Saturday, October 31, 2009

I'm Jealous!

My sister & her hubby are on their way to Cali right now to go to Disneyland tomorrow. doh! I'm gonna try to make myself feel better by pretending that the park will be really overcrowded, with super-long lines for all the rides...and that Pirates of the Caribbean just isn't as fun anymore, ever since they changed the look of it.
...nope, didn't work...I'm still jealous =) lol.
At least my sister remembered to tell me before she left to go out of town this time, instead of after!

daily text 10/31

Saturday, October 31st, 2009
"The heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer." (Proverbs 15:28)

In our ministry, careful preparation is the key to simplicity and clarity. An unprepared minister tends to talk too much. He may virtually drown the main points in an excessive flow of words, saying everything he knows on a subject. In contrast, the well-prepared minister thinks about the person he is instructing, meditates on the topic, and presents clearly just what is needed. (1 Corinthians 2:1, 2) He considers how much the student already knows and what points should be emphasized during the study. The minister may know many interesting details about the subject, but clarity comes from pruning away unnecessary information. We may enjoy explaining the Bible so much that we have to exercise self-control in order to let the student express himself or explain a matter being considered during a home Bible study.
(Watchtower issue: 11/15/07, 1:16, 17)

* I'll be working on this point for years I'm sure. =) One of my more recent requests that I've incorporated into my prayers is based on Psalm 141:3 (which is most appropriate for rash or quick-tempered speech), but could also apply to the area mentioned in today's text discussion about talking too much...
"Do set a guard, O Jehovah, for my mouth;
Do set a watch over the door of my lips"

Friday, October 30, 2009

Some News From Russia

Speaking of "praying for our persecutors" (as mentioned in today's text) I just got this email which a sister from British Columbia passed along (and is making it's way around in case you've already seen it). It's about our brothers & sisters in Russia, and how the government is really stepping up the effort to ban them, and launching more propaganda media we should make sure to include them in our petitions since they are being put to the test right now by their 'persecutors'. They need to meet together in the woods just to have an assembly because no one is willing to rent a facility to them (on account of the opposition there).
Here's some photos of a recent 'forest convention' they had, followed by some info from a Canadian brother who is serving in Russia with his wife...

"Hi all! A couple weeks ago we were all secretly told thru our Service Groups that October 4th we should be prepared for our Special Assembly Day. Besides the instruction to dress warm and bring money for transport, no other details were given. However, having the assemblies in the forest isn't something new here any more. Last summer after our venue was cancelled for the District Convention, the brothers thought up this great idea to use a plot of private land belonging to one elder and his family as a convention site. It went well despite attempted interference from police. This summer it was planned at the same location from the get-go in view of major difficulties in finding any place willing to rent to us.
But this fall was a first. An assembly in the forest in October! That means that the facility that we've used to hold the last 3 smaller assemblies in a city about 2 hours away has finally caved under pressure from the church, the authorities, the fcb {?} or all 3 and will no longer rent to us despite it being very profitable for them. So that leaves us to the forest!

This was all pretty exciting for me since I wasn't here last summer for the first forest convention and obviously this summer I wasn't in Russia either so I missed the second one. We all bundled warm, bringing extra clothing and rain gear and thermoses of hot drinks. I have to say we were very fortunate. The whole week before and the whole week after our meeting it rained every day. The day of the assembly was beautiful and sunny. It was close to freezing in the morning, of course, but at least we weren't soaking wet. By the afternoon it was actually quite pleasant! For this S.A.D. (Special Assembly Day) we had about 1800 in attendance, the whole district.

I was totally amazed at how professional the whole set up was. Hopefully you get an idea from the photos. The chairs, stage, sound system was all set up perfectly. Even tents were set up for those with children and the elderly in case of rain. Outhouses were shipped out to the site (the largest expense of the convention) and a make-shift hand washing station was set up. Nothing was overlooked. All went off without a hitch as far as I know. One of my Bible students came and one of Blazej's African Bible students, Gordon, came as well despite the cold and only understanding half of the program.

It looks like we're resigned to having such gatherings in the forest from now on since we just had a resolution read to set aside money for the purchase of portable toilets since the rental of them is so costly. How many circuits in Canada own their own Jiffy Biffys eh?

But that's not all.

The authorities seem to be stepping up efforts to eliminate JWs here. It was openly stated on the news last month that efforts are being made to ban us. Last Friday a completely slanderous program was aired on TV about us and how we make millions and kill children and things like that. These get a wide audience and Russians, being rather gullible when it comes to what they see on TV, tend to believe the lies. We're meeting with a lot of questions and suspicions as to who we are and what is our organization.

For our local needs Friday, we were informed that due to efforts to ban us and our literature, we will no longer be stocking any literature in the Kingdom Hall whatsoever. Not one piece will be stored there. Just like in the old days before we had a Hall! It will be distributed thru the service groups. Also no announcement board or schedules for meetings will be posted. This Friday coming up we'll also be having a special part with more information pertinent to the situation. This is over the entire country, not just in our region. Forest assemblies have become something very common all over and the decision about literature was made at the Branch and will be effective everywhere as of this week.

We just wait and see. The preaching work goes on without problems as of yet. Who knows what will happen soon. Our nasty neighbor below us hates us and constantly writes complaints about us and accuses us of being from a sect, etc. They greet us with 'Hello Witnesses' is a snide tone. Interestingly enough, our other neighbor who we're friends with informed us that the nasty lady was invited for an official meeting with the police on the 15th (I guess that's tomorrow). We have no idea why that is but we're suspicious that suddenly they're taking an interest in her complaints because of the fact that we're Witnesses. Again, we'll see!

So that's the latest and the greatest here in ------. We'll try to keep you informed. Of course being newlyweds and all we don't email so much but we'll do our best!!

Hope you all are keeping busy in the service and never taking for granted the freedom and ease you can preach with. You never know when that might end. We'll do the same! Take care all," (End of report from Russia)

*Upcoming Special Assembly Day Reminder*

In case anyone missed this info...
they made an announcement at the meeting this week regarding our upcoming Special Assembly Day on Saturday, November 7th at North Canyon High School. They said if we are sick with the flu and contagious, we would want to show concern for the health of our brothers & sisters by staying home that day...since we can always attend the same program the following weekend if we're well by then. (Which will be held at Coronado H.S. on both Saturday & Sunday, November 14th & 15th) Or we can arrange for someone to record the program.
I always like to have the program recorded anyway, not only so I can listen to it again later, but because of my weird sleep issues I always have a hard time making it on time to the morning session. So I bought one of those little handheld MP3 recorders, (which are really cheap now, and have pretty good sound quality with alot of memory)...of course my family couldn't figure out how to use it during the District Convention this summer and I ended up having to get copies from someone else anyway! Nice.
I can't wait till our own Assembly Hall is finally finished so we'll get to have circuit assemblies there from now on, instead of renting different auditoriums everytime. They said it's coming along pretty well so far. Of course, I'll really have punctuality issues making it on time since Casa Grande is a much further drive!
Oh, one other point...they reminded everyone to try to lay off the heavy colognes and fragrances, since many brothers & sisters have such bad allergic reactions to chemicals and they end up missing out on the program because they get so sick from all the different smells and have to leave...which is sad.

daily text 10/30

Friday, October 30th, 2009
"Keep on blessing those who persecute." (Romans 12:14)

How do we carry out Paul’s exhortation as stated in today’s text? Jesus told his followers: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you.” (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27, 28) Hence, one way in which we bless persecutors is by praying for them, petitioning God that if any are opposing us because of ignorance, Jehovah may open their eyes to the truth. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Granted, it may seem strange to ask God to bless a persecutor. However, the more our mind-set resembles Christ’s way of thinking, the more we will be able to extend love to our enemies. (Luke 23:34) Stephen was one who prayed for his persecutors, and his prayer was not in vain. Not long after Pentecost 33 C.E., Stephen was arrested by opposers of the Christian congregation, dragged outside Jerusalem, and stoned. Before he died, he cried out: “Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them.”—Acts 7:58–8:1.
(Watchtower issue: 07/1/07, 1:10, 11)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Modern History of Kosovo

