"God is Great" and "God is Gracious". These are the names we had chosen for our two sons before they were born. When they arrived, God put their names to the test for His glory alone. Through their birth, God demonstrated His power and grace.

It started on 16 February 1981 when Joel came into this world three weeks early. That morning, Jenny noticed some blood stains and decided to see her gynaecologist, who suggested that she check into Mount Alvernia for rest and observation. Everything seemed fine up to the time the doctor examined her in the evening and left. Soon after, Jenny started to bleed profusely. Her doctor was recalled and she was rushed into the operating theatre.

Joel was kept in an incubator in Mount Alvernia for about a week. According to the gynaecologist, his lungs were not fully developed and he was breathing hard. Towards the end of the week, Joel contracted pneumonia and was turning bluish. The paediatrician strongly recommended that he be transferred to an intensive care unit at the Alexandra Hospital. After examining Joel and doing all the necessary tests, Dr KW Tan, Head of Paediatrics, Alexandra Hospital, gave me a briefing. Holding an X-ray film against the light, he told me that my son had "no lungs". I was disoriented and felt the room spinning, until he explained that Joel's lungs had collapsed. Without air, the lungs would not appear on the X-ray, Joel was given penicillin and his chances of pulling through were fifty-fifty.

We are grateful that during that period of about a month the church was behind us in prayer. I remember one sister saying that she was praying for Joel as if he were her own. Grace Assembly has always been our family. Thank God, my son grew stronger and was soon discharged. Joel is the name we have chosen for our eldest son, which means "God is Great".

History has a way of repeating itself. On 25th January 1984, we went through what we had gone through three years before. It was like watching a video replay, except that this time the situation was more serious. Jenny bled a little in the morning, was admitted to Mount Alvernia for observation, visited by the same gynaecologist, and bled profusely after her doctor left. This time, I was around to see the blood and witness the situation. The two nurses were reassuring Jenny that everything was alright, but behind the screen and away from Jenny's ears, they were panicking. They kept changing the sanitary sheets that quickly absorbed the blood.

This time round, Johann was rushed to Alexandra Hospital on the day he was born. The same Dr Tan saw me and said, "You again!" Johann was seven weeks early and he could not breathe on his own. He was hooked to a respirator. At birth, he weighed 2.05 kilograms and he stayed in the ICU for about three months. During these times, he was hooked to many tubes and was pricked several times a day to test the oxygen level in his blood. The doctors were hoping to see him breathing on his own and acquiring a 20% oxygen level in his blood. His chances of survival was worse than Joel's.

The birth of our two sons was a trying period for Jenny and me. Our faith was put to the test. A Christian brother called me while Jenny was recuperating at home and Joel was in hospital. I remembered telling him I was prepared for the worst, and if we lost Johann, I would take Jenny away on a trip. That brother "lectured" and exhorted me. He said that if God did not want us to have the child, He would not have given the child to us in the first place, and that we should claim the child in faith. Feeling encouraged, I shared this with Jenny and we prayed together. It was a wonderful spiritual experience. I prayed in tongues till I felt inner peace I never felt before and knew that things would be all right. Glory be to God! From that day on, or rather from that moment, Johann's condition took a turn for the better. His oxygen readings began to improve. After 3 months in Alexandra Hospital, he was discharged.

Johann is an Austrian version of John which means "God is gracious". When Johann was about two and a half years old, God again proved Himself to be gracious. It was a near-drowning incident and again God spared his life.

It was mid-1986, when Adeline, our teenage niece, and the two boys were swimming in the condominium pool while Jenny and I waited for our friends, Chris and Jannifer, to arrive. When we reached the pool with our guests, Johann came out from the baby pool to greet us. From then, Jenny and I split up. I showed Chris around the clubhouse while Jenny took Jannifer in the opposite direction. I assumed Johann was with Jenny, and Jenny assumed Johann was with me. When we met up shortly and realised that Johann was not around, we knew something had gone wrong. I ran towards the pool. From afar, I could see Adeline running towards me, and a body at the far end of the adult pool. It was Johann. When I reached Johann, his body was cold, his lips had turned blue and his stomach was bloated. I did not know what to do. I laid hands on Johann, prayed in tongues and cried at the same time. A crowd was gathering and Chris was asking if anyone knew how to apply CPR. No one responded and Chris quickly made an attempt. That brief moment seemed like a long time. Many things went through my mind and I actually thought Johann was gone. I continued to pray while Chris continued to apply CPR. For what seemed like a long while, nothing happened. Suddenly, Johann began to choke and vomited. We rushed him to NUH. The doctors were concerned about his brain, which could have been damaged due to the lack of oxygen for some time. Thank God for His graciousness! Johann's mental capability today does not seemed impaired.

What can we say but that our God is great and gracious! He has delivered Joel and Johann from the brink of death. After these incidents, we are conscious that our two boys belong to God. As parents, we are just taking care of them on God's behalf. We want and hope to remember that for the rest of our lives. We have dedicated them to God and constantly pray that God will use them according to His will.

Family - A Gift From God

From left: Joel, Johann, Jenny and Teng Pong