An improbable love story spanning 10 years and 2 continents

by Janice Tai // June 25, 2021, 2:04 am


Jeremy and Parada at their Thai wedding ceremony, with their parents and grandfathers celebrating alongside them. All photos courtesy of Jeremy and Parada Lim.

A long-distance relationship of 10 years? Check.  

A church worker dating a non-believer? Check. 

A husband who earns less than his foreign wife who gave up pursuing a PhD to be with him? Check.  

The love story of Singaporean Jeremy Lim, 32, and Thai national Parada Sritaragul, 31, has all the elements of an improbable romance: An enduring relationship set against a backdrop of great odds and a nail-biting finale of whether they would pull through to have their happily ever after. 

Their love for each other is quite something; but God showed that His love for them is greater.    

Despite the odds that were stacked against them, Jeremy and Parada tied the knot in a church wedding in Singapore in 2019.

He was one year her senior in junior college in Kenya. Though Jeremy is a Singaporean, his family moved to Africa when his father, a shipping manager, was posted there for work.  

Parada remembered Jeremy as that “small and loud Asian”.

Parada, a Thai national, was also one of the few Asians in that school as her mother is a diplomat and their family was then based there.  

Parada remembered Jeremy as that “small and loud Asian”. They knew of each other as there were only four Asians in that school. Often, they hung out in the library, Parada would be studying while Jeremy would be rushing to finish his homework at the last minute.  

After graduation, they went their separate ways. Parada returned to Thailand while Jeremy headed back to Singapore for his National Service.  

Two years later, Jeremy found that Parada had left him a message on his Facebook. She and her friends were coming to Singapore a holiday, she wrote, and asked him if he would take them around town.  

Whirlwind romance 

Jeremy, then 19, agreed and accompanied them around Singapore for their four-day visit. In that short span of time, Jeremy found himself falling in love with Parada. Besides her good looks, she was also fun-loving and independent.  

Two days after she flew back home, Jeremy messaged her online with an unusual request: Would you be my girlfriend and have a long-distance relationship with me?  

He was hopeful, but knew it was a shot in the dark.  

Unknown to him, she had also noticed him during the trip. He had bulked up a little during his army days and was becoming a man as opposed to the boy she once knew. Parada agreed to enter into a long-distance relationship with him. 

Though their whirlwind romance took just four days to spark off, they now had to find ways to connect with each other while miles apart.  

They would skype, call or text each other every day, sharing with one another how their day went. Though they were physically apart, their conversations were deep. The bond between them strengthened over the years and they would fly over to meet each other three or four times a year.  

Jeremy visited Parada in Europe when she was studying for her Masters in Austria.

“He understood me and we really clicked,” said Parada.  

Even when Parada went to Austria to do her Masters in Communication Science, they communicated frequently. Trust developed between them over time.  

“I stayed in the faith really to honour my parents. I knew the Christian jargon, but I did not really understand the faith.”

They were so secure in their long-distance relationship that, during busy days, a 5- to 10-minute phone conversation would suffice.  

There was just one sticking point between them in their relationship: Jeremy’s Christian faith.  

Jeremy experienced a personal revival in his faith when he came back to Singapore for National Service. Back in Africa, his parents were active in their church and he often played the guitar during worship and went on mission trips.  

“But Christianity was not relevant to my life then and I stayed in the faith really to honour my parents. I knew the Christian jargon, but I did not really understand the faith,” said Jeremy.  

When he returned to Singapore, he had difficulty adjusting to the local culture and life in the army. Troubled, the 18-year-old teenager attended a youth camp but was privately ready to leave the faith.  

Reawakening of faith 

He prayed one final prayer: “God, if You are still here with me, then prove it to me.”  

He felt a prompting in his heart to “be still and know that I am God”.  

He was not familiar with the Bible then and only later realised that the words were a verse from the Bible. 

“God chose to engage me even when I was on the way out and preparing to leave the faith.”

That supernatural experience touched Jeremy’s heart. 

“God chose to engage me even when I was on the way out and preparing to leave the faith,” he said with wonder.

“That was the beginning of my journey of rediscovering my faith,” he said.  

One year later, however, while infatuated with Parada, he did not think twice about going into a long-distance relationship with her, a non-believer.  

Yet as their relationship deepened over the years, Jeremy yearned for Parada to know this God who was central to his life. It pained him that there was a key part of his life that she could not access because she did not understand his faith.  

So, he endeavoured to bring God into any conversation that he could, and invited her to church whenever she was in Singapore. He also remarked that he would not marry a non-Christian.  

The couple on a date at the National Gallery in 2016 when Parada came to Singapore to visit Jeremy.

“It made me feel uncomfortable. I saw God and our relationship as two separate matters so I could not see why religion mattered so much to him,” said Parada.  

Parada prided herself on being independent and having a “practical” outlook in life. If she wanted something, she would rely on herself to do it or get it. She did not understand why people would believe in a God they could neither see nor understand. 

With such an irreconcilable difference of opinion, they broke up twice over the nine years that they were in a long-distance relationship. 

“Every single prayer included a request for Parada’s salvation.”

