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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 

20 September 2015

8am & 11am: Worship Service

Rev Quek Keng Khwang (Secrets to Endurance, 2 Cor 4:1-18)

6:00 pm Evening Service

Eld Ng Beng Kiong (Clean Hands and Pure Heart? Prov 20:9 & Ps 24:4)

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)

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

John Williams

One of the most innovative and far-sighted missionaries to the Pacific Islands was John Williams, sometimes referred to as the “Apostle of the South Seas” or the “Apostle of Polynesia” because of his widespread influence in missions in that part of the world. He was born in England in 1796. Williams grew up in a working class district of Tottenham, England, and at the age of 14 was apprenticed to an ironmonger with the agreement that he would live in his master’s home for seven years while he learned the trade. During this time Williams fell in with a rowdy gang of youths and turned away from the spiritual training of his childhood, but not without rousing the concern of his master’s wife.

One January night in 1814 while he was waiting on a street corner for his companions, she deliberately went out of her way and exhorted him to come with her to church instead of partying with his friends. He reluctantly agreed, and that night in the Old Whitefield Tabernacle his life was irrevocably changed. From that time on his leisure hours were spent for the Lord — teaching Sunday School, distributing tracts, and visiting the sick.

The pastor of the Tabernacle Church, Matthew Wilkes, took a keen interest in Williams and invited him to join a special class for young men interested in entering the ministry. Soon Wilkes’ passion for foreign missions began to rub off on his young disciple, and through his encouragement Williams applied to the London Missionary Society (LMS). Although he was only 20 years old and had no formal Bible or missionary training, he was accepted as a candidate. There was an urgent need for reinforcements in the South Pacific, and thus the society was not inclined to turn down eager recruits. During the weeks before his departure Williams continued his informal study with his pastor, and also found time to squeeze in a hastily planned marriage to Mary Chawner.

On arriving in the South Pacific, Williams, his wife, and several other missionaries took residence on Moorea, a small island near Tahiti, but their stay there lasted less than a year. In 1818 they moved further west to another small island where they spent three months before finally settling on the island of Raiatea, William’s base for the next 13 years.

Although Raiatea was a small island with a population of less than 2,000, it held great significance for the Polynesians because it was the home of the Polynesian god, Oro, whose shrine was a centre of human sacrifice. Williams and his family were warmly welcomed by the natives, but behind the cordial façade was a cultural heritage that placed little value on human life.

Besides human sacrifice and the all-too-common practice of infanticide (usually burying the little one alive), the natives seemed almost oblivious to any type of moral code. According to Williams, “Men and women, boys and girls, completely naked, bathe together in one place, without shame and with much lasciviousness…promiscuous intercourse is as common, also, as it is abhorrent. When a husband is ill, the wife seeks his brother and when the wife is ill, the husband does the same…When we tell them of the necessity of working they laugh at us…”

How could Christianity ever reach the hearts of people within such a culture? He had come not just to bring Christianity but to bring civilization, Western civilization, which he viewed as a prerequisite to church planting. To demonstrate the superiority of Western civilization, Williams erected a large seven-room house with a verandah overlooking the water and landscaped gardens on all sides. His skill and industry apparently impressed the natives, for soon, on his urging, they were following his example.

Fortunately, William’s emphasis on civilization did not diminish his zeal for evangelism. Despite all his secular activities, he conducted five services on Sunday and others during the week, and personal evangelism was a regular part of his daily routine. The bulk of missionary work, however, he assigned to native converts, who he believed could reach their own far more effectively than he could.

From his first months in the South Seas, Williams had felt confined by the small populations of the individual islands and the inability to travel freely from island to island. Commercial vessels visited the islands on occasion, but their irregularity made any hope of planned travel impossible. The obvious solution to the problem, at least from William’s perspective, was for the mission to have a ship of its own.

Other missionaries had tried to construct vessels, only to discover the task was more complex than they had anticipated. One such abandoned project was just the enticement that Williams (an iron-monger by trade) needed to fulfill his dream of moving freely from island to island. He recruited the help of other missionaries, and soon the ship was ready for launching, a day that called for celebration among the missionaries.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, the joyous celebration of the missionaries was not shared by the mission directors back home. The first vessel that Williams had helped salvage was disposed of, but in 1821 on a visit to Sydney, Williams solicited funds from businessmen and contributed money of his own to purchase the Endeavor in order to expand the evangelistic work of the mission as well as transport native goods to market.

Needless to say, the directors were furious when they received the news, even though Williams had already turned a profit of some 1,800 pounds through his commercial ventures. His commercial ventures had dwindled after heavy custom duties were imposed by New South Wales, and so, in response to the directors’ indignation, he promised to “avoid any and every future entanglement of every kind.” But that was not to imply that he was backing down on his basic premise that a ship was indispensable to the evangelization of the islands. He was determined that he would have his way or he would leave the islands.

Partly due to financial problems, Williams reluctantly agreed to give up the Endeavor, but not without the suggestion that the directors themselves may have been the devil’s tools in staying the progress of evangelism in the islands.

