200 Years of Shining God’s Light on Singapore and Beyond

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”—2 Corinthians 4:6 

The Bible tells us that when Jesus arrived on this earth, He became a light to everyone around Him. He was not only a spiritual light, offering us a way to have a personal relationship with God, but His light shined brightly everywhere He went. 

Especially with a world that is currently filled with so much sin, darkness, uncertainty and the unknown, we have hope, we have a bright light that no darkness can overcome, and we have the sure promises of God and His truth. We as Christians, through Christ’s strength and the Holy Spirit, have the power to shine the light of Christ into other people’s lives, to share with them all that Jesus has done and all that He is doing, and to bring the Good News and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.                                                                                                                                                                        

This Christmas season, we give thanks for the grace of God over the Bible Mission through the years, transforming lives with God’s Word. 2023 will be a significant year for the Bible Society as we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Bible Mission in Singapore, having started in 1823. Rev Dr Robert Morrison pioneered the completion of the New Testament in 1813 and published it the following year. In 1819, the full Bible in Chinese translation was concluded and later published in 1823. With the help of Sir Stamford Raffles, Morrison sent 1,000 Chinese New Testaments to Singapore for distribution among Chinese settlers in 1823, marking the real beginnings of the Bible Mission on the island. 

Histories of the Bible Mission and Raffles Institution Woven Together

Both Morrison and Raffles were pioneers in the Bible cause and education in Singapore, therefore also intertwining the histories of the Bible Mission and that of Raffles Institution. In April 1823, Raffles spoke to Morrison about his vision for a Singapore 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—to advance the Bible Mission.

1837 was the year the Institution’s building was completed and started its operations. This was also when the Bible Society was officially registered in Singapore. Morrison was also originally slated as the first librarian of the Institution’s library. This Institution was to become Raffles Institution and a library, with the collection of books and papers that would spawn into our National Library. Singapore Institution also served to educate Singaporeans and provided suitable facilities for translating and distributing Bibles, aiding the Bible Mission.

In a treasured collection of letters and book of Raffles recently acquired by the National Library was a volume of the Bible in Jawi that was printed in Batavia—now called Jakarta—in 1758.

From 1823 up till the 1870s, Scriptures were usually stored in the Singapore Constitution and distributed by volunteers, colporteurs and missionaries. It is heartening to see that by God’s grace, more thana century later, the work of the Bible Mission continued amidst two world wars and challenging times.

“After the (Second World)War, the Society partnered with the Singapore Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in organising the historic 1978 Evangelistic Crusade and provided much needed support in planning, logistics and Scriptures for distribution. With the use of computer technology in the1980s, the Bible House also transformed into a Scripture production and Knowledge Centre—printing Scriptures for local and overseas people, and also conducting Bible Literacy courses and public conferences.” —Dr Ernest Chew, HonoraryChairman, National Museum of Singapore

To date, Singapore remains the hub for Bible Mission in the region, enabling us to continue being a blessing to other nations in sending out God’s Word and hope.

“We are proud of our association with The Bible Society of Singapore in such a long and faithful journey, to have been a part of its story, and even more of all they have accomplished in recent decades. You work as an ‘Antioch’ in Asia, whose blessing and fruit is founded on unity and radical love for each person as equally valuable in God’s sight (Acts11:19-30)” —Paul Williams, Chief Executive, British and ForeignBible Society (BFBS)

Future Endeavours as Light-Bearers

Looking forward, the Bible Society continues the legacies of our pioneers, furthering the impact of the Bible Mission in Singapore and beyond. In 2023, the Bible Society will be greatly involved in various initiatives and projects to shine the light on this new norm nationally, regionally and globally.

One of the most significant national Christian events in 2023 is GoForth, a year-long event. This year, the Bible Society is actively involved in its preparations and will be more engaged in 2023. More than just a conference, GoForth aims to reach out to the Christian community and pre-believers through a missional approach. Similar to the Bible Mission in making God’s Word known to all people, the GoForth programmes target Missions to Unreached People, Migrants, Marginalised, Marketplace, Multi-generational Mentoring, Mandarin, Media, and Metaverse. This aims to inspire participants to pursue a life of missions-mindedness, as they reach out to their spheres of influence, and as we usher in the next Decade of Mission from 2023 to 2033. Two of the speakers of GoForth 2023 missions conference are Rev Dr Elijah Brown, General Secretary/CEO of Baptist World Alliance and Bishop Professor Dr Thomas Schirrmacher, Secretary General and CEO of World Evangelical Alliance. To keep updated and to join the movement in making a difference in the lives of others, visit goforth.org.sg.

Other than GoForth, the Bible Society will also be greatly involved in various regional and global programmes and initiatives in 2023, such as the Asia Youth Leaders Consultation in July 2023. This event aims to gather more than 50 youth leaders from various Asian countries to meet and discuss what’s next and what they can do together to live out more effective and relevant missions among the youths. It is jointly organised by Asia Evangelical Alliance, Youth Commission, GoForth 2023 Youth Track, and other active partners, such as the Bible Society.

In commemoration of 200 years of the Bible Mission in Singapore next year, more impactful Bible-based programmes can be expected from various Bible Society ministries and humanitarian efforts for countries affected by natural calamities, political turmoil, wars and other challenges. Since our work cannot be done without the support of the Body of Christ, this remarkable milestone of the Word of God flourishing for over 200 years is not just a celebration for the Bible Society and Christian community in Singapore, but rather ours to share—as it is an integral part of our nation’s rich history, development and maintaining religious harmony.

Be a Part of the Bible Mission

Staying true to our mission to make the Word of God known to all peoples, we endeavour to continue being a vessel of blessing to the nations. We would like to invite you to partner with us so that we can continue shining God’s light as we reach out to the nations. Doing your part in donating, volunteering or doing mission work with us will help to impact more lives and make a difference. Let us band together as we go forth and allow the power of God’s Word to shine on people’s lives worldwide!

Want to contribute to the Global Bible Mission? Visit donorbox.org/missionsupportfund to donate.

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