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Dr. Kurt E. Koch (1913 – 1987)

By Dr. Kurt Koch

© Copyright: Bibel- und Schriftenmission Dr Kurt E. Koch

Authorized to publish here by BIBEL- UND SCHRIFTENMISSION and Bärbel Koch


There are principally three countries today on which the attention of the world is focused.

The first of these is Israel which stands at the very centre of world events. It can almost certainly be said that this, the smallest nation in the world, has the greatest history. We shall not be discussing this here, however, since we have already done so in my book ‘Der Komende’ (The Coming One).

The next country which most occupies world opinion is Vietnam. In this pit of fire the future of Asia will be decided; and the prospects from the Western point of view are not good.

The third country, which is much discussed today in Christian circles, is Indonesia. What is the reason for the unusual interest on this land? Let us have the question open for the moment and look first of all at Indonesia’s religious history.


Whoever wishes to understand the present must first become acquaint with the past.

As a land-bridge between two continents, the island world of Indonesia has not had an insignificant history. Fossils found there relate her to Peking man, and this ancient Asian link has in many instances extended into the economic and cultural history of the country.

The rock inscriptions, dating back 3,000 years, have not yet all been deciphered, and they still await close scientific investigation.

The religious situation in Indonesia is also very interesting. The country has been penetrated by four different streams of thought, and these have added their various influences to the animism which developed simultaneously in the area.

In the first and second centuries, Indian traders brought Hinduism into the country. It was these traders who conveyed the famous Indonesian sandalwood to the West. Thus, Europe was to have this aromatic wood before it knew anything about the country of its origin. The Hindu religion and culture developed during the 6th to the 14th centuries into a powerful kingdom, and the roots of the present-day Indonesian language lie in this Hindu culture.

In the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries Hinduism became overlapped by Buddhism. Once again, it was the Indian importers who brought the new religion into the country. In building their temple at Borobudur, the Buddhists erected a holy place in Java, which was at the same time the site of the most sacred Hindu shrine, Prambana. And so the two great Indian religions lived side by side on Java, in peaceful coexistence.

Then, in the 12th and 13th centuries, came the epoch of Islam, which gained its first foothold at Atjeh in northern Sumatra. The Islamic kingdom that came into being in 1205 under Sultan John Sjah was to last until 1903. These religions were to afford the Dutch colonial lords many bitter struggles, including a number in our own century.

Whoever reads the prophets of the Old Testament finds that they frequently mention the islands or coastlands of the sea. The visionary gaze of these men of God reached out far beyond their own land (Is. 66:19).

Were these islands to be neglected then by the One who said, "Go into the entire world and preach the gospel to every creature"?

The first messengers of Christ to arrive there might even have come there during the time of the early Christian fathers. It is not to be totally dismissed that even the apostle Thomas, who worked in India, crossed over to Indonesia with the Indian traders. In any case, we know that missionaries in the Mar-Thomas Church, named after him, worked in Indonesia.

The next real proof of missionary work in the area was confirmed by some painstaking and detailed evaluation of historical documents: Christians from Persia brought the gospel to Indonesia in the years 671 to 679. But, after this, it remained in darkness for a long time. These were the centuries during which the Christian Church in the Western world slowly lost its missionary strength. Gradually, the candlestick of Rome was pushed aside, and the spiritual impetus shifted into central and northern Europe. One only has to think back to the missionary efforts of the Germanic peoples, to the Cluniac reform, and to the forerunners of the Reformation: Wycliffe, Hus, and Savonarola, for the evidence of this fact. At that time, practically nothing was known of Indonesia.

This, however, was soon altered when merchants sailed to the ports of India and learned of the island world to the east. Following the epoch-making discovery of Columbus, the world became filled with a tremendous craze for discovery. At the same time, the seafaring nations were seeking to increase their trade there.

In 1511 the Portuguese conquered the Moluccas, causing the Moslems to withdraw under pressure to the south. Catholics among the Portuguese occupation forces founded the first Catholic Church in the Moluccas in 1522.

Not long after this, the missionary Francis Xevarius came over from India. Although he only worked in Indonesia from 1546 to 1547, his influence was so great, that ever since he has borne the nickname, "Apostle to the Indonesians".

The 16th century also saw the beginning of Dutch colonial power in Indonesia. The Indonesian Christians were not exactly pleased when the Dutch banned mis­sionary work in northern and southern Sumatra and on Ball. The reason for this was a fear that the natives might rebel and leave the work on the plantations. The ban on Ball will be treated in more detail later.

The foundation of the Protestant Church in the Dutch East Indies is regarded today with mixed feelings by the believers there. The pastors were state officials receiving their pay from the government. It was similar to the time of Constantine the Great - anyone who wanted to get on in life became a Christian in order to achieve his goal. Thus, a Christian church came into being in Indonesia which had basically freed itself neither from the heathen nor from the Hindu traditions.

Besides the Dutch State Church, however, following the labours of various Christian missionaries, various other localized churches came into being on Java, Ball, Celebes, Borneo, Sanghir, Nias, Sumatra, Sumba, and New Guinea, - to mention but a few of the more important ones. In East Java the formation of an Indonesian church was very much linked with the name of a faithful German watchmaker, brother Endo. A Christian from Russia, brother Coolen, should also be mentioned in this respect.

In the 20th century, as the era of decolonization was born, the might of the Dutch colonial powers gradually crumbled. In Indonesia a movement founded in 1908, the Resurgence of Asia, gained ground. This trend underlined the Indonesian peoples’ struggle for independence.

During the Second World War, Indonesia was occupied for three and a half years by the Japanese. After their withdrawal, Indonesia proclaimed its independence on August 17th 1945 and set up a constitution, the so-called Pantja Sila. The constitution, however, could not be enforced at once for the Dutch refused to recognize their independence. This resulted in a war of liberation which lasted for more than four years. Under pressure from the U.N.O. and especially from the Americans, the Dutch gave in and finally left the country in 1950.

Yet, the country was still not able to relax. The next enemy came from within, from among its own people. First the power of colonialism had had to be broken. Now there followed a battle against an even greater enemy of the Indonesian people.


By means of an attempted coup d’état on October 1st 1965, Indonesia underwent a radical change in its history. There are revolutions of various dimensions in some corner of the world practically every day of the year. Amid present world events, however, they are hardly ever noticed. And yet, the circumstances in Indonesia are somewhat exceptional. Here, events have taken place whose course has been of crucial importance in the political development of East Asia.

It was known for years that the former President, Sukarno, had communist sympathies. When, on September 1st 1963, the eastern part of New Guinea came under Indonesian administration, the missionaries foresaw the greatest difficulties that might soon be facing them in their work.

The premonition was not unfounded. Communist in­fluence grew in the country. What was the final result to be? The outcome was completely different from what the Communists had expected, though.

The Planned Massacre

On the 1st of October 1965 the Communists had intended to take control of the country. The first ob­jective was to remove the general staff. The Communists had their own officers ready and waiting to take their places.

In Djakarta alone, six generals were arrested during the first Communist onslaught. They were dealt with in accordance with the usual Communist practice in Asia. Their eyes were partially gouged out and the mutilated victims were then made to run naked among some Com­munist trained women who hacked at the unfortunate men with their knives until the generals finally succumbed to their tortures.

However, at least two of the military hierarchy in Djakarta escaped. The first of these was Suharto. His child had been dangerously ill in hospital and so he had sat at its bedside all night. When the Communists had searched for him at his home, they had been unable to find him.

This one small slip was enough to frustrate the thoroughly planned revolution of the Communists. Suharto was the head of the strategic reserve. He immediately alerted his men, and in their first retaliatory action they obtained control of Djakarta Radio.

Humanly speaking, this action saved the lives of the Christians and the missionaries in the country. The Communists were, in fact, waiting by their radio-sets all over the country for orders from Djakarta to attack. But the orders did not come and the revolution faltered at the very outset.

Suharto’s counter-action brought to light lists of those who had been blacklisted by the Communists. These contained the names of every single political opponent the Communists had in the country.

The religious list contained the names of all the Moslem priests and teachers, together with all the Catholic priests and Protestant missionaries. The Christian communities in Indonesia would have been eliminated by this one blow, had God granted the revolution success.

The second general to escape the Communist assault was Natsution, the former Defence Minister. His deliverance, just like that of Suharto, is a miracle in the minds of the Indonesians.

When the Communists had forced their way into his house, Natsution was ready to give himself up. His wife, however, pulled him back. The first bullet missed him, hitting his small daughter instead, who had just rushed out of the bedroom into the corridor. She later died.

Natsution fled through the back-door. His wife ran with him to the garden wall. Climbing on her shoulders he reached the neighbouring grounds, which belonged to a foreign embassy. The two guard-dogs miraculously allowed him to pass and he was able to escape. Meanwhile, back in his house, another act of Christian love was being played out. Natsution’s adjutant was a Christian officer. In order to cover his chief’s retreat and when the Communists demanded, "Are you Natsution?" He replied, "Yes, I am." With that he was immediately shot.

Christians may possibly ask, whether he should have lied or not. Whatever the case, the adjutant acted as he did in order to save the life of his superior officer, and this act of practical Christian love will probably be valued more highly in eternity than the act of adhering to some inflexible doctrinal outlook.

The Terrible Retaliation

The horrible manner in which the generals had been mutilated aroused the anger of the Indonesians. In addition to this, another incident, which was later shamefully hushed up, provoked the revulsion of the whole nation. The Communist women, besides the other atrocities they had committed, had actually raped the generals while they had been bound. And then, last but not least, the mortal danger which had threatened the Moslem priests caused a public outcry. After all, nine tenths of the Indonesian population is Moslem.

The subsequent retaliation, to which the Moslems were driven, actually occasioned the deaths of more people than have currently died in the Vietnam War. A wave of anti-Communism spread through the whole country. At night, the people, moved by revenge, broke into the houses of the Communists and other suspects and murdered all the men they could find. This wave of murder cost something in the region of a million lives in the months of October, November, and December 1965. The West was kept completely uninformed as to the extent of these brutal retaliatory steps. Just for once the Communists received the treatment they had intended to inflict on others.

The aftermath of this series of murders was horrific. In many villages in East Java, not a single man remained alive. Nearby mass graves were dug in which the thousands of murdered Communists were thrown.

Imagine the sorrow that has come upon these families: children deprived of their fathers, and wives of their husbands! This is surely the only place in the world where the Communists have had to suffer what they have inflicted on others in Russia, Red China, Cuba and elsewhere, for decades.

The Suffering of the Christians

The Moslems contented themselves mainly with "liquidating" their political enemies, but, as in other parts of the world like Eastern Nigeria and the Southern Sudan, they took the opportunity to attack the Christians too.

