To see God’s work in her handicap
By Widjaja and Mie Lie Limawan with Goldie Chong
“Your daughter owes a lot. She has to pay her debt. The curse cannot be broken any other way,” the fortune teller’s words instilled fear and dread into our hearts. Following her instructions we lighted a big candle, gave the specified amount to the temple and dedicated Ritchell to Kuan Yin, the goddess of Mercy. The fortune teller predicted a hard journey ahead for our blind baby. “You better watch she doesn’t choke on her milk….” Stress and anxiety plagued us daily because of these dire predictions.
“We were looking forward to our first baby in 1995,” recalled Widjaja , an Indonesian Chinese, “26th Oct. was a beautiful day in Indonesia but the news was ugly when the doctor told me that unless our 30- week baby was delivered, Mie Lie would die.”
Born by emergency caesarean, Ritchell weighed a mere 1kg. and measured 35 cm with only one functioning lung , with bruised ribs and loss of blood. In desperation I cried to god or gods I didn’t really know to spare her. After a traumatic two and a half months in an incubator, Ritchell was taken home. When she was three or four months old we suspected something was not quite right. Our parents were reassuring, “Premature babies are usually slower to respond….”
But at five months we thought we better have her checked by an eye specialist. “Her retinas are about to be detached” was the diagnosis. There was still hope of a cure. So we applied for visa and bought tickets to Perth, Australia to consult the famous ophthalmologist Dr. Ian Constable. Waiting for two weeks we got an appointment only to hear a bombshell, “her retinas have detached.” He went on to explain, “there is a chance that with an operation she may get 5% sight but the risk is big – the eyes may be pulled inward. If she were my own daughter I would not risk it.”
Crushed by this diagnosis, Mie Lie could not cope with this terrible blow. She knew what it meant to have a blind child. “In our Chinese Buddhist culture” Widjaja explained, “a handicap child indicated a curse in the family. It was shameful and embarrassing. Handicapped children were usually hidden inside the home. What kind of life would Ritchell and the family have….?” In desperation Mie Lie wanted to jump out the window to end her life.
A lady in the hospital seeing her distraught tears asked Widjaja, “Can I pray for your wife?” Mie Li hardly heard what she said in the prayer offered but a few words struck her “….strengthen her heart….God, use this child….in the Name of Jesus I speak praise….”
Back home in Indonesia Widjaja and Mie Lie’s relationship went through a turbulent time. Distressed, hurting, angry, troubled, they blamed each other, accusing each other’s families, pinpointing sins which could have caused this tragedy… Still they continued going to temples to search for relief.
One day Mie Lie read about a Christian pastor restoring the sight of a blind person. Determined, she went to the church looking for this miracle worker. But she could not get him to pray for Ritchell because there were so many people wanting him to pray for them. A friend organized a meeting to take Mie Lie to this pastor’s house. On seeing her anxiety and hope, he told her gently, “I may not be able to heal your daughter but I can tell you about the Great Healer.” Soon the Healer began to heal Mie Lie. Peace came to her heart. She wished Widjaja would know the Healer too and find peace. But while she went to church he continued to go to the temple. One day he offered to drive her to church. Instead of dropping her off he said, “I’ll come in for awhile.” Once inside to his embarrassment his tears began to flow. “I’ve never cried like this before. I didn’t know what was happening to me.” The presence of God was obvious. Widjaja found the Healer’s peace soon after. Instead of begging for healing, their prayer for Ritchell turned to: “God please use her”.
At the age of three, they noticed that little Ritchell could sing all the songs and hymns she heard in the church. Her teacher gave her a little toy piano as a birthday present. Ritchell could play by ear all the tunes she heard. The parents then bought her a proper keyboard.
One day when Ritchell was 6, she said,” Mother, God gave me a song.” She played a beautiful tune. Some time later she told her mother, “Listen to these words God gave me.” And she sang a song of praise. More music and songs came to her. By the age of 8 Ritchell released her first album titled “Heavenly Gift”. Her first concert touched more than a thousand people. She performed in Singapore and Indonesia.
Performing in church
Ritchell is now 12. She attends a normal school and has an excellent academic record. She has won a scholarship in a prestigious high school for talented children. She has released a second album titled “The One who keeps me safe”.
Twelve years ago her untimely birth brought much sorrow to her family. What the enemy intended for evil God turned it to good. Her music and songs touch people’s hearts because they see God’s goodness and favour in her life. Last year she sang to over 52,000 people in Singapore. Whereas it is specially difficult for the Christian message to penetrate schools because of opposition from other religions, the door is open to Ritchell with her music. In her physical blindness she has given spiritual sight to thousands, including her grandparents, uncle, auntie and most wonderfully her 95 year old great grandfather.
This article was first published in Asian Beacon, used with permission.
Perth Wildcats game
Ritchell’s update: I graduated from high school in 2013 and was offered a place at the WA Academy of Performing Arts, Perth. I am currently halfway into my Bachelor of Contemporary Music degree, with 2 more years to go until I graduate. On top of that, I have written a lot of songs, and I think I have more than enough songs to record a fourth album (my third album “Superhero” was released in 2011), but haven’t been able to acquire enough funds. I am saving up at the moment and hope to be able to record it in the near future.
As for my compositions, I guess the 2 most important songs are “Life”, which won a national song-writing competition in 2013. Out of the hundreds of entries from all around Australia that got reviewed, I was one of four that got chosen. Another important composition is a song entitled “A Treasure In You”, which I performed at Miss World pageant in Bali in 2013. I also performed at one of the Perth Wildcats basketball games which was held at Perth Arena in the same year. I go around Perth performing at various churches, balls and charity events. I have a Facebook page and my own YouTube channel.
My website: www.myspace.com/ritchelllim.