REVIVAL IN INDONESIA
There are principally three countries today on which the attention of the world is focused.
The first of these is Israel which stands at the very centre of world events. It can almost certainly be said that this, the smallest nation in the world, has the greatest history. We shall not be discussing this here, however, since we have already done so in my book ‘Der Komende’ (The Coming One).
The next country which most occupies world opinion is Vietnam. In this pit of fire the future of Asia will be decided; and the prospects from the Western point of view are not good.
The third country, which is much discussed today in Christian circles, is Indonesia. What is the reason for the unusual interest on this land? Let us have the question open for the moment and look first of all at Indonesia’s religious history.
THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF INDONESIA
Whoever wishes to understand the present must first become acquaint with the past.
As a land-bridge between two continents, the island world of Indonesia has not had an insignificant history. Fossils found there relate her to Peking man, and this ancient Asian link has in many instances extended into the economic and cultural history of the country.
The rock inscriptions, dating back 3,000 years, have not yet all been deciphered, and they still await close scientific investigation.
The religious situation in Indonesia is also very interesting. The country has been penetrated by four different streams of thought, and these have added their various influences to the animism which developed simultaneously in the area.
In the first and second centuries, Indian traders brought Hinduism into the country. It was these traders who conveyed the famous Indonesian sandalwood to the West. Thus, Europe was to have this aromatic wood before it knew anything about the country of its origin. The Hindu religion and culture developed during the 6th to the 14th centuries into a powerful kingdom, and the roots of the present-day Indonesian language lie in this Hindu culture.
In the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries Hinduism became overlapped by Buddhism. Once again, it was the Indian importers who brought the new religion into the country. In building their temple at Borobudur, the Buddhists erected a holy place in Java, which was at the same time the site of the most sacred Hindu shrine, Prambana. And so the two great Indian religions lived side by side on Java, in peaceful coexistence.
Then, in the 12th and 13th centuries, came the epoch of Islam, which gained its first foothold at Atjeh in northern Sumatra. The Islamic kingdom that came into being in 1205 under Sultan John Sjah was to last until 1903. These religions were to afford the Dutch colonial lords many bitter struggles, including a number in our own century.
Whoever reads the prophets of the Old Testament finds that they frequently mention the islands or coastlands of the sea. The visionary gaze of these men of God reached out far beyond their own land (Is. 66:19).
Were these islands to be neglected then by the One who said, "Go into the entire world and preach the gospel to every creature"?
The first messengers of Christ to arrive there might even have come there during the time of the early Christian fathers. It is not to be totally dismissed that even the apostle Thomas, who worked in India, crossed over to Indonesia with the Indian traders. In any case, we know that missionaries in the Mar-Thomas Church, named after him, worked in Indonesia.
The next real proof of missionary work in the area was confirmed by some painstaking and detailed evaluation of historical documents: Christians from Persia brought the gospel to Indonesia in the years 671 to 679. But, after this, it remained in darkness for a long time. These were the centuries during which the Christian Church in the Western world slowly lost its missionary strength. Gradually, the candlestick of Rome was pushed aside, and the spiritual impetus shifted into central and northern Europe. One only has to think back to the missionary efforts of the Germanic peoples, to the Cluniac reform, and to the forerunners of the Reformation: Wycliffe, Hus, and Savonarola, for the evidence of this fact. At that time, practically nothing was known of Indonesia.
This, however, was soon altered when merchants sailed to the ports of India and learned of the island world to the east. Following the epoch-making discovery of Columbus, the world became filled with a tremendous craze for discovery. At the same time, the seafaring nations were seeking to increase their trade there.
In 1511 the Portuguese conquered the Moluccas, causing the Moslems to withdraw under pressure to the south. Catholics among the Portuguese occupation forces founded the first Catholic Church in the Moluccas in 1522.
Not long after this, the missionary Francis Xevarius came over from India. Although he only worked in Indonesia from 1546 to 1547, his influence was so great, that ever since he has borne the nickname, "Apostle to the Indonesians".
The 16th century also saw the beginning of Dutch colonial power in Indonesia. The Indonesian Christians were not exactly pleased when the Dutch banned missionary work in northern and southern Sumatra and on Ball. The reason for this was a fear that the natives might rebel and leave the work on the plantations. The ban on Ball will be treated in more detail later.
The foundation of the Protestant Church in the Dutch East Indies is regarded today with mixed feelings by the believers there. The pastors were state officials receiving their pay from the government. It was similar to the time of Constantine the Great - anyone who wanted to get on in life became a Christian in order to achieve his goal. Thus, a Christian church came into being in Indonesia which had basically freed itself neither from the heathen nor from the Hindu traditions.
Besides the Dutch State Church, however, following the labours of various Christian missionaries, various other localized churches came into being on Java, Ball, Celebes, Borneo, Sanghir, Nias, Sumatra, Sumba, and New Guinea, - to mention but a few of the more important ones. In East Java the formation of an Indonesian church was very much linked with the name of a faithful German watchmaker, brother Endo. A Christian from Russia, brother Coolen, should also be mentioned in this respect.
In the 20th century, as the era of decolonization was born, the might of the Dutch colonial powers gradually crumbled. In Indonesia a movement founded in 1908, the Resurgence of Asia, gained ground. This trend underlined the Indonesian peoples’ struggle for independence.
During the Second World War, Indonesia was occupied for three and a half years by the Japanese. After their withdrawal, Indonesia proclaimed its independence on August 17th 1945 and set up a constitution, the so-called Pantja Sila. The constitution, however, could not be enforced at once for the Dutch refused to recognize their independence. This resulted in a war of liberation which lasted for more than four years. Under pressure from the U.N.O. and especially from the Americans, the Dutch gave in and finally left the country in 1950.
Yet, the country was still not able to relax. The next enemy came from within, from among its own people. First the power of colonialism had had to be broken. Now there followed a battle against an even greater enemy of the Indonesian people.
II. INDONESIA’S TRIBUTE OF BLOOD
By means of an attempted coup d’état on October 1st 1965, Indonesia underwent a radical change in its history. There are revolutions of various dimensions in some corner of the world practically every day of the year. Amid present world events, however, they are hardly ever noticed. And yet, the circumstances in Indonesia are somewhat exceptional. Here, events have taken place whose course has been of crucial importance in the political development of East Asia.
It was known for years that the former President, Sukarno, had communist sympathies. When, on September 1st 1963, the eastern part of New Guinea came under Indonesian administration, the missionaries foresaw the greatest difficulties that might soon be facing them in their work.
The premonition was not unfounded. Communist influence grew in the country. What was the final result to be? The outcome was completely different from what the Communists had expected, though.
The Planned Massacre
On the 1st of October 1965 the Communists had intended to take control of the country. The first objective was to remove the general staff. The Communists had their own officers ready and waiting to take their places.
In Djakarta alone, six generals were arrested during the first Communist onslaught. They were dealt with in accordance with the usual Communist practice in Asia. Their eyes were partially gouged out and the mutilated victims were then made to run naked among some Communist trained women who hacked at the unfortunate men with their knives until the generals finally succumbed to their tortures.
However, at least two of the military hierarchy in Djakarta escaped. The first of these was Suharto. His child had been dangerously ill in hospital and so he had sat at its bedside all night. When the Communists had searched for him at his home, they had been unable to find him.
This one small slip was enough to frustrate the thoroughly planned revolution of the Communists. Suharto was the head of the strategic reserve. He immediately alerted his men, and in their first retaliatory action they obtained control of Djakarta Radio.
Humanly speaking, this action saved the lives of the Christians and the missionaries in the country. The Communists were, in fact, waiting by their radio-sets all over the country for orders from Djakarta to attack. But the orders did not come and the revolution faltered at the very outset.
Suharto’s counter-action brought to light lists of those who had been blacklisted by the Communists. These contained the names of every single political opponent the Communists had in the country.
The religious list contained the names of all the Moslem priests and teachers, together with all the Catholic priests and Protestant missionaries. The Christian communities in Indonesia would have been eliminated by this one blow, had God granted the revolution success.
The second general to escape the Communist assault was Natsution, the former Defence Minister. His deliverance, just like that of Suharto, is a miracle in the minds of the Indonesians.
When the Communists had forced their way into his house, Natsution was ready to give himself up. His wife, however, pulled him back. The first bullet missed him, hitting his small daughter instead, who had just rushed out of the bedroom into the corridor. She later died.
Natsution fled through the back-door. His wife ran with him to the garden wall. Climbing on her shoulders he reached the neighbouring grounds, which belonged to a foreign embassy. The two guard-dogs miraculously allowed him to pass and he was able to escape. Meanwhile, back in his house, another act of Christian love was being played out. Natsution’s adjutant was a Christian officer. In order to cover his chief’s retreat and when the Communists demanded, "Are you Natsution?" He replied, "Yes, I am." With that he was immediately shot.
Christians may possibly ask, whether he should have lied or not. Whatever the case, the adjutant acted as he did in order to save the life of his superior officer, and this act of practical Christian love will probably be valued more highly in eternity than the act of adhering to some inflexible doctrinal outlook.
The Terrible Retaliation
The horrible manner in which the generals had been mutilated aroused the anger of the Indonesians. In addition to this, another incident, which was later shamefully hushed up, provoked the revulsion of the whole nation. The Communist women, besides the other atrocities they had committed, had actually raped the generals while they had been bound. And then, last but not least, the mortal danger which had threatened the Moslem priests caused a public outcry. After all, nine tenths of the Indonesian population is Moslem.
The subsequent retaliation, to which the Moslems were driven, actually occasioned the deaths of more people than have currently died in the Vietnam War. A wave of anti-Communism spread through the whole country. At night, the people, moved by revenge, broke into the houses of the Communists and other suspects and murdered all the men they could find. This wave of murder cost something in the region of a million lives in the months of October, November, and December 1965. The West was kept completely uninformed as to the extent of these brutal retaliatory steps. Just for once the Communists received the treatment they had intended to inflict on others.
The aftermath of this series of murders was horrific. In many villages in East Java, not a single man remained alive. Nearby mass graves were dug in which the thousands of murdered Communists were thrown.
Imagine the sorrow that has come upon these families: children deprived of their fathers, and wives of their husbands! This is surely the only place in the world where the Communists have had to suffer what they have inflicted on others in Russia, Red China, Cuba and elsewhere, for decades.
The Suffering of the Christians
The Moslems contented themselves mainly with "liquidating" their political enemies, but, as in other parts of the world like Eastern Nigeria and the Southern Sudan, they took the opportunity to attack the Christians too.
For example, a Christian family in a Moslem village tried to alleviate the sorrow of the wives of the murdered men. But this was just what the Moslems were waiting for. "We have proof," they said, "that the Christians are in league with the Communists." Going to their house, they killed the husband and forced his wife to cook for them each day and even wash their bloodstained clothes.
The persecuted Communists often sought refuge among the Christians who frequently came to their aid. This, of course, provoked the Moslems who repeatedly claimed, "The Christians and Communists are working together." Thus, in many areas, the persecution of the Communists widened to include a persecution of the Christians as well.
Yet, the Lord watched over his children. A missionary from Borneo, who lived through the confusion on the island, gave me a report concerning his own district. He said, "Amid all the bloody persecutions and frightful atrocities, one could still see God’s power at work, for none of the 300 Christians in the area were killed. The Lord didn’t allow one hair of their head to be harmed."
Another missionary working on a different island reported, "When the murdering began, a young Communist teacher went and sought refuge within the Christian community. While he was with them, they showed him the way to Christ. He continued to come each day to the Christians who prayed with him regularly. Although he had been driven there by fear originally, he later testified that he had in fact accepted the Lord as his Saviour.
"Later, an informer reported this to the Moslems. Going to the church where the teacher used to sleep at night, they lay in wait for him, and one morning they dragged him outside and beheaded him in front of the church. The Moslems then turned to the Christians, ‘This is further proof that you are really all Communists.’ After some discussion the Moslem leaders decided to slaughter the entire Christian population in the district; but God intervened. A company of soldiers arrived from a nearby garrison and undertook to protect the Christians for several months until the troubles were over." - I have had the opportunity of visiting this community personally.
The military intervention in this instance was quite remarkable. The government troops usually took little notice of the murders that were taking place. The only questions they asked were, "Who should we fight for? Which side is more in the right? If the Communists had triumphed, everything would have been reversed."
This strange Moslem lust for shedding blood has often been a source of much anxiety to the Christians. A Chinese Christian on the island of Java once said to me, "We’re a thorn in the flesh to the Moslems in three ways: firstly, they don’t like our race; secondly, they’re jealous of us, because the Chinese work harder than them and are therefore more successful in business; and thirdly, they hate us simply because we are Christians."
I have witnessed this same tense relationship in all the countries of the Far East. Towns and countries with a strong Chinese element tend to expand more rapidly than the surrounding areas. This is the main reason why Malaysia and Singapore have experienced such a strong economic upsurge. In both these countries at least 50 % of the population is Chinese.
Looking into the future, conflicts are almost bound to arise, and in some cases they can be seen appearing on the horizon already. For example, the Christians wanted to build a church in a suburb of Djakarta. The population of the area, however, consists largely of Moslems, and they soon found ways and means of hindering the construction of the church.
Similarly a Christian doctor told me of how he had bought a large plot of ground from a Moslem in order to build a Christian hospital on it. When the Moslem discovered what the intended building was to be, he cancelled the sale during the final stage of the legal settlement. The doctor lost several thousand American dollars as a result of this. Although he was legally in the right, he decided not to take the Moslem to court on account of what is written in 1 Corinthians chapter 6.
The Moslems will one day come into open conflict with the Christians. This is but a part of the picture facing the world before its end. The followers of Christ are to face greater and greater trials before the Lord comes in his glory and releases them from all their sorrows.
III. THE ECONOMY OF THE LAND
This book is founded upon several visits to Indonesia, and although the conditions of 1966 and 1967 do not necessarily continue to hold true today, the comparison is still worthwhile for it illustrates the growth that Indonesia is currently experiencing.
On my first two visits to the country I was immediately struck by the poverty of the general population. Djakarta, which at that time was a town of about three million inhabitants, apart from having a few buildings built for prestige purposes, proved to be nothing more than a conglomeration of bad roads, tumble-down shacks, gaudy colours, and undernourished people.
During periods of drought, starvation soon became evident in many places. I had previously had no idea that a situation like this ever existed in Indonesia. Usually, when one speaks of hunger, one thinks of India.
During these early visits of mine to the country, I witnessed the almost daily demonstrations of groups of schoolchildren and students. I found it difficult to tolerate them at first, for the incessant noise of their shouting gradually got on my nerves. However, I was struck by two things about these demonstrators which contrasted them sharply with the unruly mobs one often finds today in Europe and America. Firstly, the processions moved through the streets in perfect order. There was no violence of any kind. And secondly? Well, at the time, they really did have something to demonstrate about, which cannot be easily said for their counterparts in the West.
What motivated them? Their hunger! How come? For some weeks past the price of rice had gone up to 100 rupees a kilogram, which works out at about three shillings and sixpence in English money. This was roughly equivalent to the daily wage of a rickshaw driver or an ordinary factory worker; and on top of that, 1 kilogram of rice did not last long when one had a hungry family to feed. As a result of this, in some districts, one could find children walking the streets with distended stomachs and slowly dying of undernourishment.
The students and the school children, whom I saw, were therefore justified in drawing people’s attention to the problem. Whether this would do any good, however, is another question. One of the members of the government said in a speech, "If shouting would help to bring the price of rice down, then I would start shouting louder than anyone."
What is basically the root of this problem? Is Indonesia capable of feeding its own population? Well, in theory the answer is yes, for the surface area is capable of supporting not only the present population of 110 million but also a three or fourfold increase in this population.
The country is, in fact, extremely large and consists of about 3,000 separate islands stretching almost 4,000 miles from tip to tail. The land, too, is very fertile and is only in need of cultivation.
This, however, was one of the many problems which had yet to be overcome. There was a complete lack of any systematic plan to clear the ground and make it arable. How easy it would be to transform the mountain slopes into rich rice terraces. It is only a matter of collecting the rain during the rainy season. But instead of this, the water rushes down the hillsides to flood the villages below. While I was staying in Djakarta, the water was standing in the streets sometimes to a depth of one and a half feet.
Because of insufficient exploitation of the land, rice has often had to be imported. In 1968, I was told, 600,000 tons were lacking. "From where do you import the rice then?" I wanted to know. "From India or other Far Eastern countries?" "No, they haven’t got enough for themselves! The rice comes from America, but it’s really too dear; and besides, we haven’t the foreign exchange to buy it."
The result was that what rice they had, was sold at exorbitant prices. So, while the rich people hoarded it, the poor were unable to afford the price and were left to find other ways of filling their stomachs. An importer told me, "We are already buying pig-food from the United States and mixing it with bread."
Yet, Indonesia does not need to go hungry. It is a rich country. As regards to minerals and mineral resources, it is considered to be about the third richest country in the world.
What use are natural resources, however, if they are not exploited? Industrialization was as much in the doldrums as agriculture. There was a lack of specialists, and even where they existed, they were unable to obtain the posts for which they were most suited.
The reins of the country were in the hands of the senior military officers. Indonesia was a military state. That meant that all the important posts, instead of being occupied by the specialists for the job, were held by high-ranking officers in the army.
What does a general know about agriculture or mining? Usually, nothing. To have proved oneself on the parade ground or at gunnery does not automatically qualify one to plan the economy of a country.
"The army has literally ruined the country economically," I was told again and again. People pointed to the fact that senior officers had taken over as directors of the former well-established Dutch firms. The results had been disastrous. In 1967 alone, 2,000 importing firms had gone into liquidation. The situation needed to be taken in hand quickly.
Wandering through the shabby shopping centre of Djakarta, I saw many empty shelves in the shops. The shopkeepers were unable to buy up stock for they lacked the capital. The counters were therefore filled with goods of a very inferior quality.
That was the picture in the first few years following the end of the general strike. The question now is, whether or not the government has been able to clear up all these troubles. My most recent visit shows clearly that the problems facing Indonesia have now been tackled both shrewdly and effectively.
As early as the end of 1968, the government began to reinstate specialists in all positions of responsibility. Then, on the 1st of April 1969, a five-year plan for the country was introduced. The price of rice dropped so dramatically that it fell to a quarter of the 1967 level. No longer did they have to import American pig-food to mix with their bread. The shops are again full of goods. The country has been able to overcome the stalemate in its economy. It would be wrong to listen to the propaganda the Communists put out concerning Indonesia today. Just think, instead, what the country would have been like under Communist rule. It would have been a case of organized mass-misery, as it is in almost every Communist country in the world.
There are three essential factors which one must recognize when attempting to assess the political and economic features of Indonesia. These are:
1. In the first place, the army prevented the country collapsing under a Communist assault. For this, the whole of the Far East should be thankful.
2. The government must be allowed time to build up the economy. The twenty or so years since the Dutch left the country is hardly enough time for it to have developed into a thriving economic community, particularly since in many respects it was deliberately held in check before that time.
3. A people who gained their independence only two decades ago, must learn, first of all, to consolidate and to preserve the freedoms they have won. One cannot achieve the impossible. Did either the United States or Switzerland evolve into what they are today in the space of a few short years?
However, in its brief period of independence, Indonesia has achieved a great deal. It has already carved out a name for itself in the free world and, today, it is rapidly improving and consolidating its own economic position.
If you want to Despair, Go by Air
What does this proverb mean? With humour in their voices, the Indonesians use these words to describe the unreliability of their own airline - an unreliability we were able to taste for ourselves. There were about 80 of us waiting together in Djakarta to fly to East Java, in order to take part in the conference soon to be held there; but we were simply unable to move. For days we just had to sit around and wait. It was a great test of our patience, and yet it became a blessing to me.
While we were waiting there, I made a number of new contacts. One of the first people I started talking to, was the Rev. Ward, the vice-president of ‘World Vision’. He had heard me speak once in California. In an attempt to catch another plane, he had taken a taxi and made a journey lasting 30 hours - you could see the exhaustion written on his face. Yet, instead of complaining, his only words were, "Well, disappointment means His appointment!" It was a wonderful attitude to take. In spite of the trouble he had been forced to endure through the inefficiency of others, not one word of complaint passed his lips. This missionary was certainly several classes higher than me in the school of God.
The Bible and life have often taught me the lesson that God transforms our times of despair into hidden blessings. In this respect, many of the stories of the Old Testament have been of great profit to me.
Consider, for example, the story of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37 to 50. Joseph was, first of all, thrown into a pit by his brothers, and then sold to some Midianite traders. Imagine the anguish and homesickness he went through. Yet, this affliction, or rather this crime of Joseph’s brothers, was transformed after many years into a great blessing by God. When the famine came, Joseph was able to save both his father and brothers, and in this way he became part of God’s great plan of salvation for mankind, for through their sojourn in Egypt, the children of Israel were destined to become the nation of God’s choice.
The almost unbearable delay which I owed to the Indonesian airline, GERUDA, brought with it many surprises. The only reason I describe these, is to illustrate God’s kindness to us in the fact that he hides a blessing within every disappointment we meet in his service.
As my companion introduced me by my surname to an Australian who was waiting with us, the man immediately exclaimed, "Dr. Kurt Koch? I heard you speak some years ago in a Baptist church in Australia."
Half an hour later I was to meet another Australian. Introducing myself merely by the name Koch, he replied, "I’ve got some books by a Dr. Koch of Germany. They’ve helped me a lot in my work. Do you know him at all?" Did I know him? Only too well! You can imagine his surprise. He at once invited me to come to his church in Melbourne to speak there at various meetings, and the most encouraging thing was that I was actually able to fit these meetings into my Australian tour.
The best experience of all was the last one. For years now I have been on the trail of Bakth Singh. At the moment, he is India’s most well-known evangelist. No fewer than 300 new churches have been founded as a result of his ministry. In many large towns, he has held mass meetings involving thousands of people, without any recourse to American advertising methods.
I had tried unsuccessfully to meet him on each occasion I had toured India. And now here we were facing one another on a morning which had been filled with so much irritation and disappointment. We sat talking together for a few hours, since he was waiting for the same airplane as me.
It was a really wonderful occasion. As I asked him about himself; he told me a part of the story of his conversion. In the end he said, "Let’s find somewhere quiet where we can pray together." My new friend from Melbourne was still with me, and so, finding a place somewhere apart, the three of us were able to forget the problems surrounding us for about half an hour. Bakth Singh had also been badly affected by the delay. He should have been speaking at the same conference in East Java to which I was going, and although he was 65 years old, he was also forced to make the 18-hour train journey when we found that we were unable to travel by air.
The fellowship I enjoyed with this brother in Christ over a period of 14 days was a great blessing to me. When we finally parted, he invited me to go to Hyderabad to speak there sometime. I intend to follow up this invitation within the next few months.
The English proverb was therefore fulfilled. Without the failure of the airline to supply us with a flight, I would never have been granted this wonderful opportunity of fellowship with the many missionaries who found themselves with me at Djakarta airport waiting for a plane. What the devil breaks and ruins, God remakes and moulds into blessing.
IV. BALL, ISLAND OF THE DEVIL
Scenically, Ball is a pearl among the Indonesian islands. To embrace the beauty and wonders of this island in a single account is practically impossible.
The first thing I was able to enjoy from my cheap and extremely primitive hotel was the beach. The waves played on the sand some 40 yards away from my terrace. Daily they would drive ashore the hosts of mussels, star-fish and other creatures which the local inhabitants immediately collected as the tide ebbed, thanking the ocean for it’s freely given gifts.
Beyond the shore, about 200 yards out, the surf boils night and day around the coral reef. Only an ill-advised bather will trust himself to adventure into this seething of the elements. A young German doctor paid for his foolhardiness with his life by being subsequently swept out to sea and drowned. His room had been only two doors away from mine.
On the far side of the bay, one could identify no less than three volcanoes. The largest of them, the 12,000 feet high Agung, was actually active during my stay.
Ball has inherited many names from its visitors. Some tourists dubbed it ‘the Island of Paradise’ and others ‘the Gem of the Tropics’. When Nehru visited Ball in 1954, he christened it, ‘Morning of the World’.
Pulau Dewata - Isle of the Gods - is what the Indonesians call this island. They should know best. But who are these gods? Certainly none from the Old and New Testaments. Bearing in mind the island’s local name, as the missionaries became familiar with the practices of the inhabitants, they renamed it to ‘the Island of the Devil’.
The Religious Life of Ball
The nickname, ‘Island of the Devil’, acts as a kind of challenge. We must explain what it really means.
The ancient tribal religion of the Balinese is a polytheistic form of nature worship. They have their mountain-gods, river-gods, lake-gods, sacred trees, and holy places. In short, they visualize the whole of nature as possessing a soul.
Over the rice-fields the rice-goddess Devi Sri holds sway. Every cemetery, rock, hill and cavern has a spirit of its own. About 40 miles northeast of Denpasar, 2,000 wild buffalo, venerated as sacred beasts, still live in a vast cemetery. No one is allowed to kill them. They are regarded as incarnate spirits of the dead natives buried in this extensive graveyard.
After the introduction of firstly Hinduism and later Buddhism into the country, together with the animism which already existed there, the Balinese temples soon began to express this religious syncretism. Beside the various gods of nature, one finds the Indian gods Siva, Brahma and Vishnu.
The problems arising from this religious mixture have been solved by the Balinese with a certain amount of cunning. Whereas Buddha teaches men not to kill, the old Balinese nature-gods demand sacrifices of blood. How could this dilemma be resolved? Very easily! The animals were left to kill each other.
This is one of the reasons lying behind the terrible cockfights. Next to the temple of Taman Ajun is a gigantic hall where this very popular form of entertainment takes place. The cockerels are fed well before the fights. Their owners massage their necks for weeks on end in order to strengthen the muscles. They also buy fetishes from magicians to try to make their cockerels win. And then, thousands gather to see the awful spectacle.
The contest continues until one of the birds is dead. The next pair is then brought on to fight.
By means of these cock-fights, both the Indian and the Balinese gods are satisfied. The inhabitants of the island kill no animals. The cockerels do this instead. And so the nature-gods have their blood-sacrifices.
These contests, however, have another side to them. A distinguished visitor asked a district governor, ‘Why don’t you do away with these grotesque shows? It’s a blot on your culture." The Balinese replied, "There’s a terrible struggle going on inside every native of Ball. We need a kind of release. The cockfights are merely a safety valve. If we didn’t have these cockfights, we would probably turn to worse things still. So the lesser evil keeps a greater one at bay."
The Balinese know of other compromises arising from the blending of their nature religion with the religions of India. For thousands of years the ‘dog-dish’ has featured on the gourmet’s menu. What’s more, the meal is really only fit for dogs since the numerous stray dogs in the area feed predominantly on human excrement. They act in a way like toilet disposal units. But Buddhism forbids the killing and eating of animals! The Balinese, therefore, redeems himself before slaughtering an animal, by offering a prayer to his god asking for forgiveness, and, in addition, promising a small portion of the meat as an offering: "You’ll get some of it as well!" He then enjoys the dog in peace, if enjoys is the right word!
Temples and Dances
The Taman-Ajun temple, which I mentioned earlier, is a real curiosity. The Balinese themselves call this temple ‘the Hotel of the Gods’. It is an excellent term. Until coming here, I had not realized that even gods can go away on holiday. One automatically recalls the comment of Elijah (1 Kings 18, 27), who annoyed the prophets of Baal by saying, "Shout louder, perhaps your god has gone away." But this is apparently exactly what the Balinese gods do! There islanders believe that they meet together once a year for an annual conference. Some have a long way to travel; others come from the immediate vicinity. Before they come together in Ball’s largest temple, Besaki, they first spend the night in the Taman-Ajun temple, the common rendezvous point. They then go on to their conference at Besakih, which is situated on the slopes of the volcano, Agung. During the eruption of the volcano, in 1963, part of this temple was destroyed. However, as the gods have so far made no approaches to the West for aid, the temple has still to be repaired. Elijah’s jest in a Kings 18 still applies.
Famous dances are performed on Ball in connection with the temple feasts.
First of all, there is the fire-dance. The dancers are put into a trance by a priest. A fire is lit in front of the temple. Each dancer is then persuaded that he is a horse and is being hunted by a tiger. He begins to tremble. Next the priest persuades him that his only means of escape is through the fire. With this, the hypnotized dancer rushes through the fire. The sequence is repeated several times in the presence of an enthusiastic audience. When the dancer is taken out of his trance by the priest, although he is completely covered in sweat and still shows all the signs of terror on his face, his legs and feet show no signs of being burnt at all.
Another dance is even more famous: the knife-dance. This is Ball’s greatest attraction which draws thousands of tourists to the island every year.
The Balinese calendar has ten months, each of 35 days. New Year’s Day and other festivals therefore tend to wander somewhat. Two of these festivals, celebrated rather like fêtes in the West, are called Galungan and Kunigan.
The greatest and most important festival, however, is Melis. As a part of this major festival, sacrifices are brought to the seashore. The sacrifice takes place before the tide comes in. It is quite remarkable how, after the offering of the sacrificial gifts, a great flood-tide comes in and engulfs them all. The Balinese maintain that this shows that the gods have come to accept the offerings. In fact, it is really just a quirk of nature, since the tide normally comes in much more gradually. Only at the time of Melis is there a flood-tide like this.
When the sacrificing has ended, the natives begin to dance. As they do so they commence to enact an ancient mythological story. The aim is to kill a witch named Rangda. She, however, manages to escape from her enemies. The men therefore turn their swords against themselves but as they do this, a friendly god comes to their aid and the points of their blades are prevented from piercing their flesh. The mythological implication of this test is that although the dancer intending to slay the evil witch, Rangda, has his blade turned against himself by her magical powers, the avenger of evil is nevertheless protected. Behind this display therefore, one finds the concept of the triumph of good over evil. Basically, the dances are all trance-induced. Trance-phenomena like this can be observed all over the Far East. I have had ample opportunity of witnessing events like this for myself, since the proceedings often take place out in the open. But, although it is easy to get caught up in a crowd which is gathering to watch such a spectacle, I have never yet deliberately gone out of my way to watch one, since I feel a Christian should avoid such heathen rites if at all possible.
The Magical War
From time to time, in other books of mine, I have mentioned magical duels. When I arrived in Ball in March 1968 and called at a ministers' convention, they said to me, "You've arrived just at the right time. There's a magical war going on in Ball at this present moment." One of the pastors explained to me what was taking place. There have been magical wars on Ball as far back as one can remember. These matters are usually, however, kept strictly secret. The tourists know nothing of them. The terrible battles only become publicly known when Balinese natives who have been involved in them are converted to Christianity and confess their secret sins. One finds that all the magicians on the island, and there is quite a number, are intimately involved in these affairs.