For example, a Christian family in a Moslem village tried to alleviate the sorrow of the wives of the murdered men. But this was just what the Moslems were waiting for. "We have proof," they said, "that the Christians are in league with the Communists." Going to their house, they killed the husband and forced his wife to cook for them each day and even wash their bloodstained clothes.

The persecuted Communists often sought refuge among the Christians who frequently came to their aid. This, of course, provoked the Moslems who repeatedly claimed, "The Christians and Communists are working together." Thus, in many areas, the persecution of the Communists widened to include a persecution of the Christians as well.

Yet, the Lord watched over his children. A missionary from Borneo, who lived through the confusion on the island, gave me a report concerning his own district. He said, "Amid all the bloody persecutions and frightful atrocities, one could still see God’s power at work, for none of the 300 Christians in the area were killed. The Lord didn’t allow one hair of their head to be harmed."

Another missionary working on a different island reported, "When the murdering began, a young Com­munist teacher went and sought refuge within the Christian community. While he was with them, they showed him the way to Christ. He continued to come each day to the Christians who prayed with him regularly. Although he had been driven there by fear originally, he later testified that he had in fact accepted the Lord as his Saviour.

"Later, an informer reported this to the Moslems. Going to the church where the teacher used to sleep at night, they lay in wait for him, and one morning they dragged him outside and beheaded him in front of the church. The Moslems then turned to the Christians, ‘This is further proof that you are really all Communists.’ After some discussion the Moslem leaders decided to slaughter the entire Christian population in the district; but God intervened. A company of soldiers arrived from a nearby garrison and undertook to protect the Christians for several months until the troubles were over." - I have had the opportunity of visiting this community personally.

The military intervention in this instance was quite remarkable. The government troops usually took little notice of the murders that were taking place. The only questions they asked were, "Who should we fight for? Which side is more in the right? If the Communists had triumphed, everything would have been reversed."

This strange Moslem lust for shedding blood has often been a source of much anxiety to the Christians. A Chinese Christian on the island of Java once said to me, "We’re a thorn in the flesh to the Moslems in three ways: firstly, they don’t like our race; secondly, they’re jealous of us, because the Chinese work harder than them and are therefore more successful in business; and thirdly, they hate us simply because we are Christians."

I have witnessed this same tense relationship in all the countries of the Far East. Towns and countries with a strong Chinese element tend to expand more rapidly than the surrounding areas. This is the main reason why Malaysia and Singapore have experienced such a strong economic upsurge. In both these countries at least 50 % of the population is Chinese.

Looking into the future, conflicts are almost bound to arise, and in some cases they can be seen appearing on the horizon already. For example, the Christians wanted to build a church in a suburb of Djakarta. The population of the area, however, consists largely of Moslems, and they soon found ways and means of hindering the construction of the church.

Similarly a Christian doctor told me of how he had bought a large plot of ground from a Moslem in order to build a Christian hospital on it. When the Moslem discovered what the intended building was to be, he cancelled the sale during the final stage of the legal settlement. The doctor lost several thousand American dollars as a result of this. Although he was legally in the right, he decided not to take the Moslem to court on account of what is written in 1 Corinthians chapter 6.

The Moslems will one day come into open conflict with the Christians. This is but a part of the picture facing the world before its end. The followers of Christ are to face greater and greater trials before the Lord comes in his glory and releases them from all their sorrows.


This book is founded upon several visits to Indonesia, and although the conditions of 1966 and 1967 do not necessarily continue to hold true today, the comparison is still worthwhile for it illustrates the growth that Indonesia is currently experiencing.

On my first two visits to the country I was immediately struck by the poverty of the general population. Djakarta, which at that time was a town of about three million inhabitants, apart from having a few buildings built for prestige purposes, proved to be nothing more than a conglomeration of bad roads, tumble-down shacks, gaudy colours, and undernourished people.

During periods of drought, starvation soon became evident in many places. I had previously had no idea that a situation like this ever existed in Indonesia. Usually, when one speaks of hunger, one thinks of India.

During these early visits of mine to the country, I wit­nessed the almost daily demonstrations of groups of schoolchildren and students. I found it difficult to tolerate them at first, for the incessant noise of their shouting gradually got on my nerves. However, I was struck by two things about these demonstrators which contrasted them sharply with the unruly mobs one often finds today in Europe and America. Firstly, the processions moved through the streets in perfect order. There was no violence of any kind. And secondly? Well, at the time, they really did have something to demonstrate about, which cannot be easily said for their counterparts in the West.

What motivated them? Their hunger! How come? For some weeks past the price of rice had gone up to 100 rupees a kilogram, which works out at about three shillings and sixpence in English money. This was roughly equivalent to the daily wage of a rickshaw driver or an ordinary factory worker; and on top of that, 1 kilogram of rice did not last long when one had a hungry family to feed. As a result of this, in some districts, one could find children walking the streets with distended stomachs and slowly dying of undernourishment.

The students and the school children, whom I saw, were therefore justified in drawing people’s attention to the problem. Whether this would do any good, however, is another question. One of the members of the government said in a speech, "If shouting would help to bring the price of rice down, then I would start shouting louder than anyone."

What is basically the root of this problem? Is Indonesia capable of feeding its own population? Well, in theory the answer is yes, for the surface area is capable of supporting not only the present population of 110 million but also a three or fourfold increase in this population.

The country is, in fact, extremely large and consists of about 3,000 separate islands stretching almost 4,000 miles from tip to tail. The land, too, is very fertile and is only in need of cultivation.

This, however, was one of the many problems which had yet to be overcome. There was a complete lack of any systematic plan to clear the ground and make it arable. How easy it would be to transform the mountain slopes into rich rice terraces. It is only a matter of collecting the rain during the rainy season. But instead of this, the water rushes down the hillsides to flood the villages below. While I was staying in Djakarta, the water was standing in the streets sometimes to a depth of one and a half feet.

Because of insufficient exploitation of the land, rice has often had to be imported. In 1968, I was told, 600,000 tons were lacking. "From where do you import the rice then?" I wanted to know. "From India or other Far Eastern countries?" "No, they haven’t got enough for themselves! The rice comes from America, but it’s really too dear; and besides, we haven’t the foreign exchange to buy it."

The result was that what rice they had, was sold at exorbitant prices. So, while the rich people hoarded it, the poor were unable to afford the price and were left to find other ways of filling their stomachs. An importer told me, "We are already buying pig-food from the United States and mixing it with bread."

Yet, Indonesia does not need to go hungry. It is a rich country. As regards to minerals and mineral resources, it is considered to be about the third richest country in the world.

What use are natural resources, however, if they are not exploited? Industrialization was as much in the doldrums as agriculture. There was a lack of specialists, and even where they existed, they were unable to obtain the posts for which they were most suited.

The reins of the country were in the hands of the senior military officers. Indonesia was a military state. That meant that all the important posts, instead of being occupied by the specialists for the job, were held by high-ranking officers in the army.

What does a general know about agriculture or mining? Usually, nothing. To have proved oneself on the parade ground or at gunnery does not automatically qualify one to plan the economy of a country.

"The army has literally ruined the country economically," I was told again and again. People pointed to the fact that senior officers had taken over as directors of the former well-established Dutch firms. The results had been disastrous. In 1967 alone, 2,000 importing firms had gone into liquidation. The situation needed to be taken in hand quickly.

Wandering through the shabby shopping centre of Djakarta, I saw many empty shelves in the shops. The shopkeepers were unable to buy up stock for they lacked the capital. The counters were therefore filled with goods of a very inferior quality.

That was the picture in the first few years following the end of the general strike. The question now is, whether or not the government has been able to clear up all these troubles. My most recent visit shows clearly that the problems facing Indonesia have now been tackled both shrewdly and effectively.

As early as the end of 1968, the government began to reinstate specialists in all positions of responsibility. Then, on the 1st of April 1969, a five-year plan for the country was introduced. The price of rice dropped so dramatically that it fell to a quarter of the 1967 level. No longer did they have to import American pig-food to mix with their bread. The shops are again full of goods. The country has been able to overcome the stalemate in its economy. It would be wrong to listen to the propaganda the Communists put out concerning Indonesia today. Just think, instead, what the country would have been like under Communist rule. It would have been a case of organized mass-misery, as it is in almost every Communist country in the world.

There are three essential factors which one must recognize when attempting to assess the political and economic features of Indonesia. These are:

1. In the first place, the army prevented the country collapsing under a Communist assault. For this, the whole of the Far East should be thankful.

2. The government must be allowed time to build up the economy. The twenty or so years since the Dutch left the country is hardly enough time for it to have developed into a thriving economic community, particularly since in many respects it was deliberately held in check before that time.

3. A people who gained their independence only two decades ago, must learn, first of all, to consolidate and to preserve the freedoms they have won. One cannot achieve the impossible. Did either the United States or Switzerland evolve into what they are today in the space of a few short years?

However, in its brief period of independence, Indonesia has achieved a great deal. It has already carved out a name for itself in the free world and, today, it is rapidly improving and consolidating its own economic position.

If you want to Despair, Go by Air

What does this proverb mean? With humour in their voices, the Indonesians use these words to describe the unreliability of their own airline - an unreliability we were able to taste for ourselves. There were about 80 of us waiting together in Djakarta to fly to East Java, in order to take part in the conference soon to be held there; but we were simply unable to move. For days we just had to sit around and wait. It was a great test of our patience, and yet it became a blessing to me.

While we were waiting there, I made a number of new contacts. One of the first people I started talking to, was the Rev. Ward, the vice-president of ‘World Vision’. He had heard me speak once in California. In an attempt to catch another plane, he had taken a taxi and made a journey lasting 30 hours - you could see the exhaustion written on his face. Yet, instead of complaining, his only words were, "Well, disappointment means His appointment!" It was a wonderful attitude to take. In spite of the trouble he had been forced to endure through the inefficiency of others, not one word of complaint passed his lips. This missionary was certainly several classes higher than me in the school of God.

The Bible and life have often taught me the lesson that God transforms our times of despair into hidden blessings. In this respect, many of the stories of the Old Testament have been of great profit to me.

Consider, for example, the story of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37 to 50. Joseph was, first of all, thrown into a pit by his brothers, and then sold to some Midianite traders. Imagine the anguish and homesickness he went through. Yet, this affliction, or rather this crime of Joseph’s brothers, was transformed after many years into a great blessing by God. When the famine came, Joseph was able to save both his father and brothers, and in this way he became part of God’s great plan of salvation for mankind, for through their sojourn in Egypt, the children of Israel were destined to become the nation of God’s choice.

