Evangelist Billy Graham last month landed in a lion’s den. Responding to a long-standing invitation to preach in the island city-state of Singapore (the name means “Lion City”), he arrived there for a five-day crusade. He was greeted by four shaggy “lions,” prancing to the rhythm of cymbals and drums—a traditional welcome.

To some observers, Graham’s preaching tamed many “lions” in this multilingual society, which is located off the Malay peninsula. A cumulative total of 337,000 persons attended the crusade, and the 65,000-capacity National Stadium was filled nearly every night.

The sermons were translated into Mandarin Chinese by interpreter Peter Yap, while simultaneous translations over 6,000 earphones were provided in the Cantonese and Hokkien dialects of Chinese, as well as Malay, Tamil, and Indonesian languages. The crowds, predominately young people, also came from neighboring countries. Of the 19,600 persons who made decisions for Christ, more than 80 per cent were under the age of thirty. About 65 per cent of the inquirers at the crusade made first-time commitments.

According to several church leaders in Singapore, the crusade was the culmination of recent efforts at church outreach. “After years of sowing, weeping, and watering, we now see the harvest,” said Ernest Chew, vice-dean of the University of Singapore faculty. (Chew said that 25 per cent of the student body profess Christianity, and that increasing numbers within the faculty at two local universities are becoming Christians. A university dean, who is also a prominent politician, made a Christian commitment six months earlier, he said.)

Tony Chi, pastor of the largest Protestant church in Singapore with 1,600 members, spoke of a spiritual awakening that had begun within the past several years. “With this crusade we are seeing a climax of this revival,” he said. “We are going to see tremendous church growth.”

Less than 10 per cent of the 2.3 million population in Singapore are Christian; there are about 75,000 members each in the Protestant and Catholic churches. In this multi-racial and multi-religious society, the government forbids the press to give prominence to any one religion.

Radio and Television Singapore, the state-controlled television station, was absent from the crusades in conformity with this state policy, and precrusade press coverage was limited. A luncheon with Graham for top press executives was canceled because of poor response. In some cases, the media was openly dubious. Said one reporter: “Nonbelievers and even some Christians are skeptical about Dr. Graham’s sincerity. Why, they ask, is it necessary to spend millions of dollars on dazzling advertising and promotional campaigns when [the money] could be used for so many other Christian causes?”

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The only English morning daily newspaper in Singapore was more complimentary. After Graham’s opening message, it printed a front-page six-column photo with an accompanying article, which read in part: “The cynics who were there could not help but marvel at the first-class organization and management of the crusade, which would make even an international pageant like the Miss World Contest in London look like a kindergarten tea party.”

Outwardly, at least, there was no opposition to Graham from the Roman Catholic Church, other religious faiths, or the government. However, two Protestant separatist groups campaigned against him.

Early in the crusade preparations a number of Bible Presbyterian Church leaders spoke against Graham, accusing him of associations with the World Council of Churches and with Roman Catholics. Two meetings of the presbytery were called for consideration of an anti-Graham resolution. Although moderate church leaders would not endorse it, the church took an official stand of nonsupport toward Graham. Individual church members were allowed to participate in the crusade, however, and several church leaders did so.

More aggressive in its opposition was the Jesus Saves Mission. Several weeks before the crusade, its members stood outside churches to distribute anti-Graham leaflets. The demonstrators usually were ignored, though one church called the police. The police cautioned a Jesus Saves Mission leader not to stage unlawful demonstrations at the stadium; the mission took the advice.

Unity among the 237 participating Protestant churches highlighted the event, said some church leaders. Alfred Yeo, a pastor and crusade general secretary, said, “In my years of ministry, I have never seen so much united prayer, cooperation, work, and training. Many pastors have met, worked, and prayed together for the first time.”

Committees from participating churches provided 50 supervisors, 5,500 counselors, 3,000 ushers, and 200 laborers who worked all night processing cards from inquirers. Another 4,500 people sang in the crusade choir. Follow-up was to be done by 1,800 nurture group leaders.

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About $294,000, or 85 per cent of the total crusade budget, was raised before the crusade began. Sim Miah Kian, a finance company executive, commented, “This sum is above the target set. It shows again that the Lord will provide all our needs.”

Rain fell intermittently each day of the crusade, but stopped before the services. Three days before the crusade, meteorological stations recorded the heaviest rainfall in their history—20.5 inches in 24 hours. Seven persons died in the flooding that resulted, and 1,000 persons were evacuated from their homes.

Still, the turnouts were large. Observers noted that an average attendance at soccer matches in the National Stadium is 25,000, but an overflow crowd of 75,000 attended the closing service. “There may never be another moment like this again,” Graham said.

Anglican Bishop B. I. Chiu saw an immediate lesson from the crusade. “We in the churches,” he said, “are being shown how much more willing our lay people are to be used for evangelism than we thought. We now have a greater supply of lay evangelists, teachers, and pastors through the training they have received in preparing for the crusade.”

