They say life is like a stage, and we’re all actors playing our parts in the bright light for all to see.

But most people prefer to stay at the sidelines in the shadows of the stage. Away from the glare of the light, they live out their lives of the good and bad, the triumphs and tragedies, the joys and sorrows.

And perhaps, their stories are known only to their small circle of family and friends. Or only to themselves. 

But today, some of them are stepping out from the shadows to share their stories with us. Some have happy endings, some still have question marks hanging in the air.

Regardless of the endings, they all share one thing in common – hope. It is hope that has kept them believing and going when things seem hopeless and dark. And it is hope that will keep them going even though they do not know the ending.

Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you Stories from the Shadows. 

Story 1: Miracle in Bali

A few months ago, I was away on a family holiday in Indonesia. Sitting by the swimming pool, I felt a faint prompting to pray for the service staff nearby. I wrestled with God.

“God, I’m on holiday! I don’t see anything wrong with him anyway.”

I sensed another nudge: Ask him about his mom. 

So a few seconds later, I acted in faith and began a conversation with Tino. He revealed that she had not walked in a year despite seeking medical treatment and they believe she was a victim of black magic. I explained that I am a Christian and God prompted me to pray for his mom. He confessed that he was a nominal Catholic but was stunned that God still speaks today! I prayed for her there and then.

But Tino was still doubtful. Could she really be healed by that simple prayer? He then asked me to come home with him after work and pray for him mom. 

In another act of faith, I said yes. Incidentally we had already booked a taxi for the evening. So, we bundled the whole family and went to Tino’s house. During the journey, I discovered that the taxi driver, another nominal Catholic, spoke excellent English. 

At our arrival, I recruited the driver to be our interpreter. We were welcomed to the home with open arms and I asked for her side of the story.

Then I testified of how much God loves her and wants to heal her because He connected me to Tino by the pool. I got down to my knees and laid my hands on her legs. I broke off the black magic in the name of Jesus. I commanded pain to leave and released healing to her legs. My eldest son announced that he felt an evil presence leave the room. Tino’s mom responded that her pain level had reduced. We persisted in prayers a few rounds until all pain left her body. 

Thank you, Jesus! 

We tried to get her to walk three times after each prayer but she was only able to do so assisted. Finally, I ended the visit by reassuring her again that her full healing is on its way and she needs to exercise her legs to regain strength. I also taught her some simple prayers.

Back in the taxi, I was feeling rather disappointed that we did not see her walk. It did not help when I met Tino the next day by the pool, who said doubtfully, “I hope she can walk again.” 

Meanwhile the taxi driver who was my interpreter was so moved by the whole event. He said, “Today I saw a miracle! A resort guest visited a villager’s mom to pray for her.” 

I am pleased to report that a month later, I texted Tino and discovered that his mom is fully recovered and walking.

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Story 2: Escape from Pakistan

My name is Akram John and I was a pastor in Pakistan and the Chairman of a government peace committee in one of the states in Pakistan. 

Whenever there was a  religious issue between Muslims and Christians, I would help to mediate the case. 

Once I was called to mediate in a blasphemy case. The Talibans and some Islamic agencies were not happy and started threatening me. They threatened to kill me, and I was under great stress. I approached many people for help and support. But the police and the courts didn’t want to get involved. My friends then advised me to leave the country.

At first, we applied to go to Thailand because we had some Christian friends there. So, I gave our passports to an agent to apply for the visa. 

Meanwhile, my wife and her team were praying over this matter. My wife then called me and said God wanted us to go to Malaysia, not Thailand. I told her I had already submitted our passports for the Thai visa but I would try to change it. 

We spent the whole night praying, and in the morning my agent informed me that we would get our Malaysian visa. God miraculously helped us get visas to come to Malaysia. 

When we arrived at the airport, we were told to pay a lot of money. If not, we won’t be allowed to board the plane. We could not turn back because our lives were in danger. So, we paid them USD400 and got onto the plane.

When we arrived in Malaysia, I was not able to speak English nor Malay so I was very concerned about our survival. 

My husband started working in an organisation called Divine Mercy Boys Home. From there we got connected to a pastor from Grace Church, and he invited us to visit their church. 

When we visited them, we told them that we needed  jobs. They called us after one week and told us they had good news for us. They had found jobs for us in the church. We  arrived at the church with high expectations but were told our job was to clean the toilets from the first floor to the third floor!

And so we started cleaning toilets. When we passed the church members, they would greet us, “Hi Pastor”. We felt very uneasy and thought what kind of pastors would be cleaning toilets! 

I was actually very sad. 

But the beautiful thing is that one day they called us and asked us how we served God in Pakistan. 

To show them, we organised a Christmas event and invited the entire pastoral team to attend. But only two of them came. We carried on the event anyway and they really appreciated it.

