WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Veena D'Silva grew up believing that she needed to earn God's love.
Veena D'Silva was a Sunday Catholic, believing that God would love her and answer her prayers only if she was good and did everything right to please God.
So, to obtain God's favour she went to Mass on Sundays, received the sacraments and gave offerings. She never knew that God loved her unconditionally.
However, painful situations in her marriage led her to Colleen, a faith-filled woman who encouraged D'Silva to make Jesus her personal Lord and saviour. Through daily mentoring from Colleen, D'Silva's faith took root and grew.
It was in mid-1989 when her youngest son Lloyd, then 16, was miraculously raised to life after nearly drowning that D'Silva's faith was put to the test and has ever since been raised to new levels.
D'Silva gave her testimony at the Catholic charismatic prayer breakfast July 13 at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre.
Born and raised in a Catholic middle class family in Mumbai, India, D'Silva was married for 34 years before she was widowed in 2003. She is the mother of three adult children, including a daughter and son in Edmonton, and is grandmother of seven grandchildren. She worked in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, before moving to Edmonton in 2007.
As a teenager, D'Silva saw God as one who sits on his throne in the skies "and I was here down below and I had to do something to please him."
So she attended church on Sundays and all religious occasions, made novenas and gave offerings "and I believed only then he was pleased with me and would answer my prayers."
This understanding of God continued for years. "I was never introduced to his word, his promises or having a relationship with him," D'Silva said. "However I believe that in spite of this, God's hand of love, mercy, compassion and favour was upon me all along."
D'Silva got married at an early age and was blessed with three children, good health, loyal friends and wonderful jobs.
"The only thorn in my flesh, so to say, was my difficult and extremely troubled marriage," she said. "I remained in that marriage for almost 35 years until my husband passed away."
In December 1988, while facing lots of pressure and stress, D'Silva went to church in Dubai. There she met Colleen, who listened to her problems patiently. Colleen told her about God and how much God loved her.
She also told D'Silva the story of Jesus and asked her if she wanted to make Jesus the Lord and master of her life. D'Silva jumped at the offer and said "yes." Colleen began tutoring D'Silva in the faith on a daily basis. Her faith was growing. At that time D'Silva did not know that God was preparing to put her faith to test.
One morning, she received a call from her son Lloyd telling her he was going out with friends for a swim at a pool and would return at 6:30 p.m. By 10 p.m., there was no sign of Lloyd. She called Lloyd's friends and they were all home.
At 11 p.m. D'Silva and her husband went to bed. Standing at the foot of the bed she pleaded with the Lord to protect her son.
The next thing the D'Silvas knew the phone rang in the living room and a voice told them Lloyd was in intensive care in Rashid Hospital. He had been pulled lifeless from a swimming pool, was in a coma and was not expected to live. He had been pronounced clinically dead.
At the hospital, the D'Silvas were in shock to see their son rolled in on a bed plugged in to a number of gadgets, surrounded by medical personnel. Instead of waiting in the hospital, the D'Silvas went to their church and asked the priest to make an announcement during morning Mass for prayers for their son's recovery.
Despite the turmoil, D'Silva felt at peace. She told God, "Father, I know my son's life is in your hands; just as your Son Jesus died and rose on the third day, so I ask you to bring my son back on the third day."
She told the Lord that if her son was to come out of his coma as a vegetable, she didn't want him. "If you are giving him back to me, then he's got to be well."
At that point, a flow of people began visiting the D'Silvas to give their condolences. They had been told at the hospital that Lloyd was almost dead and had no chance of recovery.
But D'Silva didn't give up and kept asking the Lord to give her a sign that he was healing her son. Back at the hospital, a nurse told D'Silva she had shaken Lloyd and he had opened his eyes for a second. Upon hearing that, "I felt God's presence in and around me and literally felt pushed to the ground and thanked and worshipped God for even that small sign he had given me."
However, there was little change in Lloyd's condition. Moreover, police visited the D'Silvas and asked if they suspected foul play.
On the third day, at about 11 a.m., the D'Silvas received a surprise. As she and her husband stood on each side of Lloyd's bed, suddenly her son held her hand and said, "Mom, I'm sorry."
With tears in their eyes, the couple hugged and kissed their son, who had come back to life on the third day just as Jesus had.
"My son was perfect. My God had given him a new lease on life, a second chance."
D'Silva asked her audience to run to the Lord every time they face a challenge or problem of any kind. "Our God is definitely, without a doubt, bigger and larger than any problem or challenge we face. Just run to him (and ask for his advice)."