THIS IS MY STORY: by Lee Anthony
“Note: My background is not just in Bible study, but I am qualified from personal experience and on the job training from working with those having substance abuse issues to answer questions and give counsel to anyone suffering from the affliction of addiction whether it be you personally or someone close to you. This is part of my ministry in my walk with Christ.”
I began my Christian walk in 2009. Prior to my conversion and baptism, I was in no way shape or form a Christian. I did not meet Jehovah’s witnesses until mid-2012, this was during a three-year period that I will describe as a sabbatical. I spent 8 or so hours a day during the week reading, studying, attending Christian meetings and studies, listening to radio programs, watching t.v. programs, even writing letters to ministries asking for information. I spent most of my time during this period searching for the right church. I figured there had to be a church somewhere who had it all right, who knew love and unity as taught in scripture. Before I start, I will go back to before 2009 for a little more background information.
I was involved in alcohol and substance abuse all my life. I was selfish and did not treat others well at all. I was arrested on occasion and did some time in different types of institutions because of drug use and other activities. I began my spiritual walk at around 13 years old when I became interested in an involved with witchcraft. This was how I identified myself for the next decade and a few years thereafter. In 2006 I studied some and took on some forms of eastern religion as well, Taoism and some Zen Buddhist type stuff. I mixed religions for a few years, always being close to but still far from Christ as I always ended up with at least one friend who was a Christian and I learned some here and there but never could accept the idea of God or Christ and the bible being a book from God. In 2009 I hit rock bottom and ended up losing everything and had nowhere to turn. I read a book by a former Rock star turned Christian, it happened to be my favorite metal band, and something about the story set me to searching and I began attending a small bible study group. I listened yet never said much and stayed away during the prayers. This went on for about 2 months 2 times a week, and I finally started to read the bible and ask questions. I read more testimonial type books and talked to my grandfather some about things as my grandparents were always churchgoing Christians. Very good loving and forgiving people, always taking us grandkids to church as children. I don’t remember the day or what exactly moved me to do so but I decided one day while reading that this God was real. Jesus was historically real, I could not find evidence to the contrary and somehow it all started to make sense. I dedicated myself to do whatever I had to do to serve Jesus right then and there. I attended the meeting that week and told them I was ready to give up my old life, I was baptized the next week, this was around November or so of 2009. That is when I began my three-year search for truth.
I began with the Rapturists, moved on to Baptist, Pentecostal, numerous non- denominational groups, and even into Adventist and other 7th day groups like the living church of God and followers of Armstrong. I found very little in the way of what Jesus taught but did take bits and pieces of each that seemed to fit with scripture and discarded the rest. I read into and studied with Greek lexicon and Hebrew word study bibles, I figured English was not the best way to understand the Bible as so much is lost in translation as I learned some Spanish and French and realized that translating one language to another is not word for word and not really all that simple. The reason I began my study with Witnesses is because many of the things they were teaching I already had come to believe on my own journey. The trinity was false, hell was not a burning place of torment for mankind, the soul and death were not as taught in mainstream Christianity and Jesus was the Son of God and not God himself. That was the tipping point for me, as I believed in a sort of duality, as God and Jesus are one, but the Holy Spirit is not God. This is a rare teaching I found, and one taught by followers of Armstrong, and to me made sense yet I found it to be false according to further scriptural examination. I was drawn to witnesses because of these basic teachings and began attending meetings with them and started a bible study with an Elder in 2012. I was finishing up school at the time, which is what I did during my Sabbatical, and I decided to become a witness since they seemed to be what I had been looking for those past few years. At this point I had already made all the necessary changes that were required by J.W.s, I was clean, I was not involved in any relationships, I had quit smoking and drugs etc. in 09, I cleaned up my language and had moved hours away from home, so I was no longer around old friends. I was not involved in politics at all nor did I celebrate holidays, this was easy as my old religions all my life did not do Christmas or anything. I only had to give up Halloween, a pagan holiday from my past and I had to accept the faithful slave teaching and that I had to be baptized again. I decided this was easy and put it to the side and went ahead and did it. I moved in early 2013 up to the City area 4 hours from home and started attending the local kingdom hall and I went to work doing Landscaping, something I had gone to school for when I was 19 and never really got into. I had just finished culinary arts, had my certification and decided not to even use it, but after my baptism in November of 2013, just 8 months after joining the J.W.s as an unbaptized publisher, I began auxiliary pioneering and because full-time work got in the way of preaching and helping at the kingdom hall, seasonal work fit the bill. Six months after baptism, which is how long they made us wait, I started pioneering, a.k.a. the full-time ministry. This involved 70 hours minimum per month of preaching, and I was also being trained to be a servant in the Kingdom Hall. I already had my own meeting days for service and was giving talks and doing the literature servant position as I had all the time I needed to do these things. I was working a job for a drug rehab center that gave me free rent in a studio as part of my pay and I had started my own mowing business so that I had more time for the J.W.s. Both jobs gave me a lot of freedom as I set my own schedule for one and I was required to only be available during certain time periods each week for the other. Having so much responsibility helped me maintain my focus and stay clean, as did working with those who had substance abuse problems.
