To Death And Back

To Death And Back
- (Testimony by Yeo Toon Joo to Citibank's Christian fellowship, 22/11/1996)

I believe many of you here today are believers. But some of you may still be searching for the truth...of life and living: What life is all about or should be about? What is the meaning of your daily wakening, going to work, going for that beer after work, going home, going  to sleep, waking  up again, going to your country club on weekends, making more money, getting that position, raising a family, growing up, growing old.
And knowing that all this must one day end. Perhaps, that's why you are here today.

Some of you already have the answers because you had an open mind and at some point in your life surrendered yourselves to God who in turn blessed you by revealing Himself to you. Thank God today that you resisted your banker's instinct to analyze God, creator of the Universe, like a client's balance sheet, and instead accepted in faith what God's Holy Word, the bible, tells us. For God is beyond human understanding. Who are we
mere men, not even a speck in the universe, to question God?

We do not choose God. He chooses us. Like some of you I tried for years to analyze God and His teachings, and use my puny intellect against His. Until one day, I received such a kick in the butt, that I stopped trying to be smart, and believed. I had no alternative.

I hope what I share with you today will be of help to those among you with questions. To those of you who already believe and have received the gift of life, I pray it will strengthen your faith and inspire you to share with others, and with missionary zeal, that gift you have  received.

Like some of you, I had - for years - been wondering what was the meaning of life, and this nebulous thing called happiness. I had found prestige and power in life. I had been a leader of men - More than 2,000 at one stage - head of a large department, No. 2 man in a  newspaper organization, speaker at international conferences, had my name and picture
in newspapers, was entertained by rich and powerful men, including top bankers. In fact, one banker even opened a checking account for me without my having to put in one cent, or filling in form. He filled it in for me, gave me temporary cheque leaves on the spot, and an almost unlimited OD line clean - for me to speculate on the stock  market. As a newspaper editor, I had more power than I had realized. Prime ministers- and even bankers - had time for me.

As a PR practitioner with my own consultancy, I have also earned good money. In the early 1980s, my real take home, including the tax-free portion of it, was maybe $200,000 in one year. Several years ago I  had five club memberships, which is now six, and had brought my golf handicap down to 13. I bought things cash, even my one-year old 2 liter Toyota Cressida. Of course, my mother was a little disappointed that I had  not bought a Mercedes Benz instead. But who wants to take a loan and let the bankers earn all that interest!

In the estimation of today's young, aspiring executives or young upwardly mobile Singaporeans, who are still counting their pennies and paying installments on their cars and condos, I would have been described as successful. "I had arrived!"

I tried almost everything to find pleasure - and satisfaction. I could be the life of a party. I drank heavily, and everyday; I drank when  I had a good day, I drank when I had a bad day. I had other women. I even  tried smoking pot! There are other unmentionable things that I did, so I  won't mention them. I had some highs in life. But I felt empty. I was not  truly happy. Or, if I was, that happiness was fleeting. Something was missing.

At the end of each day, each week, and each year, I could not resolve one important thing: what was all that about? What had I achieved that gave my life meaning? I was not at peace. There had to be a better reason for living, a real meaning for my existence, and an explanation for  my mortality. And not just some clever and persuasive theories by some swami, soothsayer, false prophets - and there are many - or philosopher.

I read essays by the humanists. And as I had been brought up in the Church fairly young, I read the bible, but would not believe it. I even started to read up on Buddhism. I went to church with my family. But in church I would look at the priest and wonder: what if that poor misguided fellow had given up all the pleasures of life that I was merrily indulging
in, only to discover that there was no God, no heaven, no hell, and eternal life for him? What a waste!

One day something happened to me that made me change - from a Godless, hard drinking, womanizing, empty person into a happy, assured, fulfilled person and firm believer in God. Not only just in God but a personal God, someone who knows everything about me, cares for me, and guides and  guards my every step, every moment of the day. It gave me not only meaning  in life but a higher plane in life and living, a new and great joy in living. God showed me what is life, and that death is nothing - to those for whom He has unlocked the secret of life. God let me experience death - to
understand life. He let me die, not once  but twice.

