Born and raised Jehovah’s Witness, Stephen was tired of being “different” from the rest of the kids at school. Acting out at school and rebelling at home, Stephen was kicked out of the house and disfellowshipped from the Kingdom Hall at 18 years of age. Losing his Jehovah’s Witness family, he turned to drugs, sex and alcohol, had 2 children out of wedlock, one dying from SIDS before he was 21 years of age. Divorced and remarried at 25, Stephen was reinstated as a Witness, but continued to engage in sinful behavior behind the “Brothers’” backs. Life was a mess and he knew he needed God in his life, so he turned to Jesus Christ and found unexplainable joy and peace!
I was born in 1977 and raised as a Jehovah’s Witnesses until I left at 18 years old. From a very early age, my mother taught me to recite Scripture from memory. When I was 6 years old, she married my stepfather who soon became an elder and required all of us children to become examples for the congregation. Oh, how we studied and studied those years to prove ourselves! God was never real to me. It was only how I was perceived by others in the congregation that mattered.
At 8 years old, I joined the Theocratic Ministry School, consistently commented at the meetings and was out in field service EVERY Saturday morning. But at 13 or 14 years of age, the need to be accepted by the “worldly kids” led me to rebel and lash out at school. I never rebelled violently, but I was tired of being different, and made fun of at school. So, I began to live the “double life” as they called it.
About a week before we were to visit Bethel (Watchtower headquarters) on a family vacation, I spent the night with one of my friends from the Kingdom Hall. His father was an elder as well, but we attended different congregations. Well, I admit it was my idea, but we snuck out of the house late that night and tried to steal cigarettes from an all night grocery store. You guessed it. We got caught! They didn’t call the police, but they called our parents! I can’t tell you how sorry I was, not for stealing, but because I got caught; not that I sinned against God, but that I was going to have to live with the fact I had disgraced my family, and stood the chance of being “disfellowshipped.” Well, the trip to Bethel was not fun to say the least. I had to ride from Georgia to New York knowing that because of me and my disgraceful actions, my stepfather was going to have to step down as an elder.
I did have to go before the dreaded “Judicial Committee” of the Kingdom Hall as did the other kid, but I was “Publicly Reproved,” while his ended up being private. WHAT?! I couldn’t believe the injustice of that and the guilt, shame, and humiliation I had to endure! People in the congregation quit talking to me. They would deliberately make eye contact with me and then not speak to me. Why was my reproof public and his private? Hatred begin to grow inside of me.
At this point, I really began to lash out violently at school, damaging school property, smoking, cussing, etc. So, my parents pulled me out of public school and home schooled me. For a little while, my attitude changed. I became a “Regular Auxiliary Pioneer,” and put in well over the 60 hours required at that time for that title. It was a way for me to get out of schoolwork, get away from my parents, and look good in the congregation. Well, it worked for a while, but then I quit pioneering to get a job.
I worked at a country club that sometimes required me to work late at night. I started calling my parents and lying to them about working late so that I could go to an all-night nightclub for all ages. You guessed it. I eventually got caught! This was MAJOR trouble at home. My stepfather told me how big of a disgrace I was, and my mother joined in with him. I was furious! He told me he didn’t want me living there anymore. I was 17 at this time, and state law said they couldn’t kick me out, but I could leave and they could not stop me. So, I left and moved in with three girls and their mother.
I quit going to the Kingdom Hall and was introduced to drugs, alcohol, and sex. I was disfellowshipped at 18. I had been 19 years old for 2 months when my first child was born, 20 years old when my second child as born, 21 when my 2nd child died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and I was never married to the mother. Until my son died, my family had nothing to do with me or my children. They did rally around me for a short time when my son died, but no Jehovah’s Witness “Brothers” would give the talk at my son’s funeral because I was disfellowshipped. I was working at an adult entertainment club at the time.
Soon after this, you could say my family went “bye-bye.” When I was 23 years of age, I married a girl in her sister’s home, hoping my parents would come. Not a chance. My mother did try to study with her to get her into Jehovah’s Witnesses, but nothing ever became of it. We were still drinking heavily, using drugs, and not really interested. Our divorce was final in less than a year, and in less than 2 months after that, I was remarried again.
At the age of 25, I quit doing drugs but was still a heavy drinker. When I got custody of my firstborn child, I really began to miss my family. So, I began going to the Kingdom Hall and got reinstated as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now at this time, I was still getting drunk every night, smoking cigarettes, cussing, going to night clubs, watching “R” rated movies, lying. Oh, the list goes on and on, but I was let back in to “God’s Organization” in spite of all of this that I was doing behind everyone’s back. I never understood this. My stepfather had always told me that when someone got disfellowshipped, it was Jehovah who did it, not the brothers. If this were true, how did Jehovah let me back in to the organization? This puzzled me but I was getting what I wanted, fellowship with my family again.