We can learn alot from the experiences of our brothers & sisters who've lived through difficult time periods of economic crisis, political upheaval, and extreme persecution from local citizens and governmental authorities, alike. Their behavior during such critical circumstances gives us ample evidence that we can place our confidence & trust in Jehovah and our worldwide brotherhood. Regardless of what was going on around them on the outside, they still managed to display loyalty, brotherly love, and maintain a spirit of unity & peace among each other, and towards their neighbors. Most people can't even do that during 'peace time' let alone during war, or a crisis situation.
(the following info is on pgs 234 & 235 of the 2009 Yearbook)

(Kosovo, on map-outline showing lands of the former Yugoslavia)

(Brother Saliu Abazi)
The tension between Serb and Albanian communities in Kosovo through the 1980's erupted into open combat in the 1990's, resulting in much suffering and heartache. This situation provided our brothers and sisters with the opportunity to show "unhypocritical brotherly affection" to fellow believers of all ethnic backgrounds. (1 Peter 1:22) In addition, they have obeyed Christ's command "to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you." (Matthew 5:43-48) Yet, at times, it has been challenging to do so.
"Brothers who used to be Muslim are not always received kindly by practicing Muslims," explains Saliu Abazi, a former Muslim who speaks Albanian, "and our families wrongly conclude that we have abandoned them because we have chosen a new religion. Then, too, because of the ethnic tensions between Albanians and Serbs, it is not always easy for former Muslims to preach to Serbs."
Nevertheless, a multiethnic group of 30 people was meeting together in Saliu's home. "In those years," remembers Saliu, "meetings were held in Serbian, and we received our literature from Belgrade. One day the police unexpectedly came to my house. At the time the brothers from Belgrade had just delivered the literature, and we were all associating together. When I told the police that they were my brothers, they could not comprehend how Serbs and Albanians could be brothers." In 1998 this group of publishers was able to rent a place for use as a Kingdom Hall in the largest city in Kosovo, Priština.
In the spring of 1999, ethnic tensions and nationalism intensified alarmingly. "My neighbor threatened that if my son and I did not join the war, our house would be burned down," relates Saliu. "The political climate had a terrible effect on people. Because they did not recognize the former Serb government, laws could not be enforced, and people became violent and did whatever they pleased."
As the political situation deteriorated, conditions became increasingly difficult for Serbs living in Kosovo. During the conflict of 1999, both Serbs and Albanians by the thousands were forced to flee to neighboring countries. Yet, in that climate of extreme ethnic strife, Saliu risked his life by allowing his Serb brothers to take refuge in his home.
~continued on pgs 238-240~
(the following experience is a beautiful example of a young person who overcame multiple obstacles standing in her way...illiteracy and severe opposition by a member of her own family)

One young woman of Roma descent learned the truth as a child from her aunts who lived abroad. The first obstacle she had to overcome was her illiteracy. Motivated by love for Jehovah, she learned to read and write during the three years she was studying the Bible. (which is quite an achievement in-and-of-itself, because the Bible is not an easy book to read, especially for a beginner!) The second obstacle was her grandfather, with whom she lived.
"I would sneak out of the house to go to meetings," she says. But when she returned, her grandfather would beat her. "I suffered physically becaused of the truth," she relates, "but I would not give up. I reflected on how much the faithful man Job had to suffer. My love for Jehovah was strong, and I was determined not to stop studying." She now serves as a pioneer, and she is conducting a Bible study with two girls who are illiterate. Although she never received secular schooling, she is grateful for the way the Theocratic Ministry School has trained her to teach others.

(and here's a great experience of another young person who overcame obstacles to his faith, which ended up benefiting his family later on)

Adem Grajçevci was a Muslim before he learned the truth in Germany in 1993. Then, in 1999, he returned to his native Kosovo, and like many other new Witnesses, he had to overcome his family's prejudices and opposition. "When I was learning the truth," recalls Adem, "it helped me a lot to know that Satan is the ruler of the world and that he is behind all the atrocities taking place." Adem's father was not pleased with his son's new Christian faith and told him to choose between Jehovah and the family. Adem chose Jehovah, continued to make steady spiritual progress, and today serves as a Christian elder. Happily, over the years Adem's father has softened, and he is now more respectful of Adem's decision.
Adem's son, Adnan, was not interested in religion at all as a child. He was engrossed in martial arts and was given the nickname Killer by his competitors. He gave it all up, though, when the truth finally touched his heart. He made good progress and was baptized. "Not long after I was baptized, I had to make a decision," he said. "I had a good job, and I was doing well materially. But spiritually I was suffering and had little time for the ministry. I decided it was time for a change, so I quit my job." He started pioneering, was appointed as a ministerial servant, and was later invited to attend the first class of the Ministerial Training School in Albania. Now an elder, Adnan and his wife, Hedije, are serving as special pioneers. How does he feel about the decision he made? "I could not be happier," he says. "I have no regrets about choosing the full-time ministry."

United Worship and Instruction
Today all six congregations in Kosovo use rented facilities for Kingdom Halls. Some congregations are small, such as the one in the city of Peć, which has 28 publishers. With too few appointed brothers available, some congregations are not able to have a public talk every week. Nevertheless, they, like the brothers and sisters in Peć, faithfully meet together each week for the Watchtower Study and the other congregation meetings. For years the Serbia Country Committee lovingly shepherded the brothers in Kosovo through extremely difficult times. In 2000, to meet the changing needs of the brothers, the Governing Body assigned the Albania branch to care for the preaching work in Kosovo.
Until recently, most of Jehovah's Witnesses in Kosovo were Serbs, so the meetings were held in the Serbian language, and the brothers were happy to help Albanian-speaking people follow the program. Now the situation is reversed. Most of the brothers in Kosovo are Albanian. Except for one Serbian-language congregation, meetings are conducted in Albanian, and the brothers are pleased to interpret the talks so that the Serb brothers can follow along. Assemblies and district conventions are held in both languages. For example, the entire 2008 district convention program was presented in Albanian and translated into Serbian, with key discourses delivered in Serbian by Kosovar elders.
Explains one brother, "Despite the hatred felt outside, inside the hall we are one family."
Though most inhabitants of Kosovo are Muslim, they respect the Bible, and many are willing to discuss religion.

daily text 10/29

Thursday, October 29th, 2009
"Let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers." (Philippians 4:6, 7)

Can we have peace of mind while undergoing distresses? Yes, because we know that Jehovah understands our situation, and he assures us that soon “the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (John 12:31) How comforting that is! Is it enough, then, for us just to take our problems to Jehovah in prayer? No. More is required. We need to act in harmony with our prayers. When King Saul sent men to David’s home to put him to death, David prayed: “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; from those rising up against me may you protect me.” (Psalm 59:1) In addition to praying, David listened to his wife and took the necessary action to escape. (1 Samuel 19:11, 12) In a similar way, we can pray for practical wisdom to help us deal with and perhaps improve our distressing circumstances.—James 1:5.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 3:10, 12, 13)

*I can't remember exactly how it was worded, but I heard a brother who was giving a talk on this subject explain this aspect about prayer in a way that I'd never heard it put before.
It was something to this effect ...
When it comes to 'acting in harmony' with our prayers, we need to meet God 'half-way' (so to speak) by being willing to put forth the same amount of initiative or commitment that we're asking God to put forth in our behalf. Some people might then say in response to that, "well then what's the point of praying at all if you're just going to be doing the work yourself to make it happen?" But he went on to explain that although the 'power' or 'force' behind our petition being accomplished, would be the result of God's holy spirit, (rather than our own abilities) we would still need to demonstrate by 'our actions' that we are serious about our request.
For instance, lets say a person wants to lose weight & get in shape, but they know they need help to make it happen because they can't do it on their own. How would that person 'act in harmony' with their desire? They'd probably make an appointment to meet with a health nutritionist or a personal trainer at the gym, right? Well that trainer or nutritionist is going to expect to see a level of commitment from that person towards reaching their goal. But if that person starts habitually missing training sessions and keeps eating junk food and doesn't stick to the exercise program prescribed for them, what's gonna happen? The trainer is going to tell them "look, if you want my help then you have to be willing to work with me to reach your goal" ...they aren't going to waste their time trying to help someone who puts no effort into what they've requested.
So that's a good way to illustrate why we have to take steps to act in harmony with our prayers, since it wouldn't be fair or reasonable to petition God for help, and then just sit back and do nothing while we wait for him to magically fix everything for us.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

daily text 10/28

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
"The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical." (James 3:17)

