Peter & Doris Chow

Two Hearts of Prayer

Produced by Our Stories, His Glory Team

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Reading Progress:

The story of Peter Chow and Doris Chia is a romance. It is a romance of how God courted them even before they were aware of Him; how they found each other from the time they were mere teenagers; and finally, how they placed all their trust and hope in God as He revealed Himself to them through circumstances, answered prayers, friends and even strangers. They are both now in their 80s, and their faith in the Lord is strong, unwavering and resilient. Doris declares: “God is faithful, God is good – He has been faithful in the past, He is faithful now, He will be faithful to the end.” Peter further affirms: “I know I am a child of God, He is always with me. When I have had my trials and tribulations, I don’t complain, I just release myself to Him.”

In tracing their lives’ journey, there are clear instances that even before they knew Him, God provided for and protected Peter and Doris: from when they grew up in wartime Singapore to where they are today in their Toa Payoh home – secure in the Lord, faithful and doting grandparents to five.

To help support his accountancy studies with the Singapore Polytechnic in the 1960s, Peter worked for a small accounting firm in the business district. One day as he was leaving his office, he was shocked to see a man crash down right in front of him, onto a car parked in a small lane. If not for the car which was not supposed to be parked there, Peter could have been seriously injured or killed by the person who committed suicide.

From the time he was a child, Peter knew that there was a God. A primary class teacher had spoken about God and creation. Peter’s father and uncles were supposed to be Christians, but then, no one brought him to church.

Peter shared: “When I was not even 10 years old, I used to draw the blanket over myself in my room and pray. I didn’t want anyone to see me praying, but because I knew that there was a God, I believe he had inspired me to pray.” 

Born in 1941 just as Singapore was drawn into World War II, Peter was the fifth of seven children. His mother, a homemaker, was one of his father’s two wives. According to his uncle, Peter cried incessantly when he was just two or three years old, so much so that his grandparents wanted to give him away, but did not as he was born a boy, and therefore, considered more precious than a girl! Peter lived on the second floor of a shophouse along North Bridge Road and remembers seeing Japanese soldiers marching up and down the road below.

Peter’s home was in the Chinatown area, which in the 1940s was starkly different from what it is now. It was an overcrowded and bustling precinct, known as Niu Che Shui 牛车水 or “bullock cart water”, a historical Chinese enclave and home to thousands of immigrants from China, including secret societies and illegal activities from gambling to opium-smoking dens. It was named after the bullock carts that used to supply fresh water to its residents.

Peter grew up in a poor family. The family was on social welfare and Peter remembers: “My father fell sick when I was about 10 years old. To make a little extra money, my mother sewed clothes for a living. I remembered that as I slept, my foot was sometimes stuck below her sewing machine, interfering with her sewing.

“When I was 12 years old, my father died. Up till this time, he continued to do book-keeping for one of the tailor shops in Coleman Street. Because he was sick, he instructed me to go pick up the accounting books from this tailor shop, and then to take a trishaw back, so that he could do the book-keeping at home.”

When he was about 20, Peter was invited by his friend to Elim Church Assembly of God at Serangoon Road. It was a small group meeting. A pastor was speaking, and he then asked who would like to receive Jesus as Saviour. Peter recalls: “I looked around, and saw everyone putting up their hands. I didn’t want to be the odd one out, so I too put up my hand. I felt I had ‘no choice’.” 

Nothing much happened after. Life carried on as usual.

It was not till a few years later that Peter walked into Wesley Methodist Church (WMC), which was located right next to the school he had attended — Anglo-Chinese Continuation School (meant for overaged students). This was in the late 1960s. No one welcomed him as he went in to attend the service. But Peter felt that God was always with him as he remembered his childhood days of praying under his blanket.

Doris spent her early years with her maternal grandmother, who was a temple keeper. So she was well acquainted with temple worship, and being a bright, feisty and argumentative child, even stole from the temple table. When she went back to live with her parents, Doris continued to have fun, hanging out with other kids who rode around on hired bicycles.

Being the eldest of three children, Doris was given the task of managing the household at just 12 years old. Her father worked with Gammon, an engineering company, and had to travel often for work, accompanied by her mother. Doris was given $400 a month to pay for all household expenses, including the maid’s salary, groceries and to look after her two brothers. “I learnt responsibility from a very young age!” said Doris.

