A Simple Tribute To A Simple Brother

I received this from my friend Eric Ng. It was a lovely tribute from a younger brother to a brother who lived alone and died alone. I read it and could not put it down. If it had not been for this well written tribute, the deceased would have been another statistic to add to the increasing numbers who died in their homes (unknown to their loved ones). Another tragic and worrying report in the news with surface information about the person that departed and little about the life he or she lived. This tribute I read gave a beautiful portrait of a man who zealously sought the Lord and shared the good news about Jesus Christ to others. The tribute crowned the stark report with grace and dignity. I felt moved to share this with others through this blogpost, and if it touches your heart, do share this touching tribute with even more people. Here it is:


The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once…” (Heb 9:27a). That’s the edict from the Giver of Life who also has the equal right to take back the life when it has reached a destined expiry date.

On 26 June 2023, Shin Min Daily News wrote an article with this as headline: ELDERLY MAN PASSES AWAY IN TOA PAYOH FLAT, PLANTS STARTED WILTING A WEEK EARLIER. How unceremonious an epitaph! Then came the subheading: “77-Year-Old Elderly Man Passes Away In Toa Payoh Flat, Discovered After Foul Smell Detected.” SMDN is correct to make this sad commentary: “Whenever an elderly person who lives alone passes away, it’s always heartbreaking news. This is especially as the deceased would have left this world all alone, with nobody knowing of their demise until a decaying corpse is found.”

But it’s more heart wrenching for his next-of-kin to find out secondhand about this news from others. This lonely, elderly man is my second brother. He lived an ordinary life – ranked 5th in line in a family of 7 siblings.

Growing up with him, I remember his easy-go-lucky lifestyle. He hardly gave my parents any trouble. He was liked in his kampong. His greatest passion was playing hockey. He wasn’t a brilliant student but he got a Grade II result that qualified him to take a job with the civil service.

John grew up in the Westmoreland/Dorset area. Like most of the kampong boys, he smoked, gambled, and spoke with machine-gun speed vulgarities in the Chinese, Malay, and English [his only deficiency was Tamil ]. It wasn’t until 1966/7 that he seasoned his speech with salt and gave up his few vices when he was wondrously converted to Christianity. He became an intrepid witness for Christ. Soon, some of his kampong friends joined him in embracing the Christian faith—when they saw the radical transformation in his life.

Possessed by a passion to win souls for Christ, John began to witness to many of the kampong boys. Not long, he got some of them to follow him to attend a nearby church in Moulmein Rise. The church is still there and is still called Revival Centre. At this time, I had moved out of my mother’s house to live with my sister. But I would visit my mum every week. During those times, John and I would engage in serious conversations—mostly doctrinal and theological in nature. His love for God’s Word was almost unstoppable. He would spend hard earned money to buy books directly from overseas publishers. Many of the books were written by the renowned authors like DeVerne Fromke (Unto Full Stature, Ultimate Intention), C S Lewis (Mere Christianity), Carl F H Henry (Evangelism and Theology based books.

One vicarious benefit I got from John’s enthusiastic witness was in the 1960s when at a special rally conducted by A/G Singapore. Tommy Barnette, the famous evangelist, came to SG and the rally was held at the old Victoria Memorial Hall. That day, Tommy Barnette decided to award the person who brought the most people to the rally. It turned out that John had brought the most people but he told me to go forward on his behalf and accept the ‘reward’ of an LP cut by Tommy Barnette. Thank you John for that special gift.

Some time later, I told John about my church’s weekly Wednesday Bible Study. I boasted about my teacher’s incredible expository skills. That teacher is Sis Margaret Seaward. I was then attending Bethel Assembly. That church was located at 4 Palm Grove Avenue, off Flower Road, off Upper Serangoon Road (famously called Hougang 6th Mile). It was a long journey by bus from my mum’s house in Westmoreland. Despite the inconvenience, John decided to join me in Bethel not only for the Wednesday Bible Study but also the Friday ‘Glory Meeting”, i.e., Pentecostal Prayer Meeting. He never left Bethel until he started a church and called it Lord’s Grace (I may not have this name right, but I knew he started an informal ‘gathering of saints’ to champion his belief of the Apostolic Faith.

I write all these so that my FB friends from CCC/VFC and from the Westmoreland/Dorset group, who’re also friends of my Bro John Lui, should know some of the less known facts about him. John was a recluse and lived a very private life. That accounts for his dying alone and unknown until the news became public in SMDN.

