The (long) road to Indonesia

CMI sends a speaker to the world’s most populous Muslim country


CMI events in Indonesia

The story of CMI-Australia speaker Dr David Catchpoole’s two-month intensive ministry tour of Indonesia (July/August 2010, just commenced at the time of first posting this article) really started about five years ago, when I first asked him if he would consider going on a ministry tour to Indonesia, given that he spoke the language and had lived there for some years. David was interested, but a tour would have to wait at least a couple of years to ‘brush up and improve’ his Indonesian.

Dr Catchpoole with the Brisbane pastor of his Indonesian-language church, Jerry Sanger
Dr Catchpoole with the Brisbane pastor of his Indonesian-language church, Jerry Sanger

I didn’t know that in the Lord’s timing his own pastor (David and his Indonesian-born wife Esther attend an Indonesian-language church in Brisbane), after hearing David present on creation, said, “This is a message for Indonesia!” and was urging David to go.

For David, the story really begins with his conversion in 1985, which itself relates to his going to Indonesia in 1983 for three-and-a-half years, as part of an Australian Government agricultural science assistance program. David sums it up: “I went to the world’s most populous Muslim country as an atheist, and came back a Christian. What does that tell you?”

In fact, it was Indonesia’s Christian community that unknowingly played a huge part in challenging his evolutionary presuppositions—e.g., about religion. (Although Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation, nearly one-tenth of the population is officially Christian, which means there are more Christians in Indonesia than Australia’s entire population!) Confronted during 1983 and 1984 with the stark contrasts provided by the meek and gentle way that Christians lived their lives in an overwhelmingly Islamic nation, David was forced to rethink the atheist mantra he previously held, that “all religions are equally valid—and equally wrong”. (And there was also plenty of evidence contradicting the previously-promoted evolutionary notion that brown-skinned peoples are less evolved than ‘whites’—and more.1) There were amazing acts of kindness and generosity shown to him by people who had little material goods. At a time of personal struggle over there, recalling such factors contributed to David’s conversion and commitment to follow Jesus.

David and Esther were married on his (their) last day in Indonesia in 1986 before moving to Australia. They were living in Townsville in 1997, raising their four children, when my CMI speaker colleague Dr Don Batten and I presented a weekend seminar to the churches there. One of the attendees was David, who at the time, though very much a Christian, was trying to work out how God might have used some watered-down version of ‘evolution’ over millions of years. It was only when I went to Townsville the following year to do CMI ministry that David ‘came out of the woodwork’, and excitedly told me of the hugely positive impact that our 1997 presentations had had on his life. We stayed in contact, and David joined the ministry full-time in 1999.

“We’ll need resources—in Indonesian!”

About three years ago, I again approached David, whose fluency was increasing, about going to Indonesia. He replied, “For sure. But to be more effective, we’ll need The Creation Answers Book translated into Indonesian—so people are equipped with the info well above and beyond what they might remember from a necessarily limited speaker presentation in a funny foreign accent.”

CMI’s Jason Jamieson gives Mrs Esther Catchpoole some tips on using a home video camera.
CMI’s Jason Jamieson gives Mrs Esther Catchpoole some tips on using a home video camera.

Here’s where it got difficult. Normally, people approach us with the passion and skill for translating resources into their mother tongue, but here, we were the initiators, with the problem of having to find someone with the creation-savvy, enthusiasm, English comprehension—and the time to undertake such a large project in bahasa Indonesia. The translation languished, and at the same time CMI received sober advice from pastors in Indonesia counseling against any ministry tour in 2009—an election year.

But about ten months ago, starting with a ‘chance’ call from an expatriate Indonesian from Western Australia about the possibility of CMI sending a speaker to Indonesia, the Lord assembled a capable team of volunteer translators, enabling the timeframe of the tour to be locked in at last!

An early edition of CMI’s booklet Stones and Bones had been translated into Indonesian in 1994 by a volunteer whose mother tongue was English, but who could speak Indonesian. David intended it to simply be reprinted, but at the last minute, it became clear that the standard was not commensurate with modern Indonesian. So, using the 2010 completely revised English edition of Stones (at the printers at the time of writing), it was translated by this same team, too—just in time to have both books ready for David’s tour, which will involve two months of intensive speaking across many widespread locations in that country.

An unexpected provision

Russell Grigg had no idea that the skills he learnt as a proof-reader of Indonesian texts would remain with him, and that they would prove incredibly valuable to CMI nearly 40 years later.
Russell Grigg had no idea that the skills he learnt as a proof-reader of Indonesian texts would remain with him, and that they would prove incredibly valuable to CMI nearly 40 years later.

With the ‘final’ Indonesian version of both books at hand, and little time left, we thought we would have to skip the normal ‘final final’ stage of proofreading and editing, especially with David heavily tied up with his pretrip preparations on top of normal duties. But I for one had forgotten that CMI’s Russell Grigg, well known to readers of Creation magazine and renowned for his proofreading/editing skills,2 had spent 12 years in Indonesia where he had amassed thousands of hours of experience proofreading manuscripts in Indonesian! Russell often briefed and consulted with David as to significant changes he felt were needed to the manuscripts (i.e. not just typographical errors). For example, these non-native-English speakers, despite their competence in English, had here and there understandably missed an obscure meaning of English phraseology. Also, even for a native English speaker, some parts and concepts, e.g. in cosmology, can be subtle for someone not an expert in that area. So, one could hardly wish for God to have raised up a better-qualified final-layout editor than someone with Russell’s long experience editing and writing about creationist topics for CMI, together with his considerable theological knowledge and his (rediscovered by us) talent for editing texts in Indonesian!

