interesting EX-CO AMA ( Ask Me Anything) over on exjwreddit
wow! very insightful. liked the reference to special pioneers propping up the congregations therefore the org. how true. being a CO is hard work, great preparation for his need to now working 2 jobs. Sad that He did not have the connections to become CO in the US, a ticket to financial independence in many cases. He would have deserved it.
thank you for posting darkspilver, changed your name in my mind to light spiller.
Darkspilver, THANK YOU so much for posting this. I do not use or go to the Reddit forum, so really appreciate your doing this. Very interesting stuff!!
What were you providing by way of training or training materials?
Ha ha training materials. All of us in the circuit work in that country used to joke about that. "Where are our training materials? Where is the training book?"
There was no book. I received a letter stating I was invited to CO training in two months time and prior to that to prepare three service talks adaptable to different situations. The training was two weeks long. I observed a CO for one week serving a congregation, I didn't give any talks or preside over anything. Then I served the next congregation and he observed me. Then that Sunday evening we sat down and he reviewed my performance and sent his recommendations to the Branch. Three weeks later I received my appointment and my circuit assignment. That's it! I received a copy of all letters to Circuit Overseers from 1973 on, some said to make sure we start the week Tuesday at 1 pm. Others talked about judicial matters. Others talked about assembly prep. It seems so bizarre that they would give us such a position with so little training. The Branch Organization Manual which was kept in the Branch Office Library, some of you have seen this, has a page or two on Circuit Overseers. It says they should be "seasoned elders and experienced pioneers." So usually a CO has a lot of elder experience. I had three years experience. by that time. After I was a CO for three years or so, I started to train other elders as CO's. Same thing. They would accompany me for a week observing, then I would observe them for a week. Then I wrote my recommendation to the Branch. I trained 7 elders to be CO's, I recommended 6 of them. One guy was so clueless even I couldn't recommend him.
But it's a joke, really. Where was the real training to actually help people? People on here keep asking the same valid question, where was your real training?
There was none.
Its a joke. Men dressing up in suits acting like they know how to tell others how to live.
Can you give a quick summary of your personal progression from unbaptized publisher through to CO, including approximate ages for each event?
My personal progression? Publisher at 5 years old. Baptized at 15. Pioneer at 16. MS at 20. MTS at 23. Missionary at 24. Appointed elder at my assignment at 24. CO at 28.
Did you ever stay in people's houses, or were you always based in a missionary home? Apparently caravans where quite common in the US for COs to have massive caravans they would park at the Kingdom Halls.
For the first two years I had no car. I rode the bus and stayed in people's houses. Poor, rural areas. I slept on a squeaky cot with a sheet separating me from the rest of the family. No hot water. Showering with a bucket like they did. Mosquitos and dust everywhere. After I actually drove a car down there, I bought it here in the US and drove 5 days with another brother all the way to my assignment, it was a salvage vehicle that I towed with a pickup truck, I had a car! I had it fixed and then I drove everywhere. After that I always went back to the missionary home at night.
I used to see the huge RV's (Caravans) the CO's here used to have. Nice. But I was young and I liked being out there in the missionary field. At least I told myself that.
You say that most inactive were offended by something - does this mean that no one you called on ever had a valid reason (to you) for leaving? Did you always just write people off like that?
That's correct. In my arrogance no one was ever right in leaving. I used to tell the illustration of a person walking into the Kingdom Hall and someone tripping them. They fell onto the ground and refused to get up and go in. They were so angry at the person who tripped them they didn't get up. They just stayed on the ground. So too friends, do we blame Jehovah when someone stumbles us? Bla bla bla.
Thinking back now I am sure some became inactive due to figuring out it is a scam. I sure didn't think that before.
Tuesday used to be a meeting day, correct? So when did this meeting with the secretary happen? After the meeting or before it?
Every Tuesday the CO meets with the Secretary of the congregation he is serving to go over the records.
Previously, during the week of the CO visit, the congregation would have a meeting at the KH on Tuesday and Thursday evening. Currently the same pattern continues but the Thursday meeting has been dropped. If the congregation shares the KH, the meeting evenings would be moved around to enable the congregation with the CO visit to always have a Tuesday evening meeting.
Organised to do Jehovah's Will, page 45
Tuesday afternoon, the circuit overseer examines the Congregation’s Publisher Record cards, meeting attendance records, territory records, and the accounts. This will give him some insight into possible needs of the congregation and how he may be of assistance to those responsible for keeping these records. The coordinator of the body of elders should make arrangements for the circuit overseer to receive the records in advance. Sometime before the Tuesday evening meeting, the circuit overseer meets with the coordinator or another local elder to discuss any questions he has as a result of reviewing the records.
With regard to the Tuesday afternoon looking over the records - One hour does not seem long to gather all of that information and get a good feel for things?
You are right. I did two or three hours at first every Tuesday and then I got more efficient after a couple of years, that or more lazy.
