Life Stories​

Inspiring True Stories of Healing from Past Abuse

Hello, I'm Sarah Ann Haunani Kahaloa Niemeier.   If you can tell from my name, I am Hawaiian by birth, born in Honolulu and raised on the Big Island in a remote village called Pahoa.  We lived off the sea and the fruit of the land in an open thatched hut; very primitive by today's standards.  I had a big Hawaiian father, a loving mother of mixed nationalities, including Hawaiian, and six brothers & sisters.  The daily life we knew was hard work, and our father used all us kids for various work to bring income.

Our lives revolved around our Dad, the ruler of our family.  He was a hard man, a strong man, and often an angry man.  He often drank too much, which only fueled his anger more.  We were subject to harsh physical beatings regularly; anything could set him off.  So we lived caustiously, always on alert, for it didn't take a direct act of disobedience to get a beating.  No one escaped his anger and violence, even my Mother.  He ruled with a strong hand and everyone did what he said.  Even the local police were afraid of him!   I only remember one time they tried to arrest him, but he beat them all up!  

So I received many beatings in my childhood, along with my siblings, and of course none of this endeared our father to us.  One of the worst beatings I received from him was over a missing penny, which he himself lost, but he chose to blame me.  In his drunken rage, he grabbed a lead pipe and beat me severly across my legs until I couldn't stand.  Then he made me slide down the front steps of the house (which we had later moved to from the village) and cut the grass with scissors, continuing to yell at me and kick me.  I was so badly beaten and unable to move, he reluctantly had my Mom call for an ambulance.   I was in the hospital several weeks and told I would not walk again.  But I did  heal over quite some time and in my determination walked again.  I was in my young teens at that time, and while it was the last time he beat me, the emotional abuse continued.

But the damage had been done.  On my 18th birthday, on that very day, having already packed my bags the night before, I left.  Being 18 he could not legally stop me.  I had arranged to go off to Job Corp on the far side of the Island.  As I boarded the plane, my father said for the first time ever, "I love you" - but I didn't respond.  I didn't even look back at him.  Though I regret that now, some 50 years later, but then, I could not love him or forgive him for all he had done and said to me and my brothers and sisters.

Job Corp went well for me, except for an older boy there who tried to rape me at knife point.  He had been trying to corner me for several days, and when he finally did, I got away from him and just kept running - away from Job Corb, from home, from everything in Hawaii that had so deeply wounded me and nearly destroyed me.

I went to the USA mainland where my older brother, Isaac, had escaped to a couple years earlier.  I stayed with him and his family in the Seattle area.  But my brother, also much abused by our father, had become very abusive and violent himself, especially towards women, as well as his own sons.  That, of course, included me.  He introduced me to a friend of his who was very charming, and I agreed after a short time to marry him - it was my way out!

On our wedding night, after the marriage ceremony, my new charming husband surprised me: he physically started knocking me around the hotel room and beat me up.  He told me with a stern look that this was how it was going to be from then on.  I couldn't believe it!  I kept trying to get away from hate and abuse, only to run into it again and again.  And this man was worse than my father.  At least my father never sexually abused me or my brothers and sisters; but this man was abusive in every way imaginable.  But he was my husband and I hoped against hope that this would stop; I tried to please him, but he only found fault with everything I said and did.  Over the next 16 years of marriage to this man I would be pregnant 12 times: only two daughters survived.  He caused miscarriages by his frequent severe beatings.  I endured several severe beatings that sent me to the hospital, several stab wounds, cuttings on my body, cigarette burns, being knocked unconscious, strangled, stomped on, and perversely humiliated many times.  I knew, too, he was constantly with other women, which he didn't hide, but threw in my face.  He seemed so intent on hurting me as much as he possibly could.

Not only did he abuse me in every way, but he was the same with our two suviving daughters, his own "flesh and blood".  I tried several times to escape with my daughters, but he had this uncanny ability to always find us and drag us back home.  He controlled me by threatening to kill my Mom and other family members if I didn't comply and stay.  That included threatened to kill our daughters if I didn't obey him and be a "good" and submissive wife.

