Humans of North Harbor #6: Paul Elisha

[For an introduction to Humans of North Harbor, click here]

The Blessing In The Curse

Paul grew up in the United Church of Christ with both parents as pastors of separate churches. At twelve he started questioning what he really believed and he decided he was atheist. Between twelve and seventeen wavered between atheist and agnostic, but didn’t talk about it much and kept going to church for the sake of his parents.  At seventeen a romantic relationship ended and he was heartbroken. At the same time he had a friend who was continuously sharing the gospel with him. One night as he listened to his friend, Jesus opened his heart and filled him with His spirit and that night he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

His most encouraging encounter with God was in 2007 during a particularly hard time.  He was physically attacked by a person who was close to him. He survived it, but it was very traumatic.  From that point on he carried PTSD, depression, anger, and fear. He became very paranoid, believing everyone wanted to kill him, that there was something wrong with him, and that even God hated him.  One night he had a dream where he was in a desert in a shack by himself and in the dream he felt like “this is where I belong”. Then all of the sudden John the Baptist appeared and then came Jesus, and he fell on his knees.  In that moment in his dream he became so aware of his brokenness and shame and sins. Then he felt a river of God’s love and grace and mercy flush all of the darkness out of him. It was an everlasting pouring of His love for Paul.  When he woke up he didn’t think much of the dream and assumed he would forget about it. But that dream has come back to him at times when he needs it to remind him of how much God loves him. At the time he was easily giving into his dark thoughts, but God would bring this dream up and take away those feelings.  Paul now knows that, “He is a God of love, a God of reaching out and a God of looking for his lost sheep until he finds it…. Before, I felt like everyone hated me and wanted me dead, and I put that on God, but he kept pursuing me with that dream saying ‘that’s not me’.”

In 2012, Paul developed a very rare condition called hyperacusis.  His hearing became very sensitive and normal sounds became very loud and caused a lot of pain.  It took about two years to get a diagnosis because it was so rare. During that time it was really hard, he felt like he was going crazy and they were questioning his mental health.  Normal things were really hard and he couldn’t do so many of the things he had done before including playing music, leading worship, going to church, hanging out with friends, spending time with his nieces and nephews, going on dates with his wife, Elsbeth.  Going to work was a challenge. It was depressing, and hard and he was asking why God would allow this to happen. During this time he ended up with a lot of free time because there were so many things he could no longer do. During that free time he pursued an interest he had always had in science, and while taking classes became interested in genetics.  A science professor asked him, “What do you want to do with a genetics degree? What are you passionate about?” All he could think was, “I’m passionate about Jesus.” He didn’t find a science niche, but wanted to share Jesus with people. He felt God pulling him away from his science interest, and saying, ‘why don’t you use this free time to seek me’. He dropped out of his courses, and started spending time pursuing God in prayer, in rest and in creation.  “I felt all the same feelings I felt when I was saved on my friend’s porch. I kept thinking about the verse in Revelation about abandoning your first love, and I felt like God was showing me, ‘I was your first love’.... I felt God saying, ‘Everything has been stripped out of your life, but I’m still here. I’ve always been here.’ It has caused me to praise Him for my hyperacusis, because through it He has brought my stubborn heart to this place where I have been able to let go of my life, let go of my agenda, let go of my plans, let go of what I want and instead only want Him.  It’s been really good.” His hyperacusis often feels like a curse, but he can now see God’s blessing in it too.

His condition makes being around people difficult.  It makes being in community a challenge. Over the past couple of years he’s been trying to venture out and share with people about his hyperacusis.  What he likes about community is being with brothers and sisters in Christ where he can confess his sins and process with one another. When he can get with one or two people quietly and share where he’s at and they can pray together and encourage each other he find so much support in that.  He finds that when he shares his sin with others it become so much less powerful.

Paul goes to North Harbor, but you may not see him on Sunday morning.  When he began getting hyperacusis he stopped going to his previous church because it was too painful and he became very depressed.  His wife Elsbeth started attending North Harbor and it seemed to be a place he would like, but he just couldn’t stand the pain. Pastor Dan tried to find ways for Paul to be a part of the church.  He tried to attend a Bible study, but even that was too loud. Finally they realized there was a sound booth at the back of the Orion, and he has been able to listen to the service from within there without pain.  He has joined the prayer team who sit in the back of the auditorium, and you can find him praying us through our service from the sound booth many Sundays. He’s been making gradual relationships at North Harbor. He feels he has a community where he can expose himself and let the light of Christ from others shine on him.  He may not be in the middle of our community gatherings, but he welcomes community with anyone who wants to come whisper with him in the sound booth. He would love to pray with and for you!

Watch Paul's full story below:

Paul lives in Topsham with his wife Elsbeth.  He works at the Merrymeeting Adult Education Center as an Academic Counselor.  You can read more of his story on his blog:

I wonder...what curse has God turned into a blessing for me?
I what ways has God led me to focus more on just Him and let go of other things?
I do I engage in community with others in less traditional ways?  How could thinking about community differently help myself and others be more fully connected?

Written by Elaine DeFreitas

Do you love learning more about your sisters and brothers at North Harbor?

  • CLICK HERE to read our first story. 
  • Contact Elaine [elainedefreitas3 {at}] or Zoë [zoefaithreyes {at}] if you would like to share your story with with our community so they can be blessed as you just have!