A Village Boy’s Story
We lived in a wooden kampong house with three generations under one roof — my grandfather, aunts and uncles, and cousins.
“Mata lai liao!” (The police are coming!) As a child growing up, I would watch in horror when the police raided the kampong/village in search for drug trafficking or gambling activities. Life could have taken a turn for the worse if it had not been for my encounter with Jesus Christ. As I reflected on my journey in life, I stand amazed at God’s faithfulness and His providence for me all these years.
Life was never a bed of roses in my early years. My mother was a single parent. We lived in a wooden kampong house with three generations under one roof — my grandfather, aunts and uncles, and cousins. The kampong environment was rife with fights, gambling and substance abuse. Many of the village folks succumbed to vices and became wayward.
In 1971, my cousin, Chye Yam invited me to attend Sunday School at Bethel Assembly of God Church located at Palm Grove Avenue. I enjoyed the stories and fellowship. Best of all there were free ice cream and snacks provided at the end of the day before we scampered onto the lorry that would shuttle us to the main road, from where we made our way home. It was here at Bethel that I found a few bosom friends who remained close till today.
As a young lad, there was such a yearning to love God with all my heart. One Sunday, when I was barely 8 years old, I was tasked to help my uncle at his hawker stall. Although I was running late after helping out, I was nonetheless determined to go to church. Clad in my shorts, singlet, slippers and all, I half walked and half ran all the way there. By the time I arrived, Sunday school was almost over. Still, I was happy to have made it there.
Honour God and His blessings will accompany us.
I recalled the day when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour in 1974 – a journey of blessings was to begin.
In 1977 the first Royal Rangers group was started in Singapore, founded by Pastor Steven Teo. I was privileged to be one of the few pioneering boys in the RR program. It was to be a journey that would make a deep imprint in my life – a journey of faith in God and seeing His mercy unfold.
I was 16 years old when the Royal Rangers was planning a Camporama trip to Sydney Australia in 1981. We were then young teenagers, mostly in school or colleges. Money was scarce, let alone to spend a few thousand dollars each for an overseas trip. Yet we were tenacious in our dream to reach the sun baked shores of Sydney as we prayed, fasted and worked towards raising funds for the trip. We would sell calendars and Christmas cards door to door and at offices in Shenton Way. Many a time we were chased out of the premises for “canvassing” but unknowingly that sealed our friendship and strengthened our bond that lasted till this day. I remember how the older Ranger commanders and their spouses would put crisp dollar notes into my hands to encourage me in my effort to raise funds. Such acts of kindness and generosity had been the trademark of the ministry – seeds of labour and love that were sown and caught…
As teenagers, we would spend many weekends after RR at Steven Teo’s house, where we would mess up his place (literally) while discussing about every topic under the sun. It was to be a mentor-mentee process even before this term was widely used. We would talk late into the wee hours of the morning and end up rummaging his fridge for ingredients that we could add to our delicious instant noodles. Every Sunday morning, without fail, Steven’s wife, Dorothy would have breakfast ready when the boys were awoken by the aroma of coffee, Milo, pancakes etc. What we didn’t realize was how a God-loving couple had demonstrated the genuine warmth and love of a Christian family to us, who were kids back then. As we grew up, we were determined to set our family right in God, firm in our foundation in Him and to have a family of our own similar to that we had experienced as young lads; such was the legacy and impact in our lives. As I looked at the families of my buddies who are all serving in church and the RR ministry, I thanked God for that fine example that we are following today.
Determined to share this love, I was challenged to take up a post as Senior Commander to run an outstation RR work in Jurong in 1985. Besides our outpost in Palm Grove led by Mark Teo, there were 3 other outstation works that were started at that time with Daniel Lee at Ang Mo Kio, Tan Kay Teck at Sembawang and Julie Koh at New City. Our goals were simple – reach out to our immediate community and bring them to church so they can encounter God – through the fun and fellowship of the RR program. We were on fire for God and fervent in spirit. At the height of the outreach work, we had collectively touched the lives of more than 500 kids, many of which are still walking in the faith today.
My wife, Jasphia (my girlfriend since the Jurong Outstation days) and I recognized the need to ‘walk the talk’ at home as we were active in the RR ministry. We wanted to provide for our family and give our best, with God’s help, to raise our generation for Christ. We have 4 children. Our kids’ journey in their academic and ministry pursuits are also a testimony of God’s favour. My eldest child, Gabriel who is gifted in creative writing had recently started college life at Temasek Junior College. He also plays the guitar for his cell group. Deborah, my second child and only girl, is now in Sec 3 and doing well in SCGS. She plays the clarinet in her school band and had the privilege of travelling with the school to many cities in her 2 years at SCGS. Adriel, my third child, will be taking his PSLE this year and is a Prefect Counsellor, a School Team Bowler as well as an active member in the Debate Team. He is in the Gifted Program and is thoroughly enjoying his education in ACS. My youngest boy Nathaniel is in Primary 4, also in ACS and enjoys school thoroughly especially the two CCAs that he is involved in – bowling and golf. Nat is a real joy to us with his endless energy, insatiable curiosity and cheerful disposition. Besides their busy school activities, all my kids are in the RR program. Notwithstanding the hectic curriculum of the Singapore education system, we try to teach our children to manage their time well, always giving priority to their commitment to God and faithfulness in church.
Despite all the busy schedules, my wife Jasphia started MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) in 2005. This was birthed from her burden to reach out to young mothers who had to juggle between looking after newborns and toddlers, whilst trying to be a good wife, dutiful daughter-in-law and at the same time a successful career woman, transiting through multiple stages of life all at one go. MOPS was to be an outreach arm in reaching and bridging community mothers to church and God. On my part, I am involved in the RR ministry as a Chaplain and a Patrol Advisor, endeavouring to provide the listening ear and friendship to the Rangers, and guides and empowers them in their walk with Jesus our Master Ranger. We had deliberately included our children in both our ministries and involvement for God so that they could see for themselves the works of God in action in the lives of the people we connected. We believe that such things are caught more than taught.
At the workplace now, I am also mindful of my Christian testimony to my business counterparts and subordinates. Working in the facilities and real estate environment, there are many opportunities where I was presented with advantages and situations which could have compromised my Christian belief and testimony for God, but I thank God that He has preserved me. I have seen how God has been faithful in my job and career advancement, from a freshly minted Quantity Surveyor to the head of corporate services in the banks and now the regional director of a global company. God has been faithful in the turbulent years of the 1997 financial crisis and the economic downturn of early 1990, that each season of tension has seen His provision. Truly His grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in weakness.
Through it all, God has been faithful to me and I can only echo with Paul, an early Christian, who wrote in a letter to some friends “…for I know the One in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return” (2 Timothy 1:12)
Indeed, honour God and His blessings will accompany us.
~Tan Kwang Liang~