December 1978 marked a turning point in the history of Christianity in Singapore. It was the time of the Billy Graham Crusade in Singapore—an occasion that witnessed nationwide cross-denominational partnerships for the first time. It was also the occasion when the late Billy Graham first called Singapore an “Antioch of Asia”, giving the nation a mandate to be a hub through which the hope of the Gospel spreads to the rest of the continent.
In the forty years since then, the world has undergone numerous changes. Accordingly, it is necessary for this hope to be expressed in a greater variety of ways to meet a spectrum of needs in a world filled with helplessness and brokenness.
The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS) was honoured to have been an integral partner in organising the 1978 Crusade—General Secretary Peter Hsieh served as Vice-Chairman of the Crusade’s Executive Committee, while BSS provided working and storage space for its preparation, and published special materials for the five-day event. Today, BSS continues to play its part in fulfilling the mandate, spreading the hope of God’s Word to the nations in multi-faceted ways. Two such ways are the helping ministry of Holistic Missions and the healing ministry of Trauma Healing.
Helping the helpless
Holistic Missions focus mainly on providing humanitarian relief aid to those disadvantaged by natural disasters and persecution. They demonstrate God’s love and hope to the helpless and needy, showing them that God has not forsaken them but has them in His heart.
Since the early 2000s, BSS has been partnering with local churches and regional Bible Societies to care for the material and spiritual well-being of overseas communities in need. Over the years, we have striven to be ever ready to respond to crises as quickly as we can, actively partnering with other churches and organisations to render the best help possible.
One example is the 2017 South Asian floods, which affected more than 45 million people, including 16 million children. In response, BSS conducted a nationwide fundraising drive for affected families from September to November 2017, and also provided basic daily necessities and Scriptural materials. To further aid the long-drawn restoration process, BSS and the newly-formed Alliance of Indian Ministries (with permission from the Commissioner of Charities) raised a further US$60,000 this year to purchase more daily necessities for victims in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.
BSS has also stepped up its efforts to help in the current Rohingya refugee crisis, which started in August 2017. In its first month alone, at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed, including 730 children. To date, about one million have fled or were displaced from their homes. Beginning in October this year, BSS has been working closely with the local Bible Societies and partnering with churches in Bangladesh and Myanmar to distribute food and other daily essentials, together with Scriptural materials, to the various Rohingya communities. It is our hope that through these efforts, the Rohingya may experience and embrace the love, compassion and hope that God abundantly gives.
Helping the broken
Helplessness and brokenness are not only found in communities that face natural disasters, extreme poverty and persecution. They are present even amidst our comparatively more stable and comfortable conditions. As Dr Harriett Hill, programme director for the Trauma Healing Institute (THI) at American Bible Society, explains,
“You do not need a war to have trauma. There is trauma that goes on in the homes of people behind closed doors in the form of domestic abuse. There is trauma of sexual abuse. People wanted to help refugees, but they themselves had experienced a lot of very difficult things in broken families, loss, accidents.”
This is why BSS started partnering with THI in 2016 to launch Trauma Healing courses in Singapore, equipping the local Body of Christ with transferable skills for helping both others and themselves heal from their wounds. Jessica Ariela, a participant-turned-Master Facilitator from Indonesia, comments on the benefits of the programme:
“It is very simple and practical. You can just use it right away. The fulfilling part is that we can become witnesses of other people’s change and transformation—how they come to God in their suffering, and how God heals them. Being a facilitator is one way to also proclaim God’s liberation, restoration and redemption for the world.”
With the help of Master Facilitators from THI, we have organised three Initial Equipping and two Advanced Equipping courses so far. Among a total of 111 participants, 16 were certified as training facilitators. We are thankful for our partnership with THI, and pray that the Lord will equip many more to know how to be near to the broken-hearted and save the crushed in spirit (Ps 34:18), following the example of our Lord Jesus.
Hope for all
Experienced Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie remarks, “The power of the gospel still brings life where there is death, hope where there is despair, beauty where there is brokenness.” We give thanks to God for enabling us to achieve our goal to localise the global Bible Mission, and do our part in fulfilling the call to be an “Antioch of Asia”. As we move forward into a new year, may God be pleased to grant us His continued help and blessing as we celebrate and spread the hope of His Word to all peoples as one united Body!