THE Trinity Theological College (TTC) community is familiar with a slim figure striding up and down the staircase rushing to lecture theatres and spending long hours in the library — they call him “Uncle Lim”.
He is Mr Lim Chee Ning, a retired school teacher, a prize-winning photographer who became a missionary four years ago and is currently a full-time student at the college. Mr Lim, 64, is a member of Foochow Methodist Church.
Though he had 10 years of part-time training and had gone on many mission trips, he found himself “inadequate” in the mission field. He therefore decided to take up formal training at the TTC with the support and blessings of his church.
About 10 years before his retirement, he had a vision of becoming a missionary and in order to equip himself, he took up part-time courses in theology and missiology at TTC, the Singapore Bible College and Bethany School of Missions.
When he retired, he called several mission agencies and told them: “I am ready to go.” He was finally sent by his church, under the auspices of the Society of International Ministries (SIM), to South Africa as a missionary. Initially he was stationed in Johannesburg, laboured together with another SIM missionary, and there they planted the first Chinese church.
He said: “For the first three months in Johannesburg, I lived alone in a small cottage with furnishings that could be described in one word — spartan. I had a desk, a chair and a bed. Cooking utensils — a total of three — were all borrowed items. Looking back, I am amazed at how I managed to live through the first few months without a computer, radio, TV, telephone, washing machine and car — items I have taken for granted in Singapore.”
Later he was sent out to explore other parts of South Africa with a view to planting more churches among the Chinese immigrants who had arrived there recently. He travelled for thousands of kilometres and visited many towns and cities in South Africa. Thereafter he was sent to Durban and after staying there for some time, he planted the first Chinese church in that city.
He was thankful for the support given to him by the local English-speaking Durban North Methodist Church to use their premises and equipment free of charge. Shortly after, he discovered more Chinese in another town, Mandeni, about 120 km away. He began to widen his contact and soon another Chinese gathering began in a local African-speaking church who gave him similar support and encouragement as he had received in Durban.
Thus, he had to serve two mission points (120 km apart) simultaneously. During the week he conducted Bible Study sessions at various places besides visiting and serving an African orphanage in the village.
“Now that I have returned to Singapore, I am happy to learn that these new churches have found their own Chinese pastors who arrived from the US and that the local churches are still giving them the same kind of support that I had received,” he told Methodist Message.
“Age is an asset because people respect and confide in you. My time and my life in my own hands would be useless, but placed in the hands of God, I can be useful. In Matthew 25 Jesus told the story of the servants and the talents. I may only have one talent, but I will use it to the utmost of my ability,” he said.
Mr Lim enrolled at TTC in July 2000 as a full-time student studying with people half his age. “I have a lot of difficulties in my studies,” he said. “However, I am prepared to work hard and I became known as someone who is always among the earliest to hand in assignments.”
“I am afraid of tests and examinations as my memory is fading,” he added. He recalled the frustrations he encountered in learning Greek (a compulsory subject) during his first year. Studying hard alone proved useless; he resorted to “wrestling” with God in prayer. At the end of the first academic year, he was greatly surprised to win the Bible Society’s Award for being “The Most Improved Student” of Trinity Theological College. He said: “I’m not intelligent, and so I have to be diligent”.
When he was a youth, his pastor, the late Rev Kao Jih Eng, urged him to take up Christian ministry as a career. He rejected the suggestion. He said his pastor later gave up on him, but “God never gave up on me and has been constantly nudging me to go into ministry”.
“My friends remind me that I ought to pursue enjoyment while I still possess the requisites — time, health, money,” he said, “but I replied that these three precious elements are for God. Retirement brings with it three ‘Rs’ — Rest or Rust or Reach out. I decide to choose the final R — Reach out!
“I thank God for good health and sufficient grace!”
Chen Yi Reng is a part-time correspondent for Methodist Message.