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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Story of Grace Amos

I was ''born into'' this cult.  My mother had been baptized in 1976, I think, right after the Watchtower Society's Governing Body had predicted that Armageddon was supposed to come back in 1975.  We all know how that went.  My dad was baptized in 1984, when I was almost three years old.  My earliest memories are pretty normal, I guess.  I wasn't aware of the concept of holidays or birthdays, so I didn't miss them at that point.  Around age five or six, I had gotten to know a few ''worldly'' (non-Jehovah's Witness) kids and I realized what I was missing.  My folks sat me down and explained the ''reasons," according to what they were taught by Jehovah's Witnesses, that we didn't do these things.  At that young age, I still trusted my parents, so I believed what they told me.  This is also the age that I was molested by a cousin, who my parents had invited to live with us, even though he had a history of sexual abuse.  I never told anyone until years later.  I felt it was my fault, a somewhat typical reaction for victims of abuse.  The cousin only lived with us for a short time, thank goodness. 

So from ages seven through eleven years old, I was unhappy.  Not only was I dealing with all the emotional and mental stress from being molested, but around this time is when my parents started really cracking down about meeting attendance.  Now we were going to every single meeting as opposed to just a couple a week. I hated it!  Then we started hosting the Tuesday night book study in our house!  My mother had also decided to home school me, to keep me away from the ''bad association'' that surely takes place in school, so I had to stay home all the time, unless I was going to meetings or in the field service.  I don't have too many memories of this stage of my life, and the the few memories I do still have, are very unhappy. I remember trying to tell my parents how much I did not like going to the kingdom hall and how much I hated going in service, and then getting punished for sharing how I felt.  There were no discussions, no options, just having things taken away from me for doing what I was told to do, which was to go and talk to them about my problems.  I began to realize that I had to hide my feelings, and if I wanted to do anything fun I would have to hide that, too.  My home life was anything but great.  My father was always gone working nights, sleeping during the day (BE QUIET!!), and my mother was a very controlling, angry, deeply unhappy woman.  I tried rebelling, even at that young age, only to realize that rebelling was just making things harder on myself. At twelve years of age, I developed the attitude, ''if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.''

I must add here that while my childhood was cr@p, I did figure out ways to get around things.  The only true friend I was able to make was the girl across the street, who is my best friend to this very day.  I figured out that I could spend tons of time with her, if I told my parents that I was witnessing to her!  Loophole!  This went on from age twelve to when I moved out at age eighteen.  Thank goodness for her and her family, since they are now a major part of my life.  Since I now had the attitude that "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," I went along with whatever my parents expected of me and along with what the congregation expected of me.  Studying with an elders wife/regular pioneer, field service three to five times a week, attending all the meetings....ugh.  It was hectic.  All of that led up to me getting baptized at age fourteen at the District convention.  I said all the right things, behaved the way a good little Jehovah's Witness does, but deep down I hated every minute of it. I was leading a double life right from the beginning.

I'd love to tell you all the down and dirty details of pioneering sixty hours or more a month, which I did when I was fifteen years old to age seventeen, but it is honestly a big blur.  Hours on hours with the same people in the same car, in the same territory.  On top of that, I was deeply unhappy doing it.  I felt embarrassed and like a fake.  I was only happy with ''worldly'' people, which made me feel like I was deficient in some way. The cult mentality is very complex.

When I was eighteen years old, in the fall of 1999, I had arranged to take a cross country trip to North Carolina to help a Jehovah's Witness friend move back to Oregon.  I spent three very liberating days on a Greyhound bus.  No one knew me, no one was watching me and judging me.  It was an amazing feeling to be free!  I bought my first pack of cigarettes, and smoked them freely and without shame, when we stopped for breaks.  I had gotten my first taste of the ''world'' and I LOVED it!
 

I soon discovered that my Jehovah's Witness friend wasn't so ''witness-y,'' shortly after I got there.  We went to her work for a special Halloween event.  Afterwards we went to a bar, where she vouched for me to the bartender and I had my first drink in a bar.  I realized I had a lot of things to think about.  I even went to Sunday meeting once while I was there.  No one spoke to me, there was no friendly greeting, 'where ya from,' none of that.  It felt just as fake as when I was at home.  I also discovered that I couldn't stand my ''friend."  She was absolutely totally fake!  She was only looking out for her own interests.  I decided to go home early.  Back on the bus I went, another three-day journey across the USA.  I thought long and hard on the way.  I knew what I had to do, but I also knew I had to come up with a plan, because there was no way my parents were going to let me go easily.....

After three long days of thinking, I came up with a plan.  I had just turned age eighteen, and because of that, I was now able to receive quarterly dividend checks from being a part of a northwest Native American tribe.  I only had to wait about a month to receive my first one.  I began looking for cheap places to rent in the next town over.  Without my parents knowing, I was secretly getting everything organized and ready to move.  Only my best (worldly) friend knew anything of my plans.  She had a truck and was more than willing to help.  Finally the day came, I got the check! $1200!  I cashed it, drove to the place I was going to rent, and put down the cleaning deposit and first and last months rent!  I was almost free.  I also put in job applications that same day.  Looking back, I was flying by the seat of my pants, so to speak.  I had no idea how I was going to accomplish what I wanted, and in all reality, I was so naive about the ways of life outside the cult.  So I moved.  All in one day, no warning to my parents, nothing.  I did not speak of my plans to leave the cult.  As far as they knew, I was just switching congregations. 

