The Lord reached down and saved me in March, 2002.
Back then I was a muslim, praying 5 times a day and fasting during ramadan. I dressed fully like a muslim and did my best to keep their rules.
My search began in 1994 in Rwanda (Africa) where I was born. During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, with all the killings, shootings and bombing going on, I was much afraid. I sought comfort in prayer but since as a muslim I was to only pray in Arabic (a language I didn’t know- I was taught prayers that I memorized and prayed over and over), I didn’t know any prayer that related to my situation. What was I to do? Frustrated I cried out to God looking up to heaven and saying If you made me and caused me to be born in Rwanda and to only speak in Rwandese, then why can’t you hear me in my language. Did you create me yet you can’t understand my language? So I proceeded to express my fears to God looking up and talking in my language (breaking the rules of Islam I had been taught) but trusting that if God truly made me then, He would hear my cry and understand what I was saying. Instantly I heard in my native tongue,’You shall not die.’ Peace and comfort flooded my heart- I was then 11 years old. The shootings, bombing and killings didn’t stop. I would later face many near death experiences including a bomb being thrown on the roof under which we were sitting and a gun being pointed to my face. But in all these and other instances, the words ‘you will not die’ rang over and over again in my head giving me assurance that could not be understood.
In brief, my family and I made through the genocide.
In returning to the city where I was born and driving through the villages. We passed by some dead bodies. I remember thinking, ‘there must be a reason why I am alive. There must be a reason why God had spared me from death.’ I didn’t really know what that reason was, but I was very much convinced that there was a reason why I was still breathing while others lay on the sides of the streets breathless.
Fast forward. My family and I later immigrated to Canada. Life in Canada as an immigrant was not easy to say the least. New culture, schooling, peer pressure, loneliness etc. all hit me hard. Depression (though I didn’t know then what depression was) set in. I became suicidal, spending many hours and days in despair and contemplating which way would be best for me to use to end my life.
In this time, my brothers got into drugs and crime and I no longer felt safe at home. My dad had to work many many hours as an immigrant just to put food on the table. He would be home for only a few hours to sleep. Seeing the burden and hardship upon him, I didn’t want to add to my father’s full plate with my struggles. So I tried to hold things together, at least on the outside. Seeking escape, I took up dancing and going to night clubs. Being home at night by myself was then not safe (due to my brothers’ involvement in fightings etc), so I reasoned, ‘I will at least be safe in the night clubs.’ When I was not in school, I found refuge at friends’ homes. It is also in my friends’ homes that I would eat. (My dad would work hard and buy food in bulk that was supposed to last a month, but while I was at school, my brothers and their group friends would sweep through the kitchen, consuming all! Often, I would decide not to mention it to my father who was already over working. So often, I went to school on an empty stomach and not having anything for lunch. But God is awesome. He gave me good friends whose families took me in – I will always be grateful! One of my friends often bought me lunch at school while the other always welcomed me to her home for dinners (all of this took place without me ever letting them know that I was in need – but I think God allowed their families to see my needs). One of my friend’s family would even buy me bus tickets to get me to their home and return me home everyday. They would include me in their family budget! Thank you Lord! It is in this home that I would spend nights in, especially the nights that I needed to study for tests and needed to have time to concentrate (the family had given me a room etc. may God remember them for good in Jesus’ name).
A friend that I started going dancing with came from a christian home. Her mother would tell us that after we were done with our parties, she still expected us in church the next day. In wanting not to lose our privilege of having parties, we would all roll out of bed the next day and present ourselves at church. The mother began to have many sit down talks with me and she would listen to me share what is going on in my life (being the only adult that I would confide in) then she would pray for me. She had found out that I liked chocolate, so in her home, she would often hide away chocolate chip cookies and pull them out for me when it was time for us to sit down and talk. She then gave me a small Bible of psalms and new testament.
