ywam medical ship

Once a school dropout, drug addict and triad leader, Choby is now headed to Colombia as a missionary. He is seen here in Papua New Guinea where he was on a YWAM medical ship, assisting medical staff and sharing the Gospel. All photos courtesy of Choby Siau.

Choby Siau was a triad leader who turned to violence and gang leaders to feel protected and accepted.

In Part One of his story, he was on a plane to Penang, ready to kill the man his girlfriend was sleeping with, when a miracle happened.

His story of how God transformed his life continues here.

Though Choby had given up seeking revenge, he continued to stay in Penang for a whole month.

After all, he still had triad issues to settle. While he was there, he partied non-stop and was involved with different women. He was still a teenager then. 

“I didn’t think much about God, even after the peace He had given me. But there was a seed planted in my heart,” said Choby.

In the nick of time

One night, he and two other triad leaders went to a club and got a table with bottle service. Shortly afterwards, they were informed that rival gang members had arrived.

“I told my friends that we had just spent all our money on bottles, so let’s just have fun and not fight,” said Choby.

When the club closed, they headed out to have supper along the street. Suddenly, a car pulled up and the same gang members sat down next to them. Immediately, a fight erupted and one of the rival gang members was badly hurt.

Gurney Plaza in Penang.

The next day, Choby received a call informing him that the gang members whom they had fought were looking for him at one of their territories – Gurney Plaza.

“I want you to call on the name of Jesus.”

As Choby made his way to Gurney Plaza, he called his dai lou to inform him about the situation. Inter-triad dynamics were complex and political. His dai lou arrived at the Plaza before he did and instructed him to go upstairs to report to him.

As Choby pressed the elevator button, he noticed men pooling behind him. When the lift door opened, more men emerged. One of them was the rival gang member they had beaten up. 

The men began surrounding the lift that Choby and his two friends were in.

“We were completely outnumbered – three of us compared to about 30 of them. I thought we might just have to fight right there and then. Suddenly, I felt this strong sense of a spirit of death. It felt like I was going to die and I was really afraid,” said Choby.

The rival gang leader began shouting angrily as everyone else stayed silent. He pulled out a machete that he had in his pants and made it clear they had come to “settle problems right now”.

Choby, with some of his triad members in Penang.

As he was about to start swinging the machete, Choby suddenly remembered what his mother told him when he was a child.

“I wondered why God would save me. My heart was like a stone and it was so hard for me to understand His love.”

She’d said: “Son, if you ever get into a situation where you have a problem, I want you to call on the name of Jesus.”

As the rival gang leader was about to swing the machete towards him, Choby took a step back and muttered under his breath: “Jesus, save me.”

In that moment, he saw a hand emerging from the crowd. It held the machete back. The hand belonged to one of Choby’s triad members who had been looking for him. He also happened to know the rival gang leader. His triad put in a good word for Choby and the fight broke up.

“It all happened in the nick of time, and I knew it was divine intervention.

“Later that night, I wondered why God would save me. My heart was like a stone and it was so hard for me to understand His love,” said Choby.

The spirit of death

The supernatural encounter did not change the way Choby went about his life.

The very next day, he was back at a club and overdosing on drugs.

He had been taking ecstasy for many years but, this time, he could not feel his body.

“I think Jesus just saved me.” They gave him incredulous looks, as though he had “lost it”.

“When I was taking the drugs, I felt the same spirit of death enter the club ­– similar to what I had felt during the machete attack. I think the pills I was taking were laced with something other than ecstasy. As my friends took me out of the club, I felt like dying. I was chilled and I felt my soul leaving my body,” said Choby.

Out of desperation and recalling what had taken place the day before, he looked up at the sky and said once again: “Jesus, save me.”

With wonder, he found he could get back on his feet. His mind cleared and his body temperature normalised.

His gang members looked on in astonishment and asked if he was okay.

“I think Jesus just saved me,” Choby replied.

They gave him incredulous looks, as though he had “lost it”.

But something twinged in Choby’s heart. He began to have a heart of gratitude.

A whisper

The following night, Choby’s right-hand man came to pick him up in his car. As he pulled up and Choby opened the passenger door, he heard a soft whisper: “Put your seatbelt on.”

Not once had Choby ever put his seatbelt on whenever he was in a car. This time, however, because he had heard that voice, he obeyed and put his seatbelt on.

“I thought of how, in the last few days, I had experienced some of the craziest things in my life, so I felt I needed to listen to this voice,” he said.

“We were going way too fast and I knew this was going to be the end. My life literally flashed before me.”