We can benefit by considering the qualities that come from displaying “the wisdom from above.” For example, being chaste involves being pure and undefiled in our actions and motives. We need to reject evil things immediately. Doing so should be an automatic reaction. Perhaps you have had a doctor use a reflex hammer to tap the tendon just below your kneecap. Your leg reflexively straightens with a kick. It is automatic; you do not have to think about it. It should be similar when we are tempted to do evil. Our chasteness and Bible-trained conscience should reflexively move us to reject what is bad. (Romans 12:9) The Bible provides examples of those who reacted in this way, such as Joseph and Jesus.—Genesis 39:7-9; Matthew 4:8-10.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 4:17)

*I heard the perfect illustration in a talk, that really drove home the point in this regard. Imagine there's a garbage bag in your house filled with stinky, rotting food and other filthy, decomposing things inside. You would naturally feel inclined to get that bag out of your house ASAP, while plugging your nose and holding the bag at arms length away from you as you quickly made your way outside to dispose of it in the garbage can, right?
But what would you think about a person who didn't seem to be bothered by the smell or the sight of that filthy garbage? What if a person let that garbage bag linger and fester, and when they finally did get around to throwing it out, they held the bag close to them (as if they didn't want to let it go), perhaps opening it up for one last peek inside, or a whiff of the contents? You'd feel disgusted wouldn't you? You'd think there was something seriously wrong with that person because it's just not normal to enjoy or savor rotton, filthy things that are physically repugnant to the senses.

Well it's no different when it comes to things that are morally & spiritually defiled and repugnant in Jehovah's eyes. The problem is that humans tend to adjust to their surroundings, (good or bad). So with that in mind, if a person doesn't act quickly to remove themselves from a spiritually harmful environment, they will no longer notice, or be effected by the things that they once found repellant.

Have you ever drove into a town that just wreaked of the smell of sewage, or some other gross chemical smell? Well that same type of natural acclimation or adjustment tends to happen to the residents that live there. They no longer seem to notice the smell or be bothered by it as much, because their 'senses' adapt to it. A resident of one of those towns literally has to remove themselves from those physical surroundings before they realize just how bad the air pollution or smell was that they were breathing in all that time.

So, since we have no choice in being surrounded by this world's 'morally' polluted environment, we need to take the same type of preventative action (in a spiritual sense), by quickly rejecting morally defiled thinking before it has the chance to permeate our senses.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Persevering in Montenegro

(The following info is from pgs 241-243 & 246 of the 2009 Yearbook)

(Coastal View of Montenegro)

(Montenegro's location on map outline, showing the lands of the former Yugoslavia)

Modern History of Montenegro
This hidden pearl of the Mediterranean is a delightful little country on the Adriatic Coast. Nestled among Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro is a land of stunning diversity and breathtaking beauty. The country has some 182 miles of gorgeous Adriatic coastline. The Tara River Canyon is one of the deepest and longest canyons in Europe. Lake Scutari is the largest in the Balkans and has one of the biggest bird sanctuaries in Europe. And all of this in an area only one third the size of Switzerland!
The history of the country, however is marked by wars, strife, and suffering. The struggles of the Montenegrin people have, in turn, profoundly influenced their tradition, mentality, and culture. A fundamental part of their culture is admiration for such qualities as bravery, integrity, dignity, humility, self-sacrifice, and respect for others. (I like them already!) Many of the resilient Montenegrins have embraced the good news of the Kingdom and are loyally defending Bible truth. (As you'll see, the group here is very small, which makes their efforts even more commendable)

Spiritual Growth
Can anyone who attended the momentous 1991 convention held in Zagreb, Croatia, ever forget the unity and love of the brothers gathered there from all parts of the former Yugoslavia? "With the smell of war in the air, traveling from Montenegro to Croatia was dangerous," recalls Savo Čeprnjić, who had recently begun to study the Bible. "I was amazed to see so many buses arrive at the convention without a problem. Even more impressive was the peace and unity among the Witnesses. On the first day, there were hundreds of policemen, but after realizing that we were peaceful, only a few reported for duty on the following days."
Before the start of the war, one couple had regularly traveled from Croatia to Montenegro to conduct a study with Savo. As the borders were closed, how would Savo continue his study of the Bible? "Interested ones who were more advanced in their study had to teach others," explains Savo. "A baptized brother was studying the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth with me. But when that was no longer possible, an unbaptized person continued studying with me...Savo, along with his wife and daughter, continued to make progress and were baptized in 1993.
(Kingdom Hall in Podgorica)

*this next part ties in well with the scripture from yesterday's daily text about being yielding when it comes to others, and 'going the extra mile' ... because following that advice ended up helping the brothers on a later occasion when they were having trouble with the local residents. But the text from Saturday about being 'objects of hatred by all the nations' also applies, since our brothers in Montenegro have been facing harassment by the local community as well.

In the early 1990's, a group of publishers met in the capital city of Podgorica. The group continued to grow, and in 1997 plans were made to purchase property for a Kingdom Hall. The land that the brothers purchased had a wall that they decided to keep for privacy. But a police officer living in the basement of the neighboring building asked if they would remove the wall so that more light could reach his dark apartment. To promote good relations with the neighbor, the brothers agreed to take down the wall and replace it with a fence. What a blessing their neighborliness proved to be! When other tenants of the building made trouble for the brothers, the police officer warned the tenants that if they attacked the Kingdom Hall, he would see that they were prosecuted. Now the brothers have a beautiful Kingdom Hall as well as a house for special pioneers and a large covered parking area that can also be used for assemblies.

Things did not go as well, though, for the brothers in the town of Nikšić. They purchased property in 1996, but the community was hostile to having a Kingdom Hall. Brothers guarded the building project day and night fearing that neighbors would try to sabotage it. One day a local priest recruited a mob of 200 people, who stormed the property with guns and sticks. They fired their weapons into the air and began to tear down the Kingdom Hall brick by brick. The police stood by without taking any action.
When the situation could not be resolved peacefully, the brothers looked for other property. Four years later they found a building, which they renovated and converted into a Kingdom Hall. At first, there seemed to be no problems with the community, but a few months later, the Kingdom Hall was suspiciously destroyed by fire. Our determined brothers, however, did not give up. They set to work yet again and rebuilt the hall. Since then they have had no more problems.
The four congregations in Montenegro are under supervision of the Serbia Country Committee. With a ratio of 1 publisher to 2,967 of the population, the 201 publishers are grateful for the help of the 6 special pioneers. In general, the people of Montenegro feel that religion has more to do with tradition than with reading the Bible. But our brothers and sisters in Montenegro loyally persevere in boldly preaching the good news.

*I can't believe how people who are members of a much larger religious community (which obviously outnumbers us by so many) can still stoop to that kind of harassment and destruction of property.

daily text 10/27

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
"By presumptuousness one only causes a struggle, but with those consulting together there is wisdom." (Proverbs 13:10)

Many married couples think back on their courtship with great fondness. How delightful it was to get to know their future mate! The more time they spent together, the closer they became. But, whether their marriage followed a period of courtship or was arranged, when they finally became husband and wife, adjustments were vital. One husband admits: “The major problem we had at the beginning of our marriage was to realize that we were not single anymore. For a while we found it difficult to keep our friendships and family ties in the right place.” Another husband, now married for 30 years, realized early in his marriage that to be balanced, he had to “think plural.” Before accepting an invitation or taking on a commitment, he consults with his wife and then decides, taking into consideration their mutual interests. In such a situation, being yielding helps.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 2:7)

Monday, October 26, 2009

daily text 10/26

Monday, October 26th, 2009
"If a person wants to go to court with you and get possession of your inner garment, let your outer garment also go to him; and if someone under authority impresses you into service for a mile, go with him two miles." (Matthew 5:40, 41)

