Christmas

“This was a turning point for Singapore and also for me”: Pastor Benny Ho

On the 40th anniversary of the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade, Salt&Light brings you a series of behind-the-scenes stories.

Pastor Benny Ho // December 8, 2018, 6:00 am

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After the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade, people turned Godward on an unprecedented scale, and churches began to grow to a point where megachurches began to sprout all over Singapore, says Pastor Benny Ho. Photo from anglican.org.sg.

In December 1977, I was a 16-year-old boy scout from Raffles Institution.

There was a regional scout jamboree in Penang and it was at the jamboree that a fellow boy scout shared with me the four spiritual laws from Campus Crusade.

That was the first time I prayed the sinners’ prayer. But I had very little spiritual insight or revelation.

It was phenomenal to be among 60,000 people and see every one of them listening to the Gospel attentively.

Even though I visited my friend’s local church for a while, my personal walk with God was mediocre and rather half-hearted. My church attendance was erratic and more off than on.

But there came a turning point in 1978.

The city was buzzing with expectation because hundreds of churches were working together to host a well-known evangelist, Dr Billy Graham, at the 60,000-seater National Stadium.

Crowds were queuing up hours before the event. Busloads of people arriving at the National Stadium filled the air with tangible expectation.

I was there with a group of friends from a local church that had invited me. As a teenager, you go where your friends go, and I went mostly out of curiosity because there was so much talk about it, even in the local newspapers.

Pastor Benny Ho (extreme right) as a 26-year-old youth, with his then-girlfriend, Cecilia, who is now his wife. The group travelled around Malaysia on a mission trip where Pastor Benny preached and the others formed the worship team. Three of the boys in this group went on to become Methodist pastors – Rev Lek Yong Teck, Rev Erick Tan and Rev Gordon Aw (who is now a leadership trainer).

Forty years later, I can still remember sitting up there on the stadium steps under a dark sky heavy with rain, watching in amazement at the throngs of people that filled the stadium – students, seniors, long haired, short haired, tall, short, different people that reflected the multi-racialism of our country, newly independent for only 13 years. Where did they come from, why were they here, I wondered.

I remember the enormous choir – the biggest I’d ever seen – singing with zest and gusto. Their voices filled and echoed across the immense stadium as the singers rendered their praises unto God. (Later on I discovered that the choir was 4,500 strong!)

In those days, there were no mega churches. We were all small local churches doing our own thing. So the scale of this whole event was unprecedented and astonishing.

I remember thinking: “This Gospel must be true! Jesus died for me.” When that thought struck me, I started to cry.

And then Dr Billy Graham came to the podium. A hush fell upon the entire stadium.

After 40 years I cannot remember exactly what he said, but I still remember the way he said it.

He spoke with a loud and authoritative voice, his every sentence translated poignantly by an equally anointed interpreter.

Thousands listened in rapt silence. It was quite phenomenal to be in a crowd of 60,000 people and be able to see every single one of them listening to the Gospel attentively.

It was simply majestic!

I remember sitting up on the stadium steps, thinking: “This Gospel must be true! Jesus died for me. I can be forgiven of all my sins. I am a believer!”

When that thought struck me, I started to cry. And I just knew: “I believe.”

At the end of the message, the song “Just As I Am” began to play. Dr Billy Graham started the altar call and people began getting off their seats spontaneously and streaming down the steps towards the stage.

Thousands came down. I was amongst them.

It was a turning point in my life. It was the start of a journey with God that would take me later to a disciple-making church where I received a call to a lifetime of ministry.

Pastor Benny Ho

Pastor Benny, now a senior pastor and seasoned speaker, credits the Billy Graham Crusade as a watershed moment in his life. Photo courtesy of Pastor Benny Ho.

I believe that the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade in 1978 was a turning point in the spiritual history of Singapore. There was a shift that took place in the spiritual atmosphere of this land.

From that point on, we started to believe in a God for the masses, as people everywhere turned Godward. Churches began to grow to a point where megachurches began to sprout all over Singapore.

As we come into the 40 Anniversary of this historic event, we cry out in unison: “Lord, do it again!” Amen!

Watershed moment

“I took one year off before my overseas studies to join the crusade organising team (Mandarin section). As a young man, I felt rather privileged to be involved in the nationwide crusade involving 90% of the 260 odd churches in Singapore.

“My key roles were to translate the literature into Chinese, promote the crusade to various churches using the Billy Graham DVDs, and then organise and assign new converts to churches for follow up.

“What excited me most was the great demonstration of church unity in reaching out for Christ, resulting in people going all out to bring their loved ones and friends to the crusade. The sheer sight of hundreds of buses streaming into the stadium, coming from as far as Malaysia, was overwhelming.

“The Gospel message was simple. I was amazed to see throngs of people responding to the altar calls to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour, night after night.

“Many parts of Singapore were flooded just days before the crusade. Churches came together to pray for God to move the clouds. The Lord answered His children’ prayers in the most wonderful way by allowing the rain to come down during the early part of those five days, and by evening time, the sky would be clear. All who were there were in utter amazement at how great our Father God was. He reigns, always.” – Elder Joseph Tan, 62 

“I did not understand it then but there was a palpable moving of the Holy Spirit that saw thousands go down to the grass pitch to accept Christ.

“The message by Billy Graham was simple and solely based on the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus, but they were powerful words of life which people needed to hear.

“Billy Graham will always hold a special place in my heart as it was at his crusade that I accepted Christ.  

“I have been praying with others for a revival in Singapore. The Holy Spirit will once again move powerfully in Singapore as it did during the crusade and I am looking forward to it with great anticipation and excitement.” – Loh Chen-Ai, 50s, banker

 

 

Find more stories on the remarkable impact of the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade herehere, here and here, and in Chinese here.

About the author

Pastor Benny Ho

Pastor Benny Ho is the Senior Pastor of Faith Community Church in Perth, Western Australia. He founded Arrows College and Arrows Resources, a teaching ministry to equip and disciple the nations, and is also the Mentor-Leader of a group of D-Net churches.