On 31st December 2005, I declined a lucrative offer from my friends to ring in the New Year at a pub downtown and instead chose to spend the last moments of the year at Church. All the while, my mind was drifting towards the revelries outside but I decided to focus on God and pray. Raised in an Orthodox Christian family with Christian virtues, I was considered the black sheep of the family for my bratty behavior and outspokenness. My sister was sober, docile, meek, and humble. I remember most of our near and dear ones referring to her as “Job” of the house and me, “Jacob-the cheat.”
On a hot summer morning in 2006, my dad woke up with his face twisted to the right and his right eye was closed. He couldn’t talk, eat or drink and we got all panicky. We called the doctor who diagnosed his condition as Bell Palasy and was advised lots of rest and heavy medication. This definitely took a toll on my mother, who fell very ill and used to sleep all day. Though my sister and I dismissed it off as over exertion, heart of hearts, I knew something was terribly wrong. Sometimes, I would go near her, wake her up and ask her if she was alright, she would then smilingly reply, “I’m as fit as a fiddle”, walk around the garden and go back to sleep like a dead man. She looked pale and sick but we sisters were too busy to notice as we took up jobs to cover the mounting medical expenses and had to take care of our parents as well as the household chores. It was quite taxing and despite medication and attention, my parents’ health was gradually deteriorating.
One fine morning, my sister couldn’t get off the bed or talk. She was running temperature but her body was cold, immediately I took her to hospital and after a series of medical tests doctors declared she had pneumonia, dengue fever, viral fever, jaundice and measles all at the same time. I was the only physically strong person in the house shouldering all the responsibilities with a confused state of mind. I didn’t inform my parents and whenever Dad inquired about my sister I told him, she was doing an extra shift at office and whenever was home from work, he was sleeping.
As for mom, she used to sleep all day and never interacted much. At the hospital where my sister was admitted, the nurse who befriended me suspected that, mom had some serious medical condition and it would be better if I admitted her. Despite mom’s feeble resistance and weak protests, she was admitted and the doctors were amazed that she was still alive. Her blood count was 2.3 and had uterine fibroids. This of course was my breaking moment and I wept by my mother’s bed hoping for help, comfort and someone to give me courage.
Suddenly, I could see a white light coming closer to me and even though my eyes were shut, it seemed real. A little inner voice told me, “You are in God’s presence.” I started praying fervently and never felt such peace. I felt new and lighter as if a heavy load was taken off my shoulders, I was reborn. This was for real and since then I never stopped praying.
Miraculously, my dad got better within a week and was helping me take care of my sister and mother. My sister took six months to recover and never had any relapses. As for mom, it took over a year for her to get completely healed. Though, I faced many trials in 2006, I never regretted any of it as it drew me closer to God. The only regret I had was that, I was too caught up in my own lifestyle that I forgot to give quality time to God and if I would have prayed a little early, maybe my family would be sickness free. After feeling guilty about it, my inner voice spoke up again and said, “God has His own time, chosen one and a different way of bringing back His lost sheep.” After seeing death so close my sister and mother decided to start a prayer group and I joined in too. We used to start our prayer at 12 in the midnight and used to let it go on till we fell asleep, which apparently never took place. I remember being able to sit all night praying and be energetic at work, the next day. I started having visions of angels protecting my family and my face used to glow. From “Jacob- the cheat”, I became “Joseph- the dreamer”, and I was quite happy with the promotion.
One day while praying, God showed me a vision, I saw my paternal uncle and he was holding a voo doo doll. I prayed and asked God the meaning of this vision. I had seen my house and my mother standing beside it. I shared this with her and she told me that when I was a toddler, our grandfather asked us to leave the house and live elsewhere, but soon he realized how empty it was, called us back and divided the property into two equal halves, one for my dad and the other for my uncle, who wanted the whole house for himself. Soon, his greed surpassed him and he resorted to Witchcraft to finish all of us up one by one and mom was the first on his hit list.
It was in 2006, where he chose a weak moment and attacked us, but when God brought us back, my uncle’s voo doo magic backfired and his family was in great danger. As our prayers grew stronger, he tried hard but his spells grew weak and whatever harm he wanted to cause reverted back to him threefold. There was ill health in his family, marital discord, his only daughter and the apple of his eye fell seriously ill. He looked for ways and means to fight with us verbally so that we would get tempted, back slide and he could use that weak moment again, but we never let it happen and prayed for a spiritual change in him. One night, we could see black shadows surrounding our house; we couldn’t believe it and went outside. Nobody was there and when came inside, the black shadows towered over our living area and were bloating up. In full faith we prayed and mom screamed, “In Jesus name I command you, go back to the place you came from. Amen.” Suddenly, these shadows shrunk and jumped out of the ventilators and windows. We were astonished and thanked God all night for his miracle.
Next morning, we received the news that my uncle had a heart attack and he died. We immediately rushed to the hospital, his body was all bloated up and his face was dark without the glow of death. Near and dear ones who visited us to pay their condolences were shocked with his premature death. I was affected too and asked God that only if You had given him a chance, he would have survived, why You didn’t change the course of his life and bring him on the right path. Just then, the inner voice interrupted my thoughts and said, “God waits for His children to come back to Him, but they lose faith and resort to Pagan Gods for instant solution, still the Lord waits upon them. But when they despise Him and submit their soul to the Devil, He leaves their hand.”