Each time they broke up, Parada would reach out to reconcile with him. Jeremy gave her some breathing space by focusing on other aspects of the relationship. The issue of faith hovered at the back of their minds like the elephant in the room, unaddressed.  

In his own private moments, Jeremy wrestled with God. 

“Every single prayer included a request for Parada’s salvation. Given our long-distance relationship, we should have already broken up, but why was it growing stronger? To what purpose or outcome was this headed?” he asked God.    

Whenever he spent time with God, he felt God depositing in his heart one question: When will you surrender Parada to Me?   

Jeremy knew he could trust God with other areas of his life, such as his family or his future.  

Yet the relationship room in his heart was kept locked. It was a no-go zone.  

He kept the relationship a secret and his close friends only knew he was dating someone after five or six years.  

Back then, he was an officer at the Singapore Boys’ Hostel and later a motivational speaker at a training company. He saw God’s hand in leading him to work with young people and applied to be a youth worker in church.  

Jeremy running a youth camp.

It was then that he knew he needed to come clean with the church. He told them that he was dating a non-believer whom he first met in an international school overseas.  

His pastor did not ask him to step down from the position but thanked him for showing accountability, and added that he would pray alongside him for Parada’s salvation.

The church community included Parada in their staff recreational walks whenever she was in Singapore, and she would take them around Bangkok when they went to Thailand for a staff retreat.  

His pastor added that he would pray alongside Jeremy for Parada’s salvation.

By then, they had made it to the ninth year in their relationship.  

Against the odds, their long-distance relationship had survived his army days and their university days, as well as various job transitions.

During that time, Parada completed her Masters in Austria and was offered a PhD in the same university. Other attractive job offers were also waiting for her in Thailand.  

She was also aware that she was hitting the big 3-0 the following year.  

“In our society and culture, people assume that once you are not married by 30 then you would have missed the boat. So, I felt the urgency to do something about my relationship, which was going nowhere then,” said Parada.  

Not wanting to end their relationship over the phone, she flew to Singapore in late 2017 to meet him.  

Make or break

In Singapore, on the night she was due to fly home, she asked to break up with Jeremy.

Nine years had passed and she did not think they were headed for marriage as she did not share his faith.  

Jeremy quickly came up with a counter-proposal: Would you move to Singapore and try to get to know my God? You have already invested nine years in this, why not give God, and ourselves, a chance? For the first time in almost a decade, we could be in the same country and try to make this work.  

He felt like he was asking for the moon.  

“Would you move to Singapore and try to get to know my God?”

She had good jobs and a PhD waiting for her. In Thailand, she had family and friends. If she were to come to Singapore, she not only had to navigate visa issues, she also had no job and no friends.  

To his astonishment, she agreed. 

But just for one year, she told him. No longer. 

“I don’t know how I came to make that decision. It didn’t make much sense as I seemed to be jumping into nowhere again. But I wanted to give the relationship one last shot, so that I wouldn’t have regrets,” said Parada.

Her parents were surprised that their daughter, who usually makes “rational” decisions, would decide to risk everything.  

Meanwhile, though Jeremy was immensely relieved that Parada took him up on his offer, he was churning with anxiety.  

“What if she comes over and does not open her heart to You? Will we have to go our separate ways after being together for 10 years? How will I get through this?” he asked God, remembering the difficult conversations he used to have with Parada whenever she asked him to choose between God and her.  

As he agonised in his spirit while kneeling before God in his bedroom, he felt that gentle prompting again: “Can you please surrender her to Me? You preach and share about trusting in God, but do you trust Me with her?”  

“I love her so much …. But even if we need to break up eventually, I would rather see her in Your arms in heaven.” 

Tearing, Jeremy responded differently to God this time.  

“I love her so much and she is so precious to me. I will leave her to You because her salvation is more important than us being together.

“I will take a step back and allow You to work. Even if we need to break up eventually, I would rather see her in Your arms in heaven,” he prayed.  

He told God he would relinquish all control, agreeing to the conditions Parada had laid down in January 2018.

She told him she would attend church and join an Alpha course to learn more about the faith, but she was to go at it alone. He was not allowed to go with her, or speak to her about the faith or pray with her.

She did not want any undue influence or pressure from him, but sought to know this God by herself.

Adjusting to life in Singapore was stressful for Parada. Her tourist visa in Singapore expired after 30 days, so she had to fly in and out twice as she was not yet able to obtain an employment pass (EP) after landing a job.  

It was also the first time Parada was in the same country as Jeremy for an extended period of time, and they had to learn how to communicate in person instead of virtually.

The first Valentine’s Day that the couple celebrated in person in 2016.

By then, Jeremy’s church community knew that his girlfriend was in town. They warmly welcomed her by going up to her to talk to her or praying for her whenever they saw her in church.

“You preach and share about trusting in God, but do you trust Me with her?”

Parada, however, did not understand. “Why do they have to keep coming up to me to ask me how they can pray for me? It’s just songs they are singing during worship, why do people cry while singing?” she muttered under her breath.  

After each Alpha class, she would also tell Jeremy that she could not grasp why Christians make a big deal about concepts such as forgiveness.   

