Jesus Did It!

By: Nena Rivera-Tukana

Before I was ever born, God already knew me and was watching over me . . .

... He was with me when I was born during World War II when the Japanese invaded the Philippine Islands and my family ran and hid in the mountains.

... He was with me at age 2, when my mother, 3 sisters, 1 brother and myself crossed the Pacific Ocean from the Philippines to Hawaii, crammed at the bottom of a ship for two weeks, with hundreds of other immigrants, in hot, smelly unsanitary conditions.

... He was with me at age 5, when I missed the school bus from St. Joseph's Catholic School in Makawao and walked home by myself to where Pukalani is (approximately 8 miles away).

... He was with me at age 12, when my sister and I went to Honolulu and one night a man came into the room, staring and breathing heavily over my sister as she slept; but ran away when I turned on the light which was over my head.

... He was with me when I had a flat tire on one of the busiest freeways in Los Angeles with no jack in the car, when suddenly, with hundreds of cars zooming by, an oriental family stopped directly in back of my car to look at a road map, and ended up changing my tire.

... He was with me and lifted me from depression and made me stronger as I went through my divorce after 15 years of marriage. And He was always with me, holding my hand as I raised four children as a single mom ever since the youngest was only 6-months old.

... He is still with me.

I grew up as a Catholic and later as an Episcopalian.  At that time I considered myself a Christian because I went to church as often as I could; I believed in Him and I prayed to Him.   No one could tell me otherwise.  Yes, I was definitely a Christian.   I recall praying many times with tears and pleadings.  But I wasn't sure whether my prayers were ever heard; it felt like God was so far, far away!  If He heard my prayers and spoke to me at that time, I couldn't hear Him.  I thought that all the answers, achievements and blessings I received throughout my life were possible through 'my own good luck' and through my own knowledge and experiences.  I found out just recently how wrong my assumptions were! What I received and accomplished have always been through the glory and grace of our Father Almighty!

In 1980, I divorced my husband of 15 years and raised four beautiful children as a single mom ever since the youngest was six months old.   I never did remarry, focusing mostly on raising the children and trying to make ends meet with two jobs, seven days a week.  There were times as a struggling young mom when I had to apply for food stamps and pick out used clothing from the Salvation Army to clothe my children and myself.  A can of Spam and Saimin was a blessing at times.  It was a difficult struggle but we survived.   God was watching over me then. 

My children are all adults now with children of their own.  Growing up, each of my children was different.  But there was one child who was more challenging than the others.  He required more love and attention than the rest.  He is my oldest son, Paul Jr., who felt abandoned by his dad.  Paul was only six years old when his dad left us for a younger woman.  Growing up, Paul did and demanded whatever he wanted, mostly against the law, just to get his dad's attention.  His dad being a police officer made instant decisions on a daily basis; unfortunately he had difficulty dealing with the issues when it came to his own children at home.  The following testimony concerns my son, Paul and me, and what we went through.

It starts during the latter part of 1999 when my oldest son and his wife made a decision to run away from the law.  They ran and stayed in hiding in California for over five years, but the moment they landed, they realized it was difficult to survive.  Thousands of miles away from Hawaii, they had no family or friends nearby.  They lived in motel rooms, moving from motel to motel at three-week intervals.  Run down motels - dirty, dusty, and smelly - with odd looking people checking in and checking out.  They constantly looked over their shoulders, not wanting to be recognized.  They pretty much stayed indoors with no one to talk to except with me, their mom, who would call them daily from Hawaii to make sure they were okay.  I kept in touch merely to assure myself that they were all right.  They couldn't find a job because they had to produce their social security number, so they struggled along the way.  Against my better judgment, I helped them by sending them money for their living and food expenses.   As a mother who loved her children equally, I didn't have the heart to say no and to practice the 'tough love.'   

One day in 2000, while waiting at a bus stop, Paul and his wife met a Christian couple who talked to them about forming a Polynesian group in their church.  They became instant friends and that was how they came to know the Lord.  They went to church every Sunday as well as to mid-week services and their lives became better.  They read the Bible daily and became very strong in the Lord and as a result, received blessings along the way.  They were able to find housing among the members of the church.  They were provided transportation and eventually they found an apartment and part time work. 

