On September 10, 2015, after battling sickness for some time, Sari went home to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Sari, like her ministry partner Elis, was a gifted evangelist and woman of prayer. She always had encouraging stories to share of God’s faithfulness to answer prayer and work in the lives of the people around her. God used her, even in her last moments on this earth, to reach many Muslims with the gospel.
Testimony of Conversion
Sari’s family has been Muslim for centuries and her grandfather was an imam (a teacher of the Koran). Growing up she attended a pesantren started by Muhammadiyah, an Islamic movement seeking to purify Islamic beliefs by removing ancient syncretistic practices. It was in this school that she learned the Koran and all that it required of the faithful. As part of her studies she also learned Arabic, even though most Muslims in Southeast Asia read a translation of the Koran. However, the particular school she attended was known to teach fanaticism, which forbids the Koran from being translated. While learning, she would go home and teach her father the Koran in Arabic.
The Newspaper Evangelist
After graduating high school, Sari began looking for a job, but since she was so small no one wanted to hire her because they were only looking for taller people. On one occasion, she went with several friends to put in an application at a supermarket and all her friends got hired, but she was rejected. Finally, though, she found a job at an electronics store working in sales. She really liked the job because she was able to meet a lot of different people, but in spite of her being happy with the job, her parents didn’t like it because she had to work long hours and come home very late at night. Little did she know that her parents discontent would ultimately lead her to hear and respond to the gospel.
In order to please them, she applied for a job with a local newspaper. When she got to the newspaper’s office, she waited in line to submit the application to the manager, but there were so many people that Sari thought she’d never get the job. Giving up on getting hired, she turned and walked out. When she did, the manager of the newspaper saw her walking out and went after her and asked, “Why are you going to leave without seeing me?” Not having an answer, she went back inside with him and ended up not only getting the job, but getting to share an office with the manager. This was the place of most respect in the eyes of the other workers.
Providentially, the manager also happened to be an evangelist. When he told Sari that he was a follower of Jesus, she wanted to quit because she didn’t like being in the same place as Christians. Through her formative years she was taught that Christians are unclean and unholy. They are kafir, infidels. Looking back on the situation now, she knows that the evangelist must have been praying for her because she ended up keeping the job. She saw his character and the way he treated his co-workers and this caused her to stay.
A few months later he invited her to a church gathering and she went; the service she went to happened to be an all night prayer meeting which lasted from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. She didn’t understand anything that was being prayed about because they were praying in “tongues” the entire time. So, she started praying the way in which the Koran instructs Muslims to pray. Over and over again she prayed a prayer to fight back Satan and push him away. At the end of the prayer meeting she went home and the next day went and angrily told her boss, “I’m never going to church again. If you want to make me a Christian, it’s better I leave this job now!” She went home and never intended to go back to work again. But, her boss came and visited her, telling her that she didn’t have to come to the office again, but could work for the newspaper from her home. He bought her a motorcycle and gave her a job delivering newspapers.
A Gift That Cannot Be Taken
Every morning Sari woke up at 3 a.m. and was out delivering newspapers by 4 a.m. After one year, she wanted to give the money she’d made by selling newspapers back to her boss. On the way to deliver the newspaper’s profits, all of it was stolen. Unaware of what had happened, she arrived at her boss’s home and opened her purse to give him the money. When she looked, all of it was gone! She burst into tears knowing that she had lost a lot of money. When she told him why she was crying, he responded by saying, “If you become a Christian and have the Holy Spirit, then nothing can be taken from you.” These words made her question in her heart and compelled her to take and begin regularly reading the Bible. She also started to go to prayer meetings with the church on Thursday evenings and she began praying each morning with Christians. When she started praying with the Christians she felt something very different than what she felt while praying at the mosque. She began to feel a sense of peace.
Before she came to faith in Christ, though, her parents found a praise book with the name of Christ on it in her room. At the time, she was at a meeting with Muslim youth teaching them about the Koran. When she came home at 10 p.m. that night, her mother asked her if she had become a Christian. When she told her that she had not, in disbelief her mother tore her closet apart looking for a Bible or any other evidence that Sari was lying. She found Sari’s Bible and threw it away, telling her, “If you want to become a Christian, then go ahead and leave!” Sari, afraid of losing her family, that evening told God in prayer, “I’m not baptized, yet. If I go back to Islam, there’s no problem, right?” So, she went back to her old practice of doing the sholat(prayer) five times a day. But, in her heart there was no peace. One night she woke up at midnight. In Islam, there’s a specific prayer which teaches how to ask Allah for guidance in making a decision. So, she prayed that prayer and went back to bed.