One night I was at home in my room and too afraid to sleep. At this time, I had seen a person show up at my home with knife. There would be fights outside the house. A person ran through the home with police chasing him. And once, the police busted my bedroom door open waking me up with guns pointed at me in search of someone. With my dad having to work extra long hours and multiple jobs to provide for us, I was left with no refuge when I was at home. So on this particular night, fear and thoughts of what could possibly go wrong in my home were keeping me awake. It is then that I looked across the room and my eyes landed on the Bible that my friend’s mother had given me. After fighting some thoughts of hesitance, I thought ‘what do I have to lose?’ So I reached for the Bible and began to read psalms. What I remember next is waking up in the morning. I was surprised when I woke up. I had not rested like that for a long time! There was a peace in me. I didn’t think much about it so I went on with the day. The night came and again I was terrified to be at home alone. All the sudden I remembered ‘wait a minute, last night I read that Bible and I slept well, let me try it again.’ So I did and slept well again! So for the nights that followed, the Bible became my sleeping pill!
What I didn’t realize then was that ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.’So, faith began to be built in my heart. I started to desire to be in church, bible studies and youth groups. I read a lot of psalms and was wonderfully surprised to read of how David would talk to God. He talked to God about his emotions and about everything! Something I had always desired! To this day, I still pour my heart out to God. When I am joyful, I praise Him loudly, sometimes shouting and dancing around. When I am sad, I weep and cry like one mourning. My God understands. Jesus was human, so he understands my humanity.
A few months after, I felt an impression to go to Ottawa ON, to visit a friend. After my father gave me permission, I boarded the greyhound bus. During this 7 hour trip I remember thinking and writing down in my journal that ‘I don’t know what is going to happen on this trip but I know that I’ll never be the same.’ Sure enough, I was never the same after that trip!
On the day I was to return, my friend’s father, who is a pastor and whose house I was staying in, invited me to stay for the prayer meeting they were going to have that night. I felt such a pull to attend that prayer meeting that I changed my travel plans.
The prayer meeting began and a certain man came in and sat next to me. He did not greet me or say anything which I thought was rude. We began to sing songs, and the ‘rude’ man next me began to worship God in songs like no one I had ever known before. I desired such worship! I thought to myself ‘he is rude but he sings to God in such a way I have not seen before!’ His worship was intimate and he gained my respect. At the end of the meeting, he said to me ‘are you saved?’ I said ‘yes, of course I am saved!’ He said ‘when did you get saved?’ I replied, ‘I have been going to church for a few months now.’ In those months I had been going to church, no one had told me I needed to be saved. I thought that my duty was to make sure I went to church and be good- so I thought this is what he meant when he asked if I was saved. I think the Spirit of God moved him. He then asked if he could pray with me. Having gained respect for him, I said ‘yes of course.’ He said, ‘repeat after me.’ So he led me in prayer of repentance and confessing that I believed Jesus had died on the cross and God raised Him on the third day and confessing Jesus as my lord. With all my heart I believed every word that I prayed after him. And when we were done I cried uncontrollably saying over and over in my native language, ‘I am taken out of the midst of the dead into the living.’ (not even knowing the scriptures that pertain to this!) People tried to console me but I could not be consoled. For the following hour and half, I cried, tears of gratitude and awe of God’s mercy in saving me. I didn’t know the doctrines, but that day I knew and knew I was forgiven and spared from hell. After much weeping, peace and joy unspeakable flooded my heart. I was a ‘new person!’ The transformation was obvious to those around.
The following day was Sunday. Oh, how I worshiped God that day! Now I was experiencing the kind of worship I had only been able to observe the night before.
The following week while back in Hamilton, ON where I lived, I went to a prayer meeting of the church I was then attending. After the meeting, the pastor and his wife were praying for someone to receive the Holy Spirit (something I didn’t know then). There was some frustration as the person they were praying for was not able to speak in tongues as they were all expecting. Desiring to continue my time of worship, I went towards the back and walked back and forth singing ‘I sing praises to your name.’ As I continued to worship, all the sudden I felt such warmth and began to speak in another tongue! Those in front turned in surprise that, that which they were praying for was now happening to me!
That day the Lord baptized me with ‘the Holy Spirit and with fire!’
And His fire still burns within me.
Glory be to God and my Savior Jesus Christ!