A spring evening in 1961 saw the difficult arrival of one small child. Late in the evening the father, a young Christian at the time, got the word -- his firstborn child had no hope of survival and his young wife would likely die. His response was to call the local church. Immediately a special prayer meeting was called and people started to pray to God for the health of mother and child.
A few days later, the doctor spoke with my father. Good news, his wife was out of danger. However, his son had suffered irreversible brain damage: not able to walk, talk or think properly. He requested the new father and mother sign a form to "put away" the little monster. The parents refused: "a child is a gift of God: whether healthy or not".
Coming home, the father dropped out of graduate school (he was preparing to start his Ph.D. -- which he was working at after work). The mother quit her job to look after this child. As the child grew, his mother often took him to the swimming pool -- he could move freely there without hurting himself. When it was time to start primary school, the local board initially refused to accept this student who could neither speak correctly nor was coordinated enough to be able to hold a pen correctly. Again, the parents objected, and the child was enrolled, after they promised to tutor him at home.
And so it went, as the child grew up, he slowly developed the ability to speak and think. His mother continued to help him with writing his assignments, and typed up his essays so the teachers could read them.
A change came as the child entered high school in 1974 and he enrolled in typing class. His lack of coordination did not hinder his use of the keyboard -- he was able to complete his own essays. In addition, the school received a strange new machine, called a computer, that no one knew how to use and no one was interested in using. The machine was placed in the electronics shop where students learned how to do house wiring. This boy spent many happy hours hitting keys on this machine and seeing what it did!
But before we continue, as it is important in understanding the child's later life, I should mention that during this time the family hosted many visitors who would tell us about their life as a nurse in Pakistan, a teacher in Brazil, a medical doctor in Sudan. In addition, the child became fond of writing letters having pen friends in Malaysia, Philippines, Germany and USA.
As the high school years came to a close, by the mercy and grace of God, and through the prayers of many people, this young man was normal (almost!) -- involved in the local Christian Service Brigade (like boy scouts), working as a swimming instructor and toilet cleaner, active in student politics, competing in the Canadian National Science Fair (Biology), and holding a position on the school chess team. He also, occasionally, did school work!
University, what to study? The child loved biology (but hated memory) and music. After considering both, he decided to enroll in Engineering with the expectation that this line of study would open the most doors to working overseas. Thus, in September of 1980, he enrolled for his first year at McMaster University.
Throughout the first year he continued to work on the weekends in his hometown, commuting to the university for classes during the school week (he could not afford residence fees), so his connections with the university were few. A job working shift work in oil refinery at the end of first year (Canadian students study 8 months, then have 4 months break for work), provided funds so that for the second semester of the second year he was able to move into residence.
September of third year was a crucial month and the third of four crucial turning points in his life. At McMaster University the Malaysian and Singaporean students had a separate Christian Fellowship. It was at this time that he believes God's spirit told him to attend their meeting. Refusing at first, he had lots of good reasons. "Why do the Malaysians and Singaporeans have to have their own group, why can't they be like all the other students and attend the regular Christian Fellowship?" "If they are separate, they obviously don't want Canadians to come to their meetings." "They will misunderstand me" After arguing like this with God for about 1 month -- trying to study (unsuccessfully) during the time that they had their meetings -- he finally gave up. Sure enough, he was misunderstood: "Be careful about that Canadian, he must be coming because he wants a Malaysian girlfriend.
After third year, he did not return to the oil refinery but rather received a research grant to develop a system that could automatically test a blood sample and determine the disease or banned drug that that person may have been using. During fourth year, he continued to work on the signal processing and pattern recognition aspects for his fourth year thesis project.
Midway through fourth year the good news came. He had been awarded a prestigious graduate scholarship from the Canadian government: about US$20,000/year for up to 4 years! About the same time a small voice seemed to tell him: "I want you to go to study the Bible" For 6 months he argued with this small voice that seemed to get stronger and stronger. Finally, he agreed to study until he ran out of money (about 1 year by his calculations). By God's grace, the government agreed to hold the scholarship for up to two years. It was quite a surprise to this young man that he had sufficient money to study for two years!
Where to study a Ph.D. in science? USA, Canada. Finally he decided, on the basis of the professor, Dr. John Reid, to return to McMaster University to work on a Ph.D. developing theory, performing computer simulation, and executing experiments on a new type of laser: the NH3 laser. Within months of his arrival, his professor, had left the university to take up the position of director of research at Lumonics, leaving him to complete his Ph.D. with the help of occasional phone calls and a monthly visit from his professor. The expert advise from Dr. Reid allowed for the Ph.D. to be completed within the required time.
