Indonesia (MNN) – Earlier this year while tending to FMI field visits in Indonesia, Bruce Allen encountered an Indonesian woman who had recently put her trust in Jesus Christ. However, just before her newfound hope, this woman was prepared to take her own life.
Widowed and Without Hope
After being widowed and dealing with financial problems, Sarwendah went to a local mosque to seek help. Instead, she found betrayal.
“She went to this mosque leader, the Imam, but the only help he decided to offer her came with some strings attached. She would have to agree to sexual relations with him to receive any financial assistance. And the very thought of that bewildered her and then it angered her that this religious leader would do this, would say this to her, and would put such conditions on help for her because she was in such a vulnerable position,” Allen explains.
Allen says that while Sarwendah was in great mental anguish, she began hearing voices telling her to kill herself. Eventually, she believed that only death would bring her relief. Then, she met the FMI-supported Pastor Bagus.
“She didn’t know he was a pastor at first, a Christian pastor. But she was talking with him and on this island that she lives, Java, Indonesia, with a population of about 145 million people, Sarwendah, who by chance just called a number and got connected with Pastor Bagus, learned that she lived only 5 miles away from where Bagus lived,” Allen says.
A Stranger’s Hospitality
Sarwendah got to know Bagus and his family and experienced firsthand Christ’s love. Bagus never threatened Sarwendah like the Imam. Instead, he and his family were kind and generous. Bagus eventually invited Sarwendah to attend his church where she could explore more of who Christ is.
“Pastor Bagus was privileged to introduce Sarwendah to that captivating hope and the assurance of salvation that only comes through Jesus Christ. Sarwendah now says ‘there are no more voices telling me to kill myself. I feel new’,” Allen says.
Sarwendah’s financial situation has not changed, but she has. Her circumstances no longer control her will to live because she has found hope in Christ, and through that hope, she can endure.
“We’re seeing stories of God at work, transforming lives, even in what many people would write off as so difficult of a place because it is the world’s largest majority nation, but that’s not a barrier to God’s spirit and so I came home so encouraged seeing what God was doing at work there,” Allen says.
Still, with Sarwendah’s story, it is vital to note that sexual predators come from all backgrounds regardless of religion. The incident which took place with the imam in her story is not the status quo for Islamic leaders. Evidence of individuals in positions of power taking advantage of those in vulnerable situations is a narrative found throughout many, if not all, religions. Allen says this fact goes to show just how fallen the nature of humanity is.
“If we go off of just that bit of knowledge, that’s when stereotypes begin to emerge, and we only want to see people in a particular light. That was actually the prophet Jonah’s problem,” Allen says.
“As you look at that Old Testament book of Jonah ([I’m] pretty sure it’s less than 50 verses) it’s really God dealing with Jonah’s heart…God is saying ‘I care for the people of Nineveh. I’m also caring about this guy who claims to be a follower of Yahweh, but he sees people in a particular light because of stereotypes. And he’s a bigot. I need to change Jonah’s heart.’ So, Jonah needs renewal as much as the people of Nineveh needed to repent, too. “
Pray for Sarwendah, for the improvement of her circumstances, and for her to grow and mature in Christ. Ask God to continue supporting and using Pastor Bagus for His work. Pray for the Christians in Indonesia as they love their neighbors when some of their neighbors may not love them.
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Header photo is only representative, courtesy of Peter Dahlgren.