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Scripture Memory: God’s Security.

VERSE : 2 Timothy 1:12 “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

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O Worship the LORD in the Beauty of Holiness 

27 September 2015

8am & 11am: Worship Service

Rev Philip Heng (Facing Death Confidently, 2 Cor 5:1-11)

6:00 pm Evening Service

Rev Quek Keng Khwang (Poverty of Loving Pleasure, Prov 21:17)

4 October 2015

8am & 11am: Worship Service

Rev Colin Wong (A New Creation, 2 Cor 5:11-21)

6:00 pm Evening Service

Rev Quek Keng Khwang (A Good Name, Prov 22:1)

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THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN MISSIONS (Part 14)

(Extracted from Jerusalem to Irian Jaya – A Biographical History of Christian Missions, by Ruth A. Tucker)

John G. Paton

John Paton was born in 1824 in Dunfries, Scotland and grew up in a little three-room thatched-roof cottage where his father earned a living by knitting stockings. The family was poor, and before John reached the age of twelve he was forced to quit school and spend his days working alongside his father to help support the family. The Patons were staunch Presbyterians who centred their lives in their church activities, but it was not until he was 17 that John was converted – a life-changing experience that set his sights on full-time Christian service.

Paton’s first real taste of Christian service came during his early twenties when he became a missionary for the Glasgow City Mission, a position that paid 200 dollars a year. Here he worked in the ghettos of Glasgow, where the impoverished industrial masses were spilling into the streets and where “sin and vice walked about openly and unashamed.” It was a difficult assignment, but one that prepared him well for the trials he would one day face in the New Hebrides. There was violent opposition to his evangelistic street work, but Paton’s philosophy did not allow for retreat: “Let them see that bullying makes you afraid, and they will brutally and cruelly misuse you, but defy them fearlessly, or take them by the nose, and they will crouch like whelps beneath your feet.”

After ten years of city mission work, Paton heard of the great need for missionaries in the South Pacific through his own church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland. At first he was inclined to think he should stay at his post, knowing how much he was needed there; but he could not get the Pacific islanders out of his mind. Yet, he was needed at the city mission, and how would he ever break the news to the mission directors that he was leaving? On the other hand, how could he stay home in Scotland when thousands of islanders were going into eternity without ever hearing the name of Christ?

It was a difficult decision, but once it was made, not even offers of a higher salary and a manse to live in could tempt him to stay with the city mission work. Nor could the voices of fear dissuade him. “You’ll be eaten by cannibals,” they warned. But Paton needed no reminder of the cannibals. The fate of the great John Williams was never far from his thoughts.

In the spring of 1858, after a three-month speaking tour in Presbyterian congregations, he was ready to go. Before leaving he attended to two final matters, his ordination and his marriage to Mary Ann Robson, and on April 16 set sail for the South Seas.

On arriving in the New Hebrides, the Patons were immediately assigned to the island of Tanna, where they were almost overcome by a severe case of culture shock: “My first impressions drove me to the verge of utter dismay. On beholding these natives in their paint and nakedness and misery, my heart was full of horror as of pity....The women wore only a tiny apron of grass...the men an indescribable affair, like a pouch of bag, and the children absolutely nothing whatsoever!”

As Paton became settled on Tanna it did not take him long to discover the harsh realities of the native lifestyle, and the problem of nakedness quickly paled by comparison. The natives were deeply involved in deadly and often subtle games of warfare among themselves. Killings occurred almost daily and were accepted as a routine part of life, with occasional violent eruptions that threatened the whole population. It was a tension-filled time with hardly a moment for relaxation.

Complicating their situation were the ever-threatening bouts with tropical fever. Mary was plagued by illness more than her husband, and childbirth only made her condition worse. On March 3, 1859, she died of fever, and less than three weeks later their infant boy died also. It was a time of despair for Paton. Only one short year had passed since they had solemnly repeated their wedding vows, and now it was over. It was almost too much to bear. “If not for Jesus...I would have gone mad and died beside the lonely grave.”

