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Andrew Chan's transformation heroic: chaplain

Bali Nine member Andrew Chan died a hero of the faith, says his chaplain the Revd Dr Jeff Hammond.

The Revd Dr Jeff Hammond, chaplain to Andrew Chan (right).

By Mark Brolly

April 19 2016Bali Nine member Andrew Chan went from drug smuggler to a hero of the faith after his life was transformed — and he helped transform the lives of others in prison, guards and inmates alike — according to an Australian evangelist who visited Mr Chan often in the last years of his life.

The Revd Dr Jeff Hammond was chaplain to Bali Nine member Andrew Chan, who with another Australian, Myuran Sukumaran, was executed by the Indonesian authorities on 29 April last year after a long campaign for their death sentence to be commuted.

Dr Hammond, who grew up in Melbourne and whose own journey to faith was supported by the then Vicar of St Bartholomew’s Ferntree Gully, the Revd Bob Collie, has worked as an evangelist with his wife Annette for much of the past 40 years in Indonesia, much of it in Sulawesi.

He spoke at St George’s Monbulk on 6 March and to TMA three days later, shortly before he and his wife returned to Indonesia.

Dr Hammond said Mr Chan had planned to commit suicide on his first night in prison but had been dissuaded from doing so when he remembered that a next-door neighbour in Australia, Luke Soper, had spoken about Heaven and Hell, and that he had promised to pray for him. On his second day in prison, Mr Chan asked the guards for a Bible, Dr Hammond said. Initially, there was no response but then a Bible left for Mr Chan by Mr Soper, who had flown to Bali when he heard of the arrest, was given to him.

“Andrew did not want to die,” Dr Hammond said. “He felt his life could be much more productive continuing to live in prison.”

Dr Hammond said he and Mr Chan discussed what sort of world the condemned man wanted and how to make Kerobokan Prison on Bali “a heaven on Earth”.

“How are you going to change Kerobokan to be the best place to live on Earth for you?” he asked Mr Chan.

“He became a cell pastor, literally.

“Andrew and I spent a lot of personal time together and a lot of telephone time, too.”

Dr Hammond said when it was announced that Mr Chan was to be transferred to the prison island of Nusakambangan, off the Javanese coast, many prisoners offered themselves in his place.

He was not on Nusakambangan when the execution was carried out but said he was told Mr Chan, Mr Sukumaran and the other prisoners sang Amazing Grace as they prepared to die. But the firing party of 96 — 12 for each of those to die — were delayed in carrying out their grim task, so the prisoners began singing Bless the Lord My Soul.

“The comment has been made several times that they started the song on Earth and finished it in Heaven.

“Andrew really died a hero of the faith, someone whose life had been transformed. He was not the person from 16 years earlier but he did not say he did not deserve to die. He knew when he came to Indonesia that if he got caught, he would face the death penalty.”