Cancer, losing a child suddenly, marital breakdown, sick parents… how much can one man take? The last three years have been challenging for CHC member Aiden Ho, but in the midst of his suffering, he got to know God and learned to walk through his struggles trusting in Him, with the help of his wife and his cell group.
What would you do if the doctor told you that you probably only have two more months to live?
For Aiden Ho, who hails from Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and works in the financial industry, hearing such a prognosis made him decide to squeeze three cycles of cancer treatment into one, just so that he could make it for City Harvest’s School of Theology 2019. Because of his faith, he was presented the Courage Award at the SOT 2019 graduation ceremony.
Diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer in November 2016, Aiden was given a grim prognosis last year. “In September 2018, I went back to the doctor for the PET scan result and the doctor told me that my cancer had spread all over my body, to 13 spots. It was now stage 4 cancer,” he says. “Before going for the scan, everyone was praying for me and they even thought I was already healed. Even I myself thought I was healed. There was no pain and I could travel around for work.”
The doctor told Aiden that he needed to start treatment immediately. Because the chemotherapy medicine was not working, he had to go through radiotherapy. But radiotherapy presented complications because he could not do it on his whole body at once; there would be too much exposures to radiation.
“But in my mind, I just wanted to finish this treatment as soon as possible because I calculated that if each cycle takes two months, I would take six months to finish the whole treatment. That would mean I won’t make it for the start of SOT,” he reflects.
The significance of having only two months to live escaped him.
Aiden had been delaying his treatment for almost three years. When he was first diagnosed in 2016, he was going through so much in his life that cancer treatment did not seem important. At that point in time, he was struggling financially because he lost a large amount of money in his business. On the home front, he was fighting with his wife and they were on the verge of getting a divorce. They stayed together because of their children.
2016 would have been the worst year of his life, if not for the fact that his wife Angel came to know Jesus in City Harvest Church, and God started to work in their lives silently.
“We got into a big fight on Christmas Eve,” he remembers. “And all of a sudden, something pushed me to tell my wife that I will follow her to church the next day. Until today, I cannot figure out why I said that. She had been asking me to go and I had rejected her up to that point.”
Christmas Day 2016 marked the first time Aiden stepped into CHC. He noticed that there were a lot of people in the church and he quietly told God, “Since there are so many people here, they must all trust You. If You are real, come and speak to me and let me know You exist.”
Because he was actively involved in his own religion at that time, he struggled in his heart to believe. Even though he kept coming to church after that weekend, he never really encountered God.
“I just wanted the service to end so I can go home,” he admits.
A CELL GROUP THAT DEMONSTRATES JESUS
In 2017, Angel enrolled in SOT. She was attached to the cell group W189 and that things started to change for Aiden. “The cell group members tried really hard to reach out to me,” he describes. “No matter what my response was, they kept texting me, calling me and were very concerned about my condition.”
Towards the end of 2017, Aiden’s condition worsened but he went on traveling and working. It was only in February 2018 that he decided to start chemotherapy. “But after two rounds, the doctor realized that the medicine was not working on me,” he says.
His condition was so bad that one time, he was stuck in Korea because it was deemed unsafe for him to fly. His cell group members started to pray for him and finally, he was given the green light to board the plane. When he reached the airport in Johor Bahru, he could see his cell group members waiting for him outside the glass door. He was so touched that he began to tear.
“They don’t know this but it really touched me,” he says. “It was in the middle of the night and they came all the way just to pray for me and ask me how I was. I had no relationship with these people, but they loved me. ”
The kindness of his cell group showed Aiden that God is real and this made him want to encounter God for himself.
In April 2018, another tragedy happened. Aiden’s 3-year-old son suddenly passed away one night.
“Rayden was having minor fever, cough, and flu,” he remembers. “But it’s very common for kids to have these symptoms and he was behaving very normally. So we didn’t think much about it.”
On Friday, Aiden had to fly to Taiwan for a business trip. Rayden was still having a fever but he did not look very unwell. “Before I left, he came to hug me and give me a goodbye kiss. He’s always doing that, he cared for us a lot. The last thing he said to me was, ‘Remember to buy me the toy. You promised.’ It was a Paw Petrol toy.”
Before Rayden went to sleep, Angel gave him some medicine. But when she checked on him the next morning at 6am, he had passed away.
“She called me and said that we need to pray for a miracle. But when I saw the photo of Rayden that she sent over, I knew that he was gone. I told her to call a few people and bring Rayden to the hospital near our house.”
Aiden himself got on to the first flight back to Malaysia. Throughout the whole journey home, Aiden couldn’t stop crying. By the time he reached Johor, it was in the evening. With a broken heart, he went to see his son’s body up at the hospital.
“Besides grief, I also felt very guilty,” he shares. “I didn’t manage to get the toy for him. So I got Angel to find someone to help me get the toy and give it to him.”
For the next few months, Aiden was drowned in his grief. He couldn’t work and he couldn’t even bring himself to leave the house. In the midst of his grief, he had to go through another round of radiotherapy.
“This time around, I felt the full impact of the side effects. The radiation burned my skin and my neck swelled up very badly. My throat was burning and I couldn’t eat. It would take me one hour to finish a small carton of milk,” he describes.
Throughout the whole ordeal, Aiden’s cell group never left their side. “Angel was also having a tough time looking after our older son, me and my parents, while she was also still grieving. My cell group gave us a lot of support. They showed up at our house very often. They held cell group meetings at our house because we couldn’t go to Singapore. And they prayed for us.”
