The Rev Chew Hock Hin: A great evangelist

At the memorial service, Bishop Emeritus Dr T. R. Doraisamy described the Rev Chew’s theology as a “dynamic Christology”.

“Tuhan”, “Shorga”, “Mengikut Isa”. These words reverberated through the sanctuary of the Malacca Straits Chinese Methodist Church to the Rev Chew Hock Hin preach (Malacca SCMC) as I sat listening to the Nonyas and Babas in the congregation. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, I had accompanied my parents to the Sunday Services in Malay as my mother could only understand Hokkien and Malay.Those were the words which echoed in my mind as I reflected on the late Rev Chew’s preaching, which gave me my first impressions of him.

Mr Chew Hock Hin (CHH) was born on November 29, 1900, the youngest son and second-youngest child among eight brothers and four sisters. His father was a wealthy businessman and his parents were staunch Buddhists.

In his personal testimony “How I Became a Christian”, the Rev Chew wrote that as a child, he had been taught to say Buddhist prayers every day and was entrusted with the daily family worship which he carried out conscientiously”. In spite of his parents’ praise for his religious zeal, he “felt an inexplicable inward discontent”.

One Sunday morning, he was guided by the Holy Spirit to Fort Canning Rise where he heard singing coming from the Anglo-Chinese School Chapel. Hesitant at first, he heard an “Inner Voice” urging him to enter the Chapel. There, he was given a copy of the New Testament. The moment his hands held the NT he felt extremely happy. “I was convinced that This Book was a Divine Book.”

After enduring persecution, including being driven out of his home by his father (subsequently to be reconciled), CHH was baptised by the Rev Goh Hood Keng. CHH gave up a lucrative career in commerce to become a full-time Methodist pastor. In essence, he moved from his father’s business to his (heavenly) Father’s Business.

The Rev Chew had a great charismatic personality. He started preaching to the Peranakan in Singapore on Pentecost Sunday, May 15, 1932; he also did pioneering work among the unevangelised Peranakans in the Geylang district and its surrounds. This laid the foundation for the Geylang Straits Chinese Methodist Church, the forerunner of Pentecost Methodist Church.

In 1934, the Rev Chew was appointed pastor of Paya Lebar Methodist Church (PLMC). He brought many to accept Christ through his evangelistic outreach. He spearheaded the building project and raised funds from his congregation as well as from well-wishers from all walks of life in Singapore, Malaya and Medan. Through his faithful labour, PLMC was dedicated on May 8, 1938. A year later, he started a preaching point, the Malacca SCMC, under local preacher Mr Low Kway Song.

The Rev Chew was in great demand as a speaker by churches in South-East Asia. Even when he was on holiday with his family in Cameron Highlands,
he held services in the social hall of the hotel. Also in Batavia (Jakarta), while on vacation, he preached and made converts of: An avowed anti-Christian, a dying woman whose life was prolonged, non- Christians at an elderly Christian’s wake, and the parents and siblings of a Christian girl who had passed away.

When World War II broke out, the Rev Chew braved shells and bombs to visit his parishioners. He accommodated some of their families in his home. His younger son, Mr Chew Chin Jin, recounted how his father helped evacuate 72 persons to a house in Trinity Theological College in Mount Sophia.

On February 15, 1942, the first day of the Lunar New Year, the Rev Chew held a Thanksgiving Service in the chapel of the house. While they were praying, Japanese bombs fell on the dormitories within the house. By God’s grace, not a single person was hurt as everyone was in the chapel praying.

Soon after the Japanese surrender, the Rev Chew continued his visits to Malacca to preach to his Peranakan flock. During one of these, he visited my father in the General Hospital. My father had been in coma for a week, suffering from meningitis. At that time, the only antibiotics available were penicillin and sulphonamides.

The Rev Chew knelt and prayed fervently and passionately for my father’s recovery. Before he left my father’s bedside, he planted in my family’s mind the following verse from Matthew 19:26 – “With God all things are possible.” That night, my father was observed to stir a little, and after a few days he regained consciousness. Within a month he recovered fully and went back to work.

The Rev Chew was called Home to be with his Lord on November 27, 1978. At the memorial service, Bishop Emeritus Dr T. R. Doraisamy described the Rev Chew’s theology as a “dynamic Christology”.

“It was event-centred,” he told mourners, “because the saving event of the birth, the life, the resurrection, the ascension and the presence were always emphasised. If there was a preacher filled with the Holy Spirit to the point of demonstrable manifestation it was he.”

Photo courtesy of The Methodist Church Archives, Singapore

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