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Indonesia Executes Drug Smuggler Whose Faith Inspired Hillsong’s Brian Houston

(UPDATED) Funeral for Andrew Chan, whom Sydney pastor communicated with 'almost every day,' involves his own eulogy.
Indonesia Executes Drug Smuggler Whose Faith Inspired Hillsong’s Brian Houston
Image: Mercy Campaign

Update (May 8): At today's funeral for Andrew Chan, held at Hillsong Church in Sydney, a eulogy written by Chan himself was read:

Thank you all for gathering here on this day to witness something great. It's a day that I will arise from my own coffin, right now as the words are spoken, in Jesus' name, arise. Or I am just enjoying it too much in heaven, and I will wait for you all up there.
My last moments here on earth I sing out 'Hallelujah!' I ran the good race. I fought the good fight and came out a winner in God's eyes and men. I do have a story to tell, that story's determined by you all on how you witness me. Ask yourself: 'What did I leave with you?' That will determine my legacy.

The Sydney Morning Herald, which has followed Chan's story, offers the full text.


The bodies of two convicted Australian drug smugglers—who sang hymns at their execution this week—are on their way home.

The ringleaders of the "Bali Nine," as they have been dubbed, gained international attention for turning to God during their decade-long stay in an Indonesian prison.

One of the prisoners, Andrew Chan, studied theology and was ordained in February, days after his clemency plea was rejected.

Just before their execution, the prisoners sang "Amazing Grace," then "Bless the Lord, O My Soul."

“They were praising their God,” pastor Karina de Vega told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It was breathtaking. This was the first time I witnessed someone so excited to meet their God.”

While in prison, Chan and fellow Australian Myuran Sukumaran corresponded with Brian Houston, pastor of Hillsong Church in Sydney. (The international church, one of the 10 most influential of the past century, is famous for its music, including songs like "Mighty to Save," "God Is Able," and "How Great Is Our God").

“By all accounts, these two young men—whom I have had the great privilege of being in personal contact with over the last number of months—have not only accepted the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, but have also rehabilitated themselves to be upstanding members of the prison system,” Houston wrote shortly before their execution. “Even in jail they have made a positive contribution to the lives of other prisoners, and sought to pay their debt to society. I have had the pleasure of speaking with Andrew Chan almost everyday and his faith and strength under extreme duress, have inspired me.”

Chan became a Christian while in solitary confinement.

“It wasn’t until I was in solitary that I felt the need to be on the right side of God,” he told Australia's Bible Society. After reading through the New Testament four times, “I was on my knees and cried for the first time in years,” he said.

He continued:

Just before my court date (where he would receive the death penalty), I remember reading Mark 11:23-24, where it says that if you have enough faith you can say to this mountain, ‘Be removed’ and God will do it. So I said, ‘God if you’re real and if this is true, I want you to free me, and if you do I’ll serve you every day for the rest of my life.’ I went to my court hearing and they convicted me and gave me the death penalty. When I got back to my cell, I said, ‘God, I asked you to set me free, not kill me.’ God spoke to me and said, ‘Andrew, I have set you free from the inside out; I have given you life!’ From that moment on I haven’t stopped worshipping Him. I had never sung before, never led worship, until Jesus set me free.

After his conversion, Chan studied for six years to become a pastor. He taught Bible classes, ran a cooking school, and was featured in an anti-drug documentary for school students while in jail. Chan met an Indonesian pastor, Febyanti Herewila, during one of her regular visits to the jail. He married her less than two days before he died.

Baptist News Global profiled a missionary couple who worked with Sukumaran and others on a prison art program. “Over the time I have known them, I have seen two young men find hope and healing through what they are doing in making art and sharing their skills with the other inmates,” said Tina Bailey. “They are leaders with a beautiful, positive influence.”

Four years ago, Chan told the Morning Herald how it felt to face death.

''I don't really fear it, death,” he said. “Even if I pass away, I'm still going to have a life up in heaven and obviously that's going to be for eternity.

CT's previous coverage of Indonesia includes Jakarta's first Christian governor in 50 years, president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s declaration that he “would not tolerate” ISIS in Indonesia, and the growth of Christianity in Hindu-dominant Bali.

[Image courtesy of Mercy Campaign]

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