I would like to share three life-changing events in my life with you. The first event happened in 1986 when I was ten years old. One moment I was sleeping in the back seat of my parents' car with no worries in the world, and the next moment there were ambulances all around, and doctors telling my parents I would never walk again. In a matter of seconds, my life was turned upside down . . . . All of the sudden I found myself confined to a wheelchair, unable to move or feel my legs. I spiraled into a deep depression after that. On top of that, the accident stripped my home of all happiness and peace. No one smiled any more. No one laughed. There were just tears and sorrow.
I would like to share three life-changing events in my life with you. The first life-changing event happened in 1986. I was ten years old. One moment I was sleeping in the back seat of my parents' car with no worries in the world, and the next moment there were ambulances all around, and doctors telling my parents I would never walk again. In a matter of seconds, my life was turned upside down and inside out. All of the sudden I found myself confined to a wheelchair, unable to move or feel my legs. I spiraled into a deep depression after that. On top of that, the accident stripped my home of all happiness and peace. No one smiled any more. No one laughed. There were just tears and sorrow.
Allow me to now skip over the second life-changing event for a few moments and share the third life-changing event with you instead. It was 1993; I was 17 years old and in twelfth grade. I was invited to participate in the Miss Teen of Washington Pageant. Miss Teen of Washington is basically like a beauty pageant, like Miss India or Miss Universe, but it is at the state level and is for teenagers and there is no bathing suit portion. My first reaction was that that there was no way I could enter this competition. I had never heard of a girl in a wheelchair entering a beauty pageant, let alone seen a beauty queen in a wheelchair. But my parents encouraged me to pray and seek God's will. I felt God telling me that if He has given me a talent, then I should use the talent, and that nothing could go wrong as long as I walked in his will. He also told me to thank Him in all things, good or bad, because He was in control and could turn any situation around.
So, I entered the competition. The competition began the interview portion, which was worth 25% of the final score. It started off okay as I shook the three judge's hands, and we exchanged greetings. We conversed for a bit, then one of the judges asked me, "you are in a wheelchair, why are you here?" I started crying, and I couldn't stop myself. The truth is, at that moment, I didn't know why I was there. There were about 30 girls in the competition and I was the only one in a wheelchair. Still, the interview went on through my sobs and tears. Just when my crying began to subside, time was called, and I had to leave.
That night, I called my mother for a shoulder to cry on, telling her that I wanted to give up. But Mom just reminded me that God had said to thank Him in all thing s even if they didn't appear to be "good." So, a weak "Thank You Jesus," proceeded from my lips.
The next day the final pageant began. The judges began to announce the top eight. While they were being announced, I felt a little sad and my heart dropped as each additional finalist was announced. Even though I knew I would not make it because I had cried during my interview, I still wished that I would. By the time the seventh finalist was announced, I had pretty much given up, and then I heard my name. I just praised God.
That night continued like a dream. From the top eight, I made it to the top four. Soon it was time to announce the new Miss Teen of Washington. They began with the Third and Second Runners-up. I was sure that I would be one of them, but each time, a different name was announced.
Finally, when the first Runner-up was announced, I didn't hear my name. I had won! I just burst into tears. Never in my wildest dreams had I ever thought that I would be the new Miss Teen of Washington and the first person in a wheelchair to ever win a pageant against other able-bodied girls.
Later I was told that I received the highest score in the interview portion. The judges had liked my honesty and naturalness. They had liked that I hadn't just run out of my interview, that even in a stressful situation, I had been able to handle myself. But, I knew that it was God. This is not my victory alone, but also my Father's. I praise Him and glorify His name for it. As He has told me, "Thank me in all things and I can turn any situation around."
You may wonder how I went from being this depressed ten year old who felt like her life was over, to having strength and courage to try out for the Miss Teen of Washington Pageant. The answer is the second life-changing event, when I came to know Jesus.
As I said, I am from a Jain family. We were a very religious family and became even more so after the car accident. After the accident, people sent me prayers from all over the world saying, "If you say this prayer this number of times every day, your daughter will be healed." My mom was praying from day to night, but the only result for her was a constant headache!
My parents spent thousands of dollars paying Hindu priests who promised healing by specific dates. But, the dates came and went, and there was no miracle. There was only tension, sorrow and discord in my family.
