Looking for peace in the midst of chaos
As Islèm’s search for truth continued, her home life was falling apart. Her parents were fighting constantly, and the stress of her family’s struggles and being a teenager who had so much uncertainty took its toll.
“In 2013, there were many problems between my mother and my father,” she remembers. “My father left the house a lot and he was not nice to my mother; he was aggressive. I started smoking and became violent myself. I even tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of medicine and cutting my wrists. Psychologically, I was a mess; all I could think about was dying. To be honest, I don’t know how I survived. I did not want anything.”
During this tumultuous time, she was admitted to the hospital with a kidney infection, and the doctors made her rest and remain there. She spent two months there without seeing her family.
“When I was at the hospital,” she remembers, “there was a window and one night I asked God: ‘Why me? You had my mother deliver me as a baby and You let me live this life. It is not normal. Why did You create me? To get hurt, to lead such a life? If you are God, show how glorious You are, who You are. Either I die or if you have something for me, then show it to me.
“The following day the doctor said I could leave the hospital. The first thing I said to my mother was that she should get a divorce because my father treated her so badly. She did so, and when I left the hospital we moved to my grandparents’ house. I removed my veil because I wanted to have a fresh start with my mother.”
And with that fresh start, Islèm resumed her search for the truth about God. “The first thing I did when I came home was to use my smartphone and go on Facebook,” she says. “While I was on the landing page, I saw a page called ‘Christians in [my country].’ It was strange for me. I clicked on it and then stopped. I switched off my phone. I switched it on once more and again, on Facebook, the same page appeared in front of my eyes. Maybe that was something, maybe it was a sign. I clicked on it and sent a message. I was curious what would happen.”
In the country where Islèm lives, Christians are hesitant to trust someone immediately, even if the new contact claims to be a believer. Trusting the wrong person could lead to trouble with the authorities or with extremist groups. “The people I talked to on that [Christian] page saw my profile where all my posts were related to Islam and they thought I was from ISIS,” she says. “But later, they understood; once they connected me with the pastor, all went well.”
Slowly, some of the people in the Facebook group began to trust her enough to meet her in person. “One day, a girl [from the Facebook group] came with her brother to me to give me a Bible; she was sent by the pastor,” Islèm remembers. “She thought she would just give me the Bible and leave. But for me, it was a new thing to meet with Christians, so I didn’t want her to leave. I had many questions. I wanted to know if they were more like me because I was young, just 15 at that point. I asked this girl where she and her brother were going. She said they were going to church. I asked them if I could come with them, and she said yes.
“I went to church and it was great. I went to the Bible study group with them and that was the first time I read the Bible and the pastor, who was explaining the verses, showed me how to touch and hold the Bible. On that day, the pastor was teaching on John 14:6: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ While he explained the passage, I felt as if he was answering the questions I had when I was at the hospital. On that day, November 8, 2013, I became a believer. I spoke with the pastor and he and his wife prayed for me. Two days later, on Sunday, I went to church again. And two years later, I was baptized, on December 15, 2015.”