Testimonies Part 2
Debbie (Reis) Young
Leon Heibert–pastor of Bayview Chapel
Testimony By Midge Makaike Louaillier
I started to study the Bible with the Witnesses in 1959. I was nineteen at the time and just recently married. At the beginning of 1962 I started to go to the meetings regularly and on December 1, 1962 I was baptized. For the next seventeen years, until August of 1979 when I was disfellowshipped, I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I raised four step-children and five of my own children as Witnesses. My four step-children are still active Witnesses but my own five, with the exception of my older boy who isn’t really a Witness but leans more in that direction, are born again. My husband never became a Witness but he has always had a love for God and His Son and a great respect for the Bible.
From the time I first began to study with the Witnesses until April of 1979, I believed with all my heart that these were the people God was working through in these last days. As I look back, I feel the Holy Spirit started working on me around 1975. I have always loved to study and have a very questioning nature. Things would come up in the studies that I would question, not necessarily thinking that the material was wrong, but trying to make sense out of it. One day my friend, Joan, and I were questioning this one point and we started to study it our on our own. I wrote the Society showing them all the Scriptures we had found contrary to what we had been taught. I asked them to explain our scriptures and give me scriptures supporting their point of view. Their letter in response was a real disappointment to me. From that day on I knew that they didn’t know everything and that a person could find things on his own with God’s help.
From time to time, things would come up that would frustrate me because it seemed like the people in the congregation would not even entertain a thought other than what the Society taught, even if there was good scriptural backing. As far as I was concerned, I was determined to believe only what the Scriptures indicated in my mind to be true, not just because the Society said so. In 1977 my sister and I took a trip to see our aunt in Massachusetts. She and her husband were "born again." Visiting with them I could see how much they really loved God. Yet, according to the Society, they would be destroyed forever at Armageddon because they weren’t "in the truth." Before we left them they prayed for us. Witnesses never pray with people of other religions because they feel the other people are praying to a different God and they can’t join with them. But my sister and I said "Amen" to that prayer because we couldn’t see anything wrong with it. They prayed to the Father in Jesus’ name and it was a beautiful prayer. All the while we were with them, they never preached to us once. But that prayer was better than all the preaching they could have done. We saw how they lived and how they loved us and that was more effective than anything they could have said.
The next two years saw me becoming more and more unhappy and not knowing why. But I still believed there was nothing any better outside--so where else could I go? I looked at the nation of Israel and saw how they fell away from God many times, but the faithful Israelites never left their nation to join pagan nations because things were not going right. They stayed there because, good or bad, the Israelites were God’s people. That’s how I felt about leaving the Organization. I could see a lot of things I didn’t like, but I couldn’t leave and join another religion. All the anti-Witness literature that I had read really convinced me of that.
Then in February of 1979 Joan’s husband, Doug, was disfellowshipped. The unusual thing about it was, it was done without giving him a hearing, a chance to defend himself. I was determined to get to the bottom of it, although Doug didn’t really care. He had come to the point he didn’t want to be a Witness anyway. For me though, that wasn’t the issue. Something really unfair had been done and I wanted to know how this could happen. For nearly two months, my sister and I and a few friends talked, wrote letters, and as a result were brought before the judicial committee for causing dissension in the congregation. I went down to the Branch Office in Honolulu to get things straightened out. It bothered me that the people in the congregation as well as the elders had marked us as ones to be watched because we were questioning a wrong that had been done. Finally, the elders were given their "slap on the wrist" for not following proper procedure and Doug was given a hearing. But by the time this was all over, something had happened to me.
As I was sitting in the meeting and thinking about all that had happened and how, except for family and a few friends, nobody really cared. I thought, "Nobody gives a damn." The scripture came to my mind where Jesus said, "You will know my disciples by the love they have among themselves." I thought, "There’s no love here." I went home that night knowing that something was over for me, like something inside of me had died. I was disillusioned with the people because they had closed their ears and turned their faces from the wrong that was going on because their loyalties were to men who they had somehow mixed up with God. I was disillusioned with the elders because some had lied, believing it was right in view of what was at stake. Others had remained silent in fear of being disloyal to the rest. I was disillusioned with the Branch office in Honolulu because they were more interested in proper procedure than righting something that had been wrong. And lastly, I was disillusioned with the Governing Body because I could see the same mentality in the answers to the many letters I had written them through the years.
I don’t write these things to run down the people. Things like this happen in all large organizations. But with me that was the point. This should not be happening in God’s organization. I could understand if it were just a few. But I saw the whole organization that way, the Governing Body, the Branch office, circuit overseers, elders, right on down to the people. They weren’t bad, but they were so organization minded that love, truth, and right came second. This is not unique to the Witnesses. You will find it in every man-made organization.
I could have gone on and just kept going to the meetings. It would have caused fewer problems. But my heart wasn’t in it anymore. My whole family was in shock. After over seventeen years of not missing a total of five meetings, I just stopped, just like that. It was unbelievable and also very hard on them. It was as if I was turning my back on everything I had ever taught them. They couldn’t understand. All I could tell them was that each person must be true to himself and what he believes is right. I could never put my life into something my heart was not in. What I taught them, I believed with all my heart. I still believe much of it. But as far as the Organization goes, I don’t believe it is the only channel God is working through. I told my kids about Jesus and I know seeds were planted. In my own children those seeds grew, but in my older son and my four step-children, the seeds are still dormant. But they’re there, and when it’s God’s time, I know they too will grow.
From all this I want you to see that up to this point the Holy Spirit was doing all the work. No Christian could have done this. But the few Christians that had come into my life, had loved me while I was still a Witness, and had planted seeds of love that were now ready to grow. They had also been praying for me.
My friend, Joan, had been disfellowshipped the year before and was now born again. She and Doug had a Bible study in their home. They were reading the Bible, the book of John. I started attending that Bible Study. During this time I really felt lost. I had left my whole life behind me and I had no idea where I was going. All I knew was that I loved Jehovah with all my heart and I only wanted to do what was right. I didn’t want to go back, but if God showed me He wanted me to, I would go back. I felt like I was in this large pitch black room and I couldn’t find the door. Someone had to take my hand and show me the way out. God would have to take care of me because at the place I was, I couldn’t help myself. If God would let Satan get me, there was nothing I could do about it. It was the first time in my life that I had totally depended upon God.
Then Scriptures would come to me, like when Jesus said, "I am the Way the Truth and the Life." I knew I had to find Jesus in a totally different way than I had known about him before. Joan had given me a book by Watchman Nee entitled, The Normal Christian Life. That book was the turning point for me. I had asked Jesus into my heart before then, but I didn’t know the reality of being born again until I read the first chapter of that book. By June 7, 1979 I could call myself truly born again.
Three days later I went to Bayview, the place Doug and Joan fellowshipped. I was a little nervous about going, not knowing what to expect. It was different from what I was used to, to say the least. But I knew God’s Spirit was there, I really knew it. One of the songs we sang was, "The Greatest Thing In All My Life Is Knowing You." That song expressed exactly what was in my heart. I loved all the music. I liked the pastor too. But even more than what he said in his sermon that day, I liked the way he said it, I liked his spirit.
Then and now, Bayview is a very special place to me. Because we all were so different from regular Christians, I think sometimes the pastor really wondered what to do with us. There were nine of us then. But Leon and all the rest of Bayview just loved us and accepted us as part of them, because, if we were good enough for Jesus, we were good enough for them. Doctrinally, we were almost in opposite directions, but our spirits were the same. We each respected one another’s point of view and the right to share it in love. We were free to question, to disagree, to share, something that had been considered dangerous in the Organization we had come from. No one tried to change us, they just loved us and let the Holy Spirit do all the work. I know God led us there. Although we did not "joined" Bayview and would never join any religion, we are growing there and belong there for that time. We have joined the Body of Christ and will never leave it.
