Life in Kingdom Hell
(or how the "Two Witnesses" Rule Never Worked)

by Renee Clevenger

 

November 22, 1978 was the start of my life in this world, and a date I only began celebrating this year, 2005. Since 2003 I have been sitting on death row, awaiting my annihilation. In 2005 I was blessed to be redeemed from death row. Iím about to tell you how I got there.

I am 27 years old, and in the past 27 years, I feel as if Iíve lived more Ďlivesí than most people twice my age. In fact, most of my friends are just that, twice my age. That is who I relate to and have the most in common with. I usually donít think about my best friend being only one year younger than my own mother and the fact that many of my friends are older than my father. When I sit back and think about what my life will look like in my 40ís and 50ís, though, I ponder where my friends now will be then, in their 60ís and 70ís.

From that day in 1978 Iíll fast forward the parts I donít remember and we arrive in the fall of 1980. Iím now two years old. ĎI was born a coal miners daughterí, yes I do remember Loretta Lynnís song, and in the late 70ís the mines in Ohio were shutting down leaving my father jobless. We moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in early 1980 for my father to work in another mine out west. My mother hated the dry, hot, sandy, desert and often cried to move back east to family and friends. All I remember from our 10 month stay there is the indoor corridor to our home, an apartment atop an elderly gentlemenís apartment (I remember that since I could never make noise playing), our Kingdom Hall with red wool seats, my fatherís friend Ollie Signel, whoís home we went to often to eat and visit but I could only sit quietly with my hands in my lap. I do remember distinctly the night we left. We had a van pulling a Uhaul that my dad drove, an old orange truck towing our red Chevette that my mom drove. I rode with my mom since I was a mommyís girl. My mother seemed so excited about going back east and leaving the place that always made her cry. I didnít know why she cried. At my young age I thought mommies just did that and daddies didnít. I remember driving on a curvy interstate past mountains watching the Uhaul being towed by the van in front and turning to see our car behind the truck I was in and I was so happy and excited because I thought this would make my mom so happy she wouldnít cry anymore. I didnít know where we were going but I knew it was going to be a great place because she looked so happy leaving the old apartment. We were not going back to Ohio but we were going back east. This time it was Florida. Not the Disney World, palm tree lined, white beaches part of Florida. Perry Florida. A small, quaint, country town, just 51 miles south of the state capital Tallahassee. The then population was just 17,000 in the county.

My parents had $15,000.00 in cash to start a new life and a new business. They purchased a very used brown singlewide trailer with orange interior. Bombed the roaches out, gave it some fresh early 80ís wood paneling, and we had a new home. My dad started a cleaning company, at the urgings of his friend in New Mexico, Ollie Signel. Ollie was a wise, very well respected elder in the Jehovahís Witness congregation in Albuquerque. When elders give advice it is important to heed carefully as they have more of Godís Holy Spirit to make correct decisions with. Since my father had no education beyond high school and my mother only had a 10th grade education and was not permitted to work outside the home, unless with my father, the options were slim in finding employment. He decided to open Donís Janitorial Service.

My father struggled to provide for about a year as he tried to get his business off the ground. I slept many a night on a booth of Howard Johnsonís and Pounceyís restaurants while my parents cleaned the floors. I was an only child and my parents had no family to leave me with. It wasnít long before mom was crying again. She was still homesick for Ohio and for her family and friends she left behind. My parents didnít talk like everyone else and it was weird for her. In a small town like Perry Florida is there an especially keen southern draw, northerners accents don't fit in easily. Though over the years it was overcome, there was at first, a noticeable prejudice of the Yankeeís in Cracker territory. It took so much to start to fit in and have friends.

We were so poor that we had only a small window air conditioner in our trailer that only cooled one room of the home in the unbearable summer. The roof leaked so that there was a maze of buckets to pass through from one end of the trailer to the other. And for you native Floridianís can you imagine living through hurricane season with us? All those steamy summer afternoons without air conditioning, wet stinky floors, rotting under the carpet and the rain dripping continuously through the ceiling.

My dad finally got his business off the ground and running with several accounts and many happy residential clients. By summer 1986 we are rich! In my six and a half year old mind weíre rich anyway. Our new house is pulled in and dropped off and our old house was hooked up to the truck and towed away. It was quite an exciting spectacle.

I am now six years old and here is where the story really begins. I am a fourth generation Jehovahís Witness. Back to the great- grandparents on my fatherís side, and grandparent on my motherís side, all are Jehovahís Witnesses. From infancy Iíve been taught, by means of many spankings, to sit quietly at the Kingdom Hall, to raise my hand and comment in the microphone, not to run inside the Hall, not to step on the stage, how to sit for two hours at a time listening to talks and not fall asleep or use the bathroom.

The Kingdom Hall is Godís House and we must act as if weíre visiting him for dinner. We do not talk, whisper, play, draw, fall asleep, or run. We go to Godís House for Ďspiritual foodí three days a week for a total of five hours. At home before we go we pre-study what will be talked about. This involves reading the Watchtower article to be studied and the scripture texts to be read and then going to the Hall and sitting through it again. At home, while we donít have to dress formally, we must treat it like a meeting, except dad can have coffee. So in the course of an average week we have ten hours of indoctrination. That is just part of our scheduled worship time. In addition we have our Field Service time to put in. The worst of Jehovahís Witnesses put in two hours a week and the best do well over twenty. We wanted to be especially good so my mother often took me with her as she Pioneered. A Pioneer puts in 60-90 hours per month in Field Service. This service, for those of you not familiar, starts at 9:00am (generally) with a 20 minute meeting of practicing presentations for door to door work. Car groups are then arranged and territory assignments given. A car group of 4-5 will drive to a specific area and work house to house preaching the "Good News of Godís Kingdom." The goal - to start a Bible study with non-witnesses, convert them to the apologetics of Jehovahís Witness teaching and have them as a member of the flock.

Going in Field Service that much was hard, as I was in school- home school. My mother taught me at home and to this day, Iíve never gone to school, public or private. The work we were doing we were told was "life saving". "a work never to be repeated", "Jesus command", "vital", "a warning to the wicked", and my family wanted to help people. The people we were preaching to were soon to die at Armageddon, when God kills all unrighteous ones, i.e. all not indoctrinated as a Jehovahís Witness. So it was more important to preach than to go to school or concentrate on my school at home. Day after day, week after week, year after year, grade after grade, I spent many hours in the car between doors with my school books on my lap. Taking breaks from my school work when it was my turn to get out at a door and give a "life saving" presentation. Iím not knocking home schoolingÖIím no dummy. My mom did a good job. She couldíve done a better job had I not spent so many thousands of hours in Field Service.

I knew what we were doing was soon to end and Iíd have forever to learn whatever I wanted and play whatever I wanted and so what I was doing, I knew was what I should be doing. It had to be done. I mean, we have the "Truth", the world must hear it from us. If we donít tell them weíll be ĎBloodguiltyí. The five hours of meetings weíre at each week and the readings we do beforehand, are what prepares us for this ministry. Weíre taught the truth about Heaven, Hell, Eternity, the meaning of life. These teachings are peculiar to the rest of the world, Satanís World, and we must teach them so they can survive. If we neglect to teach them by going in Field Service, they will die and it will be our fault and then Jehovah God will kill us for being negligent in our duty to warn them and teach them. Salvation to a JW is not a Free Gift, it must be earned.

The entire organization of Jehovahís Witnesses is run by a large corporation in Brooklyn, New York. It is called Bethel. Bethel is the spiritual ĎMeccaí for JWís. There is where the Governing Body, a group of older men, get information directly from Jehovah God, then print it in the Watchtower magazine for us to study at the Kingdom Hall. We then take that information to the public around the world teaching them the "Truth" about the Bible as it has been revealed to the Governing Body in New York City.

The teaching is that Jesus Christ is the Mediator between Jehovah God and the Governing Body, the Governing Body, in turn, is the Mediator for the rest of mankind. Therefore, what is written in the Watchtower, and other publications printed by the Watchtower, really comes from Jehovah God and is treated as if God said it Himself. If we reject anything that comes from "The Society", another term for the Governing Body, we are rejecting God, thus weíre cast off from the organization so as not to contaminate other members, and we are on death row, awaiting annihilation at Armageddon by Godís hand. Since weíre "Spiritually Deadí, itís only a matter of time before weíre physically dead, and that is how ones are to be treated if they leave or are forced to leave the religion of Jehovahís Witnesses.

