I know I don’t look Samoan. My mother is of Greymouth (Irish descent), and my father is Samoan from Fusi, Safata. My parents were very involved in our church and the community, and these pressures started to affect my dad. He began drinking heavily. Eventually, his chronic drinking caught up with him, and he ended up going to prison for something he did while intoxicated.
While in detox, my father re-dedicated his life to Christ. After prison, he wanted to help others dealing with alcohol and addiction, so my family moved to Taranaki to live at an Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Center, which my dad and mum managed. One day while visiting a church, I heard the pastor talk about how much God loved me. He said God loved me unconditionally, no matter what I did (Romans 5:8).
The fact that God could love me so much was a new revelation. I didn’t love myself. (In fact, I hated everything about me.) But I wanted to know this God who loved me so much, so I accepted Jesus into my life and experienced that amazing forgiveness that Jesus offered me.
But coming to know Jesus personally didn’t mean everything was perfect. As my relationship with God grew during university, I started having frightening flashbacks and nightmares.
I then began remembering multiple experiences of abuse by a clergy member as a young girl. It was very traumatic. With great difficulty, I told a friend on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ (now Student Life) at my university all I had endured. I hadn’t told anyone else before her,so disclosing this to her relieved a heavy burden. She was so patient and caring and encouraged me to get counseling.
As a part of that counseling and ongoing healing, I began to accept that this abuse actually happened. I then forgave my abuser and then my father and mother, who were not there to protect me.
I discovered that forgiving was not accepting the abusive behavior nor condoning the abuser’s actions. Instead, forgiveness was a process that allowed my hurt to be in my past and not in my future.
The abuse I suffered deeply impacted me. For years, the shame, fear, anger, and pain of abuse created crippling hurdles in my life. Trusting others wasn’t easy, and I needed to overcome my quick skepticism of people’s motives.
Still, knowing that the God of the universe loves me and accepts me has given me the confidence to live out his strong sense of purpose in my life. I’ve also seen how Jesus beautifully healed my relationships and my family.
I want to encourage survivors of abuse and others battling an addiction that Jesus gives freedom, hope, and healing. Dealing with trauma and addiction is complex, and healing recovery takes time—but Jesus does heal (Psalm 147:3).
The longer I live, the more I see how God has been writing a great story in my life.
I can also see how God has transformed a life shaped by shame into a life full of freedom. He can do the same for you!