“My father showed me God is real”: Repeat offender’s transforming faith and love moved his daughter

This Father's Day, salt&light remembers dads who've gone before us, having entrusted to us their legacy of faith and love.

by Christine Leow // June 16, 2022, 9:04 pm


Although Minnie Ang and her father, Ang Kok Kee, never lived under the same roof, the bond between them remained strong. He was always there for her and made her feel loved even though he was in and out of prison most of her life. All photos courtesy of Minnie Ang.

She would sit in the corner by herself. Nobody would play with her. Even her family called her a “cry baby” because she cried all the time.

“I was lonely,” said Minnie Ang, 34, of her childhood.

The only person she was close to was her paternal grandmother who took care of her. “I followed her everywhere.

“If I couldn’t be with her, I would cry.” When she did, her aunt would beat her.

a father's love

Minnie with the grandmother who took care of her as a child.

Minnie’s two sisters were significantly older than her – by 11 and 8 years.

Her father, Ang Kok Kee, was in and out of prison, and when she came along, her mother could not cope. So, she sent Minnie to live with her paternal grandparents.

The favouritism in that house was clear. She had a male cousin who was of the same age. Once, when her grandfather came to their kindergarten to pick him up, he refused to take Minnie home with him.

a father's love

Being without her parents from young, Minnie grew up feeling unloved and unwanted.

“He told the teacher that he didn’t know me. I had to wait till my grandmother came. I felt very unwanted,” said Minnie quietly.

Minnie only returned to live with her mother when she was in Primary Three. But things did not improve.

a father's love

Minnie cried a lot as a child and was given the nickname, “Cry Baby”.

“I was alone at home at night a lot.

“I was alone at home at night a lot. My sisters were in school or at work and my mother worked at night.

“Sometimes, loan sharks would come to our house because the address on my father’s IC was ours even though he didn’t live with us. I would hide under the blanket.

“A few times, police would come to our house to search for drugs. I was always scared.”

“He supported me”

The first time Minnie met her father was in prison. She was five years old. Until then, she had never wondered about him or asked about him.

“I was too scared to ask any questions.”

a father's love

Whenever he could, Minnie’s father would take her out.

Her father was a drug addict and gambler. Long before she was born, he had already been to prison twice.

“My mother told him if he continued to take drugs and was sent in the third time, she would not forgive him and would not have any contact with him.”

After Minnie was born, her father was sent to prison again. It would be the longest sentence yet. Her mother kept her word and cut off ties with him.

“He was very smiley and he called me, ‘Ni-ah.’ I didn’t feel that he was a stranger.” 

Though she had only heard bad things about her father, Minnie has good memories of that first meeting.

“It was a very old prison and I was very small. My grandmother told me, ‘This is your father.’ I looked up at him. I wasn’t scared of him.

“He was very smiley and he called me, ‘Ni-ah’. When I first met him, I didn’t feel that he was a stranger.”

Once, when he was released from prison, he visited Minnie and took her to the Singapore Zoo. “And he played with me,” she said, citing this as one of her fondest memories of her father.

He would be arrested and imprisoned soon after.

The next time Minnie saw him, she was in Primary One. He came to watch her perform in school at a Founders’ Day concert. This would be the pattern of their relationship until she was in her 20s.

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Minnie with her father at her school, when he came to watch her perform in a Founder’s Day concert.

“Whenever he was released from prison, he would call me and come look for me.”

“Whenever he was released from prison, he would call me and come look for me.”

They never lived in the same house and he was seldom around. Yet, her father did all he could to make her feel loved.

“Whenever he was out of prison, I could call him and he would answer, or he would call me.

“If I needed to buy school books at the end of the year, uniform or shoes, he would give me the money. If I needed money for tuition, I would ask him. He supported me.

“If he was in prison, he would have a friend outside that I could contact so I could get money from him.”

A father’s faith

It was her father who urged Minnie towards the Christian faith. “Every time he came out of prison, he would ask me to pray to God because God loves me.

“He would talk to me about the Bible. He must have read the whole Bible because he would tell me stories from it.”

a father's love

While in prison, Minnie’s father became a Christian. At every opportunity, he would encourage her to pray to God.

Her father had gone to church irregularly before Minnie was born and became a Christian several years later while in prison. This, despite objections from his mother.

He continued to struggle to break free from the hold of drugs until he turned 60. That year, he got out of prison and got baptised at the Church of Singapore (Marine Parade). Minnie was 27 then and engaged to be married.

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Minnie and her father after his baptism.

“My father told me that he wanted to turn over a new leaf and spend his time with his children. He wanted to walk me down the aisle.”

He made good his promise. “I was so happy. I felt that I had a father,” Minnie said.

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The year Minnie turned 27, her father finally made good his promise to turn his life around.

a father's love

When Minnie’s father received his first pay cheque from his first legal job as a cook, he was so proud of himself.

He never returned to his life of crime again. Instead, he found himself a job as a cook, his first legal job ever.

“Even till today, it was the best food I could ever remember.”

“He was so proud to earn his first legal income. I would visit him at work and he would cook for me. It was the first time he ever cooked for me. It felt so nice.

