Into the Ears of a Babe
ONE day, when I was a little girl, a gentleman called at our home in Coeburn, Virginia, U.S.A., and while he talked with my father, his companion spoke to me to keep me occupied. His words painted a picture of a paradise earth, where I would be able to play with wild animals that would not hurt me. (Isaiah 11:6-9) He explained that I would not even have to die but could live forever right here on earth. The future sounded wonderful! What the man said about living on earth made a deep impression on me.—Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 21:3, 4.
A Religious Yearning
My parents, who had many marital problems, were divorced a couple of years later, and I lived with Mother. She had no interest at all in religion. So by myself I would go to Sunday school at any church that was within walking distance of our home. Soon Mother remarried, and we moved with my stepfather to Indiana. Each summer, however, I returned to Virginia to visit my father.
Father became a Mormon soon after the divorce, and he tried to instill his newfound religion in me. During the summer of 1960, when I was eight, he baptized me. Yet, when I was in Indiana, I attended any church that was near home. All of them taught that if we were good, we would go to heaven and if we were bad, we would go to hell where we would be tormented. Since I didn’t think anyone would understand my feelings about wanting to live on earth rather than in heaven, I never told anyone about them.
When I was 11, Father moved to Oregon. I was devastated and very resentful. My stepfather was an atheist and an alcoholic, and he gave me a hard time about my faith. He called me little Miss Pious, and when I started to cry, he would say: “Why don’t you call on your God to help you?” No one at home seemed to care about God. Those were dark, difficult years. I was abused physically, verbally, and sexually. I took comfort in talking to God because many times I felt that he was the only one who cared about me.
Mother left my stepfather, and the abuse stopped. Yet, we were very poor, and it was hard for Mom to make ends meet. When I was 13, we went back to Virginia to visit my aunt. She was a kind, sincere Baptist woman. I loved her dearly. When she asked me to accompany her to church, I accepted. Mom even went along, and I remember how wonderful it felt to have my family there with me. By the end of our visit, I dreaded going back home. I was afraid that if I did, I would become involved in immorality. So I begged my aunt to take me in, and Mother let me stay.
My aunt bought me a King James version of the Bible. I was very proud of it and read part of it every night. I read in the last chapter of the Bible that “if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18, 19, King James Version) So I reasoned, ‘How can I believe that the Book of Mormon is part of the sacred Scriptures?” Therefore, I decided to become a Baptist.
Although I’m sure Father was hurt when I wrote and told him about my decision, his only comment was that he was glad I was going to church. I often accompanied our Baptist minister to the homes of the people to invite them to our tent revivals. I felt that I was doing God’s will by calling on people in their homes and talking to them the way Jesus did.
Yet, I was still haunted by my desire to live in an earthly paradise rather than in heaven. But then I read the following Bible passage, and it gave me hope: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”—Matthew 7:7, 8, KJ.
Marriage and a Family
The following year I moved back to live with Mother in Indiana. When I was still only 15, I was married, pregnant, and on my way by bus to southern California. I didn’t know my husband’s family well, but I wanted to be accepted by them. They were Pentecostal, and my husband’s sister told me about the gift of speaking in tongues. So when I went with them to their prayer service one night, I prayed that I be allowed to speak in tongues.
Suddenly, at the service a strange feeling came over me. I began to shake all over, and my tongue began to babble uncontrollably. The preacher shouted that the spirit was coming through me, and he began patting me on the back. Afterward, everyone hugged me and told me how wonderful it was that God had used me in this way. But I felt confused and scared. I had no idea what I had said.
Shortly afterward, there were complications during my labor with our first child. The pastor of the church told my husband that God was increasing my birth pains because he was not a Christian. My husband came to me with tears in his eyes and said that if I thought it would help, he would be baptized. I told him I was quite sure that God does not blackmail people into serving him.
Leaving the Church
One Sunday, after his sermon, the pastor asked the congregation for contributions. The church was in need of repair because of damage caused by a recent earthquake. When the collection plate was passed, I put in all the money I had. After counting the money, the pastor, instead of thanking the congregation, admonished them to open their pockets and their hearts for this worthy cause. He then passed the plate again. I didn’t have any more money, so with great embarrassment I hastily passed the plate on. The pastor quickly counted the money once more and, again without thanking them, said it simply was not enough. “Surely no one will leave until we get the money needed to do God’s work,” he said.
My husband was waiting outside, and I knew he was getting impatient. He was not the only one. I became impatient with the pastor’s lack of gratitude. So with my baby in my arms and tears streaming down my face, I walked out of the church in front of everyone. I vowed then that I would never again get involved with a church. Although I quit going to church, I did not quit believing in God. I still read my Bible and tried to be a good wife.