The World, that is, the world of people not Jehovahís Witnesses, are a people all under the control of Satan the Devil. It is a scary place. The walls of the Kingdom Hall are safe. Your family is safe, the Elders and Ministerial Servants are safe, Pioneers are safe. This is your family. These are Godís people. Everyone not inside with us is part of Satanís scary, evil, dark world. Thatís why we work so hard to stay separate from them not having friends that are of these Ďworldly people.í The only contact you should have as a Jehovahís Witness, the Only True Christians, with anyone outside is strictly business, secular grade school, or the preaching work. Once accepting of the doctrine and baptized, these "worldly peopleí of Satanís World become clean people of Jehovahís Organization that he has saved. They are then part of the "safe" people.

I donít know how it feels to leave some other walk of life and be converted to JW doctrine. I only know how it feels to grow up from infancy as a JW. I know these teachings like the back of my hand. Iíve spent thousands of hours learning it, thousands of hours preaching it. I knew as a child, as sure as I was breathing that I was right and the rest of the world was sadly, tragically, wrong.

My father was an authority figure in every sense of the word. He had a rough, harsh, voice that boomed, even when he was in a good mood. He was not often in a good mood. He was heavy handed, legalistic, and very self-righteous. He felt the need to be perfect, stoic. He expected stoicism from his wife and daughter as well. The only way to gain attention and approval from my father was to do some exceptional work in the Kingdom Hall or Field Service. I could brag to him on how many Watchtowers I distributed or how many hours I put in the ministry. He was not interested in my school. When I would express interest in a subject I was scolded very sternly, "We wonít need doctors, lawyers, and business people in the New System. The only thing you need to concentrate on is your service to Jehovah. Jehovah wants you to save people, he doesnít care what books youíve read." I was repeatedly told that Iíd never finish school before "the End" came. So my parents were very lax in my schooling since I wasnít going to finish anyway and certainly, even if I did finish the minimum legal grades, I wouldnít finish high school. College? ARE YOU KIDDING? I could say any four letter word and get my teeth half knocked out but if I wanted the fear of God put in me for good, well letís just say, I never mentioned college. College, just the thought of it, was forbidden. They teach independent thought and evolution. All college students abuse illegal drugs and all the girls get raped. I was scared of public school and certainly of college. It was a bad place indeed. The walls of the Kingdom Hall were safe. It was the only safe place in the world. Jehovah would protect us from all the bad people if we served him. For the first six years of my life thatís all I heard. All I knew so itís all I believed.

Demons & Satanís People

So bad was the world outside that we prepared ourselves and our homes for the day that was to inevitably occur, persecution and concentration camps. Jehovahís Witnesses were persecuted along with the Jews in the Holocaust and in several other war torn lands where religious tolerance was lacking. To prepare we would be told stories of torture of our brothers and sisters and asked to make a plan of what we would do when our time came. As far back as I can remember I had nightmares of being kidnapped from my family and taken to torture chambers. I remember my mother and father telling me these bed time tales and then wondering why I was scared of the dark. It seems funny now but as a kindergartener I was not amused. Our family wasnít just talk. We took action. Whenever we would build something weíd always hide Watchtowers and Awake!ís inside. Once my parents made a sunken room on the home and inside the steps we put Watchtowers so that when persecution struck and the military came in and took our literature we could break the steps open and have our bible books. We did the same thing in a ceramic bird, we actually took a hammer and busted itís base off, stuffed it with Watchtowers and then cemented it back together. Not only are JWís scared of other people, they put heavy emphasis on the spirit realm and an unhealthy fear of demons. Scared to go to the bathroom alone, even the bathroom next to my own bedroom, I was terrified. So disturbed was I that I would go into the laundry room and pee in our dirty clothes basket so I didn't have to go in the bathroom. I was 7 or 8 when I did that. I needed to sleep with the light on until the age of 12 or sleep with my parents or at least on the couch in the living room. So scared of the dark and sleeping alone was I that I'd open my Bible to Proverbs 18:10 in the NWT and say God's name out loud while I cried myself to sleep. Saying God's name aloud was for protection. The covers had to envelop me completely. Just my nose sticking out. I'd tuck the covers all around me as tight as I could. What was I so afraid of? Demons. My religion placed a lot of emphasis on the demons and how they can get into your home, make objects move and get into your mind. I grew up very scared as a child and even into early adulthood I was scared. Always afraid of the unknown. Afraid to sleep in my own bed. taught that you could get demon possessed in many ways such as; starring off into space with no specific thought, buying a used item from a garage sale if the people that owned whatever you bought had a Outija board or went to a bad church, or by watching a bad TV program, listening to a bad song on the radio, having a book or magazine in the home that had any mention of bad things or evil pictures, or having guests to your house that were non believers. Remember me peeing the the laundry? That's because in my bathroom there was a ceramic tile with a picture of a cat in there. We had purchased it at a yard sale of our neighbors and I just knew that cat had a demon. After all, we did buy it at a yard sale. Was this just a childhood issue? Hardly! I remember at age 9 we went to a garage sale and soon after we were informed that someone on that street had been hypnotized to lose weight. We didn't know who on that street it was or what house they lived in but just for safe measure we took all the items we purchased at that yard sale and had a bonfire in the front yard. Take That Satan!

These actions may not seem like a big deal, maybe a little nutty, but perhaps not a big deal. As I go on to tell you about my childhood, youíll have to add it all up to see if you think itís a big deal or not.

I Was So Loved

My father would do anything to get a tighter foothold on his place in the Kingdom. He wanted to reach out for privilege of Eldership and more responsibility in the Organization. He would put all Kingdom Hall interests above all else. From cleaning it to donating money to it, to preaching about it and would always help other members at all costs. One older couple who had a hard time driving, especially at night, wanted to be picked up and driven to the Hall for all the meetings. Three times a week my family would take our little red Chevette all the way to Steinhatchee to pick up Fred and Amy Stonebrook. Steinhatchee was about 30 minutes from Perry. A good hour round trip with them in the car and me, my little six year old body squished between them in the back seat. Now I knew how to act around grown ups. I knew full well the Ďseen and not heardí rule. No matter the discomfort, how boring, how unbearable the situation, you never talk back, speak up or in anyway show yourself to an adult, especially one with rank in the Kingdom Hall. Brother Stonebrook was a Ministerial Servant. That means he was one step below an Elder and he had special privileges that not all brothers got.

One such privilege he took for himself was my body. On all these trips in the car to and from the Kingdom Hall, the meetings being over at night, so it was dark in the car. Many times they would stay at our house and they were always in our gatherings like family. It was Uncle Fred. They ate dinner with us, went on vacations with us. One such road trip to Jacksonville in the spring of 1985 is when Uncle Fred started to touch me. He started by sliding his old wrinkly hands down the back of my pants to the top of my butt. Then lower. Then he slowly ran his hands all the way around the waist of my jeans. I had pretty new dark blue jeans my mom got me at Montgomery Wards. They had a bright blue thread trim on them. The perfect matching shirt that was extra soft like rabbit hair was the same color blue as the thread in the trim on those jeans. To make it totally perfect there were three pearly buttons on the front of the shirt. I felt so pretty in those new clothes. But after that trip in the car to Jacksonville, I never wanted to wear them again. I hated them. Once it was dark in the car he put his hands all the way down the front of my pants and touched me inside. He had long scratchy fingernails that poked me and made me sore. He smelled like an old person, you know ointment or something. I just wanted to scream and bite him. I didnít know what was bad about it I just knew it was bad. It had to be bad because it never happened before and I didnít like it. On the other hand, if I said anything I was sure to get the slap across the face with the heavy hand of my daddy. Heíd slap me so hard it would make my head fuzzy. I was so scared that I just sat there and tried to wiggle a little bit to get away but I was told "Stop fidgeting, youíre going to make Uncle Fred and Aunt Amy uncomfortable." That was the warning and I knew if I fidgeted anymore Iíd have a good solid spanking. I still tried to scoot away just to have my arm grabbed pulled me close to him to look like a hug and held me down so tight I couldnít pull away. If I made a whimper I was afraid Iíd get a beating so I was helpless to the molestation for hours.

When we finally got there we ate at a seafood restaurant and all I remember was my dad having sword fish. I looked at a big mounted sword fish on the wall of the restaurant with that big sharp protruding snout and I wanted to take that fish and stab Uncle Fred with it. I stared at that fish on the wall the whole dinner. The abuse continued for weeks on end. It felt like he was always around and always making me do things I didnít want to do. Three times a week weíd pick them up and I never said a word for an entire year. There are 52 weeks in a year, times three times per week and you have roughly 156 acts of molestation from the time I was six until I was seven. I had nightmares, I was afraid of the dark. I was a paranoid child. My imagination played with me constantly. Once we went on a family vacation to Disney World, guess who had to come with? Yep, Uncle Fred and Aunt Amy. When we finally got out of the car at the theme park, I got on my dads shoulders and I looked down at that asshole as if to say, "Ha, you canít reach me up here." I just wanted to stay there forever, out of his reach.