David addresses Teachers College students at Universitas Pelita Harapan (lit: University of Light and Hope)
David addresses Teachers College students at Universitas Pelita Harapan (lit: University of Light and Hope).

This was only one of the many indicators, beyond anything that we might have imagined and too many to relate them all here, which convinced us that God’s hand was on this venture in a special way.

Note added 7 July: After only a few days in the country, David has addressed over 3,000 people already, with many excitedly approaching him and the book table volunteers to tell of their joy. On Sunday night, a well-educated young man newly embarking on a diplomatic career summed it up with one English word, exclaiming, “Inspiring!!” The wife of a pastor who attended David’s presentation to over a hundred pastors on Monday morning and purchased the Indonesian-language Creation Answers Book, came back for the evening public meeting and told the book table volunteers that she’d already read the first 169 pages—she “couldn’t put it down”! One young lady said (translated from the Indonesian):

“I remember asking my teachers, and even my pastor, questions like ‘Which came first … Adam, or the age of dinosaurs?’

“They didn’t know, and, even worse, one teacher said: ‘Science is science. The Bible is the Bible. Don’t try to join them—they’re separate.’

“But today, because of your presentation and these two books, now I have the answers!”

We conclude with an extract from the written testimony of Mario D., an Indonesian who moved to Australia as a young adult and who now attends church with David here in Brisbane. He has heard David present creation talks many times to that congregation, and writes:

Since I started primary school until high school, I was taught by my science and biology teacher, that we as human originally came from an ape/monkey. They taught us that human has evolved for million of years to be the human we know today. This was one of the teaching that I remember so clearly and my friends were also taught the same thing. At that time I did not realise that evolutionism is wrong, because maybe I was quite young and naive. However I kept thinking about it.

Just to give you a bit of my background. I came from a Christian family, but I was not a true Christian until I was born again in 1997 when I was a university student. I began to understand how to be a true Christian, but I was still confused and always asking myself about the origins of men. I know according to the book of Genesis that, we were created by God but not according to evolutionism by which I was taught at school. Evolutionism never claimed that men is a creation but simply a result of chance that occurred over millions of years. Because of this I was at lost and having a conflict in my mind because I realise the Bible and evolution are never compatible to each other. I even asked some of the pastors at my local church about this matter but none of them were able to give me the correct answers.

I even started to think that there must be an answer to this issue and throughout my life, I always feel in my heart that, men cannot be descendant of ape. And eventually I found the answers when I joined [the Brisbane church] in 2006. One of the elders in that church, Dr David Catchpoole explained to me in his sermon about a topic that related to evolutionism and creationism. From his detail explanation using the Bible and other scientific means, I began to understand the missing link between the Bible and evolution, and I then realised that men are indeed a unique creation made by God and not came from evolution that occurred millions of years from a lesser species to a more advance species like us in today. His explanation was so clear and accurate because he was able to cross reference the verse with the scientific evidence and research by the creationist.

I am so grateful to Dr David Catchpoole who also works in Creation Ministries, because he was able to help me to understand that the creation by God in the book of Genesis is indeed the truth and fact, therefore, it is not a fairy tale, and it cannot be denied by anyone even by evolutionist.

All the sermons and seminars run by Creation Ministries have helped me immensely and I am certain it will also help our friends in Indonesia to have a better understanding that evolutionism is truly misleading. I honestly worry because evolutionism is still taught at every school in Indonesia, started at primary level all the way to high school level even to university level. I can see the huge impact, the evolutionism has caused to our educational system in Indonesia especially in the field of natural science and biology. Many students there do not realise that the teaching of evolution can be so damaging to them that in the long run it will poison their mindset.

In conclusion, evolutionism must be stopped for good, but I feel it will be a very difficult task to do because the teachings of evolutionism in Indonesian schools have been running for so long that the teaching itself has had his root on the mind of many students. It will be a challenge for us as Christians to put an effort to help our brother and sisters in Christ so that they will not be drifted away by evolutionism. To me personally, Creation Ministries will have a very important role in terms of the reformation in the natural science and biology teaching system in Indonesia.

Mario David Catchpoole

Mario D.,
15 June 2010.

A short film clip of Mario D. talking further on this issue can be seen

A short film clip extract from a DVD of Dr Catchpoole presenting in Bahasa Indonesia to an Indonesian-language congregation on the Gold Coast on 27 June 2010 can be seen here.

This amazing missionary opportunity is only made possible by the faithful support of many CMI supporters around the world. Please pray for it and for David, that the Lord will continue to do wonderful things through his dedication.


  1. See, e.g., An ‘impossible’ dream—for an atheist. Return to text.
  2. Russell has for many years largely volunteered his post-retirement time to CMI, an incredible boon to the ministry. Return to text.
Published: 8 July 2010

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