“The Road Less Travelled” or “Radical Faith” – By Rev George Ong (Dated 10 Oct 2021)
(Don’t miss Rev George Ong’s 2 testimonies of being healed of stroke and bleeding in the brain, see below.)
If there is one phrase that could describe the tenor of my ministry, it is “The Road Less Travelled” or “Radical Faith”.
It started in 1998 when I was 40-years-old (the second half of my life) and when I was pastoring. God spoke to my heart that he wanted me to go on a 40-day fast with just fruit juice and water (for 40 days). I was radically led to go on a 40-day fast, not once but for 3 consecutive years (once every year), when I was 40-42 years-old. (At a convenient time, I may share the details with you.)
The second milestone was in 2001, when God led me to resign from pastoring to become an itinerant preacher with no promise of any financial support. Back then, my children were only 10-years-old, 7 and 5. My wife, Kwee Siew wasn’t even working as she was a homemaker. We had to radically trust God to provide for our needs for all these years. (I may also share this with you at some convenient time.)
The third was the production of the 56 humour books, which is probably a world record. This was indeed a unique journey for me and Kwee Siew. What was radical was we left our 3 children at home all by themselves (when they were 18-years-old, 15 and 13) when Kwee Siew and I went to the States to do serious research on humour for 3 months. Child abuse? Don’t panic! We trained them from young to prepare for this eventual moment. Please click to view comments to my humour books.
The fourth milestone was when I was hit with a major stroke in December 2010. The details are shared (see below).
The fifth was when I collapsed and my head hit the concrete floor in May 2012. As a result, there was bleeding in my brain and blood clots were spotted in many parts of my brain. The details are also shared (see below).
The sixth to eighth episodes will be briefly shared at the end of the second testimony.
(There are 2-3 more episodes which I didn’t include in this update.)
Testimony of God’s Healing of My Stroke in December 2010 – By Rev George Ong
(The audio form of this and the next testimony are also available. Listening to my verbal sharing gives another flavour to the written form. See right at the end for the link.) My advice is to read then listen. But if you choose to listen to the audio first, please click to listen.)
In 2010, while I was in the process of working on the second batch (Volumes 13-32) of my humour books, I was hit with a major stroke.
That night at about 11.30 pm on 21 December, while lying in bed and preparing to go to sleep, I sensed something unusual. The right-hand side of my body became numbed and immobilised. When I tried to speak, nothing came out of my mouth.
My wife, Kwee Siew said that saliva was drooling from the right side of my mouth uncontrollably. Evidently, I had lost control of my nerves. She noticed that I couldn’t speak a word when she asked me whether I was alright. She also saw that my face was contorted.
What happened was that the blood flow to the main artery of my left brain was blocked, resulting in numbness over the right-hand side of my body, which was ‘paralysed’ and couldn’t move.
Had the stroke hit me a day earlier, I might have been really paralysed or even dead, as none of my family members were at home. My wife and children were all at a chalet on an overnight stay somewhere else. Imagine being hit with a major stroke with no one at home to attend to me.
That night, I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. We arrived at the NUH hospital on 22 Dec 2010 at about 12.30 am. A CT brain scan confirmed that it was a stroke attack and revealed that blood vessels in my brain were blocked.
The neuro-surgeon who examined me said it was a very serious stroke as the main artery in my left-hand brain was involved which could have resulted in total paralysis or even death.
He told Kwee Siew he was going to administer a special drug which cost about $2,600 to dissolve the clot and clear the blockage (thrombolysis). But he also explained to Kwee Siew that the special drug could also come with the possible risk of brain haemorrhage, and other complications. Trusting God, she had to take the risk and signed the consent form.
Thank God, I responded well to the drug and my subsequent recovery was nothing short of miraculous. The doctors and nurses were surprised and even shocked at my lightning recovery. After spending another night at the hospital, I was discharged the next day, quite unusual for a major stroke patient.
It is common for stroke patients to stay in the hospital for weeks and even months. Some may even have to go for long-term physiotherapy. For many stroke patients, the recovery may not be complete as their limbs or speech could be permanently impaired.
