He pursued her, she pointed him to a greater Love
Salt&Light celebrates this Valentine's week with stories of commitment, faith and the kind of love that refuses to quit.
by Christine Leow // February 11, 2021, 12:46 pm
Theirs is not your usual love story because their courtship tale is also Andrew’s conversion testimony. All photos courtesy of Andrew and Cynthia.
It was a one-sided romance. He was interested in her. She just wanted to be friends.
Nearly 40 years later, they are proof that opposites really do attract. And stay together, too.
She is warm and chatty, taking charge of the conversation. He is laid back and easy-going, chipping in with witty quips every now and then. At times, they pause to quibble over a detail or a date. Once or twice, she would reach over to give him a hug.
Watching Andrew* and Cynthia* (not their real names) together, it is not hard to believe that they have been married for over three decades. Together, the youthful looking 60-somethings have raised two sons, now aged 30 and 28, who are also happily married. The couple is based abroad, working as trainers in the hospitality sector. (*Because of the sensitivity of their jobs, they have asked that pseudonyms be used.)
The pair first met at work back in the 80’s (1983 if you ask Cynthia, 1984 if you ask Andrew). Theirs, however, is not your usual love story because their courtship tale is also Andrew’s conversion testimony.
She had a mission
It was not love at first sight. “He didn’t like me because he thought I was very teh (spoilt),” said Cynthia with a chuckle.
Agreed Andrew: “Manja.”
In time, they became friends … but just friends, Cynthia was careful to emphasise. A committed Christian from a Christian family, it was Cynthia’s habit to look out for colleagues who had yet to believe in Christ to pray for them and invite them to church. Andrew was one of those on her list.
“I’m very sociable. I like to go around leaving encouraging notes for people.
“He’s a very nice guy, a lady’s man. Maybe it is his hospitality background but he knows how to treat a lady.”
“Somehow, something told me, ‘If you are looking for a wife, that’s the lady.’ I can’t explain it.”
Then, one Saturday morning at the office, something changed. For Andrew at least.
“I heard voices talking …” began Andrew.
“I was behind a flimsy gypsum board … that’s why he could hear me,” said Cynthia.
“Somehow, something told me, ‘If you are looking for a wife, that’s the lady’,” Andrew said. “I can’t explain it.”
He told his colleague over lunch that day, and when he went home, he told his mother.
“Then he invited me out for dinner – pizza,” smiled Cynthia. “I just thought of him as a colleague.”
She accepted his invitation. But the next day, she found a rose on her office table from Andrew. “Alarm bells started ringing.”
Cynthia believed in only dating men who had the same Christian beliefs she did. Andrew was not a Christian at that time.
“I brought him into this room and sat him down, opened my Bible and explained it to him. I told him, ‘Even if you become a Christian, I wouldn’t even consider you for the next three years.’”
She held to the view that her future husband should be someone who could lead her in the faith, “some kind of church leader”.
Despite the rejection, they remained friends. Said Andrew: “There was nothing to be awkward about.”
But it did “put me off Christianity”, he admitted.
But God had a plan
About nine months later, Andrew went to the United Kingdom to do his undergraduate studies on a company scholarship. Cynthia kept in touch.
“He was in a relationship then and it wasn’t going well. I sent him a card to encourage him, giving him the verses Jeremiah 29:11-14. I told him, ‘If you want to know God, you tell Him and God will let you know Him.’”
The encouragement “didn’t mean anything”, Andrew said. Yet, inexplicably, he did begin to read the Bible.
“I came back one day and found a Bible on my bed. I don’t know how the Bible got there. Maybe the housekeeper left it there,” he recalled.
“It was a Gideon Bible that said that when you are sad, you can read this verse or when you’re happy, read this verse. Once in a while, I would read it, depending on my mood.”
Just like that, Andrew found himself sitting in the very cathedral he had been gazing at.
One Sunday morning, while he was on the way to post a letter to his family, Andrew chanced upon a huge cathedral with tolling bells.