Singapore resident Jim Chew, deputy Pacific area director of the Navigators, saw future benefits. “Those from neighboring Asian countries who have attended the crusade will bring the good news of Christ back to their nations,” he said. “Second, Singaporeans who committed their lives to Christ will be those who will … go to other countries to become ambassadors of Jesus Christ.”

Operation Mobilization
Victory in Port

An unusual ship—perhaps the oldest passenger vessel afloat—dropped anchor early this month in the Veracruz, Mexico, harbor. From the mast flew the flag of Malta, on the bow was the Greek name Doulos (“servant”), and lashed to the deck were assorted vans and station wagons mostly of ancient British origin.

Aboard were 200 volunteer crew and staff members (plus about fifty children) from two dozen nations. They were intent on a mission that could be described as, well, heavenly. Some went ashore to assist with a citywide evangelistic crusade led by Luis Palau, the well-known Latin evangelist. Others readied the ship for a four-week influx of thousands of visitors to educational and religious book exhibits, Christian leadership conferences, and outreach training sessions.

If past experience is repeated, by the time the Doulos sets sail for Barranquilla, Colombia, at the end of the month, thousands of Bibles and Christian books will have been purchased by local residents, large quantities of tracts will have been distributed, and the Christian community in the area will be stronger numerically and spiritually. (The ship was in Tampico, Mexico, during most of December, following a three-week call at Portsmouth, Virginia. Before that, it had visited ports in Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, and England.)

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The 428-foot, 6,822-ton Doulos is a former Italian cruise liner that was purchased in December, 1977, for $770,000 by Operation Mobilization (OM), an independent mission movement specializing in short-term service. The Doulos is the larger of two ships deployed by OM. The other—the 289-foot, 2,319 ton Logos (Greek for “word”)—was bought from the Danish government in 1970 for $170,000. The two ships have attracted more than 3 million visitors in 100 ports around the world, according to George Miley, a Virginian who has directed the ship ministries of OM since 1972. Nearly 20 million pieces of educational and religious literature have been distributed, OM records show.

Book sales help keep the ships afloat. Although the bulk of support comes from contributions, about 30 per cent of operating costs are underwritten by profits from the sale of books, Miley estimates.

The Logos carries 250 tons of books, the Doulos carries 320 tons. Among the 4,000-plus titles in ten languages are science and medical textbooks, Encyclopedia Britannica sets, and other secular reference works, along with a wide variety of religious books. The educational books help the ships gain entry to Third World ports otherwise closed to Christian missionaries, and they provide a valuable alternative to the high-quality, low-cost educational books flooding into Third World nations from the Soviet Union.

To run the Logos in 1977 cost $2,500 a day, including ship, crew, and ministry expenses, says Miley. He believes that it will cost at least twice as much to operate the Doulos this year. Fuel is a major expense item. The Logos consumes a ton of oil per day in port (to run generators) and six tons daily on the sea; the Doulos burns three tons per day in port and fourteen tons at sea.

Most of the support for OM comes from contributors in the United States, England, and Germany, though increasing amounts are coming from backers in Switzerland, Sweden, and Canada, says Miley. Each of the “full-time” missionaries (most serve a year or two) is expected to raise support from among friends and churches. (The minimum required of Americans is $125 per month.) There are no salaries. All money is deposited in a common treasury from which group and personal expenses are dispensed. If a crew member needs a pair of shoes, explains Miley, he simply submits a request to his department head.

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The ships enable OM to house, transport, train, and equip workers efficiently (about 400 serve on the ships). Advance teams clear the way with authorities, and they make program arrangements with local church leaders and missionaries. Joint evangelistic projects are planned, and conferences for pastors, young people, and other groups are scheduled, often featuring internationally known speakers. (The Doulos can hold 600 conference guests at a time, the Logos about one-fourth as many. Tents are sometimes erected on deck or an adjacent pier to accomodate large crowds.)

OM takes a low-key approach to evangelism in ports of predominantly Muslim countries and other places where an assertive brand of Christianity is not welcome. Ship visits are sponsored under the name of an affiliate, Educational Book Exhibits. People line up by the thousands to browse and buy: 100,000 in Madras, India, during a two-week visit; 140,000 in Bombay; 16,500 in Tunis, Tunisia; 12,000 in Messina, Sicily; and 6,000 on a single day alone in Bangkok.

Bibles and other Christian books are snapped up along with the educational works. Ashore, workers give away free tracts and engage in personal evangelism. Last spring, for example, fifty young people in Manila handed out 250,000 tracts in a single day, according to an OM spokesman, and the Logos crew recorded more than 1,000 professions of faith in Christ while the ship was in port. (In Muslim countries, tracts are distributed much more discreetly, says the spokesman.) Occasionally, the Logos has carried hundreds of tons of relief goods to areas stricken by disasters.

