We recently received this letter from one of our readers in England:
Could I make a suggestion prompted by my own personal experience? That is a good suggestion, and one that perhaps we should have thought of ourselves.
When I came into the unique knowledge of the Worldwide Church of God, I wondered how different in other respects this organization might be. We are suspicious of the new, the foreign or the different. Our imagination begins to take over and adds to our already suspicious minds. So our suspicions cause us to do nothing positive.
What I would like to suggest is that you write an article on what happens when someone does contact the Worldwide Church of God. Who will come? What should a person do? Does the visitor drink tea or coffee? What if my home is too humble to receive a minister?
There are so many things people wonder about, especially those who have previously had some contact with certain other religious organizations.
The Worldwide Church of God receives many thousands of requests for personal visits, and so our ministers and representatives are kept busy.
But - it's an intriguing thought - maybe they would be even busier if some people who would like to ask for a visit knew exactly what to expect. Perhaps the people would be less reluctant to contact us.
Contacting a minister The Worldwide Church of God has always had a policy of "no follow-up." That means nobody will ever call on you unless you yourself request it. However, we do have ministers and trained representatives ready to help if you ask for it. So, if you were to ask for a visit, this is what would happen: Most requests for personal visits come to us through the mail, either to world headquarters in Pasadena or to one of our many regional offices where our ministers serve around the world. Also, many people, especially in North America, use the telephone instead of writing.
But whether your request comes by phone or mail, our procedure is the same. The message is sent immediately to our Personal Correspondence Department. Here it is given top-priority treatment.
Quickly - usually by return mail - a letter will be sent to you, informing you of the telephone number of the closest authorized representative to your home. This representative will normally be the ordained minister who is pastoring the local congregation of the Worldwide Church of God.
You should call him as soon as possible and arrange a time that is mutually convenient for the visit, which will usually take place in your own home but elsewhere if you prefer. In some major cities the Worldwide Church of God may have a downtown office, which, of course, is a convenient place to meet.
If you would rather have our minister contact you, instead of you contacting him, let us know when asking for a visit.
The visit Who will come? The minister himself, probably. He is trained and competent to answer your Bible questions and to help you with any personal counsel you may desire. He will be accompanied by his wife, another minister or a senior member of the local congregation.
They will not be coming to argue religion with you. They won't give you the third degree or pry into your personal affairs. They will not try to get you to join something, nor will they have anything to sell. (However, they may suggest that you write for some of our free books and booklets. The Worldwide Church of God publishes a wide assortment of free literature on the Bible and topics related to successful living.) Our representatives will not accept money, either as direct payment or general contributions to God's work.
Usually, they will have planned to spend about an hour with you, for they have a busy schedule and many people to see. If you have many questions and think you may need more time, you should let our representative know when you first contact him so that he can plan his schedule for the day accordingly.
Our men will not be wearing strange clothes, nor will they embarrass you in any way. They will concentrate on answering your questions and just getting to know you the first time they come.
"First time!" you may exclaim. "You mean they will come back?"
That depends entirely on you. Not if you don't want them to. Our representatives will never pester or bother you. They won't visit again unless you specifically ask them. That is just not the way we do things.
Further contact But if you do want more contact - and there are some subjects (like baptism, for instance) which you and the minister will need more than one visit to thoroughly discuss - then our ministers will be pleased to schedule further appointments.
Of course, there are still many areas of the world where we do not have full-time representatives. In some parts of Africa and Asia, for example, one man may have to serve a whole country or even several countries. Phone service may be nonexistent and the postal service may be slow and unreliable.
In these cases, our procedure may not be quite so efficient. It may be several weeks or even months before the minister is due to visit your area. If you live far off the beaten track, he may have to ask you to meet him in a nearby town. But he will not ignore your request, and eventually he will meet you. Our ministers will go anywhere - the foothills of the Himalayas, up the Amazon, the North Slope of Alaska or the smallest islands of the South Pacific.
(The writer remembers that some years ago he was told by his superior "not to come back" until he had contacted a man who had been waiting for several years on a remote island several hundred miles from Fiji.)
Nothing to fear So whoever you are, wherever you are, if you have wondered about asking for a personal visit from one of God's true ministers, don't be afraid to.
Here are some actual comments showing the reactions of readers who have been visited by God's ministers:
I was impressed by the minister's wide field of knowledge, not only in the Bible but the extension of it into the fields of human endeavor, and his attention to the principles of success.
God desires us to succeed, yet we need to be taught. Here is a man trained and dedicated to teaching us how to succeed in our lives, our marriages, our child rearing, our jobs, giving us the knowledge and counsel we need, helping us see where we are making mistakes, spending his life to help us become obedient to God's laws.
What a contrast to the "religious politicians," who are like government politicians except they are in a different field!
Having a true minister of the living God near to call on is truly a great blessing and comfort. To know he is continually improving himself by acquiring additional understanding and knowledge, which automatically makes him even more capable to help, is a continually increasing blessing.
Thanks be to God for ministers of knowledge, understanding and compassion.
My husband and I are prospective members at the time of writing this letter, but by the time you receive it, we will be baptized members! With our baptism only a few days away, we felt this a good time to write and express our deep love and gratitude for everything we learned through you. Don't be concerned that your home is "not nice enough." Don't think you are being a nuisance. Don't worry that you will be in for a peculiar experience with some strange people. Don't be afraid that you will be "getting involved," or that pressure will be put on you to join something.
We hope Ambassador College will continue to educate such fine ministers as the ones who have helped and instructed us along the way to our baptism.
We just want to let you know how joyous we are that God has called us and given us you to guide us through these end times.
None of these things will happen. What will happen is that you will meet decent, friendly people who will consider it a privilege to be allowed to help you in any way they can.
Oh, yes: And they will drink a cup of coffee or tea if you care to offer it.