my story by kathy gust

I was born into a Catholic family and went to a Catholic school but hated it and everything about the Catholic religion. When I started high school, I attended a public school and there I met many other kids from different religions (that was when I started to "church hop"). I was looking for something, not knowing what it was and not finding it. I had an empty feeling in me that I couldn't fill and I related it to not knowing God and wanting to. I guess it was somewhere around that time that my brother and his wife became JWs, so that was my first encounter with that organization. I had nothing to do with it but to give my brother the room to practice his religion with out problems from me.

As time went by I started drinking to try and replace whatever was missing in my life. I turned so wild that my drinking got out of control. My life consisted of booze, parties and more booze. During this time I still church hopped but found nothing that I could believe in or maybe wanted to believe in. Somewhere during this time I got married and the drinking got worse, but by now it wasn't enough for me and I needed more to get high, so now came the drugs. During that time I had two children who I wanted very much, but the drinking and drugs still continued. The marriage by this time was headed for trouble, but not the way one would expect. One day I knew that I had to stop or I'd die from this lifestyle, but I couldn't, it was too late. I went to an AA meeting one day and thought that this might help. I stayed dry and clean for a little over a year but it presented problems with my husband and put my marriage on very shaky ground. During this time I ended up in the mental ward with a total breakdown and no hope of coming out of it. Somehow, I did.

I went back to the marriage only to find out that the only way it would work was if I stayed drunk, so needless to say, I did. There I was, a bottle in one hand and a bible in the other, not knowing what to do or where to go. Religion turned me off and no one taught the bible, so I thought. I'd buy all kinds of books on how to understand the bible, what the writer thought was going to take place, anything that I thought would help me find God. I managed to find a book called "Babylon Mystery Religion." This book discussed idol worship and all that was wrong with the Catholic religion and others. Here I was raised as a Catholic in the midst of all that. Even though I had left it some years earlier, it still angered me to think that I had been a part of it. It was then that I remembered the JWs and the things I heard from my brother and his wife, and also remembered that I never saw a cross anywhere around their building, so I needed to check this out. They used the bible a lot and they were different, so maybe that's where I should look. I called the Kingdom Hall and set up an appointment to talk to someone about it.

I was unable to keep that appointment because of a death of a friend and her family (car accident), but I did reschedule it for another time and kept it. My first encounter was at the hall was when I went to meet them and also to check it out, that was in Feb.1982. I stayed dry and clean that Sunday and I looked that place over with a fine toothcomb. All my questions that day were answered and the people I met there put their selves out for me. That day we set a time for a visit and study because I wanted so much to find out more about this place that was so different then any church I had ever attended. Those people were so friendly and kind I couldn't help but like them right from the start.

A study was started the next day. I'm not sure when it happened but I do remember reading in the bible about drunkards not inheriting God's Kingdom, and it did something to me. I'm not sure what it was, but at that moment I made up my mind that I no longer could drink or take drugs or smoke. So I called the person that was studying with me and asked if I had read that scripture right, and if what I thought it was saying was right. Of course she said yes, so right then and there I threw the booze down the drain, all the booze in the house, tore up the cigarettes and flushed all the drugs down the toilet. The next day and many more to follow were almost unbearable for me and for her too. We studied; I went to all the meetings and studied more and more, all I could. After awhile my husband started to study, but he studies for the wrong reasons. My father at this point disowned me for studying and said that I was no longer a daughter of his. Yet I knew the bible said that might take place, and I thought that when he saw that I was happy he'd change his mind. He didn't though.

I went fast, I studied at least three times a week with someone and everyday by myself. I went to all the meetings, out in service and then I wanted to get baptized. That really shook everyone up. The elders called a meeting with the person that was studying with me and then another with me. They called the overseer and he talked to me for a long time and then decided that if I could answer the questions I could get baptized. So the day I had to meet an elder for the questions we had a blizzard and we all got snowed in, so I walked through it for three miles, got there and answered the questions. So on my first assembly only three months after I first contacted the JWs, I got baptized. Then at my third assembly the person who studied with me and myself told of how I became a witness and what lead up to my baptism. I felt so good at that time; I was on top of the world, higher then a kite and so happy. The Witnesses saved my life and I was no longer drinking or taking drugs. They were the greatest people in the world and now it was my turn to help others turn over their lives to Jehovah and live. I couldn't just go out in service. No, that wasn't good enough; it had to be more alot more. Eager and willing, within six months I was a full-time pioneer and out there doing my best and giving it my all, for I owed my life to Jehovah.

