One day in the spring of 1991 I, Joyce Wesenberg, was gripped by the realization that I did not understand or know what I believed. I had been professing for 34 years and still had no idea what the scriptures really taught. I thought I was walking in the only way and that the workers were our mediators between God and man, but just what were the teachings of Jesus Christ?
(Oh I knew that this was the only way, the workers were God’s only true servants and that you couldn’t be a child of God unless you heard the ‘gospel’ through them. I also knew that meetings had to be in the home, the ministry had no home nor could they marry. Also, they had to go forth preaching two by two. Other than that I really wasn’t sure what I believed. The ladies wore dresses and did their hair up in buns. They wore no jewelry or makeup.)
“Something is drastically wrong,” I thought. I must not be born again! How does one become born again? These thoughts were going through my mind as I also wondered why I did not have any joy as so often mentioned in the scriptures about the Saints. I then and there decided to make a detailed study of the words of Jesus. I would find out just what Jesus Christ really taught.
A few days later (1991) I read an ad in the local paper offering for sale a book called The Church Without a Name. This takes me back eight years ago to 1983-84 when we were living in B.C. and I noticed an ad in the paper for a book called The Secret Sect. I thought that this sounded like what we belong to so I decided I wanted to read that book. My reasoning was that if the book was telling the truth, then I had a right to know and if it was not telling the truth, then God would protect me from the deceit. Dale, my husband, was reluctant to get the book in case his faith would be destroyed, so we asked the elder at the meeting we attended if he would get the book and read it first; then let us read it. When the elder agreed, we gave him the ad that I had cut out of the paper.
After about four months, we asked the elder if he ever received that book. He said, “Yes, but it is not fit to read. It is full of hate and lies. I gave it to the workers.” My husband didn’t care, but I was disappointed because I did want to read that book. Since I no longer had the address, I decided to read the ads in every weekly paper until it appeared again. Eight years later it did, in a different place and in a different paper.
I promptly ordered The Church Without a Name. When it arrived I read it at one long sitting and I was shocked. I also ordered the book Has the Truth Set You Free which clearly explained the true gospel. Finally, I understood the gospel! I was overjoyed, thrilled, amazed. I was also angry that I had been deceived all these years and that so many years of my life had been wasted.
I was amazed to find out that Jesus was God! I was overjoyed to find out that I did not have to earn my salvation. It was a gift! It was exciting – like Christmas morning. However, I still had lots of fears – “what if the workers are right?” Every time I had those fears I would go over the true gospel. I cried for months. I was still going to meetings, hearing things that didn’t sound right anymore, but still making me question. So when I got home I’d start reading the true gospel again.
My husband, Dale’s testimony picks up here. We were going through these questionings individually not really aware of one another’s experience. God was dealing with us separately but at the same time.
Dale: Following is an outline of my experience that led to Salvation. It was the spring of 1991 that our life took such an unexpected and dramatic change. Let’s back up, however, and give you a little of my history first.
I was born in 1947 to a mother who professed when she was a young woman. She married my dad who professed at the time, but approximately one year later left. He died outside the faith not willing but believing it was the only way.
Mom is a good woman who is trying to live a faithful life and did pretty good raising five children without much help from Dad who always seemed to be away. Being in the air force didn’t help matters. We moved around a lot so missed the regular meetings at times. Most of my childhood was spent in Calgary, Alberta, Goosebay, Labrador, and Cold Lake, Alberta.
It was while we were at Cold Lake around 1960, I believe, that I began to realize it was expected of me to make my choice or should I say became aware it was the right thing to do. At the age of 13 I made my choice at Lacombe Convention. I remember how hard it was to stand up and how lonely I felt. Afterward, I wondered if anyone would acknowledge my stand. I don’t remember anybody saying anything to me but I do remember getting beat up by five rough guys when I objected to them going through my suitcase. One after another they laid it on in the men’s barn while others ignored what was going on. Where was God, where were my friends I wondered? I don’t know what hurt the most, losing the fight, having my friends desert me when I thought they would be there, or the realization that even after professing I was just as vulnerable. I cried like I hadn’t cried before as I wiped the blood from my nose.
Regardless of the bad start, I did learn to read my Bible and the studies as Wed. nights would require and did my best to fit in and live a godly life. My ability to do so was confirmed by whether or not I had the approval of the friends and workers. It seemed I had this approval even though I did some things that weren’t right. I did have one problem though, only known to me, and that was pornography. Dad had a collection of magazines around the house making it most irresistible even at a very young age to view the contents. To add to the mystery, one of the friends, a young male teacher, found me attractive and took sexual liberties with me that left me bewildered.
