The Bible Changes Lives
WHY did a woman in her 60’s give up idol worship? What moved a Shinto priest to leave his work at a shrine and become a Christian minister? How was a woman who had been adopted at birth able to cope with feelings of abandonment? Consider what these people have to say.
“I No Longer Slave for Idols.”—ABA DANSOU
YEAR BORN: 1938
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: BENIN
HISTORY: IDOL WORSHIPPER
MY PAST: I grew up in So-Tchahoué, a village situated in a marshy area near a lake. The villagers fish and raise cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, and birds. There are no roads in the area, so people use boats and canoes to move about. They generally build their houses out of wood and grass, although some build with bricks. People there are predominantly poor. Even so, crime is not as rampant as in the cities.
When I was a child, my father sent my sister and me to a fetish convent, where we were initiated into that traditional belief. When I grew up, I adopted Dudua (Oduduwa) from the Yoruba culture as my god. I built a house for this god and regularly offered sacrifices of yams, palm oil, snails, chickens, doves, and various other animals. These sacrifices were costly, often consuming nearly all my resources.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: When I began to study the Bible, I learned that Jehovah is the only true God. I also learned that he does not approve of the use of idols in worship. (Exodus 20:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 10:14) I realized what I needed to do. So I threw all my images away and cleaned my house of everything pertaining to idol worship. I stopped consulting oracles, and I no longer participated in local rituals and funeral rites.
It was not easy for me—a woman in her 60’s—to make these changes. My friends, relatives, and neighbors opposed me and made fun of me. But I prayed to Jehovah for the strength to do what is right. I took comfort in the words of Proverbs 18:10, which says: “The name of Jehovah is a strong tower. Into it the righteous runs and is given protection.”
Something else that helped me was attending the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There I experienced Christian love, and I was impressed because these people try to live by the Bible’s high moral standards. What I saw convinced me that Jehovah’s Witnesses practice the true religion.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: Applying Bible principles has helped me improve my relationship with my children. I also feel that a burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I used to exhaust my resources on lifeless idols that did not benefit me in any way. Now I worship Jehovah, who provides a lasting solution to all our problems. (Revelation 21:3, 4) I am so happy that I no longer slave for idols, but rather, I slave for Jehovah! In him I have found true security and protection.
“I Had Been Looking for God Since Childhood.”—SHINJI SATO
YEAR BORN: 1951
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: JAPAN
HISTORY: SHINTO PRIEST
MY PAST: I grew up in a country town in Fukuoka Prefecture. My parents were very religious; they raised me from childhood to revere the Shinto gods. As a young boy, I thought often about my salvation and had a strong desire to help people who were in trouble. I recall a time in elementary school when the teacher asked the class what we wanted to do when we grew up. My classmates had very concrete hopes, such as becoming a scientist. I said that my dream was to serve God. Everyone laughed at me.
After high school, I entered a school for religious teachers. During that training, I met a Shinto priest who spent his spare time reading a book with a black cover. One day he asked me, “Sato, do you know what this book is?” I had noticed the cover of the book, so I answered, “The Bible.” He said, “Everyone who wants to be a Shinto priest should read this book.”
I went right out and bought a Bible. I put the Bible in the most prominent place on my bookshelf and took good care of it. But I did not make time to read it, as school life kept me very busy. When I finished school, I began working at a shrine as a Shinto priest. My childhood dream had come true.
I soon discovered, however, that being a Shinto priest was not what I had expected it to be. Most priests showed little love or concern for others. Many also lacked faith. One of my superiors went so far as to tell me: “If you want to succeed here, you must talk only about philosophical matters. Talking about faith is forbidden.”
Such remarks caused me to feel disillusioned with the Shinto religion. Although I continued my work at the shrine, I began to investigate other religions. Yet, none of them seemed to offer anything better. The more religions I examined, the more discouraged I became. I felt that there was no truth in any religion.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: In 1988, I met a Buddhist who encouraged me to read the Bible. I thought of the Shinto priest who years earlier had urged me to do the same. I decided to apply the advice. As I started reading the Bible, I quickly became absorbed in it. Sometimes I would read all night long until the morning sun peeked through the window.
What I read moved me to want to pray to the God of the Bible. I began with the model prayer outlined at Matthew 6:9-13. I repeated this prayer every two hours—even while performing my service at the Shinto shrine.
I had many questions about what I was reading. By this time, I had married, and I knew that Jehovah’s Witnesses teach people about the Bible because they had visited my wife in the past. I sought out one of the Witnesses and plied her with questions. I was impressed when she used the Bible to answer each of them. She arranged for the Witnesses to study the Bible with me.
Shortly thereafter, I started attending the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I did not realize it at the time, but among the Witnesses present were some to whom I had been very rude in the past. Even so, they warmly greeted me and made me feel welcome.
At those meetings, I learned that God expects husbands to show love and honor to their family members. Until that point, I had focused so much on my work as a priest that I had neglected my wife and our two children. It dawned on me that I had listened intently to what people who came to worship at the shrine had to say but I had never once listened to what my wife had to say.
