Nelson's Story

My Testimony – By Nelson Howe

When I was about 11 years old my mother took me to a new kind of church. I remember that as we got out of the car I looked at this strange shaped building, I said to my mother, “It’s nice to be going to church again, I’m gonna get myself a cross to hang ‘round my neck”, “NO!!” said mum, “We don’t do that here”. So began my first encounter with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

When my father was alive he was a lay preacher in the Baptist Church, an Irishman who had endured a very tough upbringing on the streets of Belfast. He left the Province and came to England, met mum, they got married, had kids etc. I remember the Sunday school classes in a room at the back of the church. We used to play with fuzzy felt apostles, we loved it.

Sadly, in 1965 he was diagnosed with cancer. He took us to the places he loved in the Province that summer and on January 30 1966 he died. He left a widow with three children, me aged 5, my brother aged 2 and my sister aged 1. My mum met another man, got married in Kingswood Baptist Church, had another child a couple of years later and life just trundled along very simply for another couple of years.

During those later couple of years a lady would visit mum and drink coffee and eat biscuits. I just thought she was one of her friends. Then one day I got home from school and mum had a gift for me, in fact she had one for each of us. It was a book; a little blue book entitled “The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life”. She told me that we were going to start attending church again and that she would study the book with us. I thought it was great, I always believed in God, I always believed the Bible, and now we could worship again, Dad would be so pleased I thought. When my stepfather came home and mum told him her plans he went ballistic. I couldn’t understand, but I didn’t get involved.

Well, that’s how we reached that first encounter with the witnesses. We started going regularly on Sundays, then Thursdays, and sometimes on a Tuesday too. It was very different from what I was used to, and I found it difficult to understand. We did try though. My mum rarely studied with us, it was not really her thing, and so we never really had these doctrines explained to us. I remember thinking, ‘I know we don’t have blood transfusions but why?’ along with a few other things too.

I remember one occasion at group when they were studying the Ezekiel book and the overseer asked a question about a gate. I had no idea what he was talking about but there were 4 gates and I had a 25% chance of getting the answer right, so I boldly put up my hand and he asked for my answer, “West” I said confidently, “Nope” he replied and he chose another hand that gave him the correct answer. I never answered again; in fact I couldn’t understand anything they were talking about. I wondered why we weren’t talking about Jesus and walking on water, miracles and saving people, I couldn’t understand what all this Ezekiel stuff was and I just got more and more confused because nobody ever took the time to explain things to me.

When I reached 15 I’d had enough. There were some really selfish people at the hall, although there were many very kind people too. One Thursday evening I rebelled and told mum I didn’t want to go anymore. She told me to get ready because I was going whether I like it or not. “I’m not going, I don’t understand it and I don’t like it so I don’t want to go anymore”, I said. Mum came storming up the stairs with the rolling pin in her hand, growling, “YOU’RE GOING!!” “OK”, I squeaked. That night at the hall my sister would not stop teasing me because of my put-down from mum, she kept on saying “You will go Nelson”, I wanted to smash her face in, I was full of bitterness for this Kingdom Hall and everyone in it, I just wanted to go home and never see it again.

Shortly after this I again made my feelings known to mum and asked her why she was making me go when all it did was make me hate it more, she said it was up to me if I wanted to go or not so I stopped. For the next 5 years I rode the devil’s highway. I rebelled big time, getting into all sorts of trouble and living life without a care. I then met my wife, we got married, had kids etc.

In 1988 we had a difficult year financially. My wife returned to work to help make ends meet. We gave Amway a try to see if we could become really successful and live in big houses with flash cars and yachts & stuff. All that happened is we ended up with cupboards full of the worlds best detergents. Nevertheless some good did come from it. Amway supply lots of ‘positive thinking’ tapes of usually American characters that have mastered the art of thinking big, dreaming, setting positive goals etc. On one of these tapes was an American minister who also did Amway. He quoted the scriptures a lot as a source of strength for him during difficult times. He said he used the Bible as his ‘positive thinking’ book, and the scriptures he quoted touched my heart. I felt God talking to me and I yearned to worship again.

My Amway sponsor said something to me that changed my life. He asked me if I could make a list of everything I wanted in my life, everything I wanted to have, achieve etc. I said that I would. He then asked me if I would be able to make a similar list but of everything within the next 5 years, I said I would. Then He said would I be able to list everything I wanted in the next year, to which a said I would. I asked him what it was all about. He said, “If you went to the doctors in the morning and he told you that you had 90 days to live, what would be on that list?” “WOW! Deep stuff I thought, what would I want?” I could only think of 2 things, that everything I could do for my family was done (checked insurances etc) and that I would go to church again to “…save my soul”. He said to me, “If those last things are not top of your first list, you should rethink that first list”. I couldn’t believe what he said, he was so right. I also thought about how selfish I was living my life without consideration of how God felt, and then the thought of turning to Him when I’m on my deathbed, I felt I should do something about that immediately.

