20th Anniversary celebrations of MMS
Why we should be sent out to the harvest field
TWENTY YEARS OF GOD’S GRACE AND FAVOUR. That was how a video presentation by the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) described its journey and growth these past 20 years, expressing the workers’ appreciation to God at its 20th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service at Toa Payoh Methodist Church on Aug 20, 2011.
Another video was also screened, laying out the MMS’ Vision 2020 to plant 800 indigenous disciple-making, self-supporting churches by the year 2020 in the seven mission fields of the MMS.
With this vision in mind, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon’s message was apt as he pointed out Christians’ strong motivation for going into missions and drew lessons from Luke 10:1-20 about the manner in which missionaries should minister.
Firstly, he said, “we go in mission because Jesus Himself sends us”, necessitating our obedience to His command. The Bishop drew upon the word Jesus used for “send out” in the original Greek, which was a very strong word used for describing the casting out of spirits, and carried a greater sense of urgency and impetus to the action of sending out mission workers from the Church. The impetus is strengthened when God reveals to Christians His thirst for all souls to be saved.
Drawing lessons from Eugene Peterson’s The Word Made Flesh: The Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers, which looks at the journey from Galilee (ministry) to Jerusalem (martyrdom) through Samaria, the Bishop said: “Samaria represents the everyday world that we dwell in between our Sundays. The stories of Jesus challenge our worldviews, values, lifestyles and relationships. Samaria is our mission field; it represents our harvest field. Jesus’ purpose and passion are motives for mission.”
“How then should we go?” the Bishop asked. Drawing from the instructions Jesus gave to His disciples in Luke 10 as He sent them out, the Bishop exhorted mission workers to go without extra baggage, depending totally on God’s provision, with humility and integrity, and being focused on the mission.
He pointed out that the disciples were told to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick – underlining the parallelism of evangelism and social action that Methodists must not forget.
The Bishop also emphasised the importance of interceding earnestly for the work of missions, and expressing compassionately the desire for lost souls to be saved even as the wrath of God and the redemption of Jesus is preached.
Appropriately, the Thanksgiving Service began with the singing of the processional hymn, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, which petitions God for the growth of His Kingdom. Just then bannerette bearers for the MMS’ seven mission field countries trooped in, led
by the Rev Henry Yeo carrying the Cross and the Rev Teresa Wilborn holding the Bible, with the Singapore banner forming the rear of the procession. The banners were of Cambodia, China, Laos, Nepal, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam.
In his Prayer of Thanksgiving, Mr Chou Fang Soong, the MMS Chairman, prayed for, among other petitions, the will to make and multiply disciples, to mobilise the Methodist community in Singapore to plant 800 new indigenous churches, and to mobilise 20 per cent of local church mission personnel and giving to be channelled through the MMS
The Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung, President of the Chinese Annual Conference, prayed in Mandarin, for the mission fields. So did the Rev James Nagulan, President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference, in Tamil. The Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup, President of Trinity Annual Conference, prayed for the MMS Vision 2020 and Bishop Dr Solomon prayed for the MMS Executive Committee, staﬀ, missionaries, national pastors and workers.
After the MMS Executive Director Rev Lawrence Chua had conveyed his greetings and appreciation, the Bishop presented gifts to six missionaries who have served 12 years and more.
Ms Tan Li Diang, one of the six, gave a testimony of her work and thanked her home church, Bedok Methodist Church, for supporting her.
AT THE “MY FATHER’S BUSINESS” BANQUET at the Orchard Hotel’s Grand Ballroom on Aug 28, mission workers mingled with sponsors and guests at the biennial fund-raising event of the MMS. Many decked out in beautiful ethnic costumes in line with the multicultural tone of the night. The event rounded oﬀ the MMS’ week-long celebrations.
Following the arrival of the Guest-of-Honour, Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Foreign Aﬀairs, mission workers or representatives processed in with the rousing song “Let The Flame Burn Brighter”, holding bannerettes of the seven countries that the MMS has work in. A representative also carried in a bannerette for Singapore.
In between dinner, Ms Dina Keo, a Cambodian youth, gave her testimony, praising God for her experience at the MMS-run Community Outreach Services-Immanuel (COSI) Children’s Village outside the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
Banquet guests enjoyed praise items such as songs from Mrs Lynette Teo and her team from Charis Methodist Church, a glittering Thai dance by Rangsit Methodist Church and upbeat songs (one featuring the Swahili language) from the Acapella group of Wesley Methodist Church.
Challenges were issued by the screening of the MMS Vision 2020 video, and speeches made by MMS leaders Rev Lawrence Chua and Mr Chou Fang Soong.
The Rev Chua shared that “our God is on mission” and “we are privileged to be invited to join Him” in reaching out to the 1.55 billion precious souls in those seven nations, many of whom are walking in “great darkness”. He highlighted the MMS’ partnership with donors and national workers to initiate community projects and provide the nations with opportunities for a brighter future as well as the light of the Gospel.
Mr Chou thanked the anonymous donors who underwrote the cost of the banquet, releasing all donations to be channelled to work in the mission fields through means such as community development, church planting, maintenance of field offices, infrastructure and capital assets.
Bishop Dr Solomon drew attention to both the celebratory mood and the challenge of missions in his message, which drew on Paul’s idea of a “triumphal procession” in 2 Cor 2:14-16. Paul envisioned Jesus leading a spiritual procession through the nations in triumph. Such processions in Roman times were often accompanied by priests burning sweet-smelling incense – hence Paul’s reference to “spread[ing] the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere”.
The Bishop pointed out that our motive for going on missions should be as “captives” of Christ as mentioned in verse 14, “exhibits” of God’s triumph in our lives. “The MMS in a sense is a procession inspired by Jesus Christ, initiated by Jesus Christ for His glory.”
He went on to share that the word “aroma” in the original Greek comes with a connotation of sacrifice – much like how Christ “gave Himself up for us as a fragrant oﬀering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). This, then, is our method of spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere – through sacrificial giving, going, praying and even dying.
The knowledge of God then transforms us towards Christlikeness, or a manifestation of this fragrance in our lives.
He said: “More than our methods and strategies, our material and finances, we are dealing with hearts and lives, with character and Christlikeness, with a sharing of life. Note the central role of the Holy Spirit.”
Our competency in our tasks, then, comes from God. The Bishop highlighted that the first Methodist sermon preached in Singapore had the theme “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit”. He noted that the call to partner in missions work was not a call aimed at a few, but a call to all to join in this procession “that proceeds not by the power of human strength but by the Spirit of God”.
Peter Teo is the Editor and Grace Toh the Assistant Editor of Methodist Message.