“Every time I tell my testimony I feel grateful to be alive,” says Taariq Patel.
Taariq was born to a Muslim father and a non-practicing Adventist mother. For many years Taariq and his brothers studied the Quran and went to mosques. However, after his mother was reintroduced to Adventism, Taariq began to see a different picture of God.
“My mother started to introduce God to [my siblings and me], but for the most part, we were still Muslim,” Taariq said.
Taariq’s Muslim father was unhappy that Taariq’s mother was teaching their children Christian beliefs. After speaking with some friends at the local mosque, Taariq’s father decided he wanted to move the family to Saudi Arabia. Taariq’s mother agreed after praying over the matter.
Before the family left, they attended a going away party at the local Adventist church. There, the congregation gave the family a gift.
“The church presented us with this big Bible,” Taariq recalled. “And on the Bible’s cover was Jesus.”
Taariq’s mother packed the gifted Bible and many Christian books in the family’s bags. As she prepared for the move, she felt impressed to wear a hijab, something she had never done before.
When the plane landed in Saudi Arabia, Taariq, his siblings and parents waited for their suitcases in the blazing sun. When their first bag came off the plane, an armed guard opened it. Inside he discovered the gifted Bible. At that time, bringing Christian literature into Saudi Arabia was an offense punishable by death.
However, when the guard looked at the family, he was confused. The family resembled a typical Muslim family. After a few minutes the guard laughed and released the luggage to the family.
“It began to make sense why my mom felt impressed to put on the hijab. The guard thought that we were a complete Muslim family,” Taariq explained.
The family soon settled into their new routine. When Taariq’s father would go to work, Taariq’s mother brought out the Bible and Christian books. Daily Taariq or one of his siblings would watch from the window to signal when Taariq’s father was returning. One day, however, they did not see him.
“My father came in and he tried to beat my mom up [because of the Christian literature],” Taariq recalled. “My siblings and I were screaming, holding his arms and legs — we were trying to tell him not to hurt our mom.”
Taariq’s father then formed a plan to separate his sons from their mother and her Christian beliefs.
“We went to the market, got some suitcases and we were going to India,” Taariq said. “The plan was for us to go to Islamic boarding school so that we can learn Islam there, and my mom had no clue where we were the whole time.”
While in India, 9-year-old Taariq and his brothers experienced many hardships including lack of hygiene, molestation and malnourishment. Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia Taariq’s mother was facing her own hardships.
“My mom was being tested in Saudi Arabia,” Taariq explained. “The equivalent to pastors in Islam were knocking on my mother’s door and telling her, ‘Convert to Islam and then you get to have your sons back.’”
Taariq’s mother refused to change her religion and instead prayed for the soon and safe return of her sons.
“My mom was praying for an army to deliver us from India,” Taariq explained.
A few months after they arrived in India, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. This caused instability in Saudi Arabia which resulted in Taariq’s father removing Taariq and his brothers from India.
Shortly after Taariq and his brothers returned to Saudi Arabia, Taariq’s parents divorced. Taariq’s father stayed in Saudi Arabia and Taariq’s mother and the children all moved back to the United States.
Initially Taariq was “on fire” for God. Over time, however, he was less engaged and became involved in drugs. This continued through high school and into his career in the military, which he joined shortly after high school. In the military Taariq began taking harder drugs and became an alcoholic.
“When I was in the military, my behavior was good,” Patel added. “But my life was just spiraling out of control. I was able to process out of the military early.”
Taariq continued his usage of drugs and alcohol after the military. His twin, Adam, who also struggled with drugs and alcohol, moved in with Taariq. The two termed Taariq’s apartment “The Dungeon” because of its dark atmosphere.
Adam had two daughters at the time, and they would come over to the apartment. “It was a bad environment for those kids,” Taariq admitted.
But Taariq’s mother insisted Taariq drive his nieces to her house every Friday night so she could take them to church on Sabbath. Incidently, every Friday night a group met for Bible studies at Taariq’s mother’s house. Taariq thought the attendees were crazy but began listening to the devotionals and testimonies. So did Adam.
One Friday night, after the Bible study, Adam decided to stop using drugs cold turkey. Taariq woke up night after night hearing Adam in the living room praying to God through his withdrawals and quoting Scripture. Taariq questioned where Adam was getting that kind of strength.
While Adam was going through withdrawals, Taariq faced other struggles. He had not been to work in months,but was receiving workers compensation. However, his workers compensation had recently ended and Taariq was behind on his rent. He also feared he would soon be fired from his job.
Taariq decided to make a deal with God: If God could help him keep his job and pay for his apartment, he would make some life changes.
“I just said, ‘Lord, help me,’” Taariq recounted with deep emotion. “I promised God that I’d go to rehab. I promised that I would read my Bible and pray to Him every single day.”
When Taariq arrived at work the next day he was not fired. Taariq confided to the HR director about his drug addiction and the director commended his honesty and said the company would pay 80% of the rehab costs.
A couple months later Taariq was in the Adventist hospital in St. Helena receiving rehab. There he honored his deal with God and prayed and read his Bible daily. Taariq became a leader in rehab, encouraging fellow patients with scripture and counseling them with prayer.
After successfully completing rehab, Taariq began studying the Bible with a childhood friend, Igdaly. After months of Bible studies and spending time together, the two were married. Taariq earned his theology degree from Pacific Union College then completed seminary at Andrews University. Today Taariq lives in the Des Moines area with his wife and three children. He pastors the Des Moines Church and the Jordan Crossing Company.
“God changed my life. He saved my life. Praise the Lord!” Taariq exclaimed.