This is a well-known saying, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” The success of a man can often be attributed to a capable and helpful woman behind him. That is why Proverbs 18:22 says, “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.” Herein is the wisdom of God, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (Gen 2:18).
Why is it not good that man should be alone? The answer comes from Solomon, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Eccl 4:9–12).
When God said He will make a “help meet” for Adam, what did He mean? The word “help meet” comes from the Hebrew ezer which has the idea of “surround”—a helper surrounds to protect, to assist, to support. In this case, the help comes from a wife who helps her husband start a family, be his supportive companion, assist him in his God-given role as head or leader of his house or community (cf Prov 31:10–12, 20).
In light of Genesis 2:18, it can be said that “The woman can live without a man, but the man cannot live without a woman.” It is thus no surprise that the woman generally outlives the man. TIME Magazine in a February 27, 2019 report said, “The numbers don’t lie: women tend to live longer than men. The average American man will live to age 76, according to the latest CDC figures, while the average woman in America will live to age 81. And a woman’s extra years tend to be healthy ones…. This male-female lifespan gap is not a new phenomenon; experts have known about it for decades…. [and] is true for all societies.” That the woman can live longer and stay healthier than the man is the Creator’s doing—she may be deemed the “stronger” sex.
“Behind every man, a woman.” Thank God for the womenfolk—for our mothers, our respective wives, our daughters, our sisters in Christ.
A godly mother is most precious, especially one who imparts God’s love and wisdom to her children. Paul commended Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice for how they imparted their faith to him (2 Tim 1:5). St Augustine, the great Church Father, had a praying mother named Monica who pleaded with God to save her godless son. God heard her prayers, and since then, it is said, “The son of a praying mother can never be lost.” This was the testimony of our late founding pastor Rev Timothy Tow as well. Rev Tow in his autobiography—Son of a Mother’s Vow—shared how his mother gave him to the Lord to be a pastor, and what an impact that made in his life, and what a blessing he has been to us.
Not just his mother, Rev Tow also thanked God for his wife Nancy, and then Ivy. After his first wife was called home in 1965, the Lord sent him Ivy. “I was remarried on July 16, 1966, to Miss Ivy Tan, one year three months after Nancy left me. This was the Lord’s merciful provision, Jehovah Jireh. The Lord knew that with Nancy gone I would need another in the role of a pastor’s wife. (It is my humble opinion that every pastor should be married according to Paul’s injunction to Timothy in 1 Tim. 3:1–7.) ‘A prudent wife is from the Lord’, so that in His own good time things began to click between me and Ivy.
“When Ivy first joined FEBC she asked me this question, ‘Since I cannot be a pastor, what could I do when I graduate?’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘If you are faithful to your day-to-day work, and are willing to scrub the floor and polish the church furniture, God will use you when you graduate.’ How did I know I was to marry her? And what better choice when she was one preparing to serve the Lord full-time, young and healthy, though taller than me by an inch or two!
“… Ivy has been most helpful in all my undertakings, in great and in small. Having studied four years at FEBC plus one year’s pre-College classes conducted at Prinsep Street, she was FEBC’s first B.Th. graduate. Under Rev. Grauley’s Greek tutoring, she had obtained a firm grounding so that, when the missionary professor left FEBC, she ably took over his class in Elementary Greek. She has taught this subject most thoroughly all these years to the gratitude of her students. Secondly, but not the lesser, she has also been head of the culinary department all along..... Since it is said that an army marches on its stomach, the FEBC kitchen is as important as her Greek class, if not more. For this dual contribution to the College and supervision of students, I have promoted her to ‘Matron’.
“As a pastor’s wife, she is able to take care of the ladies and girls where it is not convenient for me. And she likes to teach children; she has played her part by bringing up a Children’s Choir and running a ‘Steps to Everlasting Life’ Children’s Bible Camp. Ivy also conducts a number of Bible classes with the women folk of the Church. She is loyal to the 20th Century Reformation cause and supports the work of the ICCC in all the battles I have gone through. She is my close companion in all of my travels. ‘Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.’ (Prov. 31:30).”
Rev and Mrs Tow had a daughter, Jemima, and I thank God for her for she was my loving and faithful companion until taken home to glory last year.
