My Experiences

by Former 79 Replies latest jw experiences

  • Former

    Greetings. I'm a former Ministerial Servant and Bethelite that left about six months ago. My stay at Bethel ended one year ago. For those interested, this is my story:

    Last night my father invited me to dinner to inform me that he was no longer speaking to me, and he had decided that the rest of the family was not allowed to either. This is because I have not been attending Christian meetings and am suspected not to be living the Christian lifestyle, which is "a dangerous and destructive influence" that the family must be protected from. So while he loves me, I won't be hearing from them. This went surprisingly well, and as I exercised all the understanding of their culture I could muster, the night ended with a hug goodbye.

    My sister, who is in her mid teens, appears not to fit exactly within this mold. She has her own way of doing things, and is very strong-willed. When I moved out, she told me that she was scared, because I was "the only sane person in this house." It's worth noting that not everything has always been on the up-and-up as concerns the type of "discipline" that's been administered.

    When they discovered earlier this month that she had friends outside of church, they became infuriated and placed her under house arrest. She has no phone, Internet connection, or any other way of contacting anyone. I've just found tonight out that she was allowed to write one goodbye e-mail to her boyfriend and best friend, which my parents sent for her, informing them of what was happening because they are not Jehovah's Witnesses:

    "I'm actually extremely lucky I'm being allowed to say goodbye to you at all. If you answer this e-mail, I'll never read your reply... I won't get it. My parents are letting me write this and then they're sending it for me. This has been the hardest thing in the world for me to handle. I really don't know how to react to it at all. I just want you two to know that I'm so sorry."

    As I've indicated, this made me outstandingly angry. I quickly wrote an e-mail to my father, to which I've predictably received no response. While I'm famous around here for being a bad debater, I made a couple of points. Firstly, she has clearly demonstrated that emotional trauma translates to hurting herself physically and yet they seem to have chosen the most traumatic method possible. Secondly, they could not have found a method that would make her oppose them more if they tried. By imposing their views on her, they have removed the possibility of a middle ground: they will either break her or cause her to hate them. I've placed my bets.

    So that's about it. Hello, all.

  • GrandmaJones

    God, this must just be killing you. Your poor sister. This is going to mess her up really badly. I wish I could think of something helpful to suggest.

    Is there a way you could take her? This is so terrible. How about her guidance counselor at school? Could he/she be of help?

    What a first post. You will find many people who can relate to your experiences here. Welcome.

  • jamiebowers

    Welcome to JWN. You'll have plenty of your own issues to sort out, and many here will help you. In the meantime, please call Children's Services in your area and report your parents. You can do it anonymously. If they're doing nothing about your sister's self-injury, they're neglectful parents, and she is in danger.

  • MrFreeze

    Yes, JW's are truly set apart by their love, or lack thereof.

  • Broken Promises
    Broken Promises

    Is your sister's self-harm a one-off thing, or something she resorts to in times of trauma (like this situation)?

    If it is something she uses in time of trauma, I would suggest notifying the authorities. She needs help.

    And I agree, your parents have chosen the best way of alienating her from them and the religion. However, she is lucky to have you for a brother, and it will probably be the one thing that will keep her sane.

    Welcome to the board!

  • moshe

    This would make a nice first person story for the media- you have nothing to lose. The public needs to be warned about the dangers of the JWs. You are welcome here, Former- stay awhile and find the life you are meant to live,


  • Think About It
    Think About It

    Former.......welcome to the board young man. Good luck on your JW free journey in life. Your poor sister will now probably count the days until she can get out and hitch her wagon to the first pony that offers her that chance.

    Think About It

  • 3Mozzies

    Welcome Former

    Glad you're out but your sisters situation is terrible!!! I agree with the others, there must be some way of helping her.

    Take her in if you can...

    Sounds like your family has already started to destroy her mentally, hopefully you can act quick & help somehow.


  • drewcoul

    I feel terrible for your sister. I think most would agree, that even in Witness households, what your parents are doing is not normal rational behavior.

    Could you please elaborate on your Bethel service? What is the general feeling there on things such as "overlapping generation" and the new look of the Governing Body?

    I look forward to hearing more from you.

    And, by the way: WELCOME TO THE FORUM!!

