reprint from the Sep/Oct 1990 Bethel Ministries Newsletter
by Randall Watters
Three Interviews with former Jehovah's Witnesses, how the Watchtower affected them, and what they have gone on to do with their lives.
Randy Watters: This is an interview with Dr. Edmund Gruss, Professor of History at the Master's College. Ed, you are a former Jehovah's Witness, not that you would go by that as a title, but that is part of your experience. Tell us a little bit about your background in the Witnesses.
Ed Gruss: As the Witnesses currently visit homes, they also were doing this in the 1940's. In 1940 we lived in Palms which is close to Culver City, down in the L.A. area. A woman Witness visited our home stressing Armageddon soon and started studying at home with myself and my mother. My father was not really involved in the Witnesses. Being only a child of seven at the time, the thing I did was to fall in with what my mother was being exposed to and I accepted what was being taught, because I knew nothing else. I had never been to Sunday School or Church except for one time when I did go to Sunday School. So I never had a real exposure to Christianity or anything that would be any competition to what the Witnesses were teaching. As the normal development would take place, [I was] studying at home, going to the Kingdom Hall meetings, and working in the kitchen when there were assemblies. I would do (at least part of the time) street corner work, and door-to-door work, the normal experience of most kids in the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Randy: This was during the early 40's, right?
Ed: Right. Early 40's, mid-40's.
Randy: This was when war fever was on and the Jehovah's Witnesses were not looked upon as being too favorable in the United States.
Ed: The stress was that Armageddon was a matter of months away and this was specifically stated in the September 15, 1941 Watchtower. I went to the St. Louis convention and "John and Eunice," characters in the new Children book, were talking about putting off marriage because Armageddon was not too far off and they could well set that aside and devote their life to the ministry. That was our thinking. A little pressure was taken off in 1943 with the book, The Truth Shall Make you Free, and a new chronology which had the 6000 years running out in (I believe) it was 1972. Those chronologies were not just there as options.
Randy: So World War II came and went and nothing happened. I guess you were around the age of 17 or so when you began to think on your own. What was going on at that time?
Ed: We moved to Encinitas, CA. and had high school friends coming to our house for book studies. At that time, a pastor came to town and had evangelistic meetings in town. A couple of my friends accepted Christ there. After they accepted Christ and experienced the difference in their life, they started communicating what they had done to me and stopped coming to the studies in the home. They told me that I could have eternal life through accepting Christ. Anyway there was a difference of opinion, of course. Ultimately I went to the home of the pastor that had led them to Christ. He presented the gospel to me and then prayed for me in my presence. I was told by the Watchtower Society that to be born again was only for the 144,000. The rest of us didn't require that.
I was told [by the pastor] that I could be born again. I just had it in my mind that if there was something to this matter of having a personal relationship with Christ, being born again, then I could ask God, Jehovah, about it. I just said, "Is there something to this? I realize that I am a sinner. That is what the Bible says that we are. If I can have this relationship and have eternal life through the acceptance of Christ in this new way to be born again, I want that." Then something happened as a result of that prayer that started me on the way out of the Watchtower Society.
Randy: You started doing research?
Ed: A little bit. I talked to various individuals. I read my Bible, but the one thing that I did have clear was that I could accept Christ, be born again and have eternal life.
Randy: So basically you came at it from a devotional approach. You recognized Christ. You apparently felt the indwelling of the Holy Spirit working in your life but it was a matter of time before you dealt with the real doctrines.
Ed: The doctrines I just put on hold because I didn't have a chance to look at all of them. Shortly thereafter I went on to college, a Christian school. I was able then as part of my Bible study in class and outside of class to begin investigating. I think that it is important that you do investigate things that you have been taught. If what they taught were true in these areas, then why should I give them up? If they are true, they are true. If they are false, they are false.
Randy: What things did you still hold on to that the Witnesses believed in?
Ed: It took a period of four years to purge everything. Like the date for the fall of Jerusalem. I was not concerned about that point but as I studied history, they have a different date in these books. Some [doctrines] I stumbled on and some I pointedly investigated. Of course the first ones were the person of Christ, the nature of the Godhead and salvation through faith. Then I saw a number of the errors of the Watchtower Society that had been taught as truth that were now no longer taught as truth.