The almost unbearable delay which I owed to the Indonesian airline, GERUDA, brought with it many surprises. The only reason I describe these, is to illustrate God’s kindness to us in the fact that he hides a blessing within every disappointment we meet in his service.

As my companion introduced me by my surname to an Australian who was waiting with us, the man immediately exclaimed, "Dr. Kurt Koch? I heard you speak some years ago in a Baptist church in Australia."

Half an hour later I was to meet another Australian. Introducing myself merely by the name Koch, he replied, "I’ve got some books by a Dr. Koch of Germany. They’ve helped me a lot in my work. Do you know him at all?" Did I know him? Only too well! You can imagine his surprise. He at once invited me to come to his church in Melbourne to speak there at various meetings, and the most encouraging thing was that I was actually able to fit these meetings into my Australian tour.

The best experience of all was the last one. For years now I have been on the trail of Bakth Singh. At the moment, he is India’s most well-known evangelist. No fewer than 300 new churches have been founded as a result of his ministry. In many large towns, he has held mass meetings involving thousands of people, without any recourse to American advertising methods.

I had tried unsuccessfully to meet him on each occasion I had toured India. And now here we were facing one another on a morning which had been filled with so much irritation and disappointment. We sat talking together for a few hours, since he was waiting for the same airplane as me.

It was a really wonderful occasion. As I asked him about himself; he told me a part of the story of his conversion. In the end he said, "Let’s find somewhere quiet where we can pray together." My new friend from Melbourne was still with me, and so, finding a place somewhere apart, the three of us were able to forget the problems surrounding us for about half an hour. Bakth Singh had also been badly affected by the delay. He should have been speaking at the same conference in East Java to which I was going, and although he was 65 years old, he was also forced to make the 18-hour train journey when we found that we were unable to travel by air.

The fellowship I enjoyed with this brother in Christ over a period of 14 days was a great blessing to me. When we finally parted, he invited me to go to Hyderabad to speak there sometime. I intend to follow up this invitation within the next few months.

The English proverb was therefore fulfilled. Without the failure of the airline to supply us with a flight, I would never have been granted this wonderful opportunity of fellowship with the many missionaries who found themselves with me at Djakarta airport waiting for a plane. What the devil breaks and ruins, God remakes and moulds into blessing.


Scenically, Ball is a pearl among the Indonesian islands. To embrace the beauty and wonders of this island in a single account is practically impossible.

The first thing I was able to enjoy from my cheap and extremely primitive hotel was the beach. The waves played on the sand some 40 yards away from my terrace. Daily they would drive ashore the hosts of mussels, star-fish and other creatures which the local inhabitants immediately collected as the tide ebbed, thanking the ocean for it’s freely given gifts.

Beyond the shore, about 200 yards out, the surf boils night and day around the coral reef. Only an ill-advised bather will trust himself to adventure into this seething of the elements. A young German doctor paid for his foolhardiness with his life by being subsequently swept out to sea and drowned. His room had been only two doors away from mine.

On the far side of the bay, one could identify no less than three volcanoes. The largest of them, the 12,000 feet high Agung, was actually active during my stay.

Ball has inherited many names from its visitors. Some tourists dubbed it ‘the Island of Paradise’ and others ‘the Gem of the Tropics’. When Nehru visited Ball in 1954, he christened it, ‘Morning of the World’.

Pulau Dewata - Isle of the Gods - is what the Indonesians call this island. They should know best. But who are these gods? Certainly none from the Old and New Testaments. Bearing in mind the island’s local name, as the missionaries became familiar with the practices of the inhabitants, they renamed it to ‘the Island of the Devil’.

The Religious Life of Ball

The nickname, ‘Island of the Devil’, acts as a kind of challenge. We must explain what it really means.

The ancient tribal religion of the Balinese is a polytheistic form of nature worship. They have their mountain-gods, river-gods, lake-gods, sacred trees, and holy places. In short, they visualize the whole of nature as possessing a soul.

Over the rice-fields the rice-goddess Devi Sri holds sway. Every cemetery, rock, hill and cavern has a spirit of its own. About 40 miles northeast of Denpasar, 2,000 wild buffalo, venerated as sacred beasts, still live in a vast cemetery. No one is allowed to kill them. They are regarded as incarnate spirits of the dead natives buried in this extensive graveyard.

After the introduction of firstly Hinduism and later Buddhism into the country, together with the animism which already existed there, the Balinese temples soon began to express this religious syncretism. Beside the various gods of nature, one finds the Indian gods Siva, Brahma and Vishnu.

The problems arising from this religious mixture have been solved by the Balinese with a certain amount of cunning. Whereas Buddha teaches men not to kill, the old Balinese nature-gods demand sacrifices of blood. How could this dilemma be resolved? Very easily! The animals were left to kill each other.

This is one of the reasons lying behind the terrible cockfights. Next to the temple of Taman Ajun is a gigantic hall where this very popular form of entertainment takes place. The cockerels are fed well before the fights. Their owners massage their necks for weeks on end in order to strengthen the muscles. They also buy fetishes from magicians to try to make their cockerels win. And then, thousands gather to see the awful spectacle.

The contest continues until one of the birds is dead. The next pair is then brought on to fight.

By means of these cock-fights, both the Indian and the Balinese gods are satisfied. The inhabitants of the island kill no animals. The cockerels do this instead. And so the nature-gods have their blood-sacrifices.

These contests, however, have another side to them. A distinguished visitor asked a district governor, ‘Why don’t you do away with these grotesque shows? It’s a blot on your culture." The Balinese replied, "There’s a terrible struggle going on inside every native of Ball. We need a kind of release. The cockfights are merely a safety valve. If we didn’t have these cockfights, we would probably turn to worse things still. So the lesser evil keeps a greater one at bay."

The Balinese know of other compromises arising from the blending of their nature religion with the religions of India. For thousands of years the ‘dog-dish’ has featured on the gourmet’s menu. What’s more, the meal is really only fit for dogs since the numerous stray dogs in the area feed predominantly on human excrement. They act in a way like toilet disposal units. But Buddhism forbids the killing and eating of animals! The Balinese, therefore, redeems himself before slaughtering an animal, by offering a prayer to his god asking for forgiveness, and, in addition, promising a small portion of the meat as an offering: "You’ll get some of it as well!" He then enjoys the dog in peace, if enjoys is the right word!

Temples and Dances

The Taman-Ajun temple, which I mentioned earlier, is a real curiosity. The Balinese themselves call this temple ‘the Hotel of the Gods’. It is an excellent term. Until coming here, I had not realized that even gods can go away on holiday. One automatically recalls the comment of Elijah (1 Kings 18, 27), who annoyed the prophets of Baal by saying, "Shout louder, perhaps your god has gone away." But this is apparently exactly what the Balinese gods do! There islanders believe that they meet together once a year for an annual conference. Some have a long way to travel; others come from the immediate vicinity. Before they come together in Ball’s largest temple, Besaki, they first spend the night in the Taman-Ajun temple, the common rendezvous point. They then go on to their conference at Besakih, which is situated on the slopes of the volcano, Agung. During the eruption of the volcano, in 1963, part of this temple was destroyed. However, as the gods have so far made no approaches to the West for aid, the temple has still to be repaired. Elijah’s jest in a Kings 18 still applies.

Famous dances are performed on Ball in connection with the temple feasts.

First of all, there is the fire-dance. The dancers are put into a trance by a priest. A fire is lit in front of the temple. Each dancer is then persuaded that he is a horse and is being hunted by a tiger. He begins to tremble. Next the priest persuades him that his only means of escape is through the fire. With this, the hypnotized dancer rushes through the fire. The sequence is repeated several times in the presence of an enthusiastic audience. When the dancer is taken out of his trance by the priest, although he is completely covered in sweat and still shows all the signs of terror on his face, his legs and feet show no signs of being burnt at all.

Another dance is even more famous: the knife-dance. This is Ball’s greatest attraction which draws thousands of tourists to the island every year.

The Balinese calendar has ten months, each of 35 days. New Year’s Day and other festivals therefore tend to wander somewhat. Two of these festivals, celebrated rather like fêtes in the West, are called Galungan and Kunigan.

The greatest and most important festival, however, is Melis. As a part of this major festival, sacrifices are brought to the seashore. The sacrifice takes place before the tide comes in. It is quite remarkable how, after the offering of the sacrificial gifts, a great flood-tide comes in and engulfs them all. The Balinese maintain that this shows that the gods have come to accept the offerings. In fact, it is really just a quirk of nature, since the tide normally comes in much more gradually. Only at the time of Melis is there a flood-tide like this.

When the sacrificing has ended, the natives begin to dance. As they do so they commence to enact an ancient mythological story. The aim is to kill a witch named Rangda. She, however, manages to escape from her enemies. The men therefore turn their swords against themselves but as they do this, a friendly god comes to their aid and the points of their blades are prevented from piercing their flesh. The mythological implication of this test is that although the dancer intending to slay the evil witch, Rangda, has his blade turned against himself by her magical powers, the avenger of evil is nevertheless protected. Behind this display therefore, one finds the concept of the triumph of good over evil. Basically, the dances are all trance-induced. Trance-phenomena like this can be observed all over the Far East. I have had ample opportunity of witnessing events like this for myself, since the proceedings often take place out in the open. But, although it is easy to get caught up in a crowd which is gathering to watch such a spectacle, I have never yet deliberately gone out of my way to watch one, since I feel a Christian should avoid such heathen rites if at all possible.

The Magical War

From time to time, in other books of mine, I have mentioned magical duels. When I arrived in Ball in March 1968 and called at a ministers' convention, they said to me, "You've arrived just at the right time. There's a magical war going on in Ball at this present moment." One of the pastors explained to me what was taking place. There have been magical wars on Ball as far back as one can remember. These matters are usually, however, kept strictly secret. The tourists know nothing of them. The terrible battles only become publicly known when Balinese natives who have been involved in them are converted to Christianity and confess their secret sins. One finds that all the magicians on the island, and there is quite a number, are intimately involved in these affairs.

On Ball, just as in Tibet, there are a number of teachers of magic. Each of these has his own followers or pupils, and when the pupils have reached a certain stage in their training, contests are held, aimed at testing and strengthening the magical powers of the individuals involved. These magical 'Olympics' are a 'peaceful' form of combat.

The situation is immediately altered, however, when two of the combatants 'fall out' with one another. The duel that often results can end with the death of one of the magicians. The fights, however, are not fought with conventional weapons, but with mental powers. They squat beneath haunted trees maybe a mile or so apart and fight with their magical powers.

Should such a duel spread to the circle of friends of those involved, then a magical war can ensue.

