One80 Podcast Episode 41
David Harrop: Alligator Alley
This transcript may have errors that veer from the original recording of this One80 Podcast. Listen at https://one80podcast.com/listen/
David Harrop: I was a junior in high school when 1975 came and went. My first response was, oh, we must have just missed it by a few months or years and I poured myself into being a better jw.
Margaret Ereneta: Picture being in the middle of a long road with alligators on either side. Many of us don’t even know the road we’re driving on or that we’re stuck, but David Hark got stuck on Alligator Alley and met Jesus right there growing up. A Jehovah’s Witness. David thought he was in the true church, and Christians were misguided.
God, however, gently guided David to the right path. Welcome to David’s One80
Hi folks. This is Margaret Ereneta, producer of One80. I’m coming at you with today’s show. David, thanks so much for being here today. We’re so excited to get to share your story on 180.
David Harrop: Margaret, it’s exciting for me to be with you too.
Margaret Ereneta: We like to start our shows with a random question from chat deck, so here it goes.
If you could see the front page of a newspaper dated January 1st, 21, 23, what do you think the headline might say?
David Harrop: I would hope the headline would say Jesus Returns and that there are people wondering what happened to all the believers that aren’t here anymore. I know that he’s coming back. I know it’s exciting and it would be so great to be looking down and seeing that headline.
Margaret Ereneta: That would be really awesome, wouldn’t it? Yes. So David, let’s start your story at the beginning and the place that we like to call that before Christ. So take us to growing up, where are you from?
David Harrop: So, assuming that I’ve grown up Margaret, I grew up in Pennsylvania and Ohio for the most part until I was in high school.
I lived in Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. Made me an Eagles and a Phillies fan, and then moved out to Ohio, most of high school and some early college years.
Margaret Ereneta: So what was family life like?
David Harrop: I thought I had a great family life. I had a loving mother and father, brothers and a sister. I was the youngest, and so of course I was the spoiled one.
I had a very devoted mom and dad. I really thought they were great.
Margaret Ereneta: So what was faith like in your family? Was it played out?
David Harrop: It sure was. That’s my family and this is probably the part of my story that very few people, understand or connect with my family were Jehovah’s Witnesses and they were extremely committed and zealous.
My mother converted right before I was born and my father then, right after I was born. And so I really knew nothing else growing up. I was taken door to door in a basket when I was. Too little to walk, so very zealous Jehovah’s Witnesses. Deeply committed to the way of life. I don’t like to call it faith necessarily, but to the way of life of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It was all I knew.
Margaret Ereneta: So a lot of our listeners aren’t familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Can you explain what they believe?
David Harrop: Well, I now see them as, as a pseudo Christian group or a cult that uses a lot of the same terminology as believers, but usually means something quite different. But so they’ve misdirected a lot of the foundational doctrines of the truth of scripture. They don’t believe Jesus is really God in the sense of being the second person of the Trinity. They would say that he was a God and therefore a created being. They would say that there’s no eternal soul. And rather that, soul can die and they don’t believe in really an afterlife after this time on Earth except for the, they do believe in a resurrection.
They believe there’s a very limited number of people who will inherit eternal life, as they would call it. And I think the most critical part to understand is that as an organization, they truly believe. That they have the answers. They speak as God’s prophet, if you will. And so when there’s a question, when they have even just an area of practice, for example, I remember as a young man not being able to wear a white shirt when we went door to door, and that’s how we didn’t look like the Mormons, of course, but there was a rule about that you had rules about every aspect of your life. And it went up the chain of command, if you will, from the local group congregation all the way up to the governing body. And they would pass down rules about your life and what you could do. And so very typical of what the cults believe in general, that there’s somebody controlling some answer other than just your relationship with God.
And then that they have a corner on the market when it comes to doctrine.
Margaret Ereneta: Are there simple things that you can look at to know what makes something a cult? I like to call it a Christian, so it’s not as scary to use the term, it’s just outside biblical Christianity. So if your church is a Christian, what, what are some signs?
David Harrop: Well, there are a few primary. The first is denying the deity of Jesus Christ. They’re looking particularly at, Hey, we have a special understanding, and that leads me to what I would say is the second one they have. Somehow arrived at a point of view where they don’t accept anyone else except the people that believe the way that they believe.
Certain groups say We have the truth and everyone outside doesn’t, and so we’re the ones that are saved. We’re the ones that are right with God. Then I think another aspect would have to be the way that they’re led by a leader or leadership team that is even very subtly. But often very overtly controlling of the people that are in the group.
And then for me, in my experience, a way of keeping people from hearing those that are outside to make everyone else seem like in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they believed that Christians were, uh, in effect, demonized and therefore needed to be kept at a distance, that kind of mentality. Therefore makes you have all your social network and all your connectedness with people that are like-minded, which keep you from ever hearing outside information and the truth.
Margaret Ereneta: And you said the truth is twisted. What’s an example of something that they believe that’s off?
David Harrop: Well, I remember hearing very clearly that the world would end in 1975. I would never drive a car. I would never be married. And if I didn’t believe that, then I would’ve. Been kicked outta the organization. If I didn’t believe that, then I was outside.