Then we met a Christian man who began coming to our house and telling us about Jesus and praying with us. He told my parents he would pray for my healing, so they invited him to come. As he read to me from the Bible and began to tell me about Jesus, I don't know when or how, but I started believing in Jesus.
The man then introduced us to a Pakistani Christian family which began inviting us to church every few days. My parents were not interested in going to church. However, they decided that the only way to stop the Pakistani family's constant calls was to go to church and then to tell them we didn't like it and were not coming back again. So, one night, my Mom, Dad and I went to church.
After the service, we were invited to go to the front of the church for prayer. The ladies gathered around me and started to pray with me, telling me to say "I need you Jesus. I love you Jesus." But, as I was trying to pray, all of the sudden, I found I couldn't speak. Soon someone said I was being filled with the Holy Spirit. Mom didn't know who that was but figured "Holy" must have been okay. A little while later however, someone said this was not the Holy Spirit, but a bad spirit and that they would have to fast and pray about it, and cast it out.
We started attending every church service after that. However, even though church members would repeatedly and constantly pray for me, they were unable to cast out the bad spirit. The fourth time we went to church, Mom was feeling frustrated and angry. So, that night Mom refused to go forward at the end of the service or pray as she was being told to. Up until that day Mom had never really prayed to Jesus. Even in church she had just said her own prayers. But that night she joined her hands together, knelt at her seat and said "Jesus I need you." As soon as she did this she felt love she describes as melted butter going from the top of her head to the soles of her feet. It felt like all of God's love was showering down upon her. She said it was the best feeling she had ever felt. She just didn't want that feeling to stop and said she would have done anything for this feeling never to end. But, the feeling ended about 30 minutes later. Mom asked others in the church what had happened and was told that she had received a 'touch' of the Holy Spirit. They told her that the Holy Spirit was a free gift from God that anyone who asks for will receive. They said that the sign that you have been 'filled' with the Holy Spirit is that God begins to pray through you in a language you don't understand. Mom said to herself, "If this is a 'touch' of the Holy Spirit, I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit."
A week later on Monday, Mom sent us all off to school and work and said she was going to get filled with the Holy Sprit that day. She began to pray and soon she had said everything she could think of saying. She was sitting, waiting on God, with her mouth slightly open, when all of the sudden she began to speak in a language she didn't understand. Immediately she was filled with such joy, that she danced around the house. When we came home from school Mom was laughing. We hadn't seen her this happy since the accident. She told us that she had been baptized with the Holy Spirit.
That night Mom prayed for each of us and we could feel God's love through her. Then she prayed for my dad, placing her hand on his heart. Dad had a very bad heart condition. Whenever Mom and Dad went for a walk he would have to stop every block because of chest pain. The very next day Dad walked from his office, 0.7 miles, all uphill, without stopping. Praise God! This was the first physical miracle we witnessed.
That night my eldest sister also received the Holy Spirit when Mom prayed for her. Then I said that I wanted the Holy Spirit too, but as soon as I started to pray, again, I couldn't speak. So, like we had seen in church, we started to cast out the bad spirit. But nothing happened. We called the Christian man who had first told us about Jesus and prayed with him for 2 hours over the phone, but still nothing happened. Finally the man said, "I don't think this is a bad spirit, I think this is the Holy Spirit. Say 'thank you Jesus' and see what happens." As soon as we thanked God for the Holy Spirit I started speaking in an unknown language. It turned out it had never had a bad spirit, it had been the Holy Spirit all along. Now that we think back, we see how it was all in God's perfect plan. The first time we all went to church and I was filled with the Holy Spirit, it meant nothing to my parents. They would never have come back to church. But because they thought it was a bad spirit, they kept going back to church to have it cast it and in the process God worked in their hearts and showed us all who He is.
My family has been following and serving Jesus ever since. As soon as we came to know Jesus and were filled with the Holy Spirit, instantly, the joy and happiness returned to my family. God, who had once seemed so far away, was now right here with us. When I prayed I no longer wondered if God heard my prayers; instead, I knew that He not only heard my prayers, but answered them as well. When I cried I no longer wondered if God saw my tears, but knew that He not only saw my tears, but wiped them away. When I was happy I no longer wondered if God saw my happiness, but knew that He not only saw my happiness, but celebrated with me. God became real to me.