KEYWORDS: system, teens, testimonies, lord, things, adults

Traumatic Testimonies for Teens

Karen Zerby

—"Gory Stories" Needed Now!Maria #100DO 25426/89

—By Maria

1. Not long ago, we received a report that some of the teens in Latin America were having some problems with a few of the "heavier" teen testimonies that we'd published in the Hope Mag, such as Francis Fisherman's, David Surrender's (formerly Jubilee), Mene's, etc. Apparently, they were thinking that since they hadn't gone through such severe trials & problems, they must somehow be missing the boat. Some of them even wished that they were going through those kinds of extreme experiences! Some even began inventing stories in front of their peers, & some who had been really good kids started coming up with wild tales saying, "Oh, that's nothing! When I was backslidden‚ I did this & that, etc., etc.!"

2. Well, first of all, it's certainly completely unnecessary for any of you teens to think like that! If you're trying to be like either Dad or myself, neither of us had any kind of deep dark black backgrounds. We were always considered to be good kids who were brought up in the church & never really rebelled outwardly. So it's obvious that you don't have to have some kind of a big black background in which you have gone to the depths of sin & evil in order to be successful in the Family!

3. Secondly, you should be very thankful that you have not had to go through such horrible experiences or situations! It's true that the people who have gone through things like that have learned some very good lessons, but they've also suffered a lot while they were going through it all! So you teens should be very thankful you're not having to go through all of that! Of course, if some of you have a big fascination for evil & if you really wish you could go through some of those things‚ then these testimonies from formerly backslidden teens aren't going to have the right effect on you anyway.

4. We have been very prayerful about the testimonies we put in the Hope Mag. We've tried to make sure they … show the very bad effects & damage that yielding to such wrongdoing & wrong attitudes brings about. We've been very careful to try to make sure they're balanced so that they're not merely accounts of all sorts of adventurous-sounding experiences some of our people had when they were backslidden. We've tried to use testimonies that make it clear that "The way of the transgressor is hard!" & "the wages of sin is death," or at least something pretty close to it! [Pro.13:15b; Rom.3:23.]

5. Considering the care & prayer we've put into presenting such testimonies‚ if some of you teens still feel a desire for sin & the System after reading them, then I'd say the problem must be with you, not with the articles!—You must have a fascination for evil or something! If a true testimony of someone else's experience of the Hell they went through when out of God's Will & service doesn't persuade you that backsliding into the Devil's System is definitely not the thing to do, then I don't know what is going to persuade you!

6. The next step is that someone almost has to tell you, "Well, then go experience it for yourself!—If you are so blind & so fascinated & tempted by evil & the World that you can't learn from others' experiences, if that's not convincing enough for you, then you just might have to learn the hard way & experience it yourself!—And the sooner you get it over with, the better!" "The way of the transgressor is hard" (Pro.13:15), & you'll certainly learn that if you go to the World. …

7. I sent a message to the Hope Mag staff‚ "Don't worry, you're doing the right thing. Those kids with that attitude are the ones who are off the track!" If testimonies like that don't put the fear of God into you, then you just might have to experience it for yourself!—And the sooner you hurry up & do it, then the sooner you'll realise that that's not the way to go‚ & hopefully, the sooner you'll come back to the Fold!

8. We can't stop doing what we're supposed to do just because somebody is going to take something the wrong way! In a case like this, if a few teens happen to read those kinds of testimonies & they still have some kind of evil fascination for the World, or a desire to experience all of those things, then they just might have to go ahead & get a bellyful of it!

9. I think that if I were a teen & I'd read those testimonies in which we've realistically presented what some of those kids have been through—like Francis Fisherman & David Surrender & Mene‚ etc.—I wouldn't have any attraction for those things after reading all about what those poor kids went through!—Do you? I certainly wouldn't want to have been in their shoes!

10. So it's not the testimonies that are the problem.—It's the wrong way that some of you teens are taking them. Regardless of what articles we put in the Hope, if some of you kids develop a desire for the World after reading them, you have the problem, & you're the ones who have got to change & get over it! And as far as I'm concerned, the sooner you learn for yourselves, the better! Instead of fiddling around & causing trouble for others & spreading that kind of a wrong attitude, just go out in the System & see firsthand what it's like, if that's what you really want!


11. On the other hand, if you adults are not really thinking or praying about what you're saying, you can almost make it sound like life in the System [before joining the Family] was a lot of fun. Some adults do that inadvertently sometimes by sort of joking about all the things they got away with & how they broke the law & didn't get caught, without balancing it with the suffering that it caused them & the damage it wrought in their lives.—Or what it was like when they did get caught!

