Faith

The Helping Hand: How the Father’s love freed a prisoner from his old ways

by Justine Ocampo // June 6, 2021, 1:46 pm

The Helping Hand

Ever since he was 15 years old, Jason Gwee had been going in and out of prison for drug abuse.

His life was a vicious cycle of serving 2-3 years in prison, getting released and then eventually being locked up again. All in all, Jason would serve a total of 10 years in prison in his life. 

Through the years, Jason received help from The Helping Hand (THH), a Christian halfway house in Singapore that provides drug rehabilitation and aftercare services to male recovering addicts and ex-offenders.

Jason had even accepted Christ when he was 17 years old. But in his own words: “Even though I believed in Jesus, there was always still a part of me that held onto my own thinking.”

Jason Gwee with his friends from Bible School in 2000.

“Though I was a believer at that time, I still had my own thinking and would often return to my old habits,” Jason continued.

“So, even when I entered Bible school in 2000, I backslid and ended up back in prison for drug usage.” 

This painful cycle of going in and out of prison would only be broken when Jason served his final sentence and was released in 2010 at 47 years old.

A FINAL SETBACK

In the early 2000s, while Jason was out of prison and recovering, he met his wife, Serene, in his church’s cell group.

The couple were married in 2005, before having their son, Justin, in 2008.

Tragically, a relapse and further drug use would ultimately land Jason in prison once again. 

I wasted 22 years in bondage to Heroin and Ice

But it was this final stint behind bars where the new father faced a true turning point in his life.

“Whenever it rained very heavily while I was serving my last stint in prison, I would think about my wife who was managing my then 2-year-old son by herself at home,” he recalled.

“I thought about how my wife would have to push the pram in the heavy rain whenever she picked him up from daycare, or how my son must have been crying at night and she would have to take care of him by herself.”

The Gwees: Jason, Serene and Justin.

“I felt very helpless because being in prison meant I couldn’t do anything for her,” Jason shared. “That helplessness made me more determined not to lose my freedom again.”

That was also the moment when Jason decided to rededicate his life to Jesus completely: “When I was released from my last ever prison stint, I asked God to give me a second chance to be a better husband and father.”

Having left his years in prison behind, Jason is no longer someone who takes his freedom for granted.

Today, whenever he recalls those moments of helplessness, Jason makes it a point to cherish and treasure the freedom he now has.

“Being free means I am able to help my son and my wife when they need me,” he said with a smile.

Today, Jason enjoys the privilege of serving full-time at THH, helping to lift and lead fellow brothers into becoming men who are known by their character, stability and hard work. 

A HAPPY FATHER

Jason is also a “happy father” to 13-year-old Justin, and a firm believer that fatherhood has changed him for the better.

“When my son was born I was extremely happy,” he recalled with a laugh. “I was so happy about my son’s birth that when I went to see my son in the hospital I ended up entering the wrong room!”  

Everything I do, I need to think twice and then think three times again.

But being a father was something that hadn’t been on Jason’s mind for most of his life: “Based on my past, I never would have thought that I could have my own family.”

The uncertainty was somewhat compounded by the fact that he had lost his own father when he was 15: “When my father passed on, I felt that more responsibility fell on my shoulders as a teenager.

“At the same time, I had no guardian to watch over me and tell me what was wrong or right. That led me to take up every opportunity that came, which led me down the wrong path.”

Hooked on drugs and paralysed, I should have died

Because Jason was very grateful to God for giving him a son, he wanted to learn how to be a good father.

At the time, he took up parenting classes to learn the ropes as well as to understand his wife and son better.

“Now as a father myself, I find it a huge challenge because my identity itself has changed,” reflected the 58-year-old.

“Everything I do, I need to think twice and then think three times again. There are more things to take into consideration. Even simple things like watching the words I say, since my son will hear everything I say and he will follow.

“I also try to be honest with my son, telling him that I’m not perfect. In this process, I’m willing to change and learn.”

GOD THE FATHER, GWEE THE FATHER

Thinking back on his fatherhood journey, Jason realised that his relationship with his son is very much like his own relationship with God.

“Every time I see my son being naughty and going against the rules, it reminds me of how I also disobey and go against God,” he mused.

“Whenever I want to scold my son and lose my temper, I remember how God didn’t lose His temper with me — God gave me a chance and showed grace.”

That is the reason Jason tries to show grace to his son. “But many a time I will still lose my temper and apologise to my son and wife after,” he admitted. 

The prisoner who was set free: From halfway house to Bible school

Jason shared that as he learns and grows in his journey as a father, he has come to understand the heart of the Father more.

“Every right-minded parent loves their children, so I hope that those who may have broken relationships with their own parents understand that this is a fact,” he said.

“Even though parents will use harsh words and scold their children, the bottom line is that the parent loves their children.”

You can always make a U-turn to God. It’s never too late!

And for those whose fathers may be absent or have passed on, Jason shares that finding the right mentors is important: “Having wise Christian mentors was very important to me, and it may not just be one but a few mentors as well.

“But ultimately, it is God who is the most important. No matter what, always remember God. As long as you have God, everything will be good.

“If you feel that you’re not doing well, I want to encourage you that you can always make a U-turn to God. It’s never too late!

“Reflecting back on my own life, I’m truly very grateful to God that He crafted this home for me and gave me a supportive wife. Most of all, I’m grateful that I can continue to walk close to God.” 


This Father’s Day, the mighty men of The Helping Hand have baked homemade egg tarts that you can purchase as a gift for your father or the father figures in your life! Priced at $10 for a box of 6 egg tarts, you can make a preorder from 8-17 June — delivery will be available on 18 and 19 June. All funds raised will go towards supporting THH’s ministry.

About the author

Justine Ocampo

Justine doesn't wear a watch, but she's always just-ine time, just-ine case you were wondering.