The First Problems
The “witnesses” advised me to keep our contact secret until I became “sure-footed in the faith,” and until “the seed of truth takes root in my heart.” Otherwise, “the Devil would take the seed, and I would be lost.” They had forewarned me that “the enemies of a man will be those of his house-hold,” and how at some point I would “suffer persecution” for the sake of “my” faith. In the beginning, I did not say anything to others (i.e., “non-witnesses”) mostly because I was even ashamed. What would people say if they found out that I was keeping company with “witnesses”? Later on, however, I remembered the words of the Lord: “Anyone who is ashamed to confess me in front of people, I will also be ashamed to confess him in front of my Father.” Mathew 10:33). This compelled me to slowly change my view, until the time came when this shame and cowardice gave way to boldness, and boldness turned to enthusiasm. The more I learned, the more enthusiastic I became, and the more I wanted to share my new views with my own people. Now I finally understood how Nikos felt and why he undertook so much struggle for his faith.
One evening, after spending a number of hours in the teachings of the “witnesses” (an evening full of “blessings”I used to say), I returned home full of enthusiasm, and ignoring the forewarnings, I began to speak to my perplexed mother. It was an exceptionally rainy night, but I felt such euphoria that I barely noticed the weather. As I entered the house, I sang one of the hymns of the “witnesses” in a low voice.
“Today was a wonderful day!” I shouted to my mother as I was taking off my leather jacket. “I did not have school, and I went with Nikos!”
“Why didn’t you have school?” she asked.
“The teachers were on strike,” I answered.
“And where did you go with Nikos?” she asked again.
“To the church of the “Jehovah’s witnesses,” I answered in a most natural manner. “If you only knew how much I have learned there!”
“What! You have been there before?” she cried.
“Yes! Many times! When you come, you will see how good it feels! These last words I said amidst a pandemonium of screams and incomprehensible tones that exited her mouth. I was trying to speak to her rationally, but to no avail. She was beside herself.
“You will never step foot there ever again!” I distinctly heard her say among other things.
“I’ve already made up my mind! I will become a “Jehovah’s witness. We ought to obey God rather than people,” I argued.
“You were born Orthodox, and you will die Orthodox!” she shouted.
“Precisely because I don’t want to die, I will stop being Orthodox! Now you remember your Orthodoxy? What did you teach me about God all these years! Nothing! And now that I’ve found the truth, you will hold me back?” At that point my father walked in.
“Why are you yelling?” he asked
“He wants to become a Jehovite!” My mother tearfully responded.
“What! It would be better for you to become a transvestite! If you dare become a chiliast, I will disown you!” he added in an outrage.
“I have no interest in your money! I have already chosen my path!” I said with force.
“If you become a chiliast, you must leave my home!” he shouted to intimidate me.
I felt my blood boiling. This was the moment of trial, the moment of decision. Just then the words of the Lord echoed in my ears: “Anyone who leaves mother or father or brother or home for my sake, he will receive in this life and the life to come a hundredfold.”
With tears in my eyes, I put on my leather jacket, I bade them farewell, as my mother was crying, and I exited my home. Deep in thought, I walked through the torrential rain without an umbrella. Maybe the “witnesses” were right. They told me not to speak openly yet, but I didn’t listen. They had told me that members of my household would go against the “truth,” but I didn’t expect it. I thought I knew better than them. Yet I found myself suddenly chased away by my own parents! After walking in the rain for a long time, I sat on a plaza bench, exhausted and wet. I sat there all night, worrying about how my mother and my father were feeling, seeking God’s intervention.
I wasn’t the only one who worried that evening. When my mother overcame her initial anger and she realized her mistake, she began wondering where I could have gone in the middle of the night in the rain. Her first impulse was to locate Nikos’ phone number in the telephone book and called his home. His mother picked up the telephone and asked who was calling. She heard a distressed voice.
“This is George’s mother! Where is my son? Where are you keeping him?”
“I don’t understand what you are saying! Nikos’ mother answered. My mother explained what had happened, and after she complained and threatened, she finished with these words.
