“Something Died That Night”
By Daniel Eng
This was originally written on Aug 7th, 1991 and was meant to be part of my healing process after I left the International Churches of Christ (ICC). I have edited it some since but have still kept it as truthful as I can remember. I consider this as the darkest period in my personal life. Before this I had never experienced so much pain and depression. Before this I had never understood why some people would contemplate suicide, much less commit suicide.
But now I know.
Some of the events have been abbreviated but I have also tried to include as much detail as I can possibly recollect. I have also deliberately abbreviated all personal names, except on a few occasions.
This is the story of my journey to hell and back.
Feb 76. I was baptized in the mainstream Klang Church of Christ (COC)
Jan 82. Became full-time minister for the Klang COC
Nov 84. I left the mainstream COC to join the ICC in London where I was trained and discipled by James Lloyd, one of 2 evangelists in the London ICC
Oct 87. I moved to Singapore (SGP) to lay the groundwork for the ICC
Feb 88. SGP ICC officially started. Called “Central Christian Church.”
Aug 89. I was appointed an Evangelist in the Boston Garden
Feb 90. I moved to Jakarta (JKT), capital of the world’s largest Moslem country, Indonesia, to establish the ICC
Dec 90. 8 leaders of the JKT church (especially HK and myself) subjected to 3 months of interrogation by corrupt Indonesian police who wanted bribes. My passport was confiscated and I was blacklisted at all the Indonesian ports of entry, preventing me from leaving Indonesia.
Mar 91. Interrogations ended. Back to normal in the JKT ICC.
These are the main characters in my story:
AN Women’s Leader in the JKT ICC. My ‘counter-part’ in the ministry. Trained in London and Singapore. Discipled by KL, Women’s Leader in the SGP ICC.
DA Evangelist for the London ICC and World Sector Leader for the British Commonwealth ICCs. Discipled by KM himself.
DE Daniel Eng
HK My assistant leader in the Jakarta ICC. Discipled by me.
JL Evangelist in the SGP ICC. Trained in London and discipled by DA.
KL Women’s Leader in the SGP ICC. Discipled by JA (who is the wife of DA), Women’s Counselor in the London ICC.
KM Top leader of the ICC.
MN Evangelist for the Bombay ICC. Trained in London and discipled by DA.
Events in chronological order (1991):
11 Mar 7AM JAKARTA. My discipler, JL, phoned from SGP and woke me up. JL told me that the ICC leadership had decided that I should leave JKT and move to Bombay, India. AN, the Women’s Leader in JKT, was also to move, but to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
BACKGROUND: In 1986 I was very interested in dating a Chinese girl in the London church. I was told by the leadership to stop pursuing her because she was “not a leader.” They warned me that if I chose to disobey, I would be kicked out of the ministry. In 1987 I started dating SM, an American women’s leader who was converted in London and who subsequently moved to SGP to be a part of the church there. In 1989 JL & KL told me to break up with SM because, apparently, she was “questioning her faith” in the ICC. From 1989 to 1991, JL & KL (Evangelist and Women’s Counselor in the SGP ICC church) pressured me to marry AN because they concluded that AN & I were ‘equals’ in leadership. I was rebuked almost every week for not ‘falling in love’ with her. It became so bad that I started having nightmares about being married to her. I ended up fasting and praying each day to God, begging him to help me fall in love with AN. But I never did. For that I was to be chastised and humiliated privately and publicly in front of other leaders for next 2-3 years.
JL gave these reasons why we should move:
- 1. my ‘dating’ relationship with AN was not ‘going on well.’ Therefore, we should not be leading together in the JKT church.
2. AN is to be sent to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to find a suitable future spouse. Perhaps with a local Malaysian leader called TC.
3. I needed to develop peer relationships.
4. I needed to find a suitable future spouse.
5. the Bombay church needed help. Many had fallen away and the church had not grown. The leadership felt that I could help the Bombay church.