Learning Bible Truth
After our second child was born, friends of ours who were moving to Texas talked their landlord into renting us the house they lived in. As my friend Pat was leaving, she said that a woman owed her money and would come by with it. Pat asked me to mail it to her in Texas. A few days later, two women knocked on the door. Thinking they were there with the money, I immediately invited them in. I explained that Pat had moved but that she had told me they would be stopping by. “Well, that was nice of Pat,” Charlene Perrin, one of the women, said. “We really enjoyed studying with her.”
“What?” I asked. “Studying? You must be mistaken.” Charlene explained that they had begun a Bible study with Pat. After learning that Pat had moved, Charlene asked me if I would like to study the Bible. “Sure,” I replied confidently. “I’ll teach you anything you want to know.” I was proud of the Bible reading I had done, and I felt that I could encourage them.
Charlene showed me the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, and we read Psalm 37:9: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.” I was shocked. There, in my own Bible, it said that people would possess the earth. After that, many questions bubbled out, all at once. Charlene smiled and said: “Hey, slow down! We’ll take things one step at a time.” She explained the need for a regular, systematic Bible study. Right away, she invited me to the Kingdom Hall, the name of the meeting place of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I told Charlene about my experience with the collection plate and that I didn’t want to go back to church. She shared Matthew 10:8 with me, which says: “You received free, give free.” She explained that no collection plate is passed at the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and that all donations are voluntary. She also said that there is a contribution box in the hall and that people who wish to can put contributions in it. I decided to give religion one more try.
As I studied, I learned why I had felt so uncomfortable when I spoke in tongues at the Pentecostal church. God’s gift of speaking in different languages was granted to early Christians to provide evidence that they had his holy spirit. This miraculous gift also served the practical purpose of making Bible truths available to people of different lands who were gathered together at Pentecost 33 C.E. (Acts 2:5-11) However, the Bible states that God’s gift of speaking in tongues would cease, which it evidently did after the death of the apostles. (1 Corinthians 13:8) But to blind the minds of people, Satan and his demons have caused some to babble incoherently, in a way that has caused many to believe that these have God’s holy spirit.—2 Corinthians 4:4.
Soon, I came to understand God’s purpose for the earth and that I must be no part of the wicked world. (John 17:16; 18:36) I also learned that I had to cut off all ties with Babylon the Great, which is a symbol used in the Bible for the world empire of false religion. (Revelation 18:2, 4) When I told Father that I was getting baptized, this time as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he was devastated. He begged me not to become a Witness. It was the first time I had ever seen him cry. I cried with him, for I truly did not want to hurt him. But I knew that I had found the truth and that I could never turn my back on Jehovah.
My entire family was opposed to my becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For a while I stopped attending meetings. This relieved the opposition from family members, but I was miserable. I knew that I would never be at peace until I was doing Jehovah’s will. On my lunch hour one day, I stopped by Charlene’s house and told her that I needed to get baptized. “Don’t you think you need to start coming back to meetings first?” she asked. I told her that I was determined this time that nothing would come between me and Jehovah. I was baptized on September 19, 1973.
That was over 23 years ago now. Thankfully, my family has since come to respect my decision, and none of them pressure me to leave the truth, which I appreciate very much. Yet, my oldest daughter, Kim, is the only one who thus far has become a Witness. Her loyal service to Jehovah has been a great source of encouragement to me through the years.
A Memorable Meeting
In 1990, when I returned to Coeburn, Virginia, for a visit, I asked Mother to stop at the Kingdom Hall so that I could see what time the meetings would start on Sunday. As we pulled into the driveway, she said that we used to live in a house right behind the hall, across the railroad tracks. The house had long since burned down, and only a brick chimney remained. “You were just a little girl then,” she said, “not more than three or four years old.”
On Sunday I was warmly welcomed at the Kingdom Hall. When I spoke with Stafford Jordan, I casually mentioned that as a child I had lived in the house that once stood behind the Kingdom Hall. He looked at me intently. “I remember you!” he exclaimed. “You were a towheaded little girl about this tall [he measured with his hand]. We were working this territory when my companion got into a conversation with your father. I tried to keep you occupied by talking to you about Paradise.”
I was speechless. My voice choked as I told him about my search for Bible truth. “When I was only a babe, you planted the seeds of truth in my little heart!” I said. He then told me that I had a relative on my grandfather’s side, Stephen Dingus, who had been a faithful Witness. The family had never spoken of him, for they were very opposed. “He would have been real proud of you!” Brother Jordan said.
As I look back over my years in Jehovah’s organization, I’m truly grateful for the love and kindness that has been shown to me. Yes, there are still times when I am at the Kingdom Hall that seeing families serving Jehovah together makes me feel a little sad, for often I am there alone. But I quickly remember that Jehovah is with me. He was always watching, and when my heart was able to handle the truth that had been spoken into the ears of a small child so many years ago, he allowed it to sprout and blossom.
“Thank you, Brother Jordan,” I said, “for taking the time to talk about Paradise to a rambunctious little girl!”—As told by Louise Lawson.
[Picture on page 13]
With Stafford Jordan when I met him again in 1990