From A-Levels to Africa: How a daughter followed in her father’s footsteps
This story is part of a special series produced in collaboration with OM Singapore, which is celebrating 40 years of God’s faithfulness in missions this year.
OM Singapore's first National Director, Rodney Hui, and his daughter. A nurse by training, Marianne is also preparing to go into the mission field.
The year is 1975. Rodney Hui, or affectionately known as Uncle Rodney to many young friends, is only 20 years old.
Rodney had a long break before starting his university education, so he decided to use the time to join the Operation Mobilisation (OM) ship Logos, which brought God’s love and hope to the nations.
“I wanted to serve the Lord. Seeing the world was a bonus,” Rodney smiled. “So at the age of 20, I sailed all over the world in South Asia, the Mediterranean and Europe.”
Little did he expect that the five months became a 50-year-long commitment that would eventually see him becoming the first national director of OM Singapore and serving with OM in six countries and on board three ships – Logos, Doulos and Logos Hope.
In one of the countries he went to, Rodney discovered that there were only two Christians in the entire population of 13 million. His heart was so moved that he made the decision to dedicate his life to missions.
“At that time, I was preparing to go for my studies in Canada. But I gave that up and signed on full time with OM,” Rodney recalled.
“My elder sister got so upset with me,” he said.
“My mother and my father passed away when I was younger, so my sister was like my guardian. She cared and looked after me, and she really hoped that I’d go further my studies and be successful in my career.”
True enough, Rodney had to live from hand to mouth when he made the decision to become a missionary.
“I didn’t even have a POSB bankbook!” he joked.
In fact, he was unable to afford a car for his wedding day and had to rent a trishaw instead to ferry his wife, Irene, whom he had met in OM.
But God has never shortchanged the couple despite their simple lifestyle.
In the following years, Rodney and Irene would be blessed with two children, Justin and Marianne, who are now raising their own kids to follow God’s path for their lives.
GOD OF THE GENERATIONS
The year is 2010. Marianne, aged 18, has been inspired by stories that her Dad would tell her while growing up.
“One of the things I particularly enjoyed from his travels besides all the gifts he brought back was that we got to hear lots of stories about missions,” she recounted.
For example, the story of Gladys whose husband and two sons were burnt alive in the country they were serving in. Despite the tragedy, Gladys decided to stay and forgive the people who killed her family.
“Through her life and commitment to the people there, many came to know Jesus,” Marianne related. “She was even given many awards by the government for being a lady of peace.”
Hearing Gladys’ response to the people who hurt her really challenged Marianne’s faith. Placed side by side with her parents’ example, she realised that the gospel is something that is worth living and dying for.
During her second year of junior college, a missions conference Marianne attended also left a really deep impact.
“I remember just feeling this burden of wanting to be part of what God is doing in missions and not just going on a short-term one-week trip at the end of it,” she said.
When Marianne talked to her parents about it, they encouraged her to do it after her A-Levels as there would be a long break before university started.
As it turned out, Marianne would still need to take a gap year to go for OM’s Missions Discipleship Training (MDT) programme in Africa.
“I expected them to be more apprehensive, but they were quite okay,” Marianne admitted.
“Dad and Mum were like, ‘Oh it’s fine. You just have to come back to study.’ When they said that I was like, ‘Of course I will come back right?”
“But actually, at the end of one year, I realised why they made me promise because I didn’t want to come back anymore,” she said, laughing.
“They knew from experience that they had to make me promise to come back.”
Describing how they discovered Marianne’s many achievements during the school’s College Day, Rodney quipped: “We thought that since she was already in Africa, there was no point for us to go, but the teacher called us and said that we had to because Marianne was the Student of the Year.
“So we went, and my wife went onstage to collect the trophy. But she didn’t have enough hands because we found out that there were other trophies Marianne had won!”
He continued: “Marianne was not there physically, so the school projected on the screen a picture of her in Zambia with African children by her side.