The magical war in March 1968 took the following course. A magician ordered a cup of coffee in a small Balinese restaurant. The owner of the restaurant, himself a magician, poured some poison into the coffee. The customer noticed this and challenged the owner to a duel. Calling their friends to their aid, the two rival factions took up their stand over a mile apart. The signal for the battle to commence consisted of two lights coming together from the east and the west. When the villagers saw them, they recognized them to be magical lights.

The magical wars are nearly always limited to about one month's duration. The magicians fight during the night and sleep during the day. Normally, they send the weaker participants into battle first. When I received this report from the local minister, he added, "Six or seven people have already died magically in the battle." Towards the end of the conflict, the two chief combatants finally fight each other personally. The war ends when the weaker magician succumbs and dies.

I have often been asked if a magical war is not really a sign that the devil is divided against himself. No! When two boxers fight the stronger also wins, yet both men remain boxers and therefore belong to the same professional group.

Before I left Ball, I tried to learn a little more about these magical wars from an old Balinese native. He was astonished that I knew anything about them at all and asked, "How did you get to know about these ancient Balinese matters? They are usually carefully concealed from tourists, and we never reveal our secrets to strangers." I could find out no more from him during the time of our short conversation.

Demonic Possession on Ball

It will be of interest to philosophers of religion, to parapsychologists and to Christian ministers that there are various forms of possession on Ball. In no other country on earth have I come across so many different distinctions. This again throws some light on this so-called ‘Island of the Devil’.

First of all, there are certain expressions in Balinese which have no ethical meaning at all, but simply refer to the actual state of possession. Such terms include Kepangloh, Krangsukan, Kerauhan. These three words are merely used to describe an inexplicable state that comes upon a person.

Another expression, Daratan, comes from the Balinese word ‘darat’, meaning earth, and describes a type of posses­sion caused through earth spirits. Kerasukan is used to describe the kind of possession where a person is overwhelmed by a power outside himself. 'An invisible harness' is slipped over the victim. The term Kemidjilan comes from the high-Balinese word Midjil, meaning apparition. This form of possession is linked with the experiencing of hallucinations.

The word Bebainan originates from the expression Bebei, meaning the unredeemed soul, or little demon. People plagued by this form of possession are controlled. Balinese specialists are able even to distinguish between different types of sickness arising from possession. That is more than the sceptical psychiatrists of the West have yet achieved. I was amazed by the psychiatric knowledge of the islanders, who can explain, for example, the difference between Bebainan possession and St. Vitus's Dance. I have never heard of any Western psychiatrist who could do the same, and yet Western scientists often put on such an air of superiority that one would think they have a monopoly of all knowledge.

Among the most interesting phenomena of possession is one, which, is described as Sanghgang tutut. This refers to a piece of wood that has the power to protect a person. This is really an animistic form of possession. Since in the minds of the natives inanimate material possesses a soul, it can itself be possessed. From the point of view of religious history, this is of course a question of pantheism, but it also crops up on the perimeter of Christian culture. The psychiatrist Dr. Lechler has said that not only people, but also houses can be possessed. No less a person than Prof. Jung from Zurich held the same opinion. However, he did not dare to air his views publicly. The reason for this was his fear of being regarded by his associates as being out of his mind. This, he confessed once in a private conversation in Männedorf. He did, however, write the foreword to Dr. F. Moser's book called 'Spuk' (Ghosts). And so, phenomena like these which the West usually tries to push aside, are very familiar to the natives of Ball.

The above-mentioned types of possession are by no means the only forms known on Ball. This, itself, is an indication that possession and demons are part and parcel of the daily round of the island.

How should we as Christians or missionaries begin to tackle a problem like this? We can only breathe a sigh of relief that in Christ all these things are both surmounted and surmountable. The power of his redemption and the efficacy of his blood which was shed for us are sufficient to break every demonic ban that we may meet. Naturally, every Christian and minister has reason to be glad if God spares him from having to wrestle directly with problems like these. But whoever is called upon to heal the souls of those who are oppressed in an occult manner, must know something about the battle involved. We cannot regard the mentally ill as being possessed, nor the possessed as being mentally ill. The continual errors made in this respect are found, to a frightening extent, not only among psychiatrists, but also among ministers. And such errors lead to both incorrect and extremely inappropriate treatments.

Another factor that sheds a ray of light on the whole situation in Ball is the doctors' findings that 85 % of all the sick people on the island are neurotic. Is this not the other side to all the trance-induced, magical and demonic phenomena which occur on the island?

Christianity on Ball

Considering the circumstances we have just outlined, we need not be surprised that up till now Christianity has made little progress on Ball. Of the two million in-habitants, 6,000 are Protestant Christians and 4,000 Catholic.

It must also be taken into account that an unhappy combination has taken place between Christianity and the other local religions. Thus, not only have Hinduism and nature worship united with one another, but also Christianity and the magical practices of the island. It has even reached the point where there are so-called Christian magicians.

But let us first hear something of the development of the Christian Church on Ball. I received my information from several ministers living in the area.

In the history of Dutch colonialism, Ball was the last large island that the Dutch occupied. Until the turn of the century, eight kings had shared the government of the island between them. The son-in-law of the chairman of the royal council was my interpreter. He is actually a Christian. Since these eight kings had opposed the Dutch and carried on protracted struggles against them, the Dutch failed, for a long time, to take over full control of the island, although they had already been in Indonesia for 300 years.

In the second half of the 19th century, a Catholic Missionary was settled in Ball. He succeeded in winning a Balinese for Christ. This first Christian, however, later apostatized and promptly killed the Catholic missionary. The king in whose area the murderer lived, desiring to please the Dutch, handed him over to be judged by their law. The colonialists, caring little about a trial, had the murderer shot. The Balinese were angered by this apparently arbitrary treatment. The king told the Dutch, "We do not condemn a person without first giving him a hearing." On account of this injustice, opposition flared up. As a result, about 170 Dutch people were murdered by the Balinese. The Queen of the Netherlands reacted so strongly to this uprising that she signed a decree forbidding any missionary from settling on Ball.

As this decree was never revoked, a Christian church was not founded on Ball until 1929 when a handful of missionaries from East Java came to Ball secretly and passed the Christian message on from mouth to mouth.

This method of evangelism was not as inept as one might have thought, since the Hindu religion on Ball had always centred on individual families. In this way, each family has its own praying-place and sacrificial shrine.

Progress towards the foundation of a Christian church could not be halted, in spite of the ban. Even some of the Dutch colonial officials looked favourably upon Christianity, in defiance of the existing decree. And so, in the 1930's, a Christian church was formed. The Church on Ball is therefore still very young and in the first generation, so to speak. Today there are about 25 Balinese pastors on the island.

The Christian Church is faced with massive bulwarks in the dominantly heathen customs of the island. In 1963, however, an amazing opportunity was presented to the Christians. In that year Agung erupted and devastated twelve villages. 1,500 people perished. The Balinese were all the more shattered because their national shrine, the great Besakih temple, was also partly destroyed. Their faith in their gods was shaken, and they became wide open to the Christian message, especially as Christian aid in the form of practical gifts began to flow into the devastated area.

However, the Church did not use this extraordinary opportunity. So many gifts arrived that the organization of the still small body of Christians was at first unable to cope with them all. A whole year was needed before everything was sorted out. In the meantime, the doors that had been open were closed again. The Christian Church on Ball had missed its great opportunity. The social work involved had left no time for preaching the gospel.

The Balinese church is not alone in this respect. It has its parallels in many American and European churches. How often in our churches has welfare work stifled evangelistic effort? Concern for the body has pushed aside care for people's souls.

The Stronghold of Magic in the Church

The Balinese church has a character similar to that of many churches on other mission-fields. Christians who have come from a heathen background, or whose parents or grandparents are still tied to their heathen beliefs, are often caught up in magic. This I also found to be the case on Ball.

I have been able to speak in five different churches there altogether. When I warned about witchcraft, excited questions followed. One church elder said to me, "What should we do when we are bitten by a snake? There are no doctors for miles around. The witch-doctors are the only ones who can save us from dying. Why shouldn't we, as Christians, go to the Hindu magician in a case like this?" In replying to the church elder I said, "Have you never read in Mark 16:17 that the Lord Jesus can also heal snake-bites? And have you never heard of the story where Paul was bitten by a snake on Malta and survived?" The elder did not reply. I went on, "How can we as Christians go to a heathen sorcerer? We can only do this if we trust the devil more than God. Yet, if God wouldn't help me after I had been bitten by a poisonous snake, I would still rather die than go to the devil for help."

I then recounted to the congregation some examples of missionaries who had been bitten by poisonous snakes and who had survived. One such example concerned the experience of a missionary in Brazil who was bitten by a very poisonous snake, the sukkru. The Indians present at the time had told the missionary, "You are finished. There's no cure for this bite." The missionary's sight was already beginning to fail. His foot swelled up to the size of an elephant's. The Indians carried him to the hut. There they watched over the missionary who had already become unconscious. After some minutes the unfortunate man regained consciousness, and in that moment cried out, "Lord Jesus, your promises!" He then fell unconscious again. But the power of the poison had been broken. Instead of dying, the missionary, after lying in a coma for a long time, recovered. There were no after-effects.

I recounted this story to the Balinese church. However, the elder had further questions. He explained, "We have a man here who, although he isn't a magician, he has a white stone with which he heals the sick. When I was ill, I asked this healer for his white stone, but since I was a Christian, he wouldn't give it to me, even though I kept on imploring him for it. Why would it have been wrong to have used the stone if it really did possess healing powers?" I replied, "Be glad that you didn't get hold of the stone. Its effects also belong to the realm of witchcraft, even if it is only a matter of suggestion."

But I was not able to convince the native elder. However, at least the others were no longer likely to resort to the power of the Hindu sorcerers again. It is lamentable that most of the native pastors discern no evil in these things and give their congregations no clear direction on the matter of occult contacts.

At a Balinese ministers' convention, one pastor even claimed that his mediumistic powers were given him by God. His grandfather had been a clever and much-feared magician. Both he and his father had inherited the grandfather's magical abilities. And these occult powers were supposed to be God-given! A complete confusion of spirits! Yet these are the men who preside over the local church.

Another elder declared quite openly in the overcrowded church, "I still have my old fetishes and charms at home; but they can't do any harm to me because I don't believe in them anymore". I referred the man to Acts 19:19 where the Ephesians brought out all their fetishes threw them into a heap and burnt them. I advised him to likewise destroy all his occult objects, because they would without doubt represent a strain and a bad influence on both himself and his family. But I could not convince him either.