In 1989 and 1991, I had to undergo surgery. The first occasion was to  remove a tumor in my scrotum. While under general anesthesia, I suddenly found myself hovering above a group of people huddled over the operating table on which my body lay. Then I found myself in total darkness. I saw a bright patch ahead flying towards me. Then I was sucked into that dark tunnel. At that point I lost consciousness. It was a scary experience. But I dismissed it as a dream - and from watching too much TV. The tumor turned out to be benign. No cancer. A bad dream. I thought no more of it.

Two years later (in November 1991), I had chronic sinusitis, which turned septic. I was using up boxfuls of tissues every day to stop the bleeding. Antibiotics did not work. Cancer was suspected. The doctor recommended surgery and a biopsy. While unconscious in the operating theatre, I was awakened by voices: I found myself at a boozing party, in a dimly lit garden. I wanted to leave, but someone said: 'Come on, one for the road.'

I heard myself protesting that I had to get home to my family, but someone kept saying: "Have one more for the road." It was like the many party situations I had been in. I stayed for another drink.

That became my last 'one for the road'. Because I stayed I found myself unable to get home to my wife and two daughters. Next, I found myself driving home in total darkness, but not able to make headway and get home. I felt as if I was driving in infinite space but there was no sense of having a body or a real car. Then I found myself at another boozing

I was going through a tormenting series of playbacks of my high living life: first I was enjoying myself and getting high on booze at some party, and then something bad would happen: I would experience regret but not be  able to change it or get back home.

It occurred to me then that I was never going to get back. I suddenly realized that I was dead. As if to confirm that fact, I heard a cold voice. It said: "You are dead." Somehow I knew that the voice was the devil's. I realized that I would spend eternity in unending and unhappy playbacks of my past life of boozing and pleasure seeking. I was in hell, and hell was worse than the lake of fire. The torture was mental, and eternal. It dawned on me then that what the bible had said and what I had been told about God, sin and hell were true. God did exist, so did the devil and punishment for  those who refused to believe in God.

I asked that cold voice: "You mean there is God after all?" The voice replied: "Yes." I wanted a second chance - to get back to life – but could not. I protested: "It's not fair, it's not fair." The voice said: "Your value system does not apply here." God, I realized, could not help me anymore. I was lost - forever. I was terrified but powerless to do or change anything.   It was too late.

I lapsed into my series of memory playbacks...I was conscious of what  was going on, but impotent. My mind was alive, but I had no body, no will or control. Then I heard a voice over me saying "He's dead." I felt a pair of hands turning my head from side to side. I saw my limp body, and my head slumped over the back of a church pew, and my wife and two daughters standing behind. I tried to communicate with my family, but could not. They could not feel my presence. I could not get through to them. I was in another dimension. Then I felt myself being sucked into infinite space and darkness and the eternal series of playbacks. I could hear, feel miserable, but was  impotent. The most horrifying thing was the knowledge that I was condemned to spending  eternity floating, and experiencing agonizing and taunting flashbacks of the  life I had left. Then I felt someone touching my arm as I struggled to get if I was awake. But it was again an illusion and I relapsed into the uncontrollable spiral of death.

Again I felt a hand holding my arm. I opened my eyes and saw that it was my wife. I was unsure, fearing that it was yet another illusion. But this was real. I had got back. I don't know how. I was awake, and alive! My wife, Rose, was holding my arm and she said I was muttering in terror: "It's not real! It's not real!". I was afraid that that awakening was yet another illusion. Rose tells me my body was icy cold, and there was
a look of horror on my face as I kept repeating "It's  horrible!" Some people tell me I was merely hallucinating. Some even think I am mad when I tell them about my experience. But I know it was real. I saw it, felt it, and remember it vividly. I even had flashbacks of those experiences at least three more times while awake! Did I really experience death? I know I did, but does it matter? All know is that since then I have really experienced life! Real life and living! And I don't need money, position, worldly pleasures, or anything this Secular world can give me to experience joy each day of my life.

