The Bible Changes Lives
HOW was a barmaid who swore, drank excessively, and experimented with drugs able to change her lifestyle? Why did a former politician who disliked religion become a minister of religion? What challenges did a combat instructor with the Russian police force have to overcome to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Read what these individuals have to say.
“My Mother and I Enjoy a Restored Relationship.”—NATALIE HAM
YEAR BORN: 1965
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: AUSTRALIA
HISTORY: EXPERIMENTED WITH DRUGS
MY PAST: I grew up in the small fishing town of Robe, South Australia. In such communities, the local hotel is the social hub. Parents spend a lot of time at the hotel, so their children are raised around alcohol abuse, bad language, and cigarette smoke.
By the age of 12, I was smoking, had a broad vocabulary of swear words, and was in constant conflict with my mother. When I was 15, my parents separated, and 18 months later, I left home. I abused alcohol, tried drugs, and led an immoral lifestyle. I was angry and confused. But having attended five years of martial arts and women’s defense training, I felt that I could look after myself. Even so, in my quieter, more reflective times, I was overcome with sadness and would pray to God, asking him to help me. “Just don’t ask me to go to church,” I would say to him.
Sometime later, a friend who was religious but didn’t belong to any particular church gave me a Bible. Like our other friends, he smoked drugs. Yet, he professed a sincere belief in God and convinced me that I should get baptized. He took me to a local lake and baptized me. From then on, I felt that I had a special relationship with God. However, I never did find time to read the Bible.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: In 1988, two Witnesses knocked on my door. One of them asked me, “Do you know God’s name?” The Witness read Psalm 83:18 from his Bible, which states: “That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” I was floored! After they left, I drove 35 miles (56 km) to a Christian bookstore to check other Bible translations and then looked up the name in a dictionary. Having convinced myself that God’s name is Jehovah, I wondered what else I didn’t know.
My mother had told me that Jehovah’s Witnesses were weird. From the little I knew of them, I thought they were too conservative and didn’t know how to have fun. I considered pretending not to be there when they called. But I changed my mind when the time came. I invited them in, and we immediately began studying the Bible.
After each study session, I shared what I had learned with my boyfriend, Craig. He eventually got so annoyed that he took the textbook we were using out of my hands and began reading it. Within three weeks, he concluded that he had found the truth about God. Craig and I eventually stopped taking drugs and abusing alcohol, and I quit my job as a barmaid. To bring our lives into harmony with Bible standards, we decided to get married.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: At the time we began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Craig and I were on the verge of splitting up. Today, Craig is a wonderful husband, and we have two beautiful children. We also have treasured friends who share our beliefs.
At first, my mother was angry when she learned that I was associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, her concerns were based on misunderstandings. Now my mother and I enjoy a restored relationship. I no longer have a feeling of emptiness deep inside me. Instead, I have direction and purpose in my life, and I feel that my spiritual needs are being satisfied.—Matthew 5:3.
“I Learned Many Surprising Things From the Bible.”—ISAKALA PAENIU
YEAR BORN: 1939
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: TUVALU
MY PAST: I was born on Nukulaelae, a beautiful Pacific island that is now part of Tuvalu. Life on the islands was dominated by pastors who received their religious training at a college in Samoa. It was the duty of the island people to feed the pastors and their families daily, to provide accommodations for them, in fact, to give them the best of everything. Even if the islanders did not have enough food for their own families, they were obligated to provide for the pastors.
The pastor on my island ran the village school and taught religion, math, and some geography. I recall seeing the pastor beat students so badly that they were covered in blood. No one, however, dared protest, not even the parents. The pastor was revered as if he were God himself.
When I was ten, I left home to go to the only government school in the area, which was on another island. When I graduated, I joined the civil service. At the time, the islands were part of the British colony known as Gilbert and Ellice Islands. I worked in various departments before becoming the editor of the government weekly news sheet. All was going well until I published a letter from a reader that criticized the money being spent in preparation for a visit by the Prince of Wales. The letter writer had used a false name, and my superior demanded to know the real name of the person. I refused to tell him, and this confrontation became widely known.