Although mine was a major stroke attack because the main artery in my left brain was involved, I stayed in the hospital for only one and a half nights. My recovery was remarkably fast.
As an itinerant preacher, I had many speaking engagements all lined up and the two most immediate ones were on Christmas Eve, 24 December (I was warded on 22 December). These two speaking engagements at two different Anglican churches in Singapore were back-to-back (7.30 pm and 10 pm services).
The question was if I should I cancel my speaking engagements on 24 December. I had to act fast. If I were to cancel them because of my medical condition, the two churches would have to be informed soonest as they would need advance notice to get another speaker.
Any right-minded person would have cancelled the speaking engagements straightaway without even thinking after being hit by a major stroke. But I was led by the Lord to go ahead with my speaking engagements.
When the neuro-surgeon and my brother-in-law found out that I was going ahead to speak on Christmas Eve, they were shocked and thought I was ‘mad’ and advised me against it. Of course, they meant well for me.
However, the ways of the Lord can turn out to be different from that of man. While I am against reckless faith, there is certainly a place for radical faith. I’m aware that the line between them can sometimes be thin.
After seeking the Lord, I had the peace and the faith to go ahead and preach. The fact that I am alive and well today showed that I had ‘read’ the Lord correctly. This is a special leading of the Lord. But if one isn’t guided by God and moves presumptuously, it may be disastrous and damaging to one’s health.
Meanwhile, the nurse informed me that my recovery was unusually quick. My blood pressure was back to normal and my body movements were excellent. On 23 December 2010, I was discharged. The next day on 24 December, I went ahead to preach at 2 churches on the first day of my medical leave.
As the church at the 7.30 pm service was located at a school, I had to climb 4 flights of stairs to reach the meeting place. For a stroke patient who was just discharged the day before like me to climb up the stairs wasn’t an easy task at all, and I had to do it one step at a time, slowly and haltingly. Before the 7.30 pm service ended, I had to rush to the next church for the 10 pm service.
After the stroke attack, I noticed my memory wasn’t as sharp and quick as before. It would take a ‘longer time’ for me to remember names and facts. The difficulty of swallowing my saliva, which is a common ailment of stroke patients, also posed a problem. So preaching the next day after my discharge from the hospital was rather challenging. But thank God for His abundant grace that saw me through.
The doctor said my hefty weight was one factor that contributed to my stroke and advised me to slim down. I took his advice seriously and went on a radical diet. I went down from 97 kgs (213 lbs) to 72 kgs (158 lbs). I lost 25 kgs or 55 pounds within 5 months from December 2010 to May 2011.
As I’ve shared, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, I had gone on a 40-day fast with just water and fruit juice, not just once, but for 3 years consecutively (once every year) when I was between 40-42 years old. Because I had gone on a 40-day fast 3 times, with no food in my stomach for 40 days, dieting with much-reduced food intake is a piece of cake (forgive my candidness, hopefully, not arrogance). Due to my experience with three 40-day fasts when I was in my 40s, I knew how to go on a radical diet losing 25 kgs in 5 months without ‘killing’ myself.
I jokingly told my wife and friends that I could moonlight as a consultant for a slimming agency. All you need is some knowledge on dieting but lots of discipline and willpower.
To give you an idea how much 25 kgs is, I met a stranger who was with her 2 toddlers, and I asked what was their combined weight. Her reply was that it was less than 25 kgs. In other words, in picture form, losing 25 kgs for me, is like having ‘2 toddlers’ being taken out of my stomach.
The radical diet to bring my weight down by 25 kgs requires radical discipline. When I get up every morning, the first thing I do is to weigh myself. The regimen of weighing myself everyday continues till today during the 11 years (2010-2021), after my stroke attack in 2010. A close monitoring of one’s weight goes a long way in keeping it in check.
Losing weight isn’t the most difficult part; maintaining my weight poses the bigger challenge. This is because I’m a food lover and I can eat a lot. It runs in my family that we put on weight rather easily. Kwee Siew’s family is the opposite. No matter how much food they eat, they are still rather skinny. I don’t know why – perhaps there are worms inside their stomach. Just kidding!