12. If you don't honestly share about the "wages" of sin, the negative repercussions of the act, & you just sort of joke around about it, such testimonies can actually promote the evil deeds you once did! Such testimonies about your past life should have a point to them, & should serve as an illustration that "crime doesn't pay‚" that "your sin will find you out!"—Num.32:23. If you're unable to draw such lessons out of your testimony, or you can't seem to balance the more exciting or adventurous aspects of your former life with the resultant damage that your misdeeds brought upon you, then perhaps you should avoid talking about your past altogether.—Especially around our children & teens!

13. I know sometimes you're just recalling some of those things‚ & it's almost sort of funny to think back that many years ago when you were a completely different kind of person who has now changed so much. It can be sort of innocent, but if you're not real careful, you could inadvertently get the teens' interest aroused in things like that. For example, someone may say, "I used to shoplift all the time & I only got caught once." It's a fairly innocent remark that an adult could make, not meaning any harm by it at all, but some teen could think, "Wow!—If it's that easy‚ why not try it? If he got away with it, so could I!"

14. Not long ago Peter was telling me about a few of his experiences when he was a drug-taking hippie. Some of the things he went through are almost funny, & we adults can now look back on them in amazement, & can laugh about it. It's sort of funny to realise that here we are dedicating our lives to serve the Lord & follow Jesus full-time, yet some of us were so extremely off the track, rebellious & defiant before! We're literally amazed at the change! But even though we adults can sort of joke about it amongst ourselves sometimes, it's not at all the kind of thing we should speak lightly of in front of our children.


15. It was after Peter shared some of these nitty-gritty details from his past with me that the Lord gave me an idea that I believe could really help our teens. I think it's time to publish some new & different kind of testimonies in the Hope Mag!

16. We've pubbed a lot of people's personal testimonies in the past, but most of them have been an overview of the person's entire life, a summary that just barely touches on all the different events or stages they went through. There usually wasn't enough time or space to go into much detail. But the idea that came to me is how tremendous it would be to have some of our adults write up in detail some of the specific incidents that took place in their lives.—Harrowing experiences they went through either before they joined the Family or—if they ever left—when they were backslidden.

17. They could take a certain incident or series of related incidents & enlarge upon it & tell it like it really was, including all the gory details, to really put the fear of God into our kids! When somebody writes a testimony in the FSM that just matter-of–factly states‚ "I was a gunrunner & I almost got killed," or "I was strung out on drugs & I almost died," what kind of effect does that have on you? It says what happened but it doesn't really move you or sink in.

18. There's no emotional impact to go with it, it's just a bare statement without any feeling because it's usually just one little fact in the middle of all the other facts related to the person's overall testimony. So what I would like to see now are some testimonies in which a certain experience or incident is taken & enlarged upon, with some real emotion put into it, to really show these kids of ours how terrible it actually was, & that the results were very damaging in your life, were very hurtful, & in many cases, almost killed you!

19. It's time to give'm the raw facts & the awful truth, honestly describing the torture & suffering so many of you adults went through, the mental agony & anguish. I think testimonies like that would be a deterrent that would literally scare our teens out of backsliding or getting off the track!

20. A few testimonies in the Hope Mag like that by some of our adults who have really gone through it out in the System would be very powerful. (See the first testimony in this series in Hope #10!) We've got hundreds of testimonies like that. But hardly any of our teens have really been out in the System enough to know what life is really like out there. Very few of them have backslidden, thank God, & of those few, even fewer have returned. So we simply don't have that much material along these lines from the teens themselves.

21. Of course‚ a lot of our teens in the Family have backslidden spiritually in various ways‚ but such strayings are usually not so obvious or dramatic. It's usually difficult to relate that sort of thing with concrete examples of what happened that would scare their peers to death & throw the fear of the Lord into them. But the kind of things that a lot of our adults went through all their years in the System are really hair-raising! Many of them had very frightening experiences that I think could maybe do the trick & wake some of our kids up to the reality of what a horrible Pit the System really is!


22. I realise that we've usually tried to stay away from that kind of negative thing. We believe in emphasising the positive as much as possible, so we haven't really emphasised the negative. But I think our teens now need to hear it!—The nitty-gritty about how awful it is out there! They have never experienced it & they don't know what it's really like, & like I said, when they hear different adults talking about the System‚ it's often all so far removed from the adults that it's shared in sort of a light or even humorous way.

23. Maybe our adults haven't spent enough time telling the kids how it really was out there, & what hell they went through. Of course, not everybody has had super exciting or adventurous experiences, but most of us have gone through some hair–raising times due to our own sins or disobediences or whatever. Many of our folks went through some extremely dangerous & frightening crisis before they found the Lord.

