One week ago Oasis Ministries held its Year End Potluck Dinner at Grace Presbyterian Church in Montclair, NJ. The night consisted of a debut of our new Oasis Praise team (see photo at bottom), prayer, fellowship, dinner and a Beauty from Ashes testimony. Over 60 women attended the event to hear from our special guest, Joanna Prem, from Hillsong Church. Joanna had the audience in tears while sharing her journey in finding herself and Christ as she overcame life-threatening obstacles.
If you were unable to make it to our Year End Dinner, below is Joanna’s testimony…
Each of us has a unique story. our journeys are different and we come from varied backgrounds but they all point to one undeniable truth – that Jesus is the answer.
Today, as I share my testimony, my prayer is that it will encourage and bless you. If you’re here out of curiosity to see what’s going on or what this is all about I pray that my story will propel you into a pursuit of Jesus. If you’re a new Christian, I pray that my story will build your faith to continue on this newfound journey. If you’ve been a Christian a long time, I pray that my story once again reminds you that our God is faithful and there is no one like him.
If I were to tell my story in one short sentence it would be, “He carried me.” Everything that has happened in my life from the beginning till now is a testament to how I couldn’t have gotten here without Jesus. I’m standing here alive and strong before you because He carried me.
“‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, ‘Live!’” Ezekiel 16:6.
I was born in India. A few months after I was born, my parents moved to the Middle East for better careers. They had to leave me behind because at that time the situation was not favorable for them to take children with them to Saudi Arabia. I was raised by a village. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles took turns raising me. I was surrounded by so many people and felt so loved. Unfortunately, I was easy pray and got lost in the crowd and noise.
It started at the age of 4 when a neighborhood boy took me out to play. Every day he did the same. I was too young to realize that the games he was playing with me were wrong. He started sexually abusing me, making me do things I never understood. It went on for many years before we moved to a new house.
When we moved to the new place it seemed like I was carrying an invisible sign around me that said, “I’m an easy prey.” I was very vulnerable and an easy victim. A family member who should’ve taken care of me and protected me became my greatest fear. Every night he would come to my room and sexually abuse me.
When I finally got to rejoin my parents in Saudi Arabia, I thought I was safe. But this devilry followed me there again. Two men who were close family friends whom my parents trusted began to sexually abuse me.
From the age of 4 till I was 16 I was abused by 4 different men. When I was little I didn’t know right from wrong and thought this was normal grown-up stuff. As I got older no one had to tell me about inappropriate behaviors. Somehow intrinsically I felt that something was wrong. It must be the knowledge of good and evil that we are born with. It didn’t feel right to me. But by then I was trapped in a cycle of fear and violence. I felt it was too late for me to get out of it.
Abuse of any kind is pure evil, no matter the degree or kind, but out of all the men there was one who was the worst. He made my life a living hell. He so sadistic that he’d twist my arms, tie me up, and beat me up to hear me scream because this gave him pleasure. And as he abused me sexually he repeated over and over that I was an ugly fatso who would amount to nothing. When I was 16, this same man brutally raped me while I fought him hard with all my might.
The rape was my last straw. I had lost the will to carry on or live. With every abuse Life was beting drained out of me. Whatever hope I had I was losing it. I felt abandoned and completely helpless. Each day the pain got worse physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I can never put into words the brokenness, agony and anguish I felt. Anytime I desired to escape this hell by even thinking about telling my parents my abusers would threaten to hurt me more or hurt my parents or tell them that I started it. I was too naïve not to believe their words. They kept me trapped through fear, lies and violence. I cried myself to sleep every night and would harm myself and attempt suicide when I was alone. But nothing worked. As far as I could see there was no rescue coming for me.
As a preachers kid, I did what was expected of me. I went to church, led worship, knew all the scriptures by heart. But deep down I could not accept or come to believe in the God whom my father preached on the pulpit. This God of love whom he so adored was so far from me. I thought, “If He is really a loving God, why is He letting this happen to me? Why won’t He help me? Where is He when I need him?” Everything I heard about God did not go with the reality of what I was living in.
Because I told no one about what was going on with me, I had bottled up all the frustration, anger, hurt and pain within me and the burden was getting heavier to carry. My only escape from the reality was to eat myself to death. I became isolated and reserved. I avoided everyone and became a loner.
But God does work in mysterious and amazing ways. When I was lost in the dark he found me and brought me out into the light. One day, a visiting pastor attending our church approached me privately. He pulled me aside and started listing all the details about my life and abuse from the age of 4. I was completely taken aback. How could a total stranger know all these things about my life which I had told no one about? In that moment I realized that it could only be God. Who else but God could give him such detailed revelations about my life. As he kept talking and telling me all the things I had endured, the tears began to flow. Suddenly the overwhelming realization that God saw me and knew every detail, shook me to the core. What if I had never been alone all this time? What if God was right there? I broke down and couldn’t contain the relief that flooded my soul. I learned that day that our God sees, God hears and God cares. That was the beginning of my healing process. Shortly after that I told my parents everything and as a family we helped each other along through a course of healing from deep inner emotional turmoil.
That year I gave my life to Jesus not because my parents said so or because I was born as a preachers kid. I met Jesus as a very personal friend and believed in him as my lord and savior. But it took me several years after that to let go of my bitterness anger and pain and even longer to forgive and be free from all guilt and shame that habitually confused my mind. It was a painful road to recovery where I had to unlearn the lies I had heard and start believing the truth of who Jesus was, what he meant to me, and what he had done for me. I had to consciously start believing that I am a child of God and I am beautifully made no matter what the world told me or what my abusers tried to convince me of.
I should’ve died when I cut myself. I should’ve died when I attempted suicide and when I was raped, but I am alive and well standing before you sharing this testimony because ONLY JESUS. HE carried me in his arms even when I didn’t know it.
After meeting Jesus and becoming best friends, I discovered the beauty of God’s word, the beauty of the Holy Spirit’s comfort, and the beauty of godly community. And there is so much more. Here are just a few of the most significant beauty for ashes I received.
In place of my ashes I received:
And in the end all these amount eventually to one thing – that Jesus alone is my true beauty for my ashes.
There was one day when I was particularly tormented by my past. A lot of questions were running through my mind. As I relived the memories of my abuse and rape I was grieving for myself. I asked Jesus, “Where were you when I needed you the most? Where were you when those men were hurting me?” At that moment I had a vision. I was taken back to one of the nights I was abused. I saw myself cowering in a dark corner as I was being beaten. But then I saw another man standing in front of me. Every beating that landed on me landed on him. Then I heard Jesus speak to me, “I was always there right next to you. Everything that happened to you all those years happened to me. Every scar and bruise you bore I bore it too. You couldn’t see me but I never left your side.” What a beautiful revelation of God’s love. It is no wonder I am not dead but alive today.
We serve a supernatural God who works supernaturally. Sometimes we may not see him or hear him. But we can be sure he is here by our side and he is working in our lives and in our situation. Our breakthrough is on its way. Be encouraged that god is doing the same in your lives. He is your ever-present help in your time of need. There is nothing that God cannot do. He turned my whole life around and gave me beauty for ashes and he can do the same for you. And that beauty is Jesus.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
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Her Life Speaks is all about Her testimony, Her life, and who God is in Her story. Here we write our stories in hopes of helping other women find their relationship with Jesus Christ.