Education based on the Bible has amazing power to improve lives. Consider two examples of this: Ricardo and Andres.
RICARDO: At the impressionable age of 15, I joined a gang. My new friends had a big influence on me. In fact, it became my goal to spend ten years in prison! That may sound foolish. But in my neighborhood, those who had spent time in prison were admired and respected. And I wanted to be like them.
I experienced all that is associated with gang life, including drugs, sex, and violence. One night I was involved in a shoot-out. I thought I was going to be killed, but I escaped unharmed. After that, I began to think more seriously about my life and my goals, and I decided that I wanted to change. But how? Where could I find help?
Most of my relatives were unhappy. Their lives were full of problems. But that was not the case with the family of one of my uncles. I knew that they were good people, and I knew that they lived by Bible principles. In fact, I had once learned from them that God’s name is Jehovah. So not long after the shoot-out, I prayed to Jehovah, addressing him by name and asking him to help me. To my astonishment, the very next day, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on my door! He became my Bible teacher.
I soon faced a big challenge. My old friends often phoned, asking me to hang out with them. Though it was not easy, I said no. I was determined to continue my Bible study, and I am glad that I did! My life improved dramatically, and I found true happiness.
I remember telling God in prayer that I had once been willing to spend ten years in prison to earn respect as a gang member. So I asked him to allow me to serve him for at least ten years as a full-time minister in order to help others just as I had been helped. God answered my prayer, for I have spent 17 years as a full-time minister! And I might add, I never went to prison.
Many of my former friends, however, are serving long prison sentences. Others are dead. Looking back, I am most grateful to my Witness relatives. They were willing to be different, to live by the Bible. I grew to respect them more than I ever respected anyone in the gang. Above all, I am thankful to God for teaching me the very best way to live.
ANDRES: I was born and raised in a poor neighborhood where drugs, extortion, murder, and prostitution were common. My father was an alcoholic and a cocaine addict. He and my mother were always fighting, verbally and physically.
At an early age, I began drinking alcohol and using drugs. I spent most of my time on the streets, stealing and then selling what I stole. As I got older, my father, in a misguided attempt to draw close to me, taught me how to smuggle drugs and other illegal products into the country and sell them. I made a lot of money—fast. Then one day the police came to my home. They arrested me, and I was sentenced to five years in prison for attempted murder.
One morning an announcement over the prison loudspeaker invited inmates to a Bible discussion held by Jehovah’s Witnesses. I decided to attend. What I heard made sense, so I began to study the Bible with the Witnesses. They did not water down the Scriptures but showed me God’s high moral standards.
I soon realized that I could not make the needed changes without help, especially when I received threats from fellow inmates who did not like what I was doing. So I prayed for strength and wisdom, and Jehovah helped me. In fact, I was even able to go on the offensive, as it were, by speaking to other prisoners about the Bible.
When my release came, I was so nervous that I actually wanted to stay in prison longer! As I was leaving, a number of inmates waved goodbye. Some even said affectionately, “Go home, little shepherd.”
It scares me to think about how my life might have turned out had I not allowed God to educate me. I am very, very thankful that God loves me and did not consider me a lost cause.a