A Brief Story of My Life
When asked to write my testimony, I decided to recall God’s grace and His unseen hand over me and my family from the time of my great grandfather.
Little was known about my great grandfather except that he was a courier for CIM (China Inland Mission) and a martial art master, with a useful defensive skill because robbery was common at that time. He became a Christian and his eldest son, my grandfather trained under CIM scholarship, became a pastor in the port city of Xiamen, ministering mainly to farmers and fishermen.
In 1939, my father was invited to Singapore to help start a Trade School for boys, as he had graduated from Shanghai Institute of Technology, and owned a successful metal fabricating and plating factory. While away in Singapore, Xiamen fell to the Japanese and prevented him from returning home.
From Migrant to Refugee
When my mother decided to join my father, a friend in the British Consulate on the island of Gulangyu, helped her to obtain a migrant visa for her and 3 of her younger children, the eldest was 7 years old. Reluctantly, she left her 2 daughters age 9 and 11 behind in the care of my grandfather. The migrating party boarded a ship as “cargo passengers”. When the ship docked in Hong Kong, a relative who was a doctor came to visit us. He was appalled at the poor condition in the cargo hold. Through hard negotiations, he managed to elevate us to “deck passengers” class. Though the “deck” was exposed to rain and sun, in comparison the cargo hold was night and deck was day. Without his intervention we probably would have suffered much through the long and perilous journey ahead.
On the way to Singapore, the ship became a “vessel from the enemy territory” and was stopped at sea for days, because Japan had bombed and sunk two British battleships ahead of us and had declared war on Britain. We were allowed to proceed after the British authorities were satisfied that the “cargo” on board were “refugees” from China. Before landing, all passengers were quarantined on St John Island for a long time, as there were epidemic and death on board.
Under Japanese Occupation
Close on our heels the Japanese overran Malaya and Singapore fell. To avenge their Johor Strait casualties, the occupation army carried out a massive reprisal targeting the Chinese males who had fearlessly resisted the invasion. My father and an uncle were rounded up to be randomly picked and trucked away. In the lineup my uncle boldly spoke to the commanding officer in Japanese. Discovering that he had studied in Tokyo, the officer ordered him to pick up his friends and go home. We discovered later that those trucked away were never seen again. My father’s life was spared.
Life in occupied Singapore was difficult and precarious. Standing in queues for hours for essential food items became my daily routine. However, there were mutual support and care for each other in the small Chinese community around Jubilee Presbyterian Church in Tiong Bahru, where my father served as an Elder. Throughout the 3 and half years of occupation he was a tower of strength to many. Even during difficult times, my parents left a legacy as role models for me. They were always ready to help those in need. At times they were misunderstood by their deeds, but they remain faithful to the Lord and carried on.
At Brink of Dropping-Out
After the occupation, I was enrolled as a Primary 3 student, but I was not interested in studying. I failed repeatedly in every subject and missed the promotion to Primary 6, with no hope of a secondary education. Dropping out of school seemed inevitable. A relative took an interest in me and patiently tutored me. One year later, I was admitted into Chung Cheng High School.
Generation or Regeneration
In my high school years, open discussion on socialist ideology was taboo. But when I went to Melbourne in 1956 to study Architecture, I discovered that such discussion was the talk-of-the-town. Literature and propaganda about communist China were freely available. This newfound freedom prompted me to join political gatherings and activities with great enthusiasm. I learned the scarf dance and sang Red Songs in many political rallies. My family and friends at home were alarmed when stories about my new interest reached them. Through an extraordinary encounter with a fellow student I was invited to an outing with a group of Christian students, who eventually formed the OCF (Overseas Christian Fellowship). Joining OCF turned my life around. I was always proud of my pedigree as a 4th generation Christian, believing that my entry to heaven was secured. It was through one-to-one counseling with an OCFer that I was convicted that my Christian standing is not by generation but by regeneration. And by grace through faith in Jesus my Savior, I was born again. It was the beginning of a lifelong realization that I am a child of God. This knowledge had become meaningful and gave me a purpose in life.
Blessings Beyond Measure
In over 50 years of professional life as an Architect in the marketplace, I experienced God’s hand sustaining me in many bad times and bad experiences. After 11 years of hard work in a private firm, a colleague and I had to start a small practice during a deep economic recession. But we were spared the indignity of having to solicit for work, because the Lord had always provided projects at the right time. So we were able to give each project our utmost effort from beginning to the end. By so doing we won the trust of developers and project managers, which allowed us to practice our profession with integrity and confidence throughout my working life. It was a blessing beyond measure.
A Legacy of Gratitude
Ai Fong and I, like most Singapore professional couples, worked hard and long hours as our profession demanded and often neglected to spend sufficient time with our 2 sons in their growing-up days. But through dedicated teachers in the PSPC Sunday School, they received a good grounding of faith in God. Today they have their own families and practice faithfully in their respective profession. God’s grace is boundless. Our eldest son Tze Koon had 2 life threatening crisis. First was the hornet attack while in National Service and second, contracting Hepatitis C through blood transfusion after the attack. Through God’s timely provision of new drugs and supportive doctors, he is now free of the virus and can lead a normal life, without fear of liver sclerosis.
My recollections above are but a few of the countless incidents of God’s grace working through people in my life and that of my family. No amount of praise and service is sufficient to express my gratitude to the Lord. I just want to echo John Newton’s affirmative words “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. ’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far. And grace will lead me home”.
Eld Yang Soo Suan