PERSECUTED INDONESIAN CHRISTIAN USES BURN SCARS TO EVANGELIZE
On May 13, 2018, a terrorist attack on Surabaya Central Pentecostal Church killed 10 people and left one church member with burns over 85% of her body. According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea representative Hyun Sook Foley, that church member, Fenny Suryawati, continues to recover and is now using her burn scars to share Christ with her Muslim neighbors.
According to Representative Foley, Fenny Suryawati was standing at the bottom of a staircase near the main entrance to the Surabaya Central Pentecostal Church the morning of May 13, 2018 when a black minivan rammed the church’s gate, striking two parking attendants. Five bombs inside the vehicle erupted into a ball of fire, igniting the gas tanks of five cars and 30 motorcycles parked nearby.
“I felt heat all over my body,” Fenny said haltingly as she recounted the horror of the blast. “I was asking the people for help.” The flames scorched 85 percent of Fenny’s body, including most of her face. She said she’ll never forget the feeling of the water flowing down her smoldering skin as other church members tried to quench the flames burning her flesh. “It helped,” she said with a grateful smile. “I felt the cold and also caught some water in my mouth.”
As flames consumed the church entrance, Pastor Yonathan Biantoro Wahono led 1,300 worshippers inside the building toward the back door.
Fenny can no longer hug her daughter, Clarissa, because of her fragile skin.
Fenny was moved to an evacuation area, where she was reunited with her daughter, Clarissa, her husband, Erry, and her mother-in-law. At the time of the blast, Erry was inside the church and Clarissa was standing near the top of the stairs on the second floor. She suffered burns to her forehead, stomach and hands, and her mouth was bleeding from a shrapnel wound.
A church member helped Fenny and Clarissa into the back of his car and sped toward the hospital, not knowing whether Fenny would survive.
At the hospital, doctors placed Fenny in a tub of warm water to stop the burning and stitched up the open wounds above her eyes and on her upper lip. They then took her to surgery to remove the shrapnel embedded in various parts of her body.
“One piece of steel pierced my left side,” she said, pointing to the spot. “Thank God it did not hit my lungs.”
Doctors spent hours dressing her burns.
“At that moment I started to feel the heat again,” she said. “The pain came back, too.”
Over time, Fenny’s skin hardened. Every four days, she was given anesthesia so a doctor could slowly peel away the dead skin. She underwent that procedure 21 times; doctors could not perform skin grafts because she didn’t have enough healthy skin left. During Fenny’s three months in the hospital, Pastor Yonathan and members of her church regularly visited her in the intensive care unit to encourage and pray for her.
Fenny’s feet are scarred with the pattern of the sandals she was wearing the day of the bombing.
After her release from the hospital, Fenny received physical therapy twice a week for several months to regain strength in her hands. Her healing has progressed slowly and painfully.
“Persecution is uncomfortable, but what can I do?” she said. “Now I must go on with what has happened.”
Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Foley says that today, Fenny’s mobility remains limited by the tenderness of her cracked, purplish skin. The tops of her feet are scarred with the pattern of the sandals she was wearing the morning of the bombing, a constant reminder of that horrible day and everything it cost her.
Fenny said she has learned to love the scarred face that starts back at her from the mirror, but it has taken time. She admits it was difficult to overcome the initial shock and shame of her disfigurement. She still works to overcome the fear and anxiety that confront her every time she leaves her home, but she said she has chosen to forgive those responsible for her current condition.
“I am not a woman stays angry,” she said softly but confidently. “I am a woman who likes to surrender all to God and let Him arrange all for me.”
“Fenny has surrendered more than the events of May 13, 2018,” says Representative Foley. “She has had to relinquish control in every aspect of her life. She relies on others, mainly her husband, Erry, to help her get through each day. She requires help bathing and dressing each day, and she is resigned to wearing loose-fitting gowns that don’t cling to her fragile skin.”
The most difficult part of her new life, Fenny said, is the necessity of avoiding physical contact. Clarissa’s hugs are now too painful to bear.
“It’s… so… sad,” she said, emphasizing each word with a nod of her head as her eyes filled with tears.
Pastor Yonathan led efforts to rebuild Surabaya Central Pentecostal Church, adding a stronger gate and protective barrier. While concerned for church members’ safety, he also wants the surrounding community to see that they will remain faithful to Christ.
Representative Foley says that Clarissa, now a fifth grader, is nearly pain free.
“She wants to be a doctor when she grows up so she can help the suffering of people like her mother for whom she prays daily,” says Representative Foley.
Representative Foley says that the parts of the Surabaya Central Pentecostal Church building damaged in the blast have been repaired, and a larger, stronger security gate and a new protective barrier have been installed at the building’s entrance.
“The church continues to gather for worship and love Muslims in its neighborhood, and Pastor Yonathan said he doesn’t fear another attack,” says Representative Foley.
Representative Foley says that these days Fenny is finding the courage to step out in public more often.
“When she senses people staring at her scars, she quietly asks God a new question: ‘How can I be used in this situation?’ When people ask about her burns, she eagerly tells them about Christ. She wants Him to use her story and her pain for the advancement of His kingdom,” says Representative Foley.
Surabaya Central Pentecostal Church – one of three Indonesian churches that were bombed by radical Muslims on May 13, 2018.
Representative Foley says that the Voice of the Martyrs Korea continues to help pay medical expenses for Fenny as well as for others affected by the bombings.
Individuals interested in donating to the “Fenny Fund” can visit www.vomkorea.com/en/donate or give via electronic transfer to
국민은행 463501-01-243303 (KB Bank)
예금주: (사)순교자의소리 (Account holder)
Please include the name “Fenny” on the donation. The deadline for donations for this emergency project is June 30.