The Padang Seventh-day Adventist Church—also known as Munson Memorial Church or Pioneer Church—is located in the capital city of the West Sumatra province. It is the only Adventist church in the provincial territory of 42,013 square kilometers with a population of more than 5.5 million. The capital city Padang is stretched out on the west coast of a 695 square kilometers area with almost 1 million inhabitants, making it the largest city of the province. Administratively it is now under the Central Sumatra Mission of West Indonesia Union Mission. Within the church complex are two other functioning buildings—a manse which was an old church building and a colporteur house.
This church is a historical one in Indonesia where the Advent message was brought for the first time in 1900 by Ralph W. Munson. Munson had chosen it as his Advent mission station in his earliest ministries, a second home for himself.1 It was from Padang that certain people got the Advent message and shared it wherever they went. The church was dedicated on September 20, 1985, in remembrance of its first missionary.2
Previously, during his ministry as a Methodist Missionary under Anglo-Chinese Mission, School in Singapore, Ralph W. Munson ultimately was able to communicate in Malay3 and utilized that skill to work for Chinese people, too. As he later became an Adventist missionary, he was more than willing to work again for the Malayans and the Chinese in the new field of our church.
Eventually, it was through the initiative and much prayers of Ralph W. Munson that the headquarters of the Adventist church, the General Conference, was convinced to send Munson to Padang, Sumatra,4 initially to minister to many Chinese people during the Dutch occupation and colonialism while working under the Netherlands East Indies.5 During the earliest Adventist mission there, the population of Padang reached about 25,000, with two-thirds Malayans, 10,000 Chinese, and about 2,000 Europeans.6 Until late 1930, Padang was the ascendant city of Sumatra in terms of military and bureaucratic functions and significance.7 During World War II, it was the west gate of the Indian Ocean through Emmahaven—later becoming the port of Telur Bayur.
Initial Works of 1900-1909
During the decadal initial works, Padang was blessed by its distich missionaries sent by different levels of organizations wherein Ralph W. Munson was assigned by the General Conference and G. A. Wantzlick by the Australia Union Conference.
In the launching of his ministry, Munson received support from the Dutch and the Chinese, the latter contributing great help in accomplishing one of his objectives--to build an English school by granting financial support to meet the necessary needs of the school.8 He considered this as a door of opportunity for the Advent message. After acquiring the government’s permit, he set out with a “pure and simple” English school where the Three Angels’ Messages, the Sabbath doctrine, Adventist lifestyle and diet were also being taught.9 In 1904, 12 members and two churches became the fruits of his work.10 But in 1935, only one of the two churches was reported functioning in Padang.11
In addition, Munson was very much interested in providing, printing, and distributing Advent literature in the local language, Bahasa. Most of this literature included his translations, and one was used for a series of Bible studies.12 He spent much of his time on these endeavors while Mrs. Carrie Munson, his wife, was active in seeking souls from house to house. Besides that, she was a talented pianist who was also well known as a piano teacher during her ministry.13
Munson encountered some influential people who later became God’s instruments in spreading the Advent message in Padang and many parts of Indonesia, such as Timothy Tay,14 Immanuel Siregar,15 Hezekiel Manullang, and Lukas Sihite, to mention few.16
Munson’s assignment in Padang came to an end, and they left Padang on July 23, 1905. Learning the need for this field from many reports, it was decided by the Union Conference in Australia to then send G. A. Wantzlick.17 With his wife and their only son, Theo/Theodore, he left Sydney for the Padang Church the following year, November 1,18 where Sabbath services and worships were regularly being held at the home of Sister Anna Nordstrom.19
