Joseph Chean – known for his lifelong passion for missions – passed away, aged 56, following a road accident in Istanbul on Wednesday, November 15, 2023. The following extract is how co-labourer and close friend, NG ZHIWEN, celebrates Jo’s life and legacy.

If you are going to work with Joseph Chean, be prepared. It’d be like getting on a ride and building the car as you go along!

Such was his vision, and he was caught up with God’s Kingdom. He learned to run on the fuel of vision, passion and a simple trust in the LORD. And we had to catch up or to keep up!

… here was a maverick, who will empower others to step up and do “crazy” things for the kingdom of God.

I first met Joe when he had returned from a sabbatical at Regent College in 2011. He was national director of YWAM Singapore at that time. I was just starting out on my journey of being a missions mobiliser.

There was this event called “Hope for Asia”, and I remembered seeing Joe do a “live-chat” on stage with Shu Hui, the founder of Tamar Village. He was supposed to speak, but he gave her the platform to share her burden for reaching the ones affected by the trades of the Red Light district in Geylang.

What an unusual way of presenting a ministry. I thought to myself that here was a maverick, who will empower others to step up and do “crazy” things for the kingdom of God.

In 2021, Joe took me for a ride. He asked me to work alongside him and the Fellowship of Missional Organisations in Singapore (FOMOS) to organise Courage Calls – a missions mobilisation conference during COVID! With less than 10 weeks of time to do so!

We learned to go with the flow and to deal with the unexpected – For instance, to transition a fully in-person conference into a hybrid one with only 1 weeks’ notice! What a ride it was!

But everything came together, and we had such a wonderful time! It was a real joy seeing the members of FOMOS working together and pulling this off, and seeing God do more than what we had thought possible. Joe was instrumental in fostering this spirit of unity. More than that, I also saw his passion for missions, his trust in people and his faith in an awesome God.

Then came Antioch21.

I saw Joe growing in his deep sense of holy discontent: that the missions force of the Church in Singapore was aging, and that many were ready to go but didn’t know how and who can help them along the way.

The one who championed the vision for missions was the late Pastor Rick Seaward, but the LORD called him home in 2018.

And so Joe stood in the gap. I saw his heart of the missions, and his sheer conviction that the church of Singapore had a destiny to fulfil. He spoke with passion about the Decade of Missions (2023–2033), of seeing a new generation of missions workers sent out to bring the Gospel to the unreached. And he cried for the lost. And he committed himself to do this work for the next ten years.

Ok, can. It was always like that working with Joe.

He roped me in to help organise the Antioch Summit that would officially launch the Decade of Missions. His dream from the start was to see thousands gathered and challenged for missions at the Summit. It was a huge car he was asking myself and others to hop on to, and we were to build it along the way!

Ok, can. It was always like that working with Joe.

Just a few weeks ago, we were having a meeting, and Joe wondered aloud how he will have the strength to see Antioch21 through – steering a Decade of Missions was no short-term commitment!

He may be a visionary, but he was not naïve. He has seen more than a fair share of challenges in ministry.

“I’m learning to go far by swimming long-distance” was what he said. That’s the mix of humility and passion that he had to see things through.

A photograph of Joseph’s last meal together with Zhiwen, taken on 27 October 2023.

And now this happened. I am deeply shocked and saddened. I will miss him very much.

Joe was a leader, a partner in ministry, and a dear friend. I remember having a phone call with him one night and pouring out to him a distressing burden that I had. And he said to me these simple words, “Welcome to leadership.” There and then I knew that he empathised; and that he himself had gone through much of the same. But one thing he resolved never to do was to speak ill of others, especially about the church. He shared once about how the LORD had convicted him with these words: “Be careful how you speak about My Bride.”

So that was that.

Now the LORD has called His beloved servant home. Joe has run His race, and with that I pray more will rise and take his place. I believe what the LORD began with Joe, He will see it through to completion. In the words of the Antioch Summit tagline, we are “Not Done Yet”.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)