I received the following email on June 16, 2012 from Lew Tankard, a reader living in Australia:
“Hi, Richard. I assume you get many emails on this subject, but I hope you can find time to read this one. I just finished reading Growing up in Mama’s Club and I’m about to start the sequel. I have read Dianne Wilson’s excellent book, but yours stunned me. All I had to do was insert my name instead of yours, and move the story to Australia.
“As it’s a similar story to yours I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say, I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness by two very committed parents. My Father, an engineer, essentially threw his career away by spending all his time in Society matters. Every single decision we seemed to make was first considered in the light of how it would affect us as members of the club. Looking back, so many bad decisions were made based on this. I was very bright at school and wanted so much to be a doctor, or in one of the professions. Instead, I was made to go to a technical school, where I would learn woodworking, machining and so on, that would all be needed in the new world. It was a boy’s school. My father and mother were convinced that I would be distracted away from the truth if I went to university.
“I had only known life as a Jehovah’s Witness, and had no ‘worldly’ friends. So, like you I excelled in the ministry and left school when I was 15, which was the legal minimum age here, and became a pioneer. This made Mum and Dad so happy and proud, and gave me a standing in the world I lived in (the club). At 16, I was a book study servant and ran the ministry school.
“I didn’t go to Bethel but my Father did, or at least that’s what I remember it being called, it was the Sydney based head office. He was so thrilled to go and was there for a month. When he came back, he actually wasn’t glowing as I thought he would be, and in fact spoke very little about it. I got the impression it wasn’t what he expected.
“After my Mum died I stopped pioneering and married young. I had no formal qualifications at all. I slowly just simply fell away from the truth. I was left in a vacuum. I realized that I had done what I had done to please my parents and find approval in my peer group, but I never really believed, or wanted to. I have since found much love and kindness in ordinary worldly people.
“My parents honestly and truly believed I would never reach adulthood in this system of things. I’m now almost 60 and my parents have passed away. My father suffered undiagnosed depression and would often tell me, expressing disbelief, that he simply never imagined he would grow old. He just wasn’t prepared, financially or emotionally. He tried not to lose his faith, but I could see it upset him very much.
“Well, my story would fill its own book, but you have already told it so well. It’s only in the last few years that I have started to look back (or been emotionally able to) on my life then, and how it’s affected me, and it often brings out very strong emotions in me. I suspect that there are many thousands like me, and you, and I am so grateful that someone like you has the skill to put into words what many, many feel. Again, thank you.”
Lew sent the following response five days later:
“Please feel free to use my email and my name. I could fill many pages with experiences that so totally relate to what you wrote. But as you have covered them, I won’t. I so much want my sister, who is still in the truth to read this, but the really insidious thing about this, is the belief that reading anything like this would be apostasy and I know she won’t read it!
“My father kept all the Watchtower and Awake! magazines and filed them in binders for each year. Whenever I wanted to research anything, I was directed by him to look up the appropriate Awake! article, which of course was completely useless. Anyway, here I am starting to get going, so I will stop. Again, thank you for your excellent book. I have started reading Ghosts.”
Lew sent me the following message on June 23, 2012:
“Hi Richard. I am now 58. I have been married twice. I have a daughter who is 38, and a 7-year-old grandson. From my current marriage, I have 3 wonderful sons, ranging from 16 to 21. I run a small company that sells software to the hospitality industry. I have no religious affiliations but that doesn’t mean that I am not a spiritual person.
“I am a passionate glider pilot, and a very senior instructor at a large gliding club in Australia. I would like to tell my story, if you are interested. I have not revisited this until recently, as I said, originally with Dianne Wilson’s book. But now for whatever reason, I almost feel compelled to learn as much about the origins and beginnings of something that was a total part of my life for so long. Mama’s Club made memories flood back that I had forgotten, or not explored. Now is the time for me to explore. So if you want me to, I will pen a few pages and tell my story.”