This July I will be leaving Abu Dhabi. It has been a 10 year season here, most of which I have had the honour of attending Cornerstone church. I couldn't leave without sharing my story of God's faithfulness and awesome love! For those of you struggling with seemingly insurmountable challenges that have been going on for a long time you need to hear this!
These last few months have ended an era of waiting on the Lord for me, which had begun with a tough decision four years ago. Even as one waiting period has ended, another which has lasted over 20 years still continues, but I now have the renewed faith to understand that God's timing is perfect, no matter how gruelling it seems to be for us.
Four years ago, I made some decisions in an effort to ease the pain of my son. Stepping out with faith-filled intentions, I borrowed money to "rescue" and created a situation that escalated out of control and far beyond my capacity to fix.
I had amassed a large amount of debt including credit cards and consolidation loans. I stopped using all the cards and made minimum payments but I couldn't keep up. The banks were threatening. I was getting horrific phone calls several times a day, and the statements were increasing in amounts drastically, even though I had stopped using the credit cards and had continued to pay regularly. The total amounts increased, rather than decreased. Finally, the dreaded phone call came and the deposit cheque was going to be submitted. The only savings I had, a retirement fund with my life’s pension—every penny to my name—was embezzled. While the guilty parties went to jail, no funds were recovered. I no longer had any savings to use for payment.
I was faced with a decision to go home, to "run away," get a job and pay from somewhere esle to avoid the severe legal repercussions here, or I could stay and face those repercussions, trusting God. I still remember the moment I shared my decision with Matt and Rana, who had prayerfully supported me every step of the way amidst the advice of friends and family who had strongly advised me to run. Many others do run from their debts here....but God was calling me to trust Him and stand up strong in His promises.
Sure enough the phone call from the police came, and I was locked in to a situation that only God could solve. I could no longer throw out money to "rescue" my son. I needed to face both mountains.
Prayerfully, I felt led to take the situation to the courts to seek their assistance in paying what was fair, on a plan that I could sustain. Almost 95% of my salary was being eaten up by payments. So I filed a case for each credit card, and continued to pay a large consolidation loan.
My case stated that I simply wanted justice—to pay what was fair. And as I began the journey of court appearances with the sound encouragement of Matt, I kept this scripture as one of my guides:
Philippians 1:27 “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Throughout the many court dates God blessed me with opportunities to pray while waiting, to demonstrate a peace and respect that can only come from Him. In response, the judgesalways treated me with extreme kindness and favour. I could tangibly feel the love of my Father.
At other times it was not easy. There were seasons that I didn't have enough to live on and I was learning what trusting in God in all situations meant. The enemy tried to use bitterness, envy, hopelessness and fear to destroy my faith. It was a time I will always remember, but never regret, in hindsight, because it taught me that while God allows us to receive the consequences of our actions, He is faithful to give us everything we need to not only survive, but to eventually thrive unscathed.
My church was pivotal to my very survival. At times I would leap in to service, with a testimony about how God was working, and my church would rejoice and celebrate with me! At other times, I would limp in feeling bruised and battered, and I would be surrounded by unconditional love: shoulders to cry on, ears to tolerate venting. This was real. This was hard. But always there was encouragement, prayer, friendship and fellowship. When I was down to my last piece of bread or litre of petrol, an anonymous love offering would appear to get me through—Jesus' hands and heart displayed through His church. I will never, ever forget.
And, yes, the road got quite bumpy. About 6 months into my journey, a serious car accident brought my situation into a frightening and complicated crisis. I faced criminal charges for causing an accident that sent someone to the hospital, even though that someone was myself. At the same time, the cheque was still with the police despite the case being in court. The police had no choice but to put me in "in hospital custody" and I was being held under guard for 2 charges. Since one was in Dubai, and one in Abu Dhabi, I was asked to produce 2 passports for a guarantee, or go to jail. My church family rallied in an unbelievable display of God's love to try to keep me from facing incarceration, but God had other plans. Although I was able to negotiate a settlement for that particular credit card, we were not able to get it resolved before my release from hospital, and I did not want anyone else’s passport to be given as a guarantee.
I was sent to 2 different jails over two nights, with 10 broken ribs and such a peace, I can't even describe it. I prayed that God's will be done, and should He deem it, I would face it in hopes of Him using it for good.
The first night, I had the incredible opportunity to pray with a young lady whose baby was in surgery and expected to die. It was a surreal situation. There were at least four of us praying openly together asking for healing for this child, in the name of Jesus, in a jail cell, in a Muslim country. A few hours later, she got a call that the baby survived and was going to be fine! Praise God! We had prayed that child into a healing.
The next night, in the Dubai jail, a young lady was led through the jail amidst shouts of "She's crazy!" She had been found wandering, mute and dazed. She wouldn't speak at all. When she was walked by my bed, her eyes locked with mine in a strangely intense way. Later, she found me and followed me. As you can imagine, my first instinct was to shuffle away as fast as my 10 broken ribs would let me, but after successfully avoiding her, I felt my heart pound and knew I had to talk to her. I went to her cell, asking God what He wanted me to do, and simply held out my hand. She walked towards me, eyes fixed upon me strangely, and slowly the Lord helped her share that she was being drugged and raped repeatedly, and had run away. Inmates were running from everywhere saying, "She's talking to mama!" But I knew she saw the Holy Spirit, who led the entire encounter. You see, sometimes all we have to do is stand there, and hold out our hand. He does the rest. I was able to tell the guard her situation, and after following up, learned she would be sent home safely.
Upon release the next day, one case was ended successfully, and I eventually paid a fine of just 150 dirhams for the accident—an unheard of amount, I was told. It was usually ten or fifteen times that. Not only that, but I was escorted through the court by a police officer of rather high rank, which had been arranged by my boss’s brother, and I was treated as a VIP throughout the entire experience. God's favor shone, yet again.
With two more cases yet pending, it was another two years before both cases were settled. My consolidation loan was restructured, and I was to pay only half of my salary on my loan.
The process was a complicated one with endless court appearances and hoops to jump, but, as with Elijah, God gave me the strength to hike up my robe and outrun the rain.
Later, the courts determined that the banks had overcharged me and actually owed me money! As you can imagine, they didn't acquiesce easily and appealed many times. This time God's promise to get me through the waters (Isaiah 43:2) held strong. I received the payment this May—another impossible feat according to a court expert—and am free to return home completely debt free! Not only will my end of service cover my loan, but I should have some to take home with me. I have been hired by the same school board I left in Canada, at a salary higher than what I am making here, and will fly business class on the way home with my son to begin a new chapter with God.
Not coincidentally, the day I fly will nearly mark 40 years to the day that I became a Christian. Now, I could look at this with regret and shame, thinking of the years wasted that I could have been a better witness to my faith. But I choose to believe that my Father has brought me through the desert to prepare me for a new land that I will walk through with confidence and faith.
I will take each step as Joshua did, knowing that whatever was eaten by the locusts will faithfully returned and even increased by the Lord.
Joshua 1:3 “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.”
Joel 2:25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten-- the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm -- my great army that I sent among you.”