The Home Going of Dr Bobby Sng (1936 - 2019)
A TRIBUTE TO A LIFE WELL-LIVED
From life to life. Dr Bobby Sng, 83, beloved author, bible expositor, pioneer, historian, husband, friend and mentor, has returned home to the Lord he loved and served all his life. Dr Sng’s wife, Dr Ivy Peck, has been his faithful partner in ministry and missions since they married in 1964. They have three daughters, Jen-Hwei, Li-Hwei, and Alexia Ming Hwei, as well as sons-in-law Nicholas Merrow-Smith, Dr Mak Koon Hou, and Francis Lee, and six grandchildren.
Dr Bobby Sng had served as President of the Bible Society of Singapore, the General Secretary of the Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES) and, later, Graduate Secretary of the Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF). He sat on many Boards and provided the vision and direction for many a Christian and social endeavour in Singapore and Malaysia. But he’s above all remembered by thousands, probably tens of thousands, whose lives have been impacted by his preaching and teaching. The tributes that continue to pour in from key civil and Christian leaders bear testimony to his monumental role in the local Church and beyond. Below are some snippets of tributes that have come in.
Bobby and I entered the then-University of Malaya in Singapore in 1956, he to study medicine and I to study arts. After one year of hospital experience, however, he chose to relocate to the Cameron Highlands to pastor what would become a thriving church. His children were born there and his wife Ivy and he returned to Singapore only because of their schooling.
In our occasional meetings, he struck me as being always convicted of mission. However he never lost sight of pastoring. I remember the two occasions when he spoke to the University Staff Christian Fellowship at my then-home in Kent Ridge Hall. One message was that of keeping one’s lifestyle simple. Too often we clutter our lives with needless activities and things. The other message was that of making our minds always captive to God, even though as professionals we have different callings.
Bobby had an artistic flair. He kept stamps and gave his collection to the Bible Society of Singapore when I was still its general secretary. As a result, we published several books on Christian stamps. God spoke to him in the beauty and the international variety of ubiquitous postage stamps. Such was the man, close to God and yet recognising that God had placed him on earth where the gospel could be preached through objects as simple as stamps.
I nominated him to be the president of the Bible Society when I retired. When he retired from that position, I succeeded him as president but I followed his example of putting God first always, in mission and also in daily living. His life challenges us to be simple yet secure in God’s love at all times.
Dr Lee Soo Ann
Former chairman of Impact magazine
I first met Bobby Sng in January 1963. He struck me as a studious young medical doctor, while I was about to commence my ministry as the first FES staff worker. Our friendship grew and we often met. I remember our stimulating discussions on issues relating to God’s kingdom, the academic world and penetrating the churches of Singapore with a robust Christian Faith.
Bobby was no theorist spouting great ideas. When he became General Secretary of FES Singapore in 1969, he made a deep impact on the lives of numerous students and graduates, challenging them to magnify the Lord Jesus in their professions and in the local church.
Bobby was well loved as a Bible expositor locally and in East Asia. His life and teaching mirrored the priorities of the kingdom (Mt. 6:33). I shall remember him as a caring family head, a faithful disciple who was always eager to learn and to serve others. I treasure his love and partnership over five decades. He was indeed Christ’s “good and faithful servant” par excellence.
Rev Chua Wee Hian
UK General Secretary of the IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students), 1972-1991.
Dear Dr Bobby Sng,
I will miss the twinkle and sparkle in your eyes.
Your eyes would light up when sharing Bible truths with us, enlivened by your insights into church history, the challenges faced in fast-moving Singapore, and values that were anchored in the Scriptures.
In the Varsity Christian Fellowship, you taught us hermeneutics with such clarity and humility. Brought delight in studying doctrine and creeds. And encouraged in fellowship and friendship.
I was a task-oriented medical student in the 1980s and the good Lord taught me about missions through you.
When I felt small in the face of seemingly intractable healthcare needs and poverty issues, you shared with me how you too felt small, but reassured me that “if the Lord can use a donkey, He will readily use us” - and said this with a sparkle in your eyes.
I was busy with medical studies and turbo-charged about the VCF; involved in several cell groups, running missions training and having at least one or two VCF meetings daily. In my final year as a medical student, you understood my dream to work among the rural poor - I am thankful the Lord used you to start me on my missions journey; I am eternally thankful that the Lord used you to start me on my marriage journey.
As a task-oriented youth, I concluded that I should go as a single. I had no time for girlfriends. You shared with me that I should consider marriage. The good Lord used you to usher me into marriage - and both Lay Chin and I are well blessed indeed.
You spoke at our wedding - our marriage verse being Proverbs 30:7-9.
