‘Held up at knife point, but returns help!’

A tribute to Dr Tony Doran

By Dr Simson Tarigan

December 2 2015The story that follows is about Dr Tony Doran and his wife, Gaye, who were CMS missionaries in Indonesia from 1974 to 1983. The story was passed on to Gaye Doran when she visited Indonesia in 2013 with her sons Michael and Andrew (pictured below with their parents). The Doran family returned to Australia in August 1983 and Tony Doran died three months later on 29 October at the age of 41. He had developed mesothelioma as a result of working on a machine with asbestos string on a holiday job while studying theology at Moore College.

Dr Simson Tarigan, a former lecturer at the University of Medan, first told this story about his friend Toni who as a “wayward” young man had a life-changing encounter when he met up with Tony Doran on the road one night.

After five semesters since leaving my home village, I decided to return home. My place of study was in the city of Kembang (Bandung,) a long way from my place of birth.

It was Christmas and the New Year was already near. It had become our normal for our family to gather together.

Whilst there I visited many of my old friends and I witnessed many changes. There were friends who were now married, others were still studying and some were already working.

One amongst my close friends was named Toni and I spent some time with him. When we separated several years ago, Toni had started to behave in a bad way amongst us.

He liked to gamble, drink heavily and often caused trouble in our village.  Another thing he liked was to change his girlfriends and have affairs with women. He was often involved with the authorities because of his ways.

I myself was one who was rebellious but would be careful and restrain myself. We were friends, but our friendship was more that of being good listeners for each other.

In only a short time of meeting him I noticed something unusual. It seemed Toni who was now before me was different from the person I knew before. His manner was very calm and in his speaking he often spoke of spiritual things.

Before he was a heavy smoker, now although pressured he didn’t want to accept any cigarettes. “Toni, I’m very amazed at seeing you,” I said.

“What amazes you?” was his response.

“You now have changed so much. It seems you are not the wayward Toni that I once knew. You are devout and you act more like a minister of the church. What made you change?”

At first Toni only smiled hearing my question. When I kept asking him he went quiet as his eyes were far away. It was if he had a secret and I wanted to know it.

“You are not wrong Son. Something big has happened in my life. This event had a big impact. My parents and people here are amazed to see the change in me, like you. They don’t know the background to this change in me.”

After a few minutes of silence he told me the about this following experience.

After stopping school (at the end of high school) his life continued on without any rule or regulation. Almost every day he drank and sat gambling.

One day he lost in gambling, his money was totally all gone. His head was spinning but he was consumed with wanting to keep playing whereas his money was gone. He had one desire to get money easily and quickly.

One of his friends whispered a plan to him. They agreed and immediately left the gambling place.

They stopped in a strategic place where it was known a person, a Westerner from outside the area, often passed. It was already dark.

After waiting for a time, they could see the lights of the car that was moving slowly. The two of them directly stood in front in the middle of the road.

When the car stopped, Toni straight away held up his knife which he’d prepared beforehand. The western person who was held up, stayed calm, and obeyed Toni’s order to get out of the car. This person had a limp. His extreme calmness amazed the two of them who were holding him up. He immediately gave them all his money as requested.

“Oh you need money?” his voice sounded very gentle. Before Toni could answer he continued on.” I’ve very sorry I’ve only brought five thousand rupiah. That will be of no use. If you want, we can get more soon. In my house there is 50,000 rupiah that you must be needing.”

The calm quiet look in his eyes made a strong impression on Toni. After looking towards his friend who gave a gesture of agreeing, they got into the car and went with the Westerner.

He did indeed take them to his home then invited them in. His wife who was surprised was asked to make some tea for them to drink.  After tea and light refreshment was prepared, only then the wife was introduced to them and was told what they wanted.

Just like her husband, the wife was also calm and gentle in manner towards them.

Up till now Toni was increasingly amazed. The calm attitude and kindness made him feel he had done wrong and felt awkward in the house.  Realising that the guests felt uncomfortable, the Western person straight away went to the room to get his money.  He held a pile of money in his hand. “This is the money you need. What is your name?”

With some panic Toni introduced himself and his friend.

“Well, Toni, may this money be useful for you. If you have any need please come back again.”

After drinking the tea, the two of them left.

The desire to reverse his loss at the gambling table was gone. Continuously Toni reflected upon the faces of the two white people, who were held up by him, for about three weeks.

At last he took courage to visit the house of these people. He was received well, and when he told about his life that was so dark, he was invited to join in prayer. Toni received valuable advice and spiritual direction.

In the end, Toni left his empty way of life and began to study.

At this point in the story the story stopped because Toni became sad. Tears were visible in his eyes. I also felt a sadness seeing this.

“It’s sad that he has already gone to stand in front of the Lord before I could show him any kindness or thanks. Who helped restore my heart has died in his country. I didn’t even see his body after he died…” and Toni began to cry.

When I went home, as I walked along I didn’t stop saying thank you to God.” Oh Lord, how big is your love, when this servant was destitute you took notice of him.”

Note: words could vary in translation though the meaning given in English is true to context and the intent of writer. Some words were not known and not in early edition dictionary.

Melbourne Bishop Philip Huggins met Tony Doran in the early 1970s when Tony was a chaplain at the University of New England. Having had what he describes as a “very profound experience of Jesus”, Bishop Huggins went to speak with him. He found him to be a prayerful man who was very helpful to him at that early stage of his Christian life. Bishop Huggins now leads the annual Asbestoswise Commemoration Service at Deakin Edge, Federation Square. Visit