Saved to Serve
Ling Ai Hiong was born in Sitiawan, Malaysia in a family of 9 children. As the youngest child, she was deeply attached to her mother.
Ai Hiong’s journey through life has not been a smooth one; it is a pathway that is strewn with thorns and thistles, a journey of faith. The death of her mother left an indelible mark in her young life, resulting in a period of intense stress, poor health, and hardship. But her faith never wavered even in moments of doubts. She can now proudly testify that God has been faithful to her and has helped her to come out victorious. God has saved her from fiery trials, severe illness. Through all these, she came out strong in faith, with a resolve to dedicate her life to serve Him and be a channel of His blessings to others.
After graduating from Bible College of South Australia, Ai Hiong, while serving the Lord in Malaysia and Singapore, continued with her theological exposure and training, and obtained, through self-study, Degree of Bachelor of Arts in Ministry from Newburgh Theological Seminary in USA in 2011.
Ai Hiong and her husband Sim Tong Seng now live in Perth, Australia where they have been active in the Chinese Methodist Church in Perth, having served in various key leadership positions for many years.
Dr. Tek & Goldie Chong
We met Ai Hiong in the early 1970s. Towards the end of 1975, after Ai Hiong graduated from Bible College, we invited her to come to Melaka to serve as Christian Education Worker at the Wesley Methodist Church. That was the beginning of our working together and becoming close friends. After we all left Melaka, we have kept in touch. How pleasantly surprised we were when we met her again in Perth, after she married Sim Tong Seng.
I read her book at one sitting, enjoying it and feeling her love for The Lord from her many repeated phrase “it was such a joy….so fulfilling to serve….” Her personal encounter with Jesus during her period of grieving for her mother, her anger against God for taking her away, her desperate need to know if God was really there, was the turning point in her life, where she knew Jesus not only in her head but in her heart. Jesus came to her in a dream, held her in His arms, and showed her without a doubt that He cared for her, promising never to leave her comfortless…. She decided to live her life for Him from then on. The book recounts with frankness her many trials and tribulations but she never wavered from her promise to serve God. Her family for which she wrote this book will honour her as a godly example of a faithful servant of God who shows how fulfilling and joyful it is to serve God.
Kwong Tek and Goldie Chong First Asian editors and publishers of Asian Beacon
1. Childhood Memories
2. Meet My Family
3. Teacher Training
4. Family Crisis
5. Turing Point In My Life
6. A Horrifying Experience
7. Ministry Continues..
8. Bible College
9. Ministry in Malacca
10. My American Family
11. Scripture Union Malaysia
12. Ill Health
13. Prayer Partners
14. Ministry in School – Singapore
16. Fiery Trials
17. Wings of Love
I dedicate this book to:
JESUS CHRIST – my Saviour and my Lord, whom I have the joy of serving;
My beloved FATHER and my MOTHER – who loved me and nurtured me. I thank God for my godly Mother who from a very young age taught me how to pray, sing praises to God, memorise Scripture, and to serve God joyfully.
This book is not about me and my achievements. It’s about God whom I love and serve; my God who through the years has been faithful and gracious. To Him be all honour and glory!
I want to thank –
God – for giving me life, and for giving me so many opportunities to serve Him and to share His love;
My dear friends Kwong Tek and Goldie Chong – for writing the Foreword
My brother Sing Wong – for his editorial assistance and invaluable advice;
My husband Tong Seng, who has put in countless hours doing the format and layout for this book.
I do not have very many memories from childhood, but a few stay vivid in my mind. I remember the first house we lived in. I was still very young, probably 3 or 4 years old. My father and brothers built it themselves, which made it very special. This house was very small, but it was home for us. It was just one huge room, and everything was in that room. Our bed was a huge wooden platform raised about 2 feet above the mud floors. All of us fit into that bed! We had no mattresses, but we had straw mats which we rolled out to sleep on at night; soft pillows stuffed with cotton, and warm blankets which we shared on cold nights. There was no electricity, and we used kerosene lamps for light. Mother did the cooking in one corner of the room. The stove was made from cement and we used firewood to light the fire. Our water supply came from a well which my father dug just outside the house. The well was enclosed in a small wooden bathroom which we all shared. The toilet was a short distance away from the house. It was one of those olden pit latrines which was quite an unpleasant site!
My grandmother and my parents were from mainland China. They were very poor. We lived very simply but we were contented and happy. My parents never failed to remind us that there were thousands of people in the world who were worse off than us, and that we should always be thankful for what we did have. Our meals were very simple. We always had a bowl of rice, and some small fish which father caught, and some homegrown vegetables. Sometimes we only had a bowl of rice porridge with sugar stirred in it. That was fine, we never complained.
When I was 11 we moved to our second home. This house was a vast difference from the first house. My father and brothers had spent long hours building it. It was a wooden house with thatched roof. There were 7 bedrooms, a bathroom, and an open kitchen with a dining area next to it. For the first time we had electricity and tap water! The well and kerosene lamps were still there for emergencies. We could now afford simple beds with thin foam mattresses. Father was working on several odd jobs. He worked alongside some fishermen for several hours in the early morning, and always came home with some fish for mother to cook. In the afternoon he pushed a small cart on wheels, selling lollies, nuts and crushed ice. This was a very tiring business, especially in the heat of the sun.
One very important lesson in life that my father taught me was the value of money and the pride of honest hard work. There was nothing wrong in doing odd jobs, as long as it was honest labour. My brothers and I did quite a few odd jobs too, and we were glad to be able to help bring some small income for the household expenses. Grandmother and mother baked cakes and cookies for us to sell. Father had a small vegetable patch in the backyard. When the vegetables were ready for harvesting, grandma would tie them in small bundles for me to sell. I would carry them in a small basket and go from house to house, selling them for 20/30 cents a bundle. I was doing this from the age of 6 or 7. I remember rising early in the morning, trying to sell as many bundles of vegetables as I could. Then I would rush home, change into my school uniform, and dash off to school; often arriving late. I recall how my classmates would make fun of me, calling me names. “Here comes the vege girl” they would call out in a chorus. Cruel kids they were!
One day I came home from school in tears. I just couldn’t take the teasing any longer. Father asked me what happened in school, and I told him. The next day, he insisted on taking me to school on his bicycle. He told the teacher what had happened, and asked for permission to speak to the class. I seldom saw my father angry, but that day he was. “Now, WHO has been teasing my little girl and calling her names?!” he shouted to the class. Of course no one owned up. Then he said something that changed my whole outlook on life. He said, “I am not ashamed that I am a poor man, and have to work at odd jobs; and my children have to do the same to help me earn some money to feed the family. In fact I feel very proud that I can work with my two hands, and not have to depend on others or go out and borrow money. I am very proud of my daughter, because she is willing to do the same. Now, don’t you dare call her names and make fun of her again!” With that, he took off, leaving the whole class dumbfounded!
From that day on, I held my head high. My father had helped me conquer my inferiority complex. My friends stopped calling me names, and I was a happier kid in school. In fact I did so well in school that my classmates were often envious of me.
Coming from a poor family meant that not all of us enjoyed the privilege of going to school. Only 2 of my brothers and I finished high school, and continued with further education. The rest had to quit school early, to work at simple trades. But all of us had our share of small odd jobs. Early every morning I sold vegetables. After school was over, I would have a quick lunch, then dashed off to work on my neighbor’s farm. My brothers, Thomas and James and I worked as a team. We prepared the soil and made low ridges in neat rows for the planting of tapioca, sweet potatoes and tobacco. We harvested the tobacco leaves when they were big enough, and strung them on a wire to dry. After they were dried they were sent away for making cigarettes. Sometimes when my brothers and I were extremely tired, we would sit under the tree and complained. But the complaints usually didn’t last very long. We were taught the value of hard work and we accepted that as our way of life, and were contented.
One other small job my brothers and I worked at was collecting firewood. We normally cycled quite a distance to the rubber estates owned by some rich Europeans. There would be acres and acres of rubber trees, and there were plenty of dry twigs for us to collect. We would tie them in bundles and carry them home for our fireplace. Now these rich “towkays” employed Indian men to look after their estates. We were petrified of these Indian men. If they caught us picking the dry twigs, they would come after us with sticks in their hands. So we would hide from them. In the beginning we used to be quite scared of them, and we would hide among the bushes. As time went on, the hiding bit became a “game” for my brothers and me. Whenever we saw one of the men at a distance, my brothers would catch hold of me, pushed me into a dry ditch and covered me with dry leaves. I was to remain very quiet until they came to rescue me. Imagine the suspense under those dry leaves! (I wonder – was that the beginning of my claustrophobia??) We always had stories to tell when we returned. Those were the days!
My family lived in a small village called Kampong China. We lived in a small wooden house among 3 acres of tall rubber trees. Life in the village was simple and peaceful. We were contented. My brothers and I had a few pets. I had a little monkey named “gao” . He was very cheeky but friendly. He had a pair of captivating round eyes, and a long tail. He enjoyed sitting on our shoulders and going for walks. His favorite food was cherries, nuts and bananas. Every day he would sit in his little wooden house under the tree, waiting for us to come home from school. That’s when his playtime began! My brothers enjoyed teasing him. They would keep feeding him cherries until his mouth was full. But because “gao” was so greedy and wanted more, he would cram in more, until his cheeks were so filled with cherries that he looked quite a sight!
We also had 3 Kingfishers. Thomas, James and I loved them. Somehow they knew which shoulder to sit on -- aren’t they amazing? Every afternoon, after finishing our odd jobs in our neighbor’s farm, we would sit under the trees to rest, and to enjoy the ‘bonus’ for our hard work, which was a pile of Marie biscuits. These kingfishers would perch on our shoulders and wait for a chance to have a bite. They were beautiful birds and had the most gorgeous coat of colors. One fine day, we were sitting under the trees waiting for them to come, but they didn’t show up. Where were they? Sad to say, they must have decided to fly away together; for more tasty food perhaps?
Bobby was our black Alsatian. He was a good dog and a good companion. James and he had great playtimes, and he loved going for long walks and runs. He was a great friend to our family. Sometimes James would lie on his body and fall asleep. When he sat on the floor next to us, he sat higher than us. One afternoon we were sitting in front of our house. My aunt next door had hired some men to cut down some coconut trees. For some reason the men were shouting – perhaps they were giving instructions to each other. All of a sudden Bobby got excited and dashed to the scene. Screams of horror followed. A falling tree had fallen right on top of Bobby, killing him instantly. My brothers and I screamed in horror, but there was nothing we could do to save him. Our beloved pet was gone. With tears rolling down our cheeks, we buried him under one of the trees in our backyard. Sadness filled our hearts, and we didn’t have another pet dog after that.
“Glock Glock” was my pet turkey. Because we lived in the countryside, we were able to rear chickens, ducks, geese and pigs. “glock glock” had a coat of beautiful colors, and she had a pair of bright mischievous eyes. She loved cuddling up to me and I would stroke her feathers. Somehow I thought she knew she was getting special attention; so she would often walk around with her head held high, to the dismay of the chickens, ducks and geese. Sometime the others would gang up and attack her, pecking at her from all sides. Poor Glock! One day my poor Glock fell ill and died. I was very sad, but I had special memories of her. Years later, when I was studying in USA, I was invited to a Thanksgiving Dinner. There was a huge spread of delicious food on the table. After giving thanks for the food, the host asked, “Now, who would like a slice of turkey?” “A slice of WHAT?” I asked. “TURKEY. We always have roast turkey at Thanksgiving,” came the reply. With tears streaming down my face, I asked to be excused from the table and I went out to cry. They can’t eat my pet! The dinner was put on hold. The hostess came to look for me and asked what the problem was. I explained the reason for the drama and felt embarrassed. Well, I survived the dinner, and you know what? Turkey meat is now one of my favorite meat, and each time I have turkey meat I have pleasant memories of Glock.
The Schoolbag is a very essential part of every student. The rich and status conscious would carry schoolbags with brand names. The not –so- rich would be happy to carry any bag that would hold their books and other stuff for school. My first schoolbag was the object of gossips and laughter among my classmates. It was a rectangular Marie Biscuit tin, big enough to hold the books I needed each day. My pencil case was a cloth case which my mother sewed for me. Some of my classmates were really cruel, and often made fun of me. But somehow I wasn’t affected by their cruel remarks.
As I progressed in school, there were more books to carry, so they didn’t fit into the tin anymore. My mother sewed me a new schoolbag. It was a strong square piece of cloth. I would pile the books in the middle. Then tie up the four corners, two facing each other, to make a handle which I could carry. So neat and safe! Again there were much laughter and remarks each day. From there, I progressed onto a sling bag which mother sewed. She sewed me a couple, with different designs and frills and colorful patchwork. Well, my friends might have beautiful and expensive branded school bags, but none of them could match the ones I have – mine were special and priceless…….they were homemade, and the products of my mother’s love!
I come from a very big family. My parents were originally from Mainland China, but came to live in Malaysia (then Malaya) before the Second World War. Father had a son and daughter from his first wife who died of illness soon after they arrived in Malaya. Mother had a son from her late husband. They remarried, and had six other children – my five older brothers and me. Our maternal grandmother, also from China, lived with us, so we were one dozen, one happy family!
