Taking their message to the streets
Hope — that's what members of the local Jehovah's Witnesses congregations want to spread with their newest public ministry.
"We find that more and more people in our community, and really throughout the entire world, are losing hope of things ever getting any better," says Casey Cardin, a local representative of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. "But the words found in the Bible give us a hope of better conditions in the very near future."
Jehovah's Witnesses began a new form of public witnessing in New York City back in November of 2011. Carts and tables with displays and literature in several languages were placed in areas of the city with high pedestrian traffic, such as Times Square and Grand Central Terminal.
"The response was overwhelming," Cardin said, noting that in the first few months of using these displays, those approaching the displays obtained nearly 32,000 books and more than 13,000 magazines.
"With such a tremendous interest shown, it was decided to expand this form of a public ministry to other larger cities and eventually smaller towns worldwide, including Prineville," said Cardin, who is the spokesperson for the two congregations in Prineville and one of the 17 elders who serves the congregations. He has been a part of the faith for 33 years.
The two local congregations have a total of 230 members, and they began using a single cart in Prineville in 2013 at just one location — but a short time later, they decided to set up multiple carts at various times and locations to reach more people.
Currently, members share in this ministry at least three days per week, with Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday being the primary days, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They have found both Ochoco Creek Park and Pioneer Park to be good locations to set up their four carts as well as locations near the corner of Third and Main streets and west of town near the "Y."
"For Jehovah's Witnesses, the house-to-house ministry is still, and will continue to be, the primary way of spreading the Bible's message to those in the communities in which they live," Cardin pointed out, adding that early Christians did more than go from house-to-house. "Those first century Christians went wherever people could be found, and we endeavor to imitate their example."
He said they go wherever people are in an effort to reach as many as possible.
Prineville resident Rick Burhart, who has been in the Jehovah's Witnesses faith for more than 50 years, says the cart public ministry is another avenue to make people aware of the Bible as a resource of providing hope to deal with the issues facing man today, whether it's family or international events.
"We enjoy talking with people," says Burhart, who has done this form of ministry for the last year. "Whether it's talking with us or online, to get that resource of God's word to have it impact their lives to provide hope and direction in times we're living."
They have from zero to a few people visit with them each time, and they typically do not approach passersby but stand back and are there to answer any questions.
"What we are here is a visual for people driving by, and of course, it's nice if we have foot traffic, but the main thing here is just a visible presence," Burhart said, adding that the literature carts also direct folks to the www.jw.org website, where there's more reference material they can read in the privacy of their homes.
All of their publications are Bible-based and designed for people of all religions. People are welcome to take any of the publications at no charge.
"Our publications by no means take the place of the Bible but simply help to explain the Bible," Cardin says, adding that they offer publications for people of all ages, races and backgrounds. "We have publications designed to help us make a success of our family life and to cope with many of the challenges people face today."
Bill Schleicher, who has been one of Jehovah's Witness for more than 30 years, says he's fairly new to the cart public ministry, but he enjoys being out in the public.
"We're out where the people are," he said. "A lot of times, when we go from house to house, nobody is home, so this just helps a lot with that."
Cardin said with many people being so busy today, they often can't find them at home.
"This allows us to go where people are. We want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to hear about the wonderful hope the Bible holds out for the earth and mankind," Cardin said, adding that they are grateful for the kindness that many in the community have shown.
"We realize that most have their own beliefs or religion, but so many of our neighbors have demonstrated an appreciation for our efforts to share a positive message of hope by a smile or a wave or by stopping by to visit with us, and we truly do appreciate that," Cardin said, adding that with so much negativity in the world today, people appreciate a positive and peaceful message. "We simply encourage individuals to use these publications to examine their own copy of the Bible to get answers to life's big questions."