Archive for December, 2013

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that adheres to Shariah laws. It has a special police force that ensures these laws and regulations are kept to the letter. For followers of Christ, to live in Aceh is risky, frustrating, and challenging. 

 This is Sarah’s* life every day. She is the only believer in her workplace in Aceh. Her difficult position at her office, compounded by news about the situation of churches in Aceh, brings pressures than are sometimes too much to bear for her. 

“I was born here, in Aceh,” says Sarah, “Being a believer in this province means you have to be prepared for discrimination. Even as a student, I was the only believer in my class. Being mocked or insulted was a daily occurrence, but my friends did not do more than that… Thank God.” 

After Sarah completed her law degree, she found a job in Aceh. Her experiences as the only believer in her school helped her to adapt to the working environment easily and quickly. However, the situation in her office became more difficult in 2012, when 17 churches were closed in Aceh Singkil and two church workers were arrested. Sarah also felt that her co-workers’ attitude towards her started to change.

“They are good in front of me, expressing their disagreement about the church closures,” she says.  “But behind my back, they mock me and they even support the government’s decision (pertaining to the church closures).”

The 29-year-old believer shares that the increasing pressures not only came from non-believers, but also from churches in Aceh. To the rest of Aceh, this communicates disunity and fighting between local churches. 

Aceh’s local government has issued permits to only four denominations: HKBP (Batak Protestant Church), GPIB (Western Indonesia Protestant Church), the Catholic Church, and the Methodists. Other denominations have applied for permits, but they have been denied thus far.  

“Many churches from other denominations asked for my help so that they could get a permit,” Sarah discloses.  “When I refused to help, they say that I do not care about my fellow believers. I tried to make them understand that I do not have the power to change the government’s decision… I feel frustrated sometimes.”

Sarah cannot hide her disappointment when some church groups disregard the law and continue their activities without the government’s permit. She believes this only increases the possibility of them being shut-down.

“When a church is closed,” she explains, “we have to see it from two different sides. Is it the government’s fault, or the church’s? Many Christians come to Aceh to build their own place of worship without even attempting to follow the legal procedures.”

Sarah tells Open Doors that she has many files related to church closures and cases of believers in Aceh on her desk. She states that the number of cases can possibly decrease if only churches and believers will try to understand and obey the laws.

“Many churches are pessimistic right away when they apply for a church permit,” Sarah says. “They immediately think they won’t succeed, but I think we should do our part as a good citizen.”  

Despite the problems she encounters with co-workers and churches in Aceh, she still hopes that more Acehnese will come to Christ.

“I have made a decision to visit all regencies in Aceh to pray for the people,” Sarah shares. “So far, I have been to six; I have yet to see 17 other regencies. God tells Joshua that He will give him every place on which he set his foot, and I claim the same promise.” 

 

Please pray for:

  1. The Lord’s strength and protection upon Sarah as she continues to serve the Lord in her workplace, and visits the regencies in Aceh. 
  2. All believers in Aceh who are underground with their faith in Christ due to Shariah law restrictions.
  3. The Lord’s favour to be with his children in Aceh who desire to be recognized by the Aceh government.
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Believers of other religions in Lombok, Indonesia have strict rules that punish those who leave the religion for another. Believers from other religious backgrounds have lost their families, their inheritance, and their place in the village for following Jesus Christ. One of them is Andria*, a 26-year-old girl who finds Jesus during the hardest time of her life.

Losing Sight

Andria was 17 years old when she suddenly lost her sight. At that time, she was just about to start her final exams in a local senior high school, in West Lombok. Her family could not bring her to the nearest hospital because they couldn’t afford it. A few years later, she finally found out that it was glaucoma that blinded her. Andria was shocked and depressed.

“I loved to write,” Andria explained. “I sent many short stories to a local magazine, and my school even sent me for a writing competition and I won the first prize. I was so excited about writing and I dreamt to be a writer. But everything changed when I lost my sight.”

Andria could not accept her condition. She relied on others to do her daily routines. She always believed that eyes were the most important part of her body. Andria could not continue her school. She had to let go of her dream to be a writer.

“I felt that God was not fair,” Andria said. “I hated God. I was a devoted believer of another religion. My father was a priest in that religion, and I went to the temple more than anyone else. I performed all the rituals. I even became a radical; I began to hate other religions. That was why I got so angry with God for making me blind. Since then, I never went to the temple anymore.”

Hope in Darkness

For four years, Andria lived in despair and did not want to do anything. She cried all the time. One morning in August 2008, she met a vegetable seller who told her that ‘someone’ loved her.

Andria was surprised with those words and she asked about this ‘someone’ that the vegetable seller mentioned. In the afternoon, the seller came with a local missionary who explained to her about the love of Jesus. That was the first time Andria felt loved. After that, the local missionary came to her house thrice a week to share from the Scriptures. Within a month, Andria decided to be baptized.

“I did not tell anyone about my conversion,” Andria recalled. “My father was a priest and my uncle, a high priest of my former religion. Only my little brother knew it, and he became a believer too, before going to another island for work. I did not tell my mom, because she had separated from my father.”

Even though Andria did not openly tell her father about her conversion, he saw that Andria has changed.

“My father would beat me when he gets stressed or when he does not have money,” she said. “I used to cry out of anger, but now I have changed. Even though he still beats me sometimes, I can show my respect and love as a daughter. I think he also notices the change in me.”