Randy: Was any official action ever taken against you or did you resign from the Watchtower?
Ed: Official action was taken 21 years after I left. This was after I had published two tracts, and these tracts were circulated in the area. Soon I had three gentlemen from the local Kingdom Hall appear and ask if I had published them. I said my name is on them, I am not going to deny it. This was after I had graduated from college and seminary and had been a teacher for 11 years! The only reason I found out that I had been disfellowshiped was because when I wrote a letter to the Society asking for an answer to a question, the letter came back and said that in as much as you are a disfellowshiped individual, we will not answer your questions. I also got it through the grapevine that when they told me this, I supposedly "cried like a baby."
Randy: That is the story they spread?
Ed: ...all kinds of accounts like, "Oh, we know why he left. He wanted high position." Just utter nonsense.
Randy: They love to make up stories. Looking back on leaving the Watchtower at that time when you were around 17 or so, was it a negative experience in any way? If so, how?
Ed: It wasn't negative in the sense of moving from error to truth. It was negative in the sense of the relationship that I had with my mother being severed. I was a child of the devil; a very strained relationship there. Those that I would view as friends and contacts were completely gone but I had others to take their place and that is so important. You have to realize that those that were part of that experience are basically all going to be gone because you have become a persona non grata and yet, God brings into your life friends that are much better friends many times over.
Randy: What about confusion or a struggle with the concept of "truth"?
Ed: Well, there is that problem. "What is religious truth?" "Where is religious truth?" Because "everything out there in the world is of the devil."
Randy: Do you feel that you had to start over or what?
Ed: Well, the one thing that I took with me out of the Watchtower Society was the Bible is authoritative, and you do not need an organization to interpret it for you. The Bible is God's Word and I seek religious truth in the Bible and the Bible alone. That is what we were taught as Jehovah's Witnesses, but that was not really what you got. You got the books, everything but the Bible.
Randy: Looking on the positive side, what do you think that it did for you in having gone through this experience?
Ed: I know what you are after but here is what I think. That experience prepared me for what I would ultimately do later because it gave me an interest in that area.
Ed: Cults. The idea is that I might speak in the churches and talk on the subject "I was a teenage Jehovah's Witness." Then a person asks, "What about the Mormons?" I had to go beyond my experience and bring in all kinds of other groups and movements and experiences of others. That is the way things went, to the point that my teaching has, for 30 years, been involved in this area, along with history.
Randy: You have written at least a couple books. The most important one for me would be The Apostles of Denial. It was the first book that I read upon leaving the Witnesses and it affected me a great deal. You also wrote Cults and the Occult and probably a number of others, haven't you?
Ed: Jehovah's Witnesses and Prophetic Speculation, What Every Mormon Should Know, The Ouiji Board: Doorway to the Occult and some other writings that are more ephemeral.
Randy: So basically the cult phenomena is just a matter of interest and having been a Witness helped you with that. On leaving the Watchtower you were still at a pretty young age. What struggles did you face regarding your future, your career, your directions in life and so forth?
Ed: I had no career plans. As Jehovah's Witnesses, Armageddon was about to take place and we were discouraged from going to college. They still discourage Witnesses! I had no career plans. High school was it.
Randy: So you were saying, "What do I do now?"
Ed: I had one false start in junior college. I went a semester and didn't finish. I got some credit and went on to a second semester at a different junior college and got some credit there and ultimately went on the next year, in 1951, and moved right through. There weren't any problems after that. I went through the four years of college and also three years of seminary. During that time, I was asked to be a teaching fellow. They felt I was interested in the cults so they said you can go ahead and teach this "Cults" course in the Bible Institute, which I did. I always had this idea that I would like to share what I am learning with other people, and ultimately I went on and got a Th.M., my thesis being The Apostles of Denial. In 1960 they needed someone to teach a cults course and also geology, so I started my teaching career teaching a cults course and a course in physical geology. Then after the school I moved out to Newhall...
Randy: ...near L.A. Baptist College?
Ed: Yes. They needed someone to teach history and eventually I developed a history major so you might say that the "cult" thing was developing on the side. I was using it in class.