Finally, over time, I just couldn't take it anymore.  I often thought of ways to kill him, to get my girls out and be free of him.  But I couldn't bring myself to do it.  The last straw came one night, after fighting and being just so tired of it all, I said I was just walking out the door with our daughters.  He held a gun to my head and said he would blow my brains out if I tried it.  I frantically was trying to think how I could get our two little girls out the front door, with myself, without him harming them.  Finally, he held the gun at the girls and told me to just get out.  I did, and called the police (as I had several times over the years, though they never did anything about him; he was a State policeman during the early years of our marriage).  But the police never came to help.  I was on my own. 

I eventually got a place for myself in low income housing.  Authorities never did help me, even to get my daughters away from him; and I tried a few times to snatch them myself, but he always caught me.  It wasn't until a couple years later my oldest daughter left on her own and came to live with me, and then another year or so later, my youngest daughter.  All of us, though, were greatly traumatized - more than we knew.  But finally we were free of him.

People often ask why abused women often end up with another abuser as a spouse or partner.  It can seem puzzling, but I know why - firsthand.  When you suffer abuse like I have, it does something deep within you.  It wounds you deeply: you don't believe in yourself anymore; you have little or no sense of self-worth.  Deep within you feel you are nothing and worthless, because that's the message you've always had from your abusers.  And so, having that view of yourself, it's easy to be drawn to those who you figure you are "as good as you're going to get!"  You just feel....broken...damaged goods.

This wasn't the end of my abuse experience, though - unfortunately.  I married again, and while this man wasn't abusive physically, he had sexual issues and was always hooking up with other women and cheating on me.  In a short time, he ended up in prison due to his uncontrollable sexual lust.  I divorced him, and I figured I was done with men.   A pastor and his wife I met through a good friend, had helped me when I came to a point of just wanting to end my life, and I discovered Christ and the benefit of good Christian abuse-counseling.

I've been receiving Christ-based abuse-recovery counseling now for over 17  years, and have and am experiencing the healing grace of Christ in my heart and mind, addressing my "soul wound" from all that past abuse.  Through this help in Christ, I've been able to forgive my father, my older brother, and my two former husbands (and others) who had so severly abused me and my daughters.  The Lord continues to work in my mind, emotions and spirit, to discover and reverse the lingering effects of all these sins done to me.  I've learned it's not just the particular incidents of abuse that need Christ's healing touch, but also realizing and recovering from the unhealthy ways I adopted to cope with all that abuse.  I had to be healed from the inside out!

The Lord did eventually bring me into a marriage with a Christian man (my former pastor) who values and loves me - and is willing to go with me through the rest of my healing journey.   My daughters are yet discovering this needed journey of healing, too, as they had also ended up in abusive relationships.  But the Lord is working to reverse this trend in our lives and family line, though it is a hard journey back.  If it wasn't for Jesus, though, I know I wouldn't even be here today! 

I am the first Kahaloa, including my sisters, brothers, mother and father (he died in a car accident many years ago, after changing in his later years and no longer drinking or being abusive), to live past 60 years old!  My father, my mother, my oldest sister, my oldest brother, and two other brothers, have all died in their 50's or younger.  I have yet one younger brother and one sister remaining, both in their 50's; but each is dealing with life-threatening health issues.  I myself am a survivor of two cancers, the loss of one kidney, and living with COPD.  I'm praying my sister and brother will come to know Christ as I have and have many years yet ahead of them, as they would come to know Him as their Savior, Lord and Healer.  My two daughters have both come to know Christ and are yet working through the effects of their past abuse.  One of my greatest joys, through them and through my husband, are my 14 Grandchildren!   I am so thankful to the Lord for bringing me through all I've been through, to know Him, to know Peace, to have a New Life, and to enjoy my children and grandchildren!  

Truly His grace is greater than all the evil sin can bring upon us.  There isn't anything He can't change and heal!  I am living proof!
I'm Rodger Niemeier, Sarah's husband - the other half; and my Story is very different. 
 