The first 2 weeks of my discharge from the hospital gave my wife lots of stress. Whenever we lie on bed and I get a little quiet, she, in her anxiety, would elbow my sides and asked, “Hey, are you still alive?”
At 2 or 3 am on most mornings for about 2 weeks, when I was soundly sleeping away, I would often feel her forefinger at the bottom of my nostrils – to check whether I’m still breathing. This is because stroke patients have been known to die in their sleep. And she doesn’t want to sleep beside a dead body for too long. Hehe! Whenever I enter the toilet and remain inside there for too long, she would panic and asked, “Have you collapsed?”
The neuro-surgeon warned me about the possible risk of a recurring stroke, which is common among stroke patients, and such strokes could occur anytime. And those who have had the first stroke attack would have a higher chance of encountering another one.
Am I fearful? Absolutely not! My life is not in my hands but God’s hands. ‘If I go tomorrow, I go.’ But as long as I have another day to live, I will live it for His glory and fulfill His task and calling for me. Up till today, by His matchless grace, I have no recurring stroke and I am generally in good health (and I don’t have to take Holy Communion daily or even 3 times a day like taking medicine as advocated by Joseph Prince).
At the start of this testimony, I had shared that while I was in the process of working on my second batch of humour books (Volumes 13-32), I was hit with a stroke. My work hours then were from 6-7 am to about 10 pm.
About two weeks later, after I was discharged from the hospital, my work hours were between the same as before I was hit with the stroke – 6-7 am to 10 pm for the next one and a half years, finishing up the second batch of humour books. God not only healed me of my stroke but gave me the supernatural strength to labour for Him.
Please understand I’m not promoting workaholism. What I am sharing is my experience of radical faith, which empowers one to do beyond the normal. This “Road Less Travelled” may not be for most but it is for me. Just because it is not for most doesn’t mean it isn’t for me. Many who may be aware that I work hard, may not be aware that I rest hard too. If I don’t rest enough physically and spiritually, I wouldn’t be able to last 11 years after a stroke attack.
Had I died or been paralysed from the stroke, the vision of the humour books would have died with me. But thank God for sparing my life and for helping me to complete the task (the second batch of 20 new humour books were released on 1 October 2011. My last batch, volumes 33-56, comprising 24 books, was completed by January 2014). And now this testimony of God’s healing and mercy on my life has been and will continue to be declared to one and all for His glory.
Lastly, from 13-18 January 2011, just about 3 weeks after my stroke, I was in Tawau, Sabah for a week of ministry. During a worship service, I testified about the healing power of God from my stroke and how He had empowered me to preach just a day after I was discharged from the hospital, and this was only possible because of the empowering grace and strength of the Lord! I could see that the congregation was moved by my sharing. The Holy Spirit used my testimony to speak to their hearts. Praise God that about 25 souls were saved on that glorious day (most of these 25 were newcomers to the church) as I led them to say the sinners’ prayer at the altar!
Testimony of God’s Healing of My Bleeding in the Brain, Blood Clots, Blurred & Double Vision in May 2012 – By Rev George Ong
On 10 May 2012, (Thursday), after one week of ministry, my wife, Kwee Siew and I left Tawau (Sabah) at about 9 am in a church van for Lahad Datu (Sabah), a smaller town.
We stopped by one place for breakfast. I ordered a plate of Char Kway Teow with cockles (that might have been the cause of food poisoning). The road from Tawau to Lahad Datu took about 3 hours. An hour into the journey to Lahad Datu, I started to feel unwell and I lost my appetite too.
We arrived at Lahad Datu and stayed in the Anglican Parsonage at St Mark’s Church. That night about 11.40 pm, before going to bed, I took some medication as I believed I had suffered from food poisoning and motion sickness.
Two hours later at about 1.40 am, when I woke up and went to the toilet to ease myself, sudden dizziness came upon me. I knew that kind of giddiness would result in my instant collapse. So in that split second, I tried to rush to the living room and lie on the sofa. But it was too late. I collapsed and my head hit the concrete floor in the living room and I lost my consciousness.