All that has happened in my life leading up to this moment has not come about by accident. There were many prayers over the years by my Aunt and her husband, by my friends that found Jesus before I did, and by Christians that didn’t even know me but prayed for me anyway. Prayer is such a powerful force, I just can’t begin to tell you how important it is. It allows God to work at just the right place and time in a person’s life. Everybody’s different. We all need different things and we find them out in different ways. Only God knows what we need and when we need it. He does everything just right. And it is so important to love, love people with our lives, not just our words. Sometimes words are no good anyway because the timing is not right. But the timing on love is always right. We just can’t so wrong. If we trust God, He will give us the right words at the right time.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I have never regretted the years I spent as a Witness. I learned so many things that are of benefit to me now as a Christian. And the wonderful thing about being with Jesus is, he never lets anything go to waste. The good gets better and the bad becomes good by living the experience and using the first hand knowledge and understanding to help someone else who is living the same thing. Jehovah and Jesus are so good. There are just no words to express all that they are. But I stand with the four living creatures in Revelation 5:14 who say "Amen" to the previous verse:
"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be praise, and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"
Testimony By Arlene Gilpin
How did I dare to leave the Organization? Because I love Jehovah God Almighty and believe He is exactly what He tells me in the Holy Bible, "Abba Mia," my Heavenly Father, the true love and integrity in all phases and aspects. Among the many do’s we are taught through the Holy Bible, there are a few definite don’ts, and here is where my release from bondage burst through. Jehovah makes very sure that all who accept Him know that they must put the death knell to deceit, subterfuge and any part of a lie, regardless of the reason or mistaken "good" it might embrace. We know who is the father of the LIE--we so well know that there Jehovah gives no quarter, no leeway. That is Satan’s dominion with all its cunning and cruelty.
It all seems so very long ago yet its barely three years since Jehovah introduced me to His only begotten Son, Jesus, and very quietly and deliberately led me out of the Organization into the most beautiful experience of my life...that of being accepted by accepting.
Because of the inner turmoil within the Kingdom Hall itself, I became torn between allowing an injustice from a lie to prevail, designed to mislead and withhold; this going deliberately against all that loving Jehovah and His principles meant to me.
Because I do love Jehovah (and more and more each day!) I chose to stand on one of His most important scriptures, "Wait, wait on the Lord," and hold my tongue, trusting what the Organization taught me: If there is anything wrong within the Organization, Jehovah will take care of it as it cannot be tolerated or hidden. Well! I waited month after month; kept checking to see whether a public statement that was untrue would be retracted. But time kept passing and nothing was done. I checked continuously each time expecting the announcement to be made. I took it to prayer and was let to realize that by not retracting a statement that was not a fact and very detrimental was indeed a deliberate lie. Who is father of the lie? Who gives room for such an abomination? I then was told that the immediate elders were told by their superiors NOT TO RETRACT their statement!
Well, that did it! What was I doing sitting here in an organization that gave room or any credence to such an abomination to Jehovah? It was like Jehovah literally took me by the hand and led me out of the Organization and blessed me with the knowledge and fellowship of His only Begotten Son, Jesus.
How did I become a born-again Christian? Oh, it was all cut and dried. It was through a seemingly endless seven long days, 168 bewildering hours in a black pit, lost and wondering, wondering and praying for a release. I was cut off--would I weaken? Was I wrong, Heavenly Father, Jehovah? Do not let me fall into a snare because of my conviction. YOU are the most important part of my life...I cannot lose you--all else, but not you... I waited as you told me in your Word: I waited and you have led me this far....It is written in 2 Timothy 1:7, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
I have faith that You would not give me a stone of death for the bread of Life. My faith had to be that strong. I give up everything for the pearl. I will go this way unless You show me differently. I know You, Heavenly Father Jehovah--"Abba" Father, for I am Your child, and You know me and You know I love you with great Godly fear and awe and You will not let me go! Your children are most precious to You.
How these part three years have shown me how really precious I am to You! You have opened door after door, blessed me with the most wonderful family in the body of Christ, showered me with gifts from on high beyond my dreams, and given me the peace that "Passeth all understanding" I read about in Philippians 4:7. You have brought me to your loving Son, taught me how precious each and every human being is to both You and Him.
There has been only one bleak spot in my born-again experience, and that is the brothers and sisters I had to leave behind--not by MY choice, but by theirs... A choice I can so readily understand, for a year or so before, I too cut off dear loved ones for doing this very same thing because I loved Jehovah above all. I though it little sacrifice for my Almighty Father, even felt a bit proud that I was called upon to make so strong a stand. Knowing their motive in taking this position towards me, having been there myself, only makes me love them more.
However, Jehovah tells us in his Word that man shall give up loved ones, but shall be rewarded tenfold, like Job; and, believe me, dear ones, as few brothers and sisters I had as a Witness has multiplied ten times in the body of Christ. The warmth is warmer, love is lovelier, association is closer, concern is tenderer. The keen perception of any possible need is ever evident and such needs are not allowed to grow and further burden one.
I am enveloped in a love so pure, so simple, so tender and caring, so informing, so inquiring, so definitely a give and take situation--a perfect blending between us. I share with them the wonderful story of our walk with Jehovah, accounts from the Old Testament with all its power and beauty, and they share with me all their knowledge and the beauty and experiences of the New Testament and their blessed walk with Jesus...all the love Jesus has for us, and his gathering together the body.
Jesus has so much he fervently wants to give us, his own beloved. He is right where you are, knocking at your door, just waiting for you to ask him into your heart. Any member of his body will help you seek and accept him, but with love, understanding and Christlike compassion, since they are all HIS ambassadors.
There is so much more to tell, so much more that brought about my new life in Christ that is very precious--"very sacred to me...but I had to take the step out in faith when Jehovah was all I had, and He honored my loyalty and love and sent me to the flow of love, Jesus. He took over and guided me to His followers, who personify His tender loving care and concern here on the earth...and I praise Him for it!
Testimony By Kehau Ramos
My first introduction to the Jehovah’s Witness Organization was through a Watchtower magazine given to me by my husband’s oldest sister. This was around July of 1965, a few months after my marriage. My sister-in-law was just going to begin a Bible study with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She asked me to sit in on it. Being a Catholic all my life (I was 20 years old) I was very hesitant, but she gave me a couple of magazines which dealt with the Catholic church and so I agreed to look at them.
I had been born into the Catholic religion and I truly believed they were the true religion, and that one day all people would become united into that one Church. But the articles my sister-in-law left me opened my eyes to some scriptural facts that I had never dreamed to question about my church. These magazines changed my whole life. From the minute I read the articles, and the scriptures that were quoted, I could not feel the same about the Catholic Church. As a Catholic, all those years I could never remember studying the Bible. This was something new to me and the things the Witnesses showed me made sense and too, it was from the Bible.
Now what was I to do? My whole family were Catholics. I loved God very much, even when I was growing up, no matter what I did, what I went through, God was always in my heart and I would always go to church. So when I read those Watchtower magazines and I could see from the Bible certain things the Catholics were doing that to me the scriptures indicated were wrong, I wanted to change my way of serving God. The articles had to do with worshiping idols and about worshiping the Virgin Mary, and also talked about Armageddon. The subject of Armageddon was a very big thing for me. I would hear a little about the end of the world when I was growing up as a Catholic, but not anything like I was now learning and reading about in the Bible.
After about a year and a half of studying, I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, on December 14, 1967. This was one of the happiest days of my life. I was willing to give up everything, my friends, my family. This would be my new life. I like the people I was now with, I liked my Bible study teacher and I loved the Bible studies.
I then started witnessing to my husband and he too, like me, felt the urgency to be saved from Armageddon. So he began studying and was baptized in August of 1970. We both lived our lives the best we could as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
We attended the Kingdom Hall in Waimanalo and took our four children with us to all of the meetings and assemblies. It was hard work but now I can really see the benefit of all of it. If there was one thing you did, it was to try and be disciplined in studying and preparing for all the meetings and the door to door work. It became so important for me to go door to door so that we could try to save all the people we could. I didn’t want anyone to die, especially the ones I loved. So besides the knowledge the Witnesses had, there was also an urgency to help people to God, and if you weren’t worshiping God in truth, (which I felt the Jehovah’s Witnesses had) then you would be going down too.
