“She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” - Proverbs 31:20
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.
Female Involvement in the Bible Mission
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.
Straits Ladies’ Bible Association
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: A Heart for Bible Missions
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.
The Word Continues to Pass Down
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!”
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all… a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” - Proverbs 31:29-30
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