Wednesday, 29 June 2016
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God Put the Pieces of My Heart Back Together

By Tina Sainnawap

In February 2007, during the dark time in my life, I was in so much pain that I wanted to commit suicide. One morning, I went to the basement but instead of killing myself, I ended up giving my heart to Jesus. I didn't fully understand who He was but decided to trust Him anyway. He has totally transformed my life and continues to transform me. For the first time in my life I have peace.

 Tina, Tanisha, and Lilyanna
 Tina and her daughter Tanisha along with her niece Lilyanna



Born on March 11, 1973 in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, I was raised in a small reserve called Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) formerly known as Big Trout Lake. Currently, I reside in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Growing up on a trapline 20 miles west of KI with my parents and my two older siblings, I am the second youngest in my family. My mother married twice. Her first husband died in 1969.

I have six older siblings; they grew up with their paternal grandparents except for the younger one. Mom married my father when my brother was only a few months old. She became pregnant with my older sister Cecilia and she had me a year later. Then she had my baby brother who was stillborn.

My dad was a hunter and trapper. At a very early age, I learned to live off the land through my parents' traditional teachings. My mother taught me important roles such as taking care of the home, cleaning, sweeping, washing clothes, even skinning wildlife.

My father taught me discipline and responsibility such as cutting wood, fishing and trapping. Every September to December, we would go to our cabin to trap and every May until mid-June to spring hunt. During spring, we canoed up the river that took most of the day due to many portages and rapids. Indeed, it was tiresome and exhausting. However, it was worth it because we got to enjoy fresh white fish and pickerel. I learned very important traditional skills from my parents.

As a child, I loved swimming with my brothers and sisters. My sister and I were very close. I was very active and loved spending time outdoors with my brother. He taught me how to skate, swim and run. He also taught me to target shoot using a slingshot and a rifle. We would go partridge hunting. Those were the best moments of my life but not everything was perfect.

I was physically abused by my father. One night at our trapline, he threw me outside during winter. Huddling close to the door without jacket or boots, waiting and hoping to be let back inside, I felt so hurt and scared. I wanted someone to hug me. It was so dark that it frightened me. Another time, he told me and my sister not to make noise because he wanted to nap, but we kept giggling quietly and woke him up. He was furious! He came over to me, grabbed me and then slammed me against the wall as he threw me outside. My feelings were hurt and once again I felt unworthy. Other times, he would hit me with a shoe until I stopped crying. At this point, I felt completely abandoned because my mother didn't protect me; she would get beaten by my father if she tried to say something. I grew up hating my father.

I started to despise everything my father said including when he would quote or read the Bible. He would scare me telling me what hell would be like if we didn't listen to God. I was traumatized. Living in terror, I lost trust in God and all men.

When I was about nine years old, I believed in God. My dream was to have a husband, two children-- a boy first and then a girl. I loved going to church every Sunday. Then something happened to me that changed my life.

I was sexually abused. My first sexual experience was with someone I loved. Shame and humiliation became part of my life and it  continued for the next 25 years. I did not have self-respect and I never shared what happened to me with anyone for years. I felt dirty and stinky all the time.

When I was eleven years old, I resorted to solvent abuse with my older siblings from time to time. It was not a pleasant experience. It was addicting and hard to stop once I started. During adolescence, early adulthood and my early thirties, I hated my father because of the physical abuse and I didn't have any respect for him, blaming him for what happened to my older siblings.

Both of my siblings that I grew up with committed suicide. My brother was 23 years old when he died in 1995. He was messed up almost from the beginning of his life. There was an Anglican minister who came to our reserve who was trusted by the community. Years later we found out he sexually abused boys in other northern communities. I believe my brother was sexually abused by this man. My brother would go sleep over at the mission house with other boys. It appeared that this man was only interested in young boys. He was a Boy Scout leader and a float plane pilot. He used to take boys camping. One night, when my brother had been drinking, he hung himself and died.

This was my first real experience with loss through death. Not knowing how to cope, I became very angry and bitter. I tried to kill myself but deep down death scared me. At that time, I was living with my boyfriend and looking after my five-year-old niece. I was in distress so I started drinking and then lost everything--my job, my niece and my boyfriend. I felt numb and didn't care about anything. My life turned upside down.

Somehow, I graduated high school that year. I was 20. Eight months later, my uncle died, a month after that, my grandmother passed away and then four months later my brother-in-law committed suicide. I found him and cut him down. He was my sister's first husband; they had two children.

My sister Cecilia committed suicide in May 2006, leaving eight children behind. A month prior to her death, her second common-law spouse committed suicide. There is a documentary film called Third World Canada that tells the story of what happened.

I have been a single mom for seven and a half years. My children's names are Sona, who is twelve, and Tanisha, who is ten. I am also looking after my orphaned niece who is 16. She has been through a lot in her life. She almost died in October 2009 when she was electrocuted and burned over fifty percent of her body. Her mother committed suicide on her twelfth birthday and she was the first to find her mother's body hanging behind the door.

 Tina's son Sona,12
 Tina's son, Sona, 12

I also raised my niece, Arlene, who is now 22. I started looking after her when she was four. In 2006, when she was 17 and didn't want to attend school, I told her to go help her mother who had seven children. She went up north and her mother died a few months later. In 2008, my niece, Arlene got into drugs a year after her mother committed suicide. She started snorting OxyContin and other drugs, and then started intravenous drug use, which eventually got her hospitalized. She had a bad blood infection that spread to her lungs, kidneys, bones and heart. During Christmas, she almost died because her lungs collapsed. At the end of January, she went to Hamilton, Ontario, for surgery to remove the infection from her heart. They replaced a heart valve but to be sure they got all the infection, they cut too much tissue and she ended up having a third degree heart block and had to have a pacemaker put in. This was very heartbreaking as my niece is like a daughter to me.

In 2009, my oldest sister's daughter was shot in the head and died leaving two small children. Her children's father was killed six months later by her older brother. A month after this happened, my late brother's son killed my cousin's son. In April 2010, I lost my nephew to suicide. This was a very sad, painful time for me.

In February 2007, during that dark time in my life, I was trying to look after my two orphaned nieces but had to let them go because I had to start focusing on my own two children. I was in so much pain that I wanted to commit suicide. One morning, I went to the basement to end my life but instead, I ended up giving my heart to Jesus. Not fully understanding who He is, still I decided I'd take a chance and trust Him.

I am very thankful I gave my heart to Jesus that morning because He has totally transformed my life. To this day He continues to transform me. For the first time in my life I know peace. I had hurt so many people in my life; I had hurt my children, my parents, my niece and countless others.

Today, my father has changed to a gentler loving understanding person and has a closer relationship with God. I love my dad and our relationship has been restored. Also, I want to thank all my church family who have been there for me!

I went through a healing process which took so much energy. It took commitment, courage,  perseverance and determination. Forgiveness is the key to healing! But the "Master Key" is God through our Lord Jesus Christ. When you surrender all to God, He will deliver you from any bondage that you may have. Trust and faith is what God wants from us. Continue to seek God's Word, the Bible!

No matter how tragic, painful, traumatic, shameful and shocking the events in your life have been, you can overcome anything through our Creator God, our Heavenly Father, who is always there for us. My heart has been broken many times and God has put all the pieces back together. Thank you, Jesus!



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