We attended the Kingdom Hall in Waimanalo and took our four children with us to all of the meetings and assemblies. It was hard work but now I can really see the benefit of all of it. If there was one thing you did, it was to try and be disciplined in studying and preparing for all the meetings and the door to door work,. It became so important for me to go door to door so that we could try to save all the people we could. I didn’t want anyone to die, especially the ones I loved. So besides the knowledge the Witnesses had , there was also an urgency to help people to God, and if you weren’t worshiping God in truth, (which I felt the Jehovah’s Witnesses had) then you would be going down too.
In October of 1972, we moved to Hauula and attended the Hauula Kingdom Hall. The life there was hard for me. I had to leave all my close friends in Waimanalo. In Waimanalo I had been able to keep up with all of the things you have to do to be a good Witness. But now that I didn’t have the encouragement of my friends, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t fit in. I didn’t feel the love that we as Witnesses were supposed to have. Was it all just "words" and had I done that back in Waimanalo? If I had ever overlooked a new one’s needs, I didn’t mean to.
Time passed and I began to get discouraged. Here we were following all God’s laws and yet there were many of us who were so unhappy. "How could God’s people be lacking in this?" I thought to myself. It was then that I realized something was missing. It was then that I started seeing an organization. I started seeing and feeling the pressure that can be put on a person if they didn’t follow the rules and requirements expected of you as a Witness. I started to see the bad side of the structure the Witnesses had. And it was there that a little seed of doubt was planted. It was an attitude that I had never felt before. But it was not great enough in my mind to do anything about. I thought my doubts and problems were because we had moved to Hauula, and I felt that if we were in Waimanalo things would be different. Well we finally moved back, but my feelings didn’t change. We than moved to Maui, because my husband got a job up there, but we still had a hard time in the congregation up there.
By this time many Witnesses were becoming restless and falling away for 1975 had come and there was no Armageddon. No New World of paradise. So my husband, like may others, gave up. The saddest part about the whole thing was that the Organization took no blame or responsibility for those that fell away. How could an organization led by God put out so much hope for the people, making the hope of 1975 so real in everyone’s eyes and then, when it didn’t happen, have the nerve to say that they didn’t give out that hope and make up reasons why these poor people were falling away to the world? That really hurt, and I remember being so angry. That is when I really noticed an organizational structure behind the people. The people are not to blame, it is the Organization that is to blame.
Then we moved back to Waimanalo and things still did not get better. My husband lost all interest and was falling back to his old self again. The meetings didn’t offer much help. Young kids in the congregations were having so many problems. It seemed like all the hope was gone. But there was no where else to go. You just had to trust Jehovah that soon something would happen. But nothing did. Things only got worse.
Then my close friends, (people who have written their testimonies) started having some problems in their congregations. They had questions and the organization wasn’t giving out any answers, in fact you weren’t to ask questions. My heart was so hurt and concerned forthem. To me they were being treated unjustly. They had a meeting with the elders, but nothing was solved. The thing that did it for me was when I talked to a Circuit Servant about the problems these sisters were having and he told me not to worry and that he would see them before he left, and then he never did. These sisters who were so faithful as Witnesses all those years, and this Circuit Servant was not even concerned. That did it for me. I hardly went to meetings after that.
Then in that summer of 1978 I had a reunion with my real fleshly family. These ones that I had judged, these ones who were supposed to be part of "the world," these were the ones who still loved me, they really loved me. We had a beautiful summer and I learned so much. I realized that what was missing from the Witnesses, was love. It was a love that they didn’t know about or had put aside because of all they had to do as Witnesses. I realized that Jehovah God loved my "fleshly family" just as much as the Witnesses. I never went back to the congregation after that, I was done with being a Witness.
One day, out of the blue, my husband and I started talking about all the good friends we had had. After mentioning a lot of names, we became stuck on Doug and Joan Warne. We talked about them for awhile, and remembered how Doug had always helped us with our problems and had always brought us through to neutral ground, a place where we could work from. That night I couldn’t sleep, Doug was so strong in my mind. But I refused to call him because after all this time I would feel bad that here I was, only calling him when I needed help. The next morning the phone rang and it was Shelley, Doug’s daughter. She said that her mom asked her to call because she and Doug had been thinking about us and they wanted to see if we would like to have dinner with them. Joan was disfellowshipped and so she didn’t want to put me on the spot by calling me, so Shelley called to see how I would feel about it. I was so excited I called out to my husband and both could not believe it. We agreed right away and that was the start of it.
Doug and Joan shared with us that night at dinner how they had found a real joy and peace, even though they were out of the Organization. They told us that it had come by looking to Jesus as their mediator. They told of how much Jesus had done in their lives. I could see the change in them and I was so happy for the, especially for Doug. He had been through a lot of trouble and now seemed so happy. Something inside of me knew that Jesus was the Truth and I felt like I now had some hope, A while after that, Midge, a good friend, called me for lunch. When I saw her I noticed a change in her that I couldn’t believe. Her face shone with happiness. Again this friend, my old Bible Study teacher, who when I first met her I knew she had something that I wanted and here again she was sitting across from me at lunch, her face shining with something that I wanted. She had Jesus. And boy, did I need Jesus.
It didn’t take long before I became Born Again. It has now been three years and a lot has taken place in my life and in me, and Jesus is still not done with me. My Born Again experiences are a testimony in themselves. It has taken three years of hard work for Jesus to do all the changes necessary to bring me to this place where I am today. There have been times of pain and suffering, but also so much Joy and Love that I would do it all over again to be at this place where I am in my relationship with God and Jesus.
After becoming born again, I was blessed to meet up with some very, very loving brothers and sisters who loved us just because they loved us. They had the love of Jesus in them and at that time, that was all we needed, just to be loved. These brothers and sisters made the difference in our born again life. They didn’t look at our qualifications, or measure us up to their standards, no, all they did was to love us just where we were. The left the changing to Jesus, who knows how to change us from the inside out. We were all so thankful for this. These brothers and sisters became a stronghold for us. The question could be asked, if these brothers and sisters didn’t have Jesus in them, would they have been able to love us, and except us just as we were? I feel it could have never happened because only Jesus can break through our humanness, and join us together in a place where these things don’t really matter.
It’s so important to love one another as Jesus loves us. We must learn to overlook things, and realize that it is Jesus that does the changing and it is He who will help the person grow. Until you have Jesus, you look at life from a human level, because you don’t have the Holy Spirit to help you to discern things in a spiritual level. This is why I feel the Witnesses are not to blame for what they do. I know God has forgiven me for my ignorance-- through Jesus He has forgiven me. If there is one thing I am sorry for it is for my self-righteous attitude that I had as a Witness without even knowing it. I was judging things by the way I looked at them, and not really knowing how God really looked at them.
My feelings vary about my life as a Witness, and in the next few pages, I would like to bring out some points which I feel are very important. It is only now that I have become Born Again, can I see these points. Only through Jesus can I see all the benefits of having been a Witness all those years, and now I can really see what was and still is missing. I hope you will share with me an openness of mind and heart.
As I look back now, when I took those few magazines from my sister-in-law, little did I know the depth of and organizational hold these magazines stood for. I was unaware of the power man is capable of having to control people. I just loved God, and this made me begin to seek out this new religion. To be honest, I never even bothered to ask about anything like that. I never knew anything about the great organization that stands in the back of a Jehovah’s Witnesses. The start of my new religion never went beyond my Bible study teacher. Later I ventured on to the meetings held at the Kingdom Hall and to the assemblies and then to the door to door work. All I knew was that I was serving God in the best way that could be found. And compared to all other religions, I felt the Witnesses were on the right track. They knew their Bibles, they had scriptural backing for what they believed, something I had never experienced before.