The next day, they called us for a meeting and announced that we would no longer wash toilets and would become full-time pastors instead. So, from washing toilets in this church, we became the pastors and leaders. 

All glory be to God. God is great!

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Story 3: Pit of Depression

I am a Christian. I’ve been suffering from depression for 12 years. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 23 years old. My illness was mainly triggered by the death of three of the most important people in my life by the time I turned 21 years. They were my mom, stepmom and high school boyfriend.

In bipolar disorder, I had my highs and lows. When I was high, which lasted about two weeks, I was constantly excited, full of energy, and couldn’t stop spending money. In my low times, I would be so down that I couldn’t function – even taking a shower or cutting my nails was difficult. I would also feel very negative, helpless, hopeless and useless.

I eventually saw a psychiatrist who put me on five different medications. They wiped out my high times completely.

When I started going on medication, my daily routine would look like this: I woke up at 2pm but could only crawl out of bed at 4pm to have my breakfast and medicine. I would then crawl back to bed as I was unable to do anything. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t do things I used to enjoy, like reading or playing computer games. I couldn’t even watch TV.

Sometimes I have violent emotions. I will get angry and scream, cry, throw things and kick things. I will also tear the newspaper.

The medicines took a long time to work, but eventually I got better, only to suffer a relapse in 2017. I am better now.

I’ve often asked myself, where is God in all this chaos? Does He care about me? How can a loving God give me depression just to watch me suffer?

Well-meaning friends have told me things like, throw away your medicine, exercise till you get so tired that you forget about your depression, snap out of it, and the like. 

I have also read about Christians telling depressed people that the reason for their depression is that they do not read the Bible enough and do not pray enough. I would like to say that all these are so wrong.

In my previous church, I told everyone I knew about my depression, but nobody could relate to me. Some even stopped wanting to be my friends. I felt so lonely.

This year, I reconnected with my primary school friend, who introduced me to PJ EFC. In this church, I joined my friend’s cell group and managed to make a few friends, friends who do not judge me for my depression.

I also met a very nice lady in church who asked me to contribute an article about my depression to PJEFC’s online magazine. And I did. You can read it online in The Vine Press.

I am still improving day by day, with the help of my medicines and support from family and friends. Now I am able to read, drive, make coffee for my dad, feed and play with my three cats, do house chores, etc. 

I am still unable to work, but now I am finally able to make appointments with friends and meet them for lunch.

As I think back, I think that God is faithful. I may be suffering depression, but now I think that He is using my experience to help others.

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Story 4: Holland, not Disneyland

Our lives were forever changed on the 15th of September 2022 with the birth of our precious daughter – Elise Lim, which means set apart for the Lord. But what was supposed to be a joyous occasion for many, turned out to be one of our worst fears of any parent. 

Our little girl was not born normal with many congenital problems. And we remembered crying our hearts out at the night she was born and all we felt was grief. We struggled to grapple with the reality that we are now parents to a child with special needs.

This was made even more challenging by the fact that doctors are still unable to determine her diagnosis. We struggled with her countless hospital appointments and unexpected ED (emergency department)  visits. We struggled with the thought that we might not have a future.

But perhaps at the core of it, what was most painful, is that we struggled with this question, “Why would a supposedly loving God whom we have known all our lives, would allow this to happen to us?” 

We were mad at God and we felt that He was so silent and absent in our lives. 

We asked Him where was the abundant life that He had planned? 

We asked him where’s the future that He promised, when all we could see right now were hurdles after hurdles, bad news, one after another. 

We questioned, ”If You really loved us?” Or the thought that maybe He loved the other kids more than ours?

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning an exciting vacation – to Disneyland. You are excited! And this leads to buying a bunch of guidebooks, speaking to people who have gone while you make your wonderful plans. And while you wait, you dream of all the rides you will be taking.

So months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Many hours later, the plane lands.

But after all the excitement, the stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland!” “Holland, you say?! What do you mean Holland? But I signed up for Disneyland! I’m supposed to be in Disneyland! All my life I’ve dreamt of going to Disneyland!”

But the stewardess replied sternly, “I’m sorry. There’s been a change in the flight plan. They have landed in Holland and here you must stay.”

So, off you go being forced to go out to find a new guidebook, which is tough. And you must learn a whole new language.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Disneyland. And for the rest of your life, you might say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go and that’s what I have planned. That’s where I always wanted to be.”

But after being in Holland for a while, we realise that it is slower paced than Disneyland. It is less flashy, less crowded. But once you have been there for a while and you can catch your breath, you start to look around … and you begin to notice that Holland has beautiful windmills … and Holland has tulips.

Although we don’t know what the future holds, we have caught a glimpse of what God’s unconditional love means, and we are learning that the Author of ours and Elise’s story isn’t done writing it yet. And maybe, God can repurpose our pain into something beautiful.

So although we are not in Disneyland, we now intend to enjoy our time in Holland and bask in God’s perfect flawless love.

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