It was while at school in Kenya that I first heard the Christian message and was blown away by it. I was 11 years old.
I was a Hindu but became hugely passionate about the Christian gospel. I was moved by the cross; that the creator would die for the created.
But when I moved on to secondary school other things began to preoccupy me, such as money and business. I studied accounts and commerce at O-level and was excited by tales of how much money my grandfather had made.
As a result I left Christianity behind. We moved back to the UK, where I went to a Catholic boarding school. I had to go to mass but I was more interested in friendships and earning money on the side.
After graduating from university I couldn’t get a job and ended up being a tea boy in a furniture store. I learnt the importance of coffee for getting sales and my manager quickly noticed I was passing customers on to the salespeople. They offered me a sales job, and in a few weeks I was one of the top salespeople in the company.
I made a lot of money in commissions, and used this to invest in property. I bought my first house and sold it a few years later for double the amount.
SUCCESS AND MORE SUCCESS
I’d begun teaching drama and wrote a play with my future wife, which won a Fringe First award in Edinburgh. That opened more doors, including being commissioned to write a TV series that won a Bafta and was nominated for an international Emmy.
But there was one thing missing – money. So I decided to go into business, and this time I really went for it. I started buying flats and renting them out. Then I got involved in the bulk buying and selling of off-plan property. It gave me a real buzz. Soon I was doing multi-million pound deals. It was always a big adrenalin rush and a gamble, but I believed I could do it. I worked day and night, selling the dream that people could be like me if they parted with their cash. There wasn’t one deal that I would turn away. I didn’t just want to be rich, I wanted to be filthy rich.
Over time, money became my god. It was like a drug. At its height the company had an annual turnover of £70m. I thought I was invincible. Money had gone to my head because it had come so quickly. I was eating out at expensive restaurants, throwing big social events and spending thousands on entertaining clients. I became a bad husband and was unfaithful to my wife.
I wasn’t happy. I always thought the next year would bring happiness; that somewhere, I would find contentment.
CRUNCH AND COLLAPSE
Then the credit crunch hit. My entire world collapsed overnight. It was like the mortgage market had been turned off, so how could I complete on these transactions? The developers began to strip us of our cash and things became extremely nasty.
At the same time my 2-year-old son became seriously ill. He was rushed to hospital, and within minutes of arriving, the hospital room was teeming with doctors and nurses; it was mayhem. My wife and I were ushered out, unsure of what was going on.
I DIDN’T JUST WANT TO BE RICH, I WANTED TO BE FILTHY RICH
Then, my wife and I prayed. We had never talked about God and the last time I had prayed was at school in Kenya. But as we did so, the sense of God’s presence I had experienced as a child began to return.
Over the next four days, I wept uncontrollably and would have given away everything just to see my son survive. What did accumulating all this wealth matter now that my son’s life was hanging by a thread?
A MIRACLE CHANGES EVERYTHING
A Christian couple we had recently befriended found out that my son was unwell. They kept calling, saying they were praying for us. I couldn’t fathom why they would do this. It blew me away. On the fourth day the consultant said: ‘Your son is not going to open his eyes.’ Then, when she was doing the ward rounds, he suddenly sat bolt upright in bed. It was a miracle.
As a result my wife and I decided to go to church, and as soon as I walked in I felt the presence of God again. I was hooked. I went back again over the next few weeks and finally gave my life to Christ. I had a massive conversion experience. I walked into church as one man, and walked out as another.
What struck me and caused me to weep for months was sensing God say: ‘I rescued your son but I did not rescue my own son. He went to the cross so you might have life.’ I was utterly broken by this and set on fire for God. My wife was amazed by the change in me.
My passion for money disappeared overnight. I prayed one afternoon, sensing God was calling me to work with South Asians. On the same day I was invited to join the South Asian Forum, a wing of the Evangelical Alliance that unites churches for mission to South Asians.
Now my passion is for how we share the Christian faith. I also run a small Christian publishing house, which releases books quickly, looking for ways to bring crossover into the secular, so that some of the books will be read by non-Christians. That is what really excites me.
Today I’m not perfect, of course. I’m still quite a mess, but I’m far less of a mess than I was.
Manoj Raithatha heads up the South Asian Forum at the Evangelical Alliance and runs Instant Apostle publishing house. His autobiography Filthy Rich (Monarch Books) is out now.