Journey From Darkness to Light
Life before conversion
My name is Orlando Fernandes. I was born and brought up in Goa, in a good Christian family, which consisted of my dad, mom, my two sweet sisters and granny.
I was a pious Sunday Catholic. Like any other family, we fulfilled our Christian duties and followed the Church teachings. My parents made sure that I don’t miss the daily rosary at home, I always attended Mass every Sunday without fail and made a point to receive communion, but I took part in the Liturgy just for the sake of doing it.
During my entire childhood I hardly ever read the Bible. My parents always encouraged me to do things for the church, so I was a very active member in our parish; I always loved to sing and do the readings in the church. But most of time I would be distracted during the Mass and just wait for it to be over so that I could meet my friends and start chatting with them.
I was a very hard-working student. When I was in 8th standard, due to my height I was forced to sit in the last bench in my class. That’s how I got involved with students who were repeating the class, and who taught me all the bad words. As a result, they were constantly at the tip of my tongue, and I couldn’t go a single day without swearing; it was my new lifestyle now.
Somehow, though I was not serious with my studies, I managed to clear my High school (Xth) with flying colours in March 1999. I was confused as what to do next, and just because all my friends decided to study Commerce, I also joined St. Xavier’s to study it, but then I got a seat for diploma in engineering, and I ended up joining the polytechnic to study electronics.
My studies went very well during the first semester, but the second semester, when we had computer classes, I came into contact with the Internet and I got exposed to pornography, and before long, I was addicted to it. In the end, it started to affect my studies – I was not able to concentrate on them anymore.
Somehow, I managed to reach my final semester during the final year. Due to the lack of preparation, I got four backlogs during that final semester in July 2002, which was a major blow for me. My next chance to answer exams was only after 6 months. I was at home doing nothing, and I felt very embarrassed when people asked me about my results.
Since I was jobless, I decided to work as a sacristan for our church as they were in need of one. By God’s grace I got a job as a service engineer in Ponda, Goa, in January 2003. But when I started to work, I completely lost my interest in studies. I would register for exams, pay my fees but I would never even turn up for the exams. I did this for two years.
My personal life was a mess as well I neglected my prayers and became almost a professional in swearing. I was an oversensitive boy so I would instantly feel hurt if someone tried to tease me. As a result, I did not like to hang around with friends nor would I go out with anyone. I spent my time only with my family or a few close friends.
Till I completed my diploma, my parents never allowed me to go for parties, discos, to stay at friends’ places or even attend social gatherings. There were a lot of restrictions at my home, but looking back, I really thank my dad for that now because if I had been left free, I don’t know what my condition would be by now.
Throughout my entire life I have never smoked, drank liquor or took drugs, except maybe an occasional beer at birthday parties, but that was it. Otherwise, I was living a life just like any other youth, I had everything in life – friends, job, bike, mobile etc, but still there was emptiness in my life, some vacuum in my heart. This is how two years of my life passed by and I still could not complete my diploma. When I got a job I became a king, a free bird able to go wherever I wanted on my bike, but deep down nothing changed; I was very sad, feeling fed up and I wanted to take a break.
My mom was a very prayerful person, and she used to take our family for charismatic prayer meetings. She tried her best to persuade me to attend a retreat at the Divine Retreat Centre in Kerala, but I would only make fun of her when she lifted her hands to pray. But my mom never said anything, she just always prayed for me.
In July 2003 I finally decided to go with my uncle for my first retreat at the Divine Retreat Centre (DRC). My Mom and Dad were very happy about it and I could just see that on their face. I was not exactly happy, but I was curious as to what’s so special out there.
During the first day of the retreat, I was very restless – I had no friends or family with me, and the worst thing was that I just had to sit and listen to talks. That was almost impossible with me – a guy who was always on the move. But slowly, as the time passed, I started to like those talks, and to my amazement, soon I found that I could sit for hours listening to preachers.
But one thing that I did not like was people lifting their hands while praying and dancing when singing songs. I remained stubborn and just stood like a statue; I just could not understand how we can dance in the place of prayer. It did not make sense to me at all. Someone told me that these songs are called ‘action songs’, but still, I wouldn’t change my mind.
After a while I realized that I was the only person out there who was not happy. I also saw that I did not want to join others in lifting hands and dancing because I was afraid of what others would think about me. So I asked Jesus to help me and the next song I did the actions and I soon found myself feeling happy and filled with joy. I started dancing for Jesus.
