He was a man scarred for life. Born to a police-officer-turned-gang-member and gambler, Kenny Gan was left to his own devices growing up.
He became acquainted with his drug-riddled neighbourhood and eventually joined his father’s rival gang. For most of his youth, Kenny had a tumultuous relationship with his father, often whipped and lashed by the older man. He hated him.
Eventually, Kenny ran away from home to explore life at sea. He was expelled from sea service after starting a mutiny, and life then revolved around drugs, prisons and hospitals. At 23, he found himself in the hospital after another overdose and was desperate enough to try something new. That was when he met Jesus.
Referred to a halfway house in 1977 — House of Grace (renamed The Hiding Place in 1978) — Kenny met founder, Christina Chan, married to former heroin addict Pastor Philip Chan, who told him that there was Someone who loved him enough to die for him.
He was told how God had created, known and loved him simply because that was who God is. He could do nothing to make God love him — he was already loved. This was revolutionary. Kenny realised that God had already given him everything in Jesus and he wanted to do something for God. The person whom he most hated came to mind — his father. There was no hatred or fear for the first time in his life, only empathy.
“My father became the first person I prayed for, and I was the first person in our family to celebrate his birthday. It took some years, but my father would now tell you that I’m his best friend,” Kenny had said.
If God could love and change him, Kenny felt he could love anyone.
As Kenny helped others like himself in House of Grace, he found himself missing the life he had at sea. His dream of visiting 10 countries remained unfulfilled. Didn’t he have a new dream now? Kenny and his colleagues were invited to attend a special programme and, to his surprise, it was on board a ship!
OM's ship, Logos, had come to Singapore and Kenny knew that God had given him the desire to both serve Him and be on the waves. It was God’s abundant love for him that brought him there.
After seeing God provide a church to support him, receiving approval from his probation officer for a passport and approval from his parents to go, Kenny joined Doulos in 1979, the sister ship of Logos.
Two years after turning his life around, Kenny started as a deckhand on a floating book fair. There was no doubt by now that it was all God’s handiwork, and Kenny would continue to trust and see God lead him through many more adventures.
Spending a total of 17 years on board, Kenny moved around different departments, contributing however he could. He married Bee Lee, whom he met on Doulos, and they had a daughter, Debbie, in 1987 back in Singapore while preparing for the ship’s visit.
In 2009, Kenny and his family moved to London, England, working alongside OM Co-Founder, George Verwer, preaching at churches and engaging in special OM projects. He also conducted training for several OM fields globally, including Logos Hope.
Greenland was also close to Kenny’s heart. There had been little spiritual breakthrough among the locals in Nuuk for decades. Many listened to Kenny preach the Word of God and his personal testimony, and amidst tears of joy and relief, they realised they needed God.
A local man said, “I believe in God, but it’s not like what I heard today. I want to learn more and follow.”
Of his Faroese wife, he said, “She never wanted to talk about God before. It’s the first time she started discussing about God and wants to follow Him.”
Battling with cancer
A cold that would not go away for weeks was eventually diagnosed as Stage 4 nose cancer.
On the contrary, Kenny had met with Jesus daily and was confident that this was like every other obstacle they had faced together. He made sure that everyone knew his decision to follow Christ was not a mistake but a journey of faith.
Doctor visits became opportunities for Kenny to share his joy and faith. It was a difficult time, but it was apparent that whatever Kenny had in Jesus was more powerful. A blessed assurance.
After over 30 years, Kenny’s love for his Saviour only grew. Every morning one would find him with his Bible, frequently on his knees, meeting with his Saviour. He knew that God loved him, and it was only with God’s help that he could do anything.
A month before Kenny’s passing, he sat on the platform in a church in Melbourne, Australia. Physically weak and his voice faltering, he spoke of the God who had transformed his life and filled it with things too wonderful to imagine. He was a man who knew joy, peace and love, and wanted everyone to know it too.
After sharing his story in the Philippines, Kenny returned home to Singapore with his family and passed away on 17 November 2012.
In his service to God, Kenny travelled to over 50 countries (on a ship!), seeing God fulfil his dreams.
“People think that I’ve sacrificed a lot to be here. My mum didn’t think that anyone would marry me. My friends wondered if this was just a phase and that I would return to the old Kenny. Other friends wondered how I could support my family, even putting my daughter through university in London without an income.
“'Sacrifice’ is not really a word in my dictionary because everything I have comes from Jesus’ sacrifice and what I’ve been given in exchange is so much more.”
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” — 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)