Witnesses are just like anyone else who loves God. It is just like any other person who joins another religion. You see something you like and you join up or you could even be born into a religion and stay there all your life unless something better comes along. I don’t think people take the time to check out the organizational structure of their religion. Most of us never have reason to. We are all just trying to serve God the best way we know how. I have come to realize that opinions differ and what might seem to be a truth to me, may not necessarily be a truth to someone else. So all of us, no matter what religious organization we belong to, we are all just trying to please God. As long as our hearts are in it, we don’t go beyond that. I have come to see that all religions have a man made organization behind them and because of this, no one religion can be better than another. Every religion has its own personality, just like people, they all come across different, some stronger than others. The reason I am bringing this out is to help Christian understand that Jehovah’s Witnesses are no different organizationally than them. Don’t judge a Jehovah’s Witness by his organization. Look at him as an individual like yourself, trying his best to serve God. Only God’s Spirit can show you errors in your organization, and it is up to God to do this, when and where He will. We all stand before God, and as we want God to judge us, let us judge one another.
Now that I am born again I look back at my life as a Witness, and I am happy and thankful for having been there. It was a hard life, but it was a good life for me. I can also see that it was a protection for both my husband and I. I don’t know if we would have stayed together if not for the Organization. We were two young people not really knowing where we were going in life. The one good thing about being a Witness is the discipline you must maintain upon yourself. Especially if you wanted to be a good Witness. You have goals to strive for, rules to follow and some of us who are undisciplined needed this. And speaking for myself, I realize now that it was the best thing that could have happened to me back then, for I am a very undisciplined person. And now I know in my heart it was the best place for me to be at that time. I am afraid to think what would have happened to me if I was left to live my life on my own. Left to myself, I would have probably made such a mess of my life, maybe not even be here.
Being Born Again has brought about tremendous changes in my life. God has blessed me and though His Spirit, He has taught me so much and given me so many insights on things. I still have much of the Witnesses’ beliefs that I feel to be true, but now Jesus is the added ingredient that makes everything just so much more special. Putting doctrine aside, the disciplined scheduled life of a Witness, personally to me, is very good. You had to study for all of the meetings and prepare for the door to door work. You had to study with your kids regularly. You took your kids out in the door to door work. You had to maintain a good schedule to get everything done. One of the meetings was the "ministry school." You had to prepare talks to present to the congregation. You had to practice your magazine presentation. If you wanted to be a good Witness, there always was something to do. You did all of these things on your own, not knowing of the power and strength that comes from knowing Jesus in a personal way, not having God’s Spirit to help you do this. All of this becomes a pressure to those who cannot on their own strength handle all of the requirements. And then those who were able to, did it, and without realizing it, tended to judge those who didn’t keep up. It was a very subtle thing, done subconsciously. You really didn’t think you were judging anyone, but this situation led to judging and competition.
The Witnesses studied and they knew their Bibles and they knew their God. They taught their children so their children knew things too. Today I see the contrast of the Witnesses and Christians. Many Christians have not been taught discipline, and haven’t had any training on how to schedule their time to study, and teach their children, etc. It is good to have structure to your life, to have a time to do things. Instead of searching the scriptures themselves, many Christians rely on radio and TV ministries, which tend to make them too dependent on others for their spirituality.
I think the greatest lesson I have learned through all of this is that the very things which kept me safe in those eleven years of being a Witness, the knowing and following of God’s laws and the disciplined scheduled life, these are the very things I must fall back on now. The only difference is that I have Jesus and he helps me in working out an attitude of love and discernment, of compassion and understanding and he gives me the strength to do these things. I need discipline in my life. I must make the time for God. I must know God’s Word, teach my children and make Jesus strong in their hearts also. As Witnesses we scheduled our lives to do all of this. It was in our own strength. But now it is as Matthew 11:28 says, "Come to ME (Jesus) all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls." We have given our load and burdens to Jesus and He helps us to do what we need to get done.
If we can all be open and give points to one another where points are due, than we will be able to see that there is much to learn on both sides. Through the testimonies that you have read, you can see the good that Jehovah’s Witnesses have. If you can see what a relationship with Jesus had done for us, this small group that has come out, we who still hold fast to many of the beliefs of the Witnesses, we who do not belong to any religious organization except the religion of Jesus Christ, if we this little group of people can be a vision in a miniature sense of all Jehovah’s Witnesses with a personal relationship with Jesus, than maybe you can see the potential the so called "sect" of Jehovah’s Witnesses could have in their love and services to God, and what a vital part they could have in the body of Christ today.
These people would become mighty warriors for God, true and loyal. This would be my one prayer--that Christians could see the sincerity of the Witnesses, and that all they need is a chance to learn of Jesus Christ and to let Him into their hearts, and trust that in God’s time they will.
Please look at the Jehovah’s Witnesses as individuals, as individuals loving and serving God the best they now how. Do not judge them by the Organization the belong to, give them a chance to find Jesus. Remember that we are all accountable to God for whatever we do. There may be things you cannot see that are wrong in your religious organization. God knows what these things are. Would you want God to hold you accountable for something you don’t know or can’t see? I am sure none of us would want that. We are all brothers in God’s eyes. Trust God that He will give you an attitude of love for Jehovah’s Witnesses. This love may be the very thing the Witness sees is lacking in the Organization, it may be the thing he is looking for without knowing it, and will pick it up if only it is offered to him. This was the case for me and I know there are many out there like me, and many like all the rest who have written their testimonies in this book.
You may ask, "Why do I have to understand, why not the Witness?" Well all I can say is, we have Jesus and only Jesus can make anyone understand. I pray Jehovah our God will bless all those coming in contract with this book. I pray all that I have written in my testimony will in no way put across an intent to hurt anyone in their place with God. All that I have said was only to show both sides. In putting this testimony together, God has shown me that through my whole life, when I was a Catholic, when I was a Jehovah’s Witness, he has respected and accepted my worship to Him. So in no way would I want to be judging anyone else in their worship to God. It is only since I’ve become Born Again that I have come to know our Heavenly Father in a closer way, being open to changes that are necessary in making my worship more pleasing to Him. "This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ." John 17:3
Thank you and may God bless you.
Testimony By Dianna Reis
I was born and raised one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I am now eighteen and have been "born again" for two years. I became born again when I was still a Witness. At that time the Witnesses were rejecting me because my mother and aunt had become born again. I guess to them that meant that I was marked, I would be next.
I really felt rejected and so looked elsewhere for friendship. Since the friends that I had ever known were Jehovah’s Witnesses, in reality the only friend I had left was Jehovah. I know that it was Jehovah God who led me to go to a home Bible study with my mother, because I know I wasn’t too sure about doing this because I wasn’t too sure I wanted to get involved with religion again. That night I can clearly remember, all the ones who had been disfellowshipped from the Organization that I knew were there. The love they showed to me was unheard of in the Organization. I couldn’t believe it when I actually started to cry during one of the songs they were singing. I knew than that Jesus had entered my heart and become a part of me. I felt like I wasn’t alone anymore and that someone was just waiting for me to say, "Help me!"
After a few more home study meetings, I finally built up the courage to go to Bayview, because my aunt had told me that what happened to me that night, as far as being "born again" had happened to all the people at this fellowship. So I decided to give it a try. I felt more at home and more loved than I had in the sixteen years as a Jehovah’s Witness.
It wasn’t too long after that, that the elders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses wrote me a little note saying that they wanted to have a meeting with me. They had heard I had been associating and studying the Bible with those who had been disfellowshipped. I went to their meeting and just felt so sorry for them. Of course I was really mad at them too because I hadn’t been doing anything against the Bible. But because of disobeying one of their MAN-MADE RULES, I was going to get kicked out. I asked them why I felt I was already marked and why did everyone, including them, make me feel like because my mom and aunt were out, that I would be next? They couldn’t answer that. They couldn’t answer when I also asked them why did I feel so accepted for the way I was, and loved outside the Organization. Of course again they couldn’t say anything. I don’t really know if they understand what love is in its being unconditional.. I think they are so caught up in the "laws" and the do’s and don’ts that they are missing Jehovah God’s real purpose for us, that is to have a relationship with His Son, Jesus. And to be willing to want to follow Him and do what is right. No one likes to be pushed into doing anything.
