It was an event of significant importance to my wife and me. Having lived and worked among the GLTS on three previous visits, we wanted to share with them their joy in being instituted as a church. This church was not to be like the other churches in Singapore. But, by the mercy of God, this church would be Reformed, having its foundation on the Three Forms of Unity, namely, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordrecht. Therefore we, with elder John Kalsbeek, decided to travel once more to the island to witness and participate in their organization. And it must be emphasized, we were looking forward to a joyous reunion of Christian fellowship with our adopted Chinese, Malay, and Indian children.
As was expected, we were met in the Changi air terminal by Rev. den Hartog with a goodly number of young people. Here, too, we first became acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Ed Van Ginkel from Doon, Iowa. Mr. Van Ginkel and Rev. Slopsema, who had preceded us to Singapore the week prior, were the official delegates from our Do& church and the Foreign Mission Committee. There were happy greetings all around and we experienced a joyful home-coming. Our previous relationship had established ties which united us in Christ’s love. When we had left these dearly beloved children in July of 1980 we thought we were saying our final farewells. We were, happily, wrong, and are grateful to God that He, in providential care, gave us the privilege to see them face to face once again.
After Scripture reading and prayer, our baggage was carried by willing hands (since I’m an old man, they say, and must not do such heavy work) to the transportation provided. We visited first at the Rev. den Hartog’s apartment. Arid later, after getting our flying feet on the ground, we rode to the home of a fellow member where for the duration of our stay (10 days) we were the guests of the Evangelical Reformed Church and our congenial host, dear Seet Chaun Hoo.
Sunday, January 24, was the day for which all of the GLTS had been waiting. During the past few years they had several times been disappointed in their efforts for organization. We too, knowing personally of their longing to be established as a Reformed Church, shared their sadness in this respect. The time, the day, has finally come for their institution as a Church of Jesus Christ. All of the delay is past and forgotten now. God knows what is best for His Church.
It was a beautiful Sabbath morning (still Saturday evening in Grand Rapids). As we rode to the meeting place we considered that the Lord had also provided a pleasant day weather-wise. In this beautiful, always-summer land, we could hardly bring to mind the snow and ice we had left just a few days ago. When we arrived at the church a little after 8:00 A.M. many of the members were already present. And as the building rapidly filled to overflowing, the joy and eager anticipation of this very special occasion could be seen on every face. Oh, how glad and thankful we were to be here with them!
Reverend (missionary) den Hartog preached a fitting sermon based on Ephesians 2:20. The congregation was instructed that the only sound foundation of the Church is that of the apostles and prophets; Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. At the conclusion of the sermon Rev. James Slopsema, one of the official delegates, read the form for the ordination of elders and deacons. These elders and deacons, with the exception of the two who were chosen later, were elected about a year and a half ago in order to study the confessions. Under the leadership of Rev. den Hartog they also instructed and prepared the GLTS for their membership. These young men, if I am not mistaken, are all between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-eight, and they have been spiritual leaders in the GLTS for several years. They have truly given their youth for the work of ministering to the continually-growing group. Brother Chin Kwee, who is presently studying in our Protestant Reformed Seminary, is not to be excluded. For seventeen arduous, yet profitable years he stood at the forefront of all their endeavors. Surely God has worked through him in the gathering of His Church.
In the ordination, the ritual of the laying on of hands was performed. These five elders and three deacons knelt before us to receive the laying on of hands, which symbolizes receiving the Spirit of Jesus Christ. We looked at these young men with a measure of concern. On these youthful servants God has laid the great calling to serve the congregation, to rule over her, to protect, from the onslaughts of Satan; to lead her in the truth of His Word. This was a unique setting, considering the extreme youth of the office bearers and congregation. The 102 charter members of this flock include only six married couples. Through our previous stays in their midst we had gotten to know them very well. So we never doubted that Christ is accomplishing His mighty work of gathering His Church in Singapore. When once the Reformed Truth was disseminated by means of Reformed literature and preaching, God caused His Truth to take root and flourish. So our concern for them is not such that we fear for their being able to endure. We surely believe that God will protect and preserve them as He promises. But we and they can expect, as all of God’s true Church experiences, that they will be the object of Satan’s attention. The office bearers especially, and congregation too, will suffer affliction. We have knowledge of persecutions they have already endured, and our hearts go out to them. Let us remember them in our prayers even as they pray for our churches.
Rev. den Hartog has labored joyfully in the midst of what is now the Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore, and the members speak of him with loving respect. Sherry (so she is most frequently addressed), as a faithful helpmeet and a gracious hostess, befriends many young people who are able to find in this family the Christian love and care which they need and cherish. To say that Rev. den Hartog labors joyfully is not enough. He is deeply committed to the work of a missionary, and we have often observed that for him and Sherry too, it is a life of self denial. They have given themselves wholly and completely to the cause of the gospel. Beside the weekly routine meetings which include “Session” now, consistory meeting, catechism class, pre-baptism, Sunday School, Reformed doctrine, prayer meeting, Bible study, student Greek class, and preaching, the pastor also counsels many of the young saints on a personal basis. Then, too, there are those numerous extra activities, such as speeches for the vacation camp meetings and the Evangelical Outreach. And we don’t want to forget the many written articles which somehow must be produced. Truly a “workman who needeth not to be ashamed.” (II Tim. 2:15).
The Chinese New Year, which is celebrated as a national holiday, was observed the week of January 26. This gave us the opportunity, with several of the young folks, to visit in the homes of about a dozen or more families. In addition, at every place we were treated to Chinese snacks and sweets, and, of course, we had the customary photos taken with the family. And even though at times our conversation was somewhat restricted because of the language barrier, yet we did manage to convey our greetings, and we certainly enjoyed these “visitations.” Somewhat later we did learn that one young man’s parents berated him severely for bringing the members of the church into their home. He even had to leave for a while to escape their anger.
On quite a few occasions in the past, these young people have shared with us their heartfelt desire and prayer to establish Christian homes patterned after that of Rev. and Mrs. den Hartog or Ong Keng Ho and Cecelia. At present, there are also four more recently married couples in whose homes they are always welcome. Do you Protestant Reformed young people remember to thank your heavenly Father for the homes Christian parents have provided you?
The Sabbath following the organization of the E.R.C.S., the Lord’s Supper was commemorated. We requested of the consistory (session) permission to partake of this sacrament, and our request was granted. It was for them and us a blessed communion, as together we realized again, that whether Jew or Greek, Chinese or Dutch, we are made one in Christ.
Normally on Sunday evenings there are five separate tape services which meet in different locations in Singapore. These five services were combined on Communion Sunday and we united in the spacious home of Johnson See and his wife Ta Chu for fellowship. We had taken along the taped sermon based on I Peter 2:9 that Mr. Lau Chin Kwee preached in our own Hope Church. The group evinced great pleasure and emotions in hearing the message and voice of their beloved brother expound the Word.
Afterward we celebrated then birthday of three fellow-members. Along with the delicious birthday cakes, there was another cake, decorated especially to bid us farewell. Our flight home was scheduled for the next day, so now we had to bring to a close our visit and begin the heartache of goodbyes. These dearly beloved may not be our flesh-born sons and daughters, but they have become our Christ-loved kindred.
What now is the future concerning the work of our churches in Singapore? It is my own personal opinion that the vast volume of labor with its far-reaching potentials projected on and beyond this island are indications that we have a calling, a duty, to work in this white field. The Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore would welcome our presence in propagating the truth of Scripture.
Truly, it was for the three of us an inspiring and heartwarming trip.