The God of second chances: When healing comes later in life
by Janice Tai // August 30, 2021, 6:43 pm
Raymond Tan, 56, had a hole in his heart, partial deafness and blindness, and for years was mostly bedridden. It came to a point where he felt like Elijah, begging God to take him home. But God had other plans. All photos courtesy of Raymond Tan.
The losses piling up over the years in Raymond Tan’s life seemed too much to bear.
The 56-year-old’s spine had degenerated to such an extent that it was pinching on his nerves. As a result, his left arm was dead to sensation while even slight pressure on his legs sent fiery shots of pain up his limbs.
Coupled with the hole in his heart, as well as partial blindness and deafness, Raymond was bedridden for much of the time in the last few years. A staff member from social service agency AWWA would come to his home every week to help shower him.
“I was behaving like His servant Elijah. Take me, I told God, I am ready to go.”
The only time he would leave the house in his wheelchair was to head to the dialysis centre thrice a week, as he also had kidney failure.
The cat lover once had five cats living with him and his mother in a flat in Hougang but, over the years, one by one, they had died.
When Egon, his beloved brown-and-white cat, died in March, Raymond was left bereft.
There was still Tom Yum, his last remaining cat.
With Raymond being largely immobile, the cats were his world. After Egon’s passing, Raymond became even more depressed. He was already on antidepressants.
His friend from Glad Tidings Church wanted to cheer him up, and nudged a cell group to visit him for a praise and worship session.
As the group gathered in his living room in a circle to worship God with the accompaniment of a guitar, a woman got up and walked towards him.
She placed her hand on his left ear, which was completely deaf, and began praying for him.
“In the name of Jesus, I cast out the spirit of fear and infirmity,” she prayed aloud.
“Here we go again,” Raymond thought, already resigned to all the illnesses he had been living with for almost a decade.
“I was behaving like His servant Elijah. Take me, I told God, I am ready to go,” said Raymond.
A spate of miracles
But the woman urged him to test if there was any difference in the hearing ability in his left ear.
She told him to press down the tragus of his right ear to block out any sound. This ear still had 50% hearing.
At first, when he pressed down his right earfold, he could no longer hear anything, as his left ear was still deaf. Her mouth was moving but he could not tell what she was saying.
But slowly, he began to hear a buzzing sound in his left ear and a very soft voice saying: “Jesus loves you.”
“Did you say, ‘Jesus loves you?’” he asked her.
Everyone around him started clapping. He had heard her exact words.
“It was one thing to hear of others being healed, and another thing when you experience it for yourself.”
“Suddenly, I could hear. It may only be 1 or 2% of hearing ability but, in my hopeless situation then, it was a glimmer of light,” recalled Raymond.
“It was one thing to hear of others being healed, and another thing when you experience it for yourself,” he said with wonder.
Little did he know there was more to come.
Excited about what had transpired that afternoon, Raymond shared the incident with his sister and cousin who came for dinner that night.
They talked from 7pm to 9pm, before his family members remarked that usually by this time he would be resting in bed, putting up with the shots of pain on his leg, back and shoulders.
Before this, he had only been able to sit upright for less than half an hour. For this reason, he had not been able to attend church service for years.
“It was then that I realised I did not feel the pain anymore. But my sister and cousin still shooed me to bed to rest, just in case,” said Raymond with a chuckle. He dutifully went to bed.
In the past, just lifting his legs to get into bed would cause so much pain that he could barely sleep for an hour every night. Yet there was no pain that night and, for the first time in years, he slept through the night from 9.30pm to 4.45am.
So recharged was he that, when the home care worker from AWWA visited him the next day to bathe him, he demonstrated how he could not just walk but jog in the living room.
“In the past, he would be panting just trying to walk from his bedroom to the toilet,” the home care worker told Salt&Light when she dropped by to take his blood pressure readings. “He would have to sit on the toilet bowl to bathe. Now, he can stand and even cook on his own.”
Other miracles of healing quickly followed.
