The Return of a Prodigal
I FIRST came in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1956, when I was thirteen years old. That was when my stepfather started studying with a Witness who worked with him on the same job. When I was about fifteen years of age I was baptized. Then, when I was sixteen years old, I began acting foolishly, as many teen-agers do, and found myself immorally involved with a girl at school. Shortly after that I was disfellowshiped from the Christian congregation, and then I joined the armed forces. After being there two weeks, I decided to take a stand for Bible principles. Two of us took such a stand there at Fort Ord, and we were mentally and physically abused. This abuse included beatings, solitary confinement, starvation rations, and so forth. After three months I was honorably discharged. This I did not understand until years later when I found out that my real father, who is part of the world and very powerful, worked out this honorable discharge.
My real father was very clever and devious, and in a short period of time he gained control of my life. I became involved in the political and power structure, in the gambling interests, in manipulating large sums of money, in other words, what is known as “organized crime.” But whenever I saw the Witnesses or their publications I longed for blessings from Jehovah and the association of his people. I felt like telling them, “Watch your spirituality, don’t let anything get in the way of your serving Jehovah.”
In August 1974, about fifteen years from the time of my being disfellowshiped, my stepfather, now a circuit overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses, called the presiding overseer of the Palm Springs West Congregation and asked that one of the elders call on me and leave with me the August 1, 1974, issue of The Watchtower, which featured the article “Divine Mercy Points the Way Back for Erring Ones.” By this time I had settled down and had gotten involved in the television industry, and was now the vice-president of a TV station in California. When an elder of the congregation approached and talked to me, bringing this special issue of The Watchtower, I thought how much I would like to return, but how naïve this brother must be. I still had the underworld connections and was so deeply entrenched in the world that I felt that I could never get out.
I found out later that the elder felt that there was keen interest on my part. I did attend some meetings, and over the next seven months he regularly called on me at the television station.
In December 1975 this elder again walked into my office. The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘Where have you been?” I was so glad to see him and felt a spiritual desire rekindled. I was more than happy to help the Witnesses to get air time concerning the Malawi situation. At this time I was determined to do something about the truth, and the elder helped me to see the importance of prayer and leaning upon Jehovah’s mercy and loving-kindness.
Over the next few months I began to clean up my life. First, I made changes in business dealings in order to be honest. It wasn’t long before it was necessary to find other work. My income was cut more than 60 percent. I severed all connections with organized crime, and gave up a small fortune in stocks that came from gambling money. Then I began to clean up my life morally. My wife responded at first but then she left me. All these things provided an excellent opportunity to give politicians, corporate executives and many others who may not otherwise have had a witness, a chance to hear the truth. The hardest thing was to point them to Jehovah’s paradise earth, but then to tell them that I was not at this time able to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Then, in April 1976, after having been disfellowshiped nearly seventeen years, I was reinstated as one of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. To be able to carry that name is the greatest privilege in the world and to be able to tell others about Jehovah’s marvelous purposes. To become clean, free and to have Jehovah’s blessing again has been an unforgettable experience.
I have been privileged to distribute much Bible literature and to establish some fine interest. But the most outstanding experience concerns my private secretary at the television station. Having been my secretary for some years she was amazed to see the rapid change. This aroused her interest and, in February 1976, she began to study the Bible, along with two teen-age children. And at a circuit assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, on September 12, 1976, she became a dedicated, baptized Witness.—Contributed.