Achieving My Childhood Goal
I CAN remember my first curiosity about God. My mother was walking me home from kindergarten, holding my hand. “Mama, where did God come from?” I asked, looking up at her.
“No one knows, dear,” was her reply. This worried me because I thought Mother knew everything. ‘No one knows where God came from’ continued to disquiet my little five-year-old mind.
Understandable Bible Teaching
Two years later my parents allowed me to spend part of my summer vacation with an aunt and uncle who lived in Racine, about 25 miles (40 km) from our home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My aunt shared with me the wonderful hope offered by the Bible—that of someday living in a paradise.
She explained that “paradise” means a place of natural beauty, like a magnificent garden or park. There you would enjoy happy times with your family and play without fear with animals like lions and tigers because they would be as gentle as kittens. And you would never have to leave this place because God says that people living there will never need to die!—Luke 23:43; Revelation 21:3, 4; Isaiah 11:6-9.
Many people say the Bible is difficult to understand, that it is not written to be understood. But the scriptures that describe the details of these things were not at all difficult for me to understand when my aunt showed them to me. They were quite easy to picture, being in line with human experience—not at all a fairy tale or fantasy. Childhood fantasies come and go, but this Bible-based hope of living in Paradise has influenced my life for the last 23 years, and today it is just as real as it was back when I was only seven.
Not All Worship Is Approved
Even as a child, I could appreciate that a God who cared about people so much as to offer them such a delightful life certainly deserved to be worshiped. But my aunt showed me that not all worship was pleasing to God. She had me turn to Psalm 115, where it says of those who worship in the wrong way: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of the hands of earthling man. A mouth they have, but they cannot speak; eyes they have, but they cannot see; ears they have, but they cannot hear. A nose they have, but they cannot smell. Hands are theirs, but they cannot feel. Feet are theirs, but they cannot walk; they utter no sound with their throat. Those making them will become just like them, all those who are trusting in them.”—Psalm 115:4-8.
These scriptures, too, were not difficult for me to understand. Clearly, God does not approve of the use of images in worship! My mind instantly flashed back to the statues and pictures in church that we bowed down to and kissed, and to the picture of Jesus in my bedroom that I prayed to. The weakening realization came over me—my religion, the religion of my parents, did not agree with the Bible! From this point on, it became my foremost desire to worship God “with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23.
My aunt had particular reason for showing me such scriptures as those in Psalm 115. She knew that my father, who was her younger brother, had been deeply indoctrinated in the use of images in worship in the Orthodox religion. Father had immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine following World War II, and he, Mother, my two younger sisters, and I regularly attended the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Milwaukee.
Beginning of Family Opposition
When I returned home I told my parents about the things I had been learning. But immediately I sensed that they did not appreciate my aunt’s talking to me about her religion. So I kept quiet—and worried. The Scriptures say, “Honor your father and your mother,” but now I was torn between two fathers—my natural father and a heavenly Father who also required obedience and honor.—Ephesians 6:1-3.
Over the next few years, my parents continued to allow me to visit my aunt and uncle. While I was there, they took me to meetings at the Kingdom Hall, and a young Witness even took me with her from house to house to tell others about God’s promises. The Witnesses took a genuine interest in me, treating me as a real person, and I enjoyed very much being with them. Each time I returned home my father would ask, “Whose religion do you like better?” I would always reply, “Ours, Dad.” As a small girl, I was too afraid of him to tell him the truth.
Then the day came when I decided I was just going to have to show Dad from the Bible about all these things I had been learning—about how it was wrong to use images and pictures in worship, and about the wonderful future we could enjoy right here on earth in the Paradise God was going to create. I was about 12 at the time. Well, my father became furious and forbade me to see my aunt again. From that moment on, our home was never the same. And it became more tense as the years went by.
So what was I to do? How would I ever be able to serve Jehovah now? I can remember fervently praying that Jehovah would not bring the new Paradise earth until I could be one of his servants. Then one day, after I had turned 14, there was an answer to my prayers.
Setting My Goal in Life
Sitting at my desk one afternoon doing my homework, I happened to look out my bedroom window. Across the street were two young women carrying large purses. My heart beat faster! They looked like Witnesses! I raced out of the house. “Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses?” I asked.
“Yes,” they replied.
“So am I,” I said, since I considered myself one. The girls were full-time pioneer ministers. I explained the opposition at home, and so we arranged to study together at places other than my home. We studied off and on in secret for four years.
From these studies, it became clearer and clearer that Jehovah’s Witnesses were the only religion teaching and practicing the truth from the Bible. The young Witness who was helping me to learn the Bible gave me many publications to read. One of these was the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses. From reading it I learned that the life of Jehovah’s servants was by no means dull. This yearly publication was full of missionary experiences. How wonderful it would be to be a missionary, I thought, and have the same kind of exciting experiences in life! That became my goal.
My family never discovered our study, although they were suspicious that I had some contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses. A tip-off was the Bible literature they sometimes found in my bedroom. My sisters (they are twins two years younger than I) would go through my drawers, look under the bed, and search my entire room for literature that they could take and show to my parents. The only places that escaped the search were the pockets of coats hanging in the closet.
As I refused to adhere to my parent’s form of worship, homelife became increasingly difficult. Mother would sometimes go for days without talking to me, even refusing to answer a question I might have about school, clothes, anything at all. In time I was not allowed to ride in the same car as the rest of the family. Various relatives, prompted by my parents, would come to visit and ridicule me and my beliefs.