How were inactive ones viewed by you. Did you or were you supposed to whip the elders into taking action. That is, get them back to meetings or disfellowship them. Or did you just basically leave them alone. And was there a time limit for reproved bro/sisters. As in could a brother remain reproved for a year without lifting restrictions and still go unnoticed.
On each visit I would have to report how many had become inactive, that is, no field service report for the last six months. I would ask why, sometimes they just didn't know. I also had to report how many were reactivated. I wasn't very good at reactivating people. But we had to report that. So I would go to their house and read them scriptures. It didn't work most of the time.
As far as people on restrictions, sometimes it went on for years. They were forgotten. They had been reproved or recently reinstated and then they missed meetings. You had to be regular at meetings to get your privileges back so some people just weee never regular enough at the meetings. Years would go by. What a horrible system.
So if a guy is going to college but is still in good standing, instead of attempting to strengthen him by giving him responsibility, they basically pre-shun him?
Yep. I was talking to a CO serving in Africa last year. He doesn't yet know I'm faded. Anyway we were talking about college and young people. I said how it's great to get a good education and he said, "Don't you realize how many young people we are losing to college?"
I used to think that too.
With regarding to the lack of training materials (previous question) - So there was nothing back then even comparable to the Circuit Overseer Guidelines book that has been circulating on the internet recently?
We didn't have a booklet like that, at least where I was. We had those letters, over a hundred, dating from 1973, with all the policies in there.
Note: Circuit Overseer Guidelines 2016 PDF: https://jw.servehttp.com/handbook.php?is=tg16-E.pdf
What if a single MS started dating and got engaged?
The elders would not want to recommend him as an elder, even if he were old enough and otherwise qualified. But since the MS was engaged, a high percentage, I would say over 80%, committed some form of porneia with their fiancée, so they always wanted to wait on recommending him as an elder.
How long can a MS turn in low hours due to chronic health issues before he is deleted? There's a MS at my hall, he's been sick for a while, he still gives a part every now and then, but he only turns in like 4-6 hours. I know there is an unwritten hour-requirement, but I assume there is some gray area when it comes to illness. What do you think?
There also was an elder that was the same way, except he went inactive, and was very sick. They let it ride about 2 years then silently (no announcement) deleted him. So I assume time runs out on these type of things.
There is no set time. Some CO's use the "national average" of hours as a guide, some don't or they say to take into account individual circumstances. Usually I wouldn't remove anyone for low hours on my first visit. I would talk to them and then wait until the next visit. If things hadn't improved or I couldn't think of a reason to keep him on, I would recommend his removal. However, if someone was sick or elderly or they had a big family and a job that required travel and they seemed to be "sincere and humble" then I wouldn't recommend their deletion. I would cut hem slack. And I also took into consideration what the congregation thought of them. Did they respect the brother even though he couldn't fulfill all his duties?
Each CO Is different. Hours are spent discussing all these situations at elders meetings and some want the guy deleted and some don't. It's just nonsense really.
I would like to ask if the COs buy into the WT rhetoric, or are they aware that there is so much lying and duplicitous dealing going on? I find it hard to believe that they are unaware of ttatt. And, if they are, how can they in conscience, 'encourage' the congregation to remain loyal to the organisation?
I bought into it. I was raised a Witness so I ignored any outside ideas as apostate. I often wonder how many active CO's are actually awake.
What it's like to be a Circuit Overseer - Part 2
Some background first: I was raised a Witness and when I was 16 years old I was interviewed by a Circuit Overseer at the Woodland Hills Assembly Hall in Los Angeles, asking about my goals. I said I wanted to be a Circuit Overseer. Everyone applauded. That was my goal my entire teenage years, and I especially wanted to be a missionary CO, since the ex-missionary CO's we had serving our congregation when I was a kid were the best in my opinion. They were exciting, they had cool stories from foreign countries, they were legit.
When I finally became a missionary Circuit Overseer 12 years later, I really thought a lot of myself. Every week I would arrive early for the meeting and walk around talking to people. If I was the new CO and they didn't know me yet I would get a kick out of them not knowing I was the CO. They thought I was a visitor, I guess because of my age. So then the meeting would start. I would make a ton of notes. Did the meeting start on time? Was each part prepared well? Were there good comments? If they were recommending someone for elder or servant, how did that persons' talk go? They always showcased whoever was being recommended. I wrote down notes for every talk, just so I could have constructive criticism at the elders and servants meeting. I usually brought something to read in English as well during the meeting because I was bored and I liked to multitask.
Then it was my turn. The CO back then gave 4 talks a week and Tuesday night was an important one to set the "tone." I would get up on the platform and say how I was glad to be serving their congregation that week and how we had a full week of activity bla bla bla, I felt great to be in that position. I had grown up with the Circuit Overseer visit being a highlight of the year and here I was on the platform actually being a CO! Meanwhile I was wasting my youth in a cult, but anyway. Remember too, I was single. So I was also on the lookout at that first meeting for cute sisters that I might preach with that week, without making it obvious, I bet I was obvious, actually. I would even make a mental note on Tuesday afternoon while I did the congregation records of single pioneer sisters around my age who had a "productive" ministry. I would memorize their names and look around for them at the meeting. Anyway, back to my service talk, I would usually start with some commendation for something the congregation had improved on, then I would give my talk. Sometimes the Society gave us an outline and sometimes we made our own. We were always told to apply whatever talk we had to local needs. I would usually end with an illustration I had stolen from a CO in the States, then talk about the activity for the week. Thinking back now, I was oblivious to real problems, such as who was depressed, possible child abuse, those suffering from anxiety or financial or health problems. I had no real training to help those affected or to deal with real problems.
