The Bible Changes Lives
Why does a woman who had lost faith in religion now spend much of her time helping others to learn about God? What motivated a man who loved violent sports to become a lover of peace? How did a man given to taking drugs, drinking, and street fighting manage to change his lifestyle? Read what they have to say.
NAME: PENELOPE TOPLICESCU
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: AUSTRALIA
HISTORY: DISILLUSIONED WITH RELIGION
MY PAST: I was born in Sydney, Australia, but when I was just two years old, my family moved to New Guinea. We lived for almost two years in Rabaul and then for eight in Bougainville. In those days, there was no TV in New Guinea, so my brother and I grew up outdoors—swimming, snorkeling, and camping.
When I was about ten, I began to take an interest in religion. Mum was a Catholic, so she suggested that I attend Bible classes with one of the local nuns. I embraced Catholicism and was baptized at ten.
However, after we moved back to Australia and I entered my teen years, I began to question my religious convictions. Throughout high school, I studied ancient history, and my father and I had long conversations about the origin of religion and what we considered to be the myths and legends contained in the Bible. Eventually, I rejected Catholicism.
My parents separated when I was 16. Mum had difficulty coping, and I eventually moved in with my father and his fiancée. My brother stayed with Mum, and they moved to another state. I felt very alone at this stage. It took two years before I reestablished friendly relations with my mother. I began to drink, take drugs, and party. I dropped out of school, got a job, and squandered my early 20’s living an immoral lifestyle.
When I turned 25, I started to think about the Bible again. I began work at a new job and met Liene, a lovely girl who was always polite to her boss, even though he was terribly rude to her. When I asked why she didn’t snap back at her boss, she explained that she was studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and was trying to apply Bible principles in her life. Liene offered to study the Bible with me. Because of a misunderstanding, I thought that she meant that I could learn all she knew about the Bible in just one one-hour session. That night, Liene spent three hours answering my questions about the Bible. I was impressed that all the answers she gave were backed up by scriptures from the Bible.
I remember driving home that night after my discussion with Liene and feeling angry at God for not letting me learn the truth about him sooner. I knew that the Witnesses lived a morally clean life and thought that it was way too late for me to be able to change my habits. I also thought that I could never go from door to door preaching as the Witnesses did. I continued studying the Bible with the Witnesses, but my motive was to find fault with their teachings so that I could in good conscience stop my contact with them. One day I realized that I was not going to find that loophole.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: The more I learned about the Bible’s moral standards, the more my conscience bothered me. To ease my conscience, I gave up drugs. But then I moved overseas for a time and got caught up in a round of partying and drinking. It seemed that each time I tried to make some progress toward living in harmony with Bible principles, I would backslide. In shame, I would pray to Jehovah, but I still felt bad.
When I learned about King David’s dealings with Bath-sheba and how Jehovah mercifully dealt with them, that helped me. David was brave enough to admit his error when counseled, without trying to justify his actions. And he humbly accepted the discipline he received. (2 Samuel 12:1-13) Every time I stumbled, I thought of that account and it became easier to tell Jehovah that I was sorry. Then I decided to pray before I gave in to temptation rather than afterward, and that made a big difference.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: I had always had a bad temper. However, the scripture at Ephesians 4:29-31 helped me see the need to avoid “bitterness and anger and wrath.” As I learned to control my temper, I learned to control my tongue. In addition, Jesus’ counsel to “let your word Yes mean Yes” helped me to become a more decisive person.—Matthew 5:37.
My mother, who at first opposed my associating with the Witnesses, later told me that she was proud of me. She even said, “I know that the woman you have become is not due to your upbringing but is due to what you have learned about Jehovah.” It gave me great joy to hear her say that.
I now feel that my life has purpose and meaning. For the past nine years, my husband and I have been full-time Bible teachers. Yes, I go preaching from door to door, and I now feel that this is the most rewarding work I have ever done.
NAME: DENIS BUSIGIN
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: RUSSIA
HISTORY: KARATE ENTHUSIAST
MY PAST: I was born in the city of Perm’ and grew up in Furmanov, a city of about 40,000 inhabitants in the region of Ivanovo, Russia. Furmanov is a picturesque city with many beautiful trees that turn yellow and red in the fall. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, the crime rate rose in the city. My family lived very modestly on a small income. I lived with my parents and my younger brother in a one-bedroom apartment, so it was rather cramped.
