Pastor Chan: Saved for dedication

“He was a man of prayer and would lead others in intercessory prayer every Friday in the church sanctuary. Every Lunar New Year, Pastor Chan would visit as many parishioners as he could.”

Drawing a monthly salary of less than $200 was what saved Pastor Chan Wah Teck’s (CWT) life during the Japanese occupation of Singapore.

The Japanese had rounded up and detained male Chinese adults – those earning more than $200 were then taken away and killed.

Subsequently, CWT shared in his oral history tapes*, 100 frail and elderly persons from among the 1000-odd detainees were to be released. CWT pleaded with the warden to be released, as he had a young family. By God’s grace, the warden acceded to his request although CWT at that time was certainly not frail or elderly. The remaining 900 were then transported by lorry to a site in Upper East Coast Road, where they were forced to dig their own graves before execution.

CWT said “God saved my life” and subsequently dedicated his life to God’s work. Both he and his wife were already attending Geylang Chinese Methodist Church (Geylang CMC) at the start of the war. During these war years, CWT ran Saturday Bible classes for between 80 to 100 children in his neighbourhood.

After the war, he preached alongside the church’s pastor, the Rev Chew Hock Hin at the Straits Chinese services which were held in Malay. As the congregation grew, CWT suggested starting a preaching point in Bedok. The Rev Chew agreed and appointed CWT and his wife in charge of the Bedok Gospel Work, as the preaching point was then known. They used an attap hut in Padang Tebakar for their worship services.

Eventually this preaching point grew from 15 to almost 100 members, and Bedok Gospel Work became the full-fledged Bedok Methodist Church (BMC) on a piece of land purchased by The Methodist Church in Singapore with generous donations by church members. The building was completed in 1952. CWT served as pastor of BMC for 36 years. Today it has a membership roll of 1250.

CWT first came to know the Lord when an office colleague introduced him to the Epworth League (the forerunner of our Methodist Youth Fellowship) in what was then Telok Ayer Methodist Church.

I had known CWT – fondly called “Pastor Chan” – for more than 30 years, 14 as a member of BMC. I admired him for his humility, friendliness and down-to-earth sermons which he delivered with perfect diction. Though he had no formal theological training, I believe that he was filled with the Holy Spirit as he drew solid insights from the Bible.

His son George described Pastor Chan as “a kind man”, loved by all his parishioners.

Pastor Chan was kind to all he met – young and old, poor and rich. I had never heard him utter a harsh word or expletive.

Mr David Liow, a stalwart of BMC and a confidant of Pastor Chan, shared: “Pastor Chan was a family man. He laboured in God’s vineyard with his wife and family; he had an exceptional memory and could remember the names of all the church members.

“He was a man of prayer and would lead others in intercessory prayer every Friday in the church sanctuary. Every Lunar New Year, Pastor Chan would visit as many parishioners as he could.”

While serving at Geylang CMC, CWT continued working in the Singapore Municipality as he shouldered his pastoral load. Coping with both his secular workload and pastoring a growing flock was tough going. After prayerful consideration, he quit his job in 1948 and devoted all his time and energy to the church.

As he no longer had any income, he was given an allowance of $300 a month by the church. He found God’s work rewarding and enjoyable, even as God looked after the needs of his family.

Pastor Chan retired as pastor in 1982, but continued to serve the church as ad-hoc preacher until his health declined. He passed away on June 6, 2003, leaving behind his son George, daughter Grace Gan, and their families.

The life history of Pastor Chan is one of dedicated service and winning souls for Christ, similar to that of the Apostle Paul whose ministry he espoused. At the end of his life, it would have been fitting for him to echo Paul’s words: “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears” (Acts 20:19).

* CWT’s oral history tapes are kept in the Archives & History Library of The Methodist Church in Singapore.



Picture courtesy of Pastor Chan Wah Teck’s family

Dr Tong Hoo Ing contributes to Methodist Message as a volunteer writer. A retired neurologist, he also volunteers with the Bethany Methodist Nursing Home. He worships at Wesley Methodist Church.