Kingdom Builders: Singapore's Royal Rangers
Missionary to Vanuatu, Bryan Webb, shares insights from his visit to Singapore and the robust Royal Rangers program established there.
The only island city-state in the modern world, Singapore sits at the heart of Southeast Asia. To the north is Malaysia. To the south, an 80-mile-wide strait separates Singapore from Indonesia. Three and a half times the size of Washington, D.C., Singapore is home to nearly 6 million people.
Our first night in Singapore, AG World Mission photographer Gaylon Wampler and I visit Merlion Park. Here on the waterfront, a jetty juts into the bay. A massive statue spews water into the bay: Half fish and half lion, this “Merlion” is Singapore’s national symbol. Colorful tour boats crisscross the water. Sleek skyscrapers sheathed in glass line the bay. Overt displays of wealth define Singapore’s persona.
Throngs of tourists crowd the jetty. Some of them pose as if they were drinking from the fountain flowing from the Merlion. Chinese schoolkids in orange-and-green uniforms cluster not far from Muslim girls in matching burka uniforms emblazoned with school logos. All are taking selfies to prove to themselves, “I was here.” Muslims, Hindus, Secularists, and Buddhists seamlessly mix in a swirling flow of humanity.
Fusion may be the best word to describe Singapore. Ultramodern and sparkling clean, the streets of Singapore ring with the sounds of English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. Open-air food stalls boast an incredible array of Asian dishes. Buddhist temples, Muslim mosques, Christian churches, and Hindu temples share neighborhoods, displaying Singaporean society’s foundational diversity.
Royal Rangers in Singapore is also a unique fusion. In the U.S., Royal Rangers is a program to disciple boys. In Singapore, the outposts I visit in churches, community centers, and the basement of a shopping center are evenly split between boys and girls.
Many Singaporean churches use Royal Rangers for Sunday School and youth programs. Several pastors tell me they rely on Royal Rangers as their primary evangelism tool for children and youth in their communities. Yet regardless of diverse venues and languages, the heart of the program remains unchanged: to develop young people mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually.
Deputy National Commander Wu Tze Chang and I sit over coffee and toast with honey, discussing how Royal Rangers Singapore has partnered with the Singaporean government to develop and recognize outstanding young leaders through the National Youth Achievement Award.
The National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) is an internationally recognized award offered through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International Association. This prestigious honor is bestowed by the president of Singapore. The NYAA is intended to build exceptional young leaders through community service, physical challenges and the development of leadership skills. Ultimately the program seeks to produce leaders who contribute meaningfully to their community. Royal Rangers Singapore is designated as an operating authority for the NYAA, so participating Rangers can work towards receiving the NYAA even while they qualify for various Rangers awards.
Commander Chang explains to me that in Singapore’s results-oriented culture, keeping youth involved in Royal Rangers through their teenage years used to be a challenge: Parents wanted their teenagers focused on education rather than on church activities. Today they are using the NYAA to overcome this challenge; the award adds value to Royal Rangers in the parents’ estimation, enabling the youth to continue to engage in Rangers. “Ministry is always a means to an end,” Chang tells me. “The objective is to usher these youth into the presence of God.”
To read about how Singapore’s Royal Rangers are impacting Muslim communities, please read the full version of this story the June 2017 WorldView magazine, or visit WorldView magazine online.