The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS) honours women who have contributed to the Bible movement as the world celebrates International Women’s Day on 8 March. We call each of them, “The woman who fears the Lord” as characterised in Proverbs 31, bold in their global endeavours to spread God’s Word.
Women have always been at the forefront of Bible mission work. In August 1811, the first Ladies’ Association started within the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) to support its work. The committee of 48 ladies met monthly. After nine years, they raised more than 2,650 pounds (equivalent to 180,000 pounds today) and distributed more than 2,400 Bibles and Testaments.
Female Associations started to form in different countries and soon made their way to South-East Asia. The Straits Ladies’ Bible Association was established on 10 July 1837. Within a year, the women handed to the Auxiliary Bible Society 194 Spanish dollars (equivalent to 14,570 pounds today).
Sophia Cooke is an example of a lady who sowed God’s Word with love and left a lasting legacy in Singapore. By the late 1840s, most missionaries had left Singapore for China but Sophia Cooke stayed on to continue the mission work here.
In 1857, she and a few other ladies formed the Ladies’ Bible and Tract Society which met monthly for prayer. They published a quarterly magazine, The Christian in Singapore, to edify fellow believers in their walk with God.
More than 55 years after the Bible mission began, there was still no permanent agent to help in the work despite requests by Governor Stamford Raffles and Rev Dr Robert Morrison. In 1880, Cooke impressed upon the committee in London the need for ‘organised work’. It was then that our first agent, John Haffenden, offered his services to the Singapore Auxiliary Bible Society, which became the centre for distribution of Scriptures in the Malay Peninsula and Archipelago, including the Dutch East Indies.
Cooke was also a strong advocate of female education in the East. Girls who faced destitution and degradation grew under her care as civilised and educated women, equipped with Scriptural truths, literacy, arithmetic, sewing, and cooking. Her legacy in education continues today in St Margaret’s School – Singapore’s first girls’ school.
Cooke is in the company of many other women like Sophia Blackmore and Margaret Dryburgh, whose legacy challenged the belief that only men, particularly ordained men, could be called by God to be missionaries.
Today, an increasing number of women have risen to the call to spread the Word. One of them in BSS is Gwen De Rozario, Associate Director of CARE.
When Gwen first heard God’s call to children’s ministry, she obeyed and organised Singapore’s first-ever children’s praise and worship event ARISE! in 2002. She subsequently quit her job in obedience to the Lord, and trusted in His providence. Working with churches and partners like the Bible Society and families, she seeks to ground children in the Word, train and release them in praise and worship, prayer and missions and God has blessed her work taking the ARISE! vision global.
Despite her full-time ministry commitments, Gwen joined BSS to advance the Word. She was integral in bringing the Christian community together for our Children’s Resource & Equipping Fair in 2013. It was a great success. Parents and children’s ministry leaders learnt how to better engage the next generation with God’s Word.
Another woman who made an impact in the Bible movement is Dr Cheah Fung Fong, Chair of Trinity Annual Conference, Board of Children’s Ministry (TRAC BOCM) since 2004. Her passion to pass the Word to the next generation is exemplified through her leadership and work. Together with like-minded partners, TRAC BOCM share best practices, pray for the next generation and equip parents and ministry leaders to disciple children at home and in churches. This was seen in the recent partnership between BSS and TRAC BOCM, in organising the Family Matters Conference last August 2013.
The fruits of her labour are not only seen in Singapore but in the mission field and in its multiplying effect.
“I have been bringing groups of children and youth from Singapore to minister to children and youth in Cambodia for six years. We heard a wonderful testimony from the Cambodian youth. They were so encouraged by their Singaporean friends’ passion for God’s Word that they organised mission trips to share the gospel to their peers in the remote parts of Cambodia! Praise God for multiplying our small steps of faith to share God’s Word!”
BSS encourages all women to join in the Bible mission movement, to sow the Word and advocate its values.
 Inflation at 2.1% per annum up to 2012.
 The monetary system of Spain (1830-1840).
 CARE – Centre for Advocacy, Relations & Engagement, department of BSS
Since Rev Dr Robert Morrison’s request for 1,000 Chinese New Testaments to be sent and distributed amongst Singaporeans in 1823, the Bible mission work has continued to impact the lives of Singaporeans who receive and read God’s Word.
The gospel is capable of changing even the most hard-core offenders. Here is a testimony of an ex-offender whose life was completely transformed after reading the Bible:
“Years ago, I was involved in a gang clash with two seriously injured and one killed, and was sentenced to prison.
