Changed Lives – The Absence of Love

464968701“Hi John! This is Julie [name changed to protect her identity]. I wanted to write to you about several things that have been going on in my mind. Today’s talk [evangelistic meeting, night 5] about Islam struck a deep chord in my heart. Wilmer and Doreen [local church members] will tell you that when I first came to America, I knew absolutely nothing about Christianity. Actually, I knew nothing about Islam either. But I was searching and seeking answers at the time.”

And so began an email entitled, “The Absence of Love.” Julie was born near Pune, India to an upper caste atheist family who taught her that God didn’t exist. When Julie reached adolescence she discovered that she could think for herself, and began to disagree with her parents ideas. She wrote, “I strongly believed in the existence of God. I just didn’t know anything more than that! I looked at the world we lived in and saw the great order in the universe. I saw how beautiful and wonderful it was and thought to myself that it simply could not be possible that there was no God, no one who created us. Such was my thinking at the time.”

Her search started with Buddhism but felt it empty. She was able to attend college in India where she majored in English, eventually getting her Masters in English. She met an American while in college, who was a nominal Christian. They fell in love but he did not share his faith and she paused her quest for truth and settled for companionship. They moved to the U.S. where she rubbed shoulders with some Seventh-day Adventists, Wilmer and Doreen, but made no real commitment for or against Christianity or Adventism. They remained faithful friends not trying to pressure her in any way.

However questions of truth were reawakened. She remembered going to the local library and reading books on different religions. She said, “There were several questions in my head regarding Christianity and one would have thought my then husband would have provided me with some satisfactory answers. No, he did not. I was frustrated and felt as though I was left on my own to figure out the answers.”

She stumbled on a Koran and found a negative Christian tract condemning Islam. This so turned her off she explored Islam and became a Muslim. In her own words, “Finally I found Islam and I felt I found the answers there. I sincerely believed it was the truth. But when I did more research on it I learned that I would have to leave my husband if I were to decide to accept that religion. I did not hesitate and the result was that my ex-husband ended up accepting Islam as well, just so that he wouldn’t lose me. Our relationship and marriage began to change and it was not for the better.”

Julie spent 12 years with her now ex-husband. Here is that experience in her words:

“I stayed that long in the relationship because of our 3 kids. I didn’t want the children to face the trauma that a divorce would bring. But let me tell you what these 12 years were like. It was a nightmare! My ex-husband became a very devout Muslim. He stayed true to his new faith by keeping all the commandments, praying in the mosque and following all the prescribed codes of conduct. After many years of living with him and interacting with Muslims (Sunnis) I became aware of something great that was lacking. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I didn’t know what it was but I knew that I was severely deprived of it. Only today do I know for sure what it was. It was love. I lived for 12 years without love. I actually never felt comfortable in the Muslim community. Whenever I went to the mosque and met the sisters there I felt uneasy. I especially disliked those sisters who wore the burqua. They were the ones who completely covered themselves from top to toe. They were the ones I found to be the most judgmental….”

“…I can’t begin to tell you how suffocating it was to live in an environment where people constantly judged others. I was in misery but how was I to come out of this terrible world… a world of my own choosing? I didn’t think there was any way. I did the best I could, striving to keep my family together, giving my ex-husband a thousand second chances, striving to make my marriage work, not thinking about myself, but what was good for the children. Who was there who could help me out of my predicament? I didn’t have any family members in the US. The only friends that I had were not one of the Muslims! My only real friends were, still are, and will continue to be… Doreen and Wilmer.”

In the spring of 2013 our church was discussing the fall evangelistic series and discussed what our emphasis should be. We were contemplating three approaches: a traditional prophecy series; a Revelation Seminar type approach or a Daniel Seminar. I preferred and was being impressed to have a modified Daniel 11 seminar with an emphasis on the relationship between Islam and Christianity, followed up with a few historical studies and helpful doctrinal studies that could lead a person to understand the gospel in the context of end-time prophecies. Little did we know at that time our emphasis seemed tailor made for Julie and her new friend Mike. After Julie was able to obtain a divorce [had to flee to New York to do it] from her abusive husband, she met Mike. She was able to get her children back to her family in India but there were legal issues regarding her custody and divorce. This forced her and Mike to return to the U.S. Mike was her new male friend who described himself as a back-slidden evangelical Christian from Alabama who was coming back to God. Mike was a gentle, non-denominational Christian with lots of questions too. They were on a quest for truth together.

Julie and Mike showed up in Bremerton on Doreen and Wilmer’s doorstep one week before the start of our meetings. They invited them to our fall meetings. Julie describes what Doreen’s and Wilmer’s friendship meant.

“Doreen and Wilmer were a great influence on my ultimate consideration and reception of Jesus. For over thirteen years, no matter what my decision in life was, even if it was contrary to what they wanted, they gave me their full support. They have never judged me, never pushed their ideas or beliefs on me and have always loved me and been there for me, no matter what. It is a miracle that people like them exist. They are the way God wants us to be. They apply the teachings of Jesus and try to follow His example to the best of their ability. I cannot think of any other human beings who have influenced Mike and me so much, in such a positive way! I met them in the year 2000 and it’s 2013 now… I have traveled all over the US and all over the world, but it seems I always come back to Bremerton. This is the place that I call home. My heart is somehow attached to this little part of the world.”

Julie and Mike came to the seminar and could not get enough of the Word of God. They decided to get married and then get baptized, all in a two week period. Here’s Julie’s testimony of what she was experiencing. “Now I realized what it was that was lacking in the way of life I had been living. It was love. Unconditional love. Nowadays it seems I cannot get enough of the Bible to read. It’s like I have discovered a vast treasure and I am beside myself with joy. Things are rather hectic with our plans of having our paperwork completed and submitting application for our visas to India. Mike has been saying that he wants to take me to Victoria for our honeymoon. But frankly, I would prefer to just stay at home and study the Bible. I’m just not interested in anything else besides Jesus right now. The more I read about Him and know about Him I feel as though my heart is on fire. It’s a strange feeling that I cannot describe. Sorry to bore you with my lengthy e-mail. I just found your seminar so inspiring and thought-provoking. I felt I had to write to you. And so I did.”

Mike and Julie were baptized on October 19th, becoming members of the Bremerton Seventh-day Adventist Church. One month later they were on a plane back to her family as our missionaries to their children and friends in India. We were able to leave them with enough biblical materials to nurture their growth – all classes I formerly taught at the Union College. Please keep them in your prayers as they seek to raise their [her] three children and witness to family and friends in the land of her birth. By the way, they did have a honeymoon vacation with their friends Wilmer and Doreen on the Oregon Coast two weeks before they had to return to India.

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