During this time my husband told me that in no uncertain terms was he going to remain married to me. If I wanted to save the marriage I had to leave the JWs and go back to life the way it was before. I remember asking, "Does that include drinking and all that?" and he replied, "YES!" No way was I ever going back to all that, not for him or anyone. So I told him I couldn't do it, so the divorce proceedings started. Now just after becoming a pioneer and now getting a divorce, elder meetings became a part of life for me. It seemed that every meeting ended with an elders meeting. One sister thought that that opened the door for her to get into pioneering because she had been divorced and they wouldn't allow her to pioneer, so now we had meetings about that. Then another thought that since I was being divorced that I should be removed as a pioneer, so that meant more meetings. Then whether I should allow or agree to the divorce brought about more meetings. Finally, after getting a letter written by my husband that he would NOT stay married to me as long as I was a JW or had anything whatever to do with them, that stopped the meetings because they realized that I had no choice in the matter. Freedom from elders meetings !!!!!!

Remember that I had only been a JW for six months and associated with them for nine months when all this took place. But I knew I would get opposition from somewhere but never did I think it would come this way and so much at once.
Now it came time for the agreements of the divorce, and for my children to make a choice where they were going to stay, with their dad, or me. I never thought for once that I would lose a child, but their decision also brought in whether they wanted to be part of the JWs or not. I wasn't worried though; because I knew that they saw a difference in me and they liked the new me so there wouldn't be a problem, right? WRONG, so very wrong. My daughter, my beautiful daughter decided to stay with her father. Talk about heartbreak, mine was torn to pieces. How could I, after going through all of this, now lose my daughter, the child that meant my life? She was so beautiful and wonderful, no mother was ever so proud of a daughter as I was of her. Now I had to face life without her and it seemed so impossible to me, so all I did was dive further into the Witnesses, "bible" studies and whatever to fill that emptiness. My son stayed with me, but he was my boy and that was the way it was right from the start. I knew that I had him and he'd do whatever I wanted to be with me. Together we did whatever it took to make a home and new life for ourselves. But to make it worse, the day before the divorce was final, my husband filed for bankruptcy! Now not only was I losing a family but everything I had. I was in complete despair. I was beginning to see a side of my husband that I never saw before, a hateful person out to hurt me and break me. So I decided to leave and move to where pioneers were needed and start all over again. I ran, not staying and dealing with the problems.

After all I had Jehovah on my side so it had to work for me right!! Now it's been fifteen months that I had been a JW, and only three months longer that I had been dry and clean and by now things in my head were starting to clear, and reality set in. I had to deal with all that came down. Being afraid to, I started to push it all back into my mind not thinking about it or dealing with it. After all I gave it all to Jehovah, so why should it be my problem now?
We moved to a small town with only two Kingdom Halls, and most everyone there was related in some way or another and if they weren't related they knew each other or a family member. It was a different kind of congregation then what I came from but after all it was Jehovah's so I knew that all would be fine in time. Now I was approached about going to pioneer school and arrangements were made and then the overseer realized that I hadn't been a pioneer for a full year, short by one month so I had to wait until next year. That year went by fast and I went. I met another sister who would turn out to be my best friend and very dearest sister. She lived about a four-hour drive form me but that didn't matter, at least we didn't let it matter, and we were there for each other whenever needed. She was just wonderful and we together were a team that shined like a star in the sky. She had the opportunity to travel all over to serve where the need was greater and she shared all her experiences with me and I in turn shared them with everyone at the hall. It got to the point that in the summer when she got back from one of her trips she would come over to my home and we would have many friends over to share in the experience, it came to be a thing to look forward to each year. We used to go to our own assemblies and each other's. I loved being a JW and loved all the brothers and sisters, they were just the most wonderful people in the world.

