Family, Relationships, School

My brother killed himself; my dad gambled. Would I suffer the same fate?

By Alan Lee , 5 January 2023

Growing up, many people said that I would follow in my father’s footsteps.

They thought I’d be a gambler like him, getting into debt and becoming abusive.

And so I started to believe them, thinking that my future would indeed look like that.

My parents divorced when I was very young.

Mum hardly had time to spend with us; she worked hard six days a week to provide for my grandparents, my younger brother and me.

Unable to take the pressure from the loan sharks, my brother committed suicide. He was just 20.

Then my younger brother fell into bad company.

He got hooked on smoking and gambling. To support his gambling addiction, he borrowed from loan sharks and racked up huge debts.

Unable to take the pressure from the loan sharks, my brother committed suicide in 2010. He was just 20. I was 22 at that time.

I had mixed emotions – mainly sadness and anger.

I was angry that he had gotten involved with bad company.

I also asked myself: why did he have to kill himself? Why didn’t I make enough of an effort to win him over and keep him from bad company?

Diverging paths

When I was younger, I too was rebellious and easily influenced by my peers. In primary school, we stole things like bicycle parts and car accessories.

But my life eventually took on a different path.

Some people around me did not think that I would have a bright future.

From the time I was in Primary 3, my brother and I attended the Student Care Centre at Bethesda Care and Counselling Services Centre (BCCSC).

The people at the student care centre cared for me every day after school for five years. But my brother eventually stop going. 

When I was in Secondary School, the student care centre asked my mum if she wanted to place me in tuition classes run by a church. These POP Excel classes are meant to help students from low-income families.

I was reluctant to go at first as I only wanted to play, not study. My results were terrible and I was very mischievous.

Some people around me did not think that I would have a bright future.

Faith builders

However, going to POP Excel turned my life around. 

At both the student care centre and at the tuition classes, I was introduced to Jesus.

I wasn’t moved by any particular message.

But in my secondary school years, I decided to invite Jesus into my life.

That was when my life started to change for the better.

I eventually stopped mixing with bad company and stealing.

Looking back, I see how God provided for me by bringing godly people into my life. This helped to build my faith.

Without these mentors, I would not have been able to see such an improvement in my studies.

For example, I met Uncle Bernard at POP Excel. He gave me extra tuition over the weekends and before exams.

I also met Pastor Jacqueline. She always ensured that the students were okay, and was ready to help when needed.

She and others like Elder Kok Guan helped me grow in the faith.

Without these mentors in my life, I wouldn’t have seen such an improvement in my studies – to the point where I qualified for university.

This was God’s favour on me.

The long route to university

During my NS (National Service) days, I wondered: How would I get money to go to university? 

At first, I tried applying for a spot at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) – but was rejected.

I then looked at private universities – but the higher cost made me think that furthering my studies wasn’t financially feasible.

Then God did what I could never have imagined.

He allowed me to gain admission into NTU the following year – along with a scholarship.

Though I took the longer route to getting my university degree (via the Institute of Technical Education and polytechnic), I am so thankful because I know that I have a good God who loves me and who has a plan for me. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Don’t give up hope 

At one point, I thought I was doomed for destruction and failure.

But my life turned around when I encountered Jesus and godly mentors who guided me.

I also experienced a change from the inside out.

In the past, I wanted to do things my own way. I was stubborn, and never listened to advice.

But knowing Christ also transformed my character for the better.

Food for thought: Would you be willing to invest your time and energy in mentoring someone? Even if we may never know how that one investment in one life can bring hope, turn a life around and bring on a legacy of fruitfulness? Alan is proof that such change is possible. He has served actively as a cell leader and poured his life into other young people.

A version of this story first appeared in Journey Through the Seasons by Bethesda (Bedok-Tampines) Church.

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