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pointed out the need to yield to authority. Consideration for others and a desire to help them also move us to go the extra mile, so to speak. (1 Corinthians 13:5; Titus 3:1, 2) Never should our desire to be yielding, though, lead us to compromise with apostates. Our clear, firm stance in this regard is needed to preserve the purity of the truth and the unity of the congregation. Regarding “false brothers,” Paul wrote: “To these we did not yield by way of submission, no, not for an hour, in order that the truth of the good news might continue with you.” (Galatians 2:4, 5) In the rare instance that apostasy does appear, devoted Christians will remain firm for what is right.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 1:13, 14)

*FYI-the type of 'apostate' being refered to in this instance would be a former 'brother' (a person who was once a former Witness of Jehovah)...not someone of another religion who has never learned about Jehovah and his scriptural requirements. Otherwise, as is mentioned in the following info below, the apostle Paul himself would have been considered an apostate, since that's what the members of his former religious group claimed against him after he converted to Christianity.
Jesus' criteria for determining a wicked person from a righteous one by their 'fruitage'... also makes it easier to identify an apostate, since they do not produce 'good fruits.' Apostates consistently attempt to cause divisions among brothers, and they manipulate, slander, and twist information in order to tear down members of the congregation, instead of working to build them up in a spirit of peace and unity. So no matter how 'smooth' or convincing their speech is, you can learn more about their true motives by looking at the 'fruitage' they produce by their actions.
Here's some additional reference material on this subject from Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 1, pgs 126 & 127:

This term in Greek (a‧po‧sta‧si′a) comes from the verb a‧phi′ste‧mi, literally meaning “stand away from.” The noun has the sense of “desertion, abandonment or rebellion.” (Acts 21:21, ftn) In classical Greek the noun was used to refer to political defection, and the verb is evidently employed in this sense at Acts 5:37, concerning Judas the Galilean who “drew off” (a‧pe′ste‧se, form of a‧phi′ste‧mi) followers. The Greek Septuagint uses the term at Genesis 14:4 with reference to such a rebellion. However, in the Christian Greek Scriptures it is used primarily with regard to religious defection; a withdrawal or abandonment of the true cause, worship, and service of God, and hence an abandonment of what one has previously professed and a total desertion of principles or faith. The religious leaders of Jerusalem charged Paul with such an apostasy against the Mosaic Law.

What characteristics identify apostates as distinct from true Christians?
An apostasy among professed Christians was foretold by the apostle Paul at 2 Thessalonians 2:3. He specifically mentioned certain apostates, such as Hymenaeus, Alexander, and Philetus. (1Timothy 1:19, 20; 2Timothy 2:16-19) Among the varied causes of apostasy set forth in apostolic warnings were: lack of faith (Hebrews 3:12), lack of endurance in the face of persecution (Hebrews 10:32-39), abandonment of right moral standards (2Peter 2:15-22), the heeding of the “counterfeit words” of false teachers and “misleading inspired utterances” (2Peter 2:1-3; 1Timothy 4:1-3; 2Timothy 2:16-19; compare Proverbs 11:9), and trying “to be declared righteous by means of law” (Galatians 5:2-4). While still making profession of faith in God’s Word, apostates may forsake his service by treating lightly the preaching and teaching work that he assigned to followers of Jesus Christ. (Luke 6:46; Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) They may also claim to serve God but reject his representatives, his visible organization, and then turn to ‘beating’ their former associates to hinder their work. (Jude 8, 11; Numbers 16:19-21; Matthew 24:45-51) Apostates often seek to make others their followers. (Acts 20:30; 2Peter 2:1, 3) Such ones willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the “antichrist.” (1John 2:18, 19) As with the apostate Israelites, destruction is likewise foretold for apostates from the Christian congregation.—2Peter 2:1; Hebrews 6:4-8;

During the period of persecution that the early Christian congregation experienced at the hands of the Roman Empire, professed Christians were at times induced to deny their Christian discipleship, and those who did so were required to signify their apostasy by making an incense offering before some pagan god or by openly blaspheming the name of Christ.
It is evident that there is a distinction between a ‘falling’ due to weakness and the ‘falling away’ that constitutes apostasy. The latter implies a definite and willful withdrawal from the path of righteousness. (1John 3:4-8; 5:16, 17) Whatever its apparent basis, whether intellectual, moral, or spiritual, it constitutes a rebellion against God and a rejection of his Word of truth.—2Thessalonians 2:3, 4

*it's important not to throw that term around lightly though, because there were brothers during WWII (and other times of intense persecution when nationalistic fervor was running high) who were considered 'apostates' after succumbing to the pressure from authorities in a moment of weakness, or who fell away because of not having a strong foundation & spiritual maturity to begin with. But quite a few of those returned to the congregation years later, when they came back to their senses.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

daily text 10/25

Sunday, October 25th, 2009
"On seeing the crowds [Jesus] felt pity for them." (Matthew 9:36)

Jesus keenly felt the need to help all. He did not preach in just one area. One Bible account tells us that he “set out on a tour of all the cities and villages.” (Matthew 9:35) What are some ways in which you can display a similar attitude? Some have made it a point to witness in parts of their territory that have not been covered frequently. This may include business districts, parks, transportation terminals, or in front of residential buildings that are not easily accessible. Others have made the effort to learn a new language so as to preach to certain ethnic groups that now live in their area or to groups that have not frequently been witnessed to in the past. Learning how to greet those people in their native tongue may go a long way toward showing how interested you are in their welfare.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 5:18, 19)

*how we treat a person can have a much bigger impact than how much knowledge we have on a particular subject. Being kind and showing a non-prejudiced attitude can really go a long way especially when talking to people of different ethnic or religious backrounds, (who may have previously experienced negative reactions from other Christians or Americans in general) ...

I recently had a very positive 'informal' witnessing experience (which I wasn't expecting), when a Muslim man initiated a conversation with me out of the blue. He made a point to mention that he feels discriminated against because he is Muslim and that Christians are only willing to discuss their own religious beliefs and are not willing to have a spiritual discussion if it involves the Qur'an.
So after assuring him that not all Christians feel that way, and telling him that I respected that he has such an interest in spiritual topics, (which is so rare nowadays), I told him that I was a Christian and I gave him a brief explanation about Jehovah's Witnesses, etc, and then asked him about his beliefs. Well after that, his whole demeanor changed, and he became really friendly and thanked me for being so nice to him and for being willing to listen to what he believes. Then he said he wanted to hear more about the Bible and what Jehovah's Witnesses believe.

Isn't it amazing how just be willing to treat another human being with dignity and kindness can open doors like that? It had nothing to do with any skills or experience I have, or any special training for discussing specific Islamic was simply due to how I treated him.
And the bottomline is...whether he wanted to learn more about the Bible or not isn't the point...all humans deserve to be treated with respect and dignity no matter what backround they come from, or what they believe in. Jesus left us the perfect example to imitate in that regard.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

daily text 10/24

Saturday, October 24th, 2009
"You will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name." (Matthew 24:9)

Over the years, Jehovah’s Witnesses in many lands have endured bitter opposition and cruel persecution. Yet, Jehovah has proved to be with his people. (Romans 8:31) His Word assures us that nothing—‘no weapon formed against us’—will stop our Kingdom-preaching and teaching work. (Isaiah 54:17) Despite the world’s hatred, Jehovah’s Witnesses are flourishing in 236 lands—compelling evidence, indeed, that Jehovah is with us to protect us from those who wish to crush or silence us. Can you recall the names of mighty political or religious leaders who during your lifetime bitterly oppressed God’s people? What has happened to them? Where are they now? Most have been brought to nothing, just like Pharaoh in the days of Moses and Joshua. And what of God’s modern-day servants who died faithful? They are protected in Jehovah’s memory.
(Watchtower issue: 11/1/07, 1:15, 16)

*As additional reference material, I wanted to include this account from the book of Acts as a reminder of what the 1st century Christians dealt with in this regard...

"Moreover, through the hands of the apostles many signs and portents continued to occur among the people; and they were all with one accord in Sol′o·mon’s colonnade. True, not a one of the others had the courage to join himself to them; nevertheless, the people were extolling them. More than that, believers in the Lord kept on being added, multitudes both of men and of women; so that they brought the sick out even into the broad ways and laid them there upon little beds and cots, in order that, as Peter would go by, at least his shadow might fall upon some one of them. Also, the multitude from the cities around Jerusalem kept coming together, bearing sick people and those troubled with unclean spirits, and they would one and all be cured.

