RETURNING TO JEHOVAH
My Final Journey Out of the Watchtower
My name is Sylvia. I live in the beautiful Island of Hawaii. I remember as a young child in Kindergarten going to a Catholic church, the disturbing impression I had of a priest I’d seen smoking a cigarette in a back room as I was going to the bathroom. Even at that young age I thought: How can a man of God be smoking a cigarette? Also, I was actually terrified looking at the statues in the church, thinking they might come alive. My mother started studying with a Jehovah’s Witness and shortly began attending meetings; and, of course, my siblings and I were dragged along. I started attending meetings in the 1st grade. I remember how much I loved learning about God and Jesus. I loved the Bible and I wanted to learn more each day.
I was in the 2nd grade when I first saw a spirit or what most would call a ghost. It wasn’t your typical middle of the night, witch-hour time, that I first saw this spirit. It was around 3:00pm in the afternoon after returning home from school. I was home alone and walking down our hallway when I felt someone behind me. As I turned around, it was a man in all black wearing what looked like a trench coat and a black rim hat. He had no face, but my impression was that he wasn’t friendly. It scared the heck out of me and I ran out of the house. I continued to see spirits for several years thereafter and most of them appeared at 3:00am in the morning. I knew this because something would always wake me up in the middle of the night and my clock was always at 3:00am. I didn’t feel I could share these frightful experience with anyone in the congregation, much less my own family, because I felt they would think something was wrong we me. So I grew up terrified of these spirits, and, even until now, I don’t know why I’m able to see spirits. As strange as it might sound, this is real to me, because I have seen it with my own eyes.
I was baptized between the age of nine or ten. I’m not entirely sure, but I’m certain I was in the 4th grade. I had a love for the truth and wanted to live my life as a true Christian and as much as possible as a non-sinner with no bad thoughts or intentions whatsoever. I became an auxiliary pioneer and was active in the field service with other brothers and sisters in the congregation. However, I didn’t spend much time in the ministry with my mother or sisters. My mother always said I was too independent.
When I was in the 4th grade, I recall at the end of one field service day, I was sitting in the front seat with a brother who I believe was an elder at the time. Two older sisters sat in the back seats. We stopped at a return visit for one of the sisters and I was left in the car with this brother. He started fondling me and telling me that age doesn’t matter in the new system. I was horrified and jumped out of the car. I stood outside of the car and I remember him telling me to get back into the car. It was said in a way as not to draw the attention of the sisters. I remember wanting to cry and I just wanted to go home. I knew I could not say a word to my father. My dad was a non-believer and, to put it frankly, he would have hunted this elder down and beat the crap out of him. I never spoke a word of it to anyone in the congregation for fear that no one would believe me.
This incident affected my faith in the congregation; everything I thought was whole was now distorted. How do you deal with such a situation at a young age – especially on your own? As the years went by, it obviously affected my faith and I slowly became rebellious. By the age of 16 I no longer wanted to go to the meetings, much less do field service. My mother didn’t make it any easier as I felt she was always angry at me for some reason. My dad would make up for the lack of love and affection I wanted from my mother. In fact, my dad was the one who took care of me whenever I was sick and he was always encouraging. My mother was a fulltime pioneer for over 30 years, but her actions with me, almost on a daily basis, were very “worldly,” which drove me to graduate early as a Junior and I moved out the house the night of my graduation. She called me every name in the book anytime she suspected I was doing something “evil.” Funny thing is, I was being accused of things I was never doing, which eventually drove me to doing them.
I was disfellowshipped for fornication and smoking at around the age of 19. I don’t deny it; I feel I deserved to be disfellowshipped for my actions. But I lost total faith in God and religion the day my father died from cancer at the age of 48; he was buried on my 21st birthday. I’ll be totally honest, I eventually turned to drugs and wanted to die too; in fact, I almost did from a drug overdose when I was 23 years old. I remember certain Witnesses who still had compassion and shook my hand at my dad’s funeral. For many years I stopped praying. I only started praying again, for the first time in over 20 years, in August 2006. However, after 32 years away from the organization I decided I wanted to ‘return to Jehovah’ and worship him fully again. I couldn’t think of any religion that I felt based their teachings strictly on the Bible than the Witnesses. My expectations, therefore, were very high when I contemplated returning.
