The Indonesian Evangelist Who Once Set Fire to the Church: Part 2
By ICC's Indonesia Correspondent
06/06/2021 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – This is the second part of the story of Nurmahdi, a former Muslim who once led a Jihadi force in burning a church in Aceh turned Indonesian evangelist. The first part of his story discusses Nurmahdi’s Muslim upbringing as the grandson of a famous Ulama (Islamic religious scholar) in Aceh, the beginnings of his curiosity about the Christian faith, and ends with him entering a Christian home and stealing a Bible from it in order to get some answers to his questions about the faith.
The story continues…
Nurmahdi took the Bible that he had stolen from the house of the Christian policeman home with him and began to read it. The first chapter he opened and read was the first epistle of John. He was particularly unsettled by 1 John 5:11-12, which read, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son does not have life.”
The more he read the Bible, the more eager he became to find someone to ask about Christianity and to finally get some answers to all of his questions about the faith. Ultimately, he decided to go to the police station to find the Christian policeman whose Bible he had taken. Nurmahdi thought that maybe if he approached him in the police station, the policeman would not be scared and would not flee from him like he did last time. Nurmahdi finally managed to meet the Christian policeman, who was initially quite suspicious of Nurmahdi’s intentions, given that Nurmahdi was a known enemy of Christians. However, the atmosphere quickly turned friendlier when Nurmahdi conveyed his intentions and the policeman realized that he was no longer a threat. The two of them planned to meet up again somewhere with the aim of further discussion about Christianity.
The two of them finally were able to meet up at a small restaurant in the town where they both lived. The Christian policeman, whose name is Siregar, was able to answer all of Nurmahdi’s questions. Nurmahdi told the policeman that he wanted to become a Christian. “It’s not that easy to become a Christian. Go home first and think, maybe you need a year to think about it,” said Siregar, the Christian policeman. However, Nurmahdi increasingly urged the policeman to convert him to Christianity. Nurmahdi said, “State the requirements to become a Christian. I will fulfill them. Do I have to be circumcised again?” He then demanded of the policeman, “Make me a Christian now.”
On Siregar’s recommendation, Nurmahdi went to the city of Medan to meet with a pastor who would go on to guide Nurmahdi as he became a Christian. Nurmahdi even decided to enroll in a seminary in Medan in order to deepen his knowledge of Christianity. He graduated from seminary, served as an evangelist to his Muslim brothers, and he even married a formerly Muslim woman like himself. They led a normal life and Nurmahdi continued his evangelism ministry among Muslims.
One day, police came to Nurmahdi’s house and arrested him on falsified charges of being the biggest marijuana drug dealer in the city of Meulaboh where Nurmahdi was living. They accused him of supplying cannabis to other provinces and even abroad. The police report states that Nurmahdi owned an 8-hectare cannabis field. The punishment for this crime is a life sentence in prison. Nurmahdi was helpless to push back against the charges being made against him, even though it all was a fabrication from the police. In order to implicate Nurmahdi, the police had placed thirty-one cannabis sticks behind his house before they accused him of growing the drugs.
When asked about the crime, Nurmahdi said, “They have no way of arresting me anymore, that’s why they slandered me, because I brought many Muslims in Aceh to believe in Jesus and baptized many of them.” Nurmahdi continued, “Every one of them that I baptize always writes a statement which indicates that it is their own will to become a Christian.”
Nurmahdi also described how, after he was arrested, he was taken to the police station and subjected to torture. Nurmahdi said, “The first day I was taken to prison, I was unconscious from 5:00pm to 10:00pm. Starting when I arrived at the police station, I was tortured. Blood came out of my ears, nose and mouth and even from my genitals and rectum.” He continued to remember, “This happened on May 10, 2011.”
However, his faith did not fade and even prison did not stop Nurmahdi from preaching the gospel. In prison there were still Acehnese who repented and were baptized by him. They became students of Nurmahdi even whilst imprisoned. Among them is a GAM (Free Aceh Movement) territorial leader named Bustaman. GAM is a violent Muslim separatist group in Aceh that wants an independent Aceh from Indonesia.
In prison, Nurmahdi experienced many miracles. At first, he was sentenced to life, then he filed a review of his case and the court stated that he actually only had to serve nine years in prison. His life sentence was overturned! Nurmahdi said, “When I heard the news, I started jumping up and down and shouting ‘glory, glory, hallelujah!’ and then I fell on my knees in front of the judge.”
Nurmahdi went to prison in 2011 and was freed in 2017. He only ended up having to serve six years of the nine-year sentence. According to Nurmahdi, “That is a miracle of God.” Now Nurmahdi has been freed for just over three years, and he continues to be an evangelist in Aceh. Today, Nurmahdi is widely known as Rev. Timothy as his identity. His life is not without its struggles, but he continues to minister to others with the gifts that God has given him.
For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: firstname.lastname@example.org.