Anab, 19, South Dakota, USA
I grew up in a Muslim family. My parents divorced when I was young and my siblings and I were raised by my mom. Things were mostly fine, until she married a meth addict. My stepfather physically and verbally abused each one of us and as a result, I developed severe depression and anxiety. I continued praying to Allah, but I was no longer sure anyone was listening — if God existed, why would he let my family suffer like this?
Then, God moved. In eighth grade, a girl named Trinity started inviting me to church youth group. I was like “No, I’m a Muslim, you can’t ask me that!” I thought she was disrespecting me, but as I later learned, she knew I was depressed and felt led to invite me. And she was right — my depression was worse than it had ever been. I had thoughts of cutting and even killing myself, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. The darker things got, the more I blamed God.
I eventually started hanging out with the partying crowd and in 2017, I befriended an atheist named Frida. Frida hardcore hated all religions, but when she found out a youth group event was serving free pizza, she asked me to go with her. She was like, “Let’s go get pizza then leave.” I had been taught that even entering a church was a sin, but I wanted to rebel, so I agreed. Frida drove us there, we got pizza, and then I lost her. I didn’t really know anyone else and felt super awkward…but then I saw Trinity. Relieved, I went up to her and asked if she would drive me home. She said sure, but that she was staying for service. So there I was, stuck at a church.
I sat alone in the back of the room and watched. When they began worshipping, something happened to me. They sang a song about surrender and I didn’t understand every lyric, but it ripped me apart. I cried my eyes out. I was bawling, but I felt this deep, deep peace — the peace and love of God. And then, with my eyes still closed, I saw this white light. I was shocked, but I knew what I’d experienced — I knew that I’d be coming back.
I started secretly attending church each Wednesday. There was a stirring in my spirit, but mentally, I was still struggling. At one point, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. There was a strict no visitors policy, but somehow, this girl named Grace sneaked in. She was like, “We’ve been praying for you to get discharged, so you can come to church camp tomorrow.” I was like, this girl is crazy, there’s no way I’m getting discharged by tomorrow. Three hours later, I’m discharged.
I told my mom I was going to music camp, packed, and got on the church bus. At camp, I experienced the Holy Spirit like never before. I began following Christ that day and never looked back. My mom eventually found my Bible and threw me out of the house. To this day, she won’t speak to me — following Christ is costly. People lose respect, relationships, community, and even their lives, but it’s beyond worth it. He is better than anything this world has to offer — “for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)