My New Friend John

After church I met a man in a wheelchair named John, who at this time is 85 years old and has been married 2 months shy of 64 years with his wife. He stopped me in the parking lot, out of the many other people and struck up a conversation. He gave me a booklet with his testimony and I read it, very inspiring! He reads the bible from cover to cover every month now that he’s retired. He even invited me to his home to have bible studies with him and his friends and family.

Jesus Sets Slaves Free

Last night grandma told me that she used to work for wealthy families in Guyana, cleaning their homes and taking care of their children. I remember being a child and visiting her at these homes, seeing her scrubbing clothes against a wash board and smiling at me. Any way when she saved up enough to come to Canada, one of the wealthy folks heard about it and responded “SHE is going to Canada?” and my grandmother was very hurt over it, it was discouraging to her. It was as if they believed that the poor should always stay poor and the rich should always stay rich. Actually that’s what they believed because it was part of their religion.

More than 25 years later grandma saw her at the mosque here in Canada. When she saw the lady, she approached her and gave her a hug and a kiss. Grandma went on to tell me about the many families from Guyana that she knew who were born wealthy because their parents left them an inheritance, and how sad she feels that our family, our entire bloodline has had no inheritances at all. Maybe because of me, our inheritance can be Jesus.

Michael (not the archangel, the other one)

In 1988 I was in Brandon Gate public school. Mr. Wood’s class. There was a black boy one grade ahead of me, in the same classroom (We used to share “pod’s” with another grade for some reason) his name was Michael. He was a rough and awful person at the time. He would get into fights and arguments and trouble all the time. One time he was fighting and he kicked a female teacher very hard in the neck. He was a huge dark skinned boy, bigger than the biggest bullies at our school. At least that’s how I remember it. Mrs. Leahy is the name of the teacher that got kicked. I thought he was such a loser and I always remembered him that way. Until now.

Fast forward to 2005, when I would regularly pray for people I went to school with, even though I don’t remember them all by name, I remember certain events or little things here and there. I was flipping through the channels and I saw Michael, of all people, on tv, giving his testimony about how Jesus changed his life. I was floored. I mean honestly I had to sit down. I was literally praying for the guy, and now here I was watching him on tv.

Just a few months later in 2005 I met him in Longo’s while doing grocery shopping. I re-introduced myself, of course he didn’t remember me from such a long time ago. I praised God for being so amazing. He takes the people who we think will never be different and he changes them. I shook Michael’s hand and went about my day. Who would think that I would ever shake his hand? He was an animal the last I remembered him. He beat up my friend Gidget’s brother Charlie. I met Gidget in 1986 while jogging. She was a champion jogger at the time.

Fast forward to last night, August of 2007, I was flipping through the channels here, the reception is very poor but sometimes but I can wiggle back of the tv and sometimes I get lucky.

On CBC the host was interviewing an ‘educator’ who was proclaiming that there is no God. I change channels and there is Michael, yes Michael on a major game show. He won over $150,000 and was giving half to his new ministry, which will help troubled youth stay off the streets via sports programs.

Jesus is amazing! Oh yeah, I forgot – I met Gidget in Woodbine center in 1997. She gave her life to Jesus to. And I’ve started going through my old yearbooks which are safe in storage, turns out a number of my old friends who were Atheists, Muslims, Hindus, etc are turning their lives over to Jesus and their lives are being transformed.

Jesus vs Satan. Jesus Wins

This month I gave really nice furniture to a nice family from Newfoundland who live in Mississauga. A beautiful canopy bed for a girl, also a girls dresser, wall paintings, etc. You should have seen the excitement on her cute little face as I assembled the bed, I had to put the mattress on before I was finished so she could jump on it as soon as possible. Afterward her father showed me some great photos of his home town in Newfoundland and we had a beer, which is a tradition in Newfoundland. Actually I think 10 beers is the tradition, but I left it at one.

Any way, to the main story. In life, everyone will take a beating one way or another. Some people will get a few more beatings than others. Some beatings are physical, some emotional, some metaphoric. Some will get all different kinds. I got all different kinds and I got many of them.

When we lived at Brandon Gate, when I was exactly 11 years old, I took one such beating. I’ve had many beatings in my life than ended with blood and cuts and scars, but I remember this one a lot. I’ll remember this one for a long time.

Now let me paint the picture for you, at that time in life I was working part time, bringing in good money. I remember quietly setting aside a few bucks each month to buy a radio controlled car from Radio Shack. My neighbor was selling his gas powered radio controlled car but I couldn’t afford it, but I purchased a decent battery powered model from Radio Shack. I had to hide it in my room, in a hidden compartment I setup behind my desk. My parents had a decent grasp on my income and realized something was wrong with my account balance. I showed them the car, received a grounding for buying something for myself and it was sent to Guyana to more needy children. I explained that where we were sending it, they didn’t even have the electricity to charge the battery. I was helping them pay their car payments but I couldn’t have a toy car for myself. Story of my life.