Funny how we reason sometimes. I told my wife, who is catholic, that I wanted the children to learn Christian morals and about Jesus etc. and that we should start going to church. I reasoned, if all the religions originated from the Catholic Church, then that must be the original and true religion, and with my wife being Catholic it seemed an obvious choice. So we started attending mass every Sunday at our local Catholic Church. I bought a new Bible as I only had an old King James one and I just couldn’t read that old English, I got a Good News Bible, nice and easy to read that one is.
After a while we decided to have the children and me christened, and to retake our wedding vows too, and so we did. The priest gave me some books to read, fortunately I did read them and some of the things I read disturbed me. I solidly believed the Bible and could not agree with certain things that were just based in tradition and seemed unscriptural to me. I found myself confused again and only wanting to know the truth I prayed to God for help, I asked Him to show me the truth.

I used to work most Saturdays, but on this particular one I didn’t. KNOCK! KNOCK! I answered the door and there stood a lady with a young lad offering me the latest Watchtower and Awake magazines. “I have some questions for you”, I said. I asked her why they didn’t have blood transfusions, didn’t celebrate Christmas and why they say Jesus was nailed to a stake and not a cross. She answered all the questions with the help of the ‘Reasoning Book’. I was actually quite impressed, as she had used the Bible to answer the blood and Christmas questions, but she quoted the Greek from the reasoning book for the stake question. I like languages, and I had taught myself some Russian a few years previously and I knew that the Greek alphabet was similar. This Greek bit interested me. I took the magazines, bid them farewell and went indoors. My wife went mental when she saw the magazines, I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t have time to read them so I put them away. Later that week I got home early from work and was sitting down with a cuppa, bored, and then I remembered the magazines. I took them out and read them through. They just seemed to answer all my questions, all my queries about the Catholic faith etc. it was all there. As I read them a lot of stuff that I thought I’d forgotten started coming back to me. I remember thinking “This is it, this is…..THE TRUTH”. I wanted to go to a Kingdom Hall there and then, but I would have to wait until the Thursday.

On that Thursday I went to the Kingdom Hall. I was King Scruffy of Scruffingham as I had my entire window fitting clothes on and my hair was filthy and a complete mop. I remember arriving as clearly as if it were right now as I write. I was a bit late and they were saying the opening prayer as I walked in, and right in front of me, the attendant stood there with his eyes closed, it was Mark, an old school pal of mine. When they said Amen I entered and sat down, it was the Theocratic Ministry School and the instruction talk was from a book called “All Scripture is Inspired and Beneficial” and the subject was the book of Jeremiah. The year was 1988. A brother handed me a Bible, the New World Translation, and a sister handed me a songbook. As I listened, the brother giving the talk used the scripture where Jeremiah refused to speak Gods word but he had to because it proved to be ‘like a fire shut up in his bones’. That was how I felt, and it convinced me that I had found the truth and that God wanted me to be here. At the end of the meeting my friend Mark came up to me, and fighting his way through the curious crowd who had gathered around me to find out why this scruff was at the meeting, he asked me how I got to the meeting, “I came in my van”, I replied, “No, I mean why are you here, what has made you come here?” I told him the above concerning Amway and the Catholic Church etc. He offered to study with me and I eagerly accepted. When I arrived home and told my wife where I’d been, I think she would have been happier if I’d said I’d spent the night in complete debauchery in a brothel, she was not happy.

I went along on my own for a while, and then I started to take my two small children too. I studied the ‘Live Forever Book’ and asked if I could go out on the ministry with them. I was told that I would need to speak with a couple of elders before I could. They spoke with me and everything was fine and so in spring of 1989 I went out on field service on a Sunday afternoon ready to offer the ‘Revelation Book’. It was ok, I’m not a shy kind of person so knocking on the doors and being rejected etc never bothered me, I just wanted to do it, and I wanted to talk to people about God. That summer I was baptized at the Norwich Convention, along with mum, (who had drifted away onto Satan’s highway too and returned to the Witnesses at the same time as me. This kind of help convince me it was the truth too) and another young sister from our congregation. I remember the bit when they ask you the questions just prior to baptism, they put a microphone right in front of us three, now I wasn’t call Nelson Foghorn at school for nothing, “YES! YES!” I shouted both times, they probably heard it in New York; I was on a high and loving every minute of it, oh for the gift of hindsight.