Randy: Would you say or do you see yourself as being primarily an ex-Jehovah's Witness? I know a lot of people that leave cults, even people who leave addiction problems, ex alcoholics, and they still consider themselves alcoholics. Do you think of yourself as an ex-Witness or what?
Ed: No. I am an ex-lost sinner who happened to be a Jehovah's Witness, but as opportunity presents itself, I do give my own experience and update it with other things beyond my 10 years of involvement. I talk about the matter of how you can give your time to something that is wrong, and how Christ can redeem you from any kind of background or situation. I am sure that that experience has left its marks on my thinking. My wife says every once in a while, "That is what you picked up as a Jehovah's Witness."
Randy: She still says that, huh?
Ed: Actually, having been a Christian for 40 years, I don't stew in ex-Jehovah's Witness thinking.
Randy: There was a whole segment of your life as a JW but it was only a small segment of your life, really.
Ed: Yet it was extremely important from the standpoint as to the direction that it gave me for writing and what we consider the major ministry outside of the classroom. We see many, many Witnesses and ex-Witnesses helped in one manner or another by what we are able to accomplish in our small way. It is encouraging getting a letter, phone call or whatever. I kind of find myself in a position of being a last-generation luminary or light to help others. Others like yourself have gone on and maybe if I get back to writing again, I will update myself a little bit. My book was a help at that time when there was not that much available.
Randy: I know Ed that you are still involved in helping people who are Witnesses or those that have gotten out, but primarily your focus is on Christian education. As a final question, what projects are you involved in that would cover the next five or ten years in Christian education?
Ed: Well I am Chairman of the History Department of our school. I feel that training young people for private and public school teaching is great. Many of our graduates are missionaries or pastors. Others are lawyers, paralegals. I think of history as a preparation for many other fields of service. They don't have to be ministers or pastors to really function with God. I am planning to retire in two years to get back to writing more heavily. As far as projects are concerned, I have a lot of research stuffed away. I would like to put together a definitive work on the Witnesses with the title tentatively something like, A Hundred Years of False Prophecy. You have picked up on that but I would really like to look at a lot of things in depth, not that they have to be expanded that much.
Randy: ...but from an historical perspective?
Ed: Heavily investigating the Second Advent Movement and the speculation concerning Christ's second coming. All these other ideas that have come out of Second Adventism are picked up by the Russellites and the Jehovah's Witnesses. There are a lot of things that have been published but not well known, and I would at least make reference to them so that if the person wanted to they could get the ultimate treatment. I have done the work but it is just a matter of putting it together.
Ed: I think that it is important. We have to restate truth and expose error two or three times every generation because there is a new crop of people that comes along that doesn't know what has happened in the past.
Randy: That is for sure, especially in the Watchtower Organization we
are finding that there are more and more people that have no knowledge of their
past. We really appreciate this time of interview Ed and we thank you for your
time. It was a pleasure!
Randy: Dave, the first question I wanted to ask you is, what experience or what background do you have in the Watchtower organization?
Dave: I started studying with the Witnesses when I was about 12, against my parent's wishes. I got baptized when I was 15 in 1969. I never made it to regular pioneer but I did "temporary" pioneer at the time for several months and then applied for Bethel service in 1973, and went to Brooklyn in September of 1973. I transferred from Brooklyn to the WT Farm in February of 1975 and left a year and a day later in February of 1976.
Randy: Not too long after that you got married, right?
Dave: I got married in March of 1977 to a regular pioneer and had a goal of becoming a pioneer and possibly trying to return to Bethel service.
Randy: Later you had questions about the Watchtower organization and their doctrine and in 1980 you left, right?
Randy: Now looking back over those times when you were in your early teens, what do you think were your motives in getting involved with the organization?
Dave: I think that for me I wanted some answers to some basic life questions. I wanted to understand the Bible and to get to know God, and also to develop some good friendships with the people in the congregation. That reinforced my desire to stay in touch with the organization. My folks were deaf mutes and still are. I was interpreting for the Witnesses when they called. It was a door-to-door experience that got me involved. I was a troubled teenager wanting some answers and wasn't getting any satisfaction from the church that I was involved with.
Randy: So it filled some needs for friendship, for answers about life's problems. You stayed in the Watchtower how many years?
