“I am ready to set things right”: When God brought two prodigal children home from drugs and violence
by Janice Tai // November 10, 2020, 5:07 pm
While missionaries June and Kari (standing, right) were going through dark times with their children Molly (seated, right) and Joshua (standing, left), God comforted them through the story of the prodigal son. All photos courtesy of June Chuah.
June Chuah and her Finnish husband, Kari, were missionaries in Spain. But, unlike other missionaries, their biggest challenges did not have to do with church-building or social acceptance.
Their biggest challenges turned out to be within the walls of their own home.
This story continues from Part I of the family’s dramatic journey towards reconciliation and hope.
In 2015, God spoke to Kari through a dream that their time in Spain was coming to an end and that it was time to prepare to head back to Finland. Kari and Joshua left for Finland the next year. After completing her programme at the drug rehabilitation treatment centre, Molly wanted to return to Spain and made it clear to her mother that she did not want her tagging along.
“She hit rock bottom at the mental hospital.”
June flew to Singapore in 2016 to live with her mother, who was living alone with a helper. She knew there was a risk that Molly would fall back into drugs in Spain and marshalled her church community in Singapore to pray for her.
Three weeks later, Molly called her mother in a drug-addled state and asked to return to Singapore. Once again, the psychologist referred her to the drug rehabilitation centre and made her promise that this time she would stay there for at least three months.
Within two weeks of her stay there, the centre called June and said Molly had threatened to throw a book to kill a resident there, and she was no longer permitted in its programme. Molly returned to Singapore and the psychiatrist recommended another drug rehabilitation centre in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. But Molly also had an incident there and the Malaysian centre sent her to a mental hospital after two weeks.
“She hit rock bottom at the mental hospital. Many patients were screaming and she saw demons. She knew she could not continue living her life like that or she would end up being locked up there like them,” said June.
Molly put on her best behaviour at the mental hospital and was eventually allowed to return to the private rehabilitation hospital. When she came out, she was ready to change her life and pleaded with her mother to take her back to Singapore.
June took Molly out and let her continue her alcoholic- and narcotics-anonymous sessions in Singapore.
A turning point at last
By then, Molly was desperate and knew she needed Jesus. She asked her mother to find her a place that could really help her. There were no more drug rehabilitation centres they could try in the region.
They fasted and prayed with her and she was set free from her drug addiction.
It was then that June remembered that Heidi Baker’s Iris Ministries has a discipleship and missions school called “The Father’s House”.
She thought that soaking in an atmosphere of true community in the Lord could be what her daughter needed to get a breakthrough in her life. Yet she knew this school was far from a drug rehabilitation centre and a drug addict facing withdrawal symptoms may seem out of place there.
Nonetheless, her daughter was open to the idea and decided to be honest with them about her situation so that they could decide whether to take her in. They accepted her application and she flew to South Africa in 2016.
Those three months would prove to be a turning point for Molly. When she first came in, she often slept through the teachings, partly due to the effects of her medication. Her small group of classmates were patient with her.
Living together in a shared house, she experienced first-hand how a community could walk with her in her journey of inner healing. They fasted and prayed with her and she was set free from her drug addiction.
As part of the school programme, the group also went to California to attend a Christian conference. At the conference, she caught the eye of a fellow attendee from Switzerland and they subsequently got married.
A year later, exactly five years after June attended Harvest school and received the prophecy, Molly also found herself at Harvest school in Mozambique learning about missions.
Using it all for good
While Molly was flying all around to get her addictions treated, Joshua was in Spain doing recording work for rappers and other artists. He was good at what he did, but he was often drunk and violent outside of work.
He had a Spanish girlfriend then who was anti-God and did not believe in the faith Joshua grew up with. By then, God and Christianity were also peripheral in Joshua’s life. He moved in with his girlfriend and her family.
“God can use all types of circumstances for good, even if the situation is unsavoury or less than ideal.”
In the two years that they were a couple, Joshua stopped all his wild partying and drinking. Instead, he was often present at the dinner table with his girlfriend and her family.
“People made remarks like: How could Joshua move in with his girlfriend and do this and that. But her family did give him some form of stability and belonging that he needed. That put an end to all his nonsense,” said June.
“From this episode, I learnt that God can use all types of circumstances for good, even if the situation is unsavoury or less than ideal. Similarly, it was because Joshua was put out of school that he went to try his hand at a sound engineering course and this detour enabled him to discover his calling later on,” she added.
So she learnt to invite the partners her children were seeing at various points in time to her home and befriended them, despite her misgivings about their cohabitation arrangement.
“Unconditional love always wins and we try to sow seeds where we can,” June said.
In 2016, Joshua and his father returned to Finland. June was living in Singapore with her mother then and Molly was in the drug rehabilitation centre in Thailand.
Following God’s call, Kari started a Spanish-speaking service in a church and began pastoring the church.
