The Star Online, July 31, 2005
There is an epiphany in my story,” says Tan Sri Francis Yeoh. “I was 16 and had what seemed like an insurmountable problem so I vowed that whichever God would help me, I would dedicate the rest of my life to Him.?
“I happened to wander around Bukit Bintang and dropped into the Chinese Baptist Church. It was a Friday. I poured out my woes to the priest who comforted me and said not to worry because by Monday my problem would be gone as promised by Jesus Christ.?
“True enough, the miracle happened and my problem vanished on Monday. See, if I had entered a temple, I might have been a staunch Buddhist today. But I believe Jesus Christ directed me towards Him and found me worthy of being His servant.”?
As to what the ‘problem’ was, Yeoh grins, “I am not telling you, maybe I will reveal it in my autobiography.” Being devious and an expert at adding two and two into five, I suspect he asked Jesus to save his father’s company. He was 16 when he offered to drop out of school to work with his father.?
During the 1970s upheaval, his father decided to throw in the towel and close Syarikat Pembenaan Yeoh Tiong Lay. He summoned his staff to announce the news but vowed to pay their salaries and all debts by liquidating all his properties and possessions.?
Many employees then came forward, declaring they would sell their jewellery and go without pay to save the company as they had absolute faith in Yeoh Tiong Lay to turn it around.?
If this had happened on a Monday, the 16-year-old Francis must have wept tears of joy as he witnessed the power of Jesus.?
“When I announced my conversion to Christianity from Buddhism, there was quite a reaction. My parents and siblings were up in arms as I was the first in 20 generations to become a Christian.?
“My family said I was insulting my ancestors as we practised ancestor worship. I gave my siblings a Bible each which they combed through carefully to tear it apart. Then miraculously, one by one they became believers and then full Christians. The process took seven to 10 years. However, my parents remain Buddhist but they understand.”?
He cites one stunning, recent example of the abundance of Christ. After he acquired Wessex Water in 2002 for RM8.5bil, he decided to hold YTL’s annual free concert for 2003 in Bath, England.?
Luciano Pavarotti was asked to sing but his only free date was Aug 7. Unfortunately, August is the wettest month and it was feared that the open-air concert might be a washout literally.?
Yeoh decided to up the ante by inviting Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras to join forces as The Three Tenors.?
The Yeoh family and directors who still meet every Monday as the ‘Yeoh Cabinet’, balked at the expense which was in the millions. Some questioned the need for three tenors when Pavarotti should suffice. Finally Yeoh said, “Don’t worry, Jesus will pay the bill.”?
Chuckles the crafty man,” That was one sure fire way of ending any protests as they are all Christians! Would you believe that August of 2003 turned out to be the hottest and driest in Bath’s history!?
“Thousands enjoyed the glorious, free open-air concert. Because the rest of the month was so hot, people kept using and drinking extra water and our profits unexpectedly shot up by the same millions, the exact amount the concert cost us! So in the end, I was right in my faith and Jesus did pay the bill.”?
Yeoh pauses and then says, “Whatever you write about me, please don’t portray me as a po-faced zealot! I am not a firebrand, fundamentalist Christian preacher. “?
He explains the beauty of God's love: “Moses did not have just the 10 Commandments but 613 laws. If you break any one of them, you are considered a sinner and hell is the destination.?
“Since we are all imperfect, Jesus rescues us with just two laws: Love God with all your heart and soul and love your neighbours as you would yourself. If you abide by these two laws which cover everything and make perfect sense, you’re saved! Remember, it is the goodness of humans that make democracy possible and the horrible evil in us that makes democracy so necessary!”?
He does not believe in denominations and simply calls himself a Christian. “Many think I am a born-again Christian but Jesus in John’s gospel, says ‘you cannot see the Kingdom of God until you are born again’ so in a way, all Christians are born again.”?