Amber Scorah spent years pioneering in China, but the experience didn’t turn out the way she expected

China is a country that fascinates many Jehovah’s Witnesses, who see it as a vast territory of untapped evangelical potential.

Home to 1.3 billion people, China is seen as the perilous final frontier of preaching the good news. It is one of the so-called “30 Other Lands” where the Witnesses are under ban. Local Witnesses therefore operate covertly, attending secret meetings and discreetly trying to convert people under constant threat of exposure.

Amber Scorah was once a pioneer working undercover “where the need is great” in Shanghai. The possibility of being followed, watched, bugged, or deported by Chinese officials was ever-present.

Now a writer living in New York, earlier this year Amber had her incredible story published in the Believer magazine under the title “Leaving the Witness: A Preacher Finds Freedom to Think in Totalitarian China.”

As the title suggests, though Amber arrived in China as a pioneer brimming with optimism and devotion to her faith, her experiences in that country forced her to re-evaluate her religious upbringing. When she found herself explaining doctrines such as Armageddon or disfellowshipping in simplistic terms in a foreign tongue to her bemused bible students, she began to question her own beliefs, which started to seem narrow-minded and elitist. This forced her into doing objective research, which in turn left her with a big decision to make.

Amber’s story is important, because it shows the value of being true to yourself, and honest with those you deal with. It also shows that Witnesses operating undercover in totalitarian regimes are just as prone to discovering the real truth as they are anywhere in the world – if not more so.

As Watchtower continues its attempts to gain a foothold in the “30 other lands,” a vast territory that accounts for approximately a third of the world’s population, it is encouraging to consider that even Witnesses in these precarious frontiers of the global preaching campaign are gaining access to the facts about the organization and finding the support needed to leave. And it is because of people like Amber that we know it is possible.






Further reading…

24 thoughts on “Amber Scorah – Finding Freedom of Thought in Communist China

  • August 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Two interesting things to comment, after extending kudos for this woman following her rational mind and survival instincts. One, is it me or anyone else noticed the prurient interest by elders (living vicariously through “sinners”) in graphical details of a first-time encounter? Even if conceding that the elders were probing whether the “virgin” children were guilty of intercourse or simply “fooling around,” this incident in the distant history of Amber highlights the darker aspects of elite organization where “sins” have very specific details where “degrees” of sin warrant corresponding degrees of punishment. It also highlights the degree of mind-control where two consenting young adults were compelled to “tell all”. Thankfully, they don’t encourage tantric sex.

    Point two, the method of witnessing undercover–clandestine ops–what’s good for one area should hold true for those countries where can be open. Note, any JW’s caught having drinks with coworkers or neighbors–you’re not having “bad association,” you’re simply working as an undercover agent to recruit to JW’s. Flirty-fishing, to coin a phrase..

  • August 26, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    A visit to bethel could actually do the same thing. If your a “thinking person” you see the place is run like a slave labor business with strict rules. Endless silly rules like Bethelites not allowed to enter their residence wearing shorts, living quarters are nearly inhumane in size. And if you are there long enough you see the bethel politics. Then you have your most humble bethel heavies who walk around thinking they are all that. No thanks!

  • August 26, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Alden, I would refer you to this insightful article regarding our escape from Watchtower “Oz” and seemingly lack of faith. [A. K. Jeff]

    As I postulated in a previous post hinting at a darker conspiracy, becoming a JW paints a dark cloud over anything other than the Watchtower and certainly cast suspicions on world religions and other spiritual expressions. When an individual discerns that the bedrock of their faith is based on “shifting sands,” it’s a shock to the mental health and physical system and finding trust, or faith, again is not a rapid thing, if one is RAISED JW. It’s entirely different if one drifted into JWs from a previous religious experience where the hate-speech from JW’s toward other religious groups is tempered with the knowledge of past experience with another group.

  • August 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Well, for those RAISED JW, then RAZED JW, it is not possible to read-up on the apostate view prior to becoming JW. Most “kids” found reading an apostate book would be kicked out of the house, or find themselves severely punished by devout JW parents, at least those in “good standing” [tag: ELITISM].

