The Bible Changes Lives
WHAT influenced an antisocial punk rocker to learn to love people and reach out to help others? What motivated a man in Mexico to put away an immoral lifestyle? Why did one of Japan’s leading bicycle racers leave racing behind in an effort to serve God? Consider what these people have to say.
“I Was a Rude, Arrogant, Aggressive Person.”—DENNIS O’BEIRNE
YEAR BORN: 1958
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: ENGLAND
HISTORY: ANTISOCIAL PUNK ROCKER
MY PAST: On my father’s side, my family is Irish, and I grew up as an Irish Catholic. I usually had to go to church by myself, though, and I did not like going. Still, I had a hunger for spiritual things. I said the Lord’s Prayer regularly, and I can remember lying in bed at night thinking about its meaning. I used to break it down into separate parts and try to figure out what each part meant.
In my mid-teens, I was involved with the Rastafarian movement. I also looked into such political causes as the Anti-Nazi League. But I got deeply involved in the rebellious attitude of the punk rock movement. I took drugs, especially marijuana, which I smoked almost every day. Adopting an “I don’t care” attitude, I drank heavily, took risks with my own life, and cared little for other people. I was antisocial, hardly speaking to anyone unless I deemed the discussion meaningful. I even refused to be photographed. Looking back now, I can see that I was a rude, arrogant, aggressive person. Only if someone was close to me was I kind and generous.
When I was about 20, I got interested in the Bible. A drug-dealing friend had taken up reading the Bible while in prison, and we had a lengthy discussion about religion, the Church, and Satan’s role in the world. I bought a Bible and started studying it on my own. My friend and I would read parts of the Bible, get together to discuss what we had learned, and then draw conclusions. This went on for months.
These are some of the conclusions that we drew from what we read: that we are living in the last days of this world; that Christians should preach the good news of God’s Kingdom; that they should be no part of this world, including its politics; and that the Bible offers sound moral guidance. We could clearly see that the Bible is true and that there must be a true religion. But which one? We thought about the mainstream churches with their pomp and ceremony as well as their involvement in politics, and we saw that Jesus was nothing like that. We knew that God was not using them, so we decided to consider some of the lesser-known religions to see what they had to offer.
We would meet with adherents of such religions and ask them a series of questions. We knew what the Bible said about each question, so we could readily see whether they answered in harmony with God’s Word. After such meetings, I would always pray to God, ‘If those people represent the true religion, please move me to want to meet with them again.’ But after months of such meetings, I still had not found a group that answered our questions from the Bible; nor did I have a desire to meet with any of them again.
Finally, my friend and I came into contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses. We asked the same questions as always, but they answered from the Bible. What they said fit perfectly with what we had already learned. So we went on to ask questions for which we had not yet found answers in the Bible—for example, about God’s view of smoking and drugs. Again, they were able to answer using God’s Word. We agreed to go to a meeting at the Kingdom Hall.
Attending a meeting was hard for me. I was so antisocial that I did not like being approached by all those friendly, well-dressed people. I attributed wrong motives to some, and I did not want to go to any more meetings. But as always, I prayed to God that he would give me a desire to meet with these people again if they represented the true religion, and I felt an overwhelming desire to study the Bible with the Witnesses.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: I knew that I had to stop using drugs, and I was able to quit readily. The real difficulty was cigarettes. I tried several times to stop smoking but failed. When I heard of others who had simply thrown their cigarettes away and never smoked again, I talked to Jehovah about the matter. Thereafter, with Jehovah’s help, I was able to stop smoking. I had learned the value of speaking honestly and openly to Jehovah in prayer.
Another big change I made involved my dress and grooming. At my first meeting at the Kingdom Hall, my hair was spiky with a peacock-blue stripe in it. Later, I dyed it bright orange. I wore jeans and a leather jacket with slogans stenciled on it. I saw no need to change, even though the Witnesses kindly reasoned with me. Finally, though, I thought about 1 John 2:15-17: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” I concluded that through my appearance, I was showing love for this world and that in order to show my love for God, I would have to change. This I did.
In time, I realized that it was not just the Witnesses who wanted me to attend Christian meetings. Hebrews 10:24, 25 showed me that it was something that God wanted me to do. After I started going to all the meetings and really getting to know the people, I decided to symbolize my dedication to Jehovah by getting baptized.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: I have been deeply moved by the way Jehovah allows us to have an intimate relationship with him. His compassion and care have impelled me to imitate him and to follow his Son, Jesus Christ, as my model in life. (1 Peter 2:21) I have learned that while striving to have a Christian personality, I can still have my own identity. I have worked to cultivate a loving and caring spirit. I try to be Christlike in the way I treat my wife and son. And I care deeply for my brothers and sisters in the truth. Following Christ has brought me dignity, self-respect, and the ability to show love for others.
“They Treated Me With Dignity.”—GUADALUPE VILLARREAL
YEAR BORN: 1964
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: MEXICO
HISTORY: IMMORAL LIFESTYLE
MY PAST: I was one of seven children, brought up in Hermosillo, in Sonora, Mexico, an area afflicted with much poverty. My father died when I was a little boy, so my mother had to work to support us. I usually went barefoot because we had no money to buy shoes. While still young, I started working to help with the family’s expenses. Like many families, we lived crowded together.
For most of the day, my mother was not around to protect us children. When I was 6 years old, I fell victim to a 15-year-old who began to abuse me sexually. This abuse continued for a long time. One result was that I became very confused sexually. I thought it was normal to feel attracted to men. When I sought the help of doctors or clergymen, they assured me that I had no problem and that my feelings were normal.
When I was 14, I made the decision to present myself to the world as a homosexual. I stayed that way for the next 11 years, even living with several different men during that time. Eventually, I took a course to become a hair stylist and ran a beauty shop. However, I was unhappy. I led a life of suffering and betrayal. I sensed that what I was doing was not right. I started to ask myself, ‘Are there any good and worthwhile people?’