I informed JL that the police interrogations in JKT had already ceased and the church was slowly returning back to a normal routine. Furthermore, I told JL that my relationship with AN was improving (I was deceiving myself then to appease the powers-that-be). But JL replied that the decision had already been made.
The announcement came as a total shock because it was very unexpected. It was literally out of the blue! Initially, I was reluctant to leave because the JKT church had meant so much to me. I guess it was like telling a mother to abandon her newborn baby immediately after childbirth even though she had gone through so much labor pain, which, in this case, I liken to my 3-month’s worth of police interrogations plus the 1-year’s worth of hard work in starting this church. (During the police interrogations, I really felt that I was going to lose my life for Christ at an Indonesian prison. It was scary and dangerous, seriously.) JL would not say when I would be back in JKT, which made me even more troubled and sad. I was also told to inform AN of the decision.
8AM. Scott Green (evangelist in the Hong Kong ICC) phoned to invite me to preach there in April. But I explained that I could not because of the move to Bombay.
9AM. AN came over to my house and I broke the news to her. AN became emotional and cried because she, too, was reluctant to leave JKT.
AN and I then discussed the situation and concluded that the decision to move was not a wise one in view of the following:
- 1. that particular month had a number of very weak Christians who could fall away
2. the Christians had been affected by the constant police harrassments. They were discouraged and were sometimes scared too. How would you feel if a group of police were to drag you off while you were preaching the sermon during a Christmas service? That’s what happened to me.
3. the new JKT church leadership was simply too young and inexperienced to lead them without AN & me
For the next 30 minutes AN persuaded me to tell JL about those facts.
DE: “The decision has already been made. It’s no use. Anyway it may come across as if we’re manipulative.”
AN: “The ball is in your court. There is no harm in telling JL that. Only good can come out of it. The decision can be changed.”
DE: “But the decision has been made!”
AN: “Well, things can change.”
10AM. I relented and then phoned JL in SGP. After I had explained the situation for a few minutes, JL became furious and for the next half hour shouted at me through the phone.
JL: “You’re a snake, a manipulator, and a conniver! You are arrogant, proud..[etc.] I don’t care what reasons you give! I WANT you right NOW to pack up and leave JKT!!!”
I trembled as I stood listening to the harsh rebuke, being close to tears. Finally, to cut the rebuke short, I apologized to JL.
After that, AN got on the phone and it was now her turn to be scolded, but by KL, JL’s wife. She was crying by the end of the call and then she left my house immediately to go home.
I was very hurt by JL’s abusive manner. In retrospect, I asked myself what was so different about JL’s behavior on the call and how he had treated me prior. The fact was, he was still the same, but I, on the other hand, had a different perspective now.
Remember that I had just undergone a 3-month police interrogation where I was bombarded daily with verbal threats, fear, psychological and mental abuse? Here, on the one hand, were these ‘bad’ guys who were obviously un-christ-like–threatening me to break me down so that I would give them the US$5,000 that they wanted so badly. And then now, on the other hand, was a ‘church leader’ who is supposed to be Christ-like who is dishing out the same sort of, albeit different wordings, psychological abuse/crap that I had been receiving from the ‘bad guys.’ Something just clicked that day. And the light bulb turned on. This kind of treatment was just not right. And I started to see the light!
By then, I felt so compelled to get out from being under JL’s discipling. He was harsh. He was abusive. He was absolutely authoritarian. And I was extremely upset at how he had treated me on the phone:
- 1. false accusations and name calling (‘snake,’ ‘manipulator,’, ‘conniver,’ etc.)
2. harshness eg. shouting on the phone
3. authoritarian and high-handed attitude e.g. making an important decision for me without any prior discussions, and not giving me a choice to disagree
4. lack of compassion and understanding e.g. refusal to listen to my explanations, refusal to reconsider the decision or to even discuss it further.
Frankly, it was not the first time that I had wanted to quit the full-time ministry working under JL. It also happened in April 88 and August 88 for the same reason – abusive authority. But this time my anger was more pronounced.