Doris grew up in a home where there was little religious practice except for ancestral worship, with an altar on which sat statues of the goddess of mercy and the monkey god. As for the Christian faith, young Doris had no clue. One day, as she was roaming around the neighbourhood in Tiong Bahru where her parents had moved to, she saw a cross through the window of a living room in someone’s home. She did not know what the cross represented, but she was inexplicably drawn to it. “I would come back again and again to look at the cross every time I passed by that house, and I believe that was my first encounter with Christianity,” said Doris.

Doris’ secondary school years were at Crescent Girls’ School. There she became friends with a few girls who were always happy and cheerful. They talked about Jesus, sang praise songs and Doris enjoyed their company. Doris then joined the school’s Christian Fellowship.

Sometime during her Secondary Two year, a lady knocked on the door of Doris’ home one afternoon. “I didn’t know her at all, but she was such a picture of peace, calm and joy that I invited her in, as she said she wanted to talk to me about Christianity,” recalls Doris. “The lady introduced herself as Joyce Ho. She started to tell me the story of Jesus, and then shared the four spiritual laws. I felt I could trust in what she was saying. And there and then, in my living room, I accepted the Lord as my Saviour.

“On the following Sunday, Joyce brought me to church service at Bethesda Church in Bras Basah Road. She introduced me to the youth group which met on Saturday afternoons. Here, I grew in my Bible knowledge, learnt how to pray and better understood what it meant to be a Christian. Later on, the president of the Christian Fellowship at Crescent Girls’ School invited me to attend the Grace Assembly of God (AOG) Church where I stayed on for quite a number of years. This Church really helped to anchor my faith.”

Doris would meet Joyce again years later, by then Mrs Joyce Chia, when they ran into one another at Methodist Girls’ School, which Doris’ daughters were attending. Doris and Joyce continue to be firm friends till today.

Generations and decades before the era of dating apps, there were the pen pal columns. It was an acceptable way to meet and make new friends, and it was popular especially among teenagers in the 1950s to 1970s.

17-year-old Peter put his name in the pen pal column of a weekly movie magazine published by Shaw Cinemas. Doris too put her name in. One day, Doris wrote to Peter asking him to be her pen pal.

Doris’ letter ended up in the hands of Peter’s stepbrother, but fortuitously, he handed the letter to Peter as he was not interested. They struck up a friendship, and Peter decided to invite her to his school’s funfair, which was where they met for the very first time. On meeting Peter, Doris thought: “Yeah, I thought he looked ok.”

Peter remembered Doris was wearing a dress. He said: “I think I fell in love with Doris the moment I laid eyes on her. I knew I wanted to keep her for myself. And here we are today— so blessed to be still together after 54 years of marital bliss!”

After this first meeting, they continued to keep in touch with one another through correspondence. At that point, there was no intention to bring the relationship to a more serious level. Oftentimes, Peter and Doris would not meet for a whole month, as Peter had to study for his exams.

Peter and Doris each focused on completing their education and earning their qualifications.  Peter qualified as an accountant and was the first university graduate in his family. After graduating from the University of Singapore, he worked with Singapore’s Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) for over 40 years till he retired at 62.

Doris was a teacher, a profession that she really loved. She taught English at Nanyang Girls’ High School for over 26 years, before going on to Kuo Chuan Presbyterian School for nine years prior to retiring.

Peter and Doris were married at Wesley Methodist Church by the Rev Christopher Smith in 1969. Their eldest, Lynette was born in 1971, and Renee, in 1973. Both daughters now live in the United States with their respective families.

It was 1983, and about eight families from Wesley Methodist Church travelled to the Wesley Centre in Port Dickson, Malaysia in March for church camp, led by the Rev Dr Isaac Lim and his wife Shirley. Peter, Doris and their two daughters were among the campers.

This Camp marked the turning point for Peter’s and Doris’ faith and prayer life.

At the 1983 church camp in Port Dickson led by Rev Dr Isaac Lim and Shirley

Doris recalls: “There was a lot of teaching at the Camp. This was led by Isaac and Shirley. Liau Nyuk Siong1 taught us about family life. In between learning God’s Word, worship and praying, we also had much fun, with lots of laughter and great fellowship. We prayed in small groups, and also prayed during vespers at the end of the day.

