Lucille Ramish

1928 - 1990
Missionary and linguist
Overseas Missionary Fellowship
Singapore and Malaysia

Lucille Ramish was born on June 11, 1928 in New Jersey, USA where she was adopted and grew up in a family with one sister. Little is known about those early years before she went to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she obtained degrees in arts and religious education. 

Linguistically talented, she learnt Mandarin and having come to faith and feeling a call to missionary service, she left for Singapore in January 1954 and formally joined the China Inland Mission (CIM) that March. It would be another 10  years before CIM became the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) but the mission was already leaving China, so Lucille began her missionary life in south Malaya, working in Johor.

She was sent to Skudai, just north of Johor Bahru, one of the so-called “new villages” set up by the British as a de facto internment camp during the Malayan Emergency. The aim was to isolate the ethnic Chinese population in an effort to prevent them from being drawn into the guerrilla war that Malayan Communists were waging against the British colonial government. It was a time of deep political unrest leading up to independence and resentment towards foreigners bubbled very close to the surface. Lucille was sent into this unpromising field for missionaries to work alongside a senior missionary from Britain, Miss Doris Dove.

The ladies held weekly evangelistic meetings, a Saturday evening class for teenage girls and Sunday school for children. They lived among the people of the village and distributed Scripture Gift Mission tracts. Doris Dove, writing of their work in 1955, reflected, “I find it hard to believe that the Lord will work here. I know that He can, but it seems that these people have had a chance these three or four years and do not want it.” 

By early 1956, Lucille had been sent north to Chaah, in Segamat district, Johor, to work alongside fellow missionaries David and Phyllis Day and Sheila Amos. A church had already been formed in 1952 and the work there seemed more fruitful. David Day, writing during that period, said: “There were good attendances at a special week of Bible Study on the main truths of salvation, when the Lord’s working power was really felt. Certainly the spiritual tide seems to have been rising steadily since that time. Three people have turned to the Lord and seem really changed.”

In 1957, a position came up at the Chinese University of Nanyang in Singapore and CIM loaned Lucille Ramish to them as a lecturer. She remained there until her furlough in 1959, and this in turn prompted in her a desire to increase her qualifications in Mandarin and linguistics. Following a second furlough in 1964, Lucille returned to university to study for a PhD in linguistics, taking a leave of absence from the mission through to 1969.

In 1970, she returned to Singapore where she divided her time between Nanyang University and the OMF Language Centre. It was at this time that she met June Lane, the wife of OMF Overseas Director Denis Lane, and the two struck up a friendship that would bear immediate fruit. Lucille had started a Bible study for students in her home on the university campus and she recognised in her new friend a gift for Bible teaching of which June herself was unaware. Lucille initiated a Bible study for expatriate women which June would run in her home on the mission compound. By 1976, Lucille had also enlisted June to assist in teaching at her Bible study for students. The two friends developed a complementary style of teaching whereby Lucille expounded the passage and June taught its practical applications. This team teaching approach quickly had an especial impact on the students.

In August 1976, following the establishment of a bilingual service at the International Baptist Church in Singapore, Lucille and June began another Bible study group for young people. These studies were attended by many students from the National University of Singapore as well as youngsters from the IBC and a worshipping community began to form under the leadership of the two women. Over the ensuing months, this grew and in October 1977, the ladies oversaw the formation of a new fellowship, known as Evangel Baptist Church. Sixty-one young Christians signed up as members of the new church and on October 22, 1977, an organisational service was held to formally register the church under the pastorship of David Chan Kwok Onn. He was followed in 1978 by Dr Michael Shen, who served as honorary pastor alongside Sebastian Chua.

Forty years later, two of the founding student members of Evangel who had been members of those Bible studies under Lucille and June reflected on the early days of the church. Giam Kim Khoon and Louise Lim wrote: “The Bible studies led by Dr Ramish and Mrs Lane became the foundation block of Evangel’s Christian Education programme. Sunday after Sunday, they faithfully taught the Word of God. The Bible study group members grew in numbers, attracting both tertiary students as well as members from other walks of life. New groups were formed to cater to the growing needs.”

They recalled a particular technique that Lucille employed in her teaching. “One of the techniques impressed upon us by Dr Ramish was the use of a ‘hook’ (i.e., something that attracts attention or serves as an enticement) to help the Bible study members to remember key lessons from each study.”

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Lucille divided her time between her role as linguistics consultant at OMF’s headquarters in Cluny Road, her teaching at Nanyang University and her spiritual oversight of the new Evangel Baptist Church. Many not only came to faith under her guidance and leadership, but went into ministry themselves, among them Dr Tan Soo Inn, later director of Graceworks and a pastor, writer and teacher whose own work bore much fruit over the ensuing years. Lucille briefly resigned from OMF in 1977 in order to, as the OMF magazine East Asia’s Millions reported, “protect her freedom to witness on and off the campus of Nanyang University in Singapore”. She rejoined the organisation in 1980.

Writing in early 1985, Lucille described the makeup of the young church. “At first, the seedlings God had planted were only a few. We met for Bible study each Wednesday. Some were studying law and engineering; one was a factory foreman, a former drug addict and a school dropout; two were studying accountancy; two were students of dentistry. The Lord had brought each one to Himself, and they were hungry for the Word and its application to their lives. Soon thirty to forty to fifty were gathering on Sundays to study the Word together. God was making their roots go down.” 

And go down they did. Evangel Baptist Church, born out of these students’ meetings in Lucille’s home and the services at the International Baptist Church, would still be growing and flourishing decades after Lucille herself had been called home. But, as many would testify, Lucille was not just a teacher but a loving, caring example of how to live out the words she proclaimed. 

She loved to show God’s love to His children, no more so than in her friendship with June Lane, whose children she loved as if they were her own. She provided wise counsel and advice that perhaps might not have been received so well from parents, but which was welcomed from someone whose love they were assured of.

As the 1980s unfolded, Lucille was diagnosed with ovarian cancer which she bravely fought, but to no avail. In 1990, she returned to Boston with June at her side to end her final journey. June cared for her to the end, remaining at her bedside in the hospital and loving her friend into the kingdom in November 1990.

Lucille Ramish’s work in helping a new generation of OMF missionaries get their minds and tongues around the languages of the countries to which they had been designated, sowed countless seeds across the region. And the lasting witness of Evangel Baptist Church, brought into being under the mentorship and loving encouragement of Lucille and her friend June, stands as a testimony to the work for which she gave her life and to the Saviour whom she introduced to so many.


Andrew Lane

The writer is a poet and musician who teaches English to overseas students. The son of OMF missionaries Denis and June Lane, he is also a theologian and composer of worship songs. He is married, with two adult sons, and lives in England.