On Ball, just as in Tibet, there are a number of teachers of magic. Each of these has his own followers or pupils, and when the pupils have reached a certain stage in their training, contests are held, aimed at testing and strengthening the magical powers of the individuals involved. These magical 'Olympics' are a 'peaceful' form of combat.
The situation is immediately altered, however, when two of the combatants 'fall out' with one another. The duel that often results can end with the death of one of the magicians. The fights, however, are not fought with conventional weapons, but with mental powers. They squat beneath haunted trees maybe a mile or so apart and fight with their magical powers.
Should such a duel spread to the circle of friends of those involved, then a magical war can ensue.
The magical war in March 1968 took the following course. A magician ordered a cup of coffee in a small Balinese restaurant. The owner of the restaurant, himself a magician, poured some poison into the coffee. The customer noticed this and challenged the owner to a duel. Calling their friends to their aid, the two rival factions took up their stand over a mile apart. The signal for the battle to commence consisted of two lights coming together from the east and the west. When the villagers saw them, they recognized them to be magical lights.
The magical wars are nearly always limited to about one month's duration. The magicians fight during the night and sleep during the day. Normally, they send the weaker participants into battle first. When I received this report from the local minister, he added, "Six or seven people have already died magically in the battle." Towards the end of the conflict, the two chief combatants finally fight each other personally. The war ends when the weaker magician succumbs and dies.
I have often been asked if a magical war is not really a sign that the devil is divided against himself. No! When two boxers fight the stronger also wins, yet both men remain boxers and therefore belong to the same professional group.
Before I left Ball, I tried to learn a little more about these magical wars from an old Balinese native. He was astonished that I knew anything about them at all and asked, "How did you get to know about these ancient Balinese matters? They are usually carefully concealed from tourists, and we never reveal our secrets to strangers." I could find out no more from him during the time of our short conversation.
Demonic Possession on Ball
It will be of interest to philosophers of religion, to parapsychologists and to Christian ministers that there are various forms of possession on Ball. In no other country on earth have I come across so many different distinctions. This again throws some light on this so-called ‘Island of the Devil’.
First of all, there are certain expressions in Balinese which have no ethical meaning at all, but simply refer to the actual state of possession. Such terms include Kepangloh, Krangsukan, Kerauhan. These three words are merely used to describe an inexplicable state that comes upon a person.
Another expression, Daratan, comes from the Balinese word ‘darat’, meaning earth, and describes a type of possession caused through earth spirits. Kerasukan is used to describe the kind of possession where a person is overwhelmed by a power outside himself. 'An invisible harness' is slipped over the victim. The term Kemidjilan comes from the high-Balinese word Midjil, meaning apparition. This form of possession is linked with the experiencing of hallucinations.
The word Bebainan originates from the expression Bebei, meaning the unredeemed soul, or little demon. People plagued by this form of possession are controlled. Balinese specialists are able even to distinguish between different types of sickness arising from possession. That is more than the sceptical psychiatrists of the West have yet achieved. I was amazed by the psychiatric knowledge of the islanders, who can explain, for example, the difference between Bebainan possession and St. Vitus's Dance. I have never heard of any Western psychiatrist who could do the same, and yet Western scientists often put on such an air of superiority that one would think they have a monopoly of all knowledge.
Among the most interesting phenomena of possession is one, which, is described as Sanghgang tutut. This refers to a piece of wood that has the power to protect a person. This is really an animistic form of possession. Since in the minds of the natives inanimate material possesses a soul, it can itself be possessed. From the point of view of religious history, this is of course a question of pantheism, but it also crops up on the perimeter of Christian culture. The psychiatrist Dr. Lechler has said that not only people, but also houses can be possessed. No less a person than Prof. Jung from Zurich held the same opinion. However, he did not dare to air his views publicly. The reason for this was his fear of being regarded by his associates as being out of his mind. This, he confessed once in a private conversation in Männedorf. He did, however, write the foreword to Dr. F. Moser's book called 'Spuk' (Ghosts). And so, phenomena like these which the West usually tries to push aside, are very familiar to the natives of Ball.
The above-mentioned types of possession are by no means the only forms known on Ball. This, itself, is an indication that possession and demons are part and parcel of the daily round of the island.
How should we as Christians or missionaries begin to tackle a problem like this? We can only breathe a sigh of relief that in Christ all these things are both surmounted and surmountable. The power of his redemption and the efficacy of his blood which was shed for us are sufficient to break every demonic ban that we may meet. Naturally, every Christian and minister has reason to be glad if God spares him from having to wrestle directly with problems like these. But whoever is called upon to heal the souls of those who are oppressed in an occult manner, must know something about the battle involved. We cannot regard the mentally ill as being possessed, nor the possessed as being mentally ill. The continual errors made in this respect are found, to a frightening extent, not only among psychiatrists, but also among ministers. And such errors lead to both incorrect and extremely inappropriate treatments.
Another factor that sheds a ray of light on the whole situation in Ball is the doctors' findings that 85 % of all the sick people on the island are neurotic. Is this not the other side to all the trance-induced, magical and demonic phenomena which occur on the island?
Christianity on Ball
Considering the circumstances we have just outlined, we need not be surprised that up till now Christianity has made little progress on Ball. Of the two million in-habitants, 6,000 are Protestant Christians and 4,000 Catholic.
It must also be taken into account that an unhappy combination has taken place between Christianity and the other local religions. Thus, not only have Hinduism and nature worship united with one another, but also Christianity and the magical practices of the island. It has even reached the point where there are so-called Christian magicians.
But let us first hear something of the development of the Christian Church on Ball. I received my information from several ministers living in the area.
In the history of Dutch colonialism, Ball was the last large island that the Dutch occupied. Until the turn of the century, eight kings had shared the government of the island between them. The son-in-law of the chairman of the royal council was my interpreter. He is actually a Christian. Since these eight kings had opposed the Dutch and carried on protracted struggles against them, the Dutch failed, for a long time, to take over full control of the island, although they had already been in Indonesia for 300 years.
In the second half of the 19th century, a Catholic Missionary was settled in Ball. He succeeded in winning a Balinese for Christ. This first Christian, however, later apostatized and promptly killed the Catholic missionary. The king in whose area the murderer lived, desiring to please the Dutch, handed him over to be judged by their law. The colonialists, caring little about a trial, had the murderer shot. The Balinese were angered by this apparently arbitrary treatment. The king told the Dutch, "We do not condemn a person without first giving him a hearing." On account of this injustice, opposition flared up. As a result, about 170 Dutch people were murdered by the Balinese. The Queen of the Netherlands reacted so strongly to this uprising that she signed a decree forbidding any missionary from settling on Ball.
As this decree was never revoked, a Christian church was not founded on Ball until 1929 when a handful of missionaries from East Java came to Ball secretly and passed the Christian message on from mouth to mouth.
This method of evangelism was not as inept as one might have thought, since the Hindu religion on Ball had always centred on individual families. In this way, each family has its own praying-place and sacrificial shrine.
Progress towards the foundation of a Christian church could not be halted, in spite of the ban. Even some of the Dutch colonial officials looked favourably upon Christianity, in defiance of the existing decree. And so, in the 1930's, a Christian church was formed. The Church on Ball is therefore still very young and in the first generation, so to speak. Today there are about 25 Balinese pastors on the island.
The Christian Church is faced with massive bulwarks in the dominantly heathen customs of the island. In 1963, however, an amazing opportunity was presented to the Christians. In that year Agung erupted and devastated twelve villages. 1,500 people perished. The Balinese were all the more shattered because their national shrine, the great Besakih temple, was also partly destroyed. Their faith in their gods was shaken, and they became wide open to the Christian message, especially as Christian aid in the form of practical gifts began to flow into the devastated area.
However, the Church did not use this extraordinary opportunity. So many gifts arrived that the organization of the still small body of Christians was at first unable to cope with them all. A whole year was needed before everything was sorted out. In the meantime, the doors that had been open were closed again. The Christian Church on Ball had missed its great opportunity. The social work involved had left no time for preaching the gospel.
The Balinese church is not alone in this respect. It has its parallels in many American and European churches. How often in our churches has welfare work stifled evangelistic effort? Concern for the body has pushed aside care for people's souls.
The Stronghold of Magic in the Church
The Balinese church has a character similar to that of many churches on other mission-fields. Christians who have come from a heathen background, or whose parents or grandparents are still tied to their heathen beliefs, are often caught up in magic. This I also found to be the case on Ball.
I have been able to speak in five different churches there altogether. When I warned about witchcraft, excited questions followed. One church elder said to me, "What should we do when we are bitten by a snake? There are no doctors for miles around. The witch-doctors are the only ones who can save us from dying. Why shouldn't we, as Christians, go to the Hindu magician in a case like this?" In replying to the church elder I said, "Have you never read in Mark 16:17 that the Lord Jesus can also heal snake-bites? And have you never heard of the story where Paul was bitten by a snake on Malta and survived?" The elder did not reply. I went on, "How can we as Christians go to a heathen sorcerer? We can only do this if we trust the devil more than God. Yet, if God wouldn't help me after I had been bitten by a poisonous snake, I would still rather die than go to the devil for help."
I then recounted to the congregation some examples of missionaries who had been bitten by poisonous snakes and who had survived. One such example concerned the experience of a missionary in Brazil who was bitten by a very poisonous snake, the sukkru. The Indians present at the time had told the missionary, "You are finished. There's no cure for this bite." The missionary's sight was already beginning to fail. His foot swelled up to the size of an elephant's. The Indians carried him to the hut. There they watched over the missionary who had already become unconscious. After some minutes the unfortunate man regained consciousness, and in that moment cried out, "Lord Jesus, your promises!" He then fell unconscious again. But the power of the poison had been broken. Instead of dying, the missionary, after lying in a coma for a long time, recovered. There were no after-effects.
I recounted this story to the Balinese church. However, the elder had further questions. He explained, "We have a man here who, although he isn't a magician, he has a white stone with which he heals the sick. When I was ill, I asked this healer for his white stone, but since I was a Christian, he wouldn't give it to me, even though I kept on imploring him for it. Why would it have been wrong to have used the stone if it really did possess healing powers?" I replied, "Be glad that you didn't get hold of the stone. Its effects also belong to the realm of witchcraft, even if it is only a matter of suggestion."
But I was not able to convince the native elder. However, at least the others were no longer likely to resort to the power of the Hindu sorcerers again. It is lamentable that most of the native pastors discern no evil in these things and give their congregations no clear direction on the matter of occult contacts.
At a Balinese ministers' convention, one pastor even claimed that his mediumistic powers were given him by God. His grandfather had been a clever and much-feared magician. Both he and his father had inherited the grandfather's magical abilities. And these occult powers were supposed to be God-given! A complete confusion of spirits! Yet these are the men who preside over the local church.
Another elder declared quite openly in the overcrowded church, "I still have my old fetishes and charms at home; but they can't do any harm to me because I don't believe in them anymore". I referred the man to Acts 19:19 where the Ephesians brought out all their fetishes threw them into a heap and burnt them. I advised him to likewise destroy all his occult objects, because they would without doubt represent a strain and a bad influence on both himself and his family. But I could not convince him either.
Can we still wonder that the Church on Ball has not yet experienced a revival similar to that on other of the Indonesian islands? Magic is always a bulwark which acts against the gospel. We can see this all the more clearly in the fact that in the revival on Timor and elsewhere, the movement always began with the people recognizing their sins of witchcraft, and bringing their charms and fetishes out and destroying them.
And yet the situation on this 'island of the devil' is not completely black. There are a few 'first fruits' which show that the Lord Jesus desires to begin a work on Ball too.
In Denpasar I made fleeting visits to both a college and an orphanage. I was quite moved by the sight of the young boys of seventeen and eighteen there. I told them that it was at their age that I had first found the Lord Jesus. As I left, they begged me, if possible, to come back soon and tell them more. This request encouraged me greatly and so, a few days later I returned to give them a series of talks on the Christian faith. It was obvious that these young Balinese wanted to hear more about Jesus.
In another village, after talking for a while with a Christian, he told me, "Until a short time ago I was a Hindu. Since I have started to follow the Lord Jesus, I have been persecuted a great deal. My fellow villagers plague me in every conceivable way. My wife can no longer fetch water from the public well, and I was threatened and told that I wouldn't be able to be buried in the village graveyard since I had, as they said, cut myself off from the village community." I tried to encourage him as a brother. Anyone who becomes a Christian in a heathen environment must reckon with persecution. That is even true in our 'Christian' churches in the West.
In East Java I met another young Christian from Ball. He told me his story. In 1962 a missionary had arrived on Ball with a team of Christians to work there for a while. Some young boys had found the Lord Jesus at the time. Three of them are today at a Bible school in East Java. One of these, my informant, reported that he was no longer able to enter his parents' house now that he was a Christian. His parents are still heathen in belief and are not prepared to tolerate his decision. And so, the Bible school has become his home now.
But Ball can boast of more first fruits than those we have just mentioned. There are a number of Christians scattered about here and there who have been able to escape from the bondage of their forefathers' occultism. These are admittedly few, but one of them is Pastor Joseph, who actually organized my lecture-tour on the island.
These Christians, who are so much in the minority, are really Christ's vanguards on this island. There is no need to despair. The Lord Jesus has always built his kingdom upon a 'few'. If these individual vanguards of Christ remain faithful, then their number will not remain small. For even this stronghold of darkness - this paradise of demons - can become the island of Christ.
V. JOHN SUNG
No one seeking to write about the current revival in Indonesia should overlook the work of the two evangelists who, during the past 30 years, have held many large-scale revival meetings in Java. These are the two apostles of God, John Sung and Andrew Gih. They were friends who worked together originally, but developed their individual evangelistic methods afterwards. Both came from China and both saw the extension of their work into the countries bordering their own land. Among the Chinese in Indonesia today, there are many genuine Christians who still trace the renewal of their faith back to the evangelistic missions of these two men. In Djakarta, Dr. Toah told me that these two Chinese evangelists had brought more of the Chinese to Christ than all the foreign missionaries put together. Let us hear first about John Sung, who began his work in Java before Andrew Gih.
The Little Pastor
Without going into boring biographical details, some picture should be given of the time in which the life and work of John Sung took place. The lamp of this exceptional man burnt for barely 43 years; from 1901 to 1944. God gave to him a fullness of power that I have not observed in any other evangelist of our century. This is no exaggeration, but my firm personal belief.
Being born and bred in Hinghwa, John was present as a nine-year-old boy when the revival broke out in the Hinghwa church. Although only a small boy at the time, he broke down in tears and experienced a definite conversion.
Right from the start, prayer was the spiritual high-point of John's life. When in those early years his father was critically ill and had almost been given up as lost by his family, John's despairing mother, who in her anguish could no longer pray, told him, "John, go to your room and pray for father. God listens to prayer." John had thrown himself down on his knees and prayed ardently for his father's life. As a result, in spite of all the doctor's expectations, he soon recovered. This was the second great answer to prayer in the life of this young warrior of the Lord.
In the Hinghwa revival, John's father became the leading pastor in the town and was soon weighed down with the work. He appointed lay-preachers whom he used on a rota system to preach in the surrounding villages. John soon took his place among these messengers of Christ, although he was by far the youngest of them all. He was, therefore, already giving conscientiously prepared sermons at the age of fourteen. Whenever his father was unable to take a service due to the pressure of his work, John readily stood in for him. The congregations loved to listen to him preach on account of his vivid style of delivery. At the time old established Christians were already thinking, "What will become of this young child?"
As in the life of every man of God, the planning and guiding hand of the Lord can be seen in the life of John Sung. As a schoolboy, John had already aroused much attention by his flair for studying and his unflagging industry. Thus, it is hardly surprising that this zealous young man soon set his sights on a university education. However, since China had been going through much unrest since 1919, he began to think of entering an American university.
But, severe obstacles stood in the way of this plan. Who would pay for the journey? Who would stand guarantor for his stay in the United States? And most difficult of all, John had a typical Chinese infection of the eyelids, which would automatically bar his access to America! As a fourth stumbling-block his own father was opposed to his ideas of travelling. Four formidable hindrances!
Could anything be impossible to God? John resorted to prayer. This was his proven course of action at such times. The Lord gave him his answer in the form of a letter. An American missionary lady, who knew nothing of his scheme, wrote to encourage him to study in the U.S.A. saying that she would stand as guarantor for his visit there. Overjoyed, John showed the letter to his father and asked. "Isn't this God's answer?" Following this breakthrough, John received so many gifts of money from various sources that he was not only able to pay for his fare, but had a considerable sum left over to help finance his start in the new country. Help came from an unexpected source for the infection of his eye-lids. While he was having a haircut, the barber noticed the infection and offered to clear out the inside of the lid with a sliver of bone, and afterwards to wash it. John agreed to this. The painful process was undertaken several times until the infection was completely cleared. Finally, his father gave his consent also. This was the work of the 'Great Architect' who, in his mercy, always enables his apostles and children to reach their goals.
The new life in America was anything but easy. Delicate health, a continual lack of money, and an unavoidable operation were subjects for much prayer. The American missionary too, had unfortunately not kept her promise. It has often been a cause of great vexation to many believers, that promises are treated so lightly in American circles. For John, it meant that he clung all the more closely to the promises of the Bible.
In spite of these tremendous hardships, John achieved breath-taking progress as a student. In three years he completed a curriculum intended to take five. Moreover, he was consistently among the top students. Besides receiving the prizes for Physics and Chemistry, he was awarded the gold medal for that year. When he finally received his degree, newspapers carried glowing reports on the gifted Chinaman. Three universities tried to woo him. The world-famous Harvard University offered him 1.000 dollars a year if he would enrol there, a sum of money which would be worth at least four times as much today. John, however, plumped for the more modest offer made by Ohio State University.
At this point, the knowledge-hungry student applied himself to obtaining his M. Sc. and Ph. D. in chemistry. Since, at that time, German chemistry was at the forefront, John thought of learning the language in order to have access to German scientific writings. During his vacation he flung himself into the unfamiliar language, and in two months mastered it so well that he was able to translate a hefty chemistry textbook into English. The professor who checked the translation thought he must have been studying the German language for years. What another man might have taken two years to do, John Sung had managed in two months. Once again, his achievement caused a great stir. He was showered with awards and invitations. During this time, Peking University became aware of its successful compatriot and offered him a professorship. However, the invitation which most attracted John came from Germany, where the services of this extraordinarily gifted chemist were much sought. A scientific team offered him a research post with unusually favourable financial conditions.
Dr. Sung, as he was now called, prayed a great deal about his future path. In reply, the Lord referred him to the words of Matthew 16:26, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet forfeits his soul?" His thoughts returned to his original plan and vow. He had only intended to study in America temporarily and then return to China as a preacher of the gospel. So, he decided to go and study theology at a theological seminary for a while. In this way he arrived - certainly guided by God - at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, known for its liberal teaching.
And so began his final preparation for the service that lay ahead for him in preaching the kingdom of God. But the schooling was to bring him completely to his knees.
The main cause of this was the rationalistic theology taught in the college. Every problem concerned with the Bible was discussed in the light of human reason. Only that which could stand up to the scrutiny of logical thought was accepted as being worthy of belief. Belief in Christ suffering for the propitiation of our sins; belief in miracles, the resurrection, the ascension and the second coming: all these were rejected as unscientific. Served with this diet, Dr. Sung soon lost his former faith and he came face to face with the most critical inner crisis of his life. He said to himself, "Everything that I have believed in till now has been taken away from me. I cannot go on living in this state. Either I end my life, or, through the Holy Spirit, God must give me another way to live."
Again God heard the cry of his heart. During the night of February 10th 1926, the Lord came to him. Breaking down under his burden of sin, Dr. Sung cried to the Lord, praying and weeping till midnight. Suddenly he heard a voice saying, "My son, your sins are forgiven." At this his soul was filled with light. Even though it was still night, reaching for his Bible, he began to read the Gospels in a way he had never done before.
The next morning, all the scholars and students noticed the transformation; and Dr. Sung made no secret of his new experience. Wherever possible he bore witness to the Lord Jesus and his abrupt manner soon began to cause something of a stir. Ever since childhood, he had been a person of clear-cut and radical decisions.
Describing his theological books as books of demons, he burned them and dedicated himself exclusively to the study of the Bible and to prayer. His liberal teachers were so shocked by his brusque manner and his condemnation of their brand of theology, that they begged him to submit himself to a psychiatric examination. This is typical! First of all, these rationalists destroy the faith of a person, then, when that person denuded of all security finds the Lord Jesus, he is looked upon as mentally ill and packed off to a psychiatric clinic. I sincerely hope that in spite of their theology, these modern theologians may have realized their mistake and come to the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. I should like to see their faces one day when they, at last, realize that through their theology they have been serving the devil's interests on earth.
In the story of Joseph he says: "You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good." (Genesis 50:20). This is how it was in the case of Dr. Sung. What the Union Theological Seminary contrived was also part of the purposes of God.
Dr. Sung was advised to rest for six weeks and he agreed, although only after some protest. However, when he asked to be permitted to return to the seminary after the six weeks had expired, it was made clear to him that he would have to stay away longer. His old fiery temper flared up, "I've been deceived. I'm not mentally ill, though my heart might well have been damaged by the miserable theological f are I was served with at the seminary." This energetic outburst led the psychiatrist to transfer him to a ward for violent patients. It was one of the worst experiences in Sung's life, to have to spend his days and nights in a ward of dangerous, fighting, swearing maniacs.
He asked the Lord what it all meant. The answer came, "All things work together for good to them that love God." Then Dr. Sung received yet another personal message from the Lord. He was told, "You must endure this treatment for 193 days. In this way, you will learn to bear the cross and to walk the pathway of obedience to Golgotha."
With this, John Sung was content. He knew it was the will of the Lord, and that all he had to do was to wait. The psychiatrist allowed him to return to his original private room. There, Dr. Sung had time to pray and to read the Bible. He avidly read many chapters each day. Later he commented, "That was really my theological training." Altogether, he read the Bible through 40 times during this period of enforced rest. He told no one of the Lord's promise that he was to spend 193 days at the clinic, but after exactly 193 days he was discharged. This was proof that it really had been a message from the Lord, and not his own imagination. Dr. Sung was now finally armed for his evangelistic work in China.
We frequently come across periods of quietness like this in the lives of the special instruments of the Lord. Joseph was two years in prison. Moses spent 40 preparatory years in Midian; Elijah was allowed to hide by the brook Cherith; Jeremiah found himself in prison and later in a pit; John the Baptist sat in the mountain fortress of Machaerus; Paul was two years in Arabia; Luther was at Wartburg until his time had come. These times of solitude are part of God's schooling.
The Wesley of China
The Union Theological Seminary had long since removed the name of Dr. Sung from its roll of students. They did not want anything more to do with him since his burning of their books. But, John's thoughts were now set on China, and on the 4th October 1927 he set sail from Seattle for Shanghai.
When Dr. Sung arrived back in his homeland, and was united with his family whom he had not seen for the past seven years, he found there was one remaining hurdle for him to take. His father said to him, "Son, I have always been a poor preacher. I hope that you will now take a post at a university here and help to pay for the education of your younger brothers." John had feared this might happen. All the same he replied to his father, "My life is dedicated to the spreading of the gospel. I am dead to the world and to myself. I can take no other path." And so his course in life was fixed.
Then, in May 1928, Dr. Sung met Andrew Gih for the first time. Both men realized that their lives were following similar paths. For both of them it was a case of being completely surrendered to the Lord for the task of spreading the gospel wherever his Spirit led.
At first, the two men worked together as a team with Andrew Gih sometimes acting as interpreter to Dr. Sung in districts where the dialect was unknown to him.
Dr. Sung's first meeting with the so-called 'Tongues Movement' proved to be both significant and informative. It was in the port of Tsingtau that he had to deal with the question of the gifts of the Spirit. The 'charismatic movement' within this port, with its ever changing population, was very strong. Its followers claimed that the fullness of the Holy Spirit would manifest itself in outward signs such as tongues, spiritual songs, visions and dreams. Dr. Sung was drawn into a heated argument over this problem. He became so confused, however, that he decided not to preach but to listen to Andrew Gih instead. Praying earnestly for clarification, the Lord soon granted him his request.
Andrew Gih was preaching on John 4 at the time, and talking about the living water which Jesus offered the woman of Samaria. The answer came just like a revelation. Later John said, "The blessing of God and the fullness of the Holy Spirit do not consist in our searching for fulfilment in strange tongues and other outward manifestations, but in becoming purified streams, through which the living waters of the Holy Spirit can flow to the thirsty souls around us."
From that moment on Dr. Sung preached with a new power. Often he prayed, "Lord, purify and mould me in such a way that the living waters may pour forth like the torrents of Niagara."
Wherever he went there was a spiritual revival: men acknowledged their sins, enemies were reconciled, stolen goods were returned, students and scholars begged their teachers for forgiveness, and the teachers themselves confessed their own sins. Best of all, after each missionary campaign, teams were formed to carry the gospel to the outlying villages. Sometimes, following a single campaign, 6o to 100 of these teams would be formed overnight.
Dr. Sung was a master at illustrating his messages. When he preached once that sin must be pulled out by the roots, he went to the pots of plants around the platform and tore the flowers out one by one crying: "Now they can't grow again. Sin must be torn out in the same way."
One day he was speaking on Romans 6:23 which reads, "The wages of sin is death." Having a small coffin and a number of stones brought on to the platform, he exclaimed, "The coffin represents death. The stones symbolize sins." Dr. Sung thereupon started naming some sins, and for each one, he threw a fresh stone into the coffin. The evangelist then explained what it all meant: "Every man carries a coffin and as the coffin fills with stones and becomes too heavy, the bearer is gradually crushed."
On other occasions, he used the following illustration when speaking of the pastors and their congregations. He would have a helper bring a small charcoal stove on to the platform. Next he would order some small pieces of charcoal to be thrown into the fire, together with one large piece. Ten minutes later he would ask his assistant, "What can you see?" The reply would come, "The small pieces are glowing already, but the large piece isn't even red yet." Dr. Sung would then sum up this message. "The small pieces of charcoal are like the people in the congregation and the large piece is like the pastor. The pastors always take longest to catch fire." One can imagine that an example like this did not always endear him to the ministers of the churches. And yet at the end of his missionary efforts, these same men would have to acknowledge that the church attendances had usually doubled or even trebled.
In the course of his preaching, Dr. Sung often received the gift of prophecy. Once he pointed to an individual in a crowd of over a thousand and said, "You're a hypocrite, mend your ways." The person he was addressing was a church elder who thought that the pastor must have complained about him to Dr. Sung. The next day, therefore, the elder sat in a completely different part of the large hall. In the middle of his sermon, the evangelist once again pointed towards the elder and said, "You're a hypocrite." When Dr. Sung had said this to him a third time, the elder decided to murder the pastor. He invited him to a meal at his house. The minister, however, was forewarned, yet in spite of the warning, this faithful brother went to visit the elder. As he entered his house, the man came straight at him with a long knife, and in his fury raised his arm for the fatal blow. Reacting al-most instinctively, the pastor fell to his knees and cried, "Lord, save this elder!" The knife went over his head into the wall. The blade broke. At that instant, the spirit of repentance came upon the elder. Falling on his knees beside the pastor, he begged him for forgiveness and surrendered his life to Christ. Such was the outcome of the drastic pronouncement of the evangelist.
In the short period of time from 1931 to 1935, Dr. Sung became one of the leading figures in China. The Christians nicknamed him 'the Ice-Breaker'. In a journal of the National Christian Council, Dr. Sung was placed at the top of the list of the six most well-known Christian personalities in China. This country, with its many millions of inhabitants, had never before possessed an evangelist of such power. For this reason, he was described by many as the 'Wesley of China'.
The Fruit of his Work
Christianity in the West, and indeed throughout the world, is marked by all manner of deficiencies. The number of conversions is small and there are pastors and ministers who, for 40 years or more sometimes, have never experienced a single case of confession of sin or conversion to Christ. Of course, conversions are basically the work of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, He usually uses men as His instruments.
The lack of conversions means that there are too few young men and women offering themselves to the Lord to do his work both at home and overseas.
A further deficiency is the lack of money which is always evident in Christian work. Consequently, the Church is constantly begging and collecting. The Bible too, is read so little that men know less and less about the God to whom all the treasures of this world belong.
What was the situation regarding Dr. Sung? Let us take as an example his three missionary campaigns in the towns of Taipei, Taitschung and Taiwan on the island of Formosa. At the end of the three campaigns, none of which were undertaken with the massive present day American style of organization, 5,000 people acknowledged that they had found the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. 460 young people offered themselves for missionary service. 4,000 dollars came in freewill offerings, plus many gold rings and other precious jewellery. Dr. Sung took none of the money for himself. The gifts were used for the maintenance of the lay-evangelists and not for filling his own pockets. Just how indifferent he was to money is illustrated by the following incident.
A wealthy business man visited him and brought him a large sum of money. Dr. Sung did not know the man, and looking intently at his benefactor, he finally said, "The Lord does not want your tainted money. He wants your soul." Thereupon he threw the large sum of money at the man's feet and refused to accept it.
Wherever the Holy Spirit holds sway, the most important thing is the salvation of men, and not the accumulation of banknotes. Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and the rest will be added to you as well."
Pioneer Work in Indonesia
This brief biography of Dr. Sung is given here for two reasons. First of all, Christians in the West, to whom this man is often still unknown, should be able to share in the glory revealed by the Lord in his short evangelistic life. Secondly, one should realize that the present revival is not the first time that Indonesia has heard an authoritative gospel message. The waves of revival stirred by Dr. Sung were just as strong as the present ones. The only reason they were not so widespread, was because Dr. Sung only lingered for a few weeks in Indonesia. It must also be remembered that it was the Chinese who were pre-dominantly gripped by the work of this pioneer.
Altogether, Dr. Sung came to Indonesia four times. In 1935 he evangelized the Chinese church in Medan in northern Sumatra. This community was revitalized by his ministry.
In 1936 the evangelist came to Sarawak, in the northern part of Borneo. In the British as well as in the Indonesian part of the island, there are large Chinese settlements. The campaign took place in Sibu (Sarawak). In the course of the ten-day mission, nearly 1,600 Chinese found their way to Christ, and more than 100 offered themselves for active service in God's kingdom. In addition to this, 116 teams were formed to go out into the villages to carry the fire of the gospel further. If one considers that a European evangelist often works for forty years before seeing results similar to those of this ten-day campaign by Dr. Sung, one will soon realize that evangelists in the West are in a very impoverished state. The work of the teams, who constantly maintained their witness despite the later occupation by the Japanese, is significant. Their work never faltered even amidst the confusion of war.
