This is now the third visit I have made to Singapore in the last two years. Mrs Rayner accompanied me on a flight from Grafton to Sydney, and then on to Singapore, arriving on schedule at 6.35 pm on Friday, 24 August 2001. We were met by Mr and Mrs Bernard Yong and Mr Tham Wing Keong and given the usual very warm reception. Our accommodation was at the Rendezvous Hotel, where the deputies usually stay. This is a good hotel in a convenient location. Though we stayed in a hotel, our friends made sure that we were entertained for meals on many occasions. They took time off work so that we could be with them as much as possible. Their hospitality was second to none. At such times we were able to discuss the cause of Christ among us in Singapore and to enjoy Christian fellowship with them. At the time of writing, progress is being made in the application for registering the congregation under the name of the Free Presbyterian Church. Present indications are that there will be a favourable outcome.
The Sabbath morning services continue to be held in a hotel lecture room just across the road from our hotel. Attendances at the services were much the same as on the previous visit. There were 20 in attendance on the first Sabbath morning and 24 on the second Sabbath morning service. We did have one or two visitors at these services. The evening services continue to be held in the Bible House lecture room and usually have a few less in attendance. Tham Wing Keong drives the church bus to collect those who do not have their own vehicles. To own a car in Singapore is a very costly item, not only because of the purchase price, but also because of on-going taxes. To compensate for this there is a highly efficient rail and bus system.
On the Wednesday evening, we arrived at the Bible House for the prayer meeting to find our lecture room was still locked. Mr Yong had signed the book with the caretaker as usual. When he found the room locked, he went for the keys, which were brought up by another man. Soon afterwards, we were saddened to hear that the caretaker had died while the keys were being taken to unlock our room. He had taken an asthmatic attack. As Mr Yong had been the last person to speak to the caretaker, he had to be interviewed by the police. It was noted that the caretaker was often reading the Bible while on duty as he waited for people to sign on for the use of the lecture rooms. It was a solemn reminder of the truth of Psalm 103:15, “Frail man, his days are like the grass . . . . For over it the wind doth pass, and it away is gone.”
One cannot emphasise enough the importance of keeping up contact with our isolated congregations. Our Singapore congregation is small, distant from other parts of the Church, and in the midst of a society filled with a great diversity of religions. Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims have large followings; Roman Catholicism also is prominent. There are, however, many shades of evangelicals, some of whom profess to be Reformed to a degree.
When we do not have a minister to conduct worship regularly and the congregation is small, it is easy for the question to arise, What does the future hold? If one looks at circumstances rather than to the Lord and His Word, the pressure of discouragement can become a great trial. The temptation is to set a less demanding standard and to compromise our principles. Thankfully Bernard Yong, who conducts public worship, continues to be very loyal to the Church; so is Tham Wing Keong. It is very important that they are encouraged by prayer, contact and, when possible, by supply. In this way the congregation, with God’s blessing, can be stablished, strengthened and settled. Their appreciation of such help was very evident on this visit, and I felt a very strong bond of affection to the people. We enjoyed being with them and were privileged to have their fellowship. Our return flight to Sydney left Singapore on Monday, September 3.