Adventist English Conversation School, West Indonesia
By Yoanes Sinaga
Yoanes Sinaga is a second generation pastor now serving as an associate pastor at Jakarta International Seventh-day Adventist Church. He graduated with a Master of Divinity from Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, and is currently finishing his Ph.D. at the same seminary. He is married to Stenny Prawitasari, and blessed with a son.
First Published: September 13, 2022
Adventist English Conversation School is a language school under the management of West Indonesia Union Mission. The central office of AECS and its classroom are located in the second and first floor of the West Indonesia Union Mission office, which is strategically positioned on the busy street of MT. Haryono, South Jakarta.1
Developments that Led to Establishment of the School
Due to the success of the English School in Japan, the Far Eastern Division began to realize the efficiency of this mission strategy in reaching non-Christians in its territories. To support such an endeavor, the student association of Pacific Union College sent Edwin Moore as a missionary to Indonesia. He arrived in Jakarta on January 26, 1969.2 After much promotion and groundbreaking work, the English School was officially established in 19703 under the guidance and directorship of M. E. Thorman, then the director of WIUM’s Educational Department.4 This English School utilized the WIUM Office, which was located at Jl. MH. Thamrin No. 22.5
Founding of the English School
To promote the school, a short advertisement was published in the newspaper “Sinar Harapan,” on February 7, 1969. The first wave of registration took place February 9, 1969, at Gedung Pertemuan Advent. Moore only expected 50 students; much to his surprise, 140 students registered on the first day.6 Due to the high interest, the school opened up a second wave of registration that April. By 1970, 250 students had enrolled. Most of the students came from the middle to upper class people, “doctors, lawyers, university students, and government employees.”7 Almost 30 of them held considerable position in the Jakarta Governmental Office.
History of the Adventist English Conversational School
Max Torkelsen, one of the early Adventist missionaries in Jakarta, reported that “We could have one thousand students, if we had more students in America who were willing to come and teach.”8 Torkelsen also testified that “the program is a very useful means of breaking down prejudices and acquainting people with Christianity.”9 With the support of student missionaries, AECS enrollment increased significantly. In 1971, the number of students in Jakarta reached 600 students. By 1977, enrollment reached 1200. A number of these students encountered Christ and were baptized.10 When the West Indonesia Union Mission was relocated to MT. Haryono Street at South Jakarta, the AECS Office was also relocated to its second floor, where it continues to reside.
The success of AECS in Jakarta lead to the establishment of a branch in Bandung, initiated by Ken Wilson, Margaret Kaunang, and Harold Richard in 1973. AECS Bandung is located on Jl. Cikapayang No. 18. Another branch later opened in Surabaya, on Jl. Raya Kupang Baru No. 8.
The East Indonesia Union Mission established English School in Manado in March 1, 1974, under the leadership of Dale J. Bidwell.1112 In 1978, the Review and Herald recorded that Mr. and Mrs. Frank Sarault had established another English School in Jayapura, Irian Jaya, with 151 students.13 By 1979, the West Indonesia Union Mission had four English schools, in Jakarta, Bandung, Balikpapan, and Surabaya. The East Indonesia Union Mission had schools in Ambon, Manado, Jayapura and Ujung Pandang.14 Another two more schools were established in Gorontalo and Sorong.15 At one point the school in Ujung Pandang had 1,000 students enrolled.16
Since 1998, the schools have not been able to capitalize on their early achievement, and eventually lost the vigor they once had. Consequently, only AECS Jakarta remains in West Indonesia Union Mission. AECS Jakarta also function as a place where foreign teachers are assigned to different Adventist schools in West Indonesia Union Mission.
Historical Role of the School
The West Indonesia Union Mission Executive Committee determined that the language school would adopt the English School Guidelines as provided by the Far-Eastern Division office.17 The guidelines stated that English schools are an evangelistic agency for the church, therefore the entire program and purpose of AECS should not deviated from this central vision. In line with this decision, AECS would also conduct an English Bible class, evangelistic meetings, “regular religious services on Sabbath,” and even baptismal classes. Moreover, when a student graduated from AECS, the guideline required the school to develop a “follow-up program” as an effort to reach them for Christ. Since AECS is set up as a mission agency, the organizational structure of AECS is composed of three main committees, the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, and the Evangelistic Committee. These organizational structures and its vision indicate that AECS is truly intended as a force of mission in reaching the people in Indonesia.