My FATHER was a very simple man. He was honest, kind, and hardworking. He worked at several odd jobs. He had a little plot of land behind our house where he planted vegetables. When the vegetables were ready, he would harvest them and tied them in small bundles. I was the vegetable seller – early in the morning, around 6.30am, I would carry the basket full of vegetables, go from house to house to sell them. Father also worked part time at a fishing village. Early in the morning he would cycle to town and take a bus to the jetty at Lumut where he would catch a small boat to the fishing village on an island nearby. There he worked with some other fishermen, cleaning up the nets, and sorting out the fish for sale. At the end of the day he would always come home with a big hook full of fish for the family. We all love to eat fish!
Father also learnt to dress wounds. He had a metal box which he carried around on the back of his bicycle. It was like a big first-aid box, and in it you will find bandages, scissors, tapes, creams ointments and other stuff which you will need to dress up wounds. He was nicknamed “the dress wound man” in our village, and he was very well known among the villagers. When people had a cut or small wound and couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, they would come and see my father, and he would dress their wounds. They would normally give my father a small sum of money, as token of appreciation. Our family was very proud of him, as he was the ‘nurse’ in the family. In the afternoon, when he was not fishing, he would be on his pushcart business. His pushcart was filled with biscuits, sweets, nuts and other candies. He also had a small machine for crushing ice. With this he crushed ice to make ice-balls and served them with different color syrup. That was very popular with children, especially on hot days. He also sold ‘icekachang’ which was a combination of crushed ice served with corn kernels, cooked red beans, jelly and syrup. There was always a long queue waiting for this! Father was never ashamed of doing all these odd jobs. He worked very hard to support our big family. He taught us the value of money, and the pride of any honest job, no matter how menial they may seem. I am very proud of my father.
Father had a circle of men friends who met for coffee every morning. He would cycle to town very early , sometimes as early as 6am. There he and his friends would read the daily newspapers and discuss current affairs while sipping coffee. You can imagine the lessons we all had when he returned home! One day father had a very bad accident on his bicycle and he couldn’t walk. He was grounded for weeks, as I had locked his bicycle and hid the key. One day I heard the sound of a motorbike outside our house, and someone calling out to him. “Are you still there, Mook Siew? We haven’t seen you for a couple of weeks, so I’ve come to check on you, to see if you are still alive!” I heard my father reply . “Of course I’m still alive. I had a bad fall, and my daughter had locked up my bicycle and hidden the key!” His friend took him on the motorbike, and off they went to meet the others. My father was so happy!
I was ‘daddy’s little girl. Sometimes I think he overprotected me. If I was not home by 6pm, he would ride his bicycle all over the place, looking for me. You can imagine how embarrassing it was to have my father turn up at my friend’s house and insisting that I followed him home. One of my classmates had a birthday party one day and I was invited. My father wouldn’t allow me to go unless one of my brothers accompanied me. What choice do I have? We went, and we had a great time.
Father loved me very much. He never had to tell me. I just knew. When I was teaching in Penang, he would take the bus to see me. He would have to take two buses, and the journey would take around three hours. I was renting a room near the Methodist Girls’ School where I was teaching. Father would normally arrive before I returned from school. The kind landlady would allow him to wait around for me. When I came home, we would have lunch together and he would bring me news from home. Then he would have a short nap, then make his way home by bus. That was enough to tell me that he loved me.
My father was a very loving and caring husband. When mother was ill with cancer, he looked after her day and night. When mother had to be in hospital, he looked after her during the day and I would nurse her in the night, sleeping on a small canvas bed beside her in hospital. My father loved my mother dearly; and when she finally lost her battle with cancer, my father was broken hearted and devastated.
Father became quite weak when he was old. He had Parkinson’s Disease and was not very mobile. He had always told me to pray that when God wanted to take him home, he wanted to go easily, without any suffering. One evening he was doing some light gardening. My brother Sing Ching and family came to visit him. My sister-in-law had cooked him the evening meal. While he was having his meal, he told my brother that he felt unusually tired that day. He wanted my brother to bathe him after dinner, as he had no energy left. He wanted to be clean before he went to bed. My brother sensed something was wrong; so after bathing him and tucking him in bed, he went home and alerted the rest of the family who were working away from home. The following day my father was critically ill. The family doctor came . After checking him, he told the family that my father wouldn’t last very long, and that all family members should make their way home. We did. I was working in Kuala Lumpur. When I was on my way home in the taxi, I prayed to God. I asked God to allow me to see my father and to talk to him before He took him home. I knew my father had attended church regularly, but I didn’t know if he had asked Jesus to be his personal Saviour. I needed to know.
When I got home, my father was asleep. I went to his side and prayed silently, asking God for help. Because I was educated in English, I had never been able to talk to someone about God or pray in my dialect . Father spoke no English, so I prayed earnestly, asking God to give me the language I so badly needed that day. God heard my prayer. When my father woke, he recognized me, and was very emotional. I started talking to him in my Hockchiang dialect. I asked if he was afraid. He shook his head. I told him if it was time for him to go to God, he should be ready. I asked him if he had asked Jesus to be his personal Saviour. He nodded his head. Then I assured him that if God wanted to take him, he would go to heaven to be with God forever. That was where my mother and grandmother were. I also told him that I would see him again, in heaven, when it was my turn to go. We cried, and I prayed for him. Then I told him to go back to sleep, as he was feeling very tired and frail. Father never woke again. God took him home peacefully. That was how he had wanted to go. I thank God for a wonderful father, and I praise God for every remembrance of him.
MOTHER was a very special lady. We have a special bond between us. She was known as the “Bible Woman” in our church, which is today’s equivalent of a Local Preacher. She was often out at meetings and visitation. Because I was the ‘baby’ in the family, and there was no one to look after me at home, she took me along to all her meetings. So for years I had my round of youth meetings, women’s fellowship, Sunday School, church board meetings, and the lot. Most of the time I fell asleep halfway through the meetings – they were too long and boring for a little girl!
Mother conducted Bible Classes in small villages nearby. I remember following her to all the meetings. She had a very close friend, Madam Lu Hong Keow, who teamed up with her. Mother had a beautiful soprano voice, so she led the singing. Madam Lu was the prayer warrior, so she said the prayers. Mother also did the Bible teaching. I recall all the interesting Bible stories she told with the help of flannelgraph and pictures. When I was old enough to learn to play the accordion, Madam Lu bought me one, and I accompanied the singing. The trio always had a great time doing ministry. We went as far as Pangkor Island. That’s where my father worked as a fisherman. In order to get to the Island, we had to take a bus to the jetty at Lumut, and take the boat from there. After 45 minutes ride in the boat, we had to walk a distance to someone’s house where the church meetings were held. Sometimes we had outdoor meetings, and met under the shade of the trees. It was such a joy to see children running to the meeting place when they heard the sound of the accordion. I really enjoyed being part of the team; and those days were certainly good missionary training (GMT, my Bible College Principal would say) for me.
Madam Lu was my mother’s best friend, and our family loved her. Her son, Moses, was my History teacher in Secondary School, and his wife, Ging, was my teacher in Primary School. Madam Lu was a prayer warrior. She had a little room in the belfry of Pioneer Methodist Church. Every day she would climb a narrow staircase to get to the room to pray. I had climbed that staircase many times to look for her. One other place where I could find her, if I didn’t find her in that room, was the ACS School field. Sometimes in the cool of the evening, she would ride her bicycle with a small stool in the back, park right in the middle of the field, and sit there to pray. Can you picture us in the middle of that field?
I remember Madam Lu’s last visit to our home. One day she came cycling to our house. She wanted to have lunch with my mother, and requested her favorite ‘meesua’ cooked in chicken soup. After the meal, she asked to see me. I appeared. She called me aside and told me, “ I want you to start praying about going to Bible School and be a missionary.” “No way!” I said, to which she replied, “You just go and pray, and God will tell you what to do when the time comes.” Later in the day, my mother asked me to deliver a message to Madam Lu ( we didn’t have telephones those days ), so I rode my bicycle and went. On the way I saw Madam Lu’s sister walking in the opposite direction. She waved me to stop. With tears in her eyes she told me her sister had died suddenly while taking a nap. I was in a state of shock. She was just at our house a few hours ago! I rushed home to tell my mother the sad news. We wept together. Madam Lu was such a wonderful friend – a prayer warrior, loved God dearly, such a cheerful and kind lady, and always an encouragement to everyone. I will never forget her last words to me.
Mother was a good cook, and we always enjoyed the food she puts on the table. In those days we had a huge mud stove with two big holes in them; one for a big pot and the other for a large wok. We used wood for fire, and my brothers and I would go hunting for dry twigs. I was often assigned to start the fire. I would roll a ball of rubber bands, put it under some twigs, pour a little kerosene on it, then light it with a match. Then I would use a long metal pipe into which I blew and blew until I got breathless and red in the face before the twigs started to burn. Excellent exercise for my lungs!
Mother was also a good seamstress. She sewed for the American Missionary women who were then serving in the school and churches. Whenever there were remnants from the materials, she would sew me a blouse or a skirt, and I would feel so proud standing next to the missionaries on Sunday! We always had a new pair of pyjamas for the New Year. Mother and I shared a few personal items. She and I had the same size feet, so we shared shoes. We shared handkerchiefs, handbags and umbrellas. That was something special to us. Mother preached in church occasionally, and she was a good preacher. Father would always tease her by saying, “I guess I have to sit there and listen to my wife preach to me again!”, but he was always very supportive of whatever she did.
Other precious memories were times I spent with mother in her room. Mother loved God, and she spent many hours praying, reading the Bible, and singing. She had a habit of praying aloud, and sang choruses and hymns in between. One precious memory remains in my mind and will always remain as long as I live. I must be 4 or 5 years old then. I went to her room to look for her. Her door was closed. I heard her talking to someone, so I got curious and put my ear to the door. I wondered who was visiting. I slowly turned the handle of the door and pushed the door ajar. Mother was kneeling by her bed, and she was talking to someone. “Whom are you talking to, mum?” I asked. She asked me to come in and kneel beside her. There on our knees, she explained to me what Prayer was, and taught me how to pray. From that day on, I would look for opportunities to slip into her room, kneel beside her, and enjoy prayer time with her. I still enjoy praying on my knees, although very often my arthritic knee prevents me from doing so. I recall a verse in Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I am ever so grateful my mother taught me how to pray! One other thing my mother taught me was to keep my shelves tidy. She knew that if she just asked me to tidy up, I wouldn’t do it; so each time she sees an untidy shelf, she would say, “Time to tidy your shelf ….let’s do it together!” In that way I not only learnt to put things away in the right place, but tidying the shelf became enjoyable. There are many more precious memories of mother which I will share with you later on. Every now and then something reminds me of her – a pair of shoes, a handbag, a pencil case, prayer time, a favorite dish, a song……I thank God upon every remembrance of her!
GRANDMA was my maternal grandmother. She migrated to Malaya with my parents. I never knew grandpa because he died before I was born. Grandma was a very special lady. She was gentle, kind, patient, and loving. She used to live on her own at one time. My father and my brothers had built her a small house about 300 meters away from our house. It had a small kitchen and dining area, one bedroom, and a small bathroom behind the house. Grandma loved all her grandchildren, especially the three youngest ones, Thomas, James and me. Quite often she would invite us to eat with her, which was a special treat. We would snuggle up to her, and told her all the happenings at school. She would pray for us, and sometimes we would fall asleep in her comfortable bed. Grandma never denied us anything. She was always there when the bread man or ice cream man rang his bells.
I had an old fashioned bicycle. When I graduated from high school, my mother gave me two gifts – a Bible (which I still treasure) and a bicycle. I had learnt to ride the bicycle when I was 11, and was a good rider. Every Sunday I made two trips to church on my bicycle. I carried mother to church first, then come home for grandma. A round trip took me about 30 minutes. We had quite a few falls when the traffic got heavy, but each time that happened, we giggled our way to church! I played the pedal organ and piano during the service, and grandma would always have an encouraging word for me.
Later, when grandma was getting old, she moved in with my brother Chiong King and his family who lived next door to us. She made many trips to see us every day. When mother died of illness at a young age, grandma was devastated and lonely. She never cried in front of us, and was always a tower of strength to all of us. Somehow she took over the role of mother and took special care of me. I was teaching in Anglo Chinese School then. Each day when I returned from school, I would find grandma sitting in an arm chair at the entrance of the door, waiting for me. Sometimes if I was late in coming home, she would fall asleep. Then she would sit with me while I had my lunch, after which we would both have a short nap. Very often she would send my nephew Raymond to buy noodles for my afternoon tea. Dear Raymond – have I ever told you how much I appreciate your willingness to run those errands for me? Your thoughtfulness will never be forgotten!
Grandma and I bonded close as the days went by. Then one day I had to break the sad news to her that I was leaving home. I was quitting the teaching profession to answer the call of God to serve Him full time in Christian Ministry. I was leaving home for the first time, to train at the Bible College of South Australia in Adelaide. That was a blow to grandma and she was very sad. But I will always remember her last words to me before I left home. After we prayed, she told me, “Don’t worry about me. Just obey God and go where He wants you to go. I will give you my blessings and pray for you.” Six weeks after I arrived in Australia, I received news from home that my grandma had gone to be with The Lord. Memories of her will always remain in my mind. She had been a real blessing to me, and I thank God for every remembrance of her.
CHIONG KING , mother’s son from her first marriage, worked as a truck driver for an oil company. It was a very demanding job. His day began at the early hours of the morning, and he would return late in the evening. Each day, for years, he drove the truck from Sitiawan to Penang. He met his sweetheart Kam Khoon, married her and brought her home to Kampong China. Khoon is a very gentle and friendly woman. Together they raised seven children, 3 boys and 4 girls. They are all grown up now, all happily married, except one daughter who is still enjoying her singlehood. Chiong King suffered a massive heart attack in year 2000 and didn’t survive.
