From Panhandling to Plenty
Hi, my name is Marie and this is the story of how I got saved!
It all started a couple of years ago. I was living in Abbotsford, BC, in Canada, with my boyfriend and his mother. I had just relocated to BC from Ontario where I grew up. I had left home because nothing seemed to be working out for me. I was living a life of pure selfishness, taking advantage of everyone around me and using them for drugs or sex. Through my lifestyle I destroyed any hope of gaining a good job and fulfilling my many responsibilities, including being a mother to my son. I often lied and cheated, stole and played with many hearts to satisfy my desires. I had many plans and goals, but never bothered to carry them out. I had abandoned everything and flew out to BC in order to escape the reality of my situation, not even telling my parents until later on.
I resided with my boyfriend and his mother for a short while until my ungratefulness and disrespect caused us to be kicked out. We then ended up staying in homeless shelters for a couple of months, until I could gain money from the government to support my living expenses, which at the time were drugs and cigarettes. As my drug habit became extensive, I needed more money to support it. I ended up sinking in my pride and learning how to hustle people for money on the street. I made a lot of money by asking whoever crossed my path and told whatever story or excuse I could think of. I would even cry when telling people my stories to convince them that I really did need the money. I quickly learned that this was the easy way to make a few dollars.
I was really into smoking marijuana.
I was really into smoking marijuana. Since BC produces and sells a lot of the stuff, it was easy to get a hold of (You can even go into cafes and smoke it freely here). I got involved in selling the stuff in popular places, where there was a steady traffic flow of people such as 'Skytrain' stations or on busy streets. This was an eye-opening experience for me. People fought each other to get sales and risked everything to make money from selling ‘pot’. Certain people threatened my life every day, but somehow I was always protected. I recall a few occasions where people tried to tell me about the Kingdom of God. One man in particular gave me his testimony and told me that I must turn away from my lifestyle. He warned me, but I was too stoned to care. Eventually, the place where I was selling got “heated out” by the ‘cops’ (The drug traffic was halted due to extensive police patrol!) so I could not sell anymore. I had no more funds to pay for the expensive hotel where we were staying, and we were forced to live and sleep outside. I was panic-stricken and at the moment of my breakdown, a lady stopped her car on the highway and took my boyfriend and I home with her. She fed us and gave us a place to stay, with showers and laundry, for one month. This was a miracle!
I continued to make money by convincing people to buy used ‘Skytrain’ tickets. I was eventually caught, but I just continued to ‘panhandle’ anywhere and everywhere, meeting all sorts of people. Somehow I was protected from many strangers who approached me. The people that I hustled with were often drugs addicts who would even turn on their best friends in order to get some more ‘dope’. However, I was able to establish a friendship with one girl who always looked out for me while we were on the street.
...awake in cafes by doing crystal meth...
It got to the point where I had no home at all and ended up sneaking into places like shopping mall washrooms, sleeping in the back of trucks or staying awake in cafes by doing crystal meth. In order to eat, I found that I could always go to churches to get free meals, so I rarely went hungry. I eventually had to use other methods of getting people to give me money, like stealing from ticket machines,parking meters, selling food, ripping off people and selling fake drugs. If there was a will there was a way. The cops really could do nothing because too much of this was going on everywhere.
Finally, the drug scene in this area died. Things were getting desperate, as it seemed that every place that I went was ‘dry’ ― I couldn’t seem to get my hands on any money. So my boyfriend and I decided to hitchhike to Calgary, Alberta, which we were told would be a more prosperous place. In the last church we stopped at for a free meal, people laid hands on us and prayed that we would get off the streets and find shelter and jobs. Miraculously we were given just enough money to get the bus back to Abbotsford.
We decided to stop in at my boyfriend’s mother’s house for one last meal before continuing on our way. It was weird this time, because once we arrived, she wouldn’t let us leave. I was so grateful this time around. We decided to stay until we could get enough money to travel on to Calgary.
