Paster Simon Neo
Founder / Executive Director
“Breakthrough Missions” is a halfway house in Singapore which takes in ex-drug offenders upon their release from prison and rehabilitates them. Its founder, Simon Neo, a legendary figure, was a hardcore drug addict once. The media and all who come in contact with him are always curious how his life was transformed. Where did Simon Neo get his life transforming strength?This is his testimony :
My father died when I was young and my mother was not able to look after her four sons. Being the youngest, I was placed in the care of my maternal grandparents.
I was very interested in stories about gongfu (martial arts) heroes and yearned for the carefree and unbridled lifestyles of the characters in the stories. I dropped out of school before completing my primary education. At 14 I became a secret society member and at 15 I formed my own gang. Even as a juvenile gang leader I was collecting “protection money” and living the life of frequent violent gang fights. Once while I was in the midst of a violent clash with a rival gang the police swooped in and arrested many. I was lucky to escape but that was when I began to fear that one day I would also end up dead on the street. I then turned to punk rock music and marijuana. The hippie movement was in full swing and I kept my hair very long and wore outlandish clothes. From a small gangland leader, I became a lead hippie and punk rock music figure.
When I was 16 I tried drugs out of curiosity, thinking that I would only take one puff and could stop when I wanted to. It was a tragic mistake and I was to lose everything because of that single misstep. I got hooked and even started peddling drugs. My addiction knew no limit. From marijuana I soon went on to LSD, opium, heroin and even injecting morphine. Drugs were like my shadow and I could not live a day without it.
My luck soon ran out and between 1969 -1974 I was arrested three times and imprisoned twice. Each time I was released from jail my old associates would get wind of it and would be waiting at the prison gates. All the painful experiences of trying to kick the habit while in jail were forgotten and I went back to my old ways. My excuse was always this: it was beyond my control as we were all creatures of circumstances.
During that period, I often heard news of sudden drug-induced deaths of friends. They had been frequent inmates of rehabilitation centers.At their funeral services I witnessed heart-wrenching scenes of their parents wailing in anguish. It reminded me of my mother who had cried buckets for me. I did not want my own young and vibrant life snuffed out that way so I started trying all means to quit drugs. I went for acupuncture, took sleeping pills, consumed hard liquor and even hid myself in a kelong far out in the sea so that my friends could not find me. I thought I could do it but when the cravings came the body felt as if it was pricked by thousands of needles and tens of thousands of worms were crawling in and out of it. The pain was unbearable when the cravings became severe. That was when I decided to return to the mainland to inject morphine. But as soon as this brought relief I felt remorseful and I swore that it would be the last time. After innumerable such “last times” I finally told myself to give up and to stop deluding myself that it could be done.
This was my wretched life as a drug addict. There was no peace for when I had drugs I was afraid of being arrested and when my drugs ran out I was worried where I could find the money to get more. I knew only full well the tragic consequences of drug abuse and I was in constant agony grappling with near-death throes.
Together with a group of drug addict friends I once camped out on Changi beach for a year, living a wanton life - taking drugs and playing rock music. Many Christians often came to the beach to share the gospel and would approach us but we turned a deaf ear for we were living in darkness and enjoying the pleasures of sin. In 1976 I was at home when an old friend who was once my companion in smoking opium and injecting drugs came visiting. I was in the process of injecting morphine; my friend sat and watched in silence till I was done. Then he said, “Simon, come and believe in Jesus and your life will be transformed.” He told me he had done just that: he believed in Jesus and he kicked the drug habit. His encouragement moved me deeply and I said the prayer to believe in Jesus. At that very instant tears gushed from my eyes.
However, the cravings soon returned. When I thought of going back to my old way I remembered what my friend told me, “If you are not able to kick the drug habit, come look for us.” I was soon making my way to the gospel-based rehabilitation center, House of Hope. It was raining very heavily and I did not know how I got the strength but one thing I was sure: I did not want to go back the old way again. I was drenched when I got to the House of Hope and the friends who were in there immediately gave me a towel and extended a very enthusiastic welcome. I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of love and warmth, something I had never felt before. It was God demonstrating His love through their lives.
1977 was the turning point of my life. Not only did I believe in Jesus I was also able, by the strength Jesus gave me, to overcome the temptation of drugs, kick my years of gambling habit and even quit smoking, something I’d indulged in for more than 10 years. My life transformation was like what the Bible said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Jesus Christ transformed me. His love filled my life with infinite hope. I thought of the many friends who were still snared in the suffering, emptiness, and confusion of the world of drugs, waiting for the good news of Christ’s salvation to be brought to them. On 1st July 1983 together with a few ex-drug offenders who had also been saved by the grace of God I started Breakthrough Missions to undertake the commission and ministry of gospel-based drug rehabilitation. Our aim was to help drug addicts like us lead a new life, which is not only free of drugs but also of smoking, alcohol and gambling.
Someone once declared: “once a drug addict, forever a drug addict!” Drug addicts are deemed lost and hopeless causes. But it is our firm belief that the life of a drug addict can have a bright dawn in Jesus Christ.
We also believe with all our heart the promise of Jesus Christ: “So if the Son (Jesus) sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Bible John 8:36)