Conversion, Trials, and Provision: The Story of Sarah Ayu Ibrahim
05/31/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern has obtained approval from Sarah, the wife of imprisoned Indonesian pastor Abraham Ben Moses, to feature her testimony that she shared recently at an Indonesian church in New York. Pastor Abraham Ben Moses (previously named Saifuddin Ibrahim) was sentenced to four years in prison on blasphemy charges in 2018 when he tried to share his faith with his taxi driver.
I am Sarah Ayu Ibrahim from Bangka Belitung Islands. I am ethnic Malay from Muslim background. Before I speak, I want to open the Word of God from Romans 10:14-15: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”
This verse is evident in my life. If it wasn’t for [an] evangelist, I wouldn’t stand here. I know about Jesus because someone told me about Him. Preaching the Word is not only the shepherd’s duty, but ours.
I want to share my testimony. I was a Muslim, and I have a little Chinese ancestry.
I grew up in a Malay Islamic environment. My school was also Islamic, but I only knew about the surface of Islam. It was shallow knowledge. I only learned positive things about Islam. One day in 2013, I met a Manado man who opened a mobile phone service business in my village. At that time, my cellphone was broken, so I went to his shop. While I waited for the service, he told me about the Gospel. I was unmoved. Seeing that it might be impossible for him to preach the Good News to me, he finally told me the story about a cleric who accepted Christ and became a priest. At that moment, I flinched and told him that I wanted to meet the man.
Somehow, I was so curious. Because in my community, it is rare for a cleric to become a priest. What I often find is that a priest would become a cleric.
I was connected to the priest. He agreed to meet with me and we set a time. I flew from Bangka to Jakarta wanting to find out more out of curiosity. Our appointment was to meet in one of the malls in Jakarta.
Then came the cleric, the pastor whose name was Mr. Saifuddin Ibrahim. Thanks to his background in comparative religious studies, meeting me, a straight Muslim, he immediately was able to preach to me. He opened the Bible and the Koran. There, I understood many things. First, what Islam really is. In Islam, the salvation is uncertain, while in Christ there is certainty.
Second, if I want to be a devout Muslim, I must be ready for polygamy, but I don’t want to have a rival. Many wives would fight among themselves. Yet Jesus is peaceful; he teaches about marriage that there should only be one spouse. If you have a rival you must fight, you can’t get along.
At that time, I decided to believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was baptized because I wanted to give my life to learn more about Christianity, showing my commitment. I continued to study with Saifuddin Ibrahim.
I often do status updates on my Facebook account. I wrote verses from the book of Psalms or Proverbs. My friends conveyed these messages to my parents. My mother called and asked, “Is it true that you have converted?” I answered yes.
I didn’t want to lie because sooner or later they would find out anyways. I better admit it at that moment. Since my mother did not believe what I said, she flew to Jakarta demanding to meet me.
When I met her, she asked to be escorted to my aunt’s house in Bekasi. When I arrived, I was shocked that my entire extended family had gathered at that house. I was tried, among my whole family and relatives. One of my uncles, who had been a cleric and had gone on a pilgrimage, was in charge of questioning me. He asked me, “Did you convert to Christianity because you were given money?”
Among Muslims, there is always the myth of converting to Christianity due to money promised. From my understanding of the Bible, as is written in Isaiah 60:7, we who were ex-Muslims must make offerings for the construction of God’s house. So when I was baptized, I actually gave offerings to the pastor who baptized me. At that time, the pastor was confused because it was the first time he has baptized ex-Muslims and received offerings. The reason was because I didn’t want people to think that I became a Christian because I was given money. This experience was what I told my uncle.
He still urged me to convert back to Islam, but I didn’t want to. Finally, he gave me drinking water which he had put a spell on, hoping his niece would return to her sense and Islam. He said, “I hope you will get a revelation (to return to Islam).” I was only two months into Christianity, so in response, I silently prayed in my heart, calling out the name of Jesus.
The next morning, a surprising thing happened. I heard that the man who gave me drinking water, he passed away without cause. Since then, my family never tried to bother me because they think Christ’s power is great. As the Bible says, the spirit within us is greater than the spirit that is of this world, as long as we really follow Jesus.
Since then, I was banished by my family. I was insulted, but I believed that these insults would not change my fate. Even if a thousand people despise me, it will not change my fate, but if one person invites us to be followers of Christ, do not reject it, as it can change our fate.
