The Bible Changes Lives

What motivated a woman who smuggled diamonds and stole from her employer to become an honest worker? What helped a woman who had twice tried to commit suicide find purpose in her life? How did an abuser of alcohol and drugs gain the strength to break free from his destructive addictions? Consider what they have to say.

PROFILE

NAME: MARGARET DEBRUYN

AGE: 45

COUNTRY: BOTSWANA

HISTORY: SMUGGLER AND THIEF

MY PAST: My father was originally from Germany but became a citizen of South-West Africa (now Namibia). My mother was from Botswana, of the Mangologa tribe. I was born in Gobabis, Namibia.

In the 1970’s, the South African government exerted much control over Namibia and strictly enforced the apartheid laws throughout the towns and villages. Because my parents had an interracial marriage, they were persuaded to separate. So my mother returned with my brothers, sisters, and me to live in Ghansi, Botswana.

In 1979, I moved to Lobatse, Botswana, and lived with foster parents while I completed my schooling. Later, I found a job as a clerk at a garage. I grew up believing that God does not provide for people, that you should do whatever you had to do​—right or wrong—​to provide for yourself and your family.

Since I had a responsible position at work, I used the opportunity to steal spare parts from my employer. Whenever a train passed through town at night, my associates and I boarded it and stole what we could lay our hands on. I also became involved in smuggling diamonds, gold, and bronze. I started abusing drugs, became very violent, and had many boyfriends.

Then, in 1993, I was finally caught stealing and lost my job. My “friends” abandoned me, fearing that they too would be caught. Their reaction hurt me, and I decided to trust no one.

HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: In 1994, I met Tim and Virginia, two of Jehovah’s  Witnesses who were missionaries. They talked with me at my new place of employment, helping me to learn about the Bible during my lunch hour. Later, when I felt that I could trust them, I allowed them to come to my home to study with me.

I soon realized that if I was to please God, I would need to make some changes in my lifestyle. For example, I learned from 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 that “neither fornicators, . . . nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” One by one, I put my bad habits behind me. I stopped stealing. I stopped associating with the gangsters I had grown up with. Then, with strength from Jehovah, I chased my boyfriends out of my life.

HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: With much effort, I have learned to control my temper and not to scream at my children when something goes wrong. (Ephesians 4:31) I try to talk things over in a peaceable manner. This method of communication brings the desired results and draws us closer as a family.

My former friends, and even my neighbors, have learned that they can trust me. I have become an honest, trusted employee who can handle supplies and money conscientiously. Thus, I am able to support myself as I spend much of my time helping others learn about the Bible. I wholeheartedly agree with the words of Proverbs 10:22: “The blessing of Jehovah​—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”

PROFILE

NAME: GLORIA ELIZARRARÁS DE CHOPERENA

AGE: 37

COUNTRY: MEXICO

HISTORY: ATTEMPTED SUICIDE

MY PAST: I grew up in an affluent area of Naucalpan, Mexico State. From a young age, I was very rebellious and loved going to parties. I began to smoke at age 12, to drink at 14, and to take drugs at 16. A few years later, I left home. Most of my friends were from dysfunctional families, abused either physically or verbally. Life seemed so hopeless to me that twice I tried to commit suicide.

When I was 19, I started working as a model. As such, I socialized with people in politics and in the entertainment world. I eventually married and had children, but I was the one who made all the decisions in my family. I also continued to smoke and drink, and I maintained a hectic social life. My conversation was littered with vulgar speech, and I liked to tell dirty jokes. I had a very bad temper.

Most of the people I chose to associate with had the same lifestyle. To them, it seemed as if I had everything. But my life continued to feel empty, without purpose.

HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: I began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s  Witnesses in 1998. The Bible taught me that life has a purpose. I learned that Jehovah God intends to restore the earth to Paradise conditions, that he will resurrect the dead, and that I could be a part of that future.

I also learned that the way to express love for God is to obey him. (1 John 5:3) This was a challenge at first because I had never accepted guidance from anyone. However, I eventually acknowledged that I could not continue directing my life by myself. (Jeremiah 10:23) I prayed to Jehovah to guide me. I asked that he help me to bring my life into harmony with his standards and to teach my children to live differently from the way I had done.

