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He miraculously passed his 'O' Levels, and survived a mid-air parachute collision. But those incidents weren't enough to convince Patrick Bezalel that Someone was looking out for him, until one day, he encountered God irrefutably. Photos courtesy of Patrick Bezalel and from @patrickbezalel Instagram unless otherwise stated.

Growing up, Patrick Lee’s home was often plunged into darkness when his parents could not pay the electricity bills.

At times, they had to resort to borrowing money from loan sharks.

With his parents out working to put food on the table, Patrick and his siblings were largely left on their own.

Patrick Bazalel

“I felt alone and lonely as a child,” recalled Patrick.

From a young age, his siblings joined gangs and sometimes got into trouble.

“I grew up very much on my own, and had to take care of myself,” recalled Patrick, now 51, who now goes by his artist name, Patrick Bezalel.

Patrick Bazalel

Patrick Bezalel now creates inspiring art and also runs workshops for youth-at-risk, like this one in collaboration with REACH Social Services

“I sewed on my own school badges since primary school, and sewed back my shirt buttons when they dropped while I was playing catching with friends.

“I think my parents did their best for the family, but they were hardly around.”

Scraping through PSLE

After scraping through his Primary School Leaving Exams (PSLE), Patrick, then 12, filled up the form for his choice of secondary schools on his own.

“I placed Presbyterian High School as my second choice solely because I thought the word ‘high’ meant that it was a good school.”

“I knew nothing at all about schools,” Patrick said with a laugh and a shake of his head.

“I remembered placing Presbyterian High School as my second choice solely because I thought the word ‘high’ meant that it was a good school.”

He got into the school of his second choice.

There, Patrick heard about God for the first time during Monday school assemblies.

“But the only Christian thing I remembered was this one song I enjoyed singing: Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart.

“I didn’t know what it meant but I liked the rhythm and sang it out loud in the hallways.”

Proficient in Hokkien

Patrick had no desire to join a gang.

But he hung out with people who were part of one, and hardly touched his school books.

He grew proficient in Chinese and Hokkien, but barely spoke a word of English and would score 20/100 for tests in the subject.

His schoolmates tried to introduce him to God. But in their zeal, they came across as haughty and overly self-righteous to Patrick, who felt as though they were out to find fault with him.

Patrick Bazalel

Patrick with his Secondary schoolmates, some of whom tried to introduce him to Jesus.

“When I finally managed to pass an exam, they said that it was God who blessed me. But what about most of the other times when I failed? Was it my fault or the devil’s fault?

“Christianity became very distasteful,” he said.

‘O’ Level miracle

Miraculously, Patrick scored just enough during his ‘O’ Level exams to get into NAFA (Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts).

He only needed to pass three subjects.

“Somehow, I managed to score a C6 in Human and Social Biology,” said Patrick.

He also managed to pass Chinese and Art.

Patrick Bazalel

Patrick didn’t realise it then, but the miracle of the ‘O’ Levels, which allowed him to go to NAFA, would open doors beyond his expectations.

He got an F9 for the other subjects, including English.

However, getting into NAFA created an added financial hurdle for his family, who resorted to borrowing money from Patrick’s grandma and from loan sharks.

“I also worked many part-time jobs while studying to pay for my education,” he recalled.

A brush with death

During National Service, Patrick was posted to the elite Commando unit.

During a late night airborne training session, he and another jumper crashed into each other and Patrick’s parachute malfunctioned in mid-air.

The ground was fast approaching.

“I knew that there was no way I would survive the fall without significant injuries,” he said.

The moment he hit the ground, pain shot through his spine and legs. He was momentarily paralysed.

The doctor told Patrick that he was “one lucky chap” to have survived after his parachute malfunctioned.

“I immediately knew that I had broken more than just my foot. It turns out that my spine was fractured and the ligament in my foot burst upon impact.”

The doctor told him that he was “one lucky chap” to have survived.

Patrick recalled that something had compelled him to change into a soft pair of boots at the last minute.

“Did you know that your boot saved your life?” the doctor told him.

“Your insoles absorbed most of the impact on your ankles. It could have been much worse.”

Patrick recalled that something had compelled him, at the last minute, to change into a soft pair of boots that had two thick insoles within.

“Deep inside, I felt like I had been saved, like Someone had saved my life,” said Patrick.

At the back of his mind, he wondered if there was Someone divine who had been looking out for him.

Sadness amid success

As he recuperated in hospital, Patrick did not wonder further about Who had saved him as he was caught up with his grandfather’s passing.

He thought no more about the matter as he transitioned into working life and marriage.

Two decades ago, Patrick and Lily spent six months in Africa. Photo from @lilychia22 Instagram.

He started a creative and branding agency with his wife Lily Chia in 2000, and their company quickly scored big projects with a new TV station. Along the way, they picked up major clients like Maybank and Hong Leong Bank, and government agencies like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Environment Agency.

In three years, their lean team of three staff members grew tenfold. Lily was lauded as a young entrepreneur, and featured in news publications. She was also appointed as judge of an award that recognises promising local brands.

