“Why not me instead of her?” Rev Dr Peter Tan-Chi and Deonna’s heartbreak over their daughter’s attack
Dr Peter and Deonna Tan-Chi // April 18, 2019, 1:16 pm
Through their anguish, Dr Peter Tan-Chi and Deonna (right) said: "As a family, we believe in His goodness and that He will cause something good to come out of this." Joy and her husband, Edric (left), now speak at parenting and faith conferences. Joy is also a counsellor for rape victims and sexually abused women. Photo from instagram.com/joytmendoza.
An innocent night in with two friends turned into a nightmare when robbers barged into Joy Tan-Chi Mendoza‘s home in 1992. The three girls, who were just 15 years old at the time, were repeatedly gang-raped. The following is an excerpt from Joy’s book, When A Good God Allows Rape, where her parents, Peter and Deonna Tan-Chi, recount their own pain and how God spoke to them in the tragedy.
A mother’s heartache: Deonna
When we entered the house on the Friday night of the robbery and saw drawers and cabinets gutted with things strewn all over the floor, my first response was: “I don’t care what the robbers have taken, just so our children are okay and safe.”
“Why did you allow this to happen to my innocent daughter? Why not me instead of her?”
To our relief, we were told that our children were safe in a dorm and I comforted myself with that fact. But within minutes a missionary approached me and whispered in my ear: “Joy and her friends were raped by the robbers.”
Immediately I felt my heart breaking as I burst into tears. My heart-wrenching question to God was: “Why did you allow this to happen to my innocent daughter? Why not me instead of her?”
In the ten minutes or so as Peter and I drove from our house to the dorm, we were silent. But thoughts were raging in my mind. “What if I just turn away from God? He did not protect our family even though we had been praying for His protection.”
Then I countered my own argument: “But where would I go? He is my life, my love and my reason for living.”
“Will you trust Me?”
In the midst of the uproar within, the Lord spoke to me in a barely audible voice: “Will you trust me even with this, that I will cause it to work out for good?”
I paused, and in much pain I replied: “Yes, Lord, I will trust you even with this. Like Jacob, I won’t let go until I see the blessing because you are a God who does not lie.”
Immediately I felt my spirit calm and rebound with a ray of hope for what God would do.
Looking back, I realise that Satan is an opportunist. In the midst of trials and pain, he capitalises on our vulnerability and plants thoughts in our mind to turn us against God. Satan tries to malign the Lord’s character, diminish His power and discredit His love. Satan is a liar and the father of lies. We must choose to trust God no matter what because He never lies.
To humble one’s self under the mighty hand of God is to submit to Him and not rebel against Him. It is saying in the midst of a tragedy or problem or disappointment: “Lord, I don’t understand what You are doing and I don’t like what is happening but I will submit to You in faith, trusting You to cause this for good through Your mighty power.”
Satan is an opportunist. In the midst of trials and pain, he capitalises on our vulnerability and plants thoughts to turn us against God.
I have to confess that I struggled with a gnawing heaviness in my conscience. Somehow, I felt responsible for what happened to Joy and her friends. That Friday night Joy had asked me if she and her friends could go to Faith Academy for an activity but I had said: “No, we won’t be around so you will be safer staying home.”
As I stressed over it, the Lord reminded me that He is sovereign and that He could have stopped me from saying no. I was encouraged to rest in God’s plan, not just for Joy, but for her friends too.
God also sent a missionary friend to visit us the day after the robbery who ministered to me personally. As Peter and I were standing in the driveway outside our home, he said to me simply: “Just remember, Deonna, the Lord loves Joy more than you ever could.”
That one truth refocused me and quieted my heart as I remembered that Peter and I had dedicated Joy to the Lord as a baby. I took great comfort in the reality that He was her loving and sovereign heavenly Father who could be relied upon completely to do what was best for her. He also had the infinite power to do so.
The promise of wholeness
When we are in trials and pain the Lord invites us to ask Him for wisdom.
In the week that followed, I didn’t go to others for comfort but just to Him. I knew that only He could embrace me on the inside to ease my pain and confirm the “what and the why” of all that had happened.
“Just remember, Deonna, the Lord loves Joy more than you ever could.”
He spoke so specifically to me from His Word. He let me know what Satan’s plan had been for the robbery and also His plan as I read John 10:10. Jesus clearly states: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
I realised that Satan had entered our home that night in the form of robbers with the intent to steal and to destroy our daughter, her friends, our faith, and to kill our children. But the Lord reassured me that He would give Joy and our family the abundant life that He promised as we trusted in Him.
Satan’s attempts boomeranged on him. Instead of dissuading us from following the Lord, the Enemy’s attack renewed and strengthened our resolve to follow and serve the Lord with all of our hearts!
Conquerors through Christ
Right after the robbery God revealed to me a glimpse of His purposes through another Scripture that He brought to mind. In 1 Thessalonians 1:8 we read: “… but also in every place Your faith toward God has gone forth.”
The Lord reassured me that He would give Joy and our family the abundant life that He promised as we trusted in Him.