Without ready access to a vessel, William’s travel to other islands was curtailed, and he spent the next years building up the believers on the island of Raiatea and translating the Scripture. Still he was frustrated by his confinement and lack of additional reinforcements coming out from England. Evangelism of the South Seas was progressing too slowly. The LMS strategy simply was not getting the job done. His plan was to commission and transport native missionaries to the various islands and then periodically visit them and guide them in their ministry.

William’s plan would obviously require a ship and would once again put him in an adversary relationship with the mission directors; but despite the consequences he began constructing a ship, and after only a matter of months, the 50-ton Messenger of Peace, a curious-looking craft, was ready for sailing and Williams was ready to begin his Polynesian itinerant ministry.

Despite continued hard feelings toward the directors and frequent setbacks in the ministry, William’s basic plan moved forward with great success. Under his supervision, evangelism was carried out almost entirely by native teachers, most of whom had very limited training and very little Christian maturity to face the obstacles before them.

By 1834, after nearly 18 years in the South Pacific, William’s work and the work of others had expanded to the point that he was able to announce that “no group of islanders, nor single island of importance, within 2,000 miles of Tahiti had been left unvisited.” It was a tremendous accomplishment but it was only a beginning. More funding and reinforcements were needed from home, and Williams knew that the only way to obtain the help he needed was to return home and make an appeal in person.

Arriving with his family in England in the summer of 1934, the 38-year old Williams found that his reputation had preceded him. The Archbishop of Canterbury had proclaimed that his ministry was adding a new chapter to the Book of Acts, and others, too, had been lavish in their praise. In person, he was an overnight sensation. People flocked to hear the exotic tales of the Pacific islanders and the danger-filled life of a missionary.

While William’s meetings aroused lively interest and were generally very well attended, it was his book, A Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Seas, that stimulated the solid financial support his work needed. Copies were sent to wealthy and influential individuals, several of whom responded with substantial gifts – gifts that would be used to purchase another mission ship for the South Seas. After nearly four months of furlough, Williams was ready to sail with his family and new recruits (including his son and new daughter-in-law) back to his home in the Pacific.

For years, he had dreamed of expanding westward as far as the New Hebrides, and now, with the acquisition of the Camden, there was nothing, besides the reported savagery of the natives, standing in his way. He had risked his life before as a missionary pioneer, and he was ready and willing to do so again, despite his wife’s objections.

In early November of 1839, after saying good-bye to his wife and family, Williams, along with several native missionary volunteers, boarded the Camden and set sail for the island of Erromango in the New Hebrides. Little was known of the people of these islands except that they had viciously attacked European traders who had mercilessly exploited their precious sandalwood trees.

After a two-week voyage, the Camden reached Erromango. Natives soon appeared on the shoreline and waded into the bay to receive gifts from their visitors who had come near shore in a small boat. After the initial encounter, Williams and two other European missionaries went ashore and began walking with the natives to their village. Suddenly, without any provocation, the attack came. Williams had time to turn and make a dash for the beach, but he was clubbed to death in the water as he tried to outswim his assailants. One of the missionaries made it safely to the boat, and he and Captain Morgan rowed back to the Camden. Unable to go ashore to recover the bodies, Morgan sailed for Sydney to secure help. Two months later they returned and, after negotiating with the natives, were given the bones of Williams and his comrade, the flesh of which had been eaten by the natives.

The tragic death of Williams was in many ways a baffling enigma to his colleagues and friends. Knowing the treachery of the natives, especially in the wake of the sandalwood traders, why did he not send native missionaries ashore first as was generally the practice? (Their presence was far less threatening than that of Europeans, who would naturally be associated with the traders.)

Likewise, why did Williams not sense danger when he saw no women present? As a seasoned South Seas missionary he certainly was aware that such a situation signaled impending peril. Why did he seem to blatantly ignore obvious precautions?

Having just come down from a mountain peak of praise and adulation back home in England, Williams may have been dispirited by the dull routine of missionary work. He was a courageous hero in the minds of his supporters. He had an illustrious reputation to uphold, and perhaps for a fleeting moment he lost himself in fanciful visions of his own invincibility.                                

                                           (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) 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.

2) Interpretation Workshop (English/Mandarin). Sat, 26 Sep 15 at 9am, Rm 2-10. To provide training for those who desire to serve in various ministries of the Church which require interpretation skill. Contact Bee Choo, 90017660.

3) Maranatha BPC is organising a Reformation film show “The Spreading Flame - Champions of Freedom” on Sat, 10 Oct at 7.30 pm on the life of John Calvin and John Knox to commemorate the 498th year of the 16th century Reformation movement. Message on “Passing on the Reformation Legacy” by Rev Jack Sin. All are welcome.

4) Condolences to: (1) Priscilla Lim and family on the homegoing of her mother, Mdm Leong Seng Huat (73 years old), on 11 Sep 15. (2) Rev Daniel Khoo and family on the homegoing of his father, Khoo Wee Kwang (84 years old) on 17 Sep 15.

Preaching appointments: Rev Seet at Thai Service, 2.30pm.

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

February 18 & 25 - Fruit of Obedience

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. John 15:10