YEAR BORN: 1958
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: ITALY
HISTORY: VIOLENT GANG MEMBER
I was born and raised in the suburbs of Rome, in an area made up of the poor working class. Life was tough. I never knew my real mother, and I didn’t have a good relationship with my father. I grew up learning the rules of the streets.
By the time I was ten years old, I had already started stealing. At age 12, I ran away from home for the first time. On more than one occasion, my father had to pick me up at police headquarters and take me home. I argued with people constantly—I was violent and angry with the whole world. When I was 14, I left home for good. I started taking drugs and living on the street. Not having anywhere to sleep, I would break into a car and stay in it until the early morning hours. Then I would look for a water fountain so that I could wash up.
I became really good at stealing—anything from bag snatching to robbing apartments and villas during the night. I started to gain a bad reputation and was soon invited to join a notorious gang, which allowed me the “opportunity” to upgrade to robbing banks. Because of my aggressive personality, I was soon a respected member of the gang. I never went anywhere without my gun; in fact, I slept with it under my pillow. Violence, drugs, stealing, foul language, and immorality became my way of life. The police were constantly on my heels. I was arrested several times, and I spent years in and out of prison.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE:
On one occasion when I was let out of prison, I decided to go and visit one of my aunts. Unbeknownst to me, my aunt and two of my cousins had become Jehovah’s Witnesses. They invited me to attend a meeting of the Witnesses. Out of curiosity, I decided to go with them. When we arrived at the Kingdom Hall, I insisted on sitting near the door so that I could keep an eye on those who came in and out. Of course, I was armed.
That meeting changed my life. I remember thinking that I must be on a different planet. I was greeted by people with warm, friendly smiling faces. I still have a vivid picture in my mind of the kind, honest look the Witnesses had in their eyes. This was certainly a million miles away from the world I was used to!
I started to study the Bible with the Witnesses. The more I learned, the clearer it became that I had to change my lifestyle completely. I took to heart the words recorded at Proverbs 13:20: “The one walking with the wise will become wise, but the one who has dealings with the stupid will fare badly.” I realized that I needed to distance myself from the gang. That was not easy to do, but with Jehovah’s help, I succeeded.
For the first time in my life, I started to have control over my actions
I also cleaned myself up physically. With much effort, I stopped smoking cigarettes and using drugs. I cut my long hair, got rid of my earrings, and stopped using bad language. For the first time in my life, I started to have control over my actions.
I had never enjoyed reading and studying, so it was a real challenge to concentrate and apply myself to Bible study. However, as I made the effort, I gradually came to love Jehovah, and something started to change inside me—my conscience began to bother me. I often had negative feelings about myself, doubting that Jehovah could ever forgive me for all the bad that I had done. In those moments I found a lot of comfort in reading about Jehovah forgiving King David after he had committed serious sins.—2 Samuel 11:1–12:13.
Another challenge was sharing my faith with others in the door-to-door ministry. (Matthew 28:19, 20) I was terrified that I would meet someone whom I had hurt or wronged in some way in the past! But gradually I was able to overcome my fear. I began to find real satisfaction in helping others learn about our wonderful heavenly Father, who forgives so abundantly.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED:
Learning about Jehovah saved my life! Most of my former companions are dead or in prison, but I have a truly satisfying life and a future to look forward to. I have learned to be humble and obedient and to control my volcanic temper. As a result, I enjoy better relationships with the people around me. I am happily married to my beautiful wife, Carmen. Together, we find great joy in helping others learn about the Bible.
Oh, and I now do honest work—it sometimes still involves banks, but instead of robbing them, I clean them!