I know now that there is God. And he is my God. And He is looking after me everyday, making my life better, and watching over me even when there are problems. But why did I have those two experiences? I believe God in His infinite mercy allowed those things to happen to me because I had earnestly sought him, and honestly wanted to know the meaning of life, and perhaps because at some point in my life I had been faithful to Him,
despite the profligate life I had led.

God was giving me a final chance. After my second out of body experience, I talked to a number of people for an explanation. I also talked to my Christian friends and, together with one, we prayed to God for help, and for forgiveness for the life I had been living. I invited Jesus Christ to come into my life, and felt a great burden being lifted from me.
I began to worship God daily and to read the Bible again, but this time with an open mind. I stopped intellectualizing with God. I also stopped teasing Christians.

Never have I read a book as remarkable or as wise. No man could have of himself written that book, i.e. the 66 books that make up the bible which were written over a period of 1500 years. If I could read but just one book in my entire life, it would be nothing but the bible.

For a year a Christian friend, who incidentally is a senior executive in a major local bank, led me in bible study each Tuesday despite his heavy schedule.

Wonderful things began to happen in my life, and are still happening today. I joined the Christian Business Men's Committee, and recently became its general secretary. Last year, I rejoined the Brethren church that I used to attend as a boy, and am now involved in its adult bible study classes. I have also become an officer in The Boys' Brigade and spend each Saturday afternoon helping to train children in discipline and lead them to
Jesus Christ. I am also on the organizing committee of Charity Gift Box 1996, where my services, including that of PR consultant, are offered free.
I spend a lot of my time each day in prayer and reading the bible, sometimes a few hours in the morning before going to work. I estimate that more than half my day is doing work that is Jesus Christ centered. I have found great joy and comfort in doing all these. I can feel God's presence, and nearness. He speaks to me and touches my life in ways unimaginable. He shows me signs. Once, in answer to my earnest prayer for  help and
direction in my life, He led me over a period of five days to two particular verses in the bible. Coincidence? No way. Sometimes, I get goose pimples, my hair stand, when inexplicable things happen.

Everyday, new truths and wisdom are being revealed to me. My life has become so much richer...and happier. I gave up beer completely more than four years ago, though I have the occasional wine. I am now healthier, and a calmer and more loving husband and father, and an unbelievably patient boss compared to that foul tempered person I used to be. My wife and I are very close. When she goes away to be with our daughters in the
States, I miss her terribly - and have absolutely no desire to stray, even when ex-girlfriends call. God is constantly changing my life, preparing me to serve Him, to tell people about His great love and mercy and His gift of eternal life in Heaven for all who are prepared to listen and open their hearts to Him.

He has given to me and offers freely to everyone else who does not have a closed mind, a more joyful and meaningful life on earth. It is not our good works or trying to do good, that saves us and our soul. We can never do enough good to measure up to God's high standards. God asks us only for faith and obedience to Him. We only have to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and follow Him to be saved. God has taken away my worries over
tomorrow. I am no longer concerned over whether I have money or not, or how things go in my business and daily life. I no longer plan my business activities. I just leave it to God. Whether I gain or lose business does not bother me. If I lose one account, something else happens.

I have lost a $500,000 account and will soon lose a $1 million account. But it does not bother me. My God will provide. Somehow, He always makes things work out right. He does that for everyone who loves Him and have faith in Him. He always answers my prayers, when I pray according to His will. Once, when we failed to meet a client's 3pm presentation deadline, He actually caused a power failure, at exactly 3pm, in my client's office, to help my company in that difficult business situation. Unfortunately there is not enough time to tell more about it and other miraculous things I have experienced since I came back to serve God.