In Abbotsford, unlike downtown Vancouver, it seemed rather difficult to hustle people for money. Instead, I went to a temporary work agency to attain work for the day. It wasn’t long before I found myself working every day, often for different companies. One place in particular kept asking me to come back. So I went every day and worked hard. They decided to hire me full time, which made me very happy, as the job was very good. At the place where I worked there were very nice people, especially one girl who spoke with me often and even drove me home sometimes. She called me often and would invite me to get together with some of her friends. Finally, after much persuasion from my boyfriend’s mother, we accepted the invitation.
Her friends introduced themselves and showed us around their farm. We had a campfire and a sausage sizzle and everyone was very friendly and welcoming. We ate and sang campfire songs, and then, after much conversation, one man started to preach about prophecy in the Bible. I knew there was something about them; they were extremely happy and nice.
After hearing some testimonies and reading in the Bible, I decided to go to another meeting on the Sunday. My friend who I worked with showed me Scriptures on taking communion (1 CORINTHIANS 11:23-29) which shocked me, because when I was in Ontario I used to go along to a church that let me take communion even though I was fornicating and doing drugs. I had gone occasionally to this one church in Ontario, but I never took the Word of God seriously. I would even go to a study group, just to show face. I believed in Jesus, but never obeyed the Bible, and I didn’t really care, too. I knew in my heart that my life wasn’t right, but I never did anything about it and continued to smoke dope while reading the Bible. I did not realise the consequences of sinning or that the Bible tells you to keep yourself pure until marriage (1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-10), so I continued to live life for myself and use drugs to mask the reality of how I really felt. Little did I know that God had a plan for me all along to hear and understand His full gospel, and learn for the first time about repentance and God’s judgment.
The first Sunday when I came along to the meeting, they used the gifts of the Spirit; speaking in tongues and then interpreting. I was so convicted by the words, which seemed to be just for me, that I cried and cried. On Wednesday my boyfriend and I came to another meeting and this time my boyfriend had many questions. What impressed me was that every one of them was answered from the Bible, and I could see that it was genuinely lived in these people's lives and they were full of joy because of it. It finally came down to my decision and the last days were spent weeping in repentance for all the things I had done wrong. We did lots of praying and reading in the Bible (John 3:3), and then we went for it! On a beautiful summer day we were baptised for the remission of sins ― first my boyfriend, and then myself! We were so glad and had smiles from ear to ear. I had been so anxious, but now my mind was clear. After this they prayed for me to receive the Holy Spirit just like in the Book of Acts. As soon as I embraced God and believed the scriptures in LUKE 11:11-13, The Lord gave me the Holy Spirit and a new tongue to pray with ― it was so cool!
Now I could begin my new life in Christ
Now I could begin my new life in Christ (2 CORINTHIANS 5:17), however, there was one thing I needed urgent prayer for ― my cigarette smoking. We prayed as the apostles did in MARK 16:18 and when I went home and tried to smoke ― it didn’t taste like a cigarette ― it was disgusting. Since then I've had no desire to smoke whatsoever ― what a testimony! I began telling everyone about what had happened to me and what the Bible says about Salvation. I knew Scriptures and could now put them into practice.
So many miracles have occurred since then. The Lord has blessed me one-hundred-fold. He helped me to obtain a driver’s license and a college education to become a Nursing Assistant. He provided for me financially with a new job that is within walking distance from where I live in Chilliwack, and where I have had the joy of seeing people healed from various sicknesses after praying for them. I have also been given the privilege to travel and meet with other assembly groups, such as the one in California. This past summer, I went along to a summer camp where I met many more people in the Assembly ― many who have amazing testimonies of salvation like me.
I even met my one friend who I was on the street with ― she was ‘coincidently’ in the same place in Abbotsford one day ― and she came to one of our meetings. She was very excited for me and my new life, as she had been worried about me and wondering where I had disappeared to. We got to pray for her back and the Lord healed it from scoliosis. I could go on and on, but this would turn into a book! The Lord has shown me great mercy and obviously had His hand in everything for a long time! I am sure glad He chose me and gave me hope to fulfil His great plan ― such an awesome one by the way.
Praise the Lord, Marie