Can we still wonder that the Church on Ball has not yet experienced a revival similar to that on other of the Indonesian islands? Magic is always a bulwark which acts against the gospel. We can see this all the more clearly in the fact that in the revival on Timor and elsewhere, the movement always began with the people recognizing their sins of witchcraft, and bringing their charms and fetishes out and destroying them.

And yet the situation on this 'island of the devil' is not completely black. There are a few 'first fruits' which show that the Lord Jesus desires to begin a work on Ball too.

In Denpasar I made fleeting visits to both a college and an orphanage. I was quite moved by the sight of the young boys of seventeen and eighteen there. I told them that it was at their age that I had first found the Lord Jesus. As I left, they begged me, if possible, to come back soon and tell them more. This request encouraged me greatly and so, a few days later I returned to give them a series of talks on the Christian faith. It was obvious that these young Balinese wanted to hear more about Jesus.

In another village, after talking for a while with a Christian, he told me, "Until a short time ago I was a Hindu. Since I have started to follow the Lord Jesus, I have been persecuted a great deal. My fellow villagers plague me in every conceivable way. My wife can no longer fetch water from the public well, and I was threatened and told that I wouldn't be able to be buried in the village graveyard since I had, as they said, cut myself off from the village community." I tried to encourage him as a brother. Anyone who becomes a Christian in a heathen environment must reckon with persecution. That is even true in our 'Christian' churches in the West.

In East Java I met another young Christian from Ball. He told me his story. In 1962 a missionary had arrived on Ball with a team of Christians to work there for a while. Some young boys had found the Lord Jesus at the time. Three of them are today at a Bible school in East Java. One of these, my informant, reported that he was no longer able to enter his parents' house now that he was a Christian. His parents are still heathen in belief and are not prepared to tolerate his decision. And so, the Bible school has become his home now.

But Ball can boast of more first fruits than those we have just mentioned. There are a number of Christians scattered about here and there who have been able to escape from the bondage of their forefathers' occultism. These are admittedly few, but one of them is Pastor Joseph, who actually organized my lecture-tour on the island.

These Christians, who are so much in the minority, are really Christ's vanguards on this island. There is no need to despair. The Lord Jesus has always built his kingdom upon a 'few'. If these individual vanguards of Christ remain faithful, then their number will not remain small. For even this stronghold of darkness - this paradise of demons - can become the island of Christ.


No one seeking to write about the current revival in Indonesia should overlook the work of the two evangelists who, during the past 30 years, have held many large-scale revival meetings in Java. These are the two apostles of God, John Sung and Andrew Gih. They were friends who worked together originally, but developed their individual evangelistic methods afterwards. Both came from China and both saw the extension of their work into the countries bordering their own land. Among the Chinese in Indonesia today, there are many genuine Christians who still trace the renewal of their faith back to the evangelistic missions of these two men. In Djakarta, Dr. Toah told me that these two Chinese evangelists had brought more of the Chinese to Christ than all the foreign missionaries put together. Let us hear first about John Sung, who began his work in Java before Andrew Gih.

The Little Pastor

Without going into boring biographical details, some picture should be given of the time in which the life and work of John Sung took place. The lamp of this exceptional man burnt for barely 43 years; from 1901 to 1944. God gave to him a fullness of power that I have not observed in any other evangelist of our century. This is no exaggeration, but my firm personal belief.

Being born and bred in Hinghwa, John was present as a nine-year-old boy when the revival broke out in the Hinghwa church. Although only a small boy at the time, he broke down in tears and experienced a definite conversion.

Right from the start, prayer was the spiritual high-point of John's life. When in those early years his father was critically ill and had almost been given up as lost by his family, John's despairing mother, who in her anguish could no longer pray, told him, "John, go to your room and pray for father. God listens to prayer." John had thrown himself down on his knees and prayed ardently for his father's life. As a result, in spite of all the doctor's expectations, he soon recovered. This was the second great answer to prayer in the life of this young warrior of the Lord.

In the Hinghwa revival, John's father became the leading pastor in the town and was soon weighed down with the work. He appointed lay-preachers whom he used on a rota system to preach in the surrounding villages. John soon took his place among these messengers of Christ, although he was by far the youngest of them all. He was, therefore, already giving conscientiously prepared sermons at the age of fourteen. Whenever his father was unable to take a service due to the pressure of his work, John readily stood in for him. The congregations loved to listen to him preach on account of his vivid style of delivery. At the time old established Christians were already thinking, "What will become of this young child?"

As in the life of every man of God, the planning and guiding hand of the Lord can be seen in the life of John Sung. As a schoolboy, John had already aroused much attention by his flair for studying and his unflagging industry. Thus, it is hardly surprising that this zealous young man soon set his sights on a university education. However, since China had been going through much unrest since 1919, he began to think of entering an American university.

But, severe obstacles stood in the way of this plan. Who would pay for the journey? Who would stand guarantor for his stay in the United States? And most difficult of all, John had a typical Chinese infection of the eyelids, which would automatically bar his access to America! As a fourth stumbling-block his own father was opposed to his ideas of travelling. Four formidable hindrances!

Could anything be impossible to God? John resorted to prayer. This was his proven course of action at such times. The Lord gave him his answer in the form of a letter. An American missionary lady, who knew nothing of his scheme, wrote to encourage him to study in the U.S.A. saying that she would stand as guarantor for his visit there. Overjoyed, John showed the letter to his father and asked. "Isn't this God's answer?" Following this breakthrough, John received so many gifts of money from various sources that he was not only able to pay for his fare, but had a considerable sum left over to help finance his start in the new country. Help came from an unexpected source for the infection of his eye-lids. While he was having a haircut, the barber noticed the infection and offered to clear out the inside of the lid with a sliver of bone, and afterwards to wash it. John agreed to this. The painful process was undertaken several times until the infection was completely cleared. Finally, his father gave his consent also. This was the work of the 'Great Architect' who, in his mercy, always enables his apostles and children to reach their goals.

The Crisis

The new life in America was anything but easy. Delicate health, a continual lack of money, and an unavoidable operation were subjects for much prayer. The American missionary too, had unfortunately not kept her promise. It has often been a cause of great vexation to many believers, that promises are treated so lightly in American circles. For John, it meant that he clung all the more closely to the promises of the Bible.

In spite of these tremendous hardships, John achieved breath-taking progress as a student. In three years he completed a curriculum intended to take five. Moreover, he was consistently among the top students. Besides receiving the prizes for Physics and Chemistry, he was awarded the gold medal for that year. When he finally received his degree, newspapers carried glowing reports on the gifted Chinaman. Three universities tried to woo him. The world-famous Harvard University offered him 1.000 dollars a year if he would enrol there, a sum of money which would be worth at least four times as much today. John, however, plumped for the more modest offer made by Ohio State University.

At this point, the knowledge-hungry student applied himself to obtaining his M. Sc. and Ph. D. in chemistry. Since, at that time, German chemistry was at the forefront, John thought of learning the language in order to have access to German scientific writings. During his vacation he flung himself into the unfamiliar language, and in two months mastered it so well that he was able to translate a hefty chemistry textbook into English. The professor who checked the translation thought he must have been studying the German language for years. What another man might have taken two years to do, John Sung had managed in two months. Once again, his achievement caused a great stir. He was showered with awards and invitations. During this time, Peking University became aware of its successful compatriot and offered him a professorship. However, the invitation which most attracted John came from Germany, where the services of this extraordinarily gifted chemist were much sought. A scientific team offered him a research post with unusually favourable financial conditions.

Dr. Sung, as he was now called, prayed a great deal about his future path. In reply, the Lord referred him to the words of Matthew 16:26, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet forfeits his soul?" His thoughts returned to his original plan and vow. He had only intended to study in America temporarily and then return to China as a preacher of the gospel. So, he decided to go and study theology at a theological seminary for a while. In this way he arrived - certainly guided by God - at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, known for its liberal teaching.

And so began his final preparation for the service that lay ahead for him in preaching the kingdom of God. But the schooling was to bring him completely to his knees.

The main cause of this was the rationalistic theology taught in the college. Every problem concerned with the Bible was discussed in the light of human reason. Only that which could stand up to the scrutiny of logical thought was accepted as being worthy of belief. Belief in Christ suffering for the propitiation of our sins; belief in miracles, the resurrection, the ascension and the second coming: all these were rejected as unscientific. Served with this diet, Dr. Sung soon lost his former faith and he came face to face with the most critical inner crisis of his life. He said to himself, "Everything that I have believed in till now has been taken away from me. I cannot go on living in this state. Either I end my life, or, through the Holy Spirit, God must give me another way to live."

Again God heard the cry of his heart. During the night of February 10th 1926, the Lord came to him. Breaking down under his burden of sin, Dr. Sung cried to the Lord, praying and weeping till midnight. Suddenly he heard a voice saying, "My son, your sins are forgiven." At this his soul was filled with light. Even though it was still night, reaching for his Bible, he began to read the Gospels in a way he had never done before.

The next morning, all the scholars and students noticed the transformation; and Dr. Sung made no secret of his new experience. Wherever possible he bore witness to the Lord Jesus and his abrupt manner soon began to cause something of a stir. Ever since childhood, he had been a person of clear-cut and radical decisions.

Describing his theological books as books of demons, he burned them and dedicated himself exclusively to the study of the Bible and to prayer. His liberal teachers were so shocked by his brusque manner and his condemnation of their brand of theology, that they begged him to submit himself to a psychiatric examination. This is typical! First of all, these rationalists destroy the faith of a person, then, when that person denuded of all security finds the Lord Jesus, he is looked upon as mentally ill and packed off to a psychiatric clinic. I sincerely hope that in spite of their theology, these modern theologians may have realized their mistake and come to the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. I should like to see their faces one day when they, at last, realize that through their theology they have been serving the devil's interests on earth.

In the story of Joseph he says: "You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good." (Genesis 50:20). This is how it was in the case of Dr. Sung. What the Union Theological Seminary contrived was also part of the purposes of God.

Dr. Sung was advised to rest for six weeks and he agreed, although only after some protest. However, when he asked to be permitted to return to the seminary after the six weeks had expired, it was made clear to him that he would have to stay away longer. His old fiery temper flared up, "I've been deceived. I'm not mentally ill, though my heart might well have been damaged by the miserable theological f are I was served with at the seminary." This energetic outburst led the psychiatrist to transfer him to a ward for violent patients. It was one of the worst experiences in Sung's life, to have to spend his days and nights in a ward of dangerous, fighting, swearing maniacs.

He asked the Lord what it all meant. The answer came, "All things work together for good to them that love God." Then Dr. Sung received yet another personal message from the Lord. He was told, "You must endure this treatment for 193 days. In this way, you will learn to bear the cross and to walk the pathway of obedience to Golgotha."

