by Pastor John Khng
Without our own awareness God's work of church planting began way back in 1979 when Bro. John Khng started a Sunday School ministry in his 4-room HDB apartment at Marsiling Drive in Woodlands. There was no established church at that time in Marsiling, which was nicknamed a ‘ghost town’ as few people wanted to stay there because of its location at the far north of Singapore, next to the Causeway that links Singapore to Malaysia.
From this humble beginning to reach out the neighbourhood, the band of believers grew and established the Faith Independent Baptist Church in 1983. Bro. John Khng and his family went for theological training at Bob Jones University, Greenville, South Carolina, USA from 1984 to 1987 in preparation for the church ministry. Upon his return, he was elected to assume the pastorate at Faith Independent Baptist Church.
Pastor Khng went back to Bob Jones University with his family in July of 1990, to finish his Master in Pastoral Studies which was disrupted because of the need to come back half-way through his studies in 1987. With his studies completed in 1992, the family returned to plant another new church in Singapore.
The first meeting was held in tuition centre of about 600 sq. feet above the Pizza Hut near the Bukit Batok MRT station on March 7, 1993. There was only elbow room as 55 adults and children packed the small “hall” (the memorable beginning and through the months, the Lord continue to bless us with a steady, solid group of core members to found the Mount Calvary Baptist Church. In answer to prayer, our registration as a church was approved by the Registry of Societies on July 21st, 1994.
On hindsight, we can praise the Lord for His providential guidance. In the evening of Jan 31st 1993, Pastor Khng was going through the name cards of some of his old contacts. He threw away those that he thought he would never have any more dealings with in the future including one that belonged to a guy named ‘Victor Ooi’. The next day, which was Monday, Betty had an interview with the owner of a tuition centre next to the Bukit Batok MRT station. We have been praying about her giving private tuition to get to know the young people of our neighbourhood. We went to the address given, and found to our surprise that the general manager of the tuition training school was the same Victor Ooi! Of course, Pastor Khng and he recognised each other for they were once college mates training to be teachers at the Institute of Education in the 70’s. Pastor Khng could recall his name at once because of the name card that had gone into the trash can, only the night before! They had a good talk together, and Betty’s interview was completely forgotten. In the process, Pastor Khng asked him if he might allow us to rent his tuition centre on Sunday mornings for church meetings. To our surprise, he said that he would consider our proposal. Ooi is not a Christian. He told us that he is a Taoist, but a ‘flexible’ one. Pastor Khng had the opportunity to witness to him as they reminisced about the ‘good old days’. Mr Ooi then introduced Pastor Khng to his ‘right-hand man’, his promotional manager, Mr Koh, who turned out to be a fervent Christian and who was a church treasurer and Boys’ Brigade leader in his church. The next day, Mr Koh called Pastor Khng to discuss on the rental of their premises.
Please understand that these men, although very friendly and accommodating, are basically businessmen and profit-oriented when it comes to talking ‘dollars’ and ‘sense’ (cents). They were aware that their tuition training school was situated at a strategic, convenient location, and hence could fetch very competitive prices. After some discussion (and much prayers in our hearts) Ooi agreed to reduce the monthly rent to S$1,200/- for only morning usage. Truly, we did not know how we were going to get that money, or how many people will come to help us plant this new church, but we trust that the Lord would work mightily on our behalf and supply our need.
We praised the Lord for a wonderful congregation during that inaugural service on March 7. There were some major problems with our electronic panio. (The limited space in the premises would only allow us to use a small keyboard for music.) Although the congregation and the choir had to sing in ‘acappella’ fashion half of the time due to the malfunctioning musical instrument, everything went on schedule. Pastor Khng taught in the Leadership Training class, the Adult Sunday School (‘Victory class’) and preached in the morning worship service. Swee Fong taught the Chinese S.S. class, Grace Ong and Mary Tong taught the junior classes for the children, aged 2 to 7, and aged 8 to 12 respectively. Betty Khng taught in the Children’s church.
God knows our needs even before we ask Him. Ooi tuition centre could only accommodate about 40 people at most if we did not want to step on each other toes, literally. Although we did not voice it aloud, everyone felt that it would be wonderful to have a bigger premise. The Lord Who understands every special need and meets it in ways we cannot understand had already such a place in His agenda! We praise the Lord that within the next month a bigger premise, another new tuition centre about the two blocks from this present one, was available. To top it all, the owner Dennis Ng is a Christian or at least he professes to be. The whole place is fully air-conditioned and we can use it the whole day on Sunday. The rent is even cheaper – S$700/- per month which is saving of S$500/-. Dennis told us that he was charging us so ‘cheaply’ as his ‘contribution and giving to God’ since his busy tuition schedule did not permit him time to ‘go to church on Sunday’.
Our ‘maintenance’ crew, Brothers Moon Cheong, Mark and Anthony got busy again to ‘move house’ no soon than when they thought they had just done a great job fixing up the sound system at Ooi’s tuition centre. However, everyone was so excited exploring the possibilities of the new place which was more than twice the size of the previous one, that no one really complained. It was quite a task trying to get the new place, about 1,400 sq, feet, with 5 classrooms and a nice size reception area, ready for our use by April 4th, followed by our Good Friday service there on April 9th. There were 21 first time visitors to our new church in the month of April alone. Praise the Lord! The worship services at Bukit Batok was a great blessing to all of our members as the meetings were spiritually uplifting, the place was cosy and the fellowship was warm among God’s people.
After the exhilarating ‘mountain-top’ experience, the Lord had to bring us down to the ‘Valley’ of hard, practical facts of life. After our registration with Registrar of Societies, we received a letter from the Commissioner of Charities that we would require ‘a church address’, one which is ‘approved for religious use’ before they would grant us ‘charitable organisation status’. There was no way we could use the address of the tuition school as ‘an approved church address’. Although we could ‘borrow’ a church address to get by this formality, as a matter of conscience, we felt that it would not be right, unless we meet in that church for some services. After much discussion with the whole church, we decided to travel the right road as far as we can go. We called and managed to rent a place from Life Bible-Presbyterian Church so that we could use their address as our place of worship. This means that we would have to move our worship to Sunday afternoon. In order to make the transition easier, we maintain the morning service at Bukit Batok and started an evening service at the Life B-P church from January 95 onwards. Having two services proved to be a strain on our limited manpower resources and affected our fellowship to some extent. We had to review our situation and take the best option available i.e. to just have one service in the early afternoon. In our hearts, we know that many of us prefer to have the usual morning service. This has driven us to diligently search for our own church premise. We nearly sign up for a piece of property but due to the owner’s unwillingness to wait for the result of a ‘change of use’ application, the whole deal was aborted. The Lord comforted us with the words in Ps 37:4, ‘Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.’
In the matter of purchasing a place of worship in Singapore context, a church can either bid for a piece of land released by the government on a 30 years lease to build a new church building or she can buy an existing property and apply for a change of use for that place to become a place of worship. It is almost quite impossible to choose your own church location due to strict zoning of designated places of worship. With the high property prices and few available places, it is quite a challenge to find a place of worship within our budget and convenient for all our church members to attend. Our trust is in God who is able to do the impossible. Let’s commit our need (way) to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass’ (Ps. 37:5). One day we will look back and proclaim with the Psalmist, ‘The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.’ We are looking forward to our own building and while waiting upon God for His open doors, may we continue to build a vibrant, strong, separated, soul winning church for the glory and honour of His Name.
(Christ Our Foundation, Church Anniversary Magazine 1)
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