• YEAR BORN: 1954

  • COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Philippines

  • HISTORY: Estranged from abusive father

MY PAST

Many tourists visit the famous waterfalls near the town of Pagsanjan in the Philippines. There, my father, Nardo Leron, grew up in poverty. Upon seeing the corruption in government, the police force, and his workplace, he became bitter and angry.

My parents worked hard to raise their eight children. They often stayed away from home for long periods, looking after crops in the mountains. Frequently, my brother Rodelio and I had to look after ourselves, and we were often hungry. As children, we had little opportunity for play. Starting at age seven, each of us children had to work on a plantation, carrying heavy loads of coconuts along steep mountain tracks. If a load was too heavy to lift, we were forced to drag it.

We had to endure our father’s beatings, but it was more painful to see him beat our mother. We tried to stop him, but we were helpless. Rodelio and I secretly agreed to kill our father when we got older. How I longed for a father who loved us!

Frustrated and angry because of my father’s violence, I left home when I was 14 years old. For a while I lived on the streets, and I started using marijuana. Eventually, I worked as a boatman, taking tourists to the waterfalls.

A few years later, I began university studies in Manila. But because I traveled back to Pagsanjan to work on weekends, I had little time for study. My life seemed like a pointless treadmill, and marijuana no longer dulled my anxiety. I started to experiment with methamphetamines, cocaine, and heroin. Drugs and sexual immorality went hand in hand. I was surrounded by poverty, injustice, and suffering. I hated the government and held it responsible. I asked God, “Why is life like this?” But I found no answers in the different religions that I investigated. I took more drugs to smother my despair.

In 1972, students in the Philippines organized protests against the government. I joined in one of those protests, and it turned violent. Many people were arrested, and months later, martial law was declared throughout the country.

I ended up on the streets again, this time in fear of the authorities because of my part in the rebellion. To support my drug habit, I resorted to stealing and, finally, to providing immoral services for rich people and foreigners. I didn’t care if I lived or died.

Meanwhile, my mother and younger brother had begun studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. My father was furious, and he burned their Bible literature. But they both persevered and were baptized as Witnesses.

One day, a Witness spoke to my father about the Bible’s promise of a future when true justice would be established earth wide. (Psalm 72:12-​14) This prospect appealed to my father so much that he decided to investigate for himself. In the Bible, he found not only God’s promise of a fair government but also God’s requirements for husbands and fathers. (Ephesians 5:​28; 6:4) A short time later, he and all my other siblings became Witnesses. Far from home, I was not aware of any of this.

HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE

In 1978, I moved to Australia. But even in this peaceful and affluent country, I could find no peace of mind. My alcohol and drug habit continued. Later that year, Jehovah’s Witnesses visited me. I liked what they showed me in the Bible about a peaceful earth, but I was wary of getting involved with them.

Shortly after this, I returned to the Philippines for a few weeks. My siblings told me that our father had worked hard to become a better person, but my heart was so bitter that I tried to avoid any contact with him.

My younger sister explained to me from the Bible why life is so full of suffering and injustice. I was amazed that a teenage girl with little experience could have the answers to my questions. Before I left, my father gave me the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth. * He said: “Stop running. This book will help you find what you are looking for.” He urged me to find Jehovah’s Witnesses back in Australia.

I followed my father’s advice and found a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses near my home in Brisbane. I agreed to a regular Bible study. Bible prophecies like those in Daniel chapter 7 and Isaiah chapter 9 showed me that God’s government, which is completely free of corruption, will rule over us in the future. I learned that we will enjoy Paradise conditions on the earth. I wanted to be acceptable to God, but I realized that I would have to control my emotions, stop abusing drugs and alcohol, and end my promiscuous lifestyle. I separated from the girl I was living with, and I broke free from my addictions. As my trust in Jehovah grew, I prayed for his help to make other changes.

Gradually, it dawned on me that what I was learning really could transform a person. The Bible says that with effort, we can put on a “new personality.” (Colossians 3:​9, 10) As I tried to do this, I realized that what I had heard about my father’s changing his personality just might be true. Instead of feeling anger and hostility, I wanted to make peace with him. Finally, I forgave my father and let go of the hatred I had harbored since childhood.

HOW I HAVE BENEFITED

As a young man, I often followed others into destructive or harmful behavior. The Bible’s warning proved true in my case​—bad associates led me astray. (1 Corinthians 15:33) But I’ve made trustworthy friends among Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they have helped me become a better person. Also among them I met my wonderful wife, Loretta. Together, we teach others how the Bible can help them.

Sharing a meal with my wife and friends

Thanks to the Bible, I saw my father become what I thought he could never be​—a loving husband to my mother and a humble, peace-loving Christian. When we met up after I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1987, my father hugged me for the first time in my life!

For over 35 years, my father continued to work alongside my mother, sharing the Bible’s hope with others. He became a diligent and caring man who was known for helping people. During those years, I learned to respect and love him. I felt proud to be known as his son! He passed away in 2016, but I think of him very fondly, knowing that he and I both made great changes in our personality as we applied the Bible’s teachings. Not a trace of my former hatred remains. And I am so grateful to have found my heavenly Father, Jehovah God, who promises to end all causes of distress in families everywhere.

^ par. 20 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses but now out of print.