As a young man, Edward* used to hide his right hand whenever he moved and walked.
In fact, the very act of shaking hands with others – which comes naturally to most of us – used to be a source of anxiety.
Born with a disability in his right hand, with a thumb and no fingers, Edward’s family was highly protective of him while growing up.
Even though he didn’t have any trouble doing most things, the appearance of his hands caused him to be self-conscious and develop a poor self-image.
“When I extend my right hand for handshake, people didn’t know what to do. I would also then not know what to do. It became a very awkward situation,” recalled Edward.
However, all of that changed when he came to know of Jesus in his teens.
“Understanding God as a Creator helped me develop a healthy self-esteem in an intentional way.”
Realising that he was uniquely created by God and that he wasn’t a mistake, Edward no longer struggled with inferiority.
“Understanding God as a Creator helped me develop a healthy self-esteem in an intentional way,” he said.
The spike in Edward’s confidence after coming to believe in Jesus was so evident that even his father, who wasn’t a Christian, did not object to Edward’s newfound faith.
And perhaps, it is this simple trust in God that has fuelled Edward’s life, even as he faced challenges while serving abroad for almost 20 years.
In his 20s, he met May*, his wife-to-be who started him on a journey to seek God’s will in overseas work. A year later, Edward attended a conference in Taiwan where God opened his eyes to a new appreciation of His work among the nations.
Still, it took another decade before the couple flew to West Asia along with their five-year-old daughter and six-month-old son to begin their ministry full-time.
Recounting how the early years were tough for them as they had to spend much time learning the local language, Edward confessed that he was not academically inclined.
In fact, his heartbeat was to take to the streets right away to talk to the locals and share with them about Jesus.
And even after his language studies were completed, Edward needed to find a viable means of livelihood to stay on in the country.
But that was when he and his family saw how, time and again, God would provide for them beyond their expectations.
Though trained in finance, Edward would be involved in industries that were far removed from his expertise for the next 16 years. This included running a computer business and working as a representative for a skincare company and a tourism company.
Each opportunity came along unsolicited at the right timing to provide an avenue for Edward and his family to stay on in the country. Not only that, these also unexpectedly became platforms for ministry.
For example, the computer business gave him a chance to connect with the locals.
“As we assembled the computers for them, we were able to share our faith with them and even give them a compact disc (CD) with Bible software.”
His next two jobs also came at opportune times. In both cases, Edward remembered how as he prayed and shared his needs with supporters, the doors to these industries just opened.
Recalling God’s divine provision with much joy, he said: “It gave us more opportunities to interact with the local community even more.”
However, even amid these miracles, Edward shared that there were many moments of despair.
“We were not sent out by any particular group, so we felt very much on our own with little moral and financial support,” he explained.
“We did not have many people to call us, write to us, encourage us or to journey with us.”
While working as a tourism company representative, Edward and May endured a sustained season of burnout and decided that they would return to Singapore.
And it was during this short trip home that Edward would receive the most challenging assignment he ever had.
“I believe God has called you to this city to minister to the Chinese (diaspora).”
Invited by a friend to a special Christian event, Edward received God’s new ministry direction as the preacher singled out the couple to give them a word from God.
He told them: “You will go to (this city in West Asia) for five years. A church will confirm and support your ministry.”
It was a difficult pill to swallow, as they had already made a decision to return to Singapore for good.
But after returning to West Asia to facilitate their transition, things started to unfold.
Since he was planning to leave, Edward thought that this would be a good opportunity to hand over his ministry work to this incoming team.
But Edward met an American Chinese pastor who saw the need to share the love of God with the Chinese diaspora in the same city they were based in.
“When he met us as a family, he exhorted us with these words: ‘I believe God has called you to this city to minister to the Chinese (diaspora).’”
At that instance, Edward recalled the word spoken by the preacher in Singapore and wondered if this could be it. However, he had reservations.
“… Somehow, the Lord gave me the courage to say, ‘let’s do it!”
“I did not want to do it. It did not align with my plan,” Edward shared candidly.
Not only was he reluctant, but this unexpected ministry opportunity also appeared impractical – he was illiterate in written Mandarin, his second language being Malay.
Nevertheless, the couple prayed and fasted. Soon after, God gave a clear resounding “yes” through a number of ways to serve in this city.
Firstly, Edward and May individually experienced miraculous healing from their burnout and a fresh call for a new frontier during a time of rest overseas.
Secondly, as the couple availed themselves to serve, they were given the permit to extend their length of stay there for exactly five years which had never happened before.
Following these signs and others, it was undeniable that God had called them to this place.
Edward recounted how the odds were stacked against them in taking up this assignment. It was not their initiative but God’s.
They had to re-think the education pathway for their three children, embracing a new city, a new school and a new team.
It was a deep dive in the ocean. The bottom line was obedience.
The couple asked themselves: Could God be trusted with His invitation to this grand plan as they chose to abandon their own?
“But somehow, the Lord gave me the courage to say, ‘let’s do it!’” Edward said.
“God does not need your ability but only your availability…”
“Sometimes, at the appointed time I needed to speak, my Mandarin just flowed. After I spoke, people asked me how I did it. I would say I don’t know.”
As Edward began his ministry anew in West Asia, he had no lack of divine encounters.
He also met Wen*, a businessman who had moved to West Asia from the East. Beset with business failures, Wen came to know Jesus through the invitation of a friend.
“Wen and his wife were the first two people we baptised,” said Edward.
“Hungry for God’s truths, they abandoned their former beliefs, and allowed me and May to disciple them.
“Over time, they moved back to their home country and have become leaders in their church community.”
That was the beginning of Edward and May’s ministry with Wen’s diaspora group. Overall, the couple spent 18 years in West Asia.
And till today, six years after they have relocated to Singapore, the diaspora church community they discipled continues to flourish.
Tireless and passionate, the 62-year-old continues to look forward to returning to West Asia to embark on new projects.
But for now, he helms the local ministry in Operation Mobilisation (OM), befriending the red-light district and one-room rental flat communities.
Reflecting on his journey, Edward had this advice to share, especially to those who feel inadequate or incapable.
“God can use you even though you’re disabled in something. As long as you’re willing and this is God’s will, He will use it,” he said.
“God does not need your ability but only your availability, and God will do the rest.”
*Names have been changed for specific purposes.
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.
You are fearfully and wonderfully created, and God loves you dearly. If you’d like to serve God as He has wired you, visit the OM Singapore website or follow them on Instagram and Facebook to check out the opportunities.
To commemorate their 40th year, OM Singapore has also published a book, Unchanging: On Mission With a Faithful God, capturing 40 stories of Singaporeans who love God and His mission in many parts of the world. You can purchase the book here: www.sg.om.org/book
- Have you had any experience in your life that caused you to feel inferior?
- What does the Bible say about God as a Creator? How does that impact the way you view yourself?
- When was the last time you saw how God provided for you?