“My husband was sentenced to death but I was given a new life”
When you first meet Madam Teng K. C. 72, and her daughter Adeline Wong, 42, it is hard to imagine that the two of them once lived apart for more than twenty years.
Life took a solemn turn when Madam Teng was 29. Her husband Mr Wong, whom she had known since she was a teenager, was arrested for smuggling 138 grams of diamorphine (heroin) from Malaysia to Singapore in November 1976. He was not a drug abuser, but had agreed to help a friend in exchange for $1000.
Upon hearing the news of her husband’s crime, Madam Teng was overwhelmed by despair and disbelief. At that time they were both working – Mr Wong as a chef, and Madam Teng as a seamstress, and they had been trying to conceive for six years, but to no avail.
The shock sent Madam Teng down a spiral of ill health and sorrow, and she wanted to end her life. Thankfully, a close friend and family members encouraged her to stay strong, and continued to journey with her for more than two decades since then.
It was shortly after her husband’s arrest that Madam Teng realised she was pregnant.
Determined to raise their only child, Madam Teng clocked 16-hour days, working as a seamstress in the day and a waitress at night –immediately after her post-natal confinement period. The baby girl, Adeline, was born on the same date as her father—a sign of God’s gift to this couple. For the next two years, Madam Teng would shuttle her baby girl across the island to Changi Prison to visit her father.
While on death row, Mr Wong was ministered to by Reverend Khoo Siaw Hua, the first Honorary Prison Chaplain, who laid the foundation for Prison Fellowship Singapore (PFS). Reverend Khoo helped Mr Wong find peace with God – and with himself. Deeply remorseful of his act of folly, Mr Wong penned several letters to his wife seeking forgiveness, and one for his daughter, which he left in the safe hands of his wife for his daughter to read when she was grown up and ready to find out about her father. In his letters to his wife, Mr Wong had also asked her to re-marry, but Madam Teng refused to, and was firm about raising her daughter by herself.
Reverend Khoo also visited Madam Teng to share the Gospel with her, and invited her to church. But Madam Teng never accepted these invitations, choosing to work through the weekends to support her daughter. Reverend Khoo left his contact number should she ever require his help, but Madam Teng never called, and eventually lost contact with Reverend Khoo when she shifted to another home.
Mr Wong was executed in October 1979, three years after his arrest. He was only 32 years old, and Adeline was only two. Reverend Khoo helped Madam Teng through the process of collecting the body and placing the urn in a columbarium. Those days were a blur to Madam Teng, who remains very thankful for different ones who supported her through those difficult times.
To make ends meet, Madam Teng had to leave her daughter Adeline in the care of a relative, and saw her daughter only once a week. Feeling abandoned and rejected, with her father’s death shrouded in secrecy, Adeline refused to live with her mother even when she was already in her teens.
It was only when Adeline accepted Christ that she decided to move back with her mother in her early twenties. After attending a healing ministry, Adeline decided to ask her mother about the letter that her father had written for her. In that letter, Adeline found out the detailed truth about her father’s death, and was repeatedly urged to be filial to her mother, who endured decades of hardship to raise her daughter single-handedly.
By divine orchestration, Adeline became a volunteer at PFS Care Club, a weekly children’s programme for families of inmates, and was later employed by PFS. It was only after she became a PFS volunteer that she found out it was Reverend Khoo Siaw Hua who had led her late father to Christ in prison — Madam Teng recognised Reverend Khoo from a photo in “Shoes Too Big”, a book on Reverend Khoo’s family involvement with the prison ministry.
Today, Adeline leads the Family Care Ministry in PFS, taking care of 100 families of inmates by providing medical, financial, educational and counselling assistance. With this ministry, Adeline hopes to reach out to these children so that they would not have to dwell in the shame and sense of rejection that she once struggled so hard with.
“Good, good that she is now helping others,” says Madam Teng of Adeline’s work. For Madam Teng, life has not only been restored in the form of a filial daughter, but of a legacy of helping other mothers and children overcome the challenges they used to face.
You can help the Family Care team reach out to more inmates’ families by making a donation here.