YEAR BORN: 1974
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: GERMAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
I was born in a village in Saxony, in what was then the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The atmosphere at home was warm and loving, and my parents taught me sound moral values. The GDR was a Communist state, so for most people in Saxony, religion was unimportant. And for me, God did not exist. Two ideologies shaped the first 18 years of my life: atheism and Communism.
Why did Communism appeal to me? Because I liked the idea that all people are equal. Furthermore, I believed that all property ought to be distributed fairly, since this would put an end to extremes of wealth and poverty. So I got busy in a Communist youth organization. When I was 14 years old, I spent a lot of time working on an environmental project to recycle wastepaper. The local town of Aue was so grateful for my efforts that the authorities there presented me with an award. Though still young, I got to know some top GDR politicians. I felt that I was pursuing the right goals and that my future was bright.
Then my world suddenly fell apart. In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and with it the Communist bloc of Eastern Europe. One shock led to another. I soon discovered that injustice had been common in the GDR. For example, people who did not support Communism had been treated as second-rate citizens. How was that possible? Did we Communists not believe that all people are equal? Was Communism just an illusion? Anxiety gripped me.
So I switched priorities and focused on music and art. Since I was able to study at a music academy—with the likelihood of moving on to university—I dreamed of a career as a musician-artist. Furthermore, I threw overboard the moral values I had learned as a child. What was now important was to have a good time, which included dating several girls at once. But music, art, and a free lifestyle did not ease my anxiety. Even the pictures I painted reflected a morbid fear. What did the future hold? And what was the purpose of life?
When I finally found the answers I was looking for, they astonished me. One evening at the academy, I sat with a group of students discussing the future. Mandy * was a student and also one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. That evening she pointed me in the right direction. “Andreas,” she said, “if you want answers to your questions about life and the future, take a careful look at the Bible.”
I felt both skeptical and curious, but curiosity won the day. Mandy directed me to Daniel chapter 2, and what I read there stunned me. This prophecy describes a series of world powers, governments that would have a major impact down to our day. Mandy showed me other Bible prophecies that concern our future. At last I was finding answers to my questions! But who wrote those prophecies, and who could predict the future so accurately? Could it be that God exists after all?
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE
Mandy put me in touch with Horst and Angelika, a Witness couple who helped me understand God’s Word better. I quickly recognized that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only religious organization that consistently uses and draws attention to God’s personal name, Jehovah. (Psalm 83:18; Matthew 6:9) I learned that Jehovah God offers mankind the prospect of living forever on a paradise earth. Psalm 37:9 states: “Those hoping in Jehovah will possess the earth.” It appealed to me that this prospect is open to all individuals who endeavor to live up to God’s standards of conduct as explained in the Bible.
However, I struggled to change my ways so as to live in harmony with the Bible. Success as a musician-artist made me proud, so I first needed to learn some humility. Moreover, it was not easy for me to abandon a morally loose lifestyle. How grateful I am that Jehovah shows patience, mercy, and understanding toward those who try their best to practice what the Bible teaches!
Communism and atheism formed me during the first 18 years of my life; the Bible has been transforming my life ever since. What I learned quelled my anxiety about the future and gave me a purpose in life. In 1993, I got baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and in 2000, I married Tabitha, a zealous fellow believer. We spend as much time as possible helping others get to know the Bible. Many we meet have a background like mine, one shaped by Communism and atheism. I feel deep satisfaction when I show them how to get to know Jehovah.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED
When I first began to associate with Jehovah’s Witnesses, my parents were horrified. Since then, however, they have come to see the positive effect that associating with the Witnesses has had on my life. To my joy, they now read the Bible and attend Christian meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Tabitha and I enjoy a good marriage because we try to follow closely the advice given in the Bible to married couples. For instance, heeding its counsel about marital faithfulness continues to strengthen our marriage.—Hebrews 13:4.
I am no longer fearful of life and anxious about the future. I feel part of a worldwide family of fellow believers, one that enjoys real peace and unity. Within this family we treat one another as equals. That is something I have believed in and wanted to achieve all my life.
^ par. 12 Name has been changed.