A man in his forties walks carefully into the training room where Open Doors is holding the Standing Strong Through the Storm (SSTS) seminar. A fellow worker carefully leads him to avoid colliding with a plastic bench. Apparently, he is blind. Some participants rush to shake his hands. Many seem to know him. Open Doors staff was encouraged by the other attendees to talk with him and hear his extraordinary story of faith, courage, and obedience. This is what we found out.
His name is Ronald, a typical name for Indonesians. He came from a strong Muslim family from the Makassarese ethnic group. To them, Islam is their identity.
When he was a child, Ronald moved with his father, who served in the army, to Papua, a conflict-prone region where the population is predominantly Christian. However, no one ever told Ronald about Jesus. Instead, his encounter with Isa Almasih took place after his father had sent him back to Makassar to receive proper Islamic education.
It was a scorching day when Ronald and his friends studied the book of Maryam in the Quran. The mention of Isa in their holy book puzzled him so much that he asked his lecturer, “If Isa was the highest prophet on earth and in heaven, why don’t we worship him, too?” The teacher tried to dismiss his curiosity. “Don’t bother about it. That was written for the Christians.”
The answer agitated his heart, and eventually urged him to leave the campus, return to Papua, and study in a local university. Surrounded by believers, his knowledge of Christ increased. However, it took years before he fully embraced the Christian faith. This happened after he had encountered Jesus in a dream and had been introduced to a Belgian pastor serving in the region. Soon after completing his degree, Ronald went to Bible School.
Eventually, his father found out about his new faith and summoned Ronald to visit him. As soon as he set foot in the house, all his family members harshly scolded him. His father and three older brothers threatened him, “How could you follow the god of the infidels? No Makassarese should leave Islam! Repent and say the Shahadat (confession of Islamic faith), or you will go to hell!”
Though heartbroken to defy his family, Ronald replied, “Jesus, the one you’re rejecting, is able to turn hell into heaven.”
Shocked by the brave reply, the four men grew furious and started to beat Ronald. The severe pain almost rendered him unconscious. At that moment, Ronald felt the Lord’s touch. “God was strengthening me and His glory was above me,” he recounts. The spiritual experience enabled him to stay firm in Christ.
While Ronald was still enduring the blows, another brother came home. Drunk, he joined in the assault. His boots struck Ronald’s head and caused severe bleeding. Thinking that Ronald was dead, his father and brothers tossed him on the seashore and covered his body with a piece of cloth.
Ronald would have been dead if a local pastor had not passed by. Earlier in the night, God appeared in the pastor’s dream, asking him to have a morning walk on the beach. His obedience led him to save someone’s life. “When he found me, I was full of scars, drenched in blood, and blind,” Ronald painfully recounts.
By God’s grace, Ronald survived the beating that has cost him his sight. Yet, his obedience has not wavered, and his suffering is not in vain. Through his experience, he can strengthen other Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution. He also equips them with Islamic knowledge so that, one day, they can bless other Muslims.
Once a lecturer and Bible teacher, Ronald has amazed the local Christians with his ability to remember verses and preach without reading from the pages of the Scriptures. “That’s the power of God,” he says. “I lost my eyes, but I got Jesus. He’s the one providing spiritual insights—I need no eyes.”
Thank You, Father, for the encouragement of Ronald’s testimony of the power of Christ in him. As he reflects the light of Christ in his life, use this testimony to encourage many people who are facing rejection and affliction for following Christ. We pray for his ministry in Papua; that You might continually use him to bless and strengthen the local churches not only with his knowledge of Your Word, but also with his knowledge of Islam so that they might have a powerful witness amongst the Muslim community. We also pray for Ronald’s family as he stands before them as a living testimony to the power of Christ in him. Open their spiritually blind eyes to see the truth of the gospel. In the name of Jesus, who gives sight to the blind, Amen.