List of Presidents
M. E. Thorman (assisted by Edwin L. Moore) (1970-1974); LeVerne Bissel (1974-1975); C. G. Oliver (1975-1976); D. Matacio (1976-1984); H. Sitompul (1985); T. L. Tobing (1985-1987); E. H. Tambunan (1988-1993); M. Sitompul (1994-2000); A. Hendriks (2001-2002); E. T. Panjaitan (2003-2005); R. Sitorus (2006-2009); E. T. Panjaitan (2010-2011); Joanne Rantung (2011-2014); Ellyanawaty Prasetyo (2015-2016); Marolop Sagala (2017- )18
Branch directors of AECS Bandung: Bambang Rudjanto (1970-1980), Victor Daulat Hutauruk, Ibu M. Sinaga, Q. Aritonang, Pearly Saerang, Marolop Sagala (Merged with AECS Jakarta)
Branch directors of AECS Surabaya: Edward Siregar, Nelson Panjaitan, Murad Purba
“West Indonesia Union Mission.” Seventh-day Adventist Church’s directory. Office of Archives, Statistics and Research. Accessed August 26, 2017. http://www.adventistdirectory.org/ViewAdmField.aspx?AdmFieldID=WIUM.
Brown, Walton J. “Team Visits FED Schools, Evaluates Five Colleges.” ARH, May 12, 1977.
Crescendo Memoirs 1990-1991, Jakarta, AECS.
Gereja Masehi Advent Hari Ketujuh di Indonesia. E. H. Tambunan. editor. Bandung, Jawa Barat: Indonesia Publishing House, 1990.
Minutes of the Meeting West Indonesia Union Mission Executive Committee, November 3, 1969. Southern Asia Pacific Division Archives, Silang, Cavite, Philippines.
Minutes of Meetings of the East Indonesia Union Mission Executive Committee, August 21, 1973. Southern Asia Pacific Division Archives, Silang, Cavite, Philippines.
“Two Student Missionaries Teach English in Djakarta.” Pacific Union Recorder, March 5, 1970.
“Far Eastern.” ARH, June 29, 1978.
Schwarz, R. W. Light Bearers to the Remnant. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association. 1979.
Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.
Sumual, J. R. “Usaha-usaha Evangelisasi Di Gedung Pertemuan Advent.” Warta Gereja Advent, May 1969.
“West Indonesia Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Church’s directory. Office of Archives, Statistics and Research, accessed August 26, 2017, http://www.adventistdirectory.org/ViewAdmField.aspx?AdmFieldID=WIUM.↩
J. R. Sumual, “Usaha-usaha Evangelisasi Di Gedung Pertemuan Advent,” Warta Gereja Advent, May 1969, 7.↩
On November 3, 1969, the Union Executive Meeting voted “to approve of the English Language School improvement subject to funds available.” Minutes of the West Indonesia Union Mission Executive Committee, November 3, 1969.↩
Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2002).↩
Crescendo Memoirs 1990-1991, Jakarta, AECS.↩
R.W. Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1979), 553.↩
“Two Student Missionaries Teach English in Djakarta,” Pacific Union Recorder, March 5, 1970, 1.↩
Walton J. Brown, “Team Visits FED Schools, Evaluates Five Colleges,” ARH, May 12, 1977, 13.↩
Gereja Masehi Advent Hari Ketujuh di Indonesia, E. H. Tambunan, editor (Bandung, Jawa Barat: Indonesia Publishing House, 1990), 485.↩
East Indonesia Union Mission (Jakarta), Minutes of Meetings of the East Indonesia Union Mission Executive Committee, August 21, 1973.↩
“Far Eastern,” ARH, June 29, 1978, 25.↩
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington D.C: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1979), 209.↩
Ibid.; Gereja Masehi Advent Hari Ketujuh di Indonesia, 486.↩
West Indonesia Union Mission (Jakarta), Minutes of Meetings of the West Indonesia Union Mission Executive Committee, January 9, 1970.↩
This chronological list is made by combining information given by Hetty Tampubolon, a secretary from West Indonesia Union Mission, with the list provided by Tambunan in Gereja Masehi Advanet Hari Ketujuh di Indonesia, 486-487. Some years might overlap one another, but the list is accurate in the presentation of each name.↩