And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for
the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit everlasting life.-Matthew 19:29

My short life before the Jehovah's Witnesses

I was born in New Orleans, LA.  New Orleans is a Catholic town.  My father’s family was Catholic and my
mother’s family was Lutheran (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod-LCMS).  My mother was the spiritual
leader in the family.  My father was not a practicing Catholic by the time I came along.  I can remember
attending Sunday school at the Lutheran church and I also remember going to kindergarten at the
Lutheran Church in New Orleans.  My mother was a very active Lutheran.  She taught Sunday school to
the little kids and was our room mother for my kindergarten class.  I can remember being taught to
love the Bible and Jesus.  I knew that I had been baptized when I was a baby and that Jesus loved me.  
I remember church being a fun place to attend and be with my mother and the rest of her side of the
family.

This all changed when my Grandmother (my mother’s mother) died.  I was about five years old at the
time.  

Being a Jehovah's Witness

Within a year after the death of my Grandmother, my mother had stopped going to the Lutheran Church
and had started attending the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs).  During this time, my father
would take us kids to Catholic Mass periodically where we would all fall fast asleep.   I had no idea that
my mother was no longer attending the Lutheran Church, so I would beg to go back to that church.  My
father would take us to Mass and then we would leave after the service.  There was no Sunday school
at the Catholic Church and I really had no understanding about what was happening there.

Eventually, my Father started attending the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses and within about
three years, my Father, my Father’s parents, and one of my Father’s sisters (all Catholics) left the
Catholic faith and became Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs).

So, from the time I was five until I was around 25 years old, I was a JW.  As a JW we attended five
meetings a week.  There was no worship service.  All of these meetings are classes designed to teach
you how to convert others to the faith.  I got really good at doing that.  I started going from door to
door with Watchtower literature when I was six years old.  I gave my first sermon in front of the
congregation at age 8.  By the time I was 19, I was giving presentations at conventions of JWs that had
2000 JWs in attendance.  

After high school, I became a pioneer minister of the JWs, which means I spent 1000 hours/year going
from door to door.  Eventually, I was invited to serve at the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s
Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York, which is where I met my wife Kathy.  I spent a year there.

My Wife’s Story

Kathy was raised as a Catholic but was never satisfied.  When she was older she asked her very
devout Catholic mother if she could explore other denominations.  Her mother allowed her.  Kathy
spent time in Pentecostal, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches.  However, none of these completely
satisfied her either.  However, during this time Kathy continued to attend CCD classes.

Eventually, her mother started studying with the JWs.  This greatly upset Kathy since she was required
to sit in on the study with the JWs.  Kathy would ask questions and even tell her CCD teacher what the
JWs were teaching her but the CCD teacher could not teach the Catholic faith very well and Kathy
eventually started to accept the JW teachings as truth.

Kathy’s stepfather, mother, brother also became JWs.  Kathy’s brother, Scott served at the World
Headquarters of the JWs in New York and it was on a visit to the headquarters where she met me.

Doubts as a JW

Now, I do not have time to explain ALL of the doubts that I had as a JW. However, I can tell you that I
had doubts about the JWs and I believe my hope was that in serving at the Headquarters that
somehow these doubts would go away.  Fortunately, they did not.  

The main doubt that I want to talk about which really changed my view of God and my relationship to
Him occurred after Kathy and I had been married for a few years and I was starting to become inactive
as a JW.  You see, by this time I had left the World Headquarters of the JWs and started college. Kathy
was working in downtown New Orleans at this time.  I would get done with my classes on Fridays by
2pm and I would go and sit in the theology section of Loyola University of New Orleans for hours and
just read.  Mostly I would read the books written by ex-JWs who were now Protestants.

