By Elizabeth & Paddy
Once in a while, we’re able to capture the story of people we do life with on a regular basis. We had good intentions to do this more frequently (other examples here and here), but we’ve learned it’s not as easy as it seems. Many people are very shy about having their stories told! However, we believe that in learning the stories of others, we learn to appreciate where they’ve been and value what they have to offer. We learn to see them as people–as brothers and sisters on the journey. These individual stories shape our collective identity as a people. Plus, they give some of the most fascinating insights into the culture in which we live. Today, we invite you to meet Paddy through her own story in her own words. –Elizabeth
I was born in an Indian Brahmin family, which is a Hindu family. When I say Brahmin, the profession was to become a preacher and be priests in our gods’ temple. So, there was heaps of idol worship, heaps of chantings. I have a mum and dad and older sister. Our family was very isolated and not very social at all. Our world was you wake up in the morning and as soon as you get ready, you hear chantings and mum used to sing prayers. We used to have a big prayer place in our house which is called a puja temple. We used to have zillions of idols in that where mum used to worship.
If we have to cook food, then we have to offer it to the idols before we eat. That’s our daily routine. We were strictly vegetarian. Basically, 24 by 7 it was gods and idols and temples rather than friends and socializing. Dad would never drink or have any other activities because he was the one who used to preach at home. He was a government employee outside the home.
We were very honest. It was like, 100% be honest. That’s the way I was born and brought up. The relationship with god was not just one god, but we had millions of gods. We had favourite gods. We had 2 to 3 favorite gods in home and we used to pray to them. It was 32 years that I was brought up in that environment.
I came to New Zealand in 2010. Even in 2010, was doing idol worship. When I came to NZ, I brought some idols with me. I created a small prayer room where I used to live. I would chant for hours together. If I started chanting it could go for one or two hours.
Jesus, the 1,000,000 + 1 god
From childhood, we knew Jesus. It was like, he’s a god. He’s a Christian god. Because we used to follow millions of gods, he’s like the million plus one god, (god 1,000,001), just one more in our millions of gods.
When I got married, I married a Christian who was just a soulish Christian. He never asked me to come to church. He never asked me to pray. He was just a namesake Christian. When I came to New Zealand, he came to New Zealand as well after one year. One day, he met with a brain stroke. He was taken to the hospital on just 5% hope of surviving. He was taken into an operation that lasted for over six hours and it wasn’t successful. He was in a critical care unit for 72 hours. After he regained consciousness, he recognized me, and literally the first thing he asked for was a Bible. He was literally on his deathbed and he was extremely scared of death. He was completely paralyzed on his left side.
I didn’t have anything with me because he never had a Bible. He never read the Bible. I spoke to one of the administrators in the hospital asking if I could see a priest or a pastor. They arranged for a chaplain to come. I still knew Jesus as the 1,000,001 god.
When the chaplain came, he was from the same place that I belonged to in India, and he spoke the same language that we spoke. He used to have a Telugu (an Indian language) service on Sunday evenings. When he got to know that me and my husband spoke Telugu, he was extremely happy, and he prayed in our language. He brought a Telugu Bible for us.
Though Telugu was my mother tongue, I studied in an English medium school. For us, we had English as a second language, but we used to study everything in English. It was difficult for me to read scripture in Telugu.
My husband used to ask me if I could pray, but I didn’t know how to pray. When I got that Bible in my hand, I didn’t know what to do, so I was just touching the Bible from head to toe on his body. Literally. I was saying, “Jesus heal him. Jesus heal him. Jesus heal him,” as I touched him with the Bible.
That evening, the pastor brought his wife to visit us. She prayed for me, and while she prayed for me, I was listening to the way that she prayed. The next morning, when my husband woke up, I was holding the Bible. I continued touching it to his body, but I was doing a bit of prayer. I was literally copy-pasting the prayer that the pastor’s wife had said the night before. In my heart, I really had trust that just because I am holding the Bible and asking Jesus to heal him.
The Pastor’s wife said to me one thing, “If you ask anything in Jesus’ name, it will be given.” So, she asked me to use the name Jesus when I prayed. That was so near to my heart, so after everything, I said, “I ask this in Jesus’ name.” I was praying and praying.
Miracle after Miracle
On the eleventh day, the hospital staff was in a dilemma. We were not on a resident visa. We were on a work permit, and most of the government subsidies were not permitted to us. They were deciding if we could go to the rehab place or not after the hospital. The doctors had said he wouldn’t get up from the deathbed, but on that day, he stood between the occupational therapists and he took two steps.
I had been praying and praying for these eleven days and I had been watching these YouTube videos to see if I could learn how to pray. And on that day, I said, “Because I have been praying, I know Jesus has done this and he has taken two steps.” I said, “Thank you Jesus for doing something that I never expected him to do.”
That made me to trust and pray more for him. Even when I went back at night, I would hold the Bible and pray and cry.
On the 15th day, when I went home, I was all alone in the house. At 11:30 pm, I couldn’t sleep. I was scrolling through Facebook. There was a video that caught my attention. In the video, Jesus was holding the cross and heading to the place where he was going to be crucified. He was being whipped and he was bleeding. When I saw that, I literally cried. I went to bed after that. I had a dream where Jesus was seen with blood on his face and all the marks from being whipped and he said, “Don’t worry. I am there.” When I woke up, I was literally shocked to feel that feeling that Jesus is talking to me. From then Then, I was holding on to him.