His vascular surgeon was surprised to see that the open wound he had had the previous month was now completely healed, with the skin smooth. Wounds in diabetic patients like Raymond have the potential for infections and other complications.
“The nurse was also puzzled that I wasn’t my usual screaming self when she helped to wash my feet. For the past two years, I would be screaming from the pain whenever my leg was touched,” said Raymond. “She was worried that my nerves had completely died. So she tested my leg for sensation, but there was no problem with it.”
“Many of us attributed Raymond’s rapid healing to God’s miracles.”
Next up was his eye appointment at the National Eye Centre. He had done cataract surgery on his right eye and the blood vessels in his left eye had ruptured.
To bring down the swelling of the blood vessels in his eyes to avoid vision loss, his doctor gave him regular injections.
“It is quite an unpleasant experience to have your head pinned down, eyes clamped open and see the needle coming closer and closer into your eye,” said Raymond.
During an eye checkup a few months ago, he struck a deal with the doctor.
“Doctor, can I skip having the shots this month? I promise you, if the swelling continues when I return next month, then I will take the shots on both eyes,” pleaded Raymond.
The doctor agreed.
When he returned the following month, the doctor found, for the first time in years, that the swelling was reduced.
“We had seen him constantly hospitalised for so many problems. At one stage, he was told by the doctor to settle his affairs,” said his cousin Angela Lek, 54.
“Many of us attributed Raymond’s rapid healing to God’s miracles,” she added.
Raymond’s favourite miracle, that is still currently unfolding, has to do with his kidneys.
Over the last few years, Raymond has been hospitalised almost every month, each time for a week or so. The latest trouble was over severe vomiting, that prevented him from keeping his food down.
During the hospital visit, he had an ultrasound done. Out of curiosity, he asked the technician how to tell the difference between a healthy kidney and a bad one.
He saw that the images of his kidneys were black, and presumed it was because his kidneys had failed.
However, the technician told him that if the kidneys appear black, they are likely healthy as that meant there was blood flow to the organ.
A shocked Raymond revealed to the technician that he had end stage kidney disease and had been going for dialysis for the last eight years.
“She said I would need more information from a further blood test and biopsy to determine the state of my kidneys. But I was already going hallelujah and hallelujah in my heart,” said Raymond.
“If He wanted to heal me, why wait till now? Why not earlier?”
Shortly after, Raymond felt the urge to pee after going for dialysis. He had not peed in years due to the severity of his kidney condition.
When he came home and was undressing, the urge to urinate came again. He headed for the bathroom and, sure enough, he could pee.
“The ability to pee is a good sign. Now I wear diapers, just in case. I look forward to getting the blood test and biopsy done in future, but I know that healing has begun,” said Raymond.
“I don’t know what He is doing. Nothing adds up and I can’t explain all these episodes of healing. I wasn’t expecting it, and even wondered, if He wanted to heal me, why wait till now? Why not earlier?” Raymond added candidly.
The one thing that he does know is that, if he is given a new lease on life, with the ability to walk and function normally without pain, he would make better choices this time.
One major regret he has been carrying is his choice to walk away from the call of the Lord when he was younger.
“Maybe he is now giving me a second chance to choose Him again.”
Do You exist, God?
Growing up, Raymond was considered the “weird one” by his family.
The young boy would walk happily around trees and flowers, full of joy as he sensed God’s presence in nature.
While other kids enjoyed played catching or hide-and-seek, Raymond would opt to play church instead.
Ripping apart broken umbrellas, he would wear the umbrella canvas as a priest’s vestment. Stealing two candles from home, he would pretend to conduct Mass, with his younger cousins being the congregation.
His favourite birthday present was the missal, a Catholic liturgical book. Other presents did not interest him much.
In his youth, he became an altar boy but did not follow instructions in the tabernacle. He felt that God was too awesome and he could not look at Him directly. He later moved on to become a lector, a role he enjoyed as he could read God’s Word.