Nevertheless, I grew up, in my opinion, not too bad a kid. I was unable in all the years I professed to rid my life of my addiction to pornography, even after I got married. I did manage to keep the problem hidden but it left me in constant guilt. I tried dealing with it many different ways with no success. I remember wishing I could talk with somebody and even tried, to no avail. It would have been so helpful if I could have shared this burden with somebody who could understand, I thought.
I hoped that if I could recognize the devil’s tactics maybe knowing his next move, I would be able to avoid losing the battle, a battle I had become only too familiar with. But it didn’t work. Victory was never mine and thirty years later, having faced this battle and lost again and again, I began to wonder why this was so when I was professing; one of God’s people, living under the promises of God, a promise of victory.
I wouldn’t want you to feel for a moment that I tell these things to gain sympathy. It’s just the way it was and I am fully aware that there are others who have gone through much worse. I mention them because they led me to the realization that something was wrong. Of course, it was I that had the problem and certainly, it was my fault, I felt. But I had tried for so long in so many different ways to deal with it; could I be missing something I wondered?
I was beginning to question the Bible’s credibility. Was it really God’s word or was it written by a bunch of drunk monks as some were saying. I had never considered that maybe I should examine my belief, and wanting to cling to my confidence in God and His Word, I chose to question my belief rather than God’s Word.
It was while driving home from Edmonton in 1991, that something began to happen that I believe is miraculous and will be remembered until the day I die. I had lost the victory while in Edmonton and recognized that it was only a matter of time and my life would be totally engulfed in my sin. It seemed hopeless and I had nowhere to go, nobody to turn to.
While I wondered about my belief and the possible cause, I wondered was there possibly a problem with what I had been taught and believed as true? At this moment God spoke simply saying, “Read your Bible”. I laughed at that out loud, and replied, “Read my Bible?” I have done just that for the last 30 years and where did it get me, things are only getting worse. God quietly answered again, “Read your Bible.” I knew it was God as I wouldn’t make such a seemingly ridiculous statement especially after dutifully reading it for 30 years and not being an avid reader, I found the task most unpleasant and overwhelming to say the least.
However, somehow in my hopelessness and despair, the message gave me new hope even though I couldn’t understand it. Not wanting to overburden myself with the whole Bible, I reasoned that I would read all of Jesus’ words which I believed were of greater importance. I finished my journey that day with a peace and hope that I cannot rightfully describe and it still makes me emotional just thinking on this time in my experience.
Looking back now, I find it quite interesting that God said what He did. He knew what would transpire and the effect it would have on me as I did what He told me to do. He just simply said, “Read your Bible”, twice, and proceeded to orchestrate the rest.
I opened my Bible when I got home, eagerly expecting some answers. My Bible opened to Matt. 22:37 and this was the verse that started everything happening. Vs. 37: “And Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’” Vs. 38: “This is the first and great commandment.”
Now at first, I didn’t see all that this verse was saying to me, but I quickly recognized there was no love in me for God. After all, I reasoned, what had He done for me? I did recognize, however, that Jesus emphasized this as the first and great commandment. Having seen that it was a priority to Jesus, I wanted to talk about it. It was as if a light came on and I wanted so much to talk about these verses.
I had been taught that the ministry, fellowship and meeting in the home were of foremost importance; here, however, Jesus says, “This is the first and great commandment.” Eph. 5:2: “And walk in love, as Christ.” 1 Cor. 13:13: “There are three things that will endure, Faith, Hope and Love, and the greatest of these is Love.” 1 Cor. 14:1: “Let love be your highest goal.”
I desperately wanted to talk about this in my testimony Sunday but somehow felt awkward about this, I don’t know why but I just knew it would not be well received. You should know that at this point in time I was still fully convinced that this was the true fellowship and only way.
Things started happening at this point that started me to wonder. An older sister worker, Gertrude, was dropped off at our place one day and as my thoughts were on these verses and I was full of excitement, I started right into discussing this verse. I said this was the most important statement Jesus ever made and that even He said it was in verse 38. She replied, “No, that was Old Testament teaching,” and downplayed its importance. Did this commandment lose its importance now that we were in the New Testament? I think not.