They received another blessing in 2002 when their beautiful daughter Anuhea was born.  Life for them got a little bit better.  His wife came back to Maui with the baby about a year later to live with her family who was going through their own crisis at home.  Paul, however, stayed back.

I continued to help him and it became a burden for me because I was struggling with my own living expenses as well.  I felt resentful and always negative.   It was difficult to cope and I continued to struggle with making ends meet.  I didn't know what to do.  I didn't have anyone to go to.   No one was willing to help or even talk to me about it. My family knew about my son's situation'but they didn't want to get involved.  Psalm 38:11 says: 'My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease.  Even my own family stands at a distance.' 

As an Episcopalian, I attended church faithfully.  I prayed to the Lord, but not really praying or knowing whether my prayers were being answered.  I didn't have a personal relationship with the Lord.  I had no clue about the Bible, never owned one, nor read one.  I didn't even know how to say a blessing during meals.  In the meantime, my burden got heavier and heavier.

This went on until November 2004, when my friend Tukana came into my life.  A very positive and godly man, Tukana purchased a Bible for me and each evening as we went through the Bible, he explained to me the meaning of the scriptures as it related to our lives.  We would spend hours on end talking about the Living Word of God.  Like a child, I wanted to know more and more and more. Suddenly the Bible stories were not just stories anymore . . . they went into another level, another meaning of life.  The floodgates of my heart and mind suddenly opened up!  This went on daily with singing and praises. We were sure the neighbors could hear us; my children must have thought their mom was acting a little strange'. What was she doing singing and praying?  This never happened before!  And on top of that, she looks happier!  The television, newspaper, or radio never interested me anymore.  My thoughts were constantly on the Bible, the scriptures, the songs of praises and thanksgiving, and talking and praying to the Lord!  What a joyful feeling!

A month later, on December 11, 2004, when I least expected it, Tukana posed a question to me.  He asked, 'Are you willing to accept Jesus into your life?' 

I looked at him for a second and I said, 'Yes'. 

However, when I said 'Yes,' I could feel my heart beating fast.  In a split second, my mind raced with thoughts of:  'Was I supposed to shout for joy?  Was I supposed to confess all my sins right there?!  Was I doing something wrong by saying yes?  All my religious teachings came flowing into my mind.  It is the same God, why am I accepting Him again?  Didn't I already know him?  Didn't I believe in him simply by joining a church family and going to church and taking communion at service?   I was already baptized.  I tried to live my life according to the ten Commandments.  "I'm sorry God if I used profanity at times. I'm sorry if I stole, I'm sorry if I told lies.  Lord, please forgive me!'  So when I said "Yes," I thought surely I must be saying the wrong thing and now God would be angry and a loud clanging of thunder and lightening from heaven would strike.  But no . . . it was calm, quiet and normal.  All I could hear was the neighbor dogs barking, cars going up and down the road, and everything was just as calm as ever!

This was my special day when Tukana brought me to accept the Lord.  It took me 60 years!  My vision cleared!  My mind cleared!  I now understand with clarity that Jesus sacrificed His life for us and died for us for our sins so that we would have eternal life with our Almighty Father in heaven.  This is the ultimate love, for He is Love.  You must believe in Him with all your heart and accept Him into your life, for Jesus said in John 14: 6:  'I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.'   

I fell in love with the Word of God and read the Bible daily at every opportunity.  I learned to pray and have a personal relationship with Him and I learned to put my complete trust and faith in our Almighty Father.  It was the beginning of my greatest love story with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  I'm forever grateful because my name is written in the Book of Life and I am guaranteed a place in heaven. 

A day after Christmas 2004, Tukana asked me another question -- a very simple one:  'Can you tell me where your son Paul is?' 

I nodded my head, yes.  I told him exactly where he was.  I explained to him the reason why he left the island, the Maui which he loved so much.  I told him that he wanted to come back, that one day he dreams of returning back home, but he had to wait for approximately another two years in order that his Statute of Limitation would expire.  I told him of the constant struggles my son and I went through because of this situation and how much it had become a burden to me financially, physically, emotionally and mentally.

