Happenings, News

Friendly cabbies who win friends for Christ

SHOULD you hop into Mr Tay Hay Leng’s taxi, don’t be surprised if he greets you with a cheery “Hello, how are you?” and tries to counsel you if you share your financial woes or personal problems.

Or if you are travelling in Mr Clarence Lew’s cab, don’t raise your eyebrows if he tells you how you can find love, joy and peace, and lead a meaningful life.

For they are not your ordinary cabbies who drive indiscriminately just to pick up passengers. They, together with another 120 of their buddies, are members of the Taxi Drivers’ Christian Fellowship (Singapore) who drive with care and share their love and concern with their passengers.

Said Mr Tay, who is president of the Fellowship: “We are very happy that our job gives us opportunities to meet many people with whom we can share our Christian love and care. We are very happy that we can help to save souls, but we do not do hard-sell evangelism.

Some members of the Taxi Drivers’ Christian Fellowship at a recent lunch gathering at a
coffee shop behind Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church. At extreme left is Mr Clarence Lew,
the Vice-President of the Fellowship, and next to him is Mr Tay Hay Leng, the President.
– Methodist Message picture.

Added Mr Lew, the Fellowship’s vice-president: “Taxi-drivers are lonely people; we are all alone in a taxi most of the time, and sometimes it’s not easy to find passengers. And when we meet people who are lonely, we understand them. We talk to them, we befriend them, and we share our common concerns.

“When they open up, we tell them not to worry because we know we have the Lord. We tell them not to be afraid whatever the circumstances because the Lord is with us all the time.

“We told them that when Singapore was hit by SARS, for example, our Fellowship members were not afraid because we were covered by the blood of Jesus and we continued to ply the streets. We needed the Lord’s protection, and the Lord watched over us.

“We need the Lord at all times, and Christ is our Provider.”

Both Mr Tay and Mr Lew are long-time members of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.

A taxi-driver for the past 24 years, Mr Tay attended Sunday School at Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church from the age of seven when he followed his late parents to the church.

Mr Lew, 54, who became a Christian at the age of 18, started worshipping the Lord when a friend took him to Grace Assembly of God in Tanglin Road. Later, he became a member of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.

Recalling how the Fellowship came into being, Mr Tay said that he, Mr Ng Geok Leng and Mr Tan Lian Chye decided in 1987 to gather a group of Christian taxi-drivers for fellowship and spiritual growth. The idea came about when they saw other cabbies getting together during the Hungry Ghost Festival.

Mr Tan is now a preacher at Holy Covenant Methodist Church, and Mr Ng is serving as the Fellowship’s treasurer.

Mr Tay said: “We saw a need for taxi-drivers who are Christians to meet regularly to encourage one another, to help one another, and to worship as a group. Some taxi-drivers do not feel comfortable going to a big church.”

They started to meet regularly as a small group in 1989. In 1997, the Fellowship was registered with the Registrar of Societies as a non-profit society. Their meeting place was at Newton Road. They then moved to Geylang Chinese Methodist Church in 1999, and shifted again, to Toa Payoh Methodist Church (TPMC), the following year.

They hold three fellowship meetings a month at TPMC at 8pm — on the first and second Thursdays of the month in Mandarin, and on the third Thursday of the month in English.

Christian love the driving force behind these cabbies

In addition, committee members meet over lunch at a coffee shop at Block 252, Street 21, Ang Mo Kio, on Tuesdays. The coffee shop is just behind Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church. The lunch fellowship is also open to all members.

The group’s objectives are to:

*Provide a fellowship that will give encouragement and support, to strengthen spiritual life within the group;

*Equip Christian taxi-drivers to become good Christian soldiers for Christ and to share the Good News with others;

*Motivate Christian taxi-drivers to bear a good Christian testimony to their counterparts; and

*Join effort with churches, organisations and welfare societies to participate in community service projects.

Said Mr Tay: “We want to reach out to other taxi-drivers and we want to reach out to passengers as well so that
more people will come to know the Lord.”

One of the Fellowship’s most popular activities is excursions for the elderly and residents from welfare homes, including those run by the Methodist Welfare Services and The Methodist Church in Singapore. The Fellowship does not levy any charge. On top of that, its members lose the opportunity to get more earnings.

“But,” said Mr Tay, “the joy on their faces tells us that it is worthwhile organising such trips for them.”

Another well liked activity is excursions for its own members. Mr Lew said: “We have driven family members on excursion trips to as far as Malacca.

“We also hold annual retreats, usually in Malaysia. Members and their families come together for a time of fellowship and spiritual encouragement.”

Other popular activities include hosting meals and festive parties for senior citizens from day-care centres.

The Fellowship hosted a Christmas party for its members at Toa Payoh Methodist Church on Dec 18, 2003. After a round of singing of Christmas carols in English and Mandarin, the Rev Ho Kum Weng, the Fellowship’s adviser, gave the message. Everyone was given a Christmas present before the start of the dinner. And as at all Christmas dinners, there was the turkey right in the middle of the buffet table.

The Fellowship is self-financing. To finance all these activities, each Fellowship member donates $1 a day.

“That’s a great help for us because we need the money to support all our programmes,” said Mr Tay, who added: “Finally, it is God who provides.”

Members of the Fellowship and their families on a recent trip to Malacca. –TDCFS picture.