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7,000 expected for Jehovah's Witnesses convention

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ASHWAUBENON – Contrary to common perception, not everyone gets out of town for Memorial Day weekend.

Having several thousand visitors descend on the area sure helps fill a sizable void, however.

Organizers are anticipating as many as 7,000 people will attend this year’s Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The three-day event at the Resch Center starts May 27.

“That’s a weekend that notoriously would be dead,” said Brad Toll, president and CEO of the Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau. “So, to have that big of group coming in at a time when (residents) are going to the lake cabins and things like that … it’s fantastic for business. Our hotels are busy, restaurants are busy, so it’s awesome.”

Dozens of congregations from Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan will participate in the regional convention. The event features daily Bible discussions, prayer, music, and video dramas, along with a baptism by immersion on the second day.

Jehovah’s Witnesses identify as Christians, totaling more than 8 million worldwide. They have a solid track record of turning out in big numbers for the springtime gatherings, which have a universal theme.

“That’s one thing that’s unique about Jehovah’s people,” said Marty Mettler, a spokesman for the Green Bay convention. “They even tell the hotels when they book they’re coming because some people book and don’t show. When the Witnesses book, they’re going to be there. If they’re going to be full, they’re going to be full.”

Mettler is an elder at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on Green Bay’s east side.

He said the community has a strong tradition of involvement in the regional convention, which has been held annually in Green Bay for many years with the exception of 2014. That’s when about 35,000 people packed Milwaukee’s Miller Park, baseball home of the Brewers, for a weekend convention with congregations from five states.

“That made last year a little bit more special because it was the first year back,” Mettler said of the event at the Resch last May, when more than 5,000 attended.

All are welcome at the convention, regardless of religious affiliation or belief.

“It’s very family oriented,” said event spokesman Tim Kemp, an elder at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Appleton.

This year’s theme is “Remain Loyal to Jehovah!”

Admission and parking in the Lambeau Field lots are free. As a group that doesn’t practice tithing, the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t take monetary collections at their conventions.

“The conventions that we have and the meetings, (we) just try to promote that in the community,” Mettler said. “Everyone has their own choice as to what they want to do, and no one would ever try to force anybody. So, it’s really just here’s what we’ve found that really works for us and we want to share it.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for going door to door in their communities to share information about God, whose name is Jehovah, and his son, Jesus Christ.

“Jehovah’s people basically dedicate themselves to live by God’s standards,” Mettler said. “Part of that is an imitation of Jesus. That’s why we go door to door ... because we’re an imitation of what Jesus taught his disciples to do. In (the Gospel of) Matthew, he told his disciples to imitate him and go out and make disciples and teach them and baptize them.”

Members of congregations in Northeastern Wisconsin have been making the neighborhood rounds in recent weeks to leave a printed invitation at people’s front doors for the upcoming convention.

“It gets a good response,” Kemp said.

Many arrive early for set-up at the Resch Center a day before the convention opens, which participants call an egress day.

“Our people actually show up Thursday,” Kemp said. “We’ll do a thorough cleaning of the Resch Center. All of the congregations are asked, if they can, to send volunteers. So, it’s kind of a day event. We clean it.”

The take-down after the convention ends in the late afternoon the final day also is a community effort.

“Every congregation has a section,” Kemp said. “Many hands make the work lighter, and poof, it’s done. We actually leave the Resch Center cleaner than when we come in. It’s kind of a neat process.”

And, local businesses don’t mind the extended holiday visit by thousands.

“It’s a slow weekend, so we’re able to offer ’em the best of our community — and with value,” Toll said.


If you go

What: Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

When: May 27 and 28, 9:20 a.m. to 4:50 p.m.; May 29, 9:20 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Where: Resch Center, 1901 S. Oneida St., Ashwaubenon.

Source: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/life/faith/2016/05/19/7000-expected-jehovahs-witnesses-convention/84342850/




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