Pastoral Exhortation

“The Goodness of God in My Life”

Written by Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy Sunday, 29 November 2015

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Today we publish a thanksgiving testimony written by a regular teenage worshipper of our church and participant of GYF. Joel Tan was born with severe hearing impairment and other medical issues. However, Joel (now a Sec 4 student) is profoundly thankful to God for His abundant grace that saved him and provided for all his needs through his loving parents. It is his caregiver, Sis Cecille Batrina (a Filipino member of our church), who brought him to our midst. Cecille was saved through our Filipino Fellowship’s evangelism efforts, and has been worshipping with us since Sept 2002. Her testimony and effort have led her ward, Joel, to come to Gethsemane and grow in the grace and knowledge of His Word. May Joel’s testimony stir our hearts to praise the Lord for His mercies towards all who trust Him; let us also pray for Joel to grow in the Lord. - Pastor

“Bless the LORD, O my soul:
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits:
who forgiveth all thine iniquities;
who healeth all thy diseases;
who redeemeth thy life from
destruction; who crowneth
thee with lovingkindness and
tender mercies” (Psalm 103:1-4).
 

I was born with profound deafness, but God is good to me and provided a way for me to have my hearing. I was almost 6 months old when my parents discovered that I was deaf. At that time, hearing examinations for newborn babies were not so advanced. This was the reason why my deafness was not detected. For 6 months, they thought I was a “good” baby who did not cry.

One day, my father tried to get my attention with a wind-up music toy behind me. When I did not respond, he became suspicious that I was deaf. Upon confirmation of my deafness by an audiologist, an era of “uncertainty” began in my parents’ life. Relatives were informed, my parents’ church leaders were asked to pray, and a second opinion was sought from another ear doctor. Thank God for all the people whom He sent to advise my parents and the wisdom He gave the doctor who diagnosed me with profound hearing loss. As Singapore hospitals in those days were lagging in hearing implant technology, a Singaporean audiologist advised that I go to Sydney, Australia, for a hearing implant at The Shepherd Centre.

Thank God for His grace and provision (through my parents) for all my operation-related expenses, which amounted to no small sum. I was operated on 1 September 2001, which lasted a few hours. My head was “all bandaged” (that scene was captured in old photographs taken by my father). On 17 September, Dr Gibson (doctor in charge of my implant) switched the implant on. According to my parents, they called my name, and I responded by turning my head. They were thankful and rejoicing that I could hear them calling my name. Thank God for a successful operation!

But that was not the end of our troubles. I still had to go through many rounds of speech therapy both in Australia and Singapore, until I spoke my first words in April 2003. I truly thank God for my parents’ patience and dedication during this period of time. Hearing was not the only problem I had to deal with. I was delayed in speech and walking as I had bad motor skills and my parents sent me for various therapies in Singapore. It cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

That was not all. From infancy, my mother noticed I was unusually quiet and did not interact with other children. She closely observed me and the warning signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) were confirmed by our own research. I was sent for a formal diagnosis at KK Hospital, where the specialists confirmed that I had Asperger’s syndrome, a type of ASD. That was 2005. Unsure of how to handle my hyperactive behaviour, my parents sent me for occupational, behavioural, social skills and even hyperbaric oxygen therapies to mitigate my condition. All these therapies helped me but I know that it is God who has given me the grace to improve. Praise be unto Him!

Looking back, I thank God for blessing my life in tremendous ways. Since I started schooling in 2007, the LORD has led me step by step and helped me in many ways. I enjoyed school though it initially was difficult as people around me did not understand me nor my condition. Some teachers even disliked me as I liked to ask a lot of questions and walked about when the lesson became boring! Yet God has always helped me to do well in my studies, even till today. Thank God my parents did not ignore my early signs of autism but had sought early intervention; as such, that I could attend mainstream schools. I now sit through lessons without walking about. Though I still ask a lot of questions, I learn to wait and be patient until question time. I can talk to schoolmates and engage in class discussions, sharing opinions and ideas. I did many presentations in front of my whole school and even joined an overseas exchange programme.

By God’s grace, my problems with hearing and autism did not hinder me from doing what normal people do. With the cochlear implant, I could hear mostly normally. I could play the piano, participate in physical education-related activities in school, cycle, hold conversations with elderly friends in the park, and sit for my Listening Comprehension examinations under normal conditions. I wholeheartedly thank God that my autism-related problems did not impede me from all of these. Indeed, “autism is not a disability; it’s a different ability.” Praise be to God!

I thank God for sending Aunt Cecille to look after me; she had a great impact in my life. Thank God for her patience and dedication even though I can be naughty at times! It was in January 2015 that I was introduced by Aunt Cecille to tune in to “live” Sunday sermon broadcasts through the Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church website.

Thank God for Pastor Koshy and his preaching of God’s Word and sound Biblical doctrines. God used Pastor Koshy’s preaching to speak to me and convict me of my sins. During that time, I was not active in my church due to lack of support and limited spiritual preaching. I fervently pleaded with my mother to allow me to attend Aunt Cecille’s church, on condition that I finish all my homework and study well. With my mother’s agreement to my proposal, my first attendance at Gethsemane B-P Church was at the “Scripture in Song” event towards the end of December 2014. And I have not looked back since – my parents now allow me to permanently attend Gethsemane. I thank God that I can attend Youth Fellowship meetings, and even Tuesday night prayer meetings. It is my humble prayer that the LORD will sustain me in the faith and use me for His glory.

As I look back, I thank the LORD for His faithfulness in my life, His mercies and compassions towards me, which “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23). I pray that I will always call upon the LORD and depend on Him for leading in my life. As my “life verse” reads, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).

To God be all the glory! Amen.

 
Joel Tan