The Bible Changes Lives
Why did a man whose life revolved around motorcycles, drugs, and sports choose to become a full-time minister? What moved a professional gambler to break free from his addiction and support his family by means of honorable work? What prompted a young woman who had been raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses but who abandoned Bible standards to reconsider her way of life? Consider what these people have to say.
NAME: TERRENCE J. O’BRIEN
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: AUSTRALIA
HISTORY: EXPERIMENTED WITH DRUGS, LOVED MOTORCYCLES
MY PAST: I spent my childhood in the busy city of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. My family was Catholic, but after I turned eight, we stopped attending church and never discussed religion. When I was ten, our family moved to the Gold Coast in Australia. We lived near the beach, and I filled my early teen years with swimming and surfing.
Even so, my childhood was not a happy one. My father left our family when I was eight. My mother remarried, and in our household, alcohol and arguments were a regular part of life. One night, after a particularly violent argument between my parents, I was sitting on my bed, vowing that if I ever married, I would never argue with my wife. Despite domestic problems, our family—made up of six children, mother, and stepfather—remained close.
In my later teens, many of my peers rebelled against authority. They experimented with marijuana, tobacco, and other drugs, and they abused alcohol. I engaged in the same carefree lifestyle as my peers. I also enjoyed riding motorcycles. Even though I was involved in a couple of serious accidents, I continued to love motorcycles and decided to ride my bike across Australia.
Despite all the freedom I had, I often felt depressed when I thought about the state of the world and how unconcerned most people were about mankind’s problems. I longed to know the truth about God, religion, and world conditions. But when I raised my questions to two Catholic priests, I was disillusioned with their answers. I discussed the same topics with various Protestant ministers but was just as disappointed with their responses. Then a friend arranged for me to meet Eddie, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had four discussions with Eddie, and each time he used the Bible to answer my questions. Right from the first discussion, I knew I had found something special. At the time, though, I didn’t see the need to change my lifestyle in any way.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: During my journey across Australia, I had discussions with another Witness, whom I met along the way. But when I returned to Queensland, I had no further contact with the Witnesses for six months.
Then one day on my way home from work, I saw two well-dressed men carrying briefcases and walking along the street, and I guessed that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I approached them, confirmed my guess, and then asked them to study the Bible with me. I immediately began attending the meetings held by the Witnesses and even attended a large convention held in Sydney in 1973. However, when my family—especially my mother—found out what I was doing, they were very distressed. For this and other reasons, I stopped associating with the Witnesses. For a year, I was absorbed in my other great love, playing cricket.
Eventually, though, I realized that the only time I felt truly happy was when I was studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I again made contact with them and began attending the meetings. I also broke off association with my drug-taking friends.
What really motivated me to make these changes was what I learned about the Bible character Job. A kindly but firm older Witness named Bill was regularly discussing the Bible with me. After we had studied the story of Job, Bill asked me who else Satan has accused of serving God only halfheartedly. (Job 2:3-5) I listed all the Bible characters I knew, and Bill patiently replied, “Yes, yes, them too.” Then he looked me in the eye and said, “Satan is saying that about you as well!” I nearly fell off my chair. Prior to that study, I knew that the doctrines I was learning were true. But now I understood why I should act on what I was learning. Four months later, I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: I shudder to think what my life would be like now if I had not learned to live by Bible standards. Most likely, I would be dead. Many of my former associates died as a result of drugs or alcohol. They also had unhappy marriages. I can only assume that my life would have been the same.
I am now married, and my wife, Margaret, and I enjoy serving at the Australia branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses. None of my family have joined me in worshipping Jehovah. Yet, over the years, Margaret and I have had the pleasure of studying the Bible with a number of individuals and couples who have transformed their lives, just as I did. In the process, we have made many beautiful friends. In addition, Margaret, who was raised as a Witness, has helped me to keep the vow I made almost 40 years ago. For more than 25 years, we have been happily married. We don’t always see eye to eye, but so far we haven’t had an argument. We both feel that we have the Bible to thank for that.
NAME: MASAHIRO OKABAYASHI
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: JAPAN
MY PAST: I was raised in Iwakura, a relatively small place about half an hour’s train ride from Nagoya. I remember both my mother and my father as very kind people. I learned later, though, that my father was a yakuza, or gangster, who for a while supported our family of five by perpetrating frauds. He drank heavily every day, and when I was 20 years old, he died of cirrhosis of the liver.
My father was Korean, so our family was often discriminated against by the rest of the community. This fact and other problems made my teen years miserable. I enrolled in high school but attended only occasionally and quit after one year. I already had a police record, and that combined with being half Korean made it difficult for me to find work. Eventually, I did find a job, but I injured my knees and couldn’t do physical work.
