Choby Siau planned to fly to Penang to kill a rival triad member who was sleeping with his girlfriend.
As the teen gangster left his home in the United States, his mother – a missionary – was crying at the door.
She knew her son was going to hunt someone down. She feared it would be the last time she would see him.
When they lived in Malaysia, Choby was recruited to join a triad when he was 13. The gang with 2,000 members was involved in prostitution, extortion, drug dealing and white-collar crime.
Choby’s mum had a sense that he would be killed if the family remained in Malaysia
Over time, Choby was groomed to be the right-hand man of his dai lou (triad boss).
Whenever leaders of other groups had “business issues”, they would call on Choby’s group to intimidate or exert violence.
Choby’s mum had a sense from God that he would be killed if the family remained in Malaysia. So she got the family to move to the United States.
“I thought she was crazy as I didn’t think that God could speak to you like that,” admitted Choby, who is now 36.
As Choby left home for Penang, his mum told him: “Son, I want to tell you something. I prayed a prayer I have never prayed in my life. I prayed to God that He would do whatever it takes to bring you to Him.”
Afraid that his plane would crash, Choby took along a Bible “for good luck”.
Shaken by his mother’s parting words, and afraid that his plane would crash, Choby took along a Bible “for good luck”.
In desperation, he opened the Bible even though he had a learning disability and couldn’t read.
“As I was flipping through its pages, these words popped up at me: In three days I will heal you.”
Choby couldn’t believe what he was seeing; he had never been able to read a whole sentence before. He knew it was a miracle.
Choby prayed: “God, if in three days you take away my anger for this guy, I will let him go.”
When he landed in Penang, Choby could not stop thinking about the sentence he had read – even though he was still obsessed with seeking revenge on the man who slept with his girlfriend.
“I had never read anything before and questioned if what I saw was real,” he said.
“It was like the betrayal never happened”
For two days, Choby was consumed by anger.
“I didn’t know how to control the burning anger.”
However, when he woke up on the morning of the third day, he was astonished to find that he was no longer angry.
“It was as though I had never loved that girl or as though the betrayal had never happened.
“Instead, I felt this thick peace,” he said. “There was peace in my heart and even around my room.
“It was as though I had never loved that girl or as though the betrayal had never happened.”
“In place of burning anger, I felt a thick peace.”
And so Choby abandoned his plot for revenge.
“It didn’t make sense to me,” said Choby who felt “refreshment and even hope.”
“There is no way for me to explain it except to call it a miracle,” he said.
Choby knew that God had power to work in his life.
But because of his secret society ties, he was still not ready to give his heart fully to God.
And even though he didn’t think much about God, even after the peace He had given him, something had changed in his heart.
Choby continued to stay in Penang for a month.
While there, he partied non-stop and was involved with different women.
One night, a car pulled up as he and two triad leaders were leaving a club. Rival gang members got out.
A fight erupted and one of the rival gang members was badly hurt.
The next day, Choby got a call informing him that the gang members were looking for him at Gurney Plaza.
When he got there, his own dai lou instructed him to go upstairs to report to him.
As Choby waited for the elevator to arrive, men gathered behind him. When the lift door opened, more men emerged. One of them was the rival gang member they had beaten up.
The rival gang leader pulled out a machete from his pants and made it clear they had come to “settle problems”.
“We were completely outnumbered – three of us versus 30 of them,” recalled Choby.
“Suddenly, I felt this spirit of death. It felt like I was going to die and I was really afraid.”
The rival gang leader started shouting angrily. He pulled out a machete from his pants and made it clear they had come to “settle problems”, recalled Choby.
As the gang leader about to start swinging the machete at him, Choby suddenly remembered what his mother had told him when he was a child.
She had said: “Son, if you ever get into a situation where you have a problem, I want you to call on the name of Jesus.”
“Suddenly, I felt like I was going to die and I was really afraid.”
Choby took a step back and muttered under his breath: “Jesus, save me.”
In that moment, a hand emerge from the crowd. It held the machete back.
It was one of Choby’s triad members who had been looking for him. He also happened to know the rival gang leader and put in a good word for Choby. The fight broke up.
