Ling Swee Chan and his wife, Margaret, who were involved in a bad car accident that left him paralysed from the chest down. Photo courtesy of Ling Kin Yew.

Ling Swee Chan and his wife, Margaret, who were involved in a car accident that left him paralysed from the chest down. All photos courtesy of Rev Ling Kin Yew.

Soothing sounds of a guitar whispered in my ear. I stirred in my sleep. It was my phone’s ring tone. With eyes still closed, I turned to reach for the phone on the bedside table.

“This better be important,” I thought. Who would call so early on a Saturday morning?


I opened my eyes.

“Dawn?” Wasn’t my sister in America, with my brother-in-law, CT? Why was she calling?

“The whole car smelled of blood. I kept telling Pa to pray as only Jesus can help us.” 

Kor kor … I’m going to tell you something. Please be strong.”

I looked to my right. My wife, Pam, was sleeping soundly.

“Pa and Ma are in the hospital. We were in a car when a train hit us. Ma keeps asking what happened. But Pa … he’s still unconscious …”

My sister had prepared the words to say but she choked tearfully when she started talking about Pa.

Was this a nightmare? Perhaps I was still asleep. 

“Someone from CT’s company will arrange for you and Pam to come over. He will call you later.”

Dawn regained her composure. She had to be strong. I could not help thinking: If only Pa and Ma had not gone to visit them.

“This cannot be happening”

When my wife, Pam, and I got to the US, we found out what had happened.

After playing golf in the morning, Pa, Ma and Dawn were heading for lunch (CT was at work). The golf course was in a rural area. The railway track they had to drive over had no barricade and the railroad sign was blocked by trees.

By the time they saw the train approaching, it was too late. Ma saw it first and screamed. Dawn remembers how she and Pa, sitting in front, were panicking.

“I shouted at Pa to reverse the car. I tried putting the car into reverse gear. I couldn’t. I realised there wasn’t enough time. The train smashed into the car.

“The next thing I knew, I was turning round and round, hitting a lot of things. The car flipped. I was thinking, ‘This cannot be happening. Is this true? This is not happening …’ 

The bad accident made local headlines in Singapore. Photo courtesy of Ling Kin Lew.

The accident, which occurred in the US, made headlines in Singapore.

“The car landed on my side, and the window next to me was smashed. I shouted for Pa, who was still beside me. I shouted, ‘Ma! Ma! Where are you?’

“I thought I was the only survivor. I was frightened and shocked, I could not believe what was happening. 

“I tried to crawl out of the car. There was a small opening at the back and I managed to squeeze through. Ma was on the grass wailing in pain, holding her leg. She kept saying, ‘What happened? Why am I here? How are you? How is your Pa?’

“I squeezed back into the car to check on Pa. I couldn’t recognise him. Blood was flowing continuously from his nose and mouth. He was dangling from his seat, hung upside down by the seat belt around his legs. 

“He was reaching out with his hands for something to pull himself up. He said he must have broken something. The whole car smelled of blood. I kept telling Pa to pray as only Jesus can help us. Thank God the firemen came.”

“I could not recognise him”

We visited Pa at the University of South Alabama Hospital, where he was in the Intensive Care Unit. When I saw him, my heart broke. I could not recognise him — jaw fractured, spinal cord severed, tubes all over, kept alive with the help of a breathing machine.

As his father lay sedated in the hospital bed, Ps Ling and other family members would gather around him to sing worship songs. Photo courtesy of Ling Kin Yew.

Rev Ling (standing), his wife Pam (right) and his mother gathering around his dad to sing worship songs as he lay sedated in hospital.

We thought he was in a coma but was informed that he was sedated. He looked so different from my Pa, the Pa who was always active, playing tennis and golf and going for swims.

When Ma saw Pa after she was discharged, she appeared strong. Later she confessed that she would cry alone at night. In an instant, our family, priorities and lives were changed. 

Even though life took an unexpected turn and threw us off-course, we found our refuge, strength and help in God.

Finding strength

Here are four lessons we’ve learnt from this experience:

1. Be rooted deeply in God’s Word

The Bible is not just any book. It is the living Word of God.

Throughout his stay in hospital, Ps Ling's mother, Margaret, would read the Bible to her husband. Photo courtesy of Ling Kin Yew.

Throughout his stay in hospital, Mr Ling Swee Chan’s wife would read the Bible to him.

The day after we arrived in the US, our devotion reading was aptly about having victory through crises. We have hope because Jesus is alive. 

The following day’s devotion was about God who remembers us during difficult times (Psalm 77:1).

When we were hit, God’s Word kept us anchored and reminded us that God is with us through the difficulties. 

2. Adore God fervently

After Pa’s accident, there were days when we would be so tired and nights when we would be in tears.

Many times, when we thought my dad was doing better, his condition would get worse. It was like trying to drive up a steep slope. Just when we thought there was progress, the car would roll back.

Yet, my dad gave thanks to God every day. He adored God fervently, counting his blessings. 

3. Don’t let your suffering go to waste

For nearly half a year, we would visit my dad nearly every day. It was tiring. When he was finally discharged, there were many adjustments that we had to make at home since he was paralysed from the chest down.

However, my mum would often pray that whatever suffering we went through would not go to waste. 

Through our suffering, we encountered God and His blessings in a whole new way. It allowed us to better journey with those going through difficulties.

It also allowed us to share and testify of God’s goodness at physiotherapy sessions, churches and community centres.

Ps Ling's father (in orange) readily testified to God's goodness and faithfulness by sharing his testimony at various churches. Photo courtesy of Ling Kin Lew.

Mr Ling (in red) readily testified to God’s goodness and faithfulness by sharing his testimony from his wheelchair at various churches.

“What happened in the US was not an accident but an incident,” Ma would share whenever she had the opportunity. “And because of the incident, we can now share God’s love with more people.”

4. Eagerly make disciples

My dad, in his wheelchair, still continued to go for mission trips to Cambodia until his passing in 2014. We shared God’s love with orphans and poor families through encouraging words, gifting them with some basic necessities. 

Even on her deathbed in 2018, my mum was still praying for people who visited her.

It was not easy to transfer Dad up and down the plane or shower him in an unfamiliar environment without a commode, but it was all worth it. 

Even on her deathbed in 2018, my mum was still praying for people who visited her.

My dad and mum have fought the good fight, they have finished their race and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7), making disciples and blessing others all the way to the end.

Why did God protect Dawn and heal Ma, but not protect Pa nor heal him of his spinal cord injury? We don’t know.

What we know is that because of the incident, we could better help and encourage others because we knew that despite the difficulties one goes through, we can find joy and peace in Christ.

This excerpt from Reverend Ling Kin Yew’s book, Accident? When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn, is republished with permission. His book can be purchased here.

About the author

Reverend Ling Kin Yew

Rev Ling pastors Fairfield Methodist Church. He is married to Pam and has three children, Janine, Joyanne and Jadon.