“My earliest memories are of primary school singing hymns and hearing stories about Jesus from a supply teacher. A little later I heard the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. A classmate said it was from the Bible, quoting chapter and verse. I was really impressed. I found the story in the public library and another friend told me where I could get a free Bible. I went to Sunday school and learned the weekly memory verses to get a Bible of my own. I was fascinated with the idea of knowing God, but who Jesus was felt like a dangerous challenge. So I focused on the Old Testament stories about Moses, David and Samson.
Eventually my parents became concerned so they took my Bible away and I no longer went to church. During this time a Sunday school teacher met me occasionally and gave me Bible lesson material. My friends would tell me stories and teach me songs like I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. I heard about a church summer camp, but I knew I would never be allowed to go. Then someone from the church visited my parents and miraculously I was allowed to attend.
One day when I was about 15 I was walking up the hill to my house thinking about the claims of Jesus- the cross, the sin and how to be clean. I distinctly said to God: “If this true, if you are real, I will serve you, but you sort the rest out.”
At that stage I was not a good Christ follower, but God was a good keeper. I saved up my dinner money and bought a Bible from the OM bookshop. As a secret believer there were classmates and school teachers who became light bearers in my life.
At 17 I refused to participate in arti – a Hindu worship ritual. My parents were very upset and sought many ways to draw me back to Hindu practices and beliefs.
My late teens and early 20s were fraught with identity struggles leading to depression and a suicide attempt. The shame of being a failure to my family and failing with my higher education and not being able to attend church was just overwhelming.
Years later I met other South Asian Christ followers. I have learned the difference between the cultural Western Christianity that my parents feared would cause us to live immoral lives and being a British Gujarati Christ follower. As I learn how compatible following Christ is to my Indian values and morals, I am restoring and building relationships with the South Asian community, including my family. I understand that Christ and my Indian culture are my places of belonging.
These experiences have made it possible for me to reach out to Asian single, divorced women and struggling mums of toddlers many of whom bear some sort of shame and limits their acceptance as part of the respectable Asian community. I journey with them through hardships. My life continues to be a constant reminder of what Jesus brought me through.
I often have dreams of being 15 and a never ending walk up that hill. It is a poignant reminder that God is still sorting out the rest.