Ribur and Roy are Christian evangelists in a strict Muslim area in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. For the past few years they have been witnessing to Muslims through a mission providing locals with assistance for farming and cattle breeding. This practical service has enabled them to develop friendships and they have seen five Muslims become followers of Christ.
In Indonesia, Christians are permitted to own Bibles, but are not allowed to evangelise or convert Muslims to Christianity. In order to win one Muslim woman to Christ, Ribur hand wrote the Gospel of John onto scraps of paper so she could smuggle them page by page to the woman for her to read as she witnessed to her at the beach.
In May 2012, Ribur and Roy felt the call of God to evangelise in Gampong Neuheun village. Ribur said she had three dreams where Jesus spoke to her as the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23 and this gave her the confidence to go to this village. Ribur and Roy stayed with a Muslim woman, Maria, who had many questions about Christianity.
On 29 May, Roy felt compelled to go up a mountain and pray. ‘I sensed something was coming, but I didn’t know what it was. It was like the Lord was preparing me to completely trust in Him,’ Roy said. ‘I was at peace and said, ‘I will trust you Lord, no matter what happens.”
The next day, Roy was standing outside Maria’s house when a young man started a conversation with him. Roy felt uneasy and sensed the man may have had an ulterior motive for detaining him. Before he could excuse himself and leave, he saw a mob advancing toward him. ‘This young man hit me solidly in the face without warning and the mob rushed and started beating me,’ Roy said. ‘During the beating I began to feel the strength of the Lord and I prayed, ‘Lord forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
People in the mob cried out, ‘Allahu Akbar!’ (Allah is great) and as Ribur was being pushed and jostled by the mob, she heard some people shout, ‘You came to this area dressed in a head scarf, but we know you have another mission! What are you doing here? You cannot buy Islam with your money!’ ‘I immediately prayed to the Lord to give me strength as this was developing into a serious situation. I was also thinking of the Lord Jesus being beaten and He had suffered for me,’ Ribur said.
‘The people brought me to the house of the village chief, where I was questioned. They mocked and berated us. In response, we told them what we know about Jesus and why we believe in Him. But every time we said something, they slapped and kicked us. It was a miracle that we had the strength to endure it all.’ The mob crammed into the official’s office and pressed so hard against the door that the hinges broke. They shouted accusations and beat Ribur and Roy while the village chief questioned them. Someone brought a backpack which had been found under the seat of Ribur’s motorcycle. Inside was a Bible, Christian tracts, a water bottle and a list of new believers.
Ribur and Roy were accused of coercing a Muslim woman named Miriam to join their church. One person claimed the water bottle was intended to be used for a baptism. The evangelists told the village chief that they had been discussing Christianity with the woman’s consent. ‘Who sent you to her?’ ‘Jesus sent us,’ they replied. Their boldness enraged the mob. Fearing a riot, the village chief called the police.
Four policemen arrived at the village official’s office, collected all the ‘evidence’ and took Ribur and Roy to the local police station. The angry mob followed them and stood outside protesting. News of the incident spread and journalists arrived to interview people about what had happened. ‘On the way there, the Lord opened the door for us to share our faith,’ Ribur said. ‘Every step and every mile, it seemed that opportunities to talk about Jesus kept coming to us. So, the police, reporters, and everyone in the prison heard about Him!’
Ribur and Roy were held at the local police station for three hours and then taken in separate vehicles to a police station in Aceh’s capital city where they were placed in a cell and interrogated by two officers for several hours. The officers asked them questions like, ‘Why were you sharing about Jesus?’ ‘Because Jesus is for all people and He wants everyone to know about Him,’ Ribur replied. ‘Haven’t you read the Koran?’ ‘Yes I have, but it is not very deep compared to the Bible.’ Roy and Ribur were questioned regarding the mob’s accusations and detained overnight on the pretext of being witnesses to the event.
On 1 June the authorities charged Roy and Ribur with ‘blasphemy and abusing Islam,’ a serious offence, and decided to hold them until further investigations were made. News of their situation reached various Christian organisations who mobilised the church to pray for them. One of the policemen was a believer from the Batak tribe, the same tribe as Ribur, and he was able to obtain permission for Roy and Ribur to have their Bibles in their cell. Voice of the Martyrs also provided them with some Christian material.
When their case was presented before the court, the evidence against Roy and Ribur was insufficient to convict them so they were released on 30 July 2012 and told to leave the area. Ribur wrote a letter of thanks to the Christian community to express her thanks for the support she and Roy received: ‘First I want to thank Jesus my Lord. All the things that have happened in my life so far ‘ including my being in jail ‘ are according to His will.
‘One time, I felt dismayed. I told God it was very difficult for me, and I even thought of giving up sharing my faith. But the Lord encouraged me with words from Matthew 10:24. ‘If I, your Master was persecuted, you will face the same thing too.’ My heart overflowed with thanksgiving! I asked the Lord to grant me wisdom to speak … so that whenever people asked me, I could share the Gospel with confidence. ‘In the prison cell, I felt God’s amazing love. So, thanks for your prayers, my brothers and sisters in Christ ‘ I’m not worried anymore. Jesus is my Good Shepherd; I lack nothing. My brothers and sisters, please keep praying for us.’