Hope was too strong
At age 17 Paul chose homelessness over giving up the new hope he encountered in Guyana
“The fear [of God’s punishment] was completely gone. I lived with a solid peace,” says Paul Mursalin
Paul Mursalin was just eleven when he could recite his family religion's entire text, but when asked what came after death for him he was entirely unsure and afraid.
In his strictly religious home in Guyana, Paul was vigilant in prayer, recitation of their beliefs and public worship.
However, after one community religious meeting, 17-year-old Paul was walking home with his father and brother when a Christian speaking at an open-air meeting stirred something in him.
Feeling an urgency to hear him again, two evenings later, Paul recalls, "The same man quoted from the prophet Amos, 'Prepare to meet your God.' And I immediately knew that if I should die at that time I was not prepared to meet God."
According to Paul's faith, he says, "The concept of assurance was not there. I became overwhelmed with so much fear.
"I had a head understanding of God, but no heart knowledge. The idea of a personal relationship with God was lost."
At the invitation to come to the front for prayer, Paul went forward, but as he found himself standing alone in his religious attire he became fearful and closed his eyes.
"At that moment I saw this man. I recognised him as Jesus. He stretched His arms out and said, 'I am the Way, follow me.'
"I wasn't sure what to do, but I made a commitment to follow this Jesus."
Word quickly reached his father, who issued an ultimatum to his son when he reached home.
"Either you forget this whole thing, or you leave the house," his father said.
Paul continues, "I did not feel I should give up Jesus. It was too strong.
"At 17 I left home and walked the streets for six months. At night, my mother opened the door so I could sleep upstairs. I left home before my father woke up.
"After six months my father let me back home, thinking that I would forget about my faith."
However, all along Paul was regularly attending the public Christian meeting, where he could read a Bible and learn how he could know that he was a loved and accepted child of God.
"I read in the book of 1 John chapter 5 and verse 12 which says; 'He who has the Son has life'. That verse told me it is now different. I have the assurance I did not have previously.
"Within two months, the fear, that if I died I would not be with God, that was completely gone. I lived with a solid assurance and peace."
The man in the vision “stretched His arms out and said, I am the Way, follow me”Around that time, he was surprised when his mother explained why she was sympathetic to him.
"At the time of my birth, my mother said that she saw Jesus standing by her bedside. She could not interpret it then, but she had her doubt all along. A few years ago, my mother said, 'I believe in Jesus.' We prayed together. She is serving Jesus now."
Following administration work, Paul became a teacher and was able to provide his wife and daughter a comfortable life in Corriverton, while he worked in the city three hours away.
"For a year, I ignored God's call to be a full-time Christian worker, until my eight-year-old died in a serious accident in Georgetown."
Following the funeral, Paul recalls having a vision that assured him that God had a plan for him and his deceased daughter.
In this vision, he says, "Jesus brought my deceased daughter to me and said, 'I bring her to spend a brief moment with you.' She let go of His hand, ran to me and I hugged her. That was as real as it can be. I literally felt her touch.
"As soon I was enjoying her presence the Lord came and took her. She turned around and said, 'Daddy, you can't come now. There are things to do.'"
A week later Paul became pastor of a small church in Corriverton. In 1998, Paul says he heard God's voice direct him to speak more to people of his religious heritage. His work grew into a television and radio ministry across the Caribbean.
When he first read the Bible, Paul recalls seeing two major differences between it and what he had known.
"One thing that convinced me about the Bible was the integrity and trustworthiness of Jesus, who is a friend of women."
While reading a different religious text he noticed that it clearly supported wife beating and domestic violence. "This violated my inner conscience," Paul says.
"When I read the Bible I felt overwhelmed with God's love, compassion and forgiveness. None of these things really existed for me before."
Paul also noticed that in the Bible peace is not futuristic, as it was in his family's faith.
"Peace comes," Paul explains, "when God brings us back into a perfect relationship with Him by faith in Jesus. He then commands us to declare this relationship to everyone, telling them, 'God loves the world and gave His own life for them.'"
While some have said to him that disagreement means you 'hate' someone, Paul responds, "Over the years, the Lord Jesus has given me an unusual love for people of my family's faith. I love them as people, but I do not accept their teachings. I believe that God wants them to know that He loves them."