“I was supposed to embrace my father’s religion but I chose to rebel. I wanted to find my own path. My father considered it to be unpardonable disrespect,” Zabuli, one of Uganda’s well known female gospel artists narrates.
Parenting is all about making choices. From choosing to bring a child into this world to choosing their name, clothes, being responsible for their food, school, and almost anything else, there’s a truckload of decisions you’ll have to make for them. All of this, of course, up until they become “grownups.”
Things such as language, family, and country don’t even feature into “choices.” But what about faith and beliefs? Do you also make that choice for your children?
For the third born among five, Islam seemed to be the source of so much pain in her family. Zabuli believes religion made way for domestic violence, “it broke my family apart and we are still picking up the pieces,” she says.
Unlike national labels, faith labels carry an ocean of personal opinion. Zabuli’s father who embraced the Islamic faith wanted her to spend time learning about it, and tried to encourage her (through all possible means) to adopt the practise.
“One time, he got very angry and beat me up during an entire day; it was so bad that even my clothes were torn as a result. I ran away and spent a week outside of home. When my dad seemed to have calmed down, my mom found me and brought me back home,” Zabuli, born Nasejje Jaliah says.
“My father, with our extended family on his side, wanted my siblings and I to be raised in Islam but we didn’t really embrace that faith; my mother introduced us to a Jesus of no dos and don’ts contrary to Islam, so that’s what we gravitated towards. We were outcasts in our extended family. According to our culture and Islam,” she adds.
Living in darkness
My mom was a prayerful woman; her faith had an impact on me.
Since 2007, I was a practicing Christian. I would attend church services regularly and even serve in the dance ministry, however my lifestyle was completely contrary to the Christian faith.
I was involved in drug trafficking in schools, sexual sin at a young age, and law-breaking activities that, at some point, landed me in prison. I was living in darkness and although I was a professing Christian, I had no real relationship with Jesus.
I started being sexually engaged when I was very young. Now I realize that it was really an attempt to feel loved, a way to deal with the lack of love and validation from my father; and to top it off he had just died of HIV/AIDS.
At the climax
The turning point of Zabuli’s life happened when she was 19.
I became pregnant and the father of my child was a Muslim with whom I didn’t envisage any future. The thought of my mom who had buried her husband a few months ago and her warnings and wise counsel weighed on me. I felt guilty and selfish for not honouring her.
Me having a child felt like I was betraying not only her but myself as well. I didn’t want to have to deal with all of that so I decided to terminate the pregnancy. I tried to abort the baby myself but it didn’t work, so I went to a doctor. In that labor ward, as the doctor was conducting the abortion, I started losing my life. I don’t know what was happening but I started to feel life getting out of my body. I din’t know what was happening but I started dying.
In the midst of the chaos, I felt a peaceful presence and I had never felt as secure as I felt at that moment. God was there and He started speaking to me. The voice warned me about the repercussions of the life I was leading. A huge conviction landed on my heart about what I was doing and my life in general.
I asked the Lord to give me one more chance to truly embrace his plan for my life. The baby was gone but I made it out alive and resolved to start a new life. After that encounter the Lord started removing from my life every person that had a bad influence on me.
I gave my life to Jesus completely in 2015 after doing a Mizizi discipleship class in Mavuno church in Kampala.
Leading others in Worship
I joined the Gospel Music industry as a professional artist doing Dancehall/Ragga worship music. I also studied and graduated as a professional teacher in a prestigious university in Uganda (Makerere University).
God turned my life around and gave me a ministry through my passion, which is reaching out the youth through music. I get to travel just to share how Jesus turned my life around. No amount of sex did that, no amount of drinks and bar attendance, and certainly no self-pity and guilt did it; only our merciful God.
He is closer than we think and He gives beauty for ashes, if only we would trust him. My name is Zabuli and I am a living testimony of the goodness of God