An Untold Story of Methodist Missions Society – How It Began:
Updated: May 19, 2022
MMS 30:30 Testimony by Rev Ho Chee Sin
Bishop Ho Chee Sin’s Undying Heart for Missions
The Methodist Missions Society (MMS) was formally inaugurated on 30 September 1991 and today not many people know about its early beginnings.
Rev Ho Chee Sin was the Bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore (1984-1996) who oversaw the creation of the Methodist Missions Society. Rev Ho himself said, “I appointed Rev Dr Clarence Lim to start the MMS and left it to him. I kept abreast of the developments as Bishop, but the day-to-day operations were led by Dr Lim.”
This humble recollection belies the instrumental role Rev Ho played.
In His Younger Days
Rev Ho asked with a twinkle in his eyes, “Have you heard of the ‘The Three Musketeers’ of Missions?”
After several guesses, Rev Ho revealed, “They were the late Rev Dr George Wan, the late Rev Dr Clarence Lim, and I. We first met while studying at the Trinity Theological College in the early 1960s. There we found that we had a common passion for missions.”
“Although we were in different cohorts, we had some common classes. We found ourselves engaged in endless conversations about missions.”
“Later as pastors in the Methodist Church in Singapore, we went on many mission trips together. Ten years before the formation of MMS, we did a lot of travelling across Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar. These trips helped to plant the seed for setting up a Methodist Missions Society.”
As the Bishop
“I realised that the Methodist Church had much to offer in terms of missions. Our experience in education was sought after by numerous Southeast Asian countries. I also realised that many local Methodist churches were already involved in missions, doing very good ministries, setting up orphanages, and working on church planting.”
“But,” Rev Ho sighed, “the mission efforts were not coordinated and there was little sharing and encouragement among the Methodist churches of Singapore in doing missions. As Bishop, I felt that these individual efforts were not making effective use of resources as there were plenty of overlaps. Many resources were spent on doing the same things such as taking care of orphanages, giving food to feed the poor and hungry, etc. because our Methodist churches conducted missions independent of one another. We could do so much more if we had a combined and coordinated effort and reduce the likelihood of duplicating work.”
At that time, the Methodists did not have the wherewithal to support and send missionaries to work overseas. So, Bishop Ho discussed all these observations with his fellow mission warrior, Rev Dr Lim, and raised the prospect of rallying all the Methodist churches’ efforts so that missions could be done more efficiently and effectively.
The duo believed that the harvest was ripe (Matthew 9:35-38), and more labourers ought to share the work. The question was how to do so.
After some thinking and further discussions, the idea of establishing a “Methodist Missions Society” was mooted. Rev Dr Lim suggested the name, Bishop Ho approved it and appointed him to take charge.
Rev Dr Clarence Lim would go on to be the face of MMS while Bishop Ho supported quietly in the background, being kept informed of the Society’s progress through official reports and unofficial dialogues. There was a constant harmonious relationship between the strategist in the foreground and the encourager in the background.
The formation of a new society like MMS unsurprisingly invited reactions from inside the Methodist circle and those outside. During a meeting when MMS was first brought to the attention of the Council on Missions, someone questioned the necessity to set up a Missions Society for the Methodist Church. There were several other established missions agencies such as the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) and Youth With A Mission (YWAM) that the Methodist Church could collaborate with and support. Mr Andrew Tay, who would become the first Chairman of the MMS, simply posed a question back, “Why not?”
Decades later, Bishop Ho still remembers Mr Tay’s response and emphatically agreed it was the “correct” answer. He reasoned that if planting a church on foreign soil was a goal for overseas missions, it followed that Methodist missions should build Methodist churches wherever they went.
Regardless, fellow Methodists at that time were asking for clarification and not exactly raising objections. In Bishop Ho’s words, “the good thing was people listened to the Bishop.” He then plainly said that even if there was pushback, it was not voiced out.
As for public relations with other denominations, Bishop Ho remarked that they had no say over the setting up of MMS. They already had their respective missions societies. In fact, the Methodist Church was a little late to the game. When we started our first mission field in Thailand, the denominations already there were happy to share their experiences and give us advice and aid as needed.
Thus, the years of unquenched fire for missions that had been ablaze in the hearts of many like-minded Methodists finally culminated in the natural birth of MMS in 1991.
Rev Ho did not expect to become Bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore. Before he was appointed Bishop, he served in Malaysia for 13 years and then in Faith Methodist Church from 1977 to 1984. He returned to Singapore because the Methodist Church in Singapore and the Methodist Church in Malaysia became separate units in 1976.
Nonetheless, as Bishop Ho reflected on his years of service, he is more convinced than ever that contributing to missions was one reason God had appointed him Bishop. As the leader of the Methodist Church, he could better facilitate the establishment and development of MMS. He gave Rev Dr Lim’s team the full backing of the Bishop’s office and encouraged others to support the work of MMS so that missions work could grow. What a crucial role he played and indeed God knew best.
Missions was something that Bishop Ho always had on his heart. Growing up in Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, he had been exposed to and interested in Missions at a young age. Later, the group of “Three Musketeers” reinforced his passion for Missions, as though fuel was added to the fire. Before and also after he became Bishop, he had countless opportunities to travel abroad for missions. No wonder he firmly believes Missions is a field that God has led him to throughout his life.
Bishop Ho also revealed that after he retired, his main link to MMS is through the reading of the Harvest Force, the newsletter of the Society. While that may be the only tangible connection to the Society now, he still actively participates in Missions through his persistence in praying for MMS and missionaries every Monday because to him, ‘M’ is to pray for “Mission and Missionaries" in his prayer schedule.
He knows undoubtedly that Missions cannot be carried out by humans alone and the One behind everything is God. People need to partner with God and much prayer is also needed in the mission fields. Thus, he faithfully prays for Missions every week in the confidence that the almighty God will continue to bless the work and the workers.
From personally toiling in foreign territories to the creation of MMS during his time as Bishop, and even now although he has retired, Bishop Ho’s heart for Missions has never stopped beating, just as how God’s heart to save all peoples has never ceased since the beginning of time.