As the evangelist for the young JKT church, I felt responsible for the Christians there and really wanted to continue to help them grow. But what were my options? I felt I had only 2 options:
- 1. work at a secular job, be self-supporting and at the same time help the church. But this option was less viable because of visa restrictions. (I was a foreigner living in Indonesia.)
2. obtain alternative sources of funding for myself and the JKT church.
The 2nd option was preferable but I knew that as a consequence JL and the ICC leadership would probably come down hard on the young JKT to reject me. If, and when it came to that, I told myself that the JKT church would have to decide who they wanted.
I knew that this move would have a lot of far-reaching consequences and I did not want to risk making an emotional decision. I still wanted himself and the JKT church to be part of ‘God’s Movement’ i.e. the ICC. At that time I only saw the authoritarian abuse problem as JL’s problem, not the discipling system itself. I also knew that my thought processes were starting to get pretty dangerous. (7 years in the ICC leadership would teach one that.)
Finally, I decided to risk this and discuss the matter privately with the main JKT leaders ie. AN, HK and WT. I was open to whatever they had to say because I trusted them implicitly. But all 3 of them told me not to do so but to reconsider. I proceeded then to fast and pray for God’s guidance for the next 2 days. At the end, I caved back in to the ‘kingdom’ mindset and made a decision instead to submit himself. I apologized to all 3 for my ‘evil’ separatist ideas and promised them that I would confess all to JL later when I went to SGP. (Stupid me!)
17 Mar I preached my last sermon in JKT.
24 Mar AN and I left for the JKT Cengkareng International airport. I encountered problems with the immigration authorities at the airport due to the earlier blacklisting by the corrupt police. But eventually I was cleared and allowed to fly to SGP. (The Cathay Pacific flight was delayed for a half hour because of me!)
10:30AM. SINGAPORE. AN & I arrived at the Changi International Airport. I decided to go to my mom’s home and spend the day with her and my sister who was also a member of the SGP church. It had been a few months since I last saw them.
25 Mar 10AM SINGAPORE. AN & I met with JL & KL. I was completely honest with JL & KL when I confessed to them about ‘Black Monday’, the day I considered taking the JKT church away from the ICC. I was very apologetic and profusely sorry. JL listened quietly while I vomitted out all my ‘transgressions.’ But I continued, and with Matthew 18 in mind, I told JL how I felt he had been treating me, especially during that last phone call.
JL would not even try to consider my complaint. He refused to admit his harshness but instead lashed out and rebuked me again for an hour.
JL: “You’re the proudest person on the face of the earth!..[etc.] Because of that I have to be hardline and shout at you. You don’t listen and submit. You always disagree and have other ideas.”
JL was also very upset that I chose to spend the first day in SGP with my family instead of being discipled by him. He told me that it really showed my proud heart, that I was not putting God’s kingdom first!
After the one-hour verbal barrage, I broke down and cried. I had to again apologize to JL for my sinfulness.
The session ended up with me agreeing that it was the best thing for me to move to Bombay.
During the next few days, JL told me:
- 1. Bombay needed my ministry experience because of my successes in SGP and JKT. (At that time, the SGP church which I had started was acknowledged as having the fastest church growth in the ICC worldwide.) JL told me that I was the most qualified and most able to help and advice MN, the evangelist in the Bombay church.
JL: “Critique MN’s sermons. Help him in any way. Find out what’s lacking and causing so many fallaways.”
2. Bombay would help me to recover from the police ordeal in JKT.
3. Plan on being in Bombay till July and then return to JKT.
During this time I also found out that JL & KL had been asked by DA to go to Bombay. But they did not want to go for these reasons:
- 1. they had just bought a US$400,000 penthouse in Pandan Valley, SGP
2. no one else would be able to lead the SGP church
This was the second time JL was asked to go to India. (JL is of Indian-descent.) The first time was in London in 1986-87. But on both occasions he had many ‘reasons’ not to go. I do not doubt that the required hardship in such a place was one of the real reasons.