Interestingly, while I was studying, my Amway sponsor gave me a video about Jehovah’s Witnesses. There were some comments from Raymond Franz on there and it had all the stuff about Beth-Sarim and interviews with lots of disfellowshipped people on it. I watched it, and when I got to the Kingdom Hall I asked if the stuff about the Houses in Beth-Sarim was true, “Yes”, said Mark, “we didn’t quite understand some of the prophecies and some mistakes were made, but when our understanding of God’s word was revealed by the spirit, we adjusted our view. Many religions make mistakes but they never adjust to accurate knowledge of Gods Word, Jehovah’s Witnesses do”. I respected his honesty regarding Beth-Sarim and it actually help convince me that I had the truth. If he had denied it, I would probably never have become a witness.

As I would read the scriptures that spoke of the children of God, it was spoken to me. But as a Witness, that meant professing to be one of the anointed. I remember praying very hard about it. I asked God to reveal my true hope to me, and I asked Him to confirm or refute my feelings that my hope was heavenly. As I read the scriptures I felt He confirmed my feelings, I was overjoyed and felt very privileged, it was quite humbling. The days that followed were glorious, I felt so alive. When I was at the group meeting I asked the overseer if I could speak to him at some time in private, and we arranged a meeting later that week. I told this elder that my hope was heavenly and to his credit he said that that was between me and Jehovah and that there was nothing he could say either way. Not long before the Memorial we worked together on the ministry and he asked me if I intended to partake of the emblems and I said I would.

One Sunday morning shortly before the Memorial the Presiding Overseer asked me if I was available that afternoon for a meeting. I said I was and asked what it was about but he was elusive and said it wasn’t anything I need worry about and that it was just a simple formality. I met with Him and another elder that afternoon at the Kingdom Hall. He said that it was usual practice to have a meeting with newly baptised brothers to see how they are getting along and to discuss further development. We went into the small school and I noticed paper markers in some bound volumes. They opened with prayer and asked generic questions about how I felt about the congregation, how my relationship with Jehovah was progressing, my thoughts on field service etc. Then the other elder asked me how I felt about the Memorial, he asked me how I understood the significance of it and how I felt about my hope. He mentioned the heavenly and earthly hope and asked me how I felt about each one and what each meant to me personally. I now knew what this was about and I was a bit annoyed that they were trying to solicit the information from me rather than just asking me outright. I told them bluntly that my hope was heavenly and didn’t comment on any of the other things they asked, as I knew that this was the real issue.

The presiding overseer looked at me in a way that I can only describe as the way I felt Caiaphas probably looked at Jesus when He admitted He was the Christ. The other elder asked me if I realised the significance of what I was saying, “Of course I do”, I replied. He then asked me why I thought Jehovah would choose me, and he opened one of the bound volumes (one years watchtowers bound into one volume) and showed me an article that suggested that the full number of the ‘anointed’ was completed in about 1935 and that if any had ‘fallen away’ and needed replacing, Jehovah would choose someone who had served faithfully for many years, it even suggested the names of some long serving missionaries who could be possible candidates. “Why was the apostle Paul chosen, what did he do to ‘earn’ his place then?” I thought. I told them that it is God who decides and that when I read the scriptures regarding the heavenly hope I’m sure they apply to me. I explained that I had always felt this way and that I had made it a matter of serious prayer.

“Nelson, we know you love Jehovah and that you feel very close to him, your progress, your answers, and your faithfulness all testify that you truly love God, but everyone goes through this. It is just that loving God in itself does not make one a member of the anointed class, you will realise this in time. You know that this is the truth and I’m sure you would like to be very close to Jehovah, but the full number of the anointed is filled”, said the other elder. The PO then said, “I know the numbers of the anointed have risen recently, but that is a result of changes in Eastern Europe where more accurate records of the number of partakers in countries where we were banned are now known”. They then recounted the account of Korah who tried to usurp Moses position. They said that it is a very serious matter to profess to be of the anointed, a brother of Christ and destined for a priestly position in heaven, if I haven’t been chosen. They said that it was the same as what Korah did and that they were confident that I was humble, and not haughty like Korah.

