Ashok’s family found strength to deal with the tragic death of their five-year-old child after a dramatic life change
Fear of the unknown after death once overwhelmed Ashok Jalalabadi to the point where he struggled as a child to sleep at night.
His family's belief in reincarnation terrified him as he thought he may come back as a dog or a cockroach because of some of the wrong things he had done.
Years later Ashok clung to his science degree, busying himself with an international contract as a teacher instructing African pupils in physics and maths to keep his mind off these fears.
It was a thrilling jet-set lifestyle, which not only included free return air travel and long paid leave but also nightly parties with other expatriate teachers far away from their spouses and families.
"I thought I had everything, with my wife Mary and our children, and prestige among my Indian family and friends because I worked overseas," Ashok says.
While working for a Zimbabwean school, Ashok and Mary became friends with an American teacher and his wife who said that knowing Jesus personally freed them from the fear of death. This was difficult for Ashok to believe.
"Due to my science education I dismissed physical anomalies like angels, a virgin giving birth and a dead body coming to life again, as the Bible describes," he explains.
After years of friendship with this couple, Ashok believed that Mary had weakly "succumbed" when she became a Christian believer, trusting in Jesus' salvation.
Even as he began taunting her about her new faith in Jesus, he noticed she was dramatically different.
"I could not escape the conclusion that she was a changed person. Something had happened to her that gave her a real peace and strength."
A piercing question from a former scientist impacted Ashok even more.
"The pastor of Mary's church had been at the top of his scientific progression when he trained to become a pastor to earn one tenth of his previous salary. To me, that was mad!
"One day he asked me, 'Ashok, after reading about swimming or watching others swim, would you know how to swim before you entered the water?'
"The obvious answer was no. He pointed out that becoming a Christian is like learning to swim: you only get a lot of the answers once you surrender your life to Jesus."
After transferring work from Zambia to Zimbabwe, Ashok decided to take the plunge. "In January 1981 I humbly knelt and prayed, 'Lord Jesus, I do not know You yet, but I know enough about You to invite you into my life to make me the kind of person You want me to be.'"
Ashok enthusiastically declares this was a "life-changing experience" that he now wants to share with everyone. "Jesus is alive and He changes people today," Ashok states.
"The terror I had of death receded, and life became full and abundant as the Lord Jesus promises in the Bible.
"I realised that for those who trust in Jesus 'to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord', according to 2 Corinthians 5, verse 8. Death is not fatal but simply a doorway into the presence of my Lord."
Ashok then experienced a shift in focus from temporary monetary gain to wanting to tell people about Jesus and release them from fears of death.
"Instead of lecturing in maths and physics, I did Biblical studies and have been leading churches and lecturing at Bible colleges in many countries."
God also changed him inwardly too, as he says, "Through the Holy Spirit I am being cleaned from the inside out – not completely sinless, but I definitely sin less!"
Shortly after trusting in Jesus tragedy struck and Ashok and Mary lost their eldest child.
"The tragedy devastated us and I certainly questioned God's goodness, but through it, Jesus strengthened us miraculously. The comfort we received from God far exceeded any earthly comfort from family and friends – He is the 'God of all comfort', says 2 Corinthians chapter 1."
Comfort came from knowing that they will see their child again in heaven one day and they are able to use their experience to encourage many other couples who have lost a child.
"Jesus takes away the sting of death," Ashok declares, "because He has overcome death and He rose from the dead to demonstrate His victory.
"His sacrifice on a cross paid the penalty for our sins. All each person has to do is believe and receive His offer of salvation."
Ashok and Mary presently lead a small church in Dongara, Western Australia. •