Or they take a verse and I’ll quote one from memory from John 17, three. This is everlasting life that you take in knowledge of God and his son, Jesus Christ. And so they would say knowing God the way that they understand him makes you a person that God accepts. And so, Their twist on that would be, we have figured out everything there is about God, and we’re going to explain it to you, and you just take it in and accept it.
The difference or the nuance, if you will, that as followers of Jesus Christ, we believe in a mystery. There are so many things that really. We say, when you push me far enough, I don’t understand that. I can’t fully describe the Trinity. I don’t fully understand the wrath of God. There are things that I haven’t quite fully grasped.
To be a follower of Jesus, you have to say, well, the apostles didn’t get it either. They didn’t understand everything. And so the groups that I call cults, they feel that they have come to have solutions to all the mystery of God.
Margaret Ereneta: Oh, wow.So the church had. Views of Jesus, God, the trinity. Did you just not even question those?
You just mirrored what they thought. You didn’t have your own personal view of Jesus, or did you?
David Harrop: I would say to answer that you weren’t allowed to have a personal view to become a baptized jw. You had 80 questions that you answered and you had to answer correctly, and that was what made you. The correct follower that you needed to be.
Once you’ve answered and given proof text for those 80 verses you were allowed to get baptized. And so I remember memorizing answers and having correct answers for each of those questions. As an 11 year old, Hmm, being interviewed by one of the elders of the church. In two different sessions, 40 questions, and then 40 questions.
So the, the knowledge was there. The, they wanted me to know and understand exactly what they believe, but the relationship wasn’t there. So it wasn’t that I loved God, it wasn’t that I wanted to obey him. It was, I knew information about him.
Margaret Ereneta: Okay. I do have Jehovah’s Witness who come to my door and see their material, say the watch tower.
Who is the watch tower and what’s that all about?
David Harrop: So they have two major magazines. One’s sort of made to talk about current events. They call it awake, and it’s the one that draws people in. The watch tower is more, these are the things we believe. These are the ways that we see truth. And they are trying very hard to convince you of the doctrine that they have.
They’re very cagey or wise or whatever you wanna say about proof, texting, pulling a verse totally outta context and saying, this is how you have to understand that. Here’s a verse that proves it. And so someone who doesn’t know scripture, who maybe is interested, gets drawn in, then they begin to say, we’re explaining everything to you and doesn’t this make sense?
And then pretty soon it’s all your social contacts are those people. And that, for example, is how my mother first got drawn in and then my father eventually. Wow. I encourage you, by the way, I like the fact that you have them come to your home and, and that you talk to ’em. Uh, that. I would love if they’d hear a 180 podcast and, and connect with the transformation that can take place for someone who’s following Jesus.
Margaret Ereneta: Yeah, yours would be a great one. Something that I love to do is, um, it, it seems to me like the Jehovahs Witnesses that I talk to only recite what the Watch Tower says, and so I’ll just show them how I have an in certain relationship with the Holy Spirit and I will just come up with a Bible verse and, um, They were showing me a Bible verse out of context.
What were you calling that proof? Texting. Okay. That’s my word. And so I just prayed real quickly and I said, I think you’re taking that outta context. I think you need to look two verses ahead. And I am not a walking bible, by the way. I don’t know this passage, but the Holy Spirit just told me this is the verse you need to look at.
And it was really cool. Hmm. That they got to see that. Yeah. So don’t be afraid friends to talk to them because the Holy Spirit gives you the words to say you don’t have to do any of the work. Did you feel pressure from this group to adhere to these things, or did you gladly adhere to their rules and their beliefs?
David Harrop: I liken it now to the kids that grow up that. Have parents that push them into gymnastics or ice skating or soccer at a very early age because they want ’em to be these great performers.
I was pushed into that, but loved it because it’s all I knew and it what I was doing. And so looking back, it was extremely controlling, but at the time I didn’t look at it that way. And sorry to Annie, soccer moms out there, I’m not condemning you. What I mean is doing that from a very, very early age, sometimes.
The child doesn’t recognize, Hey, I’m doing this because mom and dad wanted me to do it, not because I had the choice. Yesterday was an anniversary of when I was 11 years old. I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so I look back and say, At 11, I couldn’t have made other life choices. They wouldn’t have said, yeah, go ahead and pick your marriage partner.
They wouldn’t have said, are you going to college? Choose your college and go, or whatever. But that was the age when they were pushing me toward, if you’re baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we know you’re gonna be okay. And so it was just the logical next step for me at that age.
Margaret Ereneta: Wow. And how did you feel after you got baptized any different?
David Harrop: I felt pretty convinced that I was gonna be okay. If Jesus returned, and that’s something else that I need to tell you about Jehovah’s Witnesses. They believe that if Christ returns at this moment and I’m doing what God wants me to do at that time, then I will. Be okay. I will inherit eternal life.
