Jehovah's Witnesses gather in Billings for 3 days

Billings, USA - With dramatic events happening worldwide, including earthquakes, wars and widespread weather disasters, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe humans are in the midst of the end times predicted in the Bible.

With that in mind, 4,500 delegates of the religious sect will meet for three days at the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark beginning Friday morning. The annual convention draws Jehovah’s Witnesses from 45 congregations in parts of Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.

It is one of 381 held in 98 cities in the U.S., with an expected attendance of 1.7 million people. The theme of this year’s gatherings is “Let God’s Kingdom Come!”

“Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the kingdom is a real government ruling in heaven, and will soon take action to rule on Earth,” Joe Kurkowski, local media spokesman, said on Thursday.

He acknowledged that wars, famine and earthquakes, mentioned in Matthew 24 in the New Testament, have always been present.

“It’s happening now on a scale that it had not been before,” Kurkowski said.

Meetings start each day at 9:20 a.m., and the public is invited to attend. The afternoon session starts at 1:50 on Friday, at 1:35 p.m. on Saturday and at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The Sunday morning session will end with a talk titled “Will Humans Ruin This Earth?” The afternoon will include a full-costume drama that will focus on how young people can resist peer pressure.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have gone door to door the past two weeks to hand out invitations to the convention, Kurkowski said. Volunteers spent Thursday at the Rimrock Auto Arena cleaning the interior in advance of the meetings.

In light of last year’s tornado, which struck exactly two weeks after the convention ended, Kurkowski said more emphasis has been placed on safety. A new Safety Department will monitor weather conditions over the three days, and it has designed an evacuation plan.