If there is a climax of faith journey to share at this year’s watch night service, this will be the one. I cannot wait but fast forward the sharing here. Our oldest daughter, Yi En wrote on her Instagram page: “不一样的婚礼” Wedding of the Year. This was truly the craziest wedding. Nothing short of a HK drama. The start of their life together as ONE is a testament of God’s grace, goodness and faithfulness. It’s the best lesson for all of us. Every single thing was out of control, and there was nothing we could humanly do. But every single step was perfectly planned and worked out by God. All Glory and Praise to Him!”
Our family and I had a most exciting and most desperate prayers sent God-wards. I would not dare call this grand and glorious but rather a feeble and faint prayer sent to God via prayer warriors like you and all our friends around the world. Allow me to unveil the drama.
Our short encounter of such magnitude dated back to 11 October 2021. We booked our flights for Hong Kong on 18 Oct 2021 to attend our son’s wedding. The week prior to our departure, I was tested positive with COVID. It came as a shock to our family as we were very careful to stay safe so that we could travel. We weren’t sure where I caught the virus. I was put on Home Recovery for 10 days. Obviously this episode affected the rest of the extended family as well. Very quickly, I had to reschedule our flight to a later date and cancel the quarantine hotel in Hong Kong. It was quite stressful as we were required to book another quarantine hotel before we could confirm our trip. In the meantime, a chain of prayers were activated and we asked what God was teaching us. We thought this lesson would end upon being discharged after 10 days.
Not long after we landed in Hong Kong on 28 October, after the 14 days mandatory quarantine in a hotel, another episode began. I called this the “Hong Kong COVID Saga.” In our 35 years after graduation from Bible school, we’ve learnt as a family that to walk with God we must make it a practice to talk with God. Believe it or not, when God moves in our life, things get exciting! We never dreamed that God would move in our life the way He had.
This was better expressed by my nephew, Joel Tan in Singapore in his FB page: “For a wedding that almost didn’t happen save for an 11th hour act of God that saw virtually the entire wedding party – guests, family, relatives and all, be cleared and released from quarantine in HK 15 hours before the event.”
On the 19th day after hotel quarantine, it was mandatory to do another COVID test and I was found “preliminary positive” on 16 November and this led to a string of unexpected crisis. Immediately, I contacted Pastor Kien Seng to activate a prayer chain through the leadership and all of you. “Does prayer change God’s mind?” My theological answer is simply, “No.” Now, if someone had asked me, “Does prayer change situations ?” I would have answered, “Of course!” This is exactly what we as a family encountered in Hong Kong. We realized that there are certain things God has decreed from all eternity. Those things will inevitably come to pass. If you were to pray individual, if you and I were to join forces in prayer or if all the Christians of the world were to pray collectively, it would not change what God, in His hidden counsel, has determined to do. I believe my family and I are going through one of this decreed by God and surely we do not understand why us and why at this time of a wedding celebration.
In unfolding this drama, every human effort and systems were working against us. The Hong Kong COVID policy is “ZERO Infection” which means “有杀错，不放过” The Singapore Consulate in HK tried but their hands were tied and the HK Center of Health Protection(CHP) passed the buck to the North Lantau Infectious Control Centre (HKICC) where I was quarantined. No one wanted to make a decision for my discharge even after a series of negative tests, including X-ray, Cardiography, and 11 tubes of blood test. All those who were either directly or indirectly in contact with me were mandatorily put under quarantine at the government facility at Penny Bay. I was given 24 days and the rest 21 days of quarantine.
Everyone in Hong Kong and Singapore were trying to help and find connections to authorities. By this time, I had sent many desperate prayer requests back to church, people we all possibly knew around the world and sincerely hoped that our combine efforts will change the situation. Things change, and they change according to His sovereign will, which He exercises through secondary means and secondary activities. The prayer of His people is one of the means He uses to bring things to pass in this world. So if you ask me whether prayer changes things, my answer with still be an unhesitating “Yes!”
It is impossible to know how much of human history reflects God’s immediate intervention and how much reveals God working through human agents. Every piece of the puzzle in this short 3 days to the wedding was critical and emotionally wrenching for us as a family. It was more so for my son who was encouraging us with God’s word not to give up and yet at a tipping point of questioning “I can’t see God, Where is God in all these?” We had exhausted all humanly possible intervention and were resigned to serve our Quarantine Orders and miss the wedding. We succumbed to the “mystery of why now?” and our plan B was for Yi Ling to preach my exhortation and be the witness at the wedding. I had prepared a video clip for the dinner to be screened. We were so near yet so far. We were at our wit’s end and all doors were closing on us, then God opened the window.
The turn of events came when a new doctor attended to me on the morning of 19th November. She was willing to contact Yi Ling & Yi Li, than wrote a full medical report of my case and we sent it to the Singapore Consulate in HK. God was at work through human agents. The same night at 8:30pm, my previous doctor called and said that I could be unconditionally discharged. That was the 11th hour decision by the authorities. With the discharge letter, I quickly copied to Grace so that the 19 pastors together with Grace and my other HK relatives who were quarantined at Penny Bay could also be discharged. Believe it or not, I was out of HKICC by 10:30pm but it took a little longer for Grace who reached home past midnight.
The scene of the Israelites crossing the red sea flashed so clearly in front of me, the words of the song from the Prince of Egypt When You Believe came to me:
Many nights we prayed
With no proof, anyone could hear
In our hearts a hopeful song
We barely understood
Now, we are not afraid
Although we know there’s much to fear
We were moving mountains
Long before we knew we could, whoa, yes
There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill
Who knows what miracles you can achieve?
When you believe, somehow you will
You will when you believe
Allow me to conclude this unexpected drama with the ending of the Instagram post by Yi En: “ We can share words of wisdom with you about marriage and life together. But this lesson of trust and hope in God was the best one of all. We love you! …” Thank you for all your prayers. Prayers changes the things revealing God’s intervention in working through human agents!
Rev Tan Cheng Huat (Non-resident missionary to SQ)
December 12, 2021