Architects of the rebuilding process in Indonesia

Together they clocked 55 years as District Apostles in Indonesia, and often under hard and difficult conditions: Hendra Tansahsami, who died 30 years ago today, and his son, Alfons Tansahtikno. Insight into a little known history.

When Tan Bian Sing, then 30 years old, was invited to Germany at the beginning of 1951, he was overjoyed. He had never met Chief Apostle Bischoff before, and only knew him from what he had been told by others. But the young man was worried. How was he to pay for his overseas passage? Spontaneously he decided to take a leave of absence from work, sold his furniture, and put his young family up with his parents-in-law.

The crossing to Europe took 26 days. It was his first trip. He made use of the time to practise the language and learn expressions so that he could greet the Chief Apostle. But when he finally stood before him, he was unable to utter even one word. He could not stop crying. The Chief Apostle said, “Brother Tan, the only way we are able to express our greatest joy is through tears.” Tan Bian Sing was shocked when he discovered that he was designated to receive the District Apostle ministry and succeed Apostle Faassen, who had left Indonesia and returned to Holland.

A little history

On 19 April 1921, a son was born to Family Tan. They called him Bian Sing. Translated into English, this means something bright that becomes brighter and brighter. The midwife gave him the additional name of Heinrich, the name of the Dutch heir apparent whose birthday it was that day. One day, on his way to the bird market, Tan Bian Sing’s father was invited to church by a Deacon from the New Apostolic Church. The father accepted the invitation and after a while the family was sealed by Apostle Faassen.

The circumstances during World War II eventually made it necessary to dissolve the congregation. With the internment of Apostle Faassen and everyday life becoming more and more difficult, Bian Sing’s joy and faith suffered. At the end of the war, he again came into contact with the New Apostolic Church. In a letter dated 26 July 1947 and written by Apostle Faassen, he was appointed as a Deacon. Just over a year later, the Apostle commissioned him to serve as a District Elder. The responsibility to ensure the continued existence of the New Apostolic Church in Indonesia weighed heavily on his shoulders.

New beginnings in Indonesia

Equipped with the ministerial authority of an Apostle, Tan Bian Sing returned to Indonesia in September 1951. There was a lot of pioneering work waiting for him. After the war, most of the European members had returned to the Netherlands. Also the indigenous congregations had no one to look after them: the Apostles Hannibals and Kepas were no longer active. Many brothers and sisters had turned their back on the New Apostolic Church together with Bishop Martasudarma.

It was very difficult for Apostle Tan Bian Sing to convince them of his Apostle ministry and to lead them back to the Church. But he had a way with people. He was kind and able to speak to them in a loving way. Soon there was strong growth and Tan Bian Sing received some assistance. Kasam Redjapawirs and Markam Martasudarma were ordained as Apostles.

A successor in the making

In the summer of 1976, Ernst Streckeisen travelled to Indonesia. It was the first visit of a Chief Apostle in the country. District Apostle Hendra Tansahsami (This was Tan Bian Sing’s new name. He had had to abandon his Chinese name on account of regulations.) showed the Chief Apostle not only the big congregations who gathered for services in brick churches, but also the small congregations in the villages with their thatched huts as churches.

Alfons Tansahtikno, the son of the District Apostle, accompanied the two men the entire time. In July 1973 he came to Germany with his father for the first time, where he met Chief Apostle Schmidt. The Chief Apostle asked him if would be prepared to give up his profession and assist his father in the administrative offices of the Church in Indonesia. Following an invitation by Chief Apostle Urwyler, Alfons Tansahtikno travelled to Germany once again in May 1982 with his father. On Pentecost the Chief Apostle ordained him as a Bishop.

Grief and solace

At the end of July 1985, District Apostle Tansahsami was admitted to hospital with acute respiratory problems. On 25 July 1985, two days later, he died in hospital. He was only 64 years of age. Chief Apostle Urwyler had been in Indonesia only several weeks before. Already at that time, the thought had been awakened in him that Bishop Tansahtikno should eventually become the new District Apostle of Indonesia. Now this moment had come sooner than expected.

District Apostle Kühnle conducted the funeral for the deceased District Apostle on 31 July 1985, and District Apostle Fehr ordained Bishop Tansahtikno as the new District Apostle that same evening. District Apostle Tansahtikno ministered to the brothers and sisters in Indonesia as District Apostle for 23 years with great strength and joy. He not only administered the heritage his father had left him, but also brought it forward.

His successor, the current District Apostle, has a much more extensive area to look after. Urs Hebeisen has been leading the district apostle area of South-East Asia since January 2009. In addition to Indonesia this includes Brunei, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. In these 18 countries—stretched over a vast region—there are approximately 2,000 congregations.

In the video: District Apostle Tansahtikno’s last address.

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Alfred Krempf
Asian, Indonesia, People/Personalities