I pioneered for 2 years, and It was during this period that I met my wife and we began dating and decided to get married. She had two children, one of which was still living at home with her, so this was a new responsibility for me, one that I knew would involve me stepping down from my pioneering sooner rather than later. I had already had some doubts about how things were handled with me at the hall. I did not quite accept the faithful slave teaching and some of the constant changes that were made but I kept this all to myself. I began drinking again on a nightly basis and this became a habit that would get worse later. I had to change my live-in job at the rehab center not only because I had started drinking more again but because I lived in a one-room apartment on the grounds of the center itself and outside people were of course not allowed to live with me. After I was married I moved with my new family to another kingdom hall in a low- income neighborhood that was not exactly safe. It was during this time I began to see things were strange at the meetings, I was not treated the same in the new hall, I had no responsibilities and was expected to start over, I did not like this and I started to stay home from service and was depressed, I stopped pioneering and we decided to move and start over in a smaller safer place. I got a job close to my old home, a few hours away in a rural area. A local elder offered me a position that was hard to turn down as it was a part-time job that paid full-time wages. We moved to this new small area with a small hall and they put me to work and I liked the way things were for a little while. Not long after, along came my son. At the time I had been struggling with alcohol and other problems again cause of the depression I had gone through. They took me and reprimanded me and stripped me of all my privileges at the hall. That is when I began to question things, they treated my wife badly when I stopped attending meetings, love was not shown and after my second meeting with the elders, I decided I would never attend the hall again. I had already begun researching the J.W. history, something I would never have done before, I read books by Franz and found the friends of J.W. site and contacted Greg and Jacqueline. During this period my wife and I had a really hard time as she was still an active witness pioneer, and she had just had our son and things were not well. She persecuted me, and I patiently tried to show her using the watchtowers own literature that the J.W.’s were wrong. It took some time but with the publications and the way her and my oldest son were treated at the hall she finally realized the love found there was conditional. She attended a bible student convention with me and met Jacqueline and this is where she really began to see things differently. She stopped meetings around this time and we started all over spiritually. I kept searching, she became a baptized bible student, but I would not be baptized again. I started slowly getting things back in order. I rebuilt my business and bought a home in a small area away from the hall and went from J.W. to bible student to free thinking Christian. My wife is now also seeing some flaws with the Bible Student Movement as well, as many follow a man and that man is not Jesus. I am essentially right where I began with one difference. I am no longer searching for the truth, I found it in Jesus, and I know the church. They are everywhere, they are revealed by their fruits, and the love they show, not by the knowledge they have or the group they are part of. I am truly a student of the Bible now and as I have always done and learned, I will stick to Christ and not stray from his word. Scripture interprets scripture and prophecy is of no private interpretation. I must live by every word of God and, I must keep my eye on the footsteps in front of me. Jesus gives me the eyes to see where he has walked ahead of me and Its up to me to stay on the path without detour.
I would be willing to talk to others and together search the scriptures for help and support.