Seeming nervous and agitated and anxious to leave, Gertrude asked us for transportation to one of the friends nearby. It had me confused as to what the problem was. Maybe in my enthusiasm I had come across as a threat to her. My wife said she didn’t feel my approach was threatening. It was true, I had courage I never experienced before and I was beginning to think somehow, in some way not clear to me, the workers may be missing something of vital importance. How would that be possible though, these men and women are inspired by God, I thought, and I believed everything they said unquestionably to this point. We were still going to meeting and all the while I had this burning desire to discuss what God had revealed to me in these verses, but feared talking about it even more after Gertrude’s response.
As we listened to the workers in gospel meetings, certain things began to sound oddly incorrect. It was said that Noah was saved because he built the ark (reinforcing works salvation). I thought Noah loved God and had a relationship with God and obeyed God in building the ark as a result of this love relationship. Because he was spiritually saved God chose to use him.
The workers came to our place that night and I mentioned to them what the worker, Alayne, had said was not quite right and explained why. As a result, the next morning they told me to quit taking part of the bread and wine as I was drinking damnation to my soul. They also said that I was reading my Bible too much. I was floored to say the least, but responded by saying that was fine, as drinking the bread and wine didn’t save the soul. (I was beginning to understand the simple salvation message at that time and was better able to sort some things out.)
However, I was mystified by such a drastic response. I had given thanks for 30 years off and on for the bread and wine. We even had meeting in our home in 1969 while living in Rainbow Lake. I will admit though, that I never truly understood the meaning of the emblems. It was a mystery.
They left that day and I said to my wife after some thought that I wouldn’t be going back to meeting again. My wife continued to go for a while without me and heard them preaching that it was dangerous to read your Bible too much. It was emphasized a number of times. Exactly the opposite to what God had told me. It was obvious this worker was sadly in error.
After a while, my wife found it difficult to stay in the meetings where attention was constantly directed to the sacrifice of the workers and the example of Jesus. If the workers weren’t speaking about it, the friends were expressing thankfulness for the day the workers crossed their pathway.
Two months passed and we hadn’t gone to a Sunday or Wednesday meeting. We had no call or any communication whatsoever until a worker, Noreen phoned and asked if Willis Propp could come for a visit. We didn’t know him very well and could see no purpose in the meeting and said so. The other worker seemed to feel it would be a good idea and we agreed to call back after we had thought on it.
By this time we had in our possession the book called Has the Truth Set You Free? by Gene and Grace Luxon. My wife read the book a number of times crying as she did so and as she realized how sadly deceived we had been, we thought it might be a good idea to discuss some of the questions that had come up over the last while and as a result agreed to the meeting. We asked others in the family to attend as well and present their questions.
The room was full when the workers arrived helping to relieve some of the stress. The visit lasted for about three hours and was difficult to sort out where they were truly coming from as so many statements were ambiguous. It was a nerve-racking experience talking with someone so important and so wonderful. His answers flowed with such ease. He laughed at various issues brought up making it even worse as he condescendingly answered.
You must remember the workers had in effect become our gods and at this point we were a long way from being free of their influence. They left that evening feeling comfortable that they had done their duty in pointing us in the direction they were so convinced was right. The rest was up to us.
We never went to meetings again and we never detected any show of interest on their part to come back. Quite the opposite actually, as we found the friends in most cases very unfriendly and cool as our paths would cross or attempts were made to communicate by letter or phone.
Conventions were coming up and they must have been afraid we would turn up so sent another worker, Jack Price to visit. We had what we thought to be a good visit as Jack was somebody we knew and trusted. Our Bible discussion was what appeared to be exactly what you would expect to hear from a true Christian, something we couldn’t say about Willis. Unfortunately, we heard later that this story was changing as he spoke to others who were questioning the fellowship.
As he was leaving he mentioned that Willis was worried and that it would be better if we didn’t go to convention this year. He said this a few times and I replied that what we did would depend on what God moved us to do. Our initial response was not to go however we heard a rumor was being passed around that we would show up at convention to stir up trouble. This thought had never crossed our minds and in effort to defend our credibility, we decided to go and prove that rumor wrong. As it happened the rumor appeared to be correct but not because it was our intention. This is how I remember it in a little more detail.
Our relatives, fully respected elders from the Edson area, had arrived home for holidays. Having been gone for almost a year, they were looking forward to getting reacquainted with the friends at Mellowdale as they had many close and cherished relationships. Now my wife had explained to her sister what was happening in our lives months before and as a result, her sister had some questions she shared with her trusted friend in Edson. I understand this discussion was clearly understood to be in confidence.
