Pentecostals on the tsunami-ravaged coast of Indonesia are experiencing a wave of conversions and healings. In the strongly Muslim Aceh province of northern Sumatra—where 167,000 people died in the 2004 tsunami—the underground church movement is growing, with Pentecostal congregations thriving.
Indonesia has an official policy of religious tolerance, but in Muslim-dominated areas Christians face open hostility and persecution. In Aceh province, churches must register with the authorities and are not permitted to evangelize. Many Christians choose to meet in unregistered—or underground—churches.
Sumatra is one of the least evangelized places on earth, according to Operation World. But since the tsunami—which wiped out 15 percent of the population of Aceh’s provincial capital Banda Aceh—numerous underground churches have put down roots.
Pastor Nico (full name withheld for security reasons) started an underground Pentecostal church four years ago with only six members. Today 90 people from the neighborhood make up the Spirit-filled congregation. They endure persecution for their faith. One church family had rocks thrown through the windows of their home, and another family was forced to relocate because of threats.
“It’s very difficult for the Muslims to accept us here,” the 34-year-old pastor said. “If the authorities knew where we meet, they would close us down.”
Despite the risks, the congregation is mission minded. “We’d like to go to the homes in this area, to the marketplace, to share about Jesus and start another church,” Pastor Nico explained. “We love God, but we also have to love people—even those who don’t love us.” [charismamag.com, 6/8/09]