Year Born: 1962
Country of Origin: United States
History: Devoted to martial arts
The injury to my sparring partner was much greater than I expected. I had accidentally kicked him in the nose. I felt guilty and started wondering if I should continue with martial arts. Why would this mistake move me to question a sport that I had passionately pursued for many years? First, let me explain how I got involved with martial arts.
I grew up near Buffalo, New York, U.S.A., in a peaceful and devout Catholic family. I attended Catholic schools and served as an altar boy. My parents wanted my sister and me to succeed in life. Therefore, they let me play after-school sports or work part-time, provided that I got good grades at school. This forced me to develop self-discipline at an early age.
When I was 17 years old, I started studying martial arts. For many years, I trained three hours a day, six days a week. Each week, I also spent many hours mentally rehearsing techniques and movements and watching videos on how to improve. I enjoyed practicing while blindfolded, even when training with weapons. I could break boards or bricks with one blow of my hand. I achieved rankings and won trophies in competitions. Martial arts became the most important thing in my life.
I achieved what I thought was success. I graduated from university with high honors. I worked for a major company as a computer systems engineer. I enjoyed company benefits, owned a house, and had a girlfriend. My life looked great on the surface, but I had perplexing questions about life.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE
To find answers to my questions, I started attending church twice a week and praying to God for help. Then, one day a conversation with a friend changed my life. “Have you ever wondered why we are here?” I asked, adding: “There are so many problems and there is so much injustice!” He told me that he had asked similar questions and had found very satisfying answers in the Bible. He gave me a book entitled You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth. a He explained that he had been studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. At first, I hesitated because I thought that I should not read literature from a religion other than my own. However, my desire to know the answers to my questions moved me to see if what the Witnesses taught made sense.
I was amazed to find out what the Bible really teaches. I learned that God’s original purpose was for humans to live forever in a paradise on earth and that God’s purpose had not changed. (Genesis 1:28) It astonished me to see God’s name, Jehovah, in my own copy of the King James version of the Bible and to learn that this was the name that I had been praying about when I recited the Lord’s Prayer. (Psalm 83:18; Matthew 6:9) Also, I finally understood why God is temporarily permitting human suffering. Everything I learned made so much sense! I was thrilled.
I will never forget how I felt when I first started attending the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Everyone was friendly and wanted to know my name. At my first meeting, a special public talk was presented about prayers that are heard by God. That theme interested me, since I had been praying to God for help. Next, I attended the Memorial of Jesus’ death. At these meetings it amazed me to see even children following along in the Bible as scriptures were read. Initially, I did not know how to find scriptures, but the Witnesses were very helpful and taught me how to use the Bible.
As I attended more meetings, I developed a deep appreciation for the high quality of teaching the Witnesses presented. I learned much at every meeting, and I always left feeling encouraged and refreshed. Then I was invited to have a personal Bible study.
What I saw among Jehovah’s Witnesses stood out in stark contrast to what I was accustomed to seeing at my church. I found the Witnesses to be a united and sincere group of people trying their best to please God. I grew convinced that they displayed the identifying mark of true Christians, namely, love among themselves.—John 13:35.
The more I studied the Bible, the more changes I made in order to live according to Bible standards. However, I felt I could never give up martial arts. I loved training and competing. When I expressed this to the Witness who conducted the Bible study with me, he kindly assured me, “Just keep studying, and I know you’ll make the right decision.” That was exactly what I needed to hear. The more I studied, the more I wanted to please Jehovah God.
A turning point for me was the incident I mentioned at the outset, when I accidentally kicked a sparring partner in the nose. That accident made me think seriously about whether I could be a peaceful follower of Christ if I continued practicing martial arts. I had learned that Isaiah 2:3, 4 foretold that those who follow Jehovah’s instructions would not “learn war anymore.” And Jesus taught others not to resort to violence, even when they faced injustice. (Matthew 26:52) Therefore, I left the sport that I loved so much.
After that, I followed the Bible’s counsel to “train yourself with godly devotion as your aim.” (1 Timothy 4:7) All the time and effort that I had previously spent with martial arts, I now invested in a spiritual routine. My girlfriend did not agree with what I was learning from the Bible, so we broke up. I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses on January 24, 1987. Soon afterward, I began serving as a full-time minister, volunteering my time to teach the Bible to others. I have continued in the full-time ministry since then, serving for a time at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York, U.S.A.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED
Now that I know the truth about God, I have found what was missing in my life. I no longer feel empty. Instead, I have a meaningful purpose in life and a real hope for the future, and I feel genuinely happy. I still enjoy exercising regularly, but physical training is not the most important thing to me anymore. My priority in life is to serve Jehovah God.
When I pursued martial arts, I was always alert to the people around me and constantly thought about how to defend myself if someone attacked me. Today I’m still alert to those around me, but for a different reason—to help them. The Bible has helped me become a giving person and a better husband to my beautiful wife, Brenda.
Martial arts were my passion in life. However, I have replaced them with something better. The Bible says it best: “Physical training is beneficial for a little, but godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and the life that is to come.”—1 Timothy 4:8.
a Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses but now out of print.