Mr. Raymond Tan Swee Hoon
up in a family that practised ancestor and idol worship. I left school to seek
employment after completing secondary 3, but I kept job-hopping and did not
master any trade. At 17 I was influenced by my friends to join a gang. I
learned to smoke, extort, fight, steal and rob, and was a very active gang member.
One day I was arrested for armed robbery and rioting and was sent to the Reformative
Training Centre. There, I heard about Jesus from Reverend Khoo Seow Hua but I
did not receive Him. Weeks after my release from the Centre I was arrested
again, this time for motor cycle theft. I was sent back to the RTC. Although I
attended the weekly chapel service I still did not become a Christian.
1992 I was arrested again for robbery and murder. When I was in remand prison I
wanted to be a Christian but doubted if God would forgive a murderer like me.
God gave me a direct answer. One day I met a fellow prisoner, a Nigerian man.
He told me that he had seen me in his dream and Jesus told him that I would be
a Christian one day. I laughed at him and warned him sternly, “Look here man,
you came in because of drug trafficking and I for murder. We are going to the
gallows soon, so stop this nonsense, and I don’t have a Bible.” He insisted that
Jesus had told him I would have a copy of the Bible and one day he would walk
out of prison a free man. (True enough, he and his accomplice were acquitted
and released 4 months later.)
day I had a visitor. I was surprised to find that it was my older sister who had been at loggerheads with me since
young. She brought me a gift – a Bible! When I returned to my cell, the
Nigerian said, “See! Jesus told me you would have a Bible.” From then on we
would use our yard time to have fellowship and Bible study. I finally confessed
my sins and accepted Christ as my personal Saviour in October 1992.
my Investigating Officer (IO) came to tell me that the Deputy Public Prosecutor
(DPP) decided to offer me a reduced charge. The initial murder charge would be
commuted to a manslaughter charge. He told me that I would not be hanged but I
should be prepared for life imprisonment. But that same afternoon my IO came
back to say that the Attorney General refused to grant me the reduced charge
because my accomplice had been hanged so I would have to face the mandatory
death sentence as well. I was devastated and ranted at him “Why did you give me
a wrong message and now you dash my hope? You took the noose from my neck this
morning only to put it back.” Seeing how angry I was, he was at a loss and
apologized profusely that it was beyond what he could do. Before he left, he
reminded me, “Why don’t you try praying to your God?”
first thing I did after returning to my cell was to vent my anger at God and I flung
the Bible to the back of the cell. That night I dreamt that the Bible I had
thrown was floating in the air and a few torn pages were drifting down. A voice
told me to catch one of the pages and I did. It was Psalms 33. I woke up
immediately, took out the Bible to see what God wanted to tell me. Verses 1 to 12
were all in praise of God which did not mean much to me. But verse 13 said “From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all
mankind;” I understood that He was watching me all the time and verse 19 said,
“to deliver them from death and keep them
alive in famine.” I finally understood that I would not die after all. Immediately
I fell on my knees to thank God and to beg for forgiveness. I promised God that
from then on I would be a Christian that would please Him.
could not afford a lawyer the Government assigned me one. He succeeded in
getting my charges reduced and I was sentenced to 23 years with 24 strokes of the
cane. I knelt in the lock-up room of the High Court and thanked God for giving
me a new lease of life. After remission I had to serve 15 years and 6 months. I
spent most of my time studying the Bible and through the help of a counsellor I
also took some correspondent theological courses.
serving 15 years I was placed on a 6-month home-tagging program. But I
requested to serve the program in Breakthrough Missions because I needed to strengthen
and transform my spiritual life. However, as I was not a drug abuser I did not
qualify for programs in half-way houses. But God opened the way for me and,
after numerous interviews and tests by social workers, psychiatrists and
doctors, I was admitted to Breakthrough Missions.
months at Breakthrough, I was deployed to the home-moving department. I also
learned to pray, lead worship and devotion, share testimonies as well as God’s
Word. When I completed the 36-month program I became a full-time staff. God not
only protected and loved me throughout these years but also blessed me with a
lovely wife, Xu Lixin from China. I was 59 when we married.
As my wife is a foreigner, Breakthrough Missions helped her apply
for a work-permit so that she does not have to travel between Singapore and
China frequently, saving us much hassle and air ticket expenses. Both of us are
now serving at Breakthrough Missions. I will live the rest of my life guided by
my favourite verse in the Bible: Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things
will be given to you as well.”