The next day I went for confession and counseling. On Thursday, during the Holy Hour when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, I just started uncontrollably, and I didn’t even know why. And then I realized how much I ran away from Jesus, and in spite of my sins, He still loved me just the way I was. I realized that I was wearing a mask because I wanted people to accept me. I would do things to please them, I wanted to be like others, to be outgoing and popular, but I was never able to imitate that; there was too much of insecurity in me.
I was also a brilliant student but after I got involved with the company, I was no longer interested in studies. I only studied to clear my papers, and as a result, I was not doing very well. I felt that I was a worthless and that no one loves me! I kept having negative thoughts about myself; I felt that I was not needed in this world because I was not smart enough. But now, during that retreat, I came to know what was missing in my life. I found Jesus as my Best friend. He accepted me just as I was. To Him I was unique.
After the retreat I was just filled with joy and happiness. I stopped using bad words completely. Amazing things started happening in my life. My family was just shocked to see the change in me. But my friends could not accept my changed behaviour, and they started to make fun of me. As a result, I had to break a lot of friendships. It was just painful and unbearable for me. This new life went on for three – four months, and after that I relapsed back to my old routine life.
Once again, I went for a retreat to the DRC in July 2004, and that was another amazing experience with Jesus; I was coming closer to Him. During the inner healing session that was held on Thursday, Fr Augustine announced,
“Orlando, Jesus is saying to you ‘I have carved you on the palms of my hand. I will never forget you.'”
These words got engraved on my heart that day. After I came back home, I started sharing my experience with everyone, and I did not bother about my friends at all, because Jesus, my Best Friend, was with me. I started to attend Mass daily, and I joined a charismatic group in Mapusa. I was finally on the right path, and this time I did not backslide. But my addiction to pornography and sexual sins was still there. All I could do was to pray to Jesus to take it away.
In October 2005 I went to Bangalore to do the School of Evangelisation conducted by Bro. Fritz and ICPE group. It’s a five-week course and has in-detail teachings covering topics that include sin, deliverance, inner healing, salvation etc. Here I came to know more about Jesus. I was just filled with the Word of God. During the inner healing session, I found out that in my past, my cousin sexually abused me when I was a small boy and that this was the root cause of my sexual sins. I just could not believe that it had happened to me, and I found that I was not able to forgive my cousin from my heart.
After that course I was indeed a changed person. I decided to stay in Bangalore. I got a job offer at Apple Company after one month. It was a call center job, so I had to work night shifts. Since couldn’t eat or sleep at the right time, it started to affect me spiritually, physically and mentally.
My friends at the call center often made fun of me because I was not like them, I didn’t, for example, go for parties, which I hated. As a result, I was excluded from my friends’ circles at workplace. Soon, due to some problems at my office I decided to resign from my job after 18 months and I joined IBM. Once again, I worked night shifts, but by now I was fed up with life. I had to go through a lot of loneliness since I was alone at home most of the time.
My family was in Goa, and I had no one to talk to throughout the day since my roommate and friends were at work during the time I was at home, and when they came home in the evening I had to leave for work. I was just left alone to myself, and I started to get temptations to smoke, drink or even to take drugs. Thank God I never did that. But I started to listen to heavy metal rock and trance music and soon I got hooked on it. I could not sleep well because I kept getting weird dreams and headaches. I also stopped attending daily mass and youth meetings. I just did not know what was happening to me. Once again, I got addicted to pornography and sexual sins. I just lost control of myself.
In addition to that, I lost some of my few best friends for very silly reasons. I just could not believe that they could betray me like that. It turned out that the friends I had were only there when I was doing well. When I was not doing well, when I needed their help, they all gave excuses and said that they were busy. We have a lot of friends like that, they will be with us when we are successful and joyful, but when we go through failure and grief, not many are around us. Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone. You will only understand the pain I went through if you went through betrayals.
As I was left all alone, I started to look for new friends. I just wanted someone to be with me and spend time with me. Unfortunately, I got involved with a wrong group of friends. I had to compromise sexual relations with this group of boys, as I did not want to lose their friendship. I was ready to do anything for my friend’s.
During that time my family was also going through some severe financial problems. In addition, for the last 10 years my dad had been suffering from ulcerative colitis, which is an incurable disease, and because of it he couldn’t work or even go out; he had to stay at home. As a result, I was the only working person in my family. To make things worse, in September 2007 my younger sister fell sick. She was in a very serious condition; she was on the verge of death and the doctors had lost hope. My whole family was in distress.