7 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
Dr Sng, we will miss your spark and the smile in your eyes. Our strong assurance is in Christ who brings us eternal joy.
Dr Tan Lai Yong and his wife Lay Chin were members of the VCF at NUS in the early 1980s, when Dr Bobby Sng was General Secretary of the FES.
We, at Christian Assembly Hall (CAH), thank God for our brother Bobby Sng who has been a gift from the Lord to the church. We have been much blessed by his life and ministry — love for God and His Word, faithfulness in service, gentleness in approach — all these years at CAH.
Dr Sng has impacted many lives, as evident by all of us always looking expectantly and joyfully to hear him speak at our Sunday services (at least once a month, year after year) and the many precious spiritual lessons that continue to remain with us. Our beloved brother has always been steadfast, abounding in the work of the Lord. Praise the Lord.
Chan Keen Mun
Deacon of Christian Assembly Hall
Dr Bobby Sng and his twin brother Jimmy were my classmates in ACS, finishing in 1954. His intelligence was always evident to those who knew him.
In 1978 Bobby was appointed as the chairman of the Professional Committee for the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade. He was also instrumental in forming the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore in 1980. In 1989 - 1990 Bobby was invited to serve as a Council member of Scripture Union. Although not an ordained pastor, he was Spirit-anointed and recognised as one of the key evangelical leaders of Singapore.
Rev Dr Alfred Yeo Chee Heng
Vice chairman of Chinese Church Union Singapore
Calm and measured are two descriptions that readily come to mind when we think of Dr Bobby Sng. But this gentle demeanour hid a tremendous courage — the courage to speak up when needed, as he shared his convictions about abortion and similar issues.
From Impact’s earliest years, Dr Sng was a much respected writer and willing contributor. We are grateful for his staunch support and fellowship over many decades and offer our heartfelt condolences to Ivy and their family members at this time.
Dr Andrew Goh
Honorary editor of Impact magazine
Calm and measured
Was such a man of Love and Faith;
A Friend did say of one whose life was shaped upon God’s lathe.
Brilliance met in harmony with selfless labour for the good
Of many who would chance upon him in Life’s journey through the wood.
Bobby he preferred to Dr Sng or Robert when addressed;
Informality granted him access to the hearts thus blessed.
Heaven’s Love was shown in deed, not with mere words;
Students learned to walk his talk with pride, not as mere herds.
Many his years on earth, endowed with wisdom from on high;
Many his tears in weeping alongside those who could not cry.
Leaders grew and flourished under his ample wings;
Voiceless ones soon learned the songs the heavenly Chorus sings.
Fame and fortune were ready at his beck and call;
He chose the path of lowly servants loving one and all.
Rest well, Sir Bobby, enter the lovely Pearly Gates;
Where labour ceases and joy unceasing resonates.
Remembering Dr Bobby Sng, one of my early Heroes in Life.
First three words “Calm and measured” came from Andrew Goh.
It was my privilege as a common, unknown Bible College student and YFC Staff Worker many decades ago in Singapore to have met and learned from Bobby as he shared, taught and inspired us in meetings, conferences and his writings.
Rev David Loo (retired Methodist pastor in Malaysia)
When The Bible Church and Mount Carmel Bible-Presbyterian Church embarked on a joint building project, we invited Dr Bobby Sng to grace our Ground-Claiming Ceremony. “As you settle into a land of your own,” he exhorted us, “don’t let your forward look become an inward look.” The forward look of a pioneer and pilgrim, has been Dr Sng’s posture from the time he served as a medical doctor in rural Malaya to the years he spent championing the ministry to students and graduates in urban Singapore. An elder statesman, he continued calling us to look beyond ourselves till he himself answered the call “for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14 ESV
Rev Dr David Wong
Former senior pastor of Mount Carmel and of Zion Bishan BP Churches
Dr Bobby Sng impressed me as one who was unafraid to give attention to prevailing ideas in the world, and then critique these in the light of Scripture. In so doing he challenged me to do the same. He was, I think, one of our more significant thought-leaders in the Church in Singapore.
Another lasting impression I have is of Dr Sng’s preaching. It always manifested a serious attention to the biblical text, a clear exposition and, what was never ever missed, an application to our lives. Dr Sng was never ever loud but he spoke with such conviction that moved the hearts of many.
In the workplace he never ‘forced’ anyone to adopt his leadership style nor even intentionally assumed the role of mentor to any, but the way he functioned as our General Secretary left in me a vision of what a Christian leader can be and do, through his own life, in the life of another.
We will miss Dr Sng but he will live on through his influence in the lives of many of us!
Joseph John worked as FES Staffworker from 1980-89,
and then assumed leadership of FES from 1989-95.