Soon after that incident, I left the civil service and went into politics. I won an election in Nukulaelae and was appointed to be the Minister of Commerce and Natural Resources. Later, when the people from the Kiribati (formerly Gilbert) and Tuvalu (formerly Ellice) islands were gaining independence from Britain, the governor offered me the post as head of the Tuvalu administration. However, I didn’t want to be seen as connected with colonial rule. So I turned down the offer and without that backing ran in the general election for the top political post. I lost. After that, I returned with my wife to my home island and decided to live the normal village life.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: Sunday in the islands was the Sabbath and considered as holy by everyone but me. That was my day for sailing and fishing. I did not want to be known as a religious person. My father told me how disappointed he and others were by my actions. But I was determined not to come under the influence of the church.
On one of my trips to Funafuti—the island on which the capital of Tuvalu is located—my younger brother invited me to join him in attending a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Later, a Witness missionary gave me a stack of Watchtower and Awake! magazines to read. He also gave me a book that exposed the pagan origins of the doctrines that many so-called Christian churches teach. I read that book several times. I learned many surprising things from the Bible, including the fact that Christians are not obliged to keep the weekly Sabbath. * I shared these points with my wife, and she immediately stopped attending church.
I, however, had vowed to have nothing to do with religion. Almost two years passed, but I could not forget the things I had learned. Eventually, I wrote to the missionary on Funafuti, telling him that I was ready to make a change. He hopped on the next available boat and came to help me learn more about the Bible. My father was furious when he found out that I wanted to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I told him that I had learned so much about the Bible from the Witnesses that I had made up my mind.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: In 1986, I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and my wife was baptized a year later. Our two daughters also learned what the Bible teaches and decided to become Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Now I have the pleasure of belonging to a religious group who, like the first-century Christians, have no clergy-laity distinction. (Matthew 23:8-12) They also humbly follow Jesus’ example and preach to others about God’s Kingdom government. (Matthew 4:17) How thankful I am to Jehovah God for allowing me to learn the truth about him and his people!
“The Witnesses Didn’t Tell Me What to Believe.”—ALEXANDER SOSKOV
YEAR BORN: 1971
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: RUSSIA
HISTORY: COMBAT INSTRUCTOR
MY PAST: I was born in Moscow, which at the time was the capital of the Soviet Union. My family lived in a large apartment building, and many of our neighbors worked together in the same factory. I remember their complaining that I was a very active child and predicting that I would either die an early death or end up at the police station. In fact, by age ten, I was already on file with the police.
When I turned 18, I was conscripted into the army and served as a border guard. I returned home after two years and worked in a factory, but the job bored me. So I joined the Moscow police riot squad and worked as an instructor in hand-to-hand combat. I helped round up criminals in Moscow and traveled to various hot spots around the country. The tension inside me was like a coiled spring. When I returned home, I sometimes had to rest apart from my wife—I feared that I would injure her in my sleep.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: When I began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I discovered that the violent lifestyle I led was not compatible with Bible standards. I also saw the need to stop smoking and to control the amount of alcohol I drank. However, I reasoned that I couldn’t change my job, since I had no other skills that could provide me with the work I needed to feed my family. I also felt that I could never go preaching, as the Witnesses did.
Eventually, I became convinced that the Bible record was accurate. And I drew comfort from the account at Ezekiel 18:21, 22. That passage says: “As regards someone wicked, in case he should turn back from all his sins that he has committed . . . , all his transgressions that he has committed—they will not be remembered against him.”
I liked that the Witnesses didn’t tell me what to believe but helped me to reason on what I was learning. I took a stack of 40 or more of their magazines and read them within three weeks. What I learned convinced me that I had found the true religion.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: Before studying the Bible, my wife and I were on the brink of divorce. Now our marriage has improved. My wife began studying the Bible when I did, and we decided to serve Jehovah together. Now my family life is happier. I was also able to find work that did not conflict with Bible principles.
When I first engaged in door-to-door preaching, I would become very tense—the feelings that I had before taking part in a raid would well up inside of me. Now I am confident that I can remain calm, even if someone tries to provoke me. Over time, I have learned to be patient with people. I regret that I wasted so much of my life, but I now feel that my life is truly worthwhile. I enjoy pouring the strength I have into serving Jehovah God and helping others.