Having been with Trinity Methodist Church (TMC) for many years, it could be said that Mr Robert Yeo has seen a lot of the history that took place in the church both as a member and a church leader. His observations and invaluable experiences at TMC would be beneficial for the younger generations of church members.
From Usher to Leader
Robert first joined the church 40 years ago when he got married in the church. He started out attending church and then going home or go out for lunch right after service like any of the pew warmers.
At some point in time, he was first approached to be an usher. Sometime after, he also volunteered to be a car park attendant and then he joined the finance/accounts/money-counting team. He shared that the members from these money-counting teams were unsung heroes of the church. Robert wanted to thank the members of these teams for turning up religiously every Sunday to perform their duties in a responsible and faithful manner as it was important to keep an honest and accurate record of tithings and offerings to God.
The church is the body of Christ and there are many other people who help with the everyday operational duties that keep the church running. What they do may not be obvious or visible, yet it is still an important part of church work. In fact, some of them have been quietly serving in this ministry for over 30 or more years.
Robert Yeo said:
“When you are doing God’s work in church, it is about God at work. It does not matter whether you roll up your sleeves or make leadership decisions because ultimately a church function as one body. Every little part is that body.”
In 2002, Robert joined the Local Church Executive Committee (LCEC) as the Assistant Treasurer. Although not being qualified as an accountant, he was encouraged by a fellow church member to join as the criteria was about being willing to serve, God will provide the skills/ability. Thus started his journey in the LCEC and he spent most of his time in the Finance ministry, eventually becoming the Treasurer, then the Chair of Finance.
Faith and Personal Growth
When TMC decided to undergo redevelopment, he played the role of Chairman of Redevelopment/Fund-Raising Committee and was tasked to raise $12.6 million for the renovation works. At that time, Singapore was in recession, so Robert asked Philip Lim (then head Pastor of TMC) if they should really go forward with the renovation as it would be a huge challenge to raise this amount of money. However, Pastor Philip told him to have faith as they are doing God’s work, so in faith, he accepted the role entrusted to him.
Along the way, they met with various challenges, but one of the fundamental lessons he learnt was ‘Man proposes, God disposes.’ This meant that humans plan whatever they want but if God does not approve of it, the going will be very difficult. Hence, he shared that it was important to remember a few things when doing God’s work. Firstly, that it is a faith journey. Secondly, it is a journey of personal growth.
And what did he learn from this long journey of faith?
Using TMC’s journey of faith in raising $12.6 million over the course of 10 years for the redevelopment of the church as an example, Robert shared an eye-opening story about TMC’s fund-raising efforts. To start things going, TMC took a loan from TRAC (The Trinity Annual Conference) with a monthly repayment period. At the same time, the church also took a bank loan as a fallback plan in the event they were unable to meet the repayment to TRAC. For TMC to get the bank loan, one of the church leaders then, Mr P. Sathiasingam, who was leading the project, put his house as collateral to secure the bank loan. This was something that blew Robert’s mind as it was truly an outward demonstration of the love that Mr Sathiasingam had for God and TMC. What a role model!
This incident demonstrated to Robert what it was to faithfully do God’s work.
Doing God’s work goes beyond just saying we can, or we can organize something to raise the funds. To Robert, it was more of a personal conviction, to learn from God who is the role model, showing us how to love, and putting that in action. It is a journey of faith where we may sometimes be called to do things that are extremely challenging but with faith, we can move forward.
When Pastor Dianna Khoo joined TMC, the church held the ‘5 Loaves and 2 Fish’ dinner, which raised $450,000. What was most interesting is God at work.
A friend of Pastor Dianna was approached by her to buy a donation table at S$5,000 which he agreed. He subsequently sent her a cheque for S$100,000 and a note to re-donate the table for TMC to re-sell. Another member of Pastor Diana previous church bought a table. On the dinner evening she came with a blank cheque to give to Pastor Diana as a donation for the fund raising. Of course Pastor Dianna told her she had to fill up an amount and she ended up donating $60,000. It was so amazing to see God at work and Robert shared that he learnt from the two donors that the real giver does not need any recognition. They give in faith because they love God.
In the end, Robert shared that this journey he had undertaken as the Chair of Finance and Chairman of Redevelopment was a blessing. This was because he was able to have first-hand/front row seats to see God at work. He also hoped that the younger Christians in TMC will embrace doing God’s work, then God will provide and guide, enabling them to grow.
Vision on Disciple-Making
In closing, Robert shared that TMC’s vision ‘to be disciples that make disciples’ will be another journey of faith. As TMC is not a new church, with three generations within its community, it is not easy to get everyone to come on board straight away. However, grace and patience will be needed for the different generations to embrace this change as every individual is on their own faith journey with God. As a leader, he acknowledged this and added that prayer for discernment from God is also very important in the journey of disciple making.
Looking ahead, he believes that TMC will get there in the next 10 to 15 years, and the culture of being disciples that make disciples will be part of the church’s DNA.
(This article written by Melissa Koh is an excerpt from a transcript based on an oral history interview conducted with Robert Yeo on 6 November 2020.)