When he had lost all hope, the only thing that could turn things around is the presence of God.
“My cell group leader, Stanley Yew, was having a discipleship meeting and got us to go for it. I remember standing at the back of the room, I was so lost and I couldn’t connect at all. My heart couldn’t feel anything,” he said. “During the altar call, my cell group leader ministered to everyone and I was the last. He brought me to the front to pray for me. The moment he touched my shoulder, tears started to fall. I don’t even know what he was praying. I felt Someone hugging me from the back. The hug was very warm, very real and I felt peace and strength coming from the ground up to my feet, filling my entire body. The pain and struggle in my heart left and I felt joy.”
Aiden was later told, that was the Jesus hugging him. “From that moment, all my worries were gone and I knew what I should do next,” he says. “It is not like I know exactly what to do, but I have the confidence and I know how to move on. That was the first time I encountered the touch of God, the first time I was filled by the Holy Spirit. I decided to dedicate myself to Jesus.”
LEARNING TO KEEP HIS FAITH
A few months after that, Aiden discovered that the cancer had spread to the rest of his body. “I was very disappointed. I asked God, ‘Why this again? I already surrendered everything to You. After everything I had gone through, things are picking up now, why do I have to go through this again?”
But he remembered the words of his cell group leader: keep believing in God because He has His plans for us.
Thankfully, he survived his radiotherapy without suffering any side effects. He finished the cycle in time to go for the SOT preparation course and even managed to squeeze in a cell group retreat and a marriage retreat before SOT started.
“Some of the cancer cells are gone and the rest have shrunk to less than two centimeters. That means that even though the cancer cells are still there, they no longer endanger my life.”
In July of this year, Aiden’s father was diagnosed with kidney cancer. “I was shocked, but I was not worried,” says Aiden. “I knew that God was going to do a work in my father’s life.”
Aiden had been reaching out to his father for a long time, but because his father was very involved in his religion, it was hard for him to change. But he eventually started to open his heart when he saw Aiden and Angel’s lives change.
“What worried me was the finances. We needed RM40,000 for the operation but we didn’t have the money,” says Aiden.
The Sunday before Aiden was to bring his father for a check-up, his cell group leader presented him an envelope with money that the cell group members had raised for the operation. It amounted to $13,000. “I was so touched, I didn’t know how to express my gratitude to my cell group members,” he says.
Aiden told his dad what happened and he too was very touched. Just before he went into the operation theatre, he received Jesus as His Savior. Today, both of Aiden’s parents are believers.
Aiden also experienced blessing in other areas of his life. From 2017 to 2018, Aiden’s finances became more stable and he managed to buy an apartment with cash. When he decided to enrol in SOT, he took the opportunity to quit the industry he was in.
“I never liked working in the finance industry, it’s too dog-eat-dog for me,” he admits. “God really blessed me and my finances were enough for both me and my wife in SOT.”
Even though he went through a lot in the three years, the thing he struggled with most was his relationship with his wife. “It was really a torture to have to see someone every day but yet have a bad relationship with her.”
In fact, cancer did not bother him as much as his failing marriage. “I prayed very hard, I really want a breakthrough in my marriage,” says Aiden.
The first breakthrough came after he prayed for his marriage for two consecutive days at their cell group retreat. One night after the sessions, Aiden apologized to Angel.
“I said a lot of things to her that night, and they were all the things she wanted to hear. I had never said them, and I think she never expected me to say those things. We cried together and I thought life would start to get better, but it did not. After a few days, things went back to ‘normal’.”
Throughout his seven months in SOT, Aiden kept praying for his marriage, his career, and his ministry, “and I only got my answers in the last two weeks of SOT.”
After one morning worship, Angel came to Aiden and gave him a hug. It was very unexpected and Aiden could feel something shift in their relationship. One night, while Aiden was doing some work in his room, Angel went to him and started talking. Even though it was already one in the morning, their conversation went deeper and deeper.
“We talked about things about the past and shared our struggles. In that conversation, we started to understand each other—the things we struggle with and why we react a certain way to things,” Aiden shared. The tension between them and their relationship started to improve from that day.
“My cell group organized an SOT graduation party and I did something special for her. Because I had never actually proposed to her before, so I proposed at the party.” When they went to Israel in November, Aiden and Angel renewed their marriage vows in the Jerusalem Church.
WALKING INTO THE BLESSINGS OF GOD
Besides restoring his marriage, God also came truth for Aiden in the area of his career and ministry. He has started a tour agency that organizes Christian-based tours, as well as a tuition center.
“I was very interested in this particular shop unit near my house,” Aiden shared. “But even though it looked empty, there was no advertisement for rental or sale.”
Angel asked around and finally managed to get the owner’s contact. Unfortunately, the unit was already rented out.
“We met up with the owner of the unit and realized they were also Christians. After sharing our plans with them, they were very keen to rent to us and offered to ask their tenant if they would be willing to release the unit. Surprisingly, the tenant agreed and we got the unit!”
Not only did they managed to get the unit they wanted, but they also managed to get it at a good price. “The rental for that area has gone up to around RM4000 to RM5000 monthly. But the landlord offered to rent us the unit at the same price as the previous tenant, which was almost half the market rate.”
In the last three years, Aiden walked through struggle after struggle. At the end of the day, he knows that it was God who gave him strength.
“God is really good to me,” he declares.