Dave: Baptized 11 years.
Randy: Looking back on the time after you got married and you decided to leave the Watchtower organization, how or in what way was leaving the Watchtower a negative experience?
Dave: Of course the aspect of losing my friends. My friends were real important. I think that the worst situation was that I could no longer continue the facade of being a Witness. If I would have tried to maintain the facade, I would have had a nervous breakdown. My wife had no desire to leave the Witnesses, she was very supportive of the Witnesses and very much involved and also she was pregnant. I was feeling bad to cause all that hurt in her life. Besides experiencing the hurt of knowing that there is a chance of our splitting up, it was also the end of any spiritual discussions with my wife.
Randy: Did your wife feel that her world was falling apart at the time?
Dave: She expressed herself later in saying that it was like experiencing a death. I don't remember the exact words but it was an extremely distressing time for her.
Randy: In what way would you say that leaving the Watchtower was a very positive experience?
Dave: One of the main issues for me in leaving the organization was the part Christ plays in a Christian's life. It was very reassuring to know that I could pray to him and that is where I take my departure from the organization. The first time that I prayed to him, it was four days later that I resigned from the organization. That was very comforting, reassuring, joyful and it sustained me. Being close to a nervous breakdown at the time, I think that I wouldn't have been able to survive the rest of it if I didn't have that new experience in my life.
Randy: How did you end up pursuing a ministry to help Jehovah's Witnesses? Did you start out with it right away after 1980 or how did it develop?
Dave: Well initially it was kind of like a crusade to help awaken my friends that were still in the organization. I sent material out and it just kind of developed from there. People would call when they would hear about my situation. I had left the organization and they would call and ask for some information. They would want to get some counseling. It just kind of developed from there.
Randy: So all along you have had a desire to help Witnesses to get to know Christ.
Dave: Right. That was the basic thing to share with them; what I had found.
Randy: You don't feel that you are doing this out of some driven motivation, some negative motivation or anything? Anger or bitterness?
Dave: I think that there were times that I probably wondered if I was involved with it because it was kind of therapeutic, too. I don't know if therapeutic is the right word, it was a way of almost wishing that I could share this with my wife. I don't know if this really fits into what you are asking. After a while I began to realize that this is just a desire to want to share what I could to help other people, what I need to do for other people.
Randy: Dave, what do you see as the biggest problem in helping Witnesses to rebuild their lives after leaving the Watchtower?
Dave: I think that the most important thing that needs to be done is the need to deprogram themselves. A lot of people who leave the Watchtower Society still think a lot like Witnesses. They need to set aside enough time for studying the history of the Watchtower Society and also the differences in what the Bible has to say as opposed to the Watchtower, so they are not a prisoner of the past. The other main problem, at least with some ex Witnesses, is a lot of bitterness about their experience. My own viewpoint on that is yes, the Watchtower Society does manipulate people. It does hurt people. It does some very evil things but for most people who get involved with the Witnesses, they have to recognize that they did choose this at one point, even if they were misled. There is some part of personal guilt there. To go through life bitter and not able to let go of that can hinder you from progressing into a knowledge of what Christianity is all about.
Randy: Thank you Dave for your time! I am glad to see that your wife
Doris has joined you in your Christian walk these last two years as well!
Randy Watters: Donna, I would like to ask you a few questions about your involvement in the Jehovah's Witnesses and what you have done since leaving this organization. I would like to give our audience a good idea as to what has happened in your life, where you are going and what you feel about having left the Witnesses. The first question is: What kind of social life did you have in the Watchtower organization?
Donna Fried: Well just to let you know, I was involved with the Witnesses from the time I was ten years old when I began studying with them until the time that I was twenty-five. Basically my growing up years were spent in the Watchtower. My teen years, the years when your social life is developing and when your identity as an individual is developing were all spent as a Witness, so my approval and my social circle all came from other Witnesses, young people and older people.
Randy: So you really didn't have an outside life?
Donna: I really didn't. In junior high school I did have non-JW friends but I felt really guilty having them. I moved after junior high school so in my first years of high school, the people were strangers and my only friends were from the Kingdom Hall. I had a lot of older friends. The age mix was really wide so I was about 14 or 15 and my average friend was between 1622 years old. They were people who had cars and they went bowling on Saturday nights and they went roller skating on Sunday nights. So I developed a very wide range of friends. I not only became friends with people in my own Kingdom Hall but through Circuit assemblies and through friends of friends, I established a very wide social circle.
