Faith

“If you heal me, Hallelujah. If you don’t heal me, also Hallelujah”

Do miracles still happen today? This Christmas, Salt&Light brings you a series of stories of God's wondrous acts right here in Singapore.

Janice Tai // December 22, 2018, 10:51 pm

Jason Ong and Judith Halim

Judith, Jason and their daughter, Joel, at their restaurant, Olive Vine, which God led them to open. Jason, who did not have any culinary experience, said: “I just stood in front of the pan and asked the Lord, now what? And the recipes just came from Him!" All photos courtesy of Judith Halim.

Barely three years after getting married in 2001, Jason Ong realised  that there was something wrong with him. His world kept spinning and he was constantly throwing up.

A check with the doctor found a tumour in his brain.

The type of brain tumour that he had was so rare that his was the only reported case known in Singapore, and there were only about 50 such cases in the United States.

“It is only a matter of months that the cancer eats into the main artery and when it bursts, you’ll die.”

“The doctor said because it is so rare, there is no known cure or medication for it as no drug company would spend millions to develop a drug for so few people,” said Jason, 46, then a missions coordinator in a church.

His wife, Judith Halim, 45, was a managing director at a fashion company. Their daughter, Joel, has special needs.

After much praying with his wife, Jason went for surgery.

But after going through a 20-hour surgery, the doctor told Jason that he had only six months to live because the tumour had already spread to the main artery in his brain.

He had had no choice but to take out most of the brain tissue behind Jason’s ear, including his eardrum, because of the extent of damage caused by the cancer.

“It is only a matter of months that the cancer eats into the main artery and when it bursts, you’ll die,” the doctor told him.

 About 90% of the tumour was removed but those on the artery and near the nerves had to be left alone so that Jason could still retain functions like talking and swallowing. A follow-up visit was scheduled in six months.

After going through a 20-hour surgery, the doctor told Jason that he had only six months to live because the tumour had already spread.

When that time came, the doctor was surprised that Jason was still alive. He warned him that research showed that the chance of relapse was 95% .

Yet shortly after this, the Lord told Jason to go to the nations and glorify His name.

“It was a bit strange, because if I am healed, then I can say, ‘Oh Hallelujah, God healed me and now I am sharing about the goodness of God’,” said Jason.

“But I told God, ‘I am not healed, what am I going to share?’ And the Lord said, ‘Just go.'”

Just go, said the Lord

So Jason and Judith dug into their savings and the first country that God sent them to was Pakistan.

Jason had no idea how or what to communicate with the people there, but the Holy Spirit took over.

The Ongs’ mission work took them to numerous countries, including the Philippines, where they ran a feeding programme for children in the mountains of Davao.

Jason was led to share about his condition and how, despite having cancer and having no cure and not much time left, he still chose to stand and say that God is good.

Many of the believers there, who faced great persecution, were encouraged.

In those years, they began doing various humanitarian and mission work in different countries.

In spite of Jason’s grave illness, God called him to go out to the nations. He and Judith fed the hungry and rescued children at risk of being sold into prostitution.

In the Philippines, they worked with schools to ensure that children had nutritious food. Many children did not attend school because they turned to crime to fill their bellies.

In Myanmar, they persuaded parents not to sell their children into prostitution, and instead housed, fed and educated them in a centre. The rescued children were able to avoid the fate of being gang-raped until they complied to be prostitutes, then left on the streets to die when they were found to have sexually transmitted diseases years later. 

The couple also had other projects in China, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Divine recipes

In order to finance their missions, the Lord led them to open a western food stall called Olive Vine in a foodcourt in Bugis in 2007. Neither had any experience in cooking. 

“I just stood in front of the pan and asked the Lord, now what? And the recipes just came from Him!” said Jason with a hearty laugh.

“I just stood in front of the pan and asked the Lord, now what? And the recipes just came from Him!”

Yet it was not long before the symptoms returned. That same year, he felt pain and nausea and, this time, a different doctor attended to him.

“He told me that, if it was he who had the tumour, he would cut it all out even though that would mean paralysis, tube feeding and not being able to speak,” said Jason.

That was an option that Jason did not wish to consider because, if he were unable to speak, he would not be able to share the Gospel, teach or preach – ministry work that God had called him to do.

“The doctor said, ‘If you don’t plan to do anything, there is no need to come for check ups anymore because you will die. The tumour will grow so big that it will push your brain out of the brain cavity and you will bleed from the eyes, nose, mouth and ears and you will just collapse and die.”

God led the Ongs to open Olive Vine to finance their mission work in Philippines, Myanmar, China, Indonesia and Malaysia.

His reply to the doctor: “If I have to die, so be it.”

He reminded Judith to trust in the Lord and to continue working hard in the food business and in mission work.

“If I have to die, so be it”

Working as a hawker for 12 hours a day was no mean feat for a dying cancer patient.

It was hot in the kitchen, there was smoke all around and Jason was constantly tired because of the pain in his head. He took higher and higher dosages of pain medication.

“If he is going to die, then all the more I can’t stop him from doing what he needs to do.”

“I  supported him in his decision to not go for surgery, and endured the fear and worry of seeing a sick person work hard and having to go to countries that are dangerous and dirty. I did not want to stand in the way of him fulfilling his calling,” said Judith.

“If he is going to die, then all the more I can’t stop him from doing what he needs to do,” said Judith, though she feared losing her husband and the father to her daughter.

