In August 2002, I went on a ministry trip to Malaysia to give testimonials of faith in a series of seminars. This was my first trip to Southeast Asia, and I was excited about the opportunity to meet and share my faith with so many people.
One of our early stops was to the town of Miri. Even before we had arrived, we had heard that Miri was a place full of the grace of the Holy Spirit, and that many of the priests and believers had been baptized in the Holy Spirit for over 20 years. My testimonial was scheduled on a Sunday, and we attended the morning Mass. After Mass, it was going to be my turn to testify before several hundred people about the wonderful things God has done in my life.
Before each testimonial, we would customarily sing one of our new songs to praise God. This was going to be my first testimonial in Miri, and the first time I would be sharing a song I had just composed the previous day. I was not sure how a new Catholic like me could share my faith with a congregation church of such strong spirituality and faith. I felt nervous .
During Mass, as we stood up holding hands with others to say The Lord’s Prayer, I suddenly started coughing intensely and couldn’t stop. There was an itchy feeling in my chest which tickled my lungs, and at every breath I felt an urge to cough. It was awkward as my hands were still holding others and I was at a loss of what to do. At that critical moment, I suddenly remembered an event in a Mass several years ago…
I went to a daily noon Mass at the Our Lady of Peace church, a very popular church in a business district. As usual, there were several hundred people attending Mass that day. Normally, the Mass always began promptly. However, on that day, after quite a while past noon, there was still no sign of the priest. We waited, waited, and waited, finally, an old priest slowly opened the door. He walked out coughing intensely and could not stop. During the Entrance Antiphon, the Penitential Rite, Kyrie, and the Opening Prayer, he could not finish even one full sentence without coughing. He struggled through the entire Introductory Rite, and it was obviously very difficult for the poor priest. The entire congregation felt for the old priest, but was unable to help him.
A lector came up to read the First Reading and the Responsorial Psalm, and then it was the old priest’s turn again. He slowly walked up to the ambo and began reading the Gospel, which happened to be The Lord’s Prayer. With great difficulty, he finally struggled through the Gospel. Then he paused for a moment, and said, “Praise the Lord! Sometimes, God allows these minor inconveniences to let us remember how weak we are, and to remind us we need to rely on God more.” Starting from that moment, he completely stopped coughing. Miraculously, he finished the Homily, went through the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the rest of the Mass without coughing. Everyone was amazed and glorified God’s grace, power, and love. Alleluia!!
Still coughing heavily, I was suddenly filled with faith. I realized that this cough of mine was a spiritual attack to deter me and to weaken my testimonialfor God. I knew God would not send me thousands of miles to Malaysia to waste everyone’s precious time during the testimonial. I believe God would not allow me to compose a new song, move us to sing His praises and glorify His name, and take away our ability to sing. I also knew firmly that this cough could be driven away, in the same way that God took away the cough from the old priest at the Our Lady of Peace Church.
I called out to Jesus right away for help, and commanded the cough to go away in Jesus’ name. Sure enough, the coughing ceased immediately! This all happened so quickly, I stopped coughing even before finishing The Lord’s Prayer. I did not cough again through the rest of the Eucharistic process. I felt so thankful to Jesus! He is so wonderful and loving!! He is a living God and is present among us. When we sincerely call out for his help, he always hears our prayer. As we start to lose faith in trials, like Peter and begin to sink in the sea [Mt 14:30], he always raises his capable right hand to lift us out of troubled waters, to save us and to increase our faith.
At the end of the Mass when we stood up for the final blessing, all of a sudden, I had another very, very small cough. I was surprised that ‘it’ came back, but I remembered Jesus’ warning of a spirit returning with seven other spirits [Matthew 12]. I also remembered how Jesus drove out the “legion” of spirits into the pigs [Mark 5]. I quickly rebuked the cough in Jesus’ name, and commanded the cough in Jesus’ name to go to the pigs and never come back. I didn’t know where the pigs were in Miri, but I just pointed outside somewhere thinking there must be pigs in ‘that’ direction, and the cough left me completely.
I did not cough again through the rest of our two-week trip. Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power” [Mark 9:1]. When we use faith as our shield, we can see the kingdom of God comes in power!
After the Mass, I was so joyful! I confidently stood in front of over 300 people, sang a new song to praise the Lord, proclaimed the good news to them, testified to God’s love and blessings, and gave all glory to God. Praise and thank God! Alleluia! At that time, I realized that although I had only been baptized for three years, but just like the Samaritan woman by the well, as soon as she met Jesus, she immediately testified for Christ, and brought more people to God [John 4].
Dear Jesus, God raised your name above everything. In your name, we can prevail over trials, experience the living God and see the kingdom of God. Thank you for allowing the cough to happen, which enabled me to experience God’s healing and increase my faith. May your holy name be glorified forever. Dear God, thank you for listening to our prayers. May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Alleluia!! Amen.