“Why did he die just like that?”: A friend’s sudden death set him on a quest for true faith
by Christine Leow // October 4, 2022, 2:06 pm
From lawyer to full-time worker to pastor and back to full-time ministry staff, Victor Wu's faith journey began when a friend died unexpectedly.
Victor Wu did not set out to be a lawyer. He had thought that he would study Business like his older sister. But on the advice of his family to take up a professional degree, he applied to law school at the National University of Singapore (NUS). To his surprise, he passed the interview despite his “pretty mediocre results”.
The grief over his friend’s death faded but his disquiet over his job did not.
Shortly after he started practising law though, a friend died suddenly in his sleep. The unexpected death shook Victor.
“I wondered: Why did he die like that?” said Victor, now 41.
Though he was only in his 20s then, Victor started to experience what he would much later recognise as early mid-life crisis.
“The hours were long, my friend passed away. I asked myself, ‘Do I want to do this my whole life?’”
In time, the grief over his friend’s death faded but his disquiet over his job did not. But when he tried to quit, his boss asked him to reconsider. In fact, each attempt to resign was rejected.
“My boss went to the same church as I did. He suggested that I take some leave instead of resigning, I started to second guess myself, wondering if my reaons for quitting were good.”
In his search, Victor would find more than a good reason to leave his law career. He would find God.
From church to church
The first time Victor went to church was when he was in primary school. His tuition teacher took him. But when he no longer received tuition, he also stopped going to church.
“I had no one to bring me.”
The next time he attended church, he was already in junior college. He was playing a card game with some friends, all of whom were Christians, and had declared that he would go to church with them if he won. He did win and that was how he ended up going to church and to cell group.
She was actively involved in the youth ministry and her fervour inspired him.
But when his friends all went abroad to study, Victor stopped going to church.
“I told myself, ‘You’ve been in church for so long and you are still going through the motions.’
“I was sincerely going through the motions but I was still going through the motions. So, I gave up.”
Victor would be in university before another friend invited him to a cell group at their hostel. This would lead him to going to church with the same friend on weekends.
Then, he met his future wife Sue-Anne at law school and joined her at her church – St John-St Margaret’s Church (SJSM). She was actively involved in the youth ministry and her fervour inspired him.
He ended up getting baptised, and eventually married, in the church.
When God spoke
It was at that church that Victor finally believed that God was real.
He was at a service one day listening to guest speaker Michael Ross-Watson speak. Ps Michael was the honorary pastor of the Church of Our Saviour (COOS). He passed away in 2017.
By then, Victor was in his 20s. Already a lawyer, he was going through a difficult period at work.
“At the end of the sermon, he shared a word of knowledge. He said, ‘I know there is a young man sitting in the congregation, studying law, going through a difficult time.’ He invited this person to stay behind for prayers.
“That was that one moment that I felt like God spoke to me.”
“I broke down crying in my seat. It was my first time crying in a public setting. It seemed like he was talking to me. I thought: Somebody knows that I’m struggling.”
Victor did not go up to be prayed for because he was “too shy, maybe too macho”. Instead, he returned to his law firm to work. He was doing research studies on an aspect of law then as part of his work. It was something he had not been taught in school and he was expecting to work the weekend.
At the office, a senior lawyer happened to be around. When he found out what Victor was doing, he offered to send him some relevant material. So, Victor managed to finish his work earlier. The word had been accurate.
“That was very real to me. It was that one moment that I felt like God spoke to me.”
Victor would meet Ps Michael a few years later. “I was so excited. I felt like going up to tell him what happened. But I didn’t. The next time I heard of him, he had passed away. I guess I can thank him in heaven.”
Led into full-time work
The God encounter he experienced, coupled with his friend’s untimely death, made Victor think hard about his career and his life. But his attempts to resign were continually rebuffed. So, he sought a new direction in another way. He signed up for Christian courses.
At a YWAM Singapore talk, the speaker taught an object lesson. He took out first a US dollar, then a Singapore dollar, then a Malaysian ringgit. With each note, he asked the participants to estimate their value. Then, he varied not just the currency but also the denomination.
He continues to struggle every single day to believe in God, especially in a life of ups and downs.
“We started to Google the value on our handphones. It took longer and longer to evaluate the value.
“Then, he told us, ‘It takes time to find out what is your true value.’ The speaker helped me to see my resignation in a new perspective. The fact that my boss finally accepted my resignation when I tendered the next day was also a confirmation of sorts.”
Now jobless, Victor had no idea what he would do next. Going into teaching seemed like a natural leap. But just as he was about to submit his application to the Ministry of Education (MOE), the server at his office failed.
Then, he chanced upon his church’s website with an opening for a teacher at their student care centre. He applied and got the job. Soon, he was asked to be the centre manager and then a cell group pastor.
All this spurred Victor to read the Bible more to understand the Christian faith and his faith began to be strengthened.
“It’s not a point but it’s like you cross from one country to another. You don’t know when is the exact moment you cross the border. But after a while, you are in another land.”
Still, Victor admitted that he continues to struggle every single day to believe in God, especially in a life of ups and downs.
When tough times come
Although he nearly lost his third child to myocarditis when his son was an infant, when asked when he felt most challenged in life, Victor cited a season when he was studying at Trinity Theological College (TTC) from 2018 to 2021.
“The home front was tough, seminary was tough. I asked, ‘Why is all this happening?’”
“It was most intense then. The medical scare with my son had no moral overtones. I never felt like I made a mistake. It was noble, fighting this battle together.
“During my time at the seminary, I felt like it was my own struggle, like I was not holy enough, not disciplined enough.”
That was the year Sue-Anne became pregnant with their fourth child. It was a difficult pregnancy. Seminary studies was “not the walk in the park” Victor had expected.
“It was more like Jurassic Park! The home front was tough, seminary was tough. I asked, ‘Why was all this happening?’”
To help out more at home, Victor scaled back on his studies and decided to do a two-year course instead of a three-year one.
“The decision was very hard. There was that intense feeling of failure. I had given up law and a chance to comfortably provide for my mum who had brought me up single-handedly.
“Being put to the test, you have no choice but to be strengthened.”
“Now it felt like I was giving up again.”
Then, he met his lecturer, a learned and godly man.
“I asked him point blank: ‘Sir, have you ever heard the voice of God?’ Thankfully, he told me ‘no’. That actually helped me.
“If a PhD never heard the audible voice of God, then I felt I was okay. God can still be real even if I never heard Him speak in an audible voice.”
TTC lecturers and his own Warden, an Anglican priest in charge of all Anglican seminary students, also helped him. He was someone to whom Victor could open up about his struggles and doubts.
“The moment I opened up, it helped me a lot,” he said.
Victor has since gone back to working in a student care centre although at a different Anglican church. The journey that began with a death of a friend put him on the path of life, though it was not an easy path.
“Being put to the test, you have no choice but to be strengthened.”
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