The story you are about to read is a story of the sovereign leading by God of a people which were once not a people but are now the people of God, which had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. We invite you to walk with us through our pathway, one with many narrow corridors of strife and purging, to the present, and experience with us the grace of God to His Church. Many there were who walked in our band and left; many there were who had sharp disagreements with the path taken; and many were the misunderstandings. But it was God Who led. For the purpose of Christian charity and prudence, only names of persons who are at present leaders of the group will be mentioned. All others will be reduced to initials which may or may not be the true ones.
The G.L.T.S. has not always been known by her present name. She had her beginnings as a Bible class in a public school, the Monk’s Hill Secondary School. In around the year 1962 a teacher in that school began witnessing among the students and meeting with converts every day during class breaks and before and after school. Mr. G.S.F., then barely nineteen, had a tremendous zeal for God and gathered many students around him. Among these students was our brother Lau Chin Kwee, the only remnant from those early years.
As the group grew she was brought under the wing of the Youth For Christ (YFC) organization and became known as the “Monk’s Hill YFC.” The group had by then picked up momentum. The short daily meetings in the school soon proved insufficient, so it began longer meetings in a Methodist Church. The group flourished under the diligent labors of Mr. G.S.F., who spared nothing in time or wealth to help the young people (he conducted extra tuition classes for weaker students on his own time and often purchased meals for the group on his meager salary). About 1967, Mr. G.S.F. began to bring some of the older members of the group to Gilstead Life Bible Presbyterian Church where he himself was attending. During that period, a certain Rev. H.C. of a local baptist church, HBC, had very close ties with Rev. T.T. of the Life Church and was often invited to preach at this church. The leaders of the Monk’s Hill YFC attending Life Church soon became very close to Rev. H.C. He was invited on many occasions to preach for Saturday meetings of the Monk’s Hill YFC. Rev. H.C. gradually influenced the young leaders in Baptist teachings which differed from the Life Church. Relations between Rev. T.T. and Rev. H.C. soured amidst accusations of sheep stealing. Rev. H.C. took nearly all of the young leaders to the HBC. In later years many of these young men declared before the entire congregation that they had never been saved. By the grace of God, brother Lau Chin Kwee and sister Shi Soi Fah and only a few others were spared a similar bitter end, for they remained.
Mr. G.S.F. continued to teach the group the honor for the Word of God and godly separation from the present world. The group began to see the errors of the YFC, which encouraged worldliness and supported such neo-evangelicals as Billy Graham. Thus led by the Lord, the group broke from the YFC. But the result was that the Methodists expelled the group from their meeting place. By the grace of God, we found favor in the eyes of Rev. T.T. and were given a room at the Life Church. At this time too, through the S.M.C.C.C., a subsidiary of the I.C.C.C. (a council of Churches supposedly set up to oppose liberalism in the W.C.C. by enforcing the “Fundamentalistic” position), Rev. T.T. developed close relations with a Rev. N. of a local group, the JSM. Mr. G.S.F. too was close to Rev. N. and soon became very involved in the work of the JSM. The labors of the group were left mostly in the hands of the young leaders. A severe disagreement arose between the Life Church and JSM. Mr. G.S.F., caught between the fighting ministers, refused to take the group with him though he continued as a domestic missionary of the JSM.
While this was happening, the Monk’s Hill Bible Club was slowly evolving. There had been a “Gospel Letters and Tracts Department” within the Bible Club. The group adopted this name, with the letters, G.L.T.D., with intentions to merge with the Life Church Sunday School, but this did not materialize. Rev. T.T. wanted very much to have the G.L.T.D. as part of Life Church, but the session opposed this, saying they had had their lot with the mud-slinging Rev. N. The G.L.T.D. was left to fend for herself, with no ties to any church save the use of the place in Life Church and the friendly counsel of Rev. T.T.
With Mr. G.S.F. more involved with the JSM, and the aftereffects of losing most of the older members to Rev. H.C., the group floundered and the numbers diminished from the once proud sixty to seventy to barely twenty. It was at this time that God raised up one of our present leaders, brother Johnson See who led the group with a few brothers and sisters.
In September of 1972, Mr. G.S.F. left Singapore for ministerial training in the U.S. With none else to finance him, the G.L.T.D. pooled all her resources to come up with $800 (a sum accumulated through the meager five and ten cent daily pledges of the members). With some remuneration also from the JSM, he set out with the intention of enrolling in Bob Jones University. He finally enrolled in a Baptist College that was willing to take him and finance him.
