Imagine being trapped in a cave, surrounded by walls of flesh oozing with red blood. Imagine the squishy meat “multiplying like cells”, surrounding you, squeezing you.
This recurring nightmare plagued Jaime Chiah, now 42, from as far back as she can remember.
Mediums she was taken to as a child in Indonesia described her as “sensitive to spirits”. They washed her in “flower water”.
“But it never stopped the nightmares from happening again,” Jaime said. She has been working as an administrator in the healthcare sector since moving to Singapore from Indonesia 13 years ago.
When she passed by certain places of worship – even altars by the roadside – she would faint or her legs would swell.
These episodes happened so often that she came to accept the occurrences “as a part of everyday life”.
She would also awaken to “the heavy breathing sound of a beast”. She felt a pressing on her back.
In her 20s, personal problems, like failed relationships, plus worsening nightmarish episodes took a toll on her. At her lowest point, the 1.72m-tall Jaime was severely underweight at only 48kg.
“I was scared to fall asleep and suffered from insomnia,” she said.
“I started having suicidal thoughts.”
When she was around junior college age, Jaime and her girl friends started “playing around” with a ouija board.
One of her friends truly believed it could be used to contact the dead, while the others did it “for fun”.
The girls would put their hands on top of the pointer and ask questions like: “Can you tell us how you died?”
The pointer would move to certain letters. At the end of each session, they would tell the board: “It’s time for you to go back.”
In her early 20s, the nightmares became darker, and she sensed the blood-fleshed walls suffocating her.
But one day, the pointer started “spinning out of control”, said Jaime. It wouldn’t stop even after the terrified girls told it to “go back”.
Crying hysterically, the girls dumped the board.
But even more terrifying episodes were to haunt Jaime.
“The darkest moments of my life were in my early 20s,” she said.
The nightmares became darker, and she sensed the blood-fleshed walls suffocating her.
She recognised them as the same recurring nightmare, and would try to wake herself up.
“Then it manifested into something else. When I woke up, I would feel something pressing my back.
“I could feel something breathing down my neck. It sounded like the heavy breathing sound of a beast.
“I would feel something breathing down my neck. All I could do was stare at my ceiling in fear.”
“I knew it was no longer a dream as my eyes were wide open.”
She would feel paralysed and was unable to shout or call out.
“All I could do was stare at my ceiling in fear.”
She is not sure what brought on these new terrors, but thinks she might have been burdened by the stress of working and doing university studies at the same time.
To others, she appeared “high-functioning” and normal, even partying and drinking. But this was to numb the pain and “to escape from reality”, she said.
On the inside, she was full of turmoil.
“I made bad choices in relationships and friends,” she recalled.
“There was a lot of self-blame and self-pity.
“I felt sorry for myself all the time.
“Then, one night, just like many other nights, I was struggling to break free from the evil spirit’s grip.
“I was in great fear because the grip was tighter than usual. The grunts were louder and sounded almost like moans.
“Then I heard human voices.”
“It was something that I had heard when I visited a church where people were speaking in tongues.”
She could not tell what language they were speaking, but recognised them as “something that I had heard when I visited a church where people were speaking in tongues”.
A few years earlier, she had caught up with a childhood friend who was visiting from another part of Indonesia. Jaime had agreed to accompany her friend to church so that they could spend more time together. It was then that she had heard the worshippers speaking in tongues and, when her night terrors besieged her, she remembered the voices.
“As my focus was drawn towards these voices, I felt the grip (of the “beast”) loosen.
“I felt peace and warmth.
“For the first time in a long time, I relaxed and fell asleep.
“It was only for two hours. But it was the best two hours.”
The first thing she saw in the newspapers the next morning was a big advertisement on the back page for a Sunday service at a local church.
“Somehow I managed to get changed and I made my way to the nearest branch of the church to attend the first service at 7.30am.”
At the end of the service, she went up for prayer. She had been thinking of suicide and had been cutting herself.
The nightmares did not stop. But there was one big difference.
I sang Seperti Rusa Rindu Sungai-Mu (Indonesian for As the Deer) over and over again.
