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Hartselle Enquirer

Local woman reflects on how pandemic changed her ministry

Special to the Enquirer

It has been one year since Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide adjusted their hallmark methods of sharing comfort and hope from the scriptures because of the pandemic.

In March 2020, some 1.3 million Witnesses in the United States suspended their door-to-door and face-to-face forms of public ministry and moved congregation meetings to videoconferencing.

“It has been a very deliberate decision based on two principles: our respect for life and love of neighbor,” explained Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “We are still witnessing, and as such, we must testify about our faith. So, it was inevitable that we would find a way to continue our work.”

For many, the change from ringing doorbells and knocking on doors to making phone calls and writing letters expanded and invigorated their ministry.

Wilda Pridmore became of one Jehovah’s Witnesses nearly 52 years ago. From that day in 1969 she said she has enjoyed doing the Lord’s work, preaching from door to door and conducting in-home Bible studies.

In 2015, however, after suffering a seizure, the Hartselle woman was diagnosed with an allergy to formaldehyde. The 73-year-old became housebound because of the prevalence of that chemical in so many everyday items. “I started to feel isolated and lonely,” Pridmore said.

During the pandemic, she has regularly participated in virtual ministry groups, making dozens of telephone calls and writing hundreds of letters. “I feel like I talk to 10 times as many people as I used to,” she said. “I have a hard time not joining in the ministry every day.”

Pridmore said she won’t stop calling people and writing letters when the door-to-door ministry resumes. “We are reaching so many people,” she said. “I try to be a real comfort to the people I talk to. I just love it.”

Nearly 51,000 people in the United States this past year made a request for a Witness to contact them, either through a local congregation or jw.org, the organization’s official website, according to Hendriks. Since the outbreak, the Witnesses have followed up on these requests via letters and phone calls instead of in-person visits.

Witnesses have also made a concerted effort to check on distant friends and family – sometimes texting links to Bible-based articles on jw.org that cover timely topics, such as isolation, depression and how to beat pandemic fatigue.

“Our love for our neighbors is stronger than ever,” Hendriks said. “In fact, I think we have needed each other more than ever. We are finding that people are perplexed, stressed and feeling isolated. Our work has helped many regain a sense of footing – even normalcy – at a very unsettled time.”