I thank God that some of my friends had read the article in Chinese and could identify from highlighted facts that it was about John. The friends on my WhatsApp group, CCC Staff, alerted me of John’s death. I was only told of this in the late afternoon. That started me doing a bit of enquiries with the police. I could confirm with them that the person identified as a 77-year old man, who died in Blk 174 Toa Payoh, was my brother. Later this morning, I’ll be collecting his body. I will give him a simple cremation and bid him a simple farewell. He’s now in a much better place of comfort and rest—safe in the arms of his loving Saviour and cradled at His bosom.

John, I will meet you soon – over there on the beautiful shore of heaven. What we didn’t get time of earth to share as we did in my younger years, we’ll have eternity to do it! You lived a life that was pleasing to God. I would be remiss, John, if I failed to mention this. As it is, I already failed to say thank you inf life. Now, I want to say a VERY BIG THANK YOU for those years you quietly put the ‘Pentecostal’ handshake and gave me money when I was short of paying my Bible School fees. God used you to be the occasional, miraculous intervention when I was hard up of money. I know God took notice of what you did privately. He will reward you publicly in heaven. Thank you, John.

You had run and completed the race. You can now take your deserved rest in the Presence of your wonderful Lord and Saviour.

I thank God for the privilege of finding out at the very last minute of your demise and body which I will be claiming in two hours’ time. Rest well my dear brother. Until we meet again,

Your brother-in-the-flesh and
Your brother-in-the-Lord
Peter Lui

An online article about this and other similar deaths can be read HERE.

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Goodbye my friend Lewis

Lewis Cheong’s departure was not unexpected. We were prepared. By God’s mercy, we had time to say our thank you, our sorry and goodbye. Still it is hard doing a funeral of a friend. I do not easily express my feelings of loss or sorrow. Its probably bottled up somewhere.

Lewis and me about 8 years back

I have known Lewis since he joined the church about 30 years ago. On reflection, Lewis was a brave man. God made him brave. He tried many jobs and had a chequered career: from bouncer to businessman. For anyone in his time with only a Secondary education, success would be hard to achieve. He tried so many things: bouncer, debt-collector, gym instructor, Mr. Manhunt second runner’s up, judge for bodybuilding contests, model, salesman for Speedo and a shoe brand. He was game to try anything that would make money. By God’s grace, and risk-taking, he set up a shoe retail shop at Queensway Shopping Center: Deck & Boots. One shop became two shops and three shops. Hereen. International Plaza. Tiong Bahru Plaza. CNY fairs. Company fairs.  University fairs. He had guts.

An advert he did for SingTel. Notice the old Motorola super-durable handphone.

The shoe business required him to make frequent trips to Guangzhou to buy products that can sell well and yield good profit in his shops. Full of ideas, he was always sniffing out great bargains that could make him a big buck. He was in his element in Guangzhou: like the old-time trader and towkay: buy low, sell high. I think he loved Guangzhou because all his abilities, instincts and potential always found full unhindered expression over there where he felt he was in his “zone”. He wanted to make his life a success; prove himself, and provide for his family.

He was disadvantaged by his lack of education, but it did not deter him from finding a way of making a good living. He did not fail the education system, but the education system of his time failed him: it failed to identify his entrepreneurial spirit and develop it. If he were born today it would have been better. In the end, it was God who helped him realize his potential.

Lewis’ Citibank advertisement

Lewis’ turning point came when he attended a church evangelistic rally at the PUB Auditorium. He put his faith in Christ and started to faithfully attend church. He was modelling then. In the early years as a growing Christian, he struggled often but he always threw himself onto the mercy of the heavenly Father. He stumbled again and again, but he got up again and again. Lewis was brave; made brave by God’s mercy and grace. God was his light and salvation, again and again. God was his refuge and stronghold. He turned to God with his fears. And God made him brave.

He grew to be a steadfast Christian. He brought friends to church. Served as a Sunday School teacher of love class; served as an usher; and was head of the ushering ministry. He was always faithful in attendance and tithing, punctual in church, consistent in his meditations (Every Day with Jesus devotional by Selwyn Hughes). He also prayed often about his business: divine help in finding good products at good prices with willing sellers (especially for the small quantities he bought). He acknowledged God’s blessing, guidance, help, and answers to prayer.

A table at the wake to display Lewis modelling portfolio

His bravery was most evident in the way he faced death.: squarely. Like anyone facing similar circumstances he journeyed through the stages of denial, anger, regrets, depression and acceptance. It was like the last stretch of a marathon – a difficult, draining, painful struggle. It was a long journey. Like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed to God, “If possible take this cup of suffering from me. But not my will but Your will be done”. You see, he was afraid it would be an agonizing, prolonged departure. In the end, he accepted that the Lord gives, and the Lord is the one who should finally decide the timing of his departure. Lewis could face death bravely because he knew where he was going, and to whom he was going.

