My Turning Back
by Eli Deborah*
When people read my story, they sometimes think, “Big deal, just another criminal who is trying to gain sympathy from Christians.” But for me, a person born as a Muslim, growing up denying the existence of God but at the same time trying to find Him, my path to the Father has been a soulful journey. It has been a life journey that at one point I wanted to end, but now I cherish. Even when I was living like a prodigal, my Heavenly Father never abandoned me. He let me live and learn from my mistakes. And then He brought me back to Himself.
“Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). These words, spoken by the Lord Jesus before His death, show howvery unselfish He was in willingly submitting to the Father’s will and drinking the cup of suffering. I know with God everything is possible, and in my life I desire only that God’s will be done.
All about Jobs
Thirty years ago when I was born, my parents, a middle-class Muslim couple, wanted to provide all the luxury items they could for their children. Doing such required them to lead very busy lives, which meant leaving my older sister and me under the care were strict Muslims. Just after my fifth birthday, the economic crisis which affected the whole world reached my “rich” family. The company where my parents worked collapsed. Gone were the jewelries from Mom’s body, and the money—saved for a rainy day– from the bank. At home there began to be bickering between Mum and Dad, and our usually loving father started to beat me and my sister for any small mistakes we would make.
Eventually when my parents could no longer pay for the house or car, we packed up and moved to Dad’s hometown in Malaysia. My dad, who once wore nice clothes, started to pedal a bicycle and work at a nearby orchard. My mother did tutoring classes in our home and cooked Malay foods to be sold in a nearby shop every morning. My sister and I learned how to take care of ourselves as Mum and Dad busied themselves with their various jobs. Things got better after a year or two because my grandparents and other family members chipped in to help us financially. When I was nine years old, my baby brother was born, and I was delighted for he was the answer to my loneliness and boredom.
The Beginnings of Hate
Even though my parents were not strict Muslims, they sent my sister and me to madrasah (religious school for Muslims) every afternoon. I couldn’t understand the meaning of what was written in the Quran (the holy book of Muslim), so I was bored. I was also lazy to pray five times a day with recitations of Arabic which I couldn’t understand. I started to skip classes, and when the teacher reported it to my parents, I got a big bashing from my dad. From this point I began to spiral downward, lying to my parents, skipping school, and running away from home. The thing that always brought me back was the love I had for my brother, sister, and my father, who in spite of his harsh treatment was always like a hero to me.
Along the way, we finally packed our things and moved back to Singapore. Hoorah! I won’t have any more Islamic classes and at last I will be near my grandparents. My dad found a good job with an American company and Mum got a clerical job which she holds up till now. My dad traveled frequently to another country and Mum’s workaholic attitude did not help our family or their marriage. Eventually they filed for a divorce and I began to hate Mum and God.
When Sin is Conceived
When my maternal grandfather passed away, I started smoking, taking drugs, and drinking. By this time my anger with God had reached a peak. During my secondary school final public examination, the result came out not as good as my sister’s, and I blamed God for not giving me the “brain” that He gave my sister. Not only was I the “most stupid” one, I was also the ugliest one! I told myself that God only existed for those who are fortunate—but not for me! I started to support myself with odd jobs while living with my grandmum, though she finally kicked me out because of my “behavior problems.”
Men, drugs, and alcohol became my “good friends.” Before I knew anything, I was pregnant with my first son, which I gave up to someone else. There seemed to be no turning back for me. I stayed with another man (in a foreign country), had a son by him, but before long, we too parted. Because I loved my son so much, I stayed in this foreign country for more than three years, while all the time battling drug addiction, and an alcohol and men problem that was out of control.
Several people tried to show me the Way and the Light, but to me God only accepted the righteous, sinless people—not me. In 2008 I went back to my country and my home, but my family found it hard to accept my baby. I tried hard to please my family and keep my son with me, but in the end, I lost the battle. I ended up in Macau, trafficking in drugs to China. I was arrested and given a sentence. It was hard for me to accept my fate, and to be separated from my son.
Not What I Will
But one day as I browsed through a Bible that had been given me, I read the famous scripture John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. I suddenly felt myself so lucky—for God so loves me, He sent His only son to die for me. I accepted the love Jesus offered, and He became my personal Savior. I cannot turn back from my faith and my Savior, because had Jesus not saved me, I would be among those on the death penalty queue in China.
Today, though my health is not good, I know Jesus has taken away the main disease in my heart and mind: greediness and selfishness. I am a new person now. Like a new-born baby just out of her mother’s womb, I am a new creation in Christ. I am not rich, but I believe Jesus has already provided me a room in His heavenly mansion.
At present I have less than a year (hopefully) before I go back to my family. If it happens, I’ll be so happy. If not…then I want not my will but God’s will to be done. Once I find my way out of this place, I hope to enroll myself in a counseling course in a Bible college in my country. And I want to volunteer in helping sick prisoners. Of course, becoming a good mother, daughter, and sister to my beloved family will be priority, as well as sharing the Good News to my community. Like Peter who once denied Jesus and later repented, I, too, have repented over a lot of sin. Thank God, when we repent, He receives us back as His child—a much stronger and wiser child.