I felt hopeless, suicidal and cried out to idols, but there was no response. I was surrounded by enemies, two of whom became Christians and started reading their Bibles. They stopped smoking and using foul language. I was amazed and wanted to know their Jesus.
I was then transferred to Changi Prison, where one of my cellmates had a Bible. Immediately I asked his permission to read it. After reading Matthew 5:33-37, I was convicted of my sins…I had done nothing good. The Word gave me consolation… I saw Jesus shedding His blood to redeem my life. I prayed to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour right away.
I now feel peace and joy flooding my soul, because I have become a child of God.”
The power of God’s Word is able to capture the hearts of those who have turned towards chasing material wealth and idols, as evident in this testimony.
Chua was a success according to material standards, so much that money had become his master. One day, he had a serious motor accident which left him partially paralysed and gave him a bad case of gastric ulcers. This incident caused Chua to start pondering the true meaning of life for the first time, and he began to explore various religions and cults, burning incense and candles to idols for success.
However, the secret of true peace and joy continued to elude Chua, until he was given a Bible by a fellow businessman he met.
In his own words, Chua said, “God had laid it on my heart to read His Word… I met Jesus in the gospel of John. I cried and asked God to forgive my sins…With tears pouring down my cheeks; I came to know the true God. Jesus healed me completely… He healed my nearly paralysed body, my gastric ulcers and helped me forsake my bad habits… Praise the Lord.”
The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS) provides Bibles, New Testaments and Scripture Portions for distribution in Singapore and overseas, and this Bible mission work has been touching and transforming lives of people like Chua and the ex-offender for 190 years. We pray that you will continue to support the work of BSS, so that we can continue to sow God’s Word and make an impact on people’s hearts and lives.
An appeal for Bibles by soldiers drew the immediate attention of the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) to Java back in 1813. This request brought about the introduction of the Society’s work to the then Lieutenant Governor Stamford Raffles.
BFBS resolved to send 500 Dutch Bibles, 1000 Testaments, 300 English Bibles and 500 English Testaments to Raffles with a letter, in the care of three missionaries from the London Missionary Society (LMS). The letter dated 22 November 1813 requested that “His Excellency will have the goodness to give directions that they be placed in the hands of proper persons to distribute the same….”
On 10 March 1814, Rev William Milne from LMS, who later assisted Rev Dr Robert Morrison with the complete translation of the Chinese Bible, arrived in Java. Milne had the opportunity to meet Raffles and secured his help to “do all they consistently could to forward” his cause. Raffles even granted him the use of the Government Press. Raffles’ support for the work led to him being appointed as the President of the Java Auxiliary Bible Society on 4 June 1814.
As the Lord would have it, Raffles’ interest in supporting the work increased when he returned to England in 1817. He had the opportunity to correspond with the Society even more. Letters from our Society archive showed that Raffles was all for supporting the Malay translation work and he personally leaned towards a preference for the translation to low Malay.
Upon his return to the region as Governor of Sumatra, Raffles personally offered to bring Bibles with him. He wasted little time in setting up an office there, becoming the first President of the Sumatra Auxiliary Bible Society in 1818.
We thank God for His Sovereign hand that guided Raffles to establish the settlement in Singapore in 1819. Just four years later, it was reported to BFBS that,
“Dr Morrison has communicated … the cheering information, that 1,000 Chinese New Testaments had just been applied for by the missionaries of a new settlement formed at Sincapore in the year 1819.”
This started the Bible mission work in Singapore and one could also say, the distribution of Chinese Scripture here.
BFBS granted Morrison and other missionaries in Malacca the 1000 pounds needed to print the Chinese Scriptures.
The work of distribution of Bibles grew rapidly due to Singapore’s strategic location. By 1825, it was recognised that a Bible depot was needed to store and facilitate the distribution of the Scriptures to the region. The early Bible depot was moved to several places, until it found its permanent home in 1907 at Armenian Street.
Both Morrison and Raffles were pioneers in many different areas, including education. In April 1823, Raffles spoke to Morrison about his vision for a ‘Sincapore Institution’ and convinced the latter to move the Anglo Chinese College from Malacca to Singapore. What was not often written about was the motivation both these men had behind the setting up of this centre of learning – it was to advance the Bible mission.
‘India beyond the Ganges and Eastern Asia, at no former period seems to have been pregnant with greater changes than at present … we should look out whether a knowledge of the languages and characters of the people ought not to be cultivated, in order that we may have Agents prepared to act whenever safe openings occur. Instead of one or two persons learned in Chinese should we not at least have a dozen? The Siamese and Cochin-Chinese are populous and I am not away that any Protestant Missionary has ever been among them.’