Realizing the importance of his eloquence in speaking and understanding Deutsch,20 he started to approach the colonial governor and leading officials to share the Advent message, including the second coming of Christ and the Sabbath truth.21 While learning more Deutsch, he also sought the opportunity to give Bible study to the entire community, though unfortunately the result was not satisfying.22 When G. F. Jones visited Padang, however, there were already 14 Chinese people who regularly gathered and worshipped in the Sabbath School program. During that visitation, Jones found out that since Munson left Padang for a new place of mission, Padang had a great demand for an English teacher.23 During the ministry of G. A. Wantzlick, particularly at the end of March 31, 1908, 16,000 tracts had been distributed to people through 421 visitations, 23 meetings, and 156 Bible readings, not to mention spreading the Advent message to the Dutch-speaking community.24
Besides other ways to reach for the souls, Victoria Whiton, after completing the nurse training course at the Sanitarium in Wahroonga, went back to Padang and resumed medical missionary work in 1910. In fact, people truly needed this kind of help. Hence Sister Tena Judge also followed this path by visiting those who were in need “spiritually as well as physically.”25
Works Continued Towards the End of World War II and Afterwards
Padang was a region where the Dutch Colonial Government permitted the Adventist Church to function from the beginning. Church growth undeniably faced many challenges. Consequently, Adventist workers often moved to find other possibilities in new areas. Reaching out to the natives—the tribe of Minangkabau in particular—has been the most challenging one ever since. Strong Mohammedan values were considered part of their own identity, and taking another belief often resulted in the new members being ostracized from their families.26
The work in Padang was continued by B. Judge with a recommendation that he become fluent in the Malay language while Wantzlick was being transferred to South Australia.27 Judge was helped by his wife, his sister—a sanitarium nurse, Teenie Judge, and a teacher named P. S. Robert. One of the main focuses of their ministry was education besides giving help for the sick and pregnant women. The school grew tremendeously!28 The couple successfully sold Malay tracts to reach more souls while Nurse Teenie Judge did visitations and gave treatments to the sick from which friendship bloomed. Their efforts resulted in people attending the worship services.29 During his first year of ministry, B. Judge was glad to have a month-visitation of Ralph W. Munson in November 1910, which resulted in the baptism of a Chinese couple.30 J. E. Fulton admitted in his report in 1910 that Padang needed more workers since the field was so wide.31 In 1913, there was a Sabbath School of 30 members and a day school with 60 pupils in attendance.32
In 1915, B. Judge moved to Java, and the relay was accepted by G. S. Yates. The next year in his ministry, precisely in 1916, a church building and a school building were erected.33 G. A. Wood in 1923. Though he was small in stature, he was very energetic. He was helped by two teachers, namely Halman and Anna Nordstrom. Afterwards, Wood and Anna were married in the first year of his work and served in Padang for seven years until 1926. During the ministry of Pastor Wood and family, the English school reached 30 students with two teachers.34 He then took his furlough in America, and the work was continued by B. Judge. He was the first missionary who brought the Advent message to Bukittinggi.35 He served until 1932, and the baton was then passed to John H. Stuivenga, who was the last western missionary sent to Padang.36
On November 28, 1934, the Koempoelan Orang Moeda (K. O. M.) Padang (Adventist Youth Gathering) was formed. It was like a mid-week prayer evening meeting especially designed for the youth of our church, wherein seekers joined in from the first meeting.37 At the end of the year, December 31, the group organized a wonderful evening gathering that was attended by members and seekers alike despite the rainy season.38
During that time, Padang frequently became a place where Adventist church leaders stopped over to and from Batakland.39 Or, in case of special meetings, there would be baptismal ceremonies for converted souls.40
In 1935, the work was continued by a Chinese-Indonesian Bible teacher named Ong Ban Giok. He served for two years until the work was passed to S. Rantung. Overall, Rantung did not face any difficulty with the Japanese until his wife was kidnapped by a horde in 1946 and has been missing ever since. Rantung served Padang until 1947.41
