MARIANNE'S MIGHTY GOD
By Asian Beacon
Would you be able to serve God with the best of your abilities if you were diagnosed with a debilitating illness? Marianne Liaw Sook Huei had never experienced the best of health. Thinking that things could not get any worst, a bizarre degenerative disease dealt to her another devastating blow, in 2013. Now at the age of of 33, Marianne has been declared legally blind.
But for Marianne her condition did not stop her from living a fulfilling life, that would be of God’s purpose.
Today at the age of 32, she works as a youth ministry worker for Scripture Union Semenanjung Malaysia.
Her story has inspired many students who see her. Because this proves that her disease and disabilities do not stop her from a life of devotion and ministry unto Christ.
“My job scope adheres to going around schools to share the gospel. That as well to teach the Bible to students. This is in line with SU’s tagline reaching the next generation with God’s word,” Marianne explained.
Marianne shares that she was brought up in a Christian family. But despite that she struggled with her faith.
“My parents were very active Christian leaders in church. My sisters were very active in Sunday school. But to me, Christianity was a set of rules to follow and I never understood my faith. I was child who fought a lot, and I feared dying very much. The reason being that I wasn’t sure if I had been a good enough Christian to go to Heaven. I never really understood why Jesus had to die for my sins. In fact, when I asked a Sunday school teacher, what would happen if I died tonight, after breaking one of the ten commandments, and her response was as Christians we need to try harder,” she explained.
Due to these doubts and fears, it created a sort of resentment in her.
So from the age of 14-16, she became an atheist.
“At first it felt very liberating. Because at this point I didn’t have to worry about God,” she explained.
But at the age of 16, she fell ill and had her first surgery.
“At that point of that time, there was a growth in my skull that had be removed from surgery. This incident made me reconsider about life and my faith in God. I started searching for answers, and my search ultimately led me to my church, St Mary’s Catherderal. Here for the first time, I heard the gospel explained clearly and as faithful to the Bible in a sermon,” she said.
The explanation of the Word through that sermon was a revelation to her.
“I finally understood what it meant, that as sinners we have all fallen short of God’s standard, of perfection and deserve His just punishment. By ourselves and our efforts we cannot possibly meet these standards. But out of his love for us, God sent His Son Jesus to take our place, and bear the punishment that we deserve. And through trusting in Him alone, are we truly forgiven. This same Jesus has risen from the dead, and in Him we have assurance of eternal life,” Marianne said.
When she finally understood the message of the gospel of grace clearly, she explained that it changed her life completely.
“I started an informal internship with my home church at St Mary’s and I learned very much about the Bible and developed a love for ministry serving God. Even after I was accepted to do law in University Malaya, I continued serving as an intern at St Mary’s plus being a full-time law student,” she explained.
She said this led her to a conflict of interest. The reason was that she desired to do full time ministry, but her parents desired that she should become a lawyer.
“In 2007, during my second year of law studies, tragedy struck. I fell very ill with a rare disorder that affected my breathing. The doctors couldn’t figure out how to treat me, and it seemed that I was closed to death. When speaking to my father, I told him I was not afraid of dying and knowing I was saved by grace, and I would be with Jesus. But on the other hand, if I survived I would leave my law studies and work full time in church,” she explained.
Her father told her, if she survived she could do whatever she wished.
To Marianne’s surprise, the doctors were able to figure out how to treat her illness. After that she was discharged from the hospital.
“I left university and have not looked back ever since,” Marianne explained.
She added that as a ministry worker was not easy. It did come with a lot of challenges.
“But in all of it, I see God’s grace. I spent almost a decade, working as a pastoral staff of Saint Mary’s and was very blessed to be under the leadership of Reverend Andrew Cheah,” Marianne said.
She later met the love of her life, Daniel Chow who was three years older than herself, in the year 2013. He was a finance manager, and a very dedicated church member of the church. They served together in this ministry and at the start of 2014 we were engaged to be married.
Once again tragedy struck. During their engagement she fell very ill. The doctors detected that there was a problem with her heart. Despite that God remained faithful to her. And that faithfulness was seen through her fiancée Daniel.
“Through it all, Daniel stood by my side reminding me to put our trust in Jesus even though we could not see what was in the future. In fact, previously it was during a time I was hospitalised for another health issue that Daniel asked me to be his girlfriend,” she explained.
Marianne then had to underwent surgery to have a cardiac pace-maker placed in her heart. They finally married on November 15 2014, and today, they are actively serving together.
“At this point of time I had left pastoral ministry to pursue youth and schools ministry with Scripture Union. I felt great burden to reach out to the younger generation in schools. Many of them would not have the opportunity to hear about Jesus, because we never saw them near our church’s doorstep,” she said.
Even after marriage, Marianne said life was never easy for her.
“After a year of marriage I developed further symptoms and when the doctor examined me they diagnosed me with having a rare degenerative disorder which would affect my autonomic nervous system. The doctors gave me medicine to control the symptoms but there is no cure. Throughout the pass five years the disease has progressed and affected my blood pressure, my digestive system, and about a year and a half my eyesight. Today, I am visually disabled but in my weakness God’s grace has been sufficient,” Marianne said with determination.
By God’s grace, Marianne explained that she has been enabled to continued preaching and teaching his word in schools and churches.
She said that God has even broaden her scope of ministry.
“He has placed a burden in my heart to speak out and to helped communities that are in need such as the refugee community in Malaysia. Helping the refugees has always been a passion that I had since I first entered full time ministry. Looking back, I am thankful to God for His love, and providence. I am also thankful a Godly, loving and supportive husband. And many ministry partners who seek and support to encourage us in the work that we do for Christ,” Marianne explained.
Today Marianne explains that she sees herself as an advocate for the community and helping those in need.
“Being an advocate is very different from what I studied as a lawyer. If I look back at what I am doing today, it would be very different from where I started off,” Marianne explained.
When asked about her currently disabilities, Marianne said that it does not deter her at all in her ministry.
“One and a half years ago I lost my eyesight partially due to the disorder. Even though I struggle with daily challenges, what drives me and motivates me is nothing but Christ Himself. What looked to be a curse or a misfortunate, has turned out to be a blessing. It has help me focus on Christ and Him alone. Just as the apostle Paul when wrestling with a thorn in his flesh said in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10,
“My grace is sufficient in your weakness. And my power is made perfect in weakness,”.
Through this weakness I have learned to depend on Christ for strength, more than ever before. I am unsure what the future for me, but I know that God holds my life,” Marianne explained.
Her dedication towards her work for God, has continued to inspire everyone she meets. She explained that this illness has also given her a sense of urgency and focus on living for Jesus and His gospel.
“The time we have on earth is limited and may we live it by God’s grace for his glory. I have come a very long way from the child who was afraid of death to the woman who has found her eternal security in Christ. I want to echo Paul’s words in Philippians 1: 21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” Marianne concludes.