Year Born: 1971
Country of Origin: Tonga
History: Drug abuse, prison
My family is from Tonga, a country consisting of some 170 islands, which is located in the southwestern Pacific. In Tonga we lived simply, without electricity or a vehicle. But our home had running water, and we had a few chickens. During school vacations my two brothers and I helped our father care for our family plantation, where we grew bananas, yams, taro, and cassava. These crops supplemented the meager income he earned from doing odd jobs. Like many fellow islanders, our family had great respect for the Bible, and we attended church regularly. Still, we believed that the only path to a good life was to move to a wealthier country.
When I was 16 years old, my uncle arranged to relocate our family to California, U.S.A. What a difficult cultural adjustment that was for us! Although our economic situation improved, we lived in a poor area where violent crime and drugs were rampant. We often heard gunfire at night, and most of our neighbors were afraid of criminal gangs. Many people carried firearms to protect themselves or to settle disputes. I still have a bullet in my chest from one such dispute.
At high school, I wanted to fit in with other young people. I gradually got more and more involved in wild parties, heavy drinking, violence, and the use of illegal drugs. In time, I became addicted to cocaine. To buy drugs, I started stealing. Although my family members were devout churchgoers, I never received guidance that would help me resist peer pressure to do wrong. Many times I wound up arrested for my violent acts. My life was spiraling out of control! Eventually I ended up in prison.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE
One day in 1997, while I was in prison, another prisoner noticed that I was holding a Bible. It was Christmas, a time most Tongans consider to be very holy. He asked me if I knew what the Bible really says about the birth of Christ, but I had no idea what it says. He showed me the Bible’s simple account of Jesus’ birth, and I saw that many of the traditional elements of Christmas are not even mentioned. (Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:5-14) I was dumbfounded, and I wondered what else the Bible says. The man had been attending weekly meetings that Jehovah’s Witnesses held there in the prison, and I decided to join him. They were discussing the Bible book of Revelation. Although I understood little of what was said, I realized that everything they taught was from the Bible.
When the Witnesses offered me my own personal Bible study, I gladly accepted. For the first time, I learned about the Bible’s promise of a future paradise on the earth. (Isaiah 35:5-8) It became plain to me that in order to please God, I needed to make major changes in my life. I realized that Jehovah God was not going to allow any of my vices in the promised Paradise. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) So I resolved to control my bad temper, give up smoking, and never go back to heavy drinking and drug abuse.
In 1999, before finishing my prison sentence, the authorities transferred me to an immigration camp. For more than a year, I had no contact with the Witnesses. But I was determined to continue making changes. In the year 2000, the government canceled my permission to remain in the United States, and I was deported to Tonga.
Back in Tonga, I eagerly located Jehovah’s Witnesses and resumed my Bible study. I loved what I was learning, and I was impressed when I saw that the Witnesses on the island backed up all their teachings with the Scriptures, just as the Witnesses did in the United States.
My father was known in the community because he held a very responsible position in his church. So at first my family was puzzled and irritated by my association with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Later, however, my parents were pleased that Bible principles were helping me to clean up my life.
One of the most difficult changes for me was related to a drink commonly abused in my culture. Many Tongan men spend hours every week drinking kava, a sedative drink brewed from the roots of the pepper plant. Now back in my homeland, I adopted the custom of going to a kava club almost every night and drinking kava until I fell into a stupor. Part of the problem was my association with friends who cared little for Bible standards. Eventually, I was helped to see that my habits offended God. I made changes so that I could have God’s blessing and approval.
I began attending all the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This association with others who were trying to please God helped me to resist temptations. In 2002, I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED
I have benefited from God’s patience as expressed in the Bible: “Jehovah . . . is patient with you because he does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) He surely could have put an end to this corrupt old system long ago, but he has allowed it to go on long enough for people like me to develop a friendship with him. I like to think he may use me to help others do the same.
With Jehovah’s help I stopped my life from spinning completely out of control. I no longer steal from others to fuel a deadly addiction. Rather, I try to help my neighbors become Jehovah’s friends too. Through my association with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I met my lovely wife, Tea. Along with our young son, we have a very happy family life. Together we teach others what the Bible says about the future hope of living forever in a peaceful paradise.