Tribute to Jim Chew (1937 - 2019)
On October 24, 2019, Jim Chew “breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.” That was my second thought on hearing of Jim’s passing, remembering the verse in Genesis on Abraham. My first thought was that Jim (and his wife Selene) had over the years, passed on their faith to “faithful men” who have gone on to “teach others also.” While they had no physical offspring, they were, by God’s grace, spiritual parents and grandparents and great grandparents and great great grandparents... Below are a few of those he touched who have gone on to impact others.
Mary Yeo, Deputy Editor, Impact magazine
Jim Chew played a pivotal role in my life when I was a student. He brought me to YFC club and asked me to give my testimony. Jim taught me the basics of the Christian life, which stayed with me and enabled me to grow over the past five decades. Jim imparted a zeal to me “for all nations”. I recall my first mission trip to Taipei in 1960. I saw how he shared the gospel with a pre-believing family. Being with Jim has always been instructive and inspiring. I spent a year assisting him when he launched the Nav ministry in KL, Malaysia. I learnt how to initiate discipleship ministry from scratch. With his encouragement, I had the joy of leading my first Secondary School classmate to Jesus. Subsequently, he taught me how to mentor my friend, the new believer. He also inspired me to raise up spiritual generations — a vision which has stayed with me all these years. His missionary zeal was contagious and I learnt from him how discipleship could be done for all nations. It is with joy that I reminisce about Jim. His most outstanding legacy to me is prayer. Though I was then a new Christian, we spent every Thursday night praying for an hour and that is my fondest memory. I attribute much of my success in ministry to Jim, my mentor.
Senior Pastor of Bethesda Community Church and marketplace practitioner
Last night, my uncle, Jim Chew, was called Home to be with the Lord. I will miss him dearly.
Uncle Jim taught me many things: the importance of discipling, because that is what the Lord did with His followers, the need to read Scripture deeply and pray consistently, and how the Bible has complete authority over my life. But it was really in the last seven months when I was accompanying him for his cancer treatments that he taught me probably one of the most important lessons I have learned as a Christian: how to finish well.
Even as he was going around receiving treatment, he never failed to show love and grace, he always reached out to people and really spoke with them. He was genuinely interested in their lives. Every encounter he had, he never failed to share the gospel in some relevant way, to show Christ's love and grace. It didn't matter if it was the lady who was moving him around in his wheelchair, or all the doctors who were treating him, or the nurses in the chemotherapy room, he reached out to every one of them, spoke with them about Christ, and prayed with them, even if they were non-believers. He always told me, people hardly turn down an offer to pray for them, and he was right. He impacted all of those he touched profoundly, including myself, as I witnessed all this first hand and up close.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." 2 Tim 4:7-8. Thanks Uncle Jim, for teaching me how to live well, and finish well in Christ. I will be forever grateful to the Lord for bringing him into my life.
Khoo Teng Cheong
Chairman of the Elders Board of Bethesda (Katong) Church
To me, Jim Chew was outstanding in that his own life and behaviour were very compelling. He was a terrific role model. He inducted me into the Navs and I had the privilege of staying with the Roy Robertson family. This was discipling-at-close-quarters. Even in the most intense of evangelistic or outreach situations, Jim always appeared composed and “cool” (long before it became a popular expression). Different ones among us have our own memories of Jim. Mine was of him, rowing his sampan from his home at St Patrick’s Road to 408-B Upper East Coast Road (before the land reclamation projects off the East Coast). I thought of him as a spiritual man, but here was physical prowess! All because someone else needed that sampan more than him! To paraphrase a then-expression, this was a man who was “heavenly-minded but of great earthly use”.Our heartfelt condolences and prayers are with Selene and the extended family.
Editor of Impact Magazine and elder of Riverlife Church
Jim Chew, beloved mentor to many in Singapore over various generations, is finally in the arms of his beloved Saviour & Lord. He was released from his 7.5-month battle with cancer, having been back in Wellington, New Zealand, with his beloved Selene for the past couple of weeks.
His life has been an example and model for many beyond Singapore. Even while battling cancer, he was sharing Christ and discipling others in the hospital. A former National Director of Navs SG, he also served worldwide in the Navs community by life and model, beyond titles.
With dry wit and humour, Jim was someone who always thought well of others. And he loved a good durian feast. We are grateful to the Lord for his 81 years of a Christ-centered life, seeking to proclaim and promote His Saviour, drawing others to follow His Master.
Yap Kim Meng
National Director of the Navigators Singapore
I first met Jim at the Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG) in 2016. I remember noticing this elderly Asian man sitting at the back row on the lower deck, and I thought to myself, “how stern a man”. But then he got mentioned by name from the stage. And I remember thinking then, “I’ve got to meet this man!” And so we had breakfast together. I accompanied him once on a bus ride from the hotel to the conference venue, and he out-walked me!
