When representatives from Cleveland were invited to host delegates from an international convention held in Atlanta, they were excited for an opportunity to show hospitality and love to people they had never met yet with whom they shared a common bond.
The special occasion would mark the first time for a gathering of this kind by Clevelanders who traveled to Rock City in Chattanooga on Aug. 4, for a rare meet-and-greet initiative that included a special luncheon, tours and fellowship with delegates from Italy, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Columbia, Spain and other parts of South America.
As the first of three buses pulled into the Rock City parking lot, hundreds of greeters from Cleveland, Decatur, Benton, Chattanooga, Loudon and some as far away as Florida and Ohio were waving welcoming signs, applauding and cheering as smiling faces exited the bus and walked into the open arms of local greeters who embraced the delegates, shaking hands and calling them their “spiritual brothers and sisters.”
Elliot Johnson, one of the greeters from Cleveland who serves as an elder in the Cleveland-North Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses said, “It means a great deal to be here and welcome our spiritual brothers and sisters! In a world that’s so divided this unity is truly unique. Even though we had never met them we have the same feelings about each other. If we visited their country they would do the same thing for us, because we all feel the same way.”
Although the majority of greeters only spoke English and the majority of South American delegates spoke Spanish, Johnson said that posed no problem for communicating with one another, adding, “We speak the same language in that we have the same values.”
Both groups surprised each other with specially made gifts that ranged from handmade dolls, specially made greeting cards, cookies, chocolates, ink pens, bottled water, handmade fishing hooks, samples of Topricin cream for aches and pains, and other personalized gifts. A welcoming song was sung by a throng of greeters who made two rows for the delegates to walk between as they embraced and shook hands in the spirit of hospitality. Many delegates and greeters wiped away tears of joy.
“This is a real privilege,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of a once in a lifetime thing. This doesn’t happen often.”
Cleveland resident Jeff Bailey said, “This is such a beautiful thing to see! It’s beautiful to see the local friends get so excited. Even if we don’t speak the same language, we speak a language of love. It’s a nice thing to see. I didn’t want to miss it. It’s something that encourages them but it also encourages us! You never know if this will be a once-in-a lifetime thing. We’re in unity worldwide because of the brotherhood and it’s a beautiful day as well.”
Others attending the special event said being with friends in such a pleasant setting reminded them of future blessings that they eagerly anticipate.
Thousands of delegates who were attending the Keep Seeking First God’s Kingdom International Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Atlanta were spending the day in Lookout Mountain, Ga., for 14 days during the months of July and August.
A JW hospitality committee in Atlanta invited representatives from the North and South Cleveland Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses to host the special hospitality initiative on selected days at Rock City, which has a breathtaking 100 foot waterfall that cascades down the scenic mountain.
The self-guided tour along the brow of Lookout Mountain gave the visitors a birds-eye view of some of the most beautiful sights in Chattanooga, from atop Lookout Mountain. For further information, visit www.jw.org.