I am so happy that I am out of the Organization now because all of the kids I grew up with evidently couldn’t put up with the pressures of being a Witness because they have given up and gone into the world. They are so lost and confused, and I am so thankful that Jehovah God pulled me out just in time, although losing your friends at sixteen is very hard. All I can do for them is to pray that Jesus will touch their lives in a way that they can’t help but accept Him. All I can say is, to pray for the Witnesses and all the teenagers that are so lost.
Testimony By Dawn Reis
I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for about eighteen years. I am not sorry because a lot of good came from it. Growing up I was in Catholic boarding school, went to the Mormon church, was baptized a Protestant, but nothing of real importance. I really never took anything religious seriously. My life up to that point was filled with insecurities, questions with no answers, problems that young people face, and a few that many don’t. My home life was very unstable, so unfortunately, was I. But I had within me the strength to always try and make things right.
At fifteen I came from the Mainland with my mom and sister, went to school, and there I met and married my husband within nine months. It was through my mother-in-law that I became familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses. She had been baptized the year before.
I remember the day my mind was changed about the Witnesses. My future husband had maneuvered me to "just so happened" to stop by this house of Witnesses he knew. I refused to go inside. It was pouring rain. He went in and this woman came down to the car and asked me to come in. I said, "No." She inquired about a Bible question I had asked my boyfriend. All this time she was leaning through the car window getting completely soaked--just to talk to me about the Bible! After fifteen minutes I really felt like the brat I was and decided if she could care for a sixteen year old like me that much, I would go inside. That was the beginning.
I started studying and knew right away that I had found the truth. I was going to one meeting a week and in November 1962, I was baptized. I was really happy being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and having Jehovah as my God. Finally, all my questions were answered. I felt in a secure place, where everyone believed the same, everything made sense. I even learned a reason why my life had been and was so unhappy--to find out the Bible was real, and these people were willing to share it with me, no matter how rebellious I was.
As I studied the Bible, I learned what Jehovah wanted His people to do and did it no matter what people outside said or felt. Jehovah’s laws came first. It wasn’t easy not to celebrate holidays, go door to door approximately two times a week, twice a year "pioneering" (at least 75 hours a month), attending five one-hour meetings a week--all the time being a wife and raising four children to love the Bible and righteousness and Jehovah like I did. Yet I wasn’t at all outstanding... I was just a typical JW..
I would study ahead for the meetings and then with my children. I learned so much about the Bible, God’s laws and requirements. I just took the Society’s word that the accompanying scriptures were true. Sure, I would look up a few once in awhile, but their reasoning always seemed to fit. I see now that I studied the Watchtower, Kingdom Ministry, and their books--only the information they told me to. I really believed whole-heartedly that I had found the Truth. Although a few things didn’t ring true to me, I was taught to be patient and that the light of understanding would get brighter and I would understand them in the future.
A few things used to bother me. The Witnesses believed that when the end comes, all people not baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses will be destroyed forever. I knew there were many, many people in the world that were better than me, doing so many things for others and truly loving God and serving Him. In my heart, I questioned how this could be in Jehovah’s justice. That is why Jehovah’s Witnesses take the door-to- door work so seriously. It’s their responsibility to reach as many people as possible so they won’t be bloodguilty. It seem like you can never do enough.
The Witnesses believe that Jehovah is the God only of the JW’s.. This is why when others ask them to pray with them, they won’t. They feel such prayers are to another God, and not Jehovah.
Another thing that bothered me was the division that being a Witness causes between families. The natural love of your family who are not Witnesses is not encouraged. For years the only communication I had with my family on the Mainland was writing them concerning doctrine, and trying to get them to see things my way because, when you know you have the Truth, you want to share it with everyone. Your new family is now all Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. Any other association isn’t encouraged. Back in 1977, while visiting our relatives on the Mainland (they being born again), one episode stood out in my mind that started me really wondering. At the end of the trip we were leaving for the airport. They wanted to pray for us. I listened to the words-really listened--and to their heart. They prayed only for God to give us a safe journey home and to protect us, and thanked us for coming. In my heart I asked Jehovah to please show me what was wrong with that prayer. It was even prayed in the right way--in His name through Jesus. I was really confused...
It is really sad, the division as it stands now, my being born again and loving Jehovah so much more now that I have found Jesus. That is the only thing the Witnesses have against me. My mother-in-law feels I am an apostate. We had always been close when I was a Witness. She and I were closer than she was with her son. She really considered me a daughter. But now, because the Organization has labeled me wicked, she has nothing whatsoever to do with me--not even talking to me. The Organization has made her feel that if she disowns me, then perhaps I’ll see my error and come back. It even reaches to the rest of my family. One daughter who was disfellowshipped (excommunicated), not because of drugs, immorality, drunkenness or any of these reasons, but because she was associating with disfellowshipped people...my mother-in-law treats her the same.
If only the Witnesses knew the healing power of LOVE is so much stronger than condemnation and judgment. It really hurts my husband because he see the change is us for the better, yet I’m being condemned for it by her. In fairness, I know she doesn’t want to feel this way about me, but feels that this is what the Organization says to do; so she is taking this stand "for Jehovah."
Through the years you are inculcated with a very real fear of breaking the rules the Organization sets down. They claim to have scriptures to back these up and, because you feel they are the TRUTH, you automatically take their word for their laws, rules, and reasoning. That is why once a JW.. is disfellowshipped, no other Witness can talk to them (except elders). They are really afraid of you because they have been taught that once you leave the Organization you have gone over to Satan.
Am I getting ahead of myself? I suppose, but his whole issue is so complicated that it’s really hard to find the right place to start. This is supposed to be my testimony of why I left the Organization, and perhaps an idea or two on how others can help Witnesses they know. Believe me, it certainly is not by trying to disprove them on doctrine. Stay away from doctrine...it does no good. And I still believe much of what I believed as a Witness.
What you can do is share your testimony about Jesus, and what he has done for you...and then just love them. Easy, isn’t it? Do you know what Christian love is? It simply means we treat others the way God treats us...other, family, friends, enemies, etc.--no matter what they believe, who they worship, how bad or good they are. If you can honestly do that, you have the battle half won.
One other thing that helped change my heart was watching the 700 Club. Witnesses are discouraged from watching any religious program, but from time to time I did. In time I would see people giving personal testimony about how Jesus saved them or healed them. They love God and Jesus so much and their lives revolved around God and the Bible. So, needless to say, it confused me--especially since I felt in my heart that many people besides JW’s. belong to Jehovah.
About this time also I knew that I had to start doing some real serious praying. I never was much of a prayer. Prayers were mostly a formality. Only a few times did I really pour out my heart to Jehovah. It was like as long as I was a Witness, I was (supposedly) in a Spiritual Paradise. I leaned more on the Organization than on God. I was never taught to slow down and spend quiet time with Him.
Many people say the expectation of the end coming by 1975 set a lot of Witnesses back and caused them to loose faith. But to many, it really didn’t matter. You may have been disappointed, but as with everything else, there was nowhere else to go. You really feel that the Organization is Jehovah’s only channel. As long as you feel that way, you can put up with anything.
I would see Christians asking for money and we were taught that Christendom is only out for your money and that most of it never gets to where it is supposed to go. I realize now perhaps some doesn’t, but in comparison, there is so much good being done worldwide in helping the poor and needy, both children and adults. I’ve see so much missionary work being done, and the results. When you’re a Witness, you are never told of the positive things being done outside the Organization, only the negative. So, when I started to see with my own eyes and hear with my heart, not prejudiced ears, I feel Jehovah started blessing me. As Witnesses, we felt that you give people the hope of eternal life by preaching and teaching, helping them to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses--that’s the important thing. But now I see that unless a man can feed his family, he can’t even comprehend spiritual things.
In October of 1977 my husband was injured on his job and not able to work any more. He had been baptized a Witness in 1968 but because of all the hypocrisy (as he called it), he stopped attending meetings about 1972. Fortunately he still supported me in training the children as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Training the kids as Witnesses had its good points but also its bad. You live by the rules. If you are a strong person and disciplined, you may make it because it is the amount of effort you put out that determines how much you do. I always pushed myself to do right--struggled, pushed and pulled. The only reason I think I made it with my kids is that they knew I thought I was doing it all for Jehovah. I really relied on myself but I didn’t know how to rely on Jehovah, allow him to lead me, and most of all TRUST Him. I didn’t have Jesus at all. Although the Organization hurt me, I know how sincere the people are, how they love Jehovah, and now I realize how much they need Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As a whole, they have so much that is good, but are missing the most important part.
