His best for his Master

68-year-old Ngoh Tee Peng spends his golden years working on board Logos Hope and finds divine inspiration and guidance in his work.

“The ship is my sandbox,” said Ngoh Tee Peng (Singapore). While most people his age would be spending their golden years kicking up their heels, 68-year-old Tee Peng is putting his hands to work deep in the full of a ship.

He is a first engineer on board Logos Hope, where the majority of the ship's 400 crew members are about a third of his age. But this does not faze Tee Peng, who feels in no way inferior to his younger colleagues.

“I want to give the best of my years of God. It's like playing video games. I have bonus time. What am I going to do with my time? Play some more lah.”

Role models

Tee Peng, who was 33 and single when he began his first term, had been inspired by the first two lines of the hymn “Give of Your Best to the Master” by Howard B. Grose: Give of your best to the Master, Give of the strength of your youth.

As a marine engineer who had spent his entire career on ships and in shipyards, he figured that the “best” he had to offer was what he could do with his hands.

So, after spending four years saving up enough money to provide for his parents' living expenses, he packed up and left for one of OM's past ships, Doulos, in 1986, spending the next three years labouring in the engine room.

It was here that he got to know two men in their 60s, a bosun from Norway and a plumber from Canada, whose quiet and faithful labour would inspire him for decades down the road.

“Even though they didn't say very much to me, they worked harder than anybody else I knew, without complaining,” Tee Peng remembered.

It was their example that motivated him to return to serve on board Logos Hope in 2017, two years after he was laid off from his job as a marine surveyor.

No lack of vitality

Tee Peng spent a good part of three years travelling from shore to shore with the ship as it sailed around South America and the Caribbean. Married with an adult son, he goes on board for three to six months at a time — an arrangement supported by his wife, Ruth, who would have gone with him had it not been for her health.

“My wife's approval is very important. It's not just my sacrifice, it's her sacrifice as well. If my wife's not good, I'd be on the first plane home.”

Apart from struggling a little more with the stairs — the engine is on the first deck, and his cabin is on the seventh — he continues to serve with the same zeal and vitality he had more than three decades ago in 1986 when he first served on board Doulos.

“I wanted to do the same, to inspire the young people,” he said.

Input and output

Tee Peng's work on the ship may not be the typical picture of what missions looks like. But he does not deem this job less worthy than a “frontline” role.

He said in true engineer fashion, “In any endeavour, we measure the input against the output. The input is what we do behind the scenes. The output is what the ship can do in its ministry. As long as the ship is doing ministry, we don't mind working behind the scenes. 

“There are people on the frontlines — those who go out to events. And there are people down below — the angels (housekeepers) who will keep cleaning the toilets, those in the galley who will keep cooking, the engineers who will keep running the machinery. All to keep this tool of God going so that we can have continuous output.”

When COVID-19 closed the ship's bookfair — the main platform for outreach — for months, “that has been a big struggle for all of us,” said Tee Peng, admitting that it has been difficult to see the purpose in his job.

Yet he noticed that God has continued to sustain the ship thus far despite the fall in funds and manpower. “So if God is still keeping this thing going, even though we don't see the measurable output, we keep it going,” he said.

Inspired by the Spirit

And so he has kept going, day by day, with inspiration from the Spirit, Tee Peng said. Handwritten in black ink on a little whiteboard in the ship's welding shop is Exodus 31:3-4, taken from when God instructed Moses to build the Tabernacle. It says of Bezalel, “and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills – to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze…” (NIV).

It was a verse that had initially puzzled Tee Peng when he was a new believer until he came to experience this truth. “God gives me inspiration when I'm stuck. He says, 'Do this. Do this.' So I just move as though someone behind me is giving me instructions. I experience it exactly as the verse says,” he said.

Passionate about working with his hands, he has even made a rice cooker and a hot plate from old diving bottles.

His presence has not gone unnoticed. He shared that a fellow crew member from Papua New Guinea had recently told him that he was making an impact on people by the sheer fact that he was serving on the ship despite his age. “That was encouraging for me,” he said.

Next steps

In April 2021, Tee Peng completed his 18-month commitment on board the ship, which was his longest one yet. “I am looking forward to spending time with my wife in Singapore, relaxing and watching TV,” he said, grinning.

When asked how much longer he plans to serve?

“Well, akan datang (which means coming soon, in Malay),” he said. “We'll see.”

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