We are digressing from our Missions series on the principles of missions to bring the reader news from the mission in Singapore. In that distant and foreign culture Rev. Arie den Hartog preaches and teaches the gospel of sovereign grace to a group of young converts recently saved out of heathendom. In addition to his wife, Sherry, Rev. den Hartog is aided in the work by Mr. and Mrs. Dewey Engelsma who are members of our Hope Church, Walker, Michigan.
In a personal letter which accompanied this article Rev. den Hartog wrote: “As you can read from all our reports the Lord is richly blessing the work here. In fact it is simply astounding how much fruit there is on the work. There must be a double pouring out of the Spirit of God in this place. It goes without saying that this makes the work very exciting and encouraging.”
We are sure you will find the following letter enjoyable, interesting, informative, and a blessing. Let us remember our missionaries and their families and their fields of labor in our daily prayers.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Our Lord Jesus Christ of Our Protestant Reformed Churches:
We continue to experience the blessing of the Lord upon our labors in Singapore. In fact, one stands amazed at the wonderful way the Lord is gathering and building His Church in Singapore. The work in every aspect is going very well. We are being kept incredibly busy. It would be impossible for any missionary of the gospel of Christ Jesus to do anything but love the work in a field such as this.
The Lord is also richly blessing us personally as a family and He is supplying all our needs. We feel very much at home here in Singapore. We are especially blessed by the daily evidences of love and encouragement that we receive from the young saints here. We experience the blessed truth that the church of Jesus Christ is a catholic church. In this blessed catholic church is our home and life. In this church there is a unity in the Lord Jesus Christ, a commonness of faith and love, wherever that church is found in the world.
We have been able to adjust to apartment life very well. Our home is spacious and comfortable. The members of the G.L.T.S. have been very gracious to us to make sure that we are not cooped up in our apartment for too long a time. Almost every Monday someone will take us out to see some of the sights of Singapore. We have seen and enjoyed many of them. These excursions are a nice break from the crowded city, the limitations of life in an apartment, and the business of the work.
We rejoiced last week at the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Engelsma. They received a warm welcome in the G.L.T.S. They are dearly loved and appreciated here as this is now the third time they have come here. It goes without saying that they will be of great help for the work. Their wise counsel is very much listened to and respected. They are also the source of great encouragement to us as your missionary family. In the providence of God we were able to find an apartment for them on the campus of the Far Eastern Bible College.
There is no end to the exciting experiences that we could relate to you. Our home is constantly the scene of church activities and pastoral calls. During the two months that we have lived in this apartment there has been only one day that we have not had people in our home some time during the day. We are very happy that the members of the G.L.T.S. are coming so freely to our home, and to their missionary pastor. They come with many, sometimes even lists, of questions, questions on the understanding of certain scriptures, questions on Reformed doctrines, and questions on all kinds of practical problems in their life. Many of them relate to us the hardships and trials they experience in their Christian life, especially also in their own pagan homes. The stories they tell leave us with an overwhelming sense of how thankful we all ought to be for the Christian homes the Lord has given to us. It would already be easy for me to write a book about all of these stories. Because our home must always be open to often unexpected visitors Sherry is also kept very busy. It would be impossible to carry on a work such as this without a wife who is also very much active and involved in the activities.
In our pastoral work we have been confronted with many situations where we are being forced to learn and develop in ways that we never have before. We are often called to witness of the gospel of Christ Jesus to those who are complete strangers to the faith. We have spoken about the gospel to Buddhists, to Marxists, and to what are here called “Free Thinkers” (meaning they believe that all religions are the same and they are not committed to any one in particular). We have so much to learn about how we must present the gospel to complete pagans. What do you say to someone who explains to you in detail that he believes all religions are the same and challenges you to prove the truth of Christianity over all other religions. We surely need your prayers as we learn to do this kind of work. On a few occasions we have been in situations where we have had to speak of the gospel to those who do not know any English and we have had to do all our conversation through an interpreter.
There is much evidence around us that we live in a pagan society. There are Buddhist temples and Moslem Mosques in many places. One often smells the burning of incense even in the apartment building in which we live. A few weeks ago there was an outdoor Buddhist funeral at our apartment. The service lasted three whole days and nights. The pagan ritual was unbelievable. Offerings of food were made for the dead. Stranger processions were held. The Buddhists actually believe that after they die they will all go to hell. They will have ceremonies of buring paper cars, paper money, and paper dolls. These are burned so that they can be used by the departed dead in hell. We have seen on occasion Moslems kneeling on the street facing Mecca praying to Allah. We have heard many stories of devilish media whose counsel is sought in times of crisis and for making decisions on various questions of life. We have heard of families who have in recent years, given their own children away to other families because of religious reasons. How wonderful it is to think that the Lord has called almost all of the young people of the G.L.T.S. out of such a pagan society to the knowledge of salvation in Christ Jesus.
The worship services are of course the center of our life. The services are continually well attended. Every Lord’s Day we see new faces. Many of these come and go of course, but some of the new ones are also returning and even coming regularly. The seating arrangement at our place of worship had to be completely changed in order to accommodate more people. This was all done recently on a holiday by all voluntary labor. It was necessary to build a new speaker’s platform as well as to do some other quite major carpentry work. There is an urgent need to find another place of worship. There is investigation going on into this matter. Purchasing a place is far beyond the means of G.L.T.S. Renting a suitable place is very difficult if not impossible. There are many government regulations which must be considered. We are hearing of churches being evicted from their place of worship because they do not meet these regulations. There is some danger of this happening to the G.L.T.S. in the future, especially after we organize as a church and gain more members. Besides this, eventually the Kampong in which we hold our meetings will be demolished and replaced, probably by a high rise apartment building.