Whereas the Christian, we understand we’re fallen. We’re like Paul in Romans chapter seven. We’re always wrestling with the flesh. We’re not necessarily evangelizing every moment though that when Jesus comes back, we’ll know that we’re okay. We have that assurance because the Holy Spirit speaks that into our lives, and we know it says very clearly in Romans that we’re children of God.
We can have that assurance and walk with him in that way. And so there’s just so many things that they come so close to understanding or being willing to say, oh, maybe there’s another point of view. And yet they narrow it down and say, you have to have OneWay of looking at this.
Margaret Ereneta: And it’s works-based theology, which we know is not biblical.
We don’t have to do any work to earn God’s salvation. That’s why Jesus died on the cross. Right, exactly. What is the kingdom hall?
David Harrop: I know that’s where. Church takes place. Not entirely sure where they got that name, but they believe they’re in the kingdom of God. I’ll add, as a jw, we met five hours a week to, um, one or two hours of that was to be taught what we were to believe and the other.
Two to three hours was then to understand how to communicate it when we went door to door. So from a very early age, we were trained in public speaking, we were trained in relating to others and, responding and answering questions. So you can imagine. Doing anything three hours a week, then helps you, convince yourself as well as know how very well to convince somebody that you’re talking to when you go to their door.
Margaret Ereneta: Wow. So did you have any God inklings at this time? You had the Jehovah’s Witness view of Jesus, the Trinity, God, the Bible, but did you have any inklings of the true God, like even looking back that you realized he was there all along?
David Harrop: So I think of two things. The first is, My understanding of and faith in the organization was slightly shaken a few times.
I believe that was a God awareness that I had, that he was helping me to see outside of the blinders that I had on. For example, around the age of 1213. One interesting thing happened that really made me think, are they really the organization, the prophet of God, they had a policy against smoking. They said, okay, if you are a smoker, you’re gonna be kicked out of the organization.
Mm-hmm. They made a really hard and fast rule, so we, my family lost some friendships because people were. Kicked outta the organization, disfellowship, they call it. And then within a few, I wanna say 18 to months, to two years, they changed their mind and said, okay, we’ll give a grace period. And some of those people came back very broken.
Their friendships were kind of stunted. There was so much that happened in those years that was very confusing to me. And then, It wasn’t long after that, I wanna say less than a year. They said, okay, now within a year, if you haven’t stopped smoking, then you’re truly disfellowship. It just was for me, looking back the moment when the seed was planted that maybe this is not the right way.
So that’s one. Then when 1975 came and went, that for me was another tearing away the foundation of the organization as speaking for God.
Margaret Ereneta: What happened in 1975?
David Harrop: 1975, was when they said Armageddon would come and the world would end, and so I made it through that. So we’re past 1975 and we’re all okay.
The second thing was, I did not realize this was happening, but I had high school friends who were sharing truth with me and a desire for me to come to know Jesus. Wow. They would bring a Bible to class. And they would read aloud something to me while we were waiting for the teacher to come in the room.
They would just read a verse. Mm-hmm. Or they would have a journal that they had been keeping and they would tell me about it. And one great thing, I had a friend, we were on a, a couple sports teams together, and he really wanted me to become a follower of Jesus. But he wasn’t great about sharing his faith.
We had a Spanish teacher who had to leave halfway through the school year because she was taking maternity leave and the substitute was a missionary kid that went to my friend’s church. And so we had a spelling bee in the class, and the teacher announces, okay, the top three I’m gonna take out after class, well, at the shake shop down the street, he shared the gospel.
Oh, wow. And I didn’t realize that my friend wanted desperately for the teacher to be the one to share the gospel with me. Oh. So he said, Hey, I grew up in Peru. I’m a missionary kid. I want you to know what that means. I want you to know why my family did this. And what we believe. And I was like, oh, I got nailed.
I got cornered in this. And I remember hearing him say, and this was maybe the first time it made a connection with me. You only have to believe that Christ died for you and I. I was like, no, you’re all messed up. That’s not what it is. You have to do so much afterwards. You have to earn that recognition that you’re a child of God.
And so from my perspective, what he said made absolutely no sense. But I do remember hearing it. There was just an excitement to that when I looked back on it years later and realized how hard my friend. I had tried to get the Spanish teacher to share the gospel with me. Wow. So one thing I always like to say is unbeknownst to me, there were many, many people praying, and especially in my extended family, when I became a follower of Jesus.
My aunt told me, for example, that she knew for a fact that my grandmother had prayed for me every day of my life, and they were so excited when I became a follower of Jesus and so grateful to see that even though. The temptation was there to give up, to consider me a lost cause that God answers prayer and God loves to do that.
Margaret Ereneta: Wow. It’s so cool to see those glimpses into the past and realize that after the fact. So around 1975, a few years later when it hadn’t come and you started questioning things, did you feel trapped? Were you afraid to even question things when you saw this prophecy not being fulfilled?
David Harrop: I think what happened then was I had two different reactions.
One was to dig deeper into them and try harder and try more of what they thought I should be doing. And then the other reaction was it began crumbling my understanding of what they taught and my faith in them as an organization. They taught that they were God’s prophet here on earth. And because of that, I really was afraid to question, but the question started coming and I couldn’t help but say something about what they’ve said and told us, and all these years just didn’t come true.