While the ongoing church services and Alpha classes answered some of Parada’s questions and filled her with biblical head knowledge, it was only when she was faced with an urgent situation that she caught a glimpse of God’s hand.  

The first sign 

In April 2018, her visa was due to expire in one week’s time and her previous application for an EP had failed. Her potential employer submitted a second application and it typically takes two weeks for the outcome to be known. By then, she would have to leave the country due to an expired visa and she would not be able to go for the Alpha Weekend Away that was held in Malaysia that coming weekend.     

She confided her troubles to her Alpha group mates and they prayed for her. Three days later, her EP was approved. Shocked, she asked her employer if he did anything differently in the second application. He said he simply submitted the same information as the first time.  

Just as the group was singing “My chains are gone/ I’ve been set free”, Parada felt a warm pressure.  

“It was a miracle and a sign from God but I brushed it away, attributing it to coincidence. But my heart was determined to open up to see who this God is, especially since He made it possible for me to attend the Alpha Weekend Away,” said Parada, now an account manager at a marketing communications agency.  

Jeremy was present at the Alpha Weekend Away in Malaysia, though he agreed to only minister to others.

As the worship segment started, the pastor asked the participants to raise their hand if they wished to encounter the Holy Spirit. Jeremy sneaked a peek at his girlfriend, and his heart sank when he saw that she did not raise her hand.  

Unbeknownst to him, she was talking to God in her heart.  

“God, if You are real, please communicate with me and show me,” she prayed, knowing this could be her last try with the Christian faith.  

A weight lifted off 

The group sang the song “Amazing Grace”, and when they came to the line of “My chains are gone/ I’ve been set free”, Parada felt a warm pressure inside her belly that was pushing up towards her chest and shoulders.  

“I felt an unlocking, a release and a weight being lifted off me from my shoulders.”

“I felt an unlocking, a release and a weight being lifted off me from my shoulders. I fell down to the floor, crying. I couldn’t control or explain it, but I had an out-of-body experience where I was like an external spectator; I could see myself crying but also smiling. It was happy crying,” said Parada.  

Jeremy, who was on the other side of the room, was about to go and pray for another person when he heard Parada crying and saw her fall to the ground.  

He knelt down and wept. He knew God had met with her.  

The next morning when Parada shared her testimony with the group, he knew she was finally convinced that there is a God who loves her. She could not be convinced by human wisdom, but only by a touch from God.  

Parada and Jeremy fellowshipping with church friends at her pastor’s house.

“After that, I just wanted to know more about God,” said Parada, who continued attending church, joined a cell group and took up discipleship classes.

“I realised there is this other side of life that I never knew of and I wanted to see how I could build a relationship with Him on a daily basis.” 

Jeremy proposed to Parada by creating his own fake Netflix film, as they enjoy catching shows together.

“Her faith is genuine; she now prays a lot more than me,” said Jeremy with a laugh. 

In 2019, Parada was baptised in church. The happy couple tied the knot that same year in wedding ceremonies that were held both in Singapore and Thailand.   

Jeremy and Parada with their cell group at their church wedding in Singapore.

It did not matter that some of her distant relatives pointed out that she had better academic qualifications than her husband and was drawing a higher income than he.  

“My dad was a house husband so that my mum could be a diplomat. Such situations are perfectly normal for my family. It did not matter to me,” said Parada, who still hopes to do her PhD in future.  

The couple at their wedding ceremony in Thailand.

Recent data shows that the proportion of non-resident brides, or foreign wives, with university education  marrying Singaporeans is increasing. 

In 2019, almost four in 10 (39%) foreign wives have a university education, up from about one in 10 (11%) in 2000. 

Jeremy was quick to emphasise that his story is an exception, one which displays God’s mercy, forgiveness and faithfulness despite his wrongdoing. 

Parada publicly declaring her faith through baptism in 2019.

“If I were to meet young people in a similar situation, I would discourage them from going into a relationship with a non-believer. I had a certain level of naivete when I went into this and did not think it through properly. There are many ways it could have gone wrong quite badly,” said Jeremy.  

“My walk with God could have been compromised or I could have jeopardised Parada’s chances of coming to Christ. I could have given into temptation and kept this relationship hidden, and leave the faith or just take the easy way out and marry a non-believer,” said Jeremy.  

“Our 10-year relationship is less a testament to our perseverance than to the grace and power of God.”

He urges believers to surrender their relationships to God and be accountable to their church leaders about it. 

“The salvation of your partner is more important than your relationship, and nothing, not even you, should be an obstacle in the path of the person getting to know God,” he said.  

Just as his church community journeyed with him and Parada, the couple now opens up their house to young people who need a place to hang out and talk about anything under the sun.  

“They have many questions when they hear about our story. There was a non-believer who came by because she wanted to hear Parada’s point of view. It is our joy to be able to walk alongside them, so that they won’t make the mistakes we made. But if they still choose to go into a relationship, they will have to entrust the outcome to God and we are prepared to grieve or celebrate with them along the way,” said Jeremy.  

“Whatever it is, they should not compromise their relationship with God. Our 10-year long-distance relationship is less of a testament to our persistence and perseverance than to the grace and power of God.”


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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.