In fact, I suffered from stress myself, always beginning Tuesday night, never before. The weight of an entire congregation was on me for that week starting that day. It was heavy and difficult. I can see why now, I wasn't qualified to give real help. I was usually told all kinds of problems on Tuesday afternoon and I had a week to fix them. But how? By giving talks?
During my talks I always talked in a conversational tone, I tried to keep it real, and I tried to address real issues, but it was all cult indoctrination mixed with some Bible stories and some practical advice that I had picked up somewhere. It was mumbo jumbo with no real substance and I didn't realize that. I was anxious and frustrated all week and I didn't know why. I would say in my talks how unified we are and how the end is so close and how any problem we have can be solved with Jehovah's help etc, etc, but I couldn't help with real problems, I had no solution usually other than wait on Jehovah or try to pray and then decide, or just pray and look for a solution. I truly believed it, but inside me there was turmoil. Anyway, no matter how nice the congregation, I was always wanting the week to end. It was a heavy weight on my shoulders the whole week.
So that's Tuesday night. After the meeting I would get out of there so fast. I would go back to the missionary home and just crash. Still a long week ahead.
How many visits does a CO do per year?
We were required to make at least two visits per year per congregation. If we could not fulfill that due to illness or assemblies or vacation then we were required to use our substitute CO.
You visit a congregation every week outside of conventions/assemblies right? Do you get any weeks off?
Missionary CO's have the most vacation of any special full-time servants. We got two weeks a year plus one day each year for every year of full time service. I had 12 years by the time I was a CO. And as a CO I didn't have to count Mondays and half a day Tuesday. So I could add on a day and a half for every week of vacation. That meant over a month a year of vacation. My family would buy my ticket and I would go back home and work at odd jobs and give a bunch of talks and come back with about $2000 or so, which would last me a year. Pizza and movies.
What did you do when someone came to you for advice instead of the elders?
Ha ha I listened to them. It usually was either of two things. One, they had committted a sin and they were afraid of the elders and knew I was merciful and I would tell the elders to be merciful. And two, it would be about a mean or spiteful elder. I always listened.
The reason I said ha ha is because we werent supposed to listen to problems or complaints of individual members of the congregation unless it was the week of my visit. I did it anyway. Eventually I got another letter from the Branch telling me I wasn't the Branch Office and to only talk to the friends about their problems during that visit and to refer those situations to the Branch or to the local body of elders.
So once you woke up, your view on who would make a good companion or wife, obviously was affected... So how difficult was it to change your view from what the Watchtower teaches - as to what a good mate/spouse is - to what normal people view, what makes a person good marriage material. Especially since there are many people who have long, happy marriages, (50 years and above) who never factored in things like (pioneering, studying WT publications, etc.) How long did it take to discard WT Ideas on what makes a good partner/wife.
I had no idea how twisted and wrong I was about women. I thought I viewed everyone equal and respected women. I was wrong.
When I returned from my assignment and I was working secularly I had a habit of mentioning the fact that someone was a woman although that was irrelevant. For example I would say "female manager" and "female doctor." I was called to account on that by management.
Little by little I changed my viewpoint. I will write more on that later. Eventually I met a sister who didnt respect my past CO career at all. She also dressed the way she wanted, going against elders counsel. And she didn't fawn over my "spiritual comments" in car service groups either.
I married her.
It took her a couple of years after me, but she is out mentally now also. We are faded. But I am still adjusting my viewpoint, what a mess of our minds the Watchtower makes.
Tell us some times and examples about removing elders from position and for what reasons? Was their any times that you needed to make a major change to the body of elders in certain halls?
I removed a lot of elders during my 7.5 years in the circuit work. Usually i gave them six months to improve. Low service hours, never prepared for talks, being unkind to the friends, borrowing money from everyone in the hall and not paying any of it back, heavy drinking, missing a lot of meetings, pornography.
I also was assigned by the Branch to a lot of special cases in other circuits to assist the local CO with prominent elders being accused of something. Alcoholism, married elders having an emotional affair with a sister telling her he loved her, stealing from the congregation accounts, stealing from work, fraud, homosexuality, lesbianism, stalking, porneia, dating two sisters in two different congregations at the same time, voyeurism, having a sister at work perform a striptease. Lots of sordid stuff. In my role as a CO, I never was excited by any of this. I was appalled and although I rarely disfellowshipped elders, I would really lay into them with the Bible and remove them and reprove them. I was used by the Branch a lot because they trusted me to be fair. Once I was assigned to investigate a City Overseer who was giving huge monetary gifts to a young sister and his wife found out. He was prominent and haughty and called everyone a liar. I enjoyed removing that guy. Another elder got angry at an assembly hall cleaning and lifted a chair over his head and chased brothers around threatening to hit them. He denied it even though we had 17 witnesses. He said it was a conspiracy.