But the high priest and all those with him, the then existing sect of the Sadducees, rose and became filled with jealousy, and they laid hands upon the apostles and put them in the public place of custody. But during the night Jehovah’s angel opened the doors of the prison, brought them out and said: “Be on YOUR way, and, having taken a stand in the temple, keep on speaking to the people all the sayings about this life.” After hearing this, they entered into the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest and those with him arrived, they called together the San′he·drin and all the assembly of older men of the sons of Israel, and they sent out to the jail to have them brought. But when the officers got there they did not find them in the prison. So they returned and made report, saying: “The jail we found locked with all security and the guards standing at the doors, but on opening up we found no one inside.” Well, when both the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they fell into a quandary over these matters as to what this would come to. But a certain man arrived and reported to them: “Look! The men YOU put in the prison are in the temple, standing and teaching the people.” Then the captain went off with his officers and proceeded to bring them, but without violence, as they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

So they brought them and stood them in the San′he·drin hall. And the high priest questioned them and said: “We positively ordered YOU not to keep teaching upon the basis of this name, and yet, look! YOU have filled Jerusalem with YOUR teaching, and YOU are determined to bring the blood of this man upon us.” In answer Peter and the [other] apostles said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men. The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom YOU slew, hanging him upon a stake. God exalted this one as Chief Agent and Savior to his right hand, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit, which God has given to those obeying him as ruler.”
When they heard this, they felt deeply cut and were wanting to do away with them. But a certain man rose in the San′he·drin, a Pharisee named Ga·ma′li·el, a Law teacher esteemed by all the people, and gave the command to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, pay attention to yourselves as to what YOU intend to do respecting these men. For instance, before these days Theu′das rose, saying he himself was somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined his party. But he was done away with, and all those who were obeying him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Gal·i·le′an rose in the days of the registration, and he drew off people after him. And yet that man perished, and all those who were obeying him were scattered abroad. And so, under the present circumstances, I say to YOU, Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone; (because, if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, YOU will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise, YOU may perhaps be found fighters actually against God.” At this they gave heed to him, and they summoned the apostles, flogged them, and ordered them to stop speaking upon the basis of Jesus’ name, and let them go.
These, therefore, went their way from before the San′he·drin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name. And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus." (Acts 5:12-42)

*so anytime we face opposition just keep in mind what the angel said to the apostles in prison, and what the Pharisee Gamaliel said to the members of the Sanhedrin: "if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God you will not be able to overthrow them."
just a quick glance at the history of our preaching work during the past century should instill confidence since "the proof is in the pudding" (as they say)

Friday, October 23, 2009

From Hippie Surfer -to- Christian Minister

(experience of Karl H. Schwoerer on pgs 22-25 of the 12/07 Awake!)

(photo of Karl used in a Summer Surf Festival poster)

I was born in 1952 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., but I grew up in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. As a teenager, I developed a strong passion for surfing. In fact, it became the most important thing in my life.
In 1970, I entered Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, with the intention of becoming a commercial pilot. However, I became increasingly disappointed with the government, which was then waging what I believed to be an unjust war in Vietnam. Disgusted with the entire system of things, as were other youths of the time, I quit school and pursued a hippie lifestyle. I wore my hair long and used drugs. Soon I met Susan, an adventurous girl who had great talent for painting and photography. I calculated that by keeping our lives simple, I could work in construction six to eight months in Florida and we could spend the rest of the year camping on the beaches of the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Central America.

Conscious of a Spiritual Need
Living a carefree life on beautiful tropical beaches—with Sue painting and taking pictures and me surfing—was definitely very enjoyable. But after a couple of years, we came to realize that our life was unfulfilling. Something seemed to be missing. Thus, in mid-1975, while living on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, I began to seek spiritual enlightenment. I read books on Eastern religions and philosophies, which were popular at the time.
Since the books I read often quoted the Bible as proof for the truthfulness of their teachings, I reasoned that the Bible should be the basis for truth. So I traded some hallucinogenic mushrooms for an old King James Version of the Bible. Every afternoon, after having surfed all morning, I sat and read the Bible. Despite my great enthusiasm for the Bible, however, my understanding of it was limited.

“Have You Any Bible Questions?”
On our way from Costa Rica to the United States in August 1975, Sue and I stopped at a pharmacy in El Salvador to buy some medicine. As we were having trouble communicating with the pharmacist, a customer named Jenny offered to help us. She was a 16-year-old American girl who spoke Spanish fluently. She mentioned that she and her parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses and that they had moved to El Salvador to teach people about the Bible.
Jenny asked me, “Have you any Bible questions?”
“Yes, I do!” I answered. In spite of our hippie appearance, Jenny immediately invited us to her home to meet her parents, Joe and Nancy Trembley. We accepted her invitation. We spent all afternoon asking Bible questions and were very impressed with the way Joe and Nancy answered our queries. They always said, “Turn to this scripture in your Bible and read it.”
Soon it was late in the evening, so they invited us to stay overnight at their home. However, they did not allow Sue and me to share the same bedroom, since we were not married. During the night, Sue and Jenny stayed awake for hours considering many Bible subjects—from Adam to Armageddon.

The Green Bible
The next day, before we left town, Joe and Nancy gave us many copies of Watchtower and Awake! magazines, some books, and a Bible. The Bible was the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, which at the time was produced with a green hard cover. Joe also took us to see the Kingdom Hall. It was a simple, modest building where Jehovah’s Witnesses meet for Bible study. ‘What a contrast,’ I thought, ‘to the ostentatious churches of Christendom, where people learn so little from the Bible!’
Later that day, when we stopped at the checkpoint before crossing the border into Guatemala, the green Bible caused confusion among the officials. They were puzzled because they recognized it as one commonly used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet, we definitely did not look like Witnesses. Despite our appearance, the officials discharged us after a few minutes. This baffled us because they normally searched our car and belongings for drugs or smuggled goods. So we began to view the green Bible as an amulet, or a charm.

As we continued to read the Bible and the Bible study aids, we were convinced we had found the truth about God. While we were driving through Mexico, I was looking forward to two weeks of surfing at Puerto Escondido—my favorite surf spot. After enjoying those “perfect waves,” I was determined to return to Florida and become one of Jehovah’s servants.
I spent the next two weeks surfing in the mornings. In the afternoons on the beach, I read my Bible along with Bible study aids. The green Bible caught the attention of an eight-year-old girl, who insisted on taking us somewhere in the evening. We could not understand where she wanted us to go, but we understood it had to do with the green Bible. We refused, but she kept inviting. Finally, after some days we decided to go with her. She took us to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a small bamboo structure with a thatched roof. Everyone there greeted us with handshakes and hugs as if we were old friends.
We were impressed with the respectful behavior of all in attendance. Some children stared at us during the meeting, probably because they had never seen people with such long blond hair. Their parents had to remind them constantly to concentrate on the meeting. Yet, Jehovah had used a young person like them to get us to attend our first meeting.

Determined to Serve Jehovah
After two weeks of perfect waves, I sold my boards, and we drove directly to Florida. There we started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and attending all the congregation meetings. Determined to serve Jehovah, we stopped living together and having close association with our former friends. I shaved off my beard and got a haircut, and Sue bought a few dresses. Four months later we were married, and in April 1976, we were baptized in symbol of our dedication to serve God.
Now our lives had a purpose. Grateful to Jehovah for all our blessings, we were eager to return to a Spanish-speaking country to preach the good news about God’s Kingdom. But Christian elders in our congregation advised us: “Do not go yet. First, build up your spirituality in order to have something to offer there.” We accepted their advice, and thereafter our goal was to become pioneers, as Jehovah’s Witnesses call full-time ministers. Sue started to pioneer in January 1978. I also wanted to pioneer, but I was still deeply in debt for university tuition fees. I came up with a simple solution. I would declare bankruptcy and be free to pioneer.
The elders, however, wisely advised against that plan, explaining that it would not be in harmony with Bible principles, which require us to be ‘honest in all things.’ (Hebrews 13:18) So I continued working to pay off my debts. Finally, in September 1979, I reached my goal of joining Sue in the pioneer work. Afterward, by keeping our lives simple, I had to work only a couple of days a week to make ends meet.

