7 Dec 2014 by Adeline Lum CM-
In the Asian culture, filial piety is a value practiced and treasured. We were taught as children to be loyal to our parents’ traditions. And sometimes, embracing another religion is seen as a betrayal to them.
Kalbi Massey, a Punjabi lady who grew up in the rubber plantation of Kluang Johor, struggled in coming to know Christ when she had to choose between being loyal to her parents or embracing the Christian faith.
Although the family of six grew up in a rubber plantation estate with little amenities and no toys, they were nevertheless a happy family living in a tight-knitted Sikh community.
When her application for a teacher’s training course failed—which was her childhood dream—her parents intended to marry her off to a good husband as in her tradition, but Kalbi wanted to have her own career instead.
She completed her A-levels in Kuala Lumpur with excellent results, which earned her many places to receive nurse training’s in the UK hospitals.
However, due to her fear of leaving home, she turned down all the hospitals until the hiring agency gave her the ultimatum to take the offer at Runwell Psychiatric Hospital in Wickford, lest the position would be opened to someone else.
In fact, Kalbi shared such a tight bond with her mother that she recalled crying when her mother wanted to leave her at Johor Bahru to complete her A-levels. And out of love for her daughter, her mother forfeited all the tuition and accommodation fees she paid. Both went home instead. This happened before she could finally overcome her fear of leaving home and completed her A-levels in Kuala Lumpur.
“My mum was very reluctant to let me go. You know I had a very overprotective upbringing. When I was young, I had quite a few serious illnesses. And I was very, very thin,” said Kalbi who had malaria and a serious form of chicken pox when she was a child.
“My mum said to me, ‘You won’t be able to cope. If you went to England, you won’t eat and you won’t look after yourself. The weather is so cold. I don’t think I can let you go,’” she added.
But after much persuasion, her mother finally allowed Kalbi to go in reluctance and join her two other sisters who were already in UK.
“Even now, I think it’s a miracle that I ever left home because I had such a fear of leaving my parents,” said Kalbi.
When she arrived in Essex at UK, the countryside scenery she was residing in was so beautiful and picturesque that it reminded her of the familiar surroundings of her estate village.
Although she felt homesick, Kalbi met many Malaysian Chinese friends in Essex who were nurses. Many of them were Christians and invited her to their Christian Fellowship meals.
“I declined their invitation because my mum warned me to not become involved with Christians because my sister became a Christian secretly in Malaysia in a Convent school.
“And when my parents found out about her secret visit to a church in Kluang, they were angry and upset with her,” said Kalbi.
Her father was a man of high standing in the Sikh community—almost like a lay preacher—who is mostly seen praying and memorizing Scripture in his white turban. During events in the temples, her father would spend days praying.
“I was very obedient and respectful of my parents. I would do nothing to hurt them or upset them in terms of religion,” said Kalbi although she recalled sneaking to church with her sister one day.
She remembered ducking in the cab when they saw their father riding his bicycle to work. That was her first experience of going to church.
“It was lovely but you know in my heart, I knew that I would never convert. ‘You know my sister carried on with her new found faith.’ But I was determined not to be influenced because I loved my parents so much and did not want to hurt and upset them,” said Kalbi.
Her father had been stern with her sister’s conversion of faith. Her mother has also tried burning the Bible but it miraculously did not burn. Looking back, Kalbi recalled seeing her sister hiding in their large bedroom of six children and secretly reading the Bible with a kerosene lamp.
“So, in UK, I thought that I won’t be pursuing this religion. I was in the training. I was enjoying the culture. I love the peace and quietness. I love studying.
“I have some lovely things in my room, which I never had before—I got electricity, I got a TV, I got a refrigerator. That was luxury and then I started to feel guilty. I was thinking my family had so little,” said Kalbi before tearing up.
Strangely enough, Kalbi was attracted to a weekly Christian program that played different worship songs and hymns. Although she was enjoying her life in UK with the—company of her two sisters, lovely friends, and loving family, interesting training—she was aware of the emptiness in her heart. God pursued her quickly but gently.