Although I felt guilty around my mother for living the way I was and lying about it, I did not feel guilty enough to tell her. I had only being active at the Hall for 2 months when, wouldn’t you know it, I got in trouble again; this time it was with a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) that even made the newspapers! The Brothers at the local congregation called me and demanded that I come in and talk to them. I stalled as long as I could, and finally told them I was moving 70 miles away, but they still insisted that before I moved, I was to come in and meet with them. They even brought the “Circuit Overseer” over to my home to talk to me. I had to hide in my own house! This was getting serious so I called one of the elders and told them:
“Look, when I get to were I am going, I’ll take care of this with the brothers there.”
Of course, I never had any intention of doing that. I wasn’t even planning to be going to the Kingdom Hall. But even with this excused, they urged me to come in to talk to them before I left. I refused because I knew they wanted to disfellowship me and I wasn’t going to let that happen and loose my family again.
Well, I ended up moving one block down the street from where my stepsister lived. They were so happy that I had moved closer to them, and now they could take my oldest daughter with them to the Kingdom Hall. I didn’t mind that she wanted to go to get away from the madness at home. She went for about 6 months, joined the Theocratic Ministry School at age 9, gave her first talk, and I was there to see it. I was so proud of her and the fact that she was a child who wanted to live her life for Jehovah, something that I couldn’t do. I told her she was my hero!
Well, during the time she was going to the Hall, she missed her brother’s birthday, her own birthday, her sister’s birthday, and Thanksgiving. Then, about 2 weeks before Christmas of 2007, she came to me and said:
“Daddy, I don’t want to be different anymore. I want to celebrate the holidays, and if you’re not going to make it through Armageddon, I don’t want to live without you.”
I cannot put in to words how this made me feel, but I told her that if she didn’t want to go to the Hall, I was not going to make her. The last thing I wanted to do was to force her to go because I didn’t want her to follow my path, and go through what I did. I did tell her that I wanted her to tell my mother, and she did. Man, Oh, man! You would of thought I was a mass murderer or something. They asked:
“How can you let her make that decision? This is her everlasting life you’re playing with!”
My family and my mother decided not speak to me anymore. I was so angry because of this! So, further in to “the bottle” I dove. On February 8th, 2008, I was sitting at work and I realized the reason I was so miserable was because I didn’t have God in my life. My wife never supported me in being a Jehovah’s Witness. I had to find something to show her, to make her see that we needed to be in “God’s organization” to be happy.
Now, we didn’t have the Internet at home, (trying to save money). I had it at work, but with all the spy ware most of the sites were blocked. We had the “intranet” (a private organizational computer network) and on my homepage I had a “word of the day” that would take me to a dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia. So, I typed in “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and three websites came up. One of those sites was this site: 4jehovah.org.
I thought WOW a Jehovah’s Witness has made a website. Surely, I could find something in there that I could take home to my wife. I was not supposed to be able to look at the site, but wouldn’t you know it, Jesus opened that website for me! I couldn’t believe what I saw. I knew I should not have been looking at that, but I couldn’t stop. When I saw the information on there concerning the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society backing the United Nations, I could not believe my eyes. I cried and cried and cried. I saw that everything I was taught was a LIE! All that I had been through could have been avoided.
On Feb. 13, 2008, I entered a church for the first time, and met with a pastor. As I sat with him and shared my story, again I was in tears, crying like a baby. He asked me if he could pray for me and I agreed. Oh, the peace I felt come over me, the joy I felt from finally being brought into the Light of Jesus Christ. It is the most wonderful feeling ever!
My mother passed away 16 days later while on a cruise. I was devastated. I never got to share any of this with her, to tell her the truth. I must admit that I regret not being able to share the true Gospel with her, but there is nothing that can compare with the joy I have with Christ!
I was baptized on May 4, 2008 and my oldest daughter was baptized on August 24, 2008. We found our church home here in Georgia, and I’ve even been able to teach a Sunday School class on the differences between the Jehovah’s Witness Jesus and the Jesus of the Bible. My family life has gotten better at home with my wife. The Lord Jesus has taken away my desire for alcohol, and I have been filled with the Holy Spirit, Who is opening the Scriptures to me like I have never seen them before.
I thank Jesus everyday for rescuing me from certain death, and calling me to Him. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, now and forever more, my Source of Life! I finally, after 31 years, can join the apostle John and say “Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus”—Revelation 22:20