The next family vacation, we took every summer, was Ohio to see my family. Grandma Kittyís cooking and constant picture taking, playing in the creek, eating watermelon with my cousins at the family picnic, and who do you think my parents invite to come along? Uncle Fred and Aunt Amy. Now Iím seven and I know it takes two days to drive to Ohio. I wasnít about to have that icky, smelly, old guy all over me for two days. I had to tell my mom. So, two days before we left, my mom was in her room packing. She was on the phone to my Aunt Della and Grandma Kitty and making plans for our arrival. When she hung up the phone I went in her room and told her what was happening to me. What had happened to me for the past year. She cried, and screamed. She called my dad and told him to come home from work. When he came home he went in their room to see what was wrong and I ran and hid because I thought I would be in trouble. All I heard him keep saying was "Oh my God, Oh My God." My mom told me to come back in to them and I walked in and my dad just fell back on his bed, took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. I guess he was crying but I couldnít really tell. He looked so mad but he said he wasnít mad at me. But I still felt like he was and I still felt like I was in trouble.

When youíre a Jehovahís Witness, your authority is first the Elders, not governmental officials. The first call my parents made was to an Elder who then forms a judicial committee of three elders to judge a case to reconcile. Whereas most in this situation call the police, receive specialized counseling and prosecute the perpetrator, thatís not the case with Jehovahís Witnesses. Here I was at seven years old having to go to the Kingdom Hall, sit before three Elders, all old men like my perpetrator, and tell them in detail what happened. I was scared to death. My parents seemed to be in such bad moods. I felt it was all my fault. Nobody would be this upset if I couldíve kept my mouth shut. My mom told me to go get ready to go and so I went and put on this pink striped pants outfit that she made me. I loved it. It was so comfy and it just felt good to have it on. When we were almost ready to go she told me to change into a dress because thatís how we dress at the Kingdom Hall. That made me so mad! I stomped off to my room since Iíd have to wear an uncomfortable Kingdom Hall dress.

The Hearing

 

Elders, Harold Johnson, Cyril Brown and the late Clarence Williams were the committee formed to preside over the case. We walked into an empty dark Kingdom Hall past rows of empty seats to a small place at the front of the stage with six chairs put into a circle. Just the stage lights were on, not the house lights. That was weird to me. I only ever saw the Kingdom Hall at meeting times with music playing in the back ground and all the lights on with many people around. Tonight was different. I was a victim on trial for being victimized. A prayer was said. Once we said "Amen", I was stared at by the three elders with Bibles, notebooks and pens. My mother to my right, my father to my left, in front of me, the Elders, the judges. I was scared. I was embarrassed. I wished I could take back what I told my mom. Why couldnít I just tell my mom and then never have to see this person again? Why did they have to make me keep talking about it? I was cold and there were goose bumps on my legs. How I wished I couldíve worn the pink striped pants. It wouldíve been so much more bearable. The questions came one by one for what seemed like an eternity. "Tell us what happened and why weíre here today." they said. I could hardly speak because I was so scared and I thought, "Didnít my daddy tell you what happened? Why do I have to say it again?" But I continued to tell them that Uncle Fred had touched my pee pee and my bottom. "How?" they said, "tell us what happened the first time." So I did my best to describe what happened in the car on the way to Jacksonville. When I finished, Cyril Brown, asked how long ago that was. Well, to a seven year old, it felt like eternity. I replied, "About three years". He said, "Three years! You were only three then werenít you?" I said, "No, I was six but it was a very long time ago. Itís when we went to Jacksonville." "We donít know when you went to Jacksonville", Cyril replied, "You have to tell us when that was." I didnít know the month, the date, I just remember being in the back seat of that Chevette in the blue pants and blue shirt and eating seafood. I looked to my parents to explain when it was and as they told them when the trip was, the Elderís response was, "we need to hear the story from her, no hearsay." The questions kept coming and I tried to answer the best I could but my tummy was upset by the whole thing. I just wanted to go home and eat Doritos and bean dip. That was my favorite snack and thatís all I could think about. They kept asking me how it happened and exactly what he did to me and over and over I had to play the tapes in my mind and describe what I always tried not to think about. Brother Brown then asked me, "Did you ever ask him to do this to you?" "NO!" I replied. "Did you ever walk in front of him in the nude?" "Whatís nude?" I asked him. Looking frustrated and heated but before he could reply my mother looked at me and said, "Naked, heís asking you if you were ever naked around him". Then she looked at him and said, "Please use words she understands. "Ok, well did you ever do anything to entice or seduce him?" I looked at my mom and asked her what those big words meant. She was so angry at that question I donít think she could rightly speak. She snapped back at them "I TOLD YOU TO USE WORDS SHE UNDERSTANDS AND OF COURSE SHE DIDNíT DO THAT SHEíS SEVEN YEARS OLD!" and then was told to calm down. "Ok, ok," Harold Johnson chimes in, "Iím a Papa and I love my grandkids. This is just a hard thing to talk about." He takes over questioning for awhile. They ask my parents some questions and then me and then my parents and then me. It took forever. Finally weíre finished for now and we get to go home. For several weeks after that meeting we have more meetings with the Elders to discuss the matter and each time I must relive it over. The same three Elders had to meet with Fred Stonebrook and confront him. He denied the accusation and it was a back and forth battle for several weeks. More and more meetings with them, some meetings immediately following a night time congregation meeting. Keep in mind, Iím seven and the meetings end at 9:10pm. We then wait for most everyone to leave and for the Elders to take care of other responsibilities then at 9:45 we go into another meeting with them. Here it is time for me, a child, to be sleeping, Iíve already sat for two hours and now I have to be drug through this. As a mother now I wonder what my parents were thinking allowing this to be done to me. Then I remind myself that they are under law to follow the Elders and if they say we meet now, we meet now. After all, Jehovah God directly guides the Elders in making decisions and if we go against the shepherds Heís given us, weíre going against Him directly.

 

[Quote from "The Watchtower", February 1, 1993 Issue, Page 16:

 

The facts show that today "the faithful and discreet slave" is associated with Jehovah's Witnesses and represented by the Governing Body of these Witnesses. That body, in turn, appoints overseers in various capacities-such as elders and traveling representatives-to direct the work on a local level. Godly subjection requires each dedicated Witness to be in subjection to these overseers in keeping with Hebrews 13:17: "Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you."]

[Quote from "The Watchtower, July 1, 1992 Issue, Page 14:

AS SUPREME Judge, Jehovah has delegated judicial authority to his Son. (John 5:27) In turn, as Head of the Christian congregation, Christ uses the faithful and discreet slave class and its Governing Body to appoint elders, who at times have to act as judges. (Matthew 24:45-47; 1 Corinthians 5:12, 13; Titus 1:5, 9)]

 

There were many weeks of meetings and then finally the verdict. When a Jehovahís Witness commits a gross sin, or even disagrees with the leadership, they can be disfellowshipped. That is the worst punishment that can happen to a JW. The process is like this, there is an accusation, a committee, a trial, perhaps a confession, then a verdict where they decide if you are repentant enough to stay in or be kicked out. When the decision is to disfellowship someone, the presiding Elder of the erring oneís committee goes before the congregation, announces to all "Brother (or Sister) (Insert Name Here) has been disfellowshipped." This letís everyone know that youíve committed a grave sin and are not repentant and thus worthy of complete casting off. They call the state of being disfellowshipped like death. To all Jehovahís Witnesses you are "spiritually dead". It is also just a matter of time before youíre physically dead as you are no longer a Jehovahís Witness but are a child of the Devil, Satan. You are what they call "worldly". You are shunned. You are disowned. All friends you had, even family members, children, parents, siblings, have nothing to do with you from the second that announcement is made to the congregation.

Since what Fred Stonebrook did to me was so bad in Godís eyes, I was sure heíd get the ultimate punishment. However, when there is no confession, the wrongful act has to be witnessed by two or more people in addition to the victim or accuser. Why? Deuteronomy 19:15 sets the precedent for this as it states: "One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offence he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or more witnesses." So there you have it, if a pedophile commits the crime in private, nothing can be done. What kind of idiot commits a crime in the face of "two or more witnesses"? There was denial and not confession from Mr. Stonebrook and thus I had no vindication. He was left as a member of the church in good standing. Not only did this judicial committee drag me, a seven year old child, and my parents through emotional turmoil for weeks, it uplifted the perpetrator. How? On the information board (actually a bulletin board but JWs arenít allowed to use that word bulletin-Iíll explain why later) there was posted a list of assigned FAMILIES (some with children my age and younger) to go and minister to Mr. Stonebrook and help them to get to the meetings at the Kingdom Hall! Even at the young tender age of seven I saw this list and thought to myself, theyíre sending other families with kids there and what if they get hurt? My heart sank in my chest when I looked at that list and week after week it hung there as a constant reminder of how I was not believed and how my perpetrator was exonerated. I was so embarrassed. Here I had laid bare my soul in weeks of meetings, giving detailed descriptions of my abuse and this list hangs here to show how unimportant I was to them. I wanted to tell all the other little girls in the Kingdom Hall about him so theyíd be careful but in our Elderís meetings, both myself and my parents were sworn to secrecy. At the risk of being disfellowshipped and punished by the Elderís ourselves, we had to keep quiet. If you disobey the Elderís they can disfellowship you - leaving you to die at Armageddon.

