“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
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Bro. Jonathan and Sr. Jewel Benson are from the Greater New London, Connecticut Ecclesia. They witnessed to Sr. Kathy Rosenberg, also from that class. Bro. Jonathan has co-hosted the Christian Questions radio program (now a weekly podcast) for over 19 years. Both Sr. Jewel and Sr. Kathy are very involved with that witness effort.
First we asked them all to tell us about their religious backgrounds:
Sr. Kathy: My earliest years were spent in a Methodist church. I loved God for as long as I can remember and recall begging my parents to take me to church when the ‘New Life Singers’ were there. Their words and music touched my 8-year old heart.
My mother tells the story that when I was little and would pray out loud before bed, my prayers were so long she would leave and come back. I prayed for every evil in the world I could
think of … on and on … and on …
By the time I was 10, I was watching my Catholic friends who seemed to go to church more than me. I wanted what they seemed to have. I had my mother arrange for me to take private lessons so I could make my first communion and first confession and be ready for a one-on-one test from the priest. I starting going to catechism classes and wanted to learn
about God but instead was learning about the Catholic sacraments and their rules. Attending a catholic high school and mass taught me more rules, but I felt no closer to God as I had hoped.
I just did not know how to get close to God. As I grew older, I merely dabbled in religion until my thirties when I began searching again.
I tried the Congregational Church and joined a bunch of their groups and committees and even requested a meeting with the pastor. But this was a job to him. It was less about bringing people to God or learning about Him and more about the work he had to do running committees and bake sales and fund raising dinners and men’s groups. He could not answer my questions, and I trickled out slowly, unsatisfied.
When the Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my door I eagerly invited them in to teach me about the Bible. I was excited to learn things I never knew. But I went to one of their weekday meetings and was unsatisfied by their study. It consisted
of reading a paragraph in one of their magazines, reading a question and then reading the answer. There was no discussion and no thinking. I tried their Sunday meeting but still had an uneasy feeling.
Sr. Jewel: I am a fourth generation Bible Student. My great grandparents (Giuseppina and Piertro Capano) from my father’s side of the family found the truth from Italian brothers visiting in the area. They left the Catholic Church when they found the truth. All four of their children grew to love the truth and three consecrated including my grandmother, Antoinette Franco. (My grandfather, Anthony Franco, Sr., loved the truth but did not consecrate.) Through the witnessing of my great grandparents, my grandparents on my mother’s side (Louise and Emanuel Mammone) were introduced to the truth and consecrated.
My mother (Josephine) was nine when they left the Catholic Church and consecrated at age 16. My father (Anthony Franco, Jr.) also consecrated young. They were all persecuted in the Groton, Connecticut area for leaving the Catholic Church and were told they would never be able to bury their families in the local cemetery. My great grandmother, Giuseppina, bought up many cemetery plots and sold them to the brethren. Anyone attending a funeral at the cemetery will see many brethren buried near each other with many cross and crowns on
the gravestones. I am extremely grateful to have been raised in the truth and gave my life to the Lord when I was 26.
Bro. Jonathan: I grew up in a Methodist home and was a choir boy in the church where my father was the Choir Director. I can recall happily singing what I felt to be directly to the
Lord. I always knew the Lord was in my life from a young age and could see His overruling providences repeatedly. I came to understand several things as a child: I knew something bigger than myself was going on and had a personal love for the Lord. Regardless of what I was hearing from the pulpit, I believed what I read in the Bible during Bible class — there was no
hellfire, and God was the Father and Jesus was His son. I had a simple understanding of these concepts that I carried with me.
But high school and my early adult years were difficult. I succumbed to peer pressure and lived a lifestyle that brought despair, loneliness, and lies. I lived far from the Lord. By age 26, I was isolated and miserable, wasting my life away. At some point I realized that I was at rock bottom and for three months prayed that He give me direction. I knew I was nothing
One day I had lunch with a friend of my sister. The friend was a Bible Student, Sr. Lisa Gillette from the Wilmington, Delaware
Ecclesia. She was related to the Campbell family in Israel but has since passed away. We no sooner sat down to eat when she asked me what I thought about hell. I explained my belief that
since God is love this could not be a place of torment and was shocked to hear her agree! I wondered how could this be when it seemed like all Christians I knew believed otherwise? She explained the word “hell” in Greek and Hebrew and this led to an explanation of why God permits evil. It made so much sense that I immediately started studying with her. We never did finish eating lunch that day — we went to her mom’s house and kept talking about the Bible with her family.
Shortly thereafter, she took me to an informal Bible study designed for those newly interested where they were studying Volume 1. Because of my attendance they started at the beginning. After about two months I wanted more, so I began attending regular class meetings with the Wilmington, Delaware Bible Students. Within that year, I consecrated my life
to the Lord. This was just what I had been waiting for! I have always been excited to share that truth with people around me.