When Kwee Siew heard thumping sounds coming from the living room, she went out of the bedroom and found me lying on the floor, motionless. She told me later that I appeared like a dead body to her. The scene of my motionless body was very shocking and scary for her. She thought I was really dead. She felt totally helpless.
What could she do? She knew only God could help. She cried out to Jesus and prayed earnestly in tongues. God answered her prayer immediately and I started to move, and then I vomited. I couldn’t even remember that I vomited. This showed how serious my medical condition was.
Poor Kwee Siew, she was all alone. She helped me to the bedroom, cleaned up the mess caused by my vomit. She then went out of the room and tried to wake everybody in the Parsonage up ‘like a mad lady’. It was then about 2-3 am in the morning. Trying to wake people up at that ungodly hour was quite a task. But finally, she managed to wake the Priest-in-charge, up.
Do you know what’s the name of the priest? He is Rev ‘Ai Kun’ (it means love to sleep in Hokkien) (Rev Lau Ai Kun). I joked that that night, Rev ‘Ai Kun’ (love to sleep) became ‘Buay Kun’ (can’t sleep in Hokkien). This was because Rev Lau Ai Kun was kept busy arranging for my hospitalisation.
This is the worst medical crisis of my life. I was warded at the Lahad Datu Hospital for 4 Days. Throughout the 4 days, I went through intense suffering (medically speaking). My body was in terrible and indescribable discomfort.
I had severe giddiness and continuous migraine. When I looked at the ceiling with my bare eyes, the whole ceiling would spin as fast as a ceiling fan. I am not exaggerating. Because of that my eyes would have to be covered with a blanket. The moment I turned my head slightly to the left or right, or when I tried to sit up on my bed, severe giddiness would immediately set in. So, for most of the time, I had to lie still with my face looking straight and covered by a blanket.
I hardly ate as I lost my appetite but only took sips of water. That was not what hit me the most. What hit me the most was I hardly slept for the 4 days because of the severe bodily torment.
I was totally bedridden and had to be helped by Kwee Siew each time I urinated, lying on the bed. The medication that I took could not reduce my migraine or giddiness.
Not only my brain was afflicted with severe giddiness and migraine, my ears were also affected. Different sounds of different frequencies were blaring away in my ears. But what was worse was that only on the second day of my hospitalisation did I realise my eyes were also affected. I realised that not only was I seeing blurred vision but I was also seeing double vision. When I coughed, there was blood. I also had diarrhoea in the middle of the night too.
I felt pain in my head as it had hit the concrete floor. I suspected my severe giddiness and migraine might have to do with the possible bleeding in my brain due to the fall when my head hit the floor.
So I asked the hospital staff to do for me a CT Brain scan, hoping that it would prove negative; then I planned to stay there for a week or two to gain back the strength to fly back to Singapore.
But unfortunately, the hospital informed me that it could not do any CT brain scan as it did not have the equipment nor facility (at that time of my hospitalisation they weren’t equipped but later on, I learnt that they were). The hospital also did not have the ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) specialist doctors on regular duties. Because it is a hospital situated in a smaller town in Sabah, that is perfectly understandable.
I had at first ruled out flying back to Singapore as my condition did not allow me to. How could I take the flight home? I couldn’t even walk. Even whenever I had to go to the toilet, I had to be supported by Kwee Siew and my whole weight would literally rest on her. My wife helped me lift my elbow when I had to move just a short distance from the room to the toilet, a few metres away.
So the moment I heard the news that the hospital was not equipped to do a CT Brain scan, I decided that ‘come heaven come hell’, I needed to fly back to Singapore. What if my brain was really bleeding? I would bleed to death in the hospital. If my medical problem was really due to bleeding in the brain, I had to get back to Singapore as soon as possible for treatment. Any delay could have worsened my condition. By faith, I told Kwee Siew to book the tickets.
We booked our air tickets to fly out of Lahad Datu to Kota Kinabalu (8.20 am – 9.15 am) and from Kota Kinabalu to Singapore (2.45 pm – 5.10 pm) on 15 May, Tuesday, 2012. We prayed that God would strengthen my body to travel back to Singapore.
