This story began as an email to a gentleman newly out of the Watchtower and into Christ’s arms. It has been adapted and edited here:
My wife, Joan, and I have been ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses since the mid 1980s.
Joan was virtually born into it, and my mother converted to it when I was nine. We met doing “rooming work” for the 1969 international convention held in New York City that year. Both families are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
We married in 1970 and moved to rural North Carolina “where the need was greater” to continue “pioneering” as we did in New York. (We first heard about “1975”* and the “New World” at the 1966 district convention, and that gave the Jehovah’s Witnesses even more reason to continue to discourage higher education.**)
In North Carolina, Joan’s health deteriorated, probably due to us living on an $8.00 per week food budget, and after a year there, we moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, where my wife had relatives. We were still “true believers” and at 21 years old, I started working 40 hours a week for the first time in my life. Making $3.25 an hour, it felt like we were rich! LOL!
Although 1975 came and went with no New World, we continued on, struggling like everyone else with no education.
The big change in our lives began in the early 80s when Joan’s father died. Of course, he was never supposed to die. We were supposed to live forever on a “paradise earth” before the “1914 generation” passed away.*** Joan was devastated and became extremely angry and bitter.
Even though other Jehovah’a Witnesses still died through the years, this was the first instance of a family member’s death, and that made it personal enough to start questioning why certain things she read in the Bible didn’t seem to jive with what we were told to believe.
I began reading some old Watchtower publications in order to become “more spiritual.” One of these, The Harp of God, opened my eyes to “other dates” that predicted “the end” similar to 1975. Now I saw a track record, that we were lied to, and that the “organization” was a sham.
I sent in my letter of resignation in 1984, knowing full well I would be shunned by both my wife’s family, who lived right across the street, and my own, all Jehovah’s Witnesses. Joan sent away for information exposing the Watchtower and we began to further uncover this cult that had ruined our lives. (Joan held off sending her letter in until 1989, giving her some time to try and get her family out.)
Around this time, our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with a type of kidney disease …
… that is not normally cured. We were looking at eventual dialysis at best, and the obvious total kidney failure, at worst.
Compounding the stress, Joan’s family wanted to take our girls with them to the kingdom hall, which of course I objected to. My oldest daughter, Isabelle, pleaded “can’t we just read the Bible as a family?” I had been so disgusted with the Jehovah’s Witnesses that I had thrown out the proverbial baby with the bath water and wanted nothing to do with God, religion, etc.
I said okay, and we began reading from the Gospel of John. Amazingly, almost right from the beginning, our eyes were being opened to things the Bible really taught, as opposed to what the Watchtower taught. Even with a totally deceiving mistranslation like the New World Translation, the Holy Spirit began opening our eyes.
We read Jesus’ words in John 14:13, 14 “if you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” We stopped reading and Joan asked me if I believed that. My answer was yes. We then both prayed to God about Elizabeth’s kidney disease, which is a dramatic story in and of itself.
Long story short is that Elizabeth went into remission, baffling the doctors. This just never happens normally. Today she is a healthy follower of Jesus, as we all are. It is a testimony that Jesus still works miracles, especially when one is at a crossroads where it becomes an eternal salvation issue and one puts his faith and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Our knowledge at the time was primitive and would take years to build on, but the base was set back there with our faith.
Perhaps the biggest eye-opening experience for us as new believers was when we visited Ray and Marilyn Marsh, local ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who were in the Watchtower Organization for 50 years before Jesus set them free! There was so much stuff we were learning that it was almost overwhelming to us. We were learning that we, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, had been wrong on just about everything!
It is virtually impossible to preach to family members who shun,
… so we decided that allowing them to observe our Christian conduct along with lots of prayers would be the way over time to win them back into our lives. Remember, our families viewed us a being “from the devil,” and expected us to act accordingly. We wanted to show them differently.
