When a quiet prophecy to a Singapore healthcare worker led to a 6-year-old Filipino child’s heart surgery
Jenny Tao // October 30, 2020, 7:00 pm
Jenny Tao (right) and Elijah de Guzman (left) in 2018, more than eight years after his major heart surgery in Singapore. "The journey of faith was not easy," said Jenny. "But, had the journey been easy, we would not have seen God’s faithfulness and goodness." All photos by Jenny Tao.
Waiting. For new seasons to come. For our prayers to be answered. We spend our days waiting for almost everything.
It tests our patience, refines us, and even moulds our character.
In the Christian context, waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be. It’s also having faith to trust Him for the desired things to happen.
Several years ago, I learnt this lesson firsthand.
God on the move
In 2008, when I was in the School of Ministry at Tung Ling Bible School, I received a prophecy: “I see a young child, I do not know how he is related to you but God wants you to bring healing to that young child.”
I was afraid: Would it be one of my children?
Without major heart surgery, one that came with a high risk of death, Elijah would not survive past his teenage years.
But as I prayed over it, I committed it to God and sensed that He would lead me to the child. Besides, even if it was one of my children, He had promised to heal.
But in my waiting, I was impatient and intentionally searched for sick children during my frequent mission trips in the Philippines.
After some time of searching, I sensed God telling me to stop. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6),” He said.
Then, one day in 2010, a missionary couple in my church told me about a boy where they were in the Philippines who was seriously ill.
Elijah De Guzman, all of six years old, had been born with congenital heart disease. His larger than average heart was pressing against his lungs and he was missing a pulmonary valve.
Elijah’s parents had been praying that God would bring help.
Without major heart surgery, one that came with a high risk of death during surgery, Elijah would not survive past his teenage years.
Elijah’s parents, who are Christians, were poor and unable to afford the cost of the surgery. But they had been praying that God would bring help.
As I listened to the couple, my heart went out to this boy and I was reminded of the prophecy God had given me more than two years ago. I shared with them my desire to help Elijah, so together we prayed for God to give him a new lease on life.
The next step was to wait for God’s direction on the funds for the surgery and to bring Elijah to Singapore for the heart surgery.
No mountain too high
Since I was working in a hospital, I had the privilege of discussing the funding and the surgery with a senior paediatrician, who advised that the costs would be prohibitively high.
“I held on to God by telling Him, ‘Unless You move, we can’t do anything.’”
Elijah was a foreign patient, undergoing complex surgery that would entail at least two weeks of hospitalisation in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unity (PICU).
And, while the hospital had funds set aside for charitable causes, these were usually reserved for Singaporean children who were unable to afford medical treatment.
Still, the paediatrician shared Elijah’s situation with several other cardiothoracic surgeons who decided that they would waive their professional fees and provide a partial sponsorship from a separate fund.
I would fundraise for all other operational and incidental costs, which was equally significant.
But the Lord told me, through 1 Thessalonians 5:24: “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” that He would complete what He had started. We would not lack His resources.
So there was a sense of restedness as I let go and held on to God by telling Him: “Unless You move, we can’t do anything.”
No Plan B
Somehow, through the blessings of our church and friends – even non-Christians – we raised enough funds to respond to God’s call to help Elijah.
There was a significant chance that Elijah would not make it out of the operating theatre alive. Was there a Plan B?
Early in May 2011, Elijah and his father arrived in Singapore for several weeks of pre-operation checks.
In the following days, the doctors assessed Elijah’s health condition and performed several medical tests, including a dental check-up. His doctors warned us pre-emptively: The surgery involved very high risks and there was a significant chance that Elijah would not make it out of the operating theatre alive.
Our hearts sank. We wondered whether we should proceed with the surgery. Then God spoke to us through Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Elijah’s parents were prayerful and were determined to follow through with the surgery.
But would there be a Plan B if the surgery failed?
I took a few days leave from work to have a silent retreat to spend time alone with God, seeking Him for His direction. Above all, I wanted to be obedient to Him.
There, God reminded me to “be still”. I sensed He wanted me to draw near to Him, to feel His heartbeat again and to surrender this journey to Him.
God also brought to my remembrance how this journey began. I was able to trace God’s hand through this journey by connecting prayers and people across countries.
God reminded me to “be still” … and to surrender this journey to Him.
Together, as we prayed, there was a deep sense to proceed and we decided to go ahead with the surgery.
After two months of waiting, the second phase began. Elijah and his father arrived in Singapore again in August 2011. Elijah was re-assessed by the paediatrician and the surgeon, with further medical tests done.
On the day of the surgery, Elijah’s father was very relaxed and calm, so I asked him why was he not anxious. His reply: “God assured me that He would heal Elijah through this surgery.”
We waited for almost six hours outside the operating theatre, praying intermittently, but with a deep assurance that God was in control in the theatre.
Hallelujah! The surgery was successful and Elijah progressed so well that even the surgeons were amazed by his speedy recovery.
Working through the waiting
After Elijah’s hospitalisation, he stayed in Singapore another six weeks to recuperate before returning to the Philippines in October 2011.
Elijah is 16 years old this year.
God came through at every stage of this journey as I waited upon Him.
He lives a normal and active life like many other teenagers his age. He enjoys weightlifting and playing basketball.
Looking back, it was a journey of faith which was not easy. But, had the journey been easy, we would not have seen God’s faithfulness and goodness.
This journey has taught me to trust His heart. God came through at every stage of this journey as I waited upon Him. He is faithful and His love is forever perfect.
It’s not the size of our faith, it’s the size of our God who is in control. Where He leads, we shall respond and make a difference.
Waiting can be challenging but in His time, He makes all things beautiful. When we let go and let God have His way, there’s a sense of restedness when we walk in the power of God while waiting.
We may not see how He works in our waiting, but He surprises us when the time is ripe.
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