What was it like to be growing up and being a Youth Fellowship Leader in a pioneer church in Singapore in the late 60s and early 70s’? This was posed to me by a group of young historians from my previous church, which is celebrating 45th Anniversary in August 2013.
Saturdays were Youth Fellowship days and in preparation we would plan interesting programs for our youth meetings. There were Bible studies, quizzes, forums, barbecues, potlucks in homes of church members, picnics, hikes at the reservoir parks or up the highest hill.
Our distinctive feature then was evangelism. Being a pioneer youth group, we could not remain as we were and had to evangelize to grow. Many of our youth came from heathen homes and had to choose to stand up for Christ either in daily witness where idolatrous practices were prevalent in homes and applied to all financially dependent children, or there were hard fought battles with parents and relatives who were steeped in idolatry when these young people decided to follow the Lord into the waters of baptism. The parents knew that with baptism came a cut off , a separation from the idolatrous upbringing and practices. They knew that Christians would not bow to ancestors nor follow the traditions for wakes and funerals where it was not reverence but obeisance to the deceased which would be the norm.
Our youth spent much time learning and digging into the Word with Navigators and other materials. They memorized Bible verses against evil onslaught in the mind and they were properly discipled to know what they believed and also to share the gospel with unbelievers. That was a marked difference from many of the youth today who are from the mega churches enjoying the entertainment of the worship and gospel programs of today. Easy believism did not belong to them for they were persecuted not only at home but also in school and at work. They had to know what they believed and drilled themselves in the Word of God. They had to be ready to answer for their faith in season and out of season. So was the thorough and conservative traits they bore.
Once a month on Saturdays beginning after lunch, the group would meet over the map of the whole area which we had chosen to evangelise. The map reflected every block of apartments in the neighbourhood and we would choose several blocks each session to evangelise and those blocks evangelized would be colored differently from the rest of potential blocks. Each team of two – one evangelist and one prayer partner would be given a bundle of carefully chosen evangelistic tracts with criteria for different recipients. The norm would be just to distribute the tracts to each household within the chosen blocks of ten storeys each. However, when there was opportunity to be in conversation and to share the four spiritual laws or the bridge illustration for salvation, the evangelist would be responsible for sharing while the praying partner prayed for the Lord’s wisdom on the evangelist and for open hearts to receive the gospel with conviction of the Holy Spirit. It was normal evangelism effort, but it was consistent and relentless in those days (a privilege which is very much scaled back by laws for inter-racial and inter-religious harmony today).
We also participated in choir, counseling and other para church activities like YFC national rallies at the Town Hall in the heart of town, other city wide crusades and healing campaigns with other churches.
Fired up by the fervor of trade unionism were the workers of Singapore during those precarious times of nationhood. Our youth however were charged with the fervor of evangelism and at least once in two months, as a church we had public evangelistic rallies at the town centres when loud hailers blared the gospel message unimpeded to all and sundry who gathered on Saturday nights publicly to hear the latest happenings in town.
What would I rather forget?
– When our newly minted trusted Youth Pastor stole almost 90% of our Youth group one Saturday in a brazen betrayal action and started a new church on the other side of town. It took us God’s grace and forgiveness over several years to get over this, heal and recover.
– When as Youth Coordinator, I was asked to identify a young lady who lay dead with a knife in her back at the nearby hospital emergency room. Her only identification was an outdated church bulletin (6 months ago – her last attendance at our church) in her purse, (the only thing left in her purse), after a robbery in a public lift on her way home from work.
While not all those young people remain in the pioneer church today, several are ministers of the gospel or leaders in churches they founded or are attending. Praise the Lord He has called several of our pioneers to be in His work globally. It was a pioneer generation – unique indeed to His glory.