By Lester Kite
I was a “born in.” My father and mother got the “truth” very shortly before I was born 44 years ago. They were very young parents but both took to the teachings of the WTS very easily. My father made ministerial servant grade and became an elder when the arrangement was started sometime early in the 70?s.
Childhood memories are very grim because of the ostracizing and isolation my sister and I suffered being virtually the only kids in our respective schools who were Witnesses. We had to constantly sit out assemblies and religious instruction class which took a toll on me. I found myself desperately unhappy even at this ridiculously young age. Also my father took extreme measures when applying the “rod of discipline” command and thrashings became a weekly occurrence. He had a particular fondness for a thick leather belt, but a thick stick, his hand, or anything that came to hand, would generally do. Sickeningly, his punishment habit developed into a sick sexual thing, when he would bare my buttocks and his pants would fall down to his ankles while he was thrashing me. To this day, these memories turn my stomach.
I was not the young JW son that my father clearly hoped for (he worshipped my sister). I hated field service and giving talks and would feign any sort of illness to miss meetings. By about 14 years of age, I simply refused to get ready for one particular meeting and strangely they let me stay at home; just not for that meeting or the next one, but for a few years which I call my “walk about years.”
We moved in 1984 from where we had lived for many years. After the move, I began to wonder that maybe what we were involved in since birth did make some sense. I noticed that the Witnesses had undergone a transformation since the days of the old Kingdom Hall where I remembered only dull, old gray-headed people. My sister’s friends all seemed hip and almost trendy. They had a great social scene; parties were held every week and they started to show an interest in me. I started to show an interest in a young sister as well. I started dating and blending in well with my new found friends.
I started studying with the Witnesses and made progress and began attending the Wimbledon Congregation, a suburb of London in the UK. It seemed that in no time I was an un-baptized publisher, giving talks and commenting at meetings all on the way to being baptized in 1987 when I was 21. Shortly, I started to date the sister that took my eye back then. We married in 1990 after a great courtship, very passionate and physical, but marriage ended virtually all physical contact. Our marriage was doomed from day one. I was surprised that we lasted five years since I never thought we’d make even one year together.
During the early part of 1991, I started thinking that perhaps all was not quite right in the belief system that I had dedicated my life to. Some doctrines never sat well with me, including 1914, the blood ban, the destruction and murder of all non-JW’s at Armageddon, etc. I kept my feelings secret but I was spending time in my local library where I found a lovely book written by Alan Rogerson on JW’s.
I also found a Christian Outreach centre close to me called Reach out Trust. I paid them a visit and was shown to their stockroom and purchased a selection of books which included Ray Franz’ two volumes and Carl Olaf Jonson and James Penton’s books which all proved invaluable reading. My mind was made up after a weekend of non-stop reading. I also made contact with a couple of so-called “apostates” locally. A very vital source for all things “apostate,” and a very good friend, was a former JW named Alan Tanucci. Around mid-1992, I started making vocal my opinions about my findings although I was still active but had ceased attending the congregation book studyNaturally, my friends and family reported my new findings and I was requested to attend a judicial committee hearing after being visited by PO, Ted Sallows, and his sidekick, John Morley. To be honest, this roller coaster of a period had resulted in an outcome that I was not expecting nor was prepared for. I went along to the JC expecting a slap on the wrist, not the outcome that happened.
The secret hearings took place over two weekends in the latter part of 1992 and the committee consisted of the chairman, Geoff Woodfield (a family friend and a generally decent man); Rensford Ming (a quiet guy of Jamaican origin, also a decent man); and Dave Churchill and Stan Rogers, both company men who humiliated me and assassinated my character. They both were downright rude and insulting to my wife. All elders, with the exception of Woodfield were appointed from neighboring congregations. Needless to say, after two weekends of mentally exhausting questioning, I was found guilty of the charge even though I expressed repentance and offered apologies to any who I may have stumbled.
By this point as I walked to the car, I was prepared to throw in the towel and take the punishment on the chin, but this is where the story gets a bit interesting. Geoff Woodfield follows me to the car, shakes my hand and offers his sincere support, and I say “Geoff, I’ve had enough of all this and I’m going to take my punishment.” He said, “No! You have to appeal.” I said, “Are you sure?” He said, “Yeah, you will beat this. Give me the appeal letter on Thursday but under no circumstances must elders Sallows and Morley see us.” I thought this was “odd” but whatever he said, I did, and a date was set for the appeal hearing the following weekend. During this time I was still meeting with “apostates” and kept up to date with as much apostate reading material I could get my hands on, even driving to the appeal hearing with a Ray Franz book in my car.
The appeal committee was made up of three decent men chaired by Ron Bicknell (a bloody decent man), Peter Davey, and Alan Neal, both good men. During the hearing, I just lied because the prospect of my being disfellowshipped would have been dreadful for my family especially since my sister was to marry in a few months. I shed tears and almost fell to my knees begging for forgiveness! Well, the appeal committee actually overturned the disfellowshipping decision! The original elders, furious, sat in silence, and would not even look me in the eye. I walked out of there still a normal Witness to all those around me. Geoff Woodfield ran after me to congratulate me.
I attended the memorial in 1993 and very sporadic meetings in the early part of 1993. One particular meeting was during the visit of the CO whose name was Micheal Hodgson. I thought his behavior that night was particularly disgraceful as he cornered me and grilled me on whether I thought the WTS was God’s chosen channel on earth. I towed the party line with a politically correct answer. Also, the previous CO, Michal Purbrick, had some forthright views on me that perhaps he should have kept to himself.
The Memorial of 1994 was the last visit I made to a Kingdom Hall. I walked to the car that night and said “That’s my last!” My marriage was in the doghouse too. 1994 also saw me disassociated in absence done by a devious trick played on me by the elders of my congregation. Ted Sallows and John Morley, who if they were real men would have requested to meet me face to face, but rather resorted to a premeditated phone call that caught me off guard. Not that I was too bothered by it all. CO Hodgson probably wanted my name off of the cards anyway.
My lowest point was in 1994. It was a baking hot summer, the World Cup was on in the USA and I won’t go into any more details, but I hit rock bottom. 1994 may have been my lowest point, but 1995 was to be my turning point. My wife and I separated in 1995. I moved to my own place, had a career change, and moved on with my life with a whole new circle of friends who liked me for what I was, not like the conditional friendships that JW’s can only have. This new group of friends showed me more love and support then anybody I had ever met in almost a lifetime as a JW. Some of the very worst of human behavior I have ever seen has been on the part of JW’s.
So there you have it, a short resume of my life that ended in 1994 and started again in 1995!