I could not go home because I had just joined IBM. The medical expenditure was increasing, and I just did not know what to do. Things just kept getting worse day by day. I was fed up with life because of my problems and the tensions were just increasing so I decided to end my life on November 2, 2007, that is on my birthday.
I had planned everything right from how I would end my life till where I would be buried. I had written down all the details, including who was going to say my funeral mass, who would do the readings, choir, hearse van, etc. By the grace of God one day, I met Tony, who one of the brothers in ICPE. Tony was just shocked to hear my story. He asked me to bring the book where I had written everything. He destroyed it and then under his guidance, through counselling, I came out of depression and my sexual addictions.
I am the kind of person who will accept things if I see the proof. I liked rock and trance music, so I wanted to know why this kind of music was bad, as some claimed, and what evidence was there to prove that. So, one of my close friends gave me some videos by Cross TV productions titled “They sold their souls for rock and roll”, a four-part series taken behind the scenes of some famous rock bands. I was shocked to see that most of those musicians are on drugs. Some of them are Satan worshippers; some of the song lyrics even include Satanic themes and other bad words. We think this music is so nice to listen to, but behind that those musicians have a hidden agenda. From then onwards I took a decision never to listen to those songs anymore and I destroyed my entire music collection.
In the last week of November 2007, we had a retreat for the youth group. During that retreat once again those thoughts of child abuse flashed my mind. I went and sat in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and I started crying bitterly, because it was so painful to forgive that person. Then I sensed the Lord asking me “Did you forgive that brother who abused you?”
I was quiet. I was just thinking how I could ever be able forgive a person who abused me. The next question the Lord asked was really shocking, “How will I forgive you if you don’t forgive him?” I had no answer to that, because I knew what I had done to others, and I made a decision that to forgive. As soon as I had done that, I felt light, I was so happy, and I was filled with joy. I made a decision that for the rest of my life I will serve God and use all my talents for the Glory of God.
Life after my Conversion
After the initiation retreat there was a drastic change in my life. I saw God working in my life in many ways. Though temptations are still there, and I need to fight against them daily, Jesus always gives me the strength.
God just works in amazing ways. I used to always compare myself with others, I couldn’t dance or sing or act like other people, I felt I didn’t have the things other people had, and because of that I used to hate myself. But now I realized how many talents God has given me, and I never even appreciated them even.
All these years I was just spiritually blind. I was a person who was a bit shy and reserved, never ready to speak to friends or make new friends. I had talents but I just kept them to myself as I was living in my nutshell. Before, I never participated in any activities, but now I am a different person; I can boldly speak to youth, I can testify and tell people how Jesus has changed my life.
I started to help all the youth who were going through various problems and addictions. I started helping them in their personal & spiritual lives and I saw God working miracles in their lives. We need to accept them just as they are. Need to correct them lovingly. I am always there to help my friends. I started to use all my talents for the Glory for God, like dancing to action songs, leading the choir in church, helping others in need, doing the readings and many more. For the rest of my life, I will always use all my talents for the glory of God.
God does not see your abilities, but your availability to help others. No doubts, my problems are still there, but now I am not tensed at all. My younger sister fell sick again in January 2008, this time her condition was even worse than before. Once again there was turmoil at home, but I just surrendered my sister and my whole family into the hands of Jesus. I put my trust in Him. I sent prayer petitions to all prayer groups. After that my sister recovered, and after deliverance prayers my sister’s health condition is stable. I just thanked God for healing her.
After my conversion God has blessed me abundantly. In May 2008 I was tired of my night shift job I decided to resign from my job at IBM and go back home in Goa. I told my manager that I would resign on July 15. In the month of May I answered an interview for a job in Dubai. It was a miracle how I cleared my interviews. They told me that they would call me for HR interview but there was no news for two weeks.
Suddenly, one day the HR called me and finalized everything. As per procedures, I needed to attest all my certificates in Dubai embassy. But it was a miracle that the company told me that there was no need to do that and that they would accept my documents and certificates without attestation. They told me to be ready to come to Dubai the day the visa is issued. Since I was not serving my notice period in my previous company, I had to pay the company a huge amount of money. Suddenly, one day my manager told me that they couldn’t release me on July 15, and he asked if I could work till August 8, and if I agreed, then he would remove the complete amount I needed to pay back the company. I agreed.
Before I left for Dubai, I decided to go for the international youth retreat at the Divine Retreat Centre to spend some time in prayer. The minute I reached there I had a strange feeling. While I was praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I sensed the Lord asking me to be a volunteer for an international youth retreat. After a lot of inner struggle, I registered myself.
