At this conference everyone is given a voice. Present, questioning, exiting and former Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as anyone who has been affected by the teachings and policies of Jehovah’s Witnesses organization. Whether you are a former witness for the Watchtower Society or a "witness now for Jesus," you are invited.
The second annual "Witnesses Now for Jesus: Midwest" conference is coming up fast the weekend of Friday, July 27 and Saturday, July 28. As with the 40th annual conference of its same kind in Pennsylvania (October 5-7, 2018), Friday morning will begin with introductions from all in attendance as the microphone gets passed at 9:30 am with "Let's Get Acquainted."
Can I make a confession here? I still like the Awake! magazine that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society publishes. As a former Jehovah's Witness, I no longer have a subscription so I'm not up to date on all of them, but when I do get my hands on one I usually enjoy the articles. They're rarely controversial and often upbeat and informative.
Recently I stopped to read the bulletin board at my local grocery store where someone had left 4 Awake! magazines. Likely the same sister I'd seen in the store that day. It was all the same issue, No. 1 2017 on Teen Depression. I took them all off the counter so no one else could have a chance to read them. Even though I don't consider the contents of those magazines very dangerous, they do serve as a lure to get readers interested in studying with Jehovah's Witnesses. Something I do find dangerous and deceiving. And so, I have 4 copies of the same Awake! magazine sitting at my desk.
Back in 1979, long before Facebook or any Internet groups, Ex Jehovah's Witnesses managed to gather and put together a conference in Pennsylvania. 40 years later it's still going! Even those who've never attended have benefited from the recorded talks on YouTube given by those who shared their struggle and joy coming out of the Watchtower.
In 2017, another conference was added in Missouri for those not able to make the trip out east. And this year the west coast Witnesses Now for Jesus conference was introduced in Sacramento, California. "Life After the Watchtower, Now What?" was the appropriate title given to that conference held in April on the west coast. Now with the California conference behind us, it's time to make plans for the Witnesses Now for Jesus Midwest conference in Missouri this July.
The June 22, 1985 Awake! magazine states this on page 27, "According to the Bible, when we deliberately put someone's life unnecessarily in danger, we could become bloodguilty (Compare 1 Chronicles 11:17-19)"
Blood Guilty. Jehovah's Witnesses are accustomed to hearing the phrase in their publications and public discourses at their Kingdom Hall meetings. And so it's understandable if members of the sect consider Lauren Stuart blood guilty after the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office and police determined this 45 year old wife and mother to be the murderer of her husband and children before turning the gun on herself.
On the morning of Friday, February 16, 2018, police responded to a call to check on the safety of this Keego Harbor, Michigan family of four.
Neighbors John and Jackie Tristani said they awoke Friday morning to hear police outside the victims’ home.
“My son said police were repeatedly calling out ‘Lauren, come outside,’ " said John Tristani. “When she didn’t respond they (police) went inside. A few minutes later, they came back outside, shaking their heads.”
California --- Missouri --- Pennsylvania! April 27-28 --- July 27-28 --- Oct 5-7, 2018
Spring, summer or fall, there's a conference to go to. Three locations are now offered for former Jehovah’s Witnesses to gather for networking and support. A chance to meet in person with old friends you’ve met on line and introduce yourself to some new ones too! All are welcome. Stay for the whole weekend or take in just an hour or two. It's your choice.
Here we are between the holidays. As I write this, Christmas is behind us and Martin Luther King Day is before us. I celebrate my Savior on the one day and a childhood hero on the other.
My first brush with racial prejudice was at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. I was raised in a primarily white, suburban neighborhood in Illinois and therefore unacquainted with words of hate toward another race since there were none on my street to talk about. But when my mother took me shopping in town, I certainly was aware there were people who did not look like me. I was just never informed that I should mistrust them. But there at the museum, I stood in line with my older sister surrounded by girls of another color.
“Little white girl,” one slurred as she gave me a shove. My mind whirled wondering what I had done to this person to warrant her taunting behavior. Again she pushed me while condemning my color to the delight of her friends. Thankfully it didn’t escalate into violence beyond my hurt feelings, but it left me confused. This girl didn’t know me and yet she hated me. Why?
When we came back from Christmas break in 1973, my elementary school teacher took us into a lesson plan on Martin Luther King, Jr. Though the federal holiday that commemorates the civil rights leader would not be officially recognized for another 10 years, I was an eager student to hear the story that January.
I was SHOCKED to learn that my race had once enslaved Dr. King’s race. SHOCKED that only a few years before I was born, black people were expected to sit at the back of the bus and drink from separate water fountains. I became intensely interested in learning about the oppression of black people and realized what was behind that girl’s hatred of me, the “little white girl.”
What is Christmas to you? Do you have fond memories of family gatherings sharing recipes and gifts under the tree? For those who grew up in the Watchtower Society, there are no memories. Why would a parent withhold Christmas from their children? And what happens when that parent discovers the "reason for the season" themselves? For 30 years Sharon read the New World Translation of the Bible published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, but did not know her Savior. To her and the rest of Jehovah's Witnesses the Bible taught that Jesus was not born in December and God was not pleased with us for celebrating His birth that month. When she left the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, however, her eyes opened to the joy of the birth of her Savior and her own value as a precious new born creation as well. Sharon invites us to see Christmas through her eyes...
