Surabaya, Indonesia ... [ANN] Despite opposition from some parts of the local community, a two-week series of church meetings in Surabaya, Indonesia November 22 to December 6 successfully concluded, reports Clarence Hodges, speaker for the meetings.

In the past year, more than fifty Protestant churches have been burned down in the area. Attacks on the homes of pastors left twelve dead. Not a single prosecution has been brought against those committing these crimes, reports Hodges, director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department at the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s North American Division.

Though religious liberty is legally supported by the national government, many local restrictions are imposed.

"You can only rent a large meeting place for two weeks," says Hodges, former Assistant Secretary of State for the United States government. "You can get a permit to conduct meetings for only two weeks at a time. You can’t build a church unless the community agrees, and then the seating capacity cannot exceed your membership by very much. Finally, my previous involvement in such outreach meetings has included several speakers at different sites with a good number of church workers, and community and social service professionals. They allowed no such luxuries here, just a one-person team from America."

A total of 61 people joined the Adventist Church as a result of the meetings, with others also making a firm commitment. Converts met with threats and intimidation; youth were told they would be put out of their homes.

"In my meetings, I prayed for their government leaders, for religious freedom around the world, and for religious leaders of all denominations," says Hodges. "God still rewards faith and hears the prayers of his people. Though I heard sad stories, many were committed to suffering the consequences. We praise God for an opportunity to encourage those who encounter major opposition in advancing the cause of Christ." [Jonathan Gallagher]