What had happened to us would go out to the whole world and would be an encouragement to others. The initial fulfilment of that was when the missionaries from Faith Academy contacted their friends and families around the world to pray for our families. But God’s plans were much bigger than we ever imagined.
More recently, Joy was interviewed on 700 Club, with Peter and me, and with a video dramatisation of the robbery and rape. Millions worldwide watched Joy’s testimony on TV, and are still watching it on YouTube.
With the permission of Edric, her husband, Joy decided to do the interview in order to show the love and power of God — that there is hope for healing and a blessed life in Jesus.
In Romans 8:35-37, New King James Version, we read: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”
We are told we will overwhelmingly conquer. By faith I waited on the Lord in the dark, trusting Him for what I did not yet see. I clung to His promise to cause all to work for good for those who love Him. He is faithful.
Today, I see — in the light — what I trusted God for in the dark.
Today, I see — in the light — what I trusted God for in the dark. Joy is a beautiful, whole person — spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Her scars have become areas of strength as she surrendered them to the Lord.
Faith is not a theory to her but her very lifeline to the Lord, enabling her to walk tall with confidence in Him. She smiles at the future because she knows the One who holds her future.
A father’s grief: Peter
My first response was: “Why did God not protect our children?” I had prayed daily for their protection from the time they were born.
I would cry when I was alone after the classes. I cried for many months. And then I realised that faith is ultimately a choice.
I usually ended my prayer with the following: “Lord, please protect us from evil men, evil spirits and natural calamities.” What happened this time?
The attack of the Enemy in my mind was that it is useless to pray because God does not really answer our prayers or He is not able to protect. Then I realised that those thoughts were from the evil one.
I had to make a choice to believe what the Bible says about God or to allow my experience to define my understanding of who God is.
I decided to trust God. I told Him that I don’t understand why and I prayed that someday He would help me realise why He allowed this tragedy to happen. In the meantime, I chose to trust to trust Him.
When I went through our house after the robbery, I was in tears as I cleaned up the mess. I saw that there really is evil in this world. I felt violated and angry at the evil and a sense of rage.
I began to empathise with the imprecatory psalms and understood how it could be possible to want to shoot people for the crimes they commit.
I grieved over the rape. Grieving is not a sin. However, I was not depressed because my hope was in the Lord.
As a father, I had never cried more than at this time. I would be driving and find myself crying as I thought about my daughter, and how pure and innocent she was and how the men did such a terrible thing to her.
I was studying in a seminary at that time. I would cry when I was alone after the classes. I cried for many months. And then I realised that faith is ultimately a choice. I could be a prisoner of anger and bitterness, and a victim, wanting revenge — or I could forgive the robbers.
I chose to forgive. I grieved over the rape. Grieving is not a sin. However, I was not depressed because my eyes were focused on the Lord and my hope was in the Lord.
As a family, we believed in His goodness and that He would cause something good to come out of this.
I asked myself: “How would Satan gain the victory in this tragedy?” I realised that he would only gain the victory if we turned away from serving God, or entertained negative thoughts about God, or chose unforgiveness, revenge, and bitterness, or spent our energy hunting the robbers down to seek vengeance.
So, we decided to turn our energy to serving God, trusting in Him, and forgiving the evil men.
Trusting in God’s good purposes
The second choice I had to make was to cooperate with God by responding to this tragedy in a manner that would honour God. I made a choice to believe Romans 8:28.
It was then that I began to understand what faith is. Faith is not looking at circumstances and then drawing a conclusion from seeing the circumstances as to who God is. Rather it is looking at who God is first, and then interpreting your circumstances based on who He is.
I decided to hold on to four pillars of non-negotiable truth that would help me turn each trial into a victory.
- I must firmly believe that God is good (Psalm 100:5). The temptation was to believe that God is not good.
- God knows everything. And because He knows everything, He was not caught by surprise when this tragedy happened. He knows what is best.
- God loves us. He loves my daughter, Joy. Because He loves us, He wants what is best for us. The proof of His love is Romans 8:31-32.
- God is sovereign. He is in full control. He could have prevented the rape but He did not. And if He allowed it to happen, then I must trust that it is ultimately for good for Joy and our family.
These four truths enabled Joy and our family to turn the tragedy into something that honoured God.
Today as I look back, I see the goodness of God. In His wisdom, He allowed this to happen for a purpose. Joy has now become one of the most effective counsellors for rape victims and sexually abused women.
As I look back, I see the goodness of God … Joy is now one of the most effective counsellors for rape victims.
Personally, my wife and I have become more sensitive to the pain of others. We grew in our capacity to empathise and encourage others as they go through trials and pain. We also learned to experience the all-sufficient God — the God who is bigger than our tragedy.
We read in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
It is indeed true that God is a God of comfort.
It is one thing to give comfort to others; it is another thing to give comfort that you have personally experienced from God.
This excerpt from Joy Tan-Chi Mendoza’s book, When A Good God Allows Rape, published by OMF Literature, is republished with permission.