Dr. Sung's third visit was to the island of Java in January 1939. In September of the same year he visited the island again, later holding further missions on Celebes and the Moluccas. We must say more about this, in order to learn of God's exceptional grace towards Indonesia.
The Total Claim o f the Gospel
The reputation of Dr. Sung as a great evangelist had already reached Java before his own arrival. Nevertheless, the people who gathered in Surabaja for his first meeting were quite amazed by the small, thin man dressed in a cheap Chinese tunic who stood before them. They had pictured the Wesley of China very differently. However, one sermon was enough to make them reconsider their hasty first impressions. Everything about this unprepossessing man was energy and power.
On the very first evening they were to know for themselves what claims he made in the name of God. Speaking to his audience he said, "I have 22 messages to give to you this week. This means that I must hold three meetings every day at which you must all be present; otherwise you will fail to discover what God's message is for you."
A whisper went round the church, "What's going to happen? Must we stay away from work and be at the church the whole day?" The pastors warned John not to be too demanding. Dr. Sung persisted. He was right. His addresses communicated such power that it was no longer necessary to urge the people to attend the meetings. The Chinese shopkeepers closed their shops and came to listen to the evangelist preach. They hung notices on their shop doors, "Closed for the week - Missionary Campaign".
The revival spread still further. The school-children stopped attending school. They too, sat the whole day listening to Dr. Sung, and the teachers did the same.
Yet in John Sung's eyes, even this was not enough! Although the meetings lasted altogether about eight hours a day, the evangelist urged the young people, "Do not think that following Jesus is only a matter of being uplifted inside. There are millions who do not know the Lord Jesus. Go out and take the gospel to them." The young people formed themselves into the usual teams of three. Then going out into the streets and into all the bars which they had formerly frequented, they spread the glorious message of the gospel. During the days that followed, many were able to report the blessing which God had granted in their work.
The pattern which was to shape the current revival in Indonesia can already been seen emerging: teamwork. Those who attended the missionary addresses in Surabaja certainly had no spare time of their own. From morning till night they were absorbed in listening to the gospel preached and in organizing the evangelistic bands.
What was the life and work of the evangelist who made such total demands like?
He was usually up by 5 a. m. to read and pray for several hours. Then, as was the case in Surabaja, at 9 a.m. he held a meeting for the sick which lasted for an hour. Following this, came his three daily messages, each lasting at least two hours. Also there were the letters he had to answer. Since he often had to preach throughout the day, there was little time for the work of personal counselling. He therefore encouraged his listeners to write to him and tell him their needs. He also asked the newly converted for a photograph so that he would always be able to remember them in his prayers. It was often after midnight when he finally finished writing, and this now left only a few hours for sleep before the next day began.
Even when a week of evangelizing was over, there was no pause for rest. He literally preached for four weeks every month. The only free days he had were those he spent in travelling.
Dr. Sung did not usually base his sermon on a theme or a text, but rather preached his way through the Bible, verse by verse. His approach to each passage, however, was so varied, that one can compare him with Spurgeon. His preaching was the expression of his own private study of the Bible. We have already heard of how he burned all his theological books in America and called them 'books of demons'. Ever since that time the Bible had taken first place in his life, and he made a habit of reading at least ten or eleven chapters on his knees every day, conscientiously writing up in his diary the thoughts which the Spirit of God would bring to his mind while he read.
His sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 remained indelibly stamped on the minds of his audience in Surabaja. He illustrated how in his own life he had become more and more proud as a result of his swift ascent to fame in America, but how Jesus in His love, had ever remained close by his side. What an abyss lies between our pride and His patient waiting; our arrogance and His humility; our vanity and His simplicity; our greed and His self-denial; our suspicion of others and His faith in the sinner; our self-righteous smugness towards those who fall and His concern for the fallen. Yet, although we deserved the cross, the Son of God in His perfect love and humility bore the shame on our account.
The message of Dr. Sung struck home at the conscience of the audience. Their wills were moved and thousands were converted. Even today, 30 years later, the effects of his first missionary campaign in Java have not been erased. Many of the Chinese have remained faithful followers of the Lord ever since that time.
The Laying on of Hands
We enter now into a very controversial area. Praying under the laying on of hands is abused in three different ways.
First of all, the Church abuses the New Testament's direction to lay hands on the sick (James 5:14; Mark 16:17 f) by failing through unbelief to make use of this God-given means of grace.
The next abuse is found among extremist groups who lay hands on people both hastily and indiscriminately.
Then thirdly, certain spiritists and sorcerers adopt this practice, performing various types of magic under the laying on of hands.
In view of this, has any Christian still the courage to pray for a person under the laying on of hands? Is there in fact a correct use of the laying on of hands today? The answer is yes; a scriptural one.
But what is the scriptural practice like? Dr. Sung gives the answer. At his first meeting for the sick in Surabaja he read James 5:14 and went on, "I come to you as an elder of the Church. I come in the name of the Lord and not in any name of my own. I have no magical powers within my hands; so don't expect anything from me but only from the One who stands by me and whose servant I am."
The thing that is often forgotten in Christian circles today was at the forefront of Dr. Sung's mind. He explained that he could not lay hands on an unconverted person. Whoever had not confessed all his known sins, could not expect help from prayer under the laying on of hands.
Dr. Sung also encouraged the sick to realize that healing depended on the will of the Lord. He said, "I cannot guarantee that all the sick among you will be healed. Even the Lord Jesus did not heal all the sick. He was not always allowed by his Father to heal the sick of his day. How much less, then, his servants!"
After these introductory remarks the sick were then brought up to Dr. Sung on the large platform one by one. As they knelt he anointed them each with oil in the name of the Lord and prayed with them.
That same afternoon, a praise meeting was held in which those who had been healed gave their testimonies. Many had been cured of serious illnesses. A missionary wrote later, "Blind people received their sight, the lame walked, the dumb spoke, the ears of the deaf were opened; and, best of all, and the cures have lasted." So, it was not just a case of auto-suggestion.
What was even more striking than the healing of the sick, though, was the fact that many of these people experienced a fresh infilling of the Spirit of God during this anointing and laying on of hands. It was the story of the Acts of the Apostles all over again.
That which has already been said must be underlined again. Dr. Sung cannot, in any way, be included among the ranks of the extremists of today. His ministry was sober and faithful, and clearly biblically based. He was opposed to all fanaticism. He rejected tongues, dreams, visions and a life of exaggerated emotionally. In God's kingdom, we need no ecstatic experiences but need rather to be completely purified channels for the water of life. Such was the standpoint of a man, who, unlike most other evangelists, was involved in a continually increasing fullness of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, those upon whom he laid hands were even able to receive this fullness for themselves.
Thus, it is not only possible to speak of the work of the Holy Spirit in fanatical terms, but also in a sober and biblical sense. Therefore, a person who rejects extremism is a long way away from rejecting the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the contrary is probably the case, for extremism hinders the work of God's Spirit within us more than anything else.
The Volcano among Volcanoes
On leaving Surabaja, Dr. Sung promised to make a return visit soon. The Indonesians had won his heart. He was to keep his promise in August and September of the same year.
He began his second missionary tour of Java with a campaign in Djakarta. The whole Chinese community was stirred. No one wanted to miss hearing the preacher, whose reputation was filling the Chinese-speaking world. Before the week was out, 900 people had repented and surrendered their lives to Christ.
The next stage of his tour took Dr. Sung across the waist of Java, among the volcanoes. He was in his element! Meanwhile, in Surabaja preparations were being made to receive the eagerly awaited guest.
2,000 volunteers declared their readiness to assist with the campaign. The cooperation of every Christian church had been enlisted, including even those which had remained so critically aloof during the first mission. Above all, the youth were full of expectancy. Dr. Sung had become their champion, their model. In the largest square in the town a makeshift hall had been erected. A gigantic roof of palm leaves gave protection against sun and rain, but there was still far too little room.
During the course of the week, 5,000 people streamed in daily to hear the evangelist speak. Thousands would take their places at 8 a.m. in order to obtain a seat, and would remain there until 11 p. m. at night when the last of the three or four meetings finally ended. I have never known, in my own experience, of such a campaign, not even with Billy Graham, where people have endured some ten to fifteen hours of preaching the Word of God each day, for ten solid days on end. Only the Holy Spirit could have brought this about. Mere advertising and even the best possible organization cannot create such a response and hunger after the Word.
The Bible Society's local depot in Surabaja had soon sold out of ail its Bibles and New Testaments, in spite of the stocks it had set aside especially for the campaign. The 5,000 hymn books were similarly quickly sold out and a new edition had to be printed as quickly as possible.
Dr. Sung preached at length on the Gospel of Mark and it served the purpose of preparing the newly organized evangelistic teams for their task. The final result of the ten-day campaign in this respect was the foundation of another 500 of these bands, which subsequently swarmed across the whole of Java spreading the gospel message.
One of Dr. Sung's interpreters, a pastor from Malang, said: "There was nothing remarkable about the preaching style of Dr. Sung. His repertoire of sermons was not large; his presentation, occasionally childlike, but a great power radiated from him and as his interpreter, I could feel the effects of it upon myself."
It almost sounds trite to say it, yet the comparison is justified; Dr. Sung preached among the volcanoes of Java and was a man who was built in the same mould. He once said of himself; "There are many people better than I! For exposition of the Scriptures I am not equal to Watchman Nee! As a preacher I am not up to Wang Ming Tao! As a writer, I cannot compare with Marcus Cheng! But, in one matter I surpass them all; that is in serving God with every fibre of my body and every ounce of my strength." Did not Paul write something similar? "I have laboured more abundantly than all of them." (I Corinthians 15:10).
In what way could the same be said of Dr. Sung? After having already heard something of his daily routine, we must realize a little the extent to which his labours drained him of all his strength.
For a long time his friends had been aware that he was ill. They advised him to seek medical treatment. He answered, "I haven’t the time. I must preach the gospel." During John's last meeting in Surabaja the pain in his hip became so unbearable that he could no longer stand in the pulpit to preach. Having a stool fetched for him, he knelt down and preached on his knees. He said later, "The pains only ceased while I preached or prayed. As soon as I had finished they returned."
Surabaja was the climax of Dr. Sung's work in Indonesia. How the Christians and Malays had hung on to his every word! When he left the town on September 30th 1939, hundreds stood singing on the quay to see him off. Some Catholic missionaries on the boat looked at the quayside in astonishment when they saw the crowds of people gathering. They wondered what important person would appear. But the only person who came was a little in-conspicuous Chinaman bent under the pain of his sick body.
Naturally, many well-meaning voices will arise and ask, "Why didn't he spare himself? Why didn't he take Paul's advice about bodily health being profitable a little? Why did he simply make a martyr of himself?"
The answers are not difficult to find. It is true that these objections apply to every worker in the kingdom of God, but is there any sense in saying to an active volcano, "Would you please stop sending up clouds of smoke and ashes into the sky; and no more lava please!" A volcano would never obey instructions like these! Yet Dr. Sung was a volcano by nature.
John Sung would not be restrained, and this too was certainly part of God's plan for his life. In retrospect, this can be said with absolute certainty.
This man of God was continuously under the impression that he had to hurry: "I have so little time." And surely, this was true, for in his forty-third year he returned home to be with his Lord.
In regard to world politics, too, there was little time left. In Surabaja he said, "Wars and times of persecution will come upon you." How literally these words were fulfilled! Indonesia was occupied for two years by the Japanese. Then, came the struggle for independence from the Dutch, followed later by the bloody conflict with the Communists, which cost about a million people their lives. On top of all the chaos caused by war, came the persecution of the Christians in Sumatra, East Java, and other areas of this great archipelago.
Not least of all, Dr. Sung felt that the second coming of Christ was near. He continually preached this fact and endeavoured to prepare Christians to be ready to meet their Lord.
Dr. Sung's last message to the Church, which he gave shortly after his tour of Indonesia was, "The work of the future is to be the work of prayer." It was almost prophetic.
As a Chinaman God had shown him that in China, and little by little all over the world, the doors were closing. In China, today, the doors are already closed, and other countries are quickly following suit. Under the coming anti-Christ, the wave of persecution will surely grow.
Driven from within by the Lord and accounting his own life as nothing, John Sung burnt himself out in the service of his Coming King. Indeed, he had always hoped that he would die in the pulpit.
Apart from this prophetic side of his life, there is one last human issue which can be mentioned. The Lord had to teach his servant a final lesson; the art of suffering. Following a medical examination in Shanghai, the doctors discovered tuberculosis of the lungs, and cancer. An unending schooling in pain and agony, combined with three operations followed.
Dr. Sung understood that this was God's way. He said, "God must melt my stubborn temperament in the crucible of pain." And this is just what happened. In his suffering, he lost his often harsh manner and instead became patient, compassionate, and warm.
Seeing death approaching, he said one day, "The Lord Jesus is waiting outside the door to collect me." And so it was. Within a few hours of uttering these last words off his wife, he was translated into the Heavenly Kingdom.
VI. ANDREW GIH
I have stumbled across the tracks of this much blessed evangelist many times in my life; in Hong Kong and Singapore, in Formosa and Los Angeles. Next to Dr. Sung, he is one of the most prominent Chinese evangelists of this century. At the time of the writing of this book, he is 68 years old and passing the evening of his life in California. In order to be able to understand the power of his ministry, we will first hear something of the experiences he had in his missionary work.
At the time of the first Communist disturbances in West Shantung, a bandit by the name of Wang was engaged in his usual habits of raiding, kidnapping and blackmail. One day, coming to a village in the hope of finding some spoil, he was suddenly confronted with a large crowd of people. "What's happening here?" he asked. He received no reply, but instead heard a man talking at the front. It was Gih, and he had just begun to read the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15, "And he took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living." Wang was astonished and wondered, "How did this man know my story?"
The bandit listened now all the more attentively, and when the evangelist summoned the people to come forward and to repent, he went forward with them. At that moment the criminal was changed into a disciple of Christ.
His transformation bore instant fruit. He went home, knelt before his wife and begged her forgiveness. Then searching out his aged parents, he asked them to forgive him too. His next journey took him to the pastor of the district in which he lived. He became a loyal member of the congregation there and used every opportunity to testify of his new found faith to his former friends. When they jeered and made fun of him, he calmly stood his ground, which was proof enough that his nature had been > changed.
However, on another occasion one of his former colleagues, while making fun of him, said, "If a gangster can preach the gospel, then this bloke Jesus must also . . ." - He didn't get any further. Wang was on him in a moment and bit off one of his ears. Spitting it out, he wiped the blood from his mouth. He, then, said quietly, "You can insult me as much as you like, but you're not going to insult Jesus while I'm around." The wounded man withdrew from there, vowing revenge.
Wang went to the pastor and recounted the incident to him. He was convinced that he had done the right thing. The pastor, then, read to him the story of Peter who had struck off the ear of the high priest's servant, and he added, "You have done exactly the same. When Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, later on, he no longer acted like that." Wang repented and asked God to fill him with the Holy Spirit.
Here we see already an indication of the blessing that rested upon the work of Andrew Gih; but, he still had a long way to go. Let us now hear something of the way in which his ministry developed.
Buddhism was the religious background of Andrew's parental home. The family, however, was only nominally Buddhist. They were just about as concerned with Buddha as nominal Christians are with Christ.
It was curiosity that one day led Andrew to visit a Buddhist temple, but the monstrous idols and dreadful pictures illustrating hell completely revolted him.
His next goal was a Roman Catholic Church. When he went in, he was still wearing his straw hat, but someone quickly took it off his head! Andrew was annoyed by this and determined never again to visit a Christian church.
However, God's hand can already be seen at work in his life. Andrew's friends started studying English, and this made him want to master the language as well; but he could find no place to study. In the end, he reluctantly decided to attend the Bethlehem Mission School in Shanghai. He made up his mind though, that he would under no circumstances become entangled in the religion of the foreigners.
A morning service was held at the Mission School every day, and Andrew avoided it with the excuse, "I live too far away and can't get to the school on time." At the Mission the English language was taught through the Bible, and in this way Andrew's knowledge of the book grew.
Most of the students were convinced Christians, and because of this, they often challenged Andrew. "Do you believe that God created the world?" one of the girl students once asked him. "No," replied Andrew. "Then where do we come from?" another student butted in. "From our parents, of course," Andrew answered flatly. "And where did the first parents come from?" "From lower forms of life," Andrew replied again. "Why do apes still exist then? Why didn't they also develop into human beings long ago?" Andrew was baffled and annoyed at the same time. However, the Christians gave him no peace and they prayed for him continually.
One day, the teachers at the Bethlehem Mission invited the students to a missionary meeting. To make it more convenient for the students, the school offered them an evening meal. Since the Chinese are brought up to be very courteous, Andrew felt obliged to stay.
That evening was to be the turning point in Andrew Gih's life. There awoke in him a strong awareness of his own sinfulness. That night he could not sleep; he struggled with his sin, until he finally cried out, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" At that moment, the peace of God came into his life. He was certain that God had taken possession of him. The next day, he immediately made his experience known to the Christians and non-Christians alike. "Becoming a Christian is the best thing a person can do."
The Open Door
From the start, Andrew was a man of prayer. He would lay hold of every possible promise he could find in the Bible. Thus, it was a great encouragement to him when the Lord gave him the verse: "Behold, I have set before you an open door which no man can shut" (Revelation 3:8).
Relying on this promise, he set out to find a job. He had to help his mother to keep the family, since his father had died a number of years before. At that time, the main post-office in Shanghai had a hundred vacant posts. However, the number of applicants ran into thousands. Moreover, only those who knew English were accepted and Andrew was only a beginner in the language. Many of the other applicants had, in fact, already been abroad to English-speaking countries. Andrew resorted to prayer. He was given a post.
Tears ran down his mother's cheeks when he brought home his first wage packet. "Son," she said, "I haven't had so much money in my hands since your father died."
Yet, Andrew did not want to be a post-office employee all his life. One night, he had a dream. He saw an old man ringing the bell for church. Suddenly, whilst he was still ringing the bell, he was attacked by a lion and killed. Andrew then heard a voice saying, "Who will take his place?" On hearing the question, he awoke, and he knew straight away what his answer must be.
With a heavy heart, he told his mother that he felt himself called to God's service. She began to weep and said, "Then I shall have to do my weaving until midnight again so that I can feed the other children." How this answer pierced his heart. The Lord, however, directed him to the verse: "He who does not leave mother, wife, and children, for my sake, is not worthy to be my disciple."
Andrew applied to become a Bible student at the Bethlehem Mission. He received a small grant, half of which, he shared with his mother. The other half he retained for himself, though, was not really sufficient for his clothing and shoes; so he had to go about very poorly dressed.
His inner life was the exact opposite of his outward appearance. His heart burned for Jesus. Every evening, he was out and about in the streets and on the outskirts of the town preaching the gospel to the people he met. Since he had no money for the bus, he went everywhere on foot. During the rainy season, he often waded knee-deep in water. This resulted in him catching a very heavy cold from which he could not seem to recover. He prayed and the Lord answered him through Isaiah 43:2: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you."
In spite of a stubborn cough, he carried on preaching. During the holidays, he and a friend undertook an evangelistic tour. They had been away for three months in a southern province when Andrew began to spit blood. At the beginning of one of the evening meetings, he coughed up so much blood that he filled his handkerchief with it. His friend sent him to bed but Andrew could not rest. When he heard the singing from his room and the time for the sermon approached, he slipped back into the church. Going to the pulpit, he began to preach. Within three months he had preached away his tuberculosis of the lungs. Later, he realized that it was wrong to be so reckless with his health. We have a responsibility towards our bodies as well. However, the Lord had shown him mercy. Andrew depended on the Lord completely for his personal needs. One day, he prayed to God for some money for a pair of shoes. He received the answer quickly. A friend brought him two Chinese dollars which, at that time, was just enough to buy a pair of shoes. Shortly afterwards, Andrew received another visitor, this time a young man who had not long been converted. This new Christian was in a desperate situation as he had given up his former dishonest occupation after his conversion. He asked Andrew for help, having already had to sell some clothing simply to buy rice. Andrew prayed to God for money for his brother in Christ. A voice then encouraged him, "Why do you ask? You have two dollars. Give those to him." After a little hesitation he complied, and gave his poverty-stricken brother the money. Some days later the Lord paid him back with an interest of 1,400 %. He was given 30 dollars!
Once after an evening meeting, Andrew stayed behind in the church to pray for the people who had just attended the service. Suddenly, a commotion developed outside and he heard a threatening voice start shouting, "Beat the swine up." Immediately some of the Christians rushed back into the church to be at Andrew's side. Kneeling with him, they began to pray. A mob armed with clubs pushed their way into church, but, on hearing the Christians praying for them, they drew back speechless. The Lord had stood guard over his servant.
Endued with Power
Although Andrew had already had some wonderful experiences with his Lord, he still sometimes felt a lack of authority in his life. As a result, when he was listening to an evangelist preaching once and heard the invitation to go out to the front, he got up and went out himself. The renewed humility before the Lord was richly rewarded. The presence of Jesus became for him a new and living realty. He wrote about it later, "I didn't experience any ecstasy or any holy laughter; I didn’t speak in tongues or have a vision; and I didn't hear a voice. I simply surrendered my whole life completely to Jesus. In this way, a new strength came into my life."
This new blessing bore fruit. Wherever the young evangelist went, the Lord allowed revival to follow.
For example, in one particular town in the province of Canton, the rector of the local college set himself against Andrew Gih's missionary campaign. Yet, many of the students were converted. Finally, he too was won over. As John Sung had said, "The largest pieces of charcoal are the last to be set alight." At the end of the mission, the rector stood up and gave the following testimony:
"I was fortunate enough to be brought up in America. It was there that I was taught my modern theological views. When the young evangelist Gih began his work here, I was opposed to him. I claimed he was just playing on the emotions of the young people to get them excited. However, the message at the last meeting affected my conscience. I had to confess my sins, though I fought against doing so, and now I stand before you students whom I have been teaching for years. This morning, a young man of about your own age gave his message.
When he asked who wanted to decide for Christ, and you all made your decisions, it became clear to me that I lacked something in my life. My lengthy training has not made me capable of influencing you in the way this mission has done. Please, pray for me that I might be given what I need."
It was the same story in the next town. The students at a Bible school experienced a fresh and deep sanctification of their lives. Even the lecturers repented and sought the forgiveness of their sins. The girls of a senior girls' school remained in prayer in the church for hours until their teachers also came to Christ. All petty quarrels were pushed aside. The senior boys' school was likewise drawn into the revival. Boys, who had been a problem at the school for years, were converted. Their headmaster similarly repented of his sins. He stated publicly, "Because of my education I was an atheist. Now I have surrendered my life to Christ." Even pastors and other ministers of the gospel repented and confessed the slackness of their own work. Prayer groups sprang up everywhere, often with a membership of 50 to 6o people.
Andrew Gih gives us a wonderful example of how the message of the Holy Spirit can be preached without fanaticism. He once said, "Before we can start to speak of spiritual gifts, a person must have been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. Only after this has happened, does the Holy Spirit impart his gifts to men as and when and to whom he chooses." Another time he declared, "Anyone who is not filled with the Holy Spirit is powerless in God's service, and this is a terrible predicament to be in if we claim to be the followers of a victorious Lord. If all the Lord's servants were to be filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ailing Church would soon bear fruit and be transformed, and a worldwide revival, for which we all pray, would surely be the result."
The Fullness of the Holy Spirit
In his addresses, Andrew Gih gave valuable advice concerning the theme 'being filled with the Spirit of God'. Some of his thoughts are worth repeating here.
'If the Christian Church is going to pray for a revival, then it is only on the understanding that the Bible, being the Word of God, stands at the central point. First of all, you must read the Bible, emphasize the Bible, teach the Bible, preach the Bible, revere the Bible and practise the Bible, before you can expect to be filled with the Spirit of God." Is this the situation today at our theological faculties and among our Church leaders?
"The Holy Spirit changes everything. For example, on the road to Capernaum, the disciples were arguing about which one of them was the greatest. But, after Pentecost, they were humble, and even Peter accepted Paul's rebuke without a murmur. In the same way, before Pentecost, Peter had run away from a young servant girl, whereas after Pentecost he stood up and faced the entire world." With Christ's original followers, it was a matter of saving souls, but today the emphasis seems to be on constitutions, social service, ecumenical links and things of a similar nature.
After being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter and John were able to testify, "We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." Today, a pastor's job seems to end in the pulpit and Paul's encouragement to preach in and out of season is almost forgotten. This is why it was possible in one church in Java for the pastor to be dismissed because he went out and preached the gospel in the streets. The church justified itself by saying, "Preaching outside the church is against the constitution." In order to receive the Holy Spirit, certain prerequisites are imperative: faith, prayer, obedience. Before his ascension, Jesus promised the disciples, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses" (Acts 1: 8). The disciples returned and waited in Jerusalem. This was already a sign of their faith; and with one accord they devoted themselves to prayer.
Andrew's views on the gift of tongues are also significant. He said, "At his conversion Paul did not receive the gift of tongues at once. This only came later. At the revival in Samaria there was also no mention of the gift of tongues. Moreover, Jesus himself never spoke in tongues. There are today, however, believers who erroneously assume that the gift of tongues is the sole and essential evidence of someone being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is clearly contrary to the Scriptures. It should also be remembered, that great men like Wesley, Moody, Spurgeon, General Booth and Hudson Taylor never possessed the gift of tongues, and yet they were all men who were filled with the Holy Spirit."
I personally, also find it very significant that Andrew Gih recognizes three different sources behind the gift of tongues. These I have described already in my booklet entitled The Strife of Tongues':
The gift of the Holy Spirit: Mark 16:17; Acts 10:44; Acts 19:6; l Cor. 12:14.
The fruit and expression of one's own soul: Jeremiah 23:16; "They speak visions of their own minds."
The demonic: Deuteronomy 13:1-5; "That prophet or that dreamer of dreams must be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord."
Today- there are two extremes in the Christian Church. The one - predominantly the new rationalists - deny the existence of the Holy Spirit, and the other - predominantly the extremists - overdo the fifth article of the creed. Let us not forget that the task of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ. Jesus must stand at the centre of our creed. Any shift of emphasis leads to false teaching.
The Work on Java
Andrew Gih was one of the forerunners of the revival in Indonesia. Of course, there is no direct connection between his work and the present revival. All the same, under Andrew Gih and John Sung, Indonesia experienced a clear presentation of the gospel.
In 1951 Andrew came to Indonesia for the first time. His work began in Bandung. The first fruits of his ministry came sooner than anticipated. A young man sought him out and asked him, "Please baptize my father. He is on his death-bed." Andrew was no longer able to get through to the dying man. The old man lay there with his eyes closed. He said to him, "The Lord Jesus came to this earth and died for you on the cross in order to take away your sins. Do you believe that?" An unintelligible grunt was the reply. Andrew went on, "If you believe in Christ and accept him as your Saviour, then he will carry you up to heaven. Do you want that?" Again, an incomprehensible murmur. Next Andrew prayed, "Lord Jesus, I can only baptize this man on trust. Just grant that he says one more word of witness before he dies." The next day the old man was a little better and his son told him, "Father, yesterday Pastor Gih baptized you. Do you acknowledge the Lord Jesus and accept him?" The dying man replied, "Of course I accept him."
This was a good start. After the mission in Bandung, came one in Surabaja. On the first evening, 400 people came. Gradually, as the week progressed, the church was filled up, so much so, that in the end there were some 300 people left standing outside. Every evening between 30 and 200 people came forward and accepted Christ. Surabaja had not experienced such a revival since the days of Dr. Sung.
In addition to the ordinary preaching services, a healing meeting was held. During the mission, Andrew Gih was repeatedly asked to pray for sick people and to lay his hands on them. In the end he agreed to hold a meeting for the sick. He thought that perhaps a dozen people might come along. To his amazement, 300 to 400 were present. Later, many testified that they had been healed.
One woman had suffered from a growth. Four doctors had advised an operation. However, since she had to look after another person who was sick, she was unable to go into hospital. Gih prayed with her. When she went to the hospital again for another examination, the doctors could find no sign of the growth. The Lord had touched her body and healed her.
At the senior girls' school in Surabaja, there were four teachers. Three of these became Christians during the course of the mission. The fourth refused to attend the meetings. Towards the end of the week, she heard that Andrew Gih came from Shanghai, where she herself had been born. This led her to go and hear him out of curiosity. She was gripped by what she heard and was converted the same night. That evening she experienced two miracles in her life. For twenty years she had suffered from a stomach complaint and had had to keep to a strict diet. Consequently, she had grown very thin. After the meeting, she stayed behind together with many others who were sick. After waiting for a long time on account of the great crowd, Gih prayed with her under the laying on of hands. She went home very late that night and felt extremely hungry. Having eaten her fill, she slept soundly and, from that time onwards, remained in the best of health. The Lord Jesus had saved her both physically and spiritually.
Andrew Gih concluded his work in Indonesia with a mission in Malang. Since 120 young people in a single evening decided for Christ, Andrew conceived the idea of founding a Bible school. Naturally, such an enterprise was fraught with many difficulties. He needed teachers, a site, and money to build the school. He took all these concerns to the Lord in his prayers. And the Lord responded. Of the £ 7,000 required for the building, three gifts amounting to £ 2,400 had come in during the first week. The first five teachers also came forward and offered their services. The Bible students themselves - the major problem in the Western world - were no cause for concern. They were already there waiting to be admitted.
In 1968 God allowed me to pay a personal visit to the towns affected by Andrew Gih. I was able to speak four times at the actual Bible school he founded. To date there are some 90 students studying there, and in the college he also founded there are 400 students.
This then completes our short biographies of the two Chinese evangelists who pioneered the present work in Indonesia. They were the two friends, John Sung and Andrew Gih.
Their work was predominantly among the Chinese, whereas the current revival largely involves the Malay population and the Moslems. God has, therefore, in his mercy, reached out to the three distinct groups comprising the population of Indonesia. Without doubt, the Lord is working his purposes out among the Indonesian people.
The earlier pioneers of Christian missionary work have, one by one, lost their influence, although their organizations may still continue to exist today. The Lord chooses new instruments when the old ones are worn out. At present, it is Indonesia's turn to be used by God. In the millennium, no doubt Israel's time will come as well. Nevertheless, Indonesia is probably the last country destined to carry the torch of the gospel before the second coming of Christ. The signs which support this claim are clear.
VII. QUESTIONS SURROUNDING THE REVIVAL IN INDONESIA
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to be able to visit a number of places which have been the centres of revival. This has encouraged me to read reports and books dealing with revival.