The church needed a sound engineer and Joshua went back to volunteer and help. Slowly, he began going back to church on his own. He felt comfortable in a church full of old people and they loved him. A Columbian worship leader and his family also lived with him and Kari for two years, and having such a community paved Joshua’s way back to God.
Kari started youth meetings in church to draw young people from the neighbourhood in. And, in 2018, a Finnish young woman walked into the youth meeting. Kari sent a photograph of her to June.
“This is going to be the one for Joshua,” he texted June, who was in Singapore.
Four months later, Joshua married her. In that same month, Molly also married her beau in Switzerland.
This year, June moved to Montenegro with her husband to serve its people, in obedience to God’s leading.
A turning of the heart
During June’s furlough in the United States, God gave her Isaiah 46:13, which told her: “For I am ready to set things right, not in the distant future, but right now! I am ready to save Jerusalem and show my glory to Israel.”
“It was the verse I clung on to when we were going through seven years of hell with the children, as it assured me that the time was near.
In His time, he has tied up all the loose ends and brought restoration and closure to the disorder that was in our household,” said June.
“At no point did we think about dropping God’s work because we wanted to obey Him. But the guilt trips were real. We judged ourselves. We also felt judged by fellow Christians who asked us why were we not putting our house in order first,” she added.
“Instead of trying to fix people, we can simply love them, walk with them, speak life to them and stand in hope with them.”
These stresses took a toll on their physical and mental health. Kari showed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms while he was in Finland and developed stomach ulcers and a myriad of allergies. A heavy cloud hung over June and each time she thought about her children, she felt an ache as sharp as if a knife were being plunged into her heart.
During the dark night of the soul, one discovers God for oneself.
“I did not blame God. I blamed myself. I could hear Him, see Him and feel Him and I knew no matter how hard things were in my family, I am going to be fruitful and win souls.
“I refused to let these circumstances hold me down. I hate to live the small life. My children are important but there is a bigger life for us all out there to live,” said June.
During her valley moments, she turned to resources such as the devotional that Rick Warren put out after his own son committed suicide.
“He shared openly about how he walked the journey after his son died. It freed me from condemnation. I learnt that there are always things that happen that we don’t have answers to and we do not need to try to find the reasons why.
“Instead of trying to fix people, we can simply love them, walk with them, speak life to them and stand in hope with them,” said June.
Whenever she felt envious or sad when she saw the warmth of some families and how they seemed to have it all together, she would work off these negative emotions at the gym.
Some of the anchors that held June and Kari through the storm included holding on to the promises and prophetic words they received, keeping a lifestyle of intimacy with God by offering sacrifices of praise as well as feeding, and keeping hope alive by reading testimonies of others and sharing their journey with others.
They also found prayer, fasting and intercession in tongues and in English useful for breakthroughs. Going away to find oasis or watering holes, as June did when she went to seek her own rest and healing overseas, also helped nourish her soul.
They declared the power of the finished work of the Cross and the blood of Jesus over their lives through the holy communion, yet were not tardy in seeking professional help when necessary.
“There is a cost to serving God and spiritual warfare is real. Sometimes, our kids do pay the price,” said June in response to questions about whether the children of pastors or church leaders are more vulnerable to going astray or leaving the faith.
“Their ‘kairos’ moment can be subtle and we may not be aware of it. But that is the work of God.”
However, she admitted that she had also made some parenting mistakes along the way.
She felt that she had been too religiously legalistic in bringing up her children.
“Every night, we needed to read the Bible and pray together and they could not do or watch certain things on TV. There could have been more balance and I should have been more relaxed about certain things,” said June.
For instance, her psychotherapist reminded her that she need not always correct her children or feel she had to have the last word.
“Now I learn to hold back and validate their feelings, instead of jumping in to correct or offer a solution. We need to give them room to make their own mistakes,” she said.
She has also joined a prayer group to support other parents who have similar stories of “prodigal” children.
“We need to learn when to let go of them and when to reel them in and sometimes that can be really hard to do,” said June.
For example, she used to send Molly to psychologists or church leaders to be treated or ministered to, but at the end of the session, she would be the one being called in to the room.
“They would look at me with concerned faces and I would know that Molly would have told them horrible things about me. I felt it was so unfair because here I was, taking her to seek help, and tables were turned on me. I prayed and God said to let it go. So, I learnt how to humble myself as well,” said June.
Today, she said her children are so “honouring, sweet and grateful” to her and her husband that she marvels at how God has restored not only their physical, mental and spiritual health, but also their family relationships.
Deep in her heart, June says she always knew God, in His grace, would come through for her family. The issue was how long she would have to wait to see that come to pass.
“The waiting will be more bearable for many of us if only we knew how long more!” quipped June.
But God spoke to her through the story of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32)
“We see in the verses that there will be a sudden kairos moment when the son ‘came to his senses’ in the pigs’ pen. There will come a point in time when something shifts and there is a turning of the heart.
“It can be subtle and we may not be aware of it. But that is the work of God.”