Hannah Yeoh was 29 years old when she felt called to step into politics.
That year – 2008 – the former lawyer was elected to the Subang Jaya seat in the Selangor State Legislative Assembly, where she would serve for the next decade.
In 2013, she made headlines for becoming the first female speaker of the assembly, making her the youngest speaker of any legislative body in Malaysia.
And after the 2018 General Elections, she was sworn in as Deputy Minister of Women, Family & Community Development.
“I entered politics during a time when the opposition had not won any big elections in Malaysia,” she said at the recent Eagles Leadership Conference in a Q&A session and during an interview.
“For somebody like me, this position would traditionally not be reserved for me. And if not for the hand of God over my life, I don’t think I could have come this far.”
Ever since she became a Christian at 18 years old, God had already placed a sense of purpose in her.
“I told God: ‘I want to serve You and I want to be a preacher for You.’
“My passion is still preaching. (But I realised) I can achieve my purpose to preach in different settings because preaching ultimately is telling people about the truth, or telling people about something that you believe in.”
She firmly believes that the Bible has solutions to many of the problems faced by society today.
KNOW YOUR PURPOSE
When she speaks, Yeoh displays such clear-headedness about her purpose that one cannot help but wonder how this conviction was birthed.
“I always believe that your calling has everything to do with your passion. And when I talk about your passion or gift, it’s something that comes effortlessly for you,” she said.
“I always knew at a young age. When I was reading the Bible, when I heard people testifying in church, I always told myself that I wanted to be a preacher. There’s nothing else that gives me as much joy as preaching. I feel alive when I’m doing it.”
Now married and a mother of two, Yeoh encourages people to be open to explore different experiences to discover your passion.
She said: “I don’t believe that people are passionless about everything. I believe that there is a passion in there.
“And I also definitely believe that God doesn’t leave us to sort things out ourselves. The Holy Spirit is our guide. If you ask, He will answer. He will tell you what your purpose is.”
However, Yeoh points out that if God has spoken to you about a purpose, it may not be for this season.
“Sometimes when God tells you certain things, it may not be fulfilled now; it may be fulfilled when you’re 50 years old,” she said.
“So understanding your purpose is one thing – understanding the season for it is another. And we need the Holy Spirit at all times to lead us and to tell us that this is the season.”
Reflecting on her own calling as a preacher, Yeoh shared that she had worked as a lawyer for three years and forayed into events management for two years before God opened a door for her to enter politics.
Addressing the youth in particular, she wisely cautions that it’s important to enjoy the milestones in your journey.
“I see a lot of young people who are very driven. They want to get to their destinations on the fastest route…(but) if you’re only concerned about the destination, and don’t pay attention to the journey and the people you can influence along the way, you miss the entire purpose of that destination.”
STAY ON PURPOSE
Once you know your purpose, the challenge then is to relentlessly pursue it. Yeoh offers two practical tips to do just that.
1. Don’t attach your purpose to your position
This can result in you being headless and disillusioned. Once your position is lost, you lose your sense of purpose too.
2. Don’t attach your purpose to your competitor
When your purpose is not to win someone else, you can see greater battles to fight. In Yeoh’s own life, these bigger battles include corruption, child marriages and teenage pregnancy.
She shares about an experience that occurred in the first week of her job that helped her to stay true to her purpose.
There are no areas too dark for our light to work.
“I had to attend to this case, where the mother was a nurse and her baby had died in the hand of the nanny. The baby’s body was found in the fridge of the nanny.
“The doctor asked me: ‘Do you want to see the baby?’”
Yeoh said “yes”.
“I needed that visit to the mortuary because I needed to capture that (image) to hold me and keep me going in a difficult time,” she explained.
“I needed to know that there are actually people who are affected by my policies, who may not be able to even go online and criticise me. And these are the children and toddlers that cannot speak.”
The journey does get tough. Yeoh revealed that she, too, gets tired.
“There were many times I wanted to resign… When handling tough issues, many times you’re misunderstood and criticised, especially if you’re a public figure,” she said.
But the first battle that has to be won is found within yourself.
She said: “With every difficult time, I knew that if I handled it well and did it correctly, it would potentially be a testimony.
“So when I see a challenge, I make sure that it doesn’t stop at just being a challenge. That this is a potential opportunity for me to testify and preach about it in some way.”
Ultimately, Yeoh takes comfort in the fact that the battle belongs to God.
While many might perceive politics as a place of darkness or associate it with corruption, she said: “I really wanted to prove everybody wrong – that there are no areas too dark for our light to work.”
- What do you think is your purpose in life?
- What are some opportunities you can explore to help you discover God’s purpose?
- Are you finding it difficult to stay on purpose? What are some reminders that can help?