I explained to Tukana that my son ran away from the law to avoid going to jail for a felony conviction which he and his wife committed five years ago.  They broke into a tourist car parked at the beach and removed approximately $200 from it to support their drug habit.  They were caught in the act, however, and returned the money but both of them were charged.  Before they were scheduled for sentencing, they both left the islands.  I told Tukana that it was tearing my heart apart that one son was away from my family.  It was my wish that one day Paul would return home, but explained that he couldn't right now because he was waiting until the end of seven years -- the end of the Statute of Limitation.

At the conclusion of my story, I felt drained and was wishing and hoping Tukana would just say, 'Thank you for telling me,' and let it go at that.  But no -- he paused for a few seconds and then he told me a story of Jesus calming the storm (See: Mark 4:35-41).  Jesus was sleeping in back of the boat, in the middle of the lake with his disciples, when a heavy storm came.  And the disciples, although seasoned fishermen, panicked and woke Jesus saying 'Don't you care that we are going to drown?'  Jesus awoke and calmed the storm but He asked his disciples, 'Why are you so afraid?  Do you still not have faith in me?'  Tukana explained to me that Jesus will always be there with you in any storm of your life, and with faith and trust, whatever your difficulty ... He will help you through the storm.  You can resist fear simply by putting your trust in Him.

The story, as told by Tukana, cut deep into my heart.  I cried while the story was being told, tears streamed down my face.  I could feel the presence of Jesus holding my hand and being right there next to me.  The story related so closely to the storm I was experiencing.  I knew that Paul's running away, and in hiding, would not solve the problem!  I was helping Paul in a situation that was against the law of the land and against the law of God.  But over the years I didn't know what else to do, who to turn to, how to correct this problem.  No one was willing to help me.  No one ' until now.  As Jesus said, 'Why are you so afraid?'

Proverbs 3:5-6: 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Lean not on your own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge the Lord, and He will make your paths straight.' 

We fell to our knees and prayed ... asking the Lord for forgiveness, assistance, guidance, direction and answers.  We prayed to our Almighty Father to help show us the right thing to do because first and foremost we wanted Paul home.  He belongs home!  It was a strong prayer; a sincere plea of help that came from deep within our hearts.  Because the burden was so overwhelming for me, we prayed that the Lord would take this burden away and to take care of it for me for I couldn't handle it any longer.  For it is written in Psalm 55:22: 'Give our burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.'

Like the quieted storm, I suddenly felt calmer -- my burden had suddenly lifted off my shoulders -- it felt lighter because Jesus was in the midst of my storm, holding my hand and calming the waters.

In early January 2005, I confronted my son that it was time for him to come home.  If he resisted, I would no longer help him.  When I spoke with Paul, the enemy immediately came in!  Paul ranted and raved and was very negative and not receptive to my suggestion at all.  He said that I was abandoning him, that I didn't love him anymore.  He asked for another three more months so he could do whatever he needed to do and places he needed to see, like Las Vegas.  He said he was not ready to give himself up.  He said someone is going to set him up and have the police waiting for him at the airport.  He tried to get my sympathy by saying he would live on the streets and in shelters and disappear in the crowd.  The enemy was definitely in the midst because for some months now, Paul had not been faithful and had put his Bible away. 

I assured him it would be all right -- that I love him and we had prayed and asked for the Lord's help.  "We know He will help us through this storm, Paul."  I told him that we have put our complete trust and faith in the Lord.  However, Paul wouldn't listen and hung up the phone in my ear.

In the meantime Tukana and I continued to pray.  Jesus said in John 14: 13-14 (NKJV):  'And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My name, I will do it." We claimed His words and this is what the power of prayer based on the living Word of God can do.  I sent a prayer request to Pastor Joel Osteen and I'm sure it was passed on to his prayer group.  My request was to have my son return home and for the Lord to give him strength and courage to face up to his consequences and asked for miracles and favors so that he can finally begin his life in 2005 free of crime and conviction.   Also being new at my Christian Church, I courageously went up one Sunday for a prayer request and Margaret, the Pastor's wife, prayed over me.  I again asked prayers for my son, who had been away for over five years, to return home and for the Lord to help him face up to his consequences.  She didn't know me, but somehow as a mother herself she could relate to my agony and knew how it feels to have a child so far away from home. Her prayer was powerful and awesome!