In cases of fraud, I had a team of elders who owned businesses. If an accusation of fraud came up in an elders business, I used them to investigate and form a committee if necessary. The reason? Too much time involved, i just couldn't do it. That and experience. Fraud is hard to prove and all those invoices and paperwork from businesses and subtle tax laws took forever, plus trying to figure out if the elder or servant was lying. Some elders were under investigation for months.
Once I served a congregation that had a perennial deficit. I called my handy-dandy missionary buddy elder who had been an accountant to help me investigate. The Branch allowed this and they liked my thoroughness. The missionary/elder/accountant found this Ministerial Servant was cooking the books and stealing congregation money and had been for years. I of course wanted to disfellowship him but the Branch wouldn't let us. The Coordinator said we would never get our money back. So we reproved him and put him on a payment arrangement. He paid it off in two years. So much for basing decisions on repentance. This reproof decision was based solely on money, the Branch wanted their money back.
I have a million stories, good, crazy, weird, funny, sad. But I wasn't a hatchet man. If it wasn't a judicial matter I would almost always give the guy until the next visit to fix whatever it was.
Sometimes I felt like I really helped people, I often went to the Hall on an off day and coached elders and ministerial servants in giving talks in my spare time. I tried to give good counsel during my visits. I guess some of it was practical, sometimes. Mostly though I was judging and interfering in personal lives. And recommending and deleting men from a position that shouldn't exist. That whole system is garbage and I took it seriously for years and years.
I recently DA'ed. I know the elders aren't supposed to read the letters. What questions would you ask regarding those situations? Would you ask the elders what led up to it or what their thoughts were?
When someone stopped going or became inactive or disassociated themselves the policy is always to find out why. But that depends on the CO. Some will spend less than 30 seconds on the matter. The CO will say, "So I understand you received a disassociation letter. What is the gist of the matter?" Then the elders say, "Well, he had some doubts and we tried to help him and then he sent this letter." Then the CO says, "OK well he made his decision. Keep the letter on file and inform the Branch."
Maybe an elder will secretly read the letter. It's possible. But remember that as soon as someone doesn't agree with the Society they are viewed as wrong. They have "doubts". That's their fault. We all know the organization isn't perfect, but we keep on serving Jehovah. Bla bla bla. If someone disassociates themself then they are soon forgotten.
At least that's the way it used to be. It seems more elders are willing to talk about why people are leaving. I have read a lot of conversations on this forum of elders having discussions with those who later disassociate. That can help them to think later on.
I think what is going on now in terms of conversations taking place about the UN, the ARC, blood, shunning, is unprecedented. People ARE waking up. I did. Is it a huge exodus? Not yet. Is it more and more people? Yes it is.
Let's keep it going.
I knew of a CO who rolled into town one day and people started getting removed from positions and pioneering. Then people started getting df'd for nothing. A few petty, grudge holding people used th Co's toxic presence to get revenge. He stayed his full time, even with all the turmoil, and to my knowledge was never disciplined or removed.
I tried not to get embroiled in those big rifts and controversies with one family against another and all that. I would just move the elder to another hall. Hat usually helped. Unless he was a mean person, then I would delete him. I would always work with those problem elders in service. I could tell if they were a nice person in general by how they treated people in the territory. It seemed to work most of the time.
But there were problems in congregations I could never fix and I was never qualified to fix. Congregations shouldn't exist, elders and ministerial servants shouldn't exist, neither should there be deletions and reproof and disfellowshipping.
How much cash was palmed to you, on average, per week?
$50 average. That covered my gas and a little more sometimes.
Any secret "sin", masturbation et al?
The District Overseer meets with the Circuit Overseer once a year to encourage him and to give him any needed suggestions. So that week I give some talks and he gives others. Then on Sunday we have a private meeting where I can bring up anything I want. So this one DO, a real intrusive guy, starts asking me about my personal habits, he specifically mentions how almost all the single CO's and single special pioneers and elders have a "problem" with masturbation.
I was surprised at his candor about everyone else. I was also not going to tell him anything personal about myself as I had personally witnessed him drunk at a special Branch dinner for missionaries, saying crazy things into a microphone and just acting drunk. He also hated me for going above his head on a bunch of different matters. So I didn't tell him anything. Every week at least one brother confessed to me about masturbation. So did sisters occasionally, even a couple of older sisters confessed to me. I just told them that Jehovah is patient and to keep fighting against it. Of course, I had my own fight against it, so I tended to go easy on everyone else.
Thank you again, this is so interesting!!!
quite interesting and I never really knew the role CO's play in looking at inactive ones and they duty they have in assisting them, after my fade some many months later and while I was still married my wife would bang on and on about this new CO, I couldn't give a crap who the new CO was but she would often mention him, one time she came home after a meeting and informed me this CO would like to meet with me and would you like to meet him? I told where to stick the invitation.