Several of our relatives and family, as well as ourselves, left for convention that morning. Tom and Florence having arrived before us had time to greet their old friends before we arrived. To their dismay, Florence found those she trusted as true friends rejecting her greeting and walking away. Bewildered and hurt she sat in the car until we arrived. We couldn’t imagine what could have happened that would lead to such drastic measures as to shun a brother in Christ with no prior explanation whatsoever.
We heard later it was Willis’ request to shun us because of the questions raised and the stand my wife and I had made. We were sorry for Florence but were glad we heard what was happening before we too would be intimidated in this cruel manner. We just avoided initiating greetings. All the while Tom wanted to continue having fellowship with them and tried to reason as best he could. As I listened through that first meeting I was appalled at the constant reference to what the workers had done. It seems they were moved somehow to defend their position for some reason or another.
I hadn’t been to gospel or fellowship meeting for some time during which both my wife and I were devouring God’s Word and recognizing the real truth. This made it even more dramatic as we listened to the gospel according to the workers again. Salvation through the workers and what a great sacrifice they had made to bring the gospel to us; repelling to say the least. My wife said she never could figure out what they were trying to say and when I think back I have to agree. I just thought they were so great it didn’t matter whether it made sense or not. If the workers said it, it must be right. I couldn’t help but wonder how I had listened to these seemingly inspired words for so many years with such admiration, holding the workers in such high esteem believing they were God’s chosen servants in God’s only way, all the while not even understanding God’s simple salvation message. Jesus died for me that through faith in him I could have salvation.
It is a miracle that we could after all these years, see through their deception, not that they are intentionally trying to deceive but being deceived themselves they go forth with an air of misplaced confidence, only because they are blind and don’t recognize that this is the case. It is sad and we do hope and pray someday they too will have the privilege of getting to know Jesus as their personal Saviour.
The fellowship was appealing and we’ll admit that we miss the unity and harmony but most of all the support of friends and workers. However, we must recognize that when fellowship one with another fills the place rightfully God’s through Jesus it becomes people worship and is certainly not God’s plan.
Well, after that meeting at convention, Dale F. and Jim K. promptly came to where we were seated and asked us to meet them where our car was parked; they wanted to talk to us. Having done that, we noticed Joyce and Florence walking away with Neil L., the convention owner, to talk off by themselves. The workers called them to come back and Joyce looked back to see Jim following them and calling Neil. Neil, not responding, walked on and expressed his desire that they would stay (we found out later).
Jim, having given up his pursuit of Neil, came back and Dale F. point blank said we were told not to come to convention. Why were we here? Well, Jack P. hadn’t asked us not to come; he only suggested it would be better if we didn’t, as mentioned before. We came to prove the rumors were wrong, and besides that I said we don’t take direction from false prophets.
They said this was private property and they were asking us to leave. I replied we had been going to convention for 30 years, I wasn’t about to leave, and besides that, it wasn’t their property. Norman, the son of the owner was with them so I asked if he wanted us to leave, and he humbly and reluctantly nodded yes. Agitated, my response was we wouldn’t be leaving. If they wanted us off the grounds call the police. After a while, they gave up and left us alone. My nephew and I decided to take a few pictures as this would probably be the last convention we would ever attend. We took our pictures and decided to leave. We obviously were not welcome.
Three families drove off that convention ground as a testimony against them. Nothing hidden this time, everybody was there to witness the results of their high-handed judgement, something they desperately wanted to avoid. We waved goodbye as we drove out of the yard. May God help them!
Now, don’t think this was an easy thing, or that we believe we handled it properly, nor did anyone handle it properly. You don’t just walk away from relationships that developed from childhood without some doubts and a lot of pain.
We are thankful God saw fit to ease the pain somewhat by dealing with others of our family at the same time. We were not alone and because of that “he has a bad spirit” didn’t have the same impact it may have had, had this not been the case. Our concerns as to whether we had made the right stand was confirmed by the things the workers said and did. When God says read your Bible and they say it’s dangerous to read your Bible too much it was hard not to recognize something was amiss. My wife felt that if they had the power to remove you from what they claim to be the only way to heaven that they were taking what was only God’s rightful place in executing judgement.
