My Story

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I was born into a Sikh family. My parents immigrated to Canada from India before I was born. So I am first-generation Canadian and first-generation Christian. Becoming a Canadian was easy. Becoming a Christian, well, that’s another story.

It happened my last year of high school—a powerful moment in time that changed the trajectory of my life forever.

My decision to commit my life to Christ didn’t solve any of my life’s challenges. My parents were still divorced, I was still the only brown girl in an all-white school, and I still hated math. Instead, I now had a new set of problems. My parents who never agreed on anything now both agreed that their only child had lost her mind.

My agnostic, scientist father would say to others: “She’s going through a phase. It won’t last.” To me he said: “As long as you keep getting A’s in school, I don’t care what you believe in.”

For my Sikh mother, however, my becoming a Christian was devastating. To her, not only was my faith a rejection of her religion, it was a rejection of her. It was heart wrenching. My desire was never to hurt my mother; my desire was to follow Jesus.

Over time I fell deeper in love with this amazing God. After completing my undergrad degree, I felt called to seminary. Honestly, it made no sense. What was I going to do with a degree in theology? Why would God send me there? Again my parents united with a resounding: “Don’t be stupid.”

But the call was clear. So, penniless, scared and without the support of my family, I moved to Toronto to attend seminary. I was tormented. I ached for the respect of family and the security of home, and yet, the teaching was phenomenal and I soaked it all in, bathing in God’s grace.

After my first semester at seminary my mother encouraged me to join her on a trip to India to visit my ailing grandmother. I received this as a step towards reconciling with my mother, but I knew that it was going to be difficult explaining my new faith to my devout Sikh grandmother.

When we arrived in India, my uncle picked us up from the airport. No sooner had we settled into the car when he informed us that he had taken it upon himself to find three men who would be suitable candidates for marriage. My Hindi was rusty but I understood perfectly that those candidates were for me! All were religious Sikhs—one was a doctor, the other an engineer and the last a prominent businessman living in the States.

I was shocked. No, I was terrified. I reached for my mother’s hand and squeezed, silently screaming, “No!”

My mother patted my hand with hers and quietly said to me (insert Indian accent): “There’s no harm in looking, nah?”

I was out of my element. I could do nothing but abide and pray. And pray I did. I felt completely trapped.

Long before cellphones and text messages, the doctor came to meet me but I was travelling with my cousins. The businessman had to fly back unexpectedly to the States, and the engineer took ill and we too were unable to meet. I’ve always felt bad about that one; after all, those were mighty prayers I prayed. And God answers prayers.

A week before leaving India, my mom and I sat down with my grandmother to explain that I had converted to Christianity, and that instead of going to teacher’s college I had decided to pay money to learn more about God.

My grandmother was a formidable force, maybe more so in her ailing state. Nobody crossed the matriarch of the family. I believe my mother dreaded the conversation as much as I did—though I was convinced she was hoping my grandmother would knock the Christianity right out of me.

As I explained my situation to my grandmother in my primitive Hindi, I had visions of being locked up in a room and my passport destroyed. But something happened—something very unexpected. My grandmother was pleased, even happy that I had a faith in God. She was even happy that I was studying theology. I could never have imagined such a response. My mother and I sat there stunned.
I left India with not only my grandmother’s blessings by my mother’s, too.

I still shake my head in amazement of God’s love and faithfulness. But why am I surprised? The scriptures are filled with such stories.

In 1 Kings 17:7-16, the prophet Elijah was enjoying the restful protection of the Lord at the bottom of the Kerith Ravine. Then one day the brook dried up, and his time of being fed by ravens ended. The Lord told him to go to Zarephath where a widow would feed him.

This new direction from the Lord didn’t make any sense to the prophet. Zarephath was hit hard by famine, it was in the heart of Baal worship and the evil queen lived in the area. Elijah was probably wondering: “Why would God send me there?”

But Elijah knew that if God had given him the order that God would provide all he needed. I love verse 10; it simply says, “And so he went to Zarephath…”

For me, following Jesus cost me my family. I remember crying myself to sleep and yet knowing deep down inside it was where I needed to be. And God has since brought healing to my family.

My prayer is that we have the courage to trust like Elijah. If we do, we will be blessed beyond our greatest imagination.

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About Mona Scrivens

Rev. Mona Scrivens is minister at Amberlea, Pickering, Ont.