MY EXPERIENCES AT THE WITNESSES NOW FOR JESUS CONVENTION.
- Julie's Report of the 2010 Convention

JulieI’ve a lot of stories to share so I’ll begin with program highlights.

Friday morning we all stood up and introduced ourselves with a brief history of our JW backgrounds. Several people present were repeat attenders. There were a number of people who had never been Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves but were engaged in counter cult ministries. They had tables in the lobby where you could get their contact information and books.

Each morning began with songs of worship by a local couple, Mike and Ruthann Harvey, who are former Mormons. Friday evening they entertained us also with some humorous songs about Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and the “Customizing Bible Company.” We were also led in worship on Saturday night by a band comprised of five young men, all former Mormon missionaries, called Adam’s Road. They each gave their testimony in coming to Christ and leaving the Mormon church.

The three day program had a good mix of heartfelt testimonies and teachings. Bob Anderson started us off with a history of the New World Translation and its emphasis on using brackets [which became somewhat of an inside joke the rest of the weekend.] Bob took us through lessons on how the name Jehovah was derived and how a person could use the NWT to reason with an active JW at the door.

Erich Grieshaber shared how God led him and his wife to missions in Italy. They went completely on faith un-backed by any world mission church network and continue to rely on donations and prayer. I was shocked to learn that 88% of Italy is dominated by Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. He continued to preach the importance of sharing the gospel where led on Saturday night.

Keith Walker of Evidence Ministries presented a very thorough lesson on the resurrection of Jesus and how the Watchtower’s teachings on soul and spirit conflict with the historical fact that the body of Jesus Christ was physically raised to life. I also learned that the Mormon church has within it a class called the Danites who were originally formed as bodyguards for Joseph Smith. They make death threats on people like Keith who speak out against the Mormon church.

On Saturday morning we were treated to our first tearful testimony out of the Watchtower given by Becky Hendricks. Searching for truth, Becky became an adult convert baptized into the organization after a 15 year involvement which she referred to as “under the influence.” I was on the edge of my seat as she related that it was at the moment of her baptism ‘in the name of God’s spirit-directed organization’ when the light came on. As she went under the water her spirit screamed out “Jehovah, forgive me!” It was a long journey out, but when she went on line to help her daughter keep from returning to meetings, she learned more about the darkness she’d been in as a member of the Watchtower and began her search for real truth in the Bible. It was while attending a past convention that she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

Marlene Mercado shared her knowledge of blood fractions from a medical and scriptural point of view. She helped us reason from the book of Acts why abstaining from blood was mentioned and how orthodox Jews keep other old testament laws but do allow blood transfusions. The Watchtower Society is allowing more and more blood components and she feels its just a matter of time before they allow all blood products to their members but it is still so shrouded in confused language that most JWs are unaware of what they can or cannot take. Meanwhile faithful members of the religion go on without the life-saving care they are entitled to.

Marlene’s teachings on blood were followed by Bob Bohan’s testimony from Pioneer to born-again Christian. Bob was a third generation Witness and gave his life to Jesus while listening to a Christian radio broadcast. After the lunch break, Brian, a young man who filled in the spot left vacant by the scheduled speaker gave his testimony of coming out of the Watchtower. Brian was passionate for “the truth” and began posting You Tube videos defending the Watchtower. His desire was to be a beacon of light on the Internet as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instead, Christians began to reach Brian with the good news of Jesus Christ and now Brian is known for his You Tube videos in defense of Christianity. After writing his letter of disassociation, he was kicked out of the house and lived on the streets during the month of December until a church took him in.

Don Veinhot challenged the claims of Bart Ehrman who has been gaining a following by teaching that the Bible is unreliable and Jesus was never resurrected. Don did an excellent job establishing that the Christian creed was in place for many years before the compilation of the gospels and brought us back to the importance of the correct understanding of Jesus’ resurrection.

As former JWs now in Christ know, taking first communion is a big step. Sunday morning opened with the message that those who received Christ were given the right to become children of God (John 1:12, 13) After a time of worship, John Uhler led the communion service titled “my cup overflows” and those blessed with the grace to believe that Jesus bought this right for them partook of the body and blood of Christ. A very special memory for those who are now free to partake.

We were treated to another testimony from a young man, Matthew, a fourth generation JW who came to Christ after pioneering and recognizing error in the Watchtower’s interpretation of scripture. Knowing how little there is for young people to look forward to in the Watchtower organization it was so refreshing to hear the testimonies of Matt and Brian with hearts on fire for Jesus. We’ve been asked to pray for them as they’re young men without family support now. We ask God to guard their testimonies and keep them free from the temptations common to youth. Brian is being called to become a pastor.