12 Apr 3AM. BOMBAY. I arrived from SGP.
14 Apr The ICC’s Indian Leadership Meeting started and ‘Operation Super Bombay’ was kicked off.
30 Apr MN asked me for any suggestions or ways to help improve the Bombay church. Like a fool, I then proceeded to offer some ideas, without knowing that it would be used against me later.
2 May JL called me from SGP. I was very taken aback when he started to get on the ‘pride’ and ‘arrogance’ hobby horse diatribe again. I was verbally assaulted again by JL because MN had complained that I was telling him what MN should do! You know, I was so shocked and confused at all of this (gullible me!). I thought I had faithfully followed my instructions and mandate from JL. And guess what? I had no choice but to say sorry again! And again. And again.
That night I was very disturbed and very upset. Things were getting from bad to worse. First, I was yanked out of JKT against my will, from a group of Christians that I love. Then I was blasted left and right. Now I was being chewed on for following earlier instructions. I felt lied to. I felt abused. I felt cheated. Trust God, they all told me. “God will work out everything. Just submit.” But I couldn’t take it anymore. The pain of being the target of verbal abuse from JL was simply too much to bear. Can’t his verbal diarrhea ever stop? Why was he pushing me so hard? My gosh, I was serving as a minister in the church even before he was a Christian!
I contemplated packing up and returning to JKT, being so sick of this harsh discipling under JL. All I wanted to do then was to be a simple Christian in JKT without any leadership role. That was all I wanted. But little did I know then that that was so threatening to the ICC.
I was so gullible. I shared with MN about how I felt at JL’s rebuke and also about the unresolved issue of JL’s harshness towards me. MN persuaded me to go to London and resolve the issues with DA.
Between May 2 – 20, unbeknownst to me, JL began warning the SGP and JKT ICCs of my ‘rebellion.’ Members were told to avoid me if I ever returned. “If you love DE, you would not contact him so that he will repent of his arrogance.”
Damage control had just begun behind my back.
20 May LONDON. I left Bombay for London to meet with DA. It so happened that there was a World Sector Leaders meeting during that week plus a UK Conference which was held at Liverpool. I was their guest songleader.
23 May 3PM. I met with DA and was told to remain in Bombay till August and then move back to London. I was not to return to either SGP nor JKT.
I was very upset and very unhappy because I felt that it was not fair that I had to be ‘punished’ as a consequence of JL’s harshness. I consulted with James Lloyd, my ex-discipler, who had moved to Atlanta at that time. After that James and DA talked over the phone.
26 May 7PM. At a meeting, KM met with me and listened to my complaint. Here is the gist of what he said to me:
KM: “You are still a ‘Church of Christ-er’.. independent, insubmissive ..[blah, blah, blah]. DA and SJ (the New York ICC Evangelist) were just like you and I had to beat it out of them. And you’ve got a bitter root in your heart!”
DE: “If [ICC] promotes this kind of leadership abusiveness, then this cannot be God’s Kingdom! And I want nothing to do with it!”
Between May 26 – 29 different leaders met with me to hear my grievances. Most of them rebuked me for my ‘arrogance.’ (How did I ever last that long? I guess I must have loved the ICC too much then.)
29 May Unbeknownst to me, JL instructed HK in the JKT church to announce that I had disappeared and left ‘God’s movement.’ I was made out to be a wicked man set on destroying the church.
2 John 7-11 was used against me in my absence during the church service. Every member was warned to avoid me and to be cold towards me so that I would repent!
In my home in JKT which I shared with some Christians, all the locks were changed and the members were forbidden to allow me into my own house. My belongings were all packed up and were to be shipped to my mom’s home in Singapore. All this was being done without my knowledge and consent. I didn’t know all these were happening behind my back. I was so much in the dark!
30 May As arranged earlier, I visited DA in his home for another round of discussions. DA backed down from his earlier demands:
DA: “OK, stay in London now. Do not return to Bombay, Jakarta or Singapore. Perhaps in December we will go back to JKT together, depending on your progress here. And I will personally disciple you.”
DA told me to fast and pray about it. It sounded so godly and reverential. I was also instructed to make a decision by the following day.