OM was founded twenty-one years ago by George Verwer, a New Jersey native who became a Christian under the preaching of evangelist Billy Graham at a rally in New York City in 1955. Verwer later went to Moody Bible Institute and, to make ends meet, he sold fire extinguishers and Scripture portions. During the summers of 1957 and 1958 he did evangelistic work in Mexico with other Christian students. As a result of their efforts, a Christian bookstore was opened in Saltillo and a Gospel radio broadcast was launched; both were left in the hands of nationals they trained.

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Out of these experiences came the basic OM strategy: Recruit young people for short-term service stints (from a holiday break or a summer to two years), use evangelistic projects to train them, serve areas of the world where Christian outreach is difficult, and work closely with nationals and other missions in planting new churches.

Verwer applied the strategy in Spain in 1960 and 1961 with impressive results. In 1962 he used 300 young people from two dozen countries to spread the Gospel in major cities of Western Europe. They distributed 25 million tracts and pamphlets; these brought some 20,000 mailed responses from people wanting the free Gospel of John and a Bible correspondence course offered in the tracts. Fifty mission and church organizations joined in the followup work.

Some 2,000 young people from thirty countries answered the call to help evangelize Europe in the summer of 1963. More than 400 churches and twenty-five mission agencies cooperated. Witness teams went house-to-house in thousands of towns and villages. The following summer, Verwer recruited about 1,000 people to assist in the ongoing followup work.

Verwer, 40, says he has had a concern for “closed” countries since he began OM. While in Spain in 1960 he studied Russian. Months later he was arrested and ejected from the Soviet Union for distributing Scripture portions. Other OM workers in ensuing years suffered similar treatment, especially in Muslim countries. In 1971, for instance, four young workers were arrested in Libya and jailed for eight months for handing out tracts. Verwer remains undeterred, though. OM over the years has maintained one of the most significant literature ministries among Eastern European nations, and it is almost alone in efforts to evangelize Turkey.

Tens of thousands of young people have been trained by OM, Verwer figures, and his records show that 500 permanent missionaries in thirty-five countries—along with a number of national leaders—got their start with OM.

Verwer and his wife and three children live in a modest, plainly furnished flat, and when they are on the road with hundreds of OM recruits they eat the same thin soup and make do with the same spartan living conditions. “Spiritual revolution is caught more than taught,” says Verwer. Eschewing publicity, he believes OM runs on prayer. When the treasury once ran dry, stranding the Logos in the Canary Islands without fuel, Verwer rallied his people for an entire week of prayer, and the contributions came rolling in.

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The use of ships for religious purposes can be traced back at least as far as Noah’s day. Renowned evangelist George Whitefield reportedly bought a ship in the 1730s for gospel outreach along the coasts of American colonies. But OM is the first to develop the concept into an evangelistic art. The Doulos is the latest example.

Among the persons on hand to welcome the Doulos at Portsmouth, Virginia, was Mrs. Frances Sommes Parramore of Winton, North Carolina. As a fifteen-year-old when her father was mayor of nearby Newport News, she had christened the ship as the S.S. Medina in August, 1914. It served as an American coastal freighter for more than three decades, then was outfitted as an Italian passenger liner. After OM acquired it and gave it a new name just over a year ago, Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan took the main part in a ceremony recommissioning the ship for use in the Lord’s service.

In OM, even ships get converted.


World Scene

Galatian Baptist Church of Ankara, Turkey, was declared unauthorized last month in an official communication of the Turkish government. The English language congregation, established in 1966, is the only Southern Baptist church in Turkey. Its pastor, James F. Leeper, was expelled from Turkey last September, reportedly on grounds that he disseminated religious propaganda. Southern Baptist mission officials have protested and have asked the State Department to seek official status for the congregation.

The prime minister of the Solomon Islands, which became independent last July, is an active lay preacher in the South Sea Evangelical Church. Peter Keniloria, 35, is the son of a Melanesian missionary to the Solomons.

The Far East Broadcasting Company has announced negotiation of a twenty-five-year lease for property on the island of Saipan. Shortwave radio towers that will transmit to China will be constructed on the site.

New customs laws in Finland specifically prohibit Bible “smuggling,” an activity that has led to much friction with the Soviet Union. “All carriage of the Bible and other religious matter,” the new law states, will be treated as “smuggling.”

The Italian Senate began discussion last month of a revision of a 1929 treaty governing relations between the government and the Vatican. Under the new proposals, Roman Catholicism would no longer be recognized as the state religion of Italy, and public school students would not have to take part in religion classes when they oppose them for reasons of conscience. The current Lateran Treaty was concluded during the rule of Fascist leader Benito Mussolini. Revision has been in process for eleven years.

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