Ali was born into a quarrelsome family in south Asia (for security reasons, names were changed). Though the culture around him was religious – Christian, Hindu, Muslim – his own family practised none.
His parents fought a lot and eventually Ali’s father forced his mother out of the house. Worried about Ali and his four siblings she took them to their grandfather’s house. Ali was only three years old at the time, but he remembers some of this and still weeps over it at times. They were very poor and were abused and harassed by the community around them. Ali had little peace and little hope for the future.
It was a difficult situation and Ali’s suffering pushed him toward many vices. He started smoking when he was about five years old, eventually graduating to other drugs and alcohol. By age seven he was addicted.
“Nobody was really there to teach me otherwise,” Ali said. “It just became a part of my life. By the age of nine, I was addicted to cocaine, hash, and other things. There was no one giving me money for drugs, so I was stealing things from the house daily.”
As an 11-year-old Ali was hanging around with a 14-year-old girl. Together they would steal things from the market. His friend would engage the shopkeeper in conversation while Ali and his other friends would steal. More than once they were caught and taken to the police station, but his friend was clever and she always managed to get them released.
“We were not only doing drugs with her but started watching porn films, learning about adultery and sexual desires. We would visit prostitute areas and unmentionable things were happening,” Ali said. “Sometimes I wanted to get away from all of these things, but no one was there to teach me.”
“I knew my mother once attended a church and one day I went to one nearby. Because I had such a bad reputation in the community, it was assumed I was there to make trouble, so adults shunned me, and parents kept their children away. When I started to enter the church, an elder slapped me and pushed me out of the church,” Ali recalled.
“However, God had a plan,” said Ali. Youth for Christ staff members happened to be right behind him as he was trying to enter the church. When he was hit and pushed away, they took him back to their house.
“They talked to me very kindheartedly,” Ali said. “I was nervous when they sat near me, because older people never treated me like that, and I expected some abuse. But I somehow became calm and we had a nice time together. They served me lunch and a cup of tea, then I left.”
That encounter led to more and a relationship deepened. “They told me I should go with them to the sports field, because I told them I was a good football player. I was happy to be invited, but also afraid inside. Many questions were arising in my mind and heart, but mainly, ‘If they find out about me, will they leave me like everyone else?’ I didn’t want to lose these relationships.”