The Bible Changes Lives
What could move a member of a Mexican youth gang called the Junior Satans to change and become an honest, hardworking citizen? Why would a successful Japanese businesswoman stop pursuing wealth as her main goal in life, and how does she feel about the changes she has made? What would motivate a Russian weapons dealer to renounce his lucrative but illegal trade? Consider what these individuals have to say.
NAME: ADRIAN PEREZ
HISTORY: GANG MEMBER
MY PAST: When I was about 13 years of age, my family moved to Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico State. At the time, the area was plagued by juvenile delinquency, vandalism, and drug addiction. I soon began abusing alcohol, vandalizing property, and engaging in immorality.
Later, we moved back to San Vicente, the town where I was born. However, drug addiction had become a big problem there. It was common to see youths lying dead in the streets. I joined a gang called the Junior Satans. We stole and used drugs, mainly sniffing thinner or glue. Often, I did not remember how I got home, and sometimes I would just lie unconscious in the street. Some of my friends ended up in prison for theft and murder.
In spite of everything, I believed in God. To salve my conscience, I would participate in religious ceremonies, such as the performing of the stations of the cross during Holy Week. Afterward, though, all of us, including the man who played the part of Christ, celebrated our participation in the event by getting drunk.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: In my late teens, I started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was aware that my life had no real purpose and that if I continued in my course, things would not go well for me. What impressed me was the thought recorded at Galatians 6:8: “He who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” This scripture made me realize that if I wanted things to go well for me, I would have to sow with a view to the future.
As I studied the Bible, I began to appreciate that Jehovah is a living God who is personally interested in me, and that he is willing to pardon the sins that I committed in the past. I learned firsthand that he listens to and answers prayers.
It was not easy to make changes in my lifestyle. Leaving the gang was difficult. Some territories were marked, and I could not pass through them, although I no longer belonged to the gang. At times, I had to hide from my former friends because they would seek me out and try to drag me back into my old habits.
By contrast, when I started attending meetings with the Witnesses at the Kingdom Hall, I found the congregation to be warm and loving. I was impressed that these people had genuine conviction and lived in harmony with what they taught. It was an entirely different environment from what I was used to.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: I have been baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for ten years now. I try hard to apply Bible teachings in my life. As a result, I am gaining the respect of my family. Now they know me as an industrious worker, and I have even been able to help them out financially. My mother started studying the Bible and has now become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My father is also making changes in his lifestyle. Most of my family are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, but after observing what happened with me, they acknowledge that the Bible can help a person to improve his life.
NAME: YAYOI NAGATANI
HISTORY: SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSWOMAN
MY PAST: I grew up in a small country town full of friendly people. My father owned a big store in town that employed ten workers. Our home was next to the store, so even though Father and Mother were busy, I never felt lonely.
I am the oldest of three girls, and from an early age, I was trained to take over the family business. I married young. My husband quit his job at the bank and came to help in the family business. We had three children in quick succession. My mother looked after the children as she performed the household chores, while I worked from morning till night at the store. Even so, we still had some free time to spend together as a family.
Then the shopping district was hit by an economic decline, and our business started to suffer. In response, we decided to open a home-improvement store next to a main highway. On the day before the ceremony to start the construction, my father, who was president of our company, collapsed with a sudden brain disorder. He was left with severe speech loss, so the responsibility for the new store fell upon me. My husband remained at the old store. Our life became very busy.
Our new store was a big success. I was proud of my achievements and gave up hours of sleep to work. Although I loved my children, all I had on my mind was work. I hardly had time to talk to my husband, and when we did talk, we argued a lot. To cope with the stress, I started going out almost every night to drink with my friends and business associates. All I did was work, drink, and sleep. I was financially successful but was increasingly unhappy and couldn’t understand why.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: When I started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, three Bible passages had a profound effect on me. I wept when I understood the meaning of Matthew 5:3: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” This verse explained why I felt empty even though I was financially successful and had the admiration of my associates. I realized that it was only by being conscious of and satisfying my spiritual need that I could be truly happy.
At the time, Japan’s economy had suffered a severe downturn, and I saw among my associates the truth of 1 Timothy 6:9: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin.” I felt that Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 6:24, “you cannot slave for God and for Riches,” applied to me personally, so I decided to make some changes in my life.
I realized that I had been neglecting my parents, my husband, and my children. It also became apparent that I had developed some unpleasant personality traits. I had become arrogant. I had little patience with people. And I got angry easily. At first, I thought it would be impossible for me to change and become a Christian. However, I really loved my children and noticed that as I applied the Bible’s counsel when dealing with my family, my children responded very well. I spent more time with them and took them with me to Christian meetings.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: Knowing the purpose of life and being able to serve God, living a life that is pleasing to him, has given me real joy and satisfaction. I no longer sacrifice my family for work, so I have been able to regain the self-respect that I lost.
Seeing how my personality changed for the better as I applied Bible principles moved my mother to study the Bible and become a Christian. Happily, neither my father nor my husband has opposed our decisions. My relationship with my children has become much closer, and I now enjoy a genuinely happy family life.
NAME: MIKHAIL ZUYEV
HISTORY: ILLEGAL ARMS DEALER
MY PAST: My hometown, Krasnogorsk, is surrounded by rich greenery. The Moscow River runs to the south. To the west and north, the suburbs almost become buried in the forest.
When I was young, I loved fistfighting and playing with weapons. I spent a lot of time in physical training. I also made illegal firearms, ammunition, and knives. In time, I made this my business. I was well-organized and very successful at selling my products to criminals.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: In the early 1990’s, I met Jehovah’s Witnesses, but at first I didn’t trust them. They asked too many questions for my liking.
One day, one of them read to me Romans 14:12: “Each of us will render an account for himself to God.” I wondered what I would say to God. This scripture moved me to learn what God required of me.
I worked hard at applying the Bible’s counsel recorded at Colossians 3:5-10: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of those things the wrath of God is coming. . . . Put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth. Do not be lying to one another. Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality.”
I found it very difficult to make such changes. My former “business associates” kept offering me money for weapons, and I found it hard to restrain myself when people insulted me. Even so, I destroyed my large and valuable arsenal. As I learned of the love that God and Christ have shown for me, I was moved to love them. I persevered in my personal Bible study, attended meetings with the local congregation, and prayed for God’s help.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: Little by little, with much struggling and with the help of my Christian brothers, I have developed a better personality. Understanding that Jehovah God cares for each of us, even for people who have died, thrills me. (Acts 24:15) I value the sincerity and openness that I observe among Jehovah’s Witnesses. And I appreciate the genuine interest that they have shown in me and their loyalty to God.
At first, some of my family and friends opposed my new faith. But then they consoled themselves with the thought that it was better for me to be involved with religion than with organized crime. I am happy that my life no longer is dedicated to selling weapons of war but is devoted to helping others learn about the God of peace.
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I participated in Catholic ceremonies to ease my conscience
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I was financially successful but very unhappy