In the name of Lord Jesus Christ I testify. I praise God that He has given me this opportunity to share about the amazing grace of His love in my life.
I used to play football in high school in beautiful Hawaii, but my love and ambitions for the game ended when I was severely injured in the neck with a concussion. I couldn't remember what had happened to me when I woke up at the hospital the next day.
The doctors were amazed that I was still alive and able to walk, because my condition was as severe as the one Christopher Reeves, the actor, suffered. The only difference was the cause of the accident; Mr. Reeves fell off a horse.
At the time of my accident, my parents were away on the mainland, and I had no other family on the island. Fortunately, there were a couple of church members that were watching over the prayer house in Maui. They heard about my accident and immediately came to the hospital to see me.
The doctors basically told us that my football career was over. They also said that I was lucky that I wasn't paralyzed and was still able to move. During the week-long stay at the hospital, I prayed and thanked God for each additional breath He was giving me.
Even though my football career was short-lived, God opened another road for me. After I finished high school, He allowed me the opportunity to go to the mainland to study culinary arts.
GOD PLANS OUR STEPS
After I finished college, God allowed me to come back to the island and work in a resort where I met my wife. In 1996, I moved to the main island to become the head chef, and from 1996 to 2001, I kept moving up the corporate ladder.
God definitely blessed me in my job by guiding me and protecting me. In August, 2001, I found out that my wife was pregnant with our third child. At the same time, I was invited to New York to do a cooking exhibition for the James Beard foundation.
My partner and I were supposed to attend this convention together and cook in front of the press, but the two of us were working through some disagreements about our work. As we got closer to the date, I got a bad vibe about the trip so I asked to be replaced.
I talked to my wife about it and she was very unhappy because we had planned to go to New York together. But I had already made up my mind. Lo and behold, the day we were supposed to return from New York was September 11—the day the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York.
That morning, my wife called me at work and told me to turn on the TV, and I couldn't believe my eyes. I prayed for the people who went there and took my place, and I thanked God for not allowing me to go. The chef and the other helpers who went up were stuck in New York for three weeks. They couldn't come back and their families waited anxiously back on the islands. When they finally came back, there was a difference in them. Some of the people were traumatized and had to get professional help.
TRIALS AND SUFFERING
In February 2002 I got into a minor car accident, and my neck problem revisited me again. The doctors found out through x-rays that my neck bone had moved one centimeter over and there was a gap between the first and second vertebrae.
They concluded that the first and second vertebrae had to be fused with a piece of bone from my hip. In April, we decided to schedule the surgery so that I could fully recover. Since it would be my first surgery, the neurosurgeon explained all my options.
He told me that I might be in a neck brace, and if worse, a halo. A halo is a metal cage placed on the head to support the surgery, and screws are inserted into strategic areas in the skull to help the bone grow and heal properly.
When I went into surgery, all the brothers and sisters in Honolulu were praying for me. I was very afraid. I prayed to God, and He gave me the strength to be positive and to think positive.
When I woke up after the operation, I discovered this cage over my head. Fortunately, two of the three procedures were successful. The doctor was right after all—I needed to be placed in the halo, and my wife told me I had to keep it on for twelve weeks.
I wanted to get out of the hospital as quickly as possible. The doctors said I couldn't leave until I could start walking, but thank God, I was walking the day after surgery, so I checked out of the hospital on the third day.
Closer to God
I rented a medical bed that allowed me to get in and out of bed more efficiently, and it also allowed me to sleep through the night. One night, I was awakened by this sharp pain in my head. It felt both like I got hit in the head with a bat and was shocked from my electric medical bed. My wife heard my scream and asked me what had happened, and I told her I didn't know.
Basically, the halo had shifted, and I was bleeding from the screws. I woke my mom up and she instantly gathered us together to pray. The pain was excruciatingly sharp and intensifying, so we rushed to the emergency room at 3:00 a.m. in the morning.
We had to wait until 7 a.m. before a doctor could see us. They gave me painkillers but they weren't helping. They tried to fix the halo but it wouldn't work either. So we came home and my mom had to drive very slowly. Every bump on the road was causing the screws to scrape against my skull.
After two days of insomnia, I had to go back to the emergency room because of the pain. Again, they gave me more painkillers. It got to a point where I told them I had had enough already. Since the neurologist in the hospital didn't know what to do, I had to fly to Honolulu. I prayed to God for a smooth trip.
I went directly to the doctor's office after I arrived in Honolulu. Thank God, they were able to fix the halo in less than five minutes, and I slept all the way back home.
Through this period of pain and suffering, I was able to draw closer to God. That June, we attended the youth retreat in Honolulu Church, and I made every effort to go. All the brothers and sisters were so glad that I made it.
It was during that retreat that I had one of the strongest prayers I ever experienced. The two visiting pastors would lay hands on me, and I cried like a baby. I was encouraged that I should pray harder because I was acutely aware of God's love and His desire to bless me.
I prayed fervently to receive the Holy Spirit, but it wasn't God's timing to give it to me.
HE IS THE GREATEST PHYSICIAN
During my twelve weeks of recovery in the halo, the halo shifted a second time. Three days before I could take it off, the doctors took an x-ray and it showed that the bone fusion didn't work.
They suggested that we wait a year and give the bone some time to heal on its own. So a year later, on May 2, 2003, I went to get another x-ray, and it showed that the bones still didn't fuse together. The doctors told me I had to go through the entire process again. In my heart, I wanted to put this matter in God's hands.
A month later, there was another youth retreat in Honolulu and we decided to attend. During the first few days, my wife was moved to tears in her prayers and she couldn't understand why she was crying. Then later, a sister had a vision, and she saw heaven opening up and rain pouring down. Soon after, my wife received the Holy Spirit, and this greatly comforted and encouraged both of us.
That night, I prayed very deeply to God. I prayed and told God that He was the greatest physician. I told Him that if He could heal me I would entrust my life to Him, and commit myself to serve Him.
Suddenly, I felt the vertebrae in my neck fuse. I was filled with joy.
Everyone encouraged me to continue to pray and to say, "Hallelujah" to Jesus. The next day, I took their advice, and I received the Holy Spirit and started to speak in tongues. I truly thank God for His blessings.
During and after the retreat, I continued to pray and experienced a new body in me. My grandmother passed away while I was there, but God gave me the strength to go to the funeral and overcome my loss. The days in Honolulu were too wonderful for words, and I felt absolute peace from God.
As I look back at my life and the path I took to reach this point, I thank God that He was always with me, that He healed my neck injury, and that He brought me closer to Him.
This has taught me that we must leave our lives in God's hands. His plan is the best plan. Sometimes in life, we don't know where we'll go or what we're going to do. We really need to pray and entrust our journey to Him.
Now that God has brought me back into the fold and given me the Holy Spirit, I'm here to give glory to His name, and I hope to be a useful vessel for Him all the days of my life.
The way His hands guide me reminds me of a beautiful passage that was inspired by Job while he was in great suffering:
Did You not pour me out like milk, And curdle me like cheese, Clothe me with skin and flesh, And knit me together in bones and sinews? You have granted me life and favor, And Your care has preserved my spirit. (Job 10:10-12)