Deon Tan and Chew Chor Meng

“Though this walk has been tough, we are thankful for so many things. God has never failed to support us and bring us angels to give words of encouragement and support in many, many ways. That’s how God works when we fully trust Him," says Deon, seen here with her PTL Fellowship group of artistes.

When MediaCorp actor/host Chew Chor Meng was diagnosed with a rare form of spinal muscular atrophy called Kennedy’s Disease in 2008, his children were just four and six years old.

He was initially given just 18 months to live. The family was devastated.  

This story continues from Part 1 of the family’s poignant journey towards hope.

“I am inspired by Chor Meng’s life,” says Deon. “Even in his condition, he is ministering to a lot of sick people. You and I can’t understand their struggles, but Chor Meng can. This is his testimony and his ministry.”

A fellowship, a family

Step by step, Deon and Chor Meng have answered God with obedience.

When God impressed upon them that they should start an artiste fellowship, they initially demurred and said to God: “If you really want us to do this, we need people to be in the fellowship.”

“The first person we asked was Zhu Houren Ge (brother Houren, a fellow actor). He said, ‘Okay!’

“We don’t need to put on make-up or put up a front when we meet,” says Deon of their PTL (Praise the Lord) fellowship group consisting of artistes. “Everyone feels free to share their struggles and challenges, because we’re all in the same boat.”

“Then we said to God: ‘We need a pastor!’ and next thing we knew, Pastor Jeffrey Chong from Hope Church approached us and told us we should start an artiste fellowship and he would step in as pastor! So boh pian (can’t be helped), we had to start,” she says with a chortle. 

Their fellowship group, simply known as PTL (Praise the Lord), consists purely of MediaCorp artistes.

“We don’t need to put on make-up or put up a front when we meet. Everyone feels free to share their struggles and challenges, because we’re all in the same boat.”

They have become a family, supporting each other and praying for each other through illnesses and family bereavement.

God called them to community service and they answered that call too.

The duo actively volunteers at halfway house, New Charis Mission, where they help to organise and publicise the annual fund-raising Unlabelled Run.

Chor Meng and Deon actively volunteer at halfway house, New Charis Mission, where they help to organise and publicise the annual fund-raising Unlabelled Run. “I know what it’s like to be ‘labelled’,” says Deon, who grew up poor.

When they heard help was needed in orphanages in JB, they did not hesitate to step up. They take the children out for meals and help them buy necessities such as school supplies and uniforms.

“I rejected jobs that went against my belief system. I would rather honour God.”

“I know what it is like to be ‘labelled’ because I grew up poor,” Deon says simply.

She has held senior positions at a bank and fund management company, but stopped full-time work to spend more time with Chor Meng and her daughters, who are now 15 and 17.

She now helps Chor Meng run their mookata and porridge F&B outlets. 

“Ever since my graduation, I chose jobs where I could still go to church and serve Him. Jobs that required me to travel a lot or which went against my belief systems, I rejected. Even if the pay was high, I would rather honour God. That’s how I get closer to God – by choosing Him over many other things.”

God sent angels

Their PTL family is just one of many angels the Lord has sent to support them on their journey, says Deon.

The “brothers” at New Charis Mission, whom they have gotten to know well, are ever ready to help.

Close friend, Rayson Tan, helped Chor Meng onstage to make his touching thank-you speech at the 2019 Star Awards.

“They all have stories of their own – this one took drugs, that one committed murder – but when God spoke to them through Bible study at the New Charis Mission, their lives were transformed and even their families were transformed. I never fail to be encouraged by them,” says Deon.

Chor Meng is susceptible to falls, sometimes sustaining fractures, and there have been countless visits to the A&E.

“When Chor Meng falls, the ‘brothers’ already know what it means – I just have to call, and they head to the A&E to help me wheel Chor Meng in while I park the car.

“Rayson Tan is another one who is always there for us. When Chor Meng goes to A&E, Rayson stays with us, even through all the tests.”

