Imagine visiting your optometrist for a routine eye exam and finding out you’ll soon go blind.
That is what happened to long-time Angola resident, Carol Sturtz. She was diagnosed with Stargardt’s, an eye disease that slowly erodes vision leading to blindness. Within four years of that appointment she would have to quit driving, and most aspects of her life were severely impacted, including her worship.
Every summer Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, including Sturtz and her husband, look forward eagerly to our large conventions and consider them a highlight of the year. Carol has been faithfully attending the conventions for over 55 years. Now, however, the conventions presented challenges.
In the large arenas normally used, she said, “I felt totally left out” because her limited vision didn’t allow her to see the stage or monitors clearly, and she’d miss the full impact of the videos presented on the program.
This year, for the safety of all, Jehovah’s Witnesses made a historic decision and moved this annual event to a streaming platform.
“Our worship is centered on our mutual love for our God and for each other, irrespective of where we are physically,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “This year’s convention program underscores the unity of our international family and the joy that people can have against a backdrop of stress and despair.”
The two Christian principles guiding the Witnesses’ decision are respect for the sanctity of life and love of neighbor.
“As much as we long to meet together, life is far too precious to put at risk,” said Hendriks. “The virtual meetings we have held over the past four months have proved to all of us that it’s not about where we are physically. It’s about where we are spiritually.”
Now, Carol can stream the “Always Rejoice” convention program on a large-screen TV sitting closely enough to see even facial expressions on the videos. After watching the first installment of the “Always Rejoice” program Carol said, “Now I can see! The videos mean so much with the talks. It just brought it to life. Being able to watch it right then and there ... it makes me look forward to all of it.” Commenting about the program’s effect on her she said,”I can’t help but feel joyful!”
The program explores questions like: What contributes to finding and sustaining joy? How can you cultivate joy in the family? How can you remain joyful in difficult times? A key feature will be a Bible-based drama that considers the life of Nehemiah and how he helped the ancient nation of Israel find joy in their worship of God.
Those interested in viewing the convention can contact their local congregation or access the program on jw.org, available under the “Library” tab. There is no charge for viewing the convention.