To continue, a lot of internal problems were happening within the congregation. You aren’t encouraged to think and reason at all. Because of this, those asking question and wanting answers were being labeled as troublemakers. As long as you went along and didn’t cause any disruptions, it’s OK. Not only were there troubles with my spiritual life but my personal life was falling apart. I just couldn’t understand why, when I did so much for Jehovah. I was so unhappy.
As others have said in their testimonies, I was the last one to come out. One of the main reasons is because in my heart I didn’t want to leave right away just because my sister did. We have always been more than close and I didn’t want anyone to say she left, so I followed. Besides, when it involves your worship, it’s the most important decision of your life. My younger daughter was so disgusted with what was happening, she stopped going to meetings. It is so hard to be a teenage Witness without a personal relationship with Jesus--almost impossible. At a time when I really needed love from the congregation, they were just waiting to see how long it would take for me to leave. I was treated as an outcast. All the scriptures about "love among themselves" were forgotten. I wrote to the elders explaining injustices that were being done, how I needed help, how one elder lied...but it was taken lightly. I continued going to meetings, feeling so unhappy and it seemed Jehovah wasn’t there. I didn’t’t know where He was. I had very little to do with the disfellowshipped side of my family, even though I loved them. The Organization said they were wicked, and even though I didn’t believe it in my heart, everyone was trying to convince me. My sister purposely left me alone. But later I found out they were praying like crazy for me!
Witnesses don’t believe in that type of prayer. I remember when I found out they all prayed for me at Bayview Chapel, I told my sister, "Don’t pray for me." At that time I though it was foolish. Besides, I felt then that at Bayview they weren’t praying to Jehovah, so what good would it do? Yet, in private, I remember feeling in my heart--all the members of Bayview will pray for me as a group when they don’t even know me. The pastor prayed for the elders in the Kingdom Hall but our elders sure wouldn’t pray for them in the same way. Even in the congregation, the whole congregation doesn’t pray together for one person. No matter what the reason!
I was slowly finding out that these Christians I had been taught about were a lot different than I had been led to believe. I still wasn’t ready to make my decision, but really wanted to go to a Bible study at a disfellowshipped (ex-elder’s) home. I knew I would be in trouble but prayed about it. I was scared because you’re taught to believe that any other Bible study besides JW’s. is not from God. Already I could see I was starting to rely on Jehovah. I really wanted to do right for Him in my heart and to serve him but the way I was going and the attitude I had in my heart towards the elders was so bad that I just put myself in God’s hands and told Him I’d trust Him to lead me. Even if what I had to do was hard. I went to the Bible study--then to find out it was almost the same!!! I really enjoyed the music and singing. It felt good in my heart to hear those happy songs directed to Jehovah and Jesus. You see, any emotion at the Kingdom Hall is not very well appreciated. You sing songs and sit down--very unemotional. Here, the same people who had been Witnesses hugged me and made me feel so happy inside. I even asked, "How can I know this music and the feeling it gave me is OK?" The answer satisfied me completely. "If it leads you to worship Jehovah and Jesus, it’s from God and not Satan."
One song in particular struck me. The words are: "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living, just because He lives."
I knew the way for me was beginning. At the end of this meeting they asked for prayer requests. What was that? Any needs that anyone wants to pray for. To top it off, everyone held hands. Someone finally prayed and I thought it was over, but no! Again, no noise. I opened one eye to see what was going on and everyone’s head was still bowed. So quickly I did the same. Then I paid attention to all those prayers that everyone was together on. And it was beautiful and really witnessed to my heart (but no one knew it at the time). The whole meeting was overwhelming, making me so happy that I had finally found some inner peace, but also knowing what would be involved for me shortly.
The elders knew I went to that meeting and had a formal Committee meeting for me. They told me if I continued in my wrong course, I would have to be disfellowshipped. I asked if I could go to all the Witness meetings and go to that one Bible study, and after a month give them my answer They said No. I should use that month to build myself up spiritually in the Organization and read the Watchtower, study this book and research this or that...never the Bible. I decided I wouldn’t go to either meeting until I made up my mind. You have to realize that at this point in my life, it was a perfect time for Satan to come against me. The easiest thing in the world would have been to stay where I was and ruffle no feathers. My children and my husband couldn’t’t understand what was going on and I couldn’t explain it to them because I didn’t understand myself. All I knew is that with all my heart I wanted a right relationship with Jehovah, to pray to Him with my heart and to really serve Him in the way He wanted me to. My life was at the lowest. I felt sort of betrayed--"my sister, mother, friends leaving the Organization and deserting me." The Witnesses had me marked--my marriage was deteriorating, I had no one. Then, the Witnesses believe that if you leave the Organization you leave Jehovah. That one thing I did not believe!
I told Jehovah in prayer, "Jehovah, you are all I have. I’m at the very bottom of my life. I can’t do anything any more on my own strength. I don’t know where to go or what is the right decision to make, but You are with me; that is all that matters. I want to serve You in the way YOU want. Help!"
So at the next elder meeting I told them if they won’t let me go to both and make up my mind, than go ahead and disfellowship me. So they did. But before I left I was able to explain about becoming born again and how Jesus meant so much to me now, and that he doesn’t take the place of Jehovah, but has made me love Him more. I hardly knew anything then but I had found JESUS and I would never let him go, no matter what anyone did or said. I explained to them the Bible study I had gone to and asked them what was wrong with it. They told me soon I would see by the fruitage that it wasn’t from Jehovah. But how soon is soon? So, that was it--"I was out. I felt I wasn’t ready but was forced to make that decision. It felt like I was a canary let out of its cage. The world would gobble me up. Now I had to see what I really believed and what I believed because the Organization told me to.
In the meantime my sister and others were attending a morning Bible study with the Women’s Aglow Fellowship. They invited me, so why not? I sure wasn’t going to participate though. The Bible study teacher at that time was president of the fellowship and she just loved us as we were. That was the difference, and that is what really ministered to me. She really loved us, no matter what. We had Jesus in common and she knew the Holy Spirit would do the rest. THAT is the KEY. See, you cannot change Jehovah’s Witnesses. Maybe you can share Jesus with them, pray for them and also love them. But only Jesus can touch their heart when they are ready and only Jehovah and Jesus know when that time is. An example of the need to love even when we don’t fully understand might be in dealing with the gifts of the Spirit among many Christians today, such as speaking in tongues. The Witnesses look upon this as demonic, similar to the way Christians might feel about using a Ouija board. When I became born again a few months later, I learned from the Bible that such gifts were from God. Now my head had the knowledge but still, from all the training I had about how wrong such gifts were, my heart couldn’t accept it. No matter what anyone said to me about it, it made no difference. It was when Jesus, through the Holy Spirit made it real through prayer to my heart that I finally felt comfortable with it. This is what all Christians must do, whether for Witnesses or anyone.
1. Love them.
2. Pray for them.
3. Share what Jesus has done for you.
Then let Jesus and the Holy Spirit do the rest. See that you have enough faith yourself to allow Jehovah through Jesus to work on them when they are ready. It’s really hard even now for me to follow my own advice. But I know it’s the only thing that works. Witnesses gain new Witnesses by knowledge and effort. Jesus gains his body by the Holy Spirit. Remember, until they are ready to accept Jesus as Lord in their lives, there is nothing you can do. Rest in God.
Where am I now? Being broken and refined so I can be worthy to be used by Jehovah and Jesus in ways they choose for me. The past year was the worst and the happiest in my entire 39 years. It seems that I had so many lessons to learn. ME, who thought I was a pretty good person and couldn’t imagine how I needed to be changed. Was I ever shown! That year I could write a book about. What was so neat about the whole year was, Jesus was becoming real to me. He was proving to me that he was my friend and he would never let me down. No matter how low I am, He is the road I walk on. As I said in the beginning, being a Witness served its purpose. Now, finding Jesus and the Holy Spirit have made my worship complete. To accept people as they are without judging them...to be able to share and learn from one another...God has helped me to grow so much in these areas. Now, any trials that I have to go through, I know Jehovah and Jesus allow them. I know the moment I call, they are there for me. They are my strength, the Bible my sword.