With this, John Sung was content. He knew it was the will of the Lord, and that all he had to do was to wait. The psychiatrist allowed him to return to his original private room. There, Dr. Sung had time to pray and to read the Bible. He avidly read many chapters each day. Later he commented, "That was really my theological training." Altogether, he read the Bible through 40 times during this period of enforced rest. He told no one of the Lord's promise that he was to spend 193 days at the clinic, but after exactly 193 days he was discharged. This was proof that it really had been a message from the Lord, and not his own imagination. Dr. Sung was now finally armed for his evangelistic work in China.

We frequently come across periods of quietness like this in the lives of the special instruments of the Lord. Joseph was two years in prison. Moses spent 40 preparatory years in Midian; Elijah was allowed to hide by the brook Cherith; Jeremiah found himself in prison and later in a pit; John the Baptist sat in the mountain fortress of Machaerus; Paul was two years in Arabia; Luther was at Wartburg until his time had come. These times of solitude are part of God's schooling.

The Wesley of China

The Union Theological Seminary had long since removed the name of Dr. Sung from its roll of students. They did not want anything more to do with him since his burning of their books. But, John's thoughts were now set on China, and on the 4th October 1927 he set sail from Seattle for Shanghai.

When Dr. Sung arrived back in his homeland, and was united with his family whom he had not seen for the past seven years, he found there was one remaining hurdle for him to take. His father said to him, "Son, I have always been a poor preacher. I hope that you will now take a post at a university here and help to pay for the education of your younger brothers." John had feared this might happen. All the same he replied to his father, "My life is dedicated to the spreading of the gospel. I am dead to the world and to myself. I can take no other path." And so his course in life was fixed.

Then, in May 1928, Dr. Sung met Andrew Gih for the first time. Both men realized that their lives were following similar paths. For both of them it was a case of being completely surrendered to the Lord for the task of spreading the gospel wherever his Spirit led.

At first, the two men worked together as a team with Andrew Gih sometimes acting as interpreter to Dr. Sung in districts where the dialect was unknown to him.

Dr. Sung's first meeting with the so-called 'Tongues Movement' proved to be both significant and informative. It was in the port of Tsingtau that he had to deal with the question of the gifts of the Spirit. The 'charismatic movement' within this port, with its ever changing population, was very strong. Its followers claimed that the fullness of the Holy Spirit would manifest itself in outward signs such as tongues, spiritual songs, visions and dreams. Dr. Sung was drawn into a heated argument over this problem. He became so confused, however, that he decided not to preach but to listen to Andrew Gih instead. Praying earnestly for clarification, the Lord soon granted him his request.

Andrew Gih was preaching on John 4 at the time, and talking about the living water which Jesus offered the woman of Samaria. The answer came just like a revelation. Later John said, "The blessing of God and the fullness of the Holy Spirit do not consist in our searching for fulfilment in strange tongues and other outward manifestations, but in becoming purified streams, through which the living waters of the Holy Spirit can flow to the thirsty souls around us."

From that moment on Dr. Sung preached with a new power. Often he prayed, "Lord, purify and mould me in such a way that the living waters may pour forth like the torrents of Niagara."

Wherever he went there was a spiritual revival: men acknowledged their sins, enemies were reconciled, stolen goods were returned, students and scholars begged their teachers for forgiveness, and the teachers themselves confessed their own sins. Best of all, after each missionary campaign, teams were formed to carry the gospel to the outlying villages. Sometimes, following a single campaign, 6o to 100 of these teams would be formed overnight.

Dr. Sung was a master at illustrating his messages. When he preached once that sin must be pulled out by the roots, he went to the pots of plants around the platform and tore the flowers out one by one crying: "Now they can't grow again. Sin must be torn out in the same way."

One day he was speaking on Romans 6:23 which reads, "The wages of sin is death." Having a small coffin and a number of stones brought on to the platform, he exclaimed, "The coffin represents death. The stones symbolize sins." Dr. Sung thereupon started naming some sins, and for each one, he threw a fresh stone into the coffin. The evangelist then explained what it all meant: "Every man carries a coffin and as the coffin fills with stones and becomes too heavy, the bearer is gradually crushed."

On other occasions, he used the following illustration when speaking of the pastors and their congregations. He would have a helper bring a small charcoal stove on to the platform. Next he would order some small pieces of charcoal to be thrown into the fire, together with one large piece. Ten minutes later he would ask his assistant, "What can you see?" The reply would come, "The small pieces are glowing already, but the large piece isn't even red yet." Dr. Sung would then sum up this message. "The small pieces of charcoal are like the people in the congregation and the large piece is like the pastor. The pastors always take longest to catch fire." One can imagine that an example like this did not always endear him to the ministers of the churches. And yet at the end of his mis­sionary efforts, these same men would have to acknowledge that the church attendances had usually doubled or even trebled.

In the course of his preaching, Dr. Sung often received the gift of prophecy. Once he pointed to an individual in a crowd of over a thousand and said, "You're a hypocrite, mend your ways." The person he was addressing was a church elder who thought that the pastor must have complained about him to Dr. Sung. The next day, therefore, the elder sat in a completely different part of the large hall. In the middle of his sermon, the evangelist once again pointed towards the elder and said, "You're a hypocrite." When Dr. Sung had said this to him a third time, the elder decided to murder the pastor. He invited him to a meal at his house. The minister, however, was forewarned, yet in spite of the warning, this faithful brother went to visit the elder. As he entered his house, the man came straight at him with a long knife, and in his fury raised his arm for the fatal blow. Reacting al-most instinctively, the pastor fell to his knees and cried, "Lord, save this elder!" The knife went over his head into the wall. The blade broke. At that instant, the spirit of repentance came upon the elder. Falling on his knees beside the pastor, he begged him for forgiveness and surrendered his life to Christ. Such was the outcome of the drastic pronouncement of the evangelist.

In the short period of time from 1931 to 1935, Dr. Sung became one of the leading figures in China. The Christians nicknamed him 'the Ice-Breaker'. In a journal of the National Christian Council, Dr. Sung was placed at the top of the list of the six most well-known Christian personalities in China. This country, with its many millions of inhabitants, had never before possessed an evan­gelist of such power. For this reason, he was described by many as the 'Wesley of China'.

The Fruit of his Work

Christianity in the West, and indeed throughout the world, is marked by all manner of deficiencies. The number of conversions is small and there are pastors and ministers who, for 40 years or more sometimes, have never experienced a single case of confession of sin or conversion to Christ. Of course, conversions are basically the work of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, He usually uses men as His instruments.

The lack of conversions means that there are too few young men and women offering themselves to the Lord to do his work both at home and overseas.

A further deficiency is the lack of money which is always evident in Christian work. Consequently, the Church is constantly begging and collecting. The Bible too, is read so little that men know less and less about the God to whom all the treasures of this world belong.

What was the situation regarding Dr. Sung? Let us take as an example his three missionary campaigns in the towns of Taipei, Taitschung and Taiwan on the island of Formosa. At the end of the three campaigns, none of which were undertaken with the massive present day American style of organization, 5,000 people acknowledged that they had found the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. 460 young people offered themselves for missionary service. 4,000 dollars came in freewill offerings, plus many gold rings and other precious jewellery. Dr. Sung took none of the money for himself. The gifts were used for the maintenance of the lay-evangelists and not for filling his own pockets. Just how indifferent he was to money is illustrated by the following incident.

A wealthy business man visited him and brought him a large sum of money. Dr. Sung did not know the man, and looking intently at his benefactor, he finally said, "The Lord does not want your tainted money. He wants your soul." Thereupon he threw the large sum of money at the man's feet and refused to accept it.

Wherever the Holy Spirit holds sway, the most important thing is the salvation of men, and not the accumulation of banknotes. Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and the rest will be added to you as well."

Pioneer Work in Indonesia

This brief biography of Dr. Sung is given here for two reasons. First of all, Christians in the West, to whom this man is often still unknown, should be able to share in the glory revealed by the Lord in his short evangelistic life. Secondly, one should realize that the present revival is not the first time that Indonesia has heard an authoritative gospel message. The waves of revival stirred by Dr. Sung were just as strong as the present ones. The only reason they were not so widespread, was because Dr. Sung only lingered for a few weeks in Indonesia. It must also be remembered that it was the Chinese who were pre-dominantly gripped by the work of this pioneer.

Altogether, Dr. Sung came to Indonesia four times. In 1935 he evangelized the Chinese church in Medan in northern Sumatra. This community was revitalized by his ministry.

In 1936 the evangelist came to Sarawak, in the northern part of Borneo. In the British as well as in the Indonesian part of the island, there are large Chinese settlements. The campaign took place in Sibu (Sarawak). In the course of the ten-day mission, nearly 1,600 Chinese found their way to Christ, and more than 100 offered themselves for active service in God's kingdom. In addition to this, 116 teams were formed to go out into the villages to carry the fire of the gospel further. If one considers that a European evangelist often works for forty years before seeing results similar to those of this ten-day campaign by Dr. Sung, one will soon realize that evangelists in the West are in a very impoverished state. The work of the teams, who constantly maintained their witness despite the later occupation by the Japanese, is significant. Their work never faltered even amidst the confusion of war.

Dr. Sung's third visit was to the island of Java in January 1939. In September of the same year he visited the island again, later holding further missions on Celebes and the Moluccas. We must say more about this, in order to learn of God's exceptional grace towards Indonesia.

The Total Claim o f the Gospel

The reputation of Dr. Sung as a great evangelist had already reached Java before his own arrival. Nevertheless, the people who gathered in Surabaja for his first meeting were quite amazed by the small, thin man dressed in a cheap Chinese tunic who stood before them. They had pictured the Wesley of China very differently. However, one sermon was enough to make them reconsider their hasty first impressions. Everything about this unprepossessing man was energy and power.

On the very first evening they were to know for themselves what claims he made in the name of God. Speaking to his audience he said, "I have 22 messages to give to you this week. This means that I must hold three meetings every day at which you must all be present; otherwise you will fail to discover what God's message is for you."

A whisper went round the church, "What's going to happen? Must we stay away from work and be at the church the whole day?" The pastors warned John not to be too demanding. Dr. Sung persisted. He was right. His addresses communicated such power that it was no longer necessary to urge the people to attend the meetings. The Chinese shopkeepers closed their shops and came to listen to the evangelist preach. They hung notices on their shop doors, "Closed for the week - Missionary Campaign".

The revival spread still further. The school-children stopped attending school. They too, sat the whole day listening to Dr. Sung, and the teachers did the same.

