Last time around we wrote about religion in Indonesia, and in particular about Christianity here in West Timor. We may be repeating ourselves here, but there are many things within the church in Kupang that don’t seem to add up; Christianity here is not always so Christian, it would seem. Yet, at the same time, there is a ‘specialness’ about this place. It is as if God has given a special grace to the people here. Let me give you an example of what I mean.
If you have been following this blog from the beginning (thankyou 🙂 ), then you will know that I, Peter, was involved in a car crash (see the former post on this blog, imaginatively titled, ‘The Crash’). Once the police came and had checked out the scene of the accident, myself and Erik (whom I had been on my way to pick up from school), were driven to the police station. On the way, the officer who spoke some english told me something quite interesting. The night before, he had a dream where he was helping a foreigner (there are very few foreigners here). And here I was in his police car! I told him that maybe God had shown it to him (I didn’t yet know if he was a Christian or not).
Later, at the police station, he told me that he was a Christian, went to church every Sunday and tried to read his Bible often. Yet not long afterwards, he was telling me that he hated his Dad, and that he prayed for him to die. In fact, he said that he always prayed for those he hated to die. Now, we all know that Christians are not perfect or sinless, but this is not normal Christian behaviour. I encouraged him to forgive his Dad, and to be reconciled to him. In the following days the policeman sent me text messages with quotes from American preachers, whom he had seen on TV. I would always reply with a Bible verse. One day, I sent the verse, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). After that, I never heard from him again.
This young man had a dream (maybe about me), and we know of others who have had dreams. One of our friends is a Christian lady, with family in Soe. She has had dreams that seem very much to be from God. In some of these dreams, God has revealed specific information about a friend or family member, which has been proven to be true. It’s very obvious to us that God desires to speak to the people here. Another friend of ours, comes from a Christian family. She would say herself though, that she is the least Christian of her family, and that she is not committed in her walk with God. Yet, at times without prompting she will start talking to us about such matters as the mark of the beast, the end times, and how some news item makes her think of these things. She was also one of the first people to say to us that there are ‘too many Christians’ here in Kupang, meaning that Christianity here for some is just a religion and not a true life-changing faith in Jesus.
So what is going on here? There is so much evidence of Christianity here, you can literally see it everywhere. Yet dig beneath the surface, even just a little, and you see much evidence of religion, nominalism, and even the mix of Christianity with dark beliefs (maybe, at some point in the future we may write about that). Yet, despite this ‘shallowness’ of faith, it seems as if God really does speak with people here. There is this common faith among the people, almost like a Christian heritage. Maybe it has to do with what happened in the mountain town of Soe?
Soe, about 3 hours by car from Kupang, is a town in the middle of West Timor. Much smaller than Kupang, with a slightly cooler climate due to its height of 800m above sea level. Back in the mid-1960s there was a revival in that place (many Christians have never heard of the Soe revival. In fact we only stumbled upon it in trying to find out info on West Timor, before we left Norway). This revival, was one of the most amazing revivals since the days of the book of Acts to have happened in the world, in terms of numerical growth within the church, number of miracles, types of miracle and to a degree, spiritual growth. So what happened at Soe?
There were many factors leading up to the Soe revival, including some ‘mini’ revivals beforehand, which I will not go into detail about. Nevertheless, one thing worth mentioning was the lack of grounding in God’s Word, and the nominalism of the average church member. A team of Bible students from Java (another part of Indonesia) were led by God to come to Timor and preach there. As a result of this and later meetings in the autumn of 1965, the revival broke out. People turned to Jesus in their thousands, pagan fetishes were burned and destroyed, believers caught a new fire in their faith, amazing miracles occurred. Water was turned into wine, food was multiplied like in the feeding of the 5000, believers were ‘translated/transported’ like with what happened with Philip in Acts 8:39-40. It was even reported that the dead were raised on more than one occasion. The believers spoke in tongues, both the tongues of angels, and the tongues of men.
Much of the information that you can find out about the revival at Soe, can be traced to a certain german Dr Kurt Koch (google him and ‘soe revival’). He visited Soe at the height of the revival, and writes (in english) of what happened there. He even witnessed water being turned into wine. He also told of a time of where a local young Timorese woman sang a worship song to a group of western believers in a prayer meeting or something. This song was in english, and these men were reduced to tears at the beauty of the song, even though she didn’t have the best singing voice. However, when they asked her about the song, she had to tell them through an interpreter, that she didn’t know it was english, as she knew not one word of english. This was just a melody Jesus had given her, that she sang ‘in tongues’ to.
Some of this may seem hard to believe. Of course, everything is to be checked out with the Bible. The residents of Kupang at the time, did indeed find this hard to believe. So much so, that they thought the revival was of the devil. They rejected the whole Soe thing. Today, there are people in Kupang who have never heard of the Soe revival. How did the revival fade away? Because of the church. Among other things, it was the older leaders of the church who were envious of it being the young people who were used in the revival. As a result they wanted to control it, and so the revival faded out.
Is this why there seems to be both light and darkness at work here within the church?