500 help build Clovis Kingdom Hall
By Joan Obra
Site to house four congregations.
Hundreds of volunteers are constructing a new Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in north Clovis — partially due to this religion’s rapid growth among Hispanics in the central San Joaquin Valley.
About two weeks ago, the two buildings at 710 N. Sunnyside Ave. consisted only of flat slabs of concrete. By Sunday afternoon, the walls and roofs were up, and up to 500 volunteers were installing cabinets, painting railings and mouldings and hanging light fixtures.
People working on the 4,200-square-foot buildings are members of local Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations, said Ronald Nixon, the project’s coordinator.
“Everyone is volunteering,” he said. “The only money spent is for materials.”
Both buildings should be open by the beginning of June.
As home to three English-speaking congregations and a Spanish-speaking one, they will be used for meetings and classes that “prepare men and women to talk to others about the Bible,” said Doran Lilly, chairman of the Jehovah’s Witnesses regional building committee between Merced and Bakersfield.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, known for door-to-door preaching, is a Christian denomination that grew from a late 1800s Bible study group in an area now part of Pittsburgh. The religion is modeled after early Christian congregations, such as those described in the Book of Acts, Nixon said.
Locally, the Spanish-speaking congregations are growing quickly. Another Kingdom Hall that will house two English-speaking and two Spanish-speaking congregations is planned for Grantland Avenue near Highway 99 in Fresno this fall, Lilly said.
Of the Merced-to-Bakersfield region’s 217 congregations, 98 congregations are Spanish-speaking, Lilly said.
The growth also is evident in their annual district conventions that take place between this month and August in Bakersfield.
Last year, Jehovah’s Witnesses held five district conventions, Lilly said. This year, they added another one to accommodate upward of 6,500 additional Hispanic members in the area bordered by Madera, Bakersfield and the coast.
“Door-to-door evangelizing” is responsible for the growth of Hispanic members, said Fred Ramon, an elder in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Spanish-speaking congregation in Clovis that will move into one of the new buildings.
The Hispanic congregations aren’t the only ones growing in the Valley. Recently, a Hmong congregation in Fresno formed; it’s the second one in the United States, Lilly said.
Between Merced and Bakersfield, Kingdom Hall meetings are conducted in various languages, Lilly said. They include Russian, Spanish, Chinese, Hmong, Cambodian, Arabic, English, American Sign Language, Tagalog, Portuguese and Punjabi.
Because of the growth in membership, Lilly said, Jehovah’s Witnesses between Merced and Bakersfield build about four Kingdom Halls and remodel about a dozen others every year.