“My child used to be good! Now, because of you people, he left home. I expect you to find him!” Nikos’ mother, after reassuring her that I was not there, attempted to calm my mother down, promising that the minute they saw me, they would send me home.
However, I did not return home that night, and they were all concerned. In the morning, I decided to go see how my mother was. My father was already at work. The minute she laid eyes on me she hugged me, crying, and told me what happened. I immediately called Nikos to put him and his family at ease. Afterwards, I made my position clear, telling my mother that I am now an adult and free to choose my life’s path. I told her never to bring up the subject of religion again. She replied by asking me for a favor. She told me that she wanted to invite over an archimandrite relative of ours to help me see my mistake, and if he could not convince me, then I would be free to do whatever I considered to be the right thing. This was a fair and reasonable request, so I accepted it joyfully. My father did not seem opposed to this either. I continued my “Christian” activities, being relatively free, sensing a deep joy at being tried for the sake of Christ and for successfully overcoming this very first trial.
The day of the archimandrite’s visit drew near. I waited for him with the Holy Scripture on the table, while my mother, hardly able to hold back her joy, felt certain that at the end of this visit, I would cease all contact with the “witnesses.”
When the archimandrite arrived, he sat and socialized with my parents, something very natural since they hadn’t seen each other in years. He asked me about my school, my work, and everything else except the subject of faith. I was desperately searching to find some opportune moment to start a Christian discussion with him; however, he did not give me a chance. After several minutes had passed and he had already discussed at length various family matters with my parents, I found the courage to intervene.
“Father, what opinion do you have about the Holy Scripture?” I asked.
“Why do you need to bring these things up now, especially since we haven’t seen each other for so long! If you want to hear the Gospel, go to church,” he commented leaving all of us flabbergasted! I could not believe my ears.
Nikos, a man my parents considered to be heretical, could not stop speaking about God, and his faith was affecting all of his actions. Yet now, right here in front of me, I had someone considered to be a liturgist of God, who was seeing the Holy Scripture as a subject not worthy of discussion. In spite of his answer, a few minutes later I took courage and asked him another question about the Orthodox faith. His answer froze inside me any further desire to converse with him.
“What do you want with these things now! My son, why don’t you forget about the Holy Scripture now! Here we have a more interesting discussion!” he replied.
This time I saw my mother and my father sink into a state of gloom. They began to understand that someone can be a priest, but this alone does not guarantee his love for God. When the archimandrite left, my mother was left staring at me in a desperate sort of way, since I did not manage to extract even one word out of him about God.
“Evidently he doesn’t want to take any of his work home!” I said ironically. “It seems that he considers Christianity a career, an occupation.”
This was the most opportune time to begin speaking to my mother about the faith of the “Watchtower.” I spoke to her about those people who took joy in listening to questions about God and who use the Holy Scripture during every one of their discussions. I asked her to study the Holy Scripture with me so I could show her why it was not to the archimandrite’s advantage to discuss the Holy Scriptures. She accepted, more so to see what I had gotten myself into and to learn what they were telling me. From that day on, I began to pass down to my mother everything I had learned from Nikos. Nikos’ family did not stay idle either. His mother would often phone my mother since Nikos was coming over to our house more often, and Nikos would speak with her about his religion. Occasionally my mother would say, “Nikos is such a good boy! The only bad thing is that he is a ‘witnesses’.” She used to repeat this up until the time she stopped considering the “witnesses” heretics.
As far as I was concerned, there was nothing holding me back. I had embraced my new faith with great fervor. I eagerly participated in every activity of the “witnesses.” Outside of their meetings, which I very seldom missed, I began to go out “to work the street.” I would go from door-to-door and declare the “good news” of the “witnesses.” Nikos managed to teach me what I needed to know, following the directives of the school of the organization, along with the example and the mannerisms of those who had taught him.
 A celibate Orthodox priest, literally “the leader of the flock.”
 Translator’s Note: In some Christian countries there is the dilemma of “career” priests and bishops where the political machine “employs” the clergy intending to institutionalize the church. In Greece, clerics are employees of the government. This often motivates opportunist individuals to lean toward the ranks of clergy for obvious reasons, but God’s great mercy leads many of them to repentance and salvation.