Serving at Brooklyn Bethel
In April 1980, after less than a year of pioneering together, we received a big surprise. Earlier, in response to a call for construction workers, we had submitted applications to serve at Bethel, the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York. We now received an invitation to come in 30 days! We had mixed feelings, since we were enjoying our pioneering so much. Unsure about what to do, we talked the matter over with two elders, who helped us see the great privilege being offered to us. They advised, “Go, try serving at Bethel for a year.” So we sold everything we had and headed for Brooklyn.
After working in construction for two years, I was invited to work in the Construction Engineering Office, where I was trained in structural design. Sue worked in the Bindery for a year, and then she was invited to the Graphics Department. Annually, on our wedding anniversary, we reflected on the previous year and evaluated our circumstances and desires and decided to continue serving at Bethel.
As the years passed, we made some wonderful close friends. Moreover, since Bethel allowed us to serve Jehovah and our worldwide brotherhood in a very meaningful way, we remained determined to stay. In 1989 we began studying Spanish, which enabled us to be assigned to a Spanish congregation in Brooklyn. As a result, we felt we had the best of two worlds—serving at Bethel and serving in a foreign-language congregation.
On one occasion Jenny, mentioned previously, visited us at Brooklyn Bethel, and it was interesting to hear her side of the story about the day we met in El Salvador. She had been at a Bible study and started to feel sick. On her way home, she decided to stop and get some medicine. For some reason she did not go to the pharmacy she had been to before but to the one where we were.

Serving in Other Countries
One day in 1999, my overseer at Bethel surprised me with the question, “Would you be willing to go to the Australia branch and work on a project in the Regional Engineering Office for three months?”
“Yes,” I responded without hesitation. Soon we were on our way to Australia, where we served for three years. It was a pleasure to assist in the design of branch facilities for several countries in the Orient and in the South Pacific. When we returned to Brooklyn in 2003, an additional surprise awaited us. We were invited to another foreign assignment—to serve in the Regional Kingdom Hall Office located at the branch in Brazil, at some distance from the large city of São Paulo. This is where we are still located. The office supervises the building of Kingdom Halls in the majority of countries in South America. My assignment includes traveling to assist with such construction work and to encourage those working on the many projects—and Sue is able to accompany me.

Maintaining Our Priorities
I must say that I still enjoy surfing, but I have found something better than “perfect waves.” Thus, I have kept surfing in its proper place, as a form of recreation. With the loving support of Sue, I have concentrated on something more important, serving our loving God, Jehovah.
Our main concern now is to use our lives and skills to advance Kingdom interests and promote the pure worship of Jehovah God. We have learned that the most important thing is not where we are serving Jehovah but that we are serving him whole-souled wherever we are.—Colossians 3:23.

daily text 10/23

Friday, October 23rd, 2009
"The things I was fond of were with the sons of men." (Proverbs 8:31)

From the time he was created, Jesus had an intimate relationship with his Father. (Proverbs 8:22) During his prehuman existence, Jesus discerned God’s attitude toward humans by observing Jehovah’s dealings with them. God’s love for mankind was reflected in the Son. The training that the Son received also included observing how his Father managed adverse circumstances. For example, consider Jehovah’s dealings with the wayward Israelites. Nehemiah 9:28 states: “As soon as they were at rest, they would again do what is bad before you [Jehovah], and you would leave them to the hand of their enemies, who would tread them down. Then they would return and call to you for aid, and you yourself would hear from the very heavens and deliver them in accord with your abundant mercy, time and again.” Working with and observing Jehovah, Jesus cultivated similar compassion for the people in his territory.—John 5:19.
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 3:11, 12)

*When you read the Hebrew Scriptures in particular, there's so many accounts that demonstrate just how enormously loving and compassionate Jehovah was with his people, which Jesus would have witnessed first-hand by watching his father's actions while dealing with the nation of Israel for so long, (as was mentioned above). But it's almost funny how many times you'll come across the phrase:
"And the sons of Israel again began to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah."
He would help them out, then they'd forget about him and start worshipping other gods and sinning by getting involved in all the immoral and pagan customs of the nations surrounding them. But then as soon as they'd get themselves into a pickle, they'd cry out to Jehovah to save them, and he'd help them again. It was such an ongoing pattern that shows just how much love and concern God has for humans, even though they turn aside from him so often. This account at (Psalm 78:32, 37-41) demonstrates the point pretty well...

"Despite all this they sinned some more
And did not put faith in his wonderful works,

...And their heart was not steadfast with him;
And they did not prove faithful in his covenant.

But he was merciful; he would cover the error and not bring ruin.
And many times he made his anger turn back,

...And he kept remembering that they were flesh,
That the spirit is going forth and does not come back.

How often they would rebel against him in the wilderness,
They would make him feel hurt in the desert!

Again and again they would put God to the test,
and they pained even the Holy One of Israel.”

*On a side note, this is another area that gives such a stamp of divine authenticity to the Bible, because when you read how God and Jesus dealt with people, you can see that it was not 'normal' human logic. Humans don't think like that. So for the writers of the Bible to record such accounts (especially in the time period they lived...which was unheard of in comparison with the practices & beliefs of the other nations), gives evidence of an 'elevated' way of thinking and treating others, which could only have come from an inspired source.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Former Geisha Becomes A Christian

Experience of Sawako Takahashi
(pgs 19-24 of the 02/22/96 Awake!)

(Sawako practicing at eight years old)

“The child of a frog is a frog.” ...This Japanese proverb means that a child grows up to be just like its parent. My mother was a geisha.
I grew up in a geisha house run by my mother. So from when I was small, I was surrounded by beautiful ladies who wore the most expensive kimonos. I knew that when I got bigger, I would join their world. My training began in 1928 on the sixth day of the sixth month when I was six years old. The figure 666 was said to guarantee success.
I studied Japan’s traditional arts—dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, performing the tea ceremony, and so forth. Every day after school I ran home, changed, and went to my lessons. There I would be with my school friends again because we were all children of geisha. It was a busy time, and I enjoyed it. In those days before World War II, compulsory schooling ended at age 12, so that is when I started to work. As a fledgling geisha, I dressed in gorgeous kimonos with sleeves hanging down almost to my feet. I felt elated as I went on my first assignment.

My Work as a Geisha
My work basically involved entertaining and acting as a hostess. When wealthy men planned dinner parties at exclusive eating establishments, they would call up a geisha house and request the services of a few geisha. The geisha were expected to liven up the evening and ensure that each guest went home satisfied, feeling that he had a good time.
To do this, we had to anticipate each guest’s need and provide for it—even before the guest realized he had a need. The hardest part, I think, was having to adapt at a moment’s notice. If guests suddenly wanted to watch dancing, then we danced. If music was desired, we got out our instruments and played the music requested or sang whatever kind of song was asked for.
A common misunderstanding is that all geisha are high-class, expensive call girls. This is not the case. Although there are geisha who make their living by selling themselves, there is no need for a geisha to stoop to that. I know because I never did. A geisha is an entertainer, and if she is good, her skills bring her work, expensive gifts, and generous tips from customers.
Admittedly, few are good enough to make it to the top. Most geisha become professional in just one of Japan’s traditional arts. But I held diplomas in seven such arts, including Japanese dance, flower arranging, the tea ceremony, the Japanese drum known as taiko, and three styles of music played on the three-stringed shamisen. Without these qualifications, to make a living, I would perhaps have felt the need to do whatever customers asked.
When Japan was not economically stable, girls sometimes chose to become geisha in order to support their families. They borrowed money to pay for their training and kimonos. Others were sold by their families to geisha houses. Their owners, having paid large sums of money, required repayment from the girls. Geisha in these circumstances were greatly disadvantaged, for their training began late and they started off heavily in debt. Many of these geisha resorted to or were forced into immorality to meet financial responsibilities.
My services came to be in demand by well-known people in the world of sports, entertainment, business, and politics. Cabinet and prime ministers were among my clients. These men treated me with respect and thanked me for my work. Although I did not join in the general conversation unless invited, I was sometimes asked for my opinion. So I read newspapers and listened to the radio daily in order to keep up-to-date with the news. Parties at which I served were often held for the purpose of negotiations, so I had to be discreet and not repeat things I heard.

