SIM missionary forerunner called home
By John Stuart | East Asia Office in Asie de l'Est
The surgery began as normally scheduled. As normal as it could be in the pared down operating room of SIM’s Galmi Hospital in the 1970s in the middle of the Sahel of Niger.
Veteran missionary surgeon, Dr Andrew Ng, began the surgery as he had hundreds of others in his career before, with an air of quiet confidence. What happened next would test Andrew’s medical skills like never before. The surgery was progressing as planned when, unexpectedly, the whole hospital lost power and the operating room was plunged into darkness. In that critical moment, Andrew would call on personal traits for which he was known for: improvisation and innovation. And switching on a headlamp, he calmly continued the surgery, as is the way of a true field surgeon.
That day in West Africa is symbolic of the entire life of Andrew and his wife, Belinda, who accepted the challenges of God’s calling to do something their peers had never done. Joining SIM in 1977, they became SIM East Asia’s first missionaries and laid the groundwork for numerous other Asians and majority-world Christians to serve in overseas ministry, a legacy that lives on today.
Andrew, Belinda and their two boys Nathaniel and Joel, served in Niger for 12 years, before returning to Singapore to take on the challenge of establishing the SIM East Asia office in their roles as SIM East Asia Regional Director and Personnel Director. Over the 18 years in those posts, they saw the number of missionaries grow from 20 to 50.
Andrew passed away on 7 January 2019 in Singapore, after a long fight with pancreatic cancer.
“The growth of SIM East Asia in the early years can be seen in God’s call and preparation of one couple, the obedience of this couple, and the wisdom of SIM leaders to encourage, guide and mentor them on their journey to serving God,” said SIM East Asia Regional Director Dr Stanley Ling.
Andrew later became the inaugural Deputy International Director for SIM’s entire Asia-Pacific region, before committing the last years of his life to a role close to his heart.
“In 2012 I arrived in Singapore with the daunting task to follow on in leadership after the ‘famous’ Dr Andrew,” said Dr Diane Marshall, SIM Global Director for Regional Development. “We began to meet daily and, like others, I quickly deepened my respect for this humble man with boundless energy who seemed to know everyone and especially knew God. He was a man of action famous for saying “Just do it and God will take care of the details.” And he did! His passion was to get the gospel to those who had yet to hear, in West Africa, across East Asia, among the nomads of Central Asia. He was a man of vision, a pioneer who could see over the horizon and who helped shape the lives of generations of Singaporeans and beyond.”
It is fitting that Andrew finished his missionary career in a similar fashion to how he began it, as a pioneer of new ministry ventures for SIM, empowering people to serve in those least-reached places of the world where people are living and dying without knowing Christ.
“One of the great attributes we saw in Andrew was his ability to take the long view in birthing new ventures for the Gospel,” said former SIM International Director, Malcolm McGregor. “He was always passionate and persistent, especially with the Board of Governors, when talking about new challenges he felt we should take on. Yet he was patient enough to allow others to catch up with him so that together we could go forward.”
When meeting Andrew, it was obvious he was undoubtedly a man of vision and a true leader, albeit an unassuming one.
“Andrew never longed for power, position or praise in life,” said SIM missionary and former SIM Singapore Director, Watson Rajaratnam. “He never took credit for the success in his ministry. His ultimate aim has always been to serve God with humility wherever God placed him. He will always be remembered for his humility, which has taught us how to be in life and serve in ministry.”
“In my 5th year serving in Kenya, Dr. Andrew came and visited me,” said SIM missionary Michelle Ko. “I was living in a very remote part of Kenya during that time. As you can imagine, transportation was not the easiest. Yet without any complaint, he travelled over 10 hours by a local, uncomfortable bus on broken road conditions just to visit and encourage me. I remember his departure that day, watching him get on a bus, knowing him as a medical doctor from Singapore who could have all the worldly wealth and travel luxury he desired. Yet he was a humble servant, like Jesus. That moment brought tears to my eyes. I saw Jesus in Andrew’s life.”
In every context, Andrew always had something to share. Over a lifetime of travels and experiences, he had many stories, collected from himself and others. He never lacked for material in any presentation. Today, his stories live on with us, as does his relentless passion for those who do not yet know Christ. A good and faithful servant is laid to rest.