I went to school, got decent grades (okay maybe that’s a stretch) and stayed out of trouble for the most part (that’s definitely a stretch). I did my chores, went to the mosque as ordered. Okay okay, I used to take their cars out for drives here and there. Just up and down Goreway drive and Brandon Gate and Morning Star and Airport Road. Why not, after all I was helping make the monthly payments, and it sure was more fun than a radio controlled car.

One day, after a long day at school, my step dad asked me to prepare soup for my sister, he couldn’t do it because that would cut into his beer time. I prepared the soup the wrong way (I didn’t add the can of water to her chicken noodle soup). In my defense I had to hurry and finish my chores and then get to work at my job and then finish my homework. I lied about my age to get a paper delivery job with the Toronto Sun and I could earn more money by signing up new subscribers so I spent hours each day knocking on doors saying “hello would you like to subscribe to the Sunday Sun?” It was a terrible sales pitch with less than a 1% success rate but my route was close to 100 subscribers.

While I was on my knees scrubbing the floor with a brush, my beating started. Now in past years I would scream and cry and beg for mercy, peeing on myself and sometimes trying to run. But this time around I took my beating, no tears, no shame. I was being punched in the head mostly. Punch after punch, not one tear but my voice was shaky.

I was beaten so hard I couldn’t stand up. Have you ever been punched in the head so hard that your ears rang, and your vision was blurred for days after? If not, then you’ve never been punched. Part way through this life lesson, I looked up at him and said with great emotion “I’m growing everyday, one day I will kill you.” It sobered him up right away because he knew it was very true. He said something along the lines of “I know”.

After I finished my chores I went about my work knocking on doors. I didn’t sign on even one new customer.

Less than year later they divorced and we moved a few roads down. When I was 12 I went to the Malton library and took out a few books about Karate. I would practice as much as I could each day. By age 13 I would fulfill one of my life long dreams, I studied Kung Fu at a really good martial arts school. Before you could join, you had to be interviewed by the main instructor. He was extremely impressed with what I had already learned just from books alone.

I had to save like crazy to afford it, it wasn’t cheap. And I had to take the bus a long way and come home really late. It wasn’t easy with all my responsibilities. There was this time when mom left for like 4 or 5 weeks at least, without telling us anything. She just upped and left and we knew better than to report her missing or go look for her, we knew she’d be back eventually. I was working at pickwicks potatoes at the time. I trained really hard, but it was hard carrying the family and doing school as well. Nevertheless I trained hard and I learned fast.

Training was awesome. Sometimes we trained in the dark, blindfolded, one on one, 3 on one, one person holding you down while another beats you. We would train after a hard workout and simulate different scenarios. We would learn how to take a beating. At home I trained as hard as I could including striking wood boards to harden up my knuckles and shins. My hands and feet would bleed and blister up badly, but we had to learn how to handle pain, to embrace it, to love it, to use it to our advantage. I became obsessed with hand to hand combat. I read every book, every magazine. I watched as many martial arts movies ever, usually going to obscure video stores to get them.

My teacher would have to partner with me during sparring because nobody else wanted to – I would give hard beatings to people twice my size, and they could punch and kick me all they wanted, I wouldn’t even flinch. After a few years my Kung Fu teacher would use me as the final opponent during tests and I wouldn’t let any one pass. I remember this one man, he was in his 30’s, I was in my teens. I was in the 90lb range, he was pushing 190. He was taller than me (most people are) and he thought he would have an easy pass. Smiling at me, I smiled back. I let him hit me several times then I kicked him in the side of his head like it was nothing. I felt bad for him when he failed, I felt even worst when he cried in the change room. He was an adult man, crying the way I cried when I was a child.

My instructor put extra effort into me. One of his concerns was that I could easily go to the dark side and become a bad guy. He would even drive me home sometimes, giving me wisdom about self control. I returned the favor by helping him promote his school on the internet which was a baby at the time.

In high school I would hold sort of “fight clubs” here and there. At first at the school but then some teachers caught on and gave me a lecture about insurance, so we would do it at different houses. My shop teacher introduced me to his veteran buddy who fought in world war 2 (to my recollection). I still remember the introduction in my mind. It was during shop class and went something like this:

Teacher: “Asif, meet my friend, he fought in this war, he knows 100 ways to kill a man.”
Asif: “Sir, please teach me everything you know.”

I would hang out with them both as much as I could. One time I kicked the crap out of a guy in the school locker room, this other guy who was already a black belt saw and challenged me and I quickly beat him too. Another time I dropped off a friend at one of those cool-people parties and when I was about to leave this big guy challenged me. It took me maybe 30 seconds to put him on the ground. I made a name for myself. The girl who lived at the party house invited me to go jogging with her, and I would end up teaching self defense to some high school girls at someones basement. Honestly if my life had a highlight reel, this would be in there somewhere.

