The Bible Changes Lives

WHAT moved a former rebel soldier and thief to change his lifestyle? Why did a martial arts champion change her goals in life? How was one father’s faith in his son rewarded? Read these accounts to find the answers.

“Despite My Dark Past, I Am Now Happy.”​—GARRY P. AMBROCIO

AGE: 47

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: PHILIPPINES

HISTORY: REBEL SOLDIER

MY PAST: I grew up in the small town of Vintar. The wide valley plain where we lived was surrounded by green mountains, clean rivers, and fresh air. Despite the peaceful setting, life was difficult. People stole our livestock and broke into our home.

When I was in my teens, I drank a lot with my friends, smoked cigarettes, and stole in order to finance my vices. I even stole jewelry from my own grandmother. The military suspected me of belonging to the rebel group called the New People’s Army (NPA) and often beat me up badly. As a result, I decided to join the rebel group. For five years, I lived in the mountains with the NPA soldiers. Life was hard. We were always on the move, running from the military. Eventually, I tired of hiding in the mountains, so I surrendered to the governor of Ilocos Norte. He treated me well, even helping me find a decent job. However, I still clung to my old bad habits, robbing houses and intimidating people.

HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: A woman at my place of work named Loida was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Through her, I met Jovencio, and he began studying the Bible with me. But my old way of life had a strong hold on me. I would smoke before Jovencio arrived for the Bible study session, and I still engaged in illegal activities. Finally, the police caught me breaking the law, and I spent 11 months in prison. During that time, I prayed to Jehovah, beseeching him for help. I asked for his forgiveness and for his holy spirit to guide and strengthen me.

In time, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses visited me in prison and brought me a Bible. I read it and learned that Jehovah is merciful and loving and pardons errors. I realized that Jehovah had been merciful to me and had given me the opportunity to learn his ways. I asked him to give me the strength to overcome my bad practices. What I read at Proverbs 27:11 had an impact on me. I viewed that verse as if  Jehovah was talking to me directly. There it states: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.”

After I was released from prison, I resumed my Bible study with the Witnesses, began associating with them at their meetings, and started applying Bible principles in my life. Eventually, with Jehovah’s help, I rid myself of my bad habits. I then dedicated my life to Jehovah God.

HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: Despite my dark past, I am now happy. Although I was a slave to filthy habits, I have become a new person. (Colossians 3:9, 10) Today, I am honored to associate with Jehovah’s clean people and to help others learn about our almighty God, Jehovah.

“I Wanted to Represent Brazil.”​—JULIANA APARECIDA SANTANA ESCUDEIRO

AGE: 31

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: BRAZIL

HISTORY: MARTIAL ARTS EXPERT

MY PAST: I grew up in Londrina. Even though most in the area were poor, the district was clean and peaceful. When I was ten, my older brother encouraged me to join him in practicing a martial art called tae kwon do, which means “the way of the hands and the feet.” Dad was not in favor of my new sport but soon gave in.

I trained hard and won many tae kwon do championships in the state of Parana. Later, I won national championships, and in 1993, I was declared a Brazilian tae kwon do champion. I wanted to compete in international championships. However, my family was poor and did not have the means to pay my way abroad.

My hope was that tae kwon do would be included in the Olympics, and this did eventually happen. I wanted to represent Brazil at the Olympic Games, so I trained hard and also received sponsorship that enabled me to compete in France, Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan, and in the South American Games. My next goal was to participate in the Pan American Games, and I performed so well that I was selected to be one of the three who would compete at that event in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 2003.

HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: In 2001, my boyfriend and I met Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they began to study the Bible with us. At first, I was not really enthusiastic. I was always too tired to concentrate and often dozed off during the study session. Even so, what I was learning reached my heart​—a fact that became obvious at my next big competition.

Because I was selected for the Pan American Games team, the tae kwon do masters made me compete in a preliminary  tournament. When my turn came to fight, I stood on the mat motionless​—totally without motivation. All of a sudden, it dawned on me that a Christian should not fight with others​—even in a sport! The Bible’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” came to mind. (Matthew 19:19) I just turned around and left the floor without a second thought. People stared at me in disbelief.

When I got home, I sat down and thought about what I was going to do with my life. I grabbed a brochure published by the Witnesses that discussed what God requires of us. In it I saw a reference to Psalm 11:5, which says of Jehovah: “Anyone loving violence His soul certainly hates.” Those words of the psalmist hit home, and I decided to quit tae kwon do.