“It all happened in the nick of time,” said Choby.
“I knew it was divine intervention.
“I wondered why God saved me. My heart was like a stone and it was so hard for me to understand God’s love.”
The perfectly-timed encounter still did not change the way Choby lived.
The next day, he was back at a club, overdosing on ecstasy. He had been taking it for many years. But this time, he could not feel his body.
“As my friends carried me out of the club, I felt the same spirit of death – similar to what I had felt during the machete attack.
“I felt like dying. I was chilled and I felt my soul leaving my body,” recalled Choby.
“Mum had said, ‘Son, if you ever get into a situation, I want you to call on the name of Jesus.’”
Out of desperation and recalling what had happened the day before, he looked up at the sky and said once again: “Jesus, save me.”
After that prayer, he managed to get back on his feet. His mind cleared and his body temperature normalised.
His gang members looked at him in astonishment and asked if he was okay.
“I think Jesus just saved me,” Choby said.
They looked at him as though he had “lost it”.
But something changed in Choby’s heart. He started to feel gratitude.
The next night, Choby’s right-hand man came to pick him up. As Choby opened the passenger door, he heard a soft whisper: “Put on your seatbelt.”
“I thought of how, in the last few days, I had experienced some of the craziest things in my life. So I felt I needed to listen to this voice,” he explained.
“We were going way too fast and I knew this was going to be the end.”
His right-hand man teased him: “You never put your seatbelt on … come on, you don’t trust my driving?”
Choby instructed him to put on his seatbelt as well.
His right-hand man loved to race and soon, he was catching up with the car in front, which was also filled with their gang members.
The car in front braked suddenly, causing his right-hand man to jam on the brakes. His car fishtailed, hit the curb and flew into the air.
“We were going way too fast and I knew this was going to be the end,” said Choby.
“My life literally flashed before me. I saw my life story.
“I saw how evil I was, how I had hurt others and the decisions that I had made in life. I saw the emptiness.
“I also thought I would die never knowing this God who had saved me these last two days.”
His stomach dropped and he heard a huge crash.
When he opened his eyes, his head was against a metal pole. It had speared through the front windshield and out of the back windshield. A few inches nearer and Choby could have been impaled.
There were leaves all over the windshield.
A few inches nearer and Choby could have been impaled.
It turned out that the car had crashed into the roof of a kampong house. The pole – from the roof of the house – had pierced the windscreen. The car had ended up a tree.
Choby looked at his right-hand man; his eyes were rolled back and blood was streaming down his head.
Choby was in shock; he could not feel much of his body.
He released his seatbelt, opened the car door and fell almost 3m to the ground.
“I couldn’t believe it. I looked up and saw the car suspended in the tree,” said Choby.
Miraculously, he had no major injuries.
By then, people from the neighbourhood had gathered and got his friend out of the car.
“As my friend lay bleeding in my arms, all I could do was to pray for him while waiting for the ambulance,” said Choby.
As they were sent to the hospital, all Choby could think of was the line “In three days I will heal you” that he had read in the plane on the way to Penang.
“When, after three days, God gave me the peace to not go after my rival, I had thought that was it,” he said.
“But when I was lying in the hospital bed, I realised that God had also performed a series of three miracles over the past three days – the machete attack, the drug overdose and the car accident to reveal Himself and His power.”
Thoughts ran through his mind.
“It felt like my soul took a breath of fresh air for the first time. I felt complete and free.”
“I knew my heart was so dark, but I saw how God had intervened in situations that were beyond human control and in a way that completely shattered everything I had believed about Him,” said Choby.
The most influential person in his life then was his dai lou, his triad boss.
But Choby said to God: “I want you to be my Dai Lou now.”
It was his way of accepting God into his heart.
When he said that prayer, something came alive in him.
“It felt like my soul took a breath of fresh air for the first time. I felt complete and free, as if a spiritual light had been lit inside of me.”
Police officers had expected Choby’s friend to die. But he and Choby miraculously survived the horrific accident.
Two nights later, when Choby was discharged from the hospital, he knew he had to surrender his life to God.