During World War II, church membership declined because many members moved to other places while looking for better living. Indonesia proclaimed its freedom from Japan on August 17, 1945, two days after Japan surrendered. The end of World War II required more involvement by Indonesians in Padang. According to the report of K. Tilstra in November 1945, their camp was removed, and the mission homes and the church needed many repairs. These were used to accommodate refugees.42 In the beginning of this, an Adventist family, the Sabaris, was taken by the allied army from Tapanuli to Padang in 1946 and joined with the church there. E. Sabari served as a Bible teacher.43
After Rantung moved to Jakarta in January 1948, E. Sabari became the only worker in Padang. At first, Sabari only led a worship service in the allied camp because of the revolution. In 1950, the house church could be used once again, although there were concerns about the building and its furnitures.44
Outreach to the Natives
The Advent message also reached Bukittinggi, a 19th-century Dutch hilltop outpost, one of West Sumatra's cities, for the first time. Mampe Siregar visited this place and met Brother I. Sipahutar and his wife in October 1950. They were very eager to share their faith with their native neighbors. Brother E. Sabari was sent from Padang to give a short training to this couple.45 They were well equipped, and as a result, the year after, on September 12, 1951, on the visitation of Mampe Siregar—who was the president of Central/South Sumatra Mission—the first four Minangkabaus were baptized. They were recorded as the first fruits since 1900 when the Adventist message came for the first time to this land.46 It was the efforts of Rachis Bachtiar after returning to Bukittinggi in 1950. He shared his faith with his fellowmen secretly. He then brought them to W. I. Sipahutar, a government official in Bukittinggi.
Almost 14 years later, Brother Wahid, a native of Padang, was baptized on April 18, 1964, in the sea right in front of the church compound where R. W. Munson began to preach the Advent message. He was expected to be “an awakening in Padang among the Muslim inhabitants of this area.” It started after the arrival of two zealous laymen who were on fire for the message, Muchtar Samah and P. Manurung, a military police officer from Padang and a Batak soldier respectively. Muchtar accepted the Advent message while he was hospitalized at the Adventist Sanitarium and Hospital, Bandung. Soon after, he was transferred to Padang at his request due to his health condition. At about the same time, P. Manurung was also transferred to Padang. Both became an excellent team. At first, they faced great opposition from the villagers, but being very familiar with Islamic doctrines and practices, Muchtar was able to convince them, which resulted in arousing interest for the Advent message.47 At the time there was a worker shortage in Padang.48 In fact, since 1900 to 1953, Padang did not even have a regular colporteur.49
One of the ways the Advent message was spread in Padang was through the Voice of Prophecy Bible Correspondence Course. Just in 1952, there were more than 400 people who enrolled in this course.50
Padang Under Various Supervising of Higher Organizations
From the earliest period until 1913, Padang had its own independent ministry. It was organized in 1913 by B. Judge. During this period, help came from the Netherlands East Indies and the Australian Conference. Around the time when Indonesia proclaimed itself as an independent nation, South Sumatra, including Padang, was supervised under the West Java Mission with its headquarters in Batavia/Jakarta.51 Because of the distance and the expensive fare to travel to Padang, in one of the last Union meetings for Indonesia in 1953 held at Malaysian Union Seminary, Singapore, it was decided that Padang would become a district directly under the supervision of the Union.52
Munson Memorial Church is the first Protestant church in West Sumatra. Before the school ceased to exist, it was also the first Christian elementary school in that territory.53
Aritonang, Jan Sihar and Steenbrink, Karel Adriaan (eds.). A History of Christianity in Indonesia, Studies in Christian Mission 35. Leiden: Brill, 2008.
Batoebara, D. “After 60 Years an Awakening.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1964.
Detamore, F. A. “Progress in the Malaysian Union.” Asiatic Division Outlook, June 15, 1918.
Diredja, M. E. “Riwajat Permulaan Pekerdjaan Advent di Indonesia.” by the testimony of Melvin Munson, Warta Geredja, 25, no. 6, 7 (1952).
Diredja, M. E. “The Advent Message in Indonesia.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, December 1952.
Draddock, Thos H. “North Queensland Mission.” Union Conference Record, March 25, 1907.
