YEAR BORN: 1952
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UNITED STATES
HISTORY: VIOLENT TEMPER
I grew up in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., in various neighborhoods infamous for their street gangs and drugs. My parents had six children, of whom I was the second.
My mother raised us as members of an evangelical church. However, as a teenager, I led a double life. On Sundays I sang in the church choir. During the rest of the week, I lived to party, abuse drugs, and commit sexual immorality.
I had a quick and violent temper. I would use anything as a weapon to win. What I learned at church did not help. I used to say, “Vengeance is the Lord’s
It seemed that protesting did not satisfy my violent nature. So I started participating in hate crimes. For example, on occasion my friends and I saw films featuring the past suffering of African slaves in the United States. Incensed by those injustices, we assaulted white youths right there in the movie theater. Then we went to white neighborhoods, looking for more people to beat up.
By the time I was in my late teens, my brothers and I were confirmed hoodlums. We got in trouble with the authorities. One of my younger brothers was a member of a notorious gang, and I associated with them. My life was going from bad to worse.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE:
A friend of mine had parents who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. They invited me to their congregation meetings, and I accepted. From the very start, I could see how different the Witnesses were. Everyone had a Bible and used it during the meeting. Young people even gave talks on the program! I was impressed to learn that God has a name, Jehovah, and to hear it used. (Psalm 83:18) The congregation was made up of many nationalities, but it was obvious that there were no racial divisions.
Initially, I did not want to study the Bible with the Witnesses, but I liked going to their meetings. One night, while I was at a meeting of the Witnesses, a group of my friends went to a concert. There, they beat a teenager to death because he would not give up his leather jacket. The next day, they bragged about the murder. They even laughed off their crime when being tried in court. Most of them were sentenced to life in prison. Needless to say, I was very glad that I had not been with them that night. I resolved to change my life and start studying the Bible.
Having been exposed to so much racial prejudice, I saw things among the Witnesses that astounded me. For example, when a white Witness had to travel abroad, he left his children in the care of a black family. Also, a white family took into their home a black youth who needed a place to live. I became convinced that Jehovah’s Witnesses fit the words of Jesus recorded at John 13:35: “By this all will know that you are my disciples
From studying the Bible, I began to realize that I needed to change my thinking. I had to make my mind over so that I not only acted peaceably but also saw this as the best way of life. (Romans 12:2) Gradually, I made progress. In January 1974, I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I had to make my mind over so that I not only acted peaceably but also saw this as the best way of life
Even after I was baptized, however, I had to keep working on my temper. For example, on one occasion while going from house to house in the Christian ministry, I chased after a thief who had just stolen the radio from my car. As I got closer to him, he dropped the radio and ran away. When I related to the others with me how I got my radio back, an elder in the group asked me, “Stephen, what would you have done if you had caught up with him?” That question made me think and motivated me to keep working at being peaceable.
In October 1974, I began serving as a full-time minister, spending 100 hours each month teaching the Bible to others. Later, I had the privilege of volunteering at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York. In 1978, I returned to Los Angeles to care for my ill mother. Two years later, I married my dear wife, Aarhonda. She was a great support to me as we cared for my mother until Mother’s death. In time, Aarhonda and I attended the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and were assigned to Panama, where we continue to serve as missionaries.
Since baptism, I have faced a number of potentially explosive situations. I’ve learned either to walk away from people who are trying to provoke me or to defuse the situation in other ways. Many people, including my wife, have commended me on how I have handled these situations. I’ve even surprised myself! I do not take credit for these changes in my personality. Rather, I believe that they are testimony to the transforming power of the Bible.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED:
The Bible has given my life purpose and taught me to be truly peaceable. I don’t beat people up anymore; rather, I help them heal spiritually. I even studied the Bible with a previous enemy from high school! After he was baptized, we became roommates for a time. To this day, we are close friends. To date, my wife and I have helped over 80 people to become Jehovah’s Witnesses by studying the Bible with them.
I am profoundly grateful to Jehovah for giving me a life full of meaning and happiness amid a true brotherhood.