Michael Yap’s Personal Testimony
Born on 1 February, 1938
“PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW!”
“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless, I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12.
“May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!” Psalm 20:4
It is my blessed privilege to testify to one and all, the gracious enduring love and care of Almighty God towards me all my life since my birth. I was born to Christian parents and raised in Christian values, especially, by my mother, a faithful practitioner of the faith; and, God’s first of many and precious gifts to me. Thus, I grew up grounded in love for Almighty God; faith that He has a blessed life for me; and hope that I will finish the race for the crown of glory. I learned from mother that it is necessary to have a relationship with God, through praying. Mother was a praying advocate who trusted God and turned to Him for guidance and leading. In me, she did not have a normal able-bodied son who could take care of himself at every stage of his life. I was to be a burden to her up to her earthly death. But she acted on the words of Jesus Christ: “Come to me, all who labour, and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28. I learned from her I must depend on the love and care of God, but I must be responsible.
I became paralyzed from the waist down, from the early age of 4 years old. Being responsible, as is expected of every one of us, I started to make plans for my life ahead, especially as I started my teen years. But each time, my plans were thwarted by my physical disability. And He had a better one for me. The Bible reminds: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts.” Zech. 4:6. He stands ready to give us, who He loves dearly. How can He not when He sacrificed His only begotten Son to pay the price of the redemption of the whole world from eternal damnation. All we need to do is to pray to Him in spirit and in truth. Jesus Christ said: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7. God loves us. He will never forsake us. There are times He blesses us with His direct intervention. At other times, He blesses us through people.
My early life in a rubber plantation, by circumstance:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths” Prov. 3:5-6.
I became a paraplegic at the age of 4 years old, the innocent victim of a stray bullet, during the Japanese invasion and occupation of Singapore in 1942, to be crippled for life and to live with its consequences.
At that time, I was living with my family at Newton, but we had to flee to a rubber plantation habitat at Upper Serangoon and live there for approximately three months for our safety and security following the Japanese invasion of Singapore during World War II. Along with others, our family lived in an attap house which had been divided into three sections with a large common hall. The roof had holes all over because the attap was sparsely knitted. Each time when it rained, the occupants collected the leaking rain in buckets and to empty them. However, during the daytime the rays of the sun through those holes brightened the dark interior of the house.
Altogether, about twenty-five people lived in that house. It had neither electricity nor modern sanitation. Water for use was drawn from the only well available. Many of us had to sleep on the cement floor. The bathroom and toilet were some 180 metres away from the house, situated in a very secluded part of the dense rubber plantation. This was to make sure that they were out of sight from roving Japanese soldiers. Females went for their shower in pairs so that when one took her shower, the other would be on vigil. There were no roads accessible by vehicles. We had to buy vegetables from another plantation. We stocked up on canned foods and rice. Chicken, ducks and pigs were running everywhere in the plantation. The weather was often hot and very humid.
On the war front:
In the day there was heavy machine-gun fire and warplanes thundered overhead in the sky the whole night. The sky would be fiery red, and at times it would appear that night had turned to day. Oilfields at Pulau Bukom were bombed and set ablaze which could be seen from miles away. The causeway between Singapore and Johor was badly damaged and parts of it had collapsed. It was deliberately bombed to prevent more Japanese soldiers from advancing into Singapore from Malaya.
I was gun shot:
As for sleeping arrangement, I was blessed with a double-deck bed. I slept on the lower bunk and my uncle the upper bunk. One uncomfortably hot and humid night, I was complaining about the discomfort, and my continued whining bothered my uncle. To pacify me, he offered to swap places with me. So I slept on the top bunk that night. Approximately 45 minutes following a piercing blast shattered the night and the next thing I was screaming in pain. There was blood splattered all over the bed. Mother and grandmother were puzzled by the blood on the bedsheet. Some minutes later, they were horrified to discover a wound puncture under my right armpit. I had been hit by a stray bullet from the on-going heavy gun-fire then taking place nearby.