And yeah, so I was in a deep quandary, I guess is the best word, just thinking about how, on one hand it was all I knew. And on the other hand, I was seeing so many cracks in their theology and their teaching and their practice. Did
Margaret Ereneta: you feel like it was okay to even question it?
David Harrop: I think that’s the part of being in a cult that’s different about being in a church.
So in a cult, you are afraid to move outside of what you’re being taught and how they are guiding you. It’s a subtle fear. But the fear is always there, that if they’re right, you’re lost if you question or move outside of what they’re teaching, and there always seems to be a cage around you when you think about moving outside of that.
And so, yeah, there’s fear. There’s definitely angst as you go through that questioning process because you think your life is in danger because you’re stepping aside from what they believe. Wow.
Margaret Ereneta: And had you seen other people walk away from the Jehovahs Witness Church and have ramifications?
David Harrop: Oh, of course.
And they were totally cut off. We weren’t allowed to talk to them. There were friends that just lived right down the road from me that I couldn’t talk to, and we weren’t even supposed to wave to them when we drove by ’em in, in a car or saw out in the yard. You’re so. Caught up in these rules are the ways that you please God and that you do what God wants you to do.
Just like the Pharisees in the times of Jesus, they have so manipulated the words of God to be law and structure around us, that it was almost impossible for us to see the God of grace. That is true in scripture.
Margaret Ereneta: Wow. So you, you didn’t become a Christian at that point, but you obviously are not a Jehovah’s Witness.
So what happened to start you itching for something different? How did that happen for you?
David Harrop: So I was a junior in high school. When 1975 came and went, my first response was, Oh, we must have just missed it by a few months or years, and I poured myself into being a better jw. And so my last two years of high school, in addition to trying to get grades and play sports, I spent an average of about 75 hours a month going door to door, trying to help people before it was too late.
Margaret Ereneta: Hey friends, make sure to share 180 with your people. It may be the best news they hear today. Now back to the show.
David Harrop: And so it was just what I believed. I thought since it was all I really knew, even though I did have those rumblings in the past, I felt like I was so sure. That God would, would not approve of me if I wasn’t trying the hardest that I could. Um, and so
Margaret Ereneta: you, you didn’t have conviction during all this witnessing that you were doing, you just were
David Harrop: doing it?
Yeah. Like you said earlier, it’s not a faith-based group. It’s a works-based group. And because of that, I think my initial reaction was just to do as much as I could, works wise to make God happy.
Margaret Ereneta: So at this time, David, what did you think of Christians?
David Harrop: I thought Christians were very misguided and were in some ways walking in the fog that they had a little grasp of some truth.
We’re thinking that Christians were the ones that were in a spiritual darkness and really didn’t know the way out. So
Margaret Ereneta: what happened after you? You spent that time with even more fervor.
David Harrop: Well, I think this is the beginning of the rock bottom as, as I’ve heard it called. There was just a moment when it clicked.
I decided that I’d go off to university. My parents did not approve of that decision, but I decided that’s what I was gonna do. And went to a state university on a baseball scholarship and was hearing for the first time in my life really something outside of what they believed, but I was suddenly saying there has to be more.
Than the way this small little group sees things. So when you’re in a state university, you’re not bumping into other jws. Suddenly you’re seeing people that have such a variety of views and responses, either to God or to the world in general. So it was more just the reaction against nailing everything down and having every particle of God answered and put in right place.
And so I think that was the critical part for me, was seeing and understanding. There has to be some mystery to God. And so couple years there I was. Not a very good college student. I majored in baseball and that was, it. Didn’t go to classes very much and then took time off and ended up moving to Florida.
My pursuit then was to get as far away from organized religion as I could. Okay. And to make as much money as I could. So my family and I had a little rupture at that point. I think they would’ve welcomed me back, but I just needed time. To think and to ponder and to not be involved with family at that time.
So at age 20, I moved to Florida and started work in a business that was really looking for young, eager people to work a lot of hours, the booming days of computers.
Margaret Ereneta: So you didn’t run to Christianity, you ran from jw.
David Harrop: There was a period in my life for four years or five years, I would’ve called myself an agnostic.
If he really had asked me, I would’ve said, you can’t understand whether there’s a God and if so what he is like. I do remember saying to myself very clearly, if God was like the way Jehovah’s Witnesses painted him, I would never be able to make that God happy. And so I really didn’t feel like I had a chance.
Okay. And so I knew. The weakness inside of me, the inner man that was fallen. I saw that on my own without, I wouldn’t have said it this way, but on my own without the Lord, there was nothing that I could do to change and transform who I was. Okay. So I recognized the sin problem, but I didn’t have the answer.
Margaret Ereneta: Okay. So at this time, did your family think you were just moving to Florida for a while, or did they think you were leaving the
David Harrop: church? They probably would’ve thought I was a wanderer and that I was leaving, but at that point they saw hope that I would come back. So we had had some really virulent conversations arguing about what I was saying and what I felt and understood, but I think they always had at that point, would’ve said they had hope that I would come back and, uh, understand that I had been a wayward.