I left there feeling numb. The ground might as well have opened up and swallowed me. I thought hard about what they said; I was confused about my feelings. I still felt part of Gods family but I was asking myself if it was me, was I just being emotional? Was it a lack of humility and seeking prominence? When the Memorial came I sat at the back. They brought in the Circuit Overseer to give the talk and it was all about how the full number of the anointed was filled and that there would not be any need for God to add anyone else. He also mentioned the consequences of partaking unworthily and that those who ate and drank unworthily would eat and drink judgement to themselves. I decided not to partake. I left that Memorial feeling like I’d denied Christ three times, it made me feel unworthy and my meeting attendance began to suffer after this.

I struggled to maintain my balance with phases of missing meetings for weeks at a time and then returning with a fiery zeal, only to sink down again and miss meetings for weeks and so on and so on. I was like a manic Witness with huge peaks and very low troughs, but never able to find my balance. Eventually I decided to move congregation and try to start afresh. I moved into a congregation across town. I knew quite a few of the brothers and sisters and settled in very quickly. The elders were not so Pharisaic as my old congregation, they even told jokes on field service so I found it quite refreshing to be among some more genuine people.

I began to progress well, though I still battled with the feelings of belonging to God’s heavenly family but kept deliberately suppressing them by deliberately speaking about the joys of everlasting life on earth, but every time I mentioned it, it never felt right. After a little hiccup (another phase of missing meetings for a few weeks) I began to settle down and really made progress. My loyal, loving wife, though never interested in the witnesses, always entertained them and was a wonderful, hospitable host to them. She did become very friendly with some and they even commented that she was better, more hospitable and genuine than a lot of the sisters.

In 1993 tragedy struck. I was unemployed and then in the May I collapsed with chest pains and was taken to hospital. They told my wife and me that I’d had a heart attack. We were shocked. I had to take drugs; there were lots of restrictions and stuff. We had a new baby who was 6 weeks old and we had a few arrears on our mortgage (as a result of some earlier financial troubles). We tried to claim on our insurance but it turned out to be as worthless as the paper it was written on, we’d been ripped off. In February 1994 our home was repossessed and we were put into temporary accommodation. I must admit some of the brothers and sisters were very supportive and helpful, many were not though. Its very easy to say “Sorry to hear about your problems but Jehovah will get you through it”, but try applying it when you’re in that situation. Well we did, and my meeting attendance didn’t suffer, in fact I put my full reliance on God and He did strengthen my family and me at this difficult time.

We found out that my wife was pregnant again and were overjoyed, though apprehensive. I trusted God and thanked Him for giving us the strength to endure such tribulations. In the June of 1994 I had an angiogram and was given a clean bill of health, it had not been a heart attack so it was no more drugs and I could live a normal life. I could now get a job and we could start to rebuild our lives. Then in the July, just after the Norwich Convention, the baby died and my wife had to be induced and give birth to our dead son. I read Psalm 139 over and over again, I prayed constantly through tears of pain. My wife signed the Jehovah’s Witness consent form and refused a blood transfusion for which the anaesthetist treated her horrible, even though she was not a witness, she did not want blood and was prepared to die rather than have blood. She was in so much pain emotionally and physically and here she was exercising more faith than most witnesses I’ve met.

The afternoon we found out that our Luke was dead I phoned my mum to ask if she would watch our other children while my wife went through this nightmare, she said that she was going on a trip to Bethel with the congregation and would not be available, “Otherwise I could do it son, sorry to hear about that but remember that Jehovah…….” I didn’t hear the rest of what she said, I was too numb from the total lack of empathy for her grandchild that had just died, my own mother preferred to have a day trip to Bethel with her so called ‘spiritual family’ than to support her actual family in this crisis, and on top of everything else we’d endured too. I have long since forgiven her for this, but I cannot understand how she could have enjoyed that trip knowing what we were going through. If she did enjoy it, I really pity her. We have had our ups and downs but I love her very much and our relationship has been pretty good, but at the time it crushed me.