During Christmas, Kalbi had an operation due to appendicitis. While her sister and her brother-in-law visited her, they started sharing the gospel with her. The first Bible verse shared was John 3:16.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
“And by faith, totally just by faith, I remember clearly kneeling by the hospital bed with my hands together in prayer mode and I said the sinner’s prayer of salvation and accepted Jesus Christ.
“I remembered this clearly—this was 34 years ago—the Spirit of God at that time was new to me. I could not really understand what’s happening. But I could feel this presence around me—just wonderful, warm, and strong presence of God.
“And I decided in my heart that this is the God I am going to serve and love all the days of my life,” said Kalbi.
Upon accepting Jesus, she was so excited that she jumped out of bed and hugged the first gentleman she saw. Later on, she gathered that he was a Salvation Army volunteer who was praying and making his rounds in the hospital.
At 21 years old, Kalbi started to go to a Baptist church in town. But aware of the temptations in UK especially being away from home, she decided to get baptized.
“I thought to myself, ‘There were so many temptations in the UK and also because of my strong faith and belief in the religion and loyalty to my parents, if I get baptized in water, it would mean that I would never turn back.
“And the Bible verse I chose was Proverbs 3:5-6. So, I was very determined to hold on to Christianity,” said Kalbi, who decided to keep her faith from her mother.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5-6)
“My mum was a very strong religious lady because of mum’s loyalty to her husband but not that she needed any persuasion. When she met my dad, she embraced the religion,” said Kalbi.
Finally, after four years of accepting Christ, she told her mother and family who surprisingly did not reprimand her of her faith. Kalbi found out that her mother had suspected that Kalbi would succumb and embrace Christianity in UK due to her sister’s influence.
She relentlessly prayed for her mother who finally came to know Christ after ten years through her sister’s sharing of the gospel and another brother who encountered Jesus Christ. Her mother became a prayerful lady, frequently encouraging Kalbi to trust in God during her anxiety.
“My mum attended the church in KL, which is so wonderful especially when it comes to my mum to not be afraid of what the community thought of her, that’s just so amazing for her to do. She was not hiding her faith,” said Kalbi.
When her mother passed away eight years ago, she wanted to have her funeral done as a Christian service, which brought a lot of encouragement to Kalbi.
However, although Kalbi found comfort in knowing that her mother accepted Christ, she struggled in her faith thinking about her father. Her father died before she went to UK for her nurse training—that was before she knew Christ.
“You can imagine the struggle that went through my mind about heaven and hell. Where’s my dad? So, I was already going through that bereavement process when I came to the UK, I was missing him so much.
“I nursed patients. My patients passed away. I got very upset. I would start crying because I was thinking of my dad,” said Kalbi.
Later on, her sister told Kalbi that their father actually knew that Jesus Christ is mentioned in the Holy Book of the Sikh.
“My father knew. He comforted himself—this daughter in a way was betraying him—he found consolation in the fact that the god she believes in is mentioned in the holy book.
“It took quite awhile for me to not be tormented as to where my dad is, now that I know the truth of Heaven and Hell, and God can give me that peace,” said Kalbi taking comfort that there is still hope.
Looking back at her life, she believes the hand of God have been upon her family even before they knew him.
“I feel that God works in a systematic way… It all happened for a reason. If I had stayed in Malaysia, I would have never become a Christian. So, it’s all the sequence of events that happened one after another leading me to Him,” said Kalbi.
Staying miles away from her family and yet still feeling attached to them even today; Kalbi found comfort, solace, and even confidence that God listens to and answers her prayers and cared for her family. Today, most of Kalbi’s family members have come to know Christ in Malaysia! Praise God!
Hence, let us be steadfast in practicing our faith and continue honoring our parents, even in the face of hostility. In God’s Time and Way, they will surely know Jesus Christ one day. Keep praying and don’t give up; our God is a prayer-answering God!
Get the full version of Kalbi Massey’s story here.
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