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Why Kellen is a Muslim

Kellen Swanson, left, and her partner, John Light, both converts to Islam, pray. (MARC LESTER — Anchorage Daily News)

Kellen Swanson, left, and her partner, John Light, both converts to Islam, pray. (MARC LESTER — Anchorage Daily News)

August 22, 2013

Kellen recently converted to Islam and now prays toward Mecca five times a day.

 

While the rest of the family attends a Methodist church downtown, Carol accepted Kellen’s conversion without judgment or surprise. She suspects Kellen enjoys the rigid routine of daily prayers.

 

The conversion wasn’t as sudden as it might have seemed, Kellen said. She remembers watching a National Geographic documentary on three strangers traveling to Mecca for the religious pilgrimage known as the Hajj. Something about it tugged at her. For some reason, she cried, she says.

A notepad in Kellen Swanson’s bedroom lists some of her goals. (MARC LESTER — Anchorage Daily News)

A notepad in Kellen Swanson’s bedroom lists some of her goals. (MARC LESTER — Anchorage Daily News)

When Kellen and her boyfriend began arguing too much, she found little relief at church but remembered how the documentary had made her feel years earlier.

 

“You plant the seed,” she says as an explanation for the change of faith, “and it might grow.”

 

Kellen is among the most outspoken of the Hatch children, confident and clear-eyed about her disability. She “loathes” alcohol, she says, but that wasn’t always the case.

Kellen and her 7-year-old daughter, Deyna Pardue, have dinner. (MARC LESTER — Anchorage Daily News)

Kellen and her 7-year-old daughter, Deyna Pardue, have dinner. (MARC LESTER — Anchorage Daily News)

When she learned she was pregnant with her own child, she was holding a pregnancy test in one hand and a shot of liquor in the other. She handed the booze to Deyna’s father and was done with drinking.

 

“I was denied a chance to grow up with my biological mom because she couldn’t take care of herself, much less me,” she says.

 

Carol used to see Kellen’s biological mother on the street in Anchorage. At age 38, she died of pneumonia. Carol arranged for her funeral. She was a volunteer at Bean’s Cafe and the Brother Francis Shelter, according to her obituary.

 

“Kellen’s mom — I’m sure she was FAS,” Carol says.

 

Today Kellen coordinates her prayer time with caring for Deyna after school. The only one of Carol’s adopted children with a job, Kellen wears her hijab while cleaning the Methodist church she attended as a child.

 

Next: Will takes charge of dinner

 

Originally published May 3, 2014 by Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage Daily News

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