My wife got herself a job to occupy herself and I went to college to study computer science and broaden my chances of employment. Later that year I was appointed a ministerial servant and went to the Kingdom Ministry School at the Bowes Road assembly hall in North London. I really felt that God was using me and that He had a purpose for me in this congregation. Interestingly, I have always felt that God has a purpose for me, even though I was a complete waster as a youth, I felt God tapping me on the shoulder a few times and would preach to my friends that God is true and stuff and they would think I was losing my mind or had discovered some new kind of herb and was experimenting with it.
Now I was taking my three children to meetings myself, no mean feat as such, but if you are a sister who does that, there are usually a few willing volunteers to help, but if you are a brother and bring a tribe of kids, “He’s the head of the house, he must carry his own load, a man that cannot look after his own cannot, look after the household of God etc”, the offers were comparable to the amount of money I had in the bank, minus x amount.
I remember when I was given the ‘privilege’ of the magazine counter. I was responsible for collecting the magazines from another Kingdom Hall (my old congregation actually) and checking the amounts and putting them into the respective pigeonholes for the brothers. Then on Sundays and Thursdays I spent the entire association time (before and after the meeting) handing out magazines to people who just couldn’t be bothered to come to the kiosk to get them. On one occasion a sister stuck her head in and moaned that my youngest was misbehaving in the hall and what was I going to do about it. I said that maybe I should close the magazine counter and take care of my children instead as nobody is going to offer to do it for me while I minister to the entire congregation. On another occasion, a sister, whose teenage son had recently been baptised, came to the counter for her magazines. My eldest son (who was about 10 at the time and not baptised) was helping me. She said to me, “ I see you’ve got your little BAPTISED!!!!! Helper with you”, (with great emphasis on the word baptised) and she snatched the magazines out of his hand. I said to her that there is nothing wrong with a child helping his dad and that I would prefer to see him encouraged a bit more rather than criticized, she just sneered and walked away.

Because of these difficulties with absolutely no one in the entire congregation willing to watch my children while I served the magazines, I asked for a different ‘privilege’. I was given the task of assigning the talks for the ministry school. They took this job from a brother who had faithfully done this for years, but was not an ‘appointed’ brother, he was absolutely gutted and felt used and discarded. When he mentioned this they rebuked him for a lack of spiritual maturity. I felt for him because he is a dear friend whom I love very much and he has never really ever recovered from the treatment he gets at the hall, but he still hangs on in there. One Thursday meeting I asked all the children who were in the hall if they would like to help me, they all gleefully said yes so I gave out all the talk slips among them and asked them to give them to the students and if there were any left, to give them back to me. In walks this sister (the one who was obviously dying for her newly baptised son to have congregational privileges) and sees my son with talk slips in his hand. She approached me and accused me of failing to appreciate spiritual blessings and congregational privileges. She said that privileges were for baptised brothers only and that my son had no right to be doing what amounted to appointed work in the congregation. She accused me of failing to appreciate my appointment and that she was going to take matters further. I told her to calm down and not to get so upset about my son helping his dad, her face went red with rage, I nearly burst out laughing as she looked so ridiculous standing in her cheap coat flapping like an overweight penguin. She still doesn’t speak to me now.
Things like this went on and on and it was affecting my children. There were problems with some of the more ‘established’ kids, the sons and daughters of elders who can do no wrong so I asked to step down as a ministerial servant. The elders talked to me and tried to prevent me but I said that my family come first and I need to focus on them. I wasn’t even at the meeting when they announced my ‘resignation’. They make it seem like you’re Esau and you’ve despised your inheritance. We eventually left the congregation and went back to my old one. After a short while my daughter said she no longer wanted to go. I sat down with her and discussed it using the scriptures, the Reasoning Book and the Greatest Man Book. I could see that she knew what she wanted and I’d always said that I would never force them to worship God; they had to do it from their own heart and be true to God and not to men. I told her that I was disappointed, but that it was now up to her if she wanted to go or not. She never went again.

I tottered along for a while and then began to drift. My faith was actually waning and I began to feel that I just was not worthy of God favour. I stopped going and in a year only went to the Memorial. For some strange reason, I suddenly felt the urge to attend a meeting. I went to a meeting, then another, and another and suddenly found myself regularly attending the meetings as if nothing had happened, I really felt as though that whole years absence didn’t exist and was answering up at the meetings, studying, encouraging etc. Everyone was completely bemused by it and when I would answer up, heads would wag. The elders called me into the little room. They asked me how I was and that it was good to see me attending the meetings, but as I had taken a whole year out, they wanted to know if I’d been a naughty boy during my worldly sojourn, I confessed everything without a hint of guilt, they were stunned – birthday parties, celebrating Christmas, swearing, getting drunk a couple of times, and a few other slight misdemeanours – you should have seen their faces. Actually, when I mentioned that I’d been to my bosses birthday party they looked at each other and the elder speaking to me was nodding as if they already knew about it, and I reckon they probably did, so when I confessed it openly and candidly, it just took them by surprise. They didn’t have to solicit anything they got the full Monty. I was privately reproved and get this, I was told that if I answer up at the meeting, I must add a confession of some sort as there was a danger of me stumbling someone if I answered up regarding holy living when I’d been such a heathen for the past year. I did it though, and without shame. I’m not embarrassed about myself, I’m imperfect and have made some major league blunders in my time, but I know that God and Christ love me and no man will ever tell me different because I know it in my heart and spirit.

