Over 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) from the Philippines—the home of the Tagalog people—thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses who speak Tagalog gathered in Rome, Italy, for a unique convention held July 24-26, 2015.
According to one estimate, more than 850,000 Filipinos now live in Europe. As a result, some 60 congregations and smaller groups of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Europe hold meetings in Tagalog and preach to Filipinos in their community.
However, at the Rome convention, all these congregations and groups assembled for the first time for a three-day convention in their own language. The 3,239 in attendance were thrilled to have Brother Mark Sanderson, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses who formerly served in the Philippines, give the concluding talk each day.
“Straight to My Heart”
What difference does it make whether a person attends a convention in his mother tongue or in a second language? “I understand a little English,” says a single mother named Eva, “but thanks to this convention in Tagalog, Bible teachings have gone straight to my heart.” To save funds for travel from her home in Spain to Italy, she and her two children decided that they would not eat out every week, as they had been doing, but would do so only once a month. “It was worth the sacrifice,” says Eva, “because at this convention I understood everything!”
Jasmin, who lives in Germany, requested time off from work to attend the convention. “But just before I left,” she relates, “I was told that I could not leave because there was work to be done. I stayed calm, prayed to Jehovah, and approached my boss. We were able to reorganize the work so that I could attend the convention! It was incredible to have the opportunity to be with other Filipino brothers and sisters from all over Europe.”
Of course, many Filipinos in Europe miss not only their homeland but also their friends who have emigrated to other parts of Europe. The convention helped many of these friends become reacquainted as spiritual brothers and sisters. (Matthew 12:48-50) Fabrice says, “Seeing people I know has filled my heart with joy!” At the end of the convention, one sister kept exclaiming, “It has been a big family reunion!”