This blog is dedicated to my father, Eugene Velasco who would have been 84 on September 25, 2016.
In 1972, after several years of studying Watchtower materials, my mother was baptized into the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, calling herself one of “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Mom thought she found “the truth” and was very excited about joining. She had left the Roman Catholic Church, deciding that they were “pagan” because they taught the Trinity. Every church who taught the doctrine of the Trinity was pagan according to the Watchtower. In order to be truly serving God you had to give up all that was considered “pagan”, including celebrating anyone’s birthday.
My father did not embrace the Watchtower teachings when my mother joined the Watchtower. He continued to love her in spite of my mother’s “new love” in her life. Many times when one spouse joins the Watchtower, it feels like the spouse is having an affair with someone else. My mother was just “in love” with this new religion and it just consumed her life. My father however, fell into alcohol addiction, drowning his sorrows that way. Sometimes it seemed like such a vicious cycle. The more my mother dedicated herself to the Watchtower organization, the more unhappy my father was and the more he drank alcohol.
He wasn’t always an alcoholic. I don’t want to give this impression that my father was a bumbling drunk, he was far from that. He was quite an intelligent man and well respected at his position as he was a career fire fighter. He went into this line of work because he truly cared for people. He was involved with saving lives and property every working day of his life. He also saw a lot of tragedy and misfortune on the job. I am sure he saw things he just really wanted to forget. He had to live that daily struggle knowing that he could go to a call and see a dead child or other burned victims from a fire. He responded to traffic accidents where victims were pronounced dead at the scene. It takes a very special kind of a person to work in these types of situations and it is never easy. In a nutshell, my father’s objective in life was saving lives.
I left the Watchtower in 1980 and became a Christian in 1982. At that time, my father had not joined the Watchtower yet, although my mother had been pressuring him to get down to business, have a “study” and get baptized. She wanted the respectability of having a husband who was serving the Watchtower with her and not just being the spouse of an unbelieving husband. My dad was always the person I could talk to after I left the Watchtower. After I moved to California from Arizona, he decided to call me once a week. Since my mother was shunning me at the time, he felt he could not call me from home, as this would incite my mother’s anger. When I left the Watchtower and became a Christian, she was very angry with me. I had found out that the Watchtower was NOT the truth, but she was angry with me because I left and decided to go to a Christian church. She was taught that since I did this, I was now an enemy and she should treat me as an enemy who betrayed God’s earthly organization. So Dad was pretty careful about not talking about me or calling me in front of her. He just did not want to get her all riled up.
One day my dad called me and told me that he had some news for me. First, he was retiring. That was in 1984, he had spent 28 years working for the Tucson Fire Department. The second part of the news was that he was joining the Watchtower and he would no longer be able to call me. I was so crushed. I was happy that he was getting to retire, but I was losing a relationship with the only parent I had left. It was a very sad time for me and I mourned losing him. This was not good news for me because I did not know when I would see him again or if I’d ever get to speak to him again. The Watchtower teaches that when former members such as myself, leave their organization and join another church or even attend another church, they are to be referred to as “apostates”. Now that he was joining them he was officially supposed to treat me as an enemy and was supposed to shun me.
I saw him sporadically throughout the next 10 or 15 years. I noticed that when we were together, he did not shun me, only my mother did. I realized that Dad never really wanted to shun me, but my mother was really hell-bent on it because she wanted to be obedient to the organization. Years ago, I talked to him about the shunning and told him that I was very glad he did not shun me. His response to me was: “I don’t believe in disfellowshipping the family.” I realized then that he still was thinking for himself and making his own decisions. The one thing I knew about my father was that he truly loved my mother. After he retired, he took her on many vacations. They went to Hawaii four times! They went on an Alaskan cruise. They went to Mexican resorts, Puerto Rico, and South America. They really took some beautiful trips together and had a good time.
Around 2001, the relationship between myself and my parents, specifically my mother began to improve. By that time, I had been married to my husband Dave for five years and my father liked him. We had visited them off and on as I was somewhat cautious about my mother. However, my relationship with my father began slowly improving. He was disfellowshipped from the Watchtower around 2003, allegedly for his alcoholism and being cited with a DUI. He spent a night in jail and I felt very badly about that. He did not want to be disfellowshipped, but the elders did it anyway. Now he was in the same boat with myself and my sister. I do not think he realized how badly he was going to be treated by the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses.
One day some Jehovah’s Witnesses decided to come by and visit my mother. My father was sitting in the living room when these people arrived. Imagine his shock and dismay when they asked him to leave the room! What kind of nerve did those people have to ask the man of the house to leave the room. This was HIS home, not theirs! After that, he was very upset with the audacity of their disrespect to him as the man of the house. Dad was never the same after that because this incident seemed to open his eyes to what kind of organization the Watchtower really was. What kind of religious organization tells their members to disrespect a man in his own home, just because he no longer is a member? They made no effort to bring him back as a “lost sheep”, but instead shunned him and disrespected him.
In 2008, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a bilateral mastectomy. My sister Jeanette and I made plans to take care of her following her surgery. Dad, because of his immobility from his strokes was unable to care for her. So, my sister took the first week and I took of the next 10 days from work to stay with them. It was during this time that I snuck in some materials into the house to show Dad the errors of the Watchtower organization. I left him several books to read that all exposed the Watchtower’s false teachings. Close to around the same time, my sister Jeanette gave Dad an NIV Archaeology Study Bible. Dad never went back to the Watchtower and never had the desire to go back.
Dad’s health was somewhat stable for the next few years, but in 2015, he slowly started going downhill. I used to call the house once a week and he would always answer the phone. Mom used to joke that she made Dad the secretary and that is why he answered all the phone calls. Every time I called, I knew Dad would answer. A few months before he became very ill before his death, I asked him if he had ever thought about going back to the Watchtower. His answer was a resounding NO. Dad’s words were, “No, they are a cult!” I talked to him about that and I asked him what he now believed. His answer? “Jesus is the only way.” Somehow, along the way, after reading the materials I left for him and the Bible my sister gave him, he came to that conclusion all on his own.
Dad got very sick in November 2015 with a pain that was in his elbow. Doctors said it was an inflamed tendon, but in truth, it turned out to be cancer. On December 5, 2015, I received a call from my sister letting me know that Dad was in the hospital with a broken arm. Dad had broken his arm trying to lift himself out of bed that morning. The x-rays revealed there was a tumor, which during surgery, turned out to be 4th stage renal cancer. He lived another two months. During that time, my sister brought her pastors to see him and to pray with him in the hospital. We know Dad was saved because he verbally expressed it several times before he died.
On February 7, 2016, Dad went home to be with the Lord. It was sad, we were all saddened by his death, and we all miss him very much. The Watchtower stole many years from us, but I am confident that I will see him again because he is spending eternity with Jesus. My mother is still a JW and she suffers from dementia. She is 83 years old and we just keep praying for her. No matter what, we will not give up on her either. May God also have mercy on her and open her eyes even through her elderliness and dementia. The Lord saved my father and I once thought that was going to be impossible, but nothing is impossible with God! “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26 ESV)