing out on–scads of kingdom privileges and benefits that they’re being denied by the governing bully. (For a partial list of some of those benefits, see just about any of my previous posts.) But I held my tongue, knowing that keeping the relationships alive is, at this point, vital. If I’m labeled as an “opposer” or antagonistic, every one of them will avoid any kind of conversation with me. Any kind. At all. Today I’m rejoicing that the “cutting off” hasn’t happened.

The one elder, whom I will call “Carl,” (even though I’m tempted to label him “my nemesis”), did not interact with me. Neither did I pursue any conversation with him. We greeted each other with smiles and “hello,” but that’s all. I know that he was eavesdropping on a couple of my conversations with others, but otherwise he just left me alone. Having confidence in the Lord that I was His ambassador, I felt no fear of the man Carl, or anybody else. I knew that I was representing Jesus, even though I was only engaged in small talk. Relationships were being nurtured, and at least for now, I’m still seen as an interested Bible student.

Some observations about the meeting itself, which I believe indicate some recent trends:

(1) There were a number of slanderous statements aimed at “Christiandom,” that they provide no training to their people, that they don’t know anything about the Bible, that they have nothing to offer, that they blame Jehovah for disasters, etc. Broad, sweeping generalizations.

(2) I noticed several references to “upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty” or its opposite, “profaning God’s name.” Obedience to the org is equated with upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty, bringing the humble individual into a drama of cosmic proportions. The members of Christiandom are depicted as only capable of profaning Jehovah’s name, disobeying his laws and sullying his reputation. In a previous post I mentioned the revival of an old doctrine known as “The vindication of God’s sovereignty,” and I predicted increasing references to it. (See that post here.) And thus it has begun, becoming part of the “theocratic language” (JW-speak) of the rank-and-file members. Get ready to hear more and more references to it, both in the JW publications and videos, and by individual members.

 

(3) One of the Bible studies this time around was about Ezekiel’s temple, found in the Bible beginning at Ezekiel 40. Now, I must confess that this is one of the most perplexing passages of scripture for me, and, I believe, for all Christians. If you take the description of Zeke’s temple literally, then where and when does this temple exist? And why? If it’s in the future, what would be the necessity of animal sacrifices again? If you tend to spiritualize or take the passage symbolically, what is it symbolic of? And what do you do with all the details? In the past the problem tended to be “solved” using elaborate typology, which is a can of very subjective worms, easily corrupted by personal theological or prophetic preferences. Anyway, it seems that Watchtower is interpreting the vision as symbolic of present kingdom realities, which puts them dangerously close to the fanciful interpretations they recently warned about in their literature (see Watchtower, study edition, March 2015, “This Is the Way You Approved”).

Oh, my, this post is a rambling one. Well, it just shows how my mind was working during the meeting. If you’re a Christian attempting to reach JW’s, God bless you. And of you’re a JW researching the real Truth, God bless you, from your friend #undercoverjw.

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Preparing Jehovah’s Witnesses to Listen, a New Strategy, Tested in Real Life

Anyone attempting to reach Jehovah’s Witnesses lately have likely noticed their recent attitude change, where they have moved away from a willingness to talk, discuss, and debate, to where they quickly employ discussion-enders, either referring you to their website, or saying something like, “I’m not going to argue with you.” As I have discussed in two previous posts, their new practice is due to (1) their recent training, where they are strictly warned to not to engage in any form of dialogue with apostates or opposers, and (2) the convenience of the jw.org website, where JW’s glibly refer people they would rather not interact with. Their thoughts (I imagine) as they talk with you are as follows:

Oh-oh, He asked me about something I can’t explain. This must be one of those evil, deceptive, satanic opposers we have been warned about. I must not talk with them. Good thing we have the website to refer them to, so I can save face and dismiss him in a polite fashion.

One of the challenges I have faced is that they are partly right that I have been a bit deceptive. Not in an evil, satanic way; just in clever ways. (I fancy myself to be like Nathan the prophet, telling King David a story, then lowering the boom with “You are the man.”) But in their mind, their thinking is “Why should I trust anything this guys says to me, if he’s using trickery to get me to think about something?” Hmm. Good point. Of course we could turn that argument around, talking about the multiple instances of deception on the part of the Watchtower and its governing bully. But that would hardly be productive, would it?

