Elny Tantono

I came to Singapore in 1999 and found a job. I was doing well in my career but my spiritual life had gone downhill. Sometimes, I did not even go to Church on Sundays as I was too tired due to the long hours spent at work. I spent most of my weekends sleeping.

In my early twenties, I was diagnosed with an eye condition impacting the pigmentation on my retina so when light entered my eyes, it would generate black spots instead of images and colours. These black spots hindered my vision. It is a genetic condition and there is no medical cure for it.

In 2002, after I had settled in Singapore, I encountered many accidents. I walked into poles, trees, signages, dustbins, people and especially kids – anything that was in my way. I would get bruises on my arms, legs and forehead. I ended up in A & E for stitches. I also got scolded by the people I bumped into. The doctor confirmed that my eye condition had worsened. She estimated that in about ten years, the black spots would cover my eyes entirely. It was similar to tunnel vision. If you imagine yourself viewing with a pair of binoculars, you will understand what I mean. If you want to see your surroundings at the side or below, you have to move your head to the left and the right, or look down. My central vision was good with the help of glasses. But I had problems seeing when it was dim. From that moment on, I was advised to stop driving, cycling, minimize jaywalking and to walk slower and be more aware of my surroundings. I was also advised to move my head and eyeballs more frequently.

I continued to work but in August 2003, I decided to resign. There was a lot going through my mind but God was not in the picture at all. I decided to do three things: to travel to see the world, to accumulate wealth as I would have to retire early and stop watching TV.

I traveled every three to four months and worked freelance. I also started to go into investment and earned more than my previous salary. I had a very comfortable life. In 2005, the previous company that I worked for asked me to handle projects on a part-time basis and I agreed. Eventually, my manager offered me permanent part time employment. I took up the offer. Life was good; my goals were on track.

One day, my friend’s mum, who knew about my eye condition, invited me to go to a healing mass at Church of the Holy Spirit. The healing team prayed over me and the priest anointed us individually. When I returned to my seat, I started to cry. I wasn’t healed but I knew the Lord was present. From then on, I started searching for Him, wanting to know Him and know what He would offer me. I added Lourdes to my travel plans. In 2007, I made it to Lourdes. I didn’t receive healing of my eyes in Lourdes, but I could feel the peace and developed a greater desire to know Him more. A lady whom I met on the trip brought me to a 4th Saturday healing mass at CSC. For the first time, I rested in the Spirit. I wasn’t healed, but I could feel His peace. My friend’s mum told me that He would heal me in His time so I had to be patient.

In 2008, my friend from CSC invited me to attend the CER. After much persuasion, I gave in.

I didn’t ask for healing during the CER. I asked for spiritual direction instead. I wanted to serve, but where did He want me to serve? Nothing much happened during the 3 days of the retreat. I didn’t stay in and I skipped the Saturday afternoon session as my cousin from Australia was visiting. On the last day, during empowerment, it was clear to me that God was asking me to be in the Prayer Ministry. During the break, I shared with my buddy at the retreat, and she told me there was a Prayer Ministry in CSC. Two weeks later, I attended my first intercessory session. As I was working part-time then, I attended the morning intercession. It was tough in the beginning as it took about an hour to get there. I wanted to serve but I wanted to serve somewhere near my home. But that was not where God wanted me to be. His message to me was very clear so I decided to persevere and continued praying.

Just as I became comfortable going to CSC, a financial crisis hit. I lost my savings. I felt as if my whole world was crushing down. I was totally lost and did not know what to do. I asked Him what was happening. I was happily serving Him yet this happened. One Sunday, during mass, the 2nd reading was from 1 Thessalonians 5: 15-17, “Be joyful, pray constantly and give thanks always, this is the will of God for you in Jesus Christ”. I dwelled on this verse. A few weeks later, during the prayer formation meeting, I found out that this is also the Prayer Ministry’s motto. I took it as a confirmation and continued to serve in the Prayer Ministry. I told myself that it’s ok to be blind and broke, as long I had God and his providence.

I took another step forward and took up the courage to attend Friday Growth. I didn’t attend Friday Growth previously as I couldn’t see very well at night. So in the beginning, I took a taxi home or my friend would pick me up. I also signed up for the cell group by the Prayer Ministry although it was in the evening. Praise the Lord that I signed up. It really helped me to develop my spiritual life. It also taught me to listen to Him and be disciplined to spend time with Him.

A few months later, I was offered a full-time job by the company. I accepted it with the condition that God would take care of my schedule as I still wanted to serve. By the grace of God, my financial needs were taken care of and I was able to serve. Tired? Yes, but with His strength, it was possible and in fact, I was able to find the energy to serve.

I did my eye check last year and the doctor confirmed that I had lost 80% of my vision. There was a lump inside my right eye and cataracts on both eyes. I downgraded to a smaller pair of binoculars. I took the news quite well as I had accepted this condition and knew that He was there for me.

If He still wants to use me, I will continue to serve. Only by His Grace, it is possible. Only by His Grace, I am still serving. I am ready to go wherever He wants me to. In fact, I have great zeal in serving Him. I don’t think I have served Him enough. I want to give more of myself for Him. The thought that I am running out of time is also at the back of my head. If the doctor’s prediction is correct, I will be blind by 2012. That’s in two years’ time. I want to be available for Him when I am still able to serve Him physically. During my prayers, He revealed to me to just rest in Him. My ‘yes’ to Him is sufficient. I have started to read and pray the scriptures. I am still struggling with memorizing some of the verses.

I feel that through my struggles and trials, He is teaching me to let go and surrender to Him. God is using my disability to draw me to Him, and I thank God for not giving up on me and for planting the desire in my heart to seek Him during my struggles. I can’t imagine what I will be if I had not accepted His invitation.

My resolution is for others to see Jesus in me – very ambitious. I pray for the graces – obedience, humility, joy, kindness and availability, and not to be a counter-witness. I believe in walking the talk. Through my actions, others will see Jesus. And at the same time, I want to see Jesus in others. I can already see Him in many people now. I want to praise the Lord for what He has done for me and for keeping me.

Elny Tantono