I thought of my sister. She began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and eventually got baptized. She would tell me what she was learning, but I paid no attention. Still, I admired her for her life and her marriage. I could see that she and her husband really loved and respected each other. They treated each other with kindness. In time, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses began to study the Bible with me. At first, I just went along with it—without enthusiasm. Then things changed.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: The Witnesses invited me to one of their meetings, and I went. It was a new experience for me. People in general made fun of me but not the Witnesses. They greeted me kindly, and they treated me with dignity. I was moved.
My good impression of the Witnesses deepened when I attended an assembly. I saw that even in large groups, these people were like my sister—genuine and sincere. I asked myself if this might be the group of good and worthwhile people whom I had long been seeking. Their love and unity amazed me, as did their use of the Bible to answer every question. I realized that it was the Bible that was the force for good in their lives. And I saw, too, that I would have to make many changes to become one of them.
In fact, I had to undergo a complete metamorphosis, for I was living a feminine life. My speech, mannerisms, clothing, hairstyle, and choice of friends all needed changing. My former friends began to mock me, saying: “Why are you doing this? You were fine as you were. Don’t study the Bible. You have everything.” The most difficult things to change, though, were the practices of my immoral lifestyle.
Still, I knew that great changes were possible, for the Bible’s words at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 had reached my heart: “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men . . . will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean.” Jehovah helped people back then to make changes, and he helped me too. It took several years and a good deal of struggling, but the guidance and love of the Witnesses helped me a great deal.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: Today, I lead a normal life. I am married, and my wife and I are teaching our son to live by Bible principles. My former life is far behind me now, and I enjoy many spiritual benefits and privileges. I serve as an elder in the congregation, and I have been able to help others to learn the truth of God’s Word. The changes I made in my life made my mother so happy that she accepted a Bible study and has since become a baptized Christian. A sister of mine who led an immoral life also became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Even some of the people who knew me in my former life now recognize that I have changed for the better. And I know what has been behind those changes. In the past I sought professional help but received only bad advice. However, Jehovah truly helped me. Although I felt unworthy, he noticed me and treated me with love and patience. The fact that such a wonderful, intelligent, loving God would take notice of me and want me to have a better life made all the difference.
“I Felt Dissatisfied, Lonely, and Empty.”—KAZUHIRO KUNIMOCHI
YEAR BORN: 1951
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: JAPAN
HISTORY: COMPETITIVE BICYCLE RACER
MY PAST: I grew up in a sleepy port town in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, where our family of eight lived in a small house. My father ran a bicycle shop. From the time I was small, he took me to bicycle races and got me interested in the sport. My father then began to plan for me to become a professional racer. When I was still in middle school, he began training me in earnest. In high school I won three successive titles in the yearly national athletic contests. I received an offer to attend a university, but I decided to go directly to a racing school. At the age of 19, I became a professional racer.
By then, it was my goal in life to become the top bicycle racer in Japan. I planned to make a lot of money so that I could give my family a secure and settled life. I threw myself into my training. Whenever I felt daunted by the rigors of training or a difficult part of a race, I would tell myself over and over that I was born to race bicycles and that I just had to go on somehow! And I did. My hard work started to pay off. In my first year, I won the rookie title. In my second year, I qualified to enter the race that determines Japan’s number one racer. Six different times, I came in second in that race.
As I remained in the upper range of prizewinning racers, I became known as the strong legs of Tokai, an area of Japan. I was very competitive. In time, I was feared because I was merciless in the races. My income grew, and I found that I could buy whatever appealed to me. I bought a house with an exercise room equipped with the best machines. I bought a foreign car that cost almost as much as a house. For security I began investing my money in real estate and the stock market.
Still, I felt dissatisfied, lonely, and empty. By that time, I was married and had children, but often I was impatient with my family. I would lose my temper with my wife and children over little things. They began nervously studying my facial expressions to see if I was in another bad mood.
In time, though, my wife began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. That led to many changes. She said she wanted to attend the meetings of the Witnesses, so I decided that we would go as a family. I can still remember the night when an elder called at my home and began to study the Bible with me. What I learned made a deep impression on me.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE: I will never forget how reading Ephesians 5:5 affected me. It says: “No fornicator or unclean person or greedy person—which means being an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of the Christ and of God.” I saw that bicycle racing was tied up with gambling and that the sport promoted a greedy spirit. My conscience became troubled. I felt that if I wanted to please Jehovah God, I would need to quit racing. But it was a hard decision for me.
I had just finished my most satisfying racing year ever, and I yearned for more. I found, though, that studying the Bible put me in a peaceful, calm frame of mind—a far cry from the spirit I needed to win races! I raced only three times after I started studying, but in my heart I had not fully let go of racing. I was also at a loss as to how to support my family. I felt stuck, moving neither forward nor backward, and my relatives began giving me a very hard time about my new faith. My father was bitterly disappointed. Torn, I became ever more stressed and developed an ulcer.
What helped me through that difficult time was that I kept studying the Bible and going to the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Gradually, my faith grew stronger. I asked Jehovah to hear my prayers and to help me see that he does. My stress eased further when my wife assured me that she didn’t have to live in a big house in order to be happy. Slowly, I made progress.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED: I learned that Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 6:33 are really true. He said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” We have never lacked the “other things” that Jesus referred to, the basic necessities of life. Although my income is about a 30th of what I made as a racer, I have lacked nothing for me and my family these past 20 years.
Better still, when I work or worship with my fellow believers, I find joy and satisfaction that I never knew before. The days simply fly by. My family life has improved greatly as well. My three sons and their wives have all become faithful servants of Jehovah.