By Sher Wyn Tan
Growing up, Dr Jill Ho had an affinity towards science and people; hence, she pursued medicine. Initially, her career choice was met with resistance from her father, but at the eleventh hour, he had a change of heart and supported her decision.
Looking back, she believes her dream was God-inspired because even as a teenager, she saw being a doctor as an opportunity to minister to the unreached. Amid her father’s resistance, she prayed, “God, if it’s Your will, allow a 180-degree change in my dad.” And He did.
Today, Dr Jill is the field coordinator of LINetS (Life Inspired Network Society), an NGO that champions suicide prevention efforts. Her journey into the field is a remarkable one, displaying God’s hands at work as He led her step by step into the purpose-driven life He has called her to.
Stepping out in obedience and faith
After graduating, Dr Jill started out in a government hospital, where she spent four years gaining experience and knowledge in different subspecialties. Then, she decided to take a year’s sabbatical for a break and to adjust to being a new mother.
One year later, she felt God leading her to resign from government service. After much thought, prayer, and discussion with family, she took that step of faith even though the path ahead was uncertain.
When God leads, He leads all the way. And soon after, Dr Jill was approached to be part of Klinik Kecheerian (now known as Autrui Clinic), a clinic offering medical services at subsidised fees to refugees and other vulnerable communities.
It was a perfect marriage of her passion, purpose and professional expertise. She worked there for eight years and loved every minute of it.
Where medicine could not reach, prayer worked
During her time with Klinik Kecheerian, she realised that many patients need beyond their physical health, especially emotional and relational needs.
Knowing the power of prayer, Dr Jill would ask if she could pray for patients when medical solutions proved limited in treating their ailments. She remembers many miracles, witnessing how God moved mountains in these patients’ lives through prayer.
“Sometimes we cannot see what’s around the corner, but God can. We have to just trust Him step by step. We just follow His lead; when He says stop, we stop; when He says go, we go,” she says.
She vividly remembers praying over a patient who was worried about taking a 12-hour flight with a big wound on her thigh.
But when she visited a hospital to check on her wound after arriving at her destination, she found it completely healed with flesh forming and the staples coming off.
On another occasion, she met one of her patients along the mall’s corridors (the clinic is located in Summit USJ). Dr Jill felt led to pray for the woman as she has been unsuccessful in trying to conceive.
Soon after, the patient informed Dr Jill that she was expecting, and eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy!
An upended dream and learning to follow where He leads
When the pandemic struck, a decision was made to close the clinic. For Dr Jill, who had thought it was her life’s purpose and destiny, the news came as a thunderbolt.
She found herself grieving and going through feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment, discouragement and sadness. It was not easy, thinking of all her patients and the lives impacted by the clinic’s good work.
However, God remained sovereign. Klinik Kecheerian was reopened as Autrui Clinic, managed by Collective Church and continuing its legacy of impacting communities with quality medical services.
“That’s our good God, He will always take care of everything that He starts in our life,” Dr Jill says.
“Even if it’s not us [who gets to] continue [the work]. He will bring someone along to ensure continuity, growth, and multiplication. He will not leave us hanging and will move us into something new.”
The Holy Spirit also comforted and reminded her that some months before, God had given her a double confirmation through her quiet time and a sermon that He was going to do something new in her life (Isaiah 43:19).
The realisation helped to cushion the impact of the clinic’s closure; she was now assured that God knew what was coming and had prepared her heart for repositioning.
In her last days at the clinic, she sat in her office and prayed, “God, so what do I do now? I really don’t know, I feel so lost. Please remind me of Your purpose for me.”
Bringing good news to the poor in body, spirit and soul
Led to Isaiah 61:1-3, Dr Jill felt God’s vision for her life is to bring the good news to the poor in body, spirit, and soul. This mandate has since chartered her way forward, defining the work she takes on and the direction she moves in.
“When we live our lives according to God’s purpose, the joy, satisfaction, and strength that you get from it, you cannot get anywhere else,” she says with conviction.
Today, Dr Jill is the field coordinator of LINetS (Life Inspired Network Society), an NGO that champions suicide prevention efforts.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) data Malaysia’s suicide mortality rate increased from 5.10 – 5.77 per 100,000 population between 2014 and 2019. In other words, there was an estimated 1,841 suicide deaths in 2019, a staggering average of five suicides per day.
The “Youth Suicide in Malaysia” report by Relate Mental Health Malaysia stated suicide to be a leading cause of death among youths in Malaysia.
According to the report, official numbers are conservative as the “true suicide rate is estimated to be approximately eight times higher than official certified suicides. And for every death by suicide, there are 10 to 20 more suicide attempts.”
“I need to love myself in a healthy way to be able to love others”
Soaring suicide cases have propelled the Health Ministry to work with the Education Ministry for early intervention programmes in schools and to develop a National Suicide Registry.
The registry seeks to provide detailed and accurate statistics on suicides to help the government make informed decisions on suicide prevention programmes and policies.
On 22 May 2023, Parliament (Dewan Rakyat) unanimously passed a bill to decriminalise attempted suicide, a historic move that will now see greater focus on compassion and support instead of punitive measures.
With LINetS, Dr Jill coordinates suicide prevention efforts through five pillars:
- Media (producing suicide prevention and mental health resources),
- Education (training in private education institutions and government schools)
- Counselling (sessions with special rates services for students & the marginalised)
- Resources (upcoming counselling festival on September 9, 2023)
- Technology (planning to launch a crisis hotline – calls & text)
Her motto is to “love God, love others, and also remember to love myself in a healthy way because I need to be healthy to be able to love others.”
Dr Jill also recounts various near-death incidents throughout her life, including nearly being bitten by a snake while walking to school, almost drowning, a choking scare and near-miss accidents. She believes that each time, God preserved her life so that He can use her to save the lives of others.
She feels three times more fulfilled now. Previously, she ministered to people just in body as a doctor to the poor and marginalised, now she ministers to others in spirit by supporting the needs of church ministries, and also in soul through LINetS.
Helping people to have hope by saving minds and lives
Throughout life’s journey thus far, God has shown Dr Jill that she’s not moving away from her passion and His calling for her. Instead, her purpose has taken a different form.
“From a medical perspective, we save lives through CPR, procedures and medications. But for the soul, we save lives through suicide prevention, by helping people to have hope, to save their minds and therefore their lives.”
God has also graciously brought Dr Jill back to Autrui Clinic, where she now volunteers on a weekly basis to see pregnant patients. She is also a visiting doctor with PERCH (Peter Faber Convalescent Home), where she visits and follows up on in-patient refugees.
On an ending note, Dr Jill shares, “I’ve learned to not hold things too tightly to things in my life. Previously I thought I’d live and die with the clinic. I don’t know how long I’m going to be doing this, but I’ve learned to be more open to God’s taking me wherever He wants to.”
“If He could change the direction of my life in such a significant way once, He can do it again. Of course, I do not ask for it to happen a lot because I don’t like change,” she says with a laugh.
“But if God wants to do it, I will go on that journey with Him. It’s about faith and letting go.”
All photos provided by Dr Jill Ho.