On some Saturday afternoons, Vincent can be found throwing a disc across a wide, open field. With a deft flick of his hand, the disc hurls through the air, cuts through the opponents’ defence and reaches a team member. They score a point. Ultimate Frisbee, is one of Vincent’s favourite sports.
For someone who will turn 58 this year (2019), it is pretty amazing how he has managed to keep pace with players easily half his age. Even more remarkable, however, is the fact that Vincent was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease six years ago and yet remains fit enough for his favourite sports.
Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that usually leaves the patient with impaired motor skills. Over time, he or she will become immobile. A cure is yet to be found. In Vincent’s case, movement on the left side of his body has been affected – he is right handed – although he is still able to move and walk unaided. This has somewhat baffled the doctors because the disease seems to be progressing at a slower rate for Vincent compared to others. In fact, one neurologist had wanted to conduct a study on him to determine how he was still able to play sports, says Vincent.
Yet the worst experience for him was not so much about walking with a limp or having a trembling hand or even becoming wheelchair bound. It was depression.
It made him feel as though the whole world had collapsed upon him. He lost his appetite; he slept very little; he began to lose weight. Unknown to many people, some sufferers of Parkinson’s disease go through these changes in addition to motor impairment. This is because of deterioration in the dopamine-producing region of the brain – the part that helps to move muscles and produces feelings of reward and pleasure.
Persevering in Christ
Prior to all this, Vincent had just sold off his fit out in business and used some of the proceeds to buy a new car. He was also a young Christian of just a few years when he got diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. These developments made for some challenging times ahead.
For a start, had he known that he would fall sick, Vincent would have spent the money on medication rather than a new car. Secondly, some of his friends suggested that his sickness was a form of divine retribution from the Chinese deities because he had turned his back on Buddhism and Taoism to become a Christian. This caused Vincent to have doubts about his new Christian faith.
But God sent people to encourage him during this difficult time. One of them was the late Mr Seah, one of Vincent’s good friends. The insurance broker, who was a Christian, prayed and encouraged him regularly. ‘Mr Seah would send me prayers through text during the depression period. The prayers were always for me to have faith in God. And for God to keep me.’ recalls Vincent. ‘I felt that I could continue trusting in God. I kept praying that I would keep clinging to Him. Thank God I didn’t reject [Him]. I could have [done that]. It was really [challenging for me then].’
Vincent continued to put his trust in God because He knew that Jesus Christ holds the key to salvation. Just like the apostle Peter, who said,
‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’
— John 6: 68- 69 (ESV)
Vincent was sure of his salvation. Christians are secure because our names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life, even before the foundation of the world.
In October 2013, Vincent underwent surgery to remove some nerve compression in his neck. The procedure was to determine whether he had Parkinson’s disease. If the numbness in his left arm and leg subsided after the operation, this would mean that he did not have the disease.
If the numbness remained, Vincent would be confirmed to have Parkinson’s disease. But there were risks involved in the surgery. The five-hour-long operation could be fatal if the slightest mistake was made.
The surgery successfully removed the nerve compression, but the numbness did not go away, thus confirming that Vincent had Parkinson’s disease. The doctors prescribed medication for his condition, which helped to treat his depression. After coming out of the operating theatre, Vincent was simply overjoyed and thankful to God for ensuring a smooth operation and sparing his life. ‘I felt at peace.’
Vincent became a Christian in 2010. Thanks to the persistent efforts of Mr Seah, who would invite him to church every year without fail despite numerous rejections. Often, Mr Seah would tell him that he has one more insurance policy to buy – that is, putting his trust in Jesus – and it was for free.
Another individual who caused Vincent to reconsider Christianity was Denesh Divyanathan, the senior pastor of The Crossing Church. Denesh had given up a career in financial journalism to become a clergyman. ‘Either he was nuts or Jesus is the real deal.’
‘I decided to give it a shot and started going to The Crossing. I also joined a group to study the Bible to find out more about Christ,’ says Vincent.
Eventually, through reading the Bible and attending Christianity Explored courses, Vincent found answers to many of life’s challenging questions. For a start, how could everything come to be as it was? Was there a Creator who created everything? Or did everything just magically pop into existence?
At the back of his mind, Vincent knew that there must be a creator, but he was not quite sure whom. Logic dictates that a watch or an aeroplane – which reflect intelligent design – cannot come into existence without being built by someone. Even the human DNA, in all its sophistication, points to a creator. ‘It cannot just happen like that. The moment you ask yourself these questions honestly, it is likely you will start to find that Christianity gives you compelling answers,’ he says.
Another burning question within Vincent’s heart was this: what comes after death? Is it really the end of our existence? Or do we continue to live on, albeit in a different realm? Again, at the back of his mind, Vincent thought that there was more to death. ‘So when I learned about Christianity, this was like, “yeah! It all makes sense”,’ he says, adding that the concept of reincarnation ‘doesn’t tell you how the human race came about’.
Sharing the gospel
These days, Vincent is putting in effort to share these truths about Jesus with others. ‘I was asking myself about the purpose of me being in this world. So I think maybe it is what [Mr Seah used to do]: sharing the gospel. I only [began to realise] this much later in my Christian walk with God. [Mr Seah] always told me that when you trust in Christ, you will have eternal life. You get to be with God’s family forever.’
At his workplace, Vincent has taken the opportunity to form a Bible study group with some of his Christian colleagues. A few are new to the company, and Vincent felt that God had sent them to him to encourage them in their faith. Vincent has wanted to do this for a long time, but he could not find the opportunity to when he was still running his business. Now that he has the flexibility, he has facilitated several sessions that have garnered interest from non-Christian colleagues. ‘Hopefully they will ask why [we] are doing Bible study [and we will try to] get them in.’
Vincent no longer sees a game of Ultimate Frisbee as merely keeping fit or enjoying a rush of adrenaline. It has now become an avenue for him to share the gospel. Last year, he helped to organise a game of Ultimate Frisbee during his church’s LIFE evangelistic week. About 70 people turned up, including one of his colleagues. Everyone got to hear a 10-minute Bible talk about the prodigal son (Luke 15:1-2, 11-32).
As for his Parkinson’s disease, Vincent is not too troubled by it. He knows that one day Jesus will return and restore the world to what it should be. There will be no more tears, pain or sorrow, no more death or sickness. Everything will be made new and Vincent will inherit a new, incorruptible body. On that day, everyone who put their trust in Jesus will get to be with God forever. ‘I have no regrets becoming a Christian despite what I went through,’ sums up Vincent. He is very thankful that his wife Viona and daughter Beatrice have also become Christians. They were all baptised together in 2018.
Interested to find out more about Jesus, the Gospel and Christianity?
Click below for more information on our ‘Just Looking’ Course!