The memories of my childhood years are mostly filled with fighting, screaming, ranting, disappointment and sometimes violence. Of course there were good times as well, but our family functioned in a dysfunctional way for a great part.
One of my very first memories was around 2 or 3 years of age. I don't remember much. I was sitting on my mother's lap, holding onto her. She was crying and very nervous, my father's handprint still visible on her neck. I was clinging to my mom, too afraid to let her go of her.
I was 12 or 13 years old. I was sitting again on my mother's lap. This time only trying to protect my mother from my father, crying, begging him to stop. He had a martial arts sword stuck against my mother's neck. I saw the anger in his eyes and the concentration it took of him to stay in control. Those few moments got imprinted in memory. Eventually he let the sword down, but the tension, fear and anxiety stayed with me.
My father had a problem with alcohol. Using it was his outlet when life got too tough at times, a way for him to avoid the world with all of its challenges. Unfortunately it led to aggressive behavior. One evening I woke up due to a loud noise. My father had fallen in the bathroom against one of the corners of the wall. His head was bleeding and my mom was trying to help him. He had to go to the emergency room that night for stitches. I remember the blood and the strong smell of alcohol and vomit. I wanted to get sick myself. Seeing my father in such a broken state left me angry and deeply distressed at the time.
With all the drama going on in the house, my mother attempted suicide a few times. My sister and I were always aware where she was or what she was doing just in case she would try it again. Late one evening my father couldn't wake my mother. She overdosed on sleeping pills. She was immediately taken to the hospital. It left me with emptiness. I didn't feel safe or protected. Children are not supposed to take control, to make adult decisions or to act as adults. My sister and I were forced to be responsible beyond our years and marked by desperate attempts to help our parents navigate their problems. My childhood was short-lived.
I clearly remember one particular incident in my 12th grade. It was a Sunday evening during my final exams. I studied the whole weekend for my math exam that was to be taken on the Monday morning. I was already asleep when my mother woke me up. My father got himself into trouble and was taken to jail. I was in shock. I knew I needed to focus on my exam and couldn't allow myself to think about what had happened. With the help of God I was able to stay calm.
Life was eventful: always waiting for the next thing to happen. The only variable was the intensity of each event. It was a vicious cycle my parents couldn't get out of.
My sister and I looked for answers and help. Some of our neighbors knew about our circumstances and we even asked a pastor for help, but nobody could really help. At times it felt as if all hope was lost.
Looking back, I know God was there from the beginning. He provided even before I knew Him. He provided comfort along the way in the form of teachers, church members and friends even though most never knew what was happening at home. I never told anyone in detail about our problems, except for our pastor. Not even my closest friends knew. I guess my silence was a coping mechanism of sorts. For this reason I would never invite friends over either. I couldn't deal with the shame or the possible rejection if they would find out.
During my Elementary school years I was always able to attend the praise, worship and prayer sessions 30 minutes before school started. It was a blessing. The teacher who organized it had a very joyful spirit and I was drawn by it.
We grew up in a religious community. So my parents would drop us off at church for Sunday school, but they themselves wouldn't attend the services - at least not in the beginning. On the Sundays they didn't feel like taking us, we would walk to church or ask friends to take us. It was important for me to go to church; I wanted to be in church and around Christians. In Romans 3:10–12 it says: "As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” The fact that I was seeking God as young as I was then was absolutely the grace of God. I have nothing to boast in myself. He provided everything I needed, even the desire to seek Him.
But it was not until I met my 5th grade teacher when I really started to think about God and what Jesus did for me on the cross. My teacher used every opportunity to tell us about Jesus. She told us about what God was doing in her life. She was like a fountain bursting with joy. I started to desire the same relationship with Jesus.
It was through my teacher's faithful testimony that I realized what it meant that God loved me so dearly that He offered me the free gift of eternal life. And so it was in my 5th grade that I came to accept Jesus as my Savior and Lord. Soon after I came to saving faith in Jesus, I started to experience the same joy from God that overflows like a fountain! God gave me peace beyond understanding! Philippians 4:7 says, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I was finally able to see my circumstances for what it was. I gave it to God, for He was the only one who could heal.
One evening there was yet another fight again. I recall it was more than I could handle at that time. I remember begging God to change the circumstances at home. I cried and pleaded with Him to stop the fighting and screaming. It didn't.... God did not change my circumstances. In fact, it just continued. It was only later that I realized God had changed me instead.
He kept me safe through all those years. I started to see that I was blessed despite our ongoing domestic issues. I had a home, a warm bed, food to eat and parents who still loved me despite their own brokenness.
As a young Christian I was not always sure about what was wrong or right and who to trust or not. Actually, I was very naive. In my 7th grade, my sister who is 3 years older than I, started to date a guy. I was about 13 or 14 years old at the time. He was around 20 years of age and already working. Unaware of his involvement in occult practices, he became part of our family circle. It was great having him around, especially when the fighting started at home - his presence acted as a buffer of sorts. However, he also exposed us to things that were not from God. We watched many horror movies together with him. Much later on he also introduced us to an occult game which I won't describe in detail, but it goes along the lines of asking spirits questions and getting a 'yes/no' response. I knew the first time we played it that something was wrong about it. I became very uncomfortable. He started to talk about his spirit leaving his body and doing astral traveling. At this point everything in me said "No, stay away" and I believe the Holy Spirit gave me guidance. (Yes, the spiritual world is as real as the sun rises each morning. Many people - even some of them Christians - are just not aware of it.). Fortunately, my parents became aware of what was going on and forbade him to see my sister further or to visit our house again.