    Besides, some who leave JW in disgust with the actions and so forth of Watchtower still cling to the beliefs of the Watchtower. It’s easy to do so with the various Bible Students and Rutherford offshoots, as well as persons who simply decide to read literature but not participate in congregational politics and organizational events and quietly slip into the shadows. And, these individuals can point to the very foundational groups like Advent Christian Church, Christadelphians and Abrahamic Faith groups who hold similar beliefs as a reason for holding the line against a movement toward orthodox Christian viewpoints and holding to an alternative belief structure based on Adventism and anti-trinitarian views.

  • August 26, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed Amber’s description of life in China as well as her background. I felt very sad that she couldn’t even be a part of her dad’s funeral, an event I will encounter in the not too distant future. Amber’s story was not anti-Christ as Alden suggested, rather an honest look at the teachings she had been taught as a JW. She pushed no barrow, unlike Alden who has his own agenda. Coming out of a cult is excruciatingly difficult mentally and emotionally. I think that rather than take a judgemental stance Alden should be empathetic with Amber’s experience, which surely is the ‘Christian’ thing to do?

  • August 26, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    What is “Happy End” in your opinion. Did these faithful servants of Jehovah have a “Happy End”? Lot, King Saul, King David, Samson, Salomon, and even Jesus (crucified)! “Happy Ends” are rare in bible’s tales.

    Did you know this about David?
    (2 Samuel 20:3) . . .Eventually David came to his house at Jerusalem. Then the king took the ten women, the concubines whom he had left behind to take care of the house, and he put them in a house of confinement, but he kept on supplying food to them. And with them he did not have any relations, but they continued shut up closely until the day of their dying, in a widowhood with a living [husband]. . .

    [comment moderated: thanks Hakizama, we get the picture!] Leave Amber alone, please!!

  • August 27, 2013 at 12:57 am


    Thank You for clarifying, Still holding with what I stated, I wasn’t sure if these were the very same issues to which you were referring…good enough then…
    I had contemplated elaborating myself on that very issue of imposing on others but did not feel authorized nor did I desire to intrude further into a matter that wasn’t mine.
    I would like to have commented as well on the fact that people are transitional. They go through periods of “Times and Seasons” and what a person may think or believe a year after leaving the organization as opposed to 3 or 4 years let alone 5 or 10 of convalescence and contemplation may be vastly different. Similarly, people don’t always lose their old deeply taught ways of thinking that easily…and of course, some of it is just no one’s business!

    Kurt Hennig aka KtotheRAD “Konrad”

    • August 27, 2013 at 1:30 am

      Thanks Kurt. As you say, beliefs can be transitional. In my view, they are also a personal thing, and shouldn’t be a subject for open discussion unless the person in question invites such discussion, which certainly wasn’t the case here.

  • August 27, 2013 at 2:49 am

    Ok, I’ve gone ahead and written some rules, which can now be found at the bottom of each page. I didn’t want it to come to this, but the fact that experienced and regular posters can get drawn into side-stepping our “unspoken” rules indicates to me that they now need to be, er, spoken. Please could everyone familiarize themselves with our guidelines before posting future comments. That would be greatly appreciated!

    PS – The guidelines are not open for debate. I’m sure everyone recognizes the need to have SOME rules – otherwise what you have is a free-for-all. We should all be mindful that JWsurvey is a site that indoctrinated Witnesses may occasionally visit, and we want it to be as pleasant an environment for such ones as possible. In particular, we don’t want them thinking JWsurvey is a site full of those seeking to “draw off followers after themselves.” Thanks.

  • August 27, 2013 at 4:22 am

    Well done, Cedars! As someone who no longer has any spiritual beliefs, I am glad that you have come up with the rules. I don’t want to stop others believing and I would never try. I come to this site to gain facts about my ex religion, not to be reintroduced to beliefs that I can no longer believe in. I really enjoy reading the posts of others, and I look forward to reading many more.