SWEE HIONG, father’s daughter from his first marriage, was a very gentle, kind and loving woman. She and her husband raised a big family of eight children, 5 boys and 3 girls. They are a close-knit family, and live very simple lives, working hard, doing construction work and other small jobs. Swee Hiong was a good cook. She specialized in sweet potato dumplings. When I was working in Kuala Lumpur, I would make frequent trips home to spend some time with my father. She knew I loved dumplings, so she would cook them, and get one of her children to send them over for me to enjoy. Something happened one day. She had gone to her room to lie down for a short nap. One of her sons had gone to her room to call her for afternoon tea. To his horror, he found that his mother was unconscious. The family doctor came, but was too late. She had died. What a lovely way to go (for her), but the family was grief stricken.
SING HWA , father’s son from his first marriage, was a builder. He and his wife raised seven children, 5 boys and 2 girls. Builders live a very hectic life, and he was always out in the sun, inspecting and training his workers. One day he was helping his worker to fix something in the roof. He stepped on a loose tile and fell in. He died on the way to hospital. The children are all married, and have businesses of their own. Sister-in-law lives with one of the sons.
Now we are left with my five older brothers and me.
SING WONG was always good in his study. After completing his Junior Middle III in Nan Hwa High School, Sitiawan, he switched over to English schools and completed his Form Five in ACS, Ipoh. In 1956 he was awarded a scholarship to do a teacher-training course in Brinsford Lodge, England. Upon graduation he returned to Malaya and taught in English College, Johore Bahru, and King Edward VII Secondary School, Taiping.
Sing Wong married Lay See whom he met while they were doing teacher-training in England. Lay See was born in Taiping, and she taught in the Convent School in Taiping after returning from Brinsford. She is a good cook and I always enjoy her assam laksa and popiah. They have two children, a son, Pek Ming, who lives with his family in America, and a daughter, Pek Ling, who lives and works in Singapore.
Sing Wong was very successful in his career. While working as a teacher in Taiping, he took up an external degree course from the University of London, and obtained BA Honours degree in 1964. Shortly after obtaining the degree, he was posted to be the Headmaster of Tengku Ahmad Secondary School in Cameron Highlands. He later served as the Principal of Keat Hwa Secondary School in Alor Star. In 1971 he and his family moved to Singapore. In Singapore Sing Wong started as an Assistant Director in the then Adult Education Board. He later joined the Administrative Staff of the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). He retired as NTU’s Registrar in 1995.
Upon retirement, Sing Wong became a student again. He pursued theological studies, first as a part-time student of the Trinity Theological College. Later he did external study through distance learning with a Bible School in USA, and obtained the degree of Master of Biblical Studies in 2003 and the degree of Doctor of Biblical Studies in 2006. Sing Wong’s success in his studies and career has been a great encouragement to the family, especially the younger generation.
SING CHING worked hard as a little boy, following Sing Hwa around, and learning skills in construction work and other odd jobs. He and his wife have six children, 2 boys and 4 girls. Rachel, their oldest daughter lost her battle with cancer and died on Boxing Day in 2000. I will always remember her as the niece with big bright eyes and sweet smile. She loved God, and was very brave to the very end of her life. The other children are all doing well, each pursuing their own vocation. Sing Ching’s wife is a homemaker, and helps to run a little shop which they have had for awhile. They live in Pekan Gurney. In many ways, Sing Ching is like father – hardworking, patient and kind, and there is no task that is too menial for him.
SING HUAT has also worked hard all his life. From a very young age, he worked as a construction worker, and later became a builder. He built his own house which has been home for himself, his wife, and three children – 2 girls and a boy. His wife is a very good cook and homemaker, and her home is always neat and tidy. Her mother used to own a noodle shop in town, and she used to help her mother to cook and serve the clients. Sing Huat must have met her there, enjoyed her cooking, and decided to marry her! Well, she certainly has been a good housewife, and together they have raised three children, all doing well in their respective jobs. Their eldest daughter, Pek King, was among my first batch of students when I was teaching in ACS. She and her family now live in Melbourne, Australia. Andrew and Pek Ching work and live in Singapore. Sing Huat is enjoying his retirement, and he and his wife spend a lot of their time travelling to Melbourne and Singapore, to visit their children and grandchildren.
SING CHAI THOMAS, did not have the opportunity to continue his study after form 4 because our family financial circumstances did not permit him to do so. In his late teens he left Sitiawan for Singapore to work at the Chinese YMCA. After awhile he left the YMCA to join the then University of Singapore to work as an Assistant Domestic Manager at King Edward Hall. He did well on this job, and was later promoted to be the Domestic Manager of Kent Ridge Hall in NUS, the position he held until his retirement.
Although Sing Chai did not have the chance to continue his academic pursuit, he nevertheless never ceased to do some part-time study at night to enhance his skills and knowledge in technical areas. He attended various evening classes in electrical and electronics fields, and in computer. Over the years he became quite knowledgeable in technical fields, from electricity to computer, and from radio to television. He is quite a handyman and he renders help to members of our family whenever minor repairs need to be carried out or problems that have to be solved.
Life has been hard on Thomas in some ways. Tragedy struck his family when his only son, Mark (31) was killed in a car accident while on holiday with his friends in Bintang, Indonesia. This tragedy has hit our family so hard, that until today we are still suffering the pain of losing Mark so suddenly, at the prime of his life. Thomas and his family live in Singapore. He and his wife Ruth are enjoying retirement and they stay busy with church activities and voluntary community services. Their daughter Dorcas is enjoying her teaching career.
JAMES, SING NGOH, two years older than I, has lived in America for more than 40 years. James was a very active youth in school and played an active role in the Methodist Youth Fellowship where he served as President. He used to strum his guitar and sing along and was always very popular among the young people. After he finished Secondary School, James did temporary teaching for a year in Taiping. Then he was granted a scholarship to study at the Philippine Christian College where he did his first degree in Liberal Arts. He graduated Magna Cum Laude, was recognized as one of the Ten Most Outstanding College Students, and granted a scholarship to further his study in America. He studied Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and upon graduation was inducted into the International Society Of Theta Phi. From there he was actively involved in the Methodist Youth Movement with the Headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. After several years, he moved to South Carolina and became a businessman. He won the “Businessman of the Year Award”, along with other numerous Top Sales Awards. His love life had many ups and downs and after more than twenty years became the product of a broken marriage. He and Tracey together raised a beautiful daughter, Amanda, who is enjoying her role as Dance Professor at Columbia College in South Carolina. James has since retired, and enjoys his fishing and workouts at the local gym.
After I graduated from Secondary School, I did a year of temporary teaching at the Anglo Chinese Primary School. It felt strange being on the staff with the teachers who taught me when I was in the same school. I was given a Primary One class with 50 kids – they were quite a handful! The medium of instruction was English, but because my Second Language in school was the Malay Language (Bahasa Melayu) I also had to teach that language as one of the subjects. Teaching first graders was very challenging, as most of them would not have had formal education before ( no kindergarten or preschool like we do now ). I even had a couple of kids who were not toilet trained, and one came to class drinking from a feeding bottle!
Each new day brought new experiences, and as an untrained teacher fresh from school, there were many situations I didn’t know how to handle. I prayed for opportunity to go for teacher training , so I could be better equipped.
In 1964 God answered my prayer . I was accepted for Teacher Training at the Day Training Centre in Taiping. That was the first time I had left home; so it was quite an adventure for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the two years training, and learnt a great deal about what it takes to be a good teacher. Each trainee was assigned to different schools to do practical teaching. I was assigned to King Edward Primary School for a term, then to a Convent School for another term. That was a great arrangement, as I had the opportunity to teach all boys in the former school, and all girls in the latter. They were totally different lot of kids.
Taiping is a small but beautiful town. My friend SK and I rented a room from one of our lecturers. Mrs. Loh was a very warm and caring lady, and she treated us like her own daughters. Very often she would invite some of our friends to her house for lunch . She knew we were lonely and missed home. We really appreciate her hospitality and love.
Talking of food – there was this hawker’s centre in town called ‘Casual Market’ where my friends and I had our meals frequently. I recall an incident which took place at this hawker’s centre. One day my brother James and I were having our lunch . We were enjoying our noodles and having a chat when we heard a voice behind us. “That bowl of noodles looks really good. I haven’t eaten for days and I am so hungry.” The man was speaking in Hockchiang, the dialect we speak at home. We turned around and saw an old beggar standing behind us. “What shall we do?” I asked James. “Well, you could invite him to sit down and I’ll buy him a bowl of noodles,” he replied. “You’re not serious, are you?” I asked. “Yes, I am !” he said. I invited the beggar to sit. He sat next to me and waited. By now all eyes were on us. James returned shortly with a large serve of noodles and placed it in front of the beggar. He finished that bowl of noodles in seconds – I have never seen such a hungry man! “Would you like another serve?” asked my brother. “You mean you will buy me another bowl?” James got him a second serve, and again he finished it in seconds. “Want more?” asked James. “No, thank you, young man; you have been very kind to me, an old man.” With a grateful smile, he left.
As we were trying to finish up our meal, we sensed some excitement around us. We looked up, and you wouldn’t believe what we saw – a line of beggars heading towards us! Apparently that old beggar had gone and told his friends that ‘a young couple over there had just bought him 2 big serves of noodles!’ We took off, because we couldn’t afford to feed the mob.
I recall reading an article by Evangelist Dr. D.T.Niles, where he said, “Evangelism is one beggar telling another where to find food.” So true, isn’t it? What has God done for us? He has blessed us in so many ways. He has loved us so much that He gave His One and Only Son Jesus to die for our sins, and to give us eternal life. Such wonderful news should not be kept to ourselves. In Matthew 28:18-20 our Lord Jesus wants us to share this good news with others. So many people out there do not know Jesus. They are still groping around in the dark, looking for meaning in life. Let’s show them the way to Jesus – so that they too may find love, forgiveness, and eternal life.
After graduation I was posted back to Sitiawan – to Anglo Chinese Primary School! It was great to be back in familiar surroundings, and once again teaching alongside the same group of teachers. ACS is a Mission School, and we were the only ACS in the country which was co-ed (boys and girls studying together). I was now able to put into practice what I learnt at Teachers’ College.
I didn’t become a perfect teacher overnight. I learnt as I taught, and enjoyed the teaching profession. Being a Teacher is such a privilege, but it’s a privilege that carries responsibility. It was a joyous experience to be able to teach children, and to see them learn and grow. I had lots of opportunities to get to know the children individually, and to be not just a teacher, but a friend. I also got to know their families, and to understand the different backgrounds they come from. That helped me as I taught and interacted with the children. I believe the families and the school are ‘partners’ in the whole process of education.
Being a Mission School, we have Chapel Services once a week, and this is scheduled for every level in the school on different days of the week. While the Muslim children go to their religious classes run by their Muslim teachers, the other children all attend Chapel Services, where they learn to sing choruses and hymns. The Pastor from the Methodist Church, with help from Missionaries, and Christian teachers, led the prayers and Bible Teachings. It is at these services that many are exposed to the Gospel and become Christians.
I was involved in another ministry while teaching in ACS. I was appointed Captain of the First Sitiawan Company of The Girls’ Brigade. There were ninety-nine girls in the Company, and with me, we were one happy battalion! The Brigade provided great opportunities for Ministry. We studied the Bible together in small groups, and enjoyed singing hymns and choruses and community songs. Badge-work was great fun as the girls learnt knotting, cooking, first aid, and many other skills. They looked forward to receiving the badges they earned, so they could pin them to their sleeves to show how much they have achieved.
Camping was always fun, even though we had to rough it out under pitched tents and sometimes wet grass. Sometimes we had better sites for our camps. Once we camped in a fishermen’s hut on Pangkor Island. The fishermen were very kind to us and brought us fresh fish for our meals every day – what a blessing!
Learning to march is always great fun, especially when we do figure marching. Our instructor was Mr. V. Allan from the Outward Bound School. I recall an incident that took place when we were invited to march at the National Day Parade. The Sultan of Perak was to be our Guest of Honour. We were assembled at the stadium at 7am and stood in place with all the other uniformed organisations – the Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Red Cross, and other uniformed groups. We had waited in the hot sun for two hours, and the Guest of Honour still hadn’t arrived. Many of us had gone to the parade without breakfast, so guess what happened – Captain Ling fainted! Soon the Red Cross came with their stretcher and I was carried away to a tent nearby where I slowly revived after a hot drink. Meanwhile Mr. Allan was watching us from nearby, and rushed to stand in. What a relief for the anxious girls! By the time the Sultan arrived, I was well enough to march in the Parade – what an honour to salute the Guest of Honour as we marched past the Grandstand !
There was another unforgettable incident with the GB. A group of girls and I were attending a National Girls’ Brigade Camp in Port Dickson. There were more than a hundred girls at that camp, and that was our first camp out of town. The guys from the army had helped to pitch our tents. Guess what happened the first night we were there . There was storm and heavy rain. Our tents flew off in the storm and we woke in the middle of the night, rolled up our sleeping mats, and ran for shelter at the nearby Arumugam Lodge . There were tears in many eyes as we huddled together. That was not the end of that adventure. The next morning we were lining up to use the washrooms. Someone announced – ‘the pipes are broken and there is no water, so you’ll have to wash up with the water that’s in the tank over there ( pointing to a tank full of water ). A few girls screamed as they approached the tank. I went over to see what the problem was – there were countless tadpoles swimming in the tank!! Everybody had bad breath until the pipes were fixed - who says camping is not fun?!