Instead, I have sought new, more up-front and honest ways to discuss things with my JW friends and acquaintances. Take a look at my descriptions of my new strategy in my two previous posts here and here.

So this past Saturday I got an opportunity to go live with my new strategy. Two JW’s came to my door, and we introduced ourselves to each other. I’ll call them Ken and Allen. I asked, “Are you the Jehovah’s Witnesses?” Of course they answered that yes, they were. “Oh good, I love you guys,” I replied. As they awkwardly acknowledged my gushing about them, I added, “Yes I love you guys, and I’m so deeply concerned about you. I’ve been in some deep prayer for my JW friends and acquaintances. I’m just so heavily burdened for you, because I love you so much.”

They politely skirted around that issue by showing me the brochure “Good News From God.” I discussed it a little with them for a few minutes, but then I went back to my agenda. “My big concern for you and my other JW friends is that you’re being denied a number of kingdom privileges, including being adopted as Jehovah’s sons, and having Jesus as your mediator, and being in the new covenant, and quite a few others also.”

Allen responded that I may have misunderstood about the mediator, which allowed me to explain that my JW friends and I had looked up the topic of “mediator” in the Insight book, where it states clearly the Watchtower teaching that Jesus is the mediator for only the anointed 144,000 believers. From there we talked about several topics, including adoption as sons, the JW gospel versus Paul’s gospel, and others. At no time did either Ken or Allen “shut down” or accuse me of being argumentative. We remained friendly and interactive throughout. I described my experiences with other JWs’ reactions to learning that Jesus was not their mediator, and returned again to sharing my burden and concern for them, expressing my desire that my JW friends would be able to experience these privileges as I have. We ended on their offering to return and discuss things more with me, which I encouraged.

My hope and prayer is that God, by his Holy Spirit, will protect us; that Ken and Allen won’t be stopped by others who know about me, and that they will return next week or sometime soon. Ken and Allen are from a different congregation than the one I occasionally attend, but it’s here in the same town. Hopefully one congregation won’t rat me out to the other. If you’re reading this soon after it was written, I desire your prayer. Thank you!

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Preparing Jehovah’s Witnesses to Listen – A New Strategy

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Image from jw.org

I have often seen the “cart witnesses” at Oakland Airport (OAK), and so I hoped that they would be present when I disembarked from my recent flight. And yes, there they were, one man and two ladies. We pleasantly chit-chatted about the joys and trials of flying, then I prepared them to go deeper.

I say that I “prepared them,” because I was intentional about this. You should be too, if you don’t want them to shut down on you in less than a minute.

Lately it seems that unless their “householder” or prospect exhibits “worthiness,” (that is, a willingness to blindly drink the Watchtower koolade), they will instinctively cease listening to ANYTHING you are trying to say to them. Their escape from engaging with you is to refer you to their website, JW.org. In the past (even as recently as a year ago) there was more of a willingness on their part to dialogue, discuss, and even debate. These days, their quick dismissal reminds me of “disaster triage.”

“What’s disaster triage?” Thanks for asking.

My wife and I have attended the disaster preparedness training known as CERT, or Community Emergency Response Training, a program developed soon after 911 to prepare citizens for self-sufficiency in the event of a major disaster. One of the sections of that CERT training was how to search damaged buildings for survivors. Because of the limited time and resources involved during an intense disaster, we were trained to employ a quick method of triage. Upon encountering an unresponsive victim, you check for vital signs (pulse and breathing), and if you find none, you move on. You do not attempt CPR or any other first aid.

That seems harsh. And admittedly it is. But in disaster mode, it’s the only reasonable, effective, and efficient way to help those you truly can help. In a disaster, you don’t have hours to attempt CPR on all the unresponsive victims. You keep moving, helping those you can, and (harshly) leaving the rest for dead.

All of that to say that it seems that the JW’s are in “disaster triage” mode. Their practice seems to be: If the prospect doesn’t seem receptive to the message, give up on them. Don’t engage them in discussions. Refer them to the website and move on.