I started making a living playing pachinko, a form of gambling that involves a device similar to a pinball machine. By that time, I was living with a girl who wanted me to find a serious job and marry her. But I was making a lot of money gambling, and I didn’t want to change my lifestyle.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: One day, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to our door and left me the book Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? I had never considered this question before. However, after reading the book, I agreed to learn more about the Bible. I had always wondered what happens at death. The clear answers I received from the Bible about this and other topics made me feel as if scales had fallen from my eyes.
I saw the need to apply what I was learning from the Bible. So I legalized my marriage, stopped smoking, cut my long hair that had been dyed blond, and cleaned up my appearance. I also quit gambling.
None of these changes were easy to make. For example, I couldn’t give up tobacco in my own strength. But with earnest prayer and reliance on Jehovah God, I did quit. Also, the first job I got after giving up pachinko was a real challenge for me. I made only half of what I had made gambling, and the work was hard and stressful. One Bible passage that helped me through that difficult time was Philippians 4:6, 7. It says: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” On many occasions, this promise has proved true for me.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: When I first started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, my wife was not happy. But when she saw the big changes I was making in my conduct, she joined my study sessions and began attending the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses with me. Now both of us are Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is such a blessing to be able to serve God together!
Before I studied the Bible, I thought that I was happy. Now, though, I know what real happiness is. Living by Bible standards is by no means easy, but I am certain that it is the best way of life.
NAME: ELIZABETH JANE SCHOFIELD
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UNITED KINGDOM
HISTORY: LIVED FOR THE WEEKENDS
MY PAST: I grew up in Hardgate, a small town just outside of Glasgow, Scotland. When I was seven, my mother, who had become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, began teaching me about the Bible. By the time I was 17, though, I was more interested in socializing with my school friends—going to nightclubs, listening to heavy metal music, and drinking alcohol. The farthest thing from my mind was anything spiritual. I lived for the weekends. However, all of that changed when I was 21.
I went to visit some of my relatives in Northern Ireland. While there, I witnessed the Orange Walk, a Protestant parade. The sheer hatred and bigotry that I saw expressed between Protestants and Catholics on that occasion shocked me. In fact, it shook me to my senses. I remembered the things that my mother had taught me from the Bible and knew that God would never approve of those who ignore his loving standards. Then it dawned on me that I had been busily pursuing my own interests, ignoring how God wanted me to live my life. I decided that when I returned home to Scotland, I would seriously investigate what the Bible teaches.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: The first time that I went back to a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses in my hometown, I felt awkward and nervous. However, everyone made me feel welcome. As I began to apply the things I was learning from the Bible, a very kind member of the congregation took a special interest in me. She really helped me to feel a part of the congregation again. The friends I formerly associated with continued to invite me out to nightclubs, but I told them that I was serious about living by Bible standards. Eventually, they stopped contacting me.
In the past, I had viewed the Bible as little more than a rule book. Now my attitude changed. I began to see the Bible characters as real people who had feelings and weaknesses, just like me. They too had made mistakes, yet Jehovah God forgave them when they were genuinely sorry. I gained confidence that even though I had turned my back on God when I was young, he would forgive me and forget my past mistakes if I tried hard to please him.
My mother’s conduct also deeply impressed me. Although I had abandoned God, she never did. Her steady example of loyalty made me realize that serving Jehovah was worth the effort. When I was young and went preaching from door to door with my mother, I never enjoyed it and couldn’t imagine spending hours preaching to people. Now, though, I decided to put Jesus’ promise at Matthew 6:31-33 to the test. He said: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ . . . Your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” Soon after I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I quit my full-time job, got part-time employment, and became a full-time minister.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: When I was younger and living just for the weekends, I never felt satisfied. My life was empty. Now that I have become fully involved in serving Jehovah, I have a feeling of contentment. My life has meaning and purpose. I am now married, and my husband and I travel to different congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses each week, encouraging them. I view this work as the greatest privilege of my life. I am so grateful to Jehovah for giving me a second chance!
[Blurb on page 27]
“Right from the first discussion, I knew I had found something special. At the time, though, I didn’t see the need to change my lifestyle in any way”
[Blurb on page 29]
“I couldn’t give up tobacco in my own strength. But with earnest prayer and reliance on Jehovah God, I did quit”
[Blurb on page 30]
“In the past, I had viewed the Bible as little more than a rule book. Now my attitude changed. I began to see the Bible characters as real people who had feelings and weaknesses, just like me”