Choby returned to the United States determined to live his life as God wanted him to. But he did not know how to.
So he prayed: “God I know You have power. I’ve seen what You can do and I need You to help me to read the Bible. I know Your plan for me is in there and if I’m going follow You, I need to know what it’s saying.
As he let go of his old habits, Choby experienced a newfound joy and laughter.
“I tried to read word by word, and the first week was not easy. But I would feel a physical tingling in the front of my forehead and the presence of God. Then I would slowly understand a whole sentence,” said Choby.
Within the first month, he was able to read chapters of the Bible and he could remember what he had read.
Reading the Bible started to change him. It transformed the way he saw the world and what he thought about God, others and himself. He realised that the way he had been living was wrong.
He quit smoking and taking drugs. He changed the way he treated people, including how he spoke to his family.
As he let go of his old habits, Choby experienced a newfound joy and laughter. He started to smile – something he never did before he knew Jesus.
The demons that he used to see while he slept disappeared and he was able to sleep peacefully at night. His rocky relationship with his parents healed.
As Choby spent time with God, he heard Him say: “I want you to quit the secret society. I want you to talk to your boss and your guys.”
Choby struggled with this instruction.
“Being a triad member was all I knew. I wasn’t formally educated and I knew that once I quit, I would be stepping away from a future with them,” said Choby who had been expelled from school in Secondary 2.
“I didn’t know how to function in normal society.
“I was already a branch leader. We took sworn brotherhood oaths that we were in this for life,” he said.
“When I get on my knees, I want You to know that I’m bowing down before You.”
However, Choby obeyed God’s call and flew back to Penang six months after he had almost lost his life there.
His dai lou was happy to see him.
Choby got on his knees before his triad boss.
He was overwhelmed with fear, “because whatever the boss decides to do with you after that, it’s up to him”.
Choby told God: “When I get on my knees, I want You to know that I’m bowing down before You.”
When he gave his triad boss an angbao (red packet) with two hands, he felt God’s peace and presence enveloping him.
Choby told the dai lou what God had done in his life and asked to quit the secret society.
Reluctant to let him go, his dai lou suggested: “Why don’t you just retire? We have others who have retired and kept their titles. This way, you’re still respected and you’re still a member but you don’t need to do anything anymore.”
“You are the craziest one, but now you have become the smartest,” his dai lou told him.
“I can’t,” Choby replied. “I respect you but God told me to come back here and I told God he is my Dai Lou now.”
Miraculously, his dai lou took the angbao but returned the money to Choby.
He told Choby: “You are out. You are the craziest one, but now you have become the smartest.”
Shocked, Choby could only presume that God had touched his leader.
The next day, Choby told his men that he was leaving the gang because Jesus had come into his life.
To their disbelief, he also apologised for getting them involved in the gang and for the way he used to treat them.
Choby’s life took a dramatic turn after that.
“There is no one too far from God that His love cannot reach, there is no sickness he cannot heal.”
He returned to the United States and went to missionary training school and joined its staff for a few years.
During that time, he felt God prompt him to go back to school to get a formal education.
School had been a “place of trauma and hurt and shame” when he was a child; teachers had put him in special education classes as he had a learning disability.
This time he did well enough to go on to college.
“God really helped me with education and, later, in my business,” said Choby, who later got a degree in graphic design and animation, and also ran businesses in precious metals, jewellery and construction.
He subsequently got involved in real estate. But earlier this year, God opened doors for Choby to become a full-time missionary in Colombia, South America.
By sharing his life story, Choby hopes to tell people about the unconditional love God has for everyone.
“Though you may feel rejected, unforgivable and far too broken, God loves you unconditionally.
“If you do not know God or if you are in a difficult situation, call on the name of Jesus. If you open your heart to Him, Jesus will show up,” said Choby.
“There is no one too far from God that His love cannot reach, there is no sickness he cannot heal and there is nothing impossible for our God.”
Check back soon for Choby’s backstory.
This is an excerpt of an article that first appeared in Salt&Light.
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For more information on Choby’s work, visit www.chobysiau.com or email him at [email protected].