Almost every revival seems to display the same recur-ring biblical pattern. This runs as follows:
Firstly, God's Spirit blows where he wills. He is sovereign over his own actions. We cannot compel him to act. Trying to force God's hand by prayer usually leads off on a psychical sidetrack.
To say this, however, does not invalidate the biblical 7 truth: "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and men of violence take it by force."
One finds, secondly, that every revival seems initially to provoke the anger of the Established Church. The comment of John Sung comes to mind again: "The large piece of charcoal is affected last." If the Church agrees with a spiritual movement from the very outset, there is reason to doubt the biblical nature of such a movement.
A revival is also characterized by people breaking down under the burden of their guilt, repenting and accepting Christ as their Saviour.
Every revival, too, has to contend with tributaries originating from the devil. Nominal Christians are often impressed by the activities of their own churches, and yet so often the words of the glorified Lord still apply, "I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is." (Rev. 2:13).
Welfare work, social service, community action and theological study may be all well and good, but on the other hand they have very little to do with revival. Indeed they are often endowed with a catastrophic immunity to revivals. It is often in the very place where money and intellect abound that revivals are found to be absent.
The kingdom of God is characterized by other traits. God seeks to bless those who are humble and broken, and often esteems the illiterate more highly than the university professor. Water settles in the lowest place, and the water of life does likewise. God does not revere human greatness. The Spirit of God has little time for the attainments of human reason. God makes fools of the wise men of this world. We do well to remember what Paul wrote in this respect in 1 Corinthians 1. Herein lies the limitation of intelligence.
In a similar way, the Spirit of God must not be confused with the psychological workings of the mind. This is the second great danger. That which originates in the organic or the psychical is just as incompatible with the Holy Spirit as the spirit and intellect of man. The false prophets of today should just for once read the words of Jeremiah 23, where God ascribes the many dreams, visions and prophecies of those who claimed to speak in his name, to the workings of their own subconscious mind. This is the basic trouble with extremism.
The Holy Spirit comes from God, not from the realms of the human intellect, nor from the realms of the organic, or the human psyche. How many are the dreadful short-circuits this confusion has already occasioned. This is one reason why revival seldom lasts for more than a couple of generations. One of my teachers pointed out to me, many years ago, the principle of totallter allter - completely otherwise! The Holy Spirit is so utterly different from our sinful nature that absolutely no parallels are possible. This is a completely different state of affairs to that depicted by Paul Tillich. As a theologian, he maintained, "What we understand by God or the Spirit of God is nothing more than the sum total of the outward manifestations of the good qualities within human beings." What an idea! The Holy Spirit is supposed to be dependent on man's understanding of himself. This is the basic trouble with modern theology.
If we wish to investigate a revival, we must be prepared to allow the Holy Spirit to be the Holy Spirit, and nothing else. We cannot compass him with our intellect. Even less should we relegate him to a mere expression of our subconscious mind. We must speak of the Holy Spirit in the way that the Scriptures describe him, and not ac-cording to what our own minds can grasp.
The Dangers of the Indonesian Revival
It may seem strange to speak of the dangers first, but our aim must be to preserve this wonderful gift of revival to Indonesia, for as long as we can. I have already been to mission fields where revivals have died a natural death. They have been like dead volcanoes, yet people have often failed to recognize this fact. They have confused life with the mere activities of the flesh.
My heart, however, goes out to this tremendous gift which God has given to the Christians in Indonesia, and daily, I remember in my prayers the friends I have made in that land. May the Lord be pleased to uphold through them this movement of his Spirit in the service of his Church throughout the world.
Personality cults are dangerous. When God calls and prepares his instruments they must never become more important than the Lord himself in the work that they are allowed to do. How easy it is for our hearts to swell with pride when the Lord deigns to use us. But did not God first anoint and choose king Saul before he later cast him on one side? As we then read the stories which are to follow, we must under no circumstances forget that the glory they reveal belongs to God, and not to men.
A second danger among many Christians at a time of revival is to sensationalize any stories they might hear. It was this that explained the sudden arrival of an American Pentecostal Christian on one of the islands. He wanted to take a native woman, who had been used in a quite remarkable way, back to America to parade her triumphantly - as the Americans often do - before the Christians. Although the woman had been actually instrumental in the raising of the dead, the only effect that the offer had was to swell her pride and cause her to lose all the authority she had had.
Revivals can sometimes be 'visited to death', or 'reported to death', or even 'praised to death' by well-meaning missionaries and evangelists.
Why then do I write about it here? My missionary books are read by anything up to 40,000 people, and I would beg them all to pledge themselves to pray for this revival in Indonesia, that the fire which God has lit there will not go out.
The Indonesian revival faces two particular dangers, namely its being confused with two other religious streams.
It is flanked on the one side by a wave of mass baptisms among the Batak tribe, and on the other side by the tongues movement, which is currently causing concern throughout the Christian world, in spite of the claim made that it is a revival movement itself.
The mass baptisms that are taking place in Sumatra, particularly among the Karo Batak, can be traced to two sources. Spiritually speaking everything in Indonesia today is in a state of flux. From the psychological point of view, there is no easy explanation for this. Just as the many Indonesian islands are washed by the waters of many seas, so too, the present religious and spiritual situation of the islanders is affected by innumerable differing streams of thought.
One understandable reason for the wave of baptisms, however, is the present political situation in the country. Following the Communist uprising, the government has ordained that all citizens must belong to a religion. The only options that exist are Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. Since the Moslems were responsible for the slaughter of the Communists, many Indonesians, wanting to give them a wide berth, have opted for Christianity instead. And so in 1966 and 1967 admission to the church by mass baptism began. This reached such a pitch that in the space of two months 10,000 islanders came forward to be baptised. There can be little talk of genuine spiritual rebirth in a situation like this.
These christenings, however, have both a good and a bad side. The danger consists in the Church finding itself being further diluted by these nominal Christian converts. The blessing consists in the great opportunity to reach all these people through the gospel. The Lord is able to build up his kingdom, even out of a 'semi-artificial' movement.
The tongues movement too, should not be confused with the genuine Indonesian revival. This world-wide psychic epidemic, founded upon the subconscious minds of religiously inclined people, is not a revival at all. But in making this statement, those with genuine spiritual gifts have nothing to fear.
Just how dangerous tongues speakers can be to the revival is illustrated in the following incident. Once while the Bible School teachers in East Java were on holiday, their school was visited by a Pentecostal from Holland. He told the students that a person has only been truly filled with the Holy Spirit if he has spoken in tongues. He was just on the point of gaining a hearing among the students with his heretical ideas, when the teachers returned. One of the teachers' wives, realizing the situation quickly, confronted the man and said, "You're a false prophet." Soon after this he left and the danger was averted. The enemy had planned to try and ravage the flock while the shepherds had been away. The Lord, however, had prevented any damage being incurred.
The extent to which extremism and spiritism are related is illustrated in the following example. The Pentecostal evangelist we have just mentioned went for a walk one day with one of the missionaries. Suddenly he said to his astonished companion, "You see those three birds over there? The middle one is a spirit. Watch closely what happens." The middle bird then flew towards the evangelist and disappeared into thin air. It was a clear example of spiritism. Yet this was supposed to be a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It was the Dutch evangelist's companion who actually recounted the incident to me.
There is one more danger which, although often over-looked, threatens every revival. An old believing minister in England who was present at the time of the Welsh revival said once, "Towards the end there was too much talk about the Holy Spirit, and not enough about the Lord Jesus." This is indeed a very real danger, when the accent is taken off the work of Christ and placed exclusively on the work of the Holy Spirit. Although our churches are guilty often of not emphasizing the Holy Spirit enough, during revivals on the other hand, Christians often go to the opposite extreme. The whole task of salvation was placed upon Christ by the Father. And Jesus said before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, "The power of the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and you will be my witnesses."
VIII. A BIBLE SCHOOL IN EAST JAVA
The Bible School in East Java is still very young and therefore, so to speak, still in the period of its first love. This young seedling was first planted in the soil of Indonesia in 1959. It began quite simply as a large family, with four teachers - among them David Simeon - and nine students. Within a year the number of students had grown to 17. The most well-known of these was Pak Elias, of whom we shall hear more.
In 1961, one of the founder members left to join 'World Vision', because he felt called to concentrate more on social work among children.
When David Simeon therefore returned from his furlough - during which he had got married - the leadership of this young work was placed in his hands.
The work of the school expanded amazingly quickly. By 1967 the number of students alone had almost reached three figures, and many more were on the waiting list awaiting their turn for a place. This is indeed what happens when the Spirit of God begins to move.
Parallel with the swiftly increasing number of students went the erection of the many necessary buildings amidst a chain of miraculous circumstances. A former Dutch church, which had earlier been completely destroyed, was so reconstructed that it looked like new. The main building in which the school became housed was also built at this time, mainly on gifts from the Indonesian Christians themselves.
Depth and Width
These are two of the key words which can be used to describe the development and growth of the Bible School. Had it been width without depth on the other hand, the result would have been shallowness.
Dr. Rachel, the matron of a hospital in central Java who has long had connections with the Bible School in East Java, told me some interesting facts. She has invited evangelistic teams from the school on a number of occasions to address her hospital and staff. She said to me, "We sensed at once and clearly saw the change it made in the character of our girls. Four of them decided to train for full-time service straight away. Then, when they returned from the Bible School, the change was even greater. They were willing to perform the most menial of tasks, and were so honest and appreciative that we ourselves felt ashamed. The Spirit of Christ has literally imprinted himself upon them."
At the Bible School itself, the wind of revival has been blowing for a number of years. This was particularly illustrated in the spring of 1967. The teachers were having a great deal of difficulty with a number of the students, and were even considering whether or not they should be sent home. Then they began to pray. At once the deadlock between the teachers and students was broken, and the prayer meetings lasted deep into the night. Students came to the teachers begging their forgiveness, and in return the teachers confessed to the students that they too were in the wrong. One teacher told an assembled group of students, "I know that I'm very proud, so please pray for me." Everything that the Holy Spirit revealed was brought out into the open and put right.
Dr. Rachel, who had been partially able to share in this period of revival in the Bible School, told me about it her-self, since I was unable to get much information from the actual teachers themselves. However, perhaps this is best, for not everything should be broadcast far and wide. These matters are neither to be sensationalized nor gossiped about by Christians. This would be the best way to quench the Spirit of God. Dr. Rachel went on to say, "During this time, as a spirit of cleansing was sweeping through the school, things began to happen which were very reminiscent of the time of Christ. Occult oppressions, often involving the third or fourth generation, were brought to light. One girl was possessed. A number of demons were driven out of her."
David Simeon said to me concerning this, "Up till then we only knew of these things from your books. Now we've been able to experience them for ourselves." I was pleased and grateful that my books had been used to prepare them. Sometimes a remark like this is a great encouragement amid the battles that constantly face one. I find that I am often under fire from every side and in danger of losing courage and becoming tired.
Let us now listen once more to the words of Dr. Rachel, "If had merely read or heard about things like this, then I should have doubted the reports. As it was, I was right in the middle of it all. Still more important to me than people's deliverance from the sins of sorcery was the fact that the fruits of the Holy Spirit became visible among the students. It could be seen, for example, that God had poured the Spirit of love into the heart of one Indonesian. Others were so broken that you could almost sense the humility in them afterwards. Another acknowledged his disobedience and openly asked to be forgiven. Not a single teacher or pupil remained untouched by the events. In addition to this, distinctions in status and rank became invisible. The students and teachers formed a single fellowship before God. The wind of God blew, and still blows, in this school. I'm not ashamed to admit that in this spiritual atmosphere I could hardly refrain from tears."
Now, it is my turn to give my own impressions. I was in Indonesia for four weeks, two of them in East Java. What I experienced there impressed me more than anything else in my 39 years of following Christ, and God has allowed me to see a number of things in this time. My own spiritual life was so enriched, that since leaving there I have devoted three times as much time to prayer as I formerly did. On account of travelling a great deal, my memory has become like a huge map. Since my time in Indonesia, I daily wander across each continent praying for the people I know. It was brought forcibly home to me that through negligence in prayer I had become guilty, not only before God, but also before the people I should have served. We indeed only obtain what we seek on bended knees. Of course, I have always prayed regularly ever since I first learned to follow Christ, and this includes the spending of many nights in prayer. Yet all the same, since being stirred by the revival in Indonesia, I feel that I am somewhat guilty. How different my life would have been, if I had only prayed more. How many wrong decisions would have been avoided if I had always remained faithful in prayer. I feel that I must now try to make up for where I have failed, if that is at all possible. For this reason, each day I travel from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, from Scandinavia to Cape Town. Then, ranging along the coast of East Asia, I finally cross the vast expanse of the Pacific, touching all the islands as I go. What a help I find my travels in the past to be, for I feel at home practically everywhere I go. I have but one request, that God will forgive me for all my lukewarmness in prayer, and preserve in me all that I have received through visiting Indonesia.
It is part of the essence of Christianity that the Lord always leads his people from solitude to service. This can be seen in the Bible School in East Java.
A Bible school with no practical outlet soon gets bogged down in theory. The idea of evangelizing Indonesia, therefore, became laid upon the hearts of the teachers and students alike. This was all the more justified, since the country has very few foreign missionaries within its borders. In spite of having a population of some 110 million people, Indonesia has only 2000 foreign missionaries.
For this reason the first task which presented itself to the school was the country's evangelization. To achieve this goal, fully trained students were sent out to work on the surrounding islands. One of the most outstanding events in this respect was when a tribe of poison mixers asked if a missionary could come and visit them too.
An even greater opportunity for practical service lies in the habit of the school, of training the students in the work of evangelization. To do this, each year the students are split up into teams and sent out to work on their own for two months. In June 1967, 17 such teams were organized, involving altogether 95 students and these were sent out on a mission covering the whole of Indonesia.
It is worth noting the way in which the teachers decide where each team must work. For some days they pray together seeking to discover the will of the Lord. One of the clear indications of the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the agreement between the conclusions reached both by the teachers and the students. I have never experienced anything like this before. So often, the missionaries who are sent out to the field, find themselves unable to agree with the decisions of the leaders at home, which only serves to illustrate the lack of unity in the Spirit between those who lead and those who are sent. In East Java, however, the Christians continue to pray until there is clarity on every point. This too is a sign that this revival is sound and biblical.
The next step, as the field of their work widens, is the sending of missionaries to other countries. While I was at the Bible School in 1968, the subject of their prayers was the sending of missionaries to Thailand and Cambodia.
Yet even this, I feel, will not be the final step. Since the Western world is so steeped in the corrosive acid of rationalistic theology, it would not surprise me if Europe and America one day received missionaries from Indonesia. If the brothers in Indonesia retain their humility, this will surely take place.
Gradually, even the established churches in Indonesia are ceasing their opposition to the Bible School. Many churches, among them Presbyterians, Methodists, Mennonites and other Protestant groups including the more moderate Pentecostals are sending their young people to the school for instruction. This is another step forward. It is as if the Lord were standing on Mount Nebo and saying to the Christians, "There is Indonesia. Go over and possess the land!" And this is what they have begun to do.
The Movement of the Holy Spirit
I had already left Indonesia and almost finished writing this book when, by God's grace, I received an additional account of the revival at the Bible School. The report came to me through two of the leaders teaching at the school and is far more revealing than my own account. Here I must express my extreme gratitude for this marvellous testimonial to the working of the Holy Spirit in this Indonesian Bible school.
"Dear friends, our mouths are filled with laughter, and our tongues with praise. During the past few months we have had at times a foretaste of heaven. There has never been so much praise and thanksgiving, so much singing at the school before. Never before have the teachers and pupils been united by such a bond of love. The Lord has poured forth the early and the latter rain. Great things have happened among us and on nine other islands through the ministry of seventeen teams.
It all started with our becoming aware of our own unworthiness. For months we had been bitterly disappointed by the spiritual state of our school. A group of people began to pray for revival. Meanwhile, we were approaching the end of the school year. The 5th grade would soon be leaving us for good, and yet a number of the students were spiritually at a very low level. But then, the Lord began to answer our prayers. He sent us two of his messengers. Their authoritative messages concerning the spiritual battle to be fought in the full armour of God showed us how far away we were from our goal. Oh, how hungry and thirsty we were! How far we had wandered from the light! But, nevertheless, the Lord was still at work. Ten days later, Dan, our Indonesian fellow-worker, experienced a wonderful renewal in his life. The Holy Spirit aroused such a consciousness of sin within him that he wept bitterly for more than an hour. Afterwards, the Lord filled this man, who in the past had often caused us a lot of heartache on account of his pride and criticism, with such a spirit of humility and love that he is now a completely different person. Whenever I see him now, praise and gratitude fills my heart for such a wonderful work of grace.
At last it was possible for the staff to pray together. We began on a Wednesday evening. The Lord humbled us so much that for the first time in our lives we began to weep before Him for our young people. And His reply was so unexpected! At the end of our first session of prayer together, He poured out His Spirit in such a way that the darkness was brought into His light. When we arrived back home late that night, we found the girls already waiting for us at the door. One of them was demon possessed. In fact, she had been so all along. We had sometimes suspected it, but things had previously been so black that the evil spirits had easily been able to find their way into the Bible School. During that night and the ones that followed, we drove over fifty demons out of the girl in the name of Jesus. It was a life and death struggle. Over and over again the evil spirits attempted to drive her mad or force her to commit suicide. We were often at the limits of our physical and spiritual strength. But Jesus is a wonderful Saviour. The Lord taught us a lot during this struggle. All the evil spirits had to reveal their identity and their reason for possessing Hanna. Vast fields of occult practices were un-covered. Later, we discovered that not one of the pupils or teachers was uninvolved. Confessions consisting some-times of a list of up to 200 sins of sorcery were not rare - and this at a Bible school, where the students were taught about the dangers of occultism! This just shows how the enemy can blind men's eyes! But it also reveals how penetrating the light of the Holy Spirit is - but, I am jumping the gun.
After that first night we began to pray together every evening, and some students were renewed in the same wonderful way as Dan. Yet, the real breakthrough only came when, on the Monday, we cancelled all work for the entire school and, according to Joel 2, called a day of fasting and prayer. After we teachers had bowed ourselves in tears at our failure, the Holy Spirit worked so mightily that many students were also convicted of their sins. By now, the extent of the darkness was at last becoming visible, and the real battle began. We prayed every evening until late into the night. Nobody was aware of time any more. Further cases of possession came to light. Often the struggles went on into the early hours, because young boys and girls, overcome by sin, crowded round for counselling. During those weeks we didn't get much sleep, but the joy of the Lord was our strength. The work of the school proceeded, even though we had to drop everything on several occasions when the prayers of everyone were needed in difficult cases of possession. But even this was instructive. The final examinations for the 3rd and 5th grades drew near. However, the results were no worse than usual, despite the fact that so little time had been spent on revision. It was a triumph of love that the students were repeatedly prepared to leave their books, whenever it was a question of helping to deliver one of their oppressed brothers through prayer.
During those weeks the Lord gave us a deep insight into the reality of sin, inherited sin, the curse of God till the third and fourth generation, and occult oppression, and possession. What an abyss of darkness and need, and how dreadful and abhorrent the enemy! Yet also: how mighty the name of Jesus in destroying the strong-holds of the enemy, and how invincible the power of his blood to wash away all sins and to answer all the accusations of the evil one! How wonderful is the perfect salvation which comes to us through Christ! Sometimes questions were raised: aren't things like God's curse on the occult practices of our forefathers automatically lifted when someone is born again in Christ? Aren't we belittling a person's salvation when we later try to lose him from these oppressions? The Lord gave us the answer to this by reminding us of the story of Lazarus. Although he received the gift of life from Jesus, he was unable to benefit from it properly until his grave-clothes had been removed. And Jesus left this task to the onlookers who had witnessed Lazarus' raising from the dead. We experienced this for ourselves in a very practical manner with some of our students. Many of them, in spite of being born again, had never really experienced the joy of their salvation or been able to fight effectively in their spiritual lives. However, once their 'grave-clothes' had been removed, they became both joyful and powerful witnesses to their Lord. We found that the task and the authority to lose people, which Jesus has given to all his disciples, were revealed to us in a completely fresh light. Maybe, this is the answer to many of the problems facing churches and Christians throughout the world.
We were approaching the teams' valedictory service. In fact, the teams should have been decided long ago, and the necessary letters sent out to the churches involved. The Lord, however, had confounded every meeting at which we had endeavoured to settle these matters. Finally, therefore, we gave the students a free rein: "Wait for direct instructions from the Lord, and then let us know what they are!" A wonderful plan of the Lord was then revealed. The various calls - most of them conveyed through the Bible, although some by visions - never overlapped. What is more, He led us to districts which we would never have dared to tackle, because we would have been afraid to accept responsibility for our young people working there: the occult strongholds of the islands of Ambon and Sabu, the wild island of Mojo, the Islamic fortresses of Atjeh and Minangkabu, the impassable swamplands of the Sumatra provinces of Djambi and Riau, the moral quagmire of the port area of Djakarta, and the prostitutes of Surabaja.
Some of the students were quite understandably a little fearful concerning the tasks the Lord had assigned them, and so, instead of telling us what the Lord had told them, they left the decision to us. However, in the two days of prayer preceding the Sunday when the teams were to be sent out, the Holy Spirit worked so mightily, that these young men and women broke down in tears and asked the Lord to forgive them, urging us at the same time to allow them to follow the Lord's call. How wonderfully the Lord responded! What promises he gave what power in prayer! I wish you had been able to share in these two and a half days of prayer! We prayed continually with only a short pause for lunch and for supper from eight in the morning till ten or eleven at night - with no feeling of tiredness at all! At the same time, during the lunch periods and also at night, we were able to counsel the students to whom the Lord had directly revealed his will, and also the guests who, almost without exception, experienced the same spiritual blessing as we had earlier. Then came yet another climax: the Sunday of the valedictory service. If I remember correctly, the afternoon service lasted from 4.30 pm until about 9 pm. What a joyful time! This was followed by a few hectic days preparing for the teams' departures. The Lord added material blessings to all the spiritual ones: blankets, rucksacks, bags and sandals for the teams, also chests of clothing from Germany and crisp bread from the German army which was marvellously light and nutritious. Two days before the departure of the first team, we received a batch of portable record players. In addition, we had been able a few weeks previously, by means of a gift earmarked for literature, to obtain a large number of tracts, John's Gospels and New Testaments. Finally, we received enough monetary gifts to start all the teams on their journeys. The fact that no team set out with enough money to cover all their daily requirements and their return fare, did not deter anybody. They all knew that they could depend on Matthew 6:33. Please praise and give thanks, and pray with us."
Let us now hear of the victories which God accomplished.
IX. JESUS AMONG THE MOSLEMS
Reuben's life is a testimony to how the Lord honours his Word: "God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are" (1Cor. 1:26 f).
On applying to be accepted at the Bible School in East Java he received the reply: wait another year! Since he could not just sit around doing nothing for a year, he applied for a job at the Post Office and was accepted.
A year later he made a second application to the Bible School. He was told this time that if he wanted to, he could be employed as a gardener. He accepted, but continued to persevere in prayer. Four months later he made a third application and was finally granted a place.
However, as the course proceeded, it became clear that the new student was not very gifted. In spite of working very hard, he found that he could only retain a very little. One day, his tutor called him and asked, "What are we going to do with you? You're not really getting anywhere with the work." Reuben replied humbly, "If you think I'm not good enough, then I must give it up." Back in his room, however, he threw himself on his knees and prayed, "Lord Jesus, you have called me. Please, get me through the course." Next day his tutor summoned him again and instead of expelling him, encouraged him to carry on with his studies. This was again a sign of the consistency of the Holy Spirit's guidance. Reuben in his simple faith was sure that he had to see the course through.
The time came for the examination. The young student, in spite of his lack of ability, studied day and night. But nothing stuck. Then, the night before the examination, the Lord spoke to him and said, "Just read the following sections." Reuben obeyed. Next day the questions covered the exact passages he had read the night before, and as a result, he passed. It was quite wonderful the way the Lord had 'cheated' at His own Bible School, but although He may do this, we must never follow suit.
Reuben, however, was so honest that afterwards he admitted to his teachers, "The night before the Lord Jesus told me which sections you would examine me on. That's how I passed." The teachers, though, were content to leave things as they were.
With regards to his ministry, in spite of Reuben's lack of natural gifts, the picture was very different. I have visited a number of countries in both Africa and Asia under the sway of the Moslems, and have seen the many very real problems facing the Christians in these areas. So let us see how Reuben fared.
He was sent by the school to a Moslem village in East Java. There was only one single Christian family in the village, and even they were only nominal in their faith. When Reuben visited them, they would have nothing to do with either him or his work.
The young missionary was not to be discouraged, however. Sleeping out in the open, he used the streets as his pulpit. When he asked the Lord to supply him with his daily needs, he was not disappointed, and it was not long before he was receiving invitations from the Moslems themselves to eat with them and to spend the nights at their homes. What the Christians had failed to do, the Moslems did for this faithful servant of the Lord.
At the end of the first year, 100 Moslems had already been converted, and the young brother had now a congregation of his own. By this time too, the single family of Christians had been stirred and had opened their house to him. He was afterwards able to meet with them and to pray with them each day.
The Moslems were annoyed about Reuben's missionary successes. During the second year they banded together, and one day about 60 men came to the Christians' house, armed with long knives. The Christians could do nothing more than kneel and ask for the Lord's protection. At that moment they heard a siren, and a police car sped up the road to make a routine check. Quickly hiding their knives, the Moslems made off as fast as possible. The Lord had been at hand in their hour of need.
Some weeks later 60 more Moslems had come to Christ. It was as if the wave of persecution had borne fruit. By the end of the second year, the simple native brother's congregation had grown to include 200 converted Moslems. And all this was the fruit of the labours of one ungifted brother in Christ! "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong."
X. IN THE KORAN'S STRONGHOLD
In my English Bible I have often come across the expressions: a broken spirit and a broken heart. We find these words recorded, for example, in Psalm 51:17, "The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." These words imply a spiritual situation in which a person no longer resists the will of God, but counting himself as nothing, allows God to use him in whichever way he chooses. This is more easily said than done, and few indeed are the Christians whom the Lord can lead thus far. Knowing my own rebellious heart, I find it difficult to write about this at all.
In Indonesia, however, I saw this attitude demonstrated clearly in the life of one young believer. His name is Dan. Although coming from a heathen family, some years after his birth his parents adopted Christianity as their faith. They then had all the children baptised. Little Dan, however, experienced no change in his inner life, and subsequently sin took the upper hand.
Then, during a mission in 1957 he was converted. Immediately he felt himself called to the service of the Lord. He applied to the Bible School in East Java and was accepted there. On completing his initial studies, he took the ministers' training course and then remained at the Bible School as a teacher.
As time went on, however, he felt that he lacked authority in his life. It was then that Roy Hession and William Nagenda visited East Java. These two men of God were used by the Lord to impart a new blessing to the students and staff of the Bible School. After they had left, the young teacher was greatly exercised concerning the theme of walking in the light.
However, he still felt that there was something wrong in his own life. One day, God opened his eyes. He was still carrying upon himself the occult sins of his parents and forebears. In no other sphere are the effects upon the third and fourth generation as evident as in the realm of sorcery. This was the background to his oppression and lack of spiritual power. He confessed his sins and became free.
As we have already mentioned, during the revival that came to the Bible School, Dan was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he became a model to the students, teachers, and visitors alike. In my own contact with him I found his life a blessing too.
Pioneer of Atjeh
Following his deliverance, Dan became the Lord's chosen instrument for Atjeh. This district lies in the extreme north of Sumatra and is known to be one of the most fanatical strongholds of the Moslems. It was here that the Dutch had to face the longest resistance to their occupation of Sumatra and Indonesia. Not until 1903 was this opposition finally overcome.
During the prayer meetings at the Bible School it became clear to Dan that he should visit Atjeh with a team. Christians in the West will be unable to imagine the difficulties that were involved.
A distance of several thousand miles! An area unexplored by Christians! No one to take care of the team when it arrived! No contacts! Dan did not even have a single address to which he could turn for help. And on top of all, he had very little money.
It was, therefore, a uniquely hazardous enterprise which confronted Dan. Even stronger resistance came when one of the students had a vision in which he saw the whole venture ending in failure. However, the other Christians soon realized that this was a vision from the devil, designed to stop the whole campaign. The incident shows that the devil can also occasion visions, even during a revival. Indeed, right in the midst of times of great blessing, the enemy is forever very active.
With eyes directed towards the Lord, the mission was begun. Six students, among them Dan, set off as a team to carry the light of the gospel into the darkest depths of Sumatra.
Their financial provision was ridiculously small. They had between them a total of 35,000 rupees which at that time was worth about £100. What use was this to six men who intended to cover some 6,000 miles on a journey lasting two months?
Yet, they carried more than just this meagre sum of money with them. The most valuable treasure they possessed was the Bible with its countless promises which assured them that God was true.
They were able to experience this already on the journey by rail from Surabaja to Djakarta. As the train set out they began to sing together and to talk to the other passengers. One woman listened to them attentively. Finally they became tired. After all, it is an eighteen-hour train journey, which thanks to the 'well-organized' air-line, I myself once had to enjoy. The other members of the team settled down to sleep. Dan, remaining awake, continued in prayer. As they came to a station, the woman who had listened so attentively got up. Just before alighting from the train, she handed Dan a small parcel wrapped in newspaper. She added, "This comes to you from the Lord." Dan asked her name. She replied, "That's of no importance. The Lord Jesus wants to give you this." She then vanished into the crowd of people on the platform. Dan wanted to share his joy with the others. Arousing them out of sleep he recounted to them what had happened. As he finished he said, "You see, God has fulfilled his promise yet again: 'He gives to his beloved in sleep'." He then opened the parcel and found 500 rupees, worth about £1.10 s, in it. It was not a very large sum, but it was, nevertheless, a sign from the Lord that he would provide for them. Together they thanked God for the encouraging gift.
After the long journey by rail and the final crossing to Sumatra, the team stepped ashore with the words, "In the name of the Lord we enter this mission field." About 100 years earlier another missionary had used almost exactly the same words. He was Nommensen, the apostle to the Batak. He had called out, "I begin a battle here which the Lord Jesus has already won long ago." In this we see that the original pioneering spirit of Christians is not dead. The team, however, was not aiming to reach the Batak, but the Moslems of Atjeh.
The Great Pacemaker
The team did not know at first where it ought to go. Before deciding what to do therefore, they prayed, literally asking the Lord to show them the direction they should take. As it was raining heavily, the young men looked for a place where they could spend the night, seeking the Lord's will in this matter too. Finding their way to a cheap hotel, they discovered that it was situated opposite a Christian church. Moreover, they met a man who turned out to be one of the elders of the church.
