Pod (Pardeep) Bhogal is head of communications for UCCF: The Christian Unions. He was brought up in a Sikh household and tells his story of meeting Jesus.
What was your background growing up?
My parents emigrated from India in the early 1970s and this was before I was born. They were practising Sikhs at the time and that’s the religious and faith background I was brought up in. I was born in Nottingham City Hospital in 1975 and both my sister and I attended an all-white school. As such, English became my first language even though we spoke Punjabi at home and went to the gurdwara on a regular basis.
When did you first hear about Jesus?
We had an elderly neighbour called Lilly. She was a Christian and became a very dear friend of the family. This was during a time when racial tension was quite high and so her warmth and friendship was all the more appreciated. Lilly invited me, my mum and my sister to a viewing of Jesus Christ Superstar at the local church. That was my first memory of meeting Jesus and – as an eight-year-old – I was captivated by Jesus and the gospel narrative even though I didn’t understand large parts of it (like why Jesus died at the end of the movie).
So how did you become a Christian? What was it that compelled you to turn to Christ?
This is a sad story. When I was 12 years old my parents went through a very difficult divorce. This was made all the more complex as divorce within our – culturally Indian – family context was unheard of. My mother found herself isolated from the family and local community and this was a very painful time. Mum was eventually befriended by a Christian colleague called Anne. Anne would visit us weekly and pray and read the Bible with my mum. She’d also help my mum do all the practical task my dad used to do like pay the electricity bills, manage a budget, etc. My mum eventually became a believer – as did my sister. I – however – felt very angry at God and the world.
It wasn’t until I was 19 years old that a Christian friend of my mine offered to read through a gospel with me and that’s when I met Jesus again.
I had – for many years – been friends with Christians my mum and sister had met through the local church. I was always impressed with how kind they were to our family and how they’d taken care of my mum and sister in light of dad not being around. I considered that perhaps this joy and patience they had in abundance might have been because they were Christian. Whatever it was, I was miserable and I wanted it too. So, I agreed to read John’s gospel with a friend. I was struck by Jesus’s kindness, generosity and warmth to outsiders. We talked about the question that had bothered me since I was eight – why did Jesus die? The journey towards becoming a Christian took a long time. But, in the end, I got my answers and could offer no more resistance. I was 24 when I became a Christian.
How did your family react to the news?
My dad once said to me: “Son – if you want to be religious, what’s wrong with your own religion [Sikhism]?” I replied: “It’s not what I WANT to be true, but what I’m persuaded IS true.”
What is life like now?
I work for UCCF – a national organisation that gives students the opportunity to meet Jesus. I have been privileged to lead a number of people to Jesus in this role and have received a theological education second to none because of my association with the charity. I’m reminded every day of God’s kindness to me in pulling me out of the destructive lifestyle I was headed towards because of my anger and the shaky start I’d received growing up. I have seen and experienced for myself how God is truly a Father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow and give thanks that – of all the people that need help in this life – He chose to rescue me.