Sadly the on-going heavy military bombardment taking place prevented my getting immediate attention which was what I needed. There was no means of treatment in the house and it was too dangerous for anyone to venture out to get medication. However, after one week, someone managed to sneak out to buy a bottle of iodine lotion from a dispensary in the city. The wound did not respond to iodine.
I needed medical attention immediately or die:
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone . The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:5-7
By the second week, my armpit swelled and I developed high fever. After the third week, I was not able to empty my bladder and by the fourth week, I became delirious which caused everyone to panic. Mother, grandma and uncles then living with us discussed funeral arrangements. At the same time they would risk taking me to the nearest hospital facing the dilemma of how to get me there - the nearest hospital, the Kandang Kerbau Maternity Hospital. There were no roads leading to the house. The only way was to track on foot. What about the risk of being caught and tortured before being shot dead by the Japanese soldiers? Every male at that time had to be registered for conscription but all the males in that house did not, for fear that if they were called to military service, the chances of coming back would certainly be nil. We prayed for God’s mercy and His leading.
Finally, Grandma and a few selfless aunts decided to risk their lives to carry me to the hospital cradled in a gunnysack slung across two poles. A route was properly mapped out to avoid capture by the Japanese soldiers. The safest time to leave for the hospital would be after midnight. The route involved carrying me to Makepeace Road in Newton, first, to collect the gunnysack; and, from there to KK Hospital.
On arriving at Makepeace Road, we were horrified to see the house badly shelled and the whole roof blown off. The perilous journey started at approximately 4am and the ladies took turns to carry me. Wading through the swamps within the plantation was indeed hazardous and the route was infested with mosquitoes, leeches and rodents. Thanks to God, the journey of about one-and-a-half hours went without any untoward incident. He led us.
At the Hospital I was attended to by a Japanese doctor and was operated on by an Indian surgeon. I was hospitalized for about a month. Mother was told that I would never be able to walk again. The revelation devastated her – a difficult life lies ahead of me. She refused to accept the fact and refused to give up hope. Mother prayed without ceasing in faith and hope and urged me to do the same. She was a prayer warrior.
Having to face life as a paraplegic:
Following my discharge from the hospital, I was to face the fact that I would never walk again. At the age of five, I was of course too young to think about what the future would hold for me. There was no such thing as rehabilitation or physiotherapy. I was never taught bladder and bowel management. The only instruction from the doctor was that I had to empty my bladder through bladder compression every four hours. We could not afford a proper urinal, so mother had me make do with empty tin used to hold condensed milk and canned fruits. She would use a hammer to first smoothen the rim of the can to prevent me from getting cut by the sharp edges.
Facing trials and tribulations in life, post war:
Then, father deserted our family when I was five years old. He chose to continue his life with another woman in Johor. So, we were suddenly left without any financial support. Mother had to depend on her brothers to keep the family going. In spite of this situation her faith did not falter and she often read to me 2 Timothy 1:12 “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Life was really tough for all of us, especially for mother who had to bring up four little children. I, being physically handicapped, was her greatest problem. Often I saw her weeping in silence, but her faith in the Lord remained as solid as rock.
At the age 12, I began to wonder why my brother and sisters had to attend school but not me. Every evening they would be studying while I just sat quietly watching them and wondering why I did not have to go to school. I inquired of mother. Lovingly, with filial pain in her heart, she explained I could not do so because of my disability. Nightly, mother would advise me to pray to God for guidance, especially about my future. She taught me to sing the hymn “Trust and obey, there is no other way but to trust and obey.” Even in my youth, my faith was developing strongly through mother’s constant advice to pray to God for guidance. She kept reminding me to put my full trust in God.
I sought to be literate in the English language and a formal education:
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation fortress; I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 62:6-7.