The four years when I was teaching at ACS, Sitiawan were very difficult years. My dear mother was diagnosed with third stage cervical cancer in 1965 when I was still undergoing teacher training . The day my father and I took my mother to hospital in Ipoh, we were told that my mother had 3rd stage cervical cancer, and that she probably had only a year to live. My mother’s knees gave way and she fainted from shock. Father and I were devastated but we had to be strong, to give mother all the support she needed. The journey home by taxi was extra long. No words were spoken. Our minds replayed the words of the doctor and our hearts were heavy and broken. When we got home, the truth struck us like a ton of bricks, and our heavy hearts lost control. We burst into tears and cried our hearts out.
I was the youngest in the family and the only one living with my parents. My brothers were either married and living on their own or working away from home. Now I had the difficult task of breaking the painful news to them. The whole family was alerted and it was like a sudden dark cloud hung over us. As a family we were all in pain. The days and weeks that followed were very difficult and long. Each day I would kneel and pray with my mother, and asked God for grace and strength to cope. We continued to read the Bible together and claimed God’s promises. We continued to sing, but this time tears were uncontrollable as we sang. God understood our pain and He assured us of His peace and love, sufficient for each day. It took us a long time to come to terms with the whole truth of mother’s illness.
We now had to deal with the next step – medical treatment for mother. In those days the only treatment available was radium treatment. The nearest hospital where she could get that treatment was in Kuala Lumpur, which was more than 3 hours drive from our home. Mother was to have radium once a week, but she had to stay in the hospital the rest of the time. This was a very trying time for us as a family.
It was God’s blessing that I was posted back to my hometown, so I could be with my mother when she needed me. But the days were long and difficult. When my mother was hospitalised in Kuala Lumpur for treatment, my father looked after her during the day, and stayed at a nearby hotel during the night. As soon as school was over on Friday, I would take the taxi to Kuala Lumpur to help my father look after my mother. I was home by Sunday evening, for school the next day. When mother was transferred to the hospital in Lumut, nearer home, I would sleep on a canvas bed beside my mother ( men were not allowed to sleep in female wards ). I didn’t get much sleep as my mother was constantly in pain , and I would wake to comfort her . I suffered insomnia as a result of that.
During this very difficult time, God sent some close friends to comfort and help us. When mother was in hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Mrs. Chong, who was a nurse in the hospital, was of great help to us. She, along with her daughter, Gloria, a close friend of mine, were a tower of strength for us at this time of need, and we thank God for them. Back home, in Sitiawan, God provided support for me through the love and kindness of my teacher, Mrs. Moses Tay ( Ging ) . She was my prayer partner. When days got difficult and I was not coping, I would ride the bicycle to her house. There I would have a good cry and unburden myself. Ging would read the Bible and pray for me. Then she would make me a hot drink before I left for home. I always returned re-charged. I thank God for the moral and spiritual support from Ging. She was like a sheltering tree for me.
My mother’s radium treatment took 18 weeks to complete. After that she was allowed to return home to recuperate. She gained strength day by day, and soon she was well again. Well, the doctor was wrong in giving my mother one year to live; she lived another five years! During those five years, although she had her ups and downs, mother continued her ministry as Lay Preacher in my little country church, Chin Hock Methodist Church. She continued her women’s ministry, visitation, preached occasionally, led cottage prayer meetings, and taught Sunday School in the small villages nearby.
One day mother asked me to accompany her ; she needed to do ‘something important’. She was going to see the undertaker! I was dumbfounded! “Don’t ask questions, just follow me,” she said. So we went. The little shop where the undertaker worked was a little eerie for me .There were caskets everywhere – I felt like I was walking into a mortuary! Anyway, mother was very brave, and that helped. The undertaker asked what she wanted, and she told him she wanted to look at some of his caskets. “I’m sorry, did anyone in your family die?” he asked. Mother calmly replied, “No, but my doctor told me I won’t have long to live, so I’ve come to select my own casket.” You should have seen the look on his face ! He told my mother, “You are a brave woman. In all my years as an undertaker, I’ve never had anyone come for her own casket!”
The deal went smoothly. Mother selected the casket she liked, asked the man to engrave a Bible verse she picked (Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and The Life” John 11:25) and a plain cross for the cover. “That’s it. My family will come for it when I die.” She paid the deposit and got the receipt. We went home, and as she had requested, nothing was mentioned about that trip after that. But that trip to the undertaker, and the way my mother handled the whole situation left a lasting impression on me. Mother was not afraid to die!
One day, during the fifth year of my mother’s illness, she was very ill and she became bedridden. She was constantly in great pain and the doctor was coming in daily to give her morphine. Somehow we knew the end was near. I grabbed every opportunity to spend quality time with mother. We prayed, sang, and read the Bible. But I had a problem – I was educated in the English Language and could not read Chinese . God was good. He sent me a dear friend, Francis Ngoi. I would choose the Bible passages, and Francis would help me read them to my mother in Chinese. Together we would pray and sing, and this gave us comfort and strength to go on.
Mother and I had many ‘heart-to-heart’ talks. I was in my early twenties, her only daughter, and single; so like every mother, she was concerned for me. It was on one of those days that mother told me she had three parcels hidden away in her wardrobe. One parcel was her wedding present for me when I got married. Another was for my brother James, to give to his wife when he got married. James was then studying in USA. The third parcel was to be opened on the day she dies, and she told me I would know what to do. That day I knelt by my mother’s bed and cried until I fell asleep. I was sad beyond words.
One other day was packed with emotions. Mother had sent for the 3 daughters-in-law who were living nearby and who had helped to nurse her when she was ill. She called them in, and thanked them for looking after her. Then she asked me to look for a box in her drawer. In it were 3 pieces of gold, one for each one of them. It was a very tearful morning, and we cuddled together to cry. Then there was something else mother wanted me to do for her. She wanted me to tape her last words to James. That was a very difficult task for me, and it took 3 days, with breaks in between whenever it got too emotional. I tell you, that was the most precious sermon any son could receive from his mother!
I had just returned from school one day when my 5th sister-in-law called out to me and my father. Mother had gone into a coma. She was watching mother when father and I were out. Mother had told her to tell me that she had a vision. In that vision she had seen her best friend, Madam Lu Hong Keow, and five angels . With that she slipped away into a deep sleep. Mother remained in a coma for five days. Our family were gathered around her . She opened her eyes, looked around the circle at everyone who was there; then she took a long look at me, gave me the sweetest smile she could manage, and took her last breath. She went home to be with God –peacefully. Although we knew she had gone home to be with The Lord, our hearts were filled with grieve and pain. We had lost someone who was very dear to us , one who was our pillar of strength and our sheltering tree whenever we needed one. That was 29th June, 1969 – a very sad day in our lives. It was the first death we faced as a family, so we were distraught and lost.
With my heart wrenched in pieces by pain and grief, I opened the 3 parcels she left .My parcel contained a pair of beautiful gold bracelets-the traditional wedding gift for a daughter on her wedding day. The parcel for James was to be given to him when he got married. Now to open the third parcel – she told me I would know what to do with it. I opened it, and it contained her favourite cheongsam which I had asked my tailor to sew for her on her last birthday. It was a lovely silk material with small green and brown floral designs. She loved that dress and had worn it on special occasions when she preached in church. With it, there was a pair of new shoes. It was obvious to me that she wanted to be buried in that dress and shoes. Mother had it all planned – she knew her end was near, and she was ready.
The funeral was a celebration of mother’s life. The country church was packed. The 99 girls from the Girls’ Brigade stood as Guard of Honour. We all stood in honour of one woman very dear to us, one who had lived a very respectable and fulfilled life; one who was a good role model for us to follow. We thank God upon every remembrance of her.
The days after my mother’s funeral were very lonely days. How I missed my beloved mother! Words cannot express the emptiness I felt within me . Life seemed so meaningless. I went into depression . I couldn’t pray, and stopped reading the Bible . I even stopped attending church. I was bitter and angry with God. My mother had been such a devoted and faithful servant in ministry for so many years. Why did God take her home so soon – she was only in her early 50s , still so young and energetic, and full of enthusiasm. I started to lose my appetite, and suffered insomnia. This affected my teaching as I became very grumpy and impatient. My depression and anger made me a very difficult person to live with, and I became very miserable .
During this time, Mrs. Moses Tay visited me regularly, to pray for me. She was like a sister to me. She was gentle, kind and patient, and had a smile that could melt any heart. She persisted in praying for me and comforting me with Scripture. All this didn’t help. Somehow I felt as though our prayers were just hitting the ceiling and bouncing back on me, and the Scriptures we read were not taking root. I felt that I was just going through the motions.
One night I was tossing in bed, unable to sleep and feeling very angry with God. That night I decided to have a serious talk with God; so I got on my knees and cried out to God. “God, are you really there? If you are, do you care how I feel? I am angry with you for taking my mother. You’ve taken my closest friend; now I am so devastated, lost, and lonely. Do you really care? Why don’t you say something to me? I would rather die than go on living like this. Please, God, if you are really there, and if you really care, do something or say something!” I burst into tears and cried until I had no more tears. I finally fell asleep.
It was early hours in the morning. I had a dream. To this day I still remember that dream vividly – every scene, every word and conversation. In the dream I was walking along the footpath of Trinity Theological College on Mount Sophia in Singapore. I had gone there to look for my best friend, Nyoke Lin, who was then training at the College. A European lady was walking towards me, and I asked her for directions to the dormitories. She gave me the directions and I walked on. I took the staircase leading to my friend’s room. Halfway up the stairs, a man walked past me, stopped in front of me, and turned to face me. “What are you doing in a girl’s dormitory?” I asked. He didn’t answer, but just stood there, staring at me. I started to get cold feet.
Then I started to take a closer look at him, to see if I knew this man. It was strange – his face was blurred, like there was something covering his face. I started getting nervous, and asked, “Who are you?” Then while I was still trying to make out who this man was, I saw something above his head . I looked closely. It was a crown of thorns. Above that crown of thorns were some words in bold print, ‘FEAR NOT, FOR I AM WITH YOU. I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU COMFORTLESS. COME TO ME AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST.” “ Jesus, is that You?” I exclaimed! He didn’t say a word . Instead, He reached out both His hands toward me. I still couldn’t see his face. I reached out my trembling hands to His and He took me in His arms and held me close to Him. I cried out in deep sobs. “Thank You, Lord, you do care. You have heard my cry and have come to me. I have been so bitter and angry with you, please forgive me. Please help me, because I cannot live without you.” He allowed me to cry for awhile. Then he let me go, and turned and walked down the stairs. “No Lord, please do not leave me; I need you.” He continued walking, and at the foot of the stairs, He turned, smiled, waved his hand, and he was gone.
The clock struck 5am. It was 5th October, 1969. With tears streaming down my face, but with Joy in my broken heart, I dropped on my knees by my bed and prayed. “Dear God, thank you for coming to me in my deepest hour of need. Thank you for showing me that you love me and care for me, and that you will never leave me. I am sorry for all my sin, for my bitterness and anger. This morning you helped me see that all these years my faith in you was dependent on my mother. I knew all about you, but I guess it was all head knowledge. I want a personal faith in you, and I want to surrender my life to you. Please save me from my sin, and be my personal Saviour and Lord. From today on I want to live for you.”
From that moment on, my life took a new meaning. I have become a new person. Now I not only know ‘about’ Jesus, I KNOW HIM – He is now MY Saviour and MY Lord! My faith in God is now based on MY personal relationship with Jesus. I have found Joy, not just happiness. Happiness is dependent on circumstances, but Joy, which Jesus gives, remains, in spite of circumstances. I have also found Peace – Peace that passes all understanding, peace that is there to stay, no matter what happens. Praise be to God!
For health reasons, the family doctor recommended that I asked for a transfer to another town. The Education Department transferred me to Methodist Girls’ School in Penang. I rented a room about 5 minutes walk from the school. The landlady was a lovely Christian, and she lived there with her mother and 5 daughters. Her husband was a travelling businessman, so he was away most of the time. Can you imagine the laughter and giggles in the house with 8 females! I was very happy living there, as I was treated like one of the family. But it was not laughter all the time. One night something happened, which left a deep scar in my life, and even today the memory of what happened still send chills down my spine!
I was awakened from deep sleep around 2.30am. I had heard the sound of wood hitting against the metal bars of my window. My immediate reaction was panic – is there a burglar?! I was sleeping on my side, with my face to the wall, away from the windows. I kept very still, praying to God and asking Him to show me what to do. There were 2 doors to my room, now which would be a better door to escape? I was really afraid, and my heart was pounding fast. Once again I heard that same sound, but this time I just knew there was someone on that window. There were 3 windows in my room. I could hear him hopping from one window to the other . I turned around. To my horror I saw a dark figure perched on the window. He had a long stick in his hand , and there was something attached to the end of it – it was a dagger. I screamed! He told me to ‘shoosh’ and threatened me by pushing the dagger at me. I was so petrified I couldn’t move. Don’t ask me why I didn’t run – perhaps the shock and fear glued me to my bed and I couldn’t think! Then I saw him jumping off the third window and landing on the balcony. I could see his hand at the handle, opening the balcony door. Oh no, I had forgotten to lock the door! My fears mounted. With all my might, I screamed and screamed. He was now standing by my bed, with the stick in his hand. I was still sitting there, glued to the bed, with my pillow against my stomach. All I could think of now was – he was going to rape me, then kill me. With all the air left in my lungs, I gave a final loud scream. FLICK – there was light shining into my room. It came from my neighbour’s room. Then I saw my next door neighbour at his window and he yelled out, “Lady, are you alright?” The burglar turned around, and saw him. He grabbed my handbag which was on the table and jumped down from the balcony and escaped.