I learned that in order to get invited to the parties you had to be friendly. So in addition to the friendly external facade I had to put on in going door to door and making friends with people in order to entice them to study and to take literature, that same facade facilitated my making a lot of friends in the Witnesses. I also have a friendly temperament and I love people and I love meeting new people. By the time that I left the organization in my early 20's, I had a hundred friends at least in the local area, in New York, in Pennsylvania, in New Jersey. I had phone numbers and I was invited to parties all over the tri-state area. In addition to having at least 35 Bethelite friends from the Brooklyn Bethel home and the Watch Tower farms, you meet one Bethelite and they introduce you to ten others and they all love to get invited to parties. Especially if you have a group of fun, attractive girls, the Bethelites would always come out to parties and I was always invited to dances and weekends away and to dude ranches, ski trips, etc. When the Bethelites would go home to their various states that they came from, they were pen pals and then they had friends from back home that I would meet.
I ended up meeting my eventual roommate from a Bethelite that left in 1976. He had lots of friends and I went to spend three weeks down where he was from in Florida and I met a ton of people from there who ended up widening my social circle. I was (also) a pioneer and so I was socially active in my own congregation. There were always picnics where everybody brought food, and beach parties. Every weekend I had something to do besides going door-to-door in the morning. Every evening there was always something going on. By the time that I left, my big social thing was going into Brooklyn Bethel on Monday nights with my girlfriend and I and a number of the guys from Bethel would read the Bible, which began my demise from the Watchtower.
Randy: You didn't just leave after six months of finding out things were wrong. It took you time. Why did it take you time to see through the Watchtower system? You obviously had seen things maybe even years earlier that had bothered you.
Donna: That is true. It took me about three years to get out, maybe a little more. I started seeing things that bothered me towards the end of 1979, but they were just a thin loose thread in the tapestry. The thread, when I started pulling on it, was getting looser and looser. The reason why I took so long was because I knew that if I kept pulling on that thread it would unweave the entire tapestry of my life including my spiritual life, my belief system about God, and my hope for the future. My whole plan for the future was the new system, hopefully to marry and to live in the new system forever. I loved the idea of a paradise and I knew if I pulled on that thread, that my entire belief system would come completely apart and the tapestry would not be in existence anymore. The Watchtower teachings are like a tapestry: one thread and one belief hinges on another, hinges on another, hinges on another. If you topple any part of the belief system, it topples the whole thing.
Randy: The whole thing falls apart.
Donna: So it took me awhile. I saw the treatment. In 1980 a group of my friends were disfellowshiped for various things, conspiracy against the organization, disbelieving some of the doctrine and conducting Bible studies and subversiveness and apostasy and different things. I saw people disfellowshiped that loved God. The treatment of them by their families and their friends who love them was so bad that it took me so long to get the courage to think that there might be a life for me out side of the Watchtower.
Randy: So in the actual leaving of the Watchtower, how else would you say that was a negative experience for you?
Donna: The negative experience of leaving the Watchtower was in all the temporal immediate circumstances. You know that a decision you make is going to make you lose everybody that you have known, everybody that is important to you, everything that is of value to you. The people that you know and love who are your spiritual family, spiritual teachers, spiritual mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children, people that I was close to in my teens, through my parent's divorce, this one decision to leave is going to make them treat me as though I were dead. That was a negative experience. It is a negative experience to lose everyone.
Randy: What about the positive side? Obviously since you have been out now about seven years, there has been a positive side.
Donna: When a person makes a decision based upon their conscience and based upon their relationship with God to put something on the altar that is of value to them, there is always a positive side. The growth that comes about through surrender is unlike the growth that comes about through disobedience and sin and through the negative consequences of bad choices. You make the right choice and the consequence is pain. The long term, positive effect of that is more positive than any other decision that you can make in your life, and any other lesson in any school, any spiritual experience and any high.
Randy: Even when it causes immediate pain, it is worth it in the long run?
