Almost 20 years ago, a group of Hong Kong women were arrested for drug trafficking and were sentenced to death. Two of them were over the age of 18 years. They came from two extreme families. Abigail was from a dysfunctional home and Grace (names have been changed) was from an over-indulgent one. At the age of four, Abigail’s parents were separated. She was left with her grandma but was ill-treated by her uncles and cousins. At 14, she ran away from home and cohabited with a man who used her for ill-gotten gains. She was mistreated by the man and at the age of 18, she ran away to another man who obtained a passport for her and sent her to Thailand to smuggle drugs. She was caught at Changi Airport together with Grace.
A Christian counselor came from Hong Kong and ministered to them. Abigail told me that for the first time, she experienced the love of God. She readily accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour and eagerly shared her new-found faith at every opportunity. During her time on death row, she led four other women to the Lord. I visited her and the other prisoners on death row once a week. They were asked to memorize one verse per week, but she would memorize the whole chapter. She loved the Lord dearly. Together with Grace, they prayed that their lives would be spared.
One night, Grace dreamt that she and Abigail were at a prayer meeting and Hymn 18 was sung. The next morning, Grace shared her dream with Abigail. They turned to Hymn 18 but did not know it. They wondered whether the number 18 had any significance. On 15 May 1993, the Superintendent of the women’s prison stood outside their doors and told them that they would be executed on 18 May. Now everything became clear to them. With peace in their hearts, they thanked the Lord for preparing them.
Abigail’s parents came together to visit her during her final few days. On the last visit before her execution, she told her parents that she did not blame them for the present situation she was in. She shared with them the love of God and urged them to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Before they parted company with their respective parents, she and Grace sang a hymn to them. Both sets of parents broke down and cried, but seeing how much peace their daughters had, they were able to leave with some measure of good cheer.
That night, a lady counselor and I stayed with them. I decided to look at hymn 18 again. As I read the stanzas of the hymn, they proved to be extremely meaningful. Suddenly, I remembered the tune and we began to sing it. The girls were so filled with the joy of the Lord.
Hymn 18: Face to Face
Lord of life, beneath the dome, Of the universe, Thy home,
Gathering us, who seek Thy face, To the fold of Thy warm embrace.
And I shall see Thee, face to face, Tell the story – Saved by grace,
And I shall see Thee, face to face, And tell the story – Saved by grace.
While deepening shadows fall, Heart of love, enfolding all,
Ascend thru the glory and grace, Of the stars that will veil Thy face.
Some glad day, sorrow will cease, Some glad day, all will be peace,
Then no more tears shall dim our eyes, What a meaning, there in the skies.
They thanked the Lord for not only telling them of their homecoming but also of what awaited them in heaven. As they walked up to the execution chamber, it was clear to all that they did so with the deep peace of God in them.
The above true story is from “Shoes Too Big” by Rev Henry Khoo. He served in Changi Prison’s Death Row and help usher many condemned people into the glorious presence of our Lord Jesus. Before she was hanged, Abigail also wrote to the man who had involved her in drug-smuggling to say she forgave him for what he had done to her.