To many observers, the volunteer spirit on the Warwick construction project was astonishing. A director of a firm that installed the elevators told one worker: “Your team is accomplishing an amazing feat. Most people today do not volunteer their time.”
When he and others first heard that the workforce building the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses at Warwick, New York, was primarily made up of volunteers, they envisioned local Witnesses working only on weekends. They were amazed when they met people who had left their jobs and had come from all over the country to work on the project for months, even years.
By the end of 2015, some 23,000 Witness volunteers had worked at Warwick alongside members of the United States Bethel family. In addition, some 750 construction workers who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses helped to keep the project on schedule. Working closely with Jehovah’s Witnesses made a deep and positive impression on many of those tradesmen.
A Refreshing Environment
A manager at a company that manufactures window and wall systems wrote: “Everyone involved in this project from our company is amazed at the attitude of those they have been dealing with. Many of us want to work on this project because of that.”
Another company provided personnel to help build the superstructures for the residence buildings. When the company’s contract was completed, three of their employees were determined to stay on at Warwick. They quit their jobs and joined another company that was still working at the site.
The Christian qualities shown by the Witnesses had a positive influence on some of the workers. One man worked with a company that laid foundations for the buildings. After he had worked at Warwick for a few months, his wife noticed a marked difference in his attitude and language at home. Pleased, she said, “I hardly know him anymore!”
“The Witness Women Will Be Coming In”
Many of the Witnesses who worked on the site were women. They not only drove buses, cleaned rooms, and did secretarial work but also directed traffic, operated heavy equipment, spliced fiber-optic cable, insulated pipes, hung and finished drywall, installed plumbing, and poured concrete. They worked hard.
A non-Witness who did roofing noticed that when husbands and wives came off the buses, some were holding hands as they walked to work. That touched him. And he also saw that the women worked tirelessly on the project. “Your first impression could be that the wives were just tagging along,” he said. “But when it comes to work, they get it done! I’ve worked at construction sites all over New York City, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”
The winter of 2014/2015 was unusually harsh, and it was tempting to stay at home rather than to work outside all day in frigid weather. Jeremy, a Witness who worked with construction oversight, recalls: “On particularly cold days, a foundation foreman for one of the construction companies would sometimes ask me, ‘Will your women be working tomorrow?’
“‘Even those who stand outside to flag traffic?’
“Later he said that he told his men that they had to come to work because even the Witness women would be coming in!”
Bus Drivers Loved the Job
More than 35 bus drivers were hired to transport Warwick volunteers to and from their accommodations.
Before one trip, a driver stood up and faced his passengers. “I’ve loved driving you Witnesses,” he said. “Please e-mail my boss to tell him to keep me on this run. I have learned so much about the Bible from you. Before I met you, I did not know God’s name or that there will be a paradise on earth. I’m no longer afraid of death. This has been an amazing experience for me. You will see me at the Kingdom Hall on my next day off.”
Damiana, a Witness who worked at Warwick, said: “After we had boarded our bus one day, our driver announced to us that he had some words for us. He said that he had driven 4,000 Witnesses to and from our various sites in New York. ‘All people have their little quirks,’ he said, ‘but you folks work through your differences, and you work side by side. That is a beautiful thing.’ He also said that he loved talking with us.
“After he had finished speaking, one of the Witnesses on the bus asked, ‘Do you like it when we sing?’
“He responded with a hearty laugh and said, ‘Yes! Shall we start with song 134?’” a
a Song 134, from Sing to Jehovah, is entitled “See Yourself When All Is New.” It describes the joy that will be felt by those in God’s new world.