Retired Pastor Alvin Ngo is the very picture of congeniality. For the last 13 years, he has been the sole caregiver to his wife Wai Leng who has early onset dementia and can no longer speak or move on her own.
There is a gentleness in his tone that belies quiet authority. There is kindness in his eyes that must have soothed many under his care. When he shares his story, there is mirth but there is also solemn contemplation.
He is ready to talk about the accident nearly 40 years ago, which he and his team at OM “are famous for.”
“Worldwide,” affirms the 61-year-old. “Around the world, OM was praying for us. We thank God we didn't die.”
Considering the wreckage, the fact that all nine involved in the crash survived remains a miracle.
Alvin remembers that his missionary journey began years back when God spoke to him through Luke 9:62, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (NIV). It was a prompting from God to leave Singapore for missions in South Asia.
The travelling team
Alvin was part of a multinational men's travelling team that consisted of people from Europe and Asia, as well as local interpreters who served as guides. They would travel from village to village to share the Gospel.
With only enough money to move from one place to another, they sold Christian literature in order to buy food and fuel. Most days, they subsisted on a diet of curry, beans and flatbread.
At the marketplace, they were often “stoned, slapped and chased” for their evangelism. On one occasion, they were even brought to the police station, accused of being political insurgents. In some areas, they would not even have time to stop for conversations with the villagers because of safety. Alvin recalls even having to run for their lives. It was their passion for the gospel which sustained them, making them fearless in their endeavours for God.
One fateful day eight months into his journey in South Asia, Alvin and his coworkers were on the way to a local bazaar when their van veered off the road and collided with a tree. The two local pastors sitting in the front broke their legs and hips. The driver, a Singaporean, injured his ankle and spleen. He later developed an infection and was hospitalised.
Another team member was perched on top of their stack of books. He “flew and hit the windscreen”, and suffered a huge cut on his head and needed an operation to remove a blood clot.
Alvin was seated on a generator behind the driver. He sustained compound fractures on both legs and lost two teeth.
“When it hit us, we were all blur. I remember rolling myself into the thorny bushes and having to be rescued. My legs felt like they were on fire because of the compound fractures, and my mouth was bleeding because I had pushed towards the driver from impact, and my mouth hit the headrest and my teeth went in.”
Alvin had to be carried to the dentist on a canvas sheet because he could not walk.
“You have to go by faith that God is taking care of you. And be ready to die to yourself, or you will be frustrated when things don't happen your way.”
He also reflects that “one of the first things you see is that the work of God is so varied, so immense. It makes you realise that what you do back home is just a small part of what God is doing elsewhere. It exemplifies the truth that our God is so big, and we are so happy to be just one part of what He is doing.”
Go talk to God
Relying on God is now a lifestyle.
Despite retiring early to care for Wai Leng full-time, Alvin declares, “I'm still blessed. I will look after her. She's my wife.”
“You must always trust God because God can do more than what you can think and ask. When you have a need, don't tell people. Go talk to God; don't ask man because when He answers, you know it is God, not man.”
This has stood Alvin in good stead. He has a shelf full of journals detailing God's providence, one journal for each year.
“My wife loves durians. But with her condition, I can't go out to buy durians. Some days I do pray, and lo and behold, a church member will call and send durians the next day.” That is just one of many instances, big and small, that God has provided for their needs.
“Everything people do for you is an act of kindness. Everything you get that you don't intend to buy, it is given to you. You are grateful that God has given you these things.”