At the age of seven, I began to learn karate. I loved the sport; my whole life revolved around it. I spent all my spare time at the gym, so all my friends were sportsmen. By 15, I had earned my red belt in karate, and a year later, my brown belt. I was part of a karate team that competed in Russian and Eurasian championship tournaments. The future looked bright, but when I was 17, my whole life changed.
Some friends and I committed a crime and were caught. I was sentenced to a two-year prison term. Prison life was difficult. However, it was while in prison that I saw the Bible for the first time. I read Genesis, Psalms, and the New Testament. I even memorized the Our Father and would recite it each night before going to bed, thinking that doing so would somehow help me.
I was released from prison in 2000, but my life lacked direction and purpose. I began taking drugs. About this time my mother died. She was the dearest person to me, and it was a difficult loss for me to bear. However, I managed to free myself from drugs and began going to the gym again. I also moved to the city of Ivanovo. There I found work in a food store. The chief shop assistant at that store was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She explained to me some basic truths from the Bible and arranged for another Witness to study the Bible with me on a regular basis.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: During my Bible studies, I was deeply moved when I learned of God’s purpose to make the earth a paradise, and I wanted to qualify to be part of that future. I soon realized that Jehovah God has high standards that he wants people to live by. I had spent much of my life thinking only of myself. But I learned that Jehovah wanted me to think of others and to develop qualities that I did not possess at the time—qualities including kindness and a love of peace.
As I began to think deeply about all that Jehovah had done for me—such as giving his Son as a sacrifice in behalf of my sins—gratitude for God’s love moved me to make changes in my life. For example, I learned from Psalm 11:5 that Jehovah hates violence. So I stopped watching TV programs that glorified violence and hatred. And with great difficulty, I gave up violent sports. The principle at 1 Corinthians 15:33 helped me to see that those I chose to associate with would have a big effect on me. The fact that I had ended up in prison was proof of that principle. So I decided to stop associating with those whose lives revolved around violent sports.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: Associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses and studying the Bible has helped me to become an honest person. For example, from Hebrews 13:5, I learned of the need to be content and to fight against a love of money. Applying this advice has helped me to shun lying and stealing.
I have always valued friendships. In the past, I had seen friendships ruined as a result of greed or fear. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not perfect, but I have learned that they respect God’s standards and try hard to apply his counsel in the way they deal with others. Among them, I have now made some true friends.
I can only guess what my life would be like if I had not learned to live by Bible standards. I would probably be back in prison or causing other people pain and suffering. Now, though, I have a lovely wife and two sons, and as a family, we find real pleasure in helping others learn the truth about God.
NAME: JOSÉ CARLOS PEREIRA DA SILVA
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: BRAZIL
HISTORY: STREET FIGHTER
MY PAST: I grew up in the squalid slums of Americana, São Paulo. We had no access to safe drinking water or proper sanitation. The area had a reputation for being violent and full of crime.
I grew up violent and aggressive. I was always involved in street fights, so people in the neighborhood were afraid of me. My dress, grooming, and demeanor projected the image that I was tough. I drank heavily, often until I was unconscious. Like my brothers, I used drugs. In fact, one of my brothers died of an overdose.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: When I met Jehovah’s Witnesses, they showed me from the Bible that God will make the whole earth a paradise. (Luke 23:42, 43; Revelation 21:3, 4) I also learned that the dead are not conscious of anything, so God does not punish bad people in a fiery hell. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6) This was a great relief to me. What I learned about God gave me a strong desire to change my lifestyle. But it was not easy to make the changes—to give up the drugs, the drinking, the fighting, and the bad language I habitually used.
However, I was greatly encouraged by the apostle Paul’s words recorded at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. That scripture shows that some first-century Christians at one time had some of the same bad habits that I had developed. But that passage also says: “That is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean, but you have been sanctified, but you have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.” Those words gave me hope that I too would be able to make the necessary changes in my life to please God.
When I began associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was convinced that they practiced the true religion. They knew of my past violent, aggressive behavior, yet they still welcomed me warmly and lovingly into their company.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: If I had not studied the Bible and changed my lifestyle, I would probably be dead by now. Instead, I have had the pleasure of helping one of my brothers learn about the Bible and break free from his drug addiction. And I have also encouraged other relatives to start studying the Bible. I am so grateful that I have been able to dedicate my life to serving God, who cares so much for us!
[Blurb on page 24]
“I decided to pray before I gave in to temptation rather than afterward, and that made a big difference”