Jehovah Witnesses brings apocalyptic topic to West Palm Beach's 'leaky teepee'

Palm Beach Post/May 24, 2009

West Palm Beach - It's the start of the Jehovah Witnesses' convention season, and this year they'll be preparing for the end of the world.

Starting Friday, the Witnesses will host 14 consecutive weeks of conventions at the Christian Convention Center on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard.

This year's theme, "Keep on the Watch!" is designed to discuss world events and how they relate to the Bible's prophecy of the apocalypse.

While all conventions are open to the public, the Witnesses are specifically inviting the public to a discussion with the provocative title, "How to Survive the End of the World," which will be at 11 a.m. Sunday.

"We feel it is imminent," spokesman Richard Ferris said. "We can't really put a date on it, and the scriptures tell us that nobody knows days or hours, but we'll look at the signs as a theme of our convention and keep on the watch."

Jehovah Witnesses believe that while the apocalypse will be terrible for many, it will be the beginning of a better world for the faithful.

"The fighting against nations, we're seeing more earthquakes, you can look at the swine flu, all this, and it just points to the things that shows we are getting very close to what we feel is the end," Ferris said.

Going door-to-door with Bibles and informational packets has become a trademark for the Witnesses', and Ferris said there's a reason recruiting is such a major part of their religion.

"While we don't relish the thought of destruction that's going to take place, that's why we feel so strongly about door-to-door work and warning people," Ferris said. "If you knew a hurricane was coming, and you were the only one and you didn't tell anybody, it would be on your shoulders."

The Christian Convention Center, formerly the West Palm Beach Convention Center nicknamed the Leaky Teepee, is the Witnesses' largest enclosed gathering place in the world.

There are an estimated 1 million Witnesses in the United States.

Of the 14 conventions during the summer, seven are in Spanish, six in English, and one in French.

Mario Beltrami, the spokesman for this weekend's convention, said it is about more than just discussing the apocalypse - it's also about preparing for it.

"We take Jesus' warning seriously and try to take note of world events that indicate that Jesus's prophecy is being fulfilled regarding the last day," Beltrami said.

If you go:

"Keep on the Watch!"

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