If you happen to be in New York City this week, you may notice that a pre-pandemic fixture is back on the sidewalks: smiling faces standing next to colorful carts featuring a positive message and free Bible-based literature. Volunteers are making a special effort this weekend to offer a message of hope and comfort twenty-one years after the events of September 11, 2001.
Bill Schweitzer, of Rocky Point, New York, was a sergeant in Brooklyn’s 63rd Precinct during the 9/11 attacks. “We had received some training on plane crashes in the city, but nothing prepared us for something of this magnitude,” he said.
After a day of securing Brooklyn’s rooftops, Schweitzer reached the site of the World Trade Center on September 12. “The scene was like nothing I’ve experienced before or since,” he said.
Schweitzer eventually studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and is among the volunteers from local congregations who will be stationed at literature carts around the city. He looks forward to sharing hope with others during this special event. “There is nothing more powerful than love. Hopefully, New Yorkers and tourists coming for this event will see our love for them,” he said.
The timing of this event coincides with Jehovah’s Witnesses resuming their global preaching work some 24 months after putting it on pause due to the pandemic.
“While we understand that the pandemic is not over, we’re entering into a phase of learning to live with COVID,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “That means we need to find more ways to personally interact with our neighbors. Being out in the community and having conversations with our neighbors is accomplishing that goal.”
Tom Christensen, of Brooklyn, helped organize the carts which will cover an area of half a mile around the World Trade Center and accompanying buildings. Christensen said the volunteers hope to bring a positive message to the community: “It’s been difficult for New York City and New Yorkers; although it’s been 20 years, they still remember the loss of their loved ones and their friends. Our goal is just to smile and be ready for anyone who wants answers from the Bible.”
In anticipation of over 60,000 visitors, 3,000 volunteers will attend 42 locations from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Volunteers at each cart are prepared to provide literature in electronic form in more than 1,000 languages from jw.org and offer an interactive Bible study program, available in hundreds of languages, all at no cost. The course comes in the form of a printed book, an online publication or as an embedded feature within the organization’s free mobile application, JW Library. The interactive study platform combines text, video, illustrations and digital worksheets to help learners of all ages. A hard copy of a brochure previewing the course is also available at each cart.
Mobile displays of Bible-based literature have been part of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ public ministry in the U.S. since 2011. While “cart witnessing” began in large metropolitan areas around the world, the practice quickly spread to the tens of thousands of smaller communities, becoming a fixture in rail and bus stations, airports, harbors and main streets.
Schweitzer said that he hopes this message touches the hearts of those passing by the carts like it did his own. “I’m confident that when people approach the carts, they will have the opportunity to see something that can help them, and I’m excited to be part of that,” he said.
To learn more about Jehovah’s Witnesses, their history, beliefs and activities, visit their official website jw.org, featuring content in more than 1,000 languages.