Fr. Kyrillos Junan Siswaja

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Background

I am Fr Kyrillos, and I am the youngest son of three brothers. I was born in Java, and speak both Javanese and Indonesian, but by ethnicity I am Chinese, that is, of the “Peranakan” or “Babah” group within the Chinese community. Therefore I do not speak Chinese as the “Totok” Chinese group does, and culturally I am more in tune with the Javanese culture of my surrounding than with the real Chinese one. My parents did not give too much attention to religious life. My father was a businessman who was too busy for religion and my mother was a non-devote Roman Catholic, Her mother, my grandmother, was a very devoted and pious Pentecostal Christian. Later on, both my parents became Pentecostal Christian. My parents gave us, their children, freedom to choose our own faith (among the various Christian denominations). In my childhood, I attended a Pentecostal Church (“The Pentecostal Church in Indonesia”) Sunday school. I was obedient to my Sunday school teacher but not to the Lord Jesus Christ. Until I reached my youth I did not understand clearly who Jesus Christ was. I completely did not understand the relationship between God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These theological problems had an impact on my spiritual life. My relationship with my Savior was so tasteless.

The Beginning of the Search for God

Towards the end of my High School years, I had the desire to go to college, but my father’s business went bankrupt, and we fell into economical difficulties. It had an impact on us me not only materially but also psychologically. I underwent a spiritual crisis because of it. My search for a relationship with God began, though not with the correct motivation; I wanted to get help at a time of crisis; and not in order to love God. Slowly, though, we were able to overcome these difficulties. I was accepted at a University, in Jember City, a few hours away from my hometown of Malang City, East Java. I attended the school of Farming, so the tuition was not too expensive.

During these college years, my focus was mostly centered on my relationship with Jesus Christ. My growth in faith was so slow, even though I had been baptized as a Pentecostal on January 1, 1987. However, it was during this period of study that my faith began to grow, especially after I began to read the Holy Bible. I began to attend Church services regularly and involved myself in the Church ministries. I was active in student fellowship prayer meetings. I worshipped at an Assembly of God Church near the campus. Then, I began to serve in the Sunday School Ministry and joined the choir at the local “Pentecostal Church in Indonesia.” At this time, I began to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. I began to be spiritually thirsty. With several of my friends, I began to visit a prayer fellowship or cell group of the Bethany Indonesian Bethel Church (a kind of Indonesian style mega-church of the largest Pentecostal/Charismatic denomination in the country). This was my first involvement with the Charismatic Movement. As a Pentecostal I yearned to be able to speak in tongue.

The Involvement With the Charismatic Movement

Exactly at 5:00 am in the morning of October 15th, in my lodging house, I began to speak in tongue. Officially then, I joined the Bethany Church. In the Church services, I always spoke in tongue, especially during the Charismatic style worship; it seemed to give me satisfaction emotionally. During this time, my spiritual emphasis was superficially based on speaking in tongues with full emotion. I believed that in doing so my spirit had spoken and prayed to God Himself. I began to put heavy stress on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and was proud of any kind of testimony that smacked of the miraculous. My spiritual problem was in my transition from searching for the knowledge of God correctly and relying on Jesus Christ as my Savior and Redeemer of my sins to exalting myself because of charismatic gifts and miracles!

When I began to work at the paper factory, PT. Tjiwi Kimia, in the hometown of Fr Daniel, in 1995, I joined in the worship and ministry of the local Bethany Church. Spiritual songs became very important to me, so I was always buying the newest spiritual songs and the newest spiritual books as a way of refreshing my faith. I also began to involve myself in the Sunday school, Youth Group, and Young adult ministries.

Questioning the Pentecostal and Charismatic Phenomena

However, in spite of my heavy involvement in the ministries of this Church, sometimes I still asked myself questions about the strange and weird phenomenas that I saw happen, such as the Toronto Blessing with its holy laughter phenomenon or the strange and weird movements of those having uncontrolled trances. I could not accept all these things, even though I kept quiet about them.