After a while my eldest son no longer wanted to go. I did the same for him as I had my daughter it was hard though. Even though they were no longer Witnesses, I refused to let it be a shameful thing. I knew that others whispered, but God knows everything and I’m only concerned about His standards, not any mans.

In 1999 my wife was pregnant again. After a few months there were some complications and she had to go to Kings College Hospital in London. They told us that the baby has a renal defect (kidney etc) and that the baby would not survive for very long after it was born. They encouraged an abortion. We were devastated, but my wife especially so. She had lost a son, had another miscarriage and now this. She was stunned and became very confused; she didn’t know what to do. I said that we should just leave things in Gods hand. She said to me, and I can remember it clearly, “Will Jehovah bring our baby to life then?” I just said that Jehovah would put all things right in His time, but that we should try to be strong. It was easier for me to say that, I didn’t have to carry the child. After another hospital visit they put her under a lot of pressure to abort the baby. I said that I could not consent to it. My wife was totally bewildered; she’d always been anti-abortion and was now facing this issue herself. She felt that she couldn’t go through with a pregnancy that would result in another dead child; she broke down and cried bitterly. It was the most emotional moment I’ve ever been through. She asked me if I will still love her, I said of course I would, my heart was being torn to pieces.

We went home and I went to see an elder. He was ok, but as I had not long come back from the land of Sodom and Egypt, he didn’t show much empathy. He seemed more concerned with whether I was going to uphold Jehovah’s ways than trying to understand the pain I was going through. I just thanked him for listening and went home. I tried talking to my wife and just burst into tears. My wife came over to me, hugged me and said, “What chance is there that I will go full term?” I said that I had no idea, but I asked her to just leave making any decision until she had a bit more emotional balance. I prayed about nothing else, and I found myself reading Psalm 139 again repeatedly. The next day she said to me, “We’ll get through this together, just please be patient with me”. I agreed. She hardly spoke to me for the next two and a half days when she just suddenly told me that she wants to go full term and that the time that the baby grows inside her is the time we’ll have with our baby. We treasured every moment of her pregnancy, ever little kick, every movement; we lived them as much as we could. We agreed that any part of our baby’s organs could be used, and then at least her death would not be totally without cause.

On September 29 1999 our daughter Rachel was born. She lived for 33 minutes and died peacefully in my wife’s arms. She said that she was glad she went full term and that I was right. I said that it is God who is right, I don’t know any other way anymore.

We got a few cards from some of the brothers and sisters, one phone call from a brother, but no one visited, not a single soul. There was no visit from the caring shepherds, nothing. I was beginning to get very disillusioned with Jehovah’s Witnesses and the serious lack of love they have for people. When the Circuit Overseer asked me how I felt about the congregation I told him, he nearly fell over. He asked me how many elders had come to see my wife, and me when I told him none, he refused to believe me at first, and then he could see I was serious. He asked for a meeting of the body of elders, I would like to have had a listen in, but a few elders said they wanted to speak with me afterwards, I never bothered with them, I just felt that they were covering there own skin, not that they cared at all about me or my family.

I left that congregation and returned to the other congregation again. I just ticked along until 2003, not really doing anything, not going when I did, doing the odd bit of field service, and the odd social gathering. I went to the Conventions, I quite enjoyed them most of the time, but I really had issue with the brothers and sisters, there just wasn’t the love and true devotion I thought would exist among the people of God. I went to the Plymouth Convention in 2003 I didn’t like it. The drama was good though; I’ve always enjoyed them even if the point being made grated my teeth. The thing is this; a short while prior to convention season the Kingdom Ministry always contains a ‘question & answer’ article about conduct and dress etc at district conventions. It amazes me to hear the brothers and sisters all answering up about how we should all be in our seats before each program starts, not to eat and drink during the sessions (especially the baptisms), to peacefully queue for things and to take notes. Then come convention weekend, there are endless people walking around during the songs, prayers and talks, kids sitting wherever, flocks standing around outside the stadiums chatting, people scoffing sweets, crisps and drinking during the sessions (including the baptisms), drivers pushing in at the front of the queues to get into the car parks without queuing, and people sleeping rather than taking notes. I have nothing against all these things; it’s just that they act as though they don’t happen; there is so much hypocrisy. Plymouth was worse than Norwich for these things. Even mum and her husband were fed up and on the Sunday we sat in their car listening to the talks on the radio and eventually left early to avoid the traffic, none of us were really interested in the last talk which is always a ‘self praise’ type of talk with all the statistics etc., it’s all so samey, enough to make everyone think its possibly the last assembly coz Armageddon’s just ‘round the corner, don’t talk to apostates, do more in the harvest work etc. etc. I went because my mum lives in Cornwall now and that’s where she goes. My son spends a lot of the summer holiday there. She is quite fond of him and has been very good to him, I wonder if that has anything to do with certain events of the past. By the way, when we lost Rachel, my mum was willing to do anything we asked, I’m glad she did and I needn’t say why. We didn’t invite anyone to her funeral, just my wife, our children and me. I was not going to allow guilt trippers to use her just to ease their own consciences.

