The Bible Changes Lives
WHAT helped a woman in the Philippines to break free from alcohol abuse and improve her family life? Why did a karate enthusiast in Australia become a peaceable minister of religion? Read what these people have to say.
“The Changes Didn’t Happen Overnight.”—CARMEN ALEGRE
YEAR BORN: 1949
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: THE PHILIPPINES
HISTORY: HEAVY DRINKER
MY PAST: I was born in San Fernando, a town in the province of Camarines Sur. For most of my adult life, though, I have lived in Antipolo, Rizal Province. Situated in a mountainous and grassy area with a lot of trees, Antipolo was a quiet little town when I first moved here. I rarely saw anyone walking outside after dark. Now, however, Antipolo has developed into a large city with many people.
Some time after moving to Antipolo, I met a man named Benjamin, and in time we were married. I found married life to be more difficult than I had anticipated. In an effort to escape my problems, I began to drink heavily. I developed a difficult personality, which was evident in the way I treated my husband and my children. I had very little self-control or patience in dealing with them. I showed no respect to my husband. Needless to say, our family life wasn’t pleasant.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: My husband’s sister, Editha, is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and she recommended that Benjamin and I study the Bible with the Witnesses. We accepted the offer, hoping it would help to improve our family life.
As we studied the Bible, we learned a number of beautiful truths. The words of Revelation 21:4 especially touched my heart. Regarding those who will live in the future earthly paradise under God’s Kingdom, that verse says that God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” I wanted to be among the people who would enjoy those blessings.
I came to realize that I needed to make some major changes in my attitude and habits. The changes didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I succeeded in breaking free from alcohol abuse. I also learned to be kind and patient in dealing with my family. Moreover, I learned to respect my husband, cooperating with him as he took the lead in our family.
When Benjamin and I began to attend meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we were deeply impressed by what we saw. Among the Witnesses, there is no gambling, no overdrinking, and no partiality. They treat everyone with dignity and respect. We were convinced that we had found the true religion.—John 13:34, 35.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: Our family life has improved dramatically. Benjamin and I have a happy marriage, and we enjoy teaching the Bible to others. Our two grown sons and their wives have also begun to study the Bible. We hope that in time they will join us in serving Jehovah. This really is the best way of life.
“I Felt Invincible.”—MICHAEL BLUNSDEN
YEAR BORN: 1967
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: AUSTRALIA
HISTORY: KARATE ENTHUSIAST
MY PAST: I grew up in Albury, a beautiful, prosperous city in New South Wales. Like most cities, it has its share of crime. In general, though, Albury is known as a safe place to live.
My upbringing was comfortable. Although my parents divorced when I was seven, they saw to it that my brother and two sisters and I never lacked anything. I received a good education, attending the best private school in the area. My father wanted me to have a career in business when my schooling was complete. However, I was more interested in the sporting sector, where I excelled at cycling and karate. I ended up taking a job at an automotive repair shop, which allowed me more time to focus my energy on my sporting interests.
I took pride in keeping myself in fit physical condition. At times, I felt invincible. I could easily have used my strength to take advantage of others. But my karate master, knowing that I was struggling not to misuse my strength, instilled strict discipline and morals in me. He constantly stressed the importance of obedience and loyalty.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: When I began to study the Bible, I learned that Jehovah hates violence. (Psalm 11:5) At first, I reasoned that karate isn’t violence but is a sport practiced in a safe manner. I felt that the virtues and high standards it promotes were much in line with what the Bible teaches. The Witness couple who studied with me were very patient. They never told me that I had to give up martial arts; they simply continued to teach me Bible truth.
As my Bible knowledge grew and my friendship with Jehovah deepened, I began to see things from a different perspective. I was impressed when I learned of the example set by Jehovah’s Son, Jesus. Although Jesus was very powerful, he never resorted to physical violence. His words recorded at Matthew 26:52 really hit home: “All those who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
The more I learned about Jehovah, the more my love and respect for him grew. To think that our Creator, so wise and so powerful, could care about me personally moved me deeply. I was touched to learn that even when I let Jehovah down or when I felt that it was all too hard and I just wanted to throw in the towel, he would never give up on me as long as I kept on trying. I found great comfort in his promise: “I, Jehovah your God, am grasping your right hand, the One saying to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I myself will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13) When I realized that I’d been shown that sort of love, I wasn’t about to let it go.