    Regardless of our personal beliefs, we all are seeking accurate knowledge about the WTBTS and your site is a fine tool for that. Let us all follow the rules, so that we can all stand together against men in Brooklyn who think it’s ok to tell 7 million people what to do.

  • August 27, 2013 at 5:45 am

    I read her article when it was originally published. Great insight and well written. The point she made about wondering if the studies were just using her to learn English really made me think. In general, I wonder how often this is the case. We would hear stories of JW missionaries having 10-15 studies per day; by that token, the baptism numbers don’t amount to that much of an increase. I’m curious how many study enough to learn another language, but aren’t interested in the JW message.

  • August 27, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I read her article some time ago and sent her a personal message on Twitter. This is the perfect type of personal experience that belongs at JWSurvey since it showcases certain truths. One of the most important is that not all “worldly” people are evil or out to hurt us, and that as reasonable people, we should be encouraged to grow and learn from our environment and not locked into just ONE way of thinking. I really enjoyed reading her story.

  • August 28, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Thanks for pointing to this great article. Well written und really interesting to get a first-hand account of JW missionary work. Sounds like the author should have enough material for a book!

  • August 31, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Well who couldn’t build something impressive with free-labor and all materials paid for by donations from millions of gullible people duped into believing that this will somehow get them in good with God.

    It’s a scam. It should be criminal!

  • September 2, 2013 at 1:24 am

    Most of the comments don’t really respect point #4 of the guidelines. I get that, most people don’t like rule or rules of any kind. Anectodal stories don’t all point to the same conclusion despite the desire of posters to make them seem so. You can see commonalities in many personal stories and interpret them however you want, for the positive or negative. In the final analysis, what’s the point? If you have a 1000 people working for a big corporation a percentage will love it others will hate it. Having a percentage of people criticize doesn’t prove the corp guilty as a company, although it may indicate some members are corrupt. Anyone that has read the bible knows that the gospels and letters of the apostles indicate some hypocrisy by Peter and others church leaders. So what should we conclude? Give up Bible morality and choose our own? I guess that’s the purpose of this site..???

    • September 2, 2013 at 1:35 am

      Hello Nora, welcome to the site!

      “Anyone that has read the bible knows that the gospels and letters of the apostles indicate some hypocrisy by Peter and others church leaders.” – this is true, although the apostles in particular were hand-picked by Christ. Are you saying this is also true of the Governing Body?

      “So what should we conclude? Give up Bible morality and choose our own? I guess that’s the purpose of this site..???” – the purpose of this site is to report facts pertaining to Jehovah’s Witnesses and give people an opportunity to express their viewpoints via our survey. The above story is an excellent example of someone who has embraced facts and overcome indoctrination.

      If you see indoctrination and religion as one and the same, then yes – I suppose much of this site is in violation of point four in that we oppose indoctrination and encourage people to reach their own conclusions based on facts, as Amber has done in this case. However, most religious people will tell you that religion is a matter of faith. If people decide to still be a JW despite overwhelming evidence that the organization is not backed by God, then this is their choice and nobody should interfere. That doesn’t stop us from making the facts available.

  • September 2, 2013 at 6:34 am

    Some may feel that despite its “warts” the Watchtower is no worse/better than other churches and in their heart conceive of a doctrinal path and relationship to God that the GB can not shake despite its twists and turns in interpreting Scripture. Feeling that the Watchtower gave them a stable foundation away from a libertine lifestyle, or whatever self-destructive path, prior to incorporating a divine presence in their life. Much like a cross or icon, the Watchtower would be used as a reminder of submission to the divine. The internal conflict with dogma would be something many faith walkers would experience, and unless they are prepared (or led by God?) to breakaway and present their divine revelation as a new offering to the masses, some sit in mute disagreement.

    I think its a narrow interpretation to state that turning away from the Watchtower or an expression of God means we’re seeking a life devoid of ethics. Unethical and immoral behaviors are most often linked to those who act “in the name of God”.