Sr. Kathy: Despite some disappointment I was still excited about what I had learned from the JW’s regarding the Bible and started sharing it with friends. One of them told me she was not interested, but told me about Jonathan, who was “always talking about God.”
Bro. Jonathan: I own a specialty house cleaning business which gives me the freedom to talk about the truth when working. When a client is at home and I am working, I always
try to drop a comment to let them know I am a Christian. For example, I might make comments about how “God is good” or “Thank God.” I always look for openings from clients or anyone with whom I come in contact. Openings can be someone complaining about the condition of the world, and I will say, “The Bible verifies that it won’t always be this way.” If a client or someone I meet has a death of a friend or family member I will say, “It will be a great day when you see them again.” These comments open the door for someone if they want to hear more. Sometimes, the comments will be followed by questions. If I am somewhere and see someone with a Bible, I will ask,
“Do you go to Bible study?” or “What are you studying?”
WITNESS LESSON: Witness opportunities are all around us. We have a very comforting message and the only pathway to true peace. “A word in season” can change a life. One day during the summer of 1999, I was talking about the Bible with one of my clients. She said, “Jonathan, I’m not really interested,
but I have a friend who is talking with Jehovah’s Witnesses and I’m worried about her. Is it okay if she calls you?” Of course, the answer was yes. Jewel and I were just so excited that someone called and wanted to hear about the truth. It was not stressful. The Lord overruled the questions and answers.
Sr. Kathy: I called! Jewel answered the phone and we arranged for her and Jonathan to come to my house one evening. When I opened the door, I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice-looking couple wearing jeans. There was zero pretension. This was very different from the JW’s, who came dressed in their Sunday best, carrying briefcases full of materials.
Jonathan and Jewel came in and were so warm, not in a hurry to teach me anything. I had burning questions I wanted answered. I could not wait to show them the spiritual book
I had been reading thinking they would be impressed.
To my surprise, Jewel picked it up, read a few paragraphs and sweetly but firmly said, “I don’t believe that.” I was flabbergasted! Finally, a straightforward emphatic answer.
Somehow I just knew they would be able to answer my questions, so I started firing them off. Though I do not recall exactly what we talked about that night, what impressed me was their calm demeanor. They were not in a rush to make me believe something. They had a peace and genuine warmth about them that was palpable. They epitomized hospitality and helpfulness, and their Christian characters were a witness.
Within days I was following them to my first New England convention where they again made me feel welcome and loved from day one.
Bro. Jonathan and Sr. Jewel: She welcomed us into her home and her first comment with a smile was, “Oh, you didn’t bring a briefcase!” We just brought our Bibles. After a few pleasantries, we sat at her kitchen table and since her friend was concerned about her studying with Jehovah Witnesses, we explained the history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We shared
the differences between their beliefs and ours and expressed our concerns about some of their beliefs.
She started firing off questions. We discussed the ransom and salvation for all and the beauties of the truth. Shortly after our visit, we invited her to a “Christian Questions” live radio
broadcast where she met some of the brethren and heard more about the truth.
We would often come home to find lengthy messages on our answering machine from Kathy. There were questions upon questions, which would end mid-sentence when time ran
out for a message. She would call right back and continue.
Sr. Kathy started attending studies with the Bensons at the Greater New London Ecclesia and made a consecration several weeks later.
Bro. Jonathan and Sr. Jewel: She brought a spark to the class with all her questions and continues to do so!
WITNESS LESSON: Some people have a lot of questions! Although we have much to tell, we need to be good listeners. There is no need to pressure anyone. If there is an open ear,
the power of the truth will do the convincing. When asked what piece of truth impressed her the most, Sr. Kathy responded that God’s will for your individual life can be found in His word. She adds:
Sr. Kathy: The eagerness of all the brethren to take the time to answer my questions made me fall in love with the brethren and the truth. Thanks and glory be to God!
Bro. Jonathan and Sr. Jewel: God will put the words in your mouth. If He wants someone to find the truth, the words they need to hear will be there. We need to desire to witness.
There needs to be a passion and love of the Truth. If we do not take the opportunity, He will give it to someone else.
We asked Sr. Kathy what she learned about witnessing from this experience.
Sr. Kathy: Everywhere Jonathan goes he makes sure people know he is a Christian. He gives a word here and there about God or His plan wherever practical. It is like jellyfish tentacles, they go out there and someone who needs to hear the message is touched. In the kingdom, I never want someone I know to ask,
“How come Kathy never told me about this?”
When my grandson was in the first grade, I gave gifts for every teacher, support staff, and everyone in the Principal’s office. It was the First Volume with a box of chocolates. I received some thank you notes for the book, some for both and some just for the chocolate! But at least they all had a witness. I once hired house painters who spoke Spanish and gave each a Spanish First Volume. They were all happy to receive it. I witness by
smiling and letting people know that I “see” them and try to engage them wherever I go.