By Ong Juat Heng

Chek Hup is a renowned coffee and beverage brand founded by Tan Soo Hor, who passed away in 2014. Today, the company is run by his son, Joseph Tan who is the company’s Managing Director. In an interview with Asian Beacon, Joseph recounts the amazing story of his older sister’s terrifying 10-year demon possession torment and how Christ finally liberated her.

“You’ve already tried so many gods, why not try Jesus?”, Ai Kheng’s ex-secondary school friend pleaded with her over the phone. Ai Kheng (Joseph’s sister) said hesitatingly, “They (the gods she had gone to) are all Asian gods. This Jesus is a western god.” Her friend then asked, “Can I pray for you? Now?”

“Yeah, why not?” said the beleaguered Ai Kheng, and patiently listened as her friend called on Jesus to deliver her from the voices and spirits that had been tormenting her.

As her friend prayed, Ai Kheng suddenly felt an electrical current run through her hand that was holding the phone. Involuntarily, she flung the phone and if not for its cable (this was during the landline era), it would have flown far away. Ai Kheng quickly ran and picked up the phone.

“What happened?” the concerned voice at the other end asked. “I don’t know. I felt electricity running through my arm when you were praying,” the nervous Ai Kheng replied.

Her friend then invited her to attend a church service and one Sunday morning several weeks later, Ai Kheng and her boyfriend, Seow Sieh*, were standing among a group of worshippers in a church in Ipoh. This was the beginning of the end of the 10-year torment by demonic spirits that had inhabited her body and controlled her mind, robbing her of a normal teenage life and early adulthood.

Chek Hup Managing Director Joseph Tan

Flashback 10 years ago

Ai Kheng’s spine-chilling demonic possession story began in the mid-1980s when she started staying at the upper floor of a shophouse. It was a 10-minute bicycle ride from the family’s home, which was behind their rock sugar factory.

“The shophouse belonged to my father and Ai Kheng wanted to stay there at night to study for her SPM exam,” Joseph said. “My father didn’t want her to be alone at the shophouse, so I had to accompany her (he was eight years old then). Every night after dinner, I would hop on to the back of her bicycle and she would cycle there.”

All was well at first but slowly, Ai Kheng began to behave strangely. Every night, she would get up from her sleep to eat. She had a voracious and bizarre appetite – gobbling down half a bottle of chilli sauce and half a big tin of Milo powder was a piece of cake.

After a few months, she told her parents she didn’t feel normal. Immediately, her parents took her to the doctor, who found nothing wrong and said she was probably sleepwalking. She took the sleeping pill the doctor gave but to no effect, and her nightly eating ritual continued. 

Meanwhile, she was beginning to hear voices and feel her body being oppressed by an eerie physical force. “At night, she would flail her feet and hands uncontrollably. One night, she walked out to the balcony and saw some white shadows. She was gripped with great fear and was always fearful after that,” Joseph recalled.

After some seven months and with her condition deteriorating, their parents moved them back to their house, thinking this would solve the problem. It didn’t. Voices constantly drowned her head as fear engulfed her and she continued her nightly eating binge, which had unwanted physical side effects, such as constipation and bloating.  

“To solve her eating problem, our father locked her room door at night to prevent her from coming out to eat,” Joseph said.

Chinese temples, Indian priests, Malay bomoh, Thai god

Desperate for help, and knowing that Ai Kheng’s problem was spiritual, their mother, a devout idol worshipper, took her to the Chinese temple. When the prescription given by the priest didn’t work, she took her to another temple and another temple.

“All the temple priests had different explanation for Ai Kheng’s behaviour, such as bad luck or she had come into contact with evil spirits. They gave my mother those paper talismans, which my mother burned and put the ashes into water for Ai Kheng to drink. Nothing worked,” Joseph said.

“In fact, Ai Kheng got worse until she couldn’t function and had to stop school. During the day, she would be exhausted but at night, she became hyperactive and just wanted to eat.”

When the Tan family had exhausted all the Chinese gods in their area, they turned to the Indian gods. “That’s one good thing about Malaysia – we have options,” Joseph quipped.

When the Indian gods didn’t help, they turned to the Malay bomoh, who gave them a list of pantang (rules) to follow. Again, nothing worked and Ai Kheng’s condition spiralled downwards. “Sometimes, she would scream until she collapsed in exhaustion,” Joseph recalled.

Her behaviour got creepier too. “She never spoke Tamil but out of the blue, she began to sing Indian songs. She was never involved in the family business as she was already so traumatised and sleeping during the day but one day, she told us one of the staff was stealing from the store. We investigated and true enough, we caught the staff,” said Joseph.

Eight years had passed by and Ai Kheng was in her mid-20s by then.

Just when she was at rock bottom, her father’s friend recommended a famous monk in Thailand who was venerated for his spiritual power.

