A running theme in the work of the Lord is that He often brings forth mighty movements from small, humble beginnings – a shepherd boy who would one day defeat a giant, win battles, and be king; a baby born in a manger to commoner parents who would go on to be the Saviour of the world, worthy of all our praise.
The Bible Society® of Singapore (BSS) started also with a small beginning – a devoted Welsh farm girl’s love and desire for God in 1800.
Fifteen-year-old Mary Jones would have never expected that her decision to trek barefoot – for almost 42 kilometres across unforgiving terrain – to a neighbouring town, to buy a Bible after saving up for six years, would so inspire the Rev Thomas Charles that he would go on to create the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) in 1804.
The mission of BFBS was to make the Bible readily available, not just in Wales but throughout the whole world.
And it was from BFBS that the BSS eventually came into being. 180 years later, the Society still continues to instil hope and comfort through sharing the Word of God across our nation and beyond.
The BSS celebrated its 180th anniversary on 4 July 2017 with a concert held at Trinity Christian Centre. The event was graced by the President of Singapore, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam.
In his congratulatory message, Dr Tan wrote, “We live in an inter-connected world today. While this presents challenges, there are also new opportunities. It is encouraging to see the Bible Society developing new initiatives to bring the Bible to a wider audience. It is also heartening that the Society actively supports overseas communities with challenging living conditions such as illiteracy, war, and natural disasters.”
The two-hour concert saw six different groups coming together, with various performances that showcased the multiracial, multicultural, and multi-denominational aspects of Singapore’s social and church landscape.
The items included two full-scale Chinese orchestra pieces performed by the Anglican High School, and an Indian dance segment by My Saviour’s Church Dance Ministry. There were also vocal performances by Ms Jocelyn Ong (of Grace Methodist Church), Christian singer-songwriter Alarice, young choristers aged seven to 19 from Christus Cantores, and 13-year-old Ethel Goh, a classical cross-over singer, who wowed the audience with her rendition of ‘Pie Jesu’.
The event was then rounded off with a rousing medley of hymns by the 40-member Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church Adult Choir.
Interspersed throughout the concert were re-enactments of experiences faced by the ‘colporteurs’, who were Bible peddlers of religious books and tracts. The ‘colporteurs’, who were active well into the 1960s, often had to travel across dangerous and harsh terrain and territories, in order to spread the Word amongst indigenous communities. Without the hard work of the ‘colporteurs’ and the risks they undertook, the spread of the Bible in the South-East Asian region would have faced tremendous difficulties indeed.
Dr Lee Soo Ann, President of the BSS, said: “Truly [God] has acted in making His Word available to the nations in the languages they can understand, formats they can appreciate, and prices they can afford. God has used Singapore to advance His Kingdom, and we need to treat our continuing responsibility with diligence and perseverance.”
Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung of The Methodist Church in Singapore was present during the concert. In his congratulatory message, Bishop Dr Chong wrote, “Looking back on these 180 years evokes the deepest thanksgiving for God’s grace, and appreciation for the unstinting support of the churches towards [BSS’] work.”
“Tonight’s concert is the Bible Society’s way to sincerely demonstrate its gratitude towards the churches, and also to express its determination to continue with the original mission faithfully.”
The Inaugural Sower Awards
One of the highlights of the event was the presentation of the Inaugural Sower Awards 2017. The Awards honour individuals used by God as His channels of blessing in the Bible mission over the years.
The Lifetime Achievement Award – The late Rev Peter Hsieh, the Bible Society’s first local and longest-serving General Secretary.
The Bible Missionary of the Year Award – Mr Ramez Atallah, General Secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt.
The Benefactor of the Year Award – Mrs Dorothy Chan, the first major supporter of ETHOS InstituteTM for Public Christianity.
The Volunteer of the Year Award – the women volunteer group from Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church who have been partners in the Bible Mission for almost 30 years.
Jason Woo –
is Methodist Message’s Editorial Executive. When not working on the latest articles, he enjoys long jogs and cuddling up with his three cats along with a good book.