My neighbour called out to me again. “Lady, are you alright? Did he harm you? Are you alone? Can I come over and help you?” I got up from my bed and struggled to the window, looking at the stick and dagger on the floor, near my bed. My body trembling, I hung on to the window bars and sobbed uncontrollably. The neighbour looked on helplessly and allowed me to cry. After I calmed down, he asked, “I could come over and call the police for you if you open the door for me.” I struggled downstairs and opened the door for him. My neighbour and I met for the first time. He was a tenant who had rented a room from my neighbour. I thanked him for coming to my aid. Then it suddenly dawned on me that I was not alone in that house that night. What happened to my landlady and her mother and daughters? No one had come to ask if I was alright. Apparently, (they told me later) my landlady had heard me screaming, and thought that the burglar had already attacked me; so fearing for her daughters and mother, she had gathered all of them into one room and locked themselves in!
My neighbour called the police and they came in minutes. I had to repeat the whole frightful story to the police who took down every detail. Then they went to my room to check the stick and dagger for handprints.
There were also prints on the wall, and on the water pipe running down the wall of the bathroom. The police told us that this was a very experienced burglar. There were no whole hand or foot prints; it was either only the finger tips or the lower part of the palm, or the heels or the toes. The police made another observation – the prints were all covered with grease. The burglar had obviously covered himself with grease so no one could catch him. Then I remembered reading about the “oily man” in the newspapers awhile ago, and here I had come so close to one! After a long interview and filling in reports for the police, my landlady made us a hot drink. My neighbour and us became friends. I was so grateful to God for sending help. Fancy that – God sent a stranger to help me……..perhaps he was God’s “angel”? Didn’t He promise in Psalm 91:10-11 that “ no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.”
The following day I had a high fever and was admitted to hospital. The ordeal in the night was too traumatic for me. There in hospital I just slept and slept and slept. I was exhausted. When I awoke, I once again thanked and praised God for protecting me and for sending His angel. What I didn’t realise was that the traumatic experience had left a long lasting effect on my life. For years I had developed a fear of Black people – the burglar was a dark skinned man. In 1979, 9 years after that incident, I was invited to represent Malaysia in the Camps Farthest Out International, held at Denvor, Colarado, USA. It was my first time attending an International Camp. There were around 600 of us, from many countries round the world; so it was an awesome experience for me. Every evening, delegates from different countries dressed in their national costumes and presented items from their culture, and shared about how God was working in their country. One evening, the delegates from Ghana were on. As the audience applauded, I turned round to look. Something happened to me. I was trembling, and my tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt chills down my spine, and I sat there numb, gripped with a fear I couldn’t explain. The lady sitting next to me put her arm round me and told me not to be afraid. In the next few seconds I knew what was happening to me. The men from Ghana were dark in complexion. They had painted their faces white and they were dressed like warriors, and they were holding long sticks with daggers at the end of the sticks. All of a sudden the scene of that night the burglar hit replayed in my mind, and once again the trauma hit me. I sat there trembling and crying. The lady next to me prayed with me and comforted me until I was steady.
At the end of the program that evening, the chairperson asked if anyone wanted to share any impressions of the evening’s program. I felt someone nudging me to go forward to share what was happening to me . I struggled, but something was pushing me to stand up. I knew it was The Holy Spirit. After a brief prayer, I got up and went forward. I stood there , speechless for a few seconds, then with sobs in between, I shared my experience with the burglar back in 1970, and how once again the trauma of that night had once again surfaced when the men from Ghana appeared. I cried my heart out as I shared that I believed God had brought me all the way to that Camp to be healed and to be set free from my fear of Black people. Then I saw Javan, one of the men from Ghana, walking up the aisle toward me. His eyes were filled with tears. Our eyes met, and with lips trembling he said, “Sister, I am so sorry I caused you fear. Do not be afraid of me, I am your brother in Christ.” My friend Bill put his arm around me to comfort me. Then Javan continued, “Sister, can I give you a hug?” “Yes, you can, my brother.” I replied. As we hugged and cried, the audience stood to their feet and applauded, and I can assure you, there were no dry eyes – God has healed me and set me free – Thank You, Jesus!
Doesn’t God work in mysterious ways !
I continued to be involved with the ministry with the Girls’ Brigade. I was appointed Captain of 2nd Penang Company which was attached to Wesley Church on Burmah Road . Ministry among the girls brought me much joy and satisfaction. We had very successful camps and I really enjoyed working with all the Officers from the different Companies in the country.
Something happened during one camp that showed me that GB was not just about camps, singing, badgework and marching. One night while the indoor games session was on, I had to use the toilet. While I was there, I heard someone crying. The cry had come from the cubicle next to mine. I knocked at the door and asked if the girl needed help. The cry turned to loud and deep sobs. I told her who I was and asked her to open the door which she did. She had something wrapped in both her hands as she sobbed. I asked her to show me what it was. “I think I’m going to die ” she said. It turned out that she was having her first menstruation and she didn’t know. She stood there trembling, thinking she had cancer and was going to bleed to death. Poor girl!
I took her to my room, helped her to clean herself and showed her what to do. Then we sat down and had a good talk, after which we prayed together. When she left my room she said, “Why didn’t my mother tell me what to expect? She could have spared me of all this trauma!” How true. So , all mothers, please take note !Following that incident, the Officers in every Company were told to invite a doctor or nurse to conduct sessions on “Preparing for Adolescence”. For me, ministry in the GB took on a new meaning as I learnt to relate to the girls on a more personal note, and to pray with them individually.
During that Camp, I was approached by one of the Officers from the National Council. She told me that they were looking for a National Organising Secretary. She said she saw potential in me, and asked if I would pray about the position. I did. So after I had served my years of contract with the Government, I resigned from my teaching career and took on the position as Organising Secretary for Girls’ Brigade Malaysia. I was based in Kuala Lumpur where the Headquarters was.
Ministry with the Girls’ Brigade gave me much joy and fulfilment. As Organising Secretary, I had to visit all the Brigade Companies around the country . ( there were more than 20 ) . I met with the Officers from each company, and helped them to organise Bible Study groups, badge-work and camps. I found joy in being able to pray with the officers and to encourage them in their ministry. The Ministry was very fulfilling and I found great joy serving God this way. But very soon the travelling took a toll on me. Almost every Monday I was on the road to visit a Company, either by bus, train or taxi. I was living out of a suitcase. Each time I return to base, I would be exhausted. However, the passage of Scripture that kept me going was from Isaiah 41: 28-31
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of The ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in The Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”
It was a hot and humid day, and I was driving to the market. As I often do, I talk to God as I drive. It’s such a beautiful experience to be able to sense God’s Presence as you go through the hours of each day, bringing Him into everything you do and asking Him to guide and help you, even in the simplest thing you do, acknowledging that “without Him I can do nothing” (John 15:5). I prayed, and asked God to make me a blessing to someone that day. I parked my car, and walked through the shops to get to the market. As I was walking, I felt a tug at my skirt. I looked around and saw a little Indian girl. I saw the saddest face I had ever seen. She looked sad, hungry and lifeless. She was still tugging at my skirt. Then she directed me to her mother and two little brothers sitting on the floor nearby. There on the floor they displayed some small dry onions, chillies and potatoes, hoping someone would buy them. I took a look at them and decided that they would be of no use to me. As I started to walk away, I noticed the sad and hungry faces once again. Then I sensed an inner voice speaking to me , “I thought awhile ago you prayed and asked me to make you a blessing to someone today?” “I know I did, Lord, but….those onions and other stuff….they are all stale!” I walked on. After I did my marketing, I took the same route back to my car. I walked past the family who was still huddling together around their little display. As I drove home, my heart was still troubled with what the ‘inner voice’ had said to me earlier. When I got home, I started to pack away the things I had bought. Then a strange thing happened. It was like a revelation – all of a sudden I knew what God wanted me to do. He wanted me to cook a nice meal and bring it back to that hungry family.
“Alright Lord, if that’s what you want me to do, I will obey you.” I cooked some rice and a couple of dishes, and hurried back to the market place, praying that the family would still be there. They were! I wasn’t sure if they recognised me, but it didn’t matter. I stooped beside them and gave them the food I had cooked. Tears filled their eyes and mine. We couldn’t speak each other’s language, but somehow we connected. Then I saw the sweetest smiles I hadn’t seen for awhile. They were smiles of gratitude, happiness and hope. I handed them the spoons and plates and they enjoyed the food heartily.
They didn’t finish all the food; they kept half for the next meal. By then I was feeling a little embarrassed, as I noticed the crowd around us watching what was going on. We exchanged smiles. Then I made my way home. As I was driving home, the Lord brought to my mind the passage in Matthew 25: 31-40, and I could sense God telling me, “….I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…..I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of these my brothers of mine, you did it for me.” My heart was filled with joy as I drove home.
Obedience brings blessing and joy, and I was glad that I obeyed God’s voice that day. There are needy people everywhere. If we listen carefully and are sensitive to the leading of The Holy Spirit, He will lead you to people you can help. May God help us, and make us channels of blessing for Him.
Once again, I felt the need for further training. I started praying about going for Theological Training, so I could be more equipped for ministry. I applied to three Colleges – Trinity Theological College in Singapore, New Zealand Bible College, and Bible College of South Australia. God led me to Bible College of South Australia (BCSA) . I arrived at BCSA in late February of 1974. It took me awhile to adjust to a different culture, lifestyle, and climate, but I was enjoying the new experience and adventure. There were more than 100 students living in the College which was situated on Mount Breckan, in Victor Harbor. There were only 5 International students, one from Japan, another guy and me from Malaysia, one from Ghana, and one from Korea; the rest were all Australians.
Every term we get a new roommate. We learn to get along, put up with each other’s idiosyncrasies, and pray with each other . I thank God for all my roommates . Life at the College was very challenging, and there was never a dull moment. All the students were rostered to do cleaning, laundry, help in the kitchen, gardening, serving at meal times, and many other duties. One day I was doing gardening in the vegetable patch . As I squat there digging the soil, I came face to face with a pair of eyes peeping from under a bush nearby. My heartbeat raced, and within seconds I was running away, screaming , “snake!”. Madge came to pacify me as I was trembling and crying . “That’s not a snake, dear; it’s just a friendly sleepy lizard. It won’t harm you.” Well, that was the end of my gardening duties – no matter how many times I was called to the Principal’s office for not turning up for gardening, no one could get me near that garden again!
I had some health issues when I was at College. I had severe backaches, abdominal pains, and fainting spells. One day when I was on duty, cleaning the floors, I felt faint. “Oh dear, what happened to Ai?”, “Take her to the sick bay.” “No, call the ambulance.” I could hear excitement, the voices, and the pacing of feet around me, but they seemed so far away. The college nurse finally took me to the sick bay and gave me a hot drink. After awhile I was called to the Principal’s office. I was devastated at what he had to say. He thought that since I was not coping very well, I should consider leaving. I was very upset. Of course I was coping; in fact I was enjoying every bit of College life. I asked to be sent for a full medical, but he didn’t think it was necessary. I made a bargain with him. I asked to be granted a week’s leave so I could stay with a friend in the city. I was going to fast and pray for a week, to ask God to show me what to do. Then I would decide the course of action. He agreed and granted me leave.
My friend Jenny Camp had a lovely apartment in Rose Park, near the city, and she was very happy to have me. Now I had never fasted in all my life, but that day I was determined to fast and pray, to seek God’s guidance. I refused to believe that God would bring me all the way to college and have me quit halfway through the course. The first two days of fasting were difficult – oh the hunger pangs! But as I persevered in prayer and reading the Bible , God gave me strength to cope. After the third day, I had lost my appetite and didn’t feel hungry anymore. Something happened in the afternoon that day. I was kneeling by my bed praying, and asking God to show me what to do. My eyes were closed in prayer, but somehow could see in my mind’s eye, a word in clear print – just one word, in bold letters ….STEWARD.
“What are you asking me to do, Lord?” When I got up from my knees, I was led to make a phone call to Dr. Steward, my Old Testament lecturer. He asked me what I was fasting and praying about, so I told him about my health problems. “Aha” he said, “I know what God wants you to do. My father is a surgeon, I think you should call him.” I did, and Dr. Steward Senior told me to come straight away. He did a series of tests, including an IVP . He discovered that I had a poisoned gall bladder, and it was hanging on a thin string and could snap anytime, and I could die. I was horrified to hear the prognosis. I was told I needed immediate surgery.
SAVED TO SERVE
Dr. Steward was a warm and kind man. He and his wife had been missionaries in Indonesia for decades, so he could understand my cultural fears and apprehensions. What was I to do? My family back in Malaysia had no clue what was happening to me. There was no way I could talk to my father because we lived in the country where there were no telephone lines! Dr. Steward prayed with me, and told me that God would watch over me. He told me he would call his wife, and together they would pray me through the surgery. I was admitted to Blackwood Hospital, and preparations were made for immediate surgery. All this time I was in great pain, but somehow I had that inner peace, knowing that God was with me, and that all would be well. Normally a gall bladder surgery would take around 45 minutes. I was on the operation table 7 hours. The poison in the diseased gall bladder had gone into the bloodstream, so the surgeon had to clean me out and pump in new blood. It was almost midnight when I opened my eyes. I was back in the ward, hooked to several tubes. I recognised the surgeon in his green outfit and a mask pulled below his chin. Beside him were the Principal of the College, and the Senior Student. They apologised for being so insensitive to my health needs. Then the surgeon said something which I will never forget. “Ai, God has saved your life , and I am so glad He chose to use me to help you. Don’t look back at what is past. Just thank God for His perfect timing. If you had come to me 2 days later, I don’t think you would have made it. So, give what is left of your life to serve God. He has work for you to do. Right now you just concentrate on getting well. Then you can return to College and finish your course.” With that the Principal prayed for me, and I was off to dreamland, so glad to be alive!
