“I still remember the few good times I had as a child. I would come home and smell the cookies baking in the oven just ready to be taken out as I would enter the door. I remember playing in the treehouse my dad built for me and my sisters and going to Vacation Bible School and seeing all my friends. Then there are those dreadful memories I try to push out of my mind, such as hearing my parents yelling, running from my dad as he pointed a gun toward my mother, and suffering from a terrible accident which caused my colon to rupture and my back to break at the age of four. Then, during the hospital visits and surgeries, my parents getting a divorce.
All this sounds pretty tragic, but my mother taught me to hold on. She would tell me every night not to worry, because joy would soon come in the morning. She taught me Jesus died for me and he knows every pain that I have ever gone through and will face in the future. Because of her dedication to the Lord, I fell deeply in love with God. I attended youth group, where I made most of my friends (I went to a small public school that had about 15 people in the entire grade). I knew the Bible from the beginning to end. I attended all the church conferences and youth camp. I even attended seminary school for college. I felt in my spirit since I was a young girl I was called and designed to do mission work in Germany. I had never met anyone from Europe since I was from a small country town. I knew it was God who placed the desire to visit this foreign land. My big question was, what does God want me to do in Germany? I knew my destination, but I didn’t know my true calling yet.
All this time while God was placing things on my heart, I was growing up and becoming a teenager. I gave myself to so many boys, emotionally and physically, to fill a void in my heart which soon led to more heart breaks. I eventually began to hate myself, because I felt used and seen as just an object. I hated myself so much, I tried to kill myself one night. Luckily, my mother walked in as I was swallowing my pills and was able to call the police in time. I will never forget the disappointment I saw on her face as she realized her own baby girl wanted to end the life she gave to her. Because I had already swallowed the pills, I was forced to go to the ER and have my stomach pumped to get the pills out of my system. Of course, as always when you go to the ER for trying to kill yourself, you are admitted into the mental hospital. Since I was a teenager, I was placed in the children’s behavioral unit. That place was HELL ON EARTH. They called it a behavioral unit as if it were just a choice we made to try to hurt ourselves; as if we were doing those things because we were being rebellious. None of those girls in the unit wanted to hurt themselves, but they had all been through so many things. Killing themselves was the last option in their minds. They saw this as something that would make them not be a burden to anyone anymore. This was the same idea I had.
The unit workers were the worst I’ve ever seen. The first thing I was told when I was admitted was, ‘We know when you are bullsh*ttng us.’ Then they had to do a strip search to make sure I had nothing to harm me or anyone else with. I felt as if I was going to prison. We weren’t allowed to laugh or become friends with the other girls, or we would get in trouble. We did have group counseling, but I never got much from it. The biggest thing I learned from this place was how to cut myself. I saw so many people finding ways to abuse themselves. Using toothbrushes to cause burns on their arms because they wanted to be punished for all the wrong things they have done; using shampoo caps to scrape themselves just to get what they thought they deserved. I had never thought about hurting myself this way. I thought it would hurt too bad, and I was a wimp.
Eventually, I was released from the unit and sent back home. I felt the pressure of the world on me again. I remembered how girls would relieve themselves back at the mental hospital, and I needed a way to destress. So, I decided to physically harm myself for the first time. I continued to harm myself so much, but went to outpatient treatment for depression and anxiety. I knew what signs to look for when things were getting too bad, and when I was truly in danger of myself. When I got to these places in life, I would go back to the mental hospital. Fortunately, the second time I went to the hospital, I was an adult and had much better experiences every time I went back. I would highly recommend going to a mental hospital if you are an adult and are having suicidal thoughts.
Finally, it was time to do what God designed me to do: visit Germany. I had enough money saved up to make a big trip. I just wanted to go and visit and see if I truly liked it there. I decided since I was going to Europe, I should take advantage of the trip and visit as many countries as possible. I traveled with a tour company called EF College break. We visited 7 counties in Europe in 16 days. This trip allowed me to grow up and truly find my passion. I fell in love with Germany while I was there, but I also learned about an even greater passion inside of me: cultures, languages, and traveling.