Drinhaus, P. “Perkabaran Advent di-Sumatra,” Warta Geredja, 14, no. 11 (November 1937).
F. D. “Kabar-Kabar Perdjalanan.” Warta Geredja, 16, no. 9 (September 1939).
Fernandez, Gil G. Light Dawns over Asia. Cavite, Silang: Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies Publications, 1990.
Fulton, J. E. “From Singapore to Sumatra: Padang.” Union Conference Record, March 8, 1909.
Fulton, J. E. “Padang.” Union Conference Record, March 8, 1909.
Fulton, J. E. “The Work in Padang, Sumatra.” Union Conference Record, October 17, 1910.
General Conference Bulletin, Quarterly, 3rd Quarter, 4, no. 3, Battle Creek, MI: 1901.
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. “Annual Report,” Statistical Report of Seventh-day Adventist Conferences, Missions, and Institutions from 1930-1938.
Hendershot, V. E. “The Educational Work in Malaysia.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1925.
Hill, Emma. “A Farewell Gathering.” Union Conference Record, December 17, 1906.
Howell, Emma E. “Sumatra.” In The Great Advent Movement, revised. Takoma Park, Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Assn., 1941.
“Java and Sumatra.” Asiatic Division Mission News, August 1, 1916.
Jones, G. F. “Padang.” Union Conference Record, December 17, 1906.
Judge, B. “Missions: Sumatra.” Australian Record, March 20, 1911.
Koempoelan Orang Moeda Padang.” Warta Geredja, 11, no. 2 (Bandoeng: February 1935).
Land, Gary. Historical Dictionary of Seventh-day Adventists. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2005.
Munson, Albert. “Enam Tahun Pantekosta.” Warta Geredja, 29, no. 11 (November 1956).
Munson, Melvin. “Perkembangan Pekerdjaan Pertjetakan Kita di Indonesia.” Warta Geredja, 29, no. 1 (January 1956).
Munson, R. W. “A Month at Padang, Sumatra.” 15, no. 7 Australian Record, February 13, 1911.
Munson, R. W. “Brother Immanuel, the Battak.” Union Conference Record, September 15, 1905.
Munson, R. W. “From Sumatra to Australia.” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1905.
Munson, R. W. “The Island of Sumatra.” Union Conference Record for 1900, December 1, 1900.
“Notes and Personals.” Union Conference Record, 10, no. 22 (Sydney: November 5, 1906).
“Notes and Personals.” Union Conference Record, 11, no. 9 (Sydney: November 5, 1906).
“Orang Moeda di-Padang.” Warta Geredja, 11, no. 1 (Bandoeng: January 1935).
“Our Mission Field: Padang, Sumatra.” Union Conference Record, 12, no. 44 (Sydney: November 16, 1908).
Rantung, S. “Tempat Terbitnja Kabar 3 Malaekat di Indonesia.” Warta Geredja, 27, no. 5 (May 1954).
Sabari, E. “Kabar Kesukaan dari Padang.” Warta Geredja, 23, no. 8 (1950).
Schell, H. “Perdjalanan di-Sumatra.” Warta Geredja, 13, no. 10 (October 1936).
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.
Sipahutar, W. I. “Kabar dari Bukittinggi, Sumatra Tengah.” Warta Geredja, 25, no. 1 (1952).
Sipahutar, W. I. “Padang, Sidang Advent Pertama di Indonesia.” Warta Geredja, 26, no. 7 (1953).
Siregar, Mampe. “South Sumatra Mission.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, March 1953.
Siregar, Mampe. “Palembang Evangelistic Effort.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, December 1952.
Siregar, Mampe. “The First Baptism in the Land where Women and Girls are Looking for Bridegrooms.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, December 1951.
Tilstra, K. “After Liberation.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, June-July 1946.
Wantzlick, G. A. “Padang, Sumatra.” Union Conference Record, May 20, 1907.
Wantzlick, G. A. “Sumatra.” Union Conference Record, June 8, 1908.