My recovery was long and difficult. I was allergic to Aspirin and Penicillin, so my body reacted violently. But God saw me through those difficult days. After full recovery I went back to College and completed my course. Today, as I write this testimony I look back with gratitude to God for saving my life, and for His Grace and Love for me. I was in full time Christian Ministry for 20 years, and found great joy and fulfilment serving God. Now I am retired from full time Ministry, but not from doing God’s work. There is no retirement in doing God’s work. I continue to serve Him in the home, in my local church, and in the community whenever opportunities arise. I pray that God will help me to be faithful and available at all times.
One area of Bible College life that I enjoyed very much was in the area of Weekend Ministry. Each student had to look for some kind of ministry which he/she could be involved in . I had several ministries. Some weekends I was involved in ‘Coffee-house ministry’ with a few other students from College. We set up a small café at the Seacombe Road Baptist Church. Many people would come there on Friday and Saturday evenings, just to have coffee and cake, and to chat with friends. The group would find opportunities to sit and chat with the crowd, and to share the Gospel when opportunities arose. We would also be rostered to sing and give short testimonies. It was a good way to reach out to lonely and needy people.
I also worked part-time as a kitchen-hand at Leahurst, a Home for Retired Nurses, on Magill Road in Adelaide. There were 16 retired nurses living there. I was given a room at the Home. My duties included bringing breakfast to each lady in their room, and helping the cook in the kitchen. I made it a point to visit one lady each night. I would read the Bible to them, sing a song or two with them , then pray for them before they sleep. These were very precious times , and it created a special bonding between me and the ladies .
Allow me to share a story about my little autoharp. “Melody” is what I call my autoharp, my precious musical instrument which I really treasure. With Melody I sing as I worship God in private. The chords of Melody draw me close to God when I am happy or when sad. Together we have travelled far and wide. She has been my companion for many years. She was a gift from God.
Back in 1970 I had accompanied some friends to a radio station to listen to a Gospel Recording session. One of the songs was presented by an American teenager. She accompanied herself on her autoharp. Her voice was angelic and it blended so well with the harp. She sang one of my favourites, “Does Jesus Care?”, and it really touched my heart. That night when I returned to my room, I knelt by my bed and asked God for an autoharp. I wanted to sing for God. The autoharp was not sold anywhere in Malaysia, so how would that be possible? Well, I continued to pray. Four years later, I was walking down the Rundall Mall in Adelaide. I was then training at the Bible College. I had a day off so I went window shopping. I passed a music shop and something caught my attention – there in the window was an autoharp!
I continued to pray. One morning, not long after, I went to the mailroom to see if I had any mail. There was an envelope addressed to me. I opened it, and there was a cheque with a note, a verse from Philippians 4:19 and below that verse, “A Gift from God”. I returned to my room, got on my knees and thanked God. He had provided me with the money for the autoharp!
Now I had to figure out how to play that instrument. College was closing for the Easter break, and I had booked to go to Tasmania with my friend Win. The day before I was due to fly, I was suddenly taken ill with high fever, and I had to be hospitalised. I was very disappointed and depressed. My friend Jenny came to visit me one night. She had a bright idea. She went back to my room and returned with my autoharp. “Stop being depressed,” she said, “cheer up the patients with your songs”. With that she left. Well, what was I to do?
I had no idea how to play that harp. Anyway, I tried strumming the cords, and quietly hummed along. Before long I was strumming to the tune “What a Friend We have in Jesus” . I felt peace filling my troubled heart. Then I heard footsteps approaching my bed. A little old lady stood before me, and she was crying. “I am so sorry, maám, did I upset you?” I asked. “No dear, you didn’t. I heard your soft music, and I just had to come by.” Now she was sobbing. I stopped playing, and invited her to sit on my bed. Between sobs she told me her husband had died a few days ago, and she was in hospital for surgery and was too ill to attend his funeral. That hymn was one of their favourites. She requested that I sang the hymn for her again, and with tears streaming down her cheeks she sang with me. Then I prayed with her, and I walked with her to her bed and tucked her in. As I lay down to sleep that night, I knew why God had answered my prayer and given me that autoharp.
One other ministry I was involved in was with the Ross Robertson Nursing Home in Victor Harbor. I had asked the Matron if I could visit one or two ladies who had few visitors. So every Saturday afternoon I would take Melody along with me, and we would have a time of singing with the ladies. Soon the ladies would bring their friends, and we would have a room full of men and women. Together we read the Bible and sang hymns which they loved. One afternoon I heard my name being called over the PA. I was to report to the Principal’s office. “oh,oh…what have I done?” The Principal told me that the matron at the Nursing Home had called, and she had requested for me to go there with my autoharp. I went immediately. One of the ladies was critically ill. As she lay there, still conscious, she asked if I could sing to her and play the harp. She requested for “Amazing Grace”, and “He Touched Me”. She looked so peaceful and beautiful. I prayed with her. Then I left. I was told the lady died in her sleep that night. What a beautiful way to go. I thanked God that I could be a channel, to help bring God’s peace to someone.
In 1976 , after graduating from Bible College, I served as Christian Education Worker with the Methodist Church in Malacca, Malaysia. As CE Worker, I had many responsibilities . I worked alongside the Pastor , and was involved with all the ministries in church, which included the Sunday School, Girls’Brigade, Youth and Women’s groups, visitation, parish meetings in homes, and of course the church services on Sundays. I also helped conduct chapel services in the six Methodist Schools. In the evenings I led in Vespers in the Dodsworth Hall (hostel for boys) and Shellabear Hall (hostel for girls). The workload was very heavy but the ministry was very rewarding and fulfilling. I thank God for the many friends and church members who supported me and prayed with me.
I had no permanent accommodation during my years in Malacca. I started off renting a small room from a lady who lived opposite the Church. This was great, as my office was right across the road from where I lived. Five of the six schools were also walking distance from the office, which was located in the Church. Most of the time I walked, as I had no car. One day a lady from church offered me her bicycle, which helped to speed up my trips to the schools and hostels.
Then another family offered me their small motorbike. The bike number plate (MD555) caught the attention of many, including the policeman, who offered to buy the number plate! 555 is a brand of cigarettes. In fact the policeman wanted the number so badly that he joked with me, “ You are a church worker, why would you be promoting cigarettes anyway!” Good try – I kept my number plate!
After a year on the motorbike, another couple from Church offered me their spare car. They didn’t want me to be caught in the rain ever so often; and they thought it was not very safe for me to ride the bike.
I did have a frightening experience the first week I rode that bike. I was starting the bike, getting ready to go to school. I hadn’t checked to see if I had ‘freed’ the gear when I parked it. I kicked the accelerator, and OFF I went – over the fence, down the road, and the bike landed in the middle of the road with me sitting on top of the wheels! The gardener was watching from under the tree, and he yelled out, “Did you think you were in a circus? Any broken bones?” I got up, shook the dust off my clothes, regained my poise, took some deep breaths, and I was off to school, thankful that there were no broken bones. Who says Ministry is not exciting?! The four years of ministry with Wesley Methodist Church in Malacca was filled with rich experiences, some pleasant, some not so; but God used every situation to help me grow as a person. I thank God that He loves me so much as to want me to grow. At the end of the fourth year, I felt the need for a break; so I took a year off to rest and replenish.
Mrs. Dorothy Rhoden and I had been corresponding for 10 years. My brother James was studying at Emory University in Atlanta , and Dorothy and her husband Bill and their family had opened their home to James. Dorothy and Bill had become my prayer partners, and were aware of my weariness in the Ministry. After much prayer I accepted their sponsorship to attend the School Of Ministry in Bradenton, Florida; so I could be refreshed and recharged for further ministry. So I made arrangements to go to USA. The School Of Ministry was great, and I sat at the feet of some great teachers . I felt refreshed, recharged and alive again! After that I enrolled at the Melodyland School Of Theology in Los Angeles for the Summer School. This again was a refresher for me, and I was so grateful to God for loving me and providing for me. After Summer School I returned to Florida, and stayed with Dorothy and Bill, who by now was “Nannie” and “Granddaddy” to me.
Granddaddy and Nannie were very kind to me, and loved me as their ‘other daughter’. They had an only daughter, Dottie who plays the piano beautifully and sings like an angel. I will always be grateful to God and to them for the love and kindness they have shown towards me and my brother James. Granddaddy loved his golf. Whenever he and his friends played golf, the wives would meet for coffee, and after the game of golf the men would meet their wives for lunch. I was very thankful to be included in all these outings. The company was refreshing and I made so many good friends. We all had one thing in common – we all love Jesus!
Granddaddy and Nannie are both with The Lord now, and I miss them; but I have precious memories of my stay with them. Granddad loves popcorn and peanuts. I do too! Nannie would roast them and put them in brown paper bags. Then we would sit in front of the TV and enjoy a good movie together. Granddad had a lawn mower which he drove around the garden. I enjoyed riding with him as we mowed the lawn and collected the grass in a huge bag connected to the lawn mower. He also taught me how to drive his golf-cart. I remember driving it to church one day ( the church was just round the corner from where they lived ). Someone was coming in the opposite direction, and as he drove past me, he called out, “young lady, you are driving on the wrong side of the road !” ( In Asia we drive on the left side of the road! ) Very often Granddad and Nannie would take me for a day-out in their boat . Granddad showed me how to steer the boat. I was very touched by his kindness. I felt he trusted me, and that helped build my confidence.
Nannie was like a mother to me. She was an amazing woman, and everyone in church loved her. She had a smile that could melt any heart. She was a great cook, and she certainly had the gift of hospitality. I always enjoyed helping her in the kitchen as she prepared her food for her many guests. She taught me to cut onions under running water so you won’t end up crying! Among her many recipes my favourites include her layer salad, meat loaf and banana bread. Tuesdays was always her baking day, and Nannie would bake more than a dozen loaves of banana bread. Then she would hop in her car and go round distributing her bread to her friends. She was such a blessing. Occasionally, instead of driving, she would ride her tricycle as a form of exercise. Even now I can picture her coming down the road on her tricycle, with a big smile on her face!
Nannie taught me to value friendships, to love, to forgive, to share, and to care. She was such a wonderful role model, and through her I learnt to trust God, to love people, and to live out my faith. Nannie was a good pianist, and played the piano in the Methodist Church in Cobbtown . Very often she would play the piano while granddaddy and I sang. Nannie was always joyful and cheerful, and had an encouraging word for everyone she met. She also had a special ministry in writing. She would write encouraging notes and cards to so many people; it’s amazing how she remembered every birthday and anniversary! Every year, without fail she would send me a lovely card for my birthday, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and wedding anniversary. After I returned from USA, she would call me often, just to chat and to tell me how much she loved me. I do miss all the correspondence and phone calls, but I look forward to our happy reunion when we meet again in heaven.
Dottie was married to Peter Bailey. Pete was one of the Pastors at Christian Retreat where we lived. He was a very good Bible teacher. With Dottie on the piano, they were a great team and led in Worship on Sundays. They have two children, Derek and Shandra. Derek is married to Betsy and they have two beautiful daughters. Shandra is married to Randy. Pete was diagnosed with Alzheimer disease and died a few years later. We do miss him greatly. He was such a wonderful Pastor, husband, father, and friend to so many. I have been very blessed through his ministry. Dottie is now remarried, and she and Jack live in Cobbtown where they continue to serve in their local church. I thank God for my “American Family” – they have been such a blessing to me and my life has been enriched through knowing them.
With such love shown to me, it was so easy to be tempted to stay back in USA and to start a new way of life. In fact I was offered a job with a non-profit organisation, to write materials for children in Asia. I struggled. Before I left, I had made a promise to my ageing father that I would return after my study. I took this struggle to God in prayer, and asked God to show me very clearly what His will was for my life. Early one morning I woke with a dream, and God spoke to me through that dream. I was addressing a crowd of women and girls, and they were all Asians . I was speaking to them about the difference between knowing ‘about’ God and ‘Knowing’ God. It was as clear as daylight, that God wanted me to return to Malaysia, and that He had a ministry for me there. Nannie was very sad that I had to go. I had become so much a part of her family. Deep in my heart I knew I had to obey God, and when I did, I had absolute peace of mind and heart. So I made arrangements to return home.
When I left for USA the year before, I was exhausted and weary from ministry. Now I was refreshed and recharged, and ready to go again. I was interviewed and accepted as Staff-worker for Children’s Ministry with the Scripture Union in Malaysia. I was based in Kuala Lumpur, but did a lot of travelling around the country. The scope of my ministry was quite extensive, and it included Primary Schools, Teacher’s Colleges, churches, Sunday School Teachers’ Training, Vacation Bible Schools, and Camps. I thoroughly enjoyed the ministry with the SU, and my colleagues were a great team to work with; but the extensive travelling and heavy workload took a toll on my health.
I was admitted to Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore for a major surgery. One day as I was recuperating in hospital, I was inspired to write, so I picked up pen and paper, and these words came to mind:
O Lord, it’s so easy to get depressed.