For the first time I was a volunteer, which had been one of my heart’s desires for a long time. Although we were very busy, God showed me the areas I needed to work on. I used to pray for myself, but at the retreat we had to pray for others. We were also praying for all the youth gathered at that retreat hall. Indeed, it was a tough job to control them, but with Jesus’ help I could do everything in a very loving way.
After that retreat I came back to Bangalore with a great joy in my heart. My last day at IBM was on 8th August 2008. The next day I had a small farewell dinner party with all Yeshua Adonai youth group members. At the time of affirmation, I was really amazed as to how all the youth members were so blessed to have me as their friend and how my presence changed their lives. God works in mysterious ways.
My visa was delayed for five weeks due to some unavoidable circumstances. Those five weeks was a really testing time for me, as they were so many ups and downs in my family and personal life. It was really difficult for me to sit at home idle without a job. I thanked God for that because through this experience I really understood how others feel when they are jobless. I had almost lost hope as I had been waiting for my visa for five weeks and there was no update about it from that company. But at last, I got my visa on September 17 and I reached Dubai the same day safely.
God has blessed me with this wonderful job. He has also blessed me with a company provided flat just for me. It is really a miracle because it is not easy to get accommodation here in Dubai. He has blessed me with good colleagues who are friendly and jovial. I would say they are my extended family in office.
Initially due to some personal problems I was reluctant to join any groups in Dubai. God had a different plan for me. In the month of October 2008 my counselor was on his way to Germany but had a stop in Dubai. He came specially to meet me personally and convinced me to join the youth group. That’s how the next day itself I decided to join the Come Alive youth group in spite of all my problems. To my surprise it was exactly one month after I came to Dubai.
Since then, I am always regular for the youth meetings. Now I am actively involved in the ministries of this youth group. No matter where I go, I will always use my talents for God’s glory because God change my life completely. In December 2009 the charismatic group was having their 30th anniversary celebrations. That’s the time one of my old friends requested me to help him with a skit. That’s how I got involved with English Charismatic group. Since then, I am a regular member of the group.
God has been always faithful to me even though I was not faithful to him. He has always blessed me with good foster parents and spirit filled friends. In Bangalore it was Bro. Fritz & Diana and the entire ICPE community including the youth group members. Here in Dubai, it is Bro. Armando & family. Of course, few youth friends from the charismatic group and few from Come Alive youth group are really close to me. They were really praying for me and kept in touch with me whenever I was going through tough times in Dubai. I was trying to run away from God, but God brought me back once again.
During the last one year in Dubai, I met so many people. Life is Dubai is really not easy. The way people live here is really sad. Each and every person has a long story as to what they are going through living here in Dubai. People living outside Dubai have the wrong impression about people working in Dubai. Most of the people working here say it is just a mechanical life. So many people are going through loneliness, financial and health problems. It is sad that here relations or friends don’t have time for each other because of their busy work & family life. So many people are not able to go to church due to various reasons. Therefore, I am so grateful to God for everything he has blessed me with here in Dubai.”
We all wear masks, we try to show people that we are doing well on the outside, but inside we are sad, hurt, lonely, lost, looking for love, rejected, betrayed, etc. At times we don’t get the love we expect from our family members and friends, so we look for other options. Due to peer pressure, we end up doing things we don’t want to do. That’s how we get involved in bad habits. And it is so easy to get into these vices like smoking, drinking, drugs, computer games, TV, Internet, pornography, etc. We may just try it for fun’s sake only once, but then it becomes an addiction. And to come out of these addictions may take months, if not years.
Through my life experience I know how all of us go through various problems, but at times there is no one to talk to us, we need someone who will understand us, listen to us and accept us just as we are, and therefore I just love to be with my friends in times of trouble and happiness. Whatever happens in our life and every person that comes across in our life is for a reason. So, I just like to be with them and help them and to say that I am there for them.
Whatever I do now is to praise and thank Jesus. He is the only person who can satisfy our heart’s desire and fill the emptiness in our lives. Even now, though I am going through a series of storms in my life, I can still smile, sing and dance only because of Jesus, because only He knows what is best for me. Jesus cares for you and me.
If you have some doubts or questions about my testimony or if you need any help, please feel free to contact me via chat or email on orlandoferns at gmail dot com.
If Jesus worked in my life, He will definitely work in your life too.
Trust in Him. Surrender your life to Him.
Jesus Loves You…