ExCO: My personal progression? Publisher at 5 years old. Baptized at 15. Pioneer at 16. MS at 20. MTS at 23. Missionary at 24. Appointed elder at my assignment at 24. CO at 28.
Considering his fast-track (and young) progression - I was slightly surprised he was not baptized younger than 15, especially considering he was an unbaptized-publisher at only 5..... but part of one of his answers below perhaps answers that when he reveals:
ExCO: When I was in school as a kid, my mother was a Witness and still is, and my father never was.
This reminded me of being at work the other day. My boss gave me a clip board and asked me to go around the show we were setting up to see what still needed to be done and what was. My co workers instantly started razzing me for having a clip board so I (jokingly) told them I was giving grades and taking notes on them. In which they (jokingly) told me to f-off and we all had a good laugh. But wow, you actually were taking notes on and grading people! Was it hard for you to acclimate in to the real world after being such a lemming rock star? And don't take this in a mean way, but I'm sure it was hard to come to the realization that you aren't as special as you thought. Just a guy spinning around on a rock through space. I'm sure many CO's stay in just because they love the constant ego pump. I give you a lot of credit.
Yes I did take notes on all the talks. I wanted everyone to put real effort to apply what we learned at the Theocratic Ministry School.
Looking back, it was a joke. Being a CO didn't help me at all in the real world, in fact it hurt me. CO's are nothing, I walked around like I was important when in reality I wasn't doing anything special at all.
Regarding the MS who was cooking the books and stealing congregation money and had been for years.... Wow. That is so infuriating. Here he was literally stealing from the people he was supposed to be protecting so much. Did anyone in the congregation ever find out about it?
As far as I know, no one ever did. He became a servant again years later.
When my husband and I were pioneering and he was an elder, we had the theocratic goal of getting in the circuit work. We had both been raised in the truth and were brainwashed to wait for the new system to have a natural part of life - family. So what would be a natural next step for a pioneer couple serving in the foreign language field - circuit work... when we inquired to a then CO how to achieve that goal - he told us because we asked we were now disqualified - have you ever heard this rule? I've always wanted to ask a CO this mind boggling question...
Because you asked you were disqualified? Nonsense. First of all, there is no application for Circuit Work. You have to be recommended. So a brother approaching the CO regarding the circuit work would be welcomed. I was always on the lookout for brothers so I could recommend them. There are only two basic requirements. Elder and regular pioneer. After that, the brother, if married, must have a wife also pioneering. They must have been married at least two years. They must be available to travel, in other words, the Society didn't want more substitute Circuit Overseers that were tied down to a job. They wanted brothers who could be permanent CO's.
So if a brother or a couple asked me, I would always ask them those questions. If they filled the bill, then I would write a letter of recommendation to the Branch. I would also fill out a PQR - a Personal Qualifications Report, on both of them. It's a two page questionnaire that focuses on someone's personality, talents and skills. I would send that in also.
That CO had something against you. Normally a CO would LOVE to recommend someone, it looks great on his resume as well and shows the Branch he is on the ball. The Society was always sending us letters telling us to be on the lookout for good elders who were pioneers who could be a candidate for circuit work.
So that "rule" you were told is bogus.
How would you get a substitute CO in trouble for being an asshole? We have a guy here in Dallas who is known as a HUGE asshat. He was one of the reasons I woke up. I served with him as a MS and the shit he pulled blew my mind. Point his finger at your nose, get in your face right there in front of everyone. Make 'my way or the highway rules'. I mean, what could someone do to get someone called to task over this kind of behavior? He's an elder, but a substitute CO also. Write a letter to bethal outlining his behavior? It seems guys like him are untouchable in this org.
First of all, write a letter. Anytime the Branch receives a letter complaining about an elder or a CO, someone is assigned to handle it. I received letters from the Branch based on a letter they had received from someone, and I had to investigate. So here is what to do:
Write a letter
Try to get multiple people to sign it and identify themselves. Anonymous letters go nowhere.
Make a strong BIBLICAL accusation. Make sure you use a scripture in 1 Tim 3:1-5 or Titus 1:5-9 on elders qualifications. Accuse him of losing his temper. Specifically state that he put his finger in your face and several witnesses will corroborate that. Or get some more info on him, but only that Witnesses can verify.
They will have to address it at a special meeting and you will have to be there. So will your witnesses. I have seen young, timid publishers take down mighty elders because of this two-Witness rule. It goes both ways ha ha.
So yes, you can take this guy down. Get your biblical accusations ready, have your witnesses ready to testify in front of this guy.
But it will take time. Will it be worth it to you? It's a lot of hassle. I have been on a lot of these cases. If you decide to do it, PM me, and I can give you some more detailed info.
It most probably is a waste of your time, and he might be actually helping to wake people up, so there's that to think about as well.
But he's not untouchable. No one is in the organization.
Is there anything that we used to teach, "the deep things of God", that was explained by Watchtower that just never sat well with you but you couldn't give it the mental attention it deserved because it would lead to doubts. In other words. When the mental road block signs came off after you woke up what teachings were huge red flags for you?
