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“Reflections on how God saved me out of darkness into His marvellous light”

As I reflect upon my many years of Christian life, the words of John Newton’s famous hymn, “Amazing grace” come to my mind:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound;

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found;

Was blind but now I see.

From what I am about to share, you will understand and appreciate the amazing grace of God that touched my life and turned it around.

Idolatry

I came from a family which was steeped in idolatry. My grandfather was a temple medium. In our home which was used as a temple, were more than 30 idols of different shapes and sizes. Almost daily, devotees would come to consult my grandfather who would go into a trance. Many of these were desperate parents or spouses who came with diverse concerns – seeking a cure for a sick child or a child with poor exam results; or seeking help with an unfaithful spouse or a spouse with a gambling/alcohol addiction, which were common indulgences in those idle kampong days. Others came asking for blessings for a new business, or guidance for a major decision like a change of job or a move to a new home.

Experiences of a medium’s granddaughter

Going into a trance, my grandfather would “transform” into the monkey god, or some other god, depending on which “spirit” came upon him. He would speak in an unintelligible language – a different one each time – depending on which “god” he had become. Acting as an interpreter, my grandmother would convey his counsel to the seeker. Till today, I have not been able to fathom how my grandmother could have understood these different “languages”. It remains an unsolved mystery!

Once I overhead my grandmother interpreting the advice of the “god” – “bring an offering fruits/tidbits and pray at the seaside and your sick child will recover.” The devotee obediently handed over the money to my grandmother to do the needful. From what I could see, she never bought anything nor made any offering on behalf of the devotee. Though I was only a child then, I realised that my grandparents’ religion did not seem right because they took advantage of those who trusted them.

Sometimes, my grandfather as the medium would offer another “cure” – burn “yellow paper”, put its ashes into water and feed the sick child. I had, on many occasions, received this “cure” myself when I was taken ill.

My grandfather had many grandchildren but I was his favourite. But with certain privileges also came responsibilities. I was assigned the unenviable task of burning joss-sticks to the 30-plus idols in our home. Though my grandfather was very dear to me, I could not accept his religion, nor did I believe in his gods. Nevertheless, I carried out this daily task dutifully to please my grandfather.

The 16th day of the 8th month on the Chinese calendar was a very auspicious day in our home. On this important day every year, my grandfather would invite many of his medium friends to our temple home to celebrate. It was a very exciting time especially for us as children. My mother and aunts would be very busy the day before slaughtering chickens and preparing other goodies for the next day. These would be offered to the gods for their blessing and then distributed to those who had made a yearly donation.

On the day itself, the noise of the drums and gongs would resound throughout the kampong. Everyone would gather to watch the performance of the various mediums as they cut themselves with the sword or lay on a bed of swords or climbed a sword ladder. Fascinated by these mediums who never felt any pain though their tongues or backs were full of bloody slashes, I became their secret admirer and watched their performances with reverential awe! Such were the follies of an unenlightened mind! (… to be continued)

– Sis Helen Wee

(This testimony was written as part of the “Knowing Salvation” FEBC online course requirement – 16th April 2010