Rev. denHartog is pastor of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan.
Quite incredibly, for a second year in a row I was invited to be the speaker at the family camp of the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore. These family camps are held yearly by the church in Singapore. Over the years they have been a source of great blessing to many. I have attended at least ten such camps over the years, at many different places in Singapore and Malaysia, some with my wife and family.
There were two reasons for which this opportunity again filled me with joy and thanks to God. The first is that I, with the Contact Committee of the Protestant Reformed Churches, saw this as another opportunity to renew and strengthen the bonds between the church in Singapore and our churches in America. The second reason is, of course, that after so many years of living and working among the saints in Singapore I have a strong bond of love with them and great concern for their continued spiritual welfare.
About half of my time from June 8 to 18 was spent with members of Covenant ERCS, and the other half at the campsite in a city called Rompin, on the eastern side of the Malaysian Peninsula.
While in Singapore I enjoyed the gracious hospitality of Wee Gim Theng and Patricia and their family. Some years ago Gim Theng lost his wife after a long battle with cancer. She too was a dear member of the church. Patricia, a few years later, became the wife of Gim Theng and the mother of his children. Patricia has by the grace of God become a real mother in every respect to these children adopted by her. Living with the family for several days gave me the opportunity to enjoy the spirituality and happiness of a truly covenant home, experiencing also its trials and challenges with respect to modern-day life in Singapore.
During our short time in Singapore we had lots of opportunities for personal visits and fellowship with beloved saints we have known from years past. We were reminded again of the culture and way of life in Singapore, so very different from that in America. On the other hand, we and our families in the States face many of the same challenges in trying by the grace of God to live a truly Christian life in an ungodly world. It is significant also, at any given time, to consider where a Christian is at in his or her development in Christian living and to see how much the truth of God’s Word must continue to be our guide and stay through all the years. We must be always growing in our knowledge of the Word of God and our love for its truth. By the Word of God and by His grace and Spirit we must be different from the world, living a truly antithetical Christian life. We also attended a home Bible study group (cell group). At this Bible study there were about 10 to 15 adults present. A good brother of the church, Lee Meng Hsien, is doing a commendable job in leading the group in the study of the book of Isaiah, certainly a difficult but profoundly rich book of the Bible to study.
On the Lord’s Day of June 14 I had the privilege of preaching at both worship services of Covenant Church. Covenant has about 150 members. There are now a goodly number of teenagers, who represent the second generation of the church that was first instituted when I served in Singapore as missionary the first time. Pastor Paul Goh and Elder Gim Theng were away on this Lord’s Day visiting and preaching for a mission station in Penang, Malaysia. The auditorium was full at the morning service, with some visitors in attendance as well. The afternoon service had a smaller audience.
Covenant has recently been able to rent a new facility for holding its worship services. As was the case in the past when we lived in Singapore, it is very difficult for a small church to purchase property and build a church building of its own. The new rented facility is beautiful, having a nice auditorium for the worship services, a cafeteria where members of the church regularly enjoy Sunday lunch together, and several nice meeting rooms for Sunday school and catechism classes. Between the worship services I also led one of the catechism classes that Gim Theng normally teaches. It was a class of young people studying from the bookEssentials of Reformed Doctrine.
Another highlight of my time in Singapore was two visits to the Singapore General Hospital to visit with Pastor Lau Chin Kwee. Many readers of this news article will know that Pastor Lau was the first local pastor of the church in Singapore. We have many fond memories of working together in the early days of the beginning of the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore. In the last few years Pastor Lau has been grievously afflicted with a degenerative liver condition. This condition caused deterioration not only of his liver but also of his heart. A few months ago Pastor Lau went through a very rare medical procedure, a heart and liver transplant—the first of its kind ever done in Singapore. He is still recovering from this surgery.