Christmas Through My Eyesby Sharon Leasure
In June of 1980 as I studied the Bible with my Jehovah’s Witness aunt I began to learn the evils of Christmas and why it should be a holiday to avoid. Unlike all the other holidays this was the hardest of all to give up. I knew I wanted to live on a Paradise earth for all eternity and would do what I had to so I could achieve this goal. I was convinced that because Jesus was not born in December it would be dishonoring Him to recognize His birth on that day.However it never entered my mind to ask why we don’t celebrate it in October. I was taught to believe that the three wise men were men hated by Jehovah. Also Jesus was around two years old when they came, not an infant in a manger. So the whole nativity scene was wrong and to be a part of it would to be a part of a lie. Who is the father of the lie? Satan, so it would be Satan that we would be worshiping. Christmas is being celebrated on the same day as the Sun God thus being connected to pagan worship. I had so many reasons now to avoid this holiday and look down on those who celebrated it. I began pitying them for their lack of knowledge, if they only knew the truth. What a horrible holiday!
If someone came to your door with Bible in hand, talking about Jesus, but shared a different gospel, would you recognize it? What if the pastor at your church introduced one? Would you know the difference?
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 NASB)
The Apostle Paul said clearly that the gospel which saves and is of first importance is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel he received and therefore presented to others. It was through their acceptance of that very same gospel that the churches in Galatia were birthed. Yet within a few years, Paul wrote with intense concern that they were now paying attention to a DIFFERENT gospel. Had they completely abandoned Christ? No, for he clarifies his statement that it's "really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ." (Galatians 1:6-7 NASB)
According to Paul a distorted version is as good as saying it's a different gospel.
We came from Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, California, Colorado, and Maine! Eleven states represented at one small Midwestern conference. I'd say that's a pretty good start!
Charles and Donna Smith didn't know what to expect when they agreed to organize and host the first ever Witnesses Now for Jesus Conference in Farmington, Missouri this past July but when they committed to do it, people came from all over. And what a blessing that gathering proved to be!
You are invited to attend the Witnesses Now for Jesus Midwest gathering! Listen to sound Biblical teachings by noted Christian Apologists and testimonies by former Jehovah's Witnesses to provide refuge for the oppressed and to edify and equip the Church.
Teachers include:Bob Gray, Ed Havaich, Steve Lagoon, Kay L. Kay Meyer, and Martin Winslow. Testimonies of ex-Jehovah's Witnesses include:Martha Kuderer, Julie McAllen, and Robin Ridlon. There is no registration fee, but a freewill offering will be taken.
The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation. The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. (Psalm 118:114-115)
Joyful shouting. I did a lot of that over my two week vacation to Maryland in April. I spent Resurrection Sunday with some dear friends who are also former Jehovah's Witnesses. We CELEBRATED the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our freedom in Him, and just being the wacky, unique individuals He created us to be.
Earlier in the week we caroused several thrift stores and flea markets in search of the perfect hat for a friend. At one sale I had opportunity to speak with one of Jehovah's Witnesses behind a literature cart. She invited me to their annual Memorial explaining it as a day set aside to commemorate Jesus' death. I agreed with her on it's importance and expressed my own appreciation for what Jesus' death means to me. Then I asked her, "so at this service you have in which you celebrate His death, do you also celebrate His resurrection or do you have a separate service for that?"
And she actually said, "OH, WE DON'T CELEBRATE HIS RESURRECTION."
How sad. Not only do they reject the body and blood of Christ at their Memorial service, but they also go forth in their ministry boldly proclaiming there is no reason to celebrate His resurrection. Just what part of this is Christian?
This was the question Sara and her sister posed to the Jehovah's Witnesses sitting across the table from them. The JW's had attempted to convince them that Jesus was not God. According to the rendering of John 1:1 in the Watchtower's own version of the Bible called The New World Translation (NWT), Jesus is "a god" but not "the God." Then the JW's introduced the Strong’s Concordance to these two sisters and endeavored to prove that the article “a” was permissible in the verse.
That was over 13 years ago. One of these sisters followed the advice given by those JW's to be like a Beroean and "carefully examine the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11 NWT) avoiding the snare of Watchtower indoctrination, but the other one became a disciple of the Watchtower organization.
Our ancestors understood that hunting, gathering, and building huts was easier within the tribe than doing it alone. When enemies approach, there’s also more security within a group than standing alone. And the survival of any group is dependent on some agreed upon structure. Therefore, groups often organize and unify under a belief system, deity, or common ideal. So religious ideals throughout history can be appreciated as a necessary force to unite a group of people for survival, but history's pages are also full of examples that when groups gather in the name of their god, horrendous things can happen. As I was discussing this with a gentleman in a class I'm taking on "the history of religious intolerance," he posed this question:
When the need for the group ends, does the need for the belief system also?
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4)
I recently received a letter from a person who considers it a sin if we don't keep the Sabbath on Saturday. We have exchanged letters through the years because she had questions about their neighbor who is one of Jehovah's Witnesses. She had told me they attend church on Saturday and asked what I understood about that.
noun, often attributive com·mu·ni·ty \kə-ˈmyü-nə-tē\
: a group of people who live in the same area (such as a city, town, or neighborhood)
: a group of people who have the same interests, religion, race, etc.