It’s harsh. And in their case, they don’t have a legitimate disaster with which to justify their harsh practice. I might understand if they were under the gun of a new prediction of the end of the world as we know it (#TEOTWAWKI). But it looks like they have (wisely) given up on the predicting game, at least for now. I think their motivation is now avoidance of conflict, and just plain laziness. It seems to me that the rank-and-file are thinking, “Oh good, there’s a website now, where the organization has done all the work for us. When we’re stumped, we can just refer the prospect (or opposer) to that site, and be done with it. I don’t have to actually research or know anything for myself anymore.” And the governing bully has given them tacit permission to do this, with their repeated warnings to avoid conversations of any kind with “opposers.”

How convenient.

On the one hand, it sucks. I am personally experiencing less willingness on the part of my JW acquaintances to engage in dialogue. They are recently more quick to ask, “Why are you asking that question?” or “What’s your motivation in asking that?”, turning the table from a defensive position to an offensive one, questioning the inquirer’s motives. Or they say “I’m not going to argue with you,” essentially saying “I’m done talking with you.” It’s even more frustrating to talk with them than ever before. “You can find all the answers you need at JW.org” is now their conversation ender (perhaps their mantra).

But on the other hand, it can be a good thing. Let’s take it as an opportunity; an opportunity to be more genuine with them. Here’s what I mean: Until recently, I could get more conversational mileage using my “undercover” tactics, posing as an interested Bible student to get them to begin to question the Watchtower teachings. But now they’re quicker to identify those tactics. (They’re on to us.) So now, I’m finding it more effective to be more transparent with them from the beginning. We can still engage in long and deep conversations, but we have to prepare them first. As an example, here’s what I did with my JW friends I met at the airport:

After our chitchat, I told them that I have been meeting with two JW friends off-and-on for Bible study, and that I have been attending mid-week meetings at my local Kingdom Hall about once a month. Then I relayed to them my excitement about the verses in scripture about Jesus being our mediator, and quoted First Timothy 2:5, where Jesus is described as the mediator between God and mankind (be sure to use that precise term).

Smiles and nods from my 3 new JW friends.

Then I asked what they thought the mediator thing was all about. One sister (Sister #1) essentially described Jesus as our ransom, but not very well, so I helped to clarify.

Smiles and nods still.

I mentioned the aspect of prayer as part of Jesus’ mediatorial role. Sister #1 disagreed, saying that we pray directly to Jehovah, and that “the mediator does not include that.” I told her that all my other JW friends had shown me in the publications and at jw.org that praying “in Jesus’ name” meant that we are to pray to Jehovah, through Jesus. “Do you have a different opinion from the Watchtower?” I asked.

Sister #2 and Brother nearly sprained their necks to look to her for her response.

“Oh, no!” she said. So I established with them that Jesus’ mediatorial role included his being our ransom, as well as his role in our prayer life.

Smiles and nods again.

Then I said something like, “So, I have a problem that’s really bothering me. I’m hoping to get your opinion, to help clarify the issue.”

Notice that I admitted that I had a problem with the JW doctrine. Not that they have a problem. And I called upon them for their help. They looked genuinely concerned and eager to listen. So I went on.

“Imagine my shock and surprise when I found out that the Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the anointed 144,000, and not for the rest of the “great crowd” believers. I find that very disturbing.”

Sister #1: “What’s that now?”

I literally had to say it three more times before they could even begin to dialogue about it. “Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the 144,000 anointed believers, and not for the great crowd believers.”

The brother said “Oh, no, that can’t be true.”

Sister #2 (finally chiming in): “You got some wrong information from somewhere.”

That’s when I explained that when I have asked all my JW friends and acquaintances about it, they ALL referred me to JW.org, where I found the Insight article on the subject of “Mediator,” which I then printed to take on the plane with me for reading material. Then I showed them the printout.

Sister #1 read the paragraph that I had highlighted, then tried to say the article was saying something other than what it was obviously saying. So I said to her, “Well, I hope you’re right. I hope that I’m misunderstanding something, because if it’s true that they teach that, then I’m heartbroken and burdened for you. Please look at the paragraph again for me, would you? I hope that you’re right, that I’m missing something.” She looked at the article again, and then said, “Well, I don’t know, I’ll have to research it more when I look it up, over there,” pointing to where (I think) they take their breaks. “Would you please?” I replied, “Because if it’s true, then I’m really concerned about this, and it would break my heart to think that you don’t have Jesus as your mediator. I want that for everybody, don’t you?”

Nods and smiles again. I ended by thanking them for listening, and for their time, and for their smiles here where people get off a long plane ride.

So my new strategy of preparing JW’s to listen to me, rather than dismissing me, includes the following:

  1. Admitting up front that I’m not about to become a baptized JW, and that I have some disturbing questions that need an adequate answer.
  2. Beating them to the punch of referring me to the website, jw.org, quoting from it myself.
  3. Asking them to clarify their understanding of Watchtower doctrine.
  4. Showing them my broken heart for them, rather than gloating about my ability to stump them.

By using this approach (I’m no longer referring to my methods as tactics), the result of my conversation was keeping them as friends, rather than seeing them shut down. And hopefully, Sister #1 and the others will research the issue more.

Lord Jesus, please make the seeds that were sown sprout and grow in their hearts and minds.

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I Think My Cover is Blown

 

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I think my cover is blown.

As you may know, I have been trying to act as an interested Bible student, that is, a possible convert, for as long as I can, so that I can ask my JW friends very pointed questions, without them thinking that I am an “opposer” trying to convert them to my beliefs.

Several recent events are telling me that my cover is blown.

It all started with a donkey. As you may know, I attend the mid-week meeting at my local Kingdom Hall about once a month. Some months ago, the lesson was about Mary and Joseph, and later the baby Jesus, traveling here and there due to political situations and persecution. The Watchtower study made a point of the difficulty of the journey as Mary rode on the donkey, and how great was their faithfulness to Jehovah, blah, blah. After the lesson I was talking with a man and mentioned that their difficulties may have actually been greater than we imagine, because they many not have had the luxury of a donkey to ride, since there’s no mention of a donkey in the scriptural accounts of Mary and Joseph’s travels. Well, an elder overheard me, and you can read about how the donkey dung hit the fan in my previous post, here.

So the donkey incident is Exhibit 1.

Exhibit 2: There has been another more minor incident, where a local elder asked about my motives in attending the Kingdom Hall. I don’t even remember the biblical passage I was asking the speaker about, but the elder moved me away from him and began cross-examining me.

Exhibit 3: My friend Aaron has not returned any of my calls or text messages in months, in spite of numerous attempts on my part to re-connect with him.

Exhibit 4: My friend Mark (my oldest JW friend), who lives in a neighboring town, has mentioned that his elders don’t want me trying to convert people. How do the elders from another town know what’s going on in my town? I suspect the elders from the two towns have conversed together about me.

Just the other day, Mark stopped by my workplace. He still considers me a friend. A little while back I stopped by his house (his invitation) to take a picture of his couch, so that he can try to sell it. So he stopped by my workplace to get the pic from me. I asked him if he knew the dates for the upcoming convention, and he expressed interest in going together, as we have in the past. But he also warned me that his elders do not want me trying to convert anyone. I responded that I was not trying to convert anyone, In fact, I said, I can’t convert anyone. That is up to God and the person, I explained.

“If what you have is the truth, you should not be afraid of challenging questions. I like to talk with atheists and agnostics, because they challenge my faith, and I dig for the answers, and it makes my faith stronger. If what you have is the truth, shouldn’t you and other JW’s welcome challenging questions?”

He agreed. But he often agrees with me, while simultaneously agreeing with contradictory statements from the watchtower. I’m hoping to attend the convention with Mark, or meet with him in some other context soon. How will all this play out? I don’t know.  I’m thinking and praying about my approach with all my JW friends moving forward.

One encouraging note: I stopped by the Kingdom Hall today, July 4, to attend their midweek meeting. I was thinking that they would not be attending any Independence Day activities, so they would be having a meeting, right? Good opportunity for me to visit, right? But I pulled up, and there was no meeting. Only two cars in the parking lot. The door to the hall was open, so I stood outside it for a few minutes, waiting for someone to come out. Out came one of the elders! And dressed very casually–shorts and a t-shirt. What, no suit? I almost didn’t recognize him. He must have been stopping by to take care of some business that did not require the usual formal attire. He was cheerful to me as he explained that there was no meeting due to the congregation attending the convention this week. So that explained why the ghost town. And his friendliness was encouraging! He at least is still welcoming.

This week I will call Mark to find out when his congregation will be attending convention, or whether he would rather meet over dinner or some other time. I’m looking forward to seeing how God works! Pray for all my JW friends (even the grumpy elders) in both towns. Thank you!

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