This trip to Europe really made me love myself more and made me understand how great life really was. I gradually gained my confidence back and fell in love with who I was becoming. I felt like I was really doing something with my life, because no one from my small town had ever been to as many countries as I had. I eventually decided to visit more places in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. I lived abroad in Lithuania for six months while studying at a Christian college and loved experiencing all the different lifestyles.
Once I got back from Lithuania, I moved in with a guy I met online. I knew this wasn’t a very good thing to do because it’s wrong biblically, but I pushed through the Holy Spirit speaking to me and decided to stay with him. Things got so bad. He started to get abusive with me and tried to kill me by choking me. I will never forget the fear I felt. I kept calling for help; someone even saw what was happening and just kept walking by. With God’s help, I was able to escape and get the police. Two days after this tragic event, I decided I needed to travel to release the feelings I had, or I was going to start to harm myself again. I booked my one-way flight that night and left the next morning for southeast Asia.
I visited so many countries while in Asia, making my total count 37 countries in three years. I based myself in Malaysia, where I made some friends. While touring, I visited an Islamic mosque. I had always been interested in Islam. I had studied Islam a bit college and always said thought, if I could choose my religion, it would be Islam, because of the beautiful dedication and modesty the true Muslims have. But, of course, ‘I knew the truth,’ so I couldn’t just choose my religion. The lady at the mosque was so sweet and answered so many questions I had. I told her I loved culture and really wanted to learn more about the Islamic world and way of life. She suggested I attend a class for non-Muslims and newly converted Muslims to learn more. Every Saturday for 3 months, I attended this class. God really began to tug on my heart and make me question a lot of things I had been taught growing up. I decided I wanted to read the Quran for myself to see if the God of Islam had the same attributes as the God of Abraham and David. I read the whole Quran in one month and decided it is the same God. God put so much peace in my life, and I decided I wanted to convert to Islam.
I wasn’t forced into this conversion. I wasn’t treated wrongly, and if I ever decided I didn’t want to be a Muslim, I wouldn’t be shunned or killed. True Islam is a very peaceful religion. God made the conversion easier for me. He placed such great leaders and godly women in my life. He also introduced me to a great, godly man who I am now engaged to and is helping guide me in Islam. It definitely wasn’t easy to convert, though, especially since I have preachers and missionaries in my family. My best friend stopped talking to me as well. Still, I get treated so wrong by so many people I thought would always have my back. Christianity is supposed to be about love and witnessing, but I got the complete opposite from most Christians.
When you convert to Islam, you are given an Islamic name you feel God has placed on your heart. My name, Amber, is already an Islamic name, but I wanted a new start for my new path of life. My fiancé and his father helped me with the name Eesha, which means ‘alive.’ This is so special to me. Neither my fiancé nor his father knows about all the times I almost died: the car wreck, the suicidal moments, and my roommate trying to kill me. This name definitely was given to me by God because he wants to remind me HE is the one keeping me alive.
Now that I am back in the USA, I have been able to build relationships with other coverts and hear the hurt and pain they have had since converting. I am reminded of something God placed on my heart many years ago when I was at a church camp meeting conference. I was asking God what he wanted me to do in Germany. Then, God showed me women in hijabs. When he showed me this, I cried. At the moment, I thought he wanted me to witness to the refugees who were coming into Germany from the Middle East, but God’s plan was greater than I could have ever imagined. He wanted the Muslim women to witness to me. My whole life, I tried to take things into my own hands. I tried to handle a void I felt inside me. Yes, God was always there, but because I didn’t surrender and submit fully to him, there was something always missing. This is why I didn’t understand the calling on my life with Germany because I didn’t understand who God was and how much he truly loved me.
I am so grateful for the experiences God has allowed me to go through, good and bad. God has made me who I am today. I hope I can continue to share the love of God with the world, and I encourage you, get out of your comfort zone, listen to the Lord, and everything will fall into place, inshallah.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amber Atkinson of Dallas, Texas. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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