Fr. Barnabas Gregorius Elu van Basten

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Fr. BarnabasI was born on April 12th, 1965 in Central Timor Island; therefore by ethnicity, I am a Timorese, the same ethnicity as Fr. Panteleimon. Timor is located in the Southeastern part of Indonesia, north of the Australian continent. The land is very arid and dry, and the people are mostly poor. Ethnically, we are different from the vast majority of Indonesian people. We are more dark-skinned with curly hair, while most of the western Indonesians are of Mongoloid race (Malay ethnicity) of Asiatic look.

My late father, Gaspar Sufa Elu, was a Roman Catholic religious teacher; my late mother, Maria Melu Efi, was a housewife. I am the fifth son of seven siblings. I graduated from a Roman Catholic Primary School located 40 kilometers away from my hometown in 1981, and I continued to a Junior High School in 1984. Due to financial strains, I had to stop my education there and to go find a job to help support my family. I found a job in a company called “CV Bintang Jaya” in Ketamenanu city, the Capital City of North Central Timor, 31 kilometers away from my hometown. In 1985, I went to the Capital City of the East Nusatenggara Province, Kupang City and worked there while continuing my High School education at St Fransiscus Xaverius Roman Catholic High School, which I completed in 1987.

In 1987, I left Kupang City and my native island of Timor and flew to Solo City, in Central Java Island, to find a better life. The plane landed in Jogyakarta City – an hour away by car to the West of Solo City – on December 23, 1987. For three and half years, I lodged with a devout Catholic, Chinese-Javanese family who had lived in Kupang City for 25 years, which is why he befriended me. I found a job in a business company. In December of 1992, I applied for and was accepted for a new my job at the “OEN” Hospital. On May 1st, 1993, I was officially instated as a permanent clerk of the hospital.

I began to discover the Orthodox Church in 1991 while I was attending the Roman Catholic Mass at St. Peter’s parish where I was a member; Fr Stefanus Cahyo announced during his sermon that “The Catholic Orthodox Church” or “the Eastern Catholic Church” has made its presence in Solo City. He explained many of the details about the Church and that this Church had kept intact the Tradition of the Ancient Church. She has a high regard for Mother Mary and keeps the Seven Sacraments. But he added that the Roman Catholic parishioners of this church have no need to go to this Church; he only wanted for them to know that it was there.

When the announcement was over, I could not concentrate on the rest of Mass, because I remembered something that my father had told me in 1978. At that time, he told me that one day a time will come when a light that originated from the East (that is, the faith that originally came from Jerusalem, namely the True and Original Catholic Church) will arrive in Indonesia. Furthermore, my father said that when that light comes, I had to welcome that light. My thoughts were both amazed and yet confused by what Fr. Cahyo had announced. On the one hand, he said that the Roman Catholic believers should not visit this Church, but, on the other hand, he said that this Church has kept intact the Tradition of the Ancient Church. Why do he forbid Roman Catholics from visiting this church? Despite his prohibition, I felt that I had to find this Church. I believed deeply that this was the Church that my father had told me about a long time ago, and I had to welcome this Church. I’m unsure of where my father had learned about the Orthodox Church or why its existence wasn’t taught in Sunday School. Did my father hear about the Orthodox Church when he taught about the Christian Faith? I had no answer, but such questions disturbed and vexed me. I was resolved to obey the word of my father and to find this Church. When I searched for the Orthodox Church, I was deceived by imagining that this Church would have a huge Church building, like a Cathedral that I could easily find. I was disappointed because, from 1991 until 1994, I searched fruitlessly for this Church. When I asked people, they would direct me to a Protestant church in the area. I did not lose hope because I was convinced that one day I would find this Church.

By God’s grace, my persistence was awarded. In the Roman Catholic Advent Season of 1995, I found this Church in the Sumber Trangkilan area, Solo City. I was searching for this Church with a former Timorese Roman Catholic Priest, Fr Stephanos Boik Nino, who had left the Roman Catholic Church in Timor and had come to Solo. Both of us were searching for this Original Apostolic Church. It was a heavily storming, rainy day, around 3:00 p.m. When I arrived at the Church, I was shocked because the Church building was a hut made from a plaited bamboo material with a dirt floor rather than the permanent, cathedral-like building that I imagined. The Church was so small, but in it dwelt all the saints. I cried within my heart to God, “ Lord, have mercy. All this time, I have been searching Your Church, and I have never found it because I was deceived into imagining the greatness of Your Church in terms of buildings made from wood and stone and not because of the greatness of Your teaching in it”. I offered this prayer to God with a sense of gratitude when Diakonissa (the wife of Deacon Alexios) Helleny welcomed us into her living room. The Holy Icon of the Virgin Mary displayed there stunned me.

We introduced ourselves and asked many questions. At last, we asked where Fr Daniel Byantoro lived since Fr Daniel himself did not live in the place where the hut-church was located. I was informed that Fr Daniel lived in the house of Dr Lukas Adi Sutjipto.

When we arrived, Fr. Daniel and some of the other clergy explained to us the history of the Church from the Apostolic Times until now and about how it has kept intact the Apostolic teachings and practices. After we had learned all this from Fr Daniel, Fr Stephanos Boik Nino and I decided to attend inquirer classes that Fr Daniel conducted. For the first time on December 25th, 1995, Fr Stephanos and I attended the Christmas Sunday Liturgy in the Orthodox Church. At last on February 18th, 2006, my wife, my son, and I were officially received into the Orthodox Church and became parishioners of the Holy Trinity Church in Solo. I believed that I had fulfilled the wish of my father that I should welcome the Light from Jerusalem when it came to Indonesia.

One day, Fr Alexios asked me whether I was willing to serve in the Church as a Deacon; I was surprised, but he told me that Fr Daniel had requested him to ask me about my calling in life. After some struggles and with the agreement of my wife, I decided that I was willing to be ordained. In 2006, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion ordained me a deacon. I then served with Fr Alexios at the Holy Trinity Church in Solo City for quite some time being ordained a priest in 2007 after much training from Fr. Alexios. I am now at the mission of St. Mark in Boyolali, which meets in the barn of one of our parishioners. It is a poor, rural church, and we hope to some day be able to get a church building. May God bless the mission of His Holy Church in Indonesia.