Wilcox, Wendell L. “Influx of Moslem Converts in Indonesia.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, August 2, 1965.
R. W. Munson, “The Island of Sumatra,” Union Conference Record for 1900, December 1, 1900, 5; cf. Gary Land, Historical Dictionary of Seventh-day Adventists (Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2005), 143, 162.↩
S. Rantung, “Tempat Terbitnja Kabar 3 Malaekat di Indonesia,” Warta Geredja, 27, no. 5 (May 1954), 3.↩
Gil G. Fernandez, Light Dawns over Asia (Cavite, Silang: Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies Publications, 1990), 164.↩
M. E. Diredja, “The Advent Message in Indonesia,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, December 1952, 6; cf. M. E. Diredja, “Riwajat Permulaan Pekerdjaan Advent di Indonesia,” by the testimony of Melvin Munson, Warta Geredja, Year 25, no. 6, 7 (1952), 3.↩
General Conference Bulletin, Quarterly, 3rd Quarter, 4, no. 3 (Battle Creek, MI: 1901), 521, 529, 556.↩
J. E. Fulton, “From Singapore to Sumatra: Padang,” Union Conference Record, March 8, 1909, 3; cf. R. W. Munson, “The Island of Sumatra,” 4.↩
Jan Sihar Aritonang and Karel Adriaan Steenbrink (eds.), A History of Christianity in Indonesia, Studies in Christian Mission 35 (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 627; cf. report of J. E. Fulton, “Padang,” Union Conference Record, March 8, 1909, 3.↩
Munson, “The Island of Sumatra,” 5.↩
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1904), 31, 56, 108, 129.↩
See the subsequent annual statistical reports from 1930-1938 of General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, “Annual Report,” Statistical Report of Seventh-day Adventist Conferences, Missions, and Institutions (Washington, D. C.).↩
Melvin Munson, “Perkembangan Pekerdjaan Pertjetakan Kita di Indonesia,” Warta Geredja, 29, no. 1 (January 1956), 18-19.↩
Albert Munson, “Enam Tahun Pantekosta,” Warta Geredja, 29, no. 11 (November 1956), 1.↩
Timothy Tay or Tay Hong Siang, who were among 21 boys under Munson’s guidance in a special orphanage for poor boys in Singapore, had come back and resided in Padang. He was an influential man who shared his faith with other people within his reach. See R. W. Munson, “The Island of Sumatra,” 5. Read also S. Rantung, “Tempat Terbitnja Kabar 3 Malaekat di Indonesia,” 3.↩
Before leaving Padang, Immanuel Siregar came and learned from Munson. Afterwards he was eager to share the truths to his people in North Sumatra, which Munson could not enter lawfully. See R. W. Munson, “Brother Immanuel, the Battak,” Union Conference Record, September 15, 1905, 6.↩
Besides Immanuel, another two Bataks youths, Hezekiel Manullang and Lukas Sihite had learned from Munson; and in 1906, for the sake of learning further about the truth, Munson sent them to Singapore, and three of them were baptized there. See W. I. Sipahutar, “Padang, Sidang Advent Pertama di Indonesia,” Warta Geredja, 24, no. 7 (1953), 3.↩
J. E. Fulton, “Padang,” 3; cf. Thos H. Draddock, “North Queensland Mission,” Union Conference Record, March 25, 1907, 5.↩
Emma Hill, “A Farewell Gathering,” Union Conference Record, December 17, 1906, 3; cf. “Notes and Personals,” Union Conference Record, November 5, 1906, 7.↩
R. W. Munson, “From Sumatra to Australia,” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1905, 2.↩
“Notes and Personals,” Union Conference Record, November 5, 1906, 7.↩
G. A. Wantzlick, “Padang, Sumatra,” Union Conference Record, May 20, 1907, 2.↩
