My Choice Between Two Fathers
“You’re not my son anymore! Leave this house immediately, and don’t come back until you give up that religion!”
WITH just the clothes I had on, I left. Shells were exploding around the neighborhood that night, and I had no idea where to go. More than six years passed before I returned home.
What could make a father so furious that he would throw his own son out? Well, let me explain how it all started.
Growing Up in a Hate-Filled World
My parents live in Beirut, Lebanon, a country once famous as a tourist attraction. From 1975 to 1990, however, the city was the center of a destructive war. I was born in 1969, the firstborn in an Armenian family of three children. Thus, my early memories are of times of peace.
My parents belonged to the Armenian Apostolic Church, but Mother used to take us to church only twice a year—at Easter and Christmas. So our family was really not very religious. Nevertheless, I was sent to an Evangelical high school, where I received religious instruction. At the time, religion did not interest me either.
One thing many Armenians learned in childhood was to hate Turks. During World War I, Turks had slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Armenians and had taken over most of the country of Armenia. In 1920 the eastern part that remained became a republic of the Soviet Union. As a youth, I was determined to fight to see that justice was realized.
Change of Thinking
However, in the 1980’s, when I was in my mid-teens, things that my maternal uncle told me began to change my thinking. He said that Almighty God would soon correct all injustices. He explained that by means of the Kingdom for which Jesus Christ had taught his followers to pray, even those slaughtered in massacres would be resurrected to life on earth.—Matthew 6:9, 10; Acts 24:15; Revelation 21:3, 4.
I was thrilled. Wanting to hear more, I continued to ask him questions. This led to a Bible study, which was held in the home of another Witness.
As I learned about my heavenly Father, Jehovah, and came to love him more and more, I began to fear that I would one day face a difficult decision—that of choosing between my family and Jehovah God.—Psalm 83:18.
Hard Choice for a 17-Year-Old
Eventually, Mother heard about my involvement with Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was very upset and ordered me to stop my Bible study. When she realized that I was serious about my convictions, she threatened to tell Father. At the time, I didn’t care because I thought that I would be able to handle the situation and stand my ground against Father. But I was mistaken.
When Father learned that I was associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, he became furious. He threatened to throw me out of the house if I didn’t stop my Bible study. I told him that I was not going to give it up because what I was learning was the truth. After his shouting, yelling, and swearing ended, he started to cry like a child. He literally begged me to stop associating with the Witnesses.
I was torn apart emotionally, torn between two fathers—Jehovah and him. I knew that both of them loved me very much, and I wanted to satisfy both of them; but it seemed impossible. The pressure was more than I could bear. I told Father that I would do what he wanted, reasoning that I could resume my studies and become a Witness when I grew older. I was only 17 then.
During the days that followed, I felt ashamed of what I had done. I felt that Jehovah was not happy and that I had not trusted in the words of the psalmist David, who said: “In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up.” (Psalm 27:10) But I was still in high school, and my parents were covering the expenses of my education.
A Firmer Stand
For more than two years, I did not visit my uncle or have any contact with the Witnesses, since I knew my parents were watching my every move. One day in 1989, at the age of 20, I came across a Witness I knew. Very kindly he asked if I would like to visit him. Since he did not mention anything about studying the Bible, I did eventually go to see him.
In time, I began to study the Bible and attend meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Kingdom Hall. I studied at my workplace, where nobody could disturb me. As a result, I came to a better appreciation of Jehovah’s loving personality as well as a better understanding of the value of having and keeping a close relationship with him under any circumstances. In August of that same year, I even began sharing with others what I had learned.
Till then my family knew nothing. A few days later, however, my father and I were again standing face-to-face, but this time I was better prepared for the confrontation. He tried calmly to ask: “Son, is it true that you are still associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses?” Tears were in his eyes as he awaited my answer. My mother and sister were crying silently.
I explained that I had only lately been associating with the Witnesses and that I was determined to become one of them. At that, things happened very quickly. Father yelled those words that are found in the introduction of this article. Then he grabbed me and shouted that he was not going to let me get out of the house alive. I was able to free myself, and as I ran down the stairs, I heard my younger brother trying to calm Father down. “From now on you are my Father,” I prayed to Jehovah. “I have chosen you, so please take care of me.”
A few days later, Father went to my uncle’s house, thinking he would find me there. He attacked him and wanted to kill him, but some Witnesses who were visiting intervened. Father left, promising to return. Shortly he did, accompanied by militiamen armed with guns. They took the Witnesses and my uncle, who was very ill, to their military headquarters.
Afterward a search was launched for other Witnesses in the area. The house of one of them was also invaded. Books, including Bibles, were piled in the street and burned. But that was not all. Six Witnesses were arrested as well as some people who were only studying with them. All were put in a small room, interrogated, and then beaten. Some were burned with cigarettes. News about these events spread like wildfire in the neighborhood. Militiamen were looking for me everywhere. My father asked them to find me and make me change my mind, no matter what methods they used.
A few days later, militiamen broke into the Kingdom Hall, where one of the congregations was holding a meeting. They made the whole congregation—men, women, and children—evacuate the hall. They confiscated their Bibles and made them walk to the militia headquarters, where they were interrogated.
Escape to Greece
All this time, I was being taken care of by a family of Witnesses far from the scene of unrest. A month later I left the country for Greece. On arriving there, I dedicated my life to Jehovah God and was baptized in symbol of my dedication.
In Greece I felt the loving care of a spiritual brotherhood that included people from a number of nationalities—including Turks. I experienced the truth of Jesus’ words: “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.”—Mark 10:29, 30.
For the next three years, I stayed in Greece. Although I wrote Father several times, he never replied. I was later told that whenever friends dropped by and asked him about me, he would say: “I have no son by that name.”
Reunion After Six Years
I returned to live in Beirut in 1992, after the war ended. Through a friend I informed my father of my desire to return home. He replied that I would be welcome—but only if I had given up my faith. So I lived in a rented apartment for the next three years. Then, in November 1995, Father suddenly walked into my workplace and asked to see me. I was not present then, so he left a message that he wanted me to come home. At first I found it difficult to believe. So, very hesitantly, I went to see him. It was an emotional reunion. He said that he no longer minded my being a Witness and that he wanted me to come home!
Today I serve as a Christian elder and a full-time minister in an Armenian-speaking congregation. I often come across people like my father who oppose family members because these want to serve Jehovah. I realize that Father sincerely believed he was doing the right thing by opposing my worship. The Bible even prepares Christians by saying that they can expect family opposition.—Matthew 10:34-37; 2 Timothy 3:12.
I hope one day my father and the rest of my family will share my Bible hope of a coming better world. Then there will be no more wars or massacres, and people will no longer be driven from their lands or persecuted for the sake of righteousness. (2 Peter 3:13) And then people will not have to make a choice between two things so very dear to their hearts.—Contributed.