I was raised a Witness, so I fully believed. But some things did bother me, while others didn't. Let me start with what DIDN'T bother me, in fact it had the opposite effect.
The 144,000. The anointed. That was one of the STRONGEST things that kept me in. I knew some anointed ones growing up. They were knowledgeable about the Bible, well, about Witness teachings anyway. And some were shy, reserved. I used to talk to them as a young man. I was impressed by their humility. They weren't elders or servants, some were female. They loved the scriptures. I was impressed by them and I thought that's how the anointed should be, not the loud, prominent ones but the ones that Jehovah deemed worthy. It just seemed right. That helped to keep me convinced I was in the right organization.
But years later, when I was a missionary CO, I was at Bethel getting my eyes surgically fixed, so I had to stay at Brooklyn for a couple of months. I saw GB members close up. I had only talked to them at assemblies and meetings and in my assignment brother Jaracz visited who impressed me a lot. But this time I remember a friend of mine who was visiting Bethel, he approached a GB member who was at the Monday night Bethel Family Watchtower study. He asked him a biblical question, and I could tell the GB member had no idea. He also didn't seem to care. That bothered me. Then I heard other stories of anointed ones who were very haughty or strange. But overall, they impressed me as a youth until other things became clear and I met more of them as an adult and then the mystique of the anointed started to wear off.
Another thing was that I looked up John 1:1 in a Greek only Bible. I saw with my own eyes the definite article ("The") before the first mention of God and no definite article before the second mention of God. So I was convinced that the NWT had it right that Jesus was "a god." That also convinced me the organization had it right.
Another thing that convinced me was that I believed in the account of Adam and Eve. I always thought, if Adam and Eve hadn't sinned, where would they be now? On earth in a paradise without sin!
So those were some of the things that convinced me. Now on to what bothered me
What bothered me?
When I was in school as a kid, my mother was a Witness and still is, and my father never was. I remember asking my mother why we don't celebrate Thanksgiving. I was assigned a project at school for Thanksgiving and of course I couldn't participate. I asked my mom why and she said because it's worldly. I said, "OK, but what do I tell the teacher, just that I can't because I'm a Witness?" She said, "No, don't say that because they will think you are not being allowed to. Just say it goes against your conscience." I told my Mom, "OK then if my conscience allows me to then I can?" She said no, we would have to tell the elders and I would be in trouble. So that bothered me, I was telling a lie to the teacher. It wasn't my conscience, I had to obey or get in trouble by the elders.
Another thing that bothered me was the generation. I lived and breathed the 1914 generation will not pass away. I even kept the famous 1989 WT in my briefcase that said the preaching work would be completed by the end of the twentieth century. I just knew we were so close to the end. And then I became a missionary and in 1995 the generation teaching was changed. I remember studying it at the missionary home table with everyone. It was a sad study. I tried to make it work in my mind but it really bothered me. I felt like the GB was hedging their bets, that they had to say something because too much time had gone by and the end hadn't come. I put it out of my mind though.
Then there was the appointment of elders and ministerial servants. When I became a CO, I found out that the local branch appoints the elders and servants, not Brooklyn. The Service Department at the Branch was one brother who was a very simple man. He made a lot of mistakes. He appointed an 18 year old as an elder by mistake. i tried to talk to him about recommendations but he just kept the topic simple. And I saw a lot of elders and servants appointed who had been committing sins and we're found out. Were they appointed by Holy Spirit?
Appointed by Holy Spirit is not really a deep teaching but it did bother me.
Another thing that did bother me was the lack of scriptures talking about the paradise earth. The Bible is so big, and there is so much information about other stuff, why not more about the paradise earth?
All those things bothered me and started to add up more and more.
What it's like to be a Circuit Overseer - Part 3
Time to preach. We started at 8:00 am in that country and preached straight for 3 1/2 hours door to door. Most householders listened sort of, out of politeness. I would first preach with whoever was being recommended for something, or an elder, then the pioneers one by one. There were no car groups, everyone walked, the territory usually surrounded the Hall. It was tropical heat and dust. If I was preaching with a cute pioneer sister, that made the time go by faster.
Looking back, I spent thousands of hours preaching. Before I was a CO, I was called a Field Missionary. 140 hours per month. Then as a Circuit Overseer it was 90 hours a month. Being a foreigner, I stuck out like a sore thumb in the neighborhood though, so I was robbed at gunpoint more than once.
The houses were mostly tile floored, some had dirt floors. No one had air conditioning. I had some crazy stories, mostly though it was reading the same scriptures and using the same reasoning thousands of times. I used to say, "If Adam and Eve hadn't sinned, where would they be now?" When they answered, "Earth", then I would read Psalm 37:29. I had no problem with the "secondary fulfillment" of that scripture. Or Revelation 21:4. Again, thousands of times using the same scriptures and same reasoning. Brainwashed and helping to brainwash others. My Bible would automatically open to the same verses because I had read them so much. Week after week, month after month, year after year of the same. I gave thousands of presentations at the door. After an hour of service every morning I started to go brain dead. I would forget if I had read a scripture or not. It was all so mind-numbing and I was in field service saying the same things over and over and over, I guess you get the picture.
