Report From Singapore

Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ. Greetings in the name of our great God and Savior. It has been quite some time since we have written a report about the work of the Lord in Singapore, a work which God has been pleased to give us as Protestant Reformed Churches to do. We rejoice with thanksgiving to the Lord that He continues to prosper and bless our work in spite of our own many weaknesses. The Lord causes the G.L.T.S. not only to continue to grow in numbers but also to grow in the spiritual knowledge of the truth of His Word and especially the truth of the Reformed Faith which we love and cherish as the Lord’s heritage to us. 

Let me tell you again some of the major developments of the work here. In the month of June we had one of the greatest yearly events for the G.L.T.S. I refer to the annual June Camp or Retreat. I have told you about these before, indicating that they are somewhat similar to our own annual Protestant Reformed Youth Conventions. The theme of the week-long camp this year was “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord.” The camp was held at a most beautiful facility belonging to the Presbyterian Church in Singapore. In past years the G.L.T.S. has had camps under some pretty adverse conditions. Therefore it was an unusual joy to have the beautiful place that we had this year which included a chapel for our meetings, dormitories for sleeping quarters and even a dining hall for meals. Your missionary was asked to give a series of five messages on the camp theme. I also preached a message on the subject of the millennium. There were many activities during the camp besides the messages, including such things as discussion groups on relevant Christian topics, chapels, a visit to an area nursing home, various types of recreation, and Christian fellowship. The whole camp was a very blessed and wonderful experience and I am sure very beneficial for those who attended. Attendance was regularly over sixty. During the evenings we always had additional visitors. On Friday evening we had more than 100 young people in attendance. I could go on to tell you many more details of the camp but I must keep this report as short as possible. We were again much impressed by the godliness and zeal of the youthful saints in Singapore.

Immediately after the camp our family spent a three-day vacation on the island of Santosa, a resort island just off Singapore. This was a much needed, brief but enjoyable and refreshing vacation. All of this was arranged and paid for by the members of the G.L.T.S. We were much moved again by their love and appreciation for us. 

The month of June is always an exceptionally busy month for the G.L.T.S. In our churches in the U.S.A. it is usually the case that the summer months have fewer church activities. It seems that things go on all year round here and even increase during the summer months. During the month of June the G.L.T.S. observes its anniversary every year. This includes an annual general meeting of the society where there is election of officers, the budget for the year is adopted, and reports from various departments are read. This year was the 18th anniversary. Considering that this society has existed some 18 years without becoming a church, one can appreciate the intense longing for institution of the church. I might add that the budget adopted this year is nearly $50,000. This is a very large sum of money which requires a lot of sacrificial giving, considering the average income of the members of the G.L.T.S. This budget includes partial or full support of three brothers studying for the gospel ministry. The observance of the anniversary always includes a special Lord’s Day worship service. This was again a great highlight of the year. I preached a sermon based on Lamentations 3:22-23 with the theme: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Attendance at this worship service was the highest ever at a worship service, 168 besides the small children. After the worship service there was a buffet luncheon and fellowship. 

Another significant event at the general meeting of the G.L.T.S. was the announcement of another young brother’s intention to study for the gospel ministry. We rejoice that the Lord is providing for us another future laborer for His church. His call to the ministry is in itself a beautiful story. I cannot tell you the whole story. The brother had for a long time been wrestling with the call to the ministry. He has just completed his military service. He was also considering the possibility of studying to become a lawyer. The brother applied to the Singapore University to study law and was accepted. However, just before the beginning of school he was so compelled by the call to the ministry that he decided to forego his place in the University to study law and he decided instead to take up studies for the ministry. This decision was taken against much opposition from his home. He is presently studying liberal arts courses in the Singapore University. He is also taking two courses under my instruction. In one or two years we shall be attempting to get this brother in our seminary in the U.S.A. 