Jehovah's Witnesses who Publicly Question, Doubt, Criticize, or Speak Out Against ANY Watchtower Society Policy or Teaching, will most likely be "Disfellowshipped" (Excommunicated) and Shunned by their Jehovah's Witness Family and Friends, and are then labeled as "Apostates", and the Watchtower Society teaches that if you are Disfellowshipped when Armageddon comes, God will eternally destroy you. These are the beliefs outlined in the Watchtower that I as a child and young adult was indoctrinated in. These quotes below were studied so much that they are forever imbedded in my brain and were part of my belief structure for most of my life up to this point.

 

The Watchtower, March 1, 1952 Issue, Page 141:

"Those who are acquainted with the situation in the congregation should never say `Hello' or `Goodbye' to [the disfellowshipped person]. He is not welcome in our midst, we avoid him."

The Watchtower, October 1, 1952 Issue, Page 599:

"We must hate [the disfellowshipped person] in the truest sense, which is to regard with extreme active aversion, to consider [the disfellowshipped person] as loathsome, odious, filthy, to detest."

The Watchtower, November 15, 1952 Issue:

In the case of where a father or mother or son or daughter is disfellowshiped, how should such person be treated by members of the family in their family relationship?

We are not living today among theocratic nations where such members of our fleshly family relationship could be exterminated for apostasy from God and his theocratic organization, as was possible and was ordered in the nation of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai and in the land of Palestine. "Thou shalt surely kill him; thy hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him to death with stones, because he hath sought to draw thee away from Jehovah thy God, . . . And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is in the midst of thee."--Deut. 13:6-11, AS.

Being limited by the laws of the worldly nation in which we live and also by the laws of God through Jesus Christ, we can take action against apostates only to a certain extent, that is, consistent with both sets of laws.

The law of the land and God's law through Christ forbid us to kill apostates, even though they be members of our own flesh-and-blood family relationship. However, God's law requires us to recognize their being disfellowshiped from his congregation, and this despite the fact that the law of the land in which we live requires us under some natural obligation to live with and have dealings with such apostates under the same roof.

...if the children are of age, then there can be a departing and breaking of family ties in a physical way, because the spiritual ties have already snapped. If children are of age and continue to associate with a disfellowshiped parent because of receiving material support from him or her, then they must consider how far their spiritual interests are being endan gered by continuing under this unequal arrangement, and whether they can arrange to support themselves, living apart from the fallen-away parent. Their continuing to receive material support should not make them

compromise so as to ignore the disfellowshiped state of the parent. If, because of acting according to the disfellowship order of the company of God's people, they become threatened with a withdrawal of the parental support, then they must be willing to take such consequences.

Satan's influence through the disfellowshiped member of the family will be to cause the other member or members of the family who are in the truth to join the disfellowshiped member in his course or in his position toward God's organization. To do this would be disastrous, and so the faithful family member must recognize and conform to the disfellowship order. How would or could this be done while living under the same roof or in personal, physical contact daily with the disfellowshiped? In this way: By refusing to have religious relationship with the disfellowshiped.

...to have religious communion with the disfellowshiped person - no, there would be none of that! The faithful marriage partner would not discuss religion with the apostate or disfellowshiped and would not accompany that one to his (or her) place of religious association and participate in the meetings with that one. As Jesus said: "If he does not listen even to the congregation [which was obliged to disfellowship him], let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector [to Jehovah's sanctified nation]." (Matt. 18:17, NW) Hurt to such one would not be authorized, but there would be no spiritual or religious fellowshiping.

The same rule would apply to those who are in the relation of parent and child or of child and parent. What natural obligation falls upon them according to man's law and God's law the faithful parent or the faithful child will comply with. But as for rendering more than that and having religious fellowship with such one in violation of the congregation's disfellowship order-no, none of that for the faithful one! If the faithful suffers in some material or other way for the faithful adherence to theocratic law, then he must accept this as suffering for righteousness' sake.

The purpose of observing the disfellowship order is to make the disfellowshiped one realize the error of his way and to shame him, if possible, so that he may be recovered, and also to safeguard your own salvation to life in the new world in vindication of God. (2 Thess. 3:14, 15; Titus 2:8) Because of being in close, indissoluble natural family ties and being of the same household under the one roof you may have to eat material food and live physically with that one at home, in which case 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 and 2 John 10 could not apply; but do not defeat the purpose of the congregation's disfellowship order by eating spiritual or religious food with such one or receiving such one favorably in a religious way and bidding him farewell with a wish for his prosperity in his apostate course.

The Watchtower, December 1, 1952 Issue, Page 735:

"Generally speaking, it would be desirable for us to have no contact with disfellowshiped persons, either in business or in social and spiritual ways."

The Watchtower, July 15, 1961 Issue, Page 420:

"In order to hate what is bad a Christian must hate the [disfellowshipped] person."

Where did Jesus tell us to "HATE" anyone? I believe he told us even to pray for our enemies. So how can the Watchtower, who say theyíre "Godís Mouthpiece" under Jehovah and Jesusí direction, tell us to HATE people just because theyíre disfellowshipped? Iíve searched the Gospel and I canít find that in scripture anywhere.

The Watchtower, July 1, 1963 Issue, Page 411:

"Disfellowshiping] serves as a powerful warning example to those in the congregation, since they will be able to see the disastrous consequences of ignoring Jehovah's laws. Paul said: "Reprove before all onlookers persons who practice sin, that the rest also may have fear." 1 Tim. 5:20"

The Watchtower, July 1, 1963 Issue, Page 413:

"The members of the congregation] will not converse with such one or show him recognition in any way. If the disfellowshiped person attempts to talk to others in the congregation, they should walk away from him. In this way he will feel the full import of his sin.... the disfellowshiped person who wants to do what is right should inform any approaching him in innocence that he is disfellowshiped and they should not be conversing with him."

The Watchtower, July 15, 1963 Issue, Pages 443-444:

"In the case of the disfellowshiped relative who does not live in the same home, contact with him is also kept to what is absolutely necessary. As with secular employment, this contact is limited and even curtailed completely if at all possible.

We should not see how close we can get to relatives who are disfellowshiped from Jehovah's organization, but we should 'quit mixing in company' with them.

What if a person cut off from God's congregation unexpectedly visits dedicated relatives? What should the Christian do then? If this is the first occurrence of such visit, the dedicated Christian can, if his conscience permits, carry on family courtesies on that particular occasion. However, if his conscience does not permit, he is under no obligation to do so. If courtesies are extended, though, the Christian should make it clear that this will not be made a regular practice.... The excommunicated relative should be made to realize that his visits are not now welcomed as they were previously when he was walking correctly with Jehovah.

Page 446:

If the excommunicated husband insists on offering prayer at mealtimes, the dedicated members of the household would not say "Amen" to the prayer, nor would they join hands as some have the custom, as this would be participating spiritually. They could bow their heads and offer their own silent prayer to Jehovah."

The Watchtower, July 15, 1974 Issue, Page 442:

"...do you know how to hate? These very strong words are an expression of godly hate, and you too must have this quality to be pleasing to God. Hate causes a feeling of disgust to well up inside you. You loathe, abhor, despise the object of your hatred

[...] [The disfellowshipped Jehovah's Witnesses are to be hated] in the sense of avoiding them as we would poison or a poisonous snake."

Can you see the MIND CONTROL here? Can you see how over and over through the years my grandparents, parents, myself, were all conditioned to fear and hate? Because of such fear of being displeasing to Jehovah by going against the Elderís and for fear of congregational punishment if so done, we were silenced. Silenced from going to the police, to a professional therapist, to anyone else, for the decision had been made. Move on.

Weeks later, my mother and grandmother had gone to visit Mr. And Mrs. Stonebrook to see if they could make peace with them. On two separate occasions, once to my mother, and once to my grandmother, Fred Stonebrook confessed and apologized in tears to them. However, the Elderís would not consider the confession, even at the mouth of now THREE Witnesses, my mother, grandmother, and myself. Why? Because the confessions had no witnesses!

