The Jehovah’s Witness Who Refused Tea

November 6, 2011

Tea with JW literature

A special treat! This is a guest post by my lovely and feisty wife Kay. She writes, “Names were changed… for obvious reasons.”

My doorbell rang and I opened the door to find Doug. He was an older gentleman, well dressed and carrying a briefcase.

“Hello, I’m with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Have you ever read the Bible?”

Ummm… Okay. I should be nice to this guy. After all he has a sweet manner and it’s cold out here. Besides, it can’t be fun getting doors slammed in your face all the time.

Her assumption is that I will quietly read along with her, I guess. Oh boy.

“Sure, I read the Bible regularly but I would love to hear what you have to say. How long have you been a believer?”

“Since the 90’s.”

Oh. Not a lifer. Interesting.

“So what made you convert?”

“I grew up Southern Baptist. And all they taught us was that God kills everyone and we are going to hell. But that’s not how it is at all. God doesn’t kill us. We do that ourselves. You see what the world around us is like.”

Oooh… The guy has a story. Even more interesting.

“Would you like to come in? It’s cold out here.”

“Sure, let me go get a lady I am working with and maybe she could talk with you too.”

Enter Tracy.

Tracy has that Look. You know the one. It says, “I have the Truth and you don’t. But by the time I leave here you will have it whether you want it or not.”

Tracy whips out a book, opens it to the first chapter, and hands it to me. It’s called What Does the Bible REALLY Teach? Then she takes out a copy for herself and begins to read to me from it. Her assumption is that I will quietly read along with her, I guess. Oh boy.

I decide to interject a bit of common hospitality.

“Would you like some tea?”

“No thank you. Please look at page 12. Have you ever heard of the Lord’s Prayer? It’s in Matthew 6:9-13. Will you read it out-loud please?”

Wait! What? Okay. It’s time to take control of this situation.

“So… How long have you been a Jehovah’s Witness?”

“Over 30 years. Now as you can see from the second paragraph on page 26…”

Okay, that failed. Try again. I dig into my mental bag of tricks and pull out a question that has served me well in the past. After all, everyone likes to be asked how they feel, right?

“So, how do you feel about what you just read to me?”

“It’s not what I feel, it’s fact. The Bible says so.”

Wow! I can’t even formulate a response. But that’s okay because Tracy doesn’t seem to need one.

“Let’s move on to page 32 now…”

Wait, is she wrapping up?

“Next time I come, you will need to make sure you have your Bible and I will be bringing a student of mine with me. When can we schedule our next visit?”

You have got to be kidding! Try never?!?

“Hmm… I would love to speak with you again.” (Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire) “But I’m not really interested in having a book read to me that I can read myself. You are welcome to bring a friend but if you do I will ask her about her thoughts and feelings. How her faith has changed her. How relying on God has strengthened her. If you’re okay with that I would be delighted to schedule another time to get together.” (Toothy grin)

Tracy was gone in less than five minutes. She didn’t even make another appointment.

I’m hurt… No, I’m not. I just let someone into my home and they didn’t even have the common decency to acknowledge I exist by accepting a cup of tea. Feels so good to be just another project on someone’s list doesn’t it?

Shame that Doug stopped talking. I would have made him a proper cup of coffee, and dug out the cookies too.

What did you think? Leave comments for Kay below!

Related posts: Conversation with JWs

Photo by Kay Reid (copyright)

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

24 responses to The Jehovah’s Witness Who Refused Tea

  1. I like your style!

    • Why thank you. Would you believe? I am so ornery that I actually made myself a cup of tea anyway? And we all sat together, me with my tea and them with nothing. But I was not going to let perfectly good Earl Grey go to waste!

  2. Nice try, Kay. Yes, no one likes to be treated that way. So sad.

    • It is very sad. Why is it that so many people seem to forget how to be human when they “find faith”?

  3. Kay, I’m so excited to read about your experience! I’ve been meeting with my Jehovah’s Witness neighbor for several months now, and I’ve learned a lot about evangelism through the experience—it’s really eye-opening to be on the other end of someone’s evangelism efforts! I blogged about it, and got a lot of comments from JWs out in the blogosphere. (I would include a link, but your comment system seems to reject my comment when I leave a link.)
    I do hope you will have an opportunity to extend hospitality to Tracy and/or Doug again!

    • That’s odd, Melanie. Maybe the commenting system is undergoing some tweaks.
      But for everyone’s benefit, here’s Melanie’s post, 5 things this Christian is learning from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

      • Thanks for adding the link, Jon. Thanks, too, for emailing me to let me know that Kay had replied to my comment! It is interesting to come back to this post and read the conversations that have developed. I wish there were a way to opt to be notified each time a new comment is posted.

    • Melanie, I just read your post. it was fascinating. but I was a bit saddened by your observation that you felt out maneuvered after an hour of bible study. it is obvious that you know God does not need us to defend him. But I wish there were some other mode we had available to us for relating to people like the JW’s besides attack and defense. It is not always us that forces that style but I can’t help but remember how often Jesus took something confrontational and turned it on it’s head rather than go along with the rules of engagement so to speak.

      • You’re right, Kay. It’s a difficult line to walk, between defensiveness and defending. No, God does not need us to defend Him, but He does want us to be able to “give an answer for the hope we have.”
        Sometimes I think my neighbor is simply mistaken or misinformed, and if I can just explain where she’s wrong, the light will go on and she’ll “get it”! Other times I realize that very few people are won over by argument, so I shouldn’t rely on that as an evangelism method. It’s hard to feel loved when you’ve been out-debated.
        These days, I try to remember to pray before each meeting, that she’ll know that I genuinely care about her, whether or not I agree with her, and whether or not she ever agrees with me. I want to have a relationship with her outside of these weekly studies, because I think that’s what Jesus would do. That’s a big part of learning to see her as a person, not a project.
        The whole experience has been transformative for me! Exhausting, but transformative.