That night she dreamed that she was in a very dark place. She was so frightened by the darkness. On each side of her, all around, there was an abyss. She was trapped and could not go anywhere. She spoke and said, “I’m so scared!” But, then she heard a voice that told her, “Don’t be afraid. You must climb to the top of the mountain that’s in front of you.” Next, she opened her eyes in the dream, still seeing the abyss all around, but in the distance seeing the tall mountain. Again the voice told her, “Climb to the top of the mountain.” Sari asked, “How can I get to the top of the mountain? Look at my disabled foot.” The voice responded, “In front of you is a rope leading to the top.” But Sari asked, “How can I climb this when I can’t hold the rope?” “Hold the rope tightly,” came the response.
So, in the dream Sari took the rope and began to climb with her own strength. When she got halfway up, her strength gave out. She was so tired and looking all around she cried out, “I’m so tired and I have no strength and I’m very scared!” The voice told her, “Don’t be afraid; don’t look behind you or you will fall. Close your eyes and climb.” Sari closed her eyes and began climbing, following the voice. She felt a hand behind her, pushing her up the rope. Finally, she reached the top! But, she did so, not because of her own strength, but because of God’s help.
On top of the mountain she looked all around and saw many people wearing white garments. She was given a crown of gold and when she looked at herself, she saw that she was wearing white just like she would wear if she were getting married. She saw how beautiful she had become. Her once crippled foot was now perfect. Then, the dream came to an end.
After the dream Sari started going back to church again and the Lord continued working on her heart. On October 22, 1993 she publicly professed faith in Christ and was baptized. Her parents didn’t know that she had become a follower of Jesus and when she went to meet with the church, she wouldn’t tell them where she was going but would say that she’s going to see friends. She would study her Bible at home, placing a magazine behind it so that anyone passing by might just think she’s reading the magazine. Her friend also gave her a small Bible that she could easily hide in her skirt when she left for church. Since the discipline of spending time in prayer had been instilled in her as a Muslim, she continued to spend much time in prayer, but unlike the days of her unbelief, praying now made her heart happy.
I Don’t Want to Hide It Anymore
While praying, Sari began to feel convicted about keeping her faith in Christ a secret from her family. She felt that it was her responsibility to tell her parents what God had done in her heart. Before telling them, she went and spoke with her boss at the newspaper and said, “I can’t live like this much longer. I need to be free. I want my parents to know and I don’t want to hide it anymore.” Sari then prayed and fasted for three days. On the third day a friend came to visit who was also a believer from a Muslim background. As she was leaving, without realizing what she was saying she said to Sari’s mother, “Thank you and God bless you.” This infuriated her mother. Her parents then asked her, “Are you already a Christian?!” The Holy Spirit gave Sari strength and courage and she answered, “Yes!”
Ten days later, Sari’s younger sister told her that her parents wanted to poison her so that she would die. This is something that happens often to believers from a Muslim background. In order to avoid the shame that is brought on their family, relatives will seek to end the life of the one who has chosen the Calvary road. When it was obvious to her parents that she knew of their intent to kill her, they angrily threw her out of the house, telling her that it was better they lose her than for her to become a Christian. Sari resolutely responded, “This is my decision. No one can oppose me because I believe in Christ, now.”
After being kicked out of her home, God continued to help Sari. She had counted the cost of discipleship and took heed to Christ’s words: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). But in sharing in the sufferings of Christ she also experienced the sweet fellowship that comes as a result. Finding herself without family and home, a whole new dimension of the Scriptures was opened to her, especially the promises and faithfulness of God. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30). Over the next few years, God continued to provide for the needs of his child in diverse ways. Often, Sari had to do difficult tasks which were beyond her own physical strength and ability. But, the difficulty she faced forced her to her knees to cry out to God for help and strength.
Sari (along with her coworker Elis) has been called, “God’s secret weapon.” She was unimposing and unthreating, but in her weakness, God used her mightily as she proclaimed His gospel unashamedly to all who would hear. She truly was one of whom the world was not worthy. But our loss in her death is her gain, for she now dwells in the presence of her Savior. May His Name be hallowed!
Note: For security reasons a pen name is used for this missionary.