  • September 2, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    Going back to Ambers story….. I read the whole story about 6 months ago and I loved it. At the time I was just awakening and it helped me to see things from a different perspective. I wasnt born and raised a JW, but for me to see the awakening of a need-greater JW in China made me really think twice about the kind of organization I was a part of. It helped me to realize that the message I was supposed to be preaching didnt make any sense… especially coming from a “loving God”. The organization teaches that they are the only ones who have love, and the world is full of hatred. In reality, it’s the other way around… the organization is full of hatred, and the world is full of people some who love, and some who hate. We need to take the time to analyze what we have been taught, reject it, and stop seeing everyone as a bad and worldly person. That’s what I learned from this.

  • September 3, 2013 at 4:37 am

    I greatly appreciated Nora’s post. It expresses a commonly held belief that it is impossible to hold a moral code without “spirituality”.

    As a non believer in ANY religious belief, I have had to come up with my own moral code, based on the facts that science reveals.

    I follow many of the teachings of Jesus. They make sense and have demonstratively good outcomes. Those that don’t I reject.

    For example doing unto others as we would like them to do to us is a good moral position that doesn’t require a God to make it work.

  • September 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    “beliefs can be transitional”

    I know that I certainly don’t believe the same things that I did even a year ago when I started posting on this forum and elsewhere. I suspect that Amber will grow as a person as well and view life in her own unique way at some point and never really stop growing and changing since that what people do.
    Much of my altered view has to do with what I have learned from many of you and others on other forums and my own research as well as my own experiences with the Society and their allegedly covert people on these forums during that time…They, the Watchtower Society have truly been their own worst enemy in absolutely every possible way! If there were a script written on what not to do and how to eventually fail as a dangerous and destructive, oppressive, Religious cult organization? Steps 1, 2, 3…That organization has written it item for item and the chronicles have been laid down for all to see so that WE!…can make sure that no such organization ever rises again!
    Very strict laws need to be written and adhered to so that no “Religion” may go beyond the point of saying, “We are the only…” or “We have the exclusive anointing and salvation can only be found here!” or “Truth is only to be found here…WE, and no one else, etc” Because when that happens history has shown again and again without fail comes power, deception, greed and pain and death!

  • July 30, 2014 at 10:32 am

    I feel bad for the brothers in China,, and that they are banned but that doesn’t stop Jehovah’s servants for doing his will,,,he will always use his spirit to help us keep moving forward with his will and forever. I want to know if Amber is still preaching in China because I will like to go preach the good news in China. Im a Jehovah’s witness too.

  • July 30, 2014 at 12:02 pm


    I don’t think that Amber is a Jehovah’s Witness any more.

    She reasoned in her mind and heart and found the WTBTS wanting.

    Your desire to help others is much to your credit, Fernando. Jesus would be proud of your compassion. However, I think that he would prefer you to clear out what is unclean from your own religion before trying to convert others to your faith.

    I strongly urge you in the name of Christ to carefully read the articles on this site. Check to see if John Cedars has misquoted any references. Check to see that your religion has its moral core in place.

    You will find harrowing accounts of child abuse cover ups, domestic abuse cover ups and various and multitudinous changes in policy spanning many, many decades.

    Your duty as a Christian is clear! Make straight paths for your feet. Love your neighbour as yourself. Take care of the weak and oppose the wicked.

    Your religion is in overdue need of reform. It has failed to come to sound, Christian decisions on many moral and criminal matters. Please help them to change. That will make God rejoice, not travelling to China.

    Peace be with you


  • September 7, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Its not easy being raised a JW and discovering its all crap. It’s not easy. Its appalling that religion can restrict ones freedom and make Godly worship an act of fear rather than act of love. God show us mercy. Its just not easy.

  • July 11, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Just thought I would revisit this article because it was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ for me. I had been months into awakening and this was the first ‘apostate’ material I ever stumbled upon. When I read it I just knew there was no going back, she articulated everything I had been thinking of. So thank you Amber, and Lloyd for featuring her. (I sent the article to my sister , who also woke up as a result :-)

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