Given away at birth, these identical twins were reunited in Malaysia after a 3-year search
Salt&Light wishes all families a Blessed Lunar New Year!
by Tan Huey Ying // February 10, 2021, 5:50 pm
Their reunion has made the news in Singapore and Malaysia multiple times. They even had an audience with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in 2017 because of it.
Fittingly so, given how Grace Loo and her identical twin sister, Eliza Chang, were reunited at 25 – through Facebook, no less – after being separated at birth and brought up in two separate countries.
It was a search that Loo embarked on after learning of her adoption – and the existence of her twin – when she was 22 years old.
The hidden truth
Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Loo grew up in Singapore believing she was an only child, while Chang was taken in by another family and remained in Malaysia.
Loo’s parents concealed the facts about her adoption until 2011, when, during a particularly strained season in the family, Loo’s father broke the news to her over the phone, much to her mother’s consternation.
“Dad was very stressed. He decided it was time to tell me about my adoption.”
She had moved out after a small misunderstanding had escalated.
Loo had just quit her job in IT several weeks earlier to reconsider her choice of a career and direction in life. After a six-week mission trip to Cambodia, however, Loo went directly to a friend’s home from the airport instead of going home.
After a long nap, Loo awoke to a slew of missed calls from her mother. “Every time Mum called, she was screaming at me.
“Dad was very stressed,” Loo recalled. “He decided it was time to tell me about my adoption.”
The whirlpool of emotions
At first, there was a measure of relief – and happiness, even. She was right.
For years, Loo had wondered if she really belonged to the family. Many things just did not add up. There had been tell-tale signs, unanswered questions and a general sense of disconnect which had plagued her throughout her growing up years.
The happiness lasted only for a fleeting moment before the hurt hit home. “I wanted to cry, but I was too afraid to. Crying is seen as a weakness and I have always been told not to show my weakness,” said Loo.
“I felt abandoned and terribly alone. Was all that I’d known just … lies? If I’m not Grace Loo, who am I?”
Then came the confusion: She had a twin?
“I was lost in thought for days. Where is my twin sister? Why were we given away? Does she know about me? Do they think about us on our birthday?”
And soon, there was anger – at herself, her birth parents, and even towards her adoptive parents. For being given up for adoption. For being unwanted. For having the truth kept hidden from her for so long.
Her world, as she’d understood it, had been turned upside down.
A steadying Word
But one assurance from the Bible prevailed: “The verses in Psalm 139 were the very first that came to mind when I heard about my adoption.”
“I knew that God saw me. He knit me together and He knew me even before I was born,” said Loo. It was the Psalm that encapsulated an encounter she had had with God almost four years before.
“The more I read, the harder I cried.”
In 2007, whilst serving in the book exhibition on Operation Mobilisation’s ship, the MV Logos II, Loo’s supervisor handed her a book, The Father Heart of God: Experiencing the Depths of His Love for You by Floyd McClung.
“This is such an old book,” she thought. But the title caught her attention and, intrigued, Loo took it back to her cabin to read it.
There, in the small cocoon of her bunk bed, Loo had an encounter with God.
“God reminded me: I was never alone. He was always there with me.”
“The more I read, the harder I cried. That book spoke to me so much – God was speaking to me,” she corrected herself.
“My parents raised me to be a very independent child,” she explained, adding that even her relatives asked why her mother treated her so distantly. “They were the kind of parents who, if I ever encountered any trouble, would not be the ones I’d talk to.”
At seven, she had her own set of house keys, and would walk herself to and from school on her own. “Both of them had to work. And I just felt like they were never there for me.
“But God reminded me: I was never alone. He was always there with me.”
In spite of that assurance, Loo said that her faith remained stagnant.
“I didn’t belong to any group and it just didn’t feel like community anymore.”
Some time before this, she had stopped attending church after stepping down from her role in leadership.
She had discovered scuba diving, and most weekends were spent on dive trips with a group of friends. “I had things to do and places to be,” she recalled thinking.
“I still believed in God and I’d pray,” Loo said.
But the church community, whom she had grown up with, were either changing church or leaving. “I didn’t belong to any group and, while my pastor was still very welcoming, it just didn’t feel like community anymore.”
No more “what-ifs”
After finding out about her adoption, Loo decided to start looking for her twin – “this other person, so closely related but completely unknown”.
However, her family was unwilling to talk about the matter and there was very little for her to go on, so Loo turned to Google and social media, where she also set up a Facebook page seeking information.
It was a slow process and it remained on the back burner for three years as something that Loo would occasionally pick up.
During this time, Loo landed a job at the YMCA of Singapore, where she led youths on humanitarian trips in the region. It was a role that she enjoyed greatly and found meaningful.
More importantly, the weekly staff devotions at YMCA were Loo’s tether to the faith which she recognised as something that had kept her from “straying too far” away from God.
A string of happy coincidences
Then suddenly, in early 2013, there was a breakthrough in her search.
Loo was directed to a woman on Facebook who told her that she’d seen Loo’s twin in another friend’s photo.
One message led to another, and when Loo finally saw Chang’s photos on her Facebook profile, she was a bag of mixed emotions. She fired off the friend request and waited for Chang to reply.
She was nervous. Would they understand each other? After being apart for 25 years, would they be able to connect and share their stories?
Chang accepted the friend request and after a short chat over Facebook Messenger, they made plans to meet in Raub, Chang’s hometown in Malaysia, that same week.
On February 16, 2013, Grace Loo and Eliza Chang met each other for the first time in 25 years.
It was a shy reunion, Loo recalled. But by the end of the four-day trip, the bond between them had been firmly established.
At the end of 2013, Chang moved to Singapore to practise nursing.
“I felt like we were chosen by God,” Loo said, sharing that both twins were afforded opportunities in their adoptive families which they might not have had in their birth family.
“Because of my weakness – God’s power was made perfect.”
Loo, especially, sees God’s sovereignty in His timing of the reunion.
The three years had been a stabilising season where she was more settled emotionally and had reconciled with her parents. Meeting Chang before that could have resulted in a spillover of her emotions onto Chang, given how turbulent those years were, Loo said.
And the twins agree that, if this had happened any earlier, either one of them might not have had the maturity to deal with the situation.
Today, the twins are temporarily separated once more as Chang works for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) as a nurse and Loo is based in Perth, having just completed her degree in international aid and development.
Although some adoptions have worked well, her own experience as an adopted child came with a good dose of hurts and pain. But Loo knows “it has built my character into who I am today”.
“God knows me. If I’d had an easy life, I don’t think I would have been so accepting of Eliza,” she postulated.
“God is my parent and He was always near to me.”
“In all my weakness – no, because of my weakness – God’s power was made perfect,” Loo said emphatically, quoting her favourite verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9.
“Weakness when I was lost and felt far away from God, with all my struggles, being far away from the church community that I was supposed to be close to. Even when I pushed Him and His people away.
“God is my parent and He was always near to me.”
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