31 May I visited DA as planned. But I informed him that I did not want to accept the offer to stay in London. My point was that why should I be penalised instead of JL. He’s the one in the wrong; let him be the one to move back to London! I told DA that all I wanted then was to simply return to JKT and to be an ordinary Christian.
DA: “So what are you going to do if you’re out of the ministry? You’ll be selling shoes on the street corners!”
On learning of my decision, DA suddenly pulled up a December sin issue which JL had dug up that week in JKT. It was a big surprise for me! DA threatened to announce to everyone about my ‘molestation’ sin in JKT. I was totally unprepared for that turn of events. (I had already confessed, asked for forgiveness and repented of the sin back in Dec 1990.)
DA agreed to let me quit the full-time ministry. He offered me 2 months severance pay which would be paid in SGP on the condition that I did not split the church.
DA: “I can be a great friend but also a great enemy. If you try to do damage, I will do you even greater damage. I know your sins and will announce them everywhere.”
DE: “Do not cover up JL’s sin of abusiveness by my sin. I have no problems announcing my sin anywhere.”
That same night, emotionally exhausted, I returned to Bombay to collect my few belongings. DA and his wife, on the other hand, flew to SGP on a different flight to do major damage control. Must have been quite an expensive international flight having to book on such short notice – and for 2 persons!
02 Jun 10AM. SINGAPORE. I arrived at the Changi International Airport and went straight to my mom’s home.
DA & JL met with the SGP church that night at the Singapore Conference Hall to announce that I was caught in a homosexual sin in JKT and therefore had been asked to leave the ministry and the church. Everyone was warned against contacting me because “he is going through an emotional time.” Anyone wishing to contact me had to obtain advice from the leadership before doing so. The leaders also pressured my own sister to publicly denounce me during the church meeting.
03 Jun DA & JA, JL & KL, and AN flew to Jakarta to make the same annoucement.
04 Jun 8:30PM JAKARTA. The flight from SGP to JKT was very emotional for me. I thought about all that I had to fight against and all that I had given up to be back with the church that I loved. I didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t know how I would be received. But I certainly wasn’t prepared for the hurt and wounds which would pierce my heart in the following days. I was to know what grief meant in the days to come. My journey to hell was about to commence.
I arrived in JKT and found out that I could not return to my own home to collect my belongings! It pained me that the brothers whom I’d taught the gospel and baptized would stop me from entering my own house. I stood outside the gate numb with sorrow, my mouth agape with sadness. Wasn’t it just a few months ago that I had to endure 3 months of police interrogation for these Christians? Didn’t I feel that I might die or be imprisoned in the police station for these Christians? But now they had all been turned against me, every last one of them. Where were my brothers? Where were my friends? Didn’t anyone care for what really happened? Where were the hugs? Where were the smiling faces to welcome me home? Had they all turned against me? These were the ones I loved, that I cared for. I cried.
I remember crying so much that night till I could cry no more. I was grieving, grieving for my lost friends, for all those who had once hugged and embraced me, who had proclaimed their love for me. I was grieving for all the love that had now been lost.
I felt like Job: No money, no home, no friends. For the first time in my life, I could understand some of the pain and loss suffered by Job. I had spent the best 7 years of my life with the ICC only to end up a broken man, penniless and with nothing left.
Something died that night. My innocence. My hope in God’s church. My faith in the brotherhood of men. My faith in my friends. Perhaps also my faith in God. I had wanted so much to serve God. How could they do this to me — my heart silently screamed..
Yes, something in me died that night.
Dejected, brokenhearted, I walked sadly away from the gate. No one wanted me. I had no place to stay even though I had a home there. That night, I curled up in an indifferent hotel room, without love, without hope. (Incidentally, HK kept watch on me and followed me closely all that time because they feared that I would split the JKT church.)
05 Jun In the morning, I was allowed to return home to collect my belongings, under the supervision of 6 leaders. Everyone was cold towards me, and I was unaware that they were all told to do so. I had no heart to bring everything back so I decided to give some of the Christians most of my stuff. You see, I still loved them. And in my heart it was the right thing to do because they needed them more than I.
