Born in Malacca, Chew moved to Singapore at the age of three. His father, Chew Cheng Yong, was a lay pastor and teacher in the Methodist mission. His mother, Tan Siok Kim, was the mission’s first Chinese woman convert in Malacca. Chew studied at the Anglo-Chinese School where, in 1920, he was converted through the ministry of E. Stanley Jones. A brilliant student, he studied medicine and graduated in 1929 at the top of his class. He began his medical career in government hospitals, serving in Penang and Singapore. After the Pacific War, he went into private family practice. In 1947, he helped to found the Singapore Anti-Tuberculosis Association. This organization was instrumental in bringing the dreaded disease under control.
Chew had been baptized at Bethesda Gospel Hall (Bras Basah Road) in 1921. He taught Sunday school, played the church organ, and learned to preach. His uncle, Goh Hood Keng, the first Straits Chinese to be ordained into the pastoral ministry of the Methodist mission, was an effective evangelist, a powerful preacher, and a much-loved pastor whose life inspired all who knew him. Chew proved to be much like his uncle.
In 1931, Bras Basah Road Gospel Hall decided to start an extension work in the Katong area where Chew lived. In 1948, he was appointed an elder of Bethesda Katong Church. The church grew steadily and has since spawned two other churches. Chew was equally respected by leaders outside the Brethren circle. His able handling of the Word made him a much sought after speaker at church meetings and conferences. He played key roles in the formation of various parachurch groups. The Graduates’ Christian Fellowship was inaugurated at a meeting held in his home. He was president of Singapore Youth for Christ from its beginning in 1957. He gave unstinting support to the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (formerly China Inland Mission) when it moved its headquarters to Singapore, and he was chairman of the local home council until 1987. He also gave firm support to the Gideons Camp, Keswick Convention, and Christian Conciliation and Arbitration Ministry.
Chew’s gracious and humble disposition made him a natural choice to head the Billy Graham Singapore Crusade (1978), which had the support of 90 percent of the Protestant congregations. When the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore was formed in 1980, Chew was unanimously elected as its first chairman, a position he held until 1991.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from A Dictionary of Asian Christianity, copyright © 2001 by Scott W. Sunquist, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- Singapore Youth for Christ, My Times Are in His Hands (1991).