Finding Allah in NYC: My Conversion Story

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   I was born and raised as a Roman Catholic in Philippines. My parents are very religious people. My mother used to be a President of Parish Pastoral Council and my father is Lay Minister. When I was in high school I joined youth groups in church. I was a member of a church choir. I love singing gospel songs despite being tone deaf (sintunado). I have nothing negative with my Roman Catholic faith before. Being Christian mold me to become a good person. I can say that I have personal relationship with God. 

   During the lowest point of my life I know that God is there. I called it grace under pressure because I realized how strong I was when I struggle in life. When I was studying, I barely had enough money to go to school. I remember my prayer was "God if it is your will that I will finish this degree You will guide me in finding a way to pay my tuition fee". True enough, I was able to finish my Masters Degree in Special Education.

 When my mother had brain surgery to remove the brain tumor few weeks before I move to NYC was the most stressful event in my life. I prayed like I never prayed before. Our family is really blessed to find superb neurosurgeon in PGH. If I could nominate someone to be our hero it would be Dr. Gap Legazpi. Even before the operation he made us feel that brain surgery is just like a small operation. Now my mother is doing good even with other health concerns.  

 The process of getting a job in NYC was like leap of faith. You need to spend a huge amount of money for something that you do not have any assurance.  I prayed that if God would give me this teaching job in NYC I promise that I will help my family and feed poor kids in Philippines.Then God answered my prayers that why I am here. Even I convert to Islam I am still keeping that promise until now. 

   Like other people I don't know anything good about Islam before. In Philippines, Muslims are minority group. Oftentimes, media presented Muslim with terrorist, wife beater, polygamy relationship. My husband introduced me to Islam. At first I was hesitant. In my mind I was thinking I am not going to be a Muslim. Then he was trying to explain to me what Islam is. I also did my little research=google about Islam still I was not convinced. We watched videos of Dr. Zakir Naik on youtube and makes me realize that it makes sense. Then my husband bought me my first Quran. He told me that my hands should be clean if I want to read it. I started reading it. Slowy, most of the negative things that I heard about Islam was like negative publicity in show business terms. I watched movies about the life of Muslim and pilgrimage to Mecca on Netflix. I feel like in need to learn more. So, I was looking for a place where non-Muslim can ask question about Islam.

   I found out about the Islamic Cultural Center of New York at 96th St in Manhattan. I asked my husband to visit the place after our 5k run at Central Park. I was wearing my running gear going to the mosque. I asked the secretary if they have a program for non-Muslim. She asked me to wait for the Imam who was at the meeting. I waited for about 10 minutes. Then, this odd looking guy came and talk to me. He told me about the basic principles of Islam. He asked me if I believe that there is one God, about Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him and I said yes. Then after about 5 minutes of conversation he asked me. "So, are you ready to take your Shahada? How do you want to say it in English or in Arabic?" And I just got emotional. He asked me to call my husband to be a witness. The secretary gave me my first abaya and hijab. When I was saying my Shahada tears just flow in my eyes. I couldn't believe that saying "La Ilaha Ilala, Mohamadur Rasululah" (I believe in Allah as the only God and the Prophet Mohammed is the Messenger of God) would change my life. The sisters hugged me and the Imam gave me study materials. 

   Now I am attending a New Muslim Program at M.E.C.C.A. (Muslim Education and Converts Center of America) . Converting to Islam is only 1 minute but being a good Muslim is life long journey to get closer to Allah. I am thankful for my family and friends who accepted and supported my decision. 

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