After years of hard and faithful training, rising up in the ranks one belt at a time, I was in the black belt club, and I concluded my training when I was a young adult. I was proud of my martial arts training. Even wearing my uniform in public, even at church. It was a lifelong dream to do martial arts and I busted my butt to pay for it. From start to finish, I did it. If I had a different life I might have opened my own martial arts school, specifically a woman’s self defense class.

Many years later, instead of giving my step dad the beating (or worse) that I promised him as a child, I gave him a hug and a Bible and we became real friends.

Jesus is able to arrange that kind of thing. No other gods can do it.

My mom saves lives

I have a funny memory of this one day when I was working at pickwicks potatoes. I was around 12 or 13 years old and to my recollection I earned $3 or $3.25 per hour and did 10 hours on Saturday and 10 on Sunday on top of my other responsibilities. This one morning after I completed the setup including brewing a fresh pot of coffee, the smell filled the building and it drew a lot of coffee lovers our way. Several ladies approached me and I said “Good morning how can I help you?” or something like that, in the most vibrant and enthusiastic manner possible. It was over the top to say the least. I don’t know why I was so enthusiastic, life wasn’t going super well for me at home. But these 2 ladies each grabbed one of my arms and pulled at me in opposite directions, while saying to my boss “can we keep him?”.

Today I feel the same way. Everyone wants something from me. One person wants me to do this, another wants me to do that. Nobody remembers the 1,500 times I’ve said yes to them, only the 1 time I said no. To some people you can be an angel one moment and a demon the next. Those people are unstable and I try to keep them out of my life.

My mom had a bunch of supplies she wanted me to to pickup and deliver to an address in Malton, people I had never met before. When I took the stuff over, mostly clothing and food, the family told me that my mom saved their life. Later in the week I was in Shoppers Drug Mart and someone approached me, a lady, “are you so-and-so’s son?” yup I said. They then went on about how great my mom was and how she helped save their life to. When I see people I know anywhere, the conversation usually goes something like this:

Someone: Hey Asif!
Asif: Hi, it’s nice to see you.
Someone: How’s your mom, tell her to call me, I need some advise.
Asif: Thanks I’m doing great.

Jesus Heals

I took a trip to Peterborough Ontario, I haven’t been here since like 1999 or 2000 and the last time I was here, I didn’t get to stop and enjoy as much as I wanted, but this time I did. Now when I got out of the van, of course the button on my jeans flew right off. It got sewn up right there in the parking lot while they were still on me which gave all the onlookers something to talk about before service.

We went to this church that had free delicious orange drink and donuts that you could eat before, during and after service. I have never seen this before in my life and I think it’s just the greatest thing. Also the sermon started with a Jim Carey video clip on a projector screen and I have never seen this kind of technology used in a church before, just old fashioned overhead projectors and not even free water. After there was a question and answer time. This is the most modern church I’ve ever seen.

Any way to my main story. Back in like grade 6 there was a beautiful girl name Maryanne. We called her psycho bitch because she used to beat us up, put caterpillars down our shirt and squish them. Every time we would see her, we would run away because of all her roughhousing. This was crazy because we (the boys) would roughhouse as well. I mean back then we would light things on fire and cause all kinds of mischief, but we couldn’t handle being beaten up by a beautiful girl.

I became a Christian at age 17, and I lost contact with Maryanne a few years prior, although I would hear about her once in a while because she dated some of my close friends.

When I was in college and doing an internship around age 19, I met her again at Tim Hortons. She was a cashier and just had a round of chemotherapy. She had cancer and had lost all her hair from the treatment. She was smiling at me while holding back tears. “I’ll never have children” she said. Without thinking (story of my life) I told her that Jesus would heal her, and tried to tell her as much as I could about my new found faith before I had to go (there were other customers in the line). I gave her my contact information.

I make promises to people all the time. Most of the time I come through, sometimes I don’t. When I tell people about Jesus though, I really boast. I boast big. And I had boasted big about Jesus to Maryanne in front of other people. When I got home I almost started to panic, because I realized I promised this girl that Jesus would come through for her and that one day she would have kids.

Fast forward to right now, several years later. I had just picked up a Medium pizza with Nathan and when we were walking outside of the mall in front of Price Chopper, I hear a scream “asif, asif!”. Maryanne ran up to me and before I had a chance to react, she jumped on me, arms and legs wrapped around me completely. I was surprised my spine didn’t collapse. All the weight lifting has been working out. Her hair is long and beautiful, in fact she’s more beautiful than I remember.

She went on to Nathan about how great of a man I am. (She and Nathan had never met prior). She really went on. And of course I’m not, but God is so great He came through for both me and Maryanne. I wish everyone who was in the Tim Hortons years prior could see. Both of us grew up in tough environments. Both of us came up from the wrong side of the tracks. Both of us have been healed by Jesus.

And yes, she now has a beautiful biological son. I write these journals so that I can one day read them again. But this story doesn’t require a journal entry. I’ll remember it for eternity.