As with most painful experiences in life, you move on, you heal and you lead a happy life. Thatís what we did. Eventually years later, the Stonebookís died and that was my final closure to the bad situation. I could let go what happened to me. However, I have not, nor do I think I will ever, let go how it was handled and what the Elderís put my family through. My mother had horrible nervous disorders and in the summer of 1986 she had a complete nervous collapse. Most days she stayed in bed, without eating, just crying for hours on end. She had nightmares, she would shake and fall and cry and it scared me to death. The least little thing could set her off. Could be a noise, sudden movement, slight disagreement and it would be a major set back. She was almost completely incompetent that entire summer. All the while this is going on and our family was still at the Kingdom Hall faithfully, religiously, each time the doors were open.

Setting A Good Example: How to be an Elderís Daughter

During the years of 1987 and 1988 we pulled ourselves up as a family and became ever more involved in the congregation. My mother often Ďauxiliary pioneered.í put in 60 hours a month in the door-to-door ministry, with me in tow, school books and all. We were always regular in the ministry and at the meetings but we didnít always pioneer. Some months we would only put in 10, 20, 30 hours or so. At age 9, I donít remember the month but I know I was 9 and it was early 1988, it was the last day of the month and time to fill out our publisher information and turn it into the congregation. So I went to the calendar on the side of our refrigerator and wrote down my time and Watchtower publication placements for the month. It was exactly 9 hours. I gave it to my dad sitting at the kitchen table and started to walk away. I take just a few steps and hear a scream, "SONYA RENEE HINES! All you got were 9 hours?! The worst Jehovahís Witnesses put in 10! Youíre not even at the National Average! Youíre not even average. I canít believe you only have 9 hours. You say you love JehovahÖ.blah blah blah" I was so upset. I started to cry. Now explain this one to me, Iím 9 years old, I go when my parents take me. I donít have a car. Iím not responsible for myself. Why didnít he take me out more often? Then I am excused and the yelling is directed at my mother. How could she only let me have 9 hours in? We were both in trouble with dad now. And as many nights were, I was lulled to sleep by the sound of my parents fighting and screaming at each other. My father was an Elder and not just any Elder, he was the congregation Secretary. Heís the Ďtime keeperí of everyone. For his family to have low hours reflected badly on him.

Many times my mother and I would get in trouble with my father for being a "bad example" because he was an Elder. We had to tow the line and more so than our peers. I would even get in trouble sometimes when I didnít even do anything, just to make an example out of me for others. An example of this is when I was eight. It was a Thursday night following a two hour meeting. I was coming out of the bathroom and in the foyer were a couple of boys, about 12 and 13, break dancing and scratching up the vinyl floor. I stopped and scolded them for what they were doing to the floor in "GODíS HOUSE". They laughed at me but I was proud that I stood up for Jehovahís place of worship. Just then my father comes around the corner as Iím walking past the boys. He grabs my arm and drags me to a chair beating me all the way. I was dumbfounded and crying, asking "What did I do?" He scolded me for being with the boys dancing. I tried to tell him what really happened and as I tried to speak the beating went from my butt and legs to my mouth and face, so I shut up and set on a chair in the back of the Kingdom Hall with everyone looking at me cry. I looked up at him again and said "I wasnít dancing. I was coming out of the bathroom and I told them to stop." He yells back at me, "You were standing there with them so youíre just as guilty." Later I realized he was trying to show the sister whoís children were dancing how to be a proper JW parent by administering corporal punishment. It was all for her benefit. It wasnít that I had done wrong, he used me as a mere pawn to prove a point. Iím sure the person with the little boys doesnít remember that night but I do vividly and will never forget it. I couldnít believe I had to endure that physical pain and public humiliation so he could look like a "big shot".

My father gave many a public discourse from the platform on how to properly discipline. It was always recommended to spank, even Ďbeat with a rodí as Proverbs says. He would even spank other peopleís children if he thought they were out of line. Not just unruly children of age to know better. Iím talking about babies, toddlers. His favorite saying to this day is "Train your babies from birth how to act in the Kingdom Hall. When you take them to the bathroom or outside for being loud, you make it more miserable on them back there then you do in here in the auditorium. Theyíll soon learn they like sitting quietly in here much better." My goodness Iíve heard that same phrase so many times I almost couldnít stand to write it. Even when I had my daughter I had to forbid my father from holding her in the Kingdom Hall or he would beat her. At three months old, an infant, she began to cry. I was sitting next to him at the Hall in the middle of a Sunday Watchtower study. He reached down to her carrier she lay in (I thought he was going to act like a Papa and maybe pick her up to hold her) he grabbed her tiny hand and gave it three hard smacks. She cried harder. Think of that! I picked her up and walked her to the back and rocked her until she calmed down. This happened each time we went to the Hall. At six months of age I told my father that I would only let him hold her at the meetings if he promised not to hit her. His response, "I canít promise that so I just wonít hold her." That still cuts like a knife. If my father canít hit my infant than he doesnít want to hold her? There are no nurseries in Kingdom Halls and everyone sits together. The children must sit quietly for hours at a time with no interaction at all with them. If they squirm, or get up and down, play, coo, cry, they are to be severely punished. The Elders, and especially my father, pushed us to spank her constantly for each noise she made. I would try but I would break down in tears myself.

I have this beautiful baby girl I carried for nine months, went through the agony of childbirth, and I love her more than my own breath, and each time I go to worship God he wants me to beat her? I just didnít understand it. At the pressure though of the other Elders constant nagging that we were just young parents not knowing how to raise children we tried to listen to the older ones in the congregation. I finally had so many doubts about this and other things I just wasnít happy with in the religion that I confronted my husband and told him that if every time we go to serve Jehovah we must beat her for two hours, than I wonít go anymore. So he conceded and said we didnít have to spank her anymore. That didnít last long. At eight months she was teething and fussy. I was standing at the back of the Hall in the foyer while a Watchtower study was in progress one Sunday morning. Sister OíNeil, the Presiding Overseers wife, (P.O. is the Head Elder in any Kingdom Hall) comes and asks me if Iíd like a break and sheíd hold her back there for awhile. So I thanked her and handed my daughter over to her. I no more than sit down in my chair and I hear "Whack! Whack! Whack! WAAAAHHHH!!! I run to the back and looked at her sternly and said "What happened?" She replies, "She needs to learn to be quiet in the meetings so I popped her." I took my daughter back and told Sister OíNeil "Thanks anyway but we donít handle it that way." Just two months later, our daughter, Shealyn, is ten months old. Sheís playful and not at all wanting to sit in a seat for two hours. She wanted to toddle around. My then husband was trying very hard to be the Elder pleasing good boy as he had privileges then too. He was being used so much in the work at the Hall that he wanted to be on their good side so heíd be favored. My father came back to the back room where we were letting her play and scolded him for letting her do that.

My husband at the time grabbed her up took her into the menís bathroom and beat the hell out of her. I ran up to another Elder, Brother Cote, and grabbed his arm, in the middle of the meeting I yelled at him, "YOU GO INTO THAT BATHROOM AND BRING OUT MY BABY OR IíM WALKING IN THERE AND GETTING HER MYSELF. IíM TIRED OF THIS CRAP AND I WONíT BE BACK." He went in the bathroom and he and my husband at that time stayed in there for the rest of the meeting. I think they were both scared to come out and face me. When they finally came out I looked at my ten month olds legs and they were all marked up. Brother Cote tried to smooth the whole thing over by taking us to lunch with his family and at the time it worked. I reminded myself of how I needed to let my husband take the lead in the family and I needed to "be in subjection as to the Lord." I saw history repeating itself and I hated it. I remembered all the times growing up of my dad beating me to make an example out of me and I was such an unhappy child. I swore Iíd never be a parent like that. Here I was with a baby girl whoís father was reaching out for more congregational privileges and beating our child to get their blessing.

At this time I was 19 and was in turmoil. I had a new husband, baby, house, all the responsibility of people much older than I. Looking around at everyone else my age going to college, dating, working, and having a life, I was depressed to the point of near suicide for the second time in just a three year period. I wanted to run away. I was without true friends and felt no way to get them. Trying desperately to figure out why I was so miserable I thought to myself, I did everything I was supposed to. Starting a family was the next step. I couldnít go to college, couldnít have a career. The only thing I couldíve done if I would have stayed at home was pioneer and I hated that. (A pioneer puts in 90 hours per month in the ministry door knocking, peddling Watchtower paraphernalia) It was marry or stay in a home where I couldnít breathe. My parents fought constantly and I was uncomfortable. Feeling like I didnít fit in anywhere. The only logical thing to do was to hurry up, find a brother and marry him. So at 17 thatís what I did. There are more reasons why I got married when I did. Letís back up just a moment and Iíll tell you about my teenage years.

