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Petrus Tobolu meeting with Adventist Mission on the campus of Universitas Klabat, near Manado on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

​Garbage Changes Indonesian Farmer’s Life

He threw away his daughter’s Adventist books and magazines. But then something caught his attention.

By Andrew McChesney,

Farmer Petrus Tobolu was furious when his 19-year-old daughter, Monika, was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

He had served as the lay pastor of the Soahukum village church on the Indonesian island of Halmahera for years. He didn’t understand how the Adventist pastor could baptize his daughter without seeking his permission, and he worried that the Adventist teachings were satanic.

He raised a big stick and beat Monika.

“Denounce your convictions!” he yelled.

Monika wept but didn’t say a word. This confused her father, and he wondered why she wasn’t returning his anger.

Monika was one of four young people who were baptized after Bible studies and an evangelistic series on Halmahera island. They were the island’s first four Adventists, the result of the work of two student missionaries.

A Box of Books

One day, Monika came home with a box of Adventist books. Enraged, Petrus seized the box and threw it into the garbage hole in their backyard. But as the box crashed to the ground, it burst open, spilling out its contents. A book caught Petrus’ eye: “The Almost Forgotten Day” by evangelist Mark Finley. He secretly fished the book and two Adventist World magazines out of the garbage.

Then next morning, he took the literature with him to the field. But he couldn’t concentrate on his work. He worked until 10 a.m. and then studied the book and magazines for the rest of the day. The same thing happened the next day. He compared the Bible verses in the publications with the verses in his Bible. He wanted to see if the books were true. He studied the materials for eight months.

“I noticed that what was written there was actually also in the Bible,” Petrus said. “I kept studying and I was impressed with what I learned about the Sabbath.”

After he understood that Saturday was the biblical Sabbath, he began to preach about the Sabbath in his church.

“Why don’t we worship on Saturday?” he asked. “If we don’t follow what the Bible says, then why do we have the Bible?”

Read about another life changed by a Sabbath book

Unrest in Church

After the sermon, startled church members approached him. 

“No one has preached like this in a long time,” said one. 

“Maybe you want to bring us a new doctrine?” said another.

Petrus hadn’t thought that he was introducing Adventist teachings to the church. He understood the biblical truth, and he was only trying to preach the truth. Eventually, he decided to worship on Saturday.

When Petrus’ older sister heard about his convictions, she suggested that he join the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She had heard about the church from her daughter, who had studied at the Adventist-owned Universitas Klabat on Sulawesi island.

Sometime later, several Adventist pastors visited Petrus’ island, and he invited them to worship at his church. The group of church members, however, attacked the church with stones while the pastors were inside, and Petrus had to whisk them out of the village to safety.

The villagers were waiting with sticks for Petrus when he returned, but he somehow managed to evade them and leave the village. He wanted to be baptized into the Adventist Church.

Petrus Tobolu explains why he keeps the seventh-day Sabbath. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

Fleeing to Manado

Petrus took his family to Manado, a city with many Adventists near Universitas Klabat, and attended an evangelistic series there. He was baptized.

When he and his family returned home, they found their house occupied by other people. They moved to a small hut in their field, and lived there for two months. Petrus’ two other children, boys aged 13 and 17, were baptized.

“The villagers still forbade us from worshiping on Sabbath, so we moved to Manado to deepen our understanding of the Bible,” Petrus said.

Two years later, they returned home and started making friends again with the villagers.

“We mingled in the community and shared,” Petrus said. “We started with my relatives. In three years, we had 27 baptized members and organized a church.”

Today, Petrus is 50 and serves as church elder. He led the first evangelistic series in the village in September 2017, and three people were baptized.

“The villagers, starting with me, persecuted Adventists at first,” he said. “But today eight families worship together every Sabbath.”