Benny Se Teo considers himself a hardcore addict as he recalls those dark years when he was under the bondage of drugs and sins. He started taking drugs soon after he left school at 17. As a youngster, he was curious and eager to try new things. He always thought that he could quit any time when he got tired of it. His first brush against the law was in 1982 when he was caught for drug consumption at the age of 22. The judge was lenient then and he only had to pay a fine for the offence and to report to Teen Challenge for the rehabilitation programme. At Teen Challenge, he learned about Jesus and what He has done for us. Intending to change, he accepted Jesus as his saviour then.
Upon his completion of the programme in Teen Challenge, he went back to his old friends. Despite believing in Jesus, he still loved the world and refused to surrender his will to God. He was physically cleansed of drugs but mentally, he was still not ready to give it up altogether. Very soon, the temptation was too strong for him and he was on drugs again.
In 1983, Benny was caught again and this time, he was incarcerated. Upon his release, he went to another halfway house to continue his rehabilitation. But his craving for drugs was too strong for him and no sooner, he was hooked again. The vicious cycle continued and he was in and out of prison and drug rehabilitation centres numerous times for the next ten years. Each time he was released, he would go to a halfway house hoping that he could kick the habit. But most of the time, he would give up and run away from the halfway house. The story would then repeat all over again.
God intervened in 1993 when he was incarcerated in Selarang Park Drug Rehabilitation Centre. It seemed that there was a spiritual revival in the prison. His fellow inmates boldly professed and openly displayed their Christian faith. Sunday chapel services conducted by brothers from SANA CCS were well attended. It was something that he had never witnessed in those other times when he was there.
Then came news of other former drug addicts turning over a new leaf and started to lead a drug-free life. They were a great encouragement to all. One of them was Don Wong, whom Benny came to know when they were in prison together. Don had managed to break the bondage of drugs and was working towards being a pastor. Benny was thinking then: “If they can change by the grace of God, I am sure God can help me change too”.
His new resolve was not without challenge. When he was released from prison in 1993, he wondered whether any halfway house would take him in, given his bad records with all of them. But God opened the way for him. Robert Yeo, from The Helping Hands, not only opened his halfway house to him, he excused him from the mandatory programme for all released prisoners. In fact, he said, “As long as you are free from drugs, you can stay as long as you like.”
This kind act touched Benny. He thought he was a hopeless case and no one would believe him. But Robert’s faith in him showed him that God still loves him and cares about him despite what he had done.
But life was not easy for Benny. He could not find a job initially because of his records. But by God’s grace, he finally landed a job as a dispatch rider. He worked hard and stayed away from drugs, always remembering that others had trusted him and given him a second chance. After six years, he had saved enough to start his own courier service company.
In 2005, he ventured into the food and beverages industry as cooking is his passion. To learn more about this industry, he got himself an internship at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in London. When he came back to Singapore in 2007, he started his Eighteen Chefs restaurant. By 2009, he had expanded his business to 4 outlets island-wide.
Remembering how God has given him a chance and his difficulties in getting a job back in 1993, he vowed to help those ex-drug offenders who wanted to change. Whenever his company recruits new staff, he will always give job applicants with criminal records a more favourable consideration than others. In this way, he hopes to pass on to others the grace that he has received -just as Jesus said in Luke: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Lk 6:31.
May God continue to use Benny’s life and ministry to extend a helping hand to those ensnared by drug addiction.
(Article taken from Christian Counseling Services at http://www.ccslink.org)