Above: The scene at Hillsong Church where Andrew Chan’s funeral service was hosted.
A happy child, a man of quick wit and comedy, a Penrith Panthers fan, a flawed but forgiven prodigal son, and a caring, tireless pastor who desired to see revival.
Those were the pictures that Andrew Chan’s loved ones painted of his life, at his funeral service at Hillsong Church in Baulkham Hills, Sydney today.
At the back of the stage was a giant picture of Chan smiling behind prison bars in Bali – where he spent the last 10 years for drug smuggling – overlaid with the words of Matthew 17:20 from Bible: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed… nothing will be impossible for you”.
It was a fitting backdrop to the service, where Chan himself even managed to have his say, having written his own eulogy to be read out.
“Thank you all for gathering here on this day to witness something great,” Chan wrote.
“My last moments here on earth, I sang out hallelujah. I ran a good race. I fought the good fight and came out a winner, in God’s eyes. Ask yourself, what did I leave with you? That will determine my legacy.”
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Friends Spoke of Andrew Chan’s Courage
Friends and family who spoke at the funeral portrayed Chan – who was executed on April 29 – as a reformed man of great courage and faith.
Long-time friend and pastor Major David Soper spoke of a man vastly different from the one arrested in 2005 for drug smuggling.
“If you don’t know the boy, be very careful of judging the man,” he said.
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Major Soper shared how his own children and Chan grew up together, celebrating birthdays and Chinese New Years, going on family holidays, having Friday night dinners and playing backyard sports together.
“Andrew was tough as nails,” he said. “His pain threshold, I’ve never seen anything like it and he always played tough.”
More than 1500 people in the Hillsong auditorium heard of Chan’s humour and the many long-running jokes he had shared with Soper, including one about $5 that Chan had owed him for years.
“Before he was taken to the island [Nusa Kambangan], Andrew rang me and said, ‘if you want that $5 you’d better come and get it’,” he recalled. “Then I heard him laughing, so loud. It’s the first time in my life I didn’t have a comeback.”
Paying tribute: Major David Soper speaks at Andrew Chan’s funeral.
He said that in Chan’s final hours of life, the pair shared a joke in the prison courtyard.
“We started laughing and laughing and laughing,” he said. “I felt like we were in another world. When we stopped, the spirit of God came down and we sighed at each other in exhaustion.”
Soper spoke of Chan’s faith, which he said had inspired many including his parents, Ken and Helen Chan, to come to their own faith in Jesus.
“Andrew regretted his choices but he came back to his creator,” he said. “In the worst of circumstances God did his best work.
“In those last precious minutes of Andrew’s life, I saw great courage and strength. I saw peace and assurance. I saw radiant beauty and joy.”
Chan Inspired By The Heroes Of The Faith
Miranda Riddington, a friend who had visited Chan in prison many times, spoke of the man’s passion for the heroes of faith, saying that he devoured books about ‘God’s Generals’ and evangelists like Smith Wigglesworth and William Booth.
“He had a heart to see revival, especially in Indonesia,” she said. “Andrew knew he was called by God to be a preacher of the gospel and that God had anointed him. He started to function in the prison as a pastor which was a challenge to some of the religious mindsets. “
“He prayed for people to be healed, helped them through their addictions, fed and clothed people, baptised them in water.”
Another friend, Vicki Baird, told how Chan once placed his fellow inmates on a roster to care for a prisoner suffering in solitary confinement, and Ms Riddington also spoke of his encouraging nature.
“When he would teach on faith he would set up an obstacle course and blindfold his mates and guide them with his voice, saying, ‘this is how Jesus Guides us and we have to learn to trust his voice’,” she said. “These were times of heaven on earth. He didn’t need a certificate or man’s approval to prove he was a pastor. He prayed for people to be healed, helped them through their addictions, fed and clothed people, baptised them in water.”
“People from around the world would ring to encourage him, and instead he would end up encouraging them. He said to me, ‘I love being a pastor in the prison, no one can leave. And my cell groups are, literally, cell groups.”
Andrew Chan’s Widow Brought out the Best in Him
She also described the change in Andrew’s life after he met Febyanti Herewila, the woman he married the day before his execution.
“Feby brought out the best in Andrew, he gained so much confidence in himself and grew more and more handsome by the day. She also helped bring discipline back in his life.”
Chan’s widow spoke saying that her late husband had prayed before the execution, echoing the words of Jesus, ‘Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they do’.
And brother Michael in his speech, asked people to continue their fight to abolish the death penalty.
A Salvation Army officer led in prayer, thanking God for those who had worked hard for the mercy campaign to try and have Chan’s death penalty dropped. “Into those hearts we speak against despair or any sense of failure and that you will heal the broken hearted ,” she prayed.
She also prayed a blessing over Indonesia, the country that Chan had grown to love and desired to see turn to Jesus.
Bali Nine Prisoner Matthew Norman’s Tribute
Matthew Norman, one of Chan’s fellow ‘Bali Nine’ drug smugglers, penned a tribute for the occasion.
“In 2005 when we were young and immature, we made the biggest mistake of our lives,” Norman’s words read.
“Through the whole court process I was stressed out, but not Andrew. He had faith that whatever happens happens, and that God doesn’t give us more than we can bear.
“He didn’t complain or take pity on himself; he took it on the chin and carried on. He failed over and over again in the courts but he never let it crush his spirit. It didn’t surprise me that he sang and encouraged others to sing in their final journey.
“He was doing God’s work, bringing people to the Lord, and that’s what made him the happiest.”
“No-one here [in prison] knew him as the ‘king pin’ (drug smuggler), but as Pastor Chan, the kind, caring guy you could always talk to and rely on.
“He was doing God’s work, bringing people to the Lord, and that’s what made him the happiest. He stood strong and never once complained. I owe Andrew everything. He helped me change my life.”
Norman said he had resolved to continue the programs Chan started in Korobokan Prison including a drug rehabilitation program.
The funeral service included the worship songs Amazing Grace – My Chains Are Gone, Mighty To Save and Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord, and concluded with 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord), after footage was played of Chan leading the same song inside prison.
The Chan family reminded the public that they have not authorised any website to ask for donations and to be wary of fraudulent sites.