By Doyle Roth
God blessed a group from our church as we once again traveled on a short-term mission trip. We returned to Indonesia to visit the faithful workers of Asia Pacific Christian Mission International.
This work, which is made up entirely of Indonesian nationals, is under the direction of Gideon and Mei Tanbunaan. They are training church planters and have been successful in planting 155 churches across the most populous Muslim country in the world. They have sent missionaries to the countries of Timor-Leste and the Philippines. This summer they will send their first missionary to the Middle East. Their work also includes free clinics, education, prison ministries, radio programs, correspondence courses, community development ministries, and relief work.
Our trip’s purpose was to share with churches and encourage them. We met brothers and sisters I consider heroes of the faith.
In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul describes his sufferings for the faith. The overwhelming list includes: prison, floggings, beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, and danger on many fronts. He shared his testimony with the church of Corinth as an encouragement to remain faithful no matter the hardship. On this trip, we met many modern-day Pauls whose faith serves as a great example for us.
Stories From Persecuted Churches
• PD, a persecuted church leader among the Sundanese, shared, with a mixture of tears and smiles, how members had been beaten (men and women) and ostracized from their families after they became Christians. They sang praises and eagerly listened as we shared Scripture and words of encouragement.
We were amazed at the courage of the church members and their outpouring of tears as we prayed for them. They demonstrated the truth of Romans 5:3-5: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.”
• DA is 27. He repaired amplifiers, cell phones, and televisions and used this as a way of sharing his faith in people’s homes. His wife, ZA, was a leader of youth in the mosque at the time she became a Christian. DA was put on the death list, and the couple fled for their lives.
This young couple and their baby have moved to an area militantly opposed to Christianity. The community has suffered much through recent natural disasters, and DA and ZA reach out to the hurting with compassion. He continues his repair work while leading a secret church behind closed doors in their home. And people are coming to Christ.
This quiet and kind couple graciously hosted us. Though young and in danger, they had purpose in their eyes and contentment on their faces. They are an example of Romans 12:12-14: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you: bless and do not curse.” DA believes God will bless his work.
• PY and his wife lead a church that had prayed for visitors to come and pray with them. When we worshiped with them, they sang praises from the depths of their hearts. When we prayed for them, they wept with joy and appreciation.
Everywhere we went, as we met with churches, we saw the power of prayer in an unbelievable way—Christians truly hanging onto the Word of God for their hope and purpose in life.
James 1 speaks about those who face trials and persevere the testing of their faith. Verse 6 says when a person prays, “he must believe and not doubt.” The prayers of the persecuted church of Indonesia are examples of Christians praying with complete faith. PY believes God heard his prayers.
• As a young college student, AH was taken in a room and told he was going to be killed. He asked if he could have one minute to pray. He prayed aloud asking God for forgiveness. He also prayed for the man who was going to kill him. After his prayer, he opened his eyes and the killer was on his knees weeping and asking for forgiveness. AH believes in the power of prayer.
• KH has started a church among an unreached people group of 22,000 families. He was befriended by the chief. Some among them were not pleased. He was attacked by a group and beaten with poles. He survived only to receive threats to him and his family. His family left for safety, but he has stayed to share the message of grace.
Most of us do not know the depth of 1 Peter 2:20, 21: “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” KH does.
• Three women (wives and mothers) were arrested for “Christianizing.” After six months they were given the opportunity to plead guilty, post bond, and be released. They chose to stay in prison for a three-year term. They continue conducting Bible studies and leading prisoners to Christ.
These women, and many other members of the persecuted church in our world today, find encouragement from the letter to the church at Smyrna in Revelation 2:10: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution. . . . Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
• MN is a young woman of 22. A riot began, and she and other ladies were held at gunpoint. A gun was placed to the head of an older woman and she was asked, “Jesus or Muhammad?” The courageous lady said “Jesus” and was shot dead in front of MN.
The next young girl was fearful; she said “Mohammad” and was allowed to leave.
The gun was placed to MN’s head and the same question asked. She prayed and said “Jesus.” The attackers backed off and said her face was glowing. After staring at her, they turned and left her.
She is still leading a small church. MN believes in the hope of Heaven and that her purpose on earth is to lead people to Christ as long as he gives her life.
A phrase we heard while with a persecuted church in central Java has been imprinted on my heart. A faithful brother shared,
Suffering for breakfast,
Perseverance for lunch,
Victory in Jesus for dinner.”
What Is Our “Suffering”?
After some time with these dear brothers and sisters in Indonesia, it is difficult to move right back in to the “problems” of our American churches. What is our “suffering”? Much of what we get discouraged and complain about in our churches comes down to self-serving desires. How very sad.
We get upset because we were overlooked or no one showed appreciation for what we did. Think of the number of disagreements you’ve heard about or experienced. Is our suffering for the cause of Christ or a result of our selfishness? People get upset and walk out on church and God for the most trite reasons, while many Christians in other countries face beatings and death and yet persevere in the name of Christ.
I’m thinking about putting a sign on my church office door: “If you have not had a gun to your head or been beaten today for being a Christian, you have much to rejoice for and little to complain about.”
Pray for our brothers and sisters in Indonesia and the persecuted church around the world. Let their faithful service be an encouragement to you as modern-day Pauls.
Doyle Roth serves as executive minister with Harvester Christian Church, St. Charles, Missouri.