Shortly after their relationship was broken up, strange things started happening around the house. One Saturday morning my parents woke up noticing a large number of maggots piling out of the carpet in their bedroom - literally out of nowhere and with no apparent food source. They even came out of their bedroom closet! The more my father would try to clear them out, the more they would appear. The following day they were thankfully gone. To this day we have no explanation for a series of similar strange things that happened in and around the house.
I also started having really bad dreams. I couldn't sleep at night anymore. Each night was filled with fear. I tried praying, but the fear just wouldn't pass. I dreamed of a black hooded evil man chasing and trying to kill me. I would wake up just before he could. Although I was still a child of God, I gave Satan the authority to place fear in my life. Fear is never from God. When I played the "game", I actually depended on evil spirits for wisdom and knowledge.
One night around Christmas time, I woke up from the same horrible dream again. I was terrified. The fear made me want to crawl out of my own skin. I started seeing strange creatures coming towards me. I was awake with my eyes open, but unable to distinguish whether it was real or not. All I knew was that I was surrounded by fear. I ran to my sister's bedroom thinking that I would feel safer there, but the fear remained. We woke my mother and the three of us prayed together on my mom's bed. I didn't sleep at all that night. My father was in hospital for surgery during that time.
The next morning my mother phoned a friend for help. My mother knew something was very wrong. It was definitely not the usual scared child scenario. A lady from the local Police department who works with Satanism and the occult came to our house. She was a child of God. She prayed over our house for protection, for us as a family and she started praying over me as well. As she did I started to tremble and cry. I repented and asked God to forgive me of my sins. I asked Him to break the bond of fear I allowed Satan to have over me when I chose to follow and listen to evil spirits and someone who himself was lost instead of following the Holy Spirit. God was faithful. God forgave me and the bondage of fear was broken there and then. He set me free. The fear was gone and I was safe in God's arms again.
There is a good reason why God forbid us to have contact with the dead or talking to spirits. He knows we put ourselves in danger as it opens a door for Satan in one's life.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
This horrible experience had brought me back to God and at the age of 15 years old I truly understood the meaning being saved by Jesus.
I urge you to keep praying over your children. Keep them away from celebrations and activities that are not from God. Explain to them at the right time why God wants us to stay away from such activities. God forbid mediums, fortunetelling and anything alike. The spiritual world is a reality and the battle is real. Just because we don't see it in our busy lives, doesn't mean that it is any less real.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
God healed me and I was able to help and pray for others in their need and to share my joy. I was once invited to share my testimony at a Bible study for young working believers. Two students at my high school approached me afterwards and asked for help. They were also involved in weird spiritual games. One testified that he was attacked by demons. His face and arms were scratched and he had to cover it with bandages. I wasn't mature enough to handle this, but I knew who to ask for help: my dearest teacher. She was a God-sent, a wonderful child of God. I am so thankful to God for providing the right people at the right time. This teacher was a bright light in all of us students' lives. With her assistance and with pastoral help, the students were able to be freed from the spiritual bondages they suffered from.
After graduating from school, I studied a long way away from home for 4 years. It was during that time that I came to the point of making a decision to forgive my parents, to let go of the hurt. The healing started and I was able to deal with the past. Setting my parents free was like setting myself free. After I finished my studies I had to do internship for a year. I got married in that same year. I wasn't much aware of the situation at home anymore, but I did start to notice some changes in both my parents as time moved on. At some point they became children of God. When exactly that happened, I don't know. But that didn't mean that everything had changed for the better all of a sudden. My father continued to struggle with his problem, but I knew then that he really wanted to become free from his addiction.
Four or five months after our first son's birth, my father phoned me one day and told me that he finally had the answer to his problem. He admitted he tried so many times to stop drinking out of his own strength, but that he never could. He would always fail. He tried to stop for the wrong reason, namely to make his family happy. It was a good reason, but not enough to break the addiction. He started to realize that only Jesus Christ could truly help him break free from the bonds he was in. My father asked God for His forgiveness and I truly believe today that God had set him free and broke his addiction at that point. A mere two weeks later, my father passed away at age 51 of a massive heart attack.
Today I wish to think of him as being one of the kindest, selfless people I ever had known. In fact, his family would always talk about his generosity and willingness to help others (despite the contradicting personality he assumed when under the influence). People knew him as someone that would give his last pair of shoes to anyone who had none. My dad was a wonderful person at heart. He was just broken like many of us. His brokenness was just more visible. But God gave him the victory over his addiction at a time when he was ready to let go of it and trust God for complete deliverance. My father's beginning may have not been great, but his ending was a big triumph. God was with us all along and by His grace my prayers for my dad were finally answered. What a wonderful God we serve!
We are all sinners and far from God. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves from sin that leads to death. Only by the Grace of God can we have a life in abundance. I know I will meet my father again in the presence of the Lord one day. I believe we will praise God together for His greatness!
I have a great relationship with my mother. Despite living in separate continents and in different hemispheres nowadays, we talk to each other over the phone on average one to three times a week. I love both of my parents.
My story has not ended yet. I am still running this race. May I continue to persevere by the Grace of God.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Romans 8:28 "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."