  4. Kay, Love your approach. I always thinking about how to escape the conversation as quickly as possible, for obvious reasons… You sound like a gracious host in the face of, well, not so gracious guests. Makes me think of the NT’s emphasis on virtues like hospitality, and how important they were to the early church’s witness…

    • Thank you. I have always believed that a person only has the right to speak into someones life if they have earned that persons respect. It does no good for me to speak a message from heaven itself if no one is willing to listen. But a single word can change the world if spoken to a heart that can accept it. Showing common kindness is my way of letting someone know I care about them.

  5. nstryker (nathan) November 9, 2011 at 8:50 am

    context: jw’s are a challenge for me. my uncle was a jw and he was the only strongly creative person in my family besides me. he died of totally operable stomach cancer when i was 16 because he refused to get a blood transfusion because of his beliefs. i really could have used a creative, supportive family member in the years that followed and have a hard time not feeling like they took him from me. i don’t want to be yet another person slamming the door in their faces, but i’m honestly not sure how i could have a conversation with them when out it resulting in my screaming, “you killed my uncle, you bastards!”
    so maybe God is calling me to get over myself and engage, but i dunno. melanie’s excellent post got me thinking…if they were a vacuum salesman, would i even think about invite them in? nope. so why is there this pressure that because they wanna talk about faith, i have to let them in? my only connection to this 60 year old man standing on my porch is my porch.
    is it my calling to be the has-tea-with-strangers kind of witness? on one hand, i don’t feel a “call” in that area. on the other hand, i don’t waaaaaanna because it means being vulnerable with a stranger about an issue i’m sensitive about. does God call us to step into new facets of worship through peer pressure…or should i be waiting for that Holy Spirit tug that says, “this is from Me”? since i’m sensitive in this area, am i opening myself to have my faith compromised by engaging? in the end, i just interrupt them, ask directly if they’re jw’s, give them an “i’m not interested,” close the door, and then roll around on the floor for an hour wondering if i did the right thing. 🙂
    did i mention there’s a kingdom hall right down my street and i work at home, so this happens all the time!

    • Nathan, thank you so much for sharing something that is deeply personal. I can’t answer whether you are called to JW’s or not. That is between you and God. BUT, I do know that God is far more interested in your pain than He is in anything you do as a “calling”. I also know that people don’t just get over a loss like that. It takes actively praying and processing. I recently had to go through letting my father go. I just kept thinking the pain would heal itself and I should just get over it. But it wasn’t until I looked it straight on and let myself hurt and be angry at how he wronged me that I finally was able to forgive and get past his death. And it never would have happened without support from a good friend as well.
      So for now, slam that door all you want and don’t feel guilty! You have other issues that need to be processed. Then maybe, when you are stronger, it will become clear why God has placed you in that particular location. If it were me, I’d even go so far as to put a courteous “No JW’s” sign on my door. everyone has a right to peace in their own home. And taking it down could even be a bit of a symbol of your healing later on.

  6. This is fabulous. You hit the nail on the head. I’ll have to share this with ex-JW’s I know. They’ll love it.
    All the best,
    Kyria Abrahams, author of I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed – Tales From A Jehovah’s Witness Upbrining

  7. I’m a former JW. In case you were wondering, the older gentleman got the woman because he did not want to be seen entering the house alone with you. It sounds like this woman has a lot of Bible Studies with people who aren’t assertive enough to counter her forcefulness. I guess for some JWs the only way to study the Bible with people is to just show up and start studying. It’s a shame she obviously wasn’t interested in actually having a conversation with you.

    • The one thing I could say about her was she was earnest. She truly believed she was doing God’s work. She knew the world was a broken place and that something needed to change. Where she went terribly wrong was in forgetting that the world is made up of individuals. Never mind whether what she said was even true or not. There is no single formula that will reach every single person that you speak with. And when a person tries to use one and only one method with every person they meet, then it makes those they speak with feel slighted and unimportant. Like just a number instead of a unique creation of God.

  8. As a former JW, I understand their apprehension, but if it was me, I would have taken you up on the tea or at least a glass of water. Hospitality is appreciated by me. But I no longer preach The Good News.

    • Hmm…. Perhaps your definition of preaching the Good News is different from mine. I think the Good News is preached in far more ways than just words. God is present in every kindness. He is glorified in every selfless action. To one who is thirsty, offering a glass of water is a far better way to preach the Good News than a Bible study. When you offer food to the hungry or comfort to the hurting, or forgiveness to one who has wronged you, that is preaching the Good News. I would guess that you preach the Good News far more often than you realize.

  9. This has been an interesting discussion. I am going to read “I’m Perfect…” Just checked it out from the library.

  10. Interesting. Perhaps the next time JW’s knock at your door it won’t be Tracy. I’d hate to think that is her only approach to people she teaches. But everyone is different. May I suggest you try again?

    • I am not prone to turn people away at my door. And I would like to think I am even less prone to make a general blanket statement about an entire group of people based on on encounter with one member of that group. If they come back, I will certainly speak with them again. I do hope I will find someone who is willing to converse next time and not read me a book though. God works in mysterious ways and I would love to get a glimpse of how he is working among the JW’s.