(Sawako with adoptive mother)

Who Is My Mother?
One day in 1941, when I was 19, I was called to an eating house and found two women waiting for me. One of them announced that she was my birth mother and that she had come to take me home. The other woman employed geisha and offered me work. She thought I should work to support my birth mother rather than my adoptive mother. It had never crossed my mind that the woman who had raised me was not my real mother.
Confused, I ran home and told my adoptive mother what had happened. She had always been in control of her emotions, yet tears now filled her eyes. She said she had wanted to be the one to tell me that when I was one year old, I had been handed over to a geisha house. On hearing the truth, I lost all trust in people and became withdrawn and quiet.

I refused to accept my birth mother. It was obvious from our brief meeting that she knew of my success and wanted me to work to support her. From the location of her friend’s operation, I knew that working there involved immorality. I wanted to sell my artistic talents, not my body. So I thought then, and I still do, that I made the right decision.
Although I was upset with my adoptive mother, I had to admit that she had trained me so that I could always make a living. The more I thought about it, the more I felt indebted to her. She had carefully and consistently chosen my work, protecting me from men who called upon the services of geisha only for immoral purposes. To this day, I am thankful to her for that.
She taught me principles. One that she emphasized was that my yes should mean yes and my no, no. She also taught me to accept responsibility and to be strict with myself. Following the principles she taught, I was successful in my work. I doubt whether I would have received such help from my birth mother. My adoption probably saved me from a very rough life, and I decided that I was very glad it had happened.

A Son in the Midst of War
I gave birth to a son in 1943. In line with traditional Japanese culture, which does not recognize “sin,” I did not think I had done anything wrong or shameful. I was thrilled with my son. He was the most precious thing I had—someone to live and work for.
In 1945 the bombing was very bad in Tokyo, and I had to flee the city with my son. There was little food, and he was very sick. People jammed the railroad station in mass confusion, but we somehow managed to board a train going north to Fukushima. We stayed there in an inn that night, but before I could take my little boy to a hospital, he died of malnutrition and dehydration. He was only two. I was devastated. The boiler man at the inn cremated my son’s body in the fire he used to heat the bathwater.
Soon after that the war ended, and I went back to Tokyo. The city had been flattened by the bombing. My home and everything I owned was gone. I went to a friend’s house. She lent me her kimonos, and I started to work again. My adoptive mother, who had evacuated to a place outside Tokyo, demanded that I send money and build her a house in Tokyo. Such demands made me feel lonelier than ever. I was still grieving over my son and longed for consolation, yet she never even mentioned my child. All she was concerned about was herself.

Family Duties
Tradition taught that everything we have we owe to our parents and ancestors and that it is the duty of children to repay their parents by obeying them without question and caring for them until they die. So I did my duty, but my adoptive mother’s demands were excessive. She also expected me to support her brother’s two children whom she had adopted. Until I was 19, I had thought of them as my brother and sister.
Many geisha never married, and they avoided having children of their own. They often adopted baby girls from poor families and trained them as geisha for the sole purpose of receiving financial support to enjoy a comfortable life in old age. Unhappily, I began to see why I had received all the care and training I had. It was simply future financial security.
I accepted all of this, although I did wonder why, in addition to my adoptive mother, I had to support my “brother” and “sister,” who were both healthy and able to work. Nevertheless, I supported the three of them, doing everything they asked. Eventually, the day before she died in 1954, my mother knelt on her bed, bowed, and thanked me formally. She said that I had done enough. This one acknowledgment and expression of thanks made up for my years of work. The satisfaction of knowing I had fulfilled all my responsibilities still moves me to tears.

(Sawako with her daughter Aiko)
Providing for My Daughter
In 1947, I became the mother of a little girl, and I decided to work hard to amass wealth for her. Every night I went out to work. I also began performing on stage in Japan’s main theaters, such as the Kabukiza in Ginza. This too paid well. Whether dancing or playing the shamisen, I always received the lead parts. Yet, despite having success that other geisha only dreamed of, I was not happy. Perhaps I would not have been so lonely had I married, but the life of a geisha and marriage do not go well together. My only consolation was Aiko, my little girl, and I built my life around her.
Normally, geisha train their daughters, whether natural or adopted, to do the same work. I followed that custom, but later I began to think about the kind of life I was preparing her for. If continued, it would mean that generation after generation would never know what it was like to have a real family. I wanted to break that chain. I wanted Aiko, and her children after her, to enjoy marriage and a normal family life. I did not want the child of this frog to become a frog!
When Aiko was entering her teens, she became uncontrollable. Since my adoptive mother’s death a few years before, Aiko’s only companions at home had been the maids I employed. She desperately needed my time and attention. So even though I was in my mid-30’s and at the peak of my career, I decided to put the geisha world behind me and accept only work dancing and playing the shamisen. I quit for the sake of Aiko. We began having evening meals together, and almost immediately she mellowed. Giving her my time worked wonders.
In time, we moved to a quiet residential area, where I opened a coffee shop. Aiko grew up, and I was relieved to see her marry Kimihiro, a gentle man who showed understanding toward the life I had led.

(family alter used to worship her mother)
Religion Becomes an Issue
In 1968, Aiko gave birth to my first grandchild. Not long afterward she began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. This surprised me because we already had a religion. I had installed a large Buddhist altar in our home after Mother—my adoptive mother—died, and I would kneel before it regularly in worship of her. Also, I would visit the family grave every month to report to her on all that happened. Ancestor worship satisfied me. I felt that I was doing what I should to care for my ancestors and to show them gratitude, and I brought Aiko up to do the same.
So I was horrified when she told me that she would no longer participate in ancestor worship, nor would she worship me when I died. ‘How,’ I asked myself, ‘could I have brought forth such a child, and how could she join a religion that taught people to be so ungrateful to their forefathers?’ For the next three years, it was as if a black cloud were hanging over me.
A turning point came when Aiko was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A Witness friend of Aiko, surprised that I was not present for my daughter’s baptism, told Aiko that she would call on me. I was furious, but simply because correct manners had been firmly ingrained in me, I welcomed her when she came. For the same reason, I could not say no when she stated that she would return the following week. These visits continued for weeks, infuriating me so much that at first I learned nothing from what she said. Gradually, though, the discussions made me think.
I began recalling things Mother used to say. Although she wanted to be worshiped after death, she wasn’t convinced about an afterlife. What parents want most, she would say, is for children to be kind to them and to talk warmly with them while they are still alive. When I read such scriptures as Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10, and Ephesians 6:1, 2, and saw that the Bible encourages the same thing, I felt as if scales fell from my eyes. Other things Mother had taught me were also in the Bible, such as that my yes should mean yes and my no, no. (Matthew 5:37) Wondering what else the Bible taught, I agreed to a regular Bible study. The sadness and frustration I had felt for most of my life melted away as I progressed in Bible knowledge. When I began attending meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was deeply impressed. Here was a different world. People were genuine, kind, and friendly, and my heart responded. Especially was I moved upon learning of Jehovah’s mercy. He lovingly forgives all repentant sinners. Yes, he would forgive all my past failings, and he would help me to enjoy a new life!

Changes in My Life
Although I wanted to serve Jehovah, I had strong ties to the entertainment world. I was then in my 50’s, but I was still performing on stage. I was also a leader and one of the two organizers of shamisen musicians when Danjuro Ichikawa performed Sukeroku at the Kabukiza. Since very few shamisen players can provide the katoubushi style accompaniment needed for Sukeroku, there would be no one to replace me if I quit. So I felt trapped.
However, an elderly Witness, who was also involved in a traditional form of Japanese entertainment, asked me why I thought I had to quit. “People have to work to support themselves,” he explained. He helped me see that I was doing nothing unscriptural and that I could serve Jehovah and continue my performances.
For a while I continued at the Kabukiza, Japan’s premier theater. Then, shows began to fall on meeting nights, so I asked to be replaced on those nights. Soon, though, our meeting times changed, and I could fit in both work and meetings. Yet, to get to meetings on time, I often had to jump into a waiting taxi immediately after the show finished instead of relaxing with the other performers as was the custom. Finally, I decided to quit.
At the time we were well into rehearsals for a six-month series of performances in Japan’s major cities. To bring up the subject of leaving would have caused a lot of trouble. So, without mentioning my intentions, I began training someone to be my successor. When the tour was completed, I explained to each person concerned that I had fulfilled my responsibilities and that I was quitting. Some became angry. Others accused me of being conceited and deliberately causing them trouble. It was not an easy time for me, but I stuck to my decision and quit after 40 years of performing. Since then, I have taught the shamisen, and this provides a little income.

