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Fall 2015: Part 1 of 2 - My Testimony
Publish date: Feb 29, 2016
Summary: Part 1 of 2: Michael Rathje's Testimony
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I was born in Munich on August 1, 1989. My parents are regular working people with secure jobs, who did what was necessary to sustain the family. My mum is a member of the Catholic Church; my dad is Evangelical but neither of them practices their faith. I remember when I was about 8 years old, my mum asked us at dinner if any of us believed in God and if we wanted to continue to pray for the food. We decided as a family that we did not believe and so stopped praying.
I was a good child. My mum gave my sister and me a lot of attention. Also both my grandmothers spent a lot of time with us. Nevertheless, in my early years I developed an addiction to television and later became addicted to computer games. I believe that’s why I developed dyslexia, a reading disorder.
When I was 12, I smoked my first cigarette and at 14 I got drunk with so-called “pop ups,” light alcoholic drinks. My best friends were Ludwig, Tobias, and Andreas. We were about 16 years old when we tried the drug marijuana. I finished middle school (secondary) when I was 16 years old, with a focus on economics; that same year (2005) I started my carpentry apprenticeship and finished it in 2009.
And here is where my life really started!!!
I made good money as a carpenter. I lived in my parents’ home and so I didn’t have any living expenses. All my money went toward partying and drugs. One Saturday morning after yet another party night, I woke up in my bed and had a very different feeling. Something inside me said, “This can’t be life. Five days a week, I work and smoke weed every night and the other two days I get even more wasted, destroying my body.” The next moment I got out of my bed, turned on my computer and booked a flight to Canada. It was on February 22, 2010.
Why Canada? I had recently gotten to know a young Canadian named Rob, who was traveling around the world and he inspired me to step out of my little world in Munich. Also, I have family in Vancouver, BC and that’s where I planned to go.
Before I arrived in Canada I connected with my uncle Norbert and told him of my plans to come to Vancouver. He was very surprised but happy. We never really had much of a connection before that. I had seen him only a couple of times in my life. One week before I started my trip I talked to him again and he told me that he was already talking to an acquaintance of his who worked as a contractor in construction. His contact was starting a new project and would need a skilled handyman like me! I arrived February 23 in Vancouver. My uncle picked me up and we drove to his house in Richmond. When I arrived I had two needs: First, I needed a job. And second, I needed a home for myself.
I got a job within the first week with my uncle’s contact, Wenzel Goubej. He told me he needed someone who had a lot of time and could do a lot of little construction tasks. That was my job. I like construction and I especially got to like the Canadian way of building--with wood and nails.
The day we went to see the job was also the first day of the construction project, which was actually a reconstruction project. Wenzel Goubej at the time worked as a contractor to sustain his family, but he was also the director of a self-supporting ministry called Amazing Discoveries. The construction site was an old church building which the ministry had bought to transform into an office and recording studio.
Because the work place was quite far from my uncle’s house I needed a car so I wouldn’t have to depend on my uncle or Wenzel, my boss. I started looking for a car and after I checked one out, my uncle told me that one of his employees wanted to sell his car. I went to see it and it looked pretty good, considering it was 19 years old. The car was a Toyota sport edition and the fellow wanted $1500 for it. I paid for the car with my first two checks.
In the first days and weeks of work I got to know the people of the ministry and especially the Goubej family. Wenzel told me a lot of things about his religion and the Seventh-day Adventist church and about his God, Jesus Christ. I first was quite skeptical about this but I felt that my personal view of life was respected and nobody tried to force any religious beliefs on me. Still, for quite a while, it was weird to be around people who constantly prayed and talked of God.
As an atheist I had a thousand questions for Wenzel and I tried to make him see the vanity of his faith. But the answers he gave had the contrary effect. I really started to think of this Bible thing and I know today that the Holy Spirit told me, “Here is what you were looking for - the real reason of life!” I still doubted a lot, but with time and the love with which this family treated me – something I’d never experienced before - convinced me of a Higher Power which had led me from my bed in Germany to this place in Canada.
One day, after peppering Wenzel with questions, he told me, “You know Michael, I’m really afraid that I might give you an incomplete answer to your questions. You’ve got to learn a lot about the history of the world to really understand. I would like to give you a set of DVDs to look at.” I accepted his offer and he gave me this big box of 36 DVD’s, a series called Total Onslaught, by a speaker named Walter Veith.