Pain, backache, not able to rest.
Lying awake throughout the night,
Envying others sleeping tight.
Groaning patients, looks of despair,
Fragile bodies all under repair;
Bedpans, draining bottles, drips,
Nightmares, always falling off the cliff!
Can’t wait to be up and about,
To walk around and even to shout;
But alas, some time this will take
So I might as well enjoy my break.
So to cheerful thoughts I will swing,
Sweet music the early birds bring;
Beautiful bouquets all over the place,
Doctors, nurses, caring all the way.
And so I will praise God and sing,
For I know He controls all things;
Hard places may cause me to ask “why Lord?”
But they certainly teach me to lean on God.
Thank You Lord, for ministering to me,
In my depression Your face I see;
You dry my tears, You calm my fears’
In You I’ll trust, my Lord so dear. (12 June 1983 In Hospital)
A few days later, more words came to mind………
Good doctors are hard to find
Gentle, gracious, warm and kind
Always bringing words of cheer
Care and love dispel all fear
Bless Dr. Chan, Lord I pray
Grant him strength and joy each day
As he reaches out in love
Bringing Your peace from above.
Dear Jesus, faithful and kind
Every need in You I find
In my weakness You’re my strength
You’re my song, my constant friend.
Grant me patience Lord, I pray
As I wait on You each day
Teach me to be calm and still
Always ready to do Your will. (17 June 1983 in Hospital )
After 2 weeks in hospital I was discharged and returned home to Kuala Lumpur. The surgeon ordered 3 months medical leave. I was renting a room in Petaling Jaya, but I was not able to do any cooking for myself. God in His love and mercy sent people to minister to my needs. The staff of the SU took turns to bring me lunch. Members of my home-church, the Sungei Way Subang Methodist Church, brought me dinner each night. God provided my every need and I was so grateful to all the friends who showed love and concern for me during that period of time.
9.30pm 24 July, 1983 I wrote:
Thank You Lord, for tonight
My heart feels so warm and light
Loving, caring friends you daily send
While here I am, still on the mend
The MUIS came with their twin daughters ( Melissa and Melinda )
So bright and full of laughter
With smiles and actions they sang to me
Told me riddles as they sat on my knee
Children are a real blessing from God
How we need to thank God for them
For they can bring us much joy
If only we can open ourselves to them
Delicious food my friends daily bring
Meat, vegetables, and soup to drink
Thank You Lord, for their kind deeds
For through them You ministered to me.
Some people find it easy to give
But have difficulty learning to receive
For it is more blessed to give
Than to receive
But we all need to learn to receive
For if we can’t, then we deprive
Others of the blessing they can
Receive through giving
In receiving we learn to be humble
To be gracious and to say “thank you”
We learn not to take things for granted
To really appreciate what others do for you
God has so many blessings to give
But how can He do so
If we in pride turn away
And say No
Dear God, I open my hands to You
To receive all that You have to give
For when I learn to receive from You
Then I know what joy it is to give.
Thank God for prayer partners and supporters! A group of women in USA were gathering every Tuesday for prayer, and they followed my regular prayer letters and ministry news with great interest, and were praying for me constantly. One day I received a large parcel from them. It contained one thousand copies of pocket-sized Wordless Books! Every time they met for prayer and coffee, they would make a few books for my ministry. They wanted to be part of my ministry by contributing . I am ever so grateful to God for these prayer partners, who showed their love not just in words but in actions. I was able to use and give away those wordless books each time I minister to children, either one to one, or in a small group, or in camps. This is a wonderful tool to use to share the Gospel, and to bring children to know Jesus as their Savior.
Noel and Marjorie Foord were another couple of consistent prayer partners. They were my spiritual mum and dad. I first met them when I was training at the Bible College in Adelaide. At the Orientation Ceremony, the overseas students were asked to give a short introduction about themselves and what they were doing before they came to college. Noel was then the President of the College. After the ceremony, the Foords “adopted” me into their family. Very often I would take the bus from Victor Harbor to the city. Noel would fetch me from the city, and I would spend the weekend with them in their lovely home in Colonel Light Gardens. The first weekend I spent with them left lasting memories. It was a cold winter morning, 6.30am, and I was still fast asleep. I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Good morning, darling, had a good sleep? Here you are, have some fruit and juice, then you can go back to sleep.” There was dad in his warm maroon dressing gown, and he was holding out a small tray to me. On it were some strawberries, grapes, and a glass of apricot nectar. I sat up in bed. Dad gave me a kiss on the cheek. I was overwhelmed by his love. I sat there and cried. “Oh dear, did I upset you?” he asked. “No, dad, I’m just touched by your love . You see, I was brought up in a different culture where children were taught to serve the adults and not the other way round.” I was used to getting up early in the morning and dashing off to do odd jobs, then running off to school. This was a real treat, to be able to sleep in and have someone bring you a tray. I thank God for Dad Foord.
Dad and I enjoyed long walks by the Aldinga Beach. As we walked, we would stop to greet people and chat with them. The beaches were beautiful, and the sand was clean and white. Looking beyond the calm sea you could see the horizon. How did God create such a straight line across the sea? Dad always talked about God as we walked. When we were tired and needed a break, we would sit on the rocks and talked, sang and prayed. Dad was my spiritual giant, and was a great inspiration to me. I asked many questions, and he always seemed to have the answers. He and mum always reminded me to go back to the bible when I needed answers. In the evenings we would sit around to crack pecan nuts, and dad would continue to share thoughts from the Bible. It reminded me of my childhood days and time spent with my mother. Mum Foord played the piano and had a beautiful soprano voice. Dad sang bass and I harmonize with the alto. The trio enjoyed many hymn singing sessions by the piano. Mum was a good cook, and you should taste her scones – they were the best in the world!
Mum and Dad Foord have both gone to glory and are now with God in heaven. They have touched my life in so many ways, and I thank God for bringing them into my life. I look forward to meet them again in heaven when I get there.
During one of my long visits to their retirement home in Port Willunga in 1985, I had received a letter from the then Bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore. Bishop Ho Chee Sin and his wife were old friends of mine from Malaysia. In his letter he told me about the Ministry in the Methodist Schools in Singapore, and added that there was a great need for Christian Ministry Staff to work among the students. He had asked me to pray about coming to join the team of workers. Mum and Dad and I prayed every day during my stay there. In August 1985, I wrote to the Bishop expressing my keen interest in serving God through the Ministry in the schools. I was interviewed, and accepted as Christian Ministry Staff (CMS) with the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore.
Ministry in the schools was very demanding but it brought much joy and fulfilment. I was appointed to serve in four schools – Fairfield Primary School, Fairfield Secondary School, Paya Lebar Primary School, and Paya Lebar Secondary School. When I first joined the team, there were only a few staff, so we had to cover more schools , but as the years went by, we had more staff, so we were permanently stationed in one school. Altogether there were 14 Methodist Schools.
Ministry In Schools covered a wide area – we organised Weekly Chapel Services for every level in the school, and special services over the Easter period. Christian Fellowship groups and camps were organised for all who were interested. Most of the schools had Boys’ Brigade or Girls’ Brigade groups , and we helped in the Spiritual programs and camps. There was ministry to the sick and the needy; and often we were able to reach out to the families of the needy students. Each CMS had a Counselling Room where students and teachers were welcome anytime they needed a quiet place to rest, pray, or seek counsel. I had many special moments with students and staff, and this was where I was able to build close and lasting friendships. I thank God for the many opportunities I had of sharing the Gospel and the friendships that were strengthened through Prayer and Bible Study. The sharing and caring was mutual, and I have also grown as a person through all this.
As I looked back over the two decades of my Ministry, I thank God for all the opportunities He had given me to share His love . It’s such a joy to be able to share Jesus with those who don’t know Him; and to encourage and pray with those who are already Christians.
As I mentioned earlier, Ministry can be very challenging and demanding. Sometimes it can be quite lonely, especially when you return to your empty house or rented room after a long tiring week.
I thank God for good friends and colleagues in the Ministry, and for all the support and encouragement they had given me . One of the most precious lessons I had learnt during those years has been the ability to enjoy ‘aloneness’ – to be alone and yet not feel lonely. God taught me to spend valuable times alone with Him – to study His Word, to worship Him, to Pray, and simply to enjoy His Presence. I still have so much to learn . My life is still ‘under construction’ , and God certainly hasn’t finished with me yet! I thank God that He loves me so much that He wants me to continue to grow to be more like Jesus. Each new day I continue to learn to be more humble, gracious, compassionate, forgiving, loving and kind. Each day He puts me in situations where I had to learn to trust Him more.
One day I was returning to my rented apartment from a very tiring day in school. It was a very humid day. I could hardly drag my feet to the door. For months I had been suffering excruciating pain in my right foot. I had a bunion that was growing an unusual size and hurting very badly. I couldn’t even wear shoes, so I had slippers on all the time. That day the pain was beyond me . When I reached the apartment, I dumped my heavy bag on the floor, hung on to the grill gate and cried. “God, I can’t go on ; please help me!” I had a good cry. Then I reached for the house keys and opened the door. I had a pleasant surprise – guess who greeted me at the door………a pigeon!
As I stood there in utter amazement, the little bird stood there, moving his head from side to side, as though to say, “hello there!” Under normal circumstances the bird would fly off, but this one didn’t. All of a sudden I felt peace flowing through my system. I entered the house and sat down to remove my slippers. Bird came and sat on my lap and curiously looked into my face. For a moment I forgot my pain.
Bird just sat there and continued looking at me. I stroke his feathers gently, and I felt we connected. For the next few hours Bird followed me everywhere I went – into the bedroom, the kitchen, the living room, even to the bathroom! He didn’t fly around, just walked beside me and followed me everywhere. When I was preparing my meal, he hopped on the kitchen bench and sat there, watching me . I talked to him as I worked. He just nodded his head back and forth as though he understood everything. His presence mesmerized me. As I sat down to enjoy my meal, he sat on the table across me and watched me eat. After the meal, I told him, “My dear little friend, I think someone could be looking for you. You have been great company these past couple of hours, but some little boy could be looking for you. I think I better take you downstairs and let you go.”
Bird hopped on my shoulders. I took him down the elevator. I said goodbye to him. He didn’t want to go but gripped my shoulder tightly as though to say ‘let me go home with you’. I had no choice but to take him home. My housemate Pam came home. She screamed at the sight of Bird. She didn’t mind birds at a distance but not at close range. I told her the whole story and told her she better get used to him because he wouldn’t leave. Bird followed me to bed. I placed a box on the floor for him. Strangely he hopped into the box and went to sleep. When I woke in the morning, there he was, peeping at me from the top of my sheet!
As I lay there, looking at this little surprised visitor, my heart was filled with joy and peace. I just knew that God had sent Bird to me. He knew how weary I was and had heard my prayers. That joy and peace had come from the presence of The Holy Spirit in the form of that bird, hovering around me, and meeting me at every point of my need. His Presence had given me the grace and strength to cope with my weariness and pain. That was Friday. The whole of Saturday Bird stayed with me and followed me everywhere. He was happy with the rice and breadcrumbs. At night he would return to the box and sleep there. On Sunday morning, as I was doing the dishes, I said to him, “Friend, you have been such a companion to me these past two days. I’d hate to see you go, but….I’m just not sure if perhaps somewhere out there a little boy could be crying and looking for you? I’m going to church in a little while. I’m OK now and I’m sure I’ll be fine. Thank you, anyway, your presence has certainly given me new strength.” When I returned from church in the late afternoon, Bird was gone!
I sat on the sofa and thanked God. He had come to me when I needed Him. He had come to me in that little bird and had ministered healing to my weary body and rest to my soul. My foot was still sore, but God’s strength and grace not only enabled me to cope but to overcome. He reminded me of 2 Cor 12:9 that His “Grace is sufficient for me, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Birds are everywhere. Even now, four pigeons visit our garden every morning, along with other birds that frequent the trees . I love birds. When I was a kid, I had a beautiful Kingfisher as a pet. My brothers Thomas and James also had one each. Somehow our little bird friends seemed to know which shoulder to sit on each time they saw us. To think of if …..isn’t it amazing that God would continue to use a little bird to minister to me! Each time I see a bird, I’m always reminded of the presence of The Holy Spirit and how He fills my heart with Joy and Peace. Thank You, Lord!
Looking out the window
What a lovely sight I see
Birds dancing to and fro
So lively, happy and free!
Willy Wagtail swinging from side to side
Dozen other birds hopping among the branches
Looking for clusters of leaves to hide
One singing and chirping as she dances
Now Willy sits on the window sill
Peeping in as though to say ‘hi’
Never seen so many birds at play
It’s definitely a beautiful Autumn Day! 1st April, 2006
As I write this chapter, I have retired from Fulltime Christian Ministry for 17 years. But there is no retirement in serving God. I remind myself that everything I do, I’m doing it for God. I continue to serve in the local church, on a voluntary basis. In the home front I am doing ministry – as a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a homemaker. I try to be a friendly and caring neighbour, and when opportunities arise, I extend hospitality, especially to the household of God.
Retirement is great! You get to do a lot of things which you’ve wanted to do when you were younger, but didn’t have time to do, or you were too tied up with work and fulfilling deadlines. You can enjoy sleeping in when you need to and go for holidays when you want to, spend time preparing a nice meal and then sitting down to enjoy it with family and friends. When the weather is fine and sunny, a good walk or picnic in the park is always good for your health. On a cold winter night, you can snuggle in the warm sofa and watch a good movie with family. Reading and creative writing has always been my hobbies so now I find plenty of time for that. There are so many other things you can do to fill your days – cleaning, washing, cooking, grocery shopping, window shopping, getting the home in order, raking leaves in the garden, and lots of other things you can think of. And when these routine things bore you or drag you down, you can always call a friend and meet up for a cup of coffee and catch up with the latest news!