- Statement of Sir Stamford Raffles as reported in the 22nd Annual Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society (1826), p 122
Raffles reported the formation of the Sincapore Institution with its aim for the ‘cultivation of the language in Eastern Asia’. This Institution was to become Raffles Institution and a library, with the collection of books and papers that would spawn into our National Library.
We see Morrison’s desire to spread the good news from the following report in BFBS’ documents.
‘The Anglo Chinese College is about to be removed from Malacca to Sincapore, a situation which will afford several facilities for the distribution of Scriptures; for by the many native vessals which visit that port, copies may be sent to Cochin-China; and, perhaps, to Japan itself.’
- 20th Annual Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society (1824), p. lviii
These two men also advocated strongly for a permanent Agent to be sent to Singapore to advance the Bible Society’s work here. While an Agent was not appointed until 1882, the work continued to flourish as it was not dependent on any one person. The early Bible mission work was supported by men and women from various parts of the body all working in unity to spread the good news through the work of translation, publishing, distribution, literacy programmes and engagement.
It is heartening to see that by God’s grace, 190 years later, the work of The Bible Society of Singapore continues today, not only to make the Word Available (through Translation and Publishing) and Accessible (through Distribution and Literacy Programmes) but also to show that the Word is Credible (through Engagement and Advocacy).
Much work remains to be done, and The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS) and the rest of our sister societies in UBS continue to count on the help of our worldwide supporters who can contribute in the following areas:
Supporters who wish to give can pledge a single donation, give monthly, remember the Society in their will, give appreciated property or give through their workplace.
Sam Boring, an American, had been unable to tithe when he was younger. His career in the military had come to an abrupt end because of an injury which kept him from serving.
Eventually, the Boring family’s finances improved, and when they received an appeal to support a project run by the American Bible Society (ABS) through a gift annuity, they accepted.
“Everything comes from the Lord,” Sam Boring said. Despite the hardships faced, Sam and his wife, Thelma, gave generously. Thelma tithed “every penny she ever made,” says Sam.
Supporters can help raise funds for the purchase of Bibles for children, adults and also audio Bibles or special Bibles for those with special needs.
Troy Love, a police officer, completed a 3,785 mile bike-ride across nine states to raise money for the purchase of Proclaimers, the audio Scripture players distributed by Faith Comes By Hearing (a partner of ABS), for the needy.
Troy’s goal to raise money for 1,000 Proclaimers came about when he realised how important these audio Scriptures are in reaching people around the world who cannot read.
His commitment and devotion to the Bible cause carried him through many trials on his 28 day long journey, and inspired Christians he met along the way to help raise funds for the Proclaimers.
“If you’re a willing vessel for Christ, He’s going to use you… If you’re going to live, don’t live for yourself. That’s when it changed for me- when I took the focus off myself… If you have a vision and a body to do it, get out and do it. Make a difference while you are here (on Earth).” - Troy Love
Supporters can partner with us to send a Bible-a-month to various countries in need; give the hope of God’s Word to those in need; feed the hungry souls in the more remote areas around the world; change children’s lives with food and Bibles; and support people in crisis.
Jenna Liew, a volunteer cyclist of the “She’s My Sister” programme run by ABS finally met Consolatta after pedalling 2,000 miles to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The latter was ravaged by roving militias and left for dead, instead becoming handicapped. This kind of story is common amongst girls and women in DRC, and they need the reassurance of God’s Word and the love shown by His people to heal.
Jenna had been praying for Consolatta for one year and when they met, they connected emotionally and spiritually. God’s healing took place with Consolatta forgiving her tormentors and looking forward to her future, while Jenna felt that her encounter with Consolatta and the Congolese people had transformed her life so that she could devote herself fully to serving the Lord.
Supporters of BSS have chosen to contribute what they leave in their wills to further advocate our work. Gifts from legacy donors are highly significant, especially to an organisation like BSS which relies on the kindness and generosity of others to support its works. Many people who leave us legacy gifts have been impacted by the work of BSS and wish to secure the future of the Bible mission - you can read some of their stories here.
Our supporters have given generously towards our Bible mission work. Their kind and generous contributions help us provide Bibles for many countries in need.
Elder Ong Teck Chye of Bethesda Frankel Estate Church greatly supports our work in China. He helps to organise Bible Mission Trips to China for his church members, and donates Bibles and audio Bibles, financial support, reading glasses and goodie bags to China.
Elder Ong enthused about the Bible cause of BSS in China, “We are impressed by the meaningful and purposeful outreach to the many believers in China. We count it a privilege and honour to be able to partner with BSS.”