The first years of Paton’s missionary service saw very little progress in establishing Christianity among the people of Tanna, and what was accomplished was largely a result of the efforts of the native teachers who had come from Aneityum where John Geddie was serving. They not only effectively preached the gospel, but also lived the Christian life before their fellow islanders in a way that no European could do. This was particularly true in the area of family relationships, especially as it related to women.

Women in the Tanna social structure were virtual slaves, often beaten by their husbands and sometimes even killed. The example set by the native teachers and the protection they offered to the Tanna women were not surprisingly a threat to the men. Violent attacks were made on Paton and the native teachers, and Namuri, one of Paton’s most faithful assistants, was killed. Disease also took its toll on native teachers. When measles were brought to Tanna by European sailors, thirteen of the Aneityum teachers died, and the rest, except for one faithful couple, all left. So severe was the outbreak, according to Paton, that one third of the population of Tanna was wiped out.

By the summer of 1861, three years after Paton had arrived, the natives of Tanna were on the verge of civil war, and Paton himself was in the centre of much of the conflict. At one point Paton and his one remaining Aneityum teacher locked themselves in a room for four days as natives waited outside to kill them. It was the coastal natives who despised Paton the most, and they were threatening all-out war against the inland tribes unless Paton left. Finally in mid-January of 1862 the daily outbreaks of violence turned into a full-scale civil war. Using his gun for protection, Paton made his escape from Tanna to a trading vessel, leaving all of his belongings behind.

On leaving Tanna, Paton went to Aneityum and then to Australia, where he immediately began a tour of Presbyterian churches, telling the people of the horrors he had endured in the New Hebrides. He was an effective speaker, and by the time his tour ended the offerings netted him more than 25,000 dollars to be used for the purchase of a mission ship, the Dayspring. In the spring of 1863 Paton sailed for the British Isles where he continued his tour of Presbyterian churches, raising thousands more dollars for missions in the South Seas. While on tour, Paton remarried, and in late 1864 he and his bride, Margaret, sailed for Australia, where he boarded the Dayspring and went on to the New Hebrides.

Paton’s second term in the New Hebrides was spent on the small island of Aniwa since Tanna was still considered unsafe for Europeans. Once again Paton was accompanied by teachers from Aneityum, and he and his wife soon settled down to their new mission post. Although Aniwa was considered more peaceful than Tanna, the Patons and their native teachers still faced hostile threats, but now Paton had a psychological (if not physical ) weapon to use against them. He warned them “not to murder or steal, for the man-of-war that punished Tanna would blow up their little island.”

As the Patons continued their ministry on Aniwa in the decades that followed, they witnessed impressive results as Christianity found its way into the hearts of the people. With the help of native Christians they built two orphanages, established a thriving church, and set up schools – one a girls’ school taught by Margaret. Paton, supported by converted chiefs, became a powerful political influence, and strait-laced puritanical laws became the standard by which all residents were to live.

Although Paton’s attitude toward the Pacific islanders often seemed harsh, he was wholly dedicated to the task of winning them to Christ, and he had a genuine love for them. Describing the first communion service he conducted on Aniwa, he wrote: “At the moment I put the bread and wine into those dark hands, once stained with the blood of cannibalism, now stretched out to receive and partake the emblems and seals of the Redeemer’s love, I had a foretaste of the joy of Glory that well nigh broke my heart to pieces. I shall never taste a deeper bliss, till I gaze on the glorified face of Jesus Himself.”

Paton laboured diligently to the very end, translating the Bible into the Aniwan language and speaking out for missions. At the age of 73 while on a preaching tour, he wrote of his busy schedule: “I had three services yesterday, with driving 20 miles between; as I go along I am correcting proof sheets.” The Patons returned to the islands for a brief visit in 1904.

