Convention brings nearly 9,000 people to Bloomington-Normal

By Joe Bennett

July 8, 2013 Updated Jul 8, 2013 at 9:30 AM CDT

BLOOMINGTON, Ill -- One of the largest annual conventions in Central Illinois continues for a second weekend at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.

This weekend the District Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses, prepared for the Spanish-speaking community, welcomed families from across the Midwest.

Nearly 4,000 Spanish-speaking Jehovah's Witnesses from Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana and Kentucky gathered in Bloomington, following last weekend's convention of nearly 5,000 English-speaking Witnesses.

"This is just one of hundreds of conventions that's being held worldwide, same program, same instruction,” said Assistant News Overseer Steven Oakes. “We use the instruction that we learn here and use it in our door-to-door ministry to help others."

For those hosting and attending the convention, the message this year is, "God's Word is Truth."

However, this convention holds a different meaning for most Bloomington-Normal residents. It means about 9,000 additional guests sleeping in nearby hotels, eating at restaurants and bringing in city tax dollars.

"Obviously we don't live here, so we had to go and buy food and rent hotels to stay over here for the three days of the convention," said Service News Overseer Joel Juarez.

Juarez says the convention's Spanish-speaking community has grown significantly in the last year.

A little more than 3,000 members attended last year. This year, the Coliseum brought in closer to 4,000.

"People in general in Bloomington opened their city to us, so we hope that we can be here next year too," said Juarez.

If that happens, organizers say the event could return next year, bringing even more Witnesses to their 37 Midwest congregations and more revenue to the Twin Cities.

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