: a group of nations
Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary
Within family, neighborhood, school, work, and organizations, we gain community. Likewise, with a divorce, relocation, or job change we suffer loss of a once familiar community. Imagine several losses at once. For many who have had to walk away from the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, their losses include their family and social group, and may also include a change in occupation and adjusting to a new location as well. This is a significant loss of community.
The human heart desires community, yet it's common for those hurt within one group to hesitate seeking another lest they get hurt again. To compound this, the Watchtower has inculcated fear into the hearts of it's members to hinder their quest for help from counselors, clergy, ex-members, or friendly neighbors just trying to get to know them. Healing can not begin without some community.
Visit any Facebook group for Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses or our Worldwide Meetup group, and you'll see stories of a lot of wounded people. Many of them don't even desire to step into a church and for those of us who do, there's a lot of hurdles to overcome. And sadly, some of us have been wounded in the church as well as the Kingdom Hall.
Recently I shared an experience with those groups and it obviously hit a nerve based on the many comments I received. I'm thankful that the Lord chose to address this particular topic as I walked my dog and asked Him to speak into my life. Here is what He led me to write....
May seemed to be a month full of discussion about worship music on our Meetup for ex-Jehovah's Witnesses. I called to mind my 1984 edition of Kingdom Melodies, the songbook Jehovah's Witnesses use at their meetings.
I mentioned the picture of bearded (gasp!) men singing with mouths wide open giving praise to Jehovah. Their arms outstretched and opened as well. I asked the group sarcastically "did anyone ever praise God that way while at the Kingdom Hall???"
Music and worship is an often overlooked topic. When we leave the Watchtower, it's not just the difference in doctrinal matters that we notice. It's startling to see the difference in worship music and styles upon taking that first brave step into a church. In fact, I didn't even know what worship was when I first began attending.
There's thousands of pyramid schemes and I've been approached by a few friends involved in these "businesses" and warned them -- even pointing to articles and stories of ex-schemers on the Internet, yet that same ignorance exists in them that is in the cults. They simply don't want to hear it. They found something that makes them happy and consider my "evidence" as faulty and assume I just want to kill their joy. Sigh.
I love to share encouraging news like this. It's another example of how God is the one making seeds grow that others have watered. Living in the Midwest, I'm familiar with spring time planting and an autumn harvest. But that's life in the natural. In the kingdom of God, anything is possible, even a springtime harvest!
As with all on line discussion groups for ex Jehovah's Witnesses, a variety of views about God and religion can stir up strong emotions. We encourage members in our Meetup to be honest about their doubts and to share what they've been led to explore in matters of faith without fear of being reprimanded. That means ALL views are welcome.
Too many Christmas goodies and late evenings had me off schedule and extending my morning coffee 'til noon in my pajamas. With my husband taking extra days off from work and a few trips tossed in, I struggled to remember what day it was. Perhaps you can relate to the holiday vacation slump? So December was winding down with a prayer for renewed energy since I personally felt like a sloth. But on the last Tuesday of 2015, a morning phone call turned into an entire day of connections and encouragement. Just the energy I needed.
"I would love to correspond with other ex Jehovah's Witnesses. I think it is great to have like minded people to come together and voice their opinions and to share with people who understand."
That was a statement included in Ruth's profile when she joined our worldwide support group in November of 2010. She had been one of Jehovah's Witnesses for 36 years leaving behind six brothers and sisters still in the organization. Though she has been out now for over 20 years, Ruth echoes the words of many who were raised under the Watchtower rules in saying,
Sometimes when people come out of the Watchtower, their fear is that they will be expected by others to discredit ALL of it. But that's not honest nor honoring of their decision at the time they accepted a free home Bible study from one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
I can honestly say I have some very good memories of my time spent as one of Jehovah's Witnesses and know I am a better person for it. Even though from this side of things I can call it a toxic cult, in reference to their own conversion to the Watchtower, I understand why some former members cling to it in their confusion claiming "the truth saved my life."
A sense of belonging. This is something our spirits long for with God and with one another. There's no greater joy than to watch a new life born of Spirit take hold of their right as a child of God who belongs to Christ! (John 1:12; Romans 8:9) A need for acceptance is met as they begin their walk with God. With this, a hunger grows to fellowship with others as well.
The hot topic on Meetups and Facebook discussions among former Jehovah's Witnesses the past month was undoubtedly the investigation by the Royal Commission of Australia into over 1,000 sexual abuse cases within the Watchtower Society. While this is good publicity to share among those eagerly anticipating the membership of this cult to drop, I can't help but think of the consciences of those who would "protect" the leadership who caused so much suffering to these victims. Don't Jehovah's Witnesses care about human suffering?
Last month I shared how the past affects the present in dealing with authority in the church. You can read that article here: http://www.4witness.org/church-issues-how-does-the-past-affect-the-present/ Being in daily on line conversations with people who've been abused by parental, spousal, and church authority, it's not surprising to hear their struggle to trust words in the Bible such as "honor your father and mother" or "obey those taking the lead." It's a challenge to share the love of Christ to hurting people without offending them with scripture when it's been used in the past to manipulate their trust. None the less, I always endeavor to share the truth that God intends better things for us and offers an abundant life. This is difficult to accept when you've been abused by people who were "supposed" to represent God in their shepherding role.