Now Tom apparently wasn’t the one who was shunned, it was Florence, because of her questions expressed to her friend. We understand it was Willis who made the decision to reject her and this was a powerful statement to Tom. He wondered where the Christian brotherly love was. These glaring contradictions offered comfort in our favour.
Now in defense of the radical move the workers made, and the unexpected publicity and sympathy from some, the workers concocted a “lie” to justify their actions. They claimed we were passing out literature and because of that they had to ask us to leave. This was absolutely false. There was no evidence of this and some who were at convention said they never saw any and wondered about the accusation.
I was sure the workers must be right though, such men of honor, so upright and moral, being led by God. They are sure that what they do is right even if it means to lie. And looking back we see the way we handled it wasn’t done properly either, but I for one was angry and acted in anger (may God forgive me as I responded to my emotions.) In some ways, it did me good to confront them in this manner in speeding up the healing process. After all, we had been lied to all our lives and our salvation and eternity was at stake.
Sometime after this ordeal we were invited to a meeting of victims much the same as us in Regina, Saskatchewan. Feeling desperate to warn people, we stopped at every town, talked to whoever would listen and passed information everywhere we could, to alert the world about the deception. Talk about getting it out of my system! When I got a new job I had to tell everybody about my experience, every chance I got. I couldn’t keep quiet.
I have often thought it would be a good idea to go back to the fellowship in hopes of helping those who do not have their faith directed toward Jesus but rather are putting their faith in the workers and their way instead. My wife says she wouldn’t even think about it, the whole thing brings back too many bad memories of bondage, deception, and control. How depressing.
Although we may humanly miss the fellowship and the approval that comes with fitting in and submitting to the workers and those in authority, and haven’t seen that bond in other fellowships, we realize that some of that bond is a result of childhood friendships that are impossible to duplicate. We do see that in true churches Jesus is being preached and glorified, not fellowship and the ministry.
It’s hard to understand why God chose to open our eyes while my family continue in bondage. We have done nothing good to qualify for this great gift of salvation and certainly nothing more than most of those who are professing. For some reason, God stepped into and changed our lives and the direction we were going and showed us the real truth.
My family continues in unwavering confidence even through the scandals that are now being exposed. Continuing as though continuing is the issue, not standing for Jesus or for truth. I cannot help but remember their statement of confidence a few years back when they said “it works, doesn’t it.” I said the JW organization works too. But now that it’s pulling apart at the seams they can’t claim that, because it isn’t working, especially in Alberta, and those who cannot see that must be blind or are hiding their head in the sand.
Now getting back to the sin issue that in the first place led to this happening. I don’t like to admit it but even after God opened my eyes and salvation was mine, (by the grace of God through faith in Jesus and what He did on the cross), I found myself slipping back into old patterns of sin I had prior to truly accepting Christ as my Saviour.
Yes, I would have liked to have said these problems all disappeared but they didn’t because the flesh was still there. There was a difference however and that was I now had Jesus Christ. This difference was noticeable in how I now felt about my sin. I still recognized it as sin as I did before but something was different, it was this relationship with Jesus. My sin came between us, an experience most profound for those who have the privilege of personally knowing Jesus. I had begun to appreciate what He had done for me in coming to earth to die in my place. It was like I had found someone who cared, that I let down. Jesus was now taking the place of workers and friends. Now it was Jesus from whom I would seek approval—not man. I found myself deeply saddened by my sin not because I had failed to maintain a standard but because I had let my Saviour down.
While professing I had a form of godliness and struggled to live a godly life but it was empty in that I didn’t have Jesus. We did have the Bible for which I am grateful. The truth was within reach if only we could get past the deception. Their ministry draws attention to themselves, their ministry and the fellowship. The true gospel message draws attention to our sin, God’s provision for sin, (Jesus on the cross and resurrection) and power to deal with it.
At times I am reminded of past sin in my life, and although I am fully aware of God’s forgiveness, it still brings sobering sadness. Warnings, I believe, that the flesh is weak and how impossible it is without Jesus. I would like to be found feeding on the living water because that is what strengthens me. I thank God for His written Word, the Truth, and that Jesus is our mediator and for telling me to read my Bible for as I read with new hope and enthusiasm, the story as just told began to unfold.
We have been delivered from the power of deception, the power of man. It has been replaced with God through Jesus. I can’t explain just how wonderful that is! I wasn’t reading my Bible too much. It was just that our eyes were being opened and we were seeing truth. Praise God! The Bible really became a living book. Thank you, Jesus!
By Dale & Joyce Wesenberg