Foong Gwan, a nurse, moved from Malaysia to Singapore for work. Attending Alpha in the midst of a season filled with worry and anxiety, she discovered faith, community and a greater sense of purpose.
I am a Leukemia Nurse Navigator. I work closely with patients who have been diagnosed with sudden onset leukemia and require intense treatment such as chemotherapy and stem cell transplants. My role entails coordinating care for these patients, promoting quality and efficient careplans, educating patients and their families by providing necessary resources, and facilitating more effective communication among the cancer care team.
I get so much satisfaction from serving others, building relationships, and interacting with patients and their family members, as well as other hospital staff. As a nurse, I have had elderly patients who treat me like their grandchild!
What was your life like before you were a believer?
After completing my studies and working in my hometown Malaysia for six years, I decided to move to Singapore. The first few years were challenging. It was tough adjusting to a new environment, and I would often feel depressed, shutting myself off from others. However, I would have to put on a professional front at work. No one knew what was going on. Outwardly I looked fine, but I was a mess inside.
What did you think of Christianity in the past?
I was raised in a family that had idols and ancestral tablets in the house. However, once my grandparents passed away, my parents stopped worshipping these idols. I attended church services once or twice, when my friends invited me to events during Christmas or Easter. But I considered myself a free-thinker.
I had many questions about Christianity. Why were there so many rules? Why did we need to do good to others? Once, I went for a medical missions trip to Cambodia with a friend’s aunt. Listening to the Christians on the trip conversing created even more questions in my mind. Why do people need to accept Christ? Why can’t I just help them medically? Why do we need to spread God’s love?
How did you come to Alpha?
I first heard about Alpha after my eldest sister attended a workplace Alpha ten years ago. My parents attended Alpha five years later, when their friends brought them to Alpha at a church. Through Alpha, the three of them accepted Christ! My eldest sister had always tried to share her faith with me, but I was never receptive.
One day, Daniel, a patient whom I had known for about three years, invited me to Alpha. He had been a patient under my care and I remembered him because he would always start our conversations by asking, “How are you?”. I thought it should have been me asking him that instead!
Why did you decide to attend Alpha?
I had recently moved to my second sister’s house and started experiencing some disturbances. These incidents made me feel worried and anxious. I was not myself at work and my manager, Belinda, soon noticed that something was wrong.
Concerned for my well-being, Belinda, a Christian, asked if I believed in Jesus. I said no, but agreed to her praying for me. She later asked if I wanted to accept Christ into my life and I said yes, so she prayed with me to receive Him into my heart. However, I did not truly believe what I was praying. Questions went through my mind: “did I say the prayer loud enough? Am I really a Christian now?”. My brother-in-law, a Catholic, also prayed with me, but I didn’t feel better. I knew I needed help.
The week after, I could only sleep one hour each night. But everyone else in the house seemed to sleep very peacefully! Daniel came to the hospital that week. Belinda suggested I share my concerns with him, hoping he would be able to help. I felt uncomfortable, as I thought it would be better not to mix work with friendship. But when Daniel heard about my situation, he invited me to Alpha. I decided to go, hoping things would improve. Surprisingly, the nightly attacks stopped within a week of my first session!
What was your experience at Alpha like?
I first tried going to Alpha at a church, but only attended the introductory dinner. The group was too big and this really intimidated me.
My second time at Alpha was very different. Belinda accompanied me to the sessions as I was hesitant to go alone. This Alpha was run at Daniel’s home with a small group of people. The environment was very warm and cozy, and I sensed the presence of God there. I was able to build trust with the new friends I met – opening up and sharing with them was easy! I was grateful to Belinda who willingly spent all those Saturday afternoons with me, and all the Alpha brothers and sisters who consistently provided support, showering me with love.
What were some of the highlights of Alpha for you?
I am thankful that God has been so patient with me. There were so many chances to get to know about Christianity but I kept rejecting those opportunities. Despite this, God never gave up on me!
At Alpha, I really enjoyed the discussions, listening and supporting one another as a group. I felt as if God had specially sent the people I met at Alpha to listen to and encourage me! Even today, my leaders from Alpha still check in on us, making sure we are doing well. I feel a true sense of belonging with my Alpha family.
How has your life changed since attending Alpha?
For ten years, my parents and eldest sister had been praying for me. They were overjoyed when I told them I had accepted Christ. I was baptised recently in 2018! It felt amazing to declare my faith in front of my friends and family.
Currently, I attend a nurses’ fellowship. We gather whenever we can to support each other, do devotions together, and pray for our patients. We need to take the time to draw back to God – when we gather together, that’s where He will be!
In my work, I am able to relate better to my patients by asking God for wisdom to help them in the best possible way. Once, there was a situation where I felt anxious and helpless. I began praying, giving my worries to God. I soon got an answer, and was able to help a colleague solve a similar problem! I have experienced how prayer is so important and the most powerful weapon that God has given to us. I can talk and cry out to God – He is always listening.
Worshipping God has also increased my peace and strength, enabling me to perform better in stressful situations. One experience I remember vividly was with a young patient. I had to draw blood from him but his veins were constricted by chemotherapy. This was challenging as his vein was hard to find. His mother, who was in the room, was also rather protective.
Suddenly, the boy started to play a worship song on his mobile phone. I asked if he could increase the volume, as it seemed to bring calm to the situation. His mother decided to leave the room for a while, and I then managed to draw blood quickly with just one prick! Somehow, the music gave me strength and courage to do it.
In my line of work, I develop particularly close relationships with my patients, as I typically spend about half a year with them. Recently, I lost a young patient to cancer, but with God, I was able to get through this loss. I know that God is constantly growing me, so that wherever He places me in the future, I will be better at facing challenges that come along.
I seek God when I encounter issues and problems, trusting that He will pull me through any situation. I am learning not to worry as much. Having a perspective of faith helps me feel more confident and hopeful, and meditating on scripture has been so helpful!
In the past, I had many questions that remained unanswered. Now I may still question, but God provides answers – through others in my community, or reading the Bible. I see things very differently and more positively. I learned that even though we are not aware of what God is doing at times, He is always working in every situation of our lives. The God of angels is always by my side.
What are your plans for the future?
Before the last run of Alpha, one of the leaders asked if I wanted to help out on the next run. I was very nervous, but I agreed! I have seen how every run of Alpha is different. It is refreshing to help others grow and get to know God better, whatever stage of life they are at.
Now, I have a purpose in life! In the future, I would like to go on mission trips to share God’s love. I hope that I will glorify Him in every step I take. I want to continue spreading the joy and love that He has given me – at Alpha, at the hospital, or in the mission field!