“The first time we held hands was after we got engaged”: Deputy Minister Hannah Yeoh’s love story
Hannah Yeoh // February 14, 2019, 12:29 am
"We did a lot of things backwards," says Hannah. "Where others dated, we got engaged first. We only began holding hands after that. Where others fell in love at the beginning, we only fell in love after deciding to marry each other." All photos from Hannah Yeoh's Facebook.
There is no other way to tell the incredible love story of Ram and l but to tell it like it happened. A lot of it defies logic.
We did not date the way couples do before deciding to get married. Romance and love only came about after our decision to marry.
The first time we held hands was after we got engaged.
Ours was literally a marriage made in heaven.
Ram and I first talked to each other in January 2007 at a church prayer meeting. He was already in City Church KL when I started attending its worship services.
I had seen him around but we had never spoken until that prayer meeting on a weekday night. I arrived early to find no one there except Ram who was the meeting coordinator.
Soon after, we started to interact with the same friends in church. Ram joined in conversations with Edward (Ling) about politics. When Edward urged us to sign up as members of the DAP Damansara branch, Ram registered along with me. We started to meet and talk more, not just because of DAP activities, but through the New Christians Ministry that we both served in.
Besides the two of us, there was Jochebed and the three of us were tasked by the church to visit, counsel and pray for people who had just joined the church as new believers.
I had only platonic feelings for Ram initially and no inkling about what he felt for me. He was just a good friend and a ministry partner.
Around the time I joined City Church KL in January, I met with two friends who were ex-coursemates from the School of Acts for a supper date.
We had updated each other on life since graduating from ministry training a year ago. One friend, James, had become a pastor, the other, Darren, a businessman. We talked for a long time until at one point, James said he felt the urge to pray.
“Hannah, you’re going to receive a marriage proposal in June. Your husband will be a godly man.”
“Ok, what should we pray about?” I asked.
“I don’t know, I just feel we need to, right now,” he said. “Let’s each pray by ourselves for a while, and see what comes to mind.”
The three of us bowed our heads in quiet prayer as we sat around a table at Restoran Mahbub in Bangsar. I cannot remember how much time passed as we prayed in this manner. After a while, James straightened up and looked at me.
And he said: “Hannah, you’re going to receive a marriage proposal in June. Your husband will be a godly man.”
I felt the hairs on my neck stand and a warm feeling spread over my shoulders like a soft blanket. I laughed, as if casually dismissing what James had just said.
“Ok, I said. We’ll see.”
At the pulpit
Inside, I tried to compute the meaning of this prophecy. On the one hand, I felt excited as it sounded like I would marry a man who would serve God, and this matched my desire to serve in a ministry as I have wanted to do ever since becoming a Christian.
On the other hand, the prophecy sounded too difficult to be possible. June was five months away and I was still steadfastly single. And even if I were to start dating someone tomorrow, five months was too short a time to seriously consider marrying the person! My initial excitement quickly faded.
The months passed after January and I got busy with work, church, ministry and preparations for the launching of the DAP Damansara branch.
Even as Ram and I became closer friends, it never crossed my mind to question if Ram had anything to do with the prophecy. There was one time we spent up to four hours on the phone, just chatting, and I was taken aback at how natural and easy the conversation was.
Despite our growing closeness, I was afraid to think of Ram as anything other than a friend for fear of awakening desires outside or ahead of God’s will and timing.
May arrived. One Monday that month, I read the Bible as was my habit at the start of each day. Part of the day’s reading was Psalm 143:8: “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life.”
An incoming text message beeped on my cell phone at that very moment. It was a text message from our church pastor, Mark Varughese.
“Can you preach the sermon on June 3? I will be overseas.”
I had learned about preaching at the School of Acts and had gone on mission trips to Thailand, where I preached to large groups. But I had never preached to a crowd of Sunday worshippers in an actual church service. This assignment was a big deal!
On that first Sunday in June, I spoke about choosing the options set before us and about choosing the ones that honour God. In my sermon I shared a bit about my past struggles with self-worth and about choosing to step away from temptations and choices that were ungodly.
Lord, are you serious?
I was flying to Brisbane the next day. Rachel, a friend, was getting married and I was to be her bridesmaid.
Several things happened during the trip to Brisbane, beginning with the flight.
There was no prior courtship to find out if we were right for each other. How would I know if Ram was the right one?
Seated on the plane with nothing to do during take off, I closed my eyes and prayed: “Lord, if You could just confirm this for me. What should I do about my friendship with Ram?”
At the end of the American TV series I was watching on one of the in-flight movie channels, the credits ran and I picked up the remote to channel surf. Right before I did, Ram’s name appeared in the list of cast and crew.
Ah, coincidence, I thought. Ram was not a terribly unique name.
As the airplane neared its destination, an air steward came by with a last round of juice. I took a cup and glanced up at him to say thank you. My eyes passed over his name tag. His name was Ram!
Lord, are You serious?
