23 Apr 2015 by Jason Law CM –
Stevens Chan is probably no stranger to many of us. He is the founder behind such organizations as the Malaysia Glaucoma Society, Dialogue in the Dark Malaysia, and Save Ones Sight Missions Bhd. Battling and overcoming his own hurdles in life, his ministries have already blessed so many of the less-advantaged in Malaysia, particularly among the visually-disadvantaged. Stevens Chan and his partner in life, sis Kaye, are among the people with the strongest faith I have ever known personally.
Before all this, however, Brother Stevens had to go through severe struggles of his own. Many of these struggles would have destroyed another man, but God reached down to him at the bleakest moment of his life, and gave him a purpose. Recently, bro Stevens shared his story with Christianity Malaysia and it’s an extraordinarily powerful one.
Early Part of Life
Stevens came from a challenging but closely-knitted family background. ‘I was born into a poor family,’ he shared. ‘My dad was an odd-job labourer and my mum was an odd-job seamstress. Though we were poor my parents made sure that I have what I needed to survive.’
This background, however, planted an ambitious heart and a determination for corporate success in the young man. ‘I was an average student and after completing my A-levels I started my working life in a local Bank. 5 years later I joined the Insurance industry. As an agent, I wanted to make a lot of money. In my mind was Prosperity, Power and Position; nothing else! Not even God! To me God or Gods was like a Spiritual Gangster and you need to pay your annual and seasonal Protection Fees to ensure a safe and blessed journey in life. I prayed to every god that I heard of, and occasionally, I would also go to church and pray.’
From the insurance industry, Stevens joined the Direct-selling industry and for the next 10+ years he was running his own consultancy firm, helping business owners to start their own direct-selling firms and also helping foreign direct-sales companies to start in Malaysia.
‘One day I was given a high-status contract worth RM2.5 million. Earning the contract was for me the beginning of my journey upwards to even more financial success that will also bring me Power and Position! Or so I thought! A month later there I was sitting on a hospital bed waiting for surgery.’
Diagnosed With Glaucoma
At the age of 40 Stevens was diagnosed with Glaucoma, the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness. Brother Stevens shared about the ordeal. ‘It was indeed a traumatic news for me and my wife Kaye! Just about a month ago my Consultancy firm was awarded a 2 years contract worth RM2.5million. After striving in the business world I was indeed very ecstatic when I was awarded this contract. I felt then that the years of hard and punishing work which had inflicted much ravage on my physical well-being and not to mention the strains on my marriage! In many ways I was also sacrificing much of my integrity in many business negotiations. In gaining this contract I thought all of this sacrifices I had made was worthwhile as a price to pay for material success.’
The attending optomologist insisted that Stevens did a surgery to prevent further sight loss, but despite this and a further 8 more surgeries, he finally became totally blind in late 2007 at the age of 45. During this 5-years period he had to close down all his businesses and in the process, he lost all his money in frantically trying to seek for all types of remedies and cure for his eyes. It was a very tough time in his life. During this time Stevens also lost his dad.
‘I was not even with him when he passed away as I was unable to care for him in his old age and had placed him in an old age home. Initially I had thought I was prepared to go blind but when that dreadful moment came I broke down! One morning in late 2007 I woke up and could not see my wife’s face anymore. I didn’t want to wake up anymore as to me waking up made no difference. I still cannot see! I began to blame just about everyone and everything including my wife, family and even God for causing me to be blind!’
Coming to Know God
Initially, Stevens thought of committing suicide. ‘I thought of ending everything but I didn’t have the guts to do it, and in March 22 2008, I accepted an invitation by a married couple to attend a Christian healing meeting. I have only known this couple a few months and to Kaye’s shock and even to mine I accepted their invitation. I cannot remember what the pastor shared that night except for a statement he made during his sermon, that we can have a personal relationship with GOD by believing in Jesus Christ.’
That statement stuck with him the whole night and later, again to Kaye’s shock, he accepted the pastor’s invitation to go to his church the next day as it was Easter. ‘Kaye was surprised as I had on many occasions rejected friends’ invitation to go for healing rallies and services, and at times I even mock them. On that Easter Sunday, March 23 2008, both I and Kaye repented and invited Lord Jesus to be the Lord over our lives! At the point of repentance I completely ignored my own thoughts and feelings. I just prayed;”Lord Jesus, please take over my life. I am sorry for all the wrongs that I have done!”’
Amazingly, for the first time in his life, Stevens felt a peace that surpassed all understanding and that night he slept peacefully after many years of poor sleep. ‘For about a year or so, I and Kaye were struggling along in our new life as a Christian but thank God for the many Brothers and Sisters that was somehow always there to pray for us and be alongside us in our struggles.’
During the time, they were struggling financially as both of them was by now not working and were trying to earn money through doing direct-selling. Kaye was also doing part-time work for a friend. ‘It was a tough life then but we were joyful and felt blessed that GOD was with us all the time in our sufferings,’ he related.
