Year Born: 1968
Country of origin: United States
History: Business executive who prayed to get rich
I was raised as a Catholic in Rochester, New York. My parents separated when I was eight years old. So I lived weekdays with my mother in a modest housing project and weekends with my father in an affluent neighborhood. When I saw how my mother struggled to raise six children, I dreamed of helping my family by becoming rich.
My father wanted me to succeed in life, so he arranged for me to visit a respected hotel management school. I loved it and enrolled, thinking God was answering my prayer to become rich and happy. I studied hotel administration, business law, and corporate finance for five years while working at a casino hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
At the age of 22, I was the assistant vice president of a casino hotel. I was considered wealthy and successful, often enjoying the best foods and the most expensive wines and liquors. My business friends would say, “Stay focused on what really makes the world turn—money.” In their view, money was the secret to true happiness.
My work involved catering to the very wealthy who came to Las Vegas to gamble. Even though they were wealthy, they seemed unhappy. I began to feel unhappy too. In fact, the more money I made, the more anxiety and sleepless nights I had. I began to wonder if I should continue living. Disillusioned with my way of life, I turned to God, asking him, “Where can I find true happiness?”
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE
About that time, two of my sisters who had become Jehovah’s Witnesses moved to Las Vegas. Although I refused to accept their literature, I did agree to read my personal Bible with them. In my Bible, Jesus’ words were printed in red. Because I accepted everything Jesus said, my sisters focused on his words. I also read the Bible on my own.
Many things I read surprised me. For example, Jesus said: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7, The New American Bible) Yet, a priest had given me a picture of Jesus and had said that if I prayed to the picture, reciting ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys, God would give me whatever amount of money I needed. But by repeating the same words over and over, was I not babbling? I also read Jesus’ words: “Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9, NAB) So I also wondered, ‘Why do I and my fellow Catholics call our priests “Father”?’
It was when I read the Bible book of James that I really began to think twice about my worldly success. In chapter 4, James wrote: “Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4, NAB) I was even more struck by verse 17: “For one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin.” I then called my sisters and told them that I was quitting the casino-hotel industry because it involved things I no longer found acceptable, including gambling and greed.
“It was when I read the Bible book of James that I really began to think twice about my worldly success”
I wanted to improve my relationship with God as well as with my parents and siblings. So I decided to make the needed time by simplifying my life. But making the adjustments was not easy. For example, I received tempting offers to move further up in the casino-hotel business and earn double or triple my salary. But after praying about the matter, I decided that this life was not for me. I left my job, moved into my mother’s garage, and started a small business laminating restaurant menus.
Although the Bible had helped me to set better priorities, I still would not go to meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My sisters asked what I had against the Witnesses. I replied: “It is because your God, Jehovah, separates families. The only time I can dedicate to the family is on Christmas and birthdays, and you do not celebrate those holidays.” One of my sisters started to cry and asked me: “Where are you the other days of the year? We have open arms to receive you. But you only want to come on those holidays—and only out of obligation.” Her words went straight to my heart, and I began to cry with her.
Once I understood how much Jehovah’s Witnesses loved their families—and how wrong I was—I decided to attend one of their meetings at the local Kingdom Hall. There I met Kevin, an experienced Bible teacher who began to study the Bible with me.
Kevin and his wife lived a balanced, simple life in order to spend as much time as possible helping others to understand the Bible. Their income also covered the extra they needed to travel to Africa and Central America, where they helped to build branches for the Witnesses. They were very happy, and they loved each other. I thought, ‘This kind of life is my dream.’
Kevin showed me a video about the joys of missionary service, and I decided that this was what I wanted to do. In 1995, after studying the Bible intensely for six months, I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instead of asking God for wealth, I began to pray: “Give me neither poverty nor riches.”—Proverbs 30:8.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED
I am now truly rich—not financially, but spiritually. I met my lovely wife, Nuria, in Honduras, and together we have served as missionaries in Panama and Mexico. How true are the Bible’s words: “It is the blessing of Jehovah that makes one rich, and He adds no pain with it”!—Proverbs 10:22.