“Even till today, it was the best food I could ever remember.”

That transformation that only God could effect drew Minnie to the faith. “When my father got baptised, he said all his sins were forgiven and buried.

“When he came out from the water, everything was new. That was when I really, really saw God — that God is real, to change him.”


Then, Minnie was diagnosed with Stage 3 nose cancer in 2017. What started as a blocked ear that lasted a month led to checks and scans, and finally a diagnosis.

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Throughout her battle with cancer, Minnie’s father stood by her.

“The cancer had gone to my muscles and bone under my skull. I was scared. I thought I was going to die.”

“The cancer had gone to my muscles and bone. I was scared. I thought I was going to die.”

Minnie’s father took care of her.

He was with her at every chemotherapy session, which took hours each, taking time off from work to do so. When she was too weak from her treatment to walk, her father carried her. “That was when I really prayed the most.”

Her father’s Bible stories and encouragement, the lessons she had learnt in the mission school she had attended and the encounters with Catholicism in her mid-20s all came together in one defining moment.

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After years of her father encouraging her to believe in God, Minnie put her trust in Him.

“I began to put my faith and trust in God, and to depend on Him a lot. I believed God would heal but I also believed that even if I died, I would see God. It strengthened my faith a lot.”

It was a faith that would be tested five years later when Minnie’s father was diagnosed with cancer, in December 2021. He had only been drug-free for eight years.

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Minnie’s father at his first chemotherapy session.

It presented as severe constipation at first. In reality, it was a tumour behind his stomach.

“I have eligibility to meet Jesus because I am a Christian. You must be happy because I am out of my suffering.”

Though determined to fight the cancer, her father also made peace with death.

“He told me, ‘Ni-ah, when I die, you all don’t need to be sad. You have to be happy during the funeral.”

“I asked, ‘Why?’

“He said, ‘I have eligibility to meet Jesus because I am a Christian. You must be happy because I am out of my suffering.

“ ‘I have lived a very good eight years. God has been good to me. My children are all grown up. I have nothing to worry about and I am going to see God.’ ”

Even with chemotherapy, the cancer still spread till it reached his lungs.

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Minnie’s father did not fear dying because he knew that he would be with God.

“I was more affected by his cancer than mine. When I was going through my treatment, it was very painful. I didn’t want anybody to go through the same thing, especially not those I love — like my own father.

“Suddenly, my strong pillar was collapsing.”

“He was always a strong pillar. Then suddenly, my strong pillar was collapsing.”

But God would prove to be her ultimate pillar of support.

Since her father was diagnosed, she’d had sleepless nights. The night her father passed away, Minnie slept soundly.

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When her father was first warded in the ICU, Minnie begged him to fight to survive, whispering to him: “I love you.” It was the first time she said those words to him. He did live for a few more weeks. This is a photo of them holding hands for the last time.

“I dreamt of my father and a white figure holding his hand as he walked. My father smiled and waved at me, as if telling me goodbye.”

“I dreamt of my father and a white figure holding his hand as he walked.”

Minnie woke up at 1.20am to a call from the hospital. The family arrived nine minutes too late to say their final farewell. Minnie believed that her father chose to die alone because “he didn’t want to see us cry”.

“He passed away at 1.43am. ‘143’ is code for ‘I love you’. It was as if he was telling us that he loved us. It was the best and sweetest thing he did.

“When I saw him, I felt peace because I had that dream. He is with God. I believe God knows that I didn’t want my father to go. So, He prepared me.”

Permission to cry

Minnie tried to keep her promise to her father to be happy for him. But she could not help blaming God.

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Minnie kept her promise to her father not to mourn at his funeral. On the final night of the wake, she slept beside his casket. Her last words to him were: “I am so proud of you, Dad.”

“I wrestled a lot with God – I stopped praying, I was crying, I was grieving a lot. It really didn’t make sense to me why he had to die.

“I questioned God a lot: ‘Why do You do things that don’t make sense?’ ”

Right after the funeral, Minnie contracted Covid-19. Isolated and in pain, she cried throughout the six days she was in self-quarantine. In desperation, she surfed the Internet in search of a way to cope.

“I had blamed him for not being with me when I was growing up.”

“I downloaded a grief recovery guide from I don’t know which website.”

It turned out that the website was Whispering Hope Singapore. The consultancy helps people recover from grief over all sorts of losses in life using the Grief Recovery Method®.

When Whispering Hope co-founder and director, Gracie Mak, reached out to Minnie, she was moved. “I felt it was like God sent someone to rescue me. I had forgotten about the guide.”

She signed up for the grief recovery sessions, and her breakthrough came in the final session of the programme. “I learnt to resolve the outstanding issues in my relationship with my father,” she said. “I had blamed him for not being with me when I was growing up.

a father's love

Though Minnie’s first memory of her father was when she was five, he was with her when she was a toddler.

“After he passed on, I could not sleep. But after that session, I slept like a baby for the first time.”

She also learnt that it was alright to cry. “When I used to cry, I wondered if I was going through depression, if I needed medication to manage my emotions.” 

The Minnie who used to never speak of her father is also gone. “Now I feel very proud of him and I am really proud to be his daughter.”


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About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.