Five years later, in June 1991, a couple of days after the successful defense of his Ph.D., he headed off to Taiwan where he studied Chinese, taught English for a few hours a week to pay expenses, and met his future wife. Two months later, he headed off to take up his new position. Arriving in China, he was informed: "Sorry, we did not get funding approved, you can't work here." Without sufficient money to buy a ticket out of China, he started to question: "Why God? Why?". Confused, a friend allowing him to stay at her parent's house, he made applications both in Japan and in Hong Kong. Finally, he decided to enroll in a Chinese language course in Beijing while he waited for news.
Soon two job offers and one marriage offer arrived. Job offers from an established company in Japan: Fuji Electric; and from a new university in China: Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The marriage offer was from the beautiful daughter of very successful Hong Kong businessman (no son). In February, after considerable agonizing, it was off to Japan.
Here, in Yokosuka, he enjoyed the camaraderie and hospitality of his Japanese coworkers -- the group working to develop a high power Nd:YAG laser. His personal responsibility was the development of computer simulation code to solve problems associated with stress and heat transfer.
Two years later, with the prototype laser functioning, he headed back to China, this time to Qingdao, where he commenced work in the field of ocean remote sensing, using vacation time to travel with students into the villages of northeast China.
A year later, it was back to Taiwan for a semester of teaching, before returning to Japan for another two years of research under the supervision of Dr. Ohtsu of Tokyo Institute of Technology supported by the STA fellowship. It is during this time that he became aquainted with the rapidly developing fields of surface science, near field optics and nanotechnology which has been the basis of his continuing research.
A couple of other events occurred during this time that has had a major effect on his life. The first, and lesser, was a surprise job offer from Universiti Telekom, Malaysia (now Multimedia University) which he returned with the comment -- if you still want me in June 1999, I will accept your offer. They did...
The second was a word from the small voice: "I want you to marry Wu Xiuman". As before, he initially objected: "I am quite happy single, why do I need a wife?" "I don't want children." "Why this girl!" But the voice continued, getting stronger and stronger. After about 4 months he had decided to submit to the voice. At that point his love for the girl started to increase more and more. In April, as he planned to speak with the lady in question, a phone call came. "I have cancer -- the doctor does not expect me to live much longer." A few days later, she had emergency surgery to remove the class 3 cancer and part of her lymph system. Chemotherapy was started immediately. Already convinced that God's will, although he did not understand, was for him to marry with this girl, he went to Taiwan at the end of June (in the middle of her chemotherapy treatments) to propose marriage. She thought he was crazy -- as did many other people. Anyway, on September 6, 1997, as per Taiwan law, they married before a government official in Taipei courthouse. On October 10 (10/10), they married in a Christian church service in Wugu, Taiwan. On October 11, in the countryside of Taiwan, and on October 27 they had a marriage reception in Japan.
Convinced that the future lies in the combination of techniques offering femtosecond and nanometer resolution, they moved back to China in May 1998 and joined the "State Key Laboratory of Transient Optic Phenomena" in the ancient city of Xian, China. Although meager research funding was meager at best, the excellent library facilities and ingenuity of his Chinese hosts, allowed some meaningful research to be carried out. During this time he was instructed by Prof. Chen Guofu: "When you cannot do experiments, don't neglect study, the time will come when you can use that knowledge."
August brought strange news. Xiuman -- who was unable to have children (due to the cancer treatment) was, by God's grace, pregnant. Normally a happy occasion, this news sent Xiuman into depression as her doctor had told her that if, by chance, she got pregnant, she would die, and that the baby would likely be deformed. What to do about the child? Finally, trusting God and believing that "a child is a gift of God: whether healthy or not", they decided against an abortion, seeking to pray daily for the spiritual well being of the child.
In preparation for the arrival of Aien, the family moved to Taiwan in April with the husband joining IAMS (led by Nobel prize winner Lee Yuan-Tseh) at the National Taiwan University for 2 months of research collaboration under the guidance of Dr. Wunshain Fann. Aien left her mother's womb on May 2, 1999 to all apparent appearances perfectly healthy! Praise be to God.
In June, Jon headed to Malaysia. Originally assigned to Cyberjaya, Dean Chuah, taking into account the situation of his family, decided to reassign him to Melaka campus. In July, he was joined by his family. Since that time he has returned twice to Taiwan (July and October) to continue research collaboration.
Amazingly it is now September 2002, The joy of teaching such a wonderful group of students as there are here at Multimedia University, and seeing my daughter grow up, has made the time go by as if in the "twinkling of an eye."
The future is not clear to us. But God, who is almighty and merciful, knows...
For there is
one God and
between God and Man.
-- the man Christ Jesus.