(Sawako, her daughter & husband, and grandchildren)

Living Up To My Dedication
A few years earlier, I had dedicated my life to Jehovah God. I was baptized on August 16, 1980. The feeling that overwhelms me now is that of deep gratitude to Jehovah. I judge myself as having been somewhat like the Samaritan woman that is mentioned in the Bible at John 4:7-42. Jesus spoke to her kindly, and she repented. Similarly, Jehovah, who “sees what the heart is,” kindly showed me the way, and because of his mercy, I have been able to start a new life.—1 Samuel 16:7.
In March 1990, when I was nearly 68 years old, I became a pioneer, as full-time ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses are called. Aiko too is a pioneer, as are her three children. They grew up to be like their mother in keeping with the Japanese proverb: “The child of a frog is a frog.” Aiko’s husband is a Christian elder in the congregation. How blessed I am to be surrounded by my family, all walking in the truth, and to have loving spiritual brothers and sisters in the congregation! Grateful as I am to my ancestors, my greatest thanks go to Jehovah, who has done more for me than any human could. In particular, it is gratitude for his abundant mercy and comfort that moves me to want to praise him for all eternity.

daily text 10/22

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
"What you vow, pay." (Ecclesiastes 5:4)

Jephthah vowed that if Jehovah gave him victory over the Ammonites, he would present as “a burnt offering” the first one meeting him upon his return from battle. That one turned out to be Jephthah’s daughter—his only child. With faith in Jehovah, both Jephthah and his unmarried daughter fulfilled his vow. Although marriage and childbearing were highly esteemed in Israel, Jephthah’s daughter willingly remained single and enjoyed the privilege of engaging in sacred service at Jehovah’s sanctuary. (Judges 11:28-40) The godly woman Hannah proved trustworthy. She vowed that if she bore a son, she would give him to Jehovah. She soon became pregnant with Samuel. After he was weaned, Hannah presented him to God at Shiloh, lending Samuel to Jehovah “all the days of his life.” (1 Samuel 1:11) She thus fulfilled her vow even though she did not know that she would eventually have other children.—1 Samuel 2:20, 21. (Watchtower 02/15/08, 2:3-5)

*Hannah was another great example of loyalty. Stop and think about how hard some women try to get pregnant today...paying for all kinds of fertility treatments and going through an extremely long waiting process that can take months, even years before they ever conceive. Well Hannah had a similar situation. Think after all those years of being barren how easy it would have been to try to justify keeping Samuel after finally getting pregnant, by rationalizing that this might be her only chance at motherhood. But this is where knowing Jehovah's personality plays a big part in our relationship with him. Jehovah always keeps his promises (even when things don't turn out exactly the way we expected them to) Jehovah is loyal and never holds back anything good from his servants.
Hannah trusted in that, and eventually had 3 sons and 2 daughters. And she also got to watch her son Samuel grow up to be a strong, spiritual man, who eventually became the last judge over Israel (before the kingship was established with Saul). But the point is,...she didn't go back on her word after her petition was granted. She kept her vow as promised, not knowing how things would turn out.

"And let Jehovah repay me according to my righteousness,
...With someone loyal you will act in loyalty" (Psalm 18:24, 25)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


ok I found the story I was looking've gotta read it.
Just Keep Planting

Isn't that a beautiful example of loyalty? Now there's a man whose unswerving hope and dedication to what he believed in (despite so many obstacles and set-backs) produced amazing results in the end. Here's a description of that quality from chapter 28 in the Draw Close To Jehovah book:

What Is Loyalty?
“Loyalty” as used in the Hebrew Scriptures is kindness that lovingly attaches itself to an object and does not let go until its purpose in connection with that object is realized.
More is involved than faithfulness. After all, a person might be faithful merely out of a sense of duty. In contrast, loyalty is rooted in love. Then, too, the word “faithful” can be applied to inanimate things. For example, the psalmist called the moon “a faithful witness in the skies” because of its regular nightly appearance. (Psalm 89:37) But the moon cannot be described as being loyal. Why? Because loyalty is an expression of love—something that inanimate things cannot display.
In its Scriptural sense, loyalty is warm. Its very manifestation indicates that a relationship exists between the person who displays the quality and the one toward whom it is shown. Such loyalty is not fickle. It is not like waves of the sea blown about by changing winds. On the contrary, loyalty, or loyal love, has the stability and strength to overcome the most daunting of obstacles.
Granted, such loyalty is rare today. All too often, close companions are “disposed to break one another to pieces.” Increasingly, we hear of spouses who abandon their mates. (Proverbs 18:24; Malachi 2:14-16) Treacherous acts are so common that we might find ourselves echoing the words of the prophet Micah: “The loyal one has perished from the earth.” (Micah 7:2) Although humans often fail to show loving-kindness, loyalty outstandingly characterizes Jehovah. In fact, the best way to learn just what loyalty entails is to examine how Jehovah displays this grand facet of his love.

Former Polygamist & Witch Doctor, Helped To Make Lifestyle Changes

This brother's experience isn't something that the average person deals with in regards to marriage and career, but I wanted to include it to show just how willing he was to make the necessary changes in his life in order to please God by living up to his moral requirements. So it's more of a: "if he can do it, so can I" type of story,...showing that it's never 'too late' to change, and it's never 'too great' an obstacle for Jehovah to help us overcome, in order to progress spiritually.

(experience of Isaac Tshehla on pgs 158 & 159 of the 2007 Yearbook)

Isaac and three of his friends—Matlabane, Lukas, and Phillip—grew up in the Sekhukhune Mountains situated in the northeastern part of South Africa. These four young men decided to leave the Apostolic Church because of the hypocrisy they saw among church members. Together they began searching for the true religion. In time, they lost contact with one another.
Three of the four friends eventually became Jehovah’s Witnesses, together with their wives. But what happened to Isaac? He had followed in the footsteps of his father, who was a renowned witch doctor. Isaac’s motive was to make money, and he became wealthy. He owned a hundred cattle and had a large bank balance. As is traditionally expected of wealthy people, Isaac also had two wives. Meanwhile, Matlabane decided to search for Isaac and show him how his three former friends had found the true religion.
Isaac was pleased to meet Matlabane again and was eager to know why his old friends had become Jehovah’s Witnesses. A Bible study was started with Isaac in the brochure Enjoy Life on Earth Forever! Picture number 17 in the local-language edition shows an African witch doctor throwing bones onto the ground to divine an answer to a client’s question. Isaac was amazed to learn from the cited scripture, Deuteronomy 18:10, 11, that such spiritistic practices are displeasing to God. He was disturbed by picture number 25 of a polygamous man and his wives. The picture includes the citation of 1 Corinthians 7:1-4 to show that a true Christian cannot have more than one wife.
Isaac was eager to obey the Scriptures. At the age of 68, he dismissed his second wife and legalized his marriage to his first wife, Florina. He also stopped practicing as a witch doctor and threw away his divining bones. During one of Isaac’s Bible studies, two clients arrived from a long distance. They had come to pay him 550 rand ($140, U.S., at the time) that they owed him for his services as a witch doctor. Isaac refused to accept the money and gave the men a witness, explaining that he had given up his former practice and was now studying the Bible with the intention of becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Soon Isaac reached his goal. In 1985 he and Florina were baptized, and for the past few years, Isaac, now aged 90, has served as an elder in the Christian congregation.
*there's been quite alot of success in the area of polygamy due to firmly upholding what the Bible says on the matter and not 'watering down' the message. Many religions will 'look the other way' when it comes to serious sins and immoral behavior simply in order to retain membership...demonstrating that they prefer to be "men-pleasers," rather than pleasers of God (Colossians 3:22, 23)...even though they are under obligation to teach people the truth from the Scriptures.
But examples like this, show that there are righteous-hearted people out there, who willingly respond to the Bible's direction by making big changes in their lives when they come to find out how God views the matter... (without religious leaders having to make 'adjustments' to the message in order to keep church attendance up).