In 2003 we were studying a book at the group called “Isaiah’s Prophecy – A Light for All Mankind 2”, and there was constant reference to the date 1919 in it. It was written in such a way that I felt the Governing Body were ramming their exclusive credentials down our throats. The distinction between the ‘Little Flock’ of anointed Christians and their ‘Other Sheep’ companions was becoming much more of a master – servant relationship. I just couldn’t stand to hear it anymore, how glad they were at their guaranteed salvation and their hope of glorious living in the Kingdom of God, when we had to continue in fine works so that we might probably be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger, with their continual emphasis on the word ‘probably’. At this time I was also assisting with some work at the London Bethel. Legislation changes meant that every Kingdom Hall and building owned by the Society had to have an asbestos register. I have worked in the asbestos industry for the best part of 19 years and I met some brothers at a HSE conference in London. I did some surveying at the Bethel where they were refurbishing some of the living quarters. I was asked to join them for lunch and I felt quite privileged. Can you imagine the horror for my host, when he suddenly realised that he’d not told me to bring a suit. I asked why and he said they have to wear them for lunch. So all the workers have to quickly get changed from their boiler suits etc and into a shirt and tie, with jacket, to sit down and eat their lunch. That is all of them except me; I didn’t have a suit, shirt or tie. I was given a jacket and a monster pair of shoes that made me look like Claude Hopper from the Beano or Dandy. I still had jeans and a scruffy jumper on it was quite amusing. I must confess though, I took my whistle and dicky in the next day and looked like a proper Bethelite at the table.

Well, everything was just coming to a head. I have, over the years, accumulated a nice library of lexicons and concordances, Greek study books, Hebrew Old Testament dictionaries, the Torah interlinear and Tanach, plus other interlinears and dictionaries. I also have several translations of the Bible, along with a host of Bible software including some of the great commentaries. I never just studied Watchtower literature, maybe that’s why I was often at issue with them over interpretations, but like most good Witnesses, I turned a blind eye to the bits that contradicted the central doctrinal issues.

With this 1919 date slapping my face I was beginning to ask myself “What exactly is this date and how have they come up with this one?” it appears over 90 times in the Isaiah book. I’d had enough. I delved into the so-called apostate world and bought ‘Crisis of Conscience’ which I read in a couple of days. I also read my Amplified Bible more than my NWT and while at a hotel in Salisbury, I was born again. I wanted to leap for joy, here was Jesus telling me I was one of His brothers, a member of the royal household of God, led by the spirit and adopted into His family, but I was assessing some candidates who were taking a practical examination at the time (I’m a full time asbestos industry trainer) so I just sat there quietly until they finished and then went for a walk around the beautiful gardens of this hotel in the beautiful town of Salisbury, Wiltshire. I just prayed and thanked God for His grace, I just said that I would trust Him with all my heart, especially when I felt I lacked in understanding, and wait for Him to reveal His will for me. I was no longer prepared to accept men’s interpretations as doctrine, but would stand by what the scriptures actually say, rather than what people think they mean. I had still gone to the odd meeting but I realised how devoid of any real spiritual content they were. There was never any focus on the gift of eternal life by God’s grace, nothing to encourage faith in the sacrifice of Christ and how each one of us are reconciled to God through His sacrifice. I stopped going for good, there was just no point anymore.

I also read Rays other book “In Search of Christian Freedom”, he has a very lovely way of putting things, and I can relate to a lot of things he says, I expect that most Witnesses could. I have also been studying Gods word afresh, and have found that the freedom Christ has given those of His family is the most wonderful thing I have ever experienced.