One of the recurring topics on our Meetup for discussion among former Jehovah's Witnesses is "Church."
After what we experienced in the Watchtower organization, many of us are hesitant to be involved with a church. Reasons vary. Some do not trust God or the Bible at all and therefore stay away. Others, like myself, have come to Christ for salvation, and have explored churches, yet find some practices unsettling.
In February I traveled to meet with Melissa Bramer for a special two hour interview at my mother's apartment. Melissa and I both arrived in time for lunch with my mom and dad and sat around the kitchen table for several hours before the evening blogtalk radio show. Since Melissa's "Hurting to Healing" first aired on blogtak radio in November 2014, my mother's been a regular listener, even at the cost of missing her Tuesday night BINGO games! In the interview, my mother offered the unique perspective of what it was like for a parent to watch her adult child (me) join a high control religious group. As former Jehovah’s Witnesses, Melissa and I hope this will be used to inform the community about the dangers of this sect. We also hope it was encouraging for those directly affected by the Watchtower Society to hear that broken relationships can be restored.
In this program, Melissa spoke with Arlene and Julie McAllen. Arlene is the mother of Julie McAllen the host of the Ex-Jehovah's Witness Worldwide Meetup! Learn what it was like for her to lose her daughter to Jehovah's Witnesses.
Connections; that’s my theme for 2015. January affords us all an opportunity to look over the previous year and see...
what was good, what was lacking, and in what ways we can improve.
This past year I kept thinking people were losing interest in our Meetup Support groups because of the plethora of choices out there for discussions on Facebook. Yet when I compared our numbers with last year, our membership actually was up in the Worldwide Internet support group for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. 155 new members joined compared with 120 in 2013. When I coupled that with the activity I’ve observed in Facebook groups also gaining momentum, I was only too happy to acknowledge that the Watchtower is losing it’s members. Something good!
When I was kicked out of the Watchtower Society 10 years ago, I knew I never wanted to go back. I was too scared to walk into another church, yet I couldn’t go back to the religion I just left. I didn’t believe the things taught by born again Christians, yet I could no longer trust Jehovah’s Witnesses. I knew they had spoken false prophecies and there was a real lack of love in the organization and yet, it remained “the truth” inside of me for the next few years. I was neither here nor there, you could say I was in “limbo.”
Becoming an ex-Jehovah’s Witness in the Internet age was a definite advantage. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for those who left before we all had so much information at our fingertips. Still, learning about Rutherford’s Beth Sarim mansion or the failed prophecies of 1914, 1925 or 1975 wasn’t enough. As good as the facts were to validate my resolve to never return to that cult, they could not minister to my real need for encouragement. I was still lonely, misunderstood, in pain, and wondering if God heard any of my prayers. Recovery for me began when someone took the time to go one-on-one allowing me to express my pain, my mustard seed of faith, and just know that someone out there HEARD me and cared. I am forever grateful to Cletis Clayton whom God prepared for that season of recovery from 2006 to 2008.
"The churches tend to believe, consciously or unconsciously, that fear-rather than love-conquers all." -- Watchtower, Dec. 1, 1980 p.32
Rather than trusting it’s members to serve Jehovah God out of love, a look at Watchtower publications and the effects of their teaching on its members reveals a preferred reliance on fear rather than love.
In the Watchtower organization, Jehovah is feared, Satan is feared, the elders are feared, holidays, worldly people, and especially former members are greatly feared and to be avoided at all costs.
"While some contact with worldly people is unavoidable - at work, at school, and otherwise-we must be vigilant so as to keep from being sucked back into the death-dealing atmosphere of this world. Let the world go along in its way, reaping its bad fruitage in the form of broken homes, illegitimate births, sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS, and countless other emotional and physical woes." --Watchtower, Sep 15, 1987 pp.12-14
He hath regarded the prayer of the destitute, And hath not despised their prayer. This shall be written for the generation to come; And a people which shall be created shall praise Jehovah. For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; From heaven did Jehovah behold the earth; To hear the sighing of the prisoner; To loose those that are appointed to death; That men may declare the name of Jehovah in Zion, And his praise in Jerusalem; When the peoples are gathered together, And the kingdoms, to serve Jehovah. - Psalm 102:17-22 ASV
"It's not just a convention, it's a family reunion"
It's time to meet your friends off the screen.
Do you want to meet other ex-Jehovah's Witnesses face-to-face? Would it help to listen to the stories of those who left the Watchtower? Do you have questions about "the faithful and discreet slave," "Armageddon," or who Jesus is?
If you are presently one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a former Witness, are in ministry to Jehovah’s Witnesses, have family members who are Witnesses or are just interested in them, please come and enjoy this conference. The Witnesses Now For Jesus annual convention is now in it's 36th year and the weekend event is filled with testimonies of former Jehovah's Witnesses as well
as talks prepared to meet the needs of those with questions about untangling from the clutches of the Watchtower.
In June I visited a church in my area and shared the story of how I joined and left the Watchtower Society. Not everyone there knew my background, so I began by telling them about my excitement in learning the Bible for the first time without mentioning it was through a study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. My goal was to take them along on my journey of subtle deception. As a Bible student, I learned some valid truths but along the way I was also fed lies. After telling the audience about the happiness I experienced in the first few years of finding “the truth,” I let them into some of my personal thoughts as the weight of the Watchtower pressed down on me….