24. If they would testify of some of the traumatic experiences they went through, & tell the results of it all, the damage it did to them, I think it could cause our teens to have serious second thoughts about some things in the System that they might presently think are somewhat appealing, exciting or even fascinating. Whereas when they hear just a light mention of some of the things different adults did, they are tempted to think, "Wow!—Why don't we get to have all that excitement that our parents had when they were teens?!"

25. So even though the teens consider Hope their mag, I don't think they'll mind having some of the adults' stories in there if the testimonies are really exciting & true-life. I'm sure we have a lot of really hair-raising stories some of our folks could tell!—It will be tremendous!


26. One question I've considered was, "How gory do we want to get?" Personally, I think we should go the limit! And if some of our teens have a fascination for evil, that's their problem, & they'd better get the victory! But hopefully, most of them aren't like that, & hearing about the horrible effect the System's evil had on many of our adults will give them an absolute revulsion for it! It's time they heard the truth about the System & got a little fear of the Lord about ever getting involved in it!


27. I think our attitude & dealings with serious problem teens should be the same as Dad has always taught us regarding persistent problem cases: After you've done all you can to help them‚ & they still desire the System, just tell them, "You want to leave?—You're free to go!" Maybe a lot of them feel that they have a place in the Family no matter what they do, but that's just not so. If they want to go to the System, let'm go!—Out!

28. These warning testimonies may not always save the ones who leave us. Maybe the World's already too deeply ingrained in them. If they have such a love of the World in their hearts, who knows, maybe they don't even belong with us (1Jn.2:19). But even if they never come back, they'll serve as a dandy bad example, "that others also may fear!"—1Tim.5:20. So we may risk losing a few‚ but as a result, we may be able to save a whole lot more.

29. If we insist on holding on to a few rotten apples, they're just going to cause trouble anyway, so it's better to just let them go, get rid of them! Then the sooner they learn—if they're going to learn—the sooner they'll come back. But if they're not going to learn, then we don't want them anyway. That's always been our policy: People who insist on being problem cases or want to leave, just tell them to go!


30. … [W]hen we were out in the System …[m]ost of us didn't even know Him then. In some respects, He kept us & protected us because He knew we were His children & that we were searching for the Truth. But we hadn't even found it yet. … If you leave the Family & wilfully go out there, you're not going to be so protected! … (Eze.3:18-21; Heb.6:4-8; 10:24-31).

31. Most of our adults didn't even have the Truth, so weren't necessarily rejecting it. Most of us were just wandering around lost in our sins. Of course, we did suffer for our sins‚ but a lot of our suffering was just to help make us turn to the Lord. … Our adults who have backslidden can give you some pretty gory stories of just how bad it will be for anyone who does that!


32. I can think of three basic purposes for suffering: The first & easiest to go through is when you suffer for the Lord, like when you're persecuted for the Gospel. In other words, if you get thrown in jail for witnessing, you're suffering for the Lord's sake, & He is really going to keep you. For instance, no matter how bad conditions were for Italian Angelo when he was imprisoned in Greece, it was almost like he was living in a bubble of protection. The miracles that happened were amazing‚ the way the police & the criminals left him alone. The Lord's Spirit was surrounding him, & no matter what terrible things he had to see & endure all around him‚ he was still miraculously protected by the Lord.

33. Even if He doesn't protect & keep you from having to suffer‚ He will be with you in it & keep you through it, just like He did with the early martyrs. The Lord will give you the grace. He says, "If ye be reproached for the Name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you!"—1Pet.4:14. He will even do outright miracles for you, like He did for the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace & the early Christians who were burned at the stake. They sang songs of praise while the fires burned!—In other words‚ they didn't even feel the flames! PTL!

34. A lot of our people tend to talk sort of lightly or superficially about "going to jail for Jesus." For those who have been imprisoned for the Lord‚ it may have been hard on them in some ways, but it usually wasn't that difficult, as they saw that the triumphs & the victories won out of it were so much greater by comparison than the difficulties they had to endure. So that's what we usually emphasise to our kids & to the Family.—And it's true; when you suffer for Jesus, it's relatively easy. But as a result, many of our kids could easily think, "Oh‚ going to jail isn't really so bad, our parents did, & they didn't seem to suffer that much!" I wouldn't be surprised if that's how many of them may think.

35. Of course, we don't want to go to the opposite extreme & scare our teens so much by all of our tales of when we were in the System & went to prison & all the terrible things that happened, that we freak them out so much that they're afraid to stand any persecution for the Lord! I think the key to it is just to make the distinction clear: "When you love the Lord & you're forced to go to jail or suffer persecution for His sake, He always gives you the grace & strength to endure it & come out of it victoriously."

