Finding the Silva lining

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On meeting Michelle Silva, you would never realise that just five years ago she had reached rock bottom. She is warm, friendly and outgoing—and passionate about Jesus. But back then, she tells me, she was angry all the time. She blamed others for her rapid downward spiral—something didn’t seem right. 

Eventually, she found herself at the doctor’s office. The doctor diagnosed her with depression. “I didn’t understand what was happening to me. It didn’t seem like this was who I really was. I thought to myself, the only way to go from here is up.” The doctor suspected the depression was a side effect of her birth control injections and, after talking with her husband, she stopped the injections and decided to change the way she saw life. 

God, you’ve got my attention, lead me back to the true church.

“I wanted to get myself out,” she says. “Unfortunately I didn’t turn to God. I changed my life in a godly way but I didn’t know God yet.” 

Michelle made the decision to change her negative thoughts to positive. She changed the way she talked and the way she saw her circumstances. 

“Things started changing. God says to think about good things. It really changes the entire world around you.” And it did. 

When Michelle was going through her dark times, she would turn to alcohol. Even her close family struggled with the changes in her life and didn’t want to be around her. But slowly, as her outlook changed and she came off the hormone injections, life grew brighter. “I noticed I was feeling happier than before but felt something missing in my heart, a void there.”

In December 2015, her husband came home with a movie, entitled War Room. When Michelle asked to watch it with him, he responded that she probably wouldn’t like it because it was a Christian movie. “Just put it on,” she told him. “I want to watch.”

“I was in tears by the end of it—it moved me that much. I wanted to be a prayer warrior!”

However, that presented a problem: she had forgotten how to pray and didn’t know where to start. But it hadn’t always been that way. Michelle had grown up in a Samoan Congregational Church in her hometown of Auckland, NZ. 

The issue, she says, is that she never really understood the formal, religious version of the Samoan language that was used in the services and could never really connect with it until she was older. By then, it was too late. She gained her independence from her church-going parents and weekends were filled with house parties, clubbing and hanging out with friends. “I hadn’t been back to church since,” she says. It had been more than 20 years since she attended church. 

So here she was, a fired-up prayer warrior, ready to go into battle, but she realised she didn’t know enough about God to be effective. So where did she go? The internet. Michelle went online and ordered her first Bible. She also ordered a book of 100 Bible verses to memorise and another book to learn how to pray. 

She would read these books and start being equipped as a prayer warrior. “When I received the books I was so excited but where to start?” She decided to flip open the book of Bible verses and memorise the first verse she landed on. It was Philippians 4:6,7: 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Michelle realised that she did not know the God who promised peace. But as she prayed morning and evening and learned more from Scripture, she could avoid it no longer. She said: “God, you’ve got my attention, lead me back to the true church.” 

Michelle and her two children, Raven and Tyron.

Michelle wanted her faith to grow and to know God more. She started telling people at work that she was going back to church. Her husband was a Catholic. He said, “If you’re going to church, you’ll have to come to my church.” So Michelle agreed to go to church with him. 

That week, as she prepared to go to church, she was surfing the internet and found some YouTube videos about the Catholic Church. She discovered they prayed to Mary, that priests took confession and that they had changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. “I was shocked. It was almost midnight but I was wide awake, with chills down my spine.” She investigated further and discovered that Saturday is the seventh day. “I had always thought the week went from Monday to Sunday. I never thought to question it. I felt brainwashed. What a revealing thing to find out because I had prayed to find the true church.” 

So the next question presented itself. Who did worship on Saturday? 

She felt disappointed. She couldn’t think of anyone who went to church on Saturday, except the Seventh-day Adventists. “I thought they were like a cult,” she laughs. “I thought I would be disappointed.” 

Michelle had previously had some contact with the Adventist Church through a cousin but had never been very interested. However, upon looking at the local Adventist church’s website, she was pleasantly surprised. Everything was pointing back to the Bible. She noticed that the nearby Werribee Multicultural Church (Victoria) ran a weekly prayer meeting. She had wanted to be a prayer warrior so this was her chance! She rang the website’s contact number and spoke to Pastor Nikola Trajkov. Pastor Trajkov said she was welcome to attend but they weren’t running the prayer meetings that week. They were instead running a whole week of discipleship meetings. So Michelle went along. 

“There were quite a few people that first night,” recalls Michelle. A pastor from the other side of Melbourne was teaching and Michelle felt happy. “Within the first five minutes I was holding back tears. I didn’t want to cry because I felt like I was home. It has been that way ever since. It’s all the way for the kids and me now for sure.” 

On the Friday night of the program, the visiting pastor was stuck in traffic, so Pastor Trajkov led some hymns. Then he pointed out Michelle and her family to the congregation in order to welcome them as new attendees. Before she knew it, Michelle was up the front sharing her testimony with her new church family—telling them how happy she was to find God’s church. She has since shared her testimony to many people. 

But what about her family? “When I told my husband I wouldn’t be coming to his church he was fine,” she says. “But my parents, they were another story.” 

Michelle’s parents were still attending their traditional Samoan church. They had been praying and telling Michelle for 20 years to find a church, any church, to attend. But when she told them she was going to a Seventh-day Adventist church, they were upset. 

“What are you trying to do to me?” asked her dad, in Samoan. “You told me to go to a church, as long as it’s a church,” Michelle protested. “So I am.” Her reply helped to break the ice and her parents gained some peace with her decision. 

Since then Michelle has been passionately sharing her faith on Facebook and with friends and family. Her teenage children, Raven and Tyron, have been attending the church with her and she is so excited about what the future holds. 

“I just want people to know how loving our God is. It is so amazing when you have that relationship with Him. And it can only grow through powerful prayer. I’ve tried the repetitive prayers but now my prayers are on point! I feel like I’ve got a relationship with Him and He works wonders. He’s such a loving God.”

What would Michelle like people to learn from her story? “It’s a bit weird but the first thing that comes to mind is that people need to open their eyes and research. Just because you were born into a particular church and raised that way, you must find the truth for yourself. I felt strongly that God showed me the truth. I know I’m still a rookie. All I know is that I love God for sure. He has filled the void in my heart and I’m happy as Larry these days!”

Michelle’s story was shared at this year’s Victorian Camp meeting. She was excited to experience camp for the first time and to share her love for Jesus there. She was baptised on July 9.


Jarrod Stackelroth is associate editor of Adventist Record.