There were moments when Jason, too, reasoned with the Lord.

“I asked God, wouldn’t someone who is rich or healthy be more effective in the mission field? But if this is Your will, I will go,” said Jason.

He continued to work tirelessly as he saw purpose in the suffering – to provide for the orphans, the widows and the fatherless. 

“There is still blood coming out and there is still pain. But whether He heals or doesn’t heal, it is still hallelujah. If I have to die, He is still Jesus and nothing will change that,” said Jason.

God hears tears

In December 2012, Jason felt that it would be his last birthday.

His wish was to go up to the school in the mountains in Philippines and watch the children eat. Judith accompanied him and they celebrated his 41st birthday there.

Not wanting to cause further distress, she hid in various places – the wardrobe, kitchen, toilet – to cry privately.

By January 2013, he had become so weak that he was bedridden and awake only two to three hours a day. He began reminding his wife that he would be going home to God soon and told her not to be angry with God but to remain faithful and continue to serve others.

By then, Judith was literally crying to the Lord several times a day. Not wanting to cause further distress to her husband, she hid in various places – the wardrobe, kitchen, toilet – to cry privately.

At that time, Olive Vine had expanded to five outlets but, eventually, God led them to close down all except the one at Marina Square.

Once, Judith saw customers at the front and staff in the kitchen at the back, and she did not know where to cry. So she just stood in front of the chiller and let the tears roll down her cheeks, hoping no one saw.

“I did not cry out of self-pity. But like a little child, I was going to the Father to beg him for mercy,” said Judith. “All the anger, depression and anxiety I had, I turned around and gave it all to God,” said Judith.

A new heart

It was her earlier experience with her daughter that had taught her the power of prayer and of tears.

Joel, her daughter, has Williams syndrome, a developmental disorder that affects many parts of the body. She had three holes in her heart as well as brain abnormalities.

Doctors advised Judith to send her daughter for heart surgery. That would cost $100,000 and Judith did not have the money for it.

Yet, at that time, Judith, who was originally from Indonesia, found herself stranded in Singapore after her Singaporean husband had an affair and left her. She did not know how to speak English and could not find a job. Even fast food restaurants rejected her.

Without having the money for Joel’s heart surgery, Judith stopped taking her to the doctor.

“He put the new scan and the old scan side by side and the new scan looked like an entirely new heart.”

“Joel was very weak, couldn’t breathe and couldn’t eat, and I knew I could only pray. And so I prayed and prayed and prayed,” said Judith. She talked to God throughout the day.

Her first job was as a security guard and it paid $2.70 an hour. During her breaks, she would talk to God about Joel. Eventually, the management sent her for upgrading courses and after work, while she was studying, she continued the conversation with God.

“God, I am tired and later I have to go home and tend to Joel, who wakes up every two hours,” she would tell God. At other times, she would go on her knees and pray.

When Joel was six years old, Judith sensed that her daughter’s condition was improving and God also prompted her to bring Joel back to the doctor for a review.

“The places we go to are not always safe but the Lord always provides protection,” says Judith.

When the doctor examined Joel, he was astonished.

What had Judith done with the child, he asked. Nothing, she told him.

He did not believe her because, not only had the three holes in Joel’s heart disappeared, it was as if she had a new heart from a transplant.

“He put the new scan and the old scan side by side and the new scan looked like an entirely new heart. I knew this was not a healing but a miracle,” said Judith.

Energised by the power of prayer, Judith began to be “greedy” as Joel was due to be registered to enter Primary One the next year.

“I told God, if you can heal her heart, you can heal her brain. What is the point of a perfect heart if she does not have a perfect brain?” 

So she enrolled her special needs daughter into a mainstream school and, for the next one and a half years, prayed and declared by faith that Joel would be healed completely.

But nothing more happened to Joel. Seeing no change, Judith sank into depression and was not able to eat or go to work for 10 days. She could not understand why God would not heal Joel completely.

Special in His sight

One day, God spoke to Judith: “Is Joel a burden to you?”

“I said, of course yes,” retorted Judith.

God answered: “What if I say she is a blessing to you? The world calls them special for a reason, it is because they are special in My sight.”

“The world calls them special for a reason, it is because they are special in My sight.”

“I realised then that the more I pray for her healing, the more I am hurting her because it means I don’t accept her,” said Judith.

She took Joel out of the mainstream school, and enrolled her in a special needs school, apologising to her daughter for not having fully accepted her.

“After I spoke with her, she cried and cried and cried and that was when I realised, at that moment, true healing was happening for Joel,” said Judith.

That was the point Judith learnt that breakthrough comes, not only from fervency of prayer, but in praying according to His will.

The verse that she clings to is Isaiah 50: 10-11 that speaks about how those who fear the Lord and obey His word may walk in the dark and have no light, yet all they need is to trust in the name of the Lord and rely on Him.

Yet little did Judith know then that her battle of faith had just begun. 

This is the first of a two-part story. Don’t miss the second part here.

For more Salt&Light stories on the outworking of God’s mysterious and mighty power, read Tony and Ashley Low’s story and Sarah Lyn’s story.

About the author

Janice Tai

Janice is a Social Affairs Correspondent with a local newspaper, passionate in uncovering and rediscovering the voice of the overlooked and marginalised. She drinks from the fountain of living waters and loves soaking in any body of water, or by it, often with a book in hand.