But there were still more wonderful things to come. That same day a pastor arrived back at the airport by plane. On meeting the team he told them, "I was on my way to Java to find a pastor for this church. However, since it was raining so heavily, the plane was unable to land and we had to turn back. So here I am without having had any success."
On hearing the man's story, Dan again sensed the Lord's guidance in his heart. "That's not true," he replied, "The Lord has arranged everything. You couldn't find a pastor, because that pastor is already here. You can have one of these young Christians. They are all fully trained, and one of them can stay here as pastor." And so it happened. Who could still doubt that the Lord was their guide? How wonderfully everything fitted into place, and all without previous contact, and without any planning at all. This was indeed guidance!
In the same way as He arranged where they should go, the Lord also settled their problems of transport and provisions.
As the team started to give their testimonies and to preach in one of the villages, the Holy Spirit stirred the heart of an influential man who was the manager of an oil company. Although the man was a Moslem, he placed a car at the team's disposal which they were able to use free of charge while they stayed and moved about in the area.
The young Christians were even more deeply moved when the president of the oil company, who was also a Moslem, presented them with a gift of 5,000 rupees - about £ 15. In this way, the enemies of the cross became the servants of the crucified Lord. God will surely not overlook these deeds on the day of judgement. How many Christians will be put to shame by the generosity of Moslems like these!
The team had some quite strange and marvellous experiences with regards to their daily provisions. They had needed 200,000 rupees to cover the expenses for the two months' campaign, and yet they had only set out with 35,000 rupees. Nevertheless, when they returned home they brought a total of 80,000 rupees with them, in spite of the fact that they had been working among Moslems and materialistic nominal Christians. Mathematics like this is difficult to explain. It is not the sort that one is taught in our universities today. This type of higher mathematics only exists in the school of the One who bears the name Wonderful.
The pathway the team trod, however, was not always filled with light. The area in which they found themselves was indeed a stronghold of the Koran.
The young messengers of Christ had arranged to speak one day in a certain village but when it had begun to rain, they had been forced to abandon their intended visit. Rainstorms in the tropics can be much severer than in European countries. They were quite disappointed at first. However, they later discovered that under the instigation of a well-known Moslem leader a group of armed Moslems had planned to kill all the members of the team. The Lord had thus protected them. What to us is a disappointment, is not always a misfortune; the Lord so often hides a blessing in times like these.
The numerous nominal Christians were also a great hindrance to Dan and his friends. They discovered to their great surprise that there were some 14,000 registered Christians living in the area. This they noted down with a view to later evangelistic work.
These nominal Christians quite often turned their backs on the team. But this was not really surprising since most of them were in the habit of visiting the local sorcerer whenever they needed help, and besides, a large number of them kept fetishes in their homes.
Whenever the team was rejected, they would ask the Lord, "Where shall we go?" They thought to themselves that no areas were closed to them as long as Christ's words, "I am the door," remained true.
Their dependence was on God alone. At the beginning of each new day they would ask God, as they prayed and read the Bible, "Lord, where shall we go today?" They never started out until they were sure what the Lord's will was.
Dan told me, "It was often difficult to discover what God's plans were. We would therefore continue to pray and to fast until we could recognize his will. Once, when every door seemed to be closed, we had to travel 50 miles until another place opened up for us to work in. We felt as if we were being accompanied by pillars of fire and smoke. It was a good thing that we had all surrendered ourselves completely to the Lord during the revival at our Bible school. Otherwise our mission in Atjeh would have been a failure."
In the end this evangelistic missionary campaign was a great triumph for the gospel. Hundreds were converted. The natives brought their fetishes and occult objects out of their houses to be burned. They confessed their sins and accepted the Lord Jesus. 36 young people offered themselves for active missionary service. They wanted to go to Malaysia, another stronghold of the Moslems. Others felt called to India. Both these countries are in fact nearer to Atjeh than their own capital, which lies some 1,200 miles away from the northern tip of Sumatra. Today, some of the young Christians from Atjeh are already at the Bible School in East Java. I have met them there myself.
What a blessing it was that Dan had recognized the oppression he had carried as a result of the occult practices of his ancestors, and that by the grace of God he had been delivered. In this way he was able to help lose the bonds of others. The authority to lose men in the name of the Lord (Matthew 18:18) is only given to those who have experienced this release for themselves.
The two months of the campaign bore much fruit. "By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples" (John 15:8).
The Lord had fulfilled his word in the work of this team.
At the Bible School, I met pastors who had experienced a renewal of both their own faith and that of their congregations through the ministry of the team.
XI. AMONG THE POISON MIXERS
We shall now visit the area to the extreme south of Sumatra, although we shall not be leaving this 1,000 mile long island itself.
As we have already heard, the Dutch prohibited missionary work in these parts, because they feared the unrest it might cause. Today, however, the area has become the stage for the greatest revival ever known among Moslems. The story has no parallel in the history of Christian missions.
When God decides to work, he chooses the instruments which are most suitable for his purposes. In this case they were not Christians, but Moslems. Now let us hear their story.
Abram, Chief of the Poison Mixers
Under Sukarno, the former president of Indonesia, the Communists had many great successes in the land. And so it was that in 1963 Abram, as a tribal chief, received an invitation to attend a Communist educational course. The political course ended around Christmas time. On the day of his departure, Abram saw a car with the word ‘Indjil’, meaning gospel, written on it. He watched the car with interest. The word intrigued him for he recognized its meaning from the Arabic. As he came to the place where the car was parked, he heard the words of a Christmas sermon coming to him through the open window of a Christian meeting house. He had never heard the gospel before, but in spite of his interest he remained outside, not daring to go into the room.
The sermon's message remained in his mind. Back home with his tribe, he told the people the story of Bethlehem instead of the latest Communist revelations. Without realizing it, and in spite of the fact that he was still a Moslem, Abram became the first Christian missionary to his tribe. Because the men wanted to hear more of this Christ-child, Abram promptly sent a letter to the following address: Indjil, Bengkulen. Despite the complete inadequacy of the address, the letter still arrived, whereas even properly addressed letters often fail to reach their destination in the Far East.
After this, a number of Christians from various places took an interest in Abram's tribe, the members of which were much feared on account of their renowned poison mixing. The first to arrive was a Christian official from Bengkulen, and he was later followed by a student from the East Java Bible School, who was staying in Palembang at the time. Finally Pak Elias visited the tribe. I will not repeat the story here since I have already described the events in my book 'Name über alle Namen Jesus'. The result was that a remarkable revival broke out, although Abram himself did not make a decision to follow Christ for a long time. He feared the dangerous reaction it might bring forth from his tribe. Only when several hundred of them had become Christians already, did he himself take the decisive step.
The ways of God are often strange. Cyrus, the heathen king of the Persians was called 'the servant of God'. Abram, the Moslem chief, brought the first Christian message to his Moslem tribe. The Word of the Lord does not return void. Luther once said, "Even if a priest is a rogue, his word will not lose its effect."
The next witness to the gospel we can mention besides Pak Elias, is Timothy. Like many others, he too was a convinced Moslem before his conversion. Studying at Jogdjakarta University he decided that he wanted to become a teacher. Driven by his extreme fanaticism he became the leader of a Mohammedan youth-group, and through it carried out all kinds of acts of terrorism against the Christians. Once, together with his friends, he smashed the windows of a Christian church and those of the Protestant minister's house nearby.
The minister, however, did nothing about these attacks. This annoyed young Timothy who finally visited the pastor and asked him why he did not retaliate. The pastor explained to him, "God loves you and therefore we love you too. Christians don't repay evil with evil!"
Afterwards, the young Moslem leader could get no peace. Buying himself a Bible, he began to study the principles of the Christian faith. He wanted to be in the position to refute both the Bible and the Christians' beliefs.
But the result did not turn out as he expected. Timothy was converted. Giving up his Mohammedan name, he adopted a Christian one instead. This caused a great stir among his circle of friends, since Moslems find it very difficult to tolerate the conversion of one of their number to Christianity.
All attempts to change his mind failed. Giving up his studies, he decided to read theology instead. At first he considered enrolling at the theological seminary in Djakarta, but when he heard that the college was steeped in modern theology, and that it questioned most of the basic truths of the Bible, he became disconcerted. Had he given up his life's ambition and heaped upon himself the scorn of his parents and friends, just to have his hard-won faith taken away from him again? He started to ask himself, "What kind of Christianity is this? This isn't what I’ve exchanged my former beliefs for!" And so he began to seek out Christians who had faith in what the Bible said. His search was not in vain.
Timothy came into contact with the Bible School in East Java and thereupon enrolled. When his training was at an end, he felt with his teachers that he should work among the Moslems in Sumatra. His subsequent ministry there has been greatly blessed. I have met him now on several occasions and we have become good friends. He stands high on my prayer list for Sumatra.
The following incidents are just a few which illustrate the work of this brave young soldier of the cross. One day Timothy met a 90-year-old mosque servant. The young pastor asked him, "Do you realize that when you die you'll go to hell?" The old man replied, "Yes, I know that, but if you know the way to heaven then show it to me." Timothy showed this aged Moslem the way to Christ. The man accepted the Lord Jesus as his saviour and was thereby saved.
Another time Timothy fell into conversation with a Moslem priest. As a former Moslem himself and student of the Koran, Timothy was able to show the man the differences between the Christian faith and belief in Allah. He told the priest, "The Koran tells us nothing about becoming children of God. The Bible promises us, however, 'See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God' (1 John 3:1). What's more, the Koran gives us no assurance of forgiveness, no certainty of eternal life. But the Bible on the other hand tells us, 'He who believes in the Son has eternal life' (John 3:36). Then again, Paul tells us (Eph.1:7), 'In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.'" The priest became thoughtful, and then the thing which no missionary can accomplish - the conversion of a Moslem priest - took place through the working of the Holy Spirit. Tearing off his Moslem robe, the priest threw it down at the entrance to the mosque. Afterwards, learning to follow Jesus, he was even elected to be an elder of the local Christian church.
I was to meet Christophorus at the conference which was held at the Bible School in East Java. However, when he had only just arrived, he received a telegram recalling him immediately to Sumatra. The Moslems had once again concocted a murderous plan against the Christians. Christophorus is Timothy's younger helper in his work among the tribe of poison mixers, and similarly received his training at the Bible School. Already his ministry has proved to be a particular success.
One day he received an invitation to dinner. Without suspecting anything he accepted, but after the meal he was overcome by some terrible stomach pains. His so-called hosts had mixed some poison with his food which in any normal circumstances would have proved lethal.
Christophorus lay in bed. For three days he suffered from terrible burning pains in his stomach and lungs. He cried to his Lord without ceasing. After three days the crisis was past. The Moslems were amazed that the poison had failed to kill him. They began to say after this, "You have to be careful with Christians. Their God always helps them."
The actual result of this abortive attempt to kill Christophorus was that a number of Moslem families were converted. This, however, did not include the poisoners themselves.
Every converted Moslem must be prepared for death each day. He must live in a state of being continually ready to die. This is a very sobering yet wholesome lesson for those who become Christians in the area.
In the end God won the actual poison mixers to himself too. He employs many ways and means to achieve his goals.
For example, a Christian prayed with a Moslem priest who was mentally ill, and as a result the man was cured and subsequently became a Christian. This angered the Moslem Governor, since the converted man had been a Moslem priest for 38 years. He sent soldiers to arrest him, and under threats of torture the priest was asked, "Why did you become a Christian?" He replied, "I was mentally ill, and the Lord Jesus made me well; so I’m going to stay with him." Almost miraculously the priest suffered no harm at all, but was allowed to go home in peace. On other occasions, however, Moslems who have become Christians have often been beaten up by the soldiers or even sent to prison on the spot.
God has used Moslem children as his instruments too. Pastor Christophorus once taught some children the chorus, "The blood of the Lamb cleanses you, making your whole life new." The following Friday, the Moslem Sabbath, the children began to march up and down outside the mosque during one of the services singing their song. Christophorus was rather alarmed by this and went outside to try and stop them. However, when he saw that the son of the Moslem priest was taking part too, he decided not to interfere. In many cases, parents are being pointed to Christ through the witness of their own children.
At another Moslem service the Christians were coming heavily under attack. Fearing the worst, the believers met together to pray. But the result was very different from what they had expected. As the Moslem priest was inciting the Moslems to attack the Christians, one of the men in the mosque suddenly left and went straight to Pastor Christophorus' home. "I want to become a Christian," he told the pastor. Christophorus hesitated a little, for he feared a trap. The Moslem went on, "You don't believe me. Look, there's some pork. Give it to me and I'll eat it. That should convince you." To eat pork for the Moslems is absolutely taboo. When he had eaten some, he added, "Now give me some for my family. We are all leaving the mosque and coming to the Lord Jesus instead." And this is exactly what happened. The whole family was converted. This was God's reply to the baiting of the priest and the prayers of His children.
When another Moslem named Uzza was converted, he brought all his family and neighbours to Christ at the same time. Not long after this the Moslems had him imprisoned. One night his wife suddenly came running to the Christians, crying, "Our rice field is on fire. It must be our persecutors again. Come and help me put out the fire." The Christians hurried to her aid, for the rice was just ready for harvesting. However, the task was hopeless since, as a result of the drought, there was no water in the neighbourhood at all. The only thing the Christians could do was to fall on their knees and pray to the Lord for help. And then the miracle happened. In next to no time, immediately after their prayer, the Lord sent rain, although at that time of the year it generally never rained at all. The fire was soon quenched and the harvest was saved. As a result of the miracle two other families in the district were saved. The persecution had again served to extend the kingdom of God.
Near to Pastor Christophorus lived a certain Moslem family. Christophorus had prayed and wept a great deal for them. One morning the wife came to see him and said, "We all want to become Christians." "What made you decide this?" Christophorus asked. "Last night," the woman replied, "I had a dream in which I was told that my family and I were to become Christians."
There are many sorcerers among the Moslems. In fact, the majority of the priests, instead of basing their authority upon the Koran, use their magic powers instead. In the course of his preaching, Christophorus one day came face to face with three sorcerers. As he talked with them, he showed them the way to Christ and subsequently two of the men were converted. The third sorcerer, however, was quite rich and did not want to forsake his possessions. When Christophorus visited him later, he pointed him to the words, "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet forfeits his life?" The sorcerer, however, resisted and continued to reject Christ. Nine days later, with no warning at all, he suddenly collapsed and died.
The gospel continues its onward march. Neither poison, nor threats, nor attempted assassinations can hinder the work of the Spirit of God. How wonderfully this is illustrated in Indonesia today! Moreover, every event proceeds without recourse to the fanaticism or extremism which is so often used by people who desire to simulate revival.
During recent years many of the Christians on Sumatra have been imprisoned for their faith. Yet, even here the will of the Lord can be discerned, for through their imprisonment Christians have often escaped the frequent attempts which are made on their lives. On top of this, many of the other prisoners and warders have been converted through their testimony in the jails.
One of the most well-known people to be sent to prison was the former director of a Moslem mission. He had been converted at one of Pak Elias' open-air meetings. When he had later been baptised, his former supporters had begun to suspect his political motives and had had him put in jail. Undeterred, the converted man led another four Moslems to Christ, baptising three of them while they were still with him in prison. The fourth, after his release, walked over 25 miles to find a Christian church in which to be baptised, and in this way confirmed through his actions the things he had heard and learnt while in jail.
The revival among the Moslems is like a modern Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit is really working, and the Lord Jesus continues to glorify his own name. Yet at the same time the revival is a time of persecution, an epoch of demonic attacks. But this is part and parcel of the Christian faith.
The Moslems use everything at their disposal. They creep into the Christians' closed meetings in order to spy on them. They forge documentary evidence against them. They send the police and the army, and have the Christians arrested and put in jail. They use poison and arson, or whatever else is at hand. The Christians are treated as outcasts, and are dismissed from their posts to keep the government offices 'clean'. And if a Moslem ever becomes a Christian, he immediately loses his job.
Yet in spite of everything the Lord is still on the throne: "His kingdom lasts forever."
Notwithstanding these pressures, the church of converted Moslems is steadily being established. Today the number of Christians who were formerly Moslems and enemies of the cross of Christ is already about 1,400. Since 1965 they have even had their own Bible school which is attended now by some 30 young members of the tribe of poison mixers. Instead of practising their former art, they are today preaching the gospel of Christ.
XII. A UNIVERSITY LECTURER BECOMES A CHRISTIAN
While I was in Indonesia I had the pleasure of meeting a Christian lawyer by the name of Mr. Tamba. He is a competent and confident member of the Batak tribe, yet in spite of the fact that the Batak are a very proud people, Mr. Tamba had entered the school of Christ where all that is esteemed by man is brought low. He kindly gave me permission to publish this brief account of his testimony. May the Lord use it to speak to those who find themselves in a similar situation. Now let us listen to Mr. Tamba himself.
"The name of the Lord Jesus Christ be praised for the great love he showed me when I was allowed to find my way to him. I wrote the date, the 10th August 1967, down in my Bible. It was my spiritual birthday, the day of my conversion in a church in Palembang, Sumatra.
I was and still am a member of the Batak Church, which I believe is the largest church in Indonesia. Before I found the Lord Jesus as my Saviour I was a very proud man. People say that the chief characteristics of the Batak are their arrogance and their pride. My own pride was nurtured by the fact that I thought I was the only Christian in Palembang with a university degree - an M. A. in law. I was not only a lecturer at Sriwidjaja University, but also the chairman of the Association of Lawyers in Palembang. And, as if that were not enough, I was elected president of the town's Christian Intellectuals Club. With all my titles and offices therefore, and with the large salary I earned, it was no wonder that I began to look down on all the Christians I met.
In Christian activities my progress was much the same. In 1962 I was made the choir master of our youth group, and I soon despised everybody who could not sing. When the evangelistic team from the Bible School in East Java arrived at our town, their choir master asked me if we could unite the two choirs under his direction. I just scoffed, imagining that the combined choir would only be able to sing well under my own direction. I was so deluded that I thought our choir was the only one on the whole of Sumatra which could sing Handel's Hallelujah chorus.
But as if my musical presumptions were not enough, I borrowed a Bible commentary from a relative and began to study the Scriptures, not to find my way to Christ, but merely to discuss its contents with theologians. I was therefore spiritually arrogant as well.
Is there any hope for a man like this, that God will ever be able to bring him low?
The Turning Point
The evangelist during the mission in our town was Pak Elias. As he began to preach, his message started speaking to my conscience. However, when he came to the point of inviting us to go the front and to repent, I was still too hard and too proud to follow his advice. Instead of me then, a number of young people went out and confessed their sins. I was furious at the time and said to the young people later, "You didn't have to do that. You've already been born again through baptism and confirmation!" This was the misconstrued Lutheran theology which had reached me through the German missionaries. In the end, I was so angry that night that I began to abuse the members of my own choir. Some of the girls were even driven to tears.
I tried to forget the whole evening but could find no peace. Instead of going to the pictures therefore or some other place of entertainment, I went along again to hear Pak Elias speak. The third evening he spoke about the way one should read the Bible. His message was a revelation to me, for up till then I had read my Bible just as if it had been a series of cowboy and Indian stories.
In the end I went to see Pak Elias after the close of one of the meetings. I was still feeling very proud and merely wanted to have an argument with him. "How," I asked, "should a person read his Bible? I've heard so many different theological views about the subject." Pak Elias replied, "How has Jesus taught you to read your Bible?" I just did not know what to say, for it had never occurred to me to ask Jesus about reading the Scriptures. Pak Elias then began to talk to me at some length, and for two hours he explained to me how I could become a real Christian. I felt a burden come upon my own soul. My past sins and my unimaginable pride loomed up before my eyes. For the first time in my life I asked the Lord that night to forgive my sins, and I was wonderfully saved.
From that moment on the Bible became an open book to me. Yet, I was to make another wonderful discovery during that mission. There had been a number of difficult passages in the Bible which I had not been able to really understand. Later one day, as I sat with Pak Elias again, without my even asking him he began to explain the meaning of the very passages I had found so obscure. He was literally being guided by the Holy Spirit, and it showed me again just how much the Lord Jesus really cared for me.
A few months after the campaign had ended - and it had benefited every single church in our town - I found myself once more bogged down in a mass of problems relating to my work. I hardly had enough time to even pray. It was then that the Lord sent me a tutor in the form of my two-year-old nephew. I had told the boy that a Christian ought always to pray to the Lord Jesus before he goes to sleep at night. He was visiting us at the time and we had allowed him to sleep in the same room as myself. When we went to bed my little nephew asked, "Uncle, why aren't you saying your prayers? Have you quarrelled with Jesus?" This childlike question brought me to my senses. The Lord had chosen to use a two-year-old boy to be his witness and my counsellor. "By the mouths of babes and infants ..." (Psalm 8).
It is time that we took a brief look at my family. I grew up in a so-called Christian home and my maternal grand-mother had actually been an elder in a church. However, my paternal grandfather, instead of being a Christian, had been about the most notorious and most feared magician in Tapanuli, Sumatra. His name was Datu Parangongo. The thing that horrified me most as a Christian was the discovery that many people in our village are still in possession of the fetishes and charms they obtained from my grandfather. It was only when I heard Dr. Nahum speaking about these things that I realized my family was still threatened and oppressed by sorcery. It dismays me to think that while I am reading my Bible my own fellow countrymen continue to use the fetishes they received from my grandfather. Worst of all, my own father still suffers as a result of these Oppressions.
When I first made this discovery, I sought all the more to testify to my parents and family about Christ. Yet I could get nowhere at all with my message. My father just rejected it coldly with the words, "You should have become a pastor. I don't need anything." My brothers and sisters too, although they are members of the church, want nothing to do with Jesus. I was driven to prayer and the Lord did not disappoint.
A little later Pak Elias paid a visit to our house. As he testified about the Lord Jesus, to my great joy both my parents surrendered their lives to Christ. Admittedly, my brothers and sisters still resist the message, but I pray and believe that even their day will come. How I rejoiced to see my parents' zeal as they sought to show others the way to Christ after their own conversion. They began to study various Christian books avidly in order to learn how to help others become Christians. God grant that He will continue the work He has begun and finally convert my whole family.
When the Lord Jesus takes over a person's life nothing remains the same as it was before. I witnessed this in my own life.
Prior to my conversion, I had been known at the university as the dreaded 'killer'. The students had chosen this nickname for me because of the way I would pick on those I did not like. Often, when I felt an aversion for a particular student, I would defer his examinations for another year. As a Christian, I realized the predicament I was putting these young people in, and I repented of my sin. Yet how much injustice still exists in the whole system of examinations in schools and universities today!
After my conversion, my attitude in this respect changed radically. The students now became my friends. The situation so improved that they would wait by my car after lectures in the hope of getting a lift into town. Each day I became their taxi-driver.
Obviously, though, following Christ is not without its battles and trials. A problem which continually faces me is the actual amount of work I have to do. In 1968 I even thought of absenting myself from the East Java Bible School conference on account of overwork. However, so many people started praying for me that in the end I just dropped everything and went. But this too was the guidance of the Lord, for it was through the talks I heard at the conference that I first recognized the power the occult practices of my forefathers held over my life.
But, I was not the only person in Palembang whose life experienced a sudden change in direction, for many other nominal Christians experienced the same. During the week of the mission, literally hundreds of people came forward confessing their sins and accepting the Lord Jesus as their Saviour. I was amazed at the way that often a single phrase of the evangelist was enough to bring the self-confident Bataks to repentance. It was truly the work of the Holy Spirit himself.
None of the churches which participated in the campaign regretted their decision. The only church that had stood on the side-lines was my own, the Batak church, which had thought that the Bible School team had been a group of Pentecostals. But, in this they were far from the truth. The message of both the evangelist and the team had been one of repentance and conversion, with no recourse to the ecstatic at all.
One of the consequences of the mission was the formation of some large prayer groups which have regularly met together ever since. We are very conscious that without constant prayer nothing will ever be achieved in Sumatra. I realize that this is also true regarding those of my own family who have yet to be saved. I have never had any difficulty in providing for their physical needs, but today their spiritual needs are far more important to me. I believe that the Lord will one day save them all. Perhaps you, the reader, will stand with me in your prayers. This is one of the reasons why I have written this short account, but there are two other reasons as well. Firstly, to show how my own life was once characterized by meaningless traditions of the church: that I was a churchgoer but not a disciple of Christ; and secondly, to illustrate my ignorance concerning the massive oppression which lay on our family due to my own grandfather, the chief magician. I thank God that he opened my eyes to this through his messenger Dr. Nahum, and that he has subsequently set me free. The praise is due to Christ alone."
XIII. AN ISLAND REPENTS
"God gives grace to the humble", says the Word of God. Pastor Gideon is an extremely simple and humble man. I have met no other man whose humility has impressed me so much.
In order to find out the details of his life I was forced to turn to those who know him well, since he does not like to talk about himself.
He is a pastor on the island of Rote which is situated just south of Timor and is nearer to Australia than any other part of the Indonesian archipelago. On account of the great shortage of pastors in the area over the last few years, Gideon himself has to care for a total of thirty different congregations. One pastor actually has to look after 48 groups of Christians.
In 1966 Pak Elias went with a team to Rote to hold a mission there. It was the first time that he and Pastor Gideon had met. Knowing that Gideon had warned his congregations to avoid the coming campaign, Pak Elias asked him, "Do you belong to Jesus?" I’ve studied theology and passed my exams," came the reply.
After their conversation, Pastor Gideon's heart was in turmoil. As the days went by, he saw the numerous people who were being converted, the sick being healed, the possessed being freed, and confirmed drunkards being delivered from their alcoholism. On account of its sugar plantations, Rote is a source of a highly potent form of palm wine which the natives always used to carry with them in a flask slung at their waist.
The churches began to fill up in spite of the fact that their pastor still stood on one side. Gideon watched as the power of the Holy Spirit descended upon his fellow islanders, but he himself was not touched.
The two men met each other again. By now, however, the situation was completely changed. Pastor Gideon admitted, "I've been in the ministry for seven years and yet I've never seen a single person converted as a result of my work. Yet, during one campaign under your ministry hundreds are converted. I think I know why. I've never really repented for myself and received the forgiveness of my sins, and I've certainly never been born again in the way that you describe. I'm going to resign. I can't go on like this!"
Pak Elias replied, "You don't have to give up your ministry, just start again, but this time with the Lord Jesus beside you. Come back to the Bible School with us and find out what we teach. I know it's not what people call modern theology, but at least it's the theology of the cross of Christ."
Gideon took the advice he had been given, feeling that he both could not and would not continue in a situation where his life and work were so fruitless. He, therefore, went to the Bible School in East Java for a year, and it was there that he experienced the power of the Lord Jesus in his own life.
When he returned to the island, it was a changed man who stood in the pulpit to preach. His messages now began to have an effect, and the Holy Spirit used his subsequent ministry. In this way, a man whose heart had been broken was given authority: the authority to prophesy and the authority to heal. Everything, though, took place quietly. There was neither noise nor sensationalism, unlike the ghastly background music which often accompanies the extremists. Gideon can fix his gaze on a man with unforgiven sin in his life, and tell him immediately what the problem is.
Before returning to Rote, Gideon accompanied one of the teams on a mission which took them close to the Portuguese border of Timor. He was motivated by a desire to reach his fellow pastors and to encourage and counsel them spiritually. In addition to this, he hoped to be able to visit his own father who was also a pastor at the time. But he arrived too late. His father was drowned shortly before he came. Gideon used this shattering experience to appeal to the consciences of his colleagues. He knew very well the situation of the pastors on Timor. Many of them were living in gross sin. Many were involved in black magic and even fought each other with it. In one congregation, for example, the pastor, the church elders, and a teacher, were engaged in a deadly feud, each using his magical powers in the fight. Gideon went to see the men one by one asking them, "Are you going to heaven when you die?" The old pastor replied, "I don't know, and the Bible doesn't know either." Speaking to another pastor, Gideon asked, "Are you ready for the Lord's second coming?" The man answered, "I'd rather Jesus didn't return yet, I'm not ready for him."
After touring the island of Timor, Gideon returned to his own small island of Rote. He realized that his first task was to evangelize the whole island, and for a year he continued to visit one congregation after another, preaching the gospel wherever he went. During this time the Lord confirmed his ministry in an unmistakable way. Over a thousand people were brought to Christ in this first year following Pastor Gideon's conversion. Large prayer groups began to spring up which became the backbone of his ministry. Each day, he can rely on some 600 Christians to pray for the island, for the congregations, and for himself.
At the end of this year, a wave of revival broke out on Rote. As Pastor Gideon walked to church he would find crowds of natives waiting outside unable to get into the building. They would listen to his sermon through the open windows. The only 'difficulty' he found was that sometimes the people would not allow him to stop, and he would have to continue preaching until 11 or even 12 o'clock at night. Whenever he felt like coming to an end the people would cry out, "Go on, go on." Such was the hunger for the Word of God which had gripped the natives.
There were occasions when Pastor Gideon was unable to stand the tropical heat in the overcrowded church any longer. "It's too hot" he said once, "I can't go on." However, the congregation soon found a solution." We must pray for rain so that the air will be cooler", they said. The sermon was halted. Many of the natives then began to pray for rain. As a result the Lord, who had so graciously poured his Spirit already upon them, sent rain too. It was just like Mount Carmel when Elijah prayed for rain: "Then he prayed again and the heavens gave rain" (James 5:18). In response, therefore, to his children's prayers, the Lord sent both the water of life and refreshing rain.
The only thing I can say to those who find these stories either strange or rather fanatical is, "Go to Rote and Timor yourselves and find out if these things are true. Yet, don't approach Pastor Gideon too closely. He may tell you to your face what your unforgiven sins are, and this can be quite embarrassing."
What does Gideon's life look like from the outside? As a man, he is completely devoted to his ministry. Like John Sung he consumes himself in the service of the Lord. Such men simply burn themselves out until no wick remains. Gideon himself cares little about his food or where he will spend the night. His time is spent in travelling from one of his 30 congregations to the next. It is no longer he that lives, but Christ who lives within him. At the present moment, some 23,000 Christians stand behind him in his work.
An Indian proverb well describes the way he lives, "He who hunts lions, leaves mosquitoes in peace." In other words: "He who serves the Lord need not worry about anything else." Who of us is prepared to tread such a radical mountain pathway? How pitiful we often look beside such messengers of Christ! Something of the glory of God always rests on the life of a person in whom the image of Christ has already been formed.
There is much joy in heaven over every pastor who repents. How much more joy is there among the angels in heaven when an entire island repents?
