‘In His Hands’: Juliette’s Story
Juliette Djebaoui has always believed in God, but at just eight years old, she suffered the trauma of being separated from her siblings.
She was taken from her home in Haiti to France and adopted by a French family. Djebaoui’s world crumbled again when she was removed from this home, too, due to a complicated relationship. She was placed in a government-run home for youth in foster care. There, she endured years of assault and abuse. As a teen, she felt utterly helpless and powerless over her own life. She was angry.
“I started to not believe in God,” Djebaoui said.
Her years of suffering convinced her that she was alone.
“Nobody comes to rescue you,” she remembers thinking. “So, I just rejected God.”
At 18, Djebaoui was finally free to leave the government-run home. She found a job, rented an apartment, and began studying international business. She converted to another religion, trying to make sense of how she could engage with a higher power that didn’t seem to care about her.
But she found the faith complicated and confusing. She didn’t understand the required prayers and wished she could speak with God directly, without an intermediary. He felt so far away, but she longed to believe in him, to be saved.
Then, during COVID-19 lockdowns, Djebaoui became friends with a boy her age through a group on WhatsApp. They began to talk regularly on the phone. The boy and his mother attended a Church of the Nazarene near Paris, and his mother was part of a prayer call that met over the phone six nights a week.
Every evening, Djebaoui would hear her friend’s mom in the background of their call, talking to Jesus, asking for help, for strength. Djebaoui was captivated. This woman’s prayers to Jesus differed entirely from any prayer she had known.
“I found it so beautiful,” Djebaoui said. “Who is this God that I can talk to him? That’s the kind of relationship I want to have with God.”
She asked her friend, and he invited her to join a weekly online youth group meeting.
Pastor Bobby Valentin remembers that first encounter with Djebaoui well. Each week, Valentin, who then worked with Nazarene Youth International on the Paris District, hosted a Zoom call to keep youth connected and engaged in learning more about Jesus.
Djebaoui was overtly curious, and it stood out.
“From the first meetings, she was already asking questions,” Valentin said.
Most students were quiet when they first joined the weekly calls. Djebaoui was bold, determined to learn more about this God who received such adoring prayers.
After the official Zoom call, Valentin would stay, playing games like online Uno and connecting with students. Djebaoui had more questions and asked Valentin about the requirements to convert to Christianity.
Valentin remembers telling her, “If you believe in God, if you believe with all of your heart, if you believe that Jesus is your lord, you already have all the requirements.”
Djebaoui asked if she needed to do this in a physical church building. Valentin said accepting Jesus could happen anywhere, and Djebaoui wasted no time.
“Ok, let’s do it now,” she said. She was astonished that she could become a follower of Jesus right where she was, with a simple prayer from her heart. Earlier, she had felt empty because she did not have this relationship, but when Djebaoui accepted Jesus, she said, “I just felt full.”
Djebaoui knew she no longer needed to carry her heavy burdens alone. She willingly handed them over to this caring, loving Jesus.
“All of my problems are no longer mine,” she said. “All of this was in his hands.”
Since that decision, Djebaoui has walked through hard seasons once again. She has struggled with falling into old patterns, but she continues to find Jesus calling her into a deeper relationship. This summer, she chose to be baptized.
The baptism class reminded her through Scripture that no human is perfect and God is a God of restoration.
“God wants you to be new,” she said. “To learn from your mistakes. To listen to him…I’m learning every day.”
Valentin recalls feeling overwhelmed when Djebaoui first shared her story, unsure how he could help.
“I felt so limited,” Valentin said. “But God is doing all of the work.”
Djebaoui now shares about the darkness she experienced as a teenager before she knew Jesus, including one very dark day. She says she was suicidal, unable to picture living her life another moment. She chose to self-harm to alleviate her agony, but eventually, sleep overcame her exhausted body.
She awoke the following day in the same place, but something was very different. She could see her future.
“I saw I was about to do many things,” Djebaoui recalls. “It’s like I was seeing the rainbow before the storm was over.”
Djebaoui was confident and hopeful about her future, and now she shares openly about that dark day, proclaiming Jesus’ protection and seeing that he was calling her to himself.
“Jesus came to save the sick, sinners,” she says. “When people are going through bad things, God invites you to believe in him. I deeply believe that’s the call of Jesus. He invites you to search.”