The Lenten Season God Willed for Us
God was always faithful to me and my family all through. So affirms Beno James, who shares the story of a period in the life of his family.
My wife and I got married in 2001 and life was full of adventure, fun, experiments, challenges, travel, troubles, hardships, pain along with few fights and disagreements. It has indeed been an amazing journey and along the way we were blessed with five beautiful children to enrich our experience.
God has always been faithful to me and my family all through. In spite of the unforeseen incidents which left us in the dark and confused, one thing always kept us moving forward – that He loves us more than anything. That along with the gifts of immovable faith and the hope in eternity.
I want to ponder on few incidents that shaped us as a family.
I was born to a lower-middle class family hailing from Kerala, a small southern state in India. After my college and one year full-time commitment in JY, I struggled hard to acquire a job and build my career. The initial years were a real struggle – job-wise, salary-wise and neither was I able to clear any professional job interview. In between messed-up higher studies, nothing was working out.
In the meantime, I got married to a beautiful lady named Bindu and tried to settle in Bangalore with a small job and a small business. But financial difficulties persisted. My father too was unable to support me, though his guidance and love was in abundance. Though our troubles were many, we never stopped seeking the kingdom of God. Our faith and hope was so great that we strongly believed His time for us had not yet come.
Miraculously, God gave my wife an employment visa to the UAE. I handed over my business unit in Bangalore to my brother, and Bindu and I landed in Abu Dhabi to start a life there. But since I didn’t have a proper job and Bindu’s salary alone was not enough, life was not as smooth as we’d hoped. Then came a new addition to our family. Though we were overjoyed by her arrival, our financial situation had not improved. I had a job but it was not stable and I couldn’t sponsor my wife and child on my salary. But we believed in God’s immense power and decided to keep our child on a visit visa. It was a real struggle to make ends meet as this affair burnt a hole in our pockets and our salaries weren’t enough. In between I lost my job twice and was dragged into disputes with the employers who refused to pay my settlements. Slowly I got into a debt trap and was unable to cope with the pressure.
I still remembered those college days where I had tasted my Lord. We used to sing the song, ‘Jehovah Jireh my provider, His grace is sufficient for me.’ Day by day, my every move was to sing this song – whenever troubles arose or the thought of it disturbed me.
In the mean time I got a break in my career and slowly settled down. I thought my hard ships were over and began repaying all my debts. Things started to fare better. I started being more confident in myself and my God-given gifts, and my trust in the Lord grew stronger. But then another event shook my life as happened to Job in the Bible. I sometimes think that the devil gets jealous when ‘HIS light shines on us.’
One day after a JY national meeting at my home, I started vomiting; my health deteriorated that I was admitted to the hospital. When I regained consciousness, I was shocked to see all of my family admitted with the same symptom except our youngest, baby Anna. We all got better the next day and returned home only to find Anna showing those very symptoms. I took her to the hospital but they only prescribing her some medicines. The following morning, we felt that Anna was not active and returned to the hospital, where they put her under observation. As usual I went for work and towards noon I got a call from Bindu. She was frantic, saying Anna was not showing any improvement and that the hospital had not taken proper care until now. I rushed there and after some argument with the doctors, they came to look at the baby. At that very moment, in the hands of the doctor, she had a stroke. Her eyes rolled back and she looked at me helplessly. Oh! That look – I can never ever forget it. May be she knew that it was her last chance to see us all. She was rushed into the ICU and put on ventilator support. For almost ten days, every day by 10 am, I had to pay the hospital bill of approximately AED fifteen thousand, and it became too much for me. In no time I was broke. But God never leaves his people alone. He sent so many loving hands to help me in this troubled time.
Anna was not making any improvement with this treatment so we decided to take her to India. But I had a bigger issue at hand now. I had to air lift her. The first application to Emirates Airlines for airlifting got rejected by the airline doctor stating that she was not fit to travel by a commercial carrier. I approached many airlines – Air India, Indian Airlines, etc. to no result. In the meantime, a miracle was happening in the background. A friend of mine worked in Emirates Airlines and she told our story to her boss – who in turn told her superior. Within twenty-four hours, this story reached the VP of Emirates. He overruled the airline doctor’s decision and approved our application on certain conditions that I had to pre-sign.
Everything was set and we flew with Anna along with doctors, anesthetists, oxygen cylinder, ventilator, medicines, etc. She was laid on a stretcher placed above a couple of folded chairs, without any safety belts. We all prayed for a smooth flight without turbulence that she be safe, for I had to sign an NOC to withhold request to reroute the carrier, in case of any mishap. God took care of us all along the way. We landed in Cochin and got her admitted to Amrita Hospital. There too, they couldn’t do much. Anna survived another four days. These fourteen days of our life, we will never forget – like the fourteen Stations of the Cross which we ponder and meditate every Lenten season. I believe this was the Lenten season God willed for our family.
Though Anna left us physically, she has never left our hearts. She is still a family member who receives love and peace from all of us after our daily family prayer. We believe she is taken to heaven as an angel to intercede for us. We still haven’t adjusted to the fact that she is not with us. To anyone who asks about my kids, I still say I have FIVE, four with me and one with HIM. After her departure God blessed us with two more beautiful children.
A couple of years later, I decided to get into business. My childhood dream of becoming a businessman started nagging me. Slowly, things got better, financially and otherwise. Later we moved from UAE to Qatar. I became well known in my field of expertise in the region. Now, as I write this I am sitting in my own office employing several people, fulfilling my dreams which has been knit on HIS promise. Still praying, ‘Thy Kingdom come. Amen.’
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