XIV. THE REVIVAL ON TIMOR
Timor is one of the islands at the eastern extremity of the great Indonesian archipelago. It is actually nearer to Australia than to its own capital city. In 1964, out of a population exceeding one million, some 450,000 of the inhabitants belonged to the former Dutch Reformed Church. The number of pastors at that time, however, was only 103, far too few for the task. As we have already pointed out, one of the pastors had 48 different congregations within his care.
The spiritual state of the churches was almost catastrophic. This was due to a large extent to the way the Dutch had formerly administered the colony. Every minister in the church had at the same time been a colonial official. For this reason, anyone who had wanted to obtain something from the government had been obliged to belong to the church as well. Timor, therefore, had never been evangelized, only Christianized. The former atheistic beliefs, the magic and sorcery, the promiscuity and alcoholism, all continued to prosper together.
This spiritual condition was a great burden to Pastor Joseph, the superintendent of the Presbytery in Soe. During the years preceding the revival, from 1960 until 1964, his work had almost driven him to despair.
Pastor Joseph is a man of great spiritual insight and understanding. The fact that his favourite books are those of Moody, Dr. Torrey, and Livingstone, speaks for itself. Next to Pak Elias, he is better acquainted with the revival on the island than anyone else.
From the point of view of the churches of the world, it is important to know what reaction the church leaders on Timor had to the revival. The readers of the synod, in fact, met together on the 4th October 1967. They included Superintendent Joseph, Pastor Radjahaba, Pastor Meroekh, Pastor Baldey, and Pastor Micah. Besides these, Pak Elias and Pastor Gideon were also present on account of their direct involvement with the revival. After a good deal of discussion and a profitable time in prayer, they finally concluded that the movement which was taking place on Timor at that time was indeed the work of the Holy Spirit. Pastor Gideon, of whom we have already heard, was subsequently given the task of organizing the various teams.
God is sure to bless these church leaders for their decision. Unhappily, in the Church's history, it has frequently been the leaders who have most opposed the revivals when they have come, or who have at least stood to one side and refused to take part.
Although we have gone on ahead somewhat, it was necessary in order to have a clear picture of the framework in which the revival grew.
The Healing Movement
The revival on Timor was preceded by another movement of the Spirit of God. In October 1964, a teacher on the island of Rote received a vision. The Lord told him to travel to Timor and to hold a healing mission there. This may seem strange to Western minds, but one must try to understand the background against which such a command was given. There are practically no doctors at all on Timor and the neighbouring islands, at least not in the villages. Those who were sick would, therefore, seek the help of the sorcerers instead. The result was that almost every Christian in the area suffered some form of oppression from this healing magic. Little wonder, therefore, that the spiritual state of the Church literally cried to heaven. In view of this occult background it is understandable why the Lord should choose a man through whom to demonstrate his powers to the sick.
Jephthah, the teacher whom God had chosen, immediately went to see his own father who was a pastor on the island. Having told him about his experience, he asked his father to anoint him for his healing campaign. The father hesitated at first, wondering if the commission were genuine, but in the end, although he had never done anything like it before, he anointed his son for the task.
After his anointing, Jephthah prayed with the first group of sick people that he met. They were all healed. Encouraged by his initial success, he decided to try and hold an actual 'Healing Campaign' in the first large town he came to, on Timor. When it had been verified that a number of his cures were really genuine, the synod agreed to support the proposed campaign. The mission was a great success, and this led to the forming of a committee to deal with scriptural forms of healing.
Following the close of the campaign, a further week of healing was held in Soe. The wonderful miracles of healing which subsequently took place, aroused a great hunger for the Word of God within the Christians in the town. And so a movement was born, which continued from October to December 1964. According to the various reports which were later confirmed by Superintendent Joseph himself, several thousand people were healed.
As time went on, however, the older Christians began to realize that there was a certain weakness in the healing movement. Somehow or other the preaching of the gospel was being neglected. Repentance and conversion were not the central theme. Nevertheless, the healing movement can, as a result of prayer, be considered to be the forerunner of the later true revival.
The beginning of the Revival
In July 1965, David Simeon arrived on Timor with a team from the Bible School in East Java. He started to hold some evangelistic campaigns in both K. and Soe. As a result of this, a definite biblical emphasis was brought to bear on the spiritual phenomena which had been taking place on the island. The team's message was one of repentance and rebirth, and of sanctification through the Holy Spirit. The work of that summer, thereby, became the spiritual birthday of the true revival which has broken out in Indonesia.
The campaigns were immediately followed by a huge outpouring of God's Spirit, which probably has no equal in all the history of revivals. The natives brought their fetishes out of their houses, piling them up in heaps and burning them. A wave of cleansing swept through the ranks of the Christians. But more important still, the Lord was able to call many of the islanders and use them to feed and spread the fire further.
Pastor Joseph later said, concerning the work of David Simeon, "Just before the team from the Bible School left to return to East Java on September 1st 1965, Simeon preached his farewell message. As he spoke, he seemed to be filled with the Holy Spirit in a special way, and what he said had an almost prophetic ring about it. "I hope," he said, "that God will raise up teams to preach the word of the gospel, and that they will not only fill this half of the island with their message but the Portuguese half as well.' How and when this will take place I do not know. But the one thing I am certain of is that God is at hand and ready to fulfil these words."
The first actual witnesses of the revival on Timor were called through the ministry of the Bible School team.
Tamar had studied at the University of Salatiga on Java and was at the time headmistress of the Christian school in Soe. She was the first person to be called. Feeling that the Lord would have her attend the East Java Bible School, she told Pastor Joseph, Pastor Micah and David Simeon that she intended to go there. Pastor Joseph was anxious at first at the idea of losing an able teacher, for there was a genuine lack of Christian teachers in the area. And, besides, a number of the teachers at the Christian school were Communists. Tamar too, had the trust and the affection of her pupils. But her mind was made up and nothing would make her alter her decision. When the Bible School team finally left, she asked Pastor Joseph if they could hold a valedictory service for her in the church.
The evening came. The church was packed with people. Starting at 8 o'clock in the evening, Tamar continued to speak until 1 o'clock the next morning. In spite of her five hour sermon, not a single person felt the slightest bit tired. God's Spirit had begun to work. As the meeting drew to a close, Tamar asked, "If anyone is ready to start serving the Lord tonight, raise your hand." The response was remarkable. When all the names had been written down, it was found that more than a hundred young people had raised their hands. Pastor Joseph decided afterwards to hold some classes on two nights of the week in order to instruct those who had registered their decision to serve the Lord.
We see here the difference between the tired churches of the West, and the revival area. In the West we continue to lament year after year the lack of candidates for the mission field or for full-time Christian service. In Indonesia when one woman speaks under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, over a hundred people volunteer for missionary service in a single evening. And this was not just a flash in the pan as we shall quickly see. Since the revival began, many of the new converts have put their names down on the waiting list of the Bible School in East Java. So many people sought admittance that it was no longer possible to accommodate them all.
A Saul Became a Paul
The prophetic words of David Simeon were to be fulfilled much sooner than anyone would have thought possible. On the eve of her departure, Tamar started a chain reaction in the church. Sitting in the back row was a young man. As his friends raised their hands, he found himself following suit. But he became angry and the thought went through his mind, "Are you crazy? You can't do something like this."
Who was the young man? Because he had lost one of his parents, he had been living in the house of the local pastor since the age of seven. This, however, had not prevented him developing quite a godless attitude towards life. He was notorious for his fighting and brawling, as well as for his drunkenness. On innumerable occasions he had disturbed the church services, and had once gone so far as to break some of the windows while an actual meeting was in progress. The only reason he had been in the church at the valedictory service was because he had known Tamar personally, and had wanted to find out what all the 'fuss' was about. This then was the man whom the Lord had chosen to introduce his Church to a time of cleansing.
Sometime after the meeting, Saul - as we shall call him - was sitting in his room swotting English. Suddenly, everything around him went black. He could think of no reason at all for his sudden blindness. He put his face close to the lamp, but the only result was that he singed his eyebrows. There was nothing he could do but lie down on the bed and wait.
After about ten minutes had passed, a white figure appeared to him dressed in a long robe and with hair coming down to its shoulders. Saul knew at once that it was the Lord Jesus. As he fell to the floor in fear, he felt the blows of an invisible hand upon his body. He tried to get up again but found he could not move.
At this moment the Lord spoke to him, "What have you got there in your case?" Saul remembered that he had some fetishes in it. "Take them all out and hand them over to the pastor," he was told. Saul obeyed. When he returned to the room the Lord said to him, "You must be washed clean. I will then give you the task of cleansing the Church and preaching the gospel. You will pray with the sick and they shall be healed. Even death will be no problem to you. But remember this: the power is not your own but mine. Testify to the people in the church at the next service about what you have just experienced." As the Lord finished speaking, he vanished out of Saul's sight.
Saul was almost struck dumb. When I spoke to him later, he told me in the presence of one of the missionaries, "My friend who shares the room with me came in while all this was still happening. Although he heard some footsteps and sensed that there was someone else in the room, he didn't see the vision at all." We can see here a similarity between this experience and the vision which Paul received outside Damascus when those who were with him heard the voice, but saw no one.
At the next service Saul asked to be given permission to speak. The pastor hesitated a little at first but finally agreed. When Saul finished his account, the power of the Holy Spirit seemed to fall upon everyone present. With one accord they began to confess their sins and to hurry home and fetch the articles of sorcery they possessed. That very night all the fetishes were burnt publicly before the church.
When Saul spoke later in the school he attended, the cleansing process was repeated all over again. As he testified of his experience to the pupils, they too fetched their amulets and fetishes, as well as their cheap novels and even their sheets of pop music, and making one heap of them all in the playground, at Saul's command they burnt the lot.
When the police heard about what had happened, they immediately went and arrested the 'ring leader', and taking him to the police station had him flogged for having caused such a 'serious incitement'. But now that the revival had begun, there was nothing to hold it back, although even at this stage the local pastor was still rather critical of everything that was taking place. This, however, was not surprising since for years Saul had been renowned for his hooliganism.
The First Team
The birthday of the first team was Sunday the 26th September 1965. Saul had spoken that day at both the morning and the evening services at the church in the presence of Pastor Joseph. A wave of repentance had fallen upon the whole congregation. As the young disciple had called upon the people to decide for Christ, many of the young people present had come forward. And so team number one was born. Saul chose 23 of the young natives to work with him.
When the team set out, they began to preach all over the island. Wherever the young disciples went, many people were converted and numerous others healed. The Holy Spirit had given the team three particular gifts: the authority to preach the gospel, the authority to heal, and the authority to prophesy.
Pastor Joseph later reported that in one town alone some 700 people were cured of their diseases through prayer and the laying on of hands. The following are some examples. Meeting a lame man on their travels, after they had showed him the way to Christ, they prayed with him and he was immediately healed. During one of the meetings, a child suddenly fell from its seat unconscious. Saul, who was the team's leader, was called. After he had prayed over the child it regained consciousness at once. The next example is even more remarkable.
The team once preached in a church from 8 o'clock in the morning till 3 o'clock in the afternoon. (One of the features of revival is that the people lose all sense of time when they come under the influence of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Spirit). While the meeting was in progress a nine-year-old boy suddenly collapsed and died. His mother at once rushed to Saul and told him what happened. "We must finish the meeting first," the team leader replied. "We'll pray with the boy afterwards." All this happened only two hours after the meeting had started, and it was not until five hours later that Saul finally came to see the dead boy. As he stood beside him, he began to pray. It was then that the Lord said to him, "Blow into the boy's mouth and nose and put your hand on his forehead." Saul obeyed. After about a quarter of an hour the small boy began to move. Yet it was still some time before he became fully conscious again. Taking the boy with him to the front, Saul held him up before the congregation and gave praise to God. As a result of the miracle, many of the people present were converted.
I know the medical arguments that will arise in people's minds. The objection will be put forward that the boy was not really dead, only unconscious or paralysed. But even so, it would still have been a wonderful case of healing.
Before I actually witnessed these things with my own eyes and ears, I too doubted the reports that were coming out of the revival area. Today, however, I can doubt them no more since I have actually spoken with the leaders of the revival themselves, as well as with Saul and several other leaders of the teams. It is the Lord Jesus and not people, who is at work in Indonesia today.
The most important aspect of the ministry of Team 1 was told to me by Pastor Joseph. In the two weeks that the team was working in the town of N., some 9,000 people were converted. These are the type of figures one usually only associates with the Acts of the Apostles: 3,000 at Pentecost and 5,000 a few days later. It is greatly encouraging to know that the power of the Holy Spirit has not diminished since the first outpouring on the day of Pentecost nearly two thousand years ago, as a number of Christians have implied. We may, perhaps, be right in coming to the conclusion in the light of this revelation which the Holy Spirit has given us of his power, that we are living in the days just prior to the Lord's return. Every one of the conversions we have just mentioned was accompanied by a mighty act of cleansing. Fetishes were burnt, stolen goods returned, old quarrels ended, and the sick were healed in their thousands.
Events like these should cause many evangelists and missionaries to examine their lives afresh. How does our own ministry compare with that of this team of 'laymen'?
The Lord first called me and took my life into his hands in 1930. Already on the day following my conversion I began my work of evangelism, and started to tell my school friends of my new found faith in Christ. As a result a number of them were converted. And so my ministry of intercession and counselling had begun. Today a total of 39 years have passed. Looking back through my records I find that I have preached now in more than 800 different churches in over a hundred countries of the world. At the same time I must have personally counselled over 20,000 different people, but in spite of this, I doubt whether in all these 39 years I have led 9,000 people to the Lord. Yet this was the fruit which was granted to Team 1 in just two weeks of its ministry. Surely, this is a fulfilment of the words, "And the last shall be first." How insignificant our evangelistic labours appear in the light of the work that God is doing through these unknown Disciples of Christ in Indonesia. The Lord has no need of those who, out of conceit, imagine themselves to be something. "God chose what is low and despised in the world." The worldly halo of so many famous men will pale into insignificance before the spiritual greatness of many an unknown Christian saint. Only those whose heads are held too high fail to realize that all their proud boasting will one day be swept away by the wind of the Holy Spirit.
XV. THE FIRE SPREADS
As yet we have talked very little about the methods used by the teams in their evangelistic work. They usually limit their missions to a few weeks at a time. After this they return to their previous occupations. The only exception was Team 1, which held a campaign lasting several months.
One of the problems which faced the young people involved was their schooling. They had in fact left school and only returned at the end of their mission a few months later. The teachers had set them some examinations to see whether or not they could remain in the same classes as when they had left. But the Lord was with them, and not one of the 'truants' failed. This, too, revealed the way in which the Lord blesses.
We must now accompany some of the teams on their travels in order to see what the Lord does through them and for them. The reports I have stem from several sources, including personal conversations with actual team leaders and Mr. Klein, a missionary working in the area. Next, in order of importance, are the reports I received from the Church Synod on Timor, and also the accounts of David Simeon and Pak Elias who have both worked on the island. The facts facing us here have therefore been confirmed by many witnesses. This is an important point to make, for the events we are about to describe are so unusual that Western Christians will have difficulty in believing them, in spite of the fact that nothing is to be reported which is not already found in the Acts of the Apostles. Those who believe the Scriptures will have no difficulty in being able to accept the truth of these stories. But now let us join the various teams and hear what the Lord has done and is still doing in Indonesia today.
The uniqueness of this team exists in the f act that s during their missions flames of fire have often been seen to descend upon the churches in which they preached. The team's testimony always resulted in a tremendous cleansing of the congregation. Drunkards would forsake their vice, thieves would return the goods they had stolen, and magical practices would be acknowledged openly.
The group initially worked among a Catholic tribe on the island, and many of the natives were subsequently converted. It was at this time that the question first arose whether or not the teams from Timor should cross the Portuguese border in order to evangelize on the other side. The eastern half of Timor is a Portuguese colony. The natives on either side of the border speak the same language. What were the Christians to do?
Prior to their conversion, the natives on the western side of the island had often crossed the frontier in order to steal cows. When the revival came, though, there were no more thefts involving cows. Instead, they began to cross the border to steal souls. A Christian who lives by the letter of the law would say, "That isn't scriptural. One must recognize and respect a country's borders." In reply, however, I would ask, "Who decided where the borders were to lie? Wasn't it just an arbitrary decision of the colonial powers, whose only thought was to claim as much land as they could for themselves? What kind of crime is it when a team of natives crosses the border in order to win the people on the other side for Christ?"
Another objection will be, "But why don't the teams go through the proper legal procedure and apply for entry visas?" The answer is, "If they did so, they would never be able to hold their missions, since the authorities on the other side of the frontier are Catholic. In fact they are such staunch Catholics that there are reports of Protestant missionaries already having been killed in the area." One Protestant missionary, who actually obtained a visa, was, one might say, generously supplied with an aeroplane by the Catholic Church in which to leave the country immediately. It would be too much to expect ecumenicalism to have reached the eastern part of Timor yet.
I cannot believe that God will hold anything against these native Christians for allowing their missionary zeal to drive them to cross forbidden frontiers in order to show others the way to Christ. It must not be forgotten that the Catholics in the eastern half of the island are no better than what the Protestants in the west were like before the revival came. The heart of man is the same, irrespective of whether it beats under a Catholic or a Protestant flag.
The Teams' Provisions
No one who traces the birth and development of the teams will cease to be amazed at what he finds. They practise quite literally the words of Jesus in Luke 10:4, "Carry no purse and no bag on the journey." The teams either set out with no provisions at all or, at most, with only enough to tide them over the first few hours. Who, then, provides for them? Have we forgotten the experience and the higher mathematics of brother Dan already?
Once, when the Lord chose two married couples to work for him, the husband of the first couple asked, "Lord, who will provide for us?" In reply the Lord said, "Your wife must fast for 14 days in the way I show her." His wife obeyed and began to fast. After the first seven days she was told, "Take a coconut and a banana. Drink half the milk of the coconut and eat half the banana. Put the second half of the banana and the rest of the coconut milk aside for later." Again she obeyed. When the 14 days were up, the Lord told them, "Go and see if the banana and the milk are still fresh". To their astonishment they found that they were both as fresh as they had been 7 days previously. Usually, in the tropics when fruit has been opened it goes bad in a day.
Although the woman had fasted for 14 days, she felt no exhaustion at all. The Lord made it clear to the couple that He could keep them both alive on the same amount of food if he wanted to. The two couples joined each other after this and formed the third team, after which they set out on their mission of evangelization.
The experiences of Team 31 also illustrate the way God answered the question of daily provisions. Once, when the team was working in a village, just as they were about to leave, they were given nine bananas to eat on their journey. The team, though, consisted of 15 members. When they stopped later to rest and the bananas were distributed, everyone received a whole banana. I realize that a rationalist will find a story like this absolutely impossible to believe. But we need only think of the five loaves and the two fishes mentioned in Matthew 14:19 which were sufficient to satisfy the needs of over 5,000 people. The God who supplied their needs still exists today.
The team experienced a similar miracle on one of their other missions. They stayed once with a couple whose child was on the point of death. When the father, however, repented of his sins, the child was healed. Before the team left, the family begged them to stay for a meal of rice and meat. Quite naturally, it was very difficult for them to find enough food to satisfy their 20 guests. The team had grown in size through being joined by some of the elders of the churches they had visited. The Lord, however, in his mercy remembered this family. He told the team members to take only two spoonfuls of rice and two pieces of meat each. As the rice was served, everyone present suddenly saw a hand appear over the food and bless it. They were all completely satisfied.
Another native by the name of Barnabas had a very similar experience. He is the 32-year-old leader of Team 4 and has five other helpers on his team with him. On the 10th February 1968 the Lord commanded him to go to a village about 50 miles away from Soe. He was to preach the gospel there. The Lord told him, "Take no food or water for the journey, and do not rest until you have reached the village." This was without doubt quite a test, particularly when one remembers that Timor is in the tropics; and 50 miles is more than a day's march. Barnabas obeyed and set out on his journey. Later, when he began to be overcome with hunger and thirst, he asked the Lord if he would give him something to refresh him. At that moment, a gust of wind blew a tamarind fruit towards him. Holding his hands out, he caught it. However, instead of eating it at once, he first of all asked, "Lord, is this for me or for someone in the village?" The Lord replied, "It's for you." After giving thanks therefore, Barnabas ate the fruit. It was both sweet and very juicy, and afterwards his hunger and thirst did not return until he had reached his destination.
This story, too, shows us that, the God of the manna in the wilderness and the ravens of Elijah, is still alive today.
These wonderful experiences should not, however, make us crave for miracles. The most important thing is not miracles, but rather the saving of people from death to life in Christ. Our desire should not be for the sensational, but rather for a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus himself. These miracles of the Lord's provision are merely a demonstration of the fact that the Lord accepts responsibility for those whom he has commissioned to go out and preach the gospel. Indeed, the number of people who are bearing the good news, is already very large. In the first year of the revival alone, 72 different teams came into existence. Since each team consists of anything from 4 to 28 members, this means that about 1,000 messengers of the gospel are already under way. And every one of them travels without a purse, without security, and with no sleeping arrangements or previous plans, basing his mission entirely on the promises of God. Is this not a tremendous testimony and challenge to the sluggish and tired Church in the West, which has so little compared with its brothers in Indonesia?
The Blind Receive their Sight
In Matthew chapter 11 we have the story of how John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask him, "Are you he who is to come?" Jesus answered them, "The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them."
During Jesus' lifetime, the world experienced the greatest time of revival it has ever known. However, each time the Church has experienced revival down through the ages, its history has again reflected the events of the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. And so it is with the revival in Indonesia.
Yet and in addition to this, anyone who has the opportunity of comparing one revival with another, will be astonished to find that the Indonesian revival is more closely connected with the revival of the New Testament than any other in the history of the Church.
Let us hear a little about the work of the teams in this respect. The experiences of Team 48 are particularly impressive. The young leader is a 25-year-old illiterate girl by the name of Anna. Both her parents are dead, yet, like herself her four brothers and sisters are today all involved in the Lord's work.
The Lord called Anna with the words of Matthew chapter 10. As she was unable to read, she had someone read the words aloud to her later. Anna is spiritually one of the most authoritative messengers of the revival. The first gifts she received from the Lord were four songs which she was able to learn off by heart. When she sang these gospel messages, those who listened were converted.
She is an excellent 'home' missionary, and as she goes from house to house, she asks the people to bring their idols out and to destroy them. She has the gift of prophecy, too, and is able to tell people to their faces what sins they have committed.
One day she entered a house and met a woman who was blind. After she had shown the woman the way to Christ, the Lord commanded her to pour some water into the woman's eyes that she might be healed. In this way, the woman received her sight. Encouraged by her initial success, Anna began to ask the Lord every time she met someone who was blind, to give her the power to heal the person. As a result, she was able to heal a total of ten blind people in the name of Jesus. This only happened, however, after the blind people had confessed and repented of their sins. It is events like these that distinguished the revival from the healing movement which, as we have said, originally preceded it. In every case of healing the person's own salvation takes pride of place.
The condition of the soul is always more important than that of the body. In this way the Lord Jesus is magnified in the eyes of those who are sick. This is the reason why the revival has continued on its present healthy course.
Once, when Anna met a person who was deaf, the Lord said to her, "Put your finger into his ear and pray with him." She obeyed and the man was immediately healed.
On other occasions, she has even prayed for those who have died, although only if the Lord directly commanded her to do so. She never took the responsibility of the decision upon herself. Once, she was led to a two-year-old child who had died. After she had prayed for him, he was raised up just like Jairus' daughter of so long ago.
Anna's life and ministry are an example of how a Christian can be led and directed by the Lord. She only goes to the places where the Lord sends her. Bearing in mind her illiteracy, His commands are not always easy to obey. She has had to visit schools and government offices, and also speak to pastors about their sins. However, wherever she travels, the Lord always prepares a place for her to stay. She refuses to use a mattress or a pillow, and prefers to sleep rather on the floor. Each night, the Lord tells her what her tasks are for the following day. In 1967 the Lord even told her the name of a missionary who was soon to visit the island. When he arrived, he was astonished to find that Anna was able to greet him by his name.
One of the most difficult tasks the Lord gave her, fell on the 10th February 1968. She was told, "Go to the government offices and testify about me there." She obeyed. The officials listened to the message of their illiterate visitor and, in the end, 20 men were converted.
At about this time Anna was ordered to visit the house of a minister whose three children were continually falling ill. In a vision prior to her visit, she was shown a two-edged sword. On arriving at the house she discovered that such a sword had in fact been in the house since the time of the Dutch, and that it had an occult history behind it. She told the minister that the sword would have to be destroyed. Afterwards the children were completely healed.
Anna is by no means the only person whom the Lord has used to restore the sight of the blind. Many of the teams have had similar experiences in their work of evangelization. We can illustrate this with two further examples, both of which are well attested, since a number of pastors were present on each occasion. The first instance was described to me by a pastor who has become actively involved in the work of the revival.
At one of the church meetings on Timor, which was attended by three pastors, one of whom was a woman, and by the president of the Synod, a 58-year-old blind man was healed through prayer and the laying on of hands. The blind man was quite startled when he found that he could see. One of the church elders said to him, "Throw your stick away and walk down the aisle to show everyone that you can now see." As the man obeyed, the woman pastor, who was watching it all take place, started to doubt and said, "The man is lying. He wasn't blind at all." At that moment, the hand of God came upon her and she was struck blind herself. There is a story very similar to this in Acts 13:10, in which Elymas the sorcerer became blind when he tried to oppose the apostle Paul.
In the revival in Indonesia one finds that almost every event has its counterpart in the New or Old Testaments. When the moderator of the Synod heard about the blinding of the pastor, he asked, "Who was responsible for making her blind?" No one was able to answer him. The Lord had taken it upon himself to act. For three days, as a result of her critical attitude, the woman remained blind. During this time, the believers continued to pray for her. Then, when the three days had passed, she confessed her sin and repented, and the Lord gave her back her sight.
We will finish by mentioning just one more case in which a person was healed of blindness. The man concerned was 46 years old, and had been blind since birth, or at least from very early childhood. Illnesses like this also occur in China and other parts of the Far East. After a member of the team had showed the man the way to Christ, he prayed with him under the laying on of hands. With this, the man's eyelids opened and some blood came out. The man could now see, but he was somewhat confused, for he had never seen anything before in his life. Here, again, I was told the story by a pastor who was present at the time, and who could guarantee the truth of the account.
Because we can so easily forget, let us remind ourselves: if Jesus opens the eyes of a spiritually blind person, the miracle is far greater than if he were to heal a person suffering from physical blindness. We must never try to shift the emphasis of the Scriptures on account of these wonderful events in Indonesia. Jesus is much greater than all the miraculous deeds that can be done in his name. Nevertheless, let us still rejoice that the Lord can glorify himself so marvellously.
The Dead are Raised
We have already heard of one case where a person was raised from the dead during the ministry of Team 1. There is one team in particular, however, which stands out with regard to experiences of this nature. The leader of this team is mother Sharon.
Like Anna, she too is illiterate. One day the Lord appeared to her in a long white robe, and he said to her, "I have called you to preach the gospel." I can imagine the objection that many theologians may raise at this point. "Why must we have all these visions?" they will ask, "our faith should rest on the Word of God alone." I agree with this comment. However, I would ask in reply, "How can the Lord reveal himself to an illiterate person who is unable to read the Bible?" In situations like this, the Lord must use unusual means. And besides, must the Lord always ask the theologians first how he should reveal himself to people? If this were the case, present day Christianity would be even worse off than it is already.
When the Lord Jesus revealed himself to this illiterate woman and called her into his service, she replied, almost in the words of Jeremiah, "But I can't preach; I'm not educated; I don't understand anything about the Bible." The Lord, however, overruled her objections. After forming a team with three other people, she set out to testify to the Word of God and to pray for the sick. As a result, a number of people were raised from the dead through her ministry.
The first case of this was later checked by Pak Elias who was able to talk to the mother whose child had been brought back to life. The child had been dead already for six hours when mother Sharon arrived. After someone had read the Scriptures, mother Sharon prayed with the dead child and when she had finished, its life had returned.
Another instance was confirmed by the missionary Mr. Klein. A child had been dead for two days. Ants were already crawling about over its eyes and body. The parents, however, instead of burying the child on the first day, as is the usual custom in the tropics, called for mother Sharon. Two days later she arrived. After a time of prayer the child was restored to life.
We have before us, therefore, testimonies from the ministry of three separate teams. The first team experienced the miracle of the dead being raised at the town of N. The other two teams experienced the miracle under the leadership of the two illiterate women, Anna and mother Sharon.
As a fourth witness to the raising of the dead, we can turn to another Christian pastor who is also a native of Timor. He told me about two people on a neighbouring island who, after they had died, had been carried out of the hospital in which they had been patients. After prayer, however, they had both come back to life again.
It must again be pointed out that the raising of a spiritually dead person is a far greater miracle than a physical return to life. In Luke 15:24 we read, "This my son was dead, and is alive again." The spiritual conversion and rebirth of a person is a greater miracle than a bodily resurrection. We should always remember this, lest, as a result of the deeds which God is presently accomplishing in the revival area, our spiritual lives be side-tracked along a false trail.
Miracles are not an end in themselves. They are merely signposts designed to point us to the Lord. Miracles are not the most important thing, but only of a secondary nature. They are but a confirmation of the Word of God. At the end of Mark's Gospel we read, "The Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it." The preaching of the gospel is of first importance. The accompanying signs are merely a form of confirmation. Anyone who tries to build his Christian life on miracles will soon fall prey to extremism and a hopeless wilderness of inner impoverishment. The Word of God is our foundation and our daily bread. Miracles are really the exception; signs which the Lord occasionally erects. In times of revival the question of miracles is nevertheless very acute. In the case of Indonesia for example, some amazing events have come to pass. And yet every miracle that has happened there has its parallel in the pages of the Bible.
Esther is the leader of Team 17. There are 15 members in the team including herself. One day, the Lord spoke to her and said, "Go to Rote." At once the team hired a boat belonging to a Moslem and set out for Rote. On their way there they ran into a severe gale. The Moslem said to them, "If your God will answer your prayers and calm this storm, then I will believe in him." The team prayed, and within a few minutes the sea was completely calm. The Moslem was converted, and afterwards he renamed his boat 'New Life'. With God all things are possible. The Lord Jesus, who stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 14), is still alive today.
Team 49 was working once among a tribe of sun-worshippers. As they were holding a meeting in one of the buildings, the rain began to pour down in torrents. Suddenly, however, the rain stopped, and the sun began to shine brightly. At that moment the team saw Jesus in the skies standing above the sun. As they went outside to look, about half the congregation followed them. Taking their opportunity from the vision which was witnessed in full daylight by everyone present, they began to preach. "The Lord Jesus," they said, "stands before the sun which he has made. You must worship him and not the object that he created." As a result of their testimony, 20 of the natives were converted. When an account of what had happened was told in a nearby village, some of the sick people there were at once healed. Are we not reminded here of the vision in Revelation chapter 1, where it is written of Jesus, "his face was like the sun shining in full strength"?