The main teaching that I doubted at this time was the JWs two-tiered view of salvation.  They say that
only 144,000 people will go to heaven and live with Jesus for eternity.  And, only these 144,000 people
are adopted Sons of God. (In fact, we referred to these people who were mostly leaders in the JWs as
“Christ’s brothers”.)  The rest of the JWs are taught that they will live forever in paradise on earth
someday.  These people are not Christ’s brothers but merely friends of Jesus.  The friends of Jesus
are taught that they must prove their faithfulness to God by cleaning up the earth after Jesus returns
and kills all non-JWs and then after 1000 years of working themselves back to perfection they have to
be tested again by Satan.  If they pass this last test then they can live forever in paradise on earth.
This teaching seemed wrong to me after I prayed one night to the Lord and asked Him to reveal to me
what He wanted me to know.  I opened my Bible and I read the entire book of Romans from cover to
cover.  This scripture sums up what God said to me that night:

“For those who are lead by the Spirit of God are children of God.  For you did not receive a spirit of
slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba,
Father!”  The Spirit bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him.”-
Romans 8:14-17

God told me that He wanted me to be His son.  He wanted to adopt me.  

As a JW, I had been taught that I could never be a son of God and that I could never, even with lots of
hard work, be a full member of God’s family.  I would never be able to see God.  He would always be
this Holy other person that I would always be separated from even if I got to live for all eternity.

Years passed after seeing this, and Kathy and I moved to Arkansas after I finished college so that I
could go to graduate school.  I devoted all of my time to my graduate studies and left God behind so I
thought.  We lived for a couple of years in as she described “spiritual limbo” where I even questioned
God’s love for me.  Like the Israelites, I had a short memory of all the blessings God had given to me,
one of His children who did not know Him very well.  

However, God allowed me to get in touch with numerous Christians mostly Protestant on the Internet
during this time and their discussions with me were very helpful.  At some point Kathy and I both
expressed our belief in God and our desire to worship with other believers.  Around this time,  I had
started doing research in the big doctrinal areas and realized that the mainline Churches represented
the historic Christian faith much better than the JWs.  (The JWs deny Jesus’ divinity and reject the
majority of the doctrines Trinity, immortality of the soul, existence of Hell, that most people would
consider Christian.)  

Kathy and I wanted to find a church to attend and I had been speaking with my Lutheran relatives so
we decided that we should attend a Lutheran Church.  Eventually, we started attending a Lutheran
church in Arkansas that belonged to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  We joined that church
about a year before I finished graduate school.  I started teaching at Concordia University in Seward,
Nebraska in January 1999.  After arriving in Nebraska, Kathy and I, in spite of being shunned by many of
our JW friends and relatives, thought we were finally home.  However, God wanted to give us so much
more.

When we first moved to Seward, NE, the Mormons had just started building a church in town.  They had
been visiting many of the Lutheran parishioners so the local Lutheran church decided to teach a
Sunday school class on the teachings of the Mormons.  One of the comments the Pastor leading the
discussion made was that the church that Jesus founded would always exist and would never be
destroyed.  He made this point because the Mormons teach (as do the JWs) that the early church went
apostate sometime in its history and that God chose Joseph Smith (the JWs would say Charles Russell)
to restore his true church on earth.  He quoted this passage:

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the
netherworld shall not prevail against it.”-Matt. 16:18

I was sitting next to Kathy and I took out a piece of paper and asked the question.  “If this is true, then
what was Luther doing when he broke away from the Catholic church?”  In other words, what is the
difference between what Luther did and what Joseph Smith did and what Charles Russell did?  

It was also “roughly” during this time that I started to try to share my newfound Christian faith with
some friends of mine who had just recently left the JWs.  I would try to demonstrate to them that
certain teachings like the Trinity, immortality of the soul, etc. were the true doctrines of the Christian
faith.  I would use the Bible to try to “prove” it to them.  Their response was, “How do you know your
interpretation is correct since when we were JWs we would interpret those verses 180 degrees in the
opposite direction?”

So, I said to myself, ‘I bet there were other writings from Christians who were around during the time
of the apostles who could shed light on what the early church really believed.’  So, I started reading
the early church fathers.  One of my favorites soon became Justin Martyr.  I especially liked the way he
described how early Christians worshipped.  I thought, “Wow! Christians have been worshipping like
the Lutherans worship for centuries.” 

Eventually, I started reading books on the development of the New Testament and why the Catholics
have those extra books in their Old Testament Bibles?  I also wanted to know if the early church really
believed Jesus to be God. I was shocked at  the answers I was getting to these questions.