Yet in John Sung's eyes, even this was not enough! Although the meetings lasted altogether about eight hours a day, the evangelist urged the young people, "Do not think that following Jesus is only a matter of being uplifted inside. There are millions who do not know the Lord Jesus. Go out and take the gospel to them." The young people formed themselves into the usual teams of three. Then going out into the streets and into all the bars which they had formerly frequented, they spread the glorious message of the gospel. During the days that followed, many were able to report the blessing which God had granted in their work.

The pattern which was to shape the current revival in Indonesia can already been seen emerging: teamwork. Those who attended the missionary addresses in Surabaja certainly had no spare time of their own. From morning till night they were absorbed in listening to the gospel preached and in organizing the evangelistic bands.

What was the life and work of the evangelist who made such total demands like?

He was usually up by 5 a. m. to read and pray for several hours. Then, as was the case in Surabaja, at 9 a.m. he held a meeting for the sick which lasted for an hour. Following this, came his three daily messages, each lasting at least two hours. Also there were the letters he had to answer. Since he often had to preach throughout the day, there was little time for the work of personal counselling. He therefore encouraged his listeners to write to him and tell him their needs. He also asked the newly converted for a photograph so that he would always be able to remember them in his prayers. It was often after midnight when he finally finished writing, and this now left only a few hours for sleep before the next day began.

Even when a week of evangelizing was over, there was no pause for rest. He literally preached for four weeks every month. The only free days he had were those he spent in travelling.


Dr. Sung did not usually base his sermon on a theme or a text, but rather preached his way through the Bible, verse by verse. His approach to each passage, however, was so varied, that one can compare him with Spurgeon. His preaching was the expression of his own private study of the Bible. We have already heard of how he burned all his theological books in America and called them 'books of demons'. Ever since that time the Bible had taken first place in his life, and he made a habit of reading at least ten or eleven chapters on his knees every day, conscientiously writing up in his diary the thoughts which the Spirit of God would bring to his mind while he read.

His sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 remained indelibly stamped on the minds of his audience in Surabaja. He illustrated how in his own life he had become more and more proud as a result of his swift ascent to fame in America, but how Jesus in His love, had ever remained close by his side. What an abyss lies between our pride and His patient waiting; our arrogance and His humility; our vanity and His simplicity; our greed and His self-denial; our suspicion of others and His faith in the sinner; our self-righteous smugness towards those who fall and His concern for the fallen. Yet, although we deserved the cross, the Son of God in His perfect love and humility bore the shame on our account.

The message of Dr. Sung struck home at the conscience of the audience. Their wills were moved and thousands were converted. Even today, 30 years later, the effects of his first missionary campaign in Java have not been erased. Many of the Chinese have remained faithful followers of the Lord ever since that time.

The Laying on of Hands

We enter now into a very controversial area. Praying under the laying on of hands is abused in three different ways.

First of all, the Church abuses the New Testament's direction to lay hands on the sick (James 5:14; Mark 16:17 f) by failing through unbelief to make use of this God-given means of grace.

The next abuse is found among extremist groups who lay hands on people both hastily and indiscriminately.

Then thirdly, certain spiritists and sorcerers adopt this practice, performing various types of magic under the laying on of hands.

In view of this, has any Christian still the courage to pray for a person under the laying on of hands? Is there in fact a correct use of the laying on of hands today? The answer is yes; a scriptural one.

But what is the scriptural practice like? Dr. Sung gives the answer. At his first meeting for the sick in Surabaja he read James 5:14 and went on, "I come to you as an elder of the Church. I come in the name of the Lord and not in any name of my own. I have no magical powers within my hands; so don't expect anything from me but only from the One who stands by me and whose servant I am."

The thing that is often forgotten in Christian circles today was at the forefront of Dr. Sung's mind. He explained that he could not lay hands on an unconverted person. Whoever had not confessed all his known sins, could not expect help from prayer under the laying on of hands.

Dr. Sung also encouraged the sick to realize that healing depended on the will of the Lord. He said, "I cannot guarantee that all the sick among you will be healed. Even the Lord Jesus did not heal all the sick. He was not always allowed by his Father to heal the sick of his day. How much less, then, his servants!"

After these introductory remarks the sick were then brought up to Dr. Sung on the large platform one by one. As they knelt he anointed them each with oil in the name of the Lord and prayed with them.

That same afternoon, a praise meeting was held in which those who had been healed gave their testimonies. Many had been cured of serious illnesses. A missionary wrote later, "Blind people received their sight, the lame walked, the dumb spoke, the ears of the deaf were opened; and, best of all, and the cures have lasted." So, it was not just a case of auto-suggestion.

What was even more striking than the healing of the sick, though, was the fact that many of these people experienced a fresh infilling of the Spirit of God during this anointing and laying on of hands. It was the story of the Acts of the Apostles all over again.

That which has already been said must be underlined again. Dr. Sung cannot, in any way, be included among the ranks of the extremists of today. His ministry was sober and faithful, and clearly biblically based. He was opposed to all fanaticism. He rejected tongues, dreams, visions and a life of exaggerated emotionally. In God's kingdom, we need no ecstatic experiences but need rather to be completely purified channels for the water of life. Such was the standpoint of a man, who, unlike most other evangelists, was involved in a continually increasing fullness of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, those upon whom he laid hands were even able to receive this fullness for themselves.

Thus, it is not only possible to speak of the work of the Holy Spirit in fanatical terms, but also in a sober and biblical sense. Therefore, a person who rejects extremism is a long way away from rejecting the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the contrary is probably the case, for extremism hinders the work of God's Spirit within us more than anything else.        

The Volcano among Volcanoes

On leaving Surabaja, Dr. Sung promised to make a return visit soon. The Indonesians had won his heart. He was to keep his promise in August and September of the same year.

He began his second missionary tour of Java with a campaign in Djakarta. The whole Chinese community was stirred. No one wanted to miss hearing the preacher, whose reputation was filling the Chinese-speaking world. Before the week was out, 900 people had repented and surrendered their lives to Christ.

The next stage of his tour took Dr. Sung across the waist of Java, among the volcanoes. He was in his element! Meanwhile, in Surabaja preparations were being made to receive the eagerly awaited guest.

2,000 volunteers declared their readiness to assist with the campaign. The cooperation of every Christian church had been enlisted, including even those which had remained so critically aloof during the first mission. Above all, the youth were full of expectancy. Dr. Sung had become their champion, their model. In the largest square in the town a makeshift hall had been erected. A gigantic roof of palm leaves gave protection against sun and rain, but there was still far too little room.

During the course of the week, 5,000 people streamed in daily to hear the evangelist speak. Thousands would take their places at 8 a.m. in order to obtain a seat, and would remain there until 11 p. m. at night when the last of the three or four meetings finally ended. I have never known, in my own experience, of such a campaign, not even with Billy Graham, where people have endured some ten to fifteen hours of preaching the Word of God each day, for ten solid days on end. Only the Holy Spirit could have brought this about. Mere advertising and even the best possible organization cannot create such a response and hunger after the Word.

The Bible Society's local depot in Surabaja had soon sold out of ail its Bibles and New Testaments, in spite of the stocks it had set aside especially for the campaign. The 5,000 hymn books were similarly quickly sold out and a new edition had to be printed as quickly as possible.

Dr. Sung preached at length on the Gospel of Mark and it served the purpose of preparing the newly organized evangelistic teams for their task. The final result of the ten-day campaign in this respect was the foundation of another 500 of these bands, which subsequently swarmed across the whole of Java spreading the gospel message.

One of Dr. Sung's interpreters, a pastor from Malang, said: "There was nothing remarkable about the preaching style of Dr. Sung. His repertoire of sermons was not large; his presentation, occasionally childlike, but a great power radiated from him and as his interpreter, I could feel the effects of it upon myself."

It almost sounds trite to say it, yet the comparison is justified; Dr. Sung preached among the volcanoes of Java and was a man who was built in the same mould. He once said of himself; "There are many people better than I! For exposition of the Scriptures I am not equal to Watchman Nee! As a preacher I am not up to Wang Ming Tao! As a writer, I cannot compare with Marcus Cheng! But, in one matter I surpass them all; that is in serving God with every fibre of my body and every ounce of my strength." Did not Paul write something similar? "I have laboured more abundantly than all of them." (I Corinthians 15:10).

In what way could the same be said of Dr. Sung? After having already heard something of his daily routine, we must realize a little the extent to which his labours drained him of all his strength.

For a long time his friends had been aware that he was ill. They advised him to seek medical treatment. He answered, "I haven’t the time. I must preach the gospel." During John's last meeting in Surabaja the pain in his hip became so unbearable that he could no longer stand in the pulpit to preach. Having a stool fetched for him, he knelt down and preached on his knees. He said later, "The pains only ceased while I preached or prayed. As soon as I had finished they returned."

Surabaja was the climax of Dr. Sung's work in Indonesia. How the Christians and Malays had hung on to his every word! When he left the town on September 30th 1939, hundreds stood singing on the quay to see him off. Some Catholic missionaries on the boat looked at the quayside in astonishment when they saw the crowds of people gathering. They wondered what important person would appear. But the only person who came was a little in-conspicuous Chinaman bent under the pain of his sick body.

Naturally, many well-meaning voices will arise and ask, "Why didn't he spare himself? Why didn't he take Paul's advice about bodily health being profitable a little? Why did he simply make a martyr of himself?"

The answers are not difficult to find. It is true that these objections apply to every worker in the kingdom of God, but is there any sense in saying to an active volcano, "Would you please stop sending up clouds of smoke and ashes into the sky; and no more lava please!" A volcano would never obey instructions like these! Yet Dr. Sung was a volcano by nature.

The Prophet

John Sung would not be restrained, and this too was certainly part of God's plan for his life. In retrospect, this can be said with absolute certainty.

This man of God was continuously under the impression that he had to hurry: "I have so little time." And surely, this was true, for in his forty-third year he return­ed home to be with his Lord.

In regard to world politics, too, there was little time left. In Surabaja he said, "Wars and times of persecution will come upon you." How literally these words were fulfilled! Indonesia was occupied for two years by the Japanese. Then, came the struggle for independence from the Dutch, followed later by the bloody conflict with the Communists, which cost about a million people their lives. On top of all the chaos caused by war, came the persecu­tion of the Christians in Sumatra, East Java, and other areas of this great archipelago.

Not least of all, Dr. Sung felt that the second coming of Christ was near. He continually preached this fact and endeavoured to prepare Christians to be ready to meet their Lord.

Dr. Sung's last message to the Church, which he gave shortly after his tour of Indonesia was, "The work of the future is to be the work of prayer." It was almost prophetic.

As a Chinaman God had shown him that in China, and little by little all over the world, the doors were closing. In China, today, the doors are already closed, and other countries are quickly following suit. Under the coming anti-Christ, the wave of persecution will surely grow.

