GS Letter October 2019

Dr Bobby Sng, former General Secretary of Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES) and Graduate Secretary of Graduates’ Christian Fellowship (GCF), was called home to be with the Lord at the age of 83 years old, on 14 October 2019, at 9.40 pm. The family of FES was much saddened by this news, as hundreds of them crowded his wake and cremation services. Many inspiring eulogies and heartfelt memories about Dr Sng have already been shared by the many lives which have been touched and blessed by Dr Sng’s life and ministry. Hence, I will only add a bit here.

In December 2015, I and two graduates (Qi Xiang and Jian Wen) conducted an interview with Dr Sng as part of the FES Story Project. In that interview, Dr Sng told me: “I could not tell you what will happen in FES ministry in the future, but I can share what lessons I have learned from the past, so you can better navigate the present ministry.”

That statement reveals the humility and pragmatism that Dr Sng continues to possess despite his numerous years of experience in FES and GCF. From that interview, I learned three key lessons that have been helping me navigate a thriving student ministry. They are the indispensable importance of student-led initiatives, wholistic engagement in our missions, and the importance of graduates’ work. On the latter, in his own words, “the true test of student work is actually the graduates’ lives.”

Before I end, allow me to share a portion of this interview which discusses some of the financial challenges that Dr Sng faced since he first joined as the FES General Secretary in 1969 and why he persevered for 23 years.

Qi Xiang: Can I just ask, roughly what was your salary then?

Dr Sng: Usually my take-home pay was $600.

Lisman: Was it affordable to live with that salary at that time? Was it affordable to live for a staff worker?

Dr Sng: No, no, no. Difficult. Then, my wife also had to work. So, it was quite tough. But anyway, it was not until Chua Choon Lan came in and became the FES chairman. He looked at my salary and he was amazed, “How can you survive on that?” Of course, as staff, we never complained. There were times when we had difficulty even to pay FES staff their salary. So, the committee agreed that one month per year I would be on no-pay leave and I would support myself by taking on locum work. And then Chew Pin Kee took me in to help me tide through those periods of difficulties.

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Lisman: Just for comparison, what is the typical graduate salary during that time? Or like medical doctor for instance, it was $1,500…?

Dr Sng: Yes, around there.

Lisman: So, your salary is less than half of the typical standard?

Dr Sng: Yeah.

Lisman: Then staff worker’s salary would be even less?

Dr Sng: Yes, even less! Oh, the staffworker, Choong Chee Pang, in 1965. You can ask him. He could barely survive then. However, when we came on as staff worker in those days, we never talked about salaries. We just said, “By faith”. I mean, when the commitment is so firm, we don’t think about that, you know. We just came in and did the work!

Charles Wesley said, “God buries (or now cremates) His workmen but carries on His work.” I believe that one of the best ways to remember and honour Dr Sng’s legacy is to continue holding on and living out the call to and the work of student ministry – a ministry that is much dear to Dr Sng.

Hence, in our different roles, as staff workers in the field, as prayer warriors behind the scenes, or as financial supporters, let us carry on the student work zealously, faithfully, and joyfully, till the day we will meet our Lord, who will expectantly say to us (and I believe He has said it to Dr Sng now) “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

In His grace,

Lisman Komaladi
FES General Secretary

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