A Spark

To set the whole family on fire

By Tay Bee Hong

Brought up in a Buddhist, Taoist environment, following traditions and rituals, practicing ancestor worship, observing the different Chinese festivals and praying to many different gods for blessings and good fortune, my parents raised us ten children of which I am the fourth. Life was difficult especially for my father having so many mouths to feed with no steady monthly income. But one thing my father believed in was to give each and every one of his children a good education. The girls were sent to the Sacred Heart Convent and the boys to the St. Francis Institution in Malacca. In a catholic school I heard about Mary and Jesus, attended mass and novena and even said the ‘rosary’.


In school, I worked hard, making sure that I didn’t fail in any subject. I managed to pass the entrance exam to get into Form Six. Although my HSC results were not excellent, I also managed to get a place into the University of Malaya.

In October 1972 I was in my final year at the university, only a few months before I would graduate. Leading to this important event, I went through many months of anxiety, sleepless nights worrying about my finals whether I would be able to get through. I contemplated, “ What would the future be if I couldn’t get a job? What if I were to fail? what a disappointment I would be to my family, especially to my father who had to sacrifice so much to put me through university. He even had to take a loan with interest to cover my expenses. “

I didn’t know what to do. There was no one I could talk to, no one to turn to for help. I finally decided to talk to God. I knew I should pray but I didn’t know how to pray. The only form of prayer I knew at that time was saying the rosary, as the nuns in the Convent had taught me. So that was what I did for one whole week – kneeling down in my room and saying the rosary every morning. But in the course of doing that, I remember saying to God – “Please work a miracle in my life. Take my problems away.”

An invitation

Helen Lim my course mate invited me for a meeting held in the campus. She is by nature a very quiet girl, friendly and always has a smile. She did not say what kind of meeting it was. I found out later that it was an evangelistic meeting organized by the VCF ( Varsity Christian Fellowship ), held during the lunch hour. I went out of curiosity and because I happened to be free at that time.

The speaker was a man by the name of Charles Tang. He spoke from Ezekiel 37 – the Miracle of the dry bones. I don’t remember much of what he said but one thing he said stuck with me the next few days – “ The greatest of all miracles is when a sinner comes to God.” Up until that time, I had never considered myself a sinner, having never done anything wrong (so I thought). When he gave the altar call to accept Christ and be a Christian, I was thinking to myself, “So easy to become Christian, just by putting up your hand? The nuns didn’t teach us that way. Can’t be that easy!” Of course I didn’t put up my hand that day.

The greatest miracle

But for the next two days what the preacher said about the greatest miracle couldn’t leave me. I saw Helen again and asked her, ‘How does a person become a Christian?’ She didn’t give me the 4 Spiritual Laws or tell me 3 steps to salvation. Instead she handed me a copy of the New Testament and told me to read the Gospel of John. Although we lost contact with each other after our graduation, I still have that copy of the New Testament.

That night alone in my room, I read the Gospel of John for the first time from start to finish. At the end of it, I was convicted that I was a sinner and that I needed Jesus to take away my sins. Then I said a prayer to receive Jesus into my life, right there in my room. At that moment I felt peace and joy filled my soul. A heavy load was lifted from me! I wanted to sing! I wanted to jump!
The next morning, when I went to the campus, the air felt fresher and the grass seemed greener.

The fire spreads

The next month I went home to Malacca for a three-week term break. The first person I shared the gospel with was my sister Katherine. When I talked, she just listened. No response. When I came back home again two months later, she had already received Christ at a Christmas Eve evangelistic meeting held in Bethel Church under Pastor Susan Tang. The next conversion in my family was my brother Moses. I was surprised that he wanted to go with me to church and to attend Christian meetings. He had been touched by the testimony of a Christian friend of the family. He received Christ at an evangelistic crusade in August 1973. Both Katherine and Moses are now serving as pastors, Katherine in Muar and Moses in Malacca.

The three of us Christians began to seriously pray for the salvation of the rest in the family. What started as a spark in my heart , was now being fanned into a fire, as one by one my family came to know the Lord.

My two youngest brothers Eugene and Eddie started going to church with us. Next, we saw the conversion of my eldest sister, Bee Chiok who was steeped in the Buddhist beliefs and fortune telling. The song that brought her to put her faith in Christ was ‘ Amazing Grace ‘.

The Lord worked in the heart of each one in the family. Year after year, we saw one and then another brother, another sister turning to the Lord. By 1976, only my parents and my second sister were yet to be saved. We took to more earnest daily prayer, especially for my parents. Before the end of 1976, both my parents received Christ together, when my brother from Singapore shared the gospel with my father. My second sister ( who lives in Australia ) also received Christ and was baptized in early 1979.
When my father passed away in April 1979, the whole family had become Christians.
It only takes one to pass it on.

The Tay family now

Continue to burn

I am now a retired teacher, worshipping and serving in Gateway Christian Fellowship, Malacca.

My parents have gone home to the Lord. My brothers and sisters, are worshipping and serving in their churches. It only took a spark from the Holy Spirit to ignite a flame in my heart and it has spread to my whole household. 


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