All is Not Well in Paradise
Hello, I'm Sarah Ann Haunani Kahaloa Niemeier. If you can tell from my name, I am Hawaiian by birth, born in Honolulu and raised on the Big Island in a remote village called Pahoa. We lived off the sea and the fruit of the land in an open thatched hut; very primitive by today's standards. I had a big Hawaiian father, a loving mother of mixed nationalities, including Hawaiian, and six brothers & sisters. The daily life we knew was hard work, and our father used all us kids for various jobs to bring home income.
Our lives revolved around our Dad, the ruler of our family. He was a hard man, a strong man, and often an angry man. He often drank too much, which only fueled his anger more. We were subject to harsh physical beatings regularly; anything could set him off. So we lived cautiously, always on alert, for it didn't take a direct act of disobedience to get a beating. No one escaped his anger and violence, even my Mother. He ruled with a strong hand and everyone did what he said. Even the local police were afraid of him! I remember one time they tried to arrest him - 5 police officers! But he beat them all up!
So I received many beatings in my childhood, along with my siblings, and of course none of this endeared our father to us. One of the worst beatings I received from him was over a missing penny, which he himself lost, but he chose to blame me. In his drunken rage, he grabbed a lead pipe and beat me severly across my legs until I couldn't stand. Then he made me slide down the front steps of the house (which we had later moved to from the village) and cut the grass with scissors, continuing to yell at me and kick me. I was so badly beaten and unable to move, he reluctantly had my Mom call for an ambulance. I was in the hospital several weeks and told I would not walk again. But I did heal over quite some time and in my determination walked again. I was in my young teens at that time, and while it was the last time he beat me, the emotional abuse continued.
But the damage had been done. On my 18th birthday, on that very day, having already packed my bags the night before, I left. Being 18 he could not legally stop me. I had arranged to go off to Job Corp on the far side of the Island. As I boarded the plane, my father said for the first time ever, "I love you" - but I didn't respond. I didn't even look back at him. Though I regret that now, some 50 years later, but then, I could not love him or forgive him for all he had done and said to me and my brothers and sisters.
Job Corp went well for me, except for an older boy there who tried to rape me at knife point. He had been trying to corner me for several days, and when he finally did, I got away from him and just kept running - away from Job Corb, from home, from everything in Hawaii that had so deeply wounded me and nearly destroyed me.
I went to the USA mainland where my older brother, Isaac, had escaped to a couple years earlier. I stayed with him and his family in the Seattle area. But my brother, also much abused by our father, had become very abusive and violent himself, especially towards women, as well as his own sons. That, of course, included me. He introduced me to a friend of his who was very charming, and I agreed after a short time to marry him - it was my way out!
On our wedding night, after the marriage ceremony, my new charming husband surprised me: he physically started knocking me around the hotel room and beat me up. He told me with a stern look that this was how it was going to be from then on. I couldn't believe it! I kept trying to get away from hate and abuse, only to run into it again and again. And this man was worse than my father. At least my father never sexually abused me or my brothers and sisters; but this man was abusive in every way imaginable. But he was my husband and I hoped against hope that this would stop; I tried to please him, but he only found fault with everything I said and did. Over the next 16 years of marriage to this man I would be pregnant 12 times: only two daughters survived. He caused miscarriages by his frequent severe beatings. I endured several severe beatings that sent me to the hospital, several stab wounds, cuttings on my body, cigarette burns, being knocked unconscious, strangled, stomped on, and perversely humiliated many times. I knew, too, he was constantly with other women, which he didn't hide, but threw in my face. He seemed so intent on hurting me as much as he possibly could.
Not only did he abuse me in every way, but he was the same with our two surviving daughters, his own "flesh and blood". I tried several times to escape with my daughters, but he had this uncanny ability to always find us and drag us back home. He controlled me by threatening to kill my Mom and other family members if I didn't comply and stay. That frequently included threatening to kill our daughters if I didn't obey him and be a "good" and submissive wife.
Finally, over time, I just couldn't take it anymore. I often thought of ways to kill him, to get my girls out and be free of him. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. The last straw came one night, after fighting and being just so tired of it all, I said I was just walking out the door with our daughters. He held a gun to my head and said he would blow my brains out if I tried it. I frantically was trying to think how I could get our two little girls out the front door, with myself, without him harming them. Finally, he held the gun at the girls and told me to just get out. I did and called the police (as I had several times over the years, though they never did anything about him; he was a State policeman during the early years of our marriage). But the police never came to help. I was on my own.
