| This is the 362nd story of Our Life Logs |
I was born in 1985 in Bulgaria to immigrant parents who practiced different religions. I was the oldest daughter, with a Turkish father who was a Muslim and a Jewish mother. I saw that every year, Dad would fast during Ramadan and mum would observe Passover. My sister and I joined in with celebrating Eid. There were three religious texts in our home; the Koran and the Torah, as well as a Bible.
My parents had gone against the wishes of their families when they married. Particularly those of my Muslim grandparents who wanted my father to have an arranged marriage to a local girl. My parents loved each other and had come to accept their differing religions.
One thing they were unable to agree on, however, was which faith to raise their children in. I believed in God from a young age but practiced a mix of Muslim and Jewish rituals, which often confused and contradicted my young mind.
I believed in God’s existence from a young age and considered myself a Muslim. However, I had questions about life and death, which often puzzled me. The adults that I asked never seemed to be able to give me satisfactory answers. I wanted to know why God created humans and allowed them to suffer and eventually die. Adults’ answers seemed illogical and unclear, they said that everything happens in God’s will. As a logical child, this just told me that God liked watching people suffer. Was that right? I needed to figure this out for myself.
At the age of 12, I became more serious about my religious studies. I felt that, instead of following bits of different religions, I would fully commit myself to be a Muslim, and if I’m being honest, I also did this for my dad, hoping to make up for the fact that I wasn’t born a boy. Five times a day, I planted my knees and shins to the thin rugs in our home to pray namaz. I wanted this to be enough for my soul.
In 2000, a series of dramatic events would shatter my faith in God and lead me down a different path. My family decided to move to the UK. My parents wanted a better life for my sister and me and had been saving part of their modest wages each month to make a move. My father had been offered a job in Scotland, and we moved to Glasgow.
We had only been in Scotland for two months when my dad suffered a stroke and was rushed to the hospital. He immediately fell into a coma, and although he was still breathing, we were unable to reach him. I remember sitting by his bedside, talking to him about my new school. I remember his blank stare and the sting of fresh tears that I battled. I was unsure whether he could hear me or not.
For years I had prayed to God, asking that he keeps my family safe and healthy. Now my worst fear was coming true, and my father’s life was slipping away. I felt upset and angry. Why wasn’t God listening to my prayers? I was convinced that it was God alone who chose who lived and died. I pleaded with God and Allah several times a day to save my dad. I was sure that God wouldn’t let me down. I would visit the hospital and see my dad sitting up in bed, smiling at me. I just knew he was going to heal. One week later, my father died.
I didn’t know what I had done wrong, was I praying the wrong way? I was angry with God for ignoring my prayers and being seemingly indifferent.
My whole life had fallen apart in the space of two months. I was in a cold and rainy country, I had no friends, I was struggling to make friends and learn English at school, and on top of that, I was in mourning for my father. Everything was gray.
One night I realized that God does not exist. The realization hit me like a lightning bolt, I was stunned. I was unable to pray anymore. Religion did not make sense to me.
My mother held our family together. She pieced together cleaning and sewing work and encouraged us to work hard at school. She took comfort in her Jewish faith and made us all attend extra English classes in the library on the weekends. She was determined to make our new life in Scotland work. I just wanted things to go back to the way they were in Bulgaria. I didn’t consider Glasgow to be home and hated her for bringing me here.
We moved to a concrete tower block, as the rent was more affordable. It wasn’t a very nice area. I was angry and resentful about leaving my friends in Bulgaria, but as my English improved bit by bit, I began to make new friends with the older teenagers on the streets. With them, I started smoking and bunking off school to fit in. We got into all sorts of trouble, like shoplifting and getting into fights. I didn’t care.
My hard-working mother didn’t realize what was going on in my life until I was brought home by the police one day. She was furious with me for avoiding school and said my father would not have been pleased. I was a bad influence on my little sister, she said. I desperately wanted to make her proud of me, but I felt like I was in too deep.
I tried to stay at school but found it hard to concentrate and do the work. When my friends announced that they were leaving at lunchtime, I followed suit. The school began calling my mum on the days I bunked off, and there would be hell to pay when I got home. She was at a loss with what to do with me and tried to ground me, but it was useless. I felt like my mum didn’t understand me.
Six weeks later, some Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on our door. While my mother was at her wit’s end, she was also too polite to turn them away. So, she asked them in for a cup of tea. As a family, we didn’t think much of Christians, and since the death of my father, I had shunned all religions, believing that there wasn’t a God. I wanted to prove that they were wrong. I asked lots of questions which I thought would disprove that there was a God.
However, the Witnesses showed me convincing proof from the Bible of the existence of a loving God. At the time, that astonished me, as I never thought I would follow a religion again.
I also wanted to know why good people like my father die and why God allows people to suffer. The Witnesses referred to the book Knowledge that Leads to Everlasting Life. There was an entire chapter that answered my question. The witnesses were patient and started bible study sessions with my sister and me every week.
I learned that when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the apple, sin was created. This has been detrimental to mankind and caused sad consequences, such as the death of beloved ones. I understood why people, such as my father, died. I also believed that my father was in heaven and that we would be reunited one day. This gave me the strength to carry on.
As I looked at my own life, I didn’t like it. I realized the path I was on and was worried that I was going to get involved in more serious criminal activities. I wanted to change my life. I started to attend church with the Witnesses. Here, I made new friends and joined a study group for teenagers where I met others of my own age. I also started to pray again and to study hard at school. The unity and love amongst the Witnesses impressed me. They were almost like a second family to me. Slowly things began to improve, and life got easier. In 2005, I was baptized and became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
My whole outlook on life has changed. I feel happier and more able to deal with life’s problems. I now have an inner peace that I have never felt before and am comforted by the hope of seeing my father again in heaven.
Six years ago, I met my husband at a Witness meeting. We have both been blessed to meet Jehovah’s Witnesses at a time in our life when we needed it the most. Today, I know that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not as strange as I first thought when they knocked on our door many years ago. They are loving and kind and are committed to helping others learn about this faith.
Although members of my close family follow other faiths, we all accept and love each other. I regularly hand out leaflets and knock on doors, hoping to spread God’s message to someone who needs to hear it. It’s been a long and winding road to finding my religion, but I am now so happy to be able to call myself one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to live happy and free.
This is the story of Alexandria Mnatsakanyan
Alexandria was born in 1985 in Bulgaria to immigrant parents. From a young age, she dabbled in different religions as her father was Muslim and her mother Jewish. It wasn’t until she moved to Scotland in 2000 that she found her true faith. As a teenager, Alexandria suffered the loss of her father and doubted that there was a God. Her life began to spiral out of control as she tried to grieve while at the same time, started a new school trying to learn English and make new friends. She got in with the wrong crowd and almost turned to a life of crime. However, a chance meeting with some Jehovah’s Witnesses changed her life and helped her to get back on the right path. Alexandria now works as a receptionist in a hotel and in her spare time, enjoys helping others and teaching people about the Bible.
This story first touched our hearts on June 19, 2019.
| Writer: Abi Latham | Editor: Colleen Walker |