Honoring a Quiet Giant
This Honor Pastors’ Month, we share the Trinity story of our 99-year-old minister – Pastor Ng Buck Chua.
By Jessie Chew
When Christian’s think of people who "do great things for God", men like Abraham, Martin Luther or Billy Graham usually come to mind.
The father of many nations. The instigator of a reformation. A preacher to millions. To do “great things for God” is often associated with big, extraordinary acts – stories that get told and retold throughout history.
Doing “great things” usually means having one’s work be known around the world. So for most Christians, a hospital visit would hardly be considered a “great thing”. Neither is receiving the wafer and grape juice during communion.
These small acts are a “good thing” at best. Yet, they formed the core of Pastor Ng Buck Chua’s multi-decade ministry in Trinity.
His service to the Lord didn’t take him around the world. Yet for many Trinitarians, these small acts meant the world to them and their families.
Powerful God encounters
Pastor Ng’s Trinity story started in 1976 when he and his wife (Sister Kim) attended a Sunday service. “We had no intention of becoming Christians. Our intention was to help a family friend who was suffering from an illness,” said Pastor Ng.
“When my cousin shared that Jesus healed her of various ailments, we became interested and asked where her church was,” Sister Kim explained, “When she said Hotel Equatorial, we were surprised because we didn’t think church could be in a hotel. We attended to ask Pastor Dowdy to visit our friend. She accompanied us to the hospital that night. Although my friend was dirty and smelly, Pastor Dowdy still embraced and prayed for her.”
They decided to attend service the following week where Sister Kim received a miracle healing for her ear and back. “From that time onwards, we knew God was real and came for service every Sunday,” she shared.
In time, the middle-aged couple would respond to an altar call and commit their lives to Jesus.
The accidental pastor
After retiring from a career in insurance, Pastor Ng thought about how he would use his newly-freed time. “One day, Pastor Dowdy took me for my first hospital visit. She said, ‘You pray, I’ll watch.’ In my mind I was thinking, ‘What do I pray for? I’m a newcomer!’”
That one hospital visit turned into many. “After I prayed for one person, another person would ask me to pray for healing. Because there were so many who were ill, there were many people to pray for!”
Pastor Ng’s ministry was not at a pulpit preaching to millions. His pulpit was at bedsides and on couches. For more than three decades, he devoted his time to visiting the elderly and the sick.
When Chia Swee Tin came to Trinity in 1975, she joined Pastor Ng and Sister Kim in the dialect outreach group. “Trinitarians would ask Pastor Ng to visit their mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and grandfathers because he was able to speak Hokkien and Teochew. When you speak dialect to the seniors, it is very heartwarming to them. He and Sister Kim were always very willing to go for visitations. They never rejected requests because they had a heart to share the Good News,” she shared.
At the peak of his ministry, Pastor Ng saw more than half a dozen people a day. His schedule was packed from the early morning to late in the evening, traveling across Singapore to visit hospitals and homes.
Meeting the needs of others is a lifestyle for Pastor Ng, even if it means being inconvenienced. “I believe that if someone calls you, there must be a need – one that only God can meet.”
Lee Pui Chee saw this belief in action. After hearing news that a Trinitarian’s father was in the hospital, he called Pastor Ng to accompany him for a visit. Though Pastor Ng had just reached home from another hospital visit, he agreed to come along.
When they went to the man’s bedside and shared the Gospel, he rededicated his life to Jesus. Later that night, he passed away. Being there was an act of divine timing – a chance to share God’s love and ensure his place in heaven.
“In his own quiet way, Pastor Ng will just get the job done. He never missed an opportunity to share the Gospel,” Pui Chee affirmed.
When asked where he got his passion and energy to serve, Pastor Ng shared this: “When I see God using me in miracles, it encourages me to continue meeting needs and ministering to people. God is an opportunity-creating God. We must remain on the alert and move along with the opportunities He creates. God is wonderful and He will lead us because He wants people to know that He really cares.”
Serving the body
Besides conducting home and hospital visits, Pastor Ng was an active member of Trinity’s early communion ministry.
When Michael Wee was looking for an area to serve, Pastor Ng suggested for him to put on a tie and help with communion.
It was through Pastor Ng that Michael learned about the heart of serving. Today, Michael and his wife continue to serve communion, both in preparing and serving the emblems to the congregation.
Communion is also very dear to Sister Kim’s heart, having prepared it in the days before Trinity@Adam.
"Back then, there was no place to prepare Communion. Everything needed to be prepared beforehand. I would wake up early in the morning in order to get the wafers and cups ready for 8.30am service. While Pastor Ng drove, I would sit in the backseat and hold the trays so that they don’t overturn.
To save money, the communion trays and cups would be brought back for a soak and wash. If the cups were dirty, we would use satay sticks to clean them. Then we would place the cups on a large table to dry. At one point, we cleaned and dried thousands of cups!
In the early days, Pastor Dowdy would purchase communion wafers at $7 dollars a packet. At that time, Trinity didn’t have that many members so we wouldn’t even use half of it. It was such as waste. I took the box and looked at the ingredients: water, oil, and flour. That’s it, so plain!
Since I love to bake, I made my own version of the communion bread for Pastor Dowdy to sample. I told her, ‘If you approve, we can make it for ourselves.’
With her enthusiastic support, we made our own communion bread every month. Even our overseas guests were impressed! They would ask us, ‘Where did you buy this?’ Pastor Dowdy would respond that the bread was homemade – it cannot be bought!
We made our own communion bread until 2010 when the congregation multiplied to Trinity@Paya Lebar.”
Serving in all seasons
At 99 and 95 years old, Pastor Ng and Sister Kim are understandably not as active in the ministry as they once were.
These days, age has restricted Pastor Ng’s mobility. For a season, people would bring their loved ones to him for ministry. And after 32 years of faithful service, Pastor Ng stepped down as bi-vocational pastor on October 11, 2020.
Before stepping down from the serving communion at the age of 79, Sister Kim never grumbled or complained about the difficulties of serving. In fact, she didn’t view them as difficulties at all! “Once I commit to serving God, I would serve God. I want to do it properly, not half-heartedly. He healed me so I want to show my gratitude by serving Him.”
Serving in all seasons is a lesson Shirleen Lee took to heart. Many years ago when the Ngs hosted a small group, Shirleen would take her late grandfather to be part of the fellowship.
Even though her grandfather couldn’t see or hear well, Pastor Ng was always very patient. He was pleasantly surprised to be ministered by someone so elderly.
Though Pastor Ng was well along in years, he was still doing his part for Lord. This example challenged Shirleen to keep pressing on, look to Jesus, and keep serving all the days of her life.
One of Pastor Ng’s favorite Bible verses is 1 Corinthians 13:8a, “Charity [love] never faileth.” And loving others is the legacy this couple leaves for us to follow.
“We are faithful to Trinity because our pastor [Pastor Dowdy] is faithful to God. Because of our faithfulness, many of our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren have followed in our footsteps. They see our love and loyalty for this church,” shares Sister Kim
Pastor Ng and Sister Kim at Vision Weekend 2015
Pastor Ng and Sister Kim, thank you for doing great things for Trinity. Thank you for showing us what it means to love God and love people. Your dedicated and faithful service will be remembered now and for many generations to come.
Interview with Pastor Ng and Sister Kim originally featured in 2015’s Decade of Dedication special magazine.
Reflect & Respond
Think of a time when a pastor shared an encouraging word to you. How did their ministry mature your faith?
What is the spiritual legacy you want to leave for your family? What will you do to show them what it means to love God and love people?
Think of a person you can share the Gospel with. You can use the following illustration to guide you.