Only by His Grace: The Story of an Indonesian Evangelist
By ICC’s Indonesia Correspondent
08/28/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – One afternoon, I suddenly recalled the face of a classmate from my seminary days, a person who was quiet but loved to sing ethnic Batak songs with his melodious voice. His name is Togar.
I called him to catch up, and we talked for nearly two hours on the phone as time flew by. Beginning from the story of our time on campus to his current ministry as an evangelist who reaches the Sundanese people, I had a glimpse of what a frontline missionary’s life is like.
The Sundanese are the second largest ethnic group in Indonesia. The majority of Sundanese are Muslims. In Indonesia, the Sundanese people are scattered across the province of Banten, Jakarta, the western region of Central Java, namely Banyumas, and the province of West Java (which has the largest population). The institution Togar works with placed him in the province of West Java.
“Share His glory among the nations and His wonders among all the nations.” (Psalm 96: 3). This verse strengthened Togar when he made a commitment to join an outreach ministry for the Sundanese people. “I am very excited to share the good news about God’s love, which saves all people through Jesus Christ for the Sundanese people,” said Togar. His enthusiasm produced many Sundanese believers who accept Jesus as their Savior. Discipleship groups were formed and guided by Togar to make them stronger in their newfound faith.
However, it does not mean that there are no challenges and obstacles to Togar’s ministry. Once upon a time, he visited an old man whom he served. He usually does this to show concern for the people he has come into contact with. When Togar was talking with the elderly man, suddenly the old man’s son, who was married and no longer lived with him, barged in.
Enraged, he yelled at Togar, “Why did you make my father become a Christian? Who are you?” Togar tried to explain, but the man still fumed and started walking towards the kitchen as if he was onto something. Seeing his suspicious action, Togar thought, “I am no longer safe in this place.” Togar begged to bid the old man farewell and tried to leave the scene as fast as he could.
As soon as Togar set foot on the yard of the house, he was intercepted by a Babinsa (Bintara Pembina Desa), a member of the Indonesian National Army (TNI), typically stationed in the rural areas to maintain village security and peace. The Babinsa was tall and burly. As it turned out, he was on the phone with the old man’s son.
He brought Togar to a place on a rocky hill where a stone masonry was located. People were already waiting for Togar. He was interrogated as if he was a criminal. They hit him in the stomach, chest, and head. But something strange happened. Togar said, “Every time they hit me, I felt something like an electric current in my body. I’m sure they felt it too.” He continued, “The Babinsa, who has a strong body, punched me as if my body could not feel anything.” The beating carried on.
Question after question accompanied by punches were thrown at Togar. Someone decided to grab a hammer used to cut stones and pass it to the Babinsa. They pressed Togar’s head against a rock lying on the floor and inquired Togar, “How much do you get paid to do this work?” All the while, the Babinsa stood ready to swing the hammer at Togar’s head.
Facing such a crisis, Togar told me, “I pray silently that if this is my end, I surrender my life to You, oh Lord.” But what happened next surprised Togar. “I suddenly saw a series of numbers written in the sky like a news ticker. I proceeded to choose the smallest number on display, which was one hundred thousand.” In a loud voice, he screamed, “One hundred thousand [rupiah] (equivalent to 7 USD)!” His answer paused the Babinsa from driving the hammer to his head. And he looked hollowed as he let go of the hammer from his hand.
The Lord’s help for Togar in time was truly extraordinary. Not only that, a Muslim cleric unexpectedly appeared and rebuked those who persecuted Togar. He escorted Togar from the stonemasonry and told Togar to leave the place immediately. Without hesitation, Togar fled in his motorbike.
“That is the price that must be paid for an evangelist. I will not stop sharing the Good News to the Sundanese people, since this has become my calling and ministry. If I could still live today, it is all only His grace,” Togar said.
Our conversation ended with prayer for each other. Togar asked me to pray for his family’s health. As I prayed, I wanted to make his story known – one of the many evangelists who are at the forefront of outreach ministry to Muslims in Indonesia. Would you keep him and many other frontliners in your prayers, too?