“One evening, one of our fellow campers, Ruth Ong, had a heart seizure. We were all in shock. Without delay, Peter and Nyuk Siong drove out to look for medical help. The rest of us then held hands, and together with our children, we prayed to the Lord for a miracle. We prayed: ‘heal her, don’t let her die’.”

Peter and Nyuk Siong did not manage to get a doctor to attend to Ruth that evening. The campers continued to intercede for her healing as Ruth rested in her room with her husband and child. The next morning, miraculously, Ruth was up and about—God had healed her!

Isaac and Shirley at the 1983 church camp with their children, Gloria and Charis. Following the camp, Isaac got the Chows to participate in the prayer ministry at church, and later on, to be trained up over a year with other members as small group leaders.

In May that year, Isaac called Peter and Doris to go down to church for a midweek prayer meeting. Initially reluctant, they went anyway. In those days, the prayer meeting was held in the Sanctuary of Wesley Methodist Church. Those who wanted to pray were required to go up to the microphone to do so in front of everyone.

Doris recalled: “Initially, I was too frightened and nervous to go up to the microphone to pray. After attending several prayer meetings, the Holy Spirit prompted me to go up. I finally surrendered, and wrote down what I wanted to pray for, but I negotiated with God. I said to Him that if someone sits next to me near the microphone, I won’t go up. And, out of nowhere, a lady came and sat next to me. But, after a while, she walked away! I looked at my piece of paper, then asked the Holy Spirit to pray through me. He did as I prayed, and that is how I grew in my prayer language. I realised that to pray, we must be humble, trusting and know that God is faithful, always.”

Peter (in pink shirt), with L-R, Mrs Jenny Chi, Rev Tony Chi (predecessor pastor-in-charge before Isaac), and Alfred Foong, who also led a new small group after being trained by Isaac and Shirley

As her prayer life grew, Doris also got involved in the deliverance ministry under Pastor Isaac. It started with Doris being delivered herself: “It was Rev Chew Ban It who told me that I had the spirit of the monkey god in me when I responded to an altar call at a Reinhard Bonnke Rally at Kallang Stadium. I asked him to deliver me, but he told me to do it myself. So I prayed. Rev Chew then exclaimed that the spirit then jumped out of me. I felt liberated and free. Hallelujah.” 

God was also moulding Peter, and preparing him to be a prayer warrior. At the 1983 church camp in Port Dickson, Pastor Isaac would invite everyone to vespers. Peter had to ask what “vespers” was, not realising that this was a short evening prayer service to give thanks for the day. Pastor Isaac told Peter that if you don’t know how to pray, just say “thank you Lord for bringing me to this church camp.

However, before his turn to pray, the person before him said exactly the same prayer! Peter became nervous and sweated profusely, as someone had ‘stolen’ his prayer. He could not remember what he prayed after that!

From there, Peter eventually gained more confidence to pray. Once after he was discharged from hospital to remove polyps in his nose, Peter went for the weekly prayer meeting in church. That night, he summoned his courage and prayed at the microphone. After the meeting, the Rev Melvin Huang, who was then serving at Wesley Methodist Church, said to Doris: “Peter must have met with the Lord. He really prayed from his heart.”

Prayer is what continues to anchor both Peter and Doris till today. From the time her two daughters were able to recite the Lord’s Prayer, Doris taught them to pray for the salvation of their grandparents. They did so for many years. When their elder daughter Lynette was in her second year in junior college, Doris’ mother accepted the Lord after listening to a Cantonese sermon on Easter Sunday at Grace Assembly of God church by Pastor Oh Beng Kee2.

When Pastor Oh went to Doris’ parents’ home to help her mother remove the idols from the ancestral worship table, her father did not say anything. Soon after, her father was asked to join them in prayer and he did. He started to attend WMC and got to know Mr Chim Choong Wai3 of the Seniors Fellowship. Both her mother and father asked to be baptized but did not know what it entailed. So Choong Wai explained the process to them in Cantonese. Her parents were then baptized by immersion in a church member’s pool.

Doris’ entire family has been saved, including a brother who had accepted the Lord at a youth rally; and later in life, her other brother after a spinal operation.

This is indeed a testimony of Doris’ faith and the power of prayer. All glory to Him!