As my studies progressed, I learned many things about Jehovah that drew me to him. I was especially touched by such verses as Romans 10:13, which says: “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” I had been looking for God since childhood, and now, at last, I had found him!
I started to feel out of place at the shrine. At first, I worried about what others would think if I left the Shinto religion. But I had always told myself that I would leave if I found the true God elsewhere. So in the spring of 1989, I decided to follow my conscience. I left the shrine and put myself in Jehovah’s hands.
Leaving the shrine was not easy. My superiors berated me and tried to pressure me into staying. Even harder, though, was breaking the news to my parents. On the way to their house, I felt so overwhelmed with anxiety that my chest hurt and my legs were as weak as noodles! I stopped many times along the way to pray to Jehovah for strength.
When I arrived at my parents’ house, I was initially too afraid to broach the subject. Hours passed. Finally, after much prayer, I explained everything to my father. I told him that I had found the true God and that I was leaving the Shinto religion in order to serve Him. My father was shocked and saddened. Other relatives came to the house and tried to change my mind. I did not want to hurt my family, but at the same time, I knew that serving Jehovah was the right thing to do. In time, my family came to respect me for my decision.
Physically leaving the shrine was one thing; mentally leaving it was another. The life of a priest was deeply ingrained in me. I tried hard to forget it, but everywhere I turned, there seemed to be reminders of my former life.
Two things helped me to rid myself of these influences. First, I searched thoroughly for anything in my home that was related to my former religion. Then I burned them all—books, pictures, and even expensive memorabilia. Second, I sought as many opportunities as possible to associate with the Witnesses. Their friendship and support helped me a great deal. Little by little, my past ways faded from memory.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: I used to neglect my wife and children, which made them feel very lonely. But when I started to spend time with them, as the Bible teaches husbands to do, we became closer. In time, my wife joined me in serving Jehovah. Together with our son, our daughter, and her husband, we are now united in true worship.
When I think back to my childhood dream of serving God and helping other people, I realize that I have found everything I was looking for—and more. Words cannot express my gratitude to Jehovah.
“I Knew That Something Was Missing.”—LYNETTE HOUGHTING
YEAR BORN: 1958
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: SOUTH AFRICA
HISTORY: FEELINGS OF ABANDONMENT
MY PAST: I was born in Germiston, a middle-class mining town without much crime. Feeling that they would be unable to take care of me, my parents decided to give me up for adoption. At the tender age of 14 days, I was adopted by a loving couple whom I came to regard as my mother and father. Still, after I learned of my history, I struggled with feelings of abandonment. I began to feel that I did not belong to my adoptive parents and that they did not really understand me.
When I was about 16, I started going to cocktail bars, where my friends and I would dance and listen to live music. At age 17, I began to smoke cigarettes. I wanted to be thin like the models I saw in smoking advertisements. When I turned 19, I started working in Johannesburg, where I quickly fell in with the wrong crowd. Soon I was using bad language, smoking heavily, and drinking a lot on the weekends.
Even so, I was quite active physically. I regularly did aerobics and played squash and ladies’ soccer. I also worked hard at my career, making a name for myself in the computer industry. As a result, I was financially comfortable, and many people considered me successful. Yet, I was actually very unhappy—lost and disappointed with my life. Deep down, I knew that something was missing.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: When I started studying the Bible, I learned that Jehovah is a God of love. I also learned that he has demonstrated that love by giving us his Word, the Bible. It is as if he has written us a personal letter to guide our steps. (Isaiah 48:17, 18) I realized that if I wanted to benefit from Jehovah’s loving guidance, I would have to make some big changes in my life.
One change I needed to make was in my associations. I took to heart the words of Proverbs 13:20, which says: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” That principle influenced me to leave my old friendships behind and make new friends among Jehovah’s Witnesses.
My biggest challenge was to quit smoking; my addiction was very strong. As I gradually overcame that hurdle, I faced another challenge. Giving up cigarettes caused me to gain over 30 pounds (13.6 kg)! That was a real blow to my self-worth, and it took me nearly ten years to shed the excess weight. Yet, I knew that quitting smoking was the right thing to do. I prayed to Jehovah continually, and he gave me the strength to succeed.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: I now enjoy better health. I am also content—I no longer chase after the elusive happiness promised by a secular career, status, and wealth. Instead, I find joy in sharing Bible truths with others. As a result, three of my former colleagues now serve Jehovah along with my husband and me. Before each of my adoptive parents died, I was able to tell them about the Bible’s promise of a resurrection to a paradise earth.
Drawing close to Jehovah has helped me to cope with feelings of abandonment. He has given me a sense of belonging by bringing me into a worldwide family of fellow believers. Among them, I have many mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters.—Mark 10:29, 30.
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Among Jehovah’s Witnesses, I have experienced Christian love
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The Shinto shrine where I once worshipped