Choong Thung Cheong uprooted his family and relocated to Hong Kong in 2002 as a step of faith. But it was only several years and two economic cycles later that he finally understood that God's arm is "not too short to save". Photo by Robert Metz on Unsplash.

Standing before a giant tree with a hollowed-out trunk measuring over 20 metres in circumference, Choong Thung Cheong heard God speak while holidaying in Australia in 1998: “I want to you be like this tree, stand straight and tall.”

This was the Giant Tingle Tree, a famous specimen of the red tingle found almost exclusively in Western Australia. Red tingles are one of the tallest trees in Western Australia and its uniqueness lies in its ability to survive the frequent and ravaging Australian bushfires that routinely wipe out surrounding foliage. It continues to thrive despite having the centre of its trunk consumed by fires, as long as its outer bark is still in place.

It was an epiphanic moment, made loftier by the Giant Tingle Tree in front of him. But the fullness of that lesson was not made clear until 10 years later.

“I felt like a stray dog”

In 2002, while Choong, who commonly goes by TC, was working as a partner in a law firm with a China legal practice, his wife was offered a posting to the Hong Kong office of the bank she worked at.

A few years earlier, Choong had felt God’s call for him to serve in East Asia. As they prayed about it, the couple decided that Choong would quit his job in Singapore so that they could move to Hong Kong with their two youngest sons who were in primary and secondary school. His oldest son remained in Singapore for National Service.

TC Choong and his wife in Hong Kong

Thung Cheong’s wife was offered a posting to the Hong Kong office of the bank she worked at. After praying, they decided to move there with their two youngest sons. Photo courtesy of Choong Thung Cheong.

Once his family had settled in, Choong started looking for ministry opportunities in response to what he believed was God’s leading.

All the doors seemed closed to him for no discernible reason.

At that time, Asian economies were bouncing back after the 2001 recession and the world was beginning to realise the weight of China’s economic growth – Hong Kong was bustling with activity.

However, God seemed to have other plans. For 12 months, Choong’s search was fruitless. All the doors seemed closed to him for no discernible reason.

“I felt like a stray dog roaming the streets,” said Choong, recounting how his ego took a huge beating. Embarrassed by his situation, he would often go to the hilly suburbs of Hong Kong for long walks to pour his heart out to God; he did not want to be seen by anyone during working hours.

A turning in tide

But the humbling season ended as inexplicably as it started.

From out of the blue, Choong received two attractive job offers, one in academia and the other, a role in securities regulation with one of Hong Kong’s financial authorities.

Choong was put in charge of drafting and updating listing rules that applied to Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and companies already listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

TC Choong with his wife, Yang Ping and youngest son Philip taken in Tai Tam, Hong Kong.

Thung Cheong with his wife, Yang Ping and youngest son Philip taken in Tai Tam, Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Choong Thung Cheong.

“In that time, the Exchange handled a few of the world’s biggest IPOs from China. And I often wondered how it was possible for a Singaporean and foreigner like me to be a participant in this process,” said Choong, concluding that it was God’s hand at work in his life.

Choong stayed in that role for five years, noting how every member in the family was “well-provided for and inspired by God’s provision and goodness”.

In gratitude, Choong resigned because he wanted to serve God full time.

Preserved for a purpose

But, in 2008, at the height of the Global Financial Crisis, Choong and his wife experienced the contrast caused by a severe economic downturn. Often compared to the Great Depression of the 1930s, the smaller subprime crisis in 2007 soon led to the collapse of major banks and companies like the Lehman Brothers, becoming a full-blown global economic crisis.

It was only because his wife’s job had been preserved that he was able to continue his ministry.

Working as an expat at a bank caught in the economic crisis, Choong’s wife was in a precarious position. However, as it turned out, after sweeping cuts were made to the expat headcount, his wife was the only remaining expat left in the Hong Kong office.

Fully cognisant of the devastation of the Global Financial Crisis, Choong pointed out that it was only because his wife’s job had been preserved that he was able to continue his work in ministry. “By connecting and working with like-minded people, the ministry that God had ordained for me took shape and we had the privilege to lead hundreds of people to Christ,” he said.

The words he had heard from God at the foot of the Giant Tingle Tree all those years ago had finally come to pass.

Straightened paths

Choong shared a foundational principle of his walk with God which he had learnt through his experiences with economic volatility: “God doesn’t need to time the market. His will is not dependent on the ups and downs of the market.”

“You carry the peace of God that impacts even non-believers who don’t understand but are encouraged by it.”

As Christians, when we follow God wholeheartedly, driven and directed by His truth and values, we are able to walk on straightened paths regardless of the challenges, because God’s arm is “not too short to save” (Isaiah 59:1). We have a God who knows the end from the beginning, Choong explained.

Economic crises come and go in cycles but God is not interested in the things that are fleeting; there is a firm and proper basis to all that God stands for.

The things that last have a permanence that is grounded in truth, he said. “When you’re unperturbed by the crisis and the storms around you, that strength shines like a beacon of light from a lighthouse. You carry the peace of God that impacts others, even non-believers who don’t understand are encouraged by it.”

“Why are we so troubled by man-induced storms? In due time, the tide will retreat,” he said, referencing Jesus’ parable of the wise builder who built foundations on rock (Matthew 7:24-27).

“Don’t be afraid.”

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About the author

Tan Huey Ying

Salt&Light writer Huey Ying is a millennial with a résumé to prove it – she was a plankton-sized part of the finance industry before serving in a Christian organisation. She loves the sea and you will find her somewhere near the water during her holidays.