  • Former

    Thanks for the warm welcome, all. GrandmaJones, your suggestion of school authorities would be nice were she not home schooled to top things off. I'm exploring emancipation and other ideas. moshe, an interesting idea, though of course I doubt it will help my sister particularly. drewcoul, I'll elaborate on my service at Bethel as requested in due course, as I explain from the beginning:


    My family has always been religious to a degree. At six years old I found out that there was no Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, etc. from some friends at school. I asked my parents about each of these in turn, and somewhere in the list included God. They affirmed that Santa Claus was fictional, but God they assured me was real. I've not been so sure ever since. At about eight years old we stopped attending church. My parents had realized that no matter which denomination they tried, nowhere was anyone faithfully teaching the bible's message without their own additions or subtractions. Who should happen by our home a few months later but a middle-aged woman with a bag full of religious literature.

    Teenage Years

    When 16 years old I met a girl at a congregation meeting. That year was agonizing; I stayed up late at night trying to work out a proof for or against God. Later I searched the Internet for any helpful information and discovered the book Crisis of Conscience by Raymond Franz, which I dismissed as a bitter man's justification for his mistakes. I found the task of sorting all this out too challenging for my teenage mind and gave it up, deciding that since I could prove nothing either way I might as well do whatever I wanted. At 17 I was baptized.

    I soon found that bible study was calming, enlightening and I was good at debating scripture. I began helping to operate the sound equipment at congregation meetings and would read the lessons when we studied literature in smaller groups. At 18 I met a young man a few years older than myself named Jacob who had just returned from the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses and was consumed with excitement for the organization's work. He urged me to get an application to preach full-time. I moved my full-time job to part-time and did just that. He and I became friends, and he would compare us to Jonathan and David. I had a sense that my life was moving forward and things were looking up. I was enjoying myself and I had found the approval of my parents and community for the first time.

    I began taking on whatever responsibilities were allowed me and began ordering and organizing the literature supply for the congregation. At the same time, more questions were surfacing that were harder to ignore. I went through cycles of intense study and giving up again. Once in a car group there was a discussion about the Governing Body and how it came to decisions, and in the midst of all sorts of nonsensical guesses involving inspiration I blurted out, "Do you honestly think these dudes are magic?" Nonetheless I loved the congregation and enjoyed helping those with whom I studied the Bible to improve their lives. I believe that I was also attempting counteract my lack of conviction by doing more for the organization, feeling that the doubts might go away if I immersed myself more in the work. After attending an intensive two-week study course for full-time preachers, I began making plans to travel to a foreign country to serve where the need was greater. By this time I was 20 years old.


    In the middle of this personal crisis I was approached by Jacob's uncle, Mark. He told me that he needed my help: he had 70 bible students that he was caring for himself. There was a group of immigrants known as the Karen who had been relocated from refugee camps in Burma (Myanmar) to the United States by means of the United Nations. They were intensely interested in the bible and incredibly friendly, strangers physically pulling us into their homes on sight though they spoke little English and we very little Karen. I was persuaded to place my plans for international peaching on hold and take a prominent role in the organizing of this foreign-language effort.


    I received an invitation to live at the Watchtower Educational Center in Patterson, New York. I did some real considering and decided that since this was an invitation-only opportunity I ought to take it, if only temporarily. I lived and worked there, helping to produce educational videos that chronicled the early history of Jehovah's Witnesses, one of which has already been released at the last District Convention. This is where the real difficulty started.

    As the work progressed, it became increasingly difficult to ignore that the history we presenting in the films was a "sanitized" version. Important events were skipped over or conveniently worded so as to misrepresent the facts. I spent my nights in the Family Library searching through C.T. Russell's Studies in the Scriptures, issues of Zions's Watchtower and Herald of Christ's Presence from 1879 onward, and the two historical volumes Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose and Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, all published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. I began to notice that there was a clear progression from the oldest publications forward: the organization's history was morphing slowly into a generic inspirational tale.

    I spoke to the overseers who worked directly with the Teaching Committee of the Governing Body and raised some of these concerns. I was told that these things were not important, and that the real focus should be on what great strides the organization has made since these early times. I could scarcely believe what was happening. I felt like Raymond Franz.

    This was the point at which my outlook changed dramatically. Teaching the bible was one thing, willful fabrication was another. When asked if I would stay at Bethel permanently I declined, and in January of this year I returned home. I was appointed as a Ministerial Servant immediately. Talks became difficult to write as I was no longer willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the Governing Body and teach things I didn't have a basis for myself. I approached the congregation elders and brought them up to speed. The circuit overseer's visit happened to be right then, and we spent Saturday discussing all of this. My favorite thing he said: "It's true that the evidence for Jehovah is all circumstantial." My last meeting was in May.

    If you've read this far, congratulations on your patience.

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