More than three years ago, I was involved in a scam case when a person made use of my kindness.
After establishing an online friendship with me, he tried to sweet-talk me over the next few weeks. Then he lied to me that his wine business in Hong Kong was facing some issues and borrowed money from me.
I let my guard down when the first bank account I transferred money to was an account belonging to a Singaporean bank. Then he got greedier and asked me for more.
I did not tell anyone about this and continued to send him money, fearing that I would not be able to retrieve the former amount.
My mind was so clouded that I could not think right anymore. That was how the amount accumulated, which resulted in me losing close to $150,000 and owing eight bank debts.
Travelling to Hong Kong to seek the truth, that was when God spoke to me through a random stranger, among other instances.
One day when I was walking on the streets aimlessly, a man asked me for directions in English, so I decided to show him the way to the restaurant.
While we were walking, he tried to tell me about Jesus, sharing his story of how God gave him new hope in life.
I told him that I was a Christian too, and partially shared with him why I was in Hong Kong.
Then he told me: “Do not give money to the man. He is a scammer! There are many scammers functioning in this manner in Hong Kong.”
This divine encounter reinforced the several red flags that I already had in my mind about the scammer.
UNCOVERING THE TRUTH
Upon returning to Singapore, I received a screenshot of the real identity of the scammer from a friend who conducted an identity search.
Surprisingly, at that moment, I felt relieved rather than traumatised as the truth had come to light. I could not explain the peace that I experienced. I made a police report on that very day.
I could eat and sleep well and even work. I realised then that this was the peace that God promises, a peace that transcends all human understanding.
However, I also started to question why such misfortune happened to me despite my faithfulness to God over the years. I felt like the character of Job in the Bible.
Three months after the truth was unveiled, I left church because I had lost all confidence in myself as a leader at church and even at work.
Shame and guilt filled my thoughts, and my spirit felt dead.
However, when I was away from church for three months, God showed up.
SURPRISED BY GOD
During that time, I continued to pray and went for healing sessions at another church. I believe it was God who delivered me from this trauma.
He ministered to my heart and spirit, showed me several things to distance myself from, and filled me with His peace once again.
In fact, when I cried out to Him, God showed me three passages in the Bible, which I clung on to during that season.
1. Isaiah 61:3 — God’s promise that He would turn ashes to beauty.
2. John 14:27 – Surreal peace that I had never experienced before.
3. Acts 27 – Assurance that God would protect me in this storm just like how He had protected Paul when the apostle encountered a shipwreck.
At the time, I could not comprehend or visualise what “beauty for ashes” meant. But as months passed, God surprised me by showing me His love and faithfulness in so many ways.
As I looked back, I remember how I was left with only $200 in cash when the scam was uncovered in July 2018. As I prayed, God provided $2,000 in a span of two weeks!
Within a week, someone responded to a room rental ad I had put up for two months and paid two months of rent. Also, a sister-in-Christ transferred $500 to bless me.
I know that this was God at work. He multiplied the little I had!
I was also overwhelmed by the help, love and concern from my family, former church leaders and friends. All of them reached out to me, checking on my well-being every day and ensuring that I had company every weekend.
FINDING LIFE AFTER DEATH
Another turning point came when my friend passed away in December 2018.
At her death bed, I felt prompted to lead a worship song at that time, and after we finished singing, her heartbeat dropped to zero.
During the final day of her memorial service, I also asked God to show me a sign that she is home with Him. And then a phenomenon happened – a rainbow appeared directly above the venue of her wake. I was awed by His presence and promise.
As I reflected on what had happened after the whole incident, I was filled with thankfulness. Despite my lack of confidence and brokenness, God still used me.
My spirit was awakened after this pivotal point, and it also led to many blessings from God thereafter.
I began to witness God’s restorative work in my life, as I saw how He turned ashes to beauty in many aspects – finances, physical, emotional and spiritual health, and work.
In 2019, I was given a very good bonus. In that year, I was also promoted and given multiple awards at my workplace, including recognition at the national level.
God prompted me to do something at work five years ago, but no door was open until after all the mess happened in my life. As a result, I was able to share this new idea and programme with many at nation-wide platforms.
By 2020, I had settled down in a new cell group and church. God birthed a new mission for the next season of my life too — to advocate for mental wellness and kindness, reach out to victims of scams who are not coping well, as well as be a voice for the poor and people with special needs.
My burden for those with special needs was specifically inspired by the stranger I had met in Hong Kong who shared how God gave him hope despite his severe dyslexia and even restored His broken marriage.
In 2021, God also blessed me with a new house that saved me $200,000 in mortgage — another example of how He provided for me during the pandemic amid a very competitive resale market.
I was the only buyer who viewed the house right before the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures kicked in. And as I prayed for a sign (unique birds), I saw 25 pink-necked parakeets flying right before my eyes when I was standing along the corridor.
At that moment, I knew it had to be God. It was as if He reserved this new house just for me.
As for the bank debts I owed, I managed to clear them when my mother gave me a personal loan instead. That helped me save on interest. Subsequently, I was able to return the loan to my mum with my monthly salary and bonuses within two years!
FROM BROKEN TO BEAUTIFUL
It has been a life-transforming journey, and I feel like I have been made new once again! Indeed, He has turned ashes to beauty in all areas of my life. Praise be to God!
I have gained new opportunities, perspectives, purpose and mission, relationships, a house and so much more. This entire scam episode has taught me several things.
Loneliness can be a root cause for many issues and open up doors for us to be preyed on, so it’s important to be emotionally and mentally healthy. We can also be kept safe when we belong to a spiritual family who can check in on us when we are vulnerable.
But at the end of the day, only God can fill our empty hearts fully. Would you allow Him to work within you?
God is faithful. He does not promise us a trouble-free life, but He promises that He will be with us and see us through if we keep our eyes on Him. Would you like to know the hope that Jesus gives?
*Janelle has requested to use a pseudonym for confidentiality. This story was first published on Stories of Hope.
- Do you believe that God can redeem your past for good?
- When was the last time you saw the miraculous hand of God working in your life?
- What are the empty spots in your heart? Would you allow God to fill you fully?