Another Untold Story of Methodist Missions Society–The Korean Connection
MMS 30:30 Testimony by Rev Khoo Cheng Hoot
Rev Khoo Cheng Hoot’s Divine Appointment
The year was 1990, one year before MMS was born. Representatives from The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) were in Korea for a missions conference sponsored by the Evangelical Fellowship of Asia. Among the 1,250 participants and speakers were Rev Dr Clarence Lim (Council of Missions Chairman), Rev Khoo Cheng Hoot (Chinese Annual Conference Board of Missions Chairman), Rev Vincent Samuel ( Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference Board of Missions Chairman), and Rev Dr. Donald Chia (Trinity Annual Conference Board of Missions Chairman).
Rev Khoo recalls, “As we sat through the many sessions listening to reports of missions work and missionaries sent, the question of why The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) did not send her own missionaries bore heavy on our hearts. There were many Singaporean Methodists serving in missions, but all were involved through missions agencies and other organisations. As a church, have we neglected such an important commission? It was while having coffee in between conference sessions that the four of us mooted the idea of a Methodist missions agency. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Rev Dr. Lim became the founding Director of MMS and Rev Khoo went on to become the Chinese Annual Conference President (2000-2008). As President, he was heavily involved in the work of MMS, and instrumental in encouraging CAC churches to be involved in missions through MMS.
“At that time,” said Rev Khoo, “CAC churches’ idea of missions was very much focused on the ethnic Chinese. We had to help them feel God’s heartbeat for the wider world and see the countries MMS were working in as opportunities for missions.”
Looking back on his involvement with MMS even before it started, Rev Khoo believes that the late Bishop Doraisamy could have planted the seed for MMS when the Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) celebrated her 90th anniversary in 1975. He was Bishop from 1973 to 1976 and his vision then was for MCS to send 100 missionaries and raise 1 million dollars for missions when MCS celebrated her 100th anniversary in 1985.
MMS came into existence in 1991. Though we may not have sent out 100 missionaries as yet, we will certainly get there!
Student of Missions
Rev Khoo’s missionary exposure journey started when he was still an engineering student at Singapore Polytechnic in the late 1960s.
As Missions Chairman of the District Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) then, he and other MYFers would go on mission trips to Johor almost every weekend for several years.
“Rev Alfred Yeo was a pastor in Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church then, and he would bring us to the preaching points set up by Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) missionaries there to do ministry,” added Rev Khoo.
He was also active in para church movements. “I was very involved with the Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES) then. This may have influenced my early thinking of not wanting to become a pastor, but to serve as a full-time Christian worker in a para church organization. I enrolled in the Discipleship Training Centre (DTC) from 1976 to 1978 and later, ended up enrolling in the first Chinese Masters of Divinity programme at Trinity Theological Centre (TTC) where I was the only student. This was by divine appointment. The training in DTC was very hands-on, and equipped us for ministry very well,” he recalled.
He was particularly indebted to Rev Dr. Howard Peskett from DTC and Rev Dr. Choong Chee Pang from TTC as they were excellent teachers, and he learned much from them.”
“Yet it was at Princeton University in the USA when I did my Masters of Theology and later Doctor of Ministry course work in Wesley Theological Seminary that I learned the most about the early Methodist mission.”
Upon his return from the USA in 1997, he was very grateful to the Kum Yan Methodist Church when told that he could “do missions full time for a year”—yet another "divine appointment”!
Bringing Missions to the Chinese Annual Conference
Being a Hinghwa himself, his home church is the Hinghwa Methodist Church, yet he served the longest in the Kum Yan Methodist Church, a Cantonese-speaking congregation. After Kum Yan, he was appointed to Foochow Methodist Church located in the Little India area. He remembered how they started outreach ministries to the Indians there even before ‘Reverse Missions’ or ‘Diaspora Missions’ became a missiology concept.
“We saw their need for the Gospel and we ministered to that need,” he stated simply.
Pioneering the missions to South Asians was but a manifestation of Rev Khoo’s DNA of always looking for mission opportunities. In the early 1990s, when he was the Chairman of the CAC Board of Evangelism & Mission, he noted that there were many Teochew-speaking people in the newly developed HDB new town of Hougang, but there were no Teochew services in CAC churches then. Rev Khoo encouraged Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Church to start a Teochew service to reach out to residents living near the church. The first Teochew Worship Service was held on 23 August 1992, and is still meeting today.
“Missions mean going beyond ourselves. We can go overseas, but we can also go beyond ourselves locally,” he quipped. But overseas missions are very much his passion, and he was actively involved, both as a CAC pastor and later as CAC President.
“There was a common perception then that only considered China as a mission field as most people in Church were proficient in Mandarin, and I wanted to change that perception,” he mused.
Rev Khoo retired in December 2011 and is now attached to the Sengkang Methodist Church. When asked what role he sees himself playing now, he answered matter-of-factly, “If you do something wrong, I confess. If you do the right thing, I will give thanks. If you get into trouble, I will scratch my head and think about how to support you.”
That is grand-parenting.
And why should he confess mistakes not of his making?
“According to a Chinese proverb, it takes ten years to grow a tree but a hundred years to cultivate a person,” said Rev Khoo, speaking from his heart.
“It takes intergenerational effort. Without an intentional passing of the baton, an enterprise faces demise after only three generations. The first generation establishes an enterprise while the second watches over it. What does the third generation need to do?” he quizzed, smiling, while waiting for an answer. “They got to re-establish it.”
“To be in a fellowship is to have a common purpose, to be in the Father’s business together,” he added.
To you, who are labouring on the mission field: Grandpa Khoo Cheng Hoot is watching your back.
And in this fellowship, the koinonia, lies the heartware of missions.
Picture shows Kah Yin’s birthday celebration in 2021. Rev Khoo Cheng Hoot and his wife Kah Yin have been married for 44 years. Rev Khoo’s ministry would not have been possible without the partnership of his wife.
Kah Yin recalls, “Growing up, I asked God for a husband who would commit to serving the Lord. When Cheng Hoot decided to go into full-time ministry before we got married, our plan was that I would provide the finance for the family and his ministry so that he could be free from financial anxiety to concentrate on his commitment to God’s ministry. It is still the same today. God provides more than enough, even for our retirement.”