Emmanuel was nine when he was first diagnosed with myopathy, an incurable condition that affects muscle growth.
Ever since then, he has had difficulty being active; even sitting down for too long can cause him discomfort.
Emmanuel is also a fall risk patient who faces the possibility of losing mobility in the future.
However, the 14-year-old has learnt to live with his condition.
This includes limiting physical activities, going for medical check-ups regularly and taking leave of absences whenever he has to be hospitalised.
Despite what seems to be a bleak prognosis, Emmanuel was anything but gloomy when Thir.st first interviewed him a few years back.
In fact, his dream was to be pastor — one that hasn’t changed.
Four years on, we sit down with our young friend to find out how he has been doing.
Emmanuel tells us about one of the most challenging periods since then and how, as his name suggests, God was with him.
It was 5pm by the time I managed to speak to Emmanuel, who had just come back from a meeting.
His mum, Evang, apologises profusely for the delay due to his back-to-back schedule.
Emmanuel is currently a Secondary 2 student at Geylang Methodist School (Secondary). He has a packed timetable, especially on CCA days.
Despite that, Emmanuel has been trying to be careful with his health to minimise the possibility of being warded.
“I still get hospitalised,” he said. “Sometimes I fall down, sometimes I get breathless because of my medical condition.”
He also still experiences fatigue from sitting in front of his desk for long hours.
It is a vicious circle: Emmanuel is too tired to do his homework right after school. He then stays up late to catch up on his studies, but ends up restless the next day.
While school is tough right now, Emmanuel shares that the most challenging period he faced was during the year of his Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) in 2020 — when COVID-19 and the circuit breaker added to the pressure.
With mathematics being his weakest subject, there was a possibility that Emmanuel would have to retake his PSLE if he failed the subject.
“My parents and I were very nervous because my results for my common tests were just average,” he recounted.
God was guiding me
While Emmanuel was very stressed during that period, he was so thankful for the encouragement and support from his parents and teachers.
Emmanuel echoed the words his mum told him at the time: “My mother assured me that whatever result I got, it was not the end for my education journey.
“If I get the result that I want, thank God. If I were to get the result below what I had expected, she told me not to be upset — I am still her lovely son.”
This motivated Emmanuel to remain faithful to his studies despite the difficulties.
It was a nerve-racking moment when Emmanuel went up to collect his result slip. But things turned out well.
“When I saw my PSLE result slip and my PSLE certificate, I was so happy that I scored about 20 per cent more than my prelims,” he said.
“With my results, I could be accepted as a Normal Academic (NA) student or an Express student!”
It was a dilemma for Emmanuel. If he decided to go for the Express stream, the learning curve might prove to be steep for him.
That meant that if he were to be hospitalised, catching up on school work would make for additional stress.
As such, after much prayer and consideration, Emmanuel decided to enter the NA stream instead.
“After praying, I felt that God wanted me to trust Him. I believe He wants me to climb the steps one at a time and not rush things through.”
Slow and steady
The decision proved to be a wise one. Being able to learn at his own pace, Emmanuel began to see improvements in his studies.
While Mathematics used to be Emmanuel’s weakest subject, he met a good teacher who guided him in Secondary 1.
By the end of the year, Emmanuel was offered the chance to take Maths at the Express level.
He was also offered Express Literature and Express History for his Secondary 2 curriculum.
“I am very happy with his Secondary 1’s results,” Emmanuel’s mother, Evang, said.
“We are proud of him that he made it through his Secondary 1 curriculum and was promoted to his Secondary 2 year.”
While academic results are important, Emmanuel believes that character and faith in God are also crucial.
As such, he is part of his school’s Student Council that helps students with the struggles they face.
“I represent the student body,” he explained proudly.
“For example, if students need help when they encounter bullies, or if their uniforms are too old but they face financial difficulties, they can look for me or other student council members.”
“If I help others, they will be happy.”
While it is an additional responsibility, Emmanuel enjoys his role thoroughly.
“Some students’ parents are busy. Or they don’t want to talk to adults like teachers or school counsellors. So they look for peers for advice,” Emmanuel said.
“If I help others, they will be happy. And when they are happy, I will also be happy!”
As for himself, Emmanuel finds support from his teachers, mentors and church members.
For example, he was given permission in school to type out his essay homework to reduce the fatigue he experiences.
And when Emmanuel was stressed out by his common tests as he couldn’t finish his papers within the stipulated time, he turned to God in prayer.
I asked Emmanuel if sees himself as a driven person. He shook his head.
However, he noted that he has a strong will to live.
“There’s no point in hating the fact that I’m different from others — it doesn’t make any difference,” he said.
“What’s important is that I do my best, work hard for my future and trust in God. To me, faith is everything.”
Emmanuel summed it all up by quoting Philippians 1:21: “For me, to live is Christ, to die is to gain.”
“Since I’m alive, I want to do my best,” he concluded. “The past or the future doesn’t matter. I focus on the now.
“I will do my best and God will do the rest.”
- What was one thing in Emmanuel’s sharing that touched or impacted you?
- What are some struggles you are going through in life right now?
- How can you take courage from what Emmanuel has shared?