First I read some letters that were written around 98AD by a Christian Bishop named Ignatius.  In his
letters he talked about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and he referred to Jesus as God.  
However, he also described the early church as “Catholic” and he said that ‘the true church is the
church where the bishop is’.  “O my God, the early church had a hierarchy!!!!!!!!!”, I thought to myself.  

I also read a book written by a 3rd century bishop named Eusebius on the history of the Christian
Church.  Eusebius described the early church in such a way that I could see that the early church
looked a lot like the Catholic Church.  The main difference being that the Catholic church of today was
a lot bigger.  

I even read a church history book where the Protestant historian admitted that the Church used
apostolic succession (although he did not call it that but he described how apostolic succession
operates) to fight heresies in the second century.  

And, I discovered that if it were not for the Catholic Church, I would have no idea what books belonged
in the New Testament because they decided that for me in approximately the 4th century after Christ!

God must have wanted us badly.

Now, you would think that with all of this data.  I would have become Catholic right then.  The answer is
no.  About this time, I happened to become reacquainted with a friend from high school.   His name is
Jim.  Today he is Father Jim and he is a Catholic priest.  Father Jim is himself a convert to the Catholic
church.  He was raised a Presbyterian.  

Father Jim and I would have these deep conversations on religious history and we would agree pretty
much all of the time.  Father Jim would say that I was more Catholic than some of his own parishioners.  
I would always say, " I am not ready to swim the Tiber just yet." And he would say,  “What does the Holy
Spirit have to do, whack you over the head with a 2 X 4?”  Finally Father Jim challenged me to read the
Catechism of the Catholic Church and said that if I found anything wrong with it to let him know and if I
did not then I would know what I had to do.

So, during the summer of 2002, I finished reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and some
other books written by Scott Hahn.  God finally found his 2 X 4.

In the beginning of this story, I quoted Matthew 19:29 about those who left family for Jesus would
receive more in return.  Well, that is what God hit me over the head with.  Here I thought I was already
an adopted son of God as a Lutheran Protestant Christian and I was but I was still not a full member of
the family.  There was, as God revealed to me, some things missing.

For example:

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman,
behold your son.”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.”  And from that hour the disciple
took her into his home.”-John 19:26, 27

You see Jesus wanted to give me a new mother, His mother.  My mother, Eve, had said yes to Satan
and no God.  Mary had said yes to God.  In addition, my own mother Susan has never forgiven me for
leaving the JWs and my relationship with her has been strained.  (The JWs shun people who leave the
faith.)  But here Jesus wants to give us His mother because in reality all of us are “the disciple that
Jesus loves”.

In Romans 8 which we read earlier, Jesus wants me to share in his inheritance because of this I can
call God “Daddy” that is what “abba” means.

In Matthew 25: 31-46, Jesus tells me that he is my brother.   Jesus identifies Himself as a brother to
suffering humanity.

And then, there were 1500 years of Christian brothers and sisters that I had never been introduced to
who were just waiting to meet me.   For example, in Hebrews Chapter 11 and 12, the writer of Hebrews
reminds me that from Enoch (an old testament prophet) to the present day, there is a great cloud of
witnesses (Saints), older brothers and sisters, cheering me (us) on praying for me (us) so that we will
make it one day into God’s house in heaven.

God’s 2 X 4 was to introduce me to his entire family and to say I want you to be a part of all of this.   

So, after finding a new job and watching the amazing way in which God converted my wife, I had the
privilege to be sealed through the sacrament of confirmation into God’s Universal Family, the Church,
during Mass at the Feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit known as Pentecost. As I confessed the faith
of the Church that Christ founded through the words of the Nicene Creed during that Mass, I could
hear with my ears those same words coming from the people in the pews in the Cathedral.  I also knew
through faith that the angels and saints in heaven were also confessing those words with me.
Because you see, for me, whenever I go to Mass, it is a huge family reunion that is beyond the limits of
space and time and unites heaven and earth together as we all worship our wonderful Father in
Heaven.
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Welcome to the Universal (Catholic) Family of God
By Jeffery Schwehm