Trapped in a life of drink and drugs, Hannah Perez tried to ignore God’s voice calling her. But while in jail, she had a dream of burning in hell and finally surrendered
by Chris Eyte
A “whirlwind” is how Hannah Perez describes her encounter with God while “chopping up lines of cocaine” on the toilet of a motel restroom, hiding from the police, with her two-year-old daughter at her side.
As she bent down to sniff the drug, she heard a sound akin to a whirlwind entering the room. Hannah had read occult books and experienced the paranormal, but the sudden sound of this wind was distinct.
“I knew demons were eerie, fearful, ugly and evil,” she recalls. “But this whirlwind was holy; it was something different.
“It was like the One who held my life and created me… said to me: ‘If you don’t stop what you are doing, I will take you away’. I was so afraid; I knew he was the One who had life and death in his hands.”
It wasn’t the first time Jesus Christ had challenged Hannah, now 31. She had grown up in a Christian home in Salinas, a small town in California, with her four sisters. They had a brother, too, but he was shot dead and the pain of the trauma broke her family apart, causing Hannah to become depressed and angry.
At 12 she was put into a private school, but her rebellious streak grew: “I started to ditch school, smoke weed and drink. I became so promiscuous and dived into things I shouldn’t have.”
The “strict, religious” church she attended also made her angry and she even started praying to the devil.
She screamed the name of Jesus and ran for her life
One day, when Hannah was 14, a man shot at her in a gang fight using a 12-gauge rifle. She screamed the name of Jesus and ran for her life. A bullet scraped her waist, leaving a burning sensation.
Undeterred by this brush with death, she ended up running away to Mexico. Life was non-stop parties and abusive relationships until she was in her early 20s. By that time Hannah had given birth to two daughters out of wedlock – whom she describes today as her “blessings”.
“Jesus called me when I was drunk and alone”
“In all of this, Jesus had been calling me through dreams – through a still, small voice that would speak to me when I was drunk and alone, whispering my name, ‘Hannah’. It was such a calm, soft but clear voice. I didn’t respond.”
Jail – and a dream of hell
Hannah’s reckless life continued. One day she met up with friends to smash the windows of a car whose owner owed one of them some money.
Hannah noticed a woman observing the vandalism through a nearby apartment window. She was rocking her baby and staring at Hannah.
“She was very bold. We were not friendly people to approach,” Hannah remembers.
The lady walked outside to the front of her porch and said: “Jesus loves you and is calling you… God is going to use you to set people free.”
“I had chills all over me, but I was so stuck in my mess of a life. I was stuck in depression and uncertain about how to surrender. I wasn’t ready to leave my drugs, alcohol, stealing and partying.
“So we drove off and I cried inwardly because it felt like all of my sin had caught up with me. I started to feel a huge heaviness.”
Later on, after Hannah met the ‘whirlwind’ in the motel restroom, she made a decision to flush her drugs down the toilet. She also told her boyfriend that God was calling her to serve him.
However, police then arrived at the motel and the couple were arrested.
“It felt like I was burning in hot, boiling oil”
In her jail cell, Hannah had a dream. “I was walking hand in hand with my two daughters in a place like a forest. The ground began to crack. As the ground broke, I saw lava coming out, covering everything until it finally swallowed me and my children.
“It felt like I was burning in hot, boiling oil. The pain was so unbearable that I cried out to God: ‘Please! Kill me, God! I can’t take this pain’. It felt like an eternity”.
When she woke up, she prayed, “I don’t want to go there ever. God, I want to know you for myself and not how others make you out to be. I don’t know how to serve you but you will show me.”
Surrender to God
Hannah’s life changed and upon her release from jail she stopped stealing, cursing and fighting people. “I surrendered. I found a church that prayed for me and laid hands on me. For the first time in my life, I felt God’s love, like warm oil being poured on me.
“I felt God tell me he loved me and made me for him, and that I had been looking for love in all wrong places.
“God’s love felt like warm oil being poured on me”
“When God has a plan for you, and you refuse, he will do anything to get your attention – even if that means hitting rock bottom.”
Hannah is now married to Paul and works for Vessel for Honor Ministries in California. She wants to share her story of God’s love and forgiveness with others. “My plan for the future is preach the Gospel to young men and women, boys and girls – to set captives free through Jesus living in me.
“Jesus came to set the captive free”
“The Bible says that Satan only comes to kill, steal and destroy, but Jesus came to set the captive free. In the world there are many captives: captives of sin, depression, anxiety, fear, hate, anger, unforgiveness.
“God died on the Cross for our sin once and for all, so we wouldn’t go to hell. He died to restore man’s relationship with God that was broken through sin. Those who believe will have everlasting life. A close, personal relationship with Jesus is real – he is with us every day.”
“Hard times always bring us closer to God. Love God and love people. That’s how we change the world”
To young people, Hannah says, “The devil has used bad music and filthy TV shows to corrupt us and make sin look fun.”
She adds: “Is our walk with Jesus a bed of roses? No. But Jesus said, ‘I have overcome the world’” (John 16:33).
During lockdown, Hannah used the extra time for Bible studies with her family.
“Hard times always bring us closer to God. Love God and love people. That’s how we change the world.”
A Bible verse that is important to her is 1 Corinthians 2:9: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Hannah’s story was first published in Challenge in 2018 and has been updated for HEART.