As a young man, he joined the seminary, only to quit half a year later.
“I was disillusioned when I saw people joining the seminary for all the wrong reasons, whether it was to evade National Service or because they did not want to get married,” said Raymond.
“I was wondering: Do You exist, God? Would You show Yourself to me?”
It was during this time that his sister shared her faith with him.
“It started me on my journey of getting to know Him, who He really is instead of just what He does,” said Raymond, who began attending Bethel Assembly of God.
God in the dramatic and the quiet
He was doing shipping operations then and a fellow colleague from the accounts department invited him to a Benny Hinn crusade at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
He was not keen to go, as he doubted that the presence of the Holy Spirit at these crusades was for real.
Yet he was persuaded to go and he deliberately arrived late, hoping to sit right at the back of the stadium.
During the crusade, Hinn spoke into the microphone, asking the audience to receive the Holy Spirit.
“He didn’t lay hands on people, but the entire section that he was speaking to was slain in the Spirit and everyone went down like dominos. There were four sections and the same thing happened to each section before mine,” said Raymond, who was amazed by what was happening in front of his eyes.
Then Hinn addressed Raymond’s section.
The people all around him fell, but Raymond stood his ground and refused to go down.
“There is someone up there who is resisting the Holy Spirit. Stop resisting and accept the love of God,” Hinn shouted into the microphone.
Immediately, Raymond felt like he had just grabbed onto a live wire and he collapsed on the floor.
“I was crying even after the crusade ended. It was the first time I felt the power of God in a real and personal way. There was no weight that was lifted off my shoulders; rather there was an infilling of the Holy Spirit,” said Raymond.
From evangelist Benny Hinn, Raymond learnt how to pray effective prayers.
“Our deepest desire is to connect deeply with God but our flesh will try all manner of distractions to stop us,” said Raymond, who would kneel for hours every day in prayer.
As he grew in intimacy with the Lord, God honoured his prayers.
When Raymond was working as a production worker in a lens company, he would take out his Bible to read whenever he was done with his work. That annoyed his supervisor who would load him with even more work.
Despairing, Raymond went to a corner and prayed, asking God for forgiveness for losing his temper.
During one such exchange, Raymond lost his temper at the unfair treatment he was receiving and forgot to lock in a precision machine arm that was used to cut the lens.
The expensive piece of equipment fell to the ground. At that moment, everyone became silent as they knew the trouble Raymond was in. If the machine went out of alignment, it could no longer cut the spectacle lenses accurately. German engineers would have to be flown in at a huge cost and the work would be delayed for weeks.
His supervisor smirked, knowing that Raymond had just landed himself in hot soup.
Despairing, Raymond went to a corner and prayed, asking God for forgiveness for losing his temper.
“Go back and put the arm back,” he heard God telling him. That would not be possible as the arm would still be out of alignment, he thought.
But he obeyed, carried the arm up and slotted it back into the machine. After some whirring sounds, Raymond peeked at the dial, to see a 0.0 reading. It turned out that the machine was even more aligned than before, when it had been off by a few degrees.
As he shared his testimonies at prayer group meetings, more and more people approached him for prayers.
Yet, it was not without sacrifice. He found that certain prayers achieved breakthroughs only when he fasted. He got by only on water, coffee and tea.
Once he was so hungry after work that, when he saw leftover food in a coffeeshop, he remarked to God: “I am so hungry that, if I were not in a shirt and tie, I would rush over to finish the scraps.”
“Could we ever understand how God must feel to see the lost – every single one of them?”
Such was his authentic relationship with the Lord that, at times, he felt a heaviness in his heart that he knew belonged to God.
“Abba, why are you feeling so sad?” he asked God as he left for work.
“Son, if you only understand. Yet I can’t share it with you as you may not be able to take it,” God replied.
Raymond persisted in asking God to share His burdens with him.
“Okay, I will give you a glimpse,” came the response.
Immediately, Raymond’s eyes were opened to all the lost souls around him as he walked to his office.