God steered Peter and Doris towards the work of missions. They belong to Toa Payoh Small Group, which was one of eight small groups set up and trained by Pastor Isaac and Shirley Lim to launch the church’s Small Group Ministry4 in 1985. 

Joining this Small Group a little later was a friend, Juliette Arulrajah, who later became a Methodist pastor with an incredible passion and heart for missions.

With close friend, Juliette Arulrajah who introduced the Chows to missions

Juliette brought Peter and Doris on their first ever missions trip. This was to the Indonesian Riau island of Batam, just a short ferry ride from Singapore. In Batam, Juliette got Peter to preach the message and Doris prayed and even acted out a play.

This was their first taste of missions trips, which started while they were both still working and continued even after they both retired in 2003. Doris led the ladies from the church’s Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) together with some of their husbands on short-term trips to Sarawak to reach out to the indigenous Iban people; the Lahu tribal people in northern Thailand; the Khmer people in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; youth in Timor Leste; and the Vietnamese street kids and cancer patients in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

On many of these occasions, it was also under the auspices of the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) which had partnered with Methodist churches in Singapore to plant churches, set up schools and support medical services. Teaching English was on the programme for many of these trips. Additionally, they also went on medical missions trips together with sister-in-Christ Dr Victoria Lim.

Doris recalls: “The joy of the Lord filled our hearts when we went on these trips. But, spiritual warfare was very real, especially when we faced obstacles, like not being able to get our materials printed out in time. Yet it was always clear that God was at work, and in control. God even opened the doors for us to enter a temple where a school was located, to teach English to the children there. The monks never interfered and left us to do what we had planned.

“We also visited the same Lahu village in northern Thailand over many years. We became friends with the villagers, and once, the church elder there cheekily asked both Lily Yuen, who had taught flower arrangement, and myself, who had taught English to the Lahu ladies, to stay on in the village to help decorate their church! On a serious note, we pray that we made a difference. We provided nutritious food to the Lahu children whom we observed were undernourished; taught English to the street kids in Ho Chi Minh City and gave out framed, printed photos of the sick children in the cancer ward with their parents, which we hope brought joy.”

Teaching English in East Asia

One December, during the year-end school holidays, Doris spent three weeks in a mountain village in East Asia to conduct a seminar to teach English to a group of doctors and teachers. “We went well-prepared with materials and tapes. Our aim was to teach conversational English to the teachers and doctors, and everyone was very eager to learn. There were 22 of us in the group from Singapore. The participants diligently took down notes of all that we taught. They listened to the tapes, and we also got them to write down what they heard, and their responses. The local government of the county where the village was located was so pleased with what we achieved that we were interviewed on their local TV station. We became overnight celebrities and were greeted with respect whenever we shopped and ate in the village. They also held Singapore in high regard, as one local said to us: “…because Singapore dared to cane the American, Michael Fay5!” We give glory to God for all that we managed to do over those weeks!”

(Top & Bottom) The Chows on an exploratory trip to East Asia with church leaders around 2000

Following this trip, Peter and Doris were invited again to East Asia to run the summer camp in the same mountain village in June. This time they spent three weeks there teaching English to 11 and 12-year-old children.

As a trained and experienced teacher, Doris indeed put her skills to very good use during many of these trips. She was equipped to teach teachers, and to teach the language in more interesting and creative ways. “Teachers in general are very ardent learners. In this instance however, even though many could not speak very fluent English, they put into practice what they learnt. And I had the pleasant task of guiding, complimenting and encouraging them along,” said Doris.

When their elder daughter Lynette first left to study in the United States, both Peter and Doris lacked faith. Their hearts were heavy and troubled, and they knew that they had not come to a point of fully trusting God. At a Wednesday night prayer meeting, someone gave a word of knowledge to say that there were people there with very heavy hearts.

Both Doris and Peter have served faithfully at the church’s annual Food Fair, manning the Nyonya dumpling or “bakchang” stall

Peter and Doris immediately knew that this “word” was directed towards them. They prayed for God to forgive them, and they experienced peace as they let go of their daughter to His care.

God indeed protected Lynette. It was a dark, freezing winter night. It was snowing heavily. Visibility was poor, and Lynette unfortunately drove her car right into a river. As the car began to sink into the water, Lynette found that the only way to get out of the vehicle was through the sun-roof, as the doors were jammed. She then waded her way through the ice-cold water, to the riverbank, and managed to make her way to a house with lights in the distance.

