The Bible Changes Lives
WHAT motivated a tobacco farmer to change not only his occupation but also his deeply held religious beliefs? How did an alcoholic gain the strength to change her lifestyle? Read what these people have to say.
“I Love Being Part of This Large Family.”—DINO ALI
YEAR BORN: 1949
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: AUSTRALIA
HISTORY: TOBACCO FARMER
MY PAST: My parents emigrated from Albania in 1939 and settled in Mareeba, a small town in Queensland, Australia. Many Bosnians, Greeks, Italians, and Serbians, among others, also settled in this area, bringing with them their values, customs, and cultures. Mareeba was a tobacco-farming area, and my parents began growing that crop.
Soon, my older sister was born, followed by my two older brothers and me. Sadly, Dad died of a heart attack when I was a year old. Mum remarried and had four more sons. We all grew up on my stepfather’s tobacco farm.
I left home in my teens. When I was in my early 20’s, I married my wife, Saime, in the local mosque, since we were both Muslims. All of my uncles, aunts, and cousins followed the Islamic faith. I read the Koran and a book about the prophet Muhammad’s history. At the same time, I also read a small Bible. The Koran speaks of the prophets mentioned in the Bible, and reading the Bible helped me to understand when they lived.
Jehovah’s Witnesses called at my house and regularly left magazines and books, which both Saime and I enjoyed reading. I remember having many stimulating debates with the Witnesses on various religious subjects. On each occasion, they answered my questions from the Bible, rather than giving their personal opinion. That made a real impression on me.
The Witnesses offered to study the Bible with me and invited me to their meetings, but I always refused. My immediate priority was to own my own farm and to have a large family. I never did own a farm, but I eventually did become the proud father of five children.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: Nine years after my first contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I had still not changed my religious beliefs. However, I enjoyed receiving and reading all the publications that they produced. Every Sunday, Saime and I took time to read this literature. We kept all the magazines that we had received over the years. They proved to be a very helpful resource when others began to test the faith that was growing in my heart.
For example, I met an evangelical preacher who tried to pressure me to accept Jesus as my Savior. He had succeeded in convincing Saime’s brother and one of my half brothers to follow him. Soon, acquaintances from all sorts of religious backgrounds began trying to convince me to join their religious groups. Some gave me literature that attacked Jehovah’s Witnesses. I asked these critics to show me from the Bible the reasons for the doctrines that they taught, but they could not answer my questions.
All this opposition only made me dig deeper into the Bible and do more research, using the literature I had collected from the Witnesses. Finally, I realized that the time had come for me to act on what I was learning.
I didn’t have a personal Bible study with one of the Witnesses; I just began attending their meetings. At first, I was very nervous and shy, but I met many friendly people at those meetings, and I enjoyed what I learned. I made up my mind that I would become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and in 1981, I symbolized my dedication to God by being baptized.
My wife did not oppose my decision, although she sometimes questioned whether I was being deceived. Still, she attended my baptism. I continued to share with her the many truths that I was learning. About a year after my baptism, as we were driving home from vacation, Saime expressed her desire to become a Witness. I was so surprised that I almost drove off the road! She was baptized in 1982.
Making the needed changes in our lifestyle was not easy. I had stopped growing tobacco because doing so conflicts with Bible principles. (2 Corinthians 7:1; James 2:8) It took some time before we found acceptable employment that provided a steady income. Also, for many years after that, some of our relatives refused to visit us. We tried to treat them according to Bible principles by showing them love. Eventually, the barriers came down, and now our close relatives no longer shun us.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: Going through various tests, whether overcoming my shyness, coping with financial anxieties, or dealing with family opposition, has taught me how patient Jehovah God is in helping me deal with my problems. For example, I now serve as a congregation elder and must often teach from the platform. This is still a challenge for me because I battle with stammering as a result of nervousness. But by means of constant prayer and with Jehovah’s help, I am able to care for this privilege.
My wife and I have grown closer, and the bond we now enjoy is beyond value. We made mistakes when raising our children but tried our best to inculcate in them the Bible truths that we learned. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) In fact, my oldest son and his wife are serving as missionaries.
I remember one occasion shortly after we began attending the meetings of the Witnesses as a family. I parked the car and looked inside the hall at the crowd gathering there. I asked my family, “What do you see?” Inside were people of different cultures, backgrounds, and tongues—Aboriginals, Albanians, Australians, Croatians—yet they were happily mingling together. I love being part of this large family of spiritual brothers and sisters, which exists not only in Australia but all over the world.—1 Peter 5:9.
“My Sister Never Gave Up on Me.”—YELENA VLADIMIROVNA SYOMINA
YEAR BORN: 1952
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: RUSSIA
HISTORY: ADDICTED TO ALCOHOL, ATTEMPTED SUICIDE
MY PAST: I was born in Krasnogorsk, a small, peaceful city near Moscow. I grew up in a family of teachers. I was a good student and received an education in music. My future looked bright.
When I married, my husband and I moved to an area where cursing, drunkenness, and smoking were the norm. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the environment had a bad effect on me. At first, I went to parties merely to sing and play the guitar. Once I was there, however, people would invite me to smoke and drink with them. Soon I was addicted to alcohol.
My addiction began to destroy my life. It took some time for me to hit rock bottom, but when I did, I could hardly eat anything. I wanted to die, and I made a clumsy attempt at suicide. I am thankful that I did not succeed.
Through all of this, my sister visited me regularly. She had become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and she tried to explain how the Bible could help me. I wasn’t interested in the Bible, so at first I chased her away. But my sister never gave up on me. She showed so much patience and love that I finally agreed to study the Bible.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: After I started studying the Bible, I made a firm resolve to quit drinking. About that time, I was attacked and beaten by a neighbor who was drunk. I ended up in the hospital in serious condition. Four of my ribs were broken, and one of my retinas had been damaged. Nevertheless, that stay in the hospital helped me through the alcohol-withdrawal symptoms.
During that time, I prayed constantly. A Bible passage that brought me great comfort was Lamentations 3:55, 56, which says: “I have called out your name, O Jehovah, from a pit of the lowest sort. My voice you must hear. Do not hide your ear to my relief, to my cry for help.”
I truly believe that Jehovah answered my prayers. He gave me the strength to keep from returning to my past. There were times when I was tempted to start drinking again. I’m happy to say that I never gave in to that temptation.
As I continued studying the Bible, I learned that I needed to support my husband in his role as head of the family. (1 Peter 3:1, 2) That wasn’t easy for me to do, as I was accustomed to bossing my husband around. I prayed for Jehovah’s help. The change didn’t happen overnight, but gradually I became a better, more supportive wife.
Upon seeing these changes, my dear husband was amazed. Up to that point, he was not interested in the Bible. But when I decided to quit smoking, he said: “If you will quit smoking, then I’ll start studying the Bible!” We both quit smoking on the same day.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: My husband kept his promise and began to study the Bible. Now we read the Bible together every day, meditate on what we read, and try to apply the counsel in our lives.
Words cannot describe how our family life has improved—not to mention how I have benefited personally. I am grateful to Jehovah for having drawn me to him. (John 6:44) I’m also grateful to my sister, who never gave up on me. As a result, I’ve learned firsthand that the Bible really does change lives.
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I realized that the time had come for me to act
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My sister showed so much patience and love that I finally agreed to study the Bible