Donna: That is right. In the long run the growth that comes about in a persons character, and the virtue and tenacity and the strength that is planted in your character where you are able to make a decision. It's a hard decision, like Abraham sacrificing Isaac, it's being willing to do that. The character that God puts into you makes you know and have the confidence that you can withstand just about anything. In the old days before you made this great sacrifice it would have been a terrible challenge and a terrible sacrifice, [but now] you can breeze through. The decisions that would have been hard without this extra strength that is added to you come much easier once you have made a decision like that.
Randy: This is really great. Donna, you are a sensitive person. You are in touch with yourself so I am going to ask you a question that I haven't asked the others. On leaving the Watchtower, what type of long-buried struggles did you go through that the Watchtower maybe suppressed, but you weren't aware of? Cults sometimes enable us to cope with things in our life, and it really is not a healing, but a covering over. How did this occur in your life?
Donna: So you are going to make me answer a very vulnerable question! Before I became a Witness, I was shy. I was very insecure. I came from a broken family and the foundation under my feet was rocky. My self-image was very poor. To put it in a nutshell, I really hated myself. I believed that only if I did everything right would I be loved. Only if I did everything right would people like me and accept me. As soon as I did something that was displeasing to my parents or to my friends, then I was going to lose everyone. I lived under that constant fear. That was pre-Watchtower. I came into the Watchtower and the teachings of the Witnesses confirmed that was absolutely true, because you did have to do everything right for God to like you; but what they added to that was a list of do's and don'ts. Things that you needed to be to prevent everybody from rejecting you, including God. What I did was I mastered that list.
Randy: So it was a solution but it was a hard solution. It wasn't really a real solution but you said, OK I am going to go for that. It worked to some extent.
Donna: Right, it was an external solution. It was the perfect external solution because it gave me the answers to what I needed to do to be perfect so I did all of those things. In the Witnesses you can accomplish. You can accomplish being popular if you are a pioneer and if you are doing all that you can. If you are totally burning out on your free time visiting the sick and taking care of people's children, and you don't miss a meeting unless you are absolutely dying and you are spending all of your time with Witnesses and you are living within the frame work of what is right within the Watchtower, you could feel totally OK about yourself. But take that away and all those struggles rise to the surface again. The only way to get healed from those long-buried struggles is the internal healing from the hand of God and that is the only way. As soon as all those externals were lifted and I became a Christian, I [even] tried to do it within the church. I tried to find the do's and don'ts that were going to get me accepted in the church.
Randy: You figured that it was much like the Watchtower, and said, "How do I get accepted here?"
Donna: Right. [But] it is a bit of a different system of grades. You can do it for awhile in the church but when you have the Holy Spirit in you, He doesn't allow you to do that for long. All of a sudden the lights start shining and exposing that what you are doing is in the flesh. It doesn't feel very good so you have to start exposing what is inside those struggles to the Lord.
Randy: That may not be comfortable, is it?
Donna: It isn't immediate either. It is very uncomfortable. It is very painful and it is a long-term process. It does take time. Being pleasing to the Lord is in the process and not necessarily in the end result. That is what pleases the Lord.
Randy: Let me ask you another question, Donna. A lot of people who leave the Witnesses will pursue an active ministry to get Jehovah's Witnesses out, some of them for the wrong motives, whether they still have bitterness or anger or whatever. Why didn't you pursue a ministry to Jehovah's Witnesses? I know that you have been active somewhat in that but you didn't pursue the ministry.
Donna: Initially your feeling is guilt and wanting to help other people out. As you know, I started doing typing for Bethel Ministries and I started pouring myself into it because I thought that was what I was really supposed to do. [But] I really was sick to death of Jehovah's Witness doctrine. Once I had my own questions answered, the only people that I was really from my heart interested in were my family members that were still Witnesses and my immediate friends. Those are the people that I was seriously interested in helping out. As for the other people, it was only from a guilt motive that I did anything to try and help them. What I needed most at that time was to mend, what I needed most was to be with other people that had no involvement with Jehovah's Witnesses. If anybody hears this is getting out, it is healthy to be away from Jehovah's Witness talk, Jehovah Witness lingo, Watchtower magazines. I would feel like I wanted to throw up if I saw a Watchtower magazine. I didn't want to see their pictures with the guy and the woman and the birds, I didn't want to hear somebody use the phrase "faithful and discreet slave." I was offended by the New World Translation. I just wanted to mend. Jehovah's Witnesses that are getting out just need time to build friendships and to realize that there are kind, good people outside of the Watchtower that they can befriend. I needed time to find out who I was as an individual outside of the robotic Watchtower mold. I had no idea who Donna Fried was. I was ten years old when that mold started shaping me and it has taken me the last seven years and I am still struggling with what I like, what I don't like and with whom I like being with, with whom I don't like being with, with who I am and with what I like to do and what I like to enjoy. All of these questions are very important to answer when you get out. You end up with the downward spiral of being hooked into Watchtower thinking when you are around those kind of people.