I then decided that I would to learn to read. I sought guidance from my sister and anyone who could spare a few minutes. Third aunt noticed my keen interest to read and write, and kindly assisted for a short while, whenever she had some free time. I learned from her to read and write elementary English and also to memorize the eight parts of speech and spelling. I developed a keener interest in English language literacy.
Meanwhile I was able to save some money from polishing the shoes of my uncles and also from accumulating monetary gifts (ang pao) received from relatives during the Lunar New Year. With the savings, I enrolled with International Correspondence Schools (ICS). God added to me the ability to read and understand simple stories from storybooks that I had borrowed from my sister. Next, I wanted to enroll for a few more subjects like simple Arithmetic to also be numerate but could not afford the fees. We were in dire need of money to meet our living expenses.
At mother’s suggestion, I then wrote to father if he would help me with five dollars a month to help finance my education, learning English Language and Bookkeeping at ICS. His response was utterly disappointing. He could not afford to do so and I was to borrow my sister’s books to learn Mathematics. Self-study without the benefit of competent guidance can be very challenging for anyone. I thank God I had a good friend, Kenneth Foong, to be staying with us at that time. After 9.30 in the evening, when he had some time, Kenneth would kindly guide me out of it whenever I got stuck with some math problem when I sought his help.
I sought to be useful:
As time passed, my interest to be literate and numerate grew stronger and stronger, albeit by self-study. I prayed fervently for God’s guidance. Being homebound I had all the time to study and I found that I was short of one subject in order to sit for the then Senior Cambridge Examinations (SCE) and secure a Certificate. My youngest uncle, a part-time piano tutor, suggested that I offered music as a subject it being in the SCE curriculum. Actually, I had always enjoyed listening to piano music and was very keen to learn to play the piano. Initially I was quite skeptical because of my posture and also because I had no knowledge of music at all and had never touched a piano key before. Furthermore, there was no way I could afford to own a piano. My uncle owned one, so I practised on his piano. But then, we would soon be moving to our own home off Hillside Drive and I was not sure if I would continue with music without a piano at the new place. Meanwhile, my uncle taught me the rudiments of music. He gave me his much-used music book titled “Smallwoods Piano for Beginners”. I learned the very basics of the piano pieces and theory for first-timers. He made me promise to put in at least one-and-a-half hours of practice every day and I got full use of his piano. The next problem was: what grade should I attempt? By then, I was 20 years old, time was crucial and I realized that I could not afford any delay. My uncle suggested I take a bold step with Grade 5. This would mean I had to put in five years of work into one! I was determined to give it a try since I had my uncle to tutor me. He even paid for the Grade 5 exam pieces. I began practising seriously - still hoping to qualify with the SCE Certificate.
When there is no other way, God has a way:
“Trust in the Lord God with all your heart. Remember Him in everything you do and He will show you the right way.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
Suddenly, a bolt from the blue required my plans to be put on hold. Then, my sixth Uncle graduated as a medical doctor. He started his own private practice and offered me employment as his bookkeeper. I was grateful but requested if he could hold the post for just six months to allow me the time to complete my SCE. He could not. Simultaneously, my family was in dire straits financially to support our very simple living. Quite often mother had to borrow money from the neighbours to make ends meet.
I was very disappointed at not being able to have the chance to obtain the SCE Certificate especially after spending three-and-a-half years of solid preparation through self-study for the SCE. It was a real dilemma for me. I had sleepless nights pondering if I should accept the job, knowing full well that mother was already getting very excited about the job offer and hoping that I would accept it. She advised me that it was a golden opportunity for me to start earning an income and to help out in the family daily expenses. If I rejected the opportunity I might not get another one in a long while. I turned to God in prayer, claiming the Lord’s blessed assurance:
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and I will show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” – Jeremiah 33:3.
I accepted the job. I simply could not bear to see her so burdened all these years bringing up the family so unselfishly and she was aging and needed much rest. On learning of my decision, mother was overjoyed and immediately rang her eldest sister to inform her of the good news.
