Ling’s* father abandoned her in a graveyard when she was nine after her mother had left the house. She would eventually reconcile with her mum and grow a heart for single mothers like hers. Raised by her grandmother, life at home was turbulent.
At 14, after a fight with her grandma, Ling told a friend in the neighbourhood garden, “I wish I could be changed.” Suddenly, two men and a woman came up to them to share about Jesus, and one shared his testimony. “He said, ‘God changed my life. So He can change your life too,’” remembered Ling.
“I was so surprised because how would he know I was looking for something or someone to change my life?” Ling accepted the Lord in that garden. Staunch believers of another faith, her family had objections.
“All the more, I felt that the faith I found had given me much peace and joy. It transformed me from a joyless person to a joyful person. I felt that God is real,” Ling said.
Thrown out of the house at 17, Ling had the freedom to attend church more regularly. A year later, at a mission conference where she felt “the prompting of the Holy Spirit”, she found herself resonating with the message.
“Lord, if you call me, I will go,” she declared.
A prayer before landing
Ten years later, Ling decided it was time to see “if it is really God’s calling.” Attending an OM camp showcasing different mission needs globally, she prayed for direction and received a dream of women in a South Asian country’s traditional dress.
Despite having preconceived notions about the South Asian country, Ling obeyed. She boarded the plane in 1996, praying “God, give me a compassionate heart… please help me to love the people so that I can serve them.”
God also led her to ponder over James 2:16, “If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed’, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (NIV)
Ling started learning the language and quickly befriended locals, including Dani*, a woman desperately seeking a job to feed her son after running away from her husband, who had tried to burn their son. She had some sewing skills.
With the $50 SGD (about $37 USD) in her own pocket, Ling sent Dani to sewing school. She bought materials and gave Dani a prototype of coin pouches to sew, which she sold in Singapore as souvenirs.
God multiplied Ling’s efforts. In 1997, this grew into a business providing sewing jobs for single mothers and bringing healing to women trafficked into prostitution. Ling’s natural gift for business from God was used to provide a livelihood, emotional support and restoration of the women’s dignity. Devotions and prayers were part of the ladies’ daily routine. An onsite creche provided care for their children while they worked. Over 15 years in that country, Ling employed 80 women.
As a one-woman show, she soon started feeling very stretched. But there was more stretching in the offing. A visiting American OM worker proposed diversifying her business to sell herbal aromatherapeutic products. After much prayer, Ling started the business in 2001. To her surprise, the sale of these natural beauty products became more successful than the handicrafts.
“God blinded their eyes”
In 2008, Ling had to return to Singapore after letting go of a staff member who had been stealing from her. Explained Ling, “She told the police that I was a missionary and I was not there to do business. I was blacklisted.”
When the time was right, she found two male travellers to accompany her back to South Asia.
“I usually like to tumpang (meaning to entrust in Malay) other people some of the used clothes that I bring back to distribute.”
The two men purchased economy class tickets, but Ling could not get any, so she travelled in business class. Disembarking first, Ling encountered a sleepy immigration officer who did not bother to look at her and merely proceeded to stamp her passport. She went on ahead to collect all the luggage.
Her two companions, who disembarked later, found the immigration officers interrogating them, “Where is this lady, Ling? She is not supposed to go through.”
“God blinded their eyes,” she said of the officers.
Fleeing to another part of South Asia, she found many of the people with whom she had served. Among them was a pastor whom she helped become self-sufficient by imparting business skills to him.
Like most from his culture, he was blunt in his curiosity. He wanted to know why Ling was not married. She told him, “I would like to, but there’s no one on the horizon. Maybe you can pray for me?”
The pastor took her request very seriously. He prayed. After six months, he found a man to introduce to her. But she was not interested. Months later, on the pretext of learning business, the pastor asked to meet her in his city. He later admitted, “Sister, my real intention is for you to meet this brother.”
Thomas*, the man the pastor wanted to introduce previously, had just moved to his city. After Ling and Thomas met, while he was “100 per cent sure”, she merely said, “Let me pray about it.”
When she did pray, she heard God say, “Nothing is impossible.”
Since Thomas met nine out of her 10 criteria for a potential husband, including an ability to preach and seeing “that helping the poor is a form of ministry, ” she finally accepted his proposal.
In 2011, four months after they first met, they tied the knot.
God provided the independent woman with a life partner in more ways than one. Thomas would also be her protector and front the business in a culture where women were often considered invisible.
Relocating the business
After relocating to another part of South Asia, Ling met a pastor who had 30 women in his flock who struggled to leave the sex trade without an alternative form of livelihood. Among them was Shanti*, who had been praying for a job for three years.
There are 200,000 women involved in the sex trade in this city. Every year, about 10,000 girls, mostly aged nine to 16, are sold from another part of South Asia to brothels in this country.
Like so many women looking for a way out of extreme poverty, Shanti had come willingly. Her supervisor promised her a better-paying job. Instead, she was sold into prostitution.
Having only worked with single mothers, Ling felt ill-equipped to help women from red-light areas. Yet God gave her a series of dreams, reassuring her of His covering over the ministry and promising fruitfulness. Shanti became Ling’s first woman employee.
“… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” — Matthew 5:16 (NIV)
Shanti would help bring sex workers into Ling’s fold. Or they would be brought in by NGOs who plucked trafficked girls out of the brothels.
Ling and Thomas continue to share God’s love with these women, exploring the Bible together and praying to support them. They would provide counselling support to help them cope with their challenges. Ling and Thomas also walk with their families, such as Shanti’s husband, a former customer she had met in the trade.
“He didn’t want God and did not like Christians,” said Ling.
Diagnosed with HIV, Shanti’s husband was also suffering from tuberculosis and jaundice. “We were going on a retreat and told Shanti, ‘If you bring your husband, we will pay for the trip.’ The trip was very refreshing for him. He accepted the Lord during that retreat.”
Since then, he’s been “growing upwards”. And now, he is doing God’s work. He helps Ling and Thomas as a social worker reaching out to medically needy people.
Proven time and again, nothing is impossible with God.