At lunch today, Altaf and i were reminiscing the days when we first arrived in the UAE only 23 years ago. Our two younger colleagues were listening in disbelief that so much could have changed in just over two decades (Although the major strides in construction happened in the last decade).
We talked about how the Trade Center was the only tall building dominating the skyline of Dubai, the non- A/C buses, the ‘Pathan’ taxis, the Satwa ‘London’ taxis, the 25 fils ‘abra’, the cute little juice shop in the spice market in Deira, the toilets on the dhows, the bars, the prices of drinks, cost of bachelor accommodation, the WWF TV show at the ‘Mal’lu’ canteen at the ‘abra’ station … and the list went on and on!
But then when I came back to my seat in the office, the Holy Spirit reminded me of where I was today as compared to those days when I first boarded the flight to Dubai. I came here an atheist in 1989. There was utter sorrow at home. My father was fighting cancer and could not work anymore. My mother was burdened with having to put in late nights at her sewing machine, trying to make ends meet to educate my remaining three brothers. There was the added expense of my father’s treatment which cost a lot. Everything was so horribly depressing! There was no peace even in Dubai! Even though I was a topper in Goa and 5th in the Mumbai University, my academics did not land me a job after 51 interviews! I had almost given up. I used to sit and cry on my bedroll when everyone was sleeping.
The change came when Bro. Edwin (From the English Charismatic Group, Dubai) challenged me to try Jesus! He told me to go ahead and challenge his ‘living presence’ just once! I still remember that I’d answered him, “God does not exist! Do not preach to me of God!”
But that night I was just not getting sleep. I tossed and turned. Something was bothering me. So I sat up and I challenged God! I said,”Jesus, if you are alive give me a sign that I can believe.”
When I’d finished saying that, my eyes rested on a thick white book that was glowing in the light from a streetlamp that was falling on it through a crack in the curtain! I pulled it out from the bookshelf and it opened to:
"I have carved you on the palm of my hand." Isaiah 49:15
The next day, I started circling the adverts on the newspaper as usual and looked up the map to chart my course. Those days, I would take the local bus (non-A/c) and distribute my CV all by myself! Suddenly the phone rang. Since my aunt, uncle and kids were already out of the house; I picked up the receiver and was surprised to hear an Englishman on the line. It was Mr. Peter Summersgill from BSBG. This was the British company that I’d visited and wished I could work there! Peter wanted me to start work that very afternoon!!!
All I remember after that ... I was on my knees sobbing and repenting and praising God!
Today, I look back and I can confidently say in St. Paul’s own words:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 KJV).