“Our Mission Field: Padang, Sumatra,” 3.↩
Jones, “Padang,” 4.↩
Wantzlick, “Sumatra,” 3.↩
Munson, “A Month at Padang, Sumatra,” 4.↩
Sipahutar, “Padang, Sidang Advent Pertama di Indonesia,” 4.↩
“Actions Taken by the Union Conference Council-Plans and Recommendations: Our Mission Field on September 9-20, 1909” and “Distribution of Labor,” in Union Conference Record, October 1909, 3, 4.↩
Sipahutar, “Padang, Sidang Advent Pertama di Indonesia,” 3.↩
J. E. Fulton, “The Work in Padang, Sumatra,” Union Conference Record, October 17, 1910, 3.↩
B. Judge, “Missions: Sumatra,” Australian Record, March 20, 1911, 2; cf. R. W. Munson, “A Month at Padang, Sumatra,” 4.↩
Fulton, “The Work in Padang, Sumatra,” 2.↩
Emma E. Howell, “Sumatra,” The Great Advent Movement, revised (Takoma Park, Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Assn., 1941), 209-210.↩
W. I. Sipahutar, “Padang, Sidang Advent Pertama di Indonesia,” 3; cf. “Java and Sumatra,” Asiatic Division Mission News, August 1, 1916, 1; F. A. Detamore, “Progress in the Malaysian Union,” Asiatic Division Outlook, June 15, 1918, 3.↩
V. E. Hendershot, “The Educational Work in Malaysia,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1925, 5.↩
W. I. Sipahutar, “Kabar dari Bukittinggi, Sumatra Tengah,” Warta Geredja, 25, no. 1 (1952), 11. Read too W. I. Sipahutar, “Padang, Sidang Advent Pertama di Indonesia,” 4; Mampe Siregar, “Dengan Kereta Kambing dan Convair,” Warta Geredja, 25, no. 1 (1952), 6.↩
Sipahutar, “Padang, Sidang Advent Pertama di Indonesia,” 3.↩
“Orang Moeda di-Padang,” Warta Geredja, 11, no. 1 (Bandoeng: January 1935), 5.↩
“Koempoelan Orang Moeda Padang,” Warta Geredja, 11, no. 2 (Bandoeng: February 1935), 7.↩
H. Schell, “Perdjalanan di-Sumatra,” Warta Geredja, 13, no. 10 (October 1936), 2; P. Drinhaus., “Perkabaran Advent di-Sumatra,” Warta Geredja, 14, no. 11 (November 1937), 1; F. D., “Kabar-Kabar Perdjalanan,” Warta Geredja, Year 16, no. 9 (September 1939), 2, 6.↩
See, for example E. Sabari, “Kabar Kesukaan dari Padang,” Warta Geredja, 23, no. 8 (1950), 4.↩
Sipahutar, “Padang, Sidang Advent Pertama di Indonesia,” 3.↩
K. Tilstra, “After Liberation,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, June-July 1946, 2.↩
Sipahutar, “Padang, Sidang Advent Pertama di Indonesia,” 3-4.↩
Mampe Siregar, “The First Baptism in the Land where Women and Girls are Looking for Bridegrooms,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, December 1951, 4.↩
They were Tachjuddin Manan, Zubaedah, Adnan Sulaiman, and Anas Munap.↩
D. Batoebara, “After 60 Years an Awakening,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1964, 6; cf. Wendell L. Wilcox, “Influx of Moslem Converts in Indonesia,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, August 2, 1965, 16.↩
Batoebara, 6-7; cf. Rifai Burhanu’ddin, “The Lost is Found,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1964, 8.↩
Mampe Siregar reported this when he was the president of South Sumatra Mission under which Padang was one of its fields. See Mampe Siregar, “South Sumatra Mission,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, March 1953, 8.↩
Mampe Siregar, “Palembang Evangelistic Effort,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, December 1952, 6.↩
R. S. Situmeang, video interview by author, October 20, 2020.↩
Diredja, “Pekabaran Advent di Indonesia Sedjak Mulanya,” 1-2.↩
Torkis Manik, church pastor, interview by author, August 25, 2020.↩