In addition to all our regular meetings in April we had several special meetings. We had a worship service in the morning on Good Friday. We also had what is called a Gospel Meeting. To us as Reformed people the name of this meeting may bring to our minds some bad connotations. Be assured that the program of the meeting was Reformed in every part. I preached a message using as my theme the question of Pontius Pilate: “What shall I do then with Jesus which is the Christ?” Because expected attendance at this meeting was larger than we could accommodate at our regular meeting place, it was decided to hold this meeting at a Presbyterian Church. The expectations concerning the attendance were realized. Attendance numbered from 150 to 200. It was therefore an overwhelming success. We were very much encouraged, rejoicing at the blessing of the Lord upon the labors that went into this meeting. Most of the visitors at this meeting were brought by personal invitations given by the members of the G.L.T.S. We rejoice to see two people who came first to this Gospel meeting in regular attendance at our worship services on the Lord’s Day. Because the Lord so richly blessed this meeting we are making preparations to hold another such meeting some time in the early fall. Two weeks ago I had an opportunity to give a gospel message to a group of about 20 university students at the home of one of the members of the G.L.T.S. With the exception of the young man who invited me, none of these people were G.L.T.S. people. Some of this group were Christians from other churches and some were unbelievers.
Much of our time and energy is being spent now directly on matters relating to the organization and institution of the church. One of the major efforts involves the drafting of a constitution for the future church. This constitution includes a long statement of faith as well as a detailed statement of various matters of church polity. Presently a committee is working on this constitution. This committee meets twice a week. I would very much like to tell you some of the many questions we face in this committee, but space limits me. After the constitution is drafted by the committee it must be approved, first by the executive board and then by the general body of the G.L.T.S. All of this will take some time and a lot of effort. Various articles in the constitution will be molded and remolded as we seek to express the truth of scripture on all matters and doctrines. The members of the G.L.T.S. are eagerly anticipating the day when the church will be organized. To appreciate this, one must know that many of the members of the G.L.T.S. have waited for years for this to take place. They have heard it discussed again and again. For so long it just never became a reality. Now eagerly we are actively working toward this goal. This is surely one of their chief joys presently. Prayers are made without ceasing for all the matters relating to the organization of the church. Continue to pray that the Lord might guide and direct us that a true Reformed Church might be established here in Singapore.
After much discussion of what to do about the future training of ministers for the new church it was decided to try and send young men from here to our Seminary in the U.S.A. This is also for us a very large matter. It was decided to try to get one of the brothers into the Seminary already this fall. Much work must be done in a short time if this is to become a reality. Mr. Lau Chin Kwee has studied for several years in the Bible College of the Presbyterian Church but he needs and desires further training. If a strong Reformed Church is to be established in Singapore there must be a strong and well trained ministry. Mr. Lau will be coming to the U.S. the Lord willing with his wife. They are anxiously awaiting confirmation of all the necessary arrangements. We hope and pray that they will be able to obtain a work permit so that they can earn some of their own support in the U.S. Our churches will be asked to help in their support. We have already received word from the Theological School Committee that they have approved a special two year course of study for Mr. Lau. Another young man, Mr. Tan Boon Kwang has studied at the same Bible college and will graduate in another year. He has done special studies in the Chinese language. There is a great need for a Chinese ministry in the G.L.T.S. A third brother, Francis Quek is also convinced of the call to the ministry. The decision to begin studies for the ministry was made with very strong opposition in his Buddhist home and in the face of being expelled from his own home if he carries out his intentions. Brother Francis must first complete his final year of military duty before he can begin his studies. Because of the great amount of work here it is simply impossible for me to take on the task of the training of ministers. It is not at all unrealistic to think of three ministers for the work here in light of the present size of the G.L.T.S. and especially in light of how rapidly the work is expanding.
Presently I am beginning a temporary course of instruction for the two brothers. This will give these brothers some additional instruction while Mr. Tan is on vacation from the Bible School and Mr. Lau is waiting to go to the U.S.
My space is rapidly running out and there is just so much more to tell you. We rejoice every Saturday to see a house full of young people present for instruction in the Heidelberg Catechism. On the Lord’s Day there is a class for several new converts to prepare them for baptism. On the evening of the Lord’s Day there are two groups meeting simultaneously at different locations to listen to taped sermons. One of these groups meets in our home. We rejoiced at the largest attendance yet last week of 26 people. We often listen to ministers from our Protestant Reformed Churches. Presently we are listening to a whole series of sermons by Rev. Engelsma on the Armour of God based on Ephesians 6.
Work is being done on starting a second worship service. I could also tell you much about this. Plans are to give the two ministerial students some opportunity to preach at this service. We are looking forward to two weddings in the G.L.T.S. this summer. There are many members who are seriously dating and contemplating marriage. We see therefore young couples starting their homes and we see a new character coming over the G.L.T.S.
Plans are that a group of young people and possibly myself and Mr. Engelsma will be going up to Malaysia next month. There is a group of young people there who are zealously interested in the Reformed faith. These young people have sent for materials from our churches. Some of them have visited the G.L.T.S. in Singapore. They need encouragement and instruction.
There is much reason for us as Protestant Reformed Churches to rejoice that the Lord has given us an open and effectual door to preach the gospel in Singapore. We thank you all for your prayers and support and letters of encouragement. Continue to pray for us and for the saints here as we also do for you.
Your Missionary in His Service,
Rev. Arie den Hartog