Prodigal and needed to come back.
Margaret Ereneta: You wouldn’t expect that from what you’re explaining of the church and the things to have a family be so loving as they’re watching you walk away from it. Eventually you did. How did that come down?
David Harrop: So I will just add it’s because I hadn’t denied being a JW at that point.
Okay. I had said. I just didn’t know what I believed. There was a, a definite change in the way my family felt. When I did become a follower of Jesus, my parents stopped talking to me and we had 18 years where I really didn’t see family at all. And so when I became a follower of Jesus, there was a definite break in my life.
Margaret Ereneta: Really sad. Well, let’s go back to before, so you’re just questioning. The church at this point, and you, you come to Christianity some years later, so you’re still in Florida. Did you go back to college or what happened next?
David Harrop: So, no, I was working, I did try out at a college in Miami, Florida International University.
I was told I could make the team, but. They had a lot of outfielders. So then come back next year and next year I was working more and I decided I’d wait one more year and come back. And it was in that year that a great transformation took place that really impacted my life, and I’d love to tell you about that.
Well, please do. So a coworker. We were working at a computer center for a big Fortune 500 company, selling the early days of personal computers and trying to make them work for business use and all that. A coworker was really struggling. He was a definite alcoholic. As soon as work was over, he would hit the bars and often would come in, hung over to at work, but he was a great guy to be around. He was a lot of fun and certainly didn’t have any religion in his life. And so we were great friends. His name was Gary. Gary got kicked out of the house by his wife because he just was totally irresponsible and. Basically this alcoholic though, he asked if he could come live with me.
Hmm. And I liked him, but I was really afraid to let him in my house because I didn’t know what he was like when he was coming home at night. And I had seen his red eyes and his don’t talk to me loudly and all that in the morning. So I was wondering what he would be like. But I knew that I had to go away to a six week training course that the company was putting on in Fort Worth, Texas.
And so I thought, you know, I’m gonna be leaving in a couple weeks. I’ll let him come. And then I said to him, when I get back from this, uh, I need you to, you know, have found something else. And he assured me that he would. So at random, I say that with air quotes. He picked a marriage counselor out of the phone book that was close to the house and it turned out to be a pastor of a church.
And that pastor, who also was a licensed counselor, uh, said, well, we need to start with your spiritual life. And won him to the Lord. Wow. Well, I didn’t know this because it was the day he dropped me off at the airport that then he went to the marriage counselor and he became a believer. So six weeks later, Hmm.
I return to see a totally transformed person. Wow. He picks me up at the airport and he has a Bible on the seat as I get in the car that I have to pick up in order to sit down, and he has verses highlighted that he wants me to read, and he is just a nut sharing his faith, telling me all about the transformation that’s had made in his life.
Well, We go back to my house, he sleeps on the couch because it was late at night and he didn’t want to go on to his house. He sleeps on the couch and he gets up at five in the morning and he’s reading the Bible and having a quiet time. Wow. So there was just such a radical transformation, and he would leave verses on my desk at work and he would say things like, Hey, get a pen off my desk.
And Oh, while you’re there, read the verse. That’s there that I’ve highlighted and. In some ways all the worst of the obnoxious Christian saying all these things. But I just was stunned by the transformation in his life. He went from sort of the valley that he was in to this totally transformed person.
And at first, this is the fun part, I thought he was kind a nuts that he’d gone slightly crazy. So I went to the library. And got books out like Bertran Russell, why I’m Not a Christian. Mm-hmm. And books that sort of fought against his Christian foundation, I would argue. And I had so many. Versus in my memory bank from having been a JW gone door to door.
And I was skilled at debating because that’s what I’d learned for three hours a week and I really went at him. I wanted to win him back to hedonism. I thought, you know, he was a whole lot more fun when he was. Not a Christian. And I’ll never forget, he would always kinda get backed into a corner by me, and he would always say something along these lines, which I, by the way have used many times since.
But he would always say, you know, I don’t have every answer for you. But I tell you what, I’m gonna pray for you, which is this really calm voice. I’m gonna pray for you and I know that God will make it clear to you.
Margaret Ereneta: Oh, that’s so awesome. What a great response.
David Harrop: It was. It really was. Especially for a brand new follower of Jesus.
Well, I would get so frustrated by that. Like, come on Gary, you gotta have the answers. Yeah. So he just kept at it month after month after month, about five or six months, and finally, He called me up one day and he said, Hey, I know it’s your day off. Do you mind coming over and helping me with some things?
I’m helping an outdoor play, set up their wiring for their sound system and light system. And I said, sure. Because he was fun to hang out with. So I go and find out that it’s the church that he’s been going to, and I didn’t know to call it this, but it was an outdoor passion play where they were gonna do the crucifixion and burial of Christ.
Wow. So it was before Easter they were gonna have this play. I love to tell this part. It was Gary, my friend, and Jesus and me, the guy who was playing Jesus in the play.
And so I like to say that day I met Jesus, but not. In the way that sometimes we talk about meeting Jesus and Ray, who played Jesus, I’m gonna call him Jesus. From here on Jesus really astounded me because are you ready for this? Jesus was a chain smoker, and so he was puffing away almost constantly on.