In 2014, I became a spiritual child and was entrusted to be a wife. At that time, he was a widower as his wife died, leaving behind three sons. When we got married, we had the desire to have a daughter. Three years of marriage did not yield any result, until finally one of God’s servants suggested me to go back to Bangka to reconcile with my parents. I thought this was a good thing, since the Bible also teaches that we have to respect our parents. I returned to Bangka at that time alone. I spent three days in Bangka. I told my parents the purpose of my visit was because to reconcile with them, and my desire to bear children. After that, I returned to Jakarta.
In Jakarta, I was bored because my husband was serving in Taiwan at the time. I did not follow him initially, but finally decided to head to Taiwan. A friend picked me up, for my husband’s service was very full. On the way to the hotel, as we were chatting, the Taiwanese friend asked me how many years had I been married, and asked about whether I have any children. I said I have been married for three years and still no children. We wanted to have a daughter, but it has not happened. This friend said obstetricians in Taiwan are good and proven. She brought me to the doctor. When I was examined by the doctor, it turned out that I was already seven weeks pregnant. I didn’t need pregnancy assistance anymore.
Until the fifth month when we checked with the doctor, the doctor said that our child was a boy. The gender could be seen. So the doctor told us [to stop] wishing to have a daughter, because the child in my womb was male. But I did not give up. I still prayed until eight months of pregnancy, [when] I had to face another hard reality. Pak (*a title given to a respected male) Saifuddin Ibrahim was arrested at home with a blasphemy case. If I wasn’t a child of God at that time, of course I would have been very [panicked]. But because I already knew the truth in Jesus Christ, I knew that the trial would not exceed the limits of my strength.
That night, my husband was taken to the Metro Jaya Regional Police. The next morning, I accompanied him to the court to handle [the] police investigation report. Later that day came lieutenant general with representatives from three special Islamic organizations. I was asked to leave the room because they only wanted to talk to my husband. After they finished, I entered the room to ask my husband what the purpose of their visit was. My husband whispered, the general offered that if I was willing to worship and return to Islam, the case would be closed. This was a very tempting offer, because my husband wanted to be free, especially since I was pregnant and was about to give birth.
But because he already knew the truth and he was ready for the all the risks, he turned down the offer. Next month, January 25, 2018, I had to give birth myself. Our prayers were answered by God. Our daughter was born; her name is Goldamer Princess Ibrahim.
A week after giving birth, I had to attend 14 sessions at a court. Every meeting was always filled with mass from FPI, the radicalized Islamic group, since this case is indeed sensitive — defamation of religion. I believe perfect love removes all fear. Even though my eyes are slanted, but my faith is not narrow. Even if we are a minority in Indonesia, we should never be afraid to face the large mass. In every session, I was never disturbed by the mass. Every time I wanted to pass, they opened the way. I believe there is the authority of God given to us so that no one can stand against us.
My husband was sentenced to four years, because they knew that Saifuddin Ibrahim baptized many people, so radicals thought by putting him in jail, he would not be able to do anything. Instead, he continued to spread the Gospel in jail. He proved them wrong. There is a purpose for God through this case. In prison, there were many who were baptized, 50 of them. One time, he was almost moved to Nusa Kambangan (a prison in Indonesia designed for notorious inmates) because he was caught proselytizing.
He, however, could not be stopped. Wherever he is, he is always evangelizing. I can only support and pray for my husband.
In living my life, I did not want to burden many churches for my living costs. Although I am a former Muslim, I also want to be independent in facing my life for the next four years. I prayed, asking God what I should do. I wanted to sell empek-empek (fishcake) in Jakarta so I don’t keep hoping for others to provide. I just want to be a blessing to others. God gave me wisdom to write a book. With a story full of my twists and turns, featuring God’s work, I finally printed the book in October 2018.
There is a funny story behind it – when the book was written and was ready to be printed, I did not have enough money. I was afraid to ask for funding from someone else. Even though there are a lot of entrepreneurs in Jakarta, who always say that if I need anything, just call them. But I was too proud to ask people. So in my prayers, I told God, “God, my book has been done; I want to print, but I have no money. I also don’t want to ask people.”
God answered my prayer. He knows I did not want to ask others. Unexpected, someone from Pekanbaru texted me. I didn’t know this person, but he said he wanted to visit Pak Saifuddin Ibrahim in prison. I made an appointment to let him visit my husband. After visiting Pak Saifuddin, he said that he wanted to buy Pak Saifuddin Ibrahim’s books, five titles written by him. He bought 100 books each, so the total books purchased were 500 books paid in full. That money became my capital for printing my books and attending book shows.
He provides. Hallelujah.