It was not by chance that I married my husband, Pastor Alex Rantung. Before I met him, I had been fasting and praying for my life-spouse. I prayed that if it was God's will, I hoped to be a pastor's wife. I asked God to give me the best pastor. I did not care if he pastored in a large city or a remote area.
God answered my prayers. I met a young pastor who, after his graduation from college, was placed in a remote area on the Island of Timor. We were married on August 6, 1965. I left my job in the pharmacy of Bangung Adventist Hospital, located in the capital city of Indonesia, and my husband and I went to Timor island. At that time, it was known as a barren land. It was very hard for Nusa Tenggara Mission to find workers or pastors who were willing to work there.
When I was seven months pregnant, my husband was assigned to hold a public evangelistic effort on another small island called Sabu Island. The island could only be reached once a month by a small ship. While my husband was away, I became very sick. The church elder's wife took me to the hospital. There was no telephone, and I could only communicate with my husband via telegram. I told the church members not to send a telegram to my husband about my condition because I did not want him to be disturbed during his evangelistic effort. Still, one of the church members sent a telegram telling my husband I had been admitted to the hospital.
Fortunately, my husband did not panic. Rather, he thanked the Lord for the church members who had taken care of me and taken me to the hospital. He continued with the evangelistic meetings and was excited about the many souls who were interested in knowing the truth and desired baptism.
Among those wanting to be baptized was a police officer. He was in charge of the island and had a very strong influence in the community. He and his family attended the meetings every night. They were interested in our beliefs and became good friends with my husband.
Three days after the first telegram arrived, my husband received a second one. It was from the Mission President. It stated that my husband should return home immediately. Pastor Petrus Balo, my husband's assistant, was to finish the evangelistic meetings and do the follow-up. My husband panicked. He immediately thought of me. He thought, "Oh, no, my wife must have died." He ran to the pier to see if there was any ship or boat he could ride on to Timor island, but there was none. He ran to the other side of the island and saw a small boat about to sail. He asked the people where they were going.
They replied, "Flores Island."
My husband knew that Flores Island was in the opposite direction as Timor Island, but his conscience said, "Go on that sailboat." He asked the owner of the sailboat for permission to join them. After two nights of sailing, they reached Flores Island. There they found a small mission ship of the Catholic Church about to leave for Kupang, Timor. My husband went to see the captain of the ship and was allowed to ride on the ship with one condition: No Smoking. He told the captain, "Don't worry. I am the pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I never smoke."
When he got to the harbor of Kupang, it was Sabbath. My husband prayed, "Lord, where shall I go—to the house or the cemetery?" He asked for a sign from God. He said, "Lord, I'm going to the house now, but before I enter the house, I am going to the kitchen. If I see there is kidney bean soup in the pot, I will know my wife is alive." (We used to have kidney bean soup as our special dish each Sabbath.) He was so happy when he entered the kitchen because he saw a pot on the clay stove filled with kidney bean soup. He said, "Thank you, Lord. My wife is alive." He ran into the room and found me laying in bed.
I was so surprised to see him. After assuring himself that I was okay, he could not help but wonder why the Mission President had sent him a telegram requesting he come home. He became disappointed as he thought of the many people in Sabu who were ready to accept Jesus as their Savior.
That evening, he went to see the Mission President to ask why he sent such a cable. The President was so urprised. The message he had sent was totally different. He showed my husband the draft of his message. It said, "Your wife is fine; she is in good care. Go ahead with your meeting. God bless you."
Because of our disappointment, my husband and I asked for a vacation leave to plan for the birth of our first child. We wanted our children to be born in Bandung Adventist Hospital. I was less than eight months pregnant so our doctor gave us a recommendation letter saying it was okay to travel. Though we could not find a passenger ship, we did find a cattle ship on which we could sail, We rented one of the cabins. At that time, the voyage took ten days from Timor to Java Island because the ship had to stop in every port. On the fifth day of the voyage, I felt a terrible stomachache. I realized it was not a normal stomachache. It was labor pains. I said to my husband, "I'm afraid I am going to deliver the baby here on the ship."
"What?" my husband exclaimed. "Are you kidding?"
"No, I am not kidding. I am serious. I've got the signs," I said.
"So what shall we do?" my husband asked. I said, "I do not know. Perhaps you need to go to the captain of the ship and ask for help."
He ran to the captain and informed him of the situation.
The captain said, "Wow, you put me in a world of trouble. This is a big problem for me. I have never experienced a woman delivering a child. I have five children and I was not even around for the birth of one of them! I have only seen cattle having babes. The only thing I can do is ask my radio operator to call for a doctor and speed up this ship towards the next port.'
My husband and I kept praying, But I knew I could not stop this baby from coming into this world. By the help of the Unseen Helping Hand who helped my husband be the midwife, there in the middle of the Sumba Sea, our first baby, a very tiny, premature baby boy was born safely. The captain named our baby Alvin Lekonardo, from the name of the ship "Leko."
A few days after we arrived in Bandung, while we were watching the television news at my brother-in-law's house, we were shocked to hear the newscaster say the Tenggiri Ship has sunk on the voyage from Sabu Island to Timor. More than 300 people drowned, including the police officer and his troop as well as one of church elders. It was the ship my husband had planned to ride had he stayed until the evangelistic meetings were over. It was then that we realized that God was the One who had changed the cable message. We praised God for His loving mercy, guidance, and protection.
Yet another miracle occurred a short time later. The Mission Committee assigned my husband to a new location. My husband went ahead and found a house for us. He held the evangelistic meetings and was joyful about the family who had chosen to be baptized. He returned to Timor for me and the baby. While home with us, the Mission President called my husband and said there had been a change of plans. He was not to go to the small island of Alor. My husband inquired about his belongings at the home he had just left. He was assured that the new pastor for that area would pack his things and send them to us. We never did receive those belongings for a big flood rammed over Maumere. The house we were to live in had been swept away along with our belongings. We felt so blessed because we could have been in that house! God is so good.
When we moved back to Timor Island, I taught at the Nusa Tenggara Academy. My husband pastored eight churches in the mountain area. He held many evangelistic meetings and many souls gave their lives to Christ. However, there were some persecutors. One group of people targeted my husband. Their goal was to kill him and destroy our church. They attacked but thank God, no one was killed. The persecutors ran after my husband and burned down our home. My husband was so discouraged. He said, "This is too much. I cannot stand it anymore. Let's leave the ministry and go back to Bandung. You can work at the hospital again."
I looked straight into my husband's eyes and said, "Alex, I married you because you were sent from God. I love you and I love the ministry as well. Don't you love the precious souls who desire salvation and want to be in God's Kingdom? Why should we be discouraged? Go forward. The Lord will be with us."
During that time of persecution, 107 souls surrendered to Jesus Christ and were baptized. My husband's spirit was renewed. He became the president of Nusa Tenggara Mission when he was only 28 years old. He served as an administrator for about 32 years. Our son Alvin Lekonardo, who was born on the ship, is now a physician. He is married to another physician and both are serving in Bandung Adventist Hospital.
God's hand can be seen in my life, and I praise Him every day!