BSS also receives support in our “Sowers in Action” programme for volunteers, and has witnessed an increase of the volunteer pool.
The Bible Society seeks to make the Bible available, accessible and credible to all people — to see God’s Word shape the lives of individuals and communities throughout the world. We need your support and invite you to join us.
After an incredible encounter with God around the age of 15, Richard Woo was filled with passion and love for the Lord and aspired to share God’s love with others in a meaningful environment, sowing the seeds of salvation in their lives.
His first step of faith into full time ministry took place when he enrolled into Trinity Theological College (TTC), quitting his job in the banking industry in the process.
Richard’s compassion for the unfortunate led him to become a pastoral volunteer at Changi prison, where he ministered to inmates for 13 years. While Richard was still involved in the prison ministry, he felt the Lord leading him towards ministering to the sick in hospitals. He became the Chaplain of St Andrew’s community hospital and then St Luke’s community hospital, serving the patients and staff with joy and compassion.
Richard then joined The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS) and now heads the Social Concerns Ministry, collaborating with other partner organisations to show God’s love to people in our community.
The Social Concerns Ministry of BSS is frequently looking for new ways to extend God’s love to others. It currently focuses on touching the lives of migrant workers, patients in hospitals and nursing homes, as well as inmates in prison.
Richard gladly fosters relations and collaborates with many partner organisations to help bring the Word to those most in need of it. If any organisations require help in their ministry, Richard is happy to support them as well.
He has helped BSS collaborate with Prison Fellowship Singapore, printing 3000 copies of the Freedom on the Inside Bible in English and another 3000 in Mandarin for distribution. The hope of the gospel is spread amongst the prisoners.
BSS and the Asia Evangelistic Fellowship (AEF) are currently discussing plans to work together to produce Scripture resources such as pamphlets in Tamil, which AEF can distribute to the Tamil speaking foreign workers in Singapore.
Richard is involved in helping to distribute audio Bibles amongst people who are unable or find it difficult to read the Bible, thus meeting their spiritual needs. Some audio Bibles have been distributed to the elderly in All Saint’s Home and the Salvation Army, and responses have been very positive.
While BSS has been able to help meet some needs of people in the community, we are always looking for ways to do more. One of these ways is to bring in volunteers to help us reach people.
Richard’s life encapsulates what is needed in a volunteer: a heart of love, compassion and an attitude of service. It is appropriate that he looks after the volunteer groups at BSS, who “serve the Lord in different capacities and rendering their services according to their gifts.” These volunteers do the same work of full time ministry staff on their own time while not getting any monetary compensation, showing an impressive level of commitment and dedication.
There is a great need for volunteers in ministry to help us carry out God’s work today. The Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:3-12 serves as an important reminder to us to be sowers of His Word so that we will be like the seed that falls onto good ground and bear much fruit. We ask that you prayerfully consider joining BSS as a volunteer to help us spread the light of the gospel to others.
Discover how the Bible Societies of Philippines, Pakistan and Singapore bring hope to disaster victims, share love with people of different beliefs, and build faith through the hearing of God’s Word.
Bayanihan is ‘the spirit of communal effort to achieve a common objective’ in the Philippines. In this spirit, the Philippine Bible Society distributed Scriptures to victims of the horrendous disaster last year.
Heavy rains and flash floods are common in the Philippines. Yet, the nation was gripped in terror in the first two weeks of August 2012 when 66 people drowned.
In two short weeks, the number of people affected by torrential rains was 3.45 million, with 410, 729 people seeking refuge in evacuation centres due to risen rivers, clogged drainages, flooded streets and submerged homes.
19 staff members were also affected. Two had their homes totally washed out by the raging flood.
In spite of the difficult period for many at our sister Society, they placed their hope in God’s Word, and selflessly partnered with agencies doing relief distribution, to hand out Scripture resources such as Bibles, New Testaments and copies of the Calamity Portions.
One of the fruits of their selfless giving is a powerful testimony by 24-year-old Arturo Calinao, a fishpond caretaker from Rizal.
“The Bible changed my life ever since it was given to us during the onslaught of Habagat (southwest monsoon)… I almost died in the fishpond where I work. The only thing I remembered from the Bible was to ask for forgiveness. As I was struggling in the water, I asked God to forgive me and a hand grabbed hold of me…”
Adapted from the selection (tract) produced by the American Bible Society after 9/11, the Calamity Portion is a 34-page booklet entitled Hope in the Midst of Tragedy. It is an easy-to-read collection of verses and brief reflections. It deals with questions asked by calamity victims to encourage them to turn to God for refuge, strength, hope and help.