Camel cigarettes with no filters. And for someone who had grown up as a legalistic rule following jw, that was perfect. I needed to have the understanding that you could do things that were kind of weird and still be a follower of Jesus Christ. I had no clue that. Christians didn’t have all these heavy burdens of rules on them that I had run from when I was running away from jws.
And so Ray, Jesus, he was pretty slick. It’s so as we were getting things there, he would hand me his script and say, Hey, I might need help with my lines, and you help me with the lines. And so I would listen and read while he was quoting his lines, while he knew his lines. Just swell. But he wanted me to hear what Jesus said as he was leading up to the cross, and especially touching for me was when he would say, father, forgive them.
So I remember just pondering that as he said it. Well, at the end of the day, we got everything set up for this outdoor play and Jesus came to me, Ray and said, You know, we really need some help with this outdoor play. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to just be an extra for us because we wanna do these crowd scenes and so I agreed total non-believer to come to their church three nights and be an extra in the play, not knowing what that meant or what they wanted me to do.
So Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Easter week, I came to the church and said, okay, and I got in costume as a Roman soldier who nailed Jesus Christ to the cross. And the irony of that, or the symbolism of that still gets to me that it was our sin, my sin that, um, That led him to the cross and that he willingly gave of himself for us without a word, just like it said he would.
Ray would be there on the cross and we would lift him up and each night after we laid him in the tomb rolled the stone over. The pastor would come out and say, this is the gospel, and if you want to hear why we believe it, you need to come back on Easter Sunday morning for the Sunrise service. Every night after it was over.
Gary would come to me and go, what’d you think? What’d you think? Hey, are you a Christian yet? And I was like, Gary, keep away. Keep away. I wanted him at arms length. Well, Easter Sunday morning came, and again, because as a JW you’re kind of thinking, I don’t like Christians. They’re a bit like we would think of a demonized person.
And so I didn’t want to go in the church. I still had that residue of being a jw. I didn’t want to go in the church, but Gary said, Hey, the Easter Sunrise service is outdoors y It’s, it’s right over here by where we laid Jesus in the tomb. So I agreed. I went to the Easter Sunrise service, sat on a folding chair outside, and they had rolled the stone back away and the tomb was empty.
And the pastor said very clearly the gospel message that Jesus had died for our sins. And I remember him saying, this is how we know that all that is necessary is for us to believe. Because the stone has rolled the ray and Jesus has power over death. He’s done it all. I remember those were, that was the layout of the message, and when it was over, I’m heading out to the parking lot and my friend Gary comes out and he says, What’d you think?
What’d you thinking? And I remember saying to him in the parking lot of the church, Gary, I think if we’re ever gonna be friends, we need to stop talking about God, Jesus, and religion. And I believe the Holy Spirit gave Gary these words, cuz remember he’s a four or five month old believer. He said, David, I’ll stop talking to you about.
God and my life with God if you’ll do one thing for me. And I said, okay, what’s the one thing? What’s the catch? And he said, you need to pray and ask God to show you that he’s real. That’s so bold and awesome. It was. He is an on fire follower of God. So I said, okay, I’ll take that challenge. And then I said to him, Gary, if I ever do pray that prayer, I’m never gonna tell you when I pray it because you’ll make something up that will be the answer to the prayer.
And I said, I just want it to be God that answers that prayer and shows me that he’s real. And he said, okay. Hmm. So about six weeks later, I had a day off work again. I’m living in Miami, Florida, and I decided to ride my motorcycle across what’s called Alligator Alley to the west coast of Florida. I had some friends that were there.
I was gonna eat lunch with them, and as I started out said, today’s the day I’m gonna pray that prayer. God, if you’re real, please show me that you’re real. And I meant today I really wanted him to show me today. So I ride all the way across Alligator Alley. I had lunch with my friends. It, you know, it was a beautiful may day.
And as I’m riding back, my motorcycle ran outta gas. I guess I hadn’t checked it. Ugh. And I am way out in the middle of the Everglades. And so it had been a long time since I’d seen a gas station. I didn’t know how far ahead a gas station was. There weren’t that many cars coming along. And if you know anything about South Florida, you don’t dare leave your motorcycle on the side of the road or it won’t be there when you come back.
So here I am pushing a fairly big motorcycle down the road, sweating bullets, and eventually a guy pulls over and has a gas can in the back of his truck. And before I know it, almost, he’s, he’s putting gas in my motorcycle. I’m. Flabbergasted. Actually, there’s a nice person in in Miami. It’s just incredible.
And so he’s telling me, I’ve done things like this before and I’m trying to pay him, and he wouldn’t take money. And I remember saying at least twice to him, wow, people just aren’t like you. People around here don’t do that. Like what you’re doing right now. And he was like, oh, he’s nothing. Or something like that.
And he gets back in the truck and again, I try and pay him one more time. And he says No. And he gets in the truck and he shuts the door. And then he rolled down the window of the pickup truck and he said, well, before I go, I need to tell you that I’m not really this way, but a friend of mine told me I should be this way and you really should get to know him.
