With her family, Laura Owens lives a lifestyle similar to her very Australian neighbours on a timbered rise north of Bairnsdale, in Victoria’s Gippsland. But it’s a world away from her childhood—raised in the Muslim tradition, the daughter of a Myanmar (formerly Burma) diplomat. As such, from the age of four months, she travelled to many countries of Asia, not returning to Myanmar until she was 16, where, for the first time, she encountered Christ.
“My dad was a devout Muslim,” Laura says. “He even refused service in Western countries because he was afraid he might have difficulty attending a mosque or obtaining halal meat. So I was raised a strict Muslim, reading the Koran and fasting each Ramadan.
“Eventually I fell in love with a Christian boy. He had to convert to Islam before we were allowed to marry. But once married, we left for Australia where, four years after arriving and a great deal of searching, I became a Christian, at age 22.”
It was the end of a search Laura began soon after arriving home in Myanmar, following her father’s retirement. “It was Christmas, and my parents were away on holiday,” she says. “I’d made friends with some Christians, and they invited me to go carolling with them. So, as adventurous teenagers are want to do, with my sister, I sneaked out and joined in.
“When Dad found out, we got into deep trouble! But the story of the baby Jesus about whom we sang, piqued my curiosity. I asked my friends a lot of questions, and they told me the Christmas story. I was touched by how God sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us so that we can live forever. I got hooked on knowing more about Jesus.
“But my dad was my hero. I did everything to please him, like praying and reading the Koran in Arabic. However, although there were translations in the book, I didn’t understand what I was saying. It was like reciting a poem that made no sense to me. I never felt I was praying to God, and I envied my friends who talked to God as their friend, when all I felt was fear.
“I would abide by the rules of my religion in order to please my dad. So, for a long time, I was torn between pleasing him by remaining a Muslim, and following Jesus, who had touched my heart. When eventually I became a Christian, Mum and Dad, who were still in Myanmar, shunned me. They didn’t write to me for two years, although I kept writing to them. They eventually responded, but when he visited me, Dad still refused to eat a meal in my house.
“Becoming a Christian really hurt; I was turning my back on my dad, whom I loved more than any other human. But I believed Jesus was my salvation. I chose Him and, in the end, He blessed me by touching my dad’s heart, impressing him to ‘forgive’ me. So God not only restored my relationship with my family, He blessed me with another loving family—my church.
“My relationship with Jesus is wonderful,” Laura says, “He died, He cares, He listens, and He responds to me. Now I talk to God, I don’t just recite words I don’t understand. Praying [in Arabic] was always hard. My words seemed meaningless and insincere.
“My sisters are still Muslims and, of my extended family, I believe I’m the only Christian. But I’ve never regretted my decision. God has blessed me in more ways than I can count. Yet my life would be meaningless without His promise of eternal life. And with such a promise,” Laura asks, “how can I not serve Him?
“So, to those with a similar religious background to mine, I say: Search for truth for yourself, not letting anyone influence you, praying for guidance. Seek, and you will find the truth; knock, and the door to eternity will be opened to you!”