Driven from within by the Lord and accounting his own life as nothing, John Sung burnt himself out in the service of his Coming King. Indeed, he had always hoped that he would die in the pulpit.

Apart from this prophetic side of his life, there is one last human issue which can be mentioned. The Lord had to teach his servant a final lesson; the art of suffering. Following a medical examination in Shanghai, the doctors discovered tuberculosis of the lungs, and cancer. An unending schooling in pain and agony, combined with three operations followed.

Dr. Sung understood that this was God's way. He said, "God must melt my stubborn temperament in the crucible of pain." And this is just what happened. In his suffering, he lost his often harsh manner and instead became patient, compassionate, and warm.

Seeing death approaching, he said one day, "The Lord Jesus is waiting outside the door to collect me." And so it was. Within a few hours of uttering these last words off his wife, he was translated into the Heavenly Kingdom.


I have stumbled across the tracks of this much blessed evangelist many times in my life; in Hong Kong and Singapore, in Formosa and Los Angeles. Next to Dr. Sung, he is one of the most prominent Chinese evangelists of this century. At the time of the writing of this book, he is 68 years old and passing the evening of his life in California. In order to be able to understand the power of his ministry, we will first hear something of the experiences he had in his missionary work.

The Bandit

At the time of the first Communist disturbances in West Shantung, a bandit by the name of Wang was engaged in his usual habits of raiding, kidnapping and blackmail. One day, coming to a village in the hope of finding some spoil, he was suddenly confronted with a large crowd of people. "What's happening here?" he asked. He received no reply, but instead heard a man talking at the front. It was Gih, and he had just begun to read the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15, "And he took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living." Wang was astonished and wondered, "How did this man know my story?"

The bandit listened now all the more attentively, and when the evangelist summoned the people to come forward and to repent, he went forward with them. At that moment the criminal was changed into a disciple of Christ.

His transformation bore instant fruit. He went home, knelt before his wife and begged her forgiveness. Then searching out his aged parents, he asked them to forgive him too. His next journey took him to the pastor of the district in which he lived. He became a loyal member of the congregation there and used every opportunity to testify of his new found faith to his former friends. When they jeered and made fun of him, he calmly stood his ground, which was proof enough that his nature had been > changed.

However, on another occasion one of his former colleagues, while making fun of him, said, "If a gangster can preach the gospel, then this bloke Jesus must also . . ." - He didn't get any further. Wang was on him in a moment and bit off one of his ears. Spitting it out, he wiped the blood from his mouth. He, then, said quietly, "You can insult me as much as you like, but you're not going to insult Jesus while I'm around." The wounded man withdrew from there, vowing revenge.

Wang went to the pastor and recounted the incident to him. He was convinced that he had done the right thing. The pastor, then, read to him the story of Peter who had struck off the ear of the high priest's servant, and he added, "You have done exactly the same. When Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, later on, he no longer acted like that." Wang repented and asked God to fill him with the Holy Spirit.

Here we see already an indication of the blessing that rested upon the work of Andrew Gih; but, he still had a long way to go. Let us now hear something of the way in which his ministry developed.

Andrew's Conversion

Buddhism was the religious background of Andrew's parental home. The family, however, was only nominally Buddhist. They were just about as concerned with Buddha as nominal Christians are with Christ.

It was curiosity that one day led Andrew to visit a Buddhist temple, but the monstrous idols and dreadful pictures illustrating hell completely revolted him.

His next goal was a Roman Catholic Church. When he went in, he was still wearing his straw hat, but someone quickly took it off his head! Andrew was annoyed by this and determined never again to visit a Christian church.

However, God's hand can already be seen at work in his life. Andrew's friends started studying English, and this made him want to master the language as well; but he could find no place to study. In the end, he reluctantly decided to attend the Bethlehem Mission School in Shanghai. He made up his mind though, that he would under no circumstances become entangled in the religion of the foreigners.

A morning service was held at the Mission School every day, and Andrew avoided it with the excuse, "I live too far away and can't get to the school on time." At the Mission the English language was taught through the Bible, and in this way Andrew's knowledge of the book grew.

Most of the students were convinced Christians, and because of this, they often challenged Andrew. "Do you believe that God created the world?" one of the girl students once asked him. "No," replied Andrew. "Then where do we come from?" another student butted in. "From our parents, of course," Andrew answered flatly. "And where did the first parents come from?" "From lower forms of life," Andrew replied again. "Why do apes still exist then? Why didn't they also develop into human beings long ago?" Andrew was baffled and annoyed at the same time. However, the Christians gave him no peace and they prayed for him continually.

One day, the teachers at the Bethlehem Mission invited the students to a missionary meeting. To make it more convenient for the students, the school offered them an evening meal. Since the Chinese are brought up to be very courteous, Andrew felt obliged to stay.

That evening was to be the turning point in Andrew Gih's life. There awoke in him a strong awareness of his own sinfulness. That night he could not sleep; he struggled with his sin, until he finally cried out, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" At that moment, the peace of God came into his life. He was certain that God had taken possession of him. The next day, he immediately made his experience known to the Christians and non-Christians alike. "Becoming a Christian is the best thing a person can do."

The Open Door

From the start, Andrew was a man of prayer. He would lay hold of every possible promise he could find in the Bible. Thus, it was a great encouragement to him when the Lord gave him the verse: "Behold, I have set before you an open door which no man can shut" (Revelation 3:8).

Relying on this promise, he set out to find a job. He had to help his mother to keep the family, since his father had died a number of years before. At that time, the main post-office in Shanghai had a hundred vacant posts. However, the number of applicants ran into thousands. Moreover, only those who knew English were accepted and Andrew was only a beginner in the language. Many of the other applicants had, in fact, already been abroad to English-speaking countries. Andrew resorted to prayer. He was given a post.

Tears ran down his mother's cheeks when he brought home his first wage packet. "Son," she said, "I haven't had so much money in my hands since your father died."

Yet, Andrew did not want to be a post-office employee all his life. One night, he had a dream. He saw an old man ringing the bell for church. Suddenly, whilst he was still ringing the bell, he was attacked by a lion and killed. Andrew then heard a voice saying, "Who will take his place?" On hearing the question, he awoke, and he knew straight away what his answer must be.

With a heavy heart, he told his mother that he felt himself called to God's service. She began to weep and said, "Then I shall have to do my weaving until midnight again so that I can feed the other children." How this answer pierced his heart. The Lord, however, directed him to the verse: "He who does not leave mother, wife, and children, for my sake, is not worthy to be my disciple."

Andrew applied to become a Bible student at the Bethlehem Mission. He received a small grant, half of which, he shared with his mother. The other half he retained for himself, though, was not really sufficient for his clothing and shoes; so he had to go about very poorly dressed.

His inner life was the exact opposite of his outward appearance. His heart burned for Jesus. Every evening, he was out and about in the streets and on the outskirts of the town preaching the gospel to the people he met. Since he had no money for the bus, he went everywhere on foot. During the rainy season, he often waded knee-deep in water. This resulted in him catching a very heavy cold from which he could not seem to recover. He prayed and the Lord answered him through Isaiah 43:2: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you."

In spite of a stubborn cough, he carried on preaching. During the holidays, he and a friend undertook an evangelistic tour. They had been away for three months in a southern province when Andrew began to spit blood. At the beginning of one of the evening meetings, he coughed up so much blood that he filled his handkerchief with it. His friend sent him to bed but Andrew could not rest. When he heard the singing from his room and the time for the sermon approached, he slipped back into the church. Going to the pulpit, he began to preach. Within three months he had preached away his tuberculosis of the lungs. Later, he realized that it was wrong to be so reckless with his health. We have a responsibility towards our bodies as well. However, the Lord had shown him mercy. Andrew depended on the Lord completely for his personal needs. One day, he prayed to God for some money for a pair of shoes. He received the answer quickly. A friend brought him two Chinese dollars which, at that time, was just enough to buy a pair of shoes. Shortly afterwards, Andrew received another visitor, this time a young man who had not long been converted. This new Christian was in a desperate situation as he had given up his former dishonest occupation after his conversion. He asked Andrew for help, having already had to sell some clothing simply to buy rice. Andrew prayed to God for money for his brother in Christ. A voice then encouraged him, "Why do you ask? You have two dollars. Give those to him." After a little hesitation he complied, and gave his poverty-stricken brother the money. Some days later the Lord paid him back with an interest of 1,400 %. He was given 30 dollars!

Once after an evening meeting, Andrew stayed behind in the church to pray for the people who had just attended the service. Suddenly, a commotion developed outside and he heard a threatening voice start shouting, "Beat the swine up." Immediately some of the Christians rushed back into the church to be at Andrew's side. Kneeling with him, they began to pray. A mob armed with clubs pushed their way into church, but, on hearing the Christians praying for them, they drew back speechless. The Lord had stood guard over his servant.

Endued with Power

Although Andrew had already had some wonderful experiences with his Lord, he still sometimes felt a lack of authority in his life. As a result, when he was listening to an evangelist preaching once and heard the invitation to go out to the front, he got up and went out himself. The renewed humility before the Lord was richly rewarded. The presence of Jesus became for him a new and living realty. He wrote about it later, "I didn't experience any ecstasy or any holy laughter; I didn’t speak in tongues or have a vision; and I didn't hear a voice. I simply surrendered my whole life completely to Jesus. In this way, a new strength came into my life."

This new blessing bore fruit. Wherever the young evangelist went, the Lord allowed revival to follow.

For example, in one particular town in the province of Canton, the rector of the local college set himself against Andrew Gih's missionary campaign. Yet, many of the students were converted. Finally, he too was won over. As John Sung had said, "The largest pieces of charcoal are the last to be set alight." At the end of the mission, the rector stood up and gave the following testimony:

"I was fortunate enough to be brought up in America. It was there that I was taught my modern theological views. When the young evangelist Gih began his work here, I was opposed to him. I claimed he was just playing on the emotions of the young people to get them excited. However, the message at the last meeting affected my conscience. I had to confess my sins, though I fought against doing so, and now I stand before you students whom I have been teaching for years. This morning, a young man of about your own age gave his message.

When he asked who wanted to decide for Christ, and you all made your decisions, it became clear to me that I lacked something in my life. My lengthy training has not made me capable of influencing you in the way this mission has done. Please, pray for me that I might be given what I need."

It was the same story in the next town. The students at a Bible school experienced a fresh and deep sanctification of their lives. Even the lecturers repented and sought the forgiveness of their sins. The girls of a senior girls' school remained in prayer in the church for hours until their teachers also came to Christ. All petty quarrels were pushed aside. The senior boys' school was likewise drawn into the revival. Boys, who had been a problem