James Chalmers

While Paton and others were evangelizing the small islands of the South Pacific, other missionaries were looking even further west, eyeing the unpenetrated mountainous rain forests of New Guinea. One of the greatest 19th-century missionaries to New Guinea was James Chalmers, another Scottish-born Presbyterian missionary, who, like so many other missionary pioneers in the South Seas, was martyred in his quest to bring Christianity to that region.

From the very beginning, Chalmers’ attitude toward the people of New Guinea was entirely different. He too, was involved in a punitive expedition, one led by Commodore Wilson after eight native teachers were murdered; but his role was that of a peacemaker, reluctantly agreeing to go, hoping that his presence could help prevent bloodshed. Though not successful in his mission, his presence did prevent wholesale slaughter of the natives, which may have otherwise occurred.

Back at his post, Chalmers conducted effective evangelistic work. He had a way with people that few other missionaries could match. Chalmers, known affectionately by the natives as “Tamate,” was “the least conventional of missionaries, able to make friends with men of every type and to command their respect.” He brought gifts to the people and freely joined in their feasts, declining only when human flesh was being served. In an age when most missionaries were still wearing long black coats and top hats, he dressed casually and felt at ease with the native people. Although he was deficient in language skills, he made up for his weakness by a nonverbal communication of love.

Nevertheless, the Chalmers’s work was not easy – especially for his wife Jane. In 1879, only two years after coming to New Guinea, she sailed for Australia for medical treatment, where she died that year. The grief only seemed to motivate Chalmers to greater dedication. He vowed to bury his “sorrow in work for Christ,” recognizing similar sacrifices native teachers had made.

But Chalmers’s sacrifice paid off. Within five years after he came he could find “no cannibal ovens, no feasts, no human flesh, no desire for skulls” in the region in which he worked. Instead, the heathen temples were packed out for gospel services – sometimes continuing all through the night. The natives that Chalmers worked with genuinely loved him and were not hesitant to express their feelings openly.

After a furlough in England which had come after nearly twenty years in the South Seas he returned to an enthusiastic welcome. On his return he was accompanied by his second wife, but the marriage was short-lived. Once again he endured the sorrow of losing a wife to jungle fever. And once again his zeal for reaching the lost was only magnified by his sorrow. Bringing the gospel to unreached areas was ever his passion, and it was that passion that ended his life in the spring of 1901.

He and a young colleague, Oliver Tomkins, were on an exploratory trip along the coast on New Guinea in the Fly River region, an area known for ferocious cannibals. The men went ashore, and when they did not return, a search party went in and came out shortly with the grisly news. Chalmers and Tomkins had been clubbed to death, chopped into pieces, cooked and eaten before the search party even arrived. It was a shocking incident that stunned the Christian world, but one that Chalmers himself had always been prepared to endure. (To be continued)

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Life Church 65th Anniversary & Chinese Service 50th Anniversary Thanksgiving Dinner
Ban Heng Pavilion Restaurant, #04-01 HarbourFront Centre
Saturday, 17 Oct 2015, 6.30 pm

Tickets for the dinner can be purchased at the church entrance today and from the church office during the week. Charges: $30 for adults (age 13 & above); $10 for child buffet (age 5 to 12). As tickets have specific table numbers, groups purchases must be highlighted to ensure they have the same table numbers.

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1) The annual Youth Fellowship Camp will be held on 14-18 Dec 15. All youth who are 17-24 years of age are encouraged to join! More details will be announced when registration opens in Nov.

2) Scripture Memory Verse Review No. 3. A written review exercise of the verses is obtainable at the front counter. Review Nos. 1 & 2 are also available for those who missed it. Please submit by 4 Oct 15.

3) The families of Rev Daniel Khoo and Chee Wai Pong would like to thank the pastoral team, Session members and church for their condolences, presence; spiritual, physical and moral support; love, care and concern shown during the homegoing of Rev Daniel Khoo’s father on 17 Sep and Chee Wai Pong’s mother on 19 Sep.

4) Our condolences to Pastor Peter Chng and family on the homegoing of his mother-in-law, Mdm Wang Tiew Eng (95 years old) on 24 Sep 15.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25