And they met in homes … The story of Jedburgh Gardens
This National Day, Salt&Light looks at remarkable landmarks in our nation where faith sparked and grew under extraordinary circumstances, impacting the Singapore Church and beyond.
Georgie Lee // August 5, 2022, 6:12 pm
The proliferation of home prayer meetings in the 1970s, of which Jedburgh Gardens was the best known, saw an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, with many receiving the gift of tongues and seeing miracles of healing. Entire households were saved and new churches were birthed. All photos courtesy of Georgie Lee.
In 1974, a lovely 12-year-old Jacqueline Lee lay dying from a deadly brain tumour.
Doctors advised that she had only one month to live. Jacqueline was one of the two daughters of police officer Robert Lee and his wife Janet.
Their world collapsed upon learning of their daughter’s diagnosis. Robert and Janet were nominal Catholics, and their marriage was already under severe strain. The shock and despair led them to a fresh encounter with God.
Their marriage was restored as they pulled together to focus on helping Jacqueline fight her illness. Despondency soon gave way to peace and joy despite her progressively deteriorating condition.
A spiritually revived Robert and Janet became hopeful of a miracle for their daughter.
An unexpected miracle
The family moved into the home of their brother-in-law, Khoo Oon Theam and his wife, Maisie, at 10 Jedburgh Gardens in Siglap.
Khoo who was a long time Methodist lay leader and a management consultant had only recently received what Charismatic believers would recognise as the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
He was spiritually charged and invited the late Bishop Chiu Ban It, then Bishop of Singapore, to minister to Robert’s family.
Little did they realise that God’s idea of a miracle was not what they had in mind … God had bigger plans.
Khoo also started a regular prayer group in his home with a few believers – senior civil servants Tan Gee Paw (former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Chairman, PUB) and Lim Han Soon (former General Manager, CPF) to support the family.
Unlike the usual “success” stories, the miracle that the Lee family had hoped for was not to be. Jacqueline went home to the Lord in May 1975. However, little did they realise then that God’s idea of a miracle was not what they had in mind.
At the wake in Jedburgh Gardens, Jacqueline, surprisingly, had an unmistakable beautiful smile on her face as she lay in the coffin, a far cry from the distorted facial expression caused by the tubes in her mouth just before her demise.
The funeral wake turned into a time of celebration and worship. It was well attended by many including Catholic priests and nuns, some of whom experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit during the service.
They were later to help catalyse the Charismatic movement in the Catholic church. Some non-believers also accepted the Lord, including Jacqueline’s maternal grandfather who was then 74 years old.
Unbeknownst to the family, the miracle they were seeking had begun, though not in the way they had expected.
God’s ways are not man’s ways. God had bigger plans. They were soon to surpass their wildest imagination.
Outflow of the Holy Spirit
After the funeral, the weekly Saturday night prayer meeting at Jedburgh Gardens continued and soon grew to over one hundred persons.
“God moved every Saturday. Even the taxi drivers told people to go to Jedburgh Gardens to experience miracles.”
People were getting saved and baptised in the Holy Spirit at the Saturday night meetings.
Stories of what was happening at these meetings quickly spread among the increasingly exuberant Charismatic community and Jedburgh Gardens became a buzzword.
The densely packed crowd in the living room soon overflowed into the garden. Some came in wheelchairs and crutches.
Khoo recollected: “God moved every Saturday. Even the taxi drivers told people to go to Jedburgh Gardens to experience miracles. People were delivered from demon possession every week. You could hear demons speaking as people were delivered.
“Signs and wonders as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles became almost common occurrences every Saturday. There were miracles of healing. Cancer patients were healed. Broken marriages were restored.”
Civil servant Tan Gee Paw and his wife, Irene were already committed believers when they attended the Jedburgh Gardens meetings at the invitation of Khoo. They were well grounded in the Scripture and systematic theology. Nonetheless, he felt spiritually dry. He said, “I had all this head knowledge.”
While driving home one Saturday night from the Jedburgh Gardens meeting, his wife suddenly started to speak in tongues.
The next day as he was driving to a Woodlands construction site, he asked the Lord for a song as he ran out of hymns to sing. And to his surprise, he started singing in tongues. He later realised that he had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Whole families saved
Entire households were saved at the Jedburgh Gardens meetings.
The late Tony Lim, a former Registrar of Marriage, and his wife, Ruth, were not believers when they first attended the meeting.
Much to his surprise, Raymond became a believer, was healed of his asthma and delivered from the occult.
Ruth suffered from severe gastric problems for years and doctors were unable to prescribe a cure for her. At one of the meetings, she was miraculously healed and the problem never came back. Tony and Ruth quickly accepted the Lord and invited their siblings to the meetings. Over time, all of them and their spouses became believers.
