AUGUST 31, 2020
The 2020 service year brought unparalleled challenges to the spiritual activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. But these challenges also revealed the determination of our brothers and sisters to maintain loyalty and unity.
The primary challenge stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic, which created global disruptions on a scale not seen in generations.
Jehovah’s Witnesses responded swiftly to the pandemic. They found new ways to meet together for worship, encourage one another, and preach the good news.
Here is a look at some of the ‘good reports’ from this most remarkable year.—Proverbs 15:30.
During the service year, our organization released the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in whole or in part in 36 languages. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, many of the Bibles were released electronically during virtual meetings. The New World Translation is now available in whole or in part in 193 languages.
Governing Body Updates
Beginning on March 18, 2020, members of the Governing Body have been providing special monthly video programs related to the pandemic on jw.org and the JW Library app.
In the first update, Brother Stephen Lett said that although the pandemic is stressful, it provides strong evidence that “we’re living in the final part of the last days. Undoubtedly, the final part of the final part of the last days!”
Despite the uncertainties of these times, Brother Lett said: “As Jehovah’s people, we do not need to panic.”
Each of the video updates included encouraging reports from around the world. These reports show the wisdom of heeding guidance from the Governing Body. In many cases, public officials praised our brotherhood for its timely and wise response to the pandemic.
A Memorial Like No Other
For decades, Jehovah’s modern-day people have gathered together for the annual celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal. This year, in many places, meeting together was inadvisable or not permitted. In these cases, individuals and families provided their own Memorial emblems and viewed a Memorial discourse through videoconferencing.
In some areas, videoconferencing was not possible. This was the case for 11 branches in Africa. These branches arranged for the Memorial program to be broadcast on television and radio stations. This arrangement allowed more than 407,000 publishers to listen to the program as well as an untold number of interested people.
Virtual Meetings Using Television and Radio Stations
The Governing Body extended the broadcasting arrangement that was used for the Memorial, allowing select branches to use these methods for transmitting congregation meetings. In this way, publishers in lands with limited resources have been able to listen to their weekly congregation meetings via radio and television broadcasts. To date, a total of 23 branches have made use of this arrangement, including ones located in Africa, Europe, North America, and South America.
Disaster Relief Committees
Because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our brothers and sisters are struggling to obtain basic necessities. Over 400 Disaster Relief Committees have been appointed worldwide to assist in cases where a publisher’s basic needs cannot be cared for locally. During the 2020 service year, the Governing Body approved over $18 million in COVID-19 relief aid to assist over 330,000 publishers.
For the first time ever, the regional convention program was virtual. Members of the Governing Body and their helpers delivered all of the convention parts as prerecorded videos. These videos were then translated into more than 500 languages. The convention program was made available on jw.org and the JW Library app for publishers and interested individuals to view safely from their homes.
In addition to coping with the pandemic, brothers and sisters in various lands faced intensifying persecution.
In Russia, over the past year, hundreds of Witnesses suffered the effects of illegal house raids and arrests. Currently, 42 brothers and sisters are imprisoned in Russia, and an additional 2 in Crimea. Since the 2017 Russian Supreme Court ruling, over 1,000 homes of our brothers have been raided.
The largest number of imprisoned Witnesses is in Eritrea, which currently holds 52 in prison. Among the incarcerated are Paulos Eyasu, Isaac Mogos, and Negede Teklemariam, who have been in prison for conscientious objection to military service since September 17, 1994. An additional 26 brothers and sisters have been in prison for more than ten years.
We continue to pray for all of our imprisoned brothers and sisters to remain courageous. We know that they are proving themselves faithful as they endure their trials.—Revelation 2:10.
During this past service year, Witnesses earth wide proved their loyalty to Jehovah by engaging in alternative forms of witnessing, finding new ways to encourage one another, and attentively obeying direction from the Governing Body and secular authorities.
In all their acts of godly devotion, our brothers and sisters demonstrated their love for the Creator. They also set a pattern that will help them endure greater tests that lie ahead.—James 1:2, 3.