I grew up in a third-world country, in Guyana, which is north of Brazil. My dad died in a car crash when I was one, and my mom abandoned me when I was three. So my early years were spent with my grandparents. Because they were Muslim, I went to masjid every night.
When I was nine, my older brother and I were adopted by my uncle and his wife, who lived in the Twin Cities. Though they speak English in Guyana, it is more like a Creole-style English. People here just didn’t understand me. I was a lost kid. My uncle owned a donut shop, and when I was just eleven, I had to wake up at two or three in the morning to work. By 8th grade, my uncle had gotten a divorce. That’s when things became more challenging. I was a very angry child. I got into a lot of trouble—I skipped class and was getting into alcohol and drugs by the time I was thirteen.
My school career had its ups and downs, and when I turned 18 in 11th grade, I packed a bag and ran away. It was then I found out I wasn’t a citizen. I had no identification other than my school ID. I didn’t have a social security number; I couldn’t work. I was house-hopping and sometimes I slept on the street. I met a family who ran a restaurant, who paid me under the table. I still made it to school, but I was hanging with people who were such a bad influence—drugs, guns, drinking. I started struggling in school. But one teacher helped me get a free legal aid lawyer. And this lawyer helped me become a citizen, and she got my ID and a social security card all within two weeks. It was amazing.
When I eventually graduated, it was the proudest moment of my life! I landed a job at a hearing aid company and worked it for a year. But I was craving something different, so I ended up working with kids at the Minnesota Autism Center.
Personally, things weren’t going well with my brother and my living situation. Then I broke up with my girlfriend, and I was partying a lot and drinking heavily. I eventually was taken in by the parents of my uncle’s ex-wife. They are really kind. Her dad, Dale, is a retired pastor, and that’s when I really started learning about Christianity. I began going to Ebenezer Church, attending a men’s group every Saturday, and I even helped Wednesday nights with the kids. When I started AA meetings and they talked about a “higher power,” I thought I didn’t need that, didn’t need God. But at the men’s group, we’d have really great conversations, especially since I came from a Muslim background. And Dale and I would sit down every night and do a catechism workbook. Eventually I decided it was time for me to be baptized—though I didn’t really understand at that time all that it meant. But I knew that I wanted to do it, knew that I had changed because of what I was learning. It felt holy and safe. I didn’t feel like I believed, but I felt like I belonged. That was my first step.
At the end of 2017, I started some behaviors that were separating me from this new faith I was exploring. I moved out of Dale’s home and went back to Edina. But things began to spiral out of control. People were living with me who were bringing alcohol and drugs into the house every day. Cops eventually raided it. I was in an abusive dating relationship. I got two DWIs. I ended up in jail. I had no job, no car.
Thankfully, a friend’s family took me in again, and things started turning around. I had a real spiritual awakening. I started going to AA meetings and coming to church at CPC every Sunday. Two months ago [CPCer] Steve Hartwig introduced me to my mentor, Dave. Dave has taught me so much. Ever since I met him, I wear the Lord’s Prayer around my neck and I pray every day. Before I get out of bed, I’m on my knees. I just believe that prayer works.
I was trying so hard to control my life. But I realized that I can’t, that I need God. Following Jesus means that I love people in a new way. This faith has brought me so much joy and love. Before I came to faith, I was always putting myself down. I obviously had a lot of sins, regrets. I had such burdens. But I just decided to let go of everything. I asked God to take me under His wings.
Three weeks ago I got a call from my uncle. I hadn’t talked to him in six years. We had lunch and made amends. I’m talking to my grandma, my mom. Being in the Bible and serving is just changing me.
Knowing Jesus means I have someone I can always talk to. I know He’s always there. And the cool thing is, I don’t feel lonely anymore. I go on walks by myself, but I know God’s right beside me. Jesus lifted that burden off of me, that sense of shame, the regret. He gave me a second chance. Looking back, I’m so thankful for all the bad things that happened to me, because without them, I wouldn’t be here today, I wouldn’t be the person I am. Now I can share my story and tell others that this is what coming to faith in Jesus can do!
Wazir serves on our First Impressions team.