Rev Tow recounted in his autobiography, “Time flies! As I share with you these delicate mysteries of life, Ivy and I have been married for 34 happy years. The Lord has given us a daughter, Jemima, and Jonathan…. Mima, as they call her, graduated from FEBC and proceeded to U.S. for another three years of theological studies. She and Jeffrey Khoo were married in U.S.A. in 1991 with our presence to bless. Incidentally, her Chinese name, ‘Li Mi’ (pronounced ‘Lee Mee’), means ‘Beautiful Rice’. This reflects my acceptance of a lowly lot in this life for her. My desire is she should follow her parents’ footsteps. Both Mima and Jeffrey are on the Faculty of FEBC. Mima earned double masters and Jeffrey a Ph.D. in theology. They happily stay in the parsonage with May Ann and May Lynn. The greatest blessing to our family is May Ann’s nuzzling in my arms, requesting her Grandpa to pray that she would be a good Christian. May Lynn, though several years younger, wants Grandpa’s blessing no less.” Now grown up, May Ann with her law degree serves as legal counsel at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and May Lynn who graduated from FEBC serves in the FEBC kitchen succeeding her grandma.
Sisters in Christ
The Pastor and the Session cannot be effective without the ladies in the church. They play an auxiliary role. They are like the women who supported the Lord’s ministry when He was on earth; Martha and Mary for example, “And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.” (Luke 8:2–3).
Praise the Lord for our sisters in Christ who give of their time and talents, using their spiritual gifts and material possessions to edify the church and encourage the saints. The church would be poorer without them. JK
REMEMBERING MR TAN KHEOK CHENG
Tan Sok Sin
Deborah and Jenny started a ministry in St John’s Home for the Elderly more than 13 years ago and Mr Tan Kheok Cheng (or better known as Chen 叔叔) was one of the more faithful ones who had attended the meetings regularly. He was also willing to attend Bible Study in Teochew that I have had the privilege to conduct together with Mrs Lim. It was in the Bible Study that I got to know Chen 叔叔 better.
Although in his eighties and illiterate, Chen 叔叔 was eager to read the Bible. God honoured his effort and after some months of Bible Study, Chen 叔叔happily told me one Saturday that he was able to recognise some words in the Bible such as “主耶稣”. Whenever he came across familiar words in a song, he would belt out with gusto and smile. Chen 叔叔 never failed to thank and praise the Lord for enabling him to read.
Chen 叔叔 came to the Lord late in life. Yet, he was a man of faith – a living faith because it was demonstrated through his actions. Every week in our Bible Study, Chen 叔叔 would tell me that the Lord Jesus Christ was living in his heart and he had no fear of death because he was bound for Heaven. The food in St John’s might not be the best, yet, as a practice of his faith, Chen 叔叔 would adamantly refuse to attend ten-course lunches or dinners organised by other faiths. Even “ang pow” could not tempt him to compromise his stand with the Lord.
When Chen 叔叔 first come to True Life BPC, he had difficulty following the order of worship. He couldn’t turn to the referenced Bible passages in time, he couldn’t read the music score, everything was new to him and he felt “lost”. In despair, he contemplated stopping coming to church and he told the Lord. That Sunday which he thought would be his last worship service at True Life, sister Bee Bee came and sat next to him and helped him during Chinese Worship Service. Chen 叔叔 was elated. He knew it was the Lord who had heard his prayer and sent help promptly. His faith much strengthened, he avowed to attend church every week. And, this he did until his passing. Even when walking was causing him great discomfort, he would shuffle his feet with the aid of a walking frame to attend Chinese Worship Service every Sunday. He confessed that he “felt guilty” whenever he thought of skipping church service. It was a struggle for Chen 叔叔 to attend Church but he wouldn’t allow his pain to stop him from keeping his commitment to the Lord.
Chen 叔叔 held on to his faith to the very end. He was called home on 19 October 2019 and is now in Heaven with the Lord basking pain-free in the love of his beloved Lord Jesus.
Although Chen 叔叔 couldn’t “do much” because of age, yet his unwavering faithfulness to the Lord in his daily life has left a great impact on me. Now that worship service is available online, the convenience and comfort of worshipping at home is quite alluring. Each time I am tempted, invariably Chen 叔叔 would come to my mind…
“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb 10:23–25).
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