If you're a homeowner, you're probably familiar with the knock on your door that turns out to be two Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) with an interest in spreading the word of God. Last year in August, the church returned to door-knocking, a practice that had been suspended temporarily because of the COVID pandemic. Now, the ministry is expanding with an outreach program that doesn't include knocking.

Patrick DeBono is the local spokesperson for JW's Public Information Department, and he spoke Friday morning on WIBX's Keeler Show about their new "cart ministry outreach" in Utica.

DeBono says that "cart ministry" involves kiosks at popular locations in the city and instead of reaching out to the public, they're available for the public to reach out to them.

DeBono says the new strategy won't preclude door to door ministry, which is what Jehovah's Witnesses are known for. JW members will still go door-to-door, however this program is going to where the people are.

"When we're in our door-to-door ministry, we're initiating the contact...it's our approach to them," said DeBono. "However, with our new cart activity, we don't approach them." He added that they still acknowledge people and say hello, but this ministry basically waits for the people to approach them. DeBono says that in the Utica area alone, over 220 people have been trained in the new outreach program, including people who speak several different languages.

DeBono says the cart ministry is a part of their outreach worldwide.The carts will be set up in places like the DMV at Union Station in Utica, and near the new Wynn Hospital after it opens in late October.

In the spirit of full-disclosure, DeBono asked that the interview be restricted to questions about the new outreach, and not about other issues. There is a local group warning people of what they believe are dangers involving JW, including not being able to leave the faith without being forced to break contact with family members, and even relationships between parents and their children. When asked about that topic and the local former members who are speaking out against the religion, he referred us to their website and people who are above his "pay grade." DeBono asked that we not take phone calls from listeners during the interview.

Here are the approved questions:

1) What does this kind of outreach involve?

2) How is this different from what JW's have done in the past in their door to door ministry?

3) Why have JW's brought this new type of outreach to Utica? 

4) Is this kind of Cart Outreach ministry being done elsewhere? 

5) What have been the results locally?

6) Will JW's still come knock at my door? 

During the interview, we did respectfully ask additional questions, including some of the more controversial inquiries. In an email sent after the program, DeBono did address some of those questions, as he had promised he would.

"I know you had a number of questions that I didn’t answer during the interview, which I had let you know would be a possibility in advance," he said. "Here are links to a few articles on questions you asked. Hopefully these will help provide an answer to at least some of them," he wrote.

On the question about how some that feel like they might lose family if they leave the faith, he referred us to the following links on their website.

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Shun Those Who Used to Belong to Their Religion? (jw.org)

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Break Up Families or Build Them Up? (jw.org)

DeBono also addressed the question of "male dominance" in the religion. "On the question on headship in family (who “wears the pants” as you put it)," he wrote.

Help for the Family (jw.org)This is a series of articles about how families can improve their relationships in general.

On the question of how does one becomes a Jehovah’s Witness?

How Do I Become One of Jehovah’s Witnesses? (jw.org)

DeBono also said he will forward our additional questions on to someone at JW and that he'll provide them with our contact information.

Here's the complete interview with DeBono via our daily YouTube broadcast.

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