I Was a Prodigal Son
As told by Meros William Sunday
I was taught from infancy to love God; but when I was 18, I rebelled and left home. For 13 years I lived like the prodigal son of Jesus’ parable. (Luke 15:11-24) I became a drug dealer and almost ruined my life. Let me tell you what led to my change in lifestyle and to my return.
I WAS born in 1956 to Christian parents, the second of nine children. We lived in Ilesha, a town in southwestern Nigeria. My father had been raised a Catholic, but in 1945 his uncle gave him the book The Harp of God.* After reading it, Dad looked for Jehovah’s Witnesses. In 1946 he was baptized, as was Mom shortly afterward.
I still remember how real Jehovah was to me during my childhood and how zealously I shared with my parents in preaching. My father studied the Bible with me. Occasionally, Alice Obarah, whose husband was a traveling overseer in our area, did so as well. My parents wanted me to become a full-time minister. However, Mom suggested that I first obtain secondary school education.
As soon as I started, though, at age 16, I unwisely made friends with schoolmates who did not respect Bible principles. What a foolish mistake that was! Before long, I started to smoke and engage in immoral conduct. I realized that my new lifestyle was not compatible with the instruction I had received at Christian meetings, so I stopped attending meetings and sharing in the house-to-house ministry. My parents were in anguish, but I no longer cared about the feelings of others.
I Leave Home
After only two years of secondary school, I moved out of our family house and started to live with friends in the neighborhood. I sometimes sneaked back home, grabbed whatever food I could, and ran away. Distressed, Dad stopped paying my school fees, hoping that I would change.
About the same time, however, I was awarded a scholarship. My sponsor sent my school fees from Scotland and sometimes also provided me gifts, including money. Meanwhile, two of my brothers also stopped associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, all of which brought untold misery to my parents. Several times Mom appealed to me in tears. Although that made me feel bad, I did not change my ways.
In the Big Cities
After finishing school in 1977, I went to Lagos and got a job. Shortly thereafter, I obtained money illegally and bought a taxicab. With more money now, I began using drugs and spending a lot of time in nightclubs and brothels. Soon I was bored with life in Lagos, and in 1981, I moved to London. From there I went to Belgium, where I took French classes and worked part-time in a restaurant. Much of my time, however, was spent shipping cars and electronic equipment to Nigeria.
Father wrote the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Belgium and asked that they contact me and try to get me involved in a Bible study. But whenever the Witnesses came to my house, I turned them away. I began attending a church where we would eat, drink, and play various sports after the service.
Life as a Drug Pusher
In 1982, I shipped an expensive luxury car to Nigeria and went to the port to clear it through myself. The Nigerian Customs discovered that the customs duty document was forged, so I was put in detention for about 40 days. My father bailed me out. Since I needed money to conclude the case, I returned to Belgium with some goods, including several pounds of marijuana. After I was acquitted of forging the customs duty document, I established myself in the drug trade.
On one trip I was arrested in the Netherlands. Immigration officers deported me, putting me on a Nigeria-bound plane. En route I met other drug pushers, and we formed a drug-trade partnership. In January 1984, I moved to another African country. Since I could speak French, the language spoken there, I was soon able to make friends with policemen, soldiers, and immigration officers. We thus managed to import thousands of pounds of marijuana into that country.
Arrested and Jailed
Then I ran into trouble again. I had arranged with an army captain to help me pass my goods through the airport in that country. But he arrived late, and I was arrested. The gendarmes beat me up and tortured me so terribly that I lost consciousness. They took me to a hospital and left me there, expecting that I would die. But I lived and was later charged, convicted, and imprisoned.
By the time I got out of prison, a friend whom I had asked to look after my house had sold all my property and disappeared. To make a living, I immediately started selling marijuana. However, ten days later I was rearrested and imprisoned for three months. By the time I was released, I was so sick that I again almost died. Somehow, I was able to make it back to Lagos.
In “Business” Again
In Lagos, I met up with some of my partners, and we headed for India, where we bought heroin valued at about $600,000. From Bombay (now Mumbai) we moved on to Switzerland, then to Portugal, and finally to Spain. We each realized considerable profit and returned to Lagos by different routes. Late in 1984, I sold another consignment of drugs. My dream was to make a million dollars and then settle down in the United States.
In 1986, I gathered all the money I had and bought some pure heroin in Lagos. I took it to another country, but there it ended up in the hands of a greedy dealer who never paid me for it. In fear for my life, I returned to Lagos without saying anything about what had happened. I was wrecked, both financially and emotionally. For the first time, I sat down and reflected on the purpose of life. ‘Why do I have all these ups and downs?’ I asked myself.
Returning to God
One night shortly afterward, I prayed to Jehovah to help me. Well, the next morning an elderly man and his wife knocked at my door. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I calmly listened to them and obtained a magazine. “My parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses,” I explained. “Alice Obarah used to study the Bible with me.”
The elderly man, P. K. Ogbanefe, replied: “We know the Obarahs well. They are now serving at our Nigeria branch office in Lagos.” They urged me to see them. My meeting with the Obarahs gave me a lot of encouragement. After that, Brother Ogbanefe started a Bible study with me, and I soon began making changes in my immoral lifestyle. This was not easy because the longtime use of drugs was hard to overcome. Still, I was determined to clean up my life.
Yet, there were so many temptations and pressures! My so-called friends would come to my house and make tempting offers. For a time I even relapsed into smoking and immoral conduct. I poured out my heart to God in prayer. Soon I knew that since friends of the world had led me astray, they couldn’t help me now. I realized that to progress spiritually, I had to leave Lagos. But I was ashamed to return home to Ilesha. Eventually, however, I wrote to my father and older brother and asked if I could come home.
Father assured me that I was welcome to return, and my brother said that he would assist me financially. So ten years after walking out on my parents, I returned home. I was received warmly. “Thank you, Jehovah!” Mother exclaimed. When Father arrived that evening, he said, “Jehovah will help you.” With the whole family together, he prayed to Jehovah, asking Him to help me now that I had returned to do His will.
Making Up for Lost Time
I resumed my Bible study and progressed rapidly; I was baptized on April 24, 1988. Immediately I became very active in the ministry. On November 1, 1989, I started serving as a pioneer—a full-time evangelizer. In 1995, I was invited to attend the tenth class of the Ministerial Training School in Nigeria. Then, in July 1998, I was assigned as a traveling overseer, visiting congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A year later, I was blessed with Ruth, who became my wife and traveling companion.
Other members of my family have progressed spiritually as well. One of my brothers, who had also stopped serving Jehovah, again took up true worship and was baptized. I am glad that Dad saw us return. He served happily as a ministerial servant in the congregation until his death in 1993 at 75 years of age. Mother continues to serve Jehovah zealously in Ilesha.
I traveled to a total of 16 countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa in search of riches. As a result, I stabbed myself all over with many pains. (1 Timothy 6:9, 10) When I look back, I deeply regret that I wasted so much of my early life on drugs and immorality. I regret the hurt I caused Jehovah God and my family. Yet, I am grateful that I survived long enough to return to my senses. My determination is to remain loyal to Jehovah and serve him forever.
Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses but now out of print.
[Picture on page 13]
As a rebellious teenager
[Picture on page 15]
On the day of my baptism
[Picture on page 15]
With my wife, Ruth