As he accepted that he would be meeting his Master soon, he had time to settle matters: business affairs, financial affairs, family matters. He said his Sorry, his Thanks, his Goodbye. The church people had time to visit, to recall the good old days and say goodbye and appreciate him. He did not leave a family in shock, with many matters hanging in the air. Of course, if he had a chance to live all over, he would not have worked so hard to make money, and he would have spent more time with the family, especially when they were younger. Secondly, he would have travelled to Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. He told me these himself.

Lewis loved his family: he appreciated his wife Cavelyn  for being willing to go through thick and thin with him, bearing the hardships and sacrifices of doing business. He was proud of his daughter studying medicine; of his son who had shown signs of growing into a mature fine young man.

As someone said, Courage is not the absence of fear, but being able to act despite the fears, because you know God is with you to help you.

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A.M. Mathew has gone home to his Lord and Master

I saw a follower by the name of Timothy Mathew on the church’s Facebook account. Is this the son of A.M. Mathew the founder of World Revival Prayer Fellowship? I found that he was and so I asked about his father. A.M. Mathew had been living in Toronto, Canada for close to 40 years and was in his late eighties. I asked about them and it was sad to learn that he had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and his wife had dementia. I brought this information to the church and we prayed for him. I got them to pronounce the Aaronic blessing on A.M. Mathew which we then posted on the church Facebook account and over in Canada the son could show it to his dad. We were glad that we did that but soon after that we received news that the Lord and Master of A.M. Mathew has brought him home to glory on the 21st of September. It was a sad loss but it certainly freed him from terrible suffering of pains in his body. It was so bad that despite palliative care, he could not sleep well, wracked as he was in much pain. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away”(Rev 21:4). I informed the church of this and we prayed for the bereaved family. I adapted the death notice from the cemetery website and put this in the church bulletin:


A.M Mathew with his wife Saramma Mathew
A.M Mathew with his wife Saramma Mathew

Rev Arranghat Mathai Mathew (November 12, 1926 – September 21, 2015) – passed away peacefully on the morning of September 21, 2015 at his home in Mississauga, Ontario at the age of 88. Beloved husband of Mrs. Saramma Mathew and loving father to Josephine Mary (Dr. George Abraham), Rachel, Sara (Mr. James Havlik), and Timothy, and a devoted grandfather to Elizabeth (Andrew Douglas), Ruth, Benjamin, Stephen and Joshua. He will be greatly missed by his family, who cherished his kind and loving spirit and are grateful that he has gone home to glory to be with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. A.M. Mathew leaves a memorable legacy, having founded World Revival Prayer Fellowship in Singapore in 1972, and later beginning a Canadian chapter in 1978 upon his move to the Greater Toronto Area with his family. Through Brother Mathew’s tireless efforts, his ministry eventually extended to Jamaica, Bangladesh, the Himalayan foothills of Assam in North India and Tamilnadu, Kerala State, India and the Six Nations Reserve in Ohsweken, Ontario. Brother Mathew made it his life’s mission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it was clear to all who knew him that he was an unashamed witness for the Lord. Please remember his bereaved wife, children and grandchildren before the Lord.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

The family at the Paya Lebar Airport leaving for Canada.
The family at the Paya Lebar Airport leaving for Canada.

I was never close to A.M. Mathew. I was probably anonymous and inconspicuous in church in the early formative years of WRPF. Reserved and shy, I did not easily socialize, and deferred and respected leaders from a distance. My personal impressions of A.M. Mathew was his bold witness for Christ, and an overriding passion to prepare the church to be that spotless Bride when Jesus comes again. To this effect he would preach doctrines Sunday after Sunday. I remember being taught regeneration, baptism, baptism in the Spirit, holiness and sanctification, the Lord’s Supper, the second coming of Christ, the church as the bride of Christ, and the book of Revelation. He gave out notes on the doctrines. I still recall his openness to the power and gifts of the Spirit, and yet knowing that his gift and forte was teaching the word, which he did with passion. Interestingly, I am currently preaching through the book of Revelations. On the Sunday I preached about 144,000 and the countless multitudes of white robed saints of Revelation 7, Zach Wong, a pioneer member from the original first eight who were baptized, came to me and remarked, Now that brother Mathew has gone home, you have taken over his role of preaching Revelation, his favourite book. I was slow to take in what he said and respond. I could only smile. Now that it has sunk in, I pray I will be able to preach it with the same passion and love for it, and to do it with interpretative skills I have learned from seminary and years of preaching. Yes, may I be able to deliver Revelation Made Simple with a similar passion and greater insights. I am sure he would want me to do it better than him.

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