Andria’s Faith Discovered

But Andria’s family found out that she made friends with Christians and read the Bible. They too beat and threatened her. They would probably be angrier if they learned that Andria was already a baptized believer.

“I would still go to the temple,” said Andria. “I prayed there, but not to the spirits or ancestors. I prayed to Jesus. I did not change my religion in my identification card; that was why none of my relatives knew about my conversion. But they were already suspicious.”

After her conversion, Andria met with the local missionary regularly, read the Bible, and learned about Jesus. Andria started to be thankful, despite her condition.

“Jesus loved me no matter what. If He allowed me to be blind, He has a purpose for it. I did not pray for Him to heal me, because He must have a great plan behind it,” Andria said.

Since Andria’s father worked as a Hindu priest, he did not get regular salary. The situation forced Andria to work in order to provide for her family. She went to her neighbours’ house to wash and iron their clothes, and she also sold food and phone vouchers.

Seizing an Opportunity

“At first, I was thinking of a way to share God’s Word to my neighbours,” she said. “I prayed, and God gave me an idea to wash and iron for my neighbors. With this job, I got an opportunity to be inside their houses and share Jesus’ Good News with them.”

Every day, Andria listened to a Christian radio program to help her grow spiritually. The local missionary’s regular visits also helped her to learn more about the Bible.

“I consider her (the local missionary) as my big sister,” Andria said. “I really love her. Sometimes, when my father is in a good mood, I would head over to her place and stay on for days to learn more about Jesus. But when I am home, I call her so she can read to me some verses from the Bible. I listen to a Christian radio station and I learn some encouraging songs. I sing while doing my daily chores.”

Andria appreciated God’s protection whenever she did her daily activities. When she moved about her house or walk around the village using her walking stick, there were times when she could only rely on God for guidance. 

Sights on Jesus

“Many times, I did not know if there were stones or other obstacles in front of me, but I could hear God when I walked. Sometimes, there was a voice that directed me. I hear Him telling me to go to the right, or left, or to stop,” Andria said.

Andria was the only believer in her village, and she wanted to share about Jesus to everyone. Many of her friends started to open their hearts to Jesus after they heard about Andria’s testimony. She also shared it to her father whenever she could.

In Jesus, life had taken a new meaning for Andria. She desired to bring more non-believers to Jesus, and most of all, she dreamed of her father coming to Jesus one day.

“I love my father even though he beats me,” Andria said in tears. “I can’t leave him alone. He is old now; what if he gets sick? Who will take care of him? I will never leave him no matter how hard it is. I forgive him and I pray that one day he will know Jesus and feel the same joy and peace that I feel now.”

Please Pray for:

  1. God to open the door for Andria to share the Gospel as she goes to work every day.
  2. Andria’s father to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
  3. Converts from a different faith in Lombok to find brothers and sisters who will encourage them in the faith despite difficulties faced.
  4. God’s protection for all His workers among other religious communities in Indonesia.

*Pseudonym used to protect the believer.

On November 13, 2013, a policeman ordered the closure of a new house church in Southern Vietnam.

The church started through the ministry of a believer who took a homeless family into his home and shared the Gospel to them.

 Some three weeks ago, a member of the family got into a fight with another man in a neighbouring village. The local police heard about it, which prompted the temporary closure of the church, and the impending expulsion of the Christian family.

“Pray for the church in this (undisclosed) area,” said a local source. “There are very few Christians there.”

A church in the south of Algeria has been attacked on Tuesday night 12 November 2013 around 11 pm by a group of individuals. The unidentified attackers tried to break down the main gate of the building to burst inside the place of worship. Pastor Muslih (for security reasons we don’t use his real name) of the church in southern Algeria stated the following.

“On Tuesday, around 11 pm, a group of people tried to get inside the church. From the outside the attackers set fire to a tyre and they tried to throw the tyre inside the building. But as this did not work because the fence and barbed wire proved to be too high they tried to enter through the church gate. Then they tried to smash the gate to enter the building,” Muslih said, denouncing the intimidation against the Christian community.

The pastor needed the intervention of the police to persuade the attackers to leave. “Alerted by the black smoke coming from the burning tyres set ablaze by the attackers, the police was alarmed and immediately moved to the scene. However, the attackers managed to escape without being arrested,” lamented this servant of God, who sees this as an intimidating attack coming from people who do not appreciate the existence of a church in the city.

“There are people who try to intimidate us to push us out of here. I think it is the growth of our community that disturbs them. Today we are better organized administratively and spiritually. What we do here disturbs the kingdom of darkness. When God wants to do something good in his church, Satan opposes,” says the pastor, who planned to file a complaint with the police.

This is not the first time that the Church of pastor Muslih is targeted by such attacks. In 2010, a group of individuals broke into the interior of this church, after destroying the outer gate by force. The attackers tried to snatch the crucifix on the roof of the church.

In addition, in November 2012, individuals have issued death threats against the pastor of the community and promised to burn this church to protest against the film “Innocence of M******”, considered by many as a film that is antagonistic to their faith.

This time, the attack against the Church coincided with the celebration of the religious festival of Ashura. To help protect against these attacks and to identify their perpetrators, the EPA (Protestant Church of Algeria ) plans to install surveillance cameras around the building of the church.

“I spoke with EPA-officials about the need to put surveillance cameras around the church and they agreed. This will allow us to identify the perpetrators of these repetitive attacks,” said Muslih.