A few days later when I spoke with Paul, I braced myself expecting more of his negative reactions.  But no, he was calm and actually liked the idea of finally coming home and being with family once again, especially to be with his little girl.  He was definitely ready and voluntarily agreed to return home after 5 1/2 years to face up to his consequences.  He even placed a call from California to a Maui attorney to find out the seriousness of crimes similar to his.  They were serious, but he continued with his plans.  He purchased his air tickets, began selling/giving away his household goods. 

Everything was moving fast!  On the day of his return flight, he tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, but it was difficult because he had a lot of body tattoos.  So on the day of his return he bravely boarded the plane and landed on Maui in broad daylight on February 5th with no incident.   I thanked the Lord for being with him on his flight and for his safe return.  Like the prodigal son in the Bible, he was once lost, now he has come home.

Yes, he is currently in prison since June awaiting sentencing in November.  We already know what the sentence will be because of the plea agreement between the attorneys.   Charged with crimes committed in 1999 of theft, forgery and bail jumping, which normally would be 5'10 years behind bars, he will only receive a year in jail, credited with time served, and with probation will be released and free on June 23, 2006. The irony of all this was that there is no Statute of Limitation when one has already been charged.  The charges regardless of how many years a person runs away will follow you forever until caught.  My son could literally be running away forever and would be a very old man when caught.  We thank the Lord for being there with us and giving us the strength, courage and wisdom to have Paul face up to his consequences.   We continue to pray for miracles and favors and we have faith that the final outcome will be according to His will and His purpose.

Paul took the entire blunt of the crime which he and his wife did five years ago.  From the moment my son was taken in, he reaffirmed his life to the Lord and attends service in prison at every opportunity he can and has become closer once again with our Lord and Savior.  He reads the Bible and prays daily.  At 33 years old, he has finally grown up.  When once he was very negative and angry, he has now found peace and confidence in creating a new life according to God's purpose and will.  The inner turmoil and struggles he went through while growing up has disappeared and most importantly he no longer blames his dad for leaving us.   

Another wonderful blessing came from our Father Almighty.  Paul, who lost his right leg (below the knee) in a motorcycle accident in 1997, has been limping around with an old ill-fitting prosthesis for quite sometime.  The prosthesis broke apart at the top and bottom, and is barely kept together with masking tape, shipping tape, electrical tape, hope ' anything.  He has no income or money to purchase a new leg.  The good news is, Paul has only been in prison since June, and already has been measured for a new prosthesis which he will receive on October 6th, valued at over $8,000, compliments from the State.   What a blessing'. Thank you, Jesus!   It is written in Romans 8:28-29:

'For God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.  For God knew his people in advance and has chosen them to become like his Son.'

As for me, I thank the Lord every day for His blessings and His love.  I devote my entire life to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and I give Him all the glory!

Before I conclude this testimony, I read the other day a scripture from Ephesians 5:18 which says: 'Be filled with the Spirit."  This is a great reminder for us all.   

God's indwelling Spirit does three things: 

(1)  He seals us!  A seal declares importance, value and ownership. 

(2) He protects us!   Deep within each of us God's Spirit whispers, 'You are mine, and what I own, I protect and care for.' 

(3) He makes sure our prayers are heard!  The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness.  We do not even know how we ought to pray, but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us, and God who searches our innermost being, knows what the Spirit means, because he pleads for God's own people, in God's own way' (See: Romans 8:26-27).

As Christians and children of God, we are all special knowing that all along, even before we were ever born, God knew us and we were:  Sealed by God!  Protected by God!  And Heard by God!


"And this gospel of the kingdom [Jesus died for sinners] shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Quote from Jesus Himself: Matthew 24:14).

Consider how many children in "all the nations" have never heard YET what Jesus accomplished for THEM at the cross? PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS TO THE LITTLE CHILDREN!

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