36. The second kind of suffering is when you don't know the Lord, like when you were in the System. You probably suffered for your sins & even for the sins of your parents, but the Lord was still watching over you & even protecting you to a degree. He had to let most of you suffer a few hard things in order to teach you some needed lessons & to show you that the System wasn't where it was at. But He knew you weren't very accountable, so He mercifully didn't let you suffer any more than was necessary. Although many of you got a taste of Hell, He still spared your lives & preserved you for His Work.

37. Then the third & worst degree of suffering is if you're a backslider, when you know the Truth‚ but in spite of it all, you reject it & go to the World. Well, you're really going to suffer if you get into that kind of a predicament! Because of your own sins & your own disobedience & your own backsliding, you're out from under the protection of the Lord. … (Heb.10:31!) [See Jonah chapters 1 & 2.]

38. If you wilfully forsake the Lord & His Will, you will really suffer for it! … You'll feel all alone.—Guilty, forsaken & frightened‚ with nothing but "laments" because you refused to "listen" to & heed the Lord's Words & loving warnings! (See "Listening?—Or Lamenting!" ML #320.) So when you teens read about what horror many of your parents went through in the System‚ take note & realise that what they went through is nothing compared to what [Christians go through who] deliberately backslide & forsake the Lord's Will & Work!


39. I really don't think it's going to hurt you teens to have a healthy fear of backsliding into the System. Some of you need to be scared! You don't know what the System's like, & some of you look at it curiously & with a little bit of a fascination & desire to sort of experience some of those things. …

40. "Others saved by fear" (Jude 23) is the Scripture I got. I think that's what we've got to do with some of you, save you by fear. … That's about the only way we might be able to get some of you to realise how bad things really are out there.


41. If our teens want to know what the System's like, let's tell them! That's what our teen backsliders have all said: "We went out there because we didn't know what the System was like, we'd never experienced it & we wanted to see what it's like." Well, let's tell them what it's really like! Let's tell them the truth about the System!—Not just the things they see on videos or on TV‚ the glorified picture of it with all its glitter & glamour & all the things they see when they go out on the ritzy streets or into people's fancy homes or the sparkling stores & all that.

42. It's time to tell our kids the truth about it‚ what the System is really like behind its fronts! Most of our adults & parents have experienced it because they grew up in it.

43. I think that would be a very worthwhile project for some of our people, to write up portions of their testimony, specific incidents that they went through. Let's tell'm about the real rough stuff too, because you know good & well if our kids backslide they're going to get the rough stuff! Thank the Lord we didn't all experience the hellish terrors that some of you have, but if our kids deliberately backslide & go out there & get into it, it's going to be horror for them! So we might as well tell them about the really bad & horrific things we went through in the System.

44. Another thing that they should realise is that when we were young, the World wasn't nearly as bad as it is today. Let's face it, "evil men & seducers have waxed worse & worse" (2Tim.3:13), & the World has completely taken a turn for the worse! Think of what it would be like to be in most prisons nowadays.—Horrific! The worst things we can tell them about what happened to us probably aren't half as bad as what they would encounter if they would go out & get in the same situation today! I'm sure the Lord would really sock it to them. They know better, they really know better!

45. So I don't think it's going to hurt to really throw the fear of God into them with some true terrifying tales about what many of us have been through! Besides, they're exciting testimonies & it would make exciting reading. It'll certainly hold their attention! Of course, I don't think any little kids should hear that sort of thing, our younger ones shouldn't be reading the Hope Mags if they've got these types of testimonies in them. We'll just have to say that the particular Hope issues featuring traumatic testimonies of this sort are only for 12-year-olds & over, & even then they should have adults explain anything they don't understand.

46. But as far as our teens being able to take it, I think they need it! They need to have it really socked to them because many of them are sort of lackadaisical & bored & they don't think we're all that revolutionary because they've grown up in it all their lives so it doesn't seem so different to them.

47. They don't hate the System because they hardly know anything about it. [See James 4:4; 1John 2:15-17.] They've grown up in the Family so we're just another way of life for them. And when they look at it‚ it sometimes looks like a pretty hard way of life too. The grass might even look greener to them on the other side‚ outside in the System.

48. So they need to be shaken up, & I think this just might be a way that will get through to them. Of course, as World conditions get really hot & heavy in the near future, that'll shake them up too—Endtime events! But until then‚ if we want to try to do something for them now, I think telling them the raw truth about the System might really help to stir them up out of their lethargy & to help them appreciate the Family! Amen? PTL! (Amen! Shake'm up!—D.)