“In my mind, I was wondering what it would be like to visit a church. But don’t know which church to go to.”
Just then, a car stopped beside him and his senior in the university called out to him. “He said, ‘Hop in, I’m going to church!’”
Just like that, Andrew found himself sitting in the very cathedral he had been gazing at. It was not his first time in church. Growing up, friends had invited him to different churches. He had obliged on several occasions. But he had never been at ease.
“I once went to church and an offering bag came around. I only had $10 and a 20c coin. And I thought, ‘Should I put in the $10 or the 20 cents?’ In the end, I put the $10 in. I was paiseh (embarrassed). I had to walk home.”
But, that day, in church with his friend, it was “the first time I felt comfortable sitting in church. I sort of enjoyed it”.
The following Saturday, while walking home from another friend’s place after dinner, Andrew again mulled over whether to go to church the next day.
“The same guy from a distance saw me in the dark and shouted, ‘Tomorrow, same time!’”
That was how Andrew started going to church regularly. But his first real encounter with God did not happen in church. It happened in a kitchen he shared with 10 other people.
He had walked into the kitchen one day to find a bird in it. When the bird saw him, it panicked and tried to fly away but could not find its way out. It ended up repeatedly flying into a closed window.
“It was so frightened. It hit the glass so many times and finally it just fell. It was listless and bleeding a bit.
“I felt very bad for the bird. So, I lifted the bird up and said, ‘Lord, if You are real, give life to the bird.’ When I stretched out my hand, the bird flew away.”
Andrew calls that moment a “turning point”. Until then, he had been indifferent to Christianity at best, accepting invitations to church “out of obligation because they push and push”. This time was different.
By the lake
About that time, Cynthia was doing her Masters degree, also on a company sponsorship. The course required her to take a module in the United States.
She decided to take the opportunity to tour the country and then continue to Zurich, Switzerland, to visit a missionary couple with whom she was friends.
Andrew wanted to study French then and was looking for a French family to live with. Even though he did not consider himself a Christian yet, he had been attending church regularly. So, when deciding between Paris or the French-speaking part of Switzerland, he prayed.
“Somehow, I was directed to Lausanne, Switzerland,” said Andrew.
We thought the booth was selling candy, ice-cream or toys. But it was a Scripture Union booth selling Christian books!
When he heard that Cynthia was just a little over two hours away in Zurich, he asked to meet up with her.
“I brought her to Lausanne and told her what happened with the bird.”
Interjected Cynthia: “All this thing about the dying bird and how the bird lived again. So, I said to him, ‘So, now do you believe in Jesus? Do you want to accept Him?’
“He said, ‘Okay.’ So, we went on our knees and we prayed for him to receive Christ.”
Cynthia wanted to share with Andrew more about his faith, and they met the next day. As they walked by Lake Geneva, they saw that all the shops were closed, as it was a Saturday.
“Along the lake was a little booth. We thought it would be selling candy, ice-cream or toys. But it was a Scripture Union booth selling Christian books!
“With all the shops closed, why would there be a booth by the lake selling Christian books?” mused Andrew.
Amongst the mostly French and German books, Cynthia found one by Colin Urquhart called Anything You Ask.
Said Cynthia: “When I flipped through (the book), it was the perfect book for follow-up. I bought it, wrote in it and gave it to him. He used it to read and the Lord spoke to him through the book.”
They soon parted ways but the book would accompany Andrew as he travelled through France visiting vineyards.
A mother’s unexpected answer
When Andrew was done with his tour, he decided to see if Cynthia was still in Zurich.
“She was still there, so we arranged to meet for lunch,” recalled Andrew.
They met at the railway station. “I had a bunch of roses …”
“One red rose,” corrected Cynthia.
“I wrote to my mum to tell her that I’m a Christian now. I thought she would throw me out of the house.”
When she came down from the train and saw Andrew, she burst into tears – but not because she was glad to see him, nor was she touched by the gift.
