Lessons from a wheelchair deliveryman

Dr Tan Lai Yong // April 8, 2020, 1:53 pm


Photo by Igor Rodrigues on Unsplash.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27, ESV)

I take long walks.

I am delighted when I can walk for 10 to 15 km in the early mornings to explore different corners of Singapore. 

I take pride in my fast pace and secretly chide when people tell me it is too far to walk from the MRT station to their home. Though I do not say it, I often think they are lazy or just giving excuses.

Man on a mission

That morning, I was on my last 2km of a 10km walk by the Singapore River and was heading back to Clementi.  

Passing through an older built up area, I saw a man in a wheelchair. He turned a corner then stopped, obstructed by a 15cm kerb. We were in an area where construction and road repairs were going on.

I asked if I could be of assistance and he asked me to help him up the kerb and thus onto the pathway. We did that and he was about to push off.  

He was perspiring as his arms propelled the wheels. His palms and fingers were blackened and gritty with dirt. He was working hard.

He was heading to the MRT station but I noted that there were a few more kerbs and slopes ahead. I asked if I could push him across the obstacles and he agreed.

He told me that he was a deliveryman and with the COVID crisis, he had many jobs to complete. I was curious and asked what he was delivering. He was rushing to bring WIFI routers and related equipment to homes and offices as many were upgrading their internet capacity since people are working from homes.

He was perspiring as his arms propelled the wheels, adding speed to my pushing. His palms and fingers were blackened and gritty with dirt. His T-shirt was drenched with sweat. He spoke in-between deep breaths of air. He was working hard to get people connected.

God’s Inbox

As a Christian, I pray.

Since becoming a Christian as a teenager, I thought I could pray well. Surely I can do: “… in the name of Jesus, Amen.”   

I say my prayers as often as I take walks. I never quite understood the how and why of needing to have the Spirit interceding for us with groanings too deep for words. 

I think I am quite OK with my prayers and my words.

He was helping me to birth a picture of the tremendous obstacles the Holy Spirit overcomes to get me connected with God.

One more steep incline, a couple of rough cement bumps and we got to the MRT station. He was really perspiring. He was in the business of getting people connected.

I always had this mental picture of the Holy Spirit in some lofty powerful sanctuary directing angels to handle the prayers of the saints.

That morning, by the construction site next to the MRT station, I saw before me a face with beads of sweat – a man with a purpose. A man confined to a wheelchair, his hands dirtied from the dust of the road, yet a man who overcomes obstacles so that people are connected. 

I thought I was helping him. But he was helping me to birth a picture of the tremendous obstacles the Holy Spirit overcomes to get me connected with God – with groanings too deep for my words and utterances too gritty for my heart.

He thanked me and pushed off on his way.

I thought my prayers helped people. I thought I could pray just as I could walk. I did not have the idea that the Holy Spirit labours and groans, overcomes steep slopes and my frequent detours to get me truly connected with God. 

I imagined it to be mere formality of passing our prayers into the “Inbox” of the Heavenly Father.

Groanings too deep for words

That evening, dark clouds loomed over Singapore. In the comfort of my home, I sent him a phone message, asking if he was already at home.  A huge thunderstorm was about to envelop Singapore. He replied: “Not yet. One more delivery to do.”

Groanings too deep for words.  

In the COVID induced quietness of my room, with my mind wandering to the peril that the thousands of migrant workers in crowded dormitories are facing and the reality that we can do so little, my helplessness evoked an acid burn in my stomach.  

Then I see the grubby, dirtied hands pushing the wheelchair forward.

I recall and, catching a wisp of the perspiration up in my nostrils, I learn afresh that the Holy Spirit is my intercessor.

He labours for us. In times of my helplessness, the Spirit connects me with God. 

God remembers His people

A prayer for healing in the nations: Day Two


About the author

Dr Tan Lai Yong

Upon graduation from NUS in 1985, Dr Tan Lai Yong worked as a doctor in Singapore. In 1996, he and his wife and one year-old-daughter moved to Yunnan, China, to work with the poverty affected in remote villages, caring for orphans, disabled children and the leprosy affected. A director of Outreach and Community Engagement at the College of Alice & Peter Tan, NUS, Lai Yong has written several books including “Biting the Bamboo – Experiences of Work and Life in Yunnan". He is married to Lay Chin, with whom he has 2 teenaged children.