With lots of prayers answered, Joan can now talk to some of her local family members. Some are still fanatical Jehovah’s Witnesses and won’t acknowledge our existence, some are “garbage can Jehovah’s Witnesses,” meaning they are living secular lives but still believe they have “the truth,” even though they couldn’t explain from the Bible what they believe in.
Others are ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, occasionally attending church, but are tied up in material pursuits. We planted seeds with them and pray for God to make them grow. My wife does have one sister who is a believer!
My family, because of not being local, shunned me for 27 years. Only until my father died a few years ago did they attempt to make contact with me. My mother, my brothers and their families are all neighbors to each other.
One brother’s family are ex-Jehovah Witnesses, but secular, and don’t want to hear anything about Jesus. They are looking for a political solution to man’s problems, not to God’s prophetic solution. Another brother’s family are still Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I’m not sure how well they could defend their “faith.”
My mother is still a Jehovah’s Witness. The only reason she talks with us is probably due to guilt. After all, she’s been talking to my ex-Jehovah’s Witness brother for countless years. He definitely couldn’t defend his beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness, but “at least he left quietly.” I had to go and formally resign! That’s right! I took my stand as a Jehovah’s Witness, and now I take my stand as a Christian!
Joan and I are currently enjoying fellowship and Bible study with two fellow believers.
They’ve many things in common with us: Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, comparable ages, grew up in same general area, married around same time, and the husband and I had to retire due to physical ailments. But most important of all is we’re all on fire for the Lord! I’m not disabled, but sitting for long stretches, like taking trips, can take its toll on my back.
It is encouraging to share our stories and experiences. I can tell you this from what I’ve learned: Unlike the Jehovah’s Witnesses where everyone was forced to believe the exact same stuff and not question anything when it changes the next day, God’s Word never changes.
Salvation comes from faith and not an encyclopedia’s amount of knowledge.
… Having said that, it is still lots of fun to learn from God’s Word as much as possible. Yes, there are the basics one must know in order to be sure we’re worshipping the right Jesus and not some New Age impostor who claims to be Jesus.
But I learned that on non-salvation issues, the Bible doesn’t always give all the details we want to know. That’s okay. We’ll have eternity to fill in the vague areas. It was refreshing to see that believers can have differences on minor points and still be believers. No one knows it all and no ministry will necessarily agree 100% of the time with what we believe because man has a tendency to sometimes wander off the path.
Our faith is in God and not man, so we must pray for wisdom and discernment lest we wander too. We’re all capable of unintentionally misleading others, so we must check on everything we hear like the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). Not a day goes by where I’m not learning something that was always right there in the Bible, but the Holy Spirit brought it to my attention. That’s why being on fire for the Lord is way more fun than being lukewarm.
Instead of door-to-door “preaching,” my wife, I, and my two daughters plant seeds in our own unique little circles of influence. We are not under pressure to “close the deal.” That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. We just ask to be used in whatever way God sees fit. It might be the initial time one hears the Gospel, or it may be further down the line. He will lead us to those He wants us to cross paths with. He’s in control as these occur so often as to not be just coincidences.
Your brother in Christ,
* Awake! Volume XLIX, Number 19, October 8, 1968, pp. 14-16 strongly suggests the year 1975 as the end of “this system of things” (but does not outright claim this date like previous dates, such as 1914) in an article entitled “What will the 1970’s Bring?” After laying out the chronology of “6,000 full years of human history,” they state, “That seven-year period will evidently finish in the autumn of the year 1975.”
** ibid, pp. 27-29, “What Will It Cost You?” discusses “The end of this wicked system is approaching rapidly.” (29) It says that the investment of time earning a living or in homemaking “does not lead toward eternal life because even ungodly persons do as much.” (28) And this in a magazine aimed at the public more so than at the rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses.
*** ibid, “What will the 1970’s Bring?,” pp. 13-14, states, “Jesus said that the end of this wicked world would come before that generation passed away to death.”