You name it, chances are I have done it. I left school, without taking my ‘O’ Levels, to become a gang member. I was a pimp, a loan shark, chopped people during gang fights, and sold cough syrup. As if all of the above was not enough to keep me busy, I also hustled amulets and charms, and gambled.

Needless to say, my lifestyle led to depression, anxiety disorder and panic attacks, and I needed to be on medication. I was scared to death of being beaten up, of being arrested, and of dying. To numb myself to all those fears, I became addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Numerous hospital visits did nothing for my mental issues. Visits to mediums were futile. There was also numbness in my right hand; I couldn’t even hold a spoon. It took many years of physiotherapy to right that.

I prayed instead to the ‘underworld gods and spirits’ for protection. But my heart was always unsettled.

Inside I was a mess, but outside I developed an angry, revengeful and threatening persona. I behaved as if I owned the world. I was a national badminton player and had won a medal for the country at international competition. That was also when I was drawn to the company of gangsters.

You may be surprised to hear that despite all that I was involved in, I always believed there was a God. I had attended a Christian kindergarten. However, I prayed instead to the ‘underworld gods and spirits’ for protection. But my heart was always unsettled. So many times, I wanted to walk away from my old ways. But peer pressure and the fact that I didn’t have much education made me stay put. With the gang, I could earn ‘easy money’. Away from the gang, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find a job and face financial hardship, and be judged by society.

During this period of my life, I was alienated from my family. I would go home occasionally for a visit or when I ‘got problem’. My mother was very sad. She started to go to Church and my parents were eventually baptised into the Catholic faith. They became more patient and their life is now very prayerful.  I believe God has answered their prayers for my conversion to a God-centred life.

On one visit home, I was somehow led to put a Bible into the bag I was packing for a trip to Indonesia. Needless to say, the trip was for ‘illegal business’.  While in Indonesia, I took out the Bible and asked it to save me.  My first encounter with God came when I returned to Singapore.  My mind was in a mess, and I was driven to seek peace and healing for my mental issues. One day, I just walked out from the gang and returned home.  I started going to Novena Church frequently, late at night, to ask Jesus and Mother Mary to please, save me.

I was convinced there is a Living God and salvation through Jesus Christ.

I wanted to attend Mass many times but my intense anxiety attacks stopped me from attending a proper church service. But through the grace of God, I signed up for the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and that was when I started learning more about God and the Catholic faith.

My turning point came during RCIA. My anxiety attacks got less and less, and then they just stopped. Totally. Till today, I have not had another one. At RCIA, I was able to share my many ‘secrets’ without the fear of being judged. The Lord relieved me of my fears and I could feel the Holy Spirit working in me more and more. I was convinced there is a Living God and salvation through Jesus Christ. I was also relieved of the fear that I would go to Hell because of the number of lives I had ruined in the past.

Also, through the Conversion Experience Retreat, my anxiety level has greatly reduced. I am no longer fearful, but at peace.  I cherish the graces God has given me. He is teaching me through the people he has sent my way, through my bible study and my prayers, how to cope with my long-term addiction to drugs, alcohol, and party life. He wants me to know that material achievement in life is secondary. What is more important is for me to continue to pray for people I like, don’t like, and also for our community.

Now I no longer feel ashamed to be a devoted Catholic; I am not afraid of letting people know how Jesus has changed my life. Previously, due to my ego, I did not know how to tell others I have changed and now believe in Christ – I was afraid of being perceived as “weak”.

People from my old life used to contact me to join them for KTV or to buy drugs.  But now, whenever they call, I am proud to share with them my faith and encourage them to join me. (They have since stopped asking me to be with the gang – I think hearing the name “Jesus” freaks them out!) Yes, I am occasionally tempted to drink and such other ‘nonsense’, but my will to remain holy is stronger now.

I am very grateful to Him for saving me from the depths of the underworld and bringing me to where I am now

God is building up my life. I passed my ‘O’ Levels recently, and am working towards going to the university. I have also been leading a healthy life, being a badminton coach and taking part in triathlons and other sporting activities.

I am very grateful to Him for saving me from the depths of the underworld and bringing me to where I am now. I now want to live my life for God’s purpose only. I now know I am very blessed and He will lead me to eternal life. Praise the Lord for He is good! His mercy is endless and His love boundless! Alleluia!

*Ben is a pseudonym

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