“I was so homesick by then,” said Cynthia. “That was the tail end of my two months there. I was in a foreign environment. I couldn’t speak German. I didn’t understand what they were saying.
“I felt so lonely and I had fallen sick. I was basically homesick and (suffering from) culture shock. When I saw a fellow Singaporean … ahh!”
Over lunch together, Andrew shared with her his concerns. His mother was a staunch believer of another faith.
“I told Cynthia I would like to write to my mum and tell her that I’m a Christian now,” he said. “Of course, I told her that my mum would really throw me out of the house.”
“So, we prayed about this,” continued Cynthia.”That God would allow his mum to accept his new faith.”
Andrew would later return to Singapore during his university break. His mother was there to welcome him home. “At the airport, mum said, ‘I accept you as a Christian.’”
It was something Andrew had never expected. But God was about to open more doors for him.
When Cynthia returned to Singapore, Andrew wanted to date her seriously.
“He was trying to woo me. I was trying to make sure he was a proper Christian,” she laughed.
She did not want to be alone with him and agreed to go out with him only if another Christian couple, her friends, came along.
This went on till Andrew had to return to the United Kingdom to begin another school year.
“While in UK, in mid-December, I had this very nagging feeling that I must go back to Singapore. Don’t know why,” said Andrew. “I told my friend and he said, ‘Why don’t you try?’ I knew it was a very busy period. You don’t get air tickets easily.”
But when Andrew went to the travel agent the next day to check, he was pleasantly surprised to find that there was just one ticket left for Singapore. He bought it and flew back home that very night.
“He put the ring on my finger, a chope (reserve) ring.”
It was an opportune time, because Cynthia was considering a relationship with another man. A Sunday School superintendent in her church then, Cynthia was at a Sunday School camp when her father told her Andrew had returned to Singapore and was looking for her.
“I got a real shock,” said Cynthia.
They met and had a deep conversation in which Andrew told Cynthia his entire background, “all the dirt and everything” and, once again, expressed his intentions.
Said Cynthia: “I told my parents everything he said to me and my father said, ‘If you would have him, you have our blessings. We think it’s okay.’ I was so amazed.
“In my little mind, the guy that is for me is the Bible Study leader or small group leader or some Christian leader, not this new Christian. I couldn’t see him like that.”
As she wrestled with the matter, the verse John 12:24 came to mind: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
“It seemed to me that it was saying this concept, this frame of mind, if you don’t let it die, you will not be able to grow. It really spoke to me.”
At Watchnight Service that New Year’s Eve, Cynthia gave Andrew a poem she had penned for him. Andrew was prepared. He had returned to Singapore with a ring for her.
“He put the ring on my finger, a chope (reserve) ring,” smiled Cynthia.
Three days later, their parents met. The next March, in 1988, they got engaged when Andrew returned during his school holiday. Six months later, they were married.
He called them both
Though their friendship spanned years, Cynthia admitted that theirs was “a whirlwind relationship brought about by God”.
“I knew him as a colleague but I didn’t know him very well. I only discovered things about him after we got married because we didn’t really have a courtship. I just jumped in by faith.”
In their 32 years together, Cynthia has discovered a lot. “I learnt what a great cook he is. I lucked out!”
“He did not just call her or me, He called us both. What came after marriage has been by the grace of God.”
She also learnt what God had planned for them as a couple. Holding to Ephesians 5:22-23, she chose to “remain submissive in all matters and prayed for my husband and his walk with Christ” even though she had been a Christian for a longer time.
“The Lord used my husband to teach me things that I could not see and did not learn by myself.”
Through Andrew, Cynthia learnt to be sensitive to those who did not understand the Christian faith. He also taught her how to give generously and wholeheartedly.
Today, they are both using their marketplace training to serve God outside of Singapore.
Said Andrew: “I’m pleased that He did not just call her or me, He called us both. What has come after we got married has been by the grace of God.”
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