Eli Baker still standing by the grace of God
Eli Baker wanted to be a renowned secular artiste. He was young, passionate and talented and, to his friends, he would become the next Buju Banton.
So motivated and determined as a teenager, Baker began hanging out at a recording studio, waiting on his chance to 'buss'.
It so happened that the studio was situated beside a church and, on the weekends, both would be in session at the same time, with the music almost competing with each other. This displeased Baker.
"Even though I was doing secular music, I still acknowledged there is a God. I was worried to know I was disturbing the church to the point where I felt it in my heart. On this particular occasion, I walked up to the selector, whose name was Bigga Hue, and asked him if he could turn off the music until church was over, which he did, and I used the opportunity to place myself inside the church until it was dismissed," he said.
Baker told Family and Religion that this began a series of occasional church visits.
At the age of 20, the aspiring artiste recorded his first song. Following this recording, his life would change forever, just not how he had imagined.
"The night after my first recording, I went home and was looking forward to returning to the studio the next day to mix and master the song. It so happened that I was unable to make it as I was in pain the entire night and, instead of spending that day at the studio, I was taken to the doctor, who gave me a letter of emergency to take to the hospital.
"While talking to the doctor there, it sounded as if his voice was coming from afar though he was sitting next to me. Suddenly, my surroundings became dark and I didn't know myself from that point. When I later recovered, I was surrounded by a large gathering. I could see my mother crying and it was then I realised that you could be in the world for so long and in a second, you are gone," he said.
And like many others in trouble or fear, Baker began praying, promising God that if He saved his life then he would serve Him.
Though his situation had worsened, his surgery was successful and he was released in good time.
Baker didn't honour his promise immediately until one night, three years later, when he took up his Bible to read.
"A particular scripture grabbed my attention: 'Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'. I remembered the vow I had made to serve God and I closed the Bible, but when I reopened it, another scripture jumped out at me that said, 'What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul, or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?', It was then that I was convicted in my heart that I would serve God.
"One of my friends who I went to school with came to support me (at my baptism) and when he realised that I was serious, knowing the life I used to live, he said, 'If God can save you, then God can save me too'. And to my surprise, he was also baptised," he shared.
But that was just one reaction to his change. Baker told Family and Religion that his other friends expressed their displeasure as they believed he was "on the brink of realising his dream, which was to be a big name in music", and gave him six weeks to return to his old lifestyle.
Today, over two decades later, Baker says he is still standing by the grace of God. His love for music continues as he recently released a gospel album, which, he says, features his testimony in song.