My tae kwon do masters were not happy. They tried to change my mind by saying that I was the best in the country and that I was close to competing in the Olympic Games. But I had made up my mind.

By this time, my boyfriend and I were married. He was already joining the Witnesses in their public preaching work. He would come home so happy and tell me about all the conversations he had had with people. I knew that if I wanted to have the same privilege, I would have to make changes in my life. I resigned from my former religion and eventually qualified to become a baptized Witness.

HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: My husband and I are very happy and united because we strive to apply Bible principles in our marriage. I enjoy supporting him as he helps to care for the congregation we attend. I could have struggled to win a gold medal and become famous. But I feel that nothing that this unjust world has to offer can compare with the privilege of serving Jehovah God.

“My Father Never Gave Up on Me.”​—INGO ZIMMERMANN

AGE: 44

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: GERMANY

HISTORY: DANCE CLUB SECURITY GUARD

MY PAST: I was born into a religiously divided household in the coal-mining town of Gelsenkirchen. My father was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But Mother opposed his efforts to raise me, my brother, and my two sisters according to his religious beliefs. He worked ten hours or more a day driving trucks. Often he started work at two or three in the morning. Yet, he always cared for our spiritual training. However, I did not appreciate his efforts.

When I was 15, I became bored with the religious meetings that he made me attend, and I rebelled. A year later, I joined a boxing club. Over the next two years, I behaved in a way that made my father’s hair turn gray. I moved away from home when I turned 18.

I was passionate about sports and trained up to six times a week​—first boxing and then weight lifting. On the weekends, my friends  and I frequented dance clubs. On one occasion, I got into a fight with a sinister-looking customer but handled him easily. The owner of the club noticed and immediately offered me a job as a security guard. The money was good, so I accepted.

Each weekend, I stood at the entrance to the club and decided who could enter and who could not. Up to 1,000 people would pack the club, so I was kept busy. Fights were common. I was threatened with guns and broken bottles. Some of those to whom I refused entry or whom I threw out of the club waited outside to try to take revenge. I was 20 years old and thought I was invincible. Really, though, I was out of control​—aggressive, proud, ambitious, and stubborn.

HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: My father never gave up on me. He arranged for Watchtower and Awake! magazines * to be sent to where I lived. They piled up in my room​—unread. Then one day I decided to page through some of them. The articles I read about how the present political, economic, and religious system would end moved me to call my sister. She and her husband were Jehovah’s Witnesses. They offered to study the Bible with me, and I accepted.

The principle recorded at Galatians 6:7 motivated me to make changes in my life. I knew from experience that whatever I do, say, or decide today will shape my life tomorrow. I was also very encouraged by the invitation at Isaiah 1:18, which says: “‘Come, now, you people, and let us set matters straight between us,’ says Jehovah. ‘Though the sins of you people should prove to be as scarlet, they will be made white just like snow.’” That scripture helped me from the beginning of my study not to feel unworthy or to feel that there was no way back for me.

Within six months, I had made dramatic changes in my life but not without a struggle. I needed to abandon the corrupt environment and rough association I had surrounded myself with. So I began telling my friends that I was studying the Bible and shared what I was learning. They began avoiding me and called me a priest. With my sister’s help, I found another, more suitable job.

I also started going to meetings at the Kingdom Hall where my sister and her husband attended, even though it was 19 miles (30 km) away. There was a Kingdom Hall closer to my home, but I was nervous about meeting people who knew me from my childhood. I was also afraid of going from house to house, preaching in the area where I lived. What if I met someone whom I had recently thrown out of the club or someone to whom I had given drugs? However, I drew a lesson from my fitness training​—the exercises that are the most difficult are the ones that are the most necessary. So once I qualified to do so, I went preaching as much as possible.

I had another challenge to overcome​—I didn’t like reading or studying. But I knew that if I wanted to develop strong faith, I would have to discipline myself to dig into the truths found in the Bible. I discovered that just as with weight lifting, you have to put forth effort if you want to gain strength.

HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: I am alive! I still have to keep my weaknesses in check so that they do not get the upper hand. But I now enjoy a wonderful family life with my wife, who has a beautiful Christian personality. Among Jehovah’s Witnesses, I have genuine friends in whom I can place complete trust. My father died five years ago, but before he passed away, he had the joy of receiving back his son.

[Footnote]

^ par. 34 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.