However, amid all this, Lily and Patrick were working to the point of burn out. Inevitably, it strained their marriage.

Lily buckled under the stress of increased expectations and a lack of rest, experiencing depressive bouts. Thoughts of suicide crossed her mind.

The inner voice

When she was at her lowest, Lily admitted to Patrick that she “couldn’t take it anymore”.

“I then felt an inner voice nudge me, saying, ‘If you want Me to find you, you must be open.’”

“She prayed to whoever was out there, asking if there was a God. She asked Him to reveal Himself to her if He were real,” Patrick said.

Lily said: “I then felt an inner voice nudge me, saying, ‘If you want Me to find you, you must be open’.”

Confused and thinking that they were her own thoughts, she went about her life as usual.

Two days later, Lily found a Christian book on her desk. It was One Word from God will Change your Life by Kenneth Copland. Till today, she doesn’t know who left it there.

“It was a thin book. I took the book to the toilet to read,” said Lily.

Strangely, Lily felt lighter and more at peace after church service each Sunday.

Though she had gone to church when she was 15 and was familiar with some Christian concepts, the contents of the book piqued her interest.

“The book talked about the love and grace of God in a way I had never known before,” said Lily.

In the same week, a colleague invited Lily to church. Her knee-jerk reaction was to say: “No, I’m not free.”

Lily said: “But then the phrase ‘You need to be open if you want to find Me’ came into my mind. So I found myself telling her, ‘Okay, I will go.’”

Initially, Lily was critical about everything she saw in church, including how some people raised their hands during worship.

Wah piang eh, confirm just for show,” she thought.

But strangely, Lily felt lighter and more at peace after service each Sunday.

Tears rolled down her cheeks during worship though she had no understanding of what they were singing.

Lily and Patrick now make it a point to step away from work and enjoy moments of peace with each other. Photo from @lilychia22 Instagram.

“Since I felt better, I thought I should just keep going,” she said.

Comforted by the sermons, she responded to the call to give her life to Jesus a few weeks later.

“By this time, I knew that there is a God Who loves me,” she said.

“Don’t ask me to go church”

“When she became a Christian, I was very upset,” Patrick recalled. “I thought that she and I were supposed to be free people, free thinkers.

“She tried to convince me to go to church.

“I told myself not to get brainwashed by this Christianity thing.”

“I told her that I would send her there, but go off and play golf on my own. I didn’t ever want to step into church.”

A few months after Patrick rejected Lily’s invitation, their creative agency was sought out by a most unconventional client – a church.

“I told myself not to get brainwashed by this Christianity thing,” said Patrick. He eventually started attending church with Lily only in an effort to get to know their client’s business.

The church had been searching for a branding agency for some time. Despite having a long list of potential agencies, they had felt prompted by God to look for one final option.

They had contacted the agency without realising that Lily had started coming to their services.

They believed this was God’s confirmation for them, and felt a peace on meeting Lily and Patrick.

“Why is He after me?”

“The pastor-in-charge told us that the best way to get to know their church was for us to attend their Sunday services and weekly Bible studies,” recalled Patrick.

“I would never step into a church on my own, but for a client, I would do anything.

“Week after week, the church reserved seats for us in service – smack in the centre of the second row.

“On hindsight, God was really chasing me … I couldn’t run away from church anymore.”

“If I even missed a week of service, our client would know.

“On hindsight, God was really chasing me … I couldn’t run away from church anymore.”

Even then, Patrick steeled himself not to believe anything the sermons taught.

“My mind kept telling me not to get brainwashed.”

However, as Patrick continued to attend service, he realised that he felt more and more at ease in church. He even felt like lifting up his hands during worship.

“I told myself, ‘Don’t ever lift up your hands just because you see others doing it.’ This inner struggle went on for about two months.

“I began to wonder, ‘Who is this God? And why does it feel like He’s after me?’”

The Father’s embrace

Then came time for the agency to present their branding proposal to the senior pastors.

“It felt like a father figure was physically hugging me.”

Funnily enough, the pastor-in-charge seemed more interested in finding out about Patrick than the branding proposal.

So their business meeting stretched for three hours, and into a conversation where Patrick ended up saying “yes” to God.

But that did not do much to change his life at that point, Patrick admitted.

“Truthfully, my ‘yes’ to God that day was slightly intertwined with wanting the approval of the people around me.

“My heart was not fully surrendered.”

It was only two months later, on an ordinary Sunday, that Patrick had an encounter that would change his life.

Patrick Bezalel

Patrick’s series of oil or acrylic on resin explores what key biblical occurrences would look like from “from above” or God’s perspective. Patrick’s artworks come with an augmented reality video that shows the process of its creation and the inspiration behind it.

As the worship band played, Patrick suddenly felt overwhelmed by God’s love.

“I turned to my wife and told her, ‘Sorry dear, I feel that God loves me more than you love me.’”

“It felt like a father figure was physically hugging me,” he said.