At breakfast the next morning, Rachel gave me a present with a card. I read the verse – Psalm 16:6 – that she had written in it. “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
Psalm 16:6 was an assurance to me regarding marriage and having children.
I felt a jolt of recognition as I read it. Why was it significant? I had read this verse before and it had spoken to me about something.
I opened my well-worn Bible in which I had made the habit of marking the verses that meant something to me with coloured highlighter pens.
Psalm 16:6 was highlighted. And in the margins, I had scribbled a note that this verse had once been an assurance to me regarding marriage and having children.
On another morning, Rachel said she had a dream about me the night before. “I dreamt that you needed to know something about marriage and in my dream, you got the confirmation you were looking for.”
Throughout the eight days of my stay in Brisbane, Ram and I sent text messages to each other. He also called every night.
Once, I asked if he wanted to talk about us. He said no. “We should only talk about that face to face, when you come back,” he said.
He picked me up at the airport and we were heading to Subang Jaya. After a lapse of silence, Ram very simply said: “I know you are going to be my wife. But you need to get your own confirmation. Go pray about it and once you’re certain, tell me.”
“Aren’t we going to talk about our feelings?” I asked.
“No, not until you make your decision,” he said.
“In my vision, I would see the woman who was going to be my wife preaching in our church.”
The car whizzed along the highway. Ram began talking again.
“When I first met you at that prayer meeting, Hannah, I felt a connection. The more we served together, the more I felt I had to do something to make the first move. But I didn’t want to do it just for the sake of dating first. I’ve been praying for God to show me clearly. I said, whoever it is, I will accept her, just show me clearly.
“You know the first time that you preached? I’d been having the same vision for months about that day. Everything in my vision happened on that day. In it, I would see the woman who was going to be my wife preaching in our church. I could even see the auditorium of our church in my vision. And every time, the woman preacher was wearing white. White is exactly what you wore on that day, Hannah. And when you preached, and as I listened to you, I felt exactly the same way I felt every time after seeing those visions.”
We were nearing my parents’ house. I could not leave him hanging but I could not give a firm answer either.
“I need more time. I’m sorry,” I said quietly.
“It’s ok. Take your time.” He took my luggage into the house and left.
I began re-reading the love stories in the Bible. And I prayed intently, at the start of each day and before I went to bed each night.
I asked God for a supernatural sign like thunder and lightning. It had to be unusual enough to break me out of the deadlock between my will and God’s.
I believe this sign came in a dream one exhausting night, when I felt utterly drained from having spent days in retreat away from other people to focus on the decision before me.
In the dream, I was at home with my grandfather and maid. The scene was in black and white. I heard the sound of rain and went to a window to look out. As I watched, the pounding of raindrops on the roof was gradually silenced. And the silence became visible – the rain had changed to snow and was falling softly, quietly, blanketing everything in white! A hush descended in that snow and though I did not hear anything, I knew someone was communicating with me.
You wanted a supernatural sign. You thought of thunder and lightning but that’s nothing unusual in Malaysia.
And I knew, snow in the tropics had to be supernatural!
I knew I was Sarah, mocking something good that God wanted to give me.
Everything that I had been reading in the Bible that week, the story of Sarah and Abraham and God’s promise of a child to Sarah despite her old age, suddenly made sense to my situation. God’s promise of a child was a miraculous gift that defied the human limitations of childbearing, but Sarah had mocked it.
I knew I was Sarah, mocking something good that God wanted to give me. And like Rebekah, I had the freedom of choice. I could keep asking God for one confirmation after another and still not choose what He offered me.
I realised, too, how much Ram was like Abraham’s servant, who, tasked with finding a wife for his master’s son, Isaac, consistently relied on God to confirm the right woman for him to approach with the marriage proposal.
Ram had done his part. He had persistently asked God for certainty and when the answer was shown to him, he acted. Now, it was up to me. Would I follow Ram, or not?
I did not want to be like Sarah, mocking God. And as I embraced this thought and my heart warmed to a “yes”, I felt a tangible lightness. I realised how effortless everything had been on my part. It was nothing like the emotional toll of my previous relationship, which had love, romance, chemistry and all those wonderful feelings that came with courtship, but required so much work to sustain. With Ram, everything had happened, for him and for me, the way it was meant to, and everything fell into alignment.
That is the beauty of having God plan something for you. My part was only to say yes.
We did a lot of things backwards.
Where others had dated, we got engaged first. We only began holding hands after that.
Where others fell in love at the beginning, we only fell in love after deciding to marry each other.
We only commenced with our wedding plans in August after my father agreed to our marriage.
Ram and I were married on Saturday, January 5, 2008. As I walked towards Ram, I felt complete peace.
Truly, the lines had fallen in pleasant places for both of us.
This is an excerpt from Hannah Yeoh’s book, Becoming Hannah: A personal journey, published by Strategic Information and Research Development Centre (SIRD) Malaysia, and republished with permission.