Another phenomenon that I saw in Pentecostal/Charismatic movement was its fragility and its proneness to division and schism.. For the Pentecostals, these divisions and the formations of new denominations (new religions, I should say!!) were considered to be of no concern and natural within the body of the church. I found that it was unacceptable. I began to feel that my spiritual adventure in this group was becoming more unsettled, and I did not find these phenomena to have any justification at all from a Biblical standpoint.

I began to realize that it was not the emotional experience as such that comprises Christianity, but it is the union with the Resurrected and Glorified Christ that has to be the goal of Christian worship and experience. Without being united in His redemption, without having union with His Crucifixion and His Resurrection from the death, my life was useless, because the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gift of tongues, and the gifts of miracles are not the ones who died for my sins and are not the ones that rose from the dead. Therefore they are not the sources of my salvation; Jesus Christ is. Only Christ is the One who could forgive sin, and none other, because only He, by virtue of His Resurrection, has destroyed the power of sin. Therefore without Him, I don’t have any hope, because spiritually I am dead even though physically I am alive, even if I can speak in tongues. I believe that this realization dawned on me because of the grace of God, and not because of my efforts.

My reliance, before I knew Orthodoxy, was on the experience of having a trance, falling on the ground unconscious during prayer and public worship. For me at that time, the Church was the place of doing my duty to perform my worship of God, a place of gathering with friends, a place to enjoy music for worship, and the place of meeting with the divine in the condition of trances and speaking in tongues. I did not understand the theological significance of the Church as the Body of Christ. For me, theologically speaking, everything was so abstract, unclear, and simplistic. I believed that the appearance of a person who is full of the Holy Spirit should be full of joy, but I found that my joy, my smile, and my happiness were fake and superficial. The flesh with all its lusts was still powerfully uncontrollable. Things did not get better; my emotions tended to be explosive. I felt like I was falling into unending circles of sin. When I would experience distress, then I would speak in tongues with full emotion and feel a kind of relief, but the pattern always was the same. Again I would fall, again I would feel distress, and it went on and on without end.

After I became an Orthodox Christian, I began to realize that those moments of relief that I experienced when I spoke in tongues was because I had a wrong focus on emotional experience, which is only psychical in nature, and were not spiritual. While the psychological state of each human being is always in the state of flux, unstable and influenced by its surroundings, relying on speaking in tongues will only make the emotions more unstable. It does not touch onto the substance of the immortal spirit of man. When I asked myself the question of whether living a religious life such as this would ensure me eternal salvation. I did not know the answer.

Finding Orthodoxy

In the middle of these spiritual struggles, once more the grace of God was at work. It was during this time that a friend introduced me to and testified to me about the Orthodox Church. I was introduced me to Fr Daniel, who later became my spiritual father. I was shocked and my faith was shaken upon realizing, through the teaching of Fr Daniel both orally and especially through his books, that the Apostolic Faith and Church still existed and that the Orthodox Church is the unbroken continuation of that Early Church of the Apostles themselves.

The teaching on the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of the Word of God Made Flesh, and also the “Theotokos”, The Virgin Mary, which I had so vehemently argued against before, as I thought it was the heretical teaching of Roman Catholicism, amazed me and shook my faith to the core. I said to myself, this is the answer for my spiritual adventure. I had found the true Church of Jesus Christ, namely the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Orthodox Church. My reliance on Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches was turned upside down. I realized that Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement did not lead me to return to the Apostolic Church, but lead me into deeper heresy and lead me astray further from the Truth. The jaw dropping teachings of Orthodoxy, as Father Daniel taught me, made my emotionally charged past seem so hollow. Having learnt the lofty and deep teachings of Orthodoxy, I felt that the emphasis on emotional experiences like speaking in tonguess having trances, and falling unconscious on the floor as deviation of the truth of the Gospel.

Having realized that I had found the truth that I had been searching for, without further ado, I underwent catechism, and then received baptism and the Sacrament of Anointing (Chrism). Since then, my regular prayer life got a better perspective through the practice of the “Prayers of the Hours” (Seven Times a Day Prayer) of the Orthodox Church. One prayer that so amazed me and gives a strong coloring to my spiritual life is the “The Jesus Prayer” (“Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”). Now, my prayer life has a refreshing new perspective because of the theological content and structures of the prayer, so that I can understand clearly to whom do I pray. In this way, I experience a true and warm fellowship with the One God, the Holy Trinity, and no longer a fellowship based on fleeting and superficial emotions. My Liturgical and ecclesiastical life has also gotten a new perspective and spiritual value. I see how my spiritual life has become stable; my mind more peaceful; and my emotions more controllable. Having learned about Church history. I came to know that the Most Loving God had saved me many times from the grip of the modern heresy of Neo-Montanism. Praise the Lord!