Similarly, an entire family – Willie Lim’s family – was converted to Christianity within a few months. It began with Willie Lim who was at the time deeply involved in mysticism and occult practices. In 1976, he attended a Jedburgh Gardens meeting and was converted.
His turnaround shocked his wife and eight sons as they felt a sense of betrayal. After all, it was their father who had led them into mysticism and occult practices.
However, he convinced his eldest son, Raymond, who was steeped in shamanistic practice and suffered severe asthma, to attend the meeting.
Much to his surprise, Raymond became a believer, was healed of his asthma and delivered from the occult. Within three months of Willie’s conversion, all his eight sons, wife and father came to faith.
Such was the impact of the entire family’s salvation that soon, a total of 120 relatives, friends and neighbours became believers over that year.
The stories of Jedburgh Gardens’ impact are too many to tell in this article.
Searching the Scriptures
The spectacle of signs and wonders and deliverance from demons was right before our eyes on the many occasions when my wife, Evelyn, and I attended the meetings.
We grew up in a conservative church and our first visit to Jedburgh Gardens was a culture shock. We then had only an intellectual knowledge of the Holy Spirit. Tongues and the manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit were something alien to us.
The spectacle of signs and wonders and deliverance from demons was right before our eyes.
What we witnessed at these meetings whet our appetite to search the Scriptures to establish whether they were of God. It did not take long for us to be convinced when both of us soon had a personal experiential encounter with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.
Despite the strong following, Khoo decided to close the Jedburgh Gardens meetings towards the late 1970s. He said: “The Holy Spirit told me that this place is becoming like a shrine. It is time believers go back to their churches to disciple people and see revival taking place there.”
He was concerned when cab drivers began to drop people with all sorts of ailments and infirmities at his home. He found worship artefacts and joss sticks outside his home.
What we witnessed at these meetings whet our appetite to search the Scriptures to establish whether they were of God.
Following the closure, the crowd was encouraged to attend meetings organised by the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship Singapore (FGBMFS). Khoo and Robert were two of the founding board members of the fellowship in 1975. Many of the Jedburgh Gardens leaders were also leaders of the fellowship.
The Jedburgh Gardens stories as well as many others can be found in the book, Unfolding His Story, The Story of the Charismatic Movement in Singapore, authored by me and my son, Galven Lee.
From 1975, as the movement gained momentum, home groups emerged spontaneously across the island as Charismatic Christians began to take ownership and propagate it through such self-organised meetings.
They played a major role in the spread of the movement.
The tangible power of Christ
The home meetings transcended denominational boundaries as newly initiated Charismatic believers and leaders of all stripes and denominations were readily welcomed as they traversed from home to home.
These home meetings, as in the days of the Acts of the Apostles, helped catalysed the rise of the Charismatic and church growth movements.
Christianity in Singapore expanded from a mere 5% of the population in the 1960s to around 19% currently, largely due to the Charismatic movement.
The tangible power of Charismatic Christianity allowed it to compete with spiritualist practices among Asian folk religions.
Jedburgh Gardens was the best known among the home groups. It was an important node in the Charismatic movement given the large numbers of people who were saved or baptised in the Holy Spirit there.
Other home groups included one led by former President of the Industrial Arbitration Court, the late Tan Boon Chiang, whose meetings were held at his home at Seton Close.
My own group, started in the late 1970s at my home in Upper Thomson, grew rapidly and eventually became an Anglican parish, Chapel of the Holy Spirit.
The late Canon Dr James Wong was an avid church planter. He started home groups with the expressed intention of turning them into house churches under the Anglican Diocese.
In 1974, Wong started a group in a Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat in Buona Vista. The Holland house group, as it was then known, grew and became an Anglican parish, Chapel of the Resurrection.
A number of other home groups and extension centres were soon established under Wong and they eventually became Anglican parishes. New Creation Church began meeting in 1983 in a HDB flat at Block 17, Holland Drive.
The home groups also helped raise a host of non-clerical leaders, some of whom eventually became ordained ministers.
As these home group encounters demonstrate, the tangible power of Charismatic Christianity was a crucial factor that allowed it to compete with spiritualist practices among Asian folk religions.
Charismatic Christianity also offered a spirituality attuned to modern society and the packed schedule of today’s world. Though the charismata are often “disorderly”, they did not attempt to change the rhythms of daily life but reinterpret it.
Fast forward to today’s scenario, the onset of Covid-19 has reignited a proliferation of home groups.
That could well be a signal that we are on the cusp of a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Unfolding His Story, The Story of the Charismatic Movement in Singapore
An authoritative account of what happened, beginning 50 years ago during the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit over Singapore, Unfolding His Story, The Story of the Charismatic Movement in Singapore traces the Charismatic Movement which transformed the landscape of Christianity in our nation.
The book is available from Gatekeepers Singapore at $30 per book. Gains from the sale of the books go towards supporting the ministry of Gatekeepers Singapore. You can click here to order the book.
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