His name is Jesus Christ. . And he started the truck and drove away, and I just could not speak. I knew. Instantly, even though I’d forgotten that I’d prayed that prayer that morning, that that was God answering that prayer. Amazing. Yeah, it was amazing. It was definitely God moment I got on the motorcycle, ran as quick as I could to the next gas station down the road, filled up and then went to the church where the pastor was, and I walked right past the receptionist, right into the closed door of the pastor’s office, opened the door and said, Pastor Rick, I just became a follower of Jesus Christ.
I’m a Christian. Wow. Tell me what I should do now. And he wanted to hear the whole story. I told him the whole story and he said, well, here’s what you need to do. I need to meet with you regularly. And tell you the things of Jesus because now that you’re a disciple, it says very clearly in scripture that I need to teach you to obey all the things that Jesus commanded.
And so he met with me regularly for the next two years. Wow. Uh, we started with the Trinity. We started with all the doctrines that I had messed up in my head, and he discipled me for the next two years. Even lived with him for a while to help pay off debts when I decided I would be gone off to college.
He did a great job of helping me find Jesus.
Margaret Ereneta: That’s amazing. So you stormed into that office saying you had become a Christian, so it, it’s different for everybody, but did you in your heart just say, yes, Lord? Did you say it, prayer or just come to a realization, and that was enough for you to have declared that to the pastor?
What happened before that?
David Harrop: As I read through the New Testament then, and by the way, I’d never read the Bible that way. Like through the Bible I had read proof verses, but never read. I remember when I came to the Saul’s conversion and the questioning that he had with the Lord. Almost immediately, his question was, what do you want me to do?
And that felt like what had happened to me, the conversion was so 180. I love that term. It was such a change that my question wasn’t, is this true? What happened? What do I need to believe? Jesus was so real. My question was, what do you want me to do? Jesus. Wow. I remember the pastor explaining to me what it meant to become a Christian, and I said, great.
Whatever it means I’m listening. I want that. I remember saying, I don’t know what it means to serve, but however you want me to serve as a follower of Christ, that’s the way I want to do it. I wanna be involved in following fully what God wants me to do. Reading verses, they immediately went to my heart. I remember reading one Timothy one.
For the very first time. You just have to imagine this, I’m actually reading the Bible, I’ve probably read it in two weeks, but coming to First Timothy one and the verses that say, I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who strengthened me because he considered me faithful, putting me into his service. And I said, well, that that’s me.
And then just a few verses later, it’s where Paul says that he’s a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man. But for this reason, even though he was the chief of sinners, Christ showed him mercy. And I was like, that’s me. I was a persecutor of the church. I was a person who didn’t like Christians at all and wanted to change them, and God transformed me and God changed me so that I can serve him.
So almost immediately from the moment I became a follower of Jesus, I wanted to know how to serve him and what to do to advance his name in the world.
Margaret Ereneta: Wow. So when you did officially leave the church, How did that go down with your family?
David Harrop: Well, at first when I left, I hadn’t become a follower of Jesus, and so my family hoped that I would come back and we had.
Occasional phone calls and correspondence. But when I became a follower of Jesus and crossed the line, as they would call it, and became an apostate in their viewpoint, then they wrote one last letter that said, we’ll never be able to talk to you again. So, wow. For the next 18 years, I didn’t talk to anyone in my family.
I wrote letters that they returned. I called and they would hang up. And then I honestly, I grew tired of that, and I didn’t call or talk or anything until the birth of our daughter. I named our daughter after my mom. We called to tell him that, and I heard my mom crying, handed the phone to my dad. And he gave a few sentences and then he hung up.
And so that was our first little break in communication with them. Wow. And then we did take our daughter to see them, and they wrote a letter after that and said, we’ll never be able to do that again. We feel so guilty. And so all the years that I was a follower of Jesus when they were alive, we had just maybe an hour of conversation with them altogether.
Margaret Ereneta: I can’t imagine. And what about your siblings?
David Harrop: So my siblings were very committed also to Jehovah’s Witnesses. And so although I would’ve said growing up we had a really close-knit family, my brothers never talked to me again. And my sister, I. Every time I was with her, she was in tears and, and would never speak, but I could feel the pull in her heart as well.
It’s, it wasn’t mine.
Margaret Ereneta: Wow. I wanted to clarify something that I thought was quite alarming when you said it. So you weren’t considered an apostate. From what it sounds like from leaving the Jehovahs Witness, you were considered an apostate. Once you joined Jesus’s cause it was okay to just leave the church.
David Harrop: Yeah. In their mind there’s always hope that I’ll come back if I’m just out being a normal person. But when I have different beliefs from them and as a Christian, they feel that I’m quote on the other side, then I have left their organization officially and I’m. Definitely working against them from their point of view.
And so when I wrote and said I had become a follower of Jesus, that’s when they consider me somebody who is then working against them, if you will, and trying to undermine what their cause was. Wow.
Margaret Ereneta: That’s all just really sad. It’s. The cost that it takes to follow Jesus is just greater than some of us realize.