Although God may not change the circumstances, He will change you so that the circumstances will work for you and not against you.
TRUST IN GOD (Luke 18:27) LEAN ON JESUS (John 3:36)
PERSEVERE IN PRAYER (Mark 11:24)
Testimony By Debbie (Reis) Young
I can honestly say now, at this point in my life, I really and truly love both Jehovah and Jesus more than I ever did before. I have learned so much moren the past two years about their undying love, that now when I think of how alone and unhappy I was, I’m so glad that I have them, even more every day. I have to admit that in the beginning I didn’t want a thing to do with any of this "Born-Again" stuff. But because of the constant love shown toward me and my family, I began to see that these people had a lot more than I have ever had and they were really happy and content with their lives and with just everything and everybody around them. This, I must say, changed my mind and this is when I allowed myself to really be open to them.
Actually before this happened, I was very unhappy and so fed up with my life that I was ready to leave my husband and take my baby and just make it on my own. I was so mixed up with everything going on in my life and in my family--my mom and my auntie being disfellowshipped from the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and just everything. I think I’ll start off by telling you everything (or almost everything) that led up to these feelings of being so unhappy and not knowing where to turn.
It started back when I was still at home, growing up and being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. I can honestly say now that if I wasn’t raised as one I think I’d be a lot worse off than I am today. But still it was hard. I knew I had the basics as far as being raised a Witness. For example, I can remember years of my mom and auntie getting all us kids up at 5:30 in the morning for a full half hour study of the Bible. It may seem like a short time to most people, but to eight kids just out of bed, it wasn’t fun. Then on Friday mornings we all went to my auntie’s house two blocks away and studied ahead for one of our meetings we had on Sundays, the Watchtower Study. Then on every Wednesday, all of us eight kids and our moms would go out in field service (house to house witnessing). We did all this and much more for years because we thought that if we did all these things, God would be happy with us and we would gain everlasting life. I can’t blame my mom for trying her best and just constantly pushing us. Now, being a mother myself and knowing what kids can do to you both mentally and physically, I’m amazed that she hung around as long as she has. We were four very active and strong-minded kids. But I think the only one who really gave her any real trouble was me. I hated everything she ever tried doing. Trying to raise me must have been like hell. I was doing things because I had to and this is where all the trouble began.
I was very rebellious and hated my parents and bucked them each inch of the way. Then when I became a teenager, it became worse-- I got even more rebellious. Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness teenager must be experienced to know what I mean when I say, it was really hard. We couldn’t do anything at all. We couldn’t get involved in sports, or have friends that weren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses or for that matter, go over to their house to play. I feel sorry for a lot of the Witness kids now because I know what they’re going through. If only they were allowed fellowship with other kids their age and at the same time raised to discern that right and wrongs and to be able to decide in their hearts what would be pleasing, not only to their parents but also to Jesus and Jehovah. I think this would make them feel that they’re being trusted and that they can make both a wise and unwise decision. If they had Jesus they would obviously do what’s right. O course this isn’t always true, but when they have fallen on their faces enough and finally realize that life isn’t a game, then they still have Jesus there.
Like a lot of Witness kids, I too got into lots of trouble--drugs, guys, and the wrong kind of friends. For me it was like I was lost and I didn’t have any friends. I was so sick of being pushed around and always being told what I had to do if I wanted to live. I just gave up and said, "Forget It!" The really sad thing about all this is I was still a member of the Witnesses and a baptized Witness. There was an elder and some strong sisters who knew everything I was involved in and the didn’t do or say anything to my parents or anyone else, so I felt as long as my parents don’t find out, I’ll have fun. To this day I really wish someone would have told my parents because I know my life would have been very different. But not one, not even that elder, did or said anything to anyone. These things must still be going on and it’s such a shame because kids lives could be so different if only someone would stand up and do something about it. But now I know that these people never wanted to get involved or be responsible for what was going to happen. I can say these things are still happening, because I still have several friends who are still Jehovah’s Witnesses that talk to me and rely on me for friendship, me...someone whom they’re not even supposed to associate with. I share with them about Jesus and how much He really loves them, no matter what. I can only hope they will really listen and let Jesus work on their hearts.
As far as my life as a Witness, I was just going through the motions and at the same time doing what was wrong. It didn’t mean anything to me. Then I remember a big turning point in my life. I also remember this one elder, Doug Warne, helping me. What later made such a big impression on me was how he really cared and loved me and I was able to feel that way by the way he handled my situation. He loved me so much that he put his own position as an elder on the line for me. If it was handled the other way with a big pow-wow meeting and everyone getting involved, it would have been the end for me. So this man’s love really changed me. Of course this mistake followed me for years and the results of it too. But because of the love he showed, I began thinking about Jehovah and Jesus a little more.
I still had big problems. My family life was falling apart because of a brother who had gotten disfellowshipped (the elder who had helped me). Both my auntie and my mom started to question the Organization. This is just not done, so they were sort of marked to be watched. Finally my auntie was disfellowshipped. I can remember feeling so much hate for all these people for breaking up my family. My auntie wanted to know things and questioned them over and over and they never once helped her with love or understanding. That was so funny to me because they always said they had all this love and yet they ignored her and said it wasn’t right to question the Organization. I remember us kids being so lost, not knowing what was going on and seeing our mothers so upset and hurt, to the point of tears. One time I was so frustrated with one elder, when my mom and auntie were talking to him, I told him off. His attitude was so haughty and self-righteous, I couldn’t stand it. Then I felt so bad about what I had said that I apologized. It hurt me so bad when this elder told me that my attitude was bad and I should pray for Jehovah’s forgiveness. So I never said that again.
Anyway, I really believed that Jesus had his plans for me even way back then when my life was so mixed up. I then got married in 1979. I really believed if I hadn’t gotten married when I did I would have eventually killed myself or lived a very sinful life. Being married saved me from a lot of things I was headed for. Jesus just knew how far to let me go. I was married while still being a Jehovah’s Witness. My husband was studying with my mom and was baptized as a Witness just to marry me. So he became more determined to get me back studying with the Witnesses. He just so happened to be working with one of the elders that had disfellowshipped my auntie, so I really hated it even more. Being the rebellious type, I bucked my husband and the elder all the way. I wanted to know why the Warne’s, my auntie, and my mom were so wrong. I was told that they were going against the Organization. At one time I can remember asking them, "And what is the Organization, God!"
My husband tried real hard. He even went to the meetings when I didn’t want to. I was just so fed up with these people who were so hypocritical and lied through their teeth, calling my friends and family "dogs." I just couldn’t see pretending to be something I wasn’t. This is when I started to listen to my mom. She hadn’t been disfellowshipped as of yet, but she was on her way. She was going to these meetings with my auntie and the Warne’s and she really liked it. She was so happy and she was starting to be a little nicer about the elders. She got disfellowshipped and continue going to these home meetings and I know her whole life changed as far as how she was. She started making excuses for the elders who kicked her out and she continually told me to have love for them and to try and understand they were doing their best. I just couldn’t believe it all. This was too much for me to take. Then my sister got disfellowshipped, and from a little brat, my sister became someone I didn’t even know. She was so sweet and she was really happy. She had nice friends and just seemed so different. Here all this was happening and I was still so miserable and unhappy. I just had to know why. A little at a time my mom would talk to me, not knowing much herself. She did all she could, which now I see was her love and understanding when I tried talking about all of this.