Since that very day, I have never ever stepped foot inside a Kingdom Hall.  My parents sent ''friends'' over to check on me a few times, so I knew I needed to make my leaving official.  I called an elder, whom I had known my whole life, and asked him who I needed to write a letter to, he was in shock, but he told me who and hung up on me.  I called the presiding overseer and got the congregation's mailing address.  He asked why I needed it, so I told him straight out, because I had never been close to him; I barely liked him.  He was very holier-than-thou.  He and his wife had served at Bethel (Watchtower Society headquarters in New York), until his wife...and I quote, ''...screwed up and got pregnant.''  Then, he asked me, ''Well, do you want to come in and we can talk about it?"  My immediate thought was 'Hell no!  You can't kick me out!'  I wanted them to know it was MY decision to leave! Although, at that point the only ''bad'' I was doing was smoking cigarettes.  So, I wrote my letter.  I wish I had saved a copy and had it framed honestly.  I am sure when it was announced it came as quite the shock, not only to my faithful and devout parents, but to all the others as well.  It would have been easier to become "inactive" and just fade away, but in my circumstances, being from a small town etc, that would have been impossible.

I will admit, being on my own, I made some pretty awful decisions there for awhile.  I got involved with drugs, the wrong people.  While I am not condoning that sort of behavior, I did learn a lot about life and people.  Even though I did make those horrible decisions and lost myself, it was only through experiencing what I did that I have become the person I am now.  Without going thru what I did, I wouldn't have found my wonderful partner in life.  I'm ''living in sin'' with the father of my three-year-old...OMG!  I wouldn't have my beautiful daughter, who is my sunshine, my whole world.

I left in late 1999.  For a long time, I didn't think much about the Jehovah's Witnesses.  They were just an odd part of my past.  My parents were in and out of my life, always trying to get me to come back, ALWAYS.  They would do what is termed as ''love-bombing," pouring out the love and support and caring attitude, usually just enough for me to get my hopes up regarding a ''normal'' relationship with them, only to have my feelings smashed into a thousand pieces by them suddenly shutting me off, saying, "Don't call us, talk to us, etc."  This would go on for months at a time, turning into years and years of this flip-flopping back and forth.

I had hoped that when I had my daughter, things would even out a bit.  They would have a grandchild to think of now.  At first it was great, we talked regularly, shared pictures over the phone. The last time my daughter and I saw them was a week before her first birthday.  Shortly after that, I received a letter in the mail from them, basically trying once again to get me back into the cult using guilt, telling me that they only wanted ''limited contact'' with me, that I was in effect killing my daughter by not being in the cult.  We didn't speak for over a year and a half on that one.  A few months ago I received a call out of the blue from my mother.  She wanted to see how I was doing.  This started a dialog between us.  Again, I had hope.  She asked if the next time we were down that way (we live almost two hundred miles away), would we let them see my daughter, who was getting ready to turn age three.  I had no problem with a short visit.  Then, once again, they flip-flopped on us.  Two days after the call regarding a visit, she texted me, saying we would not be allowed to visit because of my refusal to go back to the ''meetings!''  I got mad, to say the least!  I probably could have handled it better, but I was mad and my emotions were high.  I told her, "That's fine. It's really sad that you would allow a false religion to destroy any relationship you might have had with your only grandchild!"  Two hours later, and I'm sure a long conversation with the elders (my dad is one now), she texted me back, ''Apostasy is death! You know this. We are done with you!"  These are direct quotes from my phone.  I did not bother with a reply.  All I can say, as far as they are concerned, is that at least my daughter does not remember them.  I would find it extremely hard to explain to a three-year-old that her grandparents don't want to see her.  Thankfully, although not blood-related, my best friends family has stepped up to the plate and become our mom and dad and my daughter's grandparents.  I am so thankful for them and their unconditional love, and showing me what a real family is like.

I must here also state that because of my experiences with the Jehovah's Witness cult growing up, I have a lot of issues in life.  I don't trust people.  I still have problems opening up to people in my life.  I am disgusted by organized religion of any kind.  These are just my personal feelings.  Live and let live, I say.  The lifelong feeling of never really fitting in anywhere is difficult to deal with sometimes.

I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me or my daughter.  Despite it all, we are just fine.  I just hope that my story and the countless others like mine will open the eyes of someone else to the facts about the Watchtower Society of Jehovah's Witnesses.  They break up families.  Some I knew even committed suicide because of the non-biblical, unethical, cruel, not to mention ridiculous, practice of shunning.
Thank you all for reading.

NOTE:  If you are a former or Ex-Jehovah's Witness, who would like to have your case reviewed legally, concerning you or your child having been molested/raped and receiving no assistance from anyone in the Watchtower Society, you can contact William H. Bowen, the founder of silentlambs.org.  For confidential contact info, check with Admin. in "The Truth Behind Jehovah's Witnesses" group on Facebook.

If you would like to have your CHILD CUSTODY case reviewed, William H. Bowen also founded the Jehovah's Witnesses Child Custody website to provide information and assistance for former or Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses with child custody issues. 

If you are a former or Ex-Jehovah's Witness in need of counseling concerning you or your child having been molested/raped, please go to the Silent Lambs website for assistance.  http://www.silentlambs.org/assistance/index.cfm

Want to know where to find the concrete evidence against the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society of Jehovah's Witnesses?  Here's a few links to get you started:
 
Facts About Jehovah's Witnesses
http://www.jwfacts.com/

Silent Lambs
http://www.silentlambs.org/

Watchtower Documents.Com
http://www.watchtowerdocuments.com/jw-sites.html

Watchers of the Watchtower World
http://www.freeminds.org/

Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses (AAWA)
http://aawa.co/blog/how-the-watchtower-uses-undue-influence-to-enforce-its-blood-policy/

Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses Online
http://ex-jw.com/

^^^ The above website includes "An Elder Shares His Honest Opinions"
http://ex-jw.com/elder-shares-honest-opinions  (THAT should be an interesting read!)