06 Jun 2 JKT leaders visited me in the hotel and wanted to find out what really happened. (Later on they used this to accuse me of being slanderous and divisive.)
09 Jun I left JKT a broken man. I could not understand how the very church that I had helped to start could turn against me so suddenly and with such coldness.
10 AM. SINGAPORE. On my arrival in Singapore, I arranged a meeting with JL at a public restaurant.
At the meeting, JL made many more hurting and harsh statements to me. In a loud voice, he repeated the following over and over again: “You are a hypocrite and a homosexual!”
I asked JL, “Why do you keep pushing me?”
But JL went on with his accusations and scoldings.
That night JL attended a leaders meeting and confessed to everyone that he had been harsh towards me. The leaders were impressed by his show of repentance and were all convinced that he really cared for me. However, JL never did apologize to me. Not a visit, not a letter or even a phone call. Not to this day.
In the SGP and JKT churches that morning, I was further accused of being slanderous and divisive, and therefore ‘publicly marked.’
A few days after that my sister was barred from attending any services of the SGP ICC church by the leaders. She was asked to leave and never return because, in JL’s own words, “You are Daniel Eng’s sister!” (She has her own story to tell but that’s in another article.) They also marked her publicly and all her friends in the church were told to avoid her.
02 Jul In a phone conversation with ST, a church leader in the SGP ICC, I was chastised again:
ST: “You are out of the ministry today because of your sin and pride. You need to be humble and repent!”
JL phoned me for the 1st time since June 9 to announce that he was cutting off the rest of my severance pay which was promised by DA in London. Knowing that I had no job and no money, JL was only too happy to deal me this final blow. He had to crush me.
07 Jul 11:45PM I was sick and asleep at home when a close friend in the ICC church called to say that he wanted to bring me a cake. When he showed up, there were 3 other church leaders with him. For the next hour they proceeded to rebuke me for my “pride and arrogance.” They were not interested to hear me. Instead it turned into another verbal abuse session. I was too sick and weak to defend myself, and finally my mom asked them all to leave me alone. I was really devastated.
On 15 July, 1991, my sister, my mom and I Ieft Singapore and moved to Penang, Malaysia to begin a new life–away from the ICC. The initial months were extremely hard as I tried to cope with my loss. I became suicidal because I had lost all reason to live, and I was living a life without purpose. Each night I would go up to the top floor of our apartment building and there, on the 14th floor, I would contemplate suicide, asking myself- Why am I still alive? Each night I had to find a reason to go on living. The suicidal thoughts were to continue for a year and half before I finally overcame them.
In 1997 during the Singapore court trial between the ICC and a Christian magazine, I was called to testify as a witness for the magazine. In their effort to silence me, some of the SGP ICC leaders flew to Malaysia and visited the mainstream Klang COC where I used to minister between 1982-1984. While I was giving evidence in the court in SGP, these leaders asked publicly for members of the Klang church to come forward to testify of my alleged homosexual activities. They offered anyone an all-expenses paid trip to Singapore. None came forward and the ICC leaders were told to leave. I was so disgusted with their method in that they were willing to stoop down so low in order to silence me.
In 1992 I moved to St. Louis, Missouri, thanks to the care and efforts of Jerry Jones, a former elder of the Boston Church of Christ. To him I owe a deep gratitude for reaching out to me in my darkest hours. And also to Kyle Degge who patiently ministered to my broken soul and showed me the way to healing: www.freendeed.org
Today my sister is a happily married Christian lady with a wonderful husband and 2 very special boys, David (7) and Jonathan (3). They live in Indianapolis and attend the Circle City Church.
Today I’m a happy and contented man. No, I’m not selling shoes on street corners, DA. I’m a highly successful software consultant living in a 7-bedroom house.
Please feel free to contact me: [email protected]
Daniel Eng, February 24th, 2003
Back to other articles about the International Churches of Christ.