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All photos by Iyas Lawrence. It's a fitting name for Agus Sutikno. This pentecostal preacher wanders the slums and back alleys of Semarang, a coastal city of 1. But it's also name that also speaks to Agus' past. He ran away from home as a teenager to escape an abusive father. Agus then spent years on the road, wandering from his hometown—the small coastal town of Probolinggo, East Java—to cities throughout Java.
Along the way he picked up countless tattoos, an alcohol addiction, and a violent reputation. Let's not dwell on the past, OK? Agus eventually washed up drunk, broke, and alone in Magelang, Central Java. He spent two days living at a bus station before he was struck with a flash of enlightenment.
He would devote his life to Jesus Christ. But he was determined to walk his own path, spending less time at the pulpit and more time on the streets with the people most choose to ignore. He's now a constant critic of the church for not doing enough to help the poor. I was struck by his honesty, and his focus on doing good deeds over proselytizing. Most Indonesian pastors spend a lot of time building a congregation. Some of the richer ones focus their energy on securing televised sermons and building glitzy megachurches.
But Agus was different. The man, in his tight black pants, red boots, and crisp white button down, looked more punk than preacher. I didn't know he was a preacher at the time. But after I found out he was a preacher, I was interested in his teachings and I began to help him hold services. When Agus first showed up in Tanggul Indah, few residents trusted him. He was a preacher, a Christian, covered in tattoos, and working in a Muslim neighborhood. They were concerned that he was trying to convert people.
But, in time, the neighborhood changed its mind, he said. All I do is for the good of humanity, regardless of your religion, ethnicity, and status. I met Agus at his foundation headquarters in the eastern reaches of Semarang. He was sitting in the small 3x4 meter room as a half-dozen children wandered in and out of the room. Most of the kids were the children of sex workers. They were abandoned by their mothers—many who work at a low-income red light district found along the East Semarang Flood Canal.