I searched the Internet for more information where I came across some excellent Bible software called ‘E-sword’ which I could use to study God’s Word. The site is run by Rick Meyer and he has a link to the website of his church, Grace Chapel, which is in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee. On their site are recordings of many sermons given there by their Pastor amongst which is a series called “This Magnificent Jesus”. I began to listen to the series and realised that the Jesus I had been introduced as a Jehovah’s Witness was not the Jesus of the Bible. I copied all 10 sermons and would listen to them in my car, at hotels etc. (I travel all over the UK as part of my work) and a realised that there was so much more in Jesus for me to learn. I needed to grow in Christ and in His power I began to.

In December 2003 I began to attend a local congregational church, it was a bit charismatic and was a complete culture shock for me. I had been invited to sit at the front with a very nice chap but when they all got going I just stood there like a little child at his first school assembly. The words to the hymns were projected onto a screen; they were wonderful words about our heavenly Father, the beloved Son and the gift of grace. Tears ran down my face, I couldn’t even utter the words coz I would have boo’ed with sheer emotion. I kept on praying for God to reveal His purpose for me. I carried on attending this church and suddenly found myself praying out loud, SHOCK! What am I doing? Then it was like a voice from heaven – this is freedom.

By now I had sent an email to the Reachout Trust because I wanted fellowship and needed to be able to relate to someone. I was contacted by their local representative in my area, Sue Judd. They had a meeting that I attended. There were many ex-witnesses and ex-Mormons there. We talked, we related stuff, and I made some new friends. I pray for them every day.

On Christmas Eve my wife and me went to the late service in our local Baptist Church. My wife never attended a meeting at a Kingdom Hall in 15 years yet she accompanied me to the local church, it was a short service but enjoyable. A couple of weeks later I went to their Sunday morning service because I would not be back in time from my other church as the service ran later. While I was there, I knew that there was a reason for me being there. I prayed to God because I was getting settled in my other church and felt in my heart that that is where I wanted to be. But I realise that it’s not where I want to be that matters, it’s where God wants me to be. Every time I prayed, the answer was given at the service in the Baptist Church. I talked to the minister, and some of the things he said confirmed what I already now knew, this was where God wants me to be, Kingswood Baptist Church, the very place my mum had married my step father so many years ago. Now it’s my children that enjoy going to their classes at the back of the church, though I haven’t seen any fuzzy felt apostles there. My wife has attended a few times and she takes our little one to the toddler group every Wednesday morning.

Our magnificent God is beyond human knowledge. His ways are so much higher that our ways, and His thoughts higher than ours. I am living a scripture that was the first I really learned, and has stuck to my heart, “Put all your trust in the LORD and do not rely on your own understanding. Think of Him in all your ways, and He will smooth your paths” (Pr 3:5,6 – New English Bible). I give praise to the Lord for smoothing my paths, He has never abandoned me all my life. He has called me to a mission, a mission that will one day see me minister in my own church, something that has been revealed to me by the spirit, and as I look back, has always been my mission. We are all trained by the Lord and prepared for what He has in store for us. Nothing we have done will be wasted; God can use each of us to reach others with the gospel. My Witness background will be used to good effect by God, because He alone is loyal, and what God says will be, will be.

This is my personal testimony. It is written as it comes out from my heart. I did not intend for it to be this comprehensive, but I just kept writing and writing and here it is. I share with you some very intimate things that many do not know. But God wants His worshipers to be genuine, to be authentic and not ashamed of being who they are. I have no shame, I am part of the royal household of God, if He is not ashamed of me, then I am not either. Looking back is easier than looking forward. If I could turn back the clock to that Saturday morning, I’d let my wife answer the door instead of me. The road to life took me down that route, and even though it was very rough at times, it has helped shape me into the person I am now. Like for Joseph in Egypt, it will all make sense one day and it will be God’s wisdom that is revealed, and it will be to His eternal glory that I endured so many things. I can state without doubt that it was the Father who sustained me, who always kept His hand on my shoulder. It was Jesus who carried me, when I was just too weak to go any further. I praise the Lord Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father.

If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, take a step back, rub your eyes and look again. Read the Bible on its own don’t use the publications. Start with John’s gospel and let God’s word speak to you directly. Do not feel guilty, God loves you so much He wants to pour that love into you through His Son, don’t shut the door in His face. Through the Spirit He will come to you, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. According to the New World Translation Jesus says, “Therefore if the Son sets YOU free, YOU will be actually free” (John 8:36), and, “In answer Jesus said to him: “Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God…Do not marvel because I told you, YOU people must be born again” (John 3:3,5,7). Do not be grieving the Spirit, receive Christ, be born again of the Spirit, and be with Him forever, and then I will see you all in eternity. I hope this testimony will help you. May God bless you all my brothers and sisters in Christ.

With Christian love

Nelson Howe