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Cornelis van der Laan: Margaretha Adriana Alt

Cornelis van der Laan, Margaretha Adriana Alt: Mother of the Indonesian Pentecostal Mission (Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2019), 322 pages, ISBN 9781935931836.

Cornelis van der Lann, holds a doctoral degree from the University of Birmingham and is currently Professor of Pentecostalism at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands. This book was published in both the Dutch and Indonesian languages in 2016. CPT Press (Centre for Pentecostal Theology) is to be commended for publishing it for the English speaking world; it preserves some important, though lesser-known, Pentecostal history.

The main text of the book consists of a preface, eighteen chapters, and two appendices. If the reader takes a look at the bibliography they will see that it is pretty sizeable; a significant amount of research went into the writing of this volume. Drawing from the writings of Sister Alt and other sources the author has written a biography of her life. He has given particular attention to her spiritual journey and ministries. Photos are included at various points in the text.

Margaretha Adriana Alt was born in 1883. She was the younger of the two children in her family. At an early age both of her parents were out of her life. Her father pretty much left the family after she turned three years old because he had been unfaithful to his wife. Her mother, Anna, died shortly before Margaretha’s fourth birthday. Because of these circumstances, Margaretha was raised by her grandparents. They raised her in the church, but she did not have a serious relationship with the Lord until later in life. Interestingly enough, at the age of twelve, even though she was not yet a true Christian, she decided she would become a missionary! And that is what she did.

Indonesia in 2020.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Margaretha did not initially go to Indonesia to be a missionary, she first went there to be a nanny for a family. When that position ended she remained in the country and became a nurse. Her conversion took place in 1908. Once that happened she was baptized in the Seventh-Day Baptist church, this church observed Saturday as the day of worship. Upon becoming a Christian, she broke off her engagement with her fiancée. He was not a believer and in view of her faith, she did not think their relationship would work (she remained single her entire life). She then became a missionary nurse. Sister Alt spent much of her time in Indonesia caring for orphans and children with disabilities. She took care of children who had physical disabilities and those who had mental disabilities. She could have thirty or more of them at a time in her care. On more than one occasion, she moved to different locations in the county and the children moved with her.

In addition to her care of children, she was also involved in evangelistic work. She ministered with the Seventh-Day Baptist church for a while. She later severed her relationship with them when she rejected their teaching about the Sabbath. The author tells us that by 1911, Alt’s diary indicates that she was seeking the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In 1920, she heard someone speak in tongues for the first time. In 1926, in the city of Surabaya, Indonesia, she received the baptism with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. After she received her Pentecost, others in her community also received and a revival took place among the people she served. When she went into that particular community in 1914, there were no Christians there. When she left 15 years later, the whole community was Christian.

Sister Alt became very involved in the Pentecostal Movement in Indonesia. She preached in many cities, opened churches, and even rose to leadership within the movement. The Lord used her powerfully. One particularly memorable account in the book tells of the time she delivered a man who was levitating off of the ground. Interestingly enough, even though she was very involved in ministry, she did not baptize new believers, she left that for the male ministers to do. In addition to her public ministry, she was involved in writing and editing. She also put together a hymnal. The character and quality of her life and work can be seen in the fact that she was respected by people who were outside of the Pentecostal Movement.

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Category: Church History, Winter 2020

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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