“And I had people coming up to me and saying, ‘Wow, your daughter had the world in front of her and yet you let her go to Africa’.
“I was very proud at that time and very happy that she was there.”
In fact, supporting Marianne’s decision to head to Africa was really a leap of faith for Rodney and Irene because she had actually been planning to go to medical school at the National University of Singapore.
During the interview, Marianne raised the concern that she might need to take a gap year and asked if the school would be able to reserve a place for her the following year.
The panel’s answer was “no”.
“We thought so be it. School will always be there, but this opportunity of a gap year cannot be repeated. When she comes back, she can always re-apply and see what happens,” Rodney explained.
That step, however, would change the course of Marianne’s life forever.
FINDING HER OWN PATH
“Africa was a turning point for me,” Marianne expressed. “I spent my whole life until that point trying to be the best student, the top student, chasing all the grades and all the awards.
“But when I was in Africa, nobody ever asked me about my awards or my grades. When poverty was right in front of you, nobody cared how many As you had.”
Slowly, these accolades faded in importance to Marianne. And as she spent more time ministering to the people, she realised what she wanted to be was a nurse, not a doctor.
“The interactions with people were what I enjoyed. But as a doctor, you don’t have that opportunity. It’s very touch-and-go,” Marianne elaborated.
“If I was honest with myself, I was only applying to medicine for the prestige,” she confessed. “I felt like I was done with that life. I didn’t really want that anymore.”
Naturally, her parents were surprised by her career choice.
“As a father and mother, we thought, ‘Would that be a mistake? Would it be a waste to not study medicine?’” Rodney questioned.
“But Marianne told us that during her time in Africa, she had learnt to serve people and she wants to serve people. Being a nurse puts her in a better position to serve people directly.”
Besides, Marianne gave them an ultimatum, he recalled with a laugh. “She told us that she would want to stay in Africa forever, or come back and do nursing.
“My wife and I discussed it, and between staying in Africa forever at the age of 19 and coming back to study, we said, ‘Well, come back to study first!’”
PURSUING GOD’S PLAN
The year is 2021. It has been 11 years since Marianne returned to Singapore to pursue an education in nursing.
She also spent three years working in a local hospital learning all that she could before going back to the mission field as a nurse.
Now married to Ian, a former auditor, Marianne and her husband have decided to leave their jobs to become full-time missionaries after years of praying. They are preparing to head to Japan with their baby.
Rodney told us how he rejoiced over their decision: “I think normal Singaporean parents with such bright young children would say, ‘Why waste that? Why waste your life in missions? But I don’t see it that way.
“When they came to me, I was delighted. I thanked God that He would choose them to be His servants.”
“You can plan a good life for yourself, but God’s plan is the best.”
Recounting the first time when he and Irene decided to “release” 19-year-old Marianne to Africa, Rodney said with a smile: “My wife told her, ‘You have followed us everywhere we went. Now you have to follow Jesus’.
“So Marianne followed Jesus to Zambia, and Jesus met her in Zambia. And now, it’s time for her to follow Jesus with her husband and her child in tow.”
Marianne agreed: “When I first left for Africa, many people told me that I was missing out on my education in Singapore.
“But when I was there, I realised that I could have planned a good life for myself, gone to medical school and done whatever I wanted, but it was God’s plan for me that was the best.”
Now 29, Marianne spurs others to do the same: “If you feel that God is impressing missions on your heart, I just encourage you to follow the Lord.
“You can plan a good life for yourself, but God’s plan is the best.”
Rodney passed on a legacy of faith to Marianne, and she in turn, pursued her Heavenly Father’s plan for her life. What legacy will you build so that someone else can flourish as a follower of Christ?
THINK + TALK
- What passions and burdens has God put in your heart?
- Do you believe that God’s plan for you is the best? Can you trust in His provision?
- Are you following where God is leading? How can you respond in obedience?