Everyday, as I read the bible, I receive such joy - and heavenly wisdom. I hear His voice, and feel His loving presence, a love that no one else can match. The more I seek to do His will the happier my life becomes. I believe wholeheartedly in God, His goodness, and love for me and everyone else who is prepared to accept His love. I also know He hates
sin, and punishes sinners in a frightful way. But He is a merciful God, prepared to forgive even the most 'hopeless' sinner. I am an example of  that wretched person who refused to believe in God and who now has an unshakeable faith in Him.

Living daily as a Christian, in love with God, and striving to be holy, is not a dull and boring experience. It is a very interesting life! After my experience I decided to devote my life to serving God, and telling others about Him and His love, and His free gift of salvation. I am no longer afraid of death or dying. In July 1995, when my doctor told me that I had advanced cancer of the bone, I had a shock but was not as worried as my orthopedic surgeon. I first asked God 'why?', and then prayed: 'Praise the Lord!' My doctor and family were more worried than  I. Again I went into hospital. This time for chemotherapy. And further tests. My pastor prayed for me, my wife, relatives, and Christian friends prayed for me. I prayed, too. I asked God, if He wanted me to do His work on earth, why was I being allowed to die from cancer, and requested Him to heal me, physically and spiritually. But we do not tell God what to do. So I also told Him that whatever happened, His will be done, and I thanked Him for being so good to me.

One morning in hospital, while awaiting the results of further tests before beginning chemotherapy, I had my quiet time with God. I read my bible and prayed. I must have dozed off. For I had a dream. I saw my doctor walking up to my bed, and smiling. He said: "Mr. Yeo, your bone scan shows no cancer."

That woke me up. I realized I must have fallen asleep, and thought that in my wishful thinking and hope, had dreamed that the MRI scan that had shown extensive cancer all over my bones was a mistake. Minute after, my doctor walked in, smiling - just as he had appeared in my dream. "Mr. Yeo," he said, "your bone scan shows no cancer. You may go home." My doctor looked a little puzzled when I did not appear elated. I merely showed him the universal OK sign (GESTURE). His news did not come as a surprise – for God had already told me minutes earlier I had no cancer.

No one can explain how the widespread cancer that first appeared on the MRI scan could disappear within days. I do not question how that came about. I just believe God had a hand in it.

I do not know why I have been given so many chances and unusual experiences by God or why He has been so good and merciful to me. But I

know He has a purpose. God has a purpose for everything. Nothing happens without His knowing.

When I tell people my experiences some find my story incredible, and think I am just a colorful storyteller with a wild imagination. Some, who do not question my story, still will not accept God as their Lord and Master, and the joy He promises us. Some persuade themselves that life will go on and they may ignore God, and that they are all right and can leave such matters of their spiritual life and God till later.

Some of you may be familiar with the story in Luke chapter 16 of the rich man and the sick beggar Lazarus who used to pick up crumbs of food at the rich man's gate, and what happened to both of them after they  died. If you are, you will remember that the rich miserly man who had a good life materially on earth went to hell, and the beggar who led a wretched life went to heaven. You may recall this verse from Luke 16:31 when the rich man pleaded with Abraham, while in hell, to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers so that they would not end up in hell like him.

The reply he got was "... if they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

There is documentary proof that Jesus Christ was born, crucified on the cross, died, and rose from the dead, and spent another forty days on earth teaching his disciples and explaining to them why He died and rose again.

Jesus has told us in no uncertain terms that unless we believe, we will lose our soul. He has also told us about God's gift of eternal life and paradise, which we may have right now, if we believe in Him and open our hearts to Him. We only need to want to believe, and God will make things happen. Yet I and so many of us refused to believe.

Today I believe everything God tells us in the bible. Today, I know certainly God lives and there is life after death: I have been there and back.