As a young man, Edward* used to hide his right hand whenever he could. The very act of shaking hands with others — which comes naturally to most — used to be a source of anxiety.
Born with a thumb and no fingers on his right hand, growing up, Edward’s family was highly protective of him. Even though he did not have any trouble doing most things, the appearance of his hands caused him to be self-conscious and develop a poor self-image.
“When I extended my right hand for a handshake, people didn’t know what to do. I would also then not know what to do. It became a very awkward situation,” recalled Edward.
Uniquely created by God
Everything changed when he came to know of Jesus in his teens. Realising that he was uniquely created by God and that he wasn’t a mistake, Edward no longer struggled with inferiority.
“Understanding God as a Creator helped me develop a healthy self-esteem in an intentional way,” he said.
The spike in Edward’s confidence after coming to believe in Jesus was so evident that even his father, who wasn’t a Christian, did not object to Edward’s newfound faith. Edward would learn that a willing heart was all he needed for God to use him as he was. It is this simple trust in God that has fuelled Edward’s life, even as he faced challenges while serving abroad for almost 20 years.
A new journey
In his 20s, Edward met his wife-to-be, May*, who started him on a journey to seek God’s will in overseas work. A year later, at a conference in Taiwan, God opened his eyes to a new appreciation of His work overseas.
It took another decade before the couple flew to West Asia with their young children to begin their ministry full-time.
The early years were tough as they had to spend much time learning the local language. Edward remembers wanting to take to the streets right away to talk to the locals about Jesus.
After his language studies were completed, Edward needed a viable means of livelihood to stay in the country. This was when he and his family saw how, time and again, God would provide beyond their expectations.
Though trained in finance, Edward would be involved in industries far removed from his expertise for the next 16 years. This included running a computer business and working as a representative for a skincare company and a tourism company. Each opportunity came along unsolicited and at the right time.
Unexpectedly, these also became platforms for ministry. “As we assembled the computers for them, we were able to share our faith and even give them a compact disc (CD) with Bible software,” he shared.
Refreshed in seasons of despair
Amid these miracles were moments of despair, too.
“May and I were not sent by any particular group, so we felt very much on our own with little moral and financial support,” Edward explained. “We did not have many people… call us, write to us, encourage us or journey with us.”
Edward and May endured a sustained season of burnout and wanted to leave West Asia permanently. However, it was during a short trip home to Singapore that Edward would receive his most challenging assignment yet.
Attending a Christian event, the preacher singled the couple out to give them a word from God. He told them, “You will go to this city in West Asia for five years. A church will confirm and support your ministry there.”
When they returned to West Asia to hand over the ministry work to an incoming team, Edward met an American Chinese pastor who exhorted the family with these words: “I believe God has called you to this city to minister to the Chinese.”
At that instant, Edward recalled the words of the preacher in Singapore and wondered if this could be it. However, he had reservations.
“I did not want to do it. It did not align with my plan,” Edward shared candidly.
Against all odds
The odds were stacked against Edward and May reaching the Chinese diaspora in West Asia. Not only was Edward reluctant, but this unexpected ministry opportunity also appeared impractical – though a little conversant in spoken Mandarin, he was illiterate in its written form because his second language in school was Malay.
They also had to re-think the education pathway for their three children and embrace a new city, a new school and a new team. “Could God be trusted with His invitation to this grand plan as they chose to abandon their own?” Edward and May asked themselves.
Nevertheless, the couple prayed and fasted. Soon after, God gave a clear, resounding “yes” through a number of ways. Firstly, Edward and May individually experienced miraculous healing from their burnout and a fresh call for a new frontier during a time of rest.
Secondly, as the couple availed themselves to serve, they were given the permit to extend their length of stay in West Asia for five years, which had not happened before. It was undeniable that God had called them to this place.
Thirdly, language did not pose any challenges. Edward testified, “Somehow, the Lord gave me the courage to say, ‘Let’s do it!’ Sometimes, at the appointed time I needed to speak, my Mandarin just flowed. After I spoke, people asked me how I did it. I would say I don’t know.”
As Edward began his ministry anew in West Asia, he had no lack of divine encounters. He met Wen*, a businessman who had moved to West Asia from the East. Beset with business failures, Wen came to know Jesus through the invitation of a friend.
“Wen and his wife were the first two people we baptised,” Edward shared with a smile.
“Hungry for God’s truths, they abandoned their former beliefs and allowed me and May to disciple them. Over time, they moved back to their home country and have become leaders in their church community.”
That was the beginning of Edward and May’s ministry with Wen’s diaspora community. With enduring love and faith in God, Edward and May’s stay in West Asia eventually lasted for 18 years. Till today, six years after they had relocated to Singapore, the diaspora church community they discipled continues to flourish.
Tireless and passionate, 62-year-old Edward looks forward to returning to West Asia to embark on new projects someday.
For now, he lives in Singapore, where he helms OM’s local ministry, befriending those from least-reached diaspora groups who work in the red-light district in Singapore.
Reflecting on his journey, Edward has this advice to share, especially to those who feel inadequate or incapable: “God can use you even though you’re disabled… As long as you’re willing and as long as this is God’s will, He will use you.
“God does not need your ability, only your availability, and God will do the rest.”