On 15 November 2023, Joseph Chean lost his life in a road accident in Istanbul. He was on his way back to Singapore from a teaching trip for the Egypt-Mediterranean Discipleship Training School.
Joe left his accommodation near Sultanahmet in Istanbul for his flight back to Singapore at 1.25pm. He got into a taxi at about 9.30am. When he was about five minutes away from the airport, he got into an accident on the expressway.
The Turkish National Police’s investigation showed that Joe’s taxi had hit a stationary car on the road shoulder and had spun due to the impact. Joe passed away due to injuries en route to the hospital. His taxi driver and the driver who was in the stationary car were taken to the hospital where both were discharged on the same day.
A video taken by Kim at the accident site showed that vehicles were moving at high speed on the expressway. The notes in the slideshow observed that it is not uncommon for vehicles to stop along the road shoulder so as to avoid parking fees at the airport.
The driver of the stationary car was found to have committed a traffic offence for stopping on the road shoulder without a valid reason.
The taxi driver has been preliminarily charged for driving into the road shoulder and undertaking (overtaking on the wrong side). He claims that he had crashed into the stationary car due to a burst tyre which caused his vehicle to spin out of control.
The local police are currently trying to retrieve the dashboard camera data of the taxi to verify the driver’s claim, and will take at least six months to conclude the investigations. However, there is a possibility that the data was not captured because it is not stored in SD cards but in another ministry’s database.
Despite the police’s hesitation and refusal to give Kim the driver’s contact, she was able to meet the driver at the police station due to an issue with a missing luggage item. The driver’s mother also wanted to meet Kim.
The taxi driver, who is only 21 years old, had apologised to Kim for what happened to Joe. His mother also expressed her regret and asked if she could hug Kim.
I told him I hope that he would learn from his mistake and live his life well, and that Isa (Jesus) loves him. I also spoke about how Joe would also forgive him despite what happened.
In response, Kim shared: “I spoke about the effect of Joe’s passing: how it affected not just me, the children and my in-laws, but also the wider circle of friends in Singapore and beyond. I spoke about how Joe was loved and the good work he was doing in different parts of the world.
“I shared that everyone makes mistakes and we all need Isa (Jesus) to forgive us. Therefore, I also forgive him. I told him I hope that he would learn from his mistake and live his life well, and that Isa (Jesus) loves him. I also spoke about how Joe would also forgive him despite what happened.”
Kim’s sister, Suan, shared that some of the men in the police station were visibly moved as they listened to the conversation. The translator also told Kim that she was moved by how Kim spoke to the driver, because it showed that her faith was so strong and real.
Kim concluded the sharing by saying she is grateful for how Joe’s death has sowed the seed of the Gospel in the young driver and others in the room.
“I pray this will fall on good soil and flourish. May God start with these few hearts, so that many will turn to know Christ. Please join me to pray for the Turks to recognise who Isa (Jesus) truly is.”
What does this teach us about forgiveness?
Many were moved as they read about Kim’s interaction with the driver and his mother. Sitting in the pews, I was as well. But the message behind the story sank in most clearly when a camera panned to Kim and her daughters, Olivia and Ashley, during worship.
They were worshipping with smiles on their face. They were worshipping with joy… I couldn’t imagine what it took for them to respond with so much hope and joy after something so tragic happened to someone so dear to them.
Only by looking to Jesus. Only by learning to forgive like Jesus. Because forgiveness brings freedom and sets one free.
I believe that Kim’s forgiveness for the taxi driver is evidence of God’s grace in Joe’s life and her own.
True forgiveness comes from knowing that Christ has forgiven us, which enables us to extend the same love and grace towards others (Ephesians 4:32).
Such forgiveness isn’t just for the sake of others, but it also sets us free – from anger, bitterness, hatred and resentment. We are no longer held captive by the people who have offended or wronged us; there is freedom as we choose to forgive.
We can find the strength and courage to choose forgiveness, knowing that God Himself forgives us as we turn to Him (1 John 1:9).
As Joe’s daughter, Olivia closed her eulogy with the song Living Hope, I teared up listening to the chorus as I thought about what it meant in light of forgiveness:
Hallelujah, praise the one who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope
Indeed, praise the One who has set us free from bitterness! He has broken every chain of captivity, and there is salvation in His name. There is freedom in His name.
He is truly our Living Hope!
- What is forgiveness?
- Read Ephesians 4:32. How does that challenge or confirm your thoughts on forgiveness?
- Is there someone in your life you need to forgive today? Forgive them as God has forgiven you.