He was a scholar at a Science High School, one of the Ten Outstanding Students in Mandaluyong, a recipient of the PGMA Leadership Award, President of the Central Mandaluyong Student Council, consistent honor student and graduated Summa Cum Laude in Multi-media Arts (also as a scholar) with a recognition on Community Service at the Asia Pacific College. He was a two-time PANA IMC Competition Finalist, won as PWU IFG FILM FESTIVAL’s Best Director for his short film, Tanikala, then went on to painting and studio arts. Weeks before graduating, he already had a Planner position in Publicis Manila. Young, handsome, single, riding an upturn in his career in Advertising (the most recent one as Communications Planner at McCann Erickson), Paul de Vera’s life was a picture of success. But on the inside, there were many past unresolved issues that led up to him attempting to hang himself with loops of extension cord. He shared his story at 45:18 to 52:33 on yesterday’s teaching by Pastor Ricky Sarthou (PRAY: JESUS CHANGES LIVES)
I was on my way out of my room yesterday when I remembered to go back to grab a face towel. Praise God for that as I needed it while listening to this young man’s story.
“My mom — who was praying for me every night as I went through God’s disciplining— never gave up on the hope that God will be able to fix everything that was broken… God makes all things new…” -Paul de Vera
Paul’s words spoke of loved ones’ (or loving ones’) faith and faithfulness in prayer and God’s faithfulness to respond.
I went backstage to see if Paul could be interviewed but the guard did a great job of barring entry of unauthorized persons (Every building needs one like him). Just then, Pastor JP Masakayan passed by so I waved (okay, flailed) at him and he allowed me to come in. Long story short, by God’s grace I am face to face with Paul before the closing song, “How Great Thou Art.” The sight of him overwhelms me as I’m thinking in hyperlapse of his journey to brokenness and then to restoration, how Jesus changed him, how God is real, how God works, how God moves, how God restores, how prayers are not in vain…
Paul agrees to be interviewed (Thank You Lord and Thank you Paul)
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): [trying to regain composure from crying] Thank you so much for sharing today. It was so amazing how God proved Himself alive in your life. I wanted to know…[asking God what I should ask]… how old were you when you finally met God?
PAUL DE VERA (PDV): I grew up in the Christian faith but the encounter was just in 2012 when finally He took out all the plugs and saved me from (attempted) suicide. But all the while I knew (of) God, Jesus, His Word; I knew He was real but He was never The Lord of my heart.
BITS: How old were you then?
PDV: I was…21.
BITS: Were you wanting to follow Him but couldn’t or it wasn’t your desire?
PDV: I thought I was already there because I thought I know Him, I go to church, people know me to be religious, I thought that was fine. And so my life didn’t translate to what my faith actually was. You know I always believed in Jesus but I lived my life as if I’m not a Christian. I do all those sins… I wasn’t living a life that was pleasing to the Lord.
BITS: You said you were religious at that same time?
PDV: Yeah. There would be times I would go to church first then right after service, I would go to a… motel and just sin; that was just very normal for me.
BITS: The turning point?
PDV: When the trauma was activated by this breakup. After my suicide attempt, my former professor who is a psychologist tried to process the situation with my mom and she said that the trauma of rape wasn’t healed. So it was there forever and whenever I felt that my heart was bothered by something, I reacted in a certain way that I poured out that trauma. So when the breakup happened and God pulled out the plug, my reaction was “My life is torn to pieces, I’ll just die. So I (attempted) suicide. I hung myself on loops of extension cord and I was very willing to die… As I was hanging, nearing death, my sister came in and she saved me. That moment I said, “Okay Lord, You still have something for me so whatever that is, okay, I’m going to listen, I’m going to commit.”
BITS: When you say “breakup”, you are referring to the personal relationship?
PDV: Yeah, I was in a very sinful relationship. I was living in with my girlfriend and I really thought we were going to get married because I really had it all together, a successful career in advertising, and all these accolades and stuff. I felt like I’m there and I thought maybe if I get married, that’s when I’ll start committing to Jesus and we can be a Couples D-group [mentoring bible study small group]. Never worked, wasn’t part of God’s plan. What He wanted was for me first to give my heart to Him before anything else.
BITS: For someone who’s had any kind of trauma even though it might not have been rape, they could probably relate to you. Is your trauma something you were able to identify or was it something you processed through years of counseling? How did you come to grab it by its horns?
PDV: God led me to different things. I have friends who are in psychology who sort of processed the whole thing. I went through counseling also. CCF has the Deliverance Ministry or Glorious Hope… they would really point out the root cause of what’s troubling you so you dig down deeper and deeper and deeper and you find out what the issue really is in your heart. What I say to people who might not know that they have trauma in their hearts that could trouble their walk with the Lord: I always encourage them to look deeply into everything that God has placed in their lives. See if there was anything that you haven’t really resolved, that you run away from… because these things remain and when the enemy takes a grasp of that, He will use that and He will bring you down so the best way is to really face all these things and be courageous that God will be able to clean, restore, and set you free so there is nothing to fear facing these traumatic experiences. It’s for our healing.
BITS: What is your take on whether the approach should be from psychology, spiritual, or both?
PDV: My take is if God placed people in your life that are able to see it spiritually or mentally, scientifically—embrace. that. These people are there for a reason.
BITS: So you think the psychological help is also instrumental?
PDV: Yes, it helped me to realize that there is a problem that I needed to face.
It’s just that at the end of the day, this life is a spiritual battle. So you can psychologize or analyze all you want but until the issue of the soul is resolved, that’s the only time that you will be able to be set free from all these bondages. I learned that God can even do the impossible, those internal problems, He can solve, He can clear, He can erase.
BITS: For those who probably can’t afford psychological help, what do you think about going at it spiritually?
PDV: Most spiritual counselors are trained in a scientific way. Some ministries like Pastoral Counseling, they really know what to do and these things are for free. When you go to a pastor, to the Welcome Center for example, talk to people, seek counseling, it’s for free and they’ll offer you biblical help. I think the first thing we should do is run to God and then we embrace the other things being offered but first, God.
BITS: For someone who doesn’t know that they had trauma— because I think some of the coping mechanisms have to do with kind of forgetting—how do you think they can discover the buried trauma and move towards healing?
PDV: Based on my personal experience, you know that there’s a problem, that’s why you try so hard to bury that problem. I coped by excelling in other things. Since I was sexually abused, I tried to prove to myself that sex is something that you give away very casually. You bury it so deep, you can’t identify it (and later you see that) everything you’ve been putting your life into doesn’t solve that empty space in your heart. That’s the time to say, there’s something wrong, I need to find out why.
BITS: What would be the next step?
PDV: I would encourage people to pray, seek God. I know some people would not be coming from the Christian faith, but if you call out to the name of Jesus at the moment of desperation, shout it out, “Lord I need You!” Whatever and wherever you are, even if you are not part of the family of God when you do that in a moment of surrender, I trust that He will move and He will reach out. Eventually, He would move like someone playing chess. He would move all the pieces so that around you, beside you, above you, and beneath you, there will be channels of blessing where He can communicate and He will eventually take you out of the pit.
BITS: In the big picture of the tapestry of your life, what part do you think the gruesome event played?
PDV: God gave me two wake up calls. The first one was rape. But I didn’t take it as a wake up call. I took it as, “Okay, my life is damaged, let’s go with it. But God proved that He will never get tired of pursuing me. And so one day, when finally, I stood up against God and said I will embrace this sinful relationship and I’ll be fine. God proved to me, “No. You are not lord over your life so he pulled out all the security blankets that I had and when I lost it, I attempted suicide. That was probably the wake up call which I knew was from God. Because when he saved me as I hung on those extension cords, I could really hear it clearly, “It’s not time yet. It’s not time yet.”
BITS: Why did you call the rape a “wakeup call” instead of just some trauma?
PDV: Around that time, I was already losing grip of the Christian living that I needed to live for Christ and when rape came, I stood in front of a crossroads. I was pushed to make a choice if I’d lift it up to God—forgive, forget, and just be restored by God or take this road that would make me comfortable that would make me feel that I am able to redeem myself, I chose this (latter) route. I thought I knew what to do with covering that experience and I failed terribly.
BITS: Earlier when you gave your testimony, you mentioned the word “disobedience”?
PDV: Yeah. Yeah. I disobeyed. Quite a lot. The crucial point was that my parents didn’t want me to go to the camp where I was raped but I made people pay for my fee and when I got there, I got raped. And so you know, had I obeyed my parents, these things would not have happened. But they did because I was disobedient.
BITS: Can you say a prayer for any person out there who’s maybe struggling and doesn’t know what to do?
PDV: This goes out to everyone watching the video, reading the blog, if you feel you have to be set free from something, you need to recover or be taken out of the pit, let this prayer touch your heart today. Father, we just want to thank You for Your grace. Lord, true enough, whatever it is You’ve done on the cross for our sins, failures, iniquities, it transcends all understanding and it goes down deep to our hearts. I pray for these people who do not know what to do, who are lost, who are broken, who are seeking that opportunity to finally see light in their lives, that You will shine Your face upon them that You would take care of their hearts, that You would point them to the right way but most of all You would remind them, THEY ARE LOVED. And that whatever it is that was thrown into their lives (are) there for a reason and the best thing is that You, Lord, will work all things together for the good of those who love You so I pray that when these people commit their lives to You even just commit to seeking Your voice, Your presence, that You would be there, ready to receive them with open arms and ready to tell them, “I am able to set you free and whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” Bless them O Jesus, heal them, set them free in Jesus’s name we pray, Amen
I felt like I had been with Jesus, too, after seeing the living witness that is Paul de Vera. Thank You, Lord, for Your amazing work of restoration in his life. Thank You for his courage to share it. Thank You for showing us that no one is beyond Your reach, there is nothing beyond Your capability to restore, You are not asleep. Thank You for Your grace that You appointed Paul’s sister to walk in the room right when this precious person was trying to end his life. And You gave him new life. Thank You for the faith of his mom to pray for him every night even in the period of waiting when nothing seemed to be happening. Please protect Paul and his minute-by-minute walk with You as he continues to live a life of obedience and submission; please protect his family. his work, his ministry. May Your story in his life point anyone in any kind of struggle to their hope in You in Your name amen.