At age 10, one Saturday night, my father called me into the kitchen where he was studying his Watchtower for the next dayís lesson. He enquired if I had studied the article we were to study as a congregation tomorrow and of course, I had. He then asked me "Well, whatís holding you back?" I was puzzled and didnít know what he was talking about. He repeated the question and I was scared because I didnít know the answer. He pointed to the title of the lesson, "What Prevents You from Getting Baptized?" I still didnít know what he was getting at. He said then, "Do you love Jehovah?" "Yes, I do." I replied. He said, "Then tomorrow at the meeting go to Brother Williams, (the P.O. of that time) and tell him you need to go over questions for baptism. I was obedient. Mind you I had made no dedication personally to do this, it was no more in my heart than was cleaning my room. I didnít care one way or the other, I was simply following the direction of my father who told me to do it. It was the worst mistake of my life. Allowing your child to get baptized into this faith is criminal as they donít know what theyíre getting into and when they come of age, weather the decision was theirs or not, if they decide to leave, they loose everything. There is no turning back. Youíre now treated as an adult.

Baptism in the Jehovahís Witness faith is the largest step you can possibly take. You disown yourself, not just to God and Christ, but to the Watchtower Organization. You even must answer in the affirmative in front of thousands of people that you realize your baptism makes you part of this organization. Itís not a dedication and baptism to God and Jesus only, but the Watchtower Corporation as well. Consider the following quotesÖ

 

 The Watchtower, January 15th 1969 Issue, Pages 50-51:

Are You Ready for the Responsibilities of a Baptized Witness?

14. His study as well as his association with Jehovah's people helps him to understand that Jehovah has, not only a heavenly, but also an earthly, visible organization of people doing his will. Jesus foretold that among his people there would be a "faithful and discreet slave" class who would be providing the spiritual food to God's family of devoted servants on earth, acting as his channel of communication and overseeing the carrying out of the Kingdom interests world wide. (Matt. 24:45-47)

 

The Watchtower, August 1st 1930 Issue, Page 239:

"The Watchtower is the channel which Jehovah, our God, is using at this time to in the faithful remnant who are keeping the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."

 

The Watchtower, November 1st 1931 Issue, Page 327:

"The Watchtower is not the instrument of a man or any set of men, nor is it published according to the whims of men. No man's opinion is expressed in the Watchtower."

 

The Watchtower, May 15th 1933 Issue, Pages 154-155:

"Surely Jehovah has an organization on earth, because everything with him is done orderly. For many years he has used the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. There is but one class of people that are doing his work on earth today and these we call "the Society", acting under the direction of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society and putting forth the Watchtower publications."

 

The Watchtower, November 1st 1933 Issue, Page 296:

As surely as Jehovah has an organization on the earth, just so surely he is feeding the members of that organization by the hand of Christ Jesus. The facts prove that he uses the Watchtower publications to bring these truths to attention of his remnant....

 

"Riches" Book (1936), Page 316:

"Jehovah has made the necessary arrangements within his organization to instruct his people, and all recognize that for some years The Watchtower has been the means of communicating information to God's people. That does not mean that those that prepare the manuscript for The Watchtower are inspired, but rather it means that the Lord through his angels sees to it information is given to his people in due time...."


The Watchtower, January 1st 1942 Issue, Page 5:

"God uses The Watchtower to communicate to his people: it does not consist of men's opinions"

HELLO? Make me puke! I think God uses the Bible, not the Watchtower to communicate to his peopleÖbut thatís just my opinion.

 

The Watchtower, February 1st 1952 Issue, Pages 79-80:

If we do not see a point at first we should keep trying to grasp it, rather than opposing and rejecting it and presumptuously taking the position that we are more likely to be right than the discreet slave.

We should meekly go along with the Lord's theocratic organization and wait for further clarification....

i.e. Donít question us even if weíre wrong. Allow us to brainwash you until you agree weíre right. No independent thinking is allowed here.

 

Qualified to be Ministers Book (1955):

"Jehovah's Witnesses are an organization of truth. We should want to speak the truth and be absolutely accurate in every detail at all times."

Page 156:

If we have love for Jehovah and for the organization of his people we shall not be suspicious, but shall, as the Bible says, 'Believe all things,' all the things that the Watchtower brings out, in as much as it has been faithful in giving us knowledge of God's purposes....

The Watchtower, May 1st 1957 Issue:

"At all times they (Jehovah's Witnesses) must be very careful not to divulge any information to the enemy that he could use to hamper the preaching work."

Page 274:

"We must recognize not only Jehovah God as our Father but his organization as our Mother."

 

Ok, ok, I get it, to please Jehovah I have to please the Watchtower Corporation. Iím fine with that, itís all I know. I have been indoctrinated with this logic since infancy so I am down with it. One such logic is that everything in your life must be revolved around pursuing the goals that the Watchtower has for you. In matters of how your time is spent, the schooling you take, the hobbies you have, all must be Kingdom Hall approved. Now that Iím baptized I have to live up to it, but since nothing really changed in my life as my parents still take care of me and guide each step at all of ten years old, itís pretty easy. July 15, 1989, Jacksonville Florida Gator Bowl Coliseum, I am baptized. I was so "love bombed" that day although I didnít know that term then or understand what all the fuss for me was about.

That day my mother had decided that we should begin Ďregular auxiliary pioneering.í Thatís when you put in 60 hours of public ministry for the Watchtower Society. We signed up the next week and started in August of that year. Never missed a month no matter the cold or the heat or the school work to be done. There was no social life to speak of, no extra curricular activities as they were all unimportant and worldly compared to what we were involved in. How fun is that for a ten year old? Fifteen hours per week in door to door ministry peddling Watchtower paraphernalia to the public. Surrounded by adults, I thought I was one. Home schooled by my parents, an only child, and preaching daily with other adults, I had rare interaction with other children. This went on for a year and it was exhausting and I longed to do something normal for a change. Just be a kid. Play a sport, learn an instrument, take a class, go to public school, do something non-Watchtower related. But that was not an option. I knew not even to speak of it.

The next August, in 1990, my family went to work unassigned or seldom worked territory. Thatís when Kingdom Hall congregations are too spread out to handle all the territory and so groups can take out a county to work for the Society for one or more weeks. We took a group of seven of us to Hazard Kentucky for two weeks. That was our family summer vacation. The long days started between 6-7am and went well into the night. We left at dawn and returned at dusk or later. Carrying our book bags full of Watchtower literature up mountains and across swinging bridges to preach to these, dare I say, hillbillyís. Everyone had an outhouse. I made the mistake of asking someone if I could use their bathroom and they pointed me down the hill. Thanks dad! What a great vacation. Two weeks of pure hell! Thereís no other word for it. The nature was pretty, even though Iím not much of a nature kind of girl. Those of you that know me know Iím all about fake, plastic, and non-natural. I did want to go swimming in the creeks we passed. Maybe climb down one of the hills, wade in the water and get some rocks to take back to Florida. For two weeks I begged. You think they couldíve done something to make me enjoy myself. But no, nothing but stockings, a dress, and a book bag. I put in 70 hours of labor that two weeks for the Watchtower and I didnít even get to go swimming. How many other eleven year olds put 35 hours a week in for a corporation in order to earn salvation? Even at that age I was thinking like that and I became so self righteous. I was better then the rest because I did more. The more I did the more was expected and the more self righteous I became.

This goes on for another year and now Iím twelve and a half. Another elder in our Kingdom Hall had two children that were home schooled as well. We often went in service together. The three of us in the back seat fighting all day long. Looking back, I donít think itís because we didnít like each other, I think itís because we were all miserable and being abused. I wonít dare say his children were abused like I was, I think they had a nice family and as a matter of fact, I was jealous at the fun they had. Their father wasnít as stoic as mine. They did fun things like football games, real vacations, had a nice house with nice things and didnít only talk about Kingdom Hall things. His daughter took dance lessons and invited me to her recital. I went and loved it. I begged to do it too. Ok, but we had already made plans to enter the full time regular pioneer service that September. A regular pioneer puts in 90 hours a month, 23 hours per week, 1000 hours per year in Watchtower public service. I could take dance classes as long as they didnít interfere with me putting in the required time. So I busted my butt. Loved my ballet and jazz classes and at the end of the year after my first recital I wanted all the classes I could take. So of course, I had to work to help pay for them AND put in 90 hours a month.

At age 14 I was just sick of the pioneer thing. I couldnít stand to go out in service one more freakiní day! I told my dad and he looked like someone had died, he lost his best friend, he didnít seem angry but I could sure tell it broke his heart. I couldnít tell my mom before I did it since sheíd just throw a fit and try to talk me out of it. So I planned to tell her after the fact. That night at the meeting I went up to the elder that was our Service Overseer, Leonard Robinson, and handed him my pioneer card. He asked if I asked my parents and I said, "I told my dad but Iíll tell my mom later. Itís not up to them anyway, isnít this something I have to do from my heart?" He handed the card back to me and asked me to think about it for just two more hours and wait to speak to him after the meeting was over. I did. Right after the meeting I went to him handed him the card and guess who saw? Mom. She was just as hysterical as I imagined. Only I had hoped to tell her in the car ride home. Instead I had to get screamed at in the hall in front of everyone. Four years of my childhood spent on doorsteps I thought was enough. Itís not like I would never go out again, I just didnít want the pressure of having the title and the hour requirement. She got over it and soon she herself quit pioneering.