I finally started work on 17 June 1957. Work hours were from 8.30am to 5.45pm, Monday to Saturday, and 8.30am to 12.45pm on Sunday and public holidays. I was still very sad at not having to give up the opportunity to receive a formal education and not having the minimum number of subjects to sit for the Senior Cambridge Examinations. Gradually, stress got the better of me. After a few months working, I felt very exhausted each day after work and had to take a half hour's rest in bed after dinner and shower. My mind was simply too exhausted to concentrate. My half hour's rest instead often ended with my waking up early the next morning! Mother suggested that I postpone or cut back on my studies seeing that I was spending more time on the piano practical and theory. She reminded me to submit to God’s will of me. By then, I had developed a serious appreciation for music, especially keyboard music. I was determined to attempt the Grade 5 examinations of the Royal College of Music of London. In the midst of preparing for the examinations I suffered a setback when my uncle was taken ill and could not spend much time to further coach me. However, my faith in God never faltered. His enduring invitation: “Call unto me and I will answer thee” – Jeremiah 33:3a came to mind.
Finally, we moved into our own house. I thought I might have to postpone my music examinations. I needed access to a piano for practice and a piano music teacher. I could not afford either one. Yet again, God answered my prayers. My sister, who was a school teacher, decided to get a piano for herself as she too was also learning to play the piano. At the same time my Pastor, Rev. Quek Swee Hwa, had just returned from the United States, having completed his theological studies. When he visited me, I informed about my forthcoming music examinations and my uncle’s health problems. He immediately offered to be my piano music teacher. He would come over once a week to guide me with practice and theory.
Every morning, I would wake up very early, usually at about 6am, and practiced till 8am as the Examination was only a few months away. At the assessment, I played with much confidence as I was quite prepared for it. When the results of the Examinations were announced, I was awarded a Distinction Grade. It was beyond my wildest expectations. All glory to God! In His graciousness, He led me through my trials and tribulations to emerge unscathed. He did not stop there and continued to bless me further. This success was encouragement for me to continue with piano music and I engaged the services of a private piano tutor to coach me, as Pastor Quek had by then been very busy with church work. Besides, I was then earning an income and could afford one. I decided to skip Grade 6 and go for Grade 7 in 1960. The following year I decided to go for the final grade - Grade 8 in practical and theory. Then, I needed a professional piano music teacher to help me so I got Mr. Douglas Tan who had just returned from the United States with a degree in music.
Every morning I would practise from 7.00am till 8.30am; then go to work; and, would practise again in the evening, after dinner and shower, usually from 8.30pm to 10.00pm. I passed Grade 8 in 1961. By that time I was really fired up and decided that music would be my future. So, the next stage would be securing the Licentiate or Diploma in order to qualify as Piano Music Teacher. I prayed faithfully for God's guidance and leading. I realized that I had to overcome the pedal problem; which was not possible in my medical condition – another setback and huge disappointment. I was truly shattered but I remained resolute assured by the Bible verse:
“Trust in the Lord God with all your heart. Remember Him in everything you do and He will show you the right way.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
My effort to complete the Senior Cambridge Examinations did not eventuate; nor my effort to obtain the diploma in music. I was determined to seek an alternative course to ensure that there was a future for me and our family. But He had blessed me to be numerate and literate even without formal education. I had hoped for the career of a Music Teacher against the odds. I prayed for God’s will of me for my livelihood. In His sovereignty He pointed me to accounting as a career moving forward. At that time, it offered better prospects of getting a job in the commercial world. But before I could make any final decision I was hit by the biggest shock of my life when mother suddenly suffered a heart attack and went home to the Lord. This was in 1966. I was left devastated. By then, both my sisters were married and managed their own homes. My brother was studying Architecture in Australia. But God in His enduring love for me led my youngest aunt to care for me.