Meanwhile the G.L.T.D. attendance dwindled to eleven persons under the leadership of brother Johnson See. The work had to be supported financially by some of the older members in their late teens. Brother Johnson labored on undaunted and slowly the membership grew. The turning point came when the first Annual Bible Camp was held in December, 1972. After the camp, students from other schools than Monk’s Hill were added to the Saturday Club meetings where Johnson spoke every week. The group grew to thirty. At the second Bible camp, where brother Lau Chin Kwee was the speaker, two more of the present leaders joined, brothers Tan Kok Leong and Francis Quek. Two more of the present leaders, brothers Tan Boon Kwang and Teo Hwee Meng, who were Monk’s Hill students, also joined. By 1975 the group had grown to seventy.
In 1975 some of the leaders realized that the G.L.T.D. could not remain perpetually a Christian organization. The idea of moving toward the formation of a church led to sharp dissension in the group. There were those who wanted to merge with the Bible Presbyterians. The conflict among the leaders led to the leaving of some of the leaders.
In the same year, the Lord saw fit to introduce us to the Reformed Faith we hold today. Prof. Hoeksema and Rev. C. Hanko of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America were passing by Singapore. Brother Ong Keng Ho, the present chairman of the G.L.T.S., who had received the truth through the O.P.C. of Christchurch New Zealand, was trying to arrange for the Life Church to organize a series of lectures by the P.R.C. ministers. He was turned down. Finally he sought the G.L.T.D. to host the lectures. In the process brother Lau Chin Kwee came to know brother Ong.
In March of 1976 the G.L.T.D. acquired a unit of its present premises at River Valley Road for the purpose of setting up an outreach, River Valley Outreach, RVO (a name used even until today). At first only the Sunday Fellowship, which was set up earlier to cater to the many who had left school and could no longer attend the Saturday meetings, used the place. For a time, many of us attended the Life Church worship services and went to the fellowship at RVO in the afternoons. We met in a small hall ten feet by twenty. There the seed of the Sunday worship services was sown. It was decided that, in line with the desire to set up an autonomous church, the GLTD should have her own services at the completely unfurnished RVO. The wall separating one of the adjacent rooms was torn down to make room for increased numbers. Since then more walls have been broken down and more units acquired and we have graduated from floor sitting to chairs.
The spark of truth which was kindled in the breast of brother Lau Chin Kwee in 1975 was soon a raging fire as he studied the Reformed Truth on his own, and he could not help but pour it forth to the rest of the group. About the middle of 1976 brother Lau began to teach the Heidelberg Catechism at the Saturday meetings. This incurred the opposition of the rest of the leadership, but like a living shoot striving incessantly against huge rocks in its quest to rise above the ground, the truth then firmly in the heart of our brother was not shaken. At times he felt that none stood with him, and it was not until the end of that year that some of the brethren began to hold the same truth he loved. These brethren, among whom were brothers Francis Quek and Hwee Meng, however, could not be of much help, not being then leaders and having little influence.
In the twelfth month of the same year, Mr. G.S.F. returned from the U.S. and began immediately to work in the G.L.T.D. He became our “missionary pastor” and, being Ana-Baptistic by persuasion, he tried to bring his teachings into the group. The respect of the group being much with him, he taught us the Congregational form of church government with a one-pastor (elder) rule, opposed the doctrine of the universal catholic church, and tried to propagate his teachings on the mode of baptism. The members of the G.L.T.D., having by then learned the honor of the Word of God, searched the scriptures, and many were thrown into perplexity. One of the leaders holding the Presbyterian form of government sent letters to all of the members against the teachings of Rev. G.S.F. Although most of the other leaders agreed with him, they had to censure him for the way he aired his grievances. The brother left the group. There were forums held on the mode of baptism, where brother Lau Chin Kwee battled with Rev. G.S.F. before the entire congregation. It was surely by the grace of God that brother Lau, being untrained, managed to hold his ground against the “Greekquoting” Rev. G.S.F. As the conflict continued, Rev. G.S.F., sensing perhaps his inability to change the whole gorup, started another group elsewhere. This led to the final confrontation between him and the leaders. While he was questioned by the then chairman of G.L.T.D., brother Johnson See, at a congregational meeting, about the way he wanted to control all of the G.L.T.D. activities while he devoted more time to .his other work, Rev. G.S.F. simply walked out and left us. This took place in mid-1977.