In total, 120,900 Calamity Portions were distributed, with the potential to bring hope to 362,700 disaster victims.
Lives are powerfully changed when people apply the Word of God in their circumstances. Still, many Filipinos have not received the Word of hope...
God is using the Bible Society in different places, even in difficult regions like Pakistan, a predominantly non-Christian country, to sow the seed of love with His Word.
Anthony Lamuel, General Secretary of Pakistan Bible Society, shared during his visit to The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS) in November 2012 that there has been a surge of interest in God’s Word of truth after the 9/11 disaster, with people from different faiths buying Bibles to learn more about Christianity.
Whilst it is challenging for Christians living in Pakistan, they are encouraged to see how God can spread His good news, even during turbulent times.
They hope to sow more seeds through the establishment of the first Bible museum on 9 February 2013, opened as part of the Society’s celebrations to mark its 150th anniversary.
“This museum has been our dream for many years… We have collected archaeological replicas and reproductions of Biblical manuscripts all over the world,” said Anthony Lamuel.
Rt Rev Dr Alexander John Malik, President of Pakistan Bible Society expressed that the “museum will be a very useful tool in helping many people… to develop good understanding of Biblical history and archaeology”.
A Muslim scholar who attended the opening said that the museum offered a fascinating insight into the Bible’s history and archaeology, and he would bring his students for a visit.
We believe that all who visit the Bible museum will be sanctified by the Word of truth (John 17:17) and be set free (John 8:32).
But more can be done to bring God’s Word of love to Pakistanis…
Engaging people with the Word is a key component at BSS. Our challenge is to make it relevant in our ever-changing society. Singapore may have 96.1% literacy rate (as of 2011), but many are preferred oral learners.
BSS encourages the reading of Scriptures through the Audio Bible. We visited All Saints Home in April 2013 to learn how the Audio Bible has been building faith.
The Chaplain, All Saints Home of Tampines, Pastor Larry Leong heard of the benefits of the Audio Bible, and met Richard Woo, our Head of Social Concerns, to obtain Audio Bibles for baptised Christians in the home.
“We currently have two sets of the Audio Bible (in English and Mandarin), donated by BSS. At the home, only 35-40% of the residents are Christians. It is my hope that everyone will receive salvation,” said Pastor Larry. “We hope to have one set in each ward so the entire ward will hear the Word of God together and be strengthened in faith.”
77-year-old Annie Lau has difficulty moving due to pain in her back. But her faith in God grows when she uses the Audio Bible.
“I am filled with joy when I hear the Word of God. I often pray for peace and for God to take away my pain after listening to the Bible.”
Koh Siew Eng, 60, has yet to receive Christ but she delights in hearing the Word of God.
“I find stories in the Bible very interesting, and I enjoy having the Word read out to me, loud and clear.”
The Audio Bible helps many grow in their faith and BSS strives to bring the Audio Bible to even more people.
Yet, we are limited in our resources to meet the many needs in our community…
“It is only when we are able to stand back from the individual strands that connect Bible Societies that we can discern the whole picture of the remarkable work sustained through God’s grace and that reaches out to every corner of the world.” – Michael Perreau, General Secretary of United Bible Societies (UBS)
Bringing the Word of God to the nations and meeting the needs of our community is a tapestry of efforts.
As one of the 147 Bible Societies in more than 200 countries and territories, BSS connects Bible Societies in Asia and beyond. We may not experience the trying situations our sister Societies face, but we can support them through prayer, donation and voluntary services.
One such voluntary service is the Bible Mission Trips. We uphold countries in prayer, donate Bibles in their native languages and invite participants to join us in blessing the communities by giving the Word.
Within Singapore, the Bible Society’s history is intertwined with the early pioneering work in the region – most notably that of Sir Stamford Raffles and Rev Dr Robert Morrison. They were some of the first to realise Singapore’s potential to be a strategic location for missions work in Asia, and it is due to their heart for the Bible Mission that The Bible Society of Singapore exists today. (Read more about their influence here.)
Over the decades, there have been many men, women, churches, and Christian organisations who have taken up this mantle and worked alongside us to further the Bible Mission. This 180th anniversary is more than the accomplishment of one organisation – it is the shared accomplishment of those who have journeyed with us along the way. As our supporters, you have been such an integral part of seeing this milestone come to fruition, and we would like to invite you to join us in commemorating this anniversary.
We invite you and your church to submit a proposal for a churchwide celebration of the Bible Mission. Some examples of these celebration ideas include: