This is a story of a girl, Flora who beats all the odds. With parents who were drug dealers, she survived a broken home, a near death experience, rage and disappointments in life only to find the answer to her lifelong question in God.
Born in Bronx, NY from a Hondurian mom and a Cuban dad. At the age of 3 our family moved to Miami, FL. to start a new life away from the drugs and disco life of the “Big Apple”. But that move did not stop the poison that had affected our family. Little did I know that my parents decided to make a living by selling drugs in Miami. When I turned 9 I realized that my parents were real serious drug dealers and users. As a little girl, I remember waking up in the morning and seeing strangers passed out on the living room floor; after a heavy night of partying, drugs, and alcohol. I can still remember the smell of our house after a long night, the marinating stench of alcohol and cigarettes. It was at this early age I started asking God “Why me?”
With the help of my grandma, who lived with us, she would be the one to get me ready to go to school the next day. I knew it broke my grandmothers’ heart to see me living like that. I believe she lived there because she felt she had to take care of me and watch over me. She was like my guardian angel.
There were times when it was drug awareness at school; I would want to turn in my own parents to the cops. The school would show pictures of the different kinds of drugs for us to stay away from and say “no” to. But for me they looked just like the ones my mom and dad had hidden in my closet in my bedroom (otherwise known as the “business supply room”). My mom or dad would take their so call “customers” into my bedroom closet to get them their supply. Most of my days were spent outside the house because I did not want to be in the house or get in the way of my parents and their friends business.
Out in the streets, in the neighborhood where I lived, I would witness SWAT teams or DEA teams raiding my parents’ friends’ homes. I would be scare that our house would be the next one on their raiding list. I used to think to myself “where would I go, if the cops came to our house”. So, in order to stay one step in front of the authorities we moved around a lot, sometimes in the middle of the night and other times through eviction notices. I grew up as always the “new kid” in school. In one particular school year, I attended 3 different schools.
My parents were good loving parents though. Even though they fought a lot, they took care of me and we had some sort of a normal life. We spent our free time fishing at Key West and going to the beach. I remember my birthday parties were a lot of fun with so many people at our house, but looking back I realize that most of those people were not there for me but for what my parents were supplying.
One of the highlights of this time in my life is when one of my dad’s friends, Robert would pick me up on Sundays to take me to church. He was different from all of his other friends somehow, but at the time I was not quite sure what that was. On Sunday mornings, somehow I would get myself out of bed, after a long night to get myself ready for when Robert arrived to pick me up in his brown van with his wife and baby boy. I like going to Sunday schools to listen to the stories and it was there that I felt a different kind of love. I would spend the rest of the day with Robert and his family. It was truly the highlight of each week for me.
If going to church on Sundays with Robert and his family was the highlight for me as a little girl, the lowest point in my life would have to be when I was 11 years old. My parents had many friends but one couple was considered their closest friends. They would do everything together, the good stuff and the bad stuff.
One day my dad told me, my little sister and my mom that he had to go to the auto parts store to get something for the car. He told me when he gets back we can go to the beach. I was so excited; I ran to my room and put on my blue bathing suit. I sat there looking out the window waiting for my dad to get back from the store. My mom was in the kitchen fixing us something to take to the beach to eat. She had the cooler ready and all our beach stuff ready for my dad to get back. My little sister and I were sitting out looking for my dad to come home. Our bathing suits on and picnic lunch ready for our beach day.
We waited and waited and waited until my mom got a feeling that something was wrong. Back then there were no cell phones so we could not call my dad to see where he was to ask him what was taking him so long. Then somehow through several calls to friends my mom had found out that my dad had left town with another woman. And not just another woman, it was my mom’s best friend. The wife of the couple who was our family’s closest friends.
We did not end up at the beach that day. Instead, I just sat there in my blue bathing suit waiting for my dad. I did not want to get out of my bathing suit for days. Then it hit me, my dad was not taking us to the beach that day or ever again. That’s when I went into shock and would not speak to anyone or say anything for almost 2 months. And asking God again “Why me?” It was even harder to watch my mom go through it and she could not snap out of her depression. My little sister would walk around the house all day holding on to one of my dads’ shirt because she missed him so much. She was 5 at the time.
A few months later when my mom could not take it any longer she decided we all needed a fresh start. We moved from Miami, FL to Jersey City, NJ. We moved into the basement of an apartment building with no bathroom or shower. I had just turned 12 and by this time I was full of rage and anger. I started hanging out with the kids that felt like me. Kids that felt like this world did not have anything to offer them. I connected really well with them. Using alcohol and cigarettes to fit in and look cool. Sometime we felt like we could hide our hurts and buried it in the bottle. I would skip school all the time to hang out with my so call friends. I hid it so well that my mom did not even know I was skipping school or drinking or smoking cigarettes. Besides, she had her own problems to worry about, now that she has to raise 2 young girls on her own. She had to work hard to put food on the table for us and to find us a good place to live.
I was looking for something to ease my pain or take it away all together. When I did not find it in the alcohol or cigarettes I would try getting attention from the opposite sex. I thought maybe if someone could love me again like my dad did that would make everything better. So, I experimented with love. Let’s just said I dated a lot. It got scary when I was with this older guy hanging out in one of NJ alley. He just wanted more at the time then I was willing to give him. That was my wakeup call.
A year later, through my grandmother my dad had found us and wanted me and my little sister to visit him in Jacksonville, FL. So, my little sister and I took the bus to FL to see my dad. I think at the time my goal was to get my mom and dad back together that’s why I agreed to go and visit him. During our visit with my dad, he took us to the beach. It was a great day for the beach and a great way for my sister and me to try to reconnect with our dad. After we had our Cuban sandwiches we all went in the water for a swim.
It would be a swim of a lifetime for me. In the water is where I would see God revealing Himself to me. My dad had me in one hand and my sister in the other when all of the sudden we were caught up in a rip tide. It started to pull us apart and away from shore while dragging us down under the water. Our hands came apart because of the strong currents and we all went under. My dad tried to push us to shore but the current was just too strong. I don’t know how my dad and little sister got to shore but the last thing that I can remember is me going down for the last time.
My grandmother was watching all this from the shore and later told me what happened. When the lifeguards were working on my dad and little sister my grandmother told them to go in the water and get me. That she had another granddaughter still in the water. By the time they reached me my head was buried under the sand and they pulled me out by my ankle. The lifeguards thought I was a goner for sure because I was under water for about 20 minutes. But that did not stop them from trying to revive me. They worked on me and did not give up until they had a pulse.
When I came through they were rushing my dad and sister to the hospital but I stayed behind to help my grandma. I even drove her to the hospital and when we got inside, I passed out. The doctors were all amazed how I did not have any brain complications for being under the water for so long. But, my lungs were full of sand and seawater which they had to pump out of me. We were all treated at the hospital and I left there with an inhaler to help me breathe. I even got my picture in the Jacksonville newspaper.
It was on my hospital bed that I began to question God and asked the question again, “Why me?”. But this time I was asking Him,
“Why did He give me another chance to live? Why was I spared? Why am I here? What do you want from me?”
When I got back to NJ a friend of mine invited me to a youth group at Saint Paul of the Cross Church. It was there that I got to share my death experience. It was there when I first felt God really speaking in my life. I still hung out with some of my old friends but now I have some new church friends. So, I was torn between the two groups. Not sure which way to go yet.
My mom at the time started dating this guy and even had a kid with him. He was a bad alcoholic and would abuse my mom verbally and physically. The only way to get away from him was for us to move out of NJ.
We ended up moving to Omaha, NE. My grandmother had moved there to be close to her second son and family. My uncle was serving in the United States Air Force while his wife worked at the base hospital.
In my sophomore year in high school on May 22, 1993 I met the man that God created for me. Who would of known that a blind date would turn out to be so life changing. We got married 11 months later. Then in 1996 we were pregnant with our first child. Instead of being the most precious time of our lives it would be the worst. At 3 and half months, we had a miscarriage. I can still remember the vivid images when we lost our baby. And once again I had to ask God “Why me?”
But, through it God has given me the strength to surrender my life to Him completely. After that experience we learned how to put God in the center of our marriage and focus our lives on Him. We were baptized together. It was the first time in our marriage that we felt real peace and knew that everything will be okay because God is with us. Serving Him is the answer to my life’s question of “Why me?”
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
By Flora Mallawong
Image Credit: Flickr/AlicePopkorn