Nursing hearts in a home: That’s Lawrence Hui’s calling
Gracia Lee // April 3, 2019, 12:30 pm
Through heartfelt chats and interaction, Lawrence Hui encourages his friends in the nursing home to view their lives as meaningful. Photo by Gracia Lee.
For many, a nursing home is the last place they would want to live in. But when Lawrence Hui, 69, had to move into one two years ago, he took it in his stride.
In fact, he was eager to go: “I was really happy,” he says – he knew it was a call of God to a new season of life.
Since accepting Christ in December 1996, Hui has had a yearning to care for others as Jesus cares for him. And he realised that going to live at Saint Andrew’s Nursing Home in Queenstown would provide him the perfect opportunity to do so.
A fall in 2002 had robbed him of his mobility, but he was determined that his wheelchair would not keep him bound. He could still exude joy and speak warmly from the heart, even though his movements were limited to his arms and neck.
His wife, Sally, had been his main caregiver but as she was getting along in age, the couple decided it would be best for Hui if he went to a nursing home. She shared his enthusiasm and gave her support to his efforts to care and to share, for Kingdom’s glory.
All that’s therapeutic
It is a regular weekday at St Andrew’s, and I am watching Hui at physiotherapy when a fellow resident in the room begins singing: “Jin jia ho lai sin ya-so, jin jia ho (It’s so good to believe in Jesus).”
A fall had robbed him of his mobility, but Hui was determined that his wheelchair would not keep him bound.
Catching the tune of the popular Hokkien song, Hui jumps in to sing along but adds in his own line — “Come join us for Chapel!” — at the end of the chorus.
“This is how he does it,” laughs Pastor Abraham Yap, the home’s associate Chaplin.
Hui loves encouraging the residents to attend the weekly Chapel gatherings, if for nothing else than the small group fellowship and social interaction.
Clearly a ‘people person’, his favourite place in the home is the common activity area, where residents congregate to watch television. There, he chats with them about their day and asks how they are doing.
But he does not stop at that.
As and when he sees an opportunity, he encourages them to take the perspective that life, whatever their circumstance, is still worth living. These casual conversations make him more aware of their needs, which he shares with Pastor Yap whenever the latter makes his rounds.
Describing Hui as “God-sent”, Pastor Yap says: “He’s my partner in exercising pastoral care because he notices the needs in his ward and in the common area, and he would update me so I can meet those needs as best as I can.
“He really is a light for Christ in the ward.”
Hui’s simple but unflagging faith is one surely refined by fire. Once a robust executive at an oil refinery firm, then a would-be business missionary, he was tested through the trial of a freak accident that left him bed-bound. But he has never questioned God’s wisdom.
He shares his story readily: A few years after his retirement, he decided to use his 29 years of experience in the oil refinery industry to further the Gospel in a foreign land.
The plan was to set up an oil and gas company in Kazakhstan, where he had some business links, employ people from the minority groups and share God’s love with them.
“My main purpose for it was to bring more people into this big family where they could know God more and live good lives,” he says.
“At that time, the only thing that was in my mind was Psalm 23. That helped me to calm down.”
After months of planning, he arrived in Kazakhstan for an orientation. But on the second day, tragedy struck.
As he was walking along a road, he slipped on an area of ice and fell backwards, shattering one of his neck’s vertebrae. He fought to stay conscious as his limbs went numb.
“At that time, the only thing that was in my mind was Psalm 23. That helped me to calm down,” he recalls.
He was rushed to the local hospital, which arranged for him to fly back to Singapore for treatment a few days later.
Back home, he underwent an operation where doctors tried to fix his spine. Despite their best efforts, he was told that he was permanently paralysed.
He was confined to his bed for two-and-a-half years, which was especially frustrating for him, given that he had been a sociable man who loved the outdoors.
But he found that God was never far from him. “Every day I stared at the ceiling and Philippians 4:6 would always come to my mind,” he says, “so I continued (to press on).”
While it could have been easy to be angry with God, Hui says he never blamed the Almighty for his circumstance. “I knew God has His way, and if He is to heal me, He has His time.”
The Kazakhstan plans had to be shelved, yet his desire to serve the Lord did not waver. After spending almost four months in the hospital, Hui returned home with a prayer on his lips: “God, continue to use me although I am like that, bed-bound and wheelchair-bound.”
As we chat, he spends little time elaborating on what he has lost and chooses instead to speak of God’s abundant love and provision. He gives thanks for everything – his wife, son and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren, and even the accident, which made him more reliant on God and His Word.
“Human beings tend to live in their own world and think about their own things instead of the Gospel. If this had not happened to me, part of my mind would still be with the world.
“God, continue to use me although I am like that, bed-bound and wheelchair-bound.”
“God is really good,” he affirms. “Really, every day He is good” – even in the nursing home, where he senses that God is ever-mindful of his heart’s desires.
Recently, Hui was able to lead one of his ward’s residents to Christ before he passed away.
He recounts: “His daughter and son always came to him to tell him the Gospel, but he always brushed them off. During his last breaths, I persuaded him to let me pray for him. I said, you want?”
The man agreed.
Sitting in his wheelchair beside the man’s bed, Hui stretched his arms out as far as he could and touched him: “I told him, follow me in prayer. Halfway through the prayer, he wept very loudly but I continued praying for him. I knew the Holy Spirit was working with us.”
After the prayer, Hui told the man in Hokkien: “You have peace in your heart already.”
The man replied: “Yes, I know.”
At that moment, the man’s blood pressure plunged. He died three hours later.
Two weeks later, Hui dreamt of him in an overcoat walking along a passageway. He took it as a sign that the man had indeed received God and was at home with Him.
When I ask Hui to explain his passion for the Gospel, his answer is simple: “Because I want people to realise that when you believe in God, there is a lighter burden on your shoulders, and your heart opens up like a broad smile.”
And this, he says from experience.