The Lord Jesus did not only give his messengers their provisions, but he gave them travelling companions too. Team 31, which worked under the leadership of Pastor Gideon, often travelled during the night. At the time of the new moon, the tropical nights can be fearfully dark. On account of this the Lord on occasions has gone before them in the form of a shining light, in the same way as he once accompanied the children of Israel in the wilderness. Also, when it rained, the team did not get wet. The rain would fall on either side of the path along which they were walking, but not on the path itself. I have heard of experiences like this from other mission fields. In my book 'Name über alle Namen Jesus', there is an account of a similar event involving the Eskimo Christian, Esther Egak.
Team 47 has also on several occasions experienced a miraculous light. They were told, one day, to go to the town of N. At first, they tried to hire a car, but the owner, a Moslem, was unwilling to allow them to use his vehicle. So they set out on foot. On the way the Lord suddenly told them to stand still and to pray. They obeyed. The car, then, drove up behind them and they got in and were driven to the next village. That night, the head teacher gave them a room to sleep in, but there was no light in it. In spite of this, the room was lit the whole night by a supernatural light from the Lord. The next day, they travelled on. In the next village, there was no light in the church. This time the Lord illuminated the church for them.
We have a miracle here similar to the one recorded in Acts 12, when the prison cell of Peter was suddenly brightly lit by the appearance of an angel. Then, in Revelation 22, we find another biblical illustration of an event like this: "And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light."
These signs, involving light, are simple illustrations of the fact that the Lord wants to be our light and, one day, will be our light for evermore. Those who are familiar with the kingdom of God will find nothing unnatural about these miraculous signs. We are simply faced here with the fact that the Creator is able to use his creation for his own purposes. The universe contains many more possibilities than we can ever imagine. It is true that nuclear research is forever making fresh discoveries, yet scientists are only able to discover what has already been embedded in creation by God.
Some of the miracles of the revival in Indonesia appear, at first, to be rather strange. Yet even so, I find that they are not completely unfamiliar to me. I have, sometimes, asked myself concerning certain occult phenomena, what the biblical counterpart of a demonic miracle really is. In Japan, for example, I have heard of Shinto priests who practise levitation. They are able to disappear from one mountain peak, and ten minutes later reappear on another peak, which is anything up to 12 miles away. I was told about some almost unbelievable achievements by the aborigines in Australia. They said, for example, that members of their tribes are able to run from the east coast to the west coast of Australia in a matter of only four days. Humanly speaking, this is impossible since it means that the runner would have to travel an average of nearly 600 miles a day. Among the Tibetans and the people of Haiti, I heard of the so-called phenomena of 'riding on the wind'. By these means, magicians are capable of travelling enormous distances in only a very short time. But all these facts can be traced back to the workings of the same demonic powers.
These phenomena must also exist on a scriptural level and we do, in fact, find similar events recorded in the Bible, although they occur on an entirely different plane. For example, Enoch was translated, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. Philip, too, was once caught up by the Spirit of the Lord, and Jesus himself ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives. In every case, here we have an example of the overcoming of both gravity and distance by the power of God.
Let us now turn after this somewhat lengthy introduction to a miracle of this nature which was experienced by Team 47. The team was commanded by God to go and preach the gospel in a village which was about 48 travel-ling hours away. Setting out on foot, they arrived at the village within a space of four hours. On their arrival, they discovered that the villagers were already assembled together in the church. They described how they had heard the sound of a trumpet coming from the mountain calling them to the meeting, and they said that they had thought it had been the team which was calling them. However, the team did not have a trumpet with them. There were altogether 50 people in the church who were ill. Every one of them was healed, including three people who had been dumb from birth. Afterwards, their tongues were loosed, and they began to speak.
In order to add the last straw to the troubles and doubts a person may be experiencing while reading these reports, we will quote just one final example. Our story-teller is Nathan, a local district officer, who has already been the leader of a team. Nathan described to me how another team under the leadership of a Christian named Ruth was threatened by a group of soldiers. Some non-Christians had stirred the soldiers up against the team, and one evening a corporal sat down with his men and began to work out a plan to stop the Christians' work. While they were actually discussing their plans, the team met together for a time of prayer. As they were praying, Ruth had a remarkable experience. She suddenly saw herself among the soldiers, and was able to hear them discussing their plans against the team. She was convinced that she had actually been with them. The soldiers, however, had not been able to see her. When Ruth had returned, the Christians began to pray that the Lord would make their enemies so tired that they would give up the plans they were making. And so it happened. The soldiers were so overwhelmed by the desire to go sleep that they put aside all thought of harming the team and went home to their beds.
The question facing us is how to understand such experiences in the light of the Scriptures. First of all, we have the stories of how the angels of the Lord opened the doors of prisons on two occasions: Acts 5:19, and 12: 7. Then, we have Paul's own account of how he was caught up into the heavens: 2 Corinthians 12:1-4. Has God forgotten how to do these miracles today? Are we only his stepchildren? Is it not still true that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever?
We have no need of miracles like this in order to be saved. However, if God chooses to act in this way during an extraordinary revival, we have no right to doubt the things he does. And, anyway, the only reason for our doubt is that we put more trust in our own understanding than in the living God. We have forgotten to live in the world of the Bible. Therefore, everything has become so strange to us. One day, these illiterate natives of Timor will sit in judgement over those of us who pride ourselves on our own intelligence.
Our reason, however, has still more challenges facing it. The communion services being held in the revival area are naturally large. As we have already mentioned, in some places, anything up to 9,000 natives have been converted in a matter of two weeks. Understandably, these new-born Christians desire to partake of the Lord's supper. For them, though, it is not so much a feast of remembrance as a time of real fellowship with the risen Lord. With the advent of these large communion services, therefore, one is confronted with the question: where does all the wine come from? The islanders, who have experienced so much of the Lord's help already in the problems they have faced, made this into a subject for prayer also. A little later, the Lord gave them the command, "Fill some large vessels with spring water." Fetching the water from a spring, they prayed over it for several hours. When the time came for the celebration of the Lord's Supper, the whole church testified that the water had become wine. This has happened now on three separate occasions.
We have, here, a repetition of the miracle of John chapter 2. The question again arises whether we are going to erect a theology which depends upon our own intellects, as is the case in most parts of the world, or whether we are going to put more trust in God than in our own small minds. For myself, on account of his sufferings on the cross and his resurrection, Jesus is great enough already without having to refer to the miracles about which we have been hearing. However, we must realize that the natives in Indonesia, in their desire to celebrate the Lord's Supper, would be robbed of something if they had either no bread or no wine with which to remember their Lord's body and blood. Is the Lord Jesus given the title Wonderful Counsellor in vain? We have a God who works miracles! O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things (Psalm 98:1). I would prefer to take my stand beside these simple and illiterate Christians on Timor, sharing their childlike faith, than with the present day rationalists who attempt, albeit unsuccessfully, to tear the world of the Bible apart with their reason. It would be a very small God who permitted his plans to be upset by the so-called philosophers of today.
XVII. SIN AND DISEASE
There exists a general connection between sin and death, and sin and disease. Paul writes in Romans 6: 23, "The wages of sin is death." Through the original fall of mankind, disease and death entered into the world. And we are all involved in this calamity. "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12).
We must not, however, short-circuit this general relationship between sin and disease. The thought should never even enter our head, let alone be voiced in the presence of a sick person, that, "He must have done something wrong, else he would never have fallen ill."
Jesus himself had to fend off this false conclusion on more than one occasion. In Luke 13:4 He asks his disciples, "Or those 18 upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem?" In John 9, referring to the man who had been born blind, the disciples asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus parried their short-sightedness with the reply, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him."
The Bible therefore confirms the fact that there is a general connection between sin and disease, but it rejects the idea of a special casualty, that every single case of illness is directly caused by some particular sin.
The Scriptures, however, do not exclude the idea of special rules applying during a time of revival. Revivals are always exceptional circumstances and, although it need not necessarily be so, ever since the time of Christ they have been characterized by the extraordinary. At such times God himself intervenes personally.
The truth of this can be seen in every revival, and it is being illustrated, afresh, in the current movement of God's Spirit in Indonesia. We find there that the Lord is speaking to the simple native people by means of dreams, visions, angelic appearances, and direct speech. At any other time, we would treat these supernatural events with the greatest of caution, and even at the centre of the revival itself, one must be on one's guard, for the devil ever seeks to inject his own demonic visions and psychical experiences into the genuine work of God. Indeed, Satan is the great deceiver, and he loves to cause disorder wherever he goes.
The events in Indonesia show us how God is moving among these simple Christians in a way he has seldom moved before. The result is that every daily event is affected by his presence, and every experience has an entirely new significance about it, for Jesus stands in their very midst.
In the case of the healing of the sick, this means that when the Lord commissions one of his messengers to tell a person, ‘Destroy your fetishes, then you'll be healed’, the promise comes true. This does not mean that the members of the teams can heal people whenever they want to, but rather that they ask the Lord concerning each individual case. If through the gift of prophecy they are shown the cause of the illness, in a special instance like this the very root of the evil is revealed.
The healing of the sick in the Indonesian revival - and also in other genuine revival movements - is not opposed to the teaching of the Scriptures. The only thing that did not correspond completely with the biblical pattern was the earlier healing movement. Yet, the Christians on Timor recognized this for themselves. The healing movement was really only a forerunner of the genuine revival in much the same way as John the Baptist was a herald of the coming of Christ.
With these few thoughts from the Scriptures in mind, let us turn now to one or two brief examples which, although they fit into the framework of the revival, cannot be used as a pattern for the Church in general. If this happened, misconceptions would soon arise and lead to error.
As we have already mentioned, Team 31 has been greatly blessed in its work among the sick. The young evangelists counsel the natives very thoroughly before they attempt to lay hands on them and pray for their recovery. When a special meeting is held for those who want healing, the Word of God is expounded first. Next those who are ill are asked to write their diseases down on some cards. If a person cannot write, a Christian does this for him. The cards are then collected and a team member again explains that healing depends entirely upon the Lord. They are also told that no one need expect to be healed if he is unprepared to hand his life over to Christ completely. Only after this very basic preparation - which can sometimes take several hours - do the individual team members pray with the sick people under the laying on of hands. But now, the natives feel the power streaming through them. The meeting is closed with a time of testimony and people are encouraged to go to the front and to give praise to God. Frequently, every person present is healed, although there are times when only about 90% of those who seek healing are cured. When this is the case, those who are still ill, are counselled and prayed for afresh. As a result the work develops in a sound and sober fashion.
Team 32 was once sent by the Lord to a certain village in which 36 people were ill. After preaching the gospel to them and showing them the way to Christ, the team told them that they would first have to surrender their lives to the Lord before they could expect to be healed. But, even if they were not healed, they added, the Lord still expected them to hand their lives over to him.
When the team, subsequently, prayed for the 36 natives, 32 of them were immediately healed. We can mention one special case which illustrates the connection again between sin and disease. A small child had been on the point of death. The Lord showed the leader of the team the cause of the illness. The child's father had been called into full-time service by the Lord, but had refused to go. As the leader told the father of his sin, he repented and the child was immediately cured. Having quoted this example, however, it should be pointed out, to avoid misunderstanding or misconstruing what has been said, that not one of the other 35 natives was confronted in this way and told, "You have sinned! Therefore you are ill." This would have been the same short-sighted conclusion which is often made all over the world. Only in one case did the Lord reveal to the leader that a particular sin lay behind the illness of the person concerned.
Team 47 has also experienced a number of healings during its ministry. For example, they were called once to a woman who was unable to give birth to her child. She had already been in labour for eight days when the team's leader, a woman of 35, went in and prayed for her. As she was doing so, she was suddenly shown that the husband was guilty of disobedience. When the Lord had called him to follow Him, he had resisted the call. Finally, he repented and, as a result, his wife was able to give birth to their child.
In February 1968, this same team had a similar experience. Their leader was again called to visit a woman who was unable to give birth. As she began to pray, the Lord said to her, "Both the parents are addicted to alcohol. I will not help the woman until they have given it up." However, the couple were not prepared to repent of their habit and, as a result, when the child was finally born, it seemed as if it were dead, and did not breathe for a total of eight hours. The parents were terribly worried and in the end confessed that they had sinned. When they had done so, the Lord said to the team leader, "Touch the child's tongue near the back of its throat." When she did so, the child immediately began to breathe normally. Over ten people were present at the time who witnessed the miracle.
The leader of Team 2, named Abel, was given the following task. He was called to see a family whose child had been quite ill for a number of weeks. It was unable to eat, and cried continually. When Abel arrived, he asked the father if he had any fetishes in the house. The man hesitated and tried to avoid the question. The Lord then showed Abel that there were indeed articles of sorcery in the house. When the father finally confessed to the fact and brought them out of his house - there were many of them - the child began gradually to quieten down. As the last fetish was brought out, the child stopped crying completely. Abel prayed again and at once the child sat up and asked for something to eat. When two bowls of rice were brought, it ate them hungrily. These examples illustrate how the sins of a father and - a mother often affect the children. As parents, we have a great responsibility regarding our children. "The iniquity of the fathers is visited upon the children to the third and the fourth generation." Christian parents should not only pray for their children, but for their grand-children and great-grandchildren as well. I feel a great responsibility myself in this respect, particularly when I see how easily the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of well-known Christians fall into gross sin.
XVIII. SIN AND JUDGEMENT
The relationship between sin and judgement is very similar to the one we have just described between sin and disease. However, even if one were able to find a number of examples of God's judgement on people, it would be incorrect to generalize from particular cases. If God were to punish everyone immediately they sinned, the world would soon become just one big concentration camp. Similarly, if God were to require the death of each sinner, no one would be left living upon this earth.
We must, therefore, be careful not to put all the events of the revival over a common denominator. The Lord is sovereign, and is free to act as he will. God cannot be pressed into a predetermined mould. The Holy Spirit is independent of everyone and refuses to be told how and when he ought to act. It is almost blasphemy when we as ordinary human beings try to order him around. He acts, he works, he determines, he decides, he judges, he blesses; so let us once and for all decide to leave our pious thoughts and selves out of the picture.
a) Let us quote first of all a few examples illustrating quite clearly how God punishes people.
Team 31 worked for a while in one of the larger towns on Timor. As a Catholic policeman listened to their message, he began to laugh and said, "What you're saying is stupid." When the team had left the town, the policeman set out one day with his cart to fetch some wood from the forest. Arriving in the jungle, he stood his rifle up in the cart with its bayonet uppermost. As he was heaping the wood on to the cart, the rifle suddenly fell over, driving the bayonet into him and killing him immediately.
Nathan, who was the district president, became the leader of Team 11. Together with his team, he went to do some evangelizing in a town in the north of the island. However, the so-called Christians living in the area incited the police to stop them preaching there. As a result, the police president, who was a nominal Christian as well as a drunkard, forbade them to work in the area. The team was, at first, discouraged, but then Nathan went to the police president and asked him, "Who ordered you to stop the team from working here? Was it the government, or have you done it on your own authority?" The president was a little embarrassed and finally admitted, "It was the Christians here. They started worrying me so much that, in the end, I issued the order about the team." Following their conversation, the order was withdrawn. When Nathan returned to his team, he found them meeting together in prayer. Without telling them his news, he joined in praying with them. Suddenly the whole house was shaken as if by an earthquake. It was just like the account in Acts 4: 31, "And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken." Following this experience, a number of team members stood up to prophesy that God would punish those responsible for the order forbidding them to preach. Three months later, while the police president was away from home, his house was burnt to the ground. There was nothing to be saved from the flames.
God's judgement, therefore, does not fall upon unbelievers only, but on nominal Christians as well. This is illustrated even more vividly in the next example.
Pastor Joseph was once accompanying Team 3 on one of its missions. This, again, illustrates how even pastors can change their minds and begin to work with the teams. Pastor Joseph is, in fact, the superintendent of the Presbytery on Timor. When the revival had originally broken out, he had, at first, stood to one side wondering if it were truly the work of the Spirit of God. However, as he witnessed the wonderful things the Lord was doing in their midst, he was convinced. Today, he is one of the leading figures in the revival. But, it is also significant to find that, in spite of everything, he is only a member of a team and not its leader. This is a good example of how God does not look on a person's title or education - no, every leader is chosen solely by the Lord himself.
The team was on its way to visit a certain town on the island, whose church was torn by jealousy and a struggle for power between two sections of its congregation. The chief culprits were a couple of Christian teachers. When they heard that Pastor Joseph was coming with a team to their town, they decided to give him an official welcome. On hearing of this, however, Pastor Joseph said to them, "I haven't come here on an official visit. I'm just a member of the team." And so, for about two weeks, Team 3 lived and worked in this almost ruined church. It was then that the Lord showed them that the two teachers would have to be relieved of their offices in the church and replaced by two other men. The whole congregation was agreed. Hardly had the team left the town, however, than the quarrelling broke out afresh. The friends and supporters of the teachers tried to invalidate the decision of the team. By now, Joseph and his fellow team members had arrived back in Soe, and it was only then that they heard of the latest news. They sent a message, at once, warning the quarrelling Christians that the judgment of the Lord would fall upon them if they started to destroy the church all over again with their continual strife. The men to replace the teachers had been chosen by the Lord himself! But the quarrelling did not cease. As a result, a terrible act of judgment fell upon the church. Twenty-nine of the people involved in the strife suddenly died of a mysterious illness. The story was reported to Mr. Klein on the nth February 1968. The chief witness to the whole affair was Pastor Joseph himself.
b) Another form of judgment is that which serves to correct. A few examples:
Team 31, a team I have already mentioned on several occasions and whose work I particularly value, was working in a certain village when its leader, Pastor Gideon, entered into a house where a child was ill with whooping-cough. As Gideon began speaking with the father, who was in fact an elder in the local church, he discovered that the man was really opposed to the revival in the area. Gideon then said to him, "You are spiritually proud. That's why your child is ill." When the father heard this, he confessed his sins and repented. They now prayed for the child and it was immediately healed.
A certain family, on hearing about the work that the teams were doing, began to mock and to laugh. The result was that their child suddenly fell ill and had to go to hospital. The Lord, then, spoke to Judith, the wife of the leader of Team 2 and told her to go and visit the family in question. When she met the parents, she said to them in the name of Jesus, "You have insulted the Lord by criticizing the teams. Repent, and keep your child at home. The Lord is able to help him." Heeding her words, the parents repented and their child was immediately healed.
Once, when Team 17 travelled to Rote to hold a mission there, the local church leaders refused to show them any hospitality. "They're only coming here to sponge on us," they claimed. On the evening following this remark, one of the leaders started trying to light his paraffin lamp. In all he attempted to light the lamp eleven times without success. It was then that the Lord spoke to him and said, "You have spoken evil of the team. Make up for this and help them." The man repented and was ready to obey. At once, the lamp started to burn. And what a wonderful time that evening was. When the team had finished testifying to the church, 20 people were converted and, a little girl who had been lame was healed. In the next village, a total of 400 out of 500 sick people were cured of their diseases.
c) Thirdly, some forms of judgment lead to the sanctification of the Christians involved. The following are two examples of this.
The leader of Team 43 was a Christian woman by the name of Abigail, who was illiterate. Although the Lord had called her, her lack of education had made her hesitate to obey. Then, one after another of her children began to fall ill. She called one of the team leaders and asked him to pray for them. The Lord, however, said to the man, "Abigail's children are ill because she has not obeyed my word." When Abigail herself heard this, she repented at once and started to obey. As she went from house to house carrying the Christian message, the Lord gave her the authority to heal. She met an old man with a wound that refused to close up. After showing him the way to Christ, she prayed with him and at once the wound began to dry out. Her own children too, never fell ill again.
On another occasion, the Lord told her to go to the local prison and to talk to the prisoners about Jesus. However, when she left home, she went instead to a hospital to witness to the patients there; but the Lord had mentioned nothing about this. Later, as evening approached, realizing that there was no time to visit the prison anymore, she started for home. On the way, she became lame. She could not take another step. It was then that she recognized her disobedience, and she asked the Lord to forgive her: her foot was healed immediately. This illustrates how we can often look for tasks which the Lord has not assigned us. God does not want activity, but obedience.
Team 45 was led by a 43-year-old teacher. He had originally been called by the Lord through a dream. The teacher had found his own dirty clothes being taken off and a new robe being put on instead. At the same time, he had heard a voice saying to him, "This is the mantle of Elijah." When he had woken up, he doubted whether the dream was genuine. That day, however, one of his children burnt his arm. The teacher called one of the leaders of the teams and begged him to pray for his child. It was then that the Lord showed him that he was guilty. Repenting at once, the teacher was ready to obey his call. He was subsequently given the authority to heal and the authority to cast out demons.
XIX. THE PRESENCE OF JESUS IN THE INDONESIAN REVIVAL
The revival in Indonesia is still very young and it is, therefore, not possible to pass a final judgment on it at the moment. God grant that we will never have to before the coming of Christ, and that this wonderful outpouring of the Spirit will not cease until the Lord himself returns to take the torch of the gospel from the hands of his messengers.
The Presbytery on Timor waited a long time before it pronounced its judgment on the nature of the revival movement. An administrative body not only has the right but also the duty to act with care. How often have religious movements been labelled as revivals which have been little more than psychical epidemics far removed from the work of the Holy Spirit.
What did the leading church people have to say after observing the revival for a year? First of all, they produced some very sober statistics. Within the revival's first year, 80,000 people were converted to Christ; 40,000 of these had previously been Communists, and the other half heathen. During the same interval of time, some 15,000 people had permanently been healed. Church attendance had likewise grown phenomenally. Some churches, which had previously had only about 30 people attending their Sunday services, after the first year of the outpouring of God's Spirit had congregations numbering anything up to 500. Many of the churches were just not large enough to cater for the increase in numbers. But in addition to these facts, it had been observed that a wave of repentance and sanctification had swept through the formerly decaying church. Over a hundred thousand fetishes had been brought out and destroyed by the island's inhabitants.
This first year had also seen the birth of 72 evangelistic teams which had travelled throughout the area with no financial aid at all, preaching the gospel message.
These statistics only apply to the state of affairs at the end of the first year. One of the pastors on the island told me that today, at the end of the revival's third year, the figures have grown considerably. The number of those who have been converted has risen to over 200,000. It is almost impossible, today, to see the picture as a whole. The story on one island, for example, is almost unbelievable. Before the revival began, there were hardly any believers there at all; the number did not even reach treble figures. And today there are some 20,000 converted Christians among the island's inhabitants.
The number of teams has also grown steadily and has passed the 200 mark already. The total number of those who have been healed probably exceeds 30,000.
These figures clearly represent a great victory for the Lord Jesus in Indonesia today; but, the figures alone fail to reveal the special characteristics of the revival.
The growth in the number of Christians has utterly changed the numerical structure of the churches. It would be interesting to compare the church registers showing the actual numbers attending communion in the year 1963 and the year 1966 or 1968 for example. If one were not to know that a revival had taken place, the question would immediately arise, "What happened to increase the church attendance some twentyfold in these years?" The growth in the weekly offerings tells a similar story. Whenever the pockets of Christians are touched, something is sure to have taken place. Pockets are the last places to be surrendered to Christ. The door of one's bank account is always the last door which is opened to Jesus, if it is ever opened to him at all. But, the temporal structure of the churches has also changed. In 1963 the congregations would soon have complained if the minister had gone on preaching for more than a couple of hours. Today, however, the Christians will not allow Pastor Gideon to leave the pulpit until he has preached, sometimes, for seven or eight hours at a stretch. The believers in the revival area have lost all sense of time, all sense of hunger and thirst, and all sense of the value of money. On top of this, the very social structure of the churches has changed too. Class divisions have simply faded away. The pastor or the superintendent become members of a team led by a simple layman chosen and appointed by the Lord, and Pak Elias' sister, a woman of noble birth, sits and talks with a simple illiterate woman about their common Lord.
The values and the standards of the Christians have been completely changed. The only thing that remains, which is of any worth, is that which speaks of, or points to, or originates from Christ. "He is the head, that in everything he might be preeminent", (Col. 1:18).
This brings us now to the most wonderful characteristic of the revival: the reality of the actual presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. How difficult it is for us as Christians to discover the will of the Lord. Yet these simple natives experience almost every day direct encouragement and contact with their ever present Lord.
Naturally, as a theologian, I am well aware of the fact that every sect appeals to its own revelation from the Lord. The false prophets of the Old Testament did the same. The 'lumen internum', the inner light of divine vision, often stemmed from a demonic source or the human heart. It is a well-known fact that where the Holy Spirit is at work, the devil is not very far away. This is the danger threatening every revival: that the demonic and the divine stand so close together.
But, such a danger should never lead us to insult the Holy Spirit and to reject his own work. To use a simple example: it would be foolish to say that because children are prone to disease, women should stop giving birth in order to ban these diseases from the earth.
We should never be forced out of a fear of the demonic to attempt to deny or to explain away the wonderful fact that Jesus is speaking directly to his children in Indonesia today. In no other revival, since the first century, has the presence of Jesus and his direct guidance and leadership been so much in evidence.
The reality and the ever present experience of the Lord's presence within the revival area has an eschatological significance which perhaps even the simple Christians on Timor have not fully recognized.
A Sign of the Lord's Second Coming
The more I consider the terrific events which are happening today on Timor, the more I am convinced that God has something to say through them to the whole world. The Indonesian revival is not just a small nationalistic affair, but is rather something which concerns the whole of the Body of Christ.
A dream of Pastor Joseph will help illustrate what I mean. But, before I describe his dream, let me first point out for the sake of my critics: I realize that the Word of God is a thousand times more important than any dream that a man may have. However, I have already mentioned the spiritual reality which exists in Indonesia today, and this dream lies on the same level. Besides, Pastor Joseph is one of the most mature and most sober leaders of the revival as well as being the superintendent of the Presbytery in Soe. In his dream, Joseph saw a host of people drawn from every nation under the sun standing in front of a church. They were singing a hymn together, and although the tune was the same, each was singing in his own mother tongue. When he woke up, Pastor Joseph asked the Lord to explain to him the meaning of the dream. The reply was, "The dream means that the revival on Timor has a world-wide significance."
We are living in a time when 'Satan's throne' has already been erected in the Western world. Theologians have explained away the divine sonship of Christ, and have set up the primacy of their own reason instead, as the French did during their revolution in 1789. Throughout the world, it is no longer God but man who is being worshipped. God's Spirit will not suffer this folly to continue forever. This blasphemy of the theologians will soon be swept aside like the tower of Babel.
In the face of this world-wide rebellion against God, the Lord Jesus has begun a new work in one of the most insignificant corners of the world today - the islands of Indonesia. Yet, it is not with the wise or with the theologians that he has begun, but with the simple and illiterate islanders. He is again choosing the despised and the ignoble of the world, that in the coming kingdom of heaven they may sit in judgement over the noble and the elite. Whoever has eyes to see, let him see! So many, however, are blind, and compromise their lives away. The Church is filled with blasphemers who love to occupy the 'chief seats', not to mention our places of learning whose professors are often inspired by the very devil himself. But, there are still exceptions: those who as yet have refused to bow the knee to Baal, preferring rather to endure mockery and trials in their discipleship of Christ.
Perhaps, we can mention here just one brother who has chosen to walk this steep and narrow pathway. Once when Prof. Dr. Michel of Tübingen entered the lecture theatre, he found a scrap of paper lying on his desk. It was a note from one of the theological students, which read, "Michel is your name and a Michel (colloq.: fool) you are; and what you teach is rubbish!" This well illustrates the spirit of rebellion in the world against God and the followers of Christ.
God has, therefore, seen fit to begin anew and to light his lamp afresh in one of the most contemptible corners of the earth today. This light, however, is not only meant to act as a counterbalance to the current demonization of the human spirit - no, it is more than that. It concerns the last things; or better, the Last One. But, who is this person? Who ultimately stands above the present chaos of all human values? Who is seated at the controls of this world? Who is going to have the final word? To whom has God given a name which is above every name? The answer is, to the One who collapsed under the weight of his cross on the way to Golgotha's hill; to the Man who bore the curse of sin as he hung upon the tree; to the Man who descended into Hades to preach to those imprisoned long ago; to the One whom death could not hold; to the Lamb of God with whose praises the heavens are filled!
He is the Coming One, and his are the footprints that can be seen more clearly on Timor than anywhere else in the world today. The revival on Timor is an eschatological event. Many of the natives have indeed prophesied that the hosts of heaven are already preparing themselves for the great and glorious day.
XX. THE REASON FOR THIS REPORT
The revival in Indonesia can teach us many lessons. We should be, first of all, filled with joy that the Lord has so graciously granted his earthly children this wonderful time of blessing. We often become so tired when we see that nothing has happened after years of praying for revival. Yet, God is not bound by our desires, but acts where he chooses and wills.
The spiritual outpouring in Indonesia should also spur us on to live more holy lives. The natives on Timor felt compelled to surrender their fetishes and idols and have them burned. Is it not the time for us, too, to surrender all our secret and sinful idols to Christ? Every idol we possess brings a hidden ban into our lives, which robs us of our fruitfulness in service. The revival's message to us is therefore, "Children of God throughout this world: purify yourselves from sin, for without holiness there can be no fresh outpouring of blessing."
The events occurring in Indonesia should also stimulate our faith. The extent of our unbelief is revealed by the fact that we query in our hearts the miracles which have recently taken place there. For years, we have read of these phenomena in our Bibles, yet when they occur in our own lifetime, we find we cannot believe.
Then again, the revival should open our eyes to the greatness and the glory of the Lord. As a young Christian, years ago, I often used to read the words of Jesus in John 14:12, "He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father." The words 'and greater works' have often filled my mind. I could never really grasp what they meant. Then after following Jesus for 39 years, I saw these words being literally fulfilled on Timor.
Last but not least, this 'Acts of the Apostles' on Timor demands that we as Christians must be prepared. We must prepare and arm ourselves for the coming day of the Lord. As my book 'Der Kommende' shows, God is already preparing Israel for that great day; but he is preparing his Church on earth too. The revival on Timor should surely wake us up to this fact.
The reports from Timor, however, as well as encouraging us, should also drive us to prayer. Although the Indonesian revival is probably the greatest the world has known, it is faced with more dangers than any other in the history of the Church.
