(experience of Vazir Asanov - pgs 12-15 of the 09/08 Awake! - click on the photo to read the intro of the story)
I was born into a Kurdish family in a city in the southern part of what is now Kazakhstan, which at the time formed one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union. My parents and relatives brought me up to believe that I could become a future leader and liberator of my people. I nutured such hatred of enemies of the Kurdish people that I was ready to kill to free our people from oppression. In the late 1980's, my mother, younger brother, and I began to study the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses. Father, however, forbade us to associate with Christians. Still, I continued to study. In a Kurdish family, disobedience to the family head is virtually unknown. I loved my father, yet I also loved the Bible truths I was learning.
Opposition at Home and at School
One time, a teacher saw a copy of the Watchtower magazine in my schoolbag and told my parents about it. In a rage, Father struck me so hard that blood spurted from my nose. "Are you still with that religion?" he shouted. After that, Father announced that he no longer considered me his son. How it hurt me to hear that! At the same time, many of my classmates began to avoid me, and some openly reviled me. My teachers lowered my grades and often mocked my faith during class, trying to convert me to their atheistic views. Despite such opposition, I still tried to attend Christian meetings and to share my newfound faith with others. A while later, Father learned that I was continuing to associate with the Witnesses and to read the Bible. One Sunday, I began looking for an excuse to leave the house to attend the meeting. Immediately, Father made me go to bed. He said firmly, "Now, every Sunday at this time you must be in bed." He threatened me with dire consequences if I disobeyed, and I was convinced that he meant it. With tears, I supplicated Jehovah, the true God, to soften Father's heart, but he remained unmoved. I recalled the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt. My father's actions reminded me of Pharaoh, who refused to let the Israelites go to worship Jehovah. (Exodus 5:1, 2)
On Sunday, I decided to go to the meeting. My heart pounded with anxiety as I lay in bed praying silently to Jehovah. When my parents came into my room, I pretended to be asleep. Father proudly said, "See what an obedient son I have." He kissed me, and they quietly left. I continued to pray earnestly. Shortly after my parents left the room, as related in the introduction, I leaped up, got my shoes from under the bed, and jumped out of the window. Two hours at the meeting sped by quickly, and I wondered what would happen when I returned home. Happily, although Mother had seen that it was my clothes in the bed and not I, she said nothing to Father. However, she warned me that she would no longer conceal such actions from him. In 1992, I told my parents that a friend had a special celebration to attend and that I had been invited to go along. Actually, the special event that I planned to attend was an assembly of Jehovah's Witnesses in the city of Taraz, which was about 65 miles from our home in Karatau. There, I was to be baptized in symbol of my dedication to Jehovah. I asked Mother if I could have a bucket of sunflower seeds from the barn. I fried those seeds and sold them at the market, and that was how I was able to earn enough money to attend the assembly.
When I returned, Father asked if I had a good time with my friend. I assured him that I did. I felt that Jehovah supported me, because Father did not inquire any further about the matter. I really liked the words of Proverbs 3:5, 6: "Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight."
I Weaken Spiritually
Opposition from Father did not stop with my baptism. As I continued to associate with the Witnesses, Father would beat me severely, both when others were present and when we were alone. Almost every day I was subject to humiliation and pressure, and I often wept. Kazakhstan was then gaining independence from the Soviet Union, and my parents and relatives tried to persuade me to achieve positive goals as a politician. They thought that I was missing out on my chance. My older brother had realized achievements in sports, and Father often held him up to me as an example. Well, toward the end of 1994, I too became involved in sports. Blessed with natural ability, I was soon winning awards and praise for my skills in soccer and gymnastics. I also began to study law so that I would be in a position to help protect the interests of the Kurds. I even became interested in politics and thought about founding a Kurdish youth party. Now Father began to praise me.
"You Won, Papa"
I had become spiritually weak and had discontinued reading the Bible and attending the meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses. I comforted myself with the thought that I would serve Jehovah again when I became of age. Once, Father asked whether I was associating with Jehovah's Witnesses. "No. You won, Papa," I replied. "Are you happy now?" Upon hearing this, Father was very happy. "Now, finally, you are my son!" he said proudly. For two years I did not attend meetings, although at times I wanted to go. But feelings of shame kept me from following through on my intentions. I thought that those in the congregation would not understand my situation. At the same time, I was convinced that there was nothing better than serving Jehovah. 'After all, I love Jehovah!' I would tell myself. Then Father began pressuring me to pursue a university education. I gave in and even promised to finish school with honors. In my heart, though, I hoped that once I got to the university in Almaty, a large, modern city in southern Kazakhstan, I would find the Witnesses.
Happy Changes of Circumstances
Not long after I began studying at the university, I met two Witnesses as they were sharing in the ministry on a street in Almaty. They approached me with the question, "Who do you think rules the world?" "Satan the Devil," I replied, "the enemy of Jehovah and of all mankind." (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4) I explained that I was a baptized Witness but had become inactive. Toward the end of 1996, I again began to study the Bible with the Witnesses. After I had several studies, my desire to serve Jehovah returned in full force, and I started to take part in all the activities of the Witnesses in Almaty. In September 1997, I began serving as a pioneer, or full-time minister. A year later, Father came to visit me. I ran to him, and we hugged. He asked for my forgiveness for his actions all those years. He said that he had misunderstood both me and my faith. "Papa," I said, "I love you very much." How happy I felt when Father accepted Bible literature and requested a Bible, saying that he wanted to read it from cover to cover! A year later, he came to visit me again, this time with Mother. At the Kingdom Hall, people of various nationalities warmly greeted them by coming up and introducing themselves. This made a profound impression on Father, and he began to read the literature of the Witnesses with great interest.
(Vazir's parents, who are now favorable to the work)
In September 2001, I married a wonderful Russian girl named Yelena. She has been a baptized Witness since 1997 and began to pioneer in May 2003. To our great joy, we learned that my parents had started to study the Bible with the Witnesses and were making spiritual progress. Actually, I could not believe the news until I heard it from Father's own lips. Over the phone, he told me that Jehovah is the one true God!
I am so happy that here in Almaty I have had the opportunity to conduct Bible studies with people from many places, including China, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey. Not long ago, an Iranian priest asked me to study the Bible with him in his native language, Persian. A former general from Afghanistan was greatly impressed with what he learned about Jehovah. It was also a joy to study with a person from Syria in my native Kurdish tongue as well as to study with people in Kazakh and Russian, other languages of my childhood.
(at the new branch facilities near Almaty)
Now along with Yelena, I serve in a Kasakh-speaking congregation-one of the more than 35 congregations in Almaty. Last year, Yelena and I were privileged to serve temporarily at the recently completed branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses located near Almaty.
At one time I was taught to hate, but Jehovah taught me to love. I am convinced that we should never be influenced to do otherwise, even when pressured by well-meaning relatives and friends. (Galatians 6:9) Now I am so glad that my wife and I have "plenty to do in the work of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58)