The Truth Has Set Me Free
MY FATHER died when I was seven, and my poor mother was left to raise six children. We grew up in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. As a youth, I did not enjoy the company of others. You see, I was embarrassed to talk because I stuttered so badly.
But this handicap helped me develop other abilities. At school, I often came in first when our class wrote essays. Sometimes the teachers would even read my essays to other classes. Also, stuttering did not affect my ability to sing. At home, I spent most of my spare time in the bedroom playing the guitar and singing.
Eventually, music became my only real interest. I longed to play in a rock band, and this affected my schoolwork. In fact, I left school without completing basic education. I formed a band, and we spent almost every weekend playing at different locations around Johannesburg. Soon my hair had grown long, and I began drinking too much alcohol.
I remember playing at a nightclub in Johannesburg for several weeks. One of the employees, who seemed to be a beautiful woman, took a liking to me and would buy me drinks. How disgusted I felt when I found out that this person was a male dressed up as a woman! Yes, the nightclub catered to homosexuals. To keep up the schedule at this nightclub, from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., six nights a week, we became dependent on hallucinatory drugs.
After five years of playing in a band, something happened that made me start thinking seriously about religion. A Catholic priest invited our band to play for a youth organization in his church hall. Over 500 teenagers were present, and the Catholic priest was the cashier. We were playing really wild music, and many of the kids were under the influence of alcohol. But it was another group of kids who caught my attention. They were sitting in circles on the dance floor passing around drugs. I began to question whether God really existed.
Is There a God?
In my search, I went to Seventh-Day Adventist, Methodist, Catholic, and other churches. But I felt they had nothing to offer, and I soon stopped attending. My feeling of disillusionment was confirmed by what took place one Sunday night at a disco. The lights were low and the music loud, and my eyes caught sight of the bartender, who was the local Catholic priest. He wore a pair of jeans, a vest without a shirt, and a large crucifix around his neck. We didn’t think that he was any better than us, and we called him the hippie priest.
I became interested in Buddhism and bought a little statue of Buddha, which I put in my room next to my bed. Every day I would kneel in front of it and say, “O Buddha, please help me.” I also believed that humans have an astral soul attached to the body with a silver cord and that by this means a person could travel through the universe wherever he wanted.
This false belief in the immortality of the soul affected our music. (Compare Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10 and Ezekiel 18:4.) I began writing songs under the influence of drugs. The band learned to play my music, and we had a professional recording made of it. The recording lasted two hours, and the songs followed a theme of the life of an astral traveler. One of the songs was about Satan; it promoted the blasphemous idea that the Devil is more powerful than God.
My obsession with the occult and hallucinatory drugs was really hurting me. I would wake up at night and see dark figures moving about my room. One night I got so frightened that my arms went limp, and I could hardly move as a terrifying object came toward me. On another occasion, I was lying on my bed when strange objects suddenly appeared in the room. I began to wish I could break free from this enslavement.
A Day That Changed My Life
By this time my brother Charles and his wife, Lorraine, had become Jehovah’s Witnesses. On Saturday morning, I would often wake up with a hangover and find a little slip of paper next to my bed. On it Charles had written a few Bible texts that related to my wayward life-style.
Then one Sunday, Charles and Lorraine invited me to accompany them to see a Bible drama enacted by Jehovah’s Witnesses at their annual district convention in Pretoria. Curious about the drama, I decided to go. How pleasantly surprised I was to see such a large crowd of clean people! I enjoyed the day even though I didn’t understand 90 percent of what I heard. When Charles introduced me to his friends, I was impressed by the warm way they welcomed me, although I had long hair and was not dressed suitably for the occasion. Arrangements were made for a Witness to study the Bible with me.
The next week, instead of attending band practice, I went to the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses at their Kingdom Hall. By the end of the week, I had decided to quit the band and sell my musical equipment. After the band broke up, we agreed among ourselves that I should keep the master tape of our recordings because I had written all the songs as well as composed the music. I could not resist the temptation to keep it. I also kept my acoustic guitar and continued playing the occult music that I had composed under the influence of drugs.
As I continued studying the Bible and attending Christian meetings, my understanding of God’s requirements gradually increased. I soon realized that to please God, I would have to participate in the Christian meetings and share in spreading the good news from house to house as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Acts 5:42; Romans 10:10) The thought of doing this made me shudder. My stuttering was so bad that I had become an introvert, usually relying on others to speak for me.
Stuttering Did Not Stop Me
When attending meetings, I used to say to myself, ‘If only I could give a comment like the others.’ Eventually I did, but how I battled to get those few words out! After the meeting concluded, many came over and commended me. They made me feel like a soccer player who has just scored a goal. I was beginning to feel the genuine love that is the mark of true Christianity.—John 13:35.