That was about 2 months after I arrived in Canada. By this time my uncle Norbert had already suggested that it would be good for me to find a home of my own to stay in to get more experience in life. I checked out one flat to rent but before I made a decision, my uncle said, “Listen, we have a house which we bought a couple of months ago and the guy who used to rent it from us gave us problems with parties and noise. So, I was thinking of asking if you would like to live there to take care of the house and the lawn.” I thought, "What kind of question is that?" Yes, I would like it even if it was really old and my room-mate was a big rat. The best part was that the house was right on the ocean. So I lived in this house and drove my own car to work every day. At night I started watching these sermons and by the third or fourth DVD, I really started to understand what kind of truth God was opening up to me, the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation - everything in its smallest details. This was a big thing for me.
My conscience started talking to me and I found myself in a big spiritual war. My doubts and my little faith started jumping up and down. I decided to accept this message and started praying and tried to read the Bible. I also started going to church on Sabbath and stopped partying and doing drugs. I also stopped going to the martial arts studio, which I had really gotten to love over the previous two months. I adopted a complete Vegan diet.
My change was very rapid but I liked it. I memorized the prophetic events and dates but I didn’t get into the Bible reading thing. The fact is that the devil had worked well in making reading difficult for me. In all my life, I’d never read a complete book. I might have started reading from time to time, but never got farther than the first couple of pages.
For the next four months I was living like an Adventist, working and watching the sermons. My family and friends in Germany drove themselves crazy with anti-religious propaganda gathered from movies, newspapers, etc.. The mind of the secular world is very critical of any religion which it doesn’t understand. Before I became a Seventh-day Adventist, no one in my family or among my friends, or anyone I knew had ever heard of something like a Seventh-day Adventist. My mum told me when we were talking on Skype to please be very careful with these people because before I knew it they might sacrifice me. My friends also told me that they had a meeting to plan what they should do to rescue me! I really thought they’d gone more crazy than I had. This caused me a lot of problems with my friends.
So far, God had shown me that He loves me and that if I chose Him, He could and would provide every need! After being in Canada for just 6 months my life had completely changed. I had lost about 7 kilograms (or 15 pounds) of fat, I was super happy and I realized that God had given me everything, even things I didn’t even ask for! I knew that if I got baptized that meant I chose to forever walk in the ways of God. But as much as I liked my life with God, I had some things on my heart which I had never let go of. And, God, of course, knew!
So sometime in October 2010 God put me to a test so I might see what was in my heart. He permitted my friend Ludwig to come to Vancouver to visit me and my friend Rob, the Canadian who had inspired me to leave my home back in Germany. When Ludi told me that he was coming, it was clear to me that I would have to make a decision. I would have to make a decision for God or go back to my old ways.
Once Ludi arrived I could not put off my decision for long. I picked him up at the airport and took him to Stanley Park, near downtown Vancouver. As we walked and shared our experiences of the past year, we saw two people walking in the bushes looking for something. Ludi figured they were looking for hallucinogenic mushrooms and asked them what they looked like and how to find them. I wasn’t interested. For the next hour Ludi walked around in the forest looking for mushrooms. After a while I called him back to the walkway. As soon as he walked beside me, still in seeking mode, looking at the ground, he suddenly stopped and picked up a little pack of marijuana! I understood the situation: Satan was calling. In all my life, I never found weed lying on the ground. Ludi also couldn’t believe it but he was super happy! I held out for three days, but then I gave in and smoked with him. Then while visiting Rob on Vancouver Island, we went with him to a cabin party in the mountains where I got wasted to the point that I was sick to my stomach.
Just after Ludwig came to Canada I left with Wenzel and Victor Gill to India for 2 weeks. I actually enjoyed the stay and the culture, but I didn't permit God to do something special in my life. I already had my mind set. In the flight back to Vancouver I got drunk and Ludwig was already waiting at the airport for me.
I disconnected myself from Amazing Discoveries and lived together with Ludi in Rob’s flat for a couple of weeks. We smoked more marijuana and I started looking for a job. One job got lined up, but it never materialized. For about 3 weeks I had a horrible time. I was addicted to marijuana, I couldn’t find a job and my money was running out. To make things worse, I owed Wenzel money, too.
One day Wenzel called me and told me that he was on Vancouver Island visiting a friend, so I could visit him to figure out how to take care of the debt I owed him. I went. Along with Wenzel were his wife Dagmar and some other friends from my Christian life. Wenzel told me that he didn’t want me to run out of money so he released me from my debt to him. They invited me to stay for supper. I decided to stay, even though I had planned to get in and out as fast as I could. As we talked, I told him about my life at the moment, but I wouldn’t express my real feelings. Wenzel reminded me of all the truth I had learned. I said I was tired of the story and I didn’t want to hear it anymore. Dagmar started crying and I left.
But the fight for my soul was not over.
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