After Sunday lunch, Tim Martin of Watchman Fellowship took us through a power point presentation of how Charles Taze Russell was influenced by the Millerite movement of the 1830's and how it spawned many false teachers branching off beyond the present day Watchtower and even into David Koresh’s Branch Davidian cult whose successor is now predicting an end of the world in 2012. Clearly the Watchtower did not just appear as God’s “faithful servant” but were part of an earlier movement distracted by a wrong calculation concerning Christ’s second coming. Tim concluded his talk on all these long deceased false prophets by saying, “the founder of my religion is still alive!”

The last testimony was shared by Toletha Williams who spent 18 years in the Watchtower. I lost count of how many times she enthusiastically proclaimed, “I love salvation!” Her love for God’s grace shined through her humorous account about a Mexican chihuahua dog she encountered during her door-to-door days as a JW. She had me laughing til the tears were rolling down my legs!

MY IMPRESSIONS:

That’s the overview of the program, now I get to fill you in on my personal experiences and impressions.

First and foremost are the friendships formed by rooming with three beautiful Christian women each from a different involvement in the Watchtower. Myself, an adult convert, Brenda, raised and married in the Watchtower, Irma, another one “under the influence” who wisely did the research before baptism, and another woman who’d like to keep her identity secret for now. She was never a JW, but became concerned when her daughter got involved with the Witnesses. When the time is right, hers is quite a story to tell about a mother’s love and dedication. The four of us did everything together. Yes, four women in a room talking about their Watchtower experiences, I didn’t get much sleep! In fact one night Irma and I were outside late talking when the man from down the hall joined in the conversation. He is a Christian reaching out to the JW who calls at his door. We ended up talking late into the early morning. My roommate had gone back to the room and peeked her head out once reminding me of the time. Then she “mothered” me a second time saying, “Julie, it’s 2 am, you better get to bed!” and I obeyed!! The next morning this man said our conversation was the high light of his trip and how grateful he was for the personal insights we could give that were not presented from the platform teachings. He had questions like, “why are there two other JWs sitting in the car while my JW friend is in the house talking to me for an hour?” Ha ha. She and I both shared our stories about those calls. I am always grateful how God calls people like him to ministry. He had no prior JW involvement and shared his mistakes with us about his attempts and how through the years he’s learned to keep the JWs coming back. After the convention he said he felt better prepared to return home and meet his JW friend where he was at and share the gospel with him. So we are praying for Michael who is ministering to Lew.

My wacky thrill was that the whole time I was an active JW, I’d never met one of the 144,000, but I was driven back to the airport on Monday by Rick and Inez Fearon who as JWs were allowed to partake at the Memorial as the anointed class. Ha ha. So that’s where all the anointed are, at XJWs conventions!!!! We also had Sylvan along to catch his flight home. Sylvan is on the Colorado Springs and Worldwide Internet Meetup and does the filming at the convention which is a real challenge as the Internet service there is poor as many of you know who tried to tune in for the live streaming. It was great getting to know these three a little better on our ride to the airport…

I just read several newspaper editorials by NAMI volunteers during Mental Illness Awareness week, Oct. 3-9 so when I got home filled with all those testimonies, I was moved to write an article for my local newspaper about the mental health problems connected with spiritual abuse. My editorial was rejected but I plan to contribute it again in time for next year as it occurred to me that the topic of mental illness is gaining more public awareness but tends to center on chemical imbalance in the brain, sexual, physical and verbal abuse. An understanding of mind control and the effects of spiritual abuse are largely lacking in the public awareness and yet every town has people in it who’ve come out of something with little help available in the yellow pages. The network of those helping others in cults is largely underground in Internet ministries. So I came home with this as a new prayer focus, that the counter cult ministries would come out of the shadows and into the light where health professionals would recognize their importance and refer patients to them when unable to help those seeking recovery. I remember when I canceled my therapy appointments and decided my money would be better spent on a new computer and began that journey into “apostate web sites.” The information on those plus the emailing relationship I shared with a pastor had a tremendous impact on my recovery. I am so grateful for the many Internet groups dedicated not only to educating people about the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but equipping them for ministry to help them and offer forums like this comprised of former members who understand the process of leaving. Most of the testimonies at the convention had some point in which the person said, “and then I went on the Internet” followed by a smile, sigh of relief, and nod of acknowledgment from an audience of others who understood. I am glad to have been born for such a time as this. God bless our computers.

 

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