“Week after week, month after month, I kept reading the Bible, attending services, evangelizing… but I just wasn’t feeling God’s love……I’d ask…. why do I feel like I’m going backwards in my faith instead of forward??? I mean, I had accepted the truth… so why was this darkness always hovering over me? Why do I have this hatred building in me? I’m so angry... I’m so judgmental… I’m so sad…. I am in the truth, for I believe and stand on all the things they taught me about Jesus and the good news we’re called to share. James says faith without works is dead and I work! God knows I work! I’m busy in kingdom works! I must have faith then…. I should be happy… they said I’d be happy…. I know who the angel of light and his ministers are now…. it’s Satan and all the churches under his care…the Catholics, the Baptists, the Lutherans, the Evangelicals, those nuts at River’s Harvest… I’m in the truth, those people are being lied to… ha, they think Jesus is God… what a lie!!! I have the truth!!! I need to offer them a free home Bible study and teach them the truth…. I have the truth! Those people in their stupid demon-filled churches are being lied to… if only they would attend meetings with me where we are all taught the truth. We don’t get involved in politics, or celebrate all those pagan holidays, we remain pure…. when we gather for communion only we do it right because we have the truth!!! Those silly people at River’s Harvest will actually eat the bread and drink the wine today to affirm they are the body of Christ! LIE! LIE! LIE! They think they’re all going to heaven… ha! Only those in the new covenant go to heaven and most of us are not invited to that... I know I’m not … when I gather for communion with my congregation we pass the emblems and none of us partake. No one, not a one!! And we do this to the glory of God…. Because we know the truth!!! ….”
One of the most Frequently Asked Questions we receive at our website concerns dating one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s not uncommon for someone outside of their religion to join our Meetup group in order to seek advice from ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses in this matter. Such was the case in April 2014. A woman joined stating that she had met and fell in love with a wonderful guy. 6 months into the relationship, he told her he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like most people, she didn't realize what a difficult strain that would put on their relationship, but here she was another 6 months later, at a “dead end” wondering why he was “scared to death” and wanting to leave her so he could be a more “devoted Jehovah’s Witness.”
Part of my role as hostess on our Colorado Springs and Worldwide Internet Ex-Mormon Meetup is to remind members of the wealth of information available to them at our website www.4mormon.org
Taking into consideration that we actually have more activity from members interested in witnessing to Mormons than from ex-Mormons themselves, I try to find articles of interest to meet the needs of our most active members. In April, I posted a question from a letter titled “I’M FRUSTRATED! HOW CAN I GET THROUGH TO MORMONS?” which can be found on our website under the heading “FAQ about reaching loved ones.” I copied and pasted the whole letter into the post and invited our Meetup members to respond with this: Okay Meetup members, how would you respond? What could you share with the writer who is looking for a way to talk to their Mormon friend? What would you do?
One member responded with “I think this question is THE defining question when dealing with them. The problems outlined here are verbatim the same problems everyone with a heart for Mormons encounters. I'll be following this thread closely.......”
Early this year, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses stumbled upon the website for Witnesses Now For Jesus and contacted the moderator, Bob Gray. He had been raised in his parent’s religion as a third generation Witness. Over the years, he questioned the claims of the Watchtower but continued to read his Bible and pray for truth. When he asked Bob “where to go,” Bob replied that John 6:68 does not say “where” but asks to “whom.” This Witness man asked, “you mean go to Jesus?” Like most of us who come out of the Watchtower, it sounded too simple and Bob assured him that it is that simple.
There were a few calls in between and on January 6 this gentleman told Bob that he’d like to discuss the Deity of Christ but didn’t even know how to pray about it. Bob explained that the Spirit helps us when we do not know how to pray and intercedes for us (Romans 8:26). This searching Witness meditated on the Scripture and on January 8 called Bob to tell him that he’d been crying for two days and announced “I’ve come to Jesus!” Immediately he began to tell his friends and was surprised that they “just don’t get it.” He recognized his need to fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ and called one day to say “I need a church!” At this time, Bob and him are studying the Bible together over the phone and he’s been put in touch with some Christian ex-JWs in his own area.
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead,you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
What is the Lord's will for next year? Will that Mormon friend of yours finally understand what you've been sharing with him about Jesus? Will you see the answer to your prayers this year in a relative's exit from the Watchtower? Will this be the year your ideas for greater coverage in a ministry to the cults finds a place to flourish? Will God raise up more helpers to pray with you, support you and provide resources? What will God do?
With Thanksgiving behind us and the Christmas season upon us, it is a good time to reflect on the many blessings we've received in this year of our Lord, 2013. What would December be without an end of the year praise report?
Praise goes, of course, first and foremost to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who makes all things possible. I thank Him for raising up the founder of Witnesses for Jesus, Inc., Christy Darlington, and putting it in her heart to be compassionate toward Mormons and Jehovah's' Witnesses and providing resources to those called to help them. I am thankful to former Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons who have offered to share their stories for the public to read on the websites and for those who volunteer their time as part of the ministry team. And I am thankful for the people supporting us with prayers, encouragement, suggestions and donations. It's to you I dedicate this article. As you read the expressions of real people who have been set free from the chains of oppression in the cults, know that your support was part of that. For those of you who are weary waiting for answers to your prayers, let these expressions of faith encourage you to know that in God's time He will bring forth praise from those currently trapped.