The lady of the house recognised her at once, as she was the Registrar at the university which Lynette was attending in Illinois. God’s hand of protection was indeed upon Lynette right through this accident that could have been tragic.

Music fellowship with Wesley ladies

God also had His special ways to reassure and comfort Doris on the occasions when situations seemed ominous and uncertain. In 2005, Renee, their younger daughter, was pregnant with her first child. Both she and her husband were in Cardiff, Wales at that time. Renee reached out to Doris to ask for prayer as the baby was threatened with spontaneous abortion at 22 weeks old. Additionally, the medication that the doctors in Wales prescribed to stabilise the pregnancy could also present side effects.

Doris with members of her Toa Payoh Small Group

Doris mobilised her Toa Payoh Small Group members to pray with her. She had also just completed her Walk to Emmaus6, and so shared her concerns with her fellow pilgrims in the programme. Each person was given an Upper Room booklet for their silent prayer, and as she retreated to pray, Doris noticed that the booklet cover had a picture of God holding a baby! She knew then that God was telling her that the baby would be all right and would come to full term. She immediately photostated the booklet cover and sent it to Renee! Praise God for His grace and mercy—the baby Shane was carried to almost full-term and born normal.

In fact, while praying for Renee’s baby, Doris was reprimanded by God. She shares: “I was praying fervently. I told God what I wanted, and about the issue that Renee was facing. God then told me: ‘Stop telling me what to do, give her back to me.’ I immediately knew I was in the wrong. I said sorry to God. That was when I released Renee back to God, as He will take care of her.”

Doris recounted: “After Shane, Renee had a second baby in 2008. Two years later, she told us she was expecting her third child. At her first prenatal check-up, when the foetus was just 11 weeks old, she was told by the doctors that four components out of five in the baby were not good. She was counselled to consider aborting the baby. Peter and I were in Texas with her at that time, and we quickly sent out urgent prayer requests to our Small Group and the WSCS. After two weeks of prayer, we experienced peace, and we then told Renee and her husband that they should proceed with this pregnancy. And this was in spite of a second test which showed the same discouraging results. But for God, nothing is impossible; He is sovereign, and He is in control. Our granddaughter Gracelyn, or “God’s gift of grace”, was carried to full term and she was perfect.”

In 2012, Peter was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Yet, when Doris prayed for Peter to respond well to treatment and to be healed, she received this message from the Lord: “…and he shall rise from the wreck.” She knew then that Peter would be all right.

Doris and Peter at one of the church’s anniversaries

Looking back, and looking forward, Doris says: “When God speaks to me, it is very direct. But I’ve told Him I’m not smart, I’m not wise, I want wisdom from You. So, speak to me in a way that I can understand. And He has! God is always faithful. He always answers prayer. God has been faithful in the past, He is faithful now, He will be faithful till the end.”

Doris and Peter with their children – Lynette on left, and Renee on right – and five grandchildren, in 2018.

In affirmation, Peter adds: “Know that you are a child of God, and that His presence is always with you. When we have trials and tribulations, never complain. Just release ourselves to Him. And serve Him with all our hearts; selfless, rain or shine, continue to serve.”

End notes:

1 Liau Nyuk Siong was an active member of Wesley Methodist Church and was involved in different ministries including Family Life, Small Group, Church Camp, etc. His story may be found on pages 137–146 in the first edition of Our Stories, His Glory, published in 2005. He passed away in July 2008.

2 Pastor Oh Beng Kee was the senior pastor of Grace Assembly of God Church from 1966–1989. Grace Missions was started under his leadership in 1981. He is known to Wesley Methodist Church for his evangelistic annual Chinese New Year outreach services in different Chinese dialects.

3 Chim Choong Wai spearheaded the Seniors Fellowship (now known as Glowing Years Fellowship or GYM) at Wesley Methodist Church. He was also the founding owner of the well-known Chim’s Satay. He passed away in March 2002.

4 Small Group Ministry at Wesley Methodist Church was started in 1985, with eight small groups.

5 Michael Fay was an American teenager who was arrested and caned for stealing road signs and vandalizing 18 cars over a 10-day period in Singapore in September 1993.

6 Walk to Emmaus is a spiritual renewal programme modelled on Christ’s servanthood and encourages all followers of Jesus to be “a servant to all”.

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