By Tamas Mondovics
After much preparation and the necessity of making use of a new venue this year, Jehovah’s Witnesses were pleased to extend an open invitation for all to attend their annual conventions at the Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
Appropriately themed “Imitate Jesus!” a total of five of the three-day-long events in Tampa have been scheduled to be held in both English and Spanish.
“This year’s convention theme recognizes Jesus Christ as a universally known figure and a positive role model for people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures,” said J. R. Brown, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses at their world headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y.
An estimated 31,000 are expected to fill the Expo Hall, 4800 U.S. 301 in Tampa, for the duration of the Bible-based programs, completing the 453 conventions—in 29 languages—in 124 cities that the Witnesses have organized across the United States this summer.
Continuing through January 2016, Jehovah’s Witnesses will hold some 5,000 “Imitate Jesus!” conventions in 92 lands.
The program, arranged by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, will be presented in whole or in part in 347 languages, including 55 sign languages.
Brown emphasized that everyone in their region will receive a very warm welcome and will enjoy the fresh presentation of significant events in Jesus’ life.
“This year’s program promises an interactive approach, incorporating meaningful and exciting video features that will show how we can benefit from imitating Jesus in our everyday lives,” Brown said.
To demonstrate the importance of the free event, the Witnesses have once again launched a special campaign, extending personal invitations to everyone from the Tampa Bay area to attend the convention.
Locally, all of the more than 200 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Tampa Bay area took part in distributing printed invitations to the convention.
Toby Coriell, a local convention spokesman, drew attention to the keynote address scheduled for Friday morning entitled “Concealed in Him Are All the Treasures of Wisdom,” emphasizing that “all—regardless of their background, lifestyle, or religion—can benefit in practical ways from Jesus’ example and teachings.”
Tampa area resident Michael Hancock, 42, along with his wife Nina and two children Madison, 14, and Ethan, 12, are just one of the thousands of families that have been preparing to attend the event for months.
“Our family starts reviewing the convention program that is available online at jw.org, and discussing scriptural themes,” Michael said. “Preparing as a family helps us all stay focused and impress upon our kids how special each convention is.”
Hancock’s children agreed that a highlight of the program each year is the live or video Bible drama, while Madison added, “The release of new Bible-based publications, too.”
Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are supported entirely by voluntary donations. There is no admission fee. Worldwide, there are more than 8,000,000 Witnesses in more than 115,000 congregations enjoying an average attendance of nearly 20 million.
Dates and times for the “Imitate Jesus!” conventions are as follows: July 24-26 (Spanish); July 31-August 2 (English); August 7-9 (English); August 14-16 (English); August 21-23 (Spanish). Each day’s session begins at 9:20 a.m.
For more information or questions, visit www.jw.org.