After YLG, we kept in touch. Each time he was coming back to Singapore, we’d arrange a time to meet up. He was always so keen to spend time with people (young and old really!). Most of the time when we met, it was simply to accompany him to and from his appointments. And we’d just talk. Even if it was just for the duration of a car ride, we’d talk. And we’d pray. Sometimes others would come by just to have a chat with Jim, and I’d mostly just sit there and listen. I’d always leave the better for it.
I’ll never forget that day in April this year, when I went with two others to visit Jim at his apartment at The Navigators. I sat there most of the time just observing and listening to them talk. We closed in prayer. And Jim prayed. And he prayed as of a man utterly convicted of God’s love, and that his relationship with God mattered far more than anything else. And when he finished praying, he just suddenly declared that he was fully surrendered to God, fully trusting that He works out everything for his good. And I thought I saw his face radiant, and the room filled with light. That moment was the closest thing to a transfiguration that I have ever witnessed.
He was ready to meet his Father. I’m assured that he is now in the everlasting arms.
Thank you Jim, for all you've been to us.
Ng Zhiwen is a Ministry Staff at Zion Bishan BP Church & Program Executive at Singapore Centre for Global Missions.
“Don’t you have to go back to your office, Jim?”, I asked my relaxed mentor.
Jim Chew smiled as I continued, “I thought national directors must be super busy with a lot on their plates!”
Jim looked at me tenderly and said quite sincerely, “No, I don’t need to rush back. I’ve carved out the whole afternoon for you.”
He wasn’t joking (I’ve never known Jim to joke or make light of such things).
And I’ve never forgotten that afternoon. I was then a Bible College student and he was the national director of the Navigators, Singapore. And he gave me his time.
Jim met me regularly to mentor me in the Word, in discipleship and in leadership. And a few years later, readily introduced me to his boss, Doug Sparks, so that Doug could spend personal time with me as well.
That’s Jim Chew. Big-visioned, big-hearted and big on intentional disciplemaking.
And though I have never officially been a Navigator, I have become an adopted son of the Navigators as my life has been changed because of Jim Chew!
Rev Edmund Chan
Leadership Mentor of Covenant EFC & founder of Global Alliance of Intentional Disciplemaking Churches
"Hi David, I'm Jim.” That was our first encounter at a rally in Wellington, and he already knew my name. He was National Director and I was a student. I will never forget that.
Some ten years later, I was an associate staff when Jim led the Navs work in Malaysia. He talked about "travelling teams of mentors" long before anyone spoke about the "alongsiders" ministry. Focused yet innovative, he led with a shepherd heart and skillful hands. I learned much from his leadership and it helped me tremendously, both as a ministry and a business leader.
But the best memories are from our times together in more recent years. Each time Jim was in K.L. he would want to meet up. Over many dinners and often with several others who were close to Jim, we would share stories, talk about ministries, have animated discussions and laughed a lot. We also celebrated his 80th birthday.
Of course we were mentored too, on discipleship and disciple-making. From a life that was fresh and flourishing even in the face of cancer, still bearing fruit in old age, he was inspiring us to imitate his faith. Those were precious moments.
We will all miss Jim. But what a legacy!
Former CEO of Tupperware Malaysia & Singapore and Founder of B&P Ministry.
I first met Jimmy Jan 1954 when we were fellow students doing our “O levels” in Victoria School. I knew him since 1956 as fellow brothers in Christ. In the entire period I knew him as a brother in Christ, there are 3 things about him that have registered deeply in me.
1) His complete dependence on the Holy Spirit to convict and convert.
Jimmy’s part in my journey to Christ is testimony to this. Jimmy faithfully brought me every few days to hear the Good News presented by various speakers at the VCF outreach meetings in my first year in the University in 1956. He laboured in prayer in the background and left it to the Holy Spirit to do His work. He completely trusted in the power of the Holy Spirit to create the situation to convict me with the reality of Jesus. Jimmy never depended on his persuasive talk but depended entirely on the Holy Spirit to do the work, which only the Holy Spirit can.
2) His love for the Word of God and immersion in and memorisation of the Word.
This well preceded the Navigators coming to Singapore. It was God’s way of preparing Jim for his life’s mission-work as part of the Navigators witness. How I wish to have the same hunger for the Word!
3) In presenting the Good News to see things from the listener’s perspective.
He was sensitive to the cultural and religious practices and life of the listener to whom he was talking about Christ and did not dwell on changes in these as a necessary part of following Christ. He was entirely focused on one aspect only -- presenting Jesus and the need to know Him and to follow Him. Some of his views would probably be considered compromising the faith by those who have accepted western cultural practices as part of the core of Christianity. Jim never wavered from the focus on Jesus.
S. Dhanablan worships in Bukit Panjang Gospel Chapel.
He served for close to 30 years in Singapore politics.