Shanon Hladek serves in Cambodia

I was 7 when I sensed God calling me to share His love with children throughout the world. As I sat on the altar steps at church, listening to Tia Linda Richey share about what God was doing in and through the children of South America, I knew that God was calling me to care for orphans and widows. As a young child, I struggled with various health problems, without ever receiving a proper diagnosis; yet, in spite of this, I never lost the dream of serving on the mission field.

In 2008, I went on a two-week mission to Cambodia to serve the ministry of Foursquare Children of Promise International (FCOP). There, the children and the ministry captured my heart. I returned to the U.S. and enrolled at Life Pacific College (now Life Pacific University). 

At the time of my graduation, when I should have been preparing to deploy to the mission field, I was instead diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy. It affected every aspect of my life, as I would have up to 20 seizures a day. The doctors informed me that I would never again be able to travel overseas.

This was devastating news, as it truly meant the death of a dream. After years of constant physical challenges, my team of specialists informed me that the only way to attempt to reduce the seizure activity was to have brain surgery to remove the affected areas. After much prayer and fasting, I agreed. Then, in September 2015, I underwent surgery, where the doctors removed several structures within my right temporal lobe. The surgery was a success, and the seizures greatly decreased.

Unfortunately, there was a complication that resulted in my having a small stroke. The residual effects from the brain surgery and stroke left me having to relearn basic functions such as how to walk, write, and how to care for myself. These challenges left me greatly dependent upon God and on others to help meet my basic needs.

After three years of weekly physical, speech, occupational and vision therapy, I had seen great improvements in my cognitive abilities and my physical capability to relearn to walk. I was slowly regaining my confidence and my independence. 

Because of my own journey, I am able to identify with the physical and emotional needs of others. It has been a testimony to the power of prayer and faith, and that even when things seem impossible, God always has the final say.

It was in serving that I saw my greatest healing take place, starting with my home church, Beaverton Foursquare Church in Beaverton, Ore. They allowed me to serve the Lord, right where I was, and I began teaching Sunday school. When I approached them about going on the mission field, they supported me.

In June 2018, I sensed the Lord calling me to return to Cambodia and serve the kids whom I had grown to love so deeply over the years. This was a huge step of faith, and one that my medical team was at first hesitant to approve. Finally, in August 2019, they approved my application to serve overseas. On Sept. 14, 2019, I moved to Cambodia, as a missionary with Foursquare Missions International, and my life would never be the same.

When I arrived in Cambodia, I was using a crutch for balance and to assist in my walking, and I had a scar from the surgery above my right ear. Other than that, from the outside, no one would have known the three-year journey of recovery that I had walked through.

Each day, the kids at the church home in Phnom Penh would pray for me, take my crutch, and encourage me to walk toward them. Witnessing their faith stirred something within me, and I began to see a deeper healing take place.

One beautiful day in December 2019, just three months after I arrived in Cambodia, one of our orphaned kids, Dany, who also walked with a limp at the time, took my crutch and asked me to walk with her. I was deeply moved as I saw this beautiful young lady—who always wanted to walk without a limp—encourage me to take a step of faith. As I walked toward her, it was a moment of elation and great celebration. From that moment on, I never used my crutch again.

Today, I can say that God has healed me. I now walk without the use of my crutch. I can run and play with the orphaned kids I help care for, as well as perform the necessary functions of the ministry and help raise up the next generation of young leaders who will one day change their nation. It was through serving others that God released more of His healing power in my life. 

God’s healing has shown the locals and the kids here just how strong their faith is, and how He listens to the prayers of children. I’ve been able to minister to others in our church community who have physical needs. Because of my own journey, I am able to identify with the physical and emotional needs of others. It has been a testimony to the power of prayer and faith, and that even when things seem impossible, God always has the final say.

serves as a missionary to Cambodia with Foursquare Missions International (FMI).