This is Vera Koo’s fourth column in a 6-part series that is inspired by the writings in her memoir, which will be published later this year. Vera is known throughout the shooting industry as a gracious woman who exudes class and kindness. In this post, Vera explains how she found peace and the will to live after a tragedy in her life, through God and Christianity. Although Women’s Outdoor News is not a religiously based publication, we have long respected Vera Koo and we appreciate her willingness to share this poignant life story. ~Barbara Baird
I didn’t grow up a religious person. For most of my life, I had no relationship with God or Jesus Christ. That changed 23 years ago, when I was left searching for answers and support after enduring the most painful moment of my life.
I experienced a terrible personal crisis, one that disrupted my life view and core values. I had started seeing a therapist. In the aftermath of that crisis, I was left going through life like a zombie, a shell of the person I truly am.
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On the outside, I tried to remain normal and put up a front for family and friends. I did not want to air all my troubles to the world. But, on the inside, I felt like I was dying. The world around me seemed dark and cold.
Around this time, one of my friends, Rose Jean Fong, began sending me pamphlets called Christian Guideposts. Many of these pamphlets discussed the power of prayer and how God hears us when we call out to Him.
I decided to give prayer a shot. What could it hurt? I was desperate for help.
One day I decided to kneel down and pray to God. I started to notice that after my prayers, some small, good thing would happen around me. When life is as low as I was in those days, any gift of goodness – however small – can be so helpful to get you through the day.
I was just starting to get serious about my shooting career when I encountered my crisis, and I used shooting as my escape, my safe space, to help me recover. I found that whenever I occupied myself with training for my sport, I could take my mind off the troubles in my life.
At the same time, I continued to grow my relationship with God.
I believe competitive shooting was part of God’s plan for me, His way of offering me a path to peace. God and shooting saved me. They were my guides along the long road of recovery.
God will never give you anything you cannot handle. A relationship with God and Jesus Christ won’t prevent you from facing any hardships in life, but it will help you navigate them.
I see now that God allowed that bomb to explode within my life 23 years ago so that I could re-evaluate my life and find myself again. Without that crisis, I don’t believe I would have pursued a shooting career as fiercely as I did. I also probably never would have found God.
To that end, enduring my crisis was worth it, despite the pain it caused.
Life’s trials can be God’s way of showing us a lesson.
I endured hardships before I found God. I see now that, even then, He was working behind the scenes to teach me something. My husband, Carlos, and I lost our first son, Bryan, due to illness when he was an infant. I was not a Christian at the time.
In time, I learned that Bryan’s loss was God’s way of showing me not to take anything for granted. Sometimes, my desire to act can be too quick. God helped me understand the benefit of prayer and quiet reflection. My precious little time with Bryan was proof of how important it is to value every second.
I am blessed to have experienced the effects of God and Jesus Christ, but I also have seen Jesus, physically. For a long time, I told no one about seeing Jesus. I didn’t want anyone to think I was crazy or hallucinating.
But I am proud – not ashamed – of my relationship with my savior, and, over time, I became more comfortable sharing my experiences. Let them pass judgment if they wish.
I first saw Jesus in 1998 before shooting in a Steel Challenge match in California. The Steel Challenge is a speed shooting competition, and I’ve always considered accuracy – not speed – to be my shooting strength.
I was the eighth person on my team to shoot, and while spectators watched other competitors compete, I found a quiet place to pray. I prayed for energy, the ability to focus and for God’s presence to help me stay calm when it was my turn to shoot.
For 10 minutes I prayed. When I opened my eyes, it was like the world had melted away. Sounds were muted. Faces of people around me didn’t register – expect for one face. To my right, I saw Jesus, sitting on a stone. He wore an off-white robe and had brown hair down to his shoulders. He walked with me to my shooting area. While we walked, I felt totally at peace. When I arrived at my shooting bay, Jesus vanished.
My sense of calm remained.
My gun jammed during one of my shooting runs, and I cleared the jam faster than ever.
When my turn finished, I wasn’t sure how I did, but I heard people clapping. Then I saw my score. I’d shot four perfect runs. My performance was far better than what I could have achieved on my own. If I had any doubt before that, I knew then that I was not in control. God was leading me, and I wanted to come along with Him as a willing passenger.
Jesus showed Himself to me again the following spring. I was practicing for the Bianchi Cup at Mickey Fowler’s ranch. It was evening, and I was the only person there. Just before I was set to leave, I saw something in the trees beyond the safety berm. It was a statue of Jesus on an oak tree. He wore a crown of thorns on His head and His arms stretched out to each side.
I dropped to my knees and prayed.
The day was Easter Sunday.
God has a plan for us. You might not always like what His plan brings, but you can take comfort in knowing that, if you let Him into your life, He will be with you every step of the way.
Read more from Vera’s memoirs here.
Vera Koo is a first-generation Chinese American woman. She’s a wife and mother, author, entrepreneur and retired competition shooter. Along with two published books -- "The Most Unlikely Champion" and "Wisdom and Things: Essays From an Unlikely Champion" -- she writes her column, Vera Koo, at "Women’s Outdoor News." View all posts by Vera Koo
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