In November of 2012, when we traveled to the Philippines, my brother Peter and I also had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Singapore for a few days. As mentioned in my previous article on the Philippines, there are many differences in culture between these two countries, and that struck both of us when we were in Singapore. But what we noticed even more were the similarities. Both the people of Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore and the people in the churches of the Philippines worship the God as we do, and have the same zeal for him and for the truth.
We arrived in Singapore on a Friday afternoon and were warmly welcomed by a few of the youth of CERC (the youth being young adults about ages 15–25). Walking out of the airport we already noticed the differences between the two countries. There were no loud crowds of people waiting outside the airport, but it was very quiet and peaceful. The landscaping was perfect, lawns beautifully manicured, trees planted in specific places, and even the cars in the parking lot were parked very neatly and orderly. Also, the drivers knew how to stay between the lines on the roads and followed traffic laws! It is obvious that Singapore is a much wealthier nation that prides itself on its cleanliness and beauty.
In addition to cleanliness, Singapore is known for its many fancy attractions. Just as the USA, Singapore wants to have the biggest and best. One very new and beautiful attraction is the Gardens by the Bay. We went there straight from the airport and walked around in the two gigantic greenhouses for hours, looking at all the different varieties of plants and flowers from all over the world. During this very enjoyable tour we were able to get to know each other better. Singapore is known to have the second largest Ferris wheel in the world (recently outdone by China, which now has the biggest) that we could see but didn’t ride. Another popular attraction is Sentosa, an island that has museums, aquariums, beaches, and little shops on it. There is also a large zoo in Singapore, of which many of you may have seen pictures (Rev. Andy Lanning holding a snake).
Singapore is the largest port city in the world, and is a city bustling with over 5 million people packed into high-rises. Yet the streets are clean, the public transportation is readily available, and the traffic flows well. This is probably because Singapore is a “FINE” city. One can be fined for anything from spitting, littering, or smoking in public to drinking water on the public trains. Those who drive cars have to pay a large sum just for the permit to own a car, on top of buying the car itself, and most cars 10 years or older are scrapped. Singaporeans are big on education. Young people do not find jobs after high school because all good jobs require a college education, so they must keep studying. The pursuit of higher education is interrupted for the young men because they must serve in the military for at least 2 years starting about the age of 18. All this we found out very quickly, as the Singaporeans are very willing to share information about their country.
Friday night after the Gardens, Peter and I got our first introduction to the church life of the CERC. The youth have their Bible studies that night, and before studying they all get together for a meal. A few of them made spaghetti, a very American food that we were thankful for, and about 30 of us gathered to eat and fellowship. After eating, the girls and boys split up, the boys gathering in groups for Bible study and prayer meetings, and the girls gathering to study a book. By watching and listening to the youth that night, we learned quickly of their love for God and for learning more and more of his word.
Most of these youth are second generation Christians in CERC, and have not had the truths of Scripture passed down to them for many generations as most of us in the PRC have. So being newer to the faith, their “first love” for God, for his people, for his church, and for his word, is very evident. It was refreshing to witness this spiritual energy and godly zeal in these young people. They know what it means to go through a split in the church, to see their parents struggle with important decisions about the church that will have long-lasting effects on the people, and they themselves suffered broken and strained relationships because of the split. Yet they take this hardship as an opportunity to learn God’s will for them, and to grow closer to him. He is most important to these people, and they do not hide their love for him.
Worshipping in CERC was also a different experience from worshipping in the Philippines. It felt more like we were at home with the nicely finished sanctuary and the quietness during the worship service. The only distractions were the occasional cries of a baby. No roosters crowing or cars honking this time, but the people were still focused intently on the preaching of God’s word. And this is the beauty of meeting believers around the world.
In our rushed society and busy lives, together with school, work, friends, we can so easily become focused on ourselves and forget that we are not the only people in the world. Sometimes it is so nice to stop and think about these people, God’s children half a world away, and know that they have the same God we do, that they worship him the same way we do, and that we share a bond in Christ that surpasses the differences we may have in culture, looks, or status. It would be worth it for any of you to make this kind of a trip, but if you have never had the opportunity to travel to a different part of the world and meeting other parts of the body of Christ, I hope these articles gave you a glimpse into that kind of experience. Please keep the believers in the Philippines and in Singapore in your prayers as they continue to learn and grow in faith, and also, if the opportunity arises, I strongly encourage you to travel to either place someday. You will not regret it at all!
Matthew 28:19&20 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”