The first day I visited Pastor Lau he was very, very sick because of anti-rejection medicine being administered to him. The next time I visited him he was remarkably better. We had a very joyful visit, speaking together of the history of the work of the church in Singapore. Pastor Lau offered many expressions of appreciation for the years of labor of the Protestant Reformed Churches in Singapore. Pastor Lau still has many physical struggles, which require him to be in and out of the hospital. I spoke to him yet from the Changi Airport at the time of my departure. It is our prayer that the Lord will be merciful to him and, if it be His will, that his life will yet be spared for labors and witness to His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose name he continues in much affliction to praise and thank.
The second half of our stay in Singapore was at the family camp in Rompin, Malaysia. We traveled by car into Malaysia, for about four hours. A number of church members also traveled the four hours to the camp in their own cars. Most traveled by bus. The camp was attended by about 130 people, most of them being members of Covenant Church. The campsite was at a beautiful resort on the beach of the South China Sea. There were nice accommodations for all the campers, quite upscale compared to those where camps were held years ago. At that time there was little money, and conditions of the campsites were pretty primitive and austere. Now the adult members of the church are almost all employed in very good occupations that generate good income to support the church.
I had the arduous but blessed opportunity to give five messages for the camp on the general subject of “Provoking One Another Unto Love and Good Works.” The sub-topics included that of family life, building up the church, evangelism, and Christian living. Attention to the messages was very good. There were only a couple of attendees at the camp who would in our churches be called ‘seniors.’ These were grandmothers brought into the church, often by the testimony of their own children. In many cases entire families, including a goodly number of young people, were at the camp. The young people gave youthful excitement and enthusiasm to the whole camp. They participated in all the activities of the camp. Many of these are schooling for their life’s careers. Higher education is very strongly emphasized in the Singaporean culture. It is our hope and prayer that they will soon also marry and establish their own Christian homes. The need for the young people to be strongly established in the Reformed faith is obviously very great, for they must carry on the work of the church and the cause of the kingdom of Christ. Our prayer is that these covenant young people may be zealous to grow to a profound understanding of the basis of their faith, with the same application of effort and study with which they pursue their secular studies for their careers. There continues in the church also the great challenges of encouraging young people to marry in the Lord, and if possible to fellow members of the church.
The spiritual fellowship in the Lord that we enjoyed together was rich and very blessed. Over the years, this has always been the character of these camps. There was good opportunity to talk personally with them about the many struggles and difficulties and problems, as well as the joys, that the members of the church in Singapore face.
Our time in Singapore and Malaysia reminded me again of the on-going needs and struggles of the church in Singapore. It is our prayer and hope that there might be a renewed relationship between the church in Singapore and our Protestant Reformed Churches in America. May the Lord give us an open door for the gospel and give us mutual love and respect for each other. Because of their still relative youthfulness as a church, and as they seek to grow and remain steadfast over the years as a distinctively Reformed church in Singapore, Covenant Church continues to need the help of our more mature Reformed denomination. The pastor and session members of the church greatly need encouragement and help and fellowship in their many difficult labors as they care for the church in a heathen land, where there are still only few that know and love the Reformed faith. We as churches in America stand also to receive many blessings from our fellowship with the saints in Singapore and from laboring together in the cause of the truth and the kingdom of Christ in this part of the world.
Since I have been back from Singapore, I have been engaged in another interesting project. Elder Wong Chee Choong in Singapore has taken it upon himself to teach the Canons of Dordt to a group of members of Covenant Church. This gives us another opportunity to help build up the members of the church in the knowledge and love of the historic and glorious doctrines of the Reformed faith that are our own blessed heritage. Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma is helping with furnishing discussion outlines for teaching the Canons of Dordt to a catechism class.
In the years of my ministry I have been greatly blessed by labors in many parts of the world. It fills me with great joy and awe before God to have experienced so profoundly the truth of the glorious catholic church of Christ gathered from the nations of the world. What an amazing thing, that God has His elect people in all different lands and cultures. The church in every part of the world has its unique struggles and trials, both sorrows and joys. The truth of the gospel, and the grace and Spirit of Christ, unite us all in one. We look for the blessed and glorious return of our Lord, when we shall all be gathered around His throne to worship the one only true and living God and the glorious and blessed Savior of His elect people, our Lord Jesus Christ.