So what did you do? Did you have an immediate 180 where you started serving?
David Harrop: Yeah. So this pastor thought, Hey, this is the guy that knows how to go door to door. I’m gonna have him go door to door and tell people about our church. And so, Hmm, I thought all Christians did that. So there was a big new housing community in the area near where the church was.
And he assigned me and my friend Gary, and a few others, and we went door to door and basically learned the evangelism explosion questions. Mm-hmm. And started, I was great with it. We just went to their doors and started asking them about Jesus and what they believed and what God meant to them. And uh, then, uh, some of the questions that led them to, uh, understand what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.
And so, honestly, within the first months I was doing that, Pretty regularly on the weekends, and by the fall I became a follower, Jesus, in May. By the fall, they asked me to be a part of helping the youth group, which now as a parent makes me shutter. But, um, at the time he knew that, um, at least I was willing to say I don’t know all the answers, and he thought the transformation in my life was so.
Profound that he wanted the youth of the church to see that as well. And so I started serving with another couple in the church that, you know, had been believers a long time, but I was, I was at every youth event. I was doing everything from basketball and Frisbee to sitting down with them one-on-one and having Bible studies.
And so, I mean, I really, I, from the, from the beginning, I really wanted to serve the Lord.
Margaret Ereneta: And so you do that now you are a full-time missions pastor. One of the toughest jobs, I think, in ministry. Um hmm. How did you get the call to do that? Where did you go from serving to doing that?
David Harrop: So, another great question.
Thank you Margaret. early on I would watch the pastor when he taught God’s word. And I felt he had such a connect with God’s word and understanding God’s word that, uh, I thought, I want to know God’s word like that. And so I went to finish my degree at a small little Christian college in Miami, Florida.
And so, um, there were great Bible teachers were, uh, that were helping me understand God’s word even more deeply. I was pretty convinced I wanted to be a pastor and teach, like my pastor had done
I got on the bus with a bunch of other kids from the school and we went overnight on a bus ride going to a missions conference that students were running in Georgia called GO Conference. and I heard a mission speaker. his name is George Murray.
And, uh, powerfully communicated the needs of the world in ways that I had never heard before. And I remember there was one point in, in the time that we were there, and I remember journaling this. Some of you are gonna be engineers. Why not consider being an engineer where the the darkness is so dense that they need the light of Christ?
Some of you are thinking about being nurses. Why not be a nurse on the mission field? Some of you are thinking about being pastors. Why not be a pastor on the mission field? And I was like, wow, I never thought of that. I could be a pastor on the mission field.
And by that time, the next year, I had fully said, Lord, if you want, I am definitely planning to go. I’m willing to stay in the United States if that’s where you want me, but I’m. I’m planning to go. It really was a transformative point in my time to say, Lord, I’m gonna let you direct my steps. Wow.
Margaret Ereneta: I do have a final question for you, David.
If there’s someone listening today who’s steeped in a church that they’re noticing is Unbiblical, like maybe even to the extent of yours, or maybe a lesser extent, and maybe they even feel stuck, what would you say to them?
David Harrop: The first thing I think comes to mind is to pray because God is such a good God.
He longs for us to run to him and come to him. And so God’s word over and over again repeats how gracious God is and loving, and and caring for us. And if we turn our hearts toward him, he’s so faithful. If we seek Him, we will find him if we seek him with all our heart. This the word of God says. And so, uh, pray and seek and, and look for God to be, um, the clear God of scripture.
That that comes over and over again. And then turn to God’s word and read and see and understand. Read, read the gospels and see how Jesus lovingly cares for those. Who are far from him and that we don’t need the structure of, uh, some rules and guidance to obey all the time to please him. He’s, he’s the God who wants us when we seem the farthest from him.
And so prayer is certainly the, the most important thing and asking God and then find people who, who know grace. Who understand that God has graciously opened the way for people to come to him. Uh, the picture of the, the prodigal son is so clear in my mind as how God met me. I was running from him off doing my own thing, coming back.
Hesitatingly, I guess is a good word, and, and thinking, oh, how, how could God ever receive me? And the scripture says in Luke 15 that the father in that picture of the prodigal son, runs to the son and and embraces him and loves him as the son that he is. And so that’s who God is. That’s the way that Jesus has revealed him to us.
And so I love that God that loves you and. Get away from those that are, that are regimented and legalistic in their, in their views of God. God wants his children to be in his arms.
Margaret Ereneta: Wow. It’s very profound. Really good for us all to think about that. Thank you so much for being on the show today, David. I, I really think that you’ll be a blessing to a lot of people who get to hear this story, the 180 that God wrote in you.
David Harrop: It’s a great privilege for me to share what God has done in my life. Yeah. Awesome.
Margaret Ereneta: Hey friends. Thanks for listening today. Please share 180 with your people. It may be the best news they hear today. We have a video on how to do that in Spotify in our show notes plus info on the Jehovah’s Witness Church.
Today’s sendoff features OneWay scripture song I Carried You. Another reason to check out those show notes, you’ll get a link to a free download of the song.