18.01.21 | News

On the death of Pdt Dr Ishak Pamumbu Lambé

“And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.”

On 31 December 2020 the man who was President of the Toraja Church for many years and former Chairman of the Indonesian Federation of Churches (PGI) Pdt (i.e. pendeta, pastor) Dr Ishak Pamumbu Lambé died unexpectedly at the Elim Rantepao Hospital in Toraja. Because of Covid, he preferred the almost inaccessible mountains of South Sulawesi to his adopted home of Cibubur near Jakarta – and yet he was taken ill of Covid and died.

Dr Ishak Pamumbu Lambé was always slow and deliberate in formulating his words. This was also evident in his last sermon that he held in Germany during the Kaiserslautern University worship service on the first Sunday of Advent in 2019 held at the Friedenskirche (peace church) on the university residential grounds.

Ishak Lambé, retired pastor and retired senator, was a frequent and willing visitor to the university city in the Palatinate and to the regional church between the Rhine and the Saar. Even in his retirement he organised encounter programmes between students from Indonesia and Germany in consultation with the Toraja Church, the Protestant Student Congregation (ESG) and the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS). He had found many friends in the Palatinate. In his student days, he befriended Eckart Steif, who later became minister for students, Dr hc Rudi Job, the former deacon and “Landvolk” pastor, and Jürgen Dunst, the ecumenical officer of Landau.

In the first years of the international Mission Council, Ishak Lambé had played an important role for the EMS since 1995 as he was then President of the Toraja Church. He was one of the leading protagonists for the internationalisation of content and institutional matters at that time. A significant milestone here was his invitation to hold the Mission Council in Rantepao in 1998, the first meeting of the Mission Council to take place outside Europe. As a result of the content and programmes on the agenda, it proved to be a highly decisive point in time for internationalisation: bilateral partnerships gave way to multilateral relationships in all activities; a “common witness” was developed; funding was shared; solidarity was practised and the core tasks of the association became based on reciprocity.

Right up to his death, the retiree remained very active in his function as Chairman of the Indonesian Bible Society (IBS). In May 2016, he planted a silver linden tree in the Luther Garden in Wittenberg – as an ecumenical contribution to Year of Luther 2017.

“And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. – Dan kamu, saudara-saudara, janganlah jemu-jemu berbuat apa yang baik.” The theme of his sermon was Paul’s admonishment in his second letter to the Thessalonians (V 3:13). This sentence is characteristic of his thought, his actions and his faith. These words can be regarded as his legacy.

At the age of 32, the theologian born in the Toraja highlands on Sulawesi, came to the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz to study for his doctorate. Christoph Barth, professor in the Old Testament and lecturer in Indonesia for many years, became his academic mentor, doctoral supervisor and sponsor.

The Old Testament was his area of expertise and he helped students to learn Hebrew. He compared the merging of the 12 tribes of Israel before becoming a state of its own with the difficult process of formation of the Indonesian state before and after 1945. His path did not lead him to the world of academe. After returning to Indonesia, he deliberately chose the path of ministry and church management. In the end, he was elected representative for South Sulawesi in the Dewan Perwakilan Daerah (DPD, Regional Representative Council), one of two parliamentary chambers created as part of the government’s new policy of decentralisation.

“Life in this world is the opportunity to do good,” he said in his last German sermon. “Doing good in the sense that life in this world is the opportunity to show we are on the path to eternal life with God in Jesus Christ. Doing good means we transform this life into the dimension of eternity. We do not live for ever in this world.”

Ishak Pamumbu Lambé used his lifetime to do good. His companions and colleagues in Indonesia and in Germany will remember him for this. He was sustained by the belief that he too was on his way to eternal life with God.

Eckart Stief (Kaiserslautern), Bernhard Dinkelaker (Filderstadt), Dieter Heidtmannand Hans Heinrich (Stuttgart)