“The whole family flew to Thailand to seek out the monk, who was in his 70s,” Joseph said and recalled vividly the first time the monk prayed over Ai Kheng, “Her hollow, glassy eyes lit up, she became more alive and felt a burden rolled from her shoulder. She perked up and seemed so much happier.

“The monk told us the spirit inhabiting her was her younger brother who had been miscarried and wanted to settle something with the family. He then gave us two little idols and said one was the miscarried brother and the other was his wife. We must take them back to Malaysia. He then taught my father some chants.”

The Tan family dutifully took the idols home and placed them on the altar in a small room behind their factory. Every day, Ai Kheng would worship the idols and there was great rejoicing that she was turning around. The short-lived joy turned to petrifying horror when the spiritual torment not only returned but intensified. Whenever the spirits attacked her, which was often, Ai Kheng would flail her limbs vigorously and let out piercing, chilling screams.

“We were back to square one,” Joseph lamented. “We had spent a lot of money, paying all the priests and bomoh and Thai monk, and she was getting worse.”

“Demons are real.” – Joseph Tan

The dream

Some time after the Thai monk episode, Ai Kheng had a dream one night. She was standing in the middle of a cold, dark place and suddenly, a horde of ferocious animals appeared and began closing in on her. A blood-curdling fear invaded her as the animals inched closer.

Out of nowhere, a faint light appeared in the distance. She looked up and felt its radiating warmth, and peace flooded her. As the light moved nearer and grew brighter, she made out the silhouette of a man. The animals fled as the light fell on them and Ai Kheng woke up.

Ten years had passed by now and it was at this point that her former secondary school friend phoned and prayed for her, and invited her to church.   

After the “electrifying” call, Ai Kheng told her parents about the strange phone call where she had felt something like electricity running through her arm when her friend prayed for her. She talked about going to church to seek help but her mother was strongly opposed to the idea of seeking a “western god”. “Strange, isn’t it? My mother didn’t mind the Indian and Malay gods but not ‘ang moh’ (Western) god,” Joseph jested.

“My sister had a boyfriend* then,” he added. “Yes, she was not normal but there was this boy who liked her despite it all,” Joseph quickly explained.

“Anyway, he secretly took her to a church in Ipoh. When they entered the church, the people were singing and Ai Kheng suddenly fell to floor and wanted to vomit. The church leaders were stunned as they had not experienced anything like that before. They prayed for her and she calmed down.”

The pastor’s sin

After a while, the voices returned to torment her and the church pastor told the demons to leave her. To everyone’s surprise, Ai Kheng sneered at the pastor, who then commanded the demons to be quiet and come out. Ai Kheng then told the pastor he had no authority over her because he had committed adultery!

“The pastor’s sin proved true and he eventually resigned from the church. This shows that demons know what’s going on,” Joseph warned. 

As that church did not have the expertise to deal with Ai Kheng, the Tan family turned to a church in Sitiawan that had much experience in exorcising evil spirits. By now, her parents had come around to the idea of calling on a ‘western’ deity for help and this time, they took her to the Sitiawan church where they met the pastor, Joshua.  

“He was a very gentle and humble man and my father got along very well with him,” Joseph said.

The church’s Foochow congregation had a 24/7 intercession ministry, with the intercessors grouped in three shifts. Ai Kheng was put in the prayer room where the intercessors prayed round-the-clock for her.

Joseph related a scary phenomenon that happened to Ai Kheng which highlighted the intense warfare for her soul. “Before going to the Sitiawan church, Ai Kheng started torturing herself physically and would cut herself with a knife. On the way to the church, she wanted to jump out of the car. Thankfully, we were able to restrain her and bring her to the Sitiawan church.”

The deliverance

Finally, the family decided that Ai Kheng should live in the church until she was delivered of the demons. For a few months, she received the devoted, loving prayers of these intercessors, led by Pastor Joshua. Her mother stayed in the church too, to look after her.

It was in the mid-1990s that Ai Kheng was completely purged of all the demons within her. After 10 years of being assaulted by the foul forces, she was finally free to live a normal life. In fact, she stepped into an abundant life, one that is filled with the glorious riches of an intimate relationship with Jesus, whom she gratefully embraced as her Lord and Saviour. 

And with so much love poured into helping Ai Kheng by the Sitiawan church and Pastor Joshua, the entire family too could not but bow to Jesus as the only true and powerful God. By God’s bountiful grace and supreme power, the Tan family had come to know the true living God.

Meanwhile, Pastor Joshua continues to faithfully serve in this ministry of delivering people from demonic forces. “All the stories we read in the Bible about demon possession are still happening today,” Joseph remarked. 

In this age of scientific and technological advancements, where almost everything can be quantified, measured and put under a microscope, the spirit world is real and very much alive.

* Seow Sieh – Ai Kheng’s boyfriend. Today, they are blissfully married. 

(Editor’s note: This is part one of the interview. Part 2 where Joseph shares how he integrates his faith with business…Read More)