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From Rags to Riches
by Pauline Lee
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By: Pauline Lee
(I can be reached at fsteps@tm.net.my. Unfortunately I do not subscribe to Faithwriter's Private Messaging service)

When I met Eleanor for the first time, she was dressed in a simple striped cotton shirt, faded blue jeans, hair pulled back from her no-makeup face into a ponytail, and not a single accessory that adorns her tall, slim figure. Still looking attractive despite the simplicity of her style, Eleanor was definitely an elegant young twenty-five year old whom no one imagined her journey from rags to riches to eventually discovering that her riches was just evil's way of deluding her.

She related about her first year in college - big city lights, thousands of miles away from home, a breed of friends who kept a tab on her, and all the influence of cosmopolitan life that embodied her. A self-confessed once shopaholic, Eleanor was simply not interested in making do on the reasonably generous allowance of US$500 a week her parents provided then. She was on the game to live out her college years in style, all tracing back to the circle of influence that surrounded her with designer labels, flashy cars, luxurious apartments, and expensive hobbies. There came a time when her allowance was zapped to overdrafts and she had no choice but to find a job to pay her debts. But the long hours away from school punished her with bad grades. The constant pressure to splurge and be accepted soon routed her to a demeaning job that would pay the bills, yet not took a toil on her grades - prostitution.

Eleanor paused as she looked down, one hand to her forehead, the other nervously gripped the back of her hair. There was a moment of silence as tears began to well up in her eyes. I handed her a Kleenex, her attention shifted back as she tried to regain composure in the somewhat quiet surrounding of the café.

"What happened thereafter?" I asked gently hoping not to force an impression of miscoping with her circumstances.

Eleanor strived to continue but words were not confidently flowing out but she struggled on. At that time, she did not know what in her nerve turned her to such a profession that others would have considered notorious. For her, it was more about greed than desperation. She was just a materialistic, attractive girl who liked to shop. And she met her equals in the circle of student whores that roamed hotels and public places, charging a few hundred dollars for a one hour session with a client.

"The first time, I felt like thrash and I was absolutely frightened. But after a while, things became a 'used to' phenomena and I started to get a hang of it, doing it merely for the big bucks," she explained.

Eleanor said that she could easily earn upto US$5,000 a week when she had built up a regular clientele, yet was able to spend adequate time studying for exams and never skipped classes. She upgraded her life to that of her friends in high places. She would never be seen walking out of her downtown apartment in shabby clothes and non-matching accessories. Everything she owned ranging from Prada, Gucci, Chanel, to DKNY and Calvin Klein. All ranging in the thousands of dollars a piece. But that kept her happy, gained her new friends, and a newfound confidence in looking good.

It was only at the time that someone introduced her to drugs, a word that was never called for in her home, a word that woke her up from her slumber and fantasy, a word that pushed her back to reality. Suddenly she avoided her friends. She was more afraid of pot than the people. Instantly she found herself wrapped up in fear, loneliness and depression. Eleanor confessed her apologetic and sudden shame of identity. She gradually left the streets, and tried to control her expenditure but it was very, very hard, she confessed.

"It takes one to be there to understand," she moaned. "Once you're used to spending thousands of dollars a week, it becomes a drug and haunts you every moment. I was stupid enough to let that affect me so much that I almost turned mad!" she exclaimed.

It was not until one day during a summer semester that she intended to take classes instead of going home or idling her time that she noticed an announcement on the student board by a group of Christian crusaders and campus outreach ministry. It sounded like a groovy gathering of people and she was just intrigued because she had no other place to go. She thought that would help her meet new friends.

But little did she realise of God's divine intervention into her life. It was at that meeting that she met Jesus, received Him into her life and began to take the first step to greater faith. The friends that she met at the gathering not only extended a genuine care for her problems but they were always there when she needed them. The first one year was a challenging time for Eleanor as she had to switch off her shopaholic behaviour and began focusing on other activities that would refrain her from going back to square one. Nevertheless she did receive that frequent urge to buy but she knocked off every shopping trip and replaced it with prayer, personal devotions, reading, working out in the gym, visitations, and voluntarily helping out in the church community. Before long, she realised she had no time for shopping or dressing up. Her grades improved tremendously, her health leaped to greater heights, and she had the best and most memorable years in college. No more double life, no more hiding in the closet to keep her prostituting behaviour a secret, no more lies and deception. Those who knew her past ridiculed her. But the Christian friends encouraged and counselled her. She found life difficult without God and impossible without God.

Eleanor felt that she owed it all to God. If not for the announcement, if not for the Christian friends, if not for her courage to take the first step of faith, her life would have been destroyed forever and her soul would never have returned home.

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