On 15 May, Tues at 7 am, 2012, Kwee Siew and I left for the airport in a wheel chair. I had to be blind-folded throughout the journey, as just a little bit of light was bad enough to trigger off giddiness and migraine. It was a ‘miracle’ that though the journey back to Singapore was an unpleasant one for my ailing body, I didn’t vomit throughout my air travel.
While travelling back on the airline, I was so afraid that the airline would quarantine me. This is because I was in a wheel chair, my eyes were blindfolded and I was very sickly. I was also not accompanied by any medical staff.
When we touched down at Changi Airport, Kwee Siew met a medical professional. He said we were very fortunate that the airline didn’t stop us from boarding the plane. Because I wasn’t accompanied by any medical staff – and what if I were to die in the airplane, they may be held responsible.
But thank God for He knows my limits. My condition was so bad that I had to fly back and I could not afford to be quarantined even for a while. If I were to be quarantined for just 20 minutes, He knew my spirit would be crushed. God knows my limits and sort of ‘blinded the eyes of the airline staff’ as they didn’t stop me from flying.
When the airplane touched down at Changi Airport, we had to wait 20 minutes for AirAsia to send a wheel chair and we had to pay $20. But my condition was so bad that I had to lie on the bare floor at the Airport while waiting for the wheel chair to arrive.
In Singapore, I was warded at National University Hospital (NUH), A & E. The doctors did 3 tests: blood tests, ECG and brain scan. The doctors explained to Kwee Siew that the first brain scan showed bleeding and blood clots in my brain.
They explained to her that my brain might have to be operated on. This caused much anxiety to my wife. In order to decide whether they needed to perform a brain operation, they wheeled me in for another CT Brain scan to ascertain more facts about my bleeding. I had two brain scans just within 30 minutes.
To help the doctors decide, they had to do the angiography. This is a procedure in which a hole near my groin was cut, and a fine tube inserted through the vein in my abdomen, and all the way to my nose, and then my brain, to find out the extent my brain was damaged. I could literally feel the tube moving to my stomach, then my mouth, nose and all the way to my brain. Though I was done with anaesthesia, it still felt pretty painful.
It was terrifying for Kwee Siew to know that the doctors were considering the option of brain surgery. Furthermore, the doctors informed my wife that the angiography could have the risk of triggering another stroke attack (since I had the first stroke 2 years ago in 2010).
Thank God that after they had done the angiography, the doctors concluded that it was not necessary to operate on my brain.
As I had related, due to the fall and bleeding in the brain, I had blurred and double vision. The senior eye doctor concluded that two nerves were affected (damaged) and it may take 6 to 8 weeks for my eyes to be restored to normalcy. I was trusting God to heal me before this period.
I was discharged on 21 May, Mon 2012 and given 11 days of medical leave till 1 June. You may think I should have cancelled my speaking engagements for that period. No, I didn’t. I exercised my radical faith in God to preach. Any right-minded person would have cancelled the speaking engagements. Again, just because this isn’t the journey for most Christians doesn’t mean it isn’t for me.
The following day after my discharge from the hospital on 22 May 2012, I spoke at a primary school. I was frank by telling the students I was hospitalised for an illness. The title of my talk was “Learning Values Through Humour”. Imagine giving a humour talk in my serious medical condition. Humorously radical, isn’t it?
The next day, a thoughtful primary 5 girl wrote a note to me and passed it through Kwee Siew who went and sold our humour books at the school.
“Hello Uncle George! I would like to thank you for coming over to our school today, and explaining the values and wrongdoings we should not commit. I am sure that you are in pain. While you were explaining, you were in discomfort, after everything I saw you applying medical oil. Seeing you in this state, made me feel sad. However, don’t worry, I will not waste my life and live my life to the fullest as you have so meaningfully taught us. I know that you have experienced many things before. I will like to thank you once again. I hope you get well soon! Have a speedy recovery! Please take good care of yourself!”