Iím growing up and having interests in many things. Like never before Iím thinking of what I want to be when I grow up. Since college is forbidden, my options are limited. I loved dance and was excelling year after year. My dance teacher, Gail Parker (Olivia Gale) was so encouraging to me. We had a connection of some kind that as I look back, Iím sure God had put her in my life at that time to help mold me. Had it not been for the experiences and social influence I had at The Dance Workshop I donít think I wouldíve ever achieved social skills, self confidence, or the ability to look at things from a different point of view. I have to say that my relationship with my dance teacher gave me something in my life that I still owe to her. I truly believe God puts people in your life when you need them and she was certainly in my life for a reason. Iíll just say right now to you Miss Gale, thank youÖIíll always remember more than just the steps you taught me.

 I thought maybe dance would be a good career for me. But that fantasy was soon squashed. My parents and others in the Kingdom Hall were constantly pointing out how horrible the entertainment industry was and how scary the life is. Everyone uses you and spits you out and letís not forget, they all use drugs and the girls get raped. Well, thatís the same as college so I guess thatís the wrong thing for me too. But I still have a burning inside me as I am in the middle of my teen years, now 15, to do something. There has to be something I donít know yet. The Watchtower puts your entire world, in fact the entire universe, into a cute little package and independent thinking is forbidden, so what we need to know will be revealed through them and anything else, just ainít that important to know. Yes, I used the word AINíT on purpose.

I liked reading. I donít know where I got that from because my parents didnít care to read. My father, especially my father, didnít like me to read anything that didnít come from the Watchtower. Iíd have to sneak to bring home a library book. Most teenagers I found out later snuck porn and pot but I snuck autobiographyís and self help books. If youíve ever watched them walking up to your door, you know the JW fashion sense is well, a little outdated. My best friend at the time, my only friend actually as she was the only other girl my age in our hall, Marsha Nix and I would get fashion magazines and then Ďdress-upí and take pictures of each other. I can think of much worse things that two teenage girls could be curious about than whatís in style. However, my parents thought it was the end of the world. My mother found a Vogue magazine hidden in my room and then told my father. He went ballistic! I was in so much trouble for having a fashion magazine. I was grounded and screamed at. The one sentence I remember him shouting at me is this "In this house there is no fashion, there is no vogue, there is no glamour, there is nothing but M-O-D-E-S-T, is that clear young lady?!!! Wow, I hate to think how he wouldíve reacted to some of the shocking situations other parents of teens find themselves in. A fashion magazine hidden in my room. Marsha and I decided from that day forward, weíd keep our "dirty magazines" at her house.

Letís talk about boys. Yep, every girl gets a little curious about boys at about 16. I did great up until then. I was a snob, a self righteous little princess that wouldnít dare talk to any boy outside the Kingdom Hall, no matter how cute. I was always looking to see who was cute when weíd go to our conventions and assemblies and visit other congregations. I had a friend that lived about an hour away in Cheifland FL and she had me over one weekend. We went out with a group of friends and in that small group was this way cute guy only 22. I donít think he wouldíve hit on a 16 year old in any normal circumstance but I did act like an adult and letís face it, there arenít a lot of options for a JW meeting a JW especially in a small town. I tried to tell my parents that we wanted to be friends and I was open and honest and tried to hide nothing. I was so trusting of my parents. I knew I didnít want to do anything wrong so surely theyíd let me be friends, right? Well, that lasted about one evening. Myself, this guy, my friends Marsha and Mandy all went to the Perry carnival. We had so much fun. This guy I like wins a big green lion in one of those shooting games. I thought it was the best thing in the world and I was so proud of it. I get home, my dad sends him packing. I get the rules laid out and Iím not to talk to this person again. I thought it was so unfair. Canít they see what a good kid I am? Canít they see how mature I am? I mean Iím about finished with high school Ėtwo years early since well, what else did I have to do with myself? Other than dance, I only worship 5 meetings a week at the Hall, spend 20-60 hours in the ministry a month, have only friends in the Kingdom Hall. What exactly is there Iím supposed to do with myself? Iím bored to death and now I get a new friend and you tell me I canít like him?

Get this, the next day, my big green lion that I had sitting on my bed was hurled into a metal barrel in the field in front of our house that we burned trash in. My father soaked it with gasoline and torched it. I cried. That was the meanest most awful thing he couldíve done to me for no reason. I had done nothing. Now I didnít care to tell my parents anything. I decided to keep my friends a secret and lead a double life. I had a telephone relationship with this guy for several weeks. He was a safe distance. But we wanted to see each other. Since I couldnít just tell my parents so theyíd have him over for dinner, we decide weíll wait until theyíre out of town for the weekend and heíll come up for a visit. Iíll tell you right now Iím going to be the best darned friend to my teenagers so theyíll tell me everything. What happened that night was pretty non eventful to a non JW but to a JW, it was the end of the world. Get this, we were kissing and hugging. OH MY GOD! How immoral. I was 16 and kissing a boy. I couldnít lie for long and my mom knew I was hiding something. She made me look her in the eye and tell her the truth. I tried not to look her in the eye but my lip twitched and I burst into tears and told her that yes, we talked on the phone and yes he came to the house and yes, we hugged and kissed. Immediately she tells my father who then tells me I have committed as sin grave enough to be disfellowshipped for.

I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I didnít have sex, I didnít touch him, he didnít touch me, we didnít do anything but hug and kiss. Well, if the humiliation wasnít enough with the parents, guess what happens next. I have to call the elders myself and tell them Iíve been "involved in wrong doing" and need to meet with a committee. Not only did I have to make one call but I had to make three. We had four elders in our hall at the time, my father was one so that omitted him so the other three would have automatically made the committee. No one has to call three but my father made me. I had to call Cyril Brown, Tommy Stallans, and Tom Parker. They bring me in for my trial, like the one when I was six only this time Iím the bad guy. They ask me a ton of questions about this little relationship. I was completely honest but still I was close to being disfellowshipped. I begged I cried, I pleaded not to be disfellowshipped. I had only kissed this person and I didnít know that was breaking any law so on the basis of my ignorance please grant forgiveness. They decided not to disfellowship me but they would make a public announcement that I had been reproved and take away some of my privileges for several months. I worked hard to get my privileges back and I went in service almost every day. I was embarrassed because of the public announcement made to the congregation. Why it needed to be public I donít know. Everyone looks at you differently then and treats you differently too.

Well, months later I still really like this guy and Iím older and more sure of myself and Iím going on 17 and I think Iím just all that. Who doesnít think theyíre all that at 16 and a half. So I call this guyís brother and tell him to tell his brother to call me. He does and we start it all over again. Just talking on the phone and nothing else. Well, as most girls do, they sort out feelings writing in a journal and thatís what I did. Everything I thought about and ever thought about doing went on paper. It was graphic but I hadnít done anything. I was just growing up and wondering. Then one day mom finds a piece of paper with our names and little hearts on it and she took it to my dadÖsee a pattern here, she was such a good JW wife! She couldnít keep anything from him. Then she tares into my room, grabs my journal to see what Iíve been writing about. I sit in the den of our home humiliated my head buried in my hands as she reads it aloud to my father. At one point he can take no more so he gets up, walks to his room and gets his 2 inch wide leather belt folds it in half and holds it in his right hand, takes my ponytail in his left and drags me around by my hair beating me with the belt as I scream. For what? For liking a boy and writing about it in a journal. He tells me how wicked I am and how dirty I am and how much Jehovah is displeased with me. I didnít feel angry with my parents then, I felt bad. I felt like a bad person and as I contemplated all the good I did everyday, all the doors I knocked on and hours I preached and meetings I sat through and good things I did for the elderly, the poor, the sick, all the groups I was in and the volunteer spirit I had, I was still this bad, wicked, evil person that God hated. I felt so unloved and like a bad plague on my family that I decided to leave it. My father called me all kinds of horrible names like, sludge in a drain pipe, a whore, a harlot, a tramp, all for having feelings for someone and writing in a diary. I believed I was that bad person.