I eventually got a place for myself in low income housing. Authorities never did help me, even to get my daughters away from him; and I tried a few times to snatch them myself, but he always caught me. It wasn't until a couple years later my oldest daughter left on her own and came to live with me, and then another year later, my youngest daughter. All of us, though, were greatly traumatized - more than we knew. But finally we were free of him.
People often ask why abused women often end up with another abuser as a spouse or partner. It can seem puzzling, but I know why - firsthand. When you suffer abuse like I have, it does something deep within you. It wounds you deeply: you don't believe in yourself anymore; you have little or no sense of self-worth. Deep within you feel you are nothing and worthless, because that's the message you've always had from your abusers. And so, having that view of yourself, it's easy to be drawn to those who you figure you are "as good as you're going to get!" You just feel....broken...damaged goods.
This wasn't the end of my abuse experience, though - unfortunately. I married again, and while this man wasn't abusive physically, he had sexual issues and was always hooking up with other women and cheating on me. In a short time, he ended up in prison due to his uncontrollable sexual lust. I divorced him, and I figured I was done with men. Then I met a pastor and his wife through a good friend; they came to visit and pray for me when I was in the hospital after losing one kidney to cancer. They continued to contact me and my friend coaxed me to attend their church, and soon I opened my heart to Jesus Christ. But the effects of all my past abuse continued to haunt me, and I came to a point of just wanting to end my life - and planned to. When my pastor visited one time, I shared with him this overwhelming urge to take my life, and he immediately took me to a Christian counselor he knew, and I received immediate psychiatric help and Christ-based counseling. Everything began to wonderfully change!
I've been in abuse-recovery counseling now for over 20 years, experiencing the healing grace of Christ in my heart and mind, addressing my "soul wound" from all that past abuse. Through this help in Christ, I've been able to forgive my father, my older brother, and my two former husbands (and others) who had so severly abused me - and my daughters. The Lord continues to work in my mind, memories, emotions and spirit to peel back the layers of pain and remove the lingering effects of all these sins done to me. I've learned it's not just the particular incidents of abuse that need Christ's healing touch, but also realizing and recovering from the unhealthy ways I adopted to cope with all that abuse. I had to heal from the inside out!
The Lord did eventually bring me into a marriage with a Christian man (my former pastor) who values and loves me - and is willing to go with me through my healing journey. My daughters are yet discovering this needed journey of healing, too, as they had also ended up in abusive relationships. But the Lord is working to reverse this trend in our lives and family line, though it is a hard journey back. If it wasn't for Jesus, though, I know I wouldn't even be here today!
I am the first Kahaloa, including my sisters, brothers, mother and father (he died in a car accident many years ago, after changing in his later years and no longer drinking or being abusive), to live past 60 years old! My father, my mother, my 2 older sisters and 4 brothers, all died in their 50's or younger. Each of them was greatly affected by the abuse we received at our father's hands, and became either victims of abuse, or abusive themselves.
I am also a survivor of two cancers and live with COPD from many years of smoking. All our family members smoked and started young. My two daughters have both come to know Christ and are yet working through the effects of their past abuse. One of my greatest joys, through them and through my husband, are our 14 Grandchildren! And more recently, our first Great Grandchild. I am so thankful to the Lord for bringing me through all I've been through, to know Him, to know Peace, to have a New Life, and to enjoy 3 generations of children! It's only by His intervention in my life that I have be blessed to know and enjoy what life should be!
Truly His grace is greater than all the evil sin can bring upon us. There isn't anything He can't change and heal! I am living proof!
Haida Native: Gary Morrison
Mark "Raven" Redfox
MARK REDFOX (Raven) is Lakota Sioux and an accomplished artist. Our Eagle Wings logo is Mark's design and contribution to this ministry. Mark was involved with our earlier ministries: our Seattle Intertribal Alliance Church (1988 to 2002) and the Hands of Creation Native Artists Co-op & Studio (1992 to 2000) - both in Seattle, Washington. Here is Mark's story of his encounter of Christ in his life:
"I got saved outside a bar in Missoula, Montana, in 1986 and ended up working with the preacher, doing artwork for his Christian T-shirt, printing business. Went through a few churches before I got involved with Seattle Intertribal and the Hands of Creation artist co-op. Two years ago I suffered a heart attack, had quadruple bypass open heart surgery and lived to tell about it. I believe God's hand was in that, by all rights I should have died." His testimony to Christ's transforming work in his life has carried him through many of life's trials and tribulations, disappointments and heartaches, but Mark always looks to the Lord to bring him through.
