Matt Redman (pictured) is one of the giants of today’s Christian praise and worship song writing movement. His inspiring numbers like “Heart of Worship," "Let Everything That Has Breath" and "Better Is One Day" have been sung at churches around the world.
But even Redman himself could never have imagined that, one day, one of his greatest songs – the Grammy-winning hit “10,000 Reasons" - would be sung exuberantly by a group of convicted drug runners as they were cut down by an Indonesian firing squad.
Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were two unsettled young Australians, angry at the world and deeply involved with drugs. In 2005 they were arrested and convicted in Indonesia as the ringleaders of a gang that was smuggling heroin back to Australia. The sentence: death.
Initially they were unrepentant and full of bravado. But once in prison, awaiting execution, they underwent an amazing transformation. In particular, they both found the Lord. Chan, especially, became an absolutely devout Christian, pursuing studies that would lead to him qualifying as a pastor.
In the harsh and often corrupt Indonesian prison environment they became leaders. They counselled the other prisoners, many of whom had drug problems. They introduced new programs to keep the inmates active and productive. In the midst of much tension they acted as peacemakers.
Over ten years they launched several appeals against their sentences. At one hearing a surprise witness appeared on their behalf – their prison governor, who spoke of their numerous good deeds and urged they be spared.
But to no avail. In April the pair, together with six other convicted drug felons, were shackled to posts and shortly after midnight were executed by a twelve-man firing squad.
Less than forty-eight hours before his death, Chan had married his sweetheart Febyanti Herewila, herself an Indonesian pastor. She spoke at a memorial service for him last month at Sydney’s Hillsong Church, noting sadly that she had spent more time preparing for the funeral than for the marriage.
A newspaper report takes up the story:
“No-one could ever face death like him,” said Febyanti, revealing Chan had poor eyesight and hated wearing his glasses but did so on the night he died “because he wanted to look them in the eyes.”
As he was led to the execution fields, she said, he asked God to forgive his executioners, and then prayed for Indonesia, a country and people he grew to love. Entering the execution ground, Chan and the seven other condemned men sang “Amazing Grace.” After they were tied to a stake, with Chan urging each to sing louder, they sang “10,000 Reasons.”
They all managed to finish the first verse of the song, she said. But, halfway through the second, the firing squad let loose their weapons. It was, said Febyanti, “The song that we sang on our engagement day, the song we all sang on our wedding day.”
The song reminds us that there are 10,000 reasons (at least) to praise God. And without doubt one of those reasons is the remarkable work of transformation He did in the hearts of those two troubled young men, now together with Him in Paradise.