So the next morning I called this guy and told him I didnít want to live there anymore. So he told me to pack my things and heíd be outside my window at 2:00am the following morning. That day I went to the bank and closed out my savings account at Tree Capital Credit Union, all $200.00 that was in there. Sure enough, he was in my yard that night. I snuck out the back door after I pet my dogís head and we were off. I had no clue where we were going or what we were going to do once we got there but I was outta Perry Florida and outta that house! We walked from my house on Reddick Drive all the way downtown to a hotel. We stayed there one night and then took a cab to Tallahassee where we hopped a Greyhound to Memphis Tennessee. Just like some country song here was this small town girl and boy liviní on love and set out to make it in some big city but stayiní below the Mason Dixon line. About 30 hours later or there about I had a whole new world open up to me. At some Days Inn on Union Street in downtown Memphis I was with the guy I was going to marry and having the time of my little life. The next day I find a job at a Dennyís as a waitress. I bought my uniform at the Salvation Army and made $13.86 in tips my first, last, and only day there. That night I called home and my mom was having a complete meltdown and my parents promised if I just came home theyíd let me be with him and that I wouldnít be in trouble and they were sorry for how they handled it. They purchased our bus tickets home and we were on our way back to Perry.

On Trial Again

We pull up at the Texaco bus stop just south of Perry and Iím greeted by my family. Everyone is crying and hugging and we get in the car and go home. We get in and my dad calls my boyfriends family and makes arrangements for him to go home. The promise that we could be together was all a lie to get me to come home. I am again made to call the elders and have a meeting set up for me. This time I am sorry for my sin against God but not as cowardly toward the elders. I just didnít see how they were so much better than I was anymore. I could no longer see how anyone was better than anyone else and I didnít want the life I grew up in. I wanted to be a JW since thatís all I knew but I didnít want to live in the house with my parents and be treated so badly when I was such a good kid. I was forced to be an adult but could have no adult privileges, only the responsibilities. I either wanted to be a kid and be involved in school and activities or I wanted to be a grown up and live my own life completely. I was trapped. Full of responsibility and made to act like an adult since I was ten, only associating with adults but couldnít fully be one. I was resentful.

Let me tell you what disfellowshipping is like. It is the worst thing that can happen to a JW. It is "Spiritual Death". You are completely alienated from all you've ever known. You are forbidden to speak to anyone in the organization - even your own fathers, mothers, grandparents, children, brothers or sisters. You disown your family because they've disowned God by sinning and not showing enough repentance to the Watchtower appointed committee. Since as a JW youíre supposed to be no part of the world of non-believers, you have no other friends other than Jehovahís Witnesses so it is devastatingly lonely. In most churches your sin is forgiven by God and it is between you and Him. In the Watchtower you must wait for a panel of men to tell you when they've had revealed to them that God forgives you.

At 16 after coming home from my little big girl time in Memphis, I was immediately drug before the elders to face judgment. I begged and pleaded, I sobbed and bawled. I begged not to be put out and how sorry and repentant I was and Iíd never do it again but there was no deal to be made. They disfellowshipped me and put me out of the only life Iíd ever known. I was now not allowed to speak to any Jehovahís Witness but on the other hand, I was not to befriend non believers so who could I talk to? It was the loneliest place to be. A dark hole from which you canít escape. The entire time I was disfellowshipped I just knew Armageddon would come and Jehovah would kill me. I had to get back in before that happened. So every time those Kingdom Hall doors were open I was there. I read my Bible everyday for hours (what else could I do?). My parents treated me like crap and my father couldnít even make eye contact with me. For four months (to a teenager it was four years) I put up with this punishment. I kept thinking how my dad always called disfellowshipped people "Bird meat" and how horrible it was to be labeled as such. My dad called it Ďdeath rowí. "You know youíre going to die, you just donít know when Godís going to kill you." I was terrified.

So terrified was I, that I had a plan to outsmart the Almighty. Romans 5:12 says "The wages sin pays is death." Our belief was that if you died before God killed you at Armageddon that youíd automatically have a resurrection and be given a second chance. So I thought to myself, "Why not kill myself now, then my sins can be forgiven and Iíll be guaranteed a resurrection." Iím a little chicken so I had to think long and hard of how Iíd carry this out. So after much consideration, I had it! I would drive our car into that big blue garage and hook up one of my dadís carpet cleaning hoses to the tail pipe and then the other end duct tape into a window. Start the engine, open my Bible to Romans 5:12 and see you in Paradise! My plan obviously didnít develop because all the while I was planning it I was desperately begging the elders to let me back in. Finally they came up to me and said they would and that of course changed things.

Now I was 17 and faced the task of rebuilding friendships. To be that age and have no one is so bad. We all need people and I had not one friend. I had also graduated high school and there was no hope of me attending college because it was a forbidden word in my home. Again education wasnít necessary, preaching was. I faced a choice, either hurry up and get married to a JW brother so he could think for me as husbands are supposed to, OR I could let my parents support me and start knocking on doors 90 hours a month again. There was no support for me at home to get an education or to pursue full time employment. The only ticket out of that hell of a house was to get a husband. I chose the latter. Married at 17, baby #1 at 19, baby #2 at 20 and no education on top of it. I knew how to work hard though and my husband and I were deeply engrossed in starting our business which we took to Tallahassee in 1999.

We sold our business in 2001 and started to work for other people. I got a great job and was finally happy. I felt good about what I was doing. I had a great career start and I was making money. Then I fell in love with my boss. For the first time I felt "In Love", not like I was doing the expected thing or the most logical thing but just happy. I shouldnít have but I embraced it and ran with it. It ended tragically but the experience I donít think Iíd trade in.

I was again disfellowshipped in 2002. At that time I thought it was the worst thing that could happen in my life. I was devastated. Now I thank God he pulled me out of that darkness. My husband and I separated and we were miserable. I kept thinking that everything bad was happening because I had sinned and Jehovah was punishing me. I went back to my husband for three years and felt dead inside. I was disconnected from everything except work. Even that wasnít fulfilling. I didnít have a deep meaningful relationship with anyone. I threw myself into my job and my kids. Because I had an empty shell of a marriage and no solid faith, I was around my children and gave them a lot of love, but I was disconnected with them as well. I couldnít build real friendships and I realize why now. I didnít know who I was so I couldnít have any inner peace to be able to present myself in any relationship to anyone else. Not friends, relatives, children or husband. No one got the true me because I didnít know who the true me was. My mind was mush from years of indoctrination as a JW and knowing that wasnít right but not knowing what was. I was scared to look elsewhere. After all demons inhabit other churches. Maybe I was wrong and God just didnít want me anymore. Maybe I wasnít worthy of being a JW and thatís why I didnít want to do it. Maybe I was just a person with a wicked heart and all the Holy Spirit in the universe couldnít change me to good. I battled these thoughts for three years. I would go to the Kingdom Hall on and off and for special occasions like the Memorial or a Circuit Overseer visit. Still each time Iíd leave I would leave angry and just burning inside. I hated being there. I hated the treatment and the message was depressing. It was all doom and gloom and destruction that Iíd heard my whole life. I remember going in one Sunday and listening to the sermon and thinking to myself, "Could they for once talk about something happy? Is anyone in here happy? Do all churches teach this way?" I didnít feel like praising God with a cheerful heart when I left, I wanted to end my life if itís as bad as they portrayed it.

For months I quit going. One day my husband begged me to go to the Circuit Overseerís Sunday discourse. I agreed. When it came time, we were both sick and missed it. Bummer. The next Sunday the same service was given at a different local Kingdom Hall that we werenít members of. Tallahassee is small and the "brotherhood" is even smaller so even though we didnít attend that congregation there were still dozens of people who knew us and knew I was disfellowshipped. I didnít want to go that Sunday but my husband reminded me that I promised and he was holding me to it. So he went to the bathroom to shower and get ready and I got on my knees next to our bed and this is the prayer I prayed that (Superbowl) January 2005 Sunday morningÖ

"Jehovah, I hate going to the Kingdom Hall. I have so many mixed emotions and I donít know which one is right. I need an answer and I need one now. Iíve waited for three years and just gone through the motions. I want and need to move on with my life so I need a sign from you. Iím going to go to the Kingdom Hall today and I want you to show me in some way that, 1.You want me there and Jehovahís Witnesses are right and make my heart want to worship you there OR 2. Show me theyíre right and Iím a bad person and Iím not good enough to be there so I can go out and live up the world for all I can before you kill me OR 3. Show me thatís not where you want me and point me in the direction to really find you. I want to be good. I want to know you. I want to feel like youíre listening to me when I pray. I want to have you in my life. IF you donít want me to be in my life and you donít love me then show me that too so I wonít waste my time on you and I can just go be worldly. Today I need a sign. I will walk through the doors of that Kingdom Hall and I want you to show me one of those three things. In Jesusí name, Amen."

I went and nothing the first hour. Nothing the second hour, just that I was bored but that wasnít much of a sign, theyíre always boring. Song, prayer, still no sign. Then as I am getting ready to leave