I just continued to listen to my mom and realized that each one of us can be just as happy, only if we really wanted to. All we really needed was Jesus to be a part of us and have Him deep in our hearts and have the same kind of Love that He has for each one of us. So I tried. I prayed so hard, because I really wanted to find this same happiness. Little did I know, things get worse before they get better. My husband gave me so much trouble, he wouldn’t let me go anywhere with my mom, or to any of the meetings she was going to. I know now it was because he was afraid of what I was getting into. So he bucked me and I bucked him and it went on and on. All the while I really wanted peace and I tried praying more and I couldn’t believe the results. A little at a time, he would let me talk to my mom and auntie without any fight and then, slowly he allowed me to attend a Bible study they were having. I was really beginning to change, I loved Jesus so much that it really began showing in my attitude and the way I was towards my husband, and he noticed it.
There were a couple of times that we were really in a financial bind, where we really needed help. Without any hesitation this Christian brother gave my husband and I $300.00, without any pay back time or anything. Both my husband and I were so impressed we could hardly believe it. I can honestly say that because of that, my husband really started to see that it wasn’t as bad as the Witnesses said it was. He told me, "They must really care a lot for us." Now I can see that it was their love in Jesus, knowing He gave his all, that they did the same. I mean not everyone gives away $300.00.
So I made up my mind, now that I had a baby, I was going to start taking my life more seriously. I did. I started reading the Bible, listening to what others had to say about God and Jesus, praying like I never did before. There was a lot that I didn’t agree with, but I had faith in Jesus that what He wanted me to learn, I would learn. I can remember myself wanting to learn more and more, and I would stop and think how wonderful it was to finally be happy, knowing that all along what I had needed was Jesus in me, to help me, and really WANTING to be helped. I really forgave all the elders and those people who really didn’t know what they were doing, and I don’t have any harsh feeling against any of them. I feel in Jesus’ own time he will bring all the Witnesses to Him.
The only thing we can do for the Witnesses is really show them we love them, letting them know we don’t hate them or despise them for what they did. Also letting them know that we do love both Jehovah and Jesus very much and all we want to do is please and serve them the best way we can.
I am not disfellowshipped, but I may as well be. My family is going through a hard time right now because my grandmother (who is a Jehovah’s Witness) can’t talk to my mother because she is disfellowshipped. I feel so sorry for the Witnesses because they are not allowed to follow their own feelings as far as what is right and wrong. She knows my mother hasn’t done anything wrong, but because the Organization says she can’t talk to her, she won’t. I just hope someday the Witness people will realize that they aren’t allowed to do anything on their own and one day will have the guts to ask, "why?" It’s not that I’m so glad to be out, I’m glad I’m able to see things through the eyes of Jesus and through His heart, not feeling guilty for anything I’ve ever done, but knowing that He has forgiven me and He loves me. That’s all I want, and I know there are so many more trials ahead for me and my family, but I’m determined to make both Jehovah and Jesus happy the same way they have made me and my family happy.
Observations by Leon Heibert, Pastor– Bayview Chapel, Kanawha, Hawaii
I am grateful for this opportunity to share with you some of God’s leading in my life the past few years. It is important to emphasize that our never-changing God can move in an endless variety of ways. The Bible says His mercies are new every morning.
To the Christians:
I trust these letters will be an encouragement to you to reach out to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Although the Bible instructs us to "study to show ourselves approved unto God...rightly dividing the Word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15) and we are to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that askth you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (I Peter 3:15), yet there is no place in the scripture that indicates any intellectual achievement required prior to our becoming witnesses. The promise is that "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses unto me." (Acts 1:8)
Often we in the Christian world have felt unqualified and intimidated witnessing to the Witnesses because we have not been trained in coming against their doctrines. Yet, there are none more qualified than those who have themselves been born-again and filled with the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, many who "have been trained" rely on their knowledge of doctrine rather than the leading of the Holy Spirit in their witnessing. This does not mean that this training is useless or totally unfruitful for God’s Word "will not return void." However, many times witnessing on the basis of the "training" is really only mental encounters, which accomplish little or nothing. (We need to read and apply I Corinthians 2.) Remember, that which comes from the head reaches the head, but that which comes from the heart, reaches the heart.
In witnessing to unsaved people around me, I like to ask the question, "Do you know about Jesus, or do you really know Jesus?" Those who have met Christ as Lord and Savior readily understand that it is much more important to know Him than to know about him (John 17:3) It seems strange to me that often we want the Jehovah Witnesses to be able to know everything about Jesus before getting to know Him personally. Once they have met Jesus, the Spirit of God within them will be much more able to teach them about Jesus than you or I will ever be able to do before they have accepted Him.
To those involve in leadership:
When Doug and Joan first started attending Bayview Chapel, I felt very honored that the Holy Spirit would direct them our way. Their doctrine because a matter of much concern and prayer. I knew I was responsible to them, to help them walk in truth; I was also responsible to the body, to keep them from error. The Holy Spirit spoke so clearly to my heart from Matthew 16:13-17. When Christ asked His disciples, "Who do men say I the Son of man am?" He received many answers. However, when He asked, "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter’s immediate response was, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." The response of Jesus to that answer relieved of much fear, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Peter’s confession of Christ was not brought about by a lot of mental wrestling, or even by the review of the mighty acts of Jesus, but by revelation of the Father in heaven! How relieved I was! If I would be faithful to allow the Spirit freedom to move in our services, if I would be faithful to "preach the Word," if I would be faithful to share with these new Christians what the Spirit laid on my heart, if I would be faithful to love them-- Jehovah God, by His Spirit, would be faithful to reveal the truth of Jesus in their hearts. Many times, as I see those of Jehovah Witness background (and many other backgrounds also) sitting in the congregation, I know they are hungry, I know they have needs I can never meet in my own strength. I feel like a little boy with a sack lunch--just a few loaves of fish. But I serve a God who has a way with sack lunches!
For a while, I was under pressure to confront these "Watchtower doctrines," and even gave in to that pressure for a short time. It all seemed so reasonable, but it was so dead! One Sunday morning, God faithfully spoke to me again, this time through my own sermon. I was preaching on the various names of Jesus in John, chapter 1. Verse 45 tells of Phillip telling Nathanael of "Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." However, in verse 49, where Nathanael meets Jesus, he calls out, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, the King of Israel." Why didn’t Nathanael cry out, "Rabbi, thou art Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph?" I was quickened in my heart, even as I was preaching, that his understanding was given by the Spirit of God as Nathanael was speaking to Jesus. Once again, the Lord was saying to me, "Lift Me up, bring them to Me, I’ll show them who I am!" Joy and relief flooded my soul as I released the "burden of proof" to Him!
To Jehovah’s Witnesses
What can I say to you? Since coming to know these who have written these letters, my heart is full of love for you. You don’t come to my door, but I pray for you as I see you walking through our neighborhood.
Perhaps I can leave some thoughts for your consideration. John 3:16 NWT says, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life." God didn’t send His son to die to become your boss or to ask master. Love is not fulfilled in service, but in relationship. If anyone knew Jehovah’s name, it was Jesus, yet He always spoke to him as "Father." And that is how He taught us to pray. Why? I believe it is because the Father is interested in relationship.
How does one enter into this relationship? Ephesians 2:8,9 NWT "By this undeserved kindness indeed, you have been saved through faith; and this is not owing to you, it is God’s gift. No, it is not owing to works, in order that no man should boast."
The forgiveness of sins that brings us into relationship with the Holy One is freely offered to us. God’s approval clearly does not come on the grounds of how much I do, but how much I trust! Those who have realized this loving relationship offered to them by God, have accepted the fact that their works cannot save them. Of course, they will keep on working, but it is not out of a desire of recognition (even by God), or a fear of disapproval, but it becomes a labor of love where no thought is taken of effort or time.
If we go door-to-door, we’ll talk about God’s love expressed through Jesus and we will be so full of that love, that we’ll keep on talking about this great love, even when we’re through the door-to-door time. We will read the assigned areas of the Bible, but we will be so much in love with the Author, that we’ll want to keep on reading His Word. (Where do you stop reading a love letter?)
I would leave you with a question, the same question I’ve asked people from every religious background, "Do you know Jehovah, or just know about Him?" He did not send His Son Jesus to make you a part of some grand scheme or system, but because He wants a living relationship with you.
If there is any way that I can help you, I (as well as the others who have written to you) would like to make myself available to you.