At the televised 2019 Star Awards on April 14, when Chor Meng won the Special Achievement Award in recognition of his contributions to Singapore’s media industry, it was close friend, Rayson, who helped Chor Meng onstage to make his touching thank-you speech, bringing many to tears.

Rayson and Chor Meng in an emotional moment at the 2019 Star Awards, when Chor Meng accepted the Special Achievement Award.

Rayson helps close friend Chor Meng onstage for his acceptance speech.

Even strangers have been a blessing.

“I tell my girls to be bold enough to face their challenges. God will show you the path to walk.” 

“The public has been so warm. When Chor Meng queued up for chicken rice, the chicken rice uncle chop-chop-chopped the chicken and did not dare look at Chor Meng – I think he felt unable to express his sympathy – but when he handed over the food, he refused to take money, and said, ‘God bless you.’

“An Indian lady came up to us at Sheng Siong, patted Chor Meng’s hand and said, ‘Stay strong. God bless you.’

“At Ikea, when we went to buy a table, a man appeared out of nowhere, helped us to load the table into the car and said, ‘God bless you.’

“We feel so encouraged. And I tell my girls to do the same – be kind and have courage. When you’re faced with difficulties, don’t look too far. Be bold enough to face your challenges. But don’t draw upon your own limitations, your own resources, your own knowledge. Come to God. He will show you the path to walk.” (Genesis 28:15)

“As a mother, my most important role is to pray for my children. I pray they will be God-loving, have wisdom and find favour,” says Deon, celebrating daughter Chloe’s 17th birthday with Chor Meng and younger daughter Cheyenne, 15.

Despite her positivity, she admits that it’s not been easy.

Her daughters have never played sports with their father, or asked him to carry them, even when they were young.

“But it’s okay,” she says stoutly. “When we travel, we carry our own bags lah. When we do things like whitewater rafting, he stays at the spa while we go on our adventures! The girls have learnt from young to walk ahead to recce the road so that they can tell their daddy the shortest route or where the ground is uneven.

“I don’t believe in ‘protecting’ them; I believe in exposing them to reality. They cannot expect people to help them. They have to learn to take care of others. And we’re thankful they are sensible and kind by nature.

“We tell them, it’s no use coming home with straight A’s if your conduct is not right. As a mother, my most important role is to pray for my children. I pray they will be God-loving, have wisdom and find favour.”

In His time

“I do ask God, ‘I know you’re a God who can heal. Why don’t you expedite his healing? Why is he deteriorating and not improving?’” says Deon. “But even though I don’t have an answer, I trust in God’s perfect timing. He doesn’t come early, but He is never late.

“Honestly, I am inspired by Chor Meng’s life. Even in his condition, he is ministering to a lot of people. We see people who have cancer, who are on dialysis, who have kidney failure. You and I can’t understand the struggles they go through, but Chor Meng can. This is his testimony and his ministry.

“Even though I don’t have an answer, I trust in God’s perfect timing. He doesn’t come early, but He is never late.”

“Though this walk has been tough, we are thankful for so many things. God has never failed to support us and bring us angels to give words of encouragement and support in many, many ways. That’s how God works when we fully trust Him.

“Hope is a choice and our hope is in the Lord. Studying the Word of God gives us a lot of assurance, that whatever we go through, big or small, matters to God.

“We cannot rely on our might, our ability, our willpower – we will get tired. But we cling to Jeremiah 29:11, holding onto this promise in every circumstance or adversity.

“In His time, we believe all things will turn out beautiful.”


This is the second part of a 2-part story on Chor Meng and Deon’s journey towards hope. You can click below for the first part, or find the first story here.

“God told us: Trust in me”: Deon and Chew Chor Meng on their hope despite illness

About the author

Juleen Shaw

Salt&Light Managing Editor Juleen hails from the newsrooms of Singapore Press Holdings and MediaCorp Publishing. She has had two encounters with baptismal pools. The first was at age four when her mother, who was holding her hand, tripped and fell into the church baptismal pool, taking Juleen with her. The second was when she actually chose to get baptised.