God has blessed me with a wonderful husband , Tong Seng. He is kind, loving, helpful, responsible and trustworthy. We live in a world of instant tea and coffee; so I married into an instant family! We have two children from my husband’s first marriage. His late wife, Nancy died of illness. Wesley is married to Grace, and they have a daughter, Stephanie ( 21 ) , who at this point of time is in fifth year doing medicine; and Daniel ( 16 ) , who is currently in year 11 . We get to see them once a week, and meal time is always a great time to catch up and enjoy some fun and laughter. Josephine is married to Kenny, and they also have two children. Russel will be 21 next July, and is currently doing National Service. Leonie ( 16 ) is in School of the Arts .
We love our children and grandchildren and thank God for them. We are very happy they all love Jesus , and play very active roles in church and community.
Seventeen years ago (1995) my husband was diagnosed with heart problems . He had consulted several cardiologists in Singapore, and they had all recommended open heart surgery . However, we decided to seek another opinion in Australia. This cardiologist had recommended a change of lifestyle, diet and exercise, to see if it made any difference. This resulted in us migrating to Australia in 1996. The change of diet, environment, exercise and lifestyle proved to be of great help, and my husband’s health improved. He enjoyed a clean bill of health until year 2000 when he suffered two angina attacks and had to be hospitalized.
Year 2000 was a year we will never forget ! It was a year full of trials and heartaches . Through each and every trial, we have learnt to trust God more. We are ever so grateful to God for His grace , mercy, and faithfulness. He walked with us through the deep waters and through the fiery furnace. With God’s help and grace, we have come out stronger. Allow me to take you through the events of 2000 .
14 May, 2000. I had conducted my first Adult Sunday School class in church. After the class I went to attend the service in the sanctuary. A strange thing happened. My vision was suddenly blurred. My husband was leading the Worship Service that morning, and he was announcing the opening hymn. I could hear his voice but I couldn’t see his face – I could only see a blurred figure at the podium. My vision remained blurred throughout the whole service. After the service was over, my husband took me home. He returned to church after that, as he had a meeting to attend to.
As I lay on the couch to rest that afternoon, I was filled with a sense of bewilderment, perhaps even a degree of fear – was I having a stroke? Or was I going blind? I prayed earnestly . “Lord, I’m scared, what is happening?” We were studying the Book of James in our Sunday School class that morning, and we were discussing issues like “counting it Joy when you face trials of many kinds” and “persevering under trials”. Was that the beginning of trials for me? As I lay there, talking to God, voicing my anxieties aloud to God as I often do when I am alone, I dozed off . I was awakened by someone calling my name. I thought my husband was home, so I called out to him. There was no answer. That was strange. I was very sure someone had called my name, and my husband was the only male in the house! Under normal circumstances I would have been very frightened and might have thought there was a ghost ! But I wasn’t afraid. I got up, and slowly walked around the house to check if anyone was around. There was no sign of anyone. I walked around the second time, and this time I prayed as I walked. Then a thought suddenly came to my mind – my husband never calls me by my name; he always calls me “darling”. I knelt by my bed and prayed, “Lord, did you call my name?” In the silence, as I knelt there, I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of inner peace. I find it hard to describe that feeling in words, but I just knew that it was the “Peace that passes all understanding” that the Bible talks about in Philippians 4:7 . Since my vision was still blurred, I decided to lie down and have a nap. When my husband returned from the meeting, I told him what had happened. He assured me that I was only dreaming. He might have thought so, but deep down in my heart I knew it wasn’t a dream. But I allowed the matter to rest.
The following weeks were busy and very trying weeks. With my blurred vision, my husband had to drive me everywhere. We spent long hours waiting at clinics and hospitals, going through all kinds of tests. The specialists at the Lion’s Eye Institute concluded that I had only 20% vision in one eye , and 50% in the other . They put me through more tests to try to determine the cause of my blurred vision.
In the meantime, the church was praying for me. We were very encouraged by the love and concern we were receiving from the church. We believe in prayer, and we believe in a miracle working God who answers prayers; so we continued praying.
Six weeks had passed by and my vision remained the same. But God was ministering His love and peace in very special ways. I spent many hours listening to the Bible on tape. God’s Word gave me strength, comfort and healing to my soul. I was thankful for the things I was still able to do. I was particularly thankful for the gift of music God had given me. As I play music by ear, I could still play the piano, guitar and autoharp, and worship Him in song. Those weeks worship took on a new meaning. God and I were relating in many new and different but meaningful ways. Never before had I experienced His wonderful presence in that way .
One day, after six weeks, my vision suddenly returned to normal – I could see clearly and read again! I went back to the eye specialist, and he took more tests. The test results showed that my vision was very normal again. “What did you do?” he asked. Confidently I told him, “I prayed, and my whole church has been praying for me; so we believe God has healed me!” “Well, I don’t know about that, but your vision has certainly been corrected. You don’t even need to use your glasses anymore, although you may want to use your reading glasses to read small prints.” With that he dismissed me and told me I didn’t need to go and see him again unless I had problems. That was 13 years ago, and my vision has been excellent . I only need my reading glasses for reading small prints. Thank You, Lord!
A week after my vision was restored, my faith in God was tested again. Within 10 days, my husband had two angina attacks. In the early hours of 16 July, 2000, I had to call the ambulance. I was locking up the house to join my husband in the ambulance when the telephone rang continuously. It was our daughter Josephine calling from Singapore. She told us that my mother-in-law had suddenly been admitted to hospital and that her condition was critical. The family wanted us to come home immediately. I told her what was happening at our end and that there was no way we could come home.
At the hospital they wheeled my husband into the emergency room, then straightaway into the theatre for angiogram and other necessary tests. There in the waiting room, my heart was once again full of anxiety. I felt alone. Wesley and family were away in Singapore . I turned to the Bible for words of comfort. I knew that “my help comes from the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalms 121:2) . He had been faithful to me in the past, and He will continue to be faithful. I started reading the Psalms, and God directed me to Psalms 41:1-3.
V1 Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; The Lord delivers him in times of trouble.
V2 The Lord will protect him and preserve his life…..
V3 The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed, and restore him from his bed of illness
God’s peace filled my heart, and I just KNEW that my husband was going to be alright. God was watching over him and He wanted me to trust Him.
A strange turn of events took place in the hours ahead . My mother-in-law died that evening when my husband was still in intensive care. He was to have open heart surgery the next morning. God somehow intervened. The surgeon decided that the timing was not right . He couldn’t operate on someone whose heart was grieving. He decided that he would put him on medication and observe him closely. If within a month he had another angina, he would operate; but if he remained well, then he wouldn’t operate. After a few days in hospital he was discharged to recuperate at home. I clung on to the promise God gave me in the waiting room that day; and together, we continued to pray and trust The Lord. My husband was not allowed to travel, so we couldn’t attend his mother’s funeral. We grieved, and were sorry we couldn’t be with family at this time of need; but we thank God that as Christians we have the hope that we will see our loved ones again when we meet in heaven. After a month we went back to the surgeon. He was very pleased with my husband’s progress, and he decided that he won’t operate – what a relief! Thank You Jesus! We’ve had another miracle !
However, that was not the end of my trials . One month after that, something happened. The phone rang. I recognised my brother Sing Wong’s voice over the phone. He called my name. Then his voice broke into deep sobs. I knew there was a tragedy. I steadied myself, then asked, “Just tell me who it is.” I knew someone in the family had died. But I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. After a long silence, my brother broke the tragic news to me. My nephew Mark, who was very dear to me, had been killed in a car accident in Bintang, Indonesia. Mark was 31, single, and the only child of my brother Thomas and Joyce. I stood there speechless, my feet glued to the ground, my mind blank for a few minutes. I was overwhelmed with shock. I couldn’t even cry. I went into denial for a few days, lost my appetite, and suffered insomnia. I couldn’t attend Mark’s funeral as I had to stay home to nurse my husband. I stayed up long hours in the night, asking God why my journey in life was so full of pain. Each new day I hung on to His promises and leaned on Him, and each new day brought new expressions of God’s love. He surely was my “Refuge and Strength, an ever present help in trouble” (Ps.46:1).
God certainly continued to be “ever present help in time of need” for the following months were not easy months. Just weeks after the tragic death of my beloved nephew, I had received a phone call from home in Malaysia – my brother Chiong King had a massive heart attack in the night and didn’t survive. Then few months later, on Boxing Day, my niece Rachel lost her battle with cancer and died. My heart was broken once again. As I sat there at my niece’s funeral, I saw the faces of all the members in our family. The tragic events that had taken place that year had really taken a toll on us. We have had a very painful year. We continued to put our trust in God. Through all the trials and pain, He had been faithful. He had comforted us with His abiding Presence. He had been our joy and strength. He was there, carrying us through the pain. I was reminded of His promise in Isaiah 43:1-3:
“….Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze, for I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour….”
As I recall the events that took place that year, I couldn’t help but wonder…..that ‘gentle voice’ calling my name on the afternoon of 14 May, 2000….did God know then that the months to come were going to be trying months for me? Was He speaking to me in that ‘still small voice’ and the peace that followed, that no matter what happened He would be there and He would carry me through? I have no doubt about this, that God DID know, and that He was there in each and every fiery trial I went through . And because of His steadfast love and faithfulness, I will continue to put my trust in Him.
I was taking a walk round the small lake in Shenton Park with my husband. Hungry ducks were waddling and flying towards me from all directions. They must have seen me carrying a bag of bread. Very often when I want to unwind from stress, I would go there for a walk, and take a bag of bread to feed the ducks. There seemed to be more ducks than usual that day. It was a beautiful day . The sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze. Among the ducks were some big black swans. But their size didn’t seem to intimidate the smaller ducks – they were hungry, and no one was going to hinder them from charging for the food! Dozens and dozens of ducks were pushing their way towards me, some pecking at my feet, and the swans tall enough to reach my lower back…….ouch!
All of a sudden my attention was drawn away to a duck in the pond. She was the only duck left in the pond. Here she was, quietly perched on the water, with her eyes on my bag of bread. She looked hungry alright, but why was she not dashing for the bread? Was she intimidated by the big swans? I decided to keep some bread for this duck. After the swans had their fill, they left. The ducks left too, except a few who didn’t seem to have enough. Others just lay around , feeling contented.
Then a strange thing happened. The duck in the pond moved. She opened her wings, and what did I see ……a dozen little ducklings suddenly emerged. What a lovely sight! No wonder mother duck was so quiet and unperturbed. Of course she was hungry, and she had a pack of hungry ones under her wings too; but she had to protect her little ones from those huge and fierce black swans. Now that those big giants are gone, she could safely bring her brood to find food. Slowly and steadily she walked towards me, her little brood following trustingly. This time I got down to squatting position and fed the family from my hand. Joy filled my heart.
After the ducks had their fill, I sat down on a bench nearby. My mind replayed the scene that had happened the past half hour or so. I told my husband : “Wasn’t that a wonderful lesson about God’s love? He is like that mother duck, caring for our needs, and protecting us from danger. He hides me under His wings of love. I could be looking for food in dangerous places, but He will shelter me under His wings. In a very special way that day, I felt secure in God’s love. If only we take the time to stop and meditate, God can speak to us in simple every day events of life . Take time to ponder – God could be waiting to say something very special to you – you never know! He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10).
As I sit here and reminisce, I am reminded of one of my favourite hymns, “All The Way My Saviour Leads Me” written by Fanny J. Crosby, and thank God that He has led me thus far. God has certainly been my Heavenly Father . He has loved me, provided for me, guided me and protected me. He has been there at every turn of my life, and met me at every point of my need. He has not failed me, and He never will. So my heart sings out in gratitude to God, for “Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!” In this world, full of troubles and uncertainties it is so easy for us to look around and get discouraged or anxious. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus – He will always be there for you ; He will never leave you nor forsake you (Joshua 1:5) . He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). For as long as I live, I will continue to trust Him. I want to know Him more, and love Him more.
I thank God for the privilege of being able to serve Him in Full time Christian Ministry for two decades. It has been such a joy to be in the service of my King! He has given me joy and fulfilment in so many ways. It’s great to be there when someone needs you, to be able to hug someone and say, “Jesus loves you, and I do too”, to be able to sit and listen to someone unburden herself, and to say, “can I pray for you?”, to hold someone’s hand and say, “I know how you feel, I’ve been there before”, to be able to touch someone’s life and share the love of Jesus , to comfort someone in sorrow, and to be able to say “I’m sorry, can you forgive me?” Life has not always been sunshine – there have been rainy days too. Yes, I have fallen many times, but God in His mercy and love had picked me up and allowed me to continue walking with Him. He continues to allow me to serve Him, just as I am, with all my flaws and inadequacies. I have come to know the depth of God’s love and forgiveness for me. I am constantly reminded that without God I can do nothing (John 15:5) . And day by day I need to remind myself that God is not finished with me yet – I am still under construction!
I hope my precious memories will touch your heart and encourage you as you walk with our Lord. This same God who has loved and cared for me will do the same for you. He is there beside you, reaching out His hand to you – won’t you take His hand and walk with Him? You will find Joy, Peace, and Love, like you’ve never had before !
All Glory Be To God!