The annual district convention of Jehovah's Witnesses in Fort Smith concluded Sunday with nearly 3,800 people attending the final day of the three-day event. The theme for this year's convention was "God's Word Is Truth."
The program featured bible study, guest speakers and family friendly programs. Members say the large gatherings reaffirm their faith.
"It always helps when we come to conventions like this because we're helped to remember that vow that we made, why we made it and how wonderful our God is," said Joseph Goodwin of Fort Smith.
It was the fifth time the Jehovah's Witnesses held their annual convention in Fort Smith. Many of the attendees come from Western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma for the event.
Joseph Goodwin from Fort Smith believes the city's location near the interstate provides easy access for those traveling in. Ron Poplin from Siloam Springs has attended conventions in Little Rock, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and says he likes the facilities at the Fort Smith Convention Center.
"It seems like (Fort Smith) welcomes us, and we always feel welcome," said Poplin.
Tim Wall of Springdale said much of the programs and discussions focused on strengthening families.
"Strong families make strong congregations," said Wall. "Strong congregations make better communities. So it all starts at the family unit."
Wall says Jehovah's Witnesses do not define "family" based on blood lines. Church members refer to each other as brother and sister even if they are not actually related.
"It's like we're one big family," said Wall.
Members showed dedication to supporting their church family recently when hundreds helped fellow Jehovah's Witnesses rebuild five homes damaged by devastating floods in Scott County.
Kenneth Rader, News Service Director for the Jehovah's Witnesses, said the same program will be offered in Spanish July 12-14 at the Fort Smith Convention Center. Church leaders estimate 4,500 people will attend that event.
According to Rader, by the end of 2013, the district convention will be held in 411 cities across the U.S. before going international. Rader said there are currently about 7.5 million Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide, but 14 million people will attend the program.