By Dan Wooding
MEDAN, INDONESIA (November 7, 2000) -- Dr. Benjamin Munthe, an Indonesian pastor who was involved in a September 17 brutal attempt on his life in which his driver Caleb was killed, has spoken about that fateful day.
The attack came from two men on a motorcycle as Dr. Munthe and his assistant, Caleb Situmorang, and an unknown number of the pastor's family were traveling by car to the G.K.I.I. (Victorious Faith) Church in Medan, in northern Sumatra, where Munthe is the pastor.
"A gunman on the back of the motorcycle fired into the car, reportedly mistaking Situmorang -- who was driving at the time of the attack - for Munthe," said Terry Madison, US President and CEO of Open Doors. "We have learned that sources said Situmorang was wearing a white shirt similar to what the pastor normally wears, while the pastor was wearing a blue shirt.
"Pastor Munthe said he saw the assassin pull the trigger at least twice more, but the gun did not fire and the attackers fled."
Madison added, "Situmorang, 37, was taken immediately to a nearby hospital but died the next evening. He was soon to be married, with an engagement party planned for October."
Now, in a special message to friends in the United States, Dr. Munthe has described the events that took place and the developments since the murder.
"Greetings from Medan! Thank you so much for praying continually for us," he began his message to prayer partners. "We know that by God's grace through your prayers and counsels, we can stand strong in these difficult times. We would like to share with you God's grace upon us during these few weeks to glorify His Name.
"Caleb our driver was shot on September 17 and he went to be with The Lord the next day."
Dr. Munthe said that the "reason of the shooting is just because we are Christians and this shot was meant to provoke riots in Medan (just like Ambon), to eradicate Christians and Christianity."
He went on, "Hundreds of people (friends and church members) took turns to pray for him in the hospital corridors and compound. Over 50 people donated their blood (not only Caleb's blood was shed, but many other's blood was shed also for Christ).
The doctors said that his chance to survive was only 5%, but we prayed for miracle.
"I FORGIVE THE MAN WHO SHOT ME"
"Shortly before he passed away, the doctor called me to report that amazing things happened to Caleb, e.g. he could not believe that Caleb still survived; even his heartbeat was raised a little, and he regained his consciousness, which was impossible for his condition, because all of his vital organs were damaged.
I came to the hospital and prayed again for him. Soon after I left, he lost consciousness again and passed away as if he was conscious just to say good-bye to me. The doctor said that these things are miracles to medical report. The last word he said before he lost his first consciousness was, 'I forgive the man that shot me.'
"The funeral took place on Wednesday 20th as we had to wait for his mother and relatives to come from their remote village -some 100 miles from Medan. We were very thankful to God because after much prayer, at last the mother consented to let her son be buried in Medan."
Dr. Munthe said that the funeral was glorifying the Lord, in the sense of showing the unity of the body of Christ in Medan. "Many church leaders and members came and gave speech to praise God and showed their love to us and to each other. Church leaders, who did not speak to each other before, hugged each other at that time. We saw and sensed the glory and the presence of God during the funeral service. God touched many through what happened to Caleb.
"Many testimonies of rededicating their lives to God. One pastor said, before Caleb's death, it was very difficult for him to ask for full-time workers. But afterwards, those people came to him and said that they would like to become full-time workers to help the pastor.
"One pastor said many people would like to serve the Lord but not many people would like to serve God's servant as Caleb did."
He then spoke about the hospital bills. "They charged the church for more than Rp.40.000.000 (about $5000) all together," said Dr. Munthe. "They thought that the church was a business company, but after we explained that our church members are mostly workers and we asked for discount, they finally charged us for Rp.30.000.000 (about $4000). The hospital staff said this never happened before, where some of the doctors asked for free charge or very low fee for their service. Praise the Lord, the church paid all the bills and was debt free.
A CHURCH TO BE BUILT AS A MEMORIAL TO CALEB
"On Caleb's funeral day, we collected special offering (about $2000) to build and start a church in Caleb's village, as a memorial for Caleb, because seven families from his village came to the Lord and they need to be nurtured in a local body of Christ in that village (the nearest church for them to attend is three hours walking on foot). We are going to send worker from Medan to pastor these people and other villages in the surroundings as well."
Dr. Munthe revealed that Caleb's wedding was scheduled to be on October 12. Both he and his fiancee (Lesmida) had prepared everything for their wedding including the invitations for friends and relatives. The first few days Lesmida was very sorrowful, but thanks to your prayers she is comforted now. She stays with us and resumes her ministry as one of the telephone operators in the church.
"As for our family news: after the shooting, there were some phone calls to put terror or fear in us. The persons that shot Caleb or put the bombs on our car and at our house haven't yet been found until now. The police said it is very difficult for them to find the person who is behind all these things, as this was a national wide political conspiracy and not just a criminal case. They have a lot of excuses about it. We pray that our police will have the boldness to eradicate the crimes and catch the lawbreakers in our city and country.
"Recently, especially after they caught the suspects who bombed a church headquarters in Jakarta, there was no more bombings in Medan, except several bombs threats, including to our church building in Medan Kota.
He concluded by saying, "We pray daily for the spirit of murder and death be cast out from our city. And on Sunday (October 29) there was a shooting again. One church worker/leader from a tribal Protestant church, near our house, was shot by motorbike riders. Miraculously the bullet missed his heart by one inch and he survived. Another bullet only hit the car's front door. He is still hospitalized. In another town in Central Aceh, gunmen shot down one car full with Methodist church workers, but miraculously no one was seriously hurt. All these things make us seek His face and become closer to Him everyday. The church becomes more mature and stronger in this persecution time.
"We know that our country needs God's forgiveness for all the wicked things that happened now. We need to really repent and humble ourselves and intercede for our people, our government and our country.
"Please pray for the church in Medan and Indonesia to rise up in holiness and in authority to respond to God's calling for us. For His will to be done, and His glory fills our country before His second coming.
"We really appreciate your love and concern for us and we still covet your prayer for our family. We rejoice even though, now our life is like in prison. The police still guard the house 24 hours a day (Psalm 127). Joyce has to stop her study in the faculty for one semester. But we become closer to God and to each other."