Randy: Right. You know that in my first year of leaving the Watchtower, I didn't want anything to do with the Witnesses, but the Lord has a way of bringing them across your path. I know that you have helped a lot of Witnesses out even though you haven't been trying, and that is the beauty of it!
Randy: What are you doing now Donna and how do you feel about your career and your future?
Donna: What am I doing now? As my full time job, I manage a law firm and I love my career and I feel that I was called to it, unto the Lord. I have learned a lot from management. I conduct a weekly prayer meeting at the law firm and a number of people have gotten saved there. I do feel that I am right where I belong for the moment. I also teach a relationship class at church which is really my love and my joy. I spent a year writing a program about relationships. It is called a Premarital Discovery Program and I really put my heart into that. I sort of have a split career. I make my living at managing the law firm and my relationship to the people at work. I am very involved with the church and the activities at church. I have a lot of responsibility at church. Eventually I do see myself in full-time ministry but it is only going to be the hand of the Lord that leads me out of the my job into full-time ministry. I don't even know which direction that it is going to be in. I just feel that tug towards ministry and I don't feel the tug of ministry to cults, but I do feel the tug of ministry to people that have family difficulties and that are in pain, people that need help building healthy family relationships.
Randy: Have people tried to pressure you or have they told you that you would really do well in ministry to people in cults, especially people in Jehovah's Witnesses? If so, what is your reaction to that?
Donna: Christians don't realize... Christians that have never been involved in a cult don't realize the intricacies of trying to get out. The first thought is that it must be of the Lord for you to be in a ministry to cults if you used to be a cult member! That is just as ludicrous as saying to someone that used to be an alcoholic that your ministry must be to be a speaker at Alcoholics Anonymous. That may not necessarily be your call. You need to discover who you are and what are the gifts and abilities that God has inherently placed in you that bring you joy and not satisfy that feeling of guilt. [When people said that] at the beginning I resented it and now [I realize] it is a natural response from Christians, and it doesn't even effect me anymore.
Randy: Donna, what do you see as the biggest need among Jehovah's Witnesses beyond of course, salvation and Jesus Christ?
Donna: That is such a good question.
Randy: You know a lot of Witnesses and people that have gotten out and you are in a position to really answer that well.
Donna: Unconditional love. When you are in the Witnesses you feel you are in an unconditionally loving environment and you have a family. It is such a shock when you realize that you make a conscientious decision before God to leave and these people that were apparently supposed to be unconditionally loving you as a family turn on you and gossip about you and tell all your confidential things that you have shared in secret with one another. They spread rumors about you. You lose your trust in anyone. It is very hard to trust again. It is very hard to make friends again. It is very hard to become a part of any other Christian group even if it is a small Bible study because you are so leery of trusting anyone. From that perspective, what ex-Witnesses need to feel is unconditional love, they need friendship. They need fun. They need acceptance. A Witness getting out needs to get in touch with who they are as an individual, not as that person as a cult member or as a Christian or how they are supposed to be but who God has inherently made them to be, what are their gifts. The answer to the question: Who am I Lord? Getting in touch with their individuality will enable them to experience joy in their life and peace and rest and relief and release and they are going to be able to feel freedom from the pressure of what other people try and put on them, whether they are Christians or whether they are cult members, whether they are psychologists or family members, anyone! Once you know who you are, no one can put another identity on you.
Randy: Wow, that is really great. Thank you for your time Donna. We really appreciate it. God Bless you!
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