1985 was a significant year for The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS). In the Bible Society’s Annual Report (1984-1985), it was announced that “we have taken a great step of faith and will become a self-supporting Society as of 1st November 1985… The financial subsidies [we have received] will now be channelled to help the work of the Bible Societies in needy countries in the third world.”1 With this announcement, The Bible Society of Singapore shifted its focus to include supporting its neighbouring countries in need.
Simultaneously, a shift in China was well underway. Opportunities to share the Gospel had been expanding over the past decade, and the United Bible Societies (UBS) fellowship began answering China’s need for Bibles by printing through various outside printing presses in 1985. Eventually, the growing demand encouraged UBS to find an independent printing press instead.
Partnering with the Amity Foundation, the fellowship of national Bible Societies around the world raised US$7.6 million to spearhead the project.2 On 8 July 1987, “workers, officials, church leaders and guests assembled to hand over the equipment and to dedicate the buildings,”3 and the first Bible rolled off the press on 15 October 1987. The UBS Executive Committee’s Chairman, Rev James R Payne, called this effort “one of the most challenging and worthwhile enterprises ever undertaken by the UBS Movement.”4
The Bible Society of Singapore and many Singaporeans were equally passionate about this endeavour and partnered in this mission not only in sending funds, but also other resources and personnel. One such Singaporean was Rev Eugene Seow, a publishing consultant who joined Amity’s work in Nanjing in the late 80s. He was largely responsible for the layout and formatting of the Chinese Union Version with New Punctuation (CUNP), as well as the cover and logo design. The CUNP was the first Chinese Bible with a horizontal layout and the first version whose format and layout saved space on pages so that the Bible was thinner and more portable.
Another instrumental individual sent in the early years was Mr Daniel H S Koh (Board Member of BSS), a Singaporean consultant with a background in international publishing, whose focus revolved around improving the plant’s organisation and modernising its technology and equipment. “The main objective,” according to Mr Koh, “was to modernise their printing technology at the plant… [in order to] enhance the work of the Bible Society in the printing and the distribution and making Bibles available to the masses.”
Current President of BSS Dr Lee Soo Ann became the General Secretary of The Bible Society of Singapore in 1990 and very soon thereafter received a request to send two individuals to help run the Management and Production departments. As Dr Lee recounts, “they needed help from another society to help find the people, and Singapore had an advantage [in] that we had people who were Chinese-speaking.” This placed the Bible Society in a unique position – helping to run the day-to-day process (as well as training) in Nanjing, while raising awareness and funds within Singapore.
Dr Lee first sent Mr Ng Kok Huat in September 1991 as a technician to help in the printing of Bibles in Amity Press, Nanjing, China, for a period of four months.5 “As a result of his visit, the motivation and skills of the workers there improved so much” that Mr Ng returned to Nanjing with his wife Soo Pang on a two-year-long assignment as resident production supervisor.6 Despite losing his fingers in an unfortunate accident, Mr Ng remained dedicated to the task and stayed on. In May 1993, Mr Kua Wee Seng joined the team in Nanjing as deputy general manager, accompanied by his wife Cheng Hiang and their two daughters.7
Since then, many prominent leaders, such as Bishop John Chew (Honorary President of BSS), have greatly contributed to developing relationships with leaders in China. Over the years, Amity Printing Company has become a household name in the Bible printing industry. Over 130 million Bibles have been published and that number is estimated to reach 200 million within the next ten years.8
The Bible Society of Singapore continues to support the Bible mission in China by raising funds for the UBS printing and distribution work, taking teams on Bible mission trips, and facilitating long-term relationships for continued ministry. The sentiments from the Bible Society in 1987 remain the same today: “Your Society participated in helping to raise funds for this worthy cause. We thank God that many of our supporters have rallied around and [given] generously and sacrificially. We are much encouraged by your love and concern for God’s people in China.”9
Partner with us as we continue serving the people of China:
- PRAY with us that God will use the Bible Society’s work in China to draw people to Himself and call many more to a saving faith in Christ.
- SUPPORT our China projects (bibleresource.net/bsschina) and further enable us to continue literacy programmes, provide community outreach, and equip local Chinese Church workers.
- EMAIL email@example.com to join us on a Bible Mission Trip as we distribute the Word of God to the people of China or to customise a Bible Mission Trip for your church.
1 Annual Report, The Bible Society of Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, 1st November 1984 – 31st October 1985, page 10.
3 Annual Report, The Bible Society of Singapore and Brunei, 1st November 1986 – 31st October 1987, page 7.
5 Bible Society Newsletter, January 1993.
7 Bible Society Newsletter, January 1994.
8 http://amityprinting.com/about-us/understanding-amity and http://www.biblesociety.org.au/news/china%E2%80%99s-amity-press-celebrates-100-million-bibles-the-presses-are-gearing-up-for-the-next-100-million.
9 Annual Report, The Bible Society of Singapore and Brunei, 1st November 1986 – 31st October 1987, page 8.