TOLEDO, Ohio — The Jehovah's Witnesses halted their door-to-door ministry for 30 months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but on September 1st, 2022 members of the Christian denomination resumed their in-person ministry and meetings again.
Husband and wife, Martin and Jasmine Schley have been Jehovah's Witnesses in Toledo for over a decade and were used to the mainstay method they followed for so long.
"Person-to-person, having a conversation, being able to see facial expressions, whether or not someone is understanding what we're saying, or if they are receiving what we're saying. So it was quite the adjustment," said Jasmine Schley.
But with onset of the pandemic and the need for social distancing, the organization had to find new ways to reach out to potential witnesses.
Martin says the adjustment in the style of ministry created new opportunities as they were able to reach people they couldn't before through writing letters and making phone calls.
"We could to ones that we may have not found at home before or may have been even more reluctant to talk to us in person. So we understand it because we're unexpected visitors when we come to the doors," said Martin.
Jehovah's Witnesses Spokesman, Robert Hendricks, said they were still productive during the pandemic, baptizing 400,000 new members in the past 2 years and growing their membership by 3% from last year.
Now, as they head back to doorsteps, Hendricks says they are still focusing on safety. A lesson they learned during the pandemic.
"Learn to live with COVID among our fellow community members, among our neighbors, seeing them face to face, maintaining safety, still being vigilant," said Hendricks.
Hendricks says knocking is an act of courage and also an act of love, so coming back to the traditional way of proselytizing took an additional act of courage. He said the public's reception has been good so far.
"We've had some wonderful experiences of those who not just welcomed us but really wanted us to come back," he said.
While coming back to front doors is one thing, filling up their worship place, the Kingdom Hall, is another. The Schley's family and many others shed tears of joy seeing people after two and half years away.
"We have this time to be back together again and now even more importantly to be able to share this with others in the ministry," said Jasmine Schley.
The Jehovah's Witnesses have also launched a new global campaign with their free interactive bible and plan to return to in-person conventions in the summer of 2023.