Rado Vleugel's Story
My name is Rado Vleugel. I was born in Amsterdam on January the 1st 1973 while fire crackers were making a lot of noise. After my birth more pregnancies followed. I am the oldest child of a large family; I have six sisters and one brother.
To give you an idea of how I became involved with the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society it is interesting to quote from the January 15th 1994 Watchtower, pages 21 and 22:"…everything to do with our worship is related to our relationship with Jehovah and his organization. This includes pioneering. A young pioneer named Rado explained: "For a young person, there is nothing finer than remembering Jehovah and walking in the way of the truth."
Yes, pioneering is a fine way for youths to demonstrate their love for Jehovah and closeness to him.
…Rado, mentioned earlier, was six years old when two pioneers studied the Bible with his parents. When still very young, he regularly accompanied these full-time preachers in the field ministry. Rado himself became a regular pioneer at the age of 17."
One year after I started pioneering the elders appointed me as a ministerial servant. That same year; I was only eighteen years old; I got my own book-study to conduct. The Brothers had great plans for this young 'talented' Brother. Although I was a loyal Witness who was considered an example for other youngsters, I was not the stereotypical example of a good Jehovah's Witness.
While preaching the 'good news' I developed a growing interest in Art and became an artist. My paintings have a deeper intellectual meaning like the surrealistic paintings of René Margritte. Sometimes my ideas were, although not directly contrary to the Watchtower teachings, too philosophical in the eyes of elders and circuit overseers.
Elders warned me for my 'independent thinking'. I obediently followed the advice of these men and tried to keep in line with the Organization. When I had doubts and questions I felt very guilty. I buried them.
In the spring of 1998 the seeds of doubt became stronger and stronger. Finally opening the pit of buried questions. I had questions regarding the year 1914, questions about the flood, creation, and the blood-issue. I spoke to some of my close friends regarding my doubts. All of them were too afraid to face the facts and asked me to stop talking about these faith-undermining issues.
In the autumn of 1998 I bought myself a new computer with a built in modem ready to surf the Internet. Within a week I discovered the site of the "Associated Jehovah's Witnesses" for Reform on Blood.
Since several years I had already doubts regarding the blood issue. For example-: I didn't deliver the May 22nd 1994 Awake! with the topic "Youths who put God first." The article concerned young Witness children who died because they refused blood transfusions.
On the "AJWRB" site I found the letter "STOP THE INSANITY". I felt I had an obligation to translate this letter from English into Dutch. At the end of November 1998 the Dutch translation was finished and uploaded to the AJWRB-site. To inform the brothers and sisters in the Netherlands there was important information available on the Internet I spoke anonymously with some journalists. Two major Dutch newspapers publicised an article about the AJWRB and my call for reform. In one of these newspapers the spokesman of the Dutch Branch [of JWs], Ruben van den Heuvel, gave this comment on my action:
"Happily we have freedom of speech and I would say: let this people reveal themselves, then we can start a conversation."–Algemeen Dagblad 11/27/1998.
My identity was revealed a few days after I appeared disguised, and with my voice altered, on national television talking about the blood issue. The disguise wasn't good enough. The elders in my congregation where notified by Witnesses from all over the country that it was me on national television. I was phoned by the elders and informed that I was recognised. Because I had a great fear to not become disfellowshipped I denied that it was me. This lie I regretted more than my call for reform. The day after I denied the fact that I had been on television the elders called again:- "Rado, we are now going by car to your parents with the video tape of the broadcast to see if they will recognize you." There was nowhere to hide. Before they arrived at my parents’ house I called my father and admitted it was me that had appeared on television. My parents were shocked. The elders still showed the videotape to my parents despite my taking responsibility.
As expected a judicial committee was formed. The accusation was:- apostasy and helping to form a sect. I requested to bring an observer with me. They didn't permit this. Thankfully, many reform-minded elders who were also active on the Internet supported me during the process.
The committee consisted of four elders. All of them were good friends of mine. The atmosphere during the process was a little bit strange. We even made jokes together. The elders asked me if I thought I was inspired by Jehovah. I answered, "If Jehovah used the donkey of Balaam, why should he not use me?" We laughed together. Although the atmosphere wasn't very cold and distant, they didn't listen to my considered arguments.
When I asked them probing questions, they replied, "We don't comment on these questions, we follow the point of view of the Governing Body." One illustration I used remained unanswered. This illustration shows the inconsistency of the prohibition of plasma while at the same time the Watchtower Society allows Witnesses to take all of its separate components, with the exception of water. Here is the illustration:"A physician does prohibit a patient to eat soup with the following ingredients: spring water, chicken, garlic and cornflower. At the same time he allows the patient to eat the ingredients separately; but the patient has one restriction: he has to take tap water instead of spring water (spring water = the water of the plasma, chicken = albumin, garlic = immunoglobin, cornflower = factor VIII and IX)."After a few hours of debating I was asked to leave the room so the elders could privately discuss what to do with me. When they called me back the faces of the elders were very sad. They told me that they had decided to disfellowship me. If I had had remorse of my deeds I would not be disfellowshipped. Because the Society can't be the master of the conscience of individuals I decided not to step back again in the footsteps of the Watchtower Society to blindly support an insane and inhumane policy. But I didn't want to become disfellowshipped!
I appealed the decision of the committee. An appeal committee was formed. Because they were in close contact with the Branch it took a long time before I had to appear before this committee. At the end of February 1999 I had to appear alone before the seven members of this committee without any rights. They decided to disfellowship me.
I clutched at the last straw and appealed to the Society. I wrote in my letter to the Society:"I hope the brothers of the Governing Body do not make the same mistake again by confusing a conscientious decision [to accept blood] with apostasy. Like the October 1, 1994 Watchtower shows us that the decision of some Christians who made the conscientious decision to accept certain blood components has had positive influence by making a decision in favour of certain blood-components. What if some Christians do accept also the other blood components, without violating their conscience? I hope that also this decision of these 'some Christians' may have a positive influence on future decisions of the Governing Body."I also clearly referred to the Bulgarian Case telling the brothers that it is not fair to disfellowship someone for questioning the blood issue while the Society has made an agreement with the Bulgarian Government stating that Jehovah's Witnesses can take a blood transfusion without any control or sanction. I asked them to respond in writing. They were too afraid to do that! Where was the promised freedom of speech? Why wasn't it possible to have a constructive conversation? After approximately a week the elders called me to make an appointment to inform me of the Society's answer.
On Saturday March 6, 1999 I heard the final irreversible decision — Disfellowshipping!
Three days later my disfellowshipping was announced publicly to the congregation. That day I lost all my friends. I had no friends in the so-called 'world'. My oldest sister was disfellowshipped a few years ago for more common reasons. Happily I had retained good contact with her whilst I was still a Witness. My family is still involved with the Watchtower Society. I have no contact with them.
After my disfellowshipping I started visiting so called 'apostate sites' and reading books like "Apocalypse Delayed" from Penton and "Crisis of Conscience" by Ray Franz. This information confirmed my thoughts about the Watchtower Society. I do not hate Jehovah's Witnesses. I do not hold a grudge against the elders who disfellowshipped me.
Now I am free to explore the world and go where no man has gone before.
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