As determined as I was for a career as a Piano Music Teacher, I switched over to bookkeeping and accounting. I successfully completed Bookkeeping with the London Chambers of Commerce in 1964 and Higher Accounting in 1968. I passed the Institute of Bookkeepers Examination in 1971. I could not complete the three subjects in successive years because of work pressure especially having to work seven days a week. It was very challenging. Study through correspondence was not easy and agonizingly slow but the good Lord sustained me.
“You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.” Psalm 21:2
I was destined to live life as a paraplegic, paralyzed from the waist down, unable to walk all my life from age four years old and therefore not accessible to the normal lifestyle – hopeless. I put my trust and hope in God whom I believe and love. I am a sinner but He loves and cares for me. Up to now He has provided for me with better than I requested of Him. He gave me a precious mother to nurture me in godliness. To this I say, the Lord has provided, the Lord has taken away; blessed be the Lord. He blessed me through a constant supply of siblings, relatives and friends (many of whom are brothers and sisters in Christ) to care for me. He sheltered me from the ravages of the war. He blessed me to be literate and numerate and even piano music ability. He has made me a professional in employment. When the odds were against me to learning how to drive a car, He overruled and I can drive by abnormal means to be mobile. The Good Lord always blessed with better than my request.
I boldly declare that my entire life has been a blessed privilege as I place everything in His hands through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. Daily, He assures me:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10.
This testimony is only a part of His bountiful blessings I have received. I will continue to receive more until I claim the most precious of His gifts when He calls me Home to enjoy Him.
If you are blessed with being a Believer, count your blessings and thank Him. And if you are among the elderly, let us testify among our peers and others our God is all love and caring. If you are yet to be a Believer, seek the guidance of a Believer friend to come to faith. Amen!
Michael is married to Judy on 31 July 1982. God bless Michael with a loving and faithful wife. Here is a brief testimony of Judy:
"They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him."
A Thumbnail Sketch on Michael Yap:
This is just a brief outline of Michael to help you as you pray for him. Born on 1st February 1938, Michael Yap was the second youngest of five siblings. His youngest sister died of diphtheria at a very young age. His older sister died of breast cancer at the age of 52. His other of three sisters was a school teacher and his brother was a retired architect. He also had a step sister. His father Mr Yap Kim Swee was working as a court interpreter in Johore Bahru for many years till he retired. His mother, Mdm. Chou Just Ee was the youngest daughter of his Grandmother Mdm. Heng Mui Sim and Grandfather the Rev. Chou Sin Lee – then Pastor of the Holy Light Church in Johore Bahru.
His accident occurred during the Second World War when Michael was just 3 years old. Although he was in no position to remember anything at that tender age of 3 years, subsequently, he managed to jot down all the details and events that took place during that period and kept it in his diary for some 25 years before he decided to write his testimony and other narratives. About 80% of events so recorded was told to him by his youngest Aunty Mdm. Chou Soon Eng and the rest by his his fourth Uncle, Mr Chou Choon King an Elder of Zion Bible-Presbyterian Church at Serangoon Garden Estate Singapore - where he worshipped before coming to Australia.
In 1964 Michael took his first holiday to visit his brother in Australia and stayed there for about a week. His brother went to Australia in 1955 to study architecture. He was of the opinion that Australia with good medical facilities especially for spinal cases would be a better place for Michael, being in that health condition. In June, 1982 Michael settled down in Australia. But before that, Michael experienced a very significant turning point in his life. He met and married Judy and they emigrated to Australia in mid-1982. Soon, Judy started working as Nurse at the Heidelburg Rehabilitation Hospital. Michael studied Business Studies and Accounting – a two and a half years course.
Michael and Judy have been living in Australia ever since.
Testimony posted on 24 March 2020.
Updated on 1 May 2020.
P/S: If you and anyone you know need spiritual guidance, you are invited to contact Pastor Eric Kwan at email@example.com