I knew that giving up karate would be the hardest thing I had ever done. But I also knew that it would please Jehovah, and I was convinced that serving him was worth any sacrifice. I think the clincher for me was when I read Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 6:24: “No one can slave for two masters.” I realized that it would be impossible to serve Jehovah fully and keep practicing karate, as my priorities would inevitably drift back to karate. The time had come to choose my master.
It wasn’t easy to give up karate. I struggled with many conflicting emotions. I felt a measure of joy in knowing that I was making Jehovah happy. But I also felt as if I were betraying my karate master. Those who practice martial arts often view betraying someone as an unforgivable sin. Some will even opt to commit suicide rather than deal with the shame.
I could not bring myself to explain to my karate master why I was leaving. Instead, I simply walked away, ceasing all communication with him and my other karate associates. I knew that I had done the right thing in giving up karate. Yet I also felt guilty for not explaining my new beliefs, having missed an opportunity to share my faith with others. I felt as if I let Jehovah down before I even began serving him. All of this was quite tormenting. There were many times when I tried to pray to Jehovah but ended up crying in pain.
Jehovah must have seen something good in me, for he moved the brothers and sisters in the congregation to rally to my side. Their love, comfort, and friendship were incredible. I also drew comfort from the Bible account of David and Bath-sheba. Even though David committed serious sins, Jehovah forgave him after he sincerely repented. When I reflected on that account, it helped me to put my own shortcomings in perspective.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: Before studying the Bible, I didn’t care too much about anyone else—life was all about me. But with Jehovah’s help and that of my beautiful wife of seven years, I have developed a lot more empathy. We’ve been blessed with the privilege of studying the Bible with a number of individuals, including some with tragic circumstances. Seeing Jehovah’s love touch the lives of others has brought me more joy than being a powerful karate champion ever could.
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“To think that our Creator, so wise and so powerful, could care about me personally moved me deeply”
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“Thank You for This Wonderful Series!”
Did you enjoy reading the foregoing experiences? They are just 2 of over 50 such accounts published in The Watchtower since August 2008. The series “The Bible Changes Lives” has become a favorite among our readers. Why have many found it so appealing?
The individuals featured in these articles come from various backgrounds. Before learning about Jehovah God, some enjoyed a measure of success but lacked a real purpose in life. Others contended with major challenges, such as a violent temper or the abuse of drugs or alcohol. A few grew up knowing about Jehovah but strayed from his worship for a time. All such experiences illustrate that making changes in order to please God is possible. And doing so always brings benefits. What impact are these accounts having on our readers?
One reader explains how the article in the February 1, 2009, issue helped some inmates at a prison for women.
▪ “Many of the inmates can relate to the individuals featured in the article,” she says. “The ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures, along with the profiles of each person’s past, were especially effective. Many inmates have similar backgrounds. After reading these accounts, two inmates started to study the Bible.”—C. W.
The experiences featured in this series have especially struck a chord with some. For example, the April 1, 2011, issue carried the experience of Guadalupe Villarreal, who gave up a homosexual lifestyle in order to serve Jehovah. Note just two of the many letters that came from our readers in response to his account.
▪ “Guadalupe’s experience touched me to the core. It is so wonderful to see how love for Jehovah and his Word can completely transform a person!”—L. F.
▪ “In the past, I tried to share my faith with everyone, including homosexuals. Lately, though, I’ve noticed that I tend to overlook such individuals or even avoid them. This article was just what I needed. It helped me to view such individuals as Jehovah does—as his potential worshippers.”—M. K.
Another experience that resonated with many readers was that of Victoria Tong, whose story appeared in the August 1, 2011, issue. Victoria described her tragic upbringing. She acknowledged that she has struggled to feel loved by Jehovah, even after years of serving him. And she related what has gradually helped her to accept Jehovah’s love. Notice what some readers said about her story.
▪ “Victoria’s experience spoke directly to my heart. I’ve experienced a lot of tragedy in my life. I constantly battle negative thinking—even after years of being a baptized Witness. But Victoria’s experience makes me want to work even harder to see what Jehovah sees in me.”—M. M.
▪ “When I was young, I fought an addiction to pornography. Recently, I suffered a relapse. I’ve sought the help of Christian elders, and I’ve made progress in overcoming my problem. The elders have assured me of God’s love and mercy. Yet, at times, I still feel worthless, as if Jehovah couldn’t possibly love me. Reading Victoria’s experience really helped. I now realize that when I think God couldn’t possibly forgive me, in essence I’m saying that his Son’s sacrifice is not enough to cover my sins. I’ve clipped out this article so that I can read and meditate on it whenever feelings of worthlessness well up within me. Thank you for this wonderful series!”—L. K.