Gaining a New-found Purpose through God
In late 2008 the wife of Steven’s church pastor asked to do an interview with him in regard to his Glaucoma experience. It was only during this interview that she informed him that Glaucoma was now the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness. According to WHO, it was affecting more than 60-million people worldwide, including close to 100,000 Malaysians. After the interview, Stevens was advised to start an NGO to create more awareness of Glaucoma for Malaysians, as well as to help the many Glaucoma patients and their family members understand their condition better. The goal was to prevent unnecessary Blindness from others.
Initially, Stevens was skeptical about the feasibility. ‘I laughed about it as I told her that not only do I not know how to start or run an NGO, I also do not have the money to start one.’ However, the thought of starting and running this NGO nevertheless kept appearing in his thoughts and in early 2009, he made an appointment to have tea with a Malay lady which he had met a few months earlier during a lunch meeting with another Malay friend.
‘I had vaguely remembered her mentioning that she was working with the Registrar of Societies KL. It was only during our next meeting that I found out that she was the main person in charge to approve Society registration in KL!
‘It was indeed amazing how God was working to awaken my calling to glorify His Name! I shared with the lady that I wanted to start the Glaucoma Society and that I do not know how to do it and neither do I have the money to hire a consultant to do it for me. I also told her that if possible I hope to register the Society by March as WHO had just announced that the second week of March was now to be proclaimed as World Glaucoma Week. Amazingly she agreed to help me ProBono and that I only needed to pay her lawyer friend who will oversee the registration papers and RM500.00 for her services, payable when I was able to.’
The Inception of the Malaysia Glaucoma Society
The Malaysia Glaucoma Society was registered on March 5th 2009 just a few days before the first World Glaucoma Week! ‘And I only paid RM30.00 for the Certificate,’ Stevens related. ‘It’s amazing how God works as I now begin to realize what Romans 8:28 was all about! Only God can do this as it normally takes about 12-24 months to register a NGO unless you are very well connected!’
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
‘From then onwards I truly did not know how or what was I to do with the Society! We had no money, struggling to survive; how were we to move on was truly troubling us. Soon after the registration I surrendered all to God as I knew in my heart that if this was my calling to serve, then God will take care of all of our and the Glaucoma Society’s needs! “God please help my unbelief and give me the wisdom and strength to glorify your Name in this works that you have call me to do!” was my fervent prayer ever since even until today!’
On a Life Journey with God
‘From 2009 till to date GOD has blessed us much, very very much indeed!’ Stevens shared. ‘In our surrendering to Him, God has caused our ministry to grow beyond my imaginations. From a small NGO operating from our home, we are now occupying a 7,000 sq ft center in the heart of PJ, Jaya One. To date we have conducted more than 150 community eye-health screenings nationwide as well as in Myanmar where more than 10,000 people were blessed. From taking care of 4 under-privileged Glaucoma Children, giving out free visual aids and surgeries to the needy, training and giving employment to more than 12 Blind Malaysians, to being accepted as a member of the International Agencies of Preventing Blindness’.
The Lord has taken brother Stevens to even greater heights; establishing and running the Malaysia Glaucoma Society; a Christian Non-Profit Organisation, ‘Save Ones Sight Missions Berhad’, and a Social Enterprise ‘Dialogue in the Dark Malaysia’! The Lord even sent a philantrophist whom Stevens did not know to provide a seed loan of RM1 million to start Dialogue in the Dark.
Save Ones Sight Missions Berhad is only the first Malaysian organisation to be given membership in the International Agencies of Preventing Blindness. Additionally, it is the only Asian organisation working with 2 leading Preventing Blindness Research Institutions in Oxford University, UK!
Hopes for the Future
‘I believe that God still has many great plans for me,’ Stevens conveyed. ‘God even inspired me to deny myself to bring the first Guide Dog back to Malaysia. I am not a dog lover and am afraid of dogs since the time I was bitten by a rabies-infected stray dog when I was 5 years old. Since then, I had stayed away from dogs and to now own and learn to love Lashawn? Only God can do this!’
‘I could not have done this at all. I am blind and perceived and treated as a disabled in our society. How can a disabled person do all of this?? It’s not me and neither is it all about me. It’s all about God and how He is using a disabled person like me to show His love to those who are suffering from sight loss including their loved ones.’
Today, Stevens’ work creed is founded on Matthew 6:21-23; ‘If I remember correctly it reads; ‘The lamp of our body is the eyes and if the eye is unhealthy the body will be full of darkness but when the eye is healthy the body will be full of light!!”. For brother Stevens and sister Kaye, this verse speaks not just about physical sight, but about spiritual truth. God illuminates the soul and spirit with His truth and light.
Knowing brother Stevens and sister Kaye personally has taught me many things. It has taught me that hope can be found in even the bleakest moment in our lives, and that God’s purposes often extend to more than a single person. Additionally, it has also brought home a truth in 12 Corinthians 12:9; that very often in our lowest moments, God has plans for us, and that He is profoundly concerned about the moulding process that will one day bring, not just one or two of us, but countless others that we have touched home to meet Him again in heaven.
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NOTE: To know more about Stevens Chan’s ministries, you can visit the pages at Save Ones Sight Missions (SOSM), Dialogue in the Dark Malaysia, and Dogs For Sight. All pictures of brother Stevens and sis Kaye kindly provided by brother Stevens and sis Kaye.