Rev. denHartog is pastor of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan.
God in His mysterious, but perfect, wise, and good purpose took Pastor Cheah Fook Meng out of this life on August 29, 2005. After eleven days of grievous struggle with dengue hemorrhaging fever, Pastor Cheah died at the relatively youthful age of only 41 years. For those who were left behind, his death is the occasion of great sorrow. Pastor Cheah’s wife, Lee Choo, is now left a widow. She has been a wonderful example of the sustaining grace of God and a great encouragement to others.
Pastor Cheah will be sadly missed, especially by the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, of which he was pastor. He led CERCS for nine years. CERCS is still a young congregation. Pastor Cheah’s preaching, pastoral admonition, encouragement, and leadership were a great blessing to this church and has brought her to where she is today. The Lord added several new members to the church through the labors of our brother. Children have been instructed in the precious truths of the Word of God and are now grown up to be mature young people in the church.
Pastor Cheah was by the sovereign grace of God converted from the Buddhist religion in his youth. He was the only one chosen from his pagan family to be recipient of such marvelous grace that delivers from the darkness of paganism into the glorious light of the knowledge and salvation of the Lord. Already before becoming a minister he testified to his own family and friends of the grace of God. Later he married Lee Choo, also an only convert of her family. Before his conversion he was a social worker. Marvelous is this grace of God when those whom He saves are raised to the high office of the ministry of the Word to preach the gospel of grace to the pagan nation and peoples from among whom they have been saved. This occupation is far more glorious than any mere secular occupation can be.
Pastor Cheah was trained for the ministry in the Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America from 1993 to 1996. The Protestant Reformed Churches count it a privilege to have been involved in and having supported this training.
Very recently I had the opportunity of serving in the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore for three years as minister-on-loan. During this time I worked as a co-laborer with Pastor Cheah. So I knew him as a brother in Christ, personal friend, and fellow servant of the Lord. We served together on a number of denominational committees. These required many hours of tireless work on the part of Pastor Cheah. Meetings often involved a great deal of study and preparation, much “plowing of new ground,” as so many things were still in their beginning stages in ERCS. Meetings were often very long and arduous, extending at times beyond midnight. The Evangelical Reformed Churches, as a small Reformed denomination in the midst of a pagan world and where there are few other Reformed churches, have been given a great amount of work to do.
A major denominational work in which Pastor Cheah also served was the Asian Reformed Theological School (ARTS). This school is still in its beginning stages, and Pastor Cheah helped in these crucial stages. Pastor Cheah served as one of the regular lecturers in ARTS. Curriculum had to be developed. Courses were being taught for the first time. This young pastor was given the opportunity and responsibility to train men, even from other countries, for the service of the Lord in His church.
On several occasions we traveled together to Myanmar and India for mission work and to conduct training seminars for church leaders. Pastor Cheah did major work for the extension program of ARTS in Myanmar to train young theological students to ground them better in the truth. We remember with thankfulness to the Lord the zeal and interest he had for this work and the personal sacrifices he made for it. Earthly glory and riches were not what he worked for. He was one of the first, along with Pastor Lau Chin Kwee, to bring the Reformed faith to the saints of God in Myanmar. This work was fruitful to help establish two Reformed churches in Myanmar.
During the years of our working together with Pastor Cheah, we were thankful for some of the particular areas he focused on and which were the burdens of his ministry. He greatly desired to bring the Reformed faith to others of his countrymen. In this connection he sought to preach and teach in such a way that the Reformed faith could be clearly understood by recent converts and those young in the faith. Several things are necessary for this. One must be able to bring the profound doctrines of salvation in a basic, simple, clear manner. At the same time, one must be careful to maintain the distinctive Reformed faith without losing it in an attempt to be overly simple. Even in a place like Singapore, departure from the Reformed faith is very evident. The Reformed faith is so radically different from the false presentations of the gospel by so many churches. Each culture has its own nuances. So also does the Chinese culture prevalent in Singapore, which must be considered in the preaching of the gospel. We are thankful for the gifts God gave to Pastor Cheah for this kind of a ministry.
Pastor Cheah also had a good rapport with the young people in both congregations of the ERCS and so was often asked to speak for their meetings.
After this life the Lord will reward His servants with the rewards He merited for them on His cross. They will enter into the everlasting glory of His kingdom. Our prayers are that the Lord will continue to sustain and comfort Lee Choo and that He will establish the work of Pastor Cheah for the good of His church and the glory of His own name. May the Lord preserve the churches Pastor Cheah served in the heritage of the Reformed faith, and grant that they may continue to be a witness to the truth, in Singapore as well as in the lands where He might give opportunity for the preaching of the ministers of the ERCS.