For the last few months we have been making quite a few pastoral calls to the homes of our members. At one time we had thought that this was impossible because of the pagan homes. However, we are finding that it is often possible to make such calls as long as a Singaporean brother goes along with me. Thus we make these calls somewhat like our family visitations in the U.S., with one of the leaders of the G.L.T.S. It is a good way to get to know our members better and to be able to minister more specifically to their individual needs. 

just a couple of weeks ago we started another or tape hour. I have told you about these before. We have worship services at these where we listen to tape recorded sermons. We now have five of these tape hours meeting simultaneously at various locations in Singapore every Lord’s Day evening. We still hope and pray that the day will come that we shall be able to have a second worship service on the Lord’s Day. Meanwhile our tape hours are a real blessing to the members that attend. We listen to many of our Protestant Reformed ministers preaching. We also sing from The Psalter. 

Let me devote the rest of my space to report to you the progress towards the organization of the church in Singapore and in that connection the result of the decision of our synod of 1981 and the recent visit of the emissaries, Rev. Kamps and Rev. Engelsma. We know that many of our readers are very anxious to hear about this. As many of you know, there has been a difference over the question of when creeds should be adopted in the development of the church on the mission field. The question involved is not that of the necessity and importance of creeds for the future church in Singapore. There is no difference of opinion on this question at all. All see the need of studying and adopting creeds. The question is whether it is absolutely essential for the church on the mission field to adopt the creeds before her organization and whether organization should be delayed until such time as the creeds can be adopted. The G.L.T.S. from the time that we first arrived here to the present has been spending much time carefully studying our Three Forms of Unity. The opinion both of your missionary and the G.L.T.S. was that before creeds can be adopted they must be carefully studied. In this way a group such as the G.L.T.S. will come to know and love our creeds and make them their own confession. We were of the opinion that such a careful study would take an extended period of time. At the same time there is a great desire for the organization of the church in Singapore. We did not want to see the organization of the church delayed any further until the completion of our study of the creeds. 

Thus the decision of our 1981 synod came as a very great disappointment to us. It seemed that this decision would again delay the organization of the church for a long time. There was a strong feeling that we needed more time to study our creeds and on the other hand did not want to delay the organization of the church. There was a strong feeling against signing the formula of subscription to our creeds before an opportunity to study them carefully. Several meetings of the executive committee were held to wrestle with the dilemma of what to do under the circumstances. We were in the state of great crisis. 

We thank the Lord that the emissaries Rev. Kamps and Rev. Engelsma were sent here to help with the crisis. Though there was great disappointment in the G.L.T.S over the decision of our synod, the emissaries were graciously received. Furthermore, we are all very thankful to the Lord for the great amount of good which they did while they were here. They were kept very busy giving speeches, preaching, and counseling the members of the G.L.T.S. Their main labors were connected with the explanation and discussion of the decision of the synod with the leaders of the G.L.T.S. The impressions that were left did much to relieve the situation. The emissaries did much to convince the G.L.T.S. that our churches were seeking their highest good and that our churches also greatly desired that the church be organized in Singapore as soon as possible. 

After several more meetings of the executive committee they were not however convinced of the correctness of the principle of the decision of our 1981 synod. There is a clear understanding of the importance of creeds for the church. There remains however, a disagreement on the question of when these creeds must be adopted. The G.L.T.S. continues in their desire to have more time to study the creeds. They disagree that in a situation in which the creeds are already being studied and where there is already a love for the truth of the Reformed Faith that in such a situation organization must be delayed until the study of the creeds is complete. 

After a difficult struggle the G.L.T.S. was led by the grace of God to see the wisdom of submitting to the decision of our synod though not agreeing with it. The best course of action under the situation was decided upon. Thus it was decided to set aside as much as possible the work of the G.L.T.S. for the next few months so that we can concentrate as much time and energies as possible on completing our study of the creeds. This will mean that the leaders will be meeting three times per week to study the creeds under the instruction of your missionary. This will also mean that the leaders will be greatly burdened with a tremendous amount of work besides all the other work in which they are involved. We hope, however, that all of this will result in the speedy organization of the church while at the same time giving opportunity for the careful study of the creeds. We pray that the Lord will bless all of these efforts unto the end of the establishment of a strong Reformed Church in Singapore. 

We hope that this somewhat detailed explanation will help you to understand and appreciate our situation here in Singapore. We covet your prayers on our behalf. Pray also that the Lord might continue to prosper our work as Protestant Reformed Churches here in Singapore and that He might continue to bless our relationship with the G.L.T.S.