As a teenager, Budi Mulyadi* trained to kill Christians with a 9 mm pistol. For months, he aimed it at a target while an instructor shouted slurs against Christianity. Mulyadi didn’t know anything about the religion, just that it threatened Islam. Not once did someone explain Christ’s sacrifice to him.
Yet, almost 20 years later, he serves as a Christian worker.
Today Mulyadi works with American Christian workers to manage worship sessions for youth in Southeast Asia. He helps local farmers learn better ways to raise healthy fish and grow their crops. He gives food to poverty-stricken families.
As Mulyadi works, the jobs and the people he works with bring him joy and he smiles, but his smiles fade when he talks about his adolescence. At the age of 14, he lived in an Islamic terrorist camp that imbued him with wrath and hate.
Hate “was something that was implanted in my mind,” he said. “I could just think about Christians and the hate would pop up.”
An obstinate child, Mulyadi ran away from an Islamic boarding school in his early teenage years. The school merely taught him Muslim scripture but had too many rules for his taste. He had already run away from home after a violent disagreement with his father, so the 13-year-old had nowhere to turn. Then he met an Islamic extremist who promised him a new education.
The man took the young Mulyadi to a large compound of tents that was surrounded by trees. Twenty other boys slept in the tents at night and trained with knives and guns during the day. They only stopped for sleep, food and prayer. When their instructors talked to them, they touted the supremacy of Muslims and the wretchedness of Christians. The Christians, they said, deserved to die.
“We were told that the Christians were infidels,” Mulyadi said. “If we would kill Christians, then that would be a free ticket into heaven for us.”
At the camp, Mulyadi felt anger and self-righteousness boiling inside. As he practiced with a gun supplied by the camp, hate filled him. At times, though, he also felt doubt and confusion. The instructors told him that Christians should burn in hell, but did he want to send them there?
The boy continued to mull over these questions as his marksmanship improved and as the gun felt more and more familiar in his hand. Eventually, the leaders believed, Mulyadi and four other boys were ready to prove their worth. Without a clear strategy, they sent their students out to kill anyone they could.
“There wasn’t any specific hit, so there wasn’t any specific contract,” he said. “If we could find someone that was particularly ‘holy’ — someone that would really make a dent — … then that’s who our primary target was.”
Once they left the compound boundaries, Mulyadi discovered he wasn’t the only one with doubts. The other boys had examined themselves as well, eventually determining they had no desire to kill.
“We were given a task to go kill Christians, and we had to make a decision: Did we want to do that or not?” he said. “And that was the point that we broke [and went our separate ways].”
All five boys decided to abandon the jihad. For all the camp’s brainwashing, they never wanted to kill anyone, no matter how much they hated them.
Mulyadi went home briefly, but his father’s anger forced him out on the road again. He eventually landed in a city several hours away and found a job tending the lawn of a health clinic. He spent the rest of his teen years living alone in a rented room.
THE DAMASCUS ROAD
As he trimmed hedges year after year, Mulyadi became interested in general spirituality, not simply what he found in the pages of the Koran.
During his spiritual search, he found the name of Jesus, a prophet according to the Quran, and questioned why Muslims never mentioned Him in their lectures and discussions. He seemed overlooked. Mulyadi picked up a Bible and investigated.
Then, one night as he prayed alone in his room, he heard a voice say, “I will send a Helper unto you.”
Mulyadi didn’t know where the voice came from or who the “Helper” was, but he turned to Scripture and, after exhaustive reading, found John 14:16: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever.”
From the moment he read that verse in John, the young man devoted himself to Jesus, a man who had the power to send him a Helper — the Holy Spirit — and the power to tell him about it 2,000 years after His initial promise.
“My whole demeanor has changed, and God has filled my heart with love,” he said. “I’m not an angry person anymore. My temper is gone. I don’t get mad at people like I did before. Because God loves me, I am able to love others.”
This love turned Mulyadi into a Christian worker. He loves the people he once hated. He leads worship for people he once scorned. He desires to bring people to Christ when he once wanted to punish them for following the Savior. This is his new passion.
“Until God chooses to take me home, I’m going to be here on a mission to share the Gospel with people who need to hear it,” he said.
As Mulyadi preaches God’s Word in scores of villages and spends time with his wife and daughter, he rarely speaks to anyone of his time as a terrorist in training. Only after an hour of questioning does he mention it, and until recently, his American partner didn’t know about that phase of his life. It’s personal.
But every once in a while, he reunites with the four other men with whom he left the Islamic camp. They get together and discuss their work and families, and they discuss God. Although Islamic extremism filled them with revulsion for Jesus, Christ pursued every one.
All five are Christian pastors.