When the brothers at the branch learned of the ban, they swung into action. “We moved our confidential records, literature supplies, and branch funds to safe houses throughout Jakarta,” says Ronald Jacka. “We then moved the branch office to a secret location and quietly sold the previous branch office buildings.”

Most of the local brothers remained active and unafraid. They had endured severe trials leading up to the ban, and they continued to trust in Jehovah. But some brothers were caught off guard. A few elders became fearful and signed statements agreeing to stop preaching. Others revealed the names of congregation members. The branch office sent mature brothers to fortify the congregations and to help those who had compromised. John Booth, a member of the Governing Body, also visited Indonesia and passed on some much-needed fatherly advice.

Clearly, Jehovah, the Great Shepherd, was strengthening and comforting his people. (Ezek. 34:15) The elders began taking an increased spiritual lead, and the publishers found new and discreet ways to preach. (Matt. 10:16) Many brothers bought copies of a modern, affordable Bible from the Indonesian Bible Society and offered them to householders, tactfully including the Kingdom message where possible. Others removed the copyright page from our publications and distributed them to interested people. Many pioneers continued  to preach while posing as door-to-door salespeople, as their predecessors had done during the Japanese occupation.

Margarete and Norbert Häusler

Then, in 1977, the Department of Religious Affairs struck another blow—they refused to renew missionary visas for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most Witness missionaries were reassigned to other countries. * “Hundreds of brothers and sisters came to the airport to say good-bye,” recalls missionary Norbert Häusler, who served with his wife, Margarete, in Manado, North Sulawesi. “We walked to the steps of the plane and paused to look  back. A sea of hands waved to us, and a collective cry echoed across the tarmac: ‘Thank you. Thank you for being here.’ We boarded the plane and wept.”

Outrage on Sumba

As news of the ban spread throughout the archipelago, the Indonesian Communion of Churches urged its members to report any Witness activity to the authorities. This triggered a wave of arrests and interrogations on many islands.

In Waingapu, on the island of Sumba, the district military commander summoned 23 brothers to the local military camp and demanded that they sign a declaration renouncing their faith. When the brothers refused, the commander ordered them to return to the camp the following day—an eight-mile (14 km) round-trip on foot.

When the brothers reported to the commander early the next morning, they were called forward one by one and ordered to sign the declaration. When a brother would refuse to sign, soldiers would beat him with thorny branches. The soldiers worked themselves into a frenzy, knocking some brothers unconscious. Meanwhile, the other brothers awaited their turn. Finally, one young brother named Mone Kele stepped forward and wrote on the declaration. The brothers’ hearts sank, but the commander went berserk. Mone had written, “I intend to remain one of Jehovah’s Witnesses forever!” Mone was beaten and bruised and ended up in the hospital, but he remained spiritually unbroken.

The commander tried for 11 days to break the brothers’ integrity. He ordered them to stand all day in  the hot tropical sun. He forced them to crawl on their hands and knees for several miles and to run long distances carrying heavy loads. While holding a bayonet at their throats, he commanded them to salute the flag; still, they refused. So he ordered that they be beaten some more.

Each morning the brothers trudged to the camp, wondering what new torments awaited them. Along the way, they prayed together and encouraged one another to stay loyal. And each night they shuffled home, bruised and bloodied, rejoicing that they had stayed faithful to Jehovah.

Upon learning of this mistreatment, the brothers at the branch office immediately telegraphed protests to the military commander in Waingapu, the regional military commander in Timor, the divisional military commander in Bali, the supreme military commander in Jakarta, and other key government authorities. Embarrassed that his vile actions were being publicized throughout Indonesia, the military commander in Waingapu stopped persecuting the brothers.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses Are Like Nails”

In the years that followed, countless Witnesses throughout Indonesia were detained, interrogated, and physically abused. “In one area, many brothers had their front teeth knocked out,” recalls missionary Bill Perrie. “When they met a brother who still had his front teeth, they would jokingly ask: ‘Are you new?  Or have you been compromising?’ Despite their trials, those who had been persecuted never lost their joy or enthusiasm for serving Jehovah.”

“Being in prison taught me to depend on Jehovah more, and it actually made me spiritually stronger”

During one 13-year period, 93 Witnesses were sentenced to jail terms ranging from two months to four years. Experiencing such mistreatment only strengthened their determination to stay loyal to Jehovah. After serving an eight-month jail term, Musa Rade visited the brothers in his area to encourage them to keep on preaching. “Being in prison taught me to depend on Jehovah more, and it actually made me spiritually stronger,” he said. Little wonder that some observers declared: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are like nails. The more you hammer them, the deeper they go in.”

Publishers on their way to preach in Ambon, Maluku

^ par. 1 Longtime missionaries Peter Vanderhaegen and Len Davis were past retirement age and Marian Tambunan (formerly Stoove) had married an Indonesian, so they were allowed to stay in Indonesia. All three remained spiritually active and had a fruitful ministry throughout the ban.