Rarely did any householder bring up a challenging question. Even rarer was somebody talking about our organization. I remember a householder once talking about Carlos Russel. I wondered who that was. Usually though, the only discussions I had were with born-agains.
At lunch I would walk to the house of whoever had invited me to eat. Chicken and rice, mostly. Delicious. Though sometimes I had seen the live chicken that morning at that house for the meeting for service and I had been informed that was lunch. The friends were extremely hospitable. I appreciated their hospitality and I was always polite, though sometimes I acted as if I was important. Those are bad memories. Once in a while the family would invite a single sister to eat with us in case we might like each other, that was great. We would laugh about it later. Other times the "unbelieving husband" would be home or even a disfellowshipped husband. I would always eat with everyone, I figured it was a good Witness and after all, they were feeding me. I had a couple of strange experiences at lunch, I'll tell them sometime.
After lunch was usually a siesta, remember this is tropical country with no AC, everyone was always dripping wet with sweat. If you didn't rest, you would definitely fall asleep on the Bible studies later due to the heat and humidity. I would rest on a couch or on a hammock in the patio. Sometimes the mosquitos were so bad I had to sleep under a mosquito net.
At 2 pm, Bible studies. This was the Knowledge Book, remember that book? I went on two studies per afternoon, three days a week. Add that up. That's over 300 a year. I was bored out of my mind. I used to read other books while I was on studies and in service, including Newsweek magazine that my family had sent me. There was no real Internet service back then so the magazines my family sent were it. The friends would talk about how I knew every paragraph in the Knowledge book even though I didn't seem to be paying attention and I was reading other stuff. The Branch eventually sent me a letter telling me to pay more attention on Bible Studies, apparently word had gotten back to them.
Then came the Pioneer Meeting. I tried to make it happy. There was always complaining about territory, long meetings for service, no key to the Hall, pioneers not getting along. I almost always sided with the pioneers, not with the elders. The elders sometimes seemed to think they were better then others, I hated that. I supported the pioneers. Anyway, I tried to make the pioneer meeting lively and practical.
That's it for Wednesday. If there was a huge problem in the congregation, I might schedule a meeting to discuss it that night. Otherwise it was back to the missionary home or back to where I was staying. Occasionally I did a shepherding call with one of the elders.
Reddit user 'Askmeaboutmy_Beergut' commented:
Your service experience sounds just like when I was in Guatemala:
There we had mountains to walk up. Beautiful country and beautiful people. Just like you I'd use the same scriptures. The resurrection really appeals to those people since many had lost loved ones to the civil war. But it would get hot there, and I would get burned. People were so poor but very generous, they would give us mangoes or some sort of food for a donation, tortillas or offer us a plate of food, which you never turned down. I would be full from lunch and be offered a plate of rice and beans with chicken 20 minutes later on a study with someone and would somehow manage to put it down. There was ONE thing however I could not eat, which was popular with the poor mayans. It was called "Atole"! It was basically just food starch and water. A filler that the poor people ate. It was served hot into a cup. I can best describe it as warm snot in a cup. I couldn't do it I had to apologize many times for turning it down.
And yes beautiful women everywhere. But the Spanish women are very hot headed and jealous and those are hard qualities to deal with. Everyone wanted to work with me and ask me tons of questions about the US. Many had plans to go illegally to the US and would tell me, many did, they'd just disappear then later I'd hear they "went north to the US." I saw car accidents where people were dead laying on the side of the road. Way out in the mountains you can't wait for police, and the roads were narrow, the buses would stop and traffic would stop, and the people would move the cars off the road as well as the dead occupants (I saw a woman and her little girl about 11 or 12 dead) they'd just cover them up with a sheet, call the police then leave. We took chicken buses everywhere. Hot sweaty people packed 3 to a seat, the mayan people smelled like campfire smoke because they all cook with wood. And the women all had babies tied onto their backs. It really was a great time down there. Just ashamed I was part of a cult recruiting for them.
Here's 3 pics showing what my territory looked like. These pics are clear because I go back regularly with my wife. This is where I served back in 97 and 98. https://imgur.com/a/GrT75
Probably alot like where you preached. Those outside markets had the best vegetables I've ever seen, but if you didn't wash them you'd get amoebas and your stomach would ache for days.
You should write your story on here as well. You mention a lot of stuff I forgot. The car accidents are gross, and riding those buses with the chickens was an experience.
Yes the markets had great vegetables. But I always had to take amoeba medication every year as a precaution. I liked to barter the prices too.
Do you ever experience dreams where you are reliving the life you lived as a Jehovah Witness? My brother who was born in and finally woke up, keeps having dreams of all the people he affected in one way or another. Like people he studied with and brought into the organization, people he had a part in disfellowshipping, sisters he encouraged to leave their husbands for reasons of spiritual endangerment. Unfortunately many of the experiences and people Jws met and lived with will be etched in the minds and memories of Jws who finally wake up. And from time to time those memories will rear their ugly head in our dreams, of which we have no control. Which is why I ask if you ever relieve your experiences as a CO in your dreams.