My next hurdle came when I joined the Theocratic Ministry School and had to give a Bible reading before a small audience. I stuttered so badly that I was unable to complete the assignment in the allotted time. After the meeting the school overseer kindly gave me practical advice. He suggested that I practice reading aloud to myself. This I did, spending time day after day, reading aloud from my Bible and the Watchtower magazine. The confidence I gained from the Theocratic Ministry School helped me to face the challenge of calling on strangers in the door-to-door ministry. In October 1973, I was baptized in symbol of my dedication to Jehovah God.
Making the Final Break
However, I was still a new, immature Christian. For example, after sharing in house-to-house preaching on a cold Sunday, I would climb into my car and close the windows. While enjoying the warmth of the sun, I would listen to a cassette recording of the master tape of my music. At the same time, I had also started courting a fine young woman, Debbie, who shared in the Witness work full-time. Once, while I was listening to that tape, Debbie approached the car, and I quickly stopped the tape. Deep down I realized that it was not music fit for a Christian.
Soon after Debbie and I got married, we started having problems. I would often wake up in the middle of the night sweating and shaking. I had terrifying nightmares of wading through rivers of blood while being chased by demons. My poor wife went through a difficult time for many months because of these demon attacks. Although Debbie wasn’t fully aware of the content of my music, she did suspect that it had a bad influence on me, and she voiced that opinion. But I stubbornly insisted: “I’m going to keep this tape forever for sentimental reasons.”
We also argued about many other things, and I would often end up shouting at her. Because we had so many fights, Debbie wisely approached the congregation elders for help. Sometimes an elder would visit and try to help us, but after the elder left, I again got angry with Debbie. Too proud to admit that we needed help, I would say: “What right did you have to go to the elders and talk to them. That is my responsibility. I am the head of the house.” Yes, I had an unbalanced view of headship. Then I would sulk and not talk to her for days. Now I realize that all she was trying to do was save her husband and her marriage.
Then one night Debbie spoke to one of the elders about my guitar playing and the type of music I listened to. So an elder came over and had a long chat with me. I remember that he asked me: “Do you have something in your home that could possibly be the cause of your problems?” At last I opened up and told him about the tape, admitting that it bothered my conscience.—1 Timothy 1:5, 19.
That same night, after the elder left, I decided to get rid of the tape. Debbie and I took it into the backyard and tried to burn it, but it wouldn’t burn. So we dug a hole and buried it. I also sold my guitar. I thought to myself: ‘If I’m going to make the break from debasing music, then I must do it completely.’ And amazingly, I stopped having nightmares. From that time onward, things gradually improved in our marriage.
The Challenge of Public Speaking
Although the Theocratic Ministry School had given me more confidence, I still stuttered badly. I longed to be able to give a talk in the congregation without stuttering. Debbie kindly suggested that I go to a speech therapist. I agreed, and for about four months, I received professional help once a week. By applying the therapy along with the good advice from Jehovah’s organization, I have been able to make progress in public speaking.
In 1976, I had the privilege of being appointed an elder in our congregation. Two months later, I gave my first 45-minute public talk. A few years later, I had the privilege of giving my first talk on a circuit assembly program. In time I was assigned a talk at almost every circuit assembly. Then, in December 1990, I reached the high point of my experience as a public speaker. I was privileged to give a 20-minute talk on Christian family life to an audience of over four thousand at the English session of the “Pure Language” District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Johannesburg.
I need to work continually on my stuttering problem. If I do not, it may recur, and once I get into a stuttering spell, it is hard for me to break out of it. Now and then, I still have a bit of a problem, but reliance on Jehovah really helps. Whenever I walk to the platform to give a talk, I pray to Jehovah to help me so that I can be calm and present the information well. May I say, though, that I have never forgotten humbly to thank Jehovah after a talk because it is by his help that I’ve been able to do it.
Debbie and I have also been blessed with two lovely children, Pendray, aged 15, and Kyle, aged 11. As a family, we find great joy in going out in the house-to-house ministry. The enthusiasm Pendray and Kyle show for this work is a real encouragement to Debbie and me.
As I look back over my life, I feel both happiness and regret. Regret for the bad influence my music had on others but happiness that I found the truth, stopped playing debasing music, and succeeded in overcoming the obstacle of stuttering. I often think of Jesus’ words to his disciples: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Through Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, that has also been my happy experience.—As told by William Jordaan.
[Pictures on page 26]
Debbie and William Jordaan today
I continually have to work hard on my stuttering problem