I grew up in a well-off, middle-class home, in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with my father, mother and one older brother (3 years older).  My father and his father were in the steel business, salesmen of steel-working equipment, and my older brother later followed them - so 3 generations carrying on the same company and occupation.  I was the proverbial "black sheep" of the family and after high school, went to college to become an architect - Kent State University, in the early 70's - the Vietnam War era.  Kent State made the news in 1970 with the killing of 4 anti-war, protesting students, by the National Guard.  And that was a time that drastically changed the direciton of my life, but not because of the war or protests.

I was raised a "Christian": meaning, my parents as Presbyterians, took my brother and I to that Presbyterian church very regularly growing up - and that meant, as we understood it, that we were therefore "Christians".  I went through school okay, as a "B" and some "A's" student.  Played lots of basketball, neighborhood football, learning piano, etc. - the usual conventional middle-class family life. 

The only real crisis I ever had was in my Senior year of high school: towards the end of the school year I suddenly became very ill, but my physician misdiagnosed my problem.  It was a few weeks later, upon getting very sick again, that they discovered my appendix had already burst.  It took 2 surgeries to remove it and get me back on my feet.  I'll never forget the surgeon, in a follow-up visit at his office, putting his hand on my shoulder and saying to me, "You know, son, you shouldn't be sitting here".  It wouldn't be until about 2 years later that I would understand how profound that statement was.  A sack of flesh had formed around my appendix keeping most of the poison from going into my blood stream: the only reason I stayed alive.   As a teenager, you just don't take things very seriously.

I was going to be an architect, and Kent State University accepted me.  Being away from home and a fairly strict, moral parenting, I got caught up in all the "freedom" of my college experience: drank and got drunk (though only once: didn't find it particularly enjoyable); tried marijuana (only made me mindless and dumb); and discovered sex.  Yet indulgence in these "vices" wasn't a source of any meaning or happiness for me.  Pursuing architecture was also lacking in a sense of fulfillment, too, and I was wondering if there even was a God or any sense to our seemingly meaningless lives!  I began searching - reading and experimenting with various philosophies and religions; but nothing was providing any sensible answers or sense of personal fulfillment.  If there was a God, I wanted to know it - not just read others' best guesses.

In this state of mind, as I walked between classes one day on campus, a man had set up a card-table and was handing out paperback books to students as they walked by.  He didn't say much: just held out the book and asked if I would take it.  It's free!  I took it.

The title was:  "Good News for Modern Man: New Testament".  With my exposure most of my young life to church, I recognized that this was some version of the Scripures.  The thought dawned on me, as I headed back to my dormitory room, that I had been researching the world's religions, but hadn't really given Christianity a "fair shake".  I assumed I knew what it was all about from all the sermons and Sunday school lessons of my past: none of which particularly moved me, other than arousing a respectful curiosity for Jesus.

So that evening, my dorm roommate being elsewhere, I opened that paperback and began reading the first book: the Gospel of Matthew.  I had never really read any of the Bible for myself.  So now I would read it firsthand for myself.

As I read of Jesus and His life on this earth, it just all rang true for me: especially His words, His teachings on life, how we are and tend to be, and who He was and what He came to offer.  Particularly striking was when He said, "What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul."  I was at college to become a great architect, get a big piece of the American pie: lots of money, beautiful home, vacation home on a lake somewhere, snowmobile, boat, nice cars, etc.  That's the kind of lifestyle I grew up with, so it seemed the right reason to live and work and fulfill life!  Though I did see how that it didn't really make my family, my parents in their marriage, "happy".  They fought a lot; and behind closed doors, it wasn't the happiest and loving home it could be.  Something was missing, and I always knew that.

I didn't even know if I had a "soul"!  Then I read that Jesus died on that cross, and somehow, I knew He did that for everyone, for our sins, our stubbornness to be captains of our own lives and make our lives as we thought they should be; He died for me.  It just made sense to me.