In 1995, just prior to beginning a study with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I committed my life to God with these words, “God, put me on a trip.” I had no vision of travel; it was just my way of expressing a willingness to be directed wherever God chose. At the time, I thought He chose the Watchtower for me. What a long, strange trip it’s been. I’m still on it.
In October, I made my third trip to the Blue Mountain Christian Retreat Center for the annual Witnesses Now For Jesus conference in New Ringgold, PA. I had offered to speak about the class that my friend Becky and I had taught at our church, but the closer we got to the conference; I wondered what I really had to offer.
I love the focus of one member on the Meetup for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. She recently incited us to good works through a post she titled, “How to unlock the mind of a JW and set them FREE.” This is what she wrote:
“I had an idea about how any of us former JW's can help each other to help JW's out of the org.
Let's start making a list of questions relating to what's wrong with the organization. Questions that will help make them THINK about what they are involved with. Nothing to do with Doctrine, just the organization. There are 559 EX-JW's here. I hope we all can think of at least one question to ask.”
On occasion I have stopped by the Kingdom Hall in my town to lay hands on the door and pray for the Witnesses. It had been a while though.
Every other Thursday I drive past the Kingdom Hall when I clean house, but for some reason I had this client down in my datebook for Tuesday. I honestly couldn't remember why I switched days as I had nothing on my calendar that conflicted with keeping my regular cleaning day, but since I had her down for Tuesday, I thought I'd better not change it.
As I was driving, my favorite tune, "How He loves us" by the David Crowder Band played in the background as I prayed and I got the idea that today I should pray in the parking lot at the Hall. The first time I did that a few years ago I was terrified, but knowing it was Tuesday morning I was confident no one would be there. I was relaxed as I approached the Kingdom Hall. However, my heart started racing as I saw about 7 or 8 cars in their parking lot with Jehovah's Witnesses walking to them!
A man from my church who has been witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses approached us after the service to show us the District Convention invitation he’d just received that week.
He was eager to listen to my ex-Jehovah's Witnesses friends who were visiting for our first annual Mini Midwest XJW Fest. I told him I had attended the convention earlier in the month and we all prayed for his upcoming weekend plans to travel to the next one with his wife, in the hope of planting some seeds. He is new to this type of ministry and one of the interesting things he’s discovered is “it’s not a presentation, it’s a conversation.”
He really cares about the Jehovah's Witnesses who have been coming to his door and knows it’s probably going to take some time before they're in a place to accept the gospel of grace. I smiled when I heard that and realized that even though our website and my personal experiences have been equipping him with information; the Holy Spirit has become the best teacher in preparing him to reach out to Jehovah’s Witnesses in love. When we step out in faith, even as a ‘son of thunder,’ God refines our approach and I can see that happening already in him. God is good. Here is what he wrote to me after his time at the convention:
When the Twin Towers fell twelve years ago, one of the community groups birthed from that disaster was Meetup.com. Scott Heiferman, one of its co-founders, was living in New York City following the events of September 11 and noticed people said hello to one another and were looking for ways to help and support each other. The idea for Meetup was born from the question: Could we use the Internet to get off the Internet to connect and grow local communities? Every day, thousands of Meetups happen: Moms Meetups, Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups, and of course, support Meetups for those affected by the Watchtower and Mormon religions. Most Meetup groups are local so that the Internet is only used to gather persons of like interests, share their contact info, and post what venue to meet at in person. Our three Meetup groups don’t follow that traditional format since combined we’ve grown to nearly 900 members worldwide. However, when people join looking for members who may live close by, as a co-organizer, I do make an effort in helping them pair up with other members in their own area if asked. Our support and encouragement toward one another in these groups remains through Internet posts on the Meetup site. It’s difficult to get together in person. However, last winter, one of our members on the Worldwide Ex-Jehovah's Witness Internet Meetup said it would be fun to get together with others in person. I noticed he and his wife lived nearby and so I offered that I’d be happy to host some campers from the Midwest in my yard.
WITNESSING TO JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AT THE DISTRICT CONVENTION - "God's Word is Truth!"
Summer time for Jehovah's Witnesses is District Convention time: Three days of talks and demonstrations designed to strengthen their resolve to remain in "Jehovah's organization."
I attended one Saturday of the District Convention in July. The theme of this years convention is "God's Word is Truth!" and since I am in agreement with that, I made every effort to be as truthful as possible and yet still leave an opening for myself to be able to talk with the attenders. I began by putting my real name on the badge card and introducing myself from my actual town of residence. Let whatever happens, happen. I also chose not to bring a New World Translation (NWT), but an American Standard Version (ASV). Fortunately for me, I have one published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc. copyright 1929 which I found in a thrift store a few years ago. I dressed up like a JW and thought about covering up the bumper sticker on my truck with the "www.4witness.org" address, but then I remembered, I'm going IN TRUTH! Let whoever reads it deal with it.