Noticing his unusual behaviour, his right-hand man threw a jibe at him: “You never put your seatbelt on … come on, you don’t trust my driving?”

Choby simply instructed him to put on his seatbelt as well.

His right-hand man loved a race and, soon, the car was flying down the street. He was trying to catch up with the car in front of him, which was also filled with their gang members. There was a turn in the road and the car in front abruptly braked.

His right-hand man also had to jam on the brakes. The car lost control and started to fishtail. It hit the curb and flew into the air.

“We were going way too fast and I knew this was going to be the end. My life literally flashed before me. I don’t know why that happens but I saw my life story,” Choby told Salt&Light.

“I saw how evil I was, how I had hurt others and the decisions that I had made in life. I saw the emptiness, and I saw the last two days of God’s grace. I thought I would die never knowing this God who had saved me these last two days.”

Choby with some of his secret society members.

He felt his stomach drop and heard a huge crash. When he opened his eyes, he found himself leaning on a metal pole that was next to his head. The pole had speared through the front windshield and out of the back windshield. It was inches from impaling Choby. Leaves were scattered all over the windshield.

The pole was inches from impaling Choby.

It turned out that the car had flown into the air and lodged itself in the forked branches of a tree. The car was suspended in the air and held up by the tree. The front of the car had crashed into the roof of a kampung house, and the pole that had pierced the windscreen was part of the roof structure of the house.   

Choby turned to his right-hand man and saw that his eyes were rolled back and he had blood streaming down his head. Choby was also in shock; he could not feel much of his body. He released his seatbelt, opened the car door and found himself falling almost 3 metres to the ground.

“I couldn’t believe that I fell. I looked up and saw that the car was suspended in the tree,” said Choby.

Miraculously, he had no major injuries, just minor cuts from shattered glass and from the seatbelt that had scraped his neck and face.

The car seatbelt marks etched on his face and neck from the car accident.

By then, people from the neighbourhood had appeared and got his friend down. As Choby’s friend lay bleeding in his arms, “all I could do was to call on God”, said Choby. “I prayed for him while waiting for the ambulance.”

Three miracles

As they were sent to the hospital, all Choby could think of was the line “In three days I will heal you” that he had miraculously read in the plane on the way to Penang.

“When, after three days, God gave me the peace to not go after my rival, I’d thought that was it,” he said.

“I want you to be my Dai Lou now.”

“At the time, that was what the words meant to me. But when I was lying in the hospital bed, I realised that God had also performed a series of three miracles over the past three days –the machete attack, the drug overdose and the car accident – to reveal Himself and His power.”

Many thoughts ran through his mind.

“I knew my heart was so dark, but I saw how God had intervened in situations that were beyond human control and in a way that completely shattered everything I had believed about Him,” said Choby.

Since the most influential person in his life then was his dai lou (triad chief), he said to God: “I want you to be my Dai Lou now.”

It was his way of accepting God into his heart, his version of the Sinner’s Prayer.

When he said that prayer, he felt something come alive in him.

After the three miracles, Choby was determined to leave his previous life of darkness and violence.

“It felt like my soul took a breath of fresh air for the first time. I felt complete and free, as if a spiritual light had begun inside of me.”

Choby and his friend miraculously survived the horrific car accident and emerged with only minor injuries, though the police officers present had expected his friend to die. 

When Choby was discharged from the hospital two nights later, he knew he had to surrender his life to God.

Hungry for the Word

He returned to the United States determined to live his life as God wanted him to. But he did not know how to live as a believer of Christ.

He went to his room and prayed: “God I know You have power. I’ve seen what You can do and I need You to help me to read the Bible. I know Your plan for me is in there and if I’m going follow You, I need to know what it’s saying.

“It felt like my soul took a breath of fresh air for the first time. I felt complete and free.”

“I tried to read word by word, and the first week was not easy. But I would feel a physical tingling in the front of my forehead and the presence of God. Then I would slowly get a whole sentence,” said Choby.

Within the first month, he was able to read chapters of the Bible and he could remember what he was reading.

The Word started to transform him. It changed the way he saw the world and what he thought about God, others and himself. He realised that the way he had been living was wrong.

He got rid of old music and movies, quit smoking and taking drugs. The way he treated people also changed, including the way he spoke to his family.

As he let go of his old habits, Choby began to experience newfound joy and laughter. He started to smile, something he never did before he knew Jesus.

The sleep paralysis he was tormented by disappeared and he found himself able to sleep in peace at night. His relationship with his parents was also restored.