The Involvement in Orthodox Ministry

During this time, I yearned so much to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, the Orthodox Faith, and the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, as a servant of God in a full time ministry. The first involvement I had with Orthodox ministry was between 1999 – 2003, as the chairman of the now defunct “Martyria” Orthodox Bulletin and as the editor of an Orthodox books publication which also is defunct now. At the same time I served as a lay leader for the Typika Service (Reader Service) for the Orthodox Community in Malang City, East Java, which was pioneered by Fr Daniel. Since the late 1980s, Fr. Daniel, amongst others, had been trying to find a way to get me to an Orthodox seminary, which are all abroad. At last, in the early 2000s, I got a recommendation to study in the Sergey Lavra Orthodox Theological Seminary, in Sergey Possad, Moscow, Russia which is under the supervision of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR)] of the Moscow Patriarchate. I went there with a number of other Indonesian seminarians. We studied there until 2005 when the Indonesian Church had to call all the students in Russia back to Indonesia to be ordained as priests due to a crisis in the leadership and the desperate need for additional priests. This situation was enough to make me panic! I was not married and certainly didn’t feel called to be a celibate priest, and yet I didn’t have any perspective young woman to marry. My only recourse was to make a fervent request to the Throne of Heaven for my “lost rib” to be my companion for life in serving God in His field. Every night after Church Service, I always made requests to God, asking the Father Himself to provide a wife for me.

Preparations toward Ordination

Once again the providence of God fell to my favor. Through e-mail contacts I established a relationship with an Indonesian Chinese girl, by the name of Ony Rahayu. I introduced her to my spiritual father, Fr Daniel, from Moscow via e-mail, and we started to make an arrangements for our wedding. Indeed, it was very distressing for me because everything had to be done in so short a time. But we prayed and we believed that by the guidance of God the Father everything would be solved smoothly. There were a lot of obstacles during this marriage arrangement, beginning with the problems of the requirements of the Indonesian-Chinese, traditional wedding ceremony and the money needed for such an event to the problems of the numbers of people being invited, etc. After asking for the blessing and the permission of the Director of the Seminary (His Eminence Archbishop Evgenii), we (Brother Ardy Momongan, Fr Dionysios, and I) left Moscow on January 23, 2005 and arrived in Indonesia on January 24, 2005. On February 21, 2005, Fr Alexios, from the Holy Trinity Church of Solo City, came to Surabaya, where my wife-to-be lived, in order to catechize her in Orthodox faith. Finally, Fr Alexios was also the one who baptized my wife-to-be, and she was given the Baptismal name of Maria. Two days later, on February 23, 2005, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony was celebrated by Fr Alexios, and it was a very successful and festive event. Praise God!

I was ordained to the priesthood on March 6th 2005. There were five other priests ordained during that week by His Eminence Archbishop (now Metropolitan) Hilarion: Fr Antonios, Fr Markus, Fr Dionysios, Fr Irenaios, and Fr Gregorios. I was able to celebrate the Divine Liturgy for the first time on the day of my ordination. At present, I am ministering in cooperation with Fr Irenaios at The Orthodox Community of “St. Panteleimon the Miracle Worker and great Healer”. This community was started by Fr Daniel at the beginning of his mission work and was entrusted to the late Deacon Panteleimon, the husband of Deaconness Debora who is the younger sister of Fr Daniel, and they were using the second floor of Fr Daniel’s house in his hometown, Mojokerto City, East Java. After my ordination, I also started the Orthodox Community of “St. Jonah of Manchuria” in Surabaya City, and I worked for the ministry of School Children Assistance Fund in this community.

I will conclude this testimony of mine by saying that from the above narration of my story, I see and believe that the providence of God was at work in all the story of my calling into the priesthood until now. May the Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to The Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages and ages. Amen.