The Watchtower is a big business and as such they are mindful of protecting their assets. It used to be they could protect their flock from finding anything out by shunning former members or tagging them as demonized or “mentally diseased.”
We know, however, that they must keep tabs on what the "apostates" are saying in an effort to prepare their flock to dispute our claims. But now they have more to deal with than just former members. They can't hide their past because their own publications are on the Internet. The lawsuits won against them are now a public fact as well.
The potential converts too quickly end their study thanks to these readily available facts and children raised in the Watchtower aren't staying in their parents religion either. So the Society must turn to the current membership and convince them to stay through their usual mode of operation which is by cranking up the fear. And yet current JWs with doubts bravely forge ahead and take that first step in visiting websites, chat rooms, and find former members available to help them. And most recent ex-JW testimonies include that contacts made through the Internet was a major influence in helping them leave the cult. And so, the Watchtower must keep an eye on the activities of apostates on the Internet. It’s in their best interest as a large corporation losing members to it’s influence.
Do you think those who left should tell their stories? Where and how?
Did you receive help from an XJW or someone who would be considered a counter cult activist?
Is it enough to be out, or do you wish you could help those still in the Watchtower?
I posed these questions to the Meetup members on our discussion forum for ex-Jehovah's Witnesses because last month I reported how a man in my area felt led to distribute question cards on the cars parked at the Memorial held by Jehovah's Witnesses. He made his presence known there by holding up a sign that read "4jehovah.org" in the hopes that some Memorial attendees would research the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. He expressed an idea of making a soapbox style gospel presentation but allowed the cards and sign to do most of the talking.
In contrast, that night for me was spent in prayer with others on our Prayer Meetup.
Which activity is activism and which one best reflects the personality of Christ?
On Tuesday night, March 26, about 16 of us logged onto this ministries Witnesses for Jesus Christian Prayer Support Meetup for our annual prayer and communion “cyber service” in which we pray for the salvation of Jehovah’s Witnesses as they gather in Kingdom Halls worldwide to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ. Two members from the UK even joined in at an inconvenient hour for themselves but we’re so thankful for their prayers.
About 3 weeks before this, a man from my church asked if I’d like to include some information about our ministry at a table in the church lobby where he was displaying some evangelism materials. I brought along some CDs and cards and I briefly mentioned the upcoming Memorial on March 26 but our conversation was interrupted. Apparently I said just enough to wet his appetite as he sent me an email wanting to know more.
John 11 "Whosoever Lives and Believes in Me Shall Never Die. Do you believe this?"
Last month while reading the story of Lazarus from John 11, I gained some insights on unanswered prayers and shared them in a post on our Colo Spgs and Worldwide Ex-Jehovah's Witness Internet Meetup Message Board. A discussion ensued but one of our members ended up giving us such an encouraging testimony within that thread I just had to share it here! This is what she wrote:
Actually, the story of Lazarus has a lot of meaning for me personally.
When I was in the Jehovah's Witness organization, I was out in the ministry one day and the woman I was with used Jn 11:25 & 26 with a person we were calling on. She got to the part where Jesus said, "Do you believe this?" And asked the person, do you believe this? It was kind of lost on the householder but the words kept going round in my mind.
We’ve been exploring the “top ten questions for Mormons” on our Meetup group for former members of the Latter Day Saints. Since LDS members generally recognize other churches as teaching “some truth” yet claim Mormonism gives people the “fullness of the gospel,” I asked for suggestions on how to respond to that. One member wrote, “ask them about being sealed together for eternal marriage and how this is in direct contrast to Luke 20:34-36.”
That was the question posed for discussion for our Colo Spgs and Worldwide Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Internet Meetup conversation on February 7th, 2011. The invitation was extended with this explanation:
“Many of us come out of the Watchtower with hurts and regrets. While it is good to air out those grievances, I believe it is of equal importance to our healing to remember what was beneficial in our experience. I realize this may be a difficult topic for some who struggle to find anything good about it, so even if you can not add to the conversation, you are encouraged to read what others may post under this topic. This is an opportunity to focus on the positive aspects of having been part of the Watchtower Society. Did the morals taught there protect you? Did the theocratic ministry school help you become a better speaker? Did the demanding schedule aid you in becoming a more organized person? Do you have fond memories of friendships made there? Are there stories to tell of positive, maybe even funny, encounters in the door-to-door ministry?”
Each spring, Jehovah’s Witnesses make a special effort to invite their neighbors and inactive members of their religion to The Memorial of Christ’s Death. They will gather at sundown on Nisan 14 for the one time of year in which they pass the emblems of communion. There will be song and prayer and a discourse on the meaning of the bread and wine. The sad part is that very few members of this sect, which they consider to be Christian, will partake of the body and blood of Christ. During the eight years I was accepted as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I never took the bread or wine passed to me. It was out of respect for Jesus Christ and his kingdom that I was deceived into doing this.
I am so excited about this. When I host the monthly prayer meeting, I include a few worship songs from YouTube. This month with our first cyber communion and prayer meeting held on the same day as the Memorial, I thought of Rick Maas' song "Jesus will free them" and searched the Internet for a video. There were none. So I wrote to Rick and asked permission to use his song and make one of my own. He said that was fine.
