My parents came from Algeria to France for economic reasons. Our family was united and happy. We had nothing to others could envy us for and were content ourselves. I was a Muslim not really a practising one.
We lived in a tough neighbourhood where the only law was the the law of the jungle: the strong survive and the weak are trampled on. It is in this context that the first initiations to violence began. Following one incident, I was arrested and imprisoned for the first time. When I was released, I wanted to go back to school, but the school no longer wanted me.
I was in a hopeless situation, so I became an easy prey for all the illegal things I was offered in the street.
The bait of making money
One day I was offered the opportunity to deal in heroin. I accepted thinking that it would make me a lot of money. This however, was contrary to the values I’d be brought up with. Unfortunately, the temptation to win had overridden common sense. I became more and more a slave of money. I did not realise that it was a poison that I was selling to my clients. I did not do anything in school anymore. When I left, I did not have a diploma or a job.
During those years, my oldest sister, the first Christian convert in our family, spoke to me of Jesus with a burning love, explaining that He could help me, support me and give me peace, while giving me the all the happiness I longed for.
I didn’t really listen. Even though I was not a practising Muslim, for me Islam was the only way. Still, my sister got me a Bible. Initially, I was moved by curiosity, but I quickly realised that everything that Jesus said met the needs and desires of my heart. It was as if Jesus Himself spoke directly to me through the Scriptures. Sadly, it didn’t last long. I resumed my illegal business. I put the Bible aside.
The descent into Hell
.One evening, while in Germany, my friends and I decided to go to a disco. As I was getting ready, I suddenly found myself menatlly paralyzed. I did not understand what was happening to me, my mind was empty. Then I turned around and went to the hiding place where I stored my stash and my belongings. I slipped my hand to take a little heroin and started to sniff it for the first time. After a few minutes, I felt a flush of heat rise in me, accompanied by dizziness.
I told my friends to go and have fun without me. I felt ill. The darkness closed on me. I finally fell asleep on the sofa.
A long and painful descent into hell began. My life ranged from sniffing drugs, to smoking, finally ending up injecting heroin. My face became gaunt and deathly. Loneliness gnawed at me. I lost all confidence. I had only one goal: to get some drugs every morning to feel good for a short time.
Stronger than me
But something deep inside me did not want this way of life. I hated what I had become and I struggled against it as best I could. It was futile. This lasted eleven long years with me going back and forth in prison. Sometimes I would get out the Bible. I wanted to listen to what Jesus said. I wanted to understand. Meanwhile, my sister suggested I should go to Teen-Challenge, which is a Christian Centere in the south of France for people in the same difficulty I was in.
In the three days before my departure I read the life of Moses. I knew very little about the Bible, but yet there seemed to be a kind of conversation happening between God and me. Three times I asked questions and the answer came every time. God gave that answer through the Bible. Today I think of them as the three keys to my life.
The three keys
What are those three crucial keys that led me to safety?
• The first key
I asked: Lord, why do I hear testimonies from people delivered when I see nothing, no miracle for me?
The answer came through a verse that said: “You have a heart of stone.”
I asked myself, “Am I insensible? Is my heart hard?” It led me to pray, “Then give me a sensitive heart and take away this heart of stone.”
• The second key
The Lord showed me that I did not have His love. I cried out in prayer , “Lord, forgive me!” I thought I loved my neighbour as myself, but I was lying to myself. Lord please, you are not just showing loving, you are love. I beg you, give me this love and then I will no longer be a hypocrite. ”
• The third key
The Lord made me understand that I did not revere and lovingly fear Him him, otherwise I would not have done all this harm. So again I prayed, “Teach me to worship you. Put a loving fear of You in my heart. ”
After attending a course on love at Teen-Challenge, something very powerful happened to me. I went to my room and there I fell to the ground, deeply aware of my sins. I asked God for forgiveness for all my sinful past, and asked him to enter my life, to be my Lord and Master. I cried like never before. His love came into my heart and, He opened my eyes. It was like a veil was torn from my mind. His word became alive in my heart. I understood who Jesus really was. He was the Son of God, and God was my Father. I had a new beginning.
So, I took any of my clothes and other objects that reminded me of my past, or things that I had acquired with my drugs money.
I knelt and prayed in this way:
“Lord, now I do not know what tomorrow will bring into my life, but I do know one thing: I can thanks you because a new life awaits me. Please, make me to advance in goodness more than I have in evil. Please take my life into your hands. It is yours, I give it to you.”
I put all my things in a bag, then I went out and threw them into the trash. So I finally turned the page to begin my new life with Jesus.
I had nothing, but I was certain that I had received something of infinite value: grace and the forgiveness of my sins. God had given me a new heart. I knew that I would never be alone again since God Himself would walk by my side until the end of the world. Today, Jesus has given me the love I always needed. It was through his sacrifice to the cross that I learned to begin a close fellowship with God and to care for and love others.
Now I am happy, I have peace in my heart. The Lord helped me to integrate back with others He gave me work, a taste for life and good health, and all this with joy in my heart and life.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are tired and weighed down under your burdens, and I will give you rest. Accept my demands, and be instructed by me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your soul.” (Matthew 11: 28-29)
Where society and the family can no longer do anything, God can do it through His remarkable people who are filled with the love of Jesus. What the Lord has done for me, I know he will do it for you if you open your heart to him. Do not harden it!
This testimony, was published in the magazine “Believe and Live” no. 98, and is used with permission.