Mark continues to create his distinctive artwork in the Santa Fe area and has participated in several art shows and other venues over the years. He also is a self-taught guitarist, and enjoys sharing his talent to entertain others.
You can view Mark's Raven Redfox Studio webpage here:
Sonny Cuesta: Dead & Alive
As Recounted By Rev Rodger Niemeier
William "Sonny" Cuesta has a remarkable Story . I had the privilege of being water baptized by Sonny 3 years after I had come to Christ in his LIFE ANEW inner city live-in ministry in downtown Dayton, Ohio, 1974. In the picture to the right, Sonny is on the left and I am on the far right, as we baptized another young lady who had come to Christ out of a life of drug addiction - which was Sonny's special calling in ministry. Sonny began this Life Anew Ministries in the later 60's, reaching young people caught up in the drug culture of the times. Sonny could speak to the problem of drug abuse, for he himself was a recovered hardcore drug addict.
Sonny grew up in the Bronx in New York, and for Puerto Rican families and others, life was hard, financially and otherwise. In his teenage years, as part of a gang, Sonny started using drugs, eventually graduating to Cocaine and Heroin - and was like many of his friends and gang members, a hard core drug addict by his young adult years. He had been arrested for drugs and other drug-related crimes, but being part of a gang-related murder (earning him the name, Catkiller), Sonny did 10 years in Sing Sing prison. Finally he got to a point where he could not go on, and on a Bronx rooftop he deliberately overdosed. He remembers calling out to God just before blacking out.
Later that night his body was found inside a locked-up inner city mission on a staircase landing, a totally different building than the rooftop where he overdosed. Immediately the young person finding his body alerted the mission leadership and others woke, too, wondering what all the concern was. They took Sonny's body and placed him on a pew in the mission chapel: no pulse, no breath on a mirror. One of the residents said he would go call the morgue, but the Mission's leading lady said to wait, and asked everyone to gather around the body, join hands, and start praying. The lady and those praying asked the Lord of the Resurrection to have mercy on this poor soul, and they cried out to the Lord for him.
As Sonny tells his Story, it was then that he opened his eyes, seeing this circle of people around him, all with very surprised looks on their faces! Then they all started rejoicing and thanking God for this miraculous return to life of one who was clearly dead!
Sonny accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, realizing that something indeed miraculous had happened to him, for he took enough Heroin to make sure he'd die! He became a devout Christian and entered into their discipleship program in Upper New York State. Sensing a clear call to ministry, Sonny became ordained, trained and ended up in downtown Dayton, Ohio, with a few supporters, planting a new church called...without surprise...LIFE ANEW! Young people started coming as they heard Sonny's Story and found they, too, could have this New Life in Christ that Sonny heartily preached about. Many came off of drugs, left their addictive life behind, and found what Sonny told them they would find if they turned with their whole hearts to Christ - a new purpose in life by accepting Jesus' sacrifice for their sins and the Father's forgiveness, and starting a new life with a clean slate! The Church grew; they put on Christian concerts regularly as outreach crusades, went out into the city streets every Saturday to preach the Gospel and share salvation in Christ one-on-one with anyone who would listen. Sonny was asked to share his Story all around Ohio churches, community events, Christian gatherings, etc., and many were greatly affected and found Christ through his ministry.
I came across Life Anew in 1974 while attending classes at a Dayton seminary, and not finding that particular seminary very true to the Gospel and Scriptures. Life Anew and meeting Sonny changed my walk in Christ for the better, and I became, for about 8 years, an assistant to Sonny in Life Anew Ministries. I heard him tell his Story many, many times, whether at a church, a concert, on the street, in our Life Anew meetings, at Full Gospel Businessmen meetings, and others. I got to know the man Jesus raised from the dead, as he was very much my first "spiritual father" in the faith and helped me grow strong in the Lord. It was no accident I found Life Anew, that the Lord led me there.
When the Lord, in the early 80's, led Sonny into other avenues of ministry, the end of a remarkable era of the Jesus Movement was winding down, of which Life Anew was a significant part especially in Dayton Ohio. Some years later Sonny went home to heaven to be with the Jesus he loved more than life itself.
His wonderful wife Ellie still lives in Ohio. The oldest son, Andy, passed away in 2021; Joe and Paul live in Ohio as well. Paul, the youngest son, and his wife Kim have been faithful, generous supporters of Eagle Wings Ministries for many years!