A few days later on 25 May, Fri, I spoke at an office fellowship. I had to sit down to speak. Halfway into the speech, my mind went blank. I just couldn’t continue. As you are aware, I was a former stroke patient and now I just suffered bleeding in the brain and blood clots – and all these affects the memory in the brain. And I had to stop completely because my memory was affected.
I had 2 more speaking engagements at 2 different churches lined up 2 days later on Sunday morning (9 am & 11 am services). I told God, “God I am not interested in moving in reckless faith as it would destroy me. I believe in radical faith. God if this is from you; and if it is radical faith that you are teaching me, you need to come in power and strengthen me to speak at both services on Sunday.”
At the 9 am service (first church), I thought I only had the strength to preach sitting down. But somehow God gave me the strength to stand and preach throughout the entire sermon for both services. I preached under the supernatural anointing of the Lord.
When I finished speaking, before the end of the 9 am service, I had to rush to the next church. I jokingly said to the congregation before I left – that I may be Singaporean but I act like a Russian – rushing from Church A to Church B – as I had to rush to the 11 am service at another church to preach there. The speed of my preaching was as fast as I normally preached.
In the 11 am service (second church), Kwee Siew said that my preaching was even more powerful than the first service (first church). Though my bleeding in my brain had stopped and the blood clots were clearing, my blurred and double vision in my eyes had not been healed. (They were eventually healed some weeks later. During those weeks, I had to be led by Kwee Siew when I crossed the road like a half-blind man because of my blurred and double vision.)
I joked in the 11 am service that their church had experienced church growth; it had grown twice because of my double vision. They laughed out loud. It is great to have a sense of humour even in our deepest pain.
I was literally preaching like a half-blind man as I couldn’t see the faces of the congregation as my vision was blurred. (I did entertain the frightening thought – if my blurred and double vision was not healed, I would be in trouble).
Many people in the 11 am service were ministered to, and many were crying. One middle-aged man was in tears when he came and thanked me. They were overcome with emotions as this was the first time they saw a preacher who had just been discharged from a severe illness and preaching in a half-blind condition under the power of God. Thank God that my memory was not affected this time round as it did 2 days earlier when I preached at the office fellowship.
This illness in 2012 was the worst in my entire lifetime. I went through intense suffering (medically speaking) for 7 out of my 11 days in 2 hospitals with severe migraine and giddiness and without much sleep and food (4 days in Lahad Datu Hospital and 3 days in NUH, Singapore).
I groaned in pain. I was tormented in total discomfort. Can God handle my groans of suffering? Why not? Of course, He could. I never groaned in frustration or anger at God. My faith in God was never weakened but strengthened even through the process of pain and suffering.
God has revealed to me that it was often through pain and suffering that I can get to know Him a lot better and deeper. Remember the verse in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings…”
In the process of suffering, I was being drawn closer in fellowship with God. My enjoyment of God’s presence was deepened. In my pain and suffering, I was drawn by the Holy Spirit to sing 2 old hymns I had learned in the late 60s:
I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like thine, can peace afford.
I need thee, O I need thee;
Every hour I need thee;
O bless me now, my Saviour, I come to thee.
Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, help me stand
I’m tired, I’m weak, Lord I’m worn
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home
Each time as I sang these hymns, my eyes always brimmed with tears; not tears of sadness, sorrows or regrets but tears sensing the special nearness and presence of God. It is the tears of joy in His presence.
My prayer to God is always, “God no matter what it takes, even if it means preaching in a weak physical frame, no matter what Lord, I want to glorify Your name. Even in my death, Your name must be glorified.”
Why did the Lord allow me to go through these 2 medical crises? It is to prepare me for the next wave of “The Road Less Travelled” or “Radical Faith”.
This is where I am now. Please click to view Vol 1, chapters 2-5.
Please click to listen to the audio format of the above 2 testimonies. Though I have preached for many years, only very few of my sermons are captured on video. What you are hearing is not even on video but audio. This is one of the very few audios that are clearly recorded for the ear regarding my 2 testimonies, and the only audio that captures these 2 testimonies one after another, together. The sermon in this audio was preached in February 2018.
“The Road Less Travelled” and my journey of “Radical Faith” continues…
By Rev George Ong