I have dreams occasionally of being back in my assignment and being stuck there. Bad dreams.
That sounds boring as hell! I don't know how you did it. I would've died.
Reddit user 'Askmeaboutmy_Beergut' commented:
I went through the same thing as him basically and to be honest it was an incredible experience.
Trekking through jungle, talking with indigenous people who live like they lived a thousand years ago is amazing. The sights, the smells. Yeah all the time spent preaching and meetings was boring, but man very few people get to live in a 3rd world country with such colorful people.
The moments are were it's at. Standing on the side of a mountain in the evening watching the sun go down, the purple and orange sky, looking at a village a mile down into the valley as all the lights come on, the cold air and the smell of campfire smoke and food cooking is something very few people have experienced.
I sat on the steps of a village thousands of feet up the side of an ancient volcano in a mayan village, early in the morning, cold, watching a village half a mile down, hearing roosters crowing, smelling tortillas cooking, watching mayan women laughing speaking kak chi que language. Yeah parts were boring, but overall he saw shit no one here could ever imagine. Being a witness in service took us to parts of those countries where no westerner has ever been. Seriously, whole villages would come out to look at me because I was the 1st white guy they had ever seen, little kids would touch me like I had some magical powers or something. It was wierd.
Overall, worth it.
Very cool. I had some rural circuits at first and I saw some of the same things. Beautiful countryside, simple living, nice people. Cooking with wood, drawing water from a well or from the river. Quiet evenings. Completely different world there.
This is interesting in a morbid boredom kind of way. I would hate it. Sounds like busywork for nothing. Usually I wondered doing CO visits how bored the CO and his wife may be. We got a meeting that was different but boring every week... They heard the same shit every single week... Urgh.
I have a stupid question but I need to know this. You mentioned dealing with judicial matters... Do COs choke the chicken? Is it harder to do when you are visiting a different place every week? Did you ever have intrusive thoughts? I am really curious
Of course I did. The hormones were raging. Usually I finished the deal on Monday before I left for my assignment. Then all week I would act like the perfect CO. I think because I was so focused on service that it was easier during the week. Plus I had very little privacy. Come Monday I would "fail" again. All the young single CO's "struggled" with masturbation. The DO told me that when we had our private once a year meeting. In fact, the Branch was always so innundated with questions about it that they told us not to remove an elder or servant or pioneer for it unless it was a long time habit that they weren't trying to overcome. My substitute CO told me he was really having a difficult time with it and I told him just to keep fighting it. He felt I was being too lenient with him so he personally went to the Branch to confess. They told him the same thing. Keep fighting and as long as you do then you won't be removed.
I remember coming back to the States and talking with elders and CO's here about it. What a difference. They would remove them if their masturbation was a regular thing. I was shocked.
The Branch where I was had worse problems to deal with. Adultery was common. I had to find a long-time married elder to interview at the assembly and I had to find one outside my circuit since all of them in my circuit had committees adultery in the past.
One of the CO's I taught pioneer school with was watching porno movies at night with his wife. Then he was, ahem, receiving oral sex from a single mother in the bathroom where they were staying for the week.
He got disfellowshipped after he left his wife for her. That lasted three months, she kicked him out because he couldn't get a job, he had no skills. His wife took him back. Within a year he was reinstated and then a regular pioneer again. I think within about 5 years he was a substitute CO.
Then a marrried District Overseer was caught with his girlfriend at a mall, hanging out. They had been together for six years. Six years of him giving talks and counsel to other people while hiding his girlfriend. I knew him well, he was a very kind man who had married a quiet pioneer sister who was very studious and who also was extremely conservative in her dress and grooming. His girlfriend on the other hand was a little firecracker. The reason I mention that is because he often talked about how brothers should look for spiritual qualities in looking for a wife. So on Mondays he was dropping off his paperwork at the Branch which a lot of us did, then visit his girlfriend who lived around the corner.
So yes I did it my entire missionary career off and on. I really tried to stop though. I felt so bad after the deed was done and I would pray and pray to Jehovah for forgiveness, but I was able to relax and focus on the week of activity after that. I knew it was wrong, but I justified it since I dealt with so much porneia and adultery that what I was doing seemed relatively innocent.
Wow the knowledge book ? Then that was a long time ago. How long since you left the org?
My wife and I are faded. We are still technically in although we haven't attended meetings in years. Trying to help family and friends to get out.
I love how you still use the term "the friends". Old habits die hard. It took me forever to stop saying "the truth" Damn that cult. They really pound that shit into you.
I'm using all the Witness expressions! Its easier for me to write it that way and you all know what I am referring to when I say brother and the friends and bible studies and pioneer meeting, etc.
Lots of talk and info about the org here.. Did you ever in all your time in the organisation or life ever actually find or have a real genuine relationship with God or Jesus?