Long story short, the elders visited me and told me to continue attending the meetings while they would retrieve my publisher record card. A month later, they met with me again and said they were still waiting for my official record and that, in the meantime, no one could speak to me. Prior to this meeting with the elders, people at the Kingdom Hall would approach me and welcome my daughter and I to the meetings. I didn’t know I was supposed to say I was disfellowshipped. Two weeks later I met with the elders again. This time they said they could no longer speak to me, but that if I had any questions that were pressing, I could contact them. One of the two elders also suggested I write a letter for reinstatement; but he made it clear to me that, just because I wrote a letter, it wouldn’t mean I would be reinstated the next day. Of course, I didn’t expect to be reinstated immediately after submitting a letter. As far as my quitting smoking, he made a point of mentioning that people do relapse. I walked out of that meeting feeling completely discouraged. I spent the last two weeks attending meetings and feeling like a complete criminal although my lifestyle was no longer “worldly.”
I felt as if an announcement was made to the whole congregation to shun me, because I was shunned and snubbed with not so much as a smile or welcome by every single person in the congregation, including the children, some of whom were classmates with my daughter. I literally kept my tears in and held my composure during the meetings. It was very humiliating to say the least. It was a very difficult time for me as I had to explain to my daughter – who was nine years old and who loves God – that this was the way it had to be. But, internally, this made me question if this really is God’s law, if not simply the law of the Watchtower Society.
A couple of weeks ago, I explained to my daughter that we are no longer going to be attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall, because I don’t feel that any “man” can determine my love for God and that God knows my heart. The first time I told my daughter that no one could speak to me any longer, she expressed to me that she was okay with it; but that, after seeing it in practice, she felt bad for me, but didn’t want to say anything about it because she didn’t want to add to my sorrow. She went on to say: “Mom, I thought God is love? I don’t see how they treat you is love.” It hurt me to know that it hurt her.
The first month we attended the meetings, no one knew my situation and I wasn’t shunned. My daughter was moved and loved the spirit in the congregation and expressed how she wanted to be baptized. After seeing me get shunned, however, her attitude changed. She told me that she would never want to be without me. She expressed this after seeing for herself how Witnesses are not allowed to communicate with a disfellowshipped individual. I’m assuming she was thinking of what would happened if I were ever disfellowshipped again, that, as a baptized Witness, it would mean she would not be able to talk to me anymore.
I think we underestimate what young children can perceive, the things they see and hear around them. It’s clear that she is very mature for a nine-year-old.
I love Jehovah and Jesus, and I love the Bible. I just have a hard time accepting the idea of two elders deciding my fate, as to when I can be reinstated, or even to determine my faith and love for God. It also disturbs me that I genuinely cleaned up my life and was not “practicing” sins that would result in being disfellowshipped – as stated in Galatians 5:19-21 – but was nevertheless treated as an unrepentant sinner.
I respect God’s law and what is written in the Bible, but, as Raymond Franz stated, many policies created by the Governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses are not based on Bible scriptures.
I still have a lot of respect for the strong faith and dedication that many Witnesses have. I find that their Bible teaching books and publications are educational and informative. I’m just very disappointed after being away for so long that the very Witness who encouraged me to attend the meetings and return to Jehovah can no longer speak to me unless I’m reinstated. I’ve also noticed on the organization’s official website that although they assist fellow Witnesses during times of catastrophe, they don’t seem to extend the same level of assistance to people outside of the organization.
I started a foundation (www.thefishfoundation.com) to help families of incarcerated individuals, because of my experience with my eldest son who became a drug addict. He committed certain crimes to support his habit; he was convicted for these crimes and is currently serving a five year prison sentence. I soon discovered that the congregations in our community do not focus much attention on prison ministry, which was something that I wanted to pursue.
I’m not in any position at this time to join any church or organization and hope that I can find a Bible study group to continue learning and understanding Bible scriptures. I will continue to pray to Jehovah God for his guidance and I will continue sharing with people God’s love for us and especially pray to find the truth. – John 8:31, 32
These are just some of the scriptures I refer to for some peace and understanding:
By this undeserved kindness you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing: rather, it is God’s gift. No, it is not a result of works, so that no one should have grounds for boasting.
2 Thessalonians 3:15
And yet do not consider him an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.
1 Corinthians 13:13
Now, however, these three remain: faith, hope, love; but the greatest of these is love.
Faith is the assured expectation of what is hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities that are not seen.
 ‘Many Governing Body members admitted that they found themselves so occupied with various matters that there was little time for Bible study. It is no exaggeration to say that the average member spent no more time, and sometimes less, in such study than many Witnesses among the so-called “rank-and-file.” […] The question that came to mind was, How can they vote in good conscience on approval of the material when they have not been able to meditate on it, research the Scripture to test it out. Once published it was to be viewed as “truth” by millions of people.’ – Raymond Franz Crisis of Conscience 4ed (2007) p.112.