“I was crying the entire way to work. Could we ever understand how God must feel to see the lost – every single one of them?” said Raymond.
These revelations and encounters with God fuelled a radical change in how Raymond lived his life. Every single day of the week would be spent with the body of Christ, whether in a church service, prayer meeting or cell group setting.
Every Sunday, he would attend services at three different churches throughout the day. If he was not working or sleeping, he would usually be found reading the Bible.
His girlfriend then was not too pleased.
“You are becoming a fanatic. If you keep this up, I will leave you,” she told him.
He genuinely loved this woman and did not want to lose her. Yet he knew God was calling him.
She went to church with him but could not understand his spiritual hunger and level of commitment to God.
After working for a few years, Raymond found his heart churning with the question: What am I to do for you, Lord?
For months, he had been asking God for direction.
His girlfriend was with him during a Sunday service at Glad Tidings Church when the pastor issued a word to the congregation.
“Somebody here is asking God for direction. I believe in my heart that God is calling you into His service today,” said the pastor.
When Raymond heard that, his heart was on fire and everything in him wanted to leave his seat and go forward to be prayed for.
His then girlfriend guessed his turmoil and whispered to him: “If you get out of that seat, I will leave you and not come back.”
Raymond found his heart churning with the question: What am I to do for you, Lord?
She started to walk out of the hall.
Raymond was torn between the choices before him. He genuinely loved this woman and did not want to lose her. Yet he knew God was calling him.
In the end, he got up and ran after her.
The two eventually married and focused on their careers.
A wall came up between Raymond and God.
“My spiritual life went downhill. Some of my dreams also died. When we got a house, I wanted to set aside a guest room to house the homeless and destitute. But she began inviting her family members and relatives over instead,” said Raymond.
The rift between them would destroy their marriage, and the couple divorced in 2003. They have no children.
The time is short, the harvest is ripe
One day, a colleague invited Raymond to another crusade and, when he saw the hand of God, he returned home determined to revive the intimate relationship he once had with the Lord.
“I went back to church and restarted my prayer life. But this time there was no infilling. I was so frustrated,” said Raymond.
“You used to kneel in prayer but now you just mumble something on your bed or couch.”
Then God whispered into his heart: “Remember that time you were so hungry that you did not even mind eating leftovers?”
“Yes, but what has that got to do with my frustrations now?” Raymond replied.
“Last time, you gave all of yourself to me, even your leftovers. If you have a five-minute break, you would read your Bible. You worshipped me even while taking the train. You used to kneel in prayer but now you just mumble something on your bed or couch,” came God’s response.
“I don’t care what you do, but I care about your heart,” God said to him. “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”
Raymond realised that, over the years, he had indeed let the cares of the world – marital, career and health issues – choke his love for God.
After the death of Egon, the depressed Raymond had been ready to give up.
But after the cell group gathered in his flat and prayed for him, he began to experience healing for his physical ailments, one after another.
“Could it be that He is calling me back to Himself, giving me a second chance to make better choices?” Raymond wondered.
“I am not going to second guess God on why I am being healed.”
With a stronger body and spirit, he has begun using some of his talents for good.
His neighbour has been trying to find a low-cost solution to ship fuel to India so that the destitute can have heat and fuel to cook food in the winter.
Raymond knew that shipping solid fuel would be costly, given its weight.
So, he crafted his own prototype of a portable stove made from plywood and two-inch nails, poking holes through light aluminium cans to hold liquid fuel instead.
“I can teach my neighbour and church leaders how to make this prototype, which can be replicated for use in India,” said Raymond.
The former marketer and writer has also put his creative side to work, writing worship songs that he hopes to share with churches for their use in outreach.
“Just as we don’t know what happened to Lazarus after he was raised from the dead, I am not going to second guess God on why I am being healed,” said Raymond.
“What I do know is that time is short and the harvest is ripe, but there are few harvesters. If my job is to sharpen the shears of others so that they can cut the sheaves, let it be so.”