Having lost house, restaurant, friends… his future suddenly brightened overnight…..
Gary Chee was a habitual gambler from young. By the age of 23, he was running his own private gambling den. Migrating to Australia in the 1980’s he got a job in the mines driving 100 tonne dump trucks and within a short time earned enough to buy a house when he relocated his family to Perth. He could cook, so he started the Lotus Inn Restaurant. Finishing cooking everyday about 10pm, he had no other entertainment except to go to the casino. Before long, predictably his thrill and greed lost him his restaurant and his home, not to mention the mountain of debt he owed the bank, the landlord, his friends, etc.
His daughter came to know the Lord first and then his wife.
They asked him whether he wanted to know God. Gary grew up in a mission school but he regarded the Christian teachings as ‘rubbish’.
He queried ‘how can a priest forgive sins when he himself is a sinner’.
He further retorted, “when I win the lottery, I’ll be a Christian.”
When his wife’s pastors went to his restaurant to eat his good food (but also to reach out to him), he would slip out the back door leaving her to do the cooking.
On Christmas Eve in 1999, as he was driving to town, he noticed two of his tyres were worn out with wires poking through the rubber. In Australia, everybody was off on holiday during Christmas.
“No more Amen house for you tomorrow,” he taunted his wife, “but if your God can fix my tyres today, I’ll go to church with you tomorrow”.
There were two tyre shops nearby. The first shop was already closed. At the next shop, the man tried his best to look for his kind of tyres but without success.
“There you are. No need to go to church tomorrow,” smirked Gary.
About to drive off, the shopkeeper chased after them saying, “Turn down the road….there’s another shop there.” Already stressed and tired, Gary knew it was going to be a wild goose chase. But to his surprise the man in the third shop said, “Yes, we do have your tyres. We will change them now.” So Gary kept his promise and went to church with his wife on Christmas Day.
At the church service the pastor announced, “Three people are going to accept the Lord today”. Indeed two people did stand up to indicate their decision. Gary thought impatiently, “just another ten minutes and this meeting will be over”.
Then it was refreshment time. The pastor came over to talk to him, “How did you find the sermon?”
“Oh, it’s OK”
“Do you want to accept the Lord?”
Gary explained later, “ on Christmas eve in Australia, nobody works. Most shops are closed for days. To find a shop that was still open, having the right kind of tyres, getting them fixed there and then…. was near impossible…. it must be God who answered my challenge.”
A few days later Gary was invited to attend the business men’s Christian Bible study group that met in a restaurant at 6am in the city. “No way am I going,” he thought. “I can’t get up at 6am because after I finish work and clean up and go to bed after midnight, I won’t get up until mid-morning.” But he turned up. “You guys must have prayed for me. I couldn’t sleep and had to get up at 5.30!”
Ben asked, “Gary, do you speak in tongues?” The group prayed for him and he began to shout in a strange language. Ben wept with joy.
Someone then asked, “Gary what can we pray for you?
“I’ve tried to stop gambling but I know even if I chop off my fingers I will not be able to stop. Pray for my addiction,” he pleaded. They gathered around him and prayed a simple prayer. Remarkably his addiction stopped that day. It has never returned even till today 15 years later. Added to this cure was a bonus. As a cook, always hot and stressed in the kitchen, his cursing and swearing poured forth continuously. When this also stopped overnight, the restaurant staff asked his daughter, “what happened to your dad?”
Gary bought himself a bible. Ten days after he bought the bible, he finished reading the New Testament. His appetite for God’s Word was voracious; he reads it whenever he has a break from cooking, even today. His pastor had regular one on one bible study with him. “The Word is what has kept me strong,” he attests.
After his conversion, Gary was not out of the woods. He had a tough time sorting out the financial mess of his past mistakes. But during this time God sent people to strengthen him. He remembers with gratitude his sister-in-law who visited him from Sabah whose words kept him afloat, “no matter what happens, cling onto the Lord. Never let go.”
During his baptism, a voice inside asked him:
“Do you want Me or your million dollars?” Without hesitation Gary answered, “Lord, I want you.” It was a good choice. When his old gambling mates met him some time later they remarked, “Gary, where have you been? We never see you at the casino. We thought you were dead!” True, the old Gary has died. God has raised up a new man.
Today Gary acknowledges God’s blessings on him and his family. His daughter has graduated and has a good job. His wife Susan who had hepatitis C and had to suffer injections and medication for years prayed for healing and now has no more symptoms and no need for treatment. His son is working with him in his busy restaurant. His Malaysian- style food attracts many office workers and undergrads from the nearby university.
The businesses in the shopping complex where his shop is situated also are blessed. One lady who owns a boutique there told him, “When you have Bible study here with your pastor, I have more business. But on days you don’t have bible study, my business goes down.” Eventually that lady also came to know the Lord.
Gary’s Malaysian Gourmet Restaurant opened 12 years ago at Broadway Fair in Perth. It was a quiet suburban small shopping mall but Gary’s shop has become very popular, bringing in customers to make it the present lively, thriving and busy meeting place for students and business folks. God’s presence which has been brought in by one transformed businessman continues to be felt by many.
Postscript. Michelle Wong from Melaka is 23 years of age and aspires to be a writer.
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