Another great miracle was I ended up with a very great bill from Auckland hospital. We didn’t have insurance, nor were we residents. There was a social worker who came and played a very big role. Finally, I ended up only paying a very little amount to the hospital.
I was saying to God everything. I was saying to Jesus everything, just not my husband’s health. I was praying about the financial burden. Every time, I was getting one miracle after another after another. I was like, “Thank you, Jesus, for listening to me.”
Finally, they made a decision that we could go to rehab and get the service free of charge, but if we needed any equipment, I would have to buy it. I said to God, “Thank you for doing that”
Healing, Growing, and Embracing Jesus
My husband was in rehab for 6 months, and my journey with Jesus was growing as well. I was working full time, I was taking care of my husband, and I was praying. For five months, I had been having fellowship in the church, going to Bible studies, and going to church on Sunday. I would take my husband in his wheelchair to church as well. My faith increased day by day by day. The pastor and his wife were mentoring us because I was a non-Christian. He was slowly talking to me about idol worship and all those things.
When he was in rehab, everyone said, “He won’t get his drivers’ license. You’ll have to take him from place to place like a baby.” I said to Jesus, “Everything is possible in you, right? Can he just get a clearance and become and independent person?” On the 9th month after the stroke, he got a general practitioner’s clearance to drive. His left arm and left leg were still not functional. I said, “Who else can do this besides you, God?”
By that time, I had removed all the idols from the house. I packed them up and sent them all back to India to my parents. Then, I said, “Who can do this other than God?” All the friends had slowly stopped talking to us. They were thinking that I would just ask for financial help, but God was there. God was holding on to me. He was listening to everything I had been asking. God was doing it for me and assuring me that I don’t have to worry.
I went and spoke to my pastor and said that I wanted to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. My pastor said, “Are you sure and are you ready?”
Then I called my parents and I said to them, “This is what is happening… This has made me to think Jesus has been with me and Jesus is doing everything for me, so I want to get baptized.” My dad was not at all happy because of the religious feelings. Back in India, he thinks Christians are converted for money. It’s not the real thing. He asked me, “Did you get influenced by any pastor?” I said no, “It was a 9-month journey with my Jesus. That’s when I felt I wanted to accept him.” He said, “Do whatever you want because you’re an adult now, so I won’t be saying yes or no.”
Then I went to my mum and I said, “Mum, I want to do this.” She said, “If you want to accept Jesus, do it whole-heartedly, but do not ever, ever come back, leaving him. Don’t just jump between the two religions and get confused.”
I said to my mum, “Thank you very much because you didn’t stop me, but you gave me the best advice ever. I will take this as an approval to accept Jesus.”
I went back to my pastor and told him I had spoken to my parents about accepting Jesus.
Finally, I said, “Yes, God, I am going to accept you as my savior, and I got baptized on Easter Day.”
I got baptized in Mission Bay. Everyone was surprised to see a Brahmin girl who was accepting Jesus Christ. I had like 100 people who had witnessed my baptism, the complete church and all their friends and relatives came to pray with me and be with me on the day I was getting baptized.
Unfortunately, on the same night, my husband left me and went back to India.
After that, all my Hindu friends came back to me and were teasing me say, “Oh, because of this husband you have gotten baptized, converted, and left your idols. What are you going to do? Did this Jesus cause your husband to leave you? Did he break your marriage?”
I said, “I didn’t get baptized because of a human. I didn’t get baptized because of my husband. I got baptized because of Jesus.” All those friends who had come to question me, were not there with me all those months. It was just Jesus. I could feel him beside me, guiding me, holding on to me, and teaching me how to pray.
Five Years Later
This is my fifth year that I have been born again, but every day is like a born-again experience. Yes, I got water baptized and I was saved, but every day is an encounter with Jesus in every new situation. I am growing every day. I am learning new things every day. From the past one month, it has become so intense that I am personally knowing Jesus a lot. This is how I came to know him and how I am holding on to him. He made me learn what a relationship is and what a church is and how a church needs to be.
If I do anything, I don’t do it to get praise from a human being, but I want always for my Lord to see it and recognize it. Whatever I do, I do it for him. That’s why I do it very freely, without any barriers because he has done so many things without any barriers.
When I got baptized, I was 33 years old, and the number is so significant for me because Jesus was crucified when he was 33 years old. I see these milestones as very special. I say, “Jesus, you treat me as your special child. You picked me up from millions and zillions people. You chose me. You came into my life. You said you are my Savior. You have done so many things that a human being could not do for me.”
When I look back and see what happened to me in my situation, I realize if it was a person who didn’t have Christ, they would have been shattered. Completely shattered. They would have gone back to India, they would have just sat and mourned and cried. From every situation, he makes me a winner, so I always feel like I am a very special child of God. He rewards me in every way. That reward is not a reward of money, like people might think. It’s a reward of peace. It’s a reward of joy. Because I can’t explain in words that peace and joy. I know I only that my Jesus has given me such great gifts.