Meet Paddy

Elizabeth Graham and Padmaja Chagaleru
Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I was born into an Indian family who was devout in their worship of many gods. In our world, you would wake up in the morning, and as soon as you got ready, you would hear chanting and mum singing prayers. We had zillions of idols in the room mum used for worship. At each meal, before we would eat, we would offer the food to the idols. We were strictly vegetarian, we were very honest, and We had millions of gods. For 32 years, I was immersed in that environment.

I came to New Zealand in 2010. Even then, I was worshiping idols. I brought some of my family’s idols with me to create a small prayer room in my new home. I would chant for hours.

Jesus, the 1,000,000 + one god

From childhood, we knew about Jesus. He’s a Christian god. Because we followed millions of gods, he was the million plus one god: just one more in our millions of gods.

When I got married, I married a Christian who was just a nominal Christian. He never asked me to come to church. He never asked me to pray. When I came to New Zealand, he came to New Zealand as well after one year. One day, he had a brain stroke. He was taken to the hospital with just a 5% hope of surviving. He was taken into surgery that lasted over six hours and wasn’t successful. He was in a critical care unit for 72 hours. After he regained consciousness, he recognized me, and the first thing he asked for was a Bible. He was on his deathbed, and he was extremely scared of death, completely paralyzed on his left side. The hospital arranged for a chaplain to come. I still knew Jesus as the 1,000,001 god. Image

When the chaplain came, he was from the same place that I belonged to in India and spoke the same language that we spoke. He used to have a Telugu (an Indian language) service on Sunday evenings. When he discovered that my husband and I spoke Telugu, he was delighted, and he prayed in our language. He brought a Telugu Bible for us.

When I got that Bible in my hand, I didn’t know what to do, so I was just touching the Bible from head to toe on his body. Literally. I was saying, “Jesus, heal him. Jesus, heal him. Jesus, heal him,” as I touched him with the Bible.

That evening, the pastor brought his wife to visit us. She prayed for me, and while she prayed for me, I was listening to the way that she prayed. The next morning, when my husband woke up, I was holding the Bible. I continued touching it to his body, but I was doing a bit of prayer. I prayed the same prayer that the pastor’s wife had said the night before.

The Pastor’s wife said to me, “If you ask anything in Jesus’ name, it will be given.” That was so near to my heart. I said, “I ask this in Jesus’ name.” I was praying and praying.

Miracle after miracle

On the eleventh day, the hospital staff was in a dilemma. We were not on a resident visa, but a work permit and most of the government subsidies were not available to us. They were deciding if we could go to the rehab place or not after the hospital. The doctors had said he wouldn’t get up from the deathbed, but on that day, he stood between the occupational therapists, and he took two steps. I had been praying and praying for these eleven days, and on that day, I said, “Because I have been praying, I know Jesus has done this and he has taken two steps.” I said, “Thank you, Jesus, for doing something that I never expected him to do.”

That made me trust and pray more for him.  

I ended up only paying a minimal amount to the hospital. I was praying to God for everything. I was saying to Jesus everything, just not my husband’s health. I was praying about the financial burden. Every time, I was getting one miracle after another after another. I was like, “Thank you, Jesus, for listening to me.”

Finally, they made a decision that we could go to rehab and get the service free of charge, but if we needed any equipment, I would have to buy it. I said to God, “Thank you for doing that”

On the 15th day, when I went home, I was all alone in the house. At 11:30 pm, I couldn’t sleep. I was scrolling through Facebook. There was a video that caught my attention. In the video, Jesus was holding the cross and heading to the place where he was going to be crucified. He was being whipped, and he was bleeding. When I saw that, I cried. I went to bed after that. I had a dream where Jesus was seen with blood on his face and all the marks from being whipped, and he said, “Don’t worry. I am there.” When I woke up, I was shocked to feel that Jesus is talking to me.  I have been holding on to him ever since.

Healing, growing and embracing Jesus

ImageMy husband was in rehab for 6 months, and my journey with Jesus continued to grow. I was working full time, I was taking care of my husband, and I was praying. For five months, I had been having fellowship in the church, going to Bible studies, and going to church on Sunday. I would take my husband in his wheelchair to church as well. My faith increased day by day by day. The pastor and his wife were mentoring us because I was a non-Christian. He was slowly talking to me about idol worship and all those things.

When he was in rehab, everyone said, “He won’t get his drivers’ license. You’ll have to take him from place to place like a baby.” I said to Jesus, “Everything is possible in you, right? Can he just get a clearance and become an independent person?” On the 9th month after the stroke, he got a general practitioner’s clearance to drive. His left arm and left leg were still not functional. I said, “Who else can do this besides you, God?”

By that time, I had removed all the idols from the house. I packed them up and sent them all back to India to my parents. Then, I said, “Who can do this other than God?” All our friends had slowly stopped talking to us. They were thinking that I would just ask for financial help, but God was there. God was holding on to me. He was listening to everything I had been asking. God was doing it for me and assuring me that I didn’t have to worry.

I went and spoke to my pastor and said that I wanted to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. My pastor said, “Are you sure and are you ready?”

Then I called my parents, and I said to them, “This is what is happening… This has made me to think Jesus has been with me and Jesus is doing everything for me, so I want to get baptized.” My dad was not at all happy because of religious feelings. He asked me, “Did you get influenced by any pastor?” I said no, “It was a 9-month journey with my Jesus. That’s when I felt I wanted to accept him.” He said, “Do whatever you want because you’re an adult now so I won’t be saying yes or no.”

Then I went to my mum, and I said, “Mum, I want to do this.” She said, “If you want to accept Jesus, do it whole-heartedly, but do not ever, ever come back, leaving him. Don’t just jump between the two religions and get confused.”

I said to my mum, “Thank you very much because you didn’t stop me, but you gave me the best advice ever. I will take this as an approval to accept Jesus.”

Finally, I said, “Yes, God, I am going to accept you as my savior” and I was baptized on Easter.

Unfortunately, on the same night, my husband left me and went back to India. After that, all my Hindu friends came back to me and were teasing me saying, “Oh, because of this husband you have gotten baptized, converted, and left your idols. What are you going to do? Did this Jesus cause your husband to leave you? Did he break your marriage?”

I said, “I didn’t get baptized because of a human. I didn’t get baptized because of my husband. I got baptized because of Jesus.” The friends who had come to question me were not there with me all those months. It was just Jesus. I could feel him beside me, guiding me, holding on to me, and teaching me how to pray.

Five years later

This is my fifth year that I have been born again, but every day is like a born-again experience. Yes, I got water baptized, and I was saved, but every day is an encounter with Jesus. I am growing every day. I am learning new things every day. This is how I came to know him and how I am holding on to him. He taught me what a relationship is and how a church needs to be.

If I do anything, I don’t do it to get praise from a human being, but I always want for my Lord to see it and recognize it. Whatever I do, I do it for him. That’s why I do it very freely, without any barriers because he has done so many things without any obstacles.

When I look back and see what happened to me in my situation, I realize if it were a person who didn’t have Christ, they would have been shattered. Completely shattered. They would have gone back to India, they would have just sat and mourned and cried. From every situation, he makes me a winner, so I always feel like I am a very special child of God. He rewards me in every way. That reward is not a reward of money. It’s a reward of peace. It’s a reward of joy. I can’t explain in words that peace and joy. I know I only that my Jesus has given me such great gifts.