Then it said He rose from the dead; I'd been to many Easter Sunday services in childhood and teen years.  But for some reason, never really seriously thought about this claim and what it meant.  Hungering for some real proof of God, I knelt down by my metal dorm bunkbed, and simply prayed, "Jesus.  It says here that You died for me, to forgive me for all my sins - and I know I have many.  I believe You did!  It also says You raised from the dead: if that is true, then that means You are living.  Lord, if You are living....I want to know You."  And in that instant, a tremendous sense of love like I've never felt before from anyone, came over me.  I felt like I was being hugged by massive arms, by an invisible Presence - and I just broke down and wept, thanking Him for His love, for His forgiveness, for His caring for me to meet me there in that place.  And something happened within me in that moment.  I felt different; changed; clean; light.  Transformed!

I had a girlfriend at Kent State: purely sexual relationship.  The next day, as we usually met daily, my phone in my dorm room rang: it was her.  She said (as this was the kind of relationship we had): "I'm horny.  Can you come over?"  I held the phone away from my ear and immediately felt a sense of disgust - for me; I replied, "Ah, no.  I can't do this anymore.  Sorry.  Goodbye."  And that was the end of that relationship - and anymore like it.   I had to stop and marvel at my own reaction, as just a couple days before, I would have been over to her room before she could have hung up the phone!  Wow! I've really changed!

My love for architect also immediately changed: it left.  I went to my next class in the architecture school, and it felt empty and meaningless.  I could hardly stand it!  In a few days I changed my major to the only thing that appealed to me now that this school offered: philosophy.  And I started reading various philosophers for the course, all of which I was now responding to their concepts from my ravenous reading of Scriptures in every paper I wrote - something my philosophy teacher wasn't too keen on, though tolerant.  In the next days and weeks ahead, I realized more and more all I wanted to do was know God more, study the Scriptures, and tell others about Christ.  With some counsel (my parents reluctantly agreeing), I changed colleges to a Christian one where I majored in English (also loved to write) and Bible, graduated, and felt called to ministry as my life vocation.  I went on to seminary (actual, seminaries, plural: that's another story).  

Another "calling" began to form, too: I had always loved mountains, woods and rivers running through them, and dreamed of Alaska.  Native People also enticed me.  Eventually I ended up in Alaska, through my own initiative, and spent 4 different short term "missionary" excursions ministering to Inuit People ("Eskimos") in Nome, Alaska.  I had also fallen in love with a wonderful Christian "gal", gotten married, and had a son (in that order!  : )   As I finished up seminary, my 3rd seminary, I pursued this calling to minister to Native People: and even though Alaska was my goal, the Lord had other plans as we settled in Seattle, Washington, to plant an urban Native church.

By His grace and leading, we did.  Years back I also had been involved in inner-city ministries, ministering especially to those struggling with chemical dependency, as well as teaching in Dayton, Ohio, Christian schools.  All these experiences brought focus to my calling and skills as God opened doors to plant "Seattle Intertribal Alliance church", also work as a teacher of recovery in the Seattle Indian Health Boards' inpatient treatment center for chemical dependency (13 years), and then later planting a second ministry called, Eagle Wings Native American Ministries.  

Along the journey my first wife died after 27 years of marriage; I married again, to my present wife, Sarah (Kahaloa) Niemeier (now for 14 years), whom I met as her pastor when she was just addressing her past abuse and recovering from it.  She was my teacher on the aspects of abuse: what it does to a human being, but also how Christ addresses and heals one from it.  And together we began to see the correlation between carrying unresolved pain (from past abuse, trauma, etc.) and vulnerability to chemical dependency.  Our ministry these days is focused on helping Native People and others, who have suffered much pain from past abuse, traumatizing events, and just the debilitating effects of "sins done to us", find healing grace in Christ to take away the pain, heal the "soul wound", repair the damaged emotions, and find a new source of self-worth, meaning, and happiness in a personal relationship with a living Savior and Friend - Jesus Christ.