A topic brought up on the discussion group of our Meetup for former Jehovah's Witnesses was from a post titled "not an ex-Jehovah’s Witness anymore." It dealt with getting past the identity of just being an Ex-Jehovah’s Witness and getting on with life itself.
One of the identifying marks of a psuedo-christian group is to deny the Deity of Jesus Christ. Therefore, many who’ve been called to minister to the cults seek to establish the Trinity as a priority topic in their witness to them. I do not.
Though I do believe in the Triune God, I recall that when I first came to faith, the Trinity doctrine was a difficult concept for me. From the letters I receive from others now, I know I was not alone in that.
In addition to quoting from the available scrolls, Jesus often used illustrations relevant to his listeners. Our website provides links to resources for anyone who's interested in researching the scriptures to validate that Jesus is God himself.
Still, many Christians need a relevant illustration to explain how Jesus and Jehovah could be equal when Jesus himself made the statement that the Father was greater than he was (John 14:28) or that the Father had knowledge which the Son did not possess (Matt 24:36). One illustration I can use is from my own dual nature as a clown.
Tolerance is the virtue of a people who stand for nothing. ~G.K. Chesterton
I never thought I'd do something like this, but I guess it was time to stand up.
Prior to the Memorial of Jehovah’s Witnesses this year, I had made some fliers and put them on cars in the parking lot at my old Kingdom Hall and mailed out a few also. I still had about 20 of them left.
My husband and I were driving to our monthly clown club meeting (in our jeans, not our clown clothes) when I asked him if he'd mind stopping at my old Kingdom Hall parking lot. This was about 6:30 p.m. on April 5th, Memorial night. There were about 10 people in the parking lot. We pulled right into the center and a young man I didn't recognize approached the car as I got out. I said,
"Good evening, I'm just out sharing an encouraging message with my neighbors tonight. Are you familiar with the March 1, 2012 Watchtower on page 17 where it says who may take the wine and bread at the Memorial? You see, the Watchtower says that you're not in the new covenant..."
Like apples of gold in settings of silver, is a word spoken in right circumstance. (Proverbs 25:11)
I can't say enough about the value of our Meetup groups! So I won't. Instead I'll just let our members say it.
From the Witnesses for Jesus Christian Prayer Support Meetup Group
I really appreciate your prayers!! In fact, they couldn't have been timed better. I was visiting my closest LDS friend who is broken in her attempt at perfection! My heart aches for her as she struggles to deal with the expectations of her faith, and I know she's getting closer to having a truth experience but it always seems like one step forward, two steps back. Human nature certainly resists surrender! God is faithful and His timing is perfect, so I don't stress (most of the time lol).
The topic of family life was our focus in May for the scheduled Meetup among Ex-Mormons and again in June for discussion among Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses.
"The Happy Family"
Summer time offers so many things that traditionally can unite families: Weddings, graduations, reunions, vacations, home improvement projects, canning vegetables, rummage sales, etc. But for many who have left the Mormons or the Watchtower, connections to family who remain in those religions has been lost.
It might appear that any hope of reconciliation and "a happy family life" then rests on the shoulders of those who removed themselves from the religion. That's a heavy burden to bear and a significant power tool these group use to capitalize on the loneliness incurred by disfellowshipped members. Often times people return to their religion not because they believe it is the truth or have a desire to serve God under its mandates but because they miss their families so much!
Every summer Jehovah's Witnesses attend what is referred to as their District Convention. This year's theme is Safeguard your Heart.
It has been 10 years since I attended a District Convention, but a contact from our ministry team inspired me with the results of her first visit to one, so I put on my skirt, an official badge card, grabbed my New World Translation of the Bible and headed out to blend in unsuspected.
I went prepared to start up some conversations and also place some question cards to raise awareness:
August was an amazing month. Nearly 30 new people sought out community among our 3 separate Meetup groups: Colo Spgs and Worldwide Ex-Jehovah's Witness Internet Meetup
The Colorado Springs and Worldwide Internet Ex-Mormon Meetup
Witnesses for Jesus Christian Prayer Support Meetup Group
We had a huge increase of new members on the Meetup for former JWs and a lot of spirited discussion. One member on that Meetup attends the same local church as me. We were both active as Jehovah's Witnesses during the same years but in neighboring Kingdom Halls. Now we are both active in praying for those two Kingdom Halls.
Emails like this are exciting! I’d like to share one I recently received through the ministry team:
“I was looking at Julie's Stirring Up the Church webpage. I want to know how I can help. I think God is leading me into some kind of ministry for the JWs to hear the gospel. I read that article and I got excited. So, I just had to contact you and ask. How can I help?”
What a blessing to hear! The person who wrote this is now in an emailing relationship with me to discuss ideas on how she can reach out to the JWs in her life. She has been reading the information on our website for some time and is now ready to put it to use. In addition to this, she joined our prayer support group to cover her ministry. The heart of the church is being stirred up to reach out to Jehovah’s Witnesses! I think she will come to find as many others have that a ministry to Jehovah’s Witnesses can actually strengthen your own faith as another person wrote:
Apostasy: that was the crime that officially separated me from all the friends I’d made in my 8 year commitment to the Watchtower. The month of December marks the 8th year since I was disfellowshipped. Eight years of my life were spent officially in and now eight years have been spent officially out. What a time for reflection.