Growing up without a father’s expressions of affection, this outpouring of love from God took him by surprise.

“I couldn’t stop weeping for 40 minutes. His love felt so unconditional and so lovely,” Patrick recalled.

“Up till that point, I had never expressed my emotions so deeply.

“Feeling alone since I was young, I had been pretty numb to my emotions.

“I even turned to my wife and told her, ‘Sorry dear, I feel that God loves me more than you love me.’”

Art with heart

Looking back, Patrick saw how God had been watching over him since he was a child.

Although the people around him belonged to a gang, Patrick strangely had no desire to join one aside from simply hanging out with them.

Looking at his ‘O’ Levels certificate recently, Patrick read the “F nine” he received for various subjects as “fine”.

“Thankfully, God gave me a more independent personality. I never joined the gangs because I didn’t like the trouble of being involved in fights.

“There were moments when I was instigated to fight, but they just somehow didn’t happen.

“My siblings got into trouble. But God really protected me from all that.”

Even his narrow pass during the ‘O’ Levels was a miracle.

“My ‘O’ Levels cert was like a passport. Without it, I would not have been able to go to NAFA, let alone start my creative agency which led me to step into church.

Patrick Bazalel

Patrick prays that his art brings comfort and joy to each home and office they inhabit. He was heartened to learn that one man bought Ark, inspired by Psalm 91 on how safe we are in the Lord’s protection, because it was the Psalm the client had meditated on every night to help manage sleep anxiety.

“With each door that God opened for me, He led me closer to Him.”

Looking at his ‘O’ Levels certificate recently, Patrick read the “F nine” he received for various subjects as “fine”.

He saw it as God taking him through his failed past to see His protection and His redemption instead.

Turning his weakness into strength

When Patrick tried reading the Bible, he found that God used his weakness in English and reading to his advantage.

Patrick Bezalel

Patrick and Lily reading God’s Word during a Bible study trip with their church many years later.

“Because I couldn’t read easily, I had to go slowly and painfully – word by word.

“The more I read the Bible, the more addicted I was. I couldn’t stop.”

“I found that I was able to understand God’s Word better, versus listening to sermons or an audio Bible.”

Patrick started reading the Bible during a time of frequent travel to Indonesia for business.

With no phones or entertainment to distract him during the flights, he spent his time reading the Bible.

“The more I read, the more addicted I was. I couldn’t stop.

“I relished my time with God, just reading word by word.”

Art with heart

In 2017, Patrick heard God tell him: “Son, I want you to train your patience.”

“God told me, ‘Why don’t you start drawing?’ As I was still a bit rebellious, I picked up my iPad and drew a skull.”

Patrick was confused by this message. Wasn’t God already training his patience via his slow reading and understanding of His Word?

“God told me, ‘Why don’t you start drawing?’” recalled Patrick.

“As I was still a bit rebellious, I picked up my iPad and drew a skull.”

“As I stared as it, the Bible verse ‘O death, where is your sting?’ (1 Corinthians 15:55-58) came to my mind.”

Patrick then understood that God was calling him to exercise patience by delving into Christian art.

He started drawing and drawing and has not stopped since.

Patrick Bezalel

Patrick sharing how he sketched a skull after hearing God tell him to start drawing. He gets inspiration for his art from praying, asking the Lord, “What next?”

Patrick took on the name Bezalel, after a master craftsman in the Bible. (Exodus 31:1-11)

Instead of working with mainstream symbols associated with Christian art, his first series of paintings included hyper-realistic drawings of animals such as lions, rams or horses.

Patrick prays that his art, based on biblical images and analogies, will bring hope, joy, peace and comfort to the homes that they find themselves in.

Patrick Bezalel

Patrick painting a golden crown of thorns on a lion. His hyper-realistic pieces comprise some 350,000 strokes drawn by hand. Patrick hopes his art will remind people of how God loves us so intimately that He is into every detail of our lives and numbers the hairs on our head. (Matthew 10:29-31)

Patrick is also on a mission to inspire the young to pursue their giftings.

He often speaks to youths at church and at secondary schools and Institutes of Technical Education, and holds workshops for youth-at-risk.

Patrick Bezalel

Patrick brought to life the story of David and Goliath through VR (virtual reality) during the BRAVE Kids’ Conference in December 2023. It was attended by some 400 children.

Patrick Bezalel

“Jesus King of Kings” was drawn by this student at a faith-based art class Patrick runs. She uses VR to see her artwork come to life. “It gives them new perspectives that they would never have imagined,” Patrick said.

“Now, my life is for Christ and I obediently follow what He tells me to do.

“I know that what He has for me is best,” said Patrick.

This story first appeared in Stories of Hope, and has been adapted for Salt&Light with permission.


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About the author

Gabrielle Chin

Gabrielle is Salt&Light’s intern and loves to write and talk about anything Jesus related. If you catch her talking to the air, it’s likely that she’s talking to Jesus. In her free time, she enjoys a good nap and watching movies with her family.