.: THE TESTIMONY OF ALLISON
My parents raised me as a Jehovah’s Witness. As early as four years old, I can remember attending the meetings and going out in field service door to door. Our family times consisted of weekly Bible studies using the publications of the Watchtower Society.
My mother’s parents were considered “apostates,” so I wasn’t allowed to have a relationship with them. I was taught to believe that they were evil because they left “the truth” (Watchtower) after the 1975 prophecy. My grandfather had given up his business and had lived a simple life in preparation for the end, so when it did not come, he and his wife left in disillusionment.
When I was 5 years old, we moved to a location where I made a lot of friends and enjoyed meeting new people. At 8 years old, my father pushed me into becoming a publisher. So, not wanting to displease my father or Jehovah, I agreed and gave my first talk on the platform.
My father was very pushy when it came to theocratic activities because he was the Presiding Overseer of the congregation. As his children, we were required to make him look good. He wanted us to give our all to Jehovah by faithfully serving the organization. If we didn’t, he told us that we would be judged in the battle of Armageddon that was “right around the corner.”
My father worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week as a postman with little pay. Then, he came home and collected “time” (the hours each Witness spent in door to door activity) from the congregation. He had a lot of paper work, duties and talks that he was required to give in addition to working fulltime and taking care of his family. So we didn’t have much of a relationship with him. Rather, our relationship was based upon fear: Fear of displeasing him, fear of stressing him, etc.
I remember having frightening nightmares about Armageddon as a child. People were dying in my dreams right in front of me and I never felt like I was good enough. I always felt that I would be among the ones that were burned alive by Jehovah. When I was 11, my father pushed me to get baptized. I spent my whole summer studying and memorizing the questions for baptism. At the end of summer, I answered the questions in front of a small panel of elders and was baptized into the organization on August 8, 1998. I was told that this was the most important day of my life.
However as a teenager, I was very troubled emotionally. I didn’t have much of a relationship with my parents because they were more loyal to the congregation then they were to their children. My oldest sister was disfellowshipped when I was 16, and I lost a lot of friends when this happened. The Witnesses began to shun me as if I was the one who had been disfellowshipped. Some of my closest friends stopped calling me and talking to me at conventions. I fell into depression and turned to an older friend of my father for help.
In a year, my sister was reinstated and we were a reunited as a family again. However, the Witnesses never treated my sister the same way they had before she was disfellowshipped. I felt so sorry for her, but I committed to faithfully going out in service. I felt I was finally on the right track again. I was invited to participate in the Assembly meetings and the dramas of the District Convention. I was so proud of myself! But people still gossiped, judged, and stared at me. I could sense their fake pretenses despite their cordial greetings.
I still didn’t feel right as a Jehovah’s Witness. As I grew older, I was called into a lot of elders’ meetings in which they interrogated me about my personal life and asked me uncomfortable questions about sex. I felt “exposed” as a young girl in a way that would be illegal in the real world.
To get away from my congregation, I began to take Spanish lessons at another congregation and was required to join it after the lessons were done. But I soon discovered that this was a big mistake too. I felt alone in this new congregation. The Spanish brothers and sisters were nice, but the English speaking ones were very judgmental of me and rude. The congregation gossiped about me a lot. Finally, I decided to leave this congregation and go back to the English one.
When I made friends outside the organization, the elders counseled me on the problem of having “worldly association.” But I still secretly remained friends with my non-Jehovah’s Witness associates. I found more joy with these friends than I did in the congregation. They made me feel accepted, loved, and wanted. When I fell into another depression, I left the Witnesses completely. Although I lost my Jehovah’s Witness family and friends, I was able to establish relationships with “worldly people” who cared about me.
I have recently gotten married to one of my non-Jehovah’s Witness friends and announced it to my family. My mother sent me an email that said I was a “disgrace” in Jehovah’s eyes. She said that this marriage is against Jehovah’s law and that “this home” does not belong to me. She also said it is “selfish” for me to send her emails that say: “I love you and I miss you.” She claimed that I tore my family apart and she ended her email with: “I hope my baby will come back to the truth. I know it will happen.” So, I sent her an email right back saying:
“…even if I was homeless, had no job, car, money, family, friends, etc., I wouldn’t in a million years go back to Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
I cried a lot after I left my family. I feel as if I was deprived of a normal childhood. I always envy those families that are close and have a good relationship no matter what. But I realize how much my family wants nothing to do with me, and I’m ok with that. Besides, my husband’s family has shown unconditional love and acceptance of me. They are my REAL family. I still believe in God. I still pray to Him and no one can take that away from me.
This post is also available in: Spanish