“I started to have confidence and assurance that my soul had been saved.”
One night after she was baptised, she experienced another episode.
“I tried to pray, but no sound came out. It was like I was paralysed. But I could only say in my mind and heart what I heard when I went for the church service – I sang Seperti Rusa Rindu Sungai-Mu (Indonesian version of As the Deer) over and over again.
“The worship and praise comforted me.
“I called Jesus’ name. It worked.
“Over time, I learned to claim authority over my body so that the evil spirit has no place over me.”
Almost without her noticing, the nightmares stopped.
As she continued to attend church, she was mentored by a pastor and his wife.
“Even after becoming a Christian, I had failed relationships … until I surrendered to God. And I finally let my pastor and his wife and our cell group pray that I would find a good husband.
“I prayed a simple prayer, ‘I will entrust this to You. I will not use my own criteria for a spouse anymore as it has not done me any good.’”
After that things happened “very, very fast”, she said.
“You will have to come to cell group with me. I have no time to take you anywhere before that.”
Jaime was working in the life insurance sector in Indonesia at the time, and had to take care of a group of invited speakers from Singapore who had come to train the local managers.
One of them, James Chiah, had come along as a volunteer to help his friend.
Unbeknownst to her then, he had intended to cancel the trip on the morning he was due to fly to Indonesia. But inexplicably decided to go ahead.
They did not have much opportunity to talk as the three-day course was intensive.
At the end of the three days, she dropped off the Singapore group at the airport. She was headed to her cell group meeting when her handphone rang.
It was James.
“He had decided to stay back and asked if there was a hotel he could go to.”
“I told him, ‘It is not safe for foreigners to travel alone. I’ll come to get you, but you will have to come to cell group with me. I have no time to take you anywhere else before that.”
She instinctively knew that he was a Christian.
Her pastor and his wife were surprised to see Jaime with a man she had only just met at their doorstep. It was soon after their prayer for her to release her own “criteria” for a spouse.
James and Jaime tied the knot six months after they met.
In 2008, she came to Singapore to live after marrying James.
After their second child was born, the Chiahs hit a “bad patch” in their marriage.
“We stopped talking to each other for a few days,” Jaime said.
The nightmares and the oppressive spirit returned.
“I was reminded that the enemy attacks what is valuable to us. For me, it is my family.”
“I was reminded that the enemy attacks what is valuable to us. For me, it is my family.”
“It was a pretty clear warning to fix the cracks in my family life,” Jaime said.
The couple tried to work things out “to the best of our abilities”.
“I have not had the nightmares ever since,” she said.
They also benefited from a marriage workshop facilitated by a pastor and his wife.
“It helped us understand God’s blueprint for marriage and provided us with encouragement, hope and practical tips to grow our marriage,” Jaime said.
Later on, Jaime signed up for a course at Bethesda (Bedok-Tampines) Church “to address the root causes once and for all”.
It required her to jot down what had been happening to her.
“I had a long list of anger over things that others did or said to me.”
She also had “condemning thoughts about myself” – “silly things I had done in the past”.
“The intercessors helped me to pray and declare that all these things had no more hold over me. And to release forgiveness to others and to myself.
“Towards the end of the session, they asked me to close my eyes and focus on God and hear His direction on moving on.
When she went home to her bedroom and closed her eyes, she felt a warmth and saw a bright light.
Through eyes that were tightly shut, she “saw God open His hand, and ask me to come to Him”.
“I knew that He had forgiven me. I knew I also had to forgive myself.”
Till today, she has no idea what her nightmares were tied to. “But without them, I may not have known God.”
In a video in April, she shared, “Some may think that what I had encountered was merely the results of my psychological state. But I know that my God is real.
“He gave me hope.”
She also learnt that “even before I knew Jesus, He heard my cry, answered and rescued me.
“God has been blessing me abundantly and has revealed unimaginable goodness in my life.
“If you are going through challenging times now or struggling with anything, don’t lose heart. God helped me and I know He can help you too.”
This is an excerpt of an article that first appeared in Salt&Light.