One evening, a few years ago, as I was walking along a quiet stretch of road nearby a construction site in Sembawang, I saw a young Indian man sitting along the pedestrian path, reading a book under the street light.
Intrigued, I stood by him to see what he was reading. It was a very worn and well-thumbed bible, albeit the pages seemed intact.
Seeing the young man’s diligence in reading the bible under poor lighting conditions (and he was reading it aloud, albeit quietly), I perceived that there was something special about this young man, and sat next to him.
“Are you a Christian?” I asked, and he shook his head in the affirmative.
We then told me that prior to his conversion, he was a “bad” person, who drank, gambled and got into fights easily.
He said that in India, he had borrowed a lot of money in order to travel to Singapore to work as a constructor worker.
He told me that he had a wife and a child in India, but prior to his conversion, he did not really care about them. Instead, he spent most of his income on gambling and drinks, and seldom sent money back home to his family.
His life took a turn when he was cheated of all his savings by a local Chinese man. The savings were meant to pay off his large debts in India when he eventually returned home, and when he realised he had lost it all, he decided to end his life.
So, with the money that he had on him, he purchased a large amount of illegal ‘toddy’ (palm wine), and went to a dark, forested area in Woodlands, intending to kill himself through an excessive drinking spree alone. (He did not tell me the specific place he had been, but there had previously been a report of a dark, secluded and forested area in Woodlands, which had been raided due to illegal vice activities between foreign construction workers and foreign women).
In the dark, as he was drinking himself to death, he suddenly saw a bright light in the sky.
He thought that he was hallucinating, but as the light grew brighter and illuminated everything that was around him, he realised that it wasn’t the moon that was causing this, and that he was not hallucinating either.
He quivered as he asked, “Who are you?”
A voice from above replied, “I am the Lord Jesus Christ.”
He said the light then disappeared, and as he was trying to make sense of this mysterious event, he suddenly realised that his body felt completely well, not the slightest bit affected by the excessive alcohol he had consumed.
Although he did not understand it, he felt at peace, and slept alone at that place, before returning the next day to his workplace.
He told me that prior to this event, his fellow Indian colleagues who had converted to Christianity while working in Singapore had tried sharing the gospel to him. However, he was resistant to them.
The weekend after this incident, on his own initiative, he went to a church in Little India to get baptised.
After his conversion, he stopped drinking, and slowly, not only did he save enough money to pay off all his debts, he was also able to buy a new house for his family.
Seeing the change in him, his wife also became a Christian, and although he and his wife face much opposition, he said he was determined to share the gospel and his testimony to his relatives and friends.
While in the past, he spent his spare time doing ‘bad’ things, following his conversion, he spent his spare time in church, or encouraging other believers, or praying and reading the bible.
When I probed about his discipline of prayer and reading the bible, he said that if he didn’t have to work, he would spend a few hours in the evening doing this, and would rise early in the morning, and pray for about an hour before starting work.
When I asked him how he prayed, he gamely demonstrated by kneeling on the ground and opening his palms to heaven.
That was the first and last time that I met that young man (largely my fault, I very seldom walk that stretch of road). Seeing how disciplined he was in prayer and reading the bible, I have confidence that he is still walking with Jesus. The young man is a good example of what it means to be born again — of how someone so ‘bad’ (in his own words), can be so transformed, as if into a totally different person.