The enemy has summoned the armies of hell in an attempt to destroy this movement of the Spirit of God. Today, we are facing the greatest 'world war' the enemy has ever fought since the time of Christ. A fearful battle is taking place in the spiritual world, which, only those with prophetic insight can see. Indonesia is Satan's number one enemy today. Every child of God in this world is therefore duty bound to join in the fray and to intercede for the revival.
A number of the Christians there have already fallen victim to pride; the many miracles of healing and the raising of the dead can easily go to a person's head. Whenever this has happened, they lost their authority immediately.
A number, too, have fallen into the sin of immorality. The communal life of the teams not only represents a challenge, but also a danger. These too, have lost the authority the Lord gave them.
Others have fallen prey to money. Those who have been healed were naturally grateful, but those who had healed them should have remembered the words of the Lord Jesus when he said, "You received without pay, give without pay" (Mat. 10:8).
Some have, also, fallen into disorder. To be led by the Spirit does not mean that one will override every rule and regulation and live completely without restraint.
Thanks be to the Lord: those who have fallen, have repented and returned, allowing themselves to be corrected by their brothers in the faith. Their humility showed that the Lord had not given them up.
Because we have been able to share a little in these wonderful events, we have an obligation to pray for this revival in Indonesia. Revivals are not the place for pious dilettantes. When Satan begins to mobilize his armies, believers, too, must mobilize and strive together in their prayers. One need characterizes Christianity today: the need to pray. The ministry of intercession is practised far too seldom among Christians. All too readily we allow our threatened brothers and sisters throughout this world to fight and battle alone: believers in Communist countries are often forgotten; Christians in Red China are neglected; and while Indonesian Christians are withstanding the murderous attacks of the archenemy, we stand back and watch. Without realizing it, we have become guilty of the blood of many of our brothers in the faith. This is the main reason behind the writing of this book: that Christians will be stirred up to consider and to help their brethren in the farthest corners of this world. Who can hear this call? Although we cannot all be missionaries, we can, nevertheless, visit the mission-fields daily in our prayers. As a young man, Hudson Taylor bought a map of China and knelt on it each day while he prayed for the lost people of that land. To be a 'map missionary', far from being the worst, is rather the best type of missionary to be.
What a wonderful surprise it would be in eternity if every believer in the West were to be met by some brown, yellow or black Christians who said to him, "Did you know that the Lord saved us as a result of your prayers?" It is true that many Christians already will be greeted by these words, but the question is, will we be included among them?
But, our story has not come to an end. We began our description of the Indonesian revival with an account of the lives of two of its forerunners. We, now, come to the story of another man whom God has been particularly pleased to use as his instrument in Indonesia.
XXI. PAK ELIAS
The following paragraphs describe only briefly the biography of a man whom God has blessed in a particular way in the revival in Indonesia. I have intentionally left this story to the end, for I felt that the Lord's 'biography' should really come first. It can never be stressed enough that this is not a matter of giving glory to a man. Any form of hero worship- which develops around a well-known evangelist or preacher, robs the Lord of the honour due to his name. Yet, every one of us is prone to push himself into the foreground. If this happens, the work of the Holy Spirit is quenched. I am, therefore, well aware of the dangers involved in describing the life of a man who has been much used by the Lord.
It is a part of God's method in dealing with mankind to select people to fulfil specific tasks. There are three aspects to this phenomenon: the task itself, the time of its accomplishment, and the chosen man. Thus, at the time of the Exodus for example, the task was the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt, the time was the climax of their afflictions, and the chosen man was Moses. In almost all of God's dealings with the Israelites, we find this same divine triangle. When we think of the building of the temple, we find that the task was to house the ark of God, the time was the inauguration of the Kingdom, and the man whom God had chosen was Solomon. Or, if we consider the ministry of John the Baptist, the task was to prepare the way for the Messiah, the time was shortly before His appearing, and the man was the solitary voice crying in the wilderness. The same applies to the history of the Church. Taking the Reformation for an example, we see that the task involved was to renew the Christian Church, the time was the threshold of our modern age - linked as it was with the discovery of America and other countries of the world - and the man for the task was Luther.
The Indonesian revival reveals the same pattern. David Simeon and his brother stood at the revival's threshold with Pak Elias as one of the students at their Bible School. Today, the Lord has raised the former student above his teachers, for Pak Elias is a native of Indonesia, and the Lord has seen fit to choose the Indonesians themselves for the work of this revival.
The task at hand was the renewal of the almost petrified church on Timor, and the conversion of the Moslems. The God-appointed time was after the conclusion of the conflict with the Japanese, the Dutch, and the Communists. There was to be no fighting with one's back against the wall. The instrument whom God had chosen was Pak Elias.
Biographies tend to be rather tedious. For this reason, I will keep my comments to a minimum. Pak Elias was born in 1928, the youngest child in a family of seven. His father died only three months after his son was born, which meant that his childhood and youth were characterized by hardship and need.
Pak Elias' early years were marked by numerous political upheavals, but, one of the benefits he gained from this, was a knowledge of the dialects of Timor and Ambon, as well as Indonesian, Japanese, Dutch, and English. These languages are, in many ways, a reflection of the actual education he received: a junior school on the island of Rote; high school on Timor; a teachers training college on Ambon; a teacher in Java, and finally a post in the academy of Bandung - an education not only marked by political change but also by the distances involved. The actual perimeter of this great archipelago measures some seven or eight thousand miles. Therefore, both linguistically and geographically, Pak Elias' education was very broad. One can see God's 'style' already behind the course of his life. Was not Moses prepared for forty years in Midian before God called him for his task? Were they wasted years which David spent with the Philistines before he received his crown? God's purposes are often not recognized till later. Was it, therefore, due just to a whim of God that Pak Elias was tossed to and fro among the islands of Indonesia as a young man?
In spite of a lack of money to help him in his studies, Pak Elias' career was quite exceptional. He was periodically forced to work for sometime in order to save enough to study further. But, even so, his above average intelligence enabled him to complete his academic work before his fellow students. By the time he was 23, he was already headmaster of an intermediate school in M. Further studies led to his appointment as the principal of a teachers training college in the same town. By the age of 29, as well as being the director of an academy and a university lecturer, he was also the headmaster of a high school with 2,000 pupils. An exceptional career indeed!
Pak Elias was a much respected person in church circles too. By the time he was 24, he was the leader of the Christian youth work in Bandung, and at 26 he was already an elder in the local church. In addition to this, each Sunday he would preach to the 2,000 pupils of his school and the 200 students of the training college. A great work indeed!
In both his public and his church life, Pak Elias was recognized as a born leader. Then, something extraordinary happened. In November 1957, Dr. Roland Brown of the Moody Bible Institute in America held a mission in East Java. When Pak Elias attended the meeting, on the 18th November, he was gripped by what he heard, and when the invitation was given to come to the front, he felt constrained to obey the command; but the courage failed >him.
That night, a terrific battle raged within his heart. A voice began to say to him, "You haven't been born again." But in reply the devil said, "But you've been preaching for seven years now, and you are the elder of a church." The inner voice persisted, "You are proud. You are building on your successful church and private life." Again the devil answered, "You've lived a good life. You're on the right road. There's nothing wrong with the way you live."
The battle continued. Finally, the tempter urged him, "Stay away from the meetings. There's nothing in them for you."
But in spite of everything, Pak Elias returned, the next day, to listen to Dr. Brown speak. Again, the message gripped his heart. As the missionary urged the people to confess their sins publicly, forgetting everything, Pak Elias got to his feet and walked to the front. Accepting Jesus into his life, he surrendered himself completely to the Lord.
Pak Elias' conversion came like a bombshell to the local Christian church. The ministers, church elders, teachers, and even the ordinary church members became angered by his move. With one accord, they began to say, "He was either all right before, or else he's been an utter hypocrite." The real reason, however, for all the anger and offence that arose as a result of Pak Elias' conversion, was the people's subconscious fear that their own sense of security was being threatened.
This is an old problem, for many official churchgoers are simply quite unable to grasp what it means to be converted and born again; and, the same is true with many of the ministers and elders of our churches.
The conversion of Pak Elias and his new contact with the Bible School in East Java resulted very soon in him being deprived of his office of elder in the church. How symptomatic this is of Christendom today: the Church endures the blasphemy of its ministers, it endures drunkards, gossips and liars, but a man who by God's grace has been converted, it finds very hard to endure. For many years, Pak Elias was forbidden to preach in the churches again. Yet, he was affected very little by this ban for the fire of God burnt so fervently within him that he began to preach on the streets instead.
Poisoned by Ashes and Sulphur
In 1960, Pak Elias took up his studies again. Attending the Bible School in East Java, he sought to be equipped afresh. The spiritual atmosphere of the school answered the cry of his heart. By 1961, he was already engaged in evangelistic tours covering the islands of Celebes, Java, and Timor. When the organization 'World Vision', which helps orphans and needy children, recognized the worth of this zealous man of God, they invited him to become one of their vice-presidents. 1963 found Pak Elias doing further evangelistic work in Borneo and on Rote. It was during this work that he first met Pastor Gideon, who was subsequently converted through his ministry.
But, 1963 was also a year of crisis. On the 17th April the Agung volcano on the island of Ball erupted and buried a number of villages. Pak Elias, who was holding a mission there at the time, helped carry many of the children to safety on his moped. The roads, however, were sometimes covered to a depth of several inches with hot ash and, as a result, Pak Elias' lungs became seriously inflamed. At hospital, the doctors started fighting for his life, but in the end they told his relatives, "It's no use; both lungs are almost completely burned. It's only a matter of days before he dies." The time of crisis arrived, and his wife was called to the hospital and told in her sorrow, "He won't last the night." Pak Elias' temperature had risen to 106 degrees. The inflammation had spread to his liver as well. At midnight, between the 30th April and the 1st May, however, the apparently fatally ill patient began to sing. Turning to his wife he said, "This isn't my last night on earth. I have to glorify the Lord Jesus. God has given me two verses confirming his will, 'We went through fire and through water; yet, you have brought us forth to a spacious place' (Psalm 66:12), and, 'When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you' (15.43:2). I have gone through fire, but the Lord will deliver me." His prediction came true. That night Pak Elias' condition began to improve. By the following day, he was already well along the road to recovery.
While he was still at the hospital, it became clear to him that he would have to leave the organization 'World Vision' and devote his life to the preaching of the Word.
The Doors Open
In 1964, Pak Elias set out again on a preaching tour of Java, but the churches were still closed to his ministry. He received an invitation to visit Sumatra, and travelling there he witnessed the great revival among the Moslems of which we have already heard.
One night, Pak Elias was suddenly awoken by the Lord and shown that he was to preach before thousands of people. At the time, he had no idea what the prophecy could mean, but the following day, after the churches had remained closed to him for a total of seven years, he received an invitation to hold a mission in Bandung. The letter mentioned that every church in the area would be taking part in the coming campaign. Pak Elias could hardly believe his eyes. All the churches for him, the outlaw? He sent no reply at first, but, then after a few days had passed, he received a telephone call conveying to him the same message. But, still no word from the Lord. Pak Elias did not know what to do. Finally, a week later, two people arrived from Bandung with another written invitation to preach at the coming campaign. Three invitations! This must be the will of the lord; Pak Elias decided to go.
The mission in Bandung was a great occasion. 52 different churches and pastors took part in the work, and a team of 75 Bible school students from East Java turned up with their teachers to assist in the preparation of the campaign. The churches were amalgamated into four groups according to districts, while the teachers and students laboured together in preaching. During this time of preparation, many were brought into a vital relationship with their Lord, and these were subsequently trained in counselling classes to help in the real campaign which was soon to follow. Pak Elias was the instrument God had chosen for the task. Every evening between 8,000 and 15,000 people came to hear the gospel preached, and all together some 3,000 accepted the Lord Jesus as their Saviour. The new converts, however, were not allowed to drift away and meetings were arranged in which to build them up through the Word of God. This follow-up work lasted for three months, and the whole campaign for 18 weeks.
Business men and university lecturers and students were also gripped by the Word of God and, as a result of the mission, Pak Elias regained the support and the trust of the churches which had previously rejected his work, or which had at least stood coldly to one side.
In Luke 9:1,2 we read, "And Jesus called the twelve together and gave them authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal." Where, we ask, is this authority in evidence today? Although the Church is often filled with orators, there are hardly any witnesses of Christ; and the number of Christians with the authority to heal or to cast out demons is even smaller. Pak Elias has already said on several occasions, "I have no authority to heal, and neither have I the authority to raise people from the dead." On the other hand, he speaks little about his authority to preach and his authority to cast out demons. But, this is a good sign, for in my own experience, those who really possess spiritual gifts hardly mention them at all, whereas those who speak freely about their gifts usually have none at all.
Now, let us listen to an unnerving story from the Bible School itself. A man with magician powers applied for a job as a driver at the Bible School and was accepted. He had learned his magician arts in Mecca and Medina. Once, while he had been in India, he had allowed himself to be buried alive for four weeks. And now, this man with the devil's own powers was a driver at the Bible School! The students and teachers, however, gradually became aware of his presence and, as time went by, they witnessed his ability to kill dogs and cats and other animals through his powers of concentration.
The Bible School leaders were forced to intervene. Summoning the man to see them, they questioned him about what he had done. "Is it true," they asked, "that you can kill animals by means of your magical powers?" "Yes," replied the man, and he then added, "I can not only kill animals, but I can kill people too." Looking at Pak Elias he went on to say, "Don't look into my eyes.
If you do, you will die within five seconds." Realizing the challenge to his faith, but at the same time experiencing the peace of God within his heart, Pak Elias returned the gaze of the magician. "Look into my eyes," he said. "In the name of Jesus I bind the evil powers within you." The five seconds passed, but nothing happened. The two men continued to stare at one another. Suddenly, about a quarter of an hour later, the magician fell to the ground unconscious. His flesh had become as hard as wood. Not wanting the man to die, Pak Elias addressed him again. "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to get up," he said. The magician regained consciousness once more. His magician powers had been defeated. As the Christians talked with him further, he confessed to having four gold needles embedded in his arms. These were a source of much of his magician power. When he challenged some students to try and cut them out, the knife could make no impression at all on his skin. Again Pak Elias began to command in the name of Jesus, telling the needles to come out of the man's arm. At once they started to move and they slowly came out one by one. The magician finally succumbed and promised to surrender his life to Christ. However, he failed to keep his word, and so later when it was discovered that he still had some of his old fetishes, he was finally relieved of his job. In spite of being one of the worst magicians in East Java, this man had been able to stay in the Bible School for four months. We can see here the subtlety of Satan whereby he smuggles his emissaries into the Church of Christ in order to cause chaos in its ranks.
It is seldom recognized by Christians that this is one of the methods Satan uses to disrupt the kingdom of God. One of the rather more sober members of the Pentecostal movement told me once, "We've sometimes found that even spiritistic mediums have slipped into our meetings and begun to speak in tongues, with the result that the disorder that followed was laid at our feet." His observation was an encouraging sign of his own spiritual and biblical outlook.
At one meeting, when Pak Elias and Pastor Gideon were working together on Timor, Gideon had been preaching for about half an hour, when a woman in the audience suddenly stood up and tried to disturb the meeting. The woman was, in fact, a sorceress and she started contradicting everything that Pastor Gideon said. If he cried out that there was power in the blood of Christ, the woman would shout out that this was not true. Finally Pak Elias turned to Pastor Gideon and said, "We must silence this woman, otherwise we'll get nowhere. This is Satan’s work." Then addressing the woman, Pak Elias called out, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to be quiet and to come to the front and listen to our message." At once the woman stopped her cries and came to the front. At the close of the meeting she asked to be counselled, but was unable to believe. In spite of this, everyone present, including the local pastor and church elders, had witnessed the power of Jesus in their midst.
In his ministry Pak Elias has experienced many similar disturbances. During a large meeting at which another sorceress was present, the woman, in an attempt to disrupt the proceedings, suddenly rushed to the front and fell to the ground as if dead. When two people went to see what was wrong with her, they turned to Pak Elias and said, "She's not just unconscious, she's dead." Pak Elias, however, would not have the meeting interrupted and carried on with his message. Then, as the meeting drew to a close, he called out to the woman, "In the name of Jesus, stand up!" At once the woman arose, and confessing her sins, she was wonderfully saved.
The Lord's Protection
Pak Elias flew once to the island of S. in order to hold a mission there. Before he arrived, a Moslem sorcerer living on the island had a vision in which it was revealed to him that a dangerous man would be arriving soon from Java and that this man must be killed. The sorcerer, having been told by the devil to go to the airport, discovered that he was unable to carry out his planned assassination on account of the large number of policemen who happened to be there. Pak Elias, then, went to a house in which a meeting was to be held. The sorcerer followed him, but because of the large number of people present, he was again unable to get near enough to kill him. At the end of the meeting, Pak Elias went outside to speak to the additional people who had gathered there. The sorcerer looked for a place from which to put his plan into effect. He was a skilled stone-thrower, an art which is frequently practised on the Indonesian islands still today. To increase his chances of success, the man had stuck a number of needles into his cheeks to enhance his magical powers. Finding a suitable spot, he drew back his arm to throw his stone. Suddenly it became quite stiff; he could not move it at all. At the time, Pak Elias knew nothing of the events that were taking place. As the meeting closed and he gave the invitation for people to come forward and repent, the sorcerer came out to the front and confessed his plot to murder the evangelist. He said later that, as he was going to throw the stone, the ground had suddenly moved beneath his feet. The sorcerer made an open confession of all his terrible sins and thefts and, next day, he began to go from one family to another returning the goods he had stolen. He even returned the very shirt from off his back, for that was stolen too. It was a wonderful victory for the Lord over a man who had wanted to kill one of his messengers. The Moslems on the island once demonstrated against Pak Elias and the other Christians there. As his brothers in the faith sought to protect him from the attack, Pak Elias said to them, "Let them come; those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And so the Moslems advanced. Suddenly a man stood up from among the audience which had come to hear the Christians preach. He was a high-rank army officer. Turning to the approaching crowd, he called out to them, "If you don't stop your demonstration and quieten down at once, I'll order my soldiers to shoot. I've come here to hear what the speaker has to say." With that, the demonstrators stopped, and after a few moments they all sat down. Following the meeting, in spite of the position he held, the officer came to Pak Elias and said, "I need Jesus; show me how I can find him." His request was granted. He must, surely, have been the brother of the centurion we read about in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 10.
On another occasion, as Pak Elias was about to use a flannel graph to illustrate the state of the human heart, a crowd of Moslems, which had been stirred up by two sorcerers, approached. The Christians wondered how to defend themselves. Stopping in the middle of his message, Pak Elias told them not to worry and began to read Psalm 2 out loud, "Why do the heathen rage … ." When he had finished, he said, "The gospel must be shouted out in the darkness." While this had all been going on, both the sorcerers were involved in accidents, the one on his moped and the other in his car, and before the meeting had drawn to a close, they had both been admitted into hospital.
The last attack we shall describe had an even worse ending for the opponents of the cross. Again, the Moslems had sought to hold a demonstration during one of the large meetings of the Christians. Two men in particular were the chief instigators of the plot. What was the result? A week later, one of the men drove over a precipice and was killed, while the other, setting out to sea in his boat, was caught in a sudden squall and drowned when his boat overturned. On account of these incidents, the demonstrators, who had regarded these two men as their leaders, became alarmed. Although they had just written some letters to the government complaining of the work that the Christians were doing, the letters were never sent. Instead, the Moslems had torn them up saying, "It's too dangerous to get in the Christians' bad books." In this way, every attempt of Satan to hinder the work of God resulted in a blessing for the Christians.
XXII. WISDOM LIES AT HIS FEET
Pak Elias, by the grace of God, has been allowed to reach both the intelligent and the illiterate, the high and the low, with his message. For the Holy Spirit, however, these distinctions simply do not exist. Whoever imagines himself to be something is nothing in the sight of God. On the other hand, whoever recognizes his own poverty and nothingness, receives the grace of God.
We have already heard how a local university lecturer at Palembang, acknowledging his own poverty of spirit, found Christ at a mission which Pak Elias was holding in the town. The story was repeated in Bandung, where a woman lecturer also found the key to eternal wisdom. The apostle Paul described this wisdom by saying that it was "to know Him and the power of his resurrection" (Phil. 3:10).
To Know Him
There is no pathway higher than this. Even if one were to plumb the depths of the creed, one would find no greater thought. It is Jesus, alone, who must ever be central in our thoughts; no man, no matter what spiritual gifts he may possess, may challenge this central place.
Now, let us hear the testimony of a quite exceptional woman. She is not only a lawyer, but also a lecturer at Bandung University. When I met Mrs. Mapalley in Indonesia, I became very interested in her work for she, like myself, had written her doctor's thesis on the subject of occultism, entitling it, 'A Brief Survey of the Various Forms of Occultism in Indonesia Today'. Furthermore, she has agreed to translate my book 'Between Christ and Satan' into Indonesian. But, now we will let her speak for herself.
"Two years ago Pak Elias held a mission in our town. During the week a well-known pop-singer and musician was converted. He was so filled with a love for the Lord that he, at once, phoned me up and asked me if I would be prepared to sing at some of the meetings. I agreed, and each night sang a song on the theme of the prodigal son, little realizing that it was a song about myself. As the week progressed, a great change started to take place in my heart. Each message I heard, made me increasingly aware of my own inner poverty, so much so that I finally surrendered my life to Christ.
As a result, I asked Pak Elias to visit our home, hoping that some of my relatives would find their way to Christ too. I was made very conscious, again that evening, of what I had received from our Father in heaven: the forgiveness of my sins, a future hope, and a joy that no one could take away.
Prior to this wonderful experience, my life had mainly been governed by a traditional church outlook. Although my own father had been a pastor, and had taught us from childhood to say our prayers, we had never been led to the point of surrendering our lives to the Lord.
Apart from my studies, therefore, my years at school and college had been governed mainly by sport. I was a passionate tennis player, and my hobby had been to collect as many trophies as I possibly could.
It is strange how many Christians know nothing of occult bondage, even though they may be suffering from it themselves. It was terrifying to me to discover one day that I was one of the very people to whom the words of Exodus 20: 5 applied. My own grandfather, in fact, had been a sorcerer. In spite of my father being a Christian, a line of mediumistic powers ran through our whole family and found expression particularly in my own life. Already, when I was a child, I had noticed these mediumistic phenomena. I would sometimes hear voices whispering or singing to me, while on other occasions I would sense the presence of invisible spirits around me. If I met a stranger, I would immediately know what type of person he was and what his thoughts were. On top of everything, I used to have dreams that came true, which made me afraid to dream at all.
One example comes to my mind. After my marriage, I dreamt one day that two doctors were leaning over me; one of them was an Indonesian and the other a Westerner. I even remembered seeing the operating lamp. Next morning, I told my elder sister about the dream and she is, therefore, my witness. A week later, I suddenly started suffering from some severe pains in my stomach. The doctor suspected that it was my appendix and thought an operation was necessary. It was then that my dream was fulfilled to the letter.
My two daughters have likewise inherited these mediumistic abilities. Our elder daughter has a marked telepathic disposition and is also hypersensitive. This means that she is able to sense things around her more than other people. She is almost like a radio receiver which can pick up the invisible signals around it. Moreover, she has contact with the world of spirits, and many times she has woken up at night, after experiencing battles in the spirit world. Our other daughter, also, experiences supernatural things like seeing ghosts.
People in our house notice these things also. For example, the cook twice said that she saw me in the dressing room when I was not even in the house. On another occasion, the chamber maid said that she saw a Balinese idol dancing about in the porch, tapping the window pane rhythmically as it did so. My daughter had run into the room at the time and demanded, "Who's knocking on the window? It's getting on my nerves."
The ghosts seemed to plague everyone in the house; we just did not know what to do. Several months after the mission, David Simeon arrived in the district with a team of students from the Bible School. When I told him what was happening, I was surprised to discover that he was not only acquainted with such phenomena, but that he also knew how to drive the spirits out of the house. After the team had gone into each room and prayed, and had commanded the powers to leave in the name of Jesus, the house was completely freed.
The Lord taught me a number of lessons through these very trying experiences. I had, first of all, failed to realize that my own life could still be burdened from my grandfather's side, in spite of the fact that my father had been a Christian. Occult oppressions are, therefore, able to bypass believing generations and appear again in unbelieving generations which follow.
The second lesson I learnt, was that, in spite of my own repentance and conversion, I had still not been freed from the occult burdens in my life. Specialized counselling is essential in this area.
Thirdly, and this was the thing that distressed me most, I learnt that my own daughters had inherited these same mediumistic abilities.
Yet, this was not all. Our own house had been affected by the strong mediumistic powers which we possessed. Oppressed people can, therefore, produce a form of bondage on the actual material things around them.
These were four very explicit lessons concerning the effects of sins of sorcery which can sometimes be passed on to the third or fourth generation. However, I would have never had the courage to have spoken openly about these phenomena, unless I had not learnt one further lesson. This was that, although we are faced with genuine powers stemming from the archenemy of our souls, the power that is ours in the victory of Christ is far greater. He has defeated the powers of darkness. Therefore, through him, and through him alone, we can overcome the might of our foe.
This was the greatest lesson I could have learnt: that Jesus is still and always will be victorious over all the powers of Satan and hell.
Looking back, I can now understand why God allowed me to go through all these experiences. Although many people are gripped by the powers of darkness in Indonesia, apart from the Christians from the Bible School in East Java, there is hardly anyone in our country capable of dealing with this difficult counselling problem. At least, I have never met anyone who would have been prepared to face the enemy in the name of Jesus. Since my own deliverance, the Lord has led many people to me whom I have been able to advise and help. This difficult school has, therefore, taught and prepared me to aid those who are occultly oppressed.
The wonderful and victorious power of the Lord Jesus is the only answer this world knows to all the powers of sorcery."
With this, the testimony of Mrs. Mapalley ends. I, personally, was greatly encouraged to find that someone completely independent from my own work in this field, a university lecturer in East Asia has been led to the same conclusions as I myself concerning occultism. We only met for the first time in 1968, but after reading through one of my books she said, "This is exactly what I have discovered for myself. Can I translate this book into Indonesian?" I believe that this was the leading of the Lord.
XXIII. A PLANTATION OWNER FINDS CHRIST
At the Bible conference in East Java, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Taneng Djin. He spoke to me in German. He is an extremely gifted man, speaking several languages and has travelled extensively throughout the world. We will let him describe his story in his own words.
"I was born in 1905. Both my parents were devout Confucians. As for my education, I attended a Dutch school. On account of our strong religious convictions, my wife and I were married according to the rites and customs of the Confucian faith.
Our marriage was blessed with three sons: Boon, Hooi and Leong. They studied in Rotterdam, London and Amsterdam. Leong became well-known as an outstanding chess player and, in 1963, he became an international master.
My wife and I were very religious, although we knew nothing at the time about the Lord Jesus. We began to pray to God in 1932, but rather like the Athenians in Acts 17, he was still unknown to us.
The Second World War and the time of the Japanese occupation was a very difficult time. We were persecuted in all sorts of ways and the taxes were very high. The war was followed by the trouble between the Dutch and the Indonesians. This also affected us a great deal.
But, then came the real tragedy: our gifted son, Leong, became mentally ill. On receiving a telegram from some friends in Europe informing us that Leong had been admitted to hospital, I left at once to fly to Amsterdam. The doctor told me that Leong was suffering from an incurable form of schizophrenia. This was a great shock to me. As I spoke to other doctors about my son's condition, I was told, "Take him back to Indonesia. He has a better chance of improving at home and in the sun."
So it was that we flew back together to Bandung. On our arrival, Leong received further treatment. The doctors prescribed exactly the same drugs as he had received in Holland: Largactil, Librium and Serpasil.
Hardly had it become known that our son had arrived back home again, his old friends began to call at our house. They urged him to play chess for their club again. Leong had, in fact, been in the international team which had travelled to Leipzig for the Chess Olympics held there in 1960, and he had obtained 161/2 points out of a total of 20. His friends, therefore, wanted him to go with them to Europe again for another tournament in 1965. All this, however, only served to make Leong's condition worse, and the result was that he was admitted to a military hospital for further treatment; but the conditions there were hopeless.
We did all we could to obtain his release from the barred rooms of this hospital. When we succeeded, the patient again quietened down. In our ignorance, though, we then made a disastrous mistake. We allowed our son to be treated by an astrologer. Parents concerned for their children will try almost anything and yet, so much of what they do is wrong. The very last thing we should have done was to expose Leong to the powers of darkness.
As a result of the talks we had had with a Christian missionary who had tried to show us the way to Christ, by the end of 1965, we had recognized that our Confucian faith was leading us in the wrong direction. However, we were still unprepared to take the right path. Nevertheless, we started that year to pray to the Christians' God.
In March 1966, Pastor Simeon from the Bible School in East Java arrived with his wife in the town to hold a series of meetings there. Mrs. Simeon in particular spent much time with us trying to lead us to the Lord. Our hearts, however, were as hard as diamonds, and we still found it impossible to decide for Christ.
In May of the same year, Pak Elias arrived in Bandung with his team. As he encouraged the people at the meeting to come to the front and to repent of their sins, we at last decided to take this step. For the first time in our lives every burden was lifted from our shoulders. We were greatly concerned at the time, however, about what our aging parents who were still Confucians would think about our decision. Hurrying back home, I told them what we had done. They were very shocked and started saying, "Now we're all alone. Who's going to sacrifice to us when we are dead? No one will come to our place after they've died." I tried to comfort them, but it was no use. At that moment Leong and my wife arrived at the house. One could sense at once the new-found joy they had through having accepted the Lord Jesus as their Saviour. My parents, too, could actually see the change, and as a result they reconciled themselves to the step which we had taken.
With this a great joy entered our home. Jesus had changed everything. Later, we experienced the added joy of receiving a visit from Pak Elias. While he was with us, I confessed my sins before him, thus confirming the fact that I had truly accepted the Lord. My son's illness also cleared up completely. The doctor in Amsterdam had, therefore, been proved wrong. When there is, humanly speaking, no more hope, there are still a thousand and one opportunities open to the Lord. His arm is never as short as the short-sightedness of man sometimes imagines.
On the 21st July 1966, my wife, Leong and myself were all baptised. The old had passed away; behold, everything had become new through the Lord Jesus Christ. Looking back today, I simply fail to understand why I never accepted the Lord Jesus earlier in my life. Why are we so foolish as to pass the Lord Jesus by for years, when he is the only source of the most precious things in the world: the forgiveness of our sins, and a peace with God which the world cannot ever take away?"
The revival in Indonesia has touched the very depths of my heart. Ever since I left those distant islands, the words of the wonderful Christian choir from the island of Ambon, which they sang to us in German to welcome us to their land, have been echoing through my mind:
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