It was very difficult for me to make the necessary changes, but I began to apply the counsel found at Ephesians 4:22-24: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct . . . and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” For me, putting on the new personality meant giving up such defiling habits as smoking, and I had to learn a new vocabulary, one without obscene words. It took me almost three years to make the needed changes so that I could be baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In addition, I started to take seriously my role as a wife and mother. I began to apply the counsel at 1 Peter 3:1, 2: “You wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.”

HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: I am so grateful to Jehovah because I now know that life does have meaning. I feel that I am a much better person and am able to give my children a good upbringing. Occasionally, my heart condemns me for my past actions, but Jehovah knows my heart. (1 John 3:19, 20) Without a doubt, living by Bible standards has protected me from harm and brought me inner peace.

PROFILE

NAME: JAILSON CORREA DE OLIVEIRA

AGE: 33

COUNTRY: BRAZIL

HISTORY: ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSER

MY PAST: I was born in Bagé, a Brazilian city of some 100,000 people near the border between Brazil and Uruguay. Agriculture and cattle raising were the main industries. I grew up in a poor district where gangs spread violence, and alcohol and drug abuse were common among young ones.

After I left school, I began drinking, smoking marijuana, and listening to heavy-metal music. I didn’t believe in God. I felt that all the suffering and chaos in the world were proof that God did not exist.

I was a guitar player and a song writer and often drew my inspiration from the Bible  book of Revelation. My band was not as successful as I expected it to be, so I began to depend more and more on hard drugs. I didn’t care if I died of an overdose. Many of the singers I worshipped had ended their life that way.

I financed my drug addiction by borrowing money from my grandmother, who had raised me. I lied if she asked what I used the money for. To make matters worse, I dabbled in the occult. I was intrigued by black magic, thinking that it would enrich my musical compositions.

HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: After I started studying the Bible and attending the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, my mental state began to change. I gradually developed a desire to live and to be happy. Motivated by this new state of mind, I decided to cut my long hair. I had let it grow as a sign of my discontent and rebellion. Then I realized that if I wanted to be acceptable to God, I had to quit abusing alcohol, give up drugs, and stop smoking. I also saw the need to change my taste in music.

The first time I attended a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I noticed a Scripture text that was displayed on one of the walls. It was from Proverbs 3:5, 6, and it read: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.” Thinking about that scripture assured me that Jehovah would help me restructure my life if I let him.

Still, changing my deeply rooted lifestyle and quitting addictions that involved substance abuse was as difficult as cutting off my own hand. (Matthew 18:8, 9) I couldn’t make these sorts of changes gradually. I knew that way wouldn’t work in my case. So I quit my bad habits cold turkey. I also avoided all places and people that might lure me back into my old, destructive lifestyle.

I learned to take pride in my daily accomplishments, not concentrating on moments of discouragement. I felt it would be an honor to be physically, morally, and spiritually clean in Jehovah’s eyes. I prayed for and received Jehovah’s help not to look back at my old ways but to look ahead. Sometimes I relapsed. But I still insisted on having my personal Bible study with my instructor, even though at times I had a hangover.

Learning the truth about God from the Bible​—that he cares for us as individuals, that he will destroy false religion, and that he is now backing a worldwide preaching work—​made sense to me. (Matthew 7:21-23; 24:14; 1 Peter 5:6, 7) These facts fit together like pieces in a puzzle. Finally, I decided to dedicate my life to God. I wanted to show my gratitude for all he had done for me.

HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: I now feel that my life has direction and meaning. (Ecclesiastes 12:13) And instead of taking from my family, I’ve been able to give something back. I shared the good things I learned from the Bible with my grandmother, and she has now dedicated herself to Jehovah. Several other members of my family and one of my former band members have done the same.

I am now married, and my wife and I spend the majority of our time helping others learn about the Bible. I feel richly rewarded because I have learned to ‘trust in Jehovah with all my heart.’

[Blurb on page 29]

“I gradually developed a desire to live and to be happy”