All this time the Reformed truth was brewing in the hearts of some of the members, but even after the departure of Rev. G.S.F. they faced much opposition. Among the dissenters against the Reformed Faith, the strongest was brother Johnson See; but, by God’s grace, he was led away for further studies. In Scotland, brother Johnson, away from his heavy responsibility to lead the brethren in what he believed, came also to embrace and cherish the Reformed Truth. In Singapore brother Lau Chin Kwee, knowing the allegiance of the group to the Word of God, continued with those who loved the same truth to show them that the Reformed Faith and scriptural Christianity are one and the same. It was a hard time for these brethren, but they labored on amidst much opposition and discouragement from other factions of the group.
In January, 1978 brother Lau Chin Kwee left his job as a school teacher for the full-time ministry. This made him the second person to do this, joining brother Tan Boon Kwang, who had felt called in 1976 and was already studying in a local Bible college of the Bible Presbyterians.
March 1978 saw the coming of Rev. J. Slopsema and Elder Dewey Engelsma to investigate the group as emissaries of the P.R.C. Being the first Reformed delegation to Singapore, they bore the brunt of the attack of the faith. Those holding to the Arminian position sought to assail them at the public discussions held. Neither did those holding the Reformed Faith support them at these meetings, for they saw in the emissaries an invaluable avenue to answer the many questions heaped on them. It must have appeared to the emissaries that the entire G.L.T.D. was rank Arminian. After his departure; Rev. Slopsema conducted a tape program with the G.L.T.D., and a commission of ten members was appointed to study the P.R.C. beliefs. God worked in the hearts of the members of the G.L.T.D. and soon there was a clear dividing line between the truth and the lie of Arminianism. Many members left during this period of extreme contradiction in which God purged us to be a bearer of His Truth. The pain of seeing many bosom friends leave was somewhat alleviated as God added others to the group, but the period was frought with discouragements. The work of the first emissaries was not without fruit.
By the time the second pair of emissaries came, Rev. M. Kamps and Elder Engelsma, much of the wrangling concerning the issues of limited atonement and irresistible grace was dispelled. The emissaries who were in Singapore in early 1979 did much for the spiritual development of the group, and it was through their hands that the group, then called the Gospel Literature and Tract Society, G.L.T.S., requested a missionary from the P.R.C. The name of the group was changed to G.L.T.S. when it was registered with the authorities of Singapore.
After the departure of the emissaries the leaders of the group discussed at length the advice of the P.R.C. men to stop the administration of the Lord’s Supper until the church was organized. After much study of the Word, the sacrament, which had been administered by a Bible Presbyterian minister; was discontinued.
In February of 1980, the missionary from the P.R.C., Rev. Arie den Hartog, arrived in Singapore with his family. Finding him to be a man of great zeal and compassion, the group quickly grew to love and respect him. Within a matter of months, the American of Dutch origin became accepted in a very real sense as our missionary pastor. He is, up till today, serving as a faithful minister of the gospel in our midst.
May, 1980 saw the third visit of Elder Engelsma, and immediately the old ties, developed in past years, bound the hearts of the members of the G.L.T.S. to the heart of the man, very much their senior, and his wife. Their short stay in the republic did much to encourage the saints. They gave much wise counsel and brotherly kindness.
In August the same year, brother Lau Chin Kwee, on whose shoulders had fallen the awesome responsibility of leading the saints in the G.L.T.S. through many difficult years, bade a tearful farewell to the church and went with his wife to further his ministerial training in the U.S.
When one views the history of the G.L.T.S. one cannot but confess that it is all of Sovereign Grace. From the beginning God had planted the seed which initially appeared as an ugly shoot. Trials and toil, hope and joy were the portion of the young band as they trod the pilgrim way together. As the tree began to take shape, God introduced the Reformed Faith, at first in a trickle and then in its soul-overwhelming torrents. God had prepared a vessel of unworthy clay to bear the treasures of His Truth. Today there is in the G.L.T.S. a greater cohesion among the members and the leadership than has ever been experienced in her history. The truth that binds our hearts to God also binds our hearts to one another. We are still a young group, and many are still the difficulties ahead; but none can remove our hope. Our God, Who was our help in ages past, is still our Guide for years to come. We know that our God has a mission for us to bear His Truth in the darkness around. In all this, God is our Help.