Choby became so hungry for God’s Word that he read the New Testament seven times over the next six months.  

Cutting off secret society ties 

As he spent time with the Lord, he heard God saying to him: “I want you to go back and quit the secret society. I want you to talk to your boss and your guys.”

Choby struggled with this instruction.

“Being a triad member was all I knew. I wasn’t formally educated and I knew that once I quit, I would be stepping away from a future with them. I didn’t know how to function in normal society.

“I was already a branch leader. We took sworn brotherhood oaths that we were in this for life,” he said.

“When I get on my knees, I want You to know that I’m bowing down before You.”   

However, Choby could not get rid of the conviction that God was calling him to quit his gang.

So, he bought a plane ticket and flew back to Penang half a year after he had almost lost his life there.

His dai lou was happy to see him and took him and several leaders out for dinner.

When his dai lou dropped him off at the apartment where he was staying, Choby asked his dai lou if he could step out of the car with him.

“In Chinese culture, we have to get on our knees and give an angbao with two hands while bowing down. That’s like the first step. and whatever the boss decides to do with you after that, it’s up to him,” said Choby.

When his dai lou came out of the car, Choby was overwhelmed with fear. At that moment, he could only pray and tell God: “When I get on my knees, I want You to know that I’m bowing down before You.”   

When his knees dropped to the ground and he presented his dai lou with the angbao, Choby felt God’s peace and the presence of God enveloping him.

The money and red packet that Choby gave to his dai lou on the day that he quit the secret society.

Choby told the dai lou what God had done in his life and asked to quit the secret society.

Reluctant to let him go, his dai lou said: “Why don’t you just retire? We have others who have retired and kept their titles. This way, you’re still respected and you’re still a member but you don’t need to do anything anymore. You’re done.”

“You are the craziest one, but now you have become the smartest,” his dai lou told him.

“I can’t,” Choby replied. “I respect you but God told me to come back here and I told God he is my Dai Lou now. I have to tell the other guys that I’m out.” 

His dai lou took the angbao, returned him the money and called the triad office which kept all its members’ names in a registry.

“Your file has been removed from the registry. You are out. You are the craziest one, but now you have become the smartest,” his dai lou told him.

Shocked at his response, Choby could only presume that God had also touched his leader.

The next day, he gathered all the members under him – most of whom he had personally recruited – and told them that he was leaving the gang because Jesus had come into his life.

To their disbelief, he also apologised for getting them involved in the gang and for the way he used to treat them.

From gangster to missionary

From then on, Choby’s life took a dramatic turn.

“There is no one too far from God that His love cannot reach, there is no sickness he cannot heal.”

He returned to the United States to do a six-month discipleship training programme with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) to build up his foundation in the Lord. After the programme, he became YWAM staff for a few years.

During that time, God spoke to him about going back to school as he was expelled in Secondary Two and had little formal education.

He went back to school to get his GED (General Educational Development test), the equivalent of a high school diploma, and then went to college as well. In college, there were times when his professor was so impressed with his essays that he would read them out to the class.

“I had to face a place of trauma as education used to be a place of hurt and shame for me, being in special education classes in the past due to my learning disability. But God really helped me with education and, later, in my business,” said Choby.

The GED textbooks that Choby had to study for his exams.

He went on to get a degree in graphic design and animation, and also ran several businesses in precious metals, jewellery and construction.

He was also involved in real estate in the last five years.

Choby sharing his testimony in a church in Singapore.

Choby and his family celebrating Chinese New Year in Singapore.

Over the last few years, Choby has been doing short-term missions.

Since the beginning of this year, God has been leading him to transition out of real estate to prepare for full-time missions in Colombia, South America. Next year, he would be joining YWAM in Colombia.

Through his life story, Choby hopes to share about the unconditional love and power of God.

“God’s heart is not far from you. Though you may feel rejected, unforgivable and far too broken, God loves you unconditionally.

“If you do not know God or if you are in a difficult situation, call on the name of Jesus. If you open your heart to him Jesus will show up,” said Choby.  

“To believers, I hope that my story shows the power of God clearly. There is no one too far from God that His love cannot reach, there is no sickness he cannot heal and there is nothing impossible for our God.”

For more information on Choby’s ministry work, visit www.chobysiau.com or email him at [email protected].


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Savouring contemplative prayer

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About the author

Janice Tai

Salt&Light senior writer Janice is a former correspondent who enjoys immersing herself in: 1) stories of the unseen, unheard and marginalised, 2) the River of Life, and 3) a refreshing pool in the midday heat of Singapore.