I don't know when it happened or how it happened but things started to change for me (inside of me) not with anyone else. It wasn't the same as before. I was seeing things differently and questioning beliefs that I had previously accepted. [Stupid me] I talked to someone about it and was approached by an elder. I learned fast to keep my mouth shut, but by then my friend realized that all was not right with me. I did talk to her and she never said anything to anyone, so we talked and talked. I stopped pioneering and let up on meeting attendance, field service and the whole bit. She dropped everything and came running to try to help in what ever manner she could. I think we kept the long distance telephone company in business for well over a year.

All that stuff from when I moved came back: the loss of my father, family, friends, marriage and daughter. It seemed to mesh with my doubts about the organization. Soon, when I would go out in service I knew that I was lying, deceiving and misleading those at the door. It got to the point that I got both physically and emotionally sick about it all and I couldn't do it anymore. But fear of leaving and being alone kept me there for over a year. It reached a point where all I could think about was ending it all by killing myself. I lived with that thought for months, I went to bed with it, I woke up with it and thought about it all day. I was so depressed, confused and filled with anger that I knew that either I had to do it or do something about it. Then the thought entered my mind, "What if I messed up and didn't do it right and lived, what a mess that would be!" I don't know why, but I called a pioneer at the hall and told her how I was feeling. She told me that if I wanted to do it (suicide) right, she could tell me how too! I got so mad that I slammed down the phone and right then and there I made the decision that in no way was I going to kill myself! I'd just disassociate myself.

I disassociated myself in November of 1989, but it wasn't announced at the hall until January of 1990 for some odd reason. The day it was to be read, an elder called my friend and told her, and so she called me. We talked for hours, she offered to go with me to speak to the overseer, she was sure that I could change everything if I just talked to him. That way I could still be in the organization. The next night we talked again, but knowing then that was the last time we'd ever talk or be together, it hurt so much and for so long, even to this day.

Before I was able to get things patched up with my father, he died hating me and not having anything to do with me. As I stood at his grave all I could do was scream the word "WHY" but of course it didn't help. Until this day I can't get over not fixing up things between my dad and myself, and I still get emotional whenever I think about it.

In June of 1991 I had three heart attacks and died four times but I wouldn't stay dead and ended up having my heart repaired. I was as if I were given time to fix up my life and lost relationships before I check out of this world! I started over and did take care of most of it. I never did take care of the spiritual part, though. I reached the point that I didn't know if God was for real or not, and didn't know where this "Jesus" fit into it all. At times I got so angry that I would say, "If you're for real, then ------------" and so on.

I went from November of 1989 until July of 1996 not being able to talk to anyone about my feelings that I had from being a JW. Somehow on the Internet I contacted Tim Campbell. He in turn got me on an e-mail list for former JWs. Then I received a post from Ros and I filed it away for a while, until I got up enough nerve to reply and needless to say, here I am today.

My daughter and I have a wonderful relationship once again. It took a lot of hard work for the both of us, but it was worth it. I now have a beautiful grandson whom I love very much, and another on the way. My life seems to be falling in place and I seem to be able to make some sense out of what took place with me during the time I was a Jehovah's Witness.

I have found God and Jesus in my life now, and am on the path of spiritual recovery. It's wonderful to be where I am now in my life and I can't wait to see what comes next for me. I love who I am and where I am now.
For me, that's a miracle.

About March of 97 I got interested in the way Jesus lived and started to study about His life as a Jew. While posting on the net one day I got a post from a person that I had been writing to and he told me he was a Messianic Jew. That got my interest and I started to study about what a Messianic Jew was and what they believed.

I then stated an e-mail group called Messianic Friends to learn more. While I was on there another Jew posted me and asked if I wanted to know what my name was in Hebrew, of I replied that I did. He wrote to his Rabbi in Jerusalem who is also a prophet and asked him. The strangest thing took place from that point; something no one could haven known unless I told them. He said that my last name was not what I was going by, that is was something different. That is true, but I never told anyone else. When my grandfather came to this country they changed his last name to Gust and he told anyone, not even his children what it was before. He also said that I am Jewish because some where in my back ground some one was Jewish. That also was true, it was my great-great grandmother who was. From that point my interest grew and kept growing.

As time went by I found a Messianic Jewish Synagogue about 100 miles from where I live and I started to attend. Today I am a Messianic Jew and a member of the Synagogue.

Kathy Gust

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