There was much arguing, fighting, and crying. As a result, most of my growing-up years were miserable. What a help it was to be able to read Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34-37 where he says that his teachings would “cause division” in some households. Jesus went on to say that the love we have for God must be even greater than the love we have for those who are as close and dear to us as our own parents.
My father always warned me that if I ever became one of those “Jehovahs” I would have to leave home, and I had no reason to doubt him. Shortly after graduating from high school in 1971, I explained to Dad that since I was now 18 and old enough to get married, I was old enough to choose my own religion—and I chose to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. By then I had a job and was prepared to leave home. But although a heated argument followed, Dad never once told me to leave. I could hardly believe it! Jehovah was blessing my efforts.
Why Their Opposition
My parents were religious people and sincerely believed that their form of worship was correct. I am sure that they only wanted the best for me. Dad had been an elementary school principal and teacher in the Ukraine, and it was his dream that his children would be formally educated and successful in America. Dad and Mom wanted us to develop culturally, so beginning at an early age, we girls learned to play musical instruments.
Now it seemed that their oldest daughter was rejecting everything they had wanted for her, including a college education. It wasn’t that I was against a college education in itself, but from my understanding of the Bible I was convinced that this system of things was soon to end. In view of that, I believed that I should be concentrating on the lifesaving preaching work instead of getting more involved in a dying system. I was convinced that teaching others how to gain life in God’s Paradise was more important than anything else.—2 Peter 3:13.
At the same time, I must admit that some of the persecution from my family was my own fault. You see, I was learning many facts regarding religious teachings—what was true, what was false. Yet I failed to appreciate that serving God “with spirit and truth” also includes the putting on of “the new personality,” which involves exercising such wholesome qualities as peace, mildness, long-suffering, and self-control. (Ephesians 4:22-24; Galatians 5:22, 23) So it was understandable that my parents’ disappointment was intensified by my lack of tact, and they responded with opposition.
After telling Dad that I was going to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I began attending the meetings at the Kingdom Hall regularly. Then, in December 1972, I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah by water baptism. Jesus said at Mark 10:29, 30: “No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the coming system of things everlasting life.” Soon, in keeping with Jesus’ promise, I was developing friends among Jehovah’s people that filled the emptiness of not having a close relationship with my family. Certain ones were just like mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters to me.
Working Toward My Goal
I still wanted to become a missionary. But only pioneers qualify to attend the Bible school of Gilead, after which they are sent to foreign missionary assignments. However, the preliminary step to achieving that goal—beginning to pioneer—would present problems.
First of all, it would be a further blow to my parents. They were somewhat satisfied that my well-paying job as a secretary was at least keeping my life from becoming a total waste. Also, what would I tell my boss? He had hired me with the understanding that I would be with the firm for some time. I would be quitting even before they were able to see a return on their investment of training me. Again I earnestly prayed to Jehovah for strength and courage to be able to take this step.
Taking a deep breath, I walked into my boss’ office one day in the summer of 1973 and explained to him my goal of being a full-time preacher. His words dumbfounded me: “Larisa, if this is what you really want to do with your life, you’d be a fool for staying here.” I couldn’t believe it! Here was a worldly man telling me that if I wanted to serve the true God Jehovah in a greater capacity, I would be a fool for not doing so!
The next day brought a greater surprise. My boss approached me and asked if I would consider working part time. Was I hearing correctly? “But there are no arrangements for part-time work with this firm,” I replied.
“Yes, I know, but I can work something out,” he said. Along with that, he offered me “any days and any hours” I wanted. What evidence that Jehovah was backing me up, and certainly evidence of the truth of Jesus’ words, ‘Keep on seeking first the kingdom, and all these other things will be added to you’!—Matthew 6:33.
Thus August 1973 saw me in my first month of pioneer service. As I anticipated, my family strongly objected to my decision, and it became necessary for me to leave home. Although the situation made me very sad, I am happy to say that as the years passed, tensions abated in our family, and finally we were able to enjoy a wholesome relationship, laughing and joking and talking together as a family.
Before Mom’s death in August 1979, she welcomed me home on visits from my pioneer assignments in the southern part of the United States. Then, on April 5, 1980, David, who shared my goal in life, became my husband. Happily, Dad came to our wedding and even gave us a generous gift. So although neither he nor my sisters appreciate how I feel about worshiping Jehovah, we enjoy good relations.
In January 1984, after serving well over ten years in the pioneer service, David and I received one of the surprises of our life. Returning home one afternoon, we found a large envelope. It contained an invitation to the 77th class of Gilead that was to begin in April! Last September we completed school, and a few days later we were off to our missionary assignment in Honduras, Central America.
Now I am enjoying some of those thrilling experiences that I always eagerly anticipated reading about in the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Having achieved my childhood goal of serving as a missionary, I want to hold on to this grand privilege of service. Yet my major goal is to continue to worship Jehovah “with spirit and truth,” eventually winning his favor, and then enjoying that grand Paradise where he will reward his servants with the desire of their hearts—life forever in Paradise! (Psalm 37:4)—As told by Larisa Krysuik.
[Blurb on page 18]
Now I was torn between two fathers
[Picture on page 21]
Serving in my missionary assignment in Honduras