Obituary: Daniel Tan Sien-Kie Hadinata | Second father to Indonesian students

March 10, 1916 - Sept. 9, 2012

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Daniel Tan Sien-Kie Hadinata, an Indonesian orphan who founded an important church in his homeland and became a second father to Indonesian students in Pittsburgh, died Sunday in Mt. Lebanon. He was 96.

"He was a quiet leader, very steady, very strong spiritually, a true man of God," said his pastor, the Rev. Jack Stepp, of South Hills Assembly in Bethel Park.

Mr. Hadinata was orphaned at 11 and soon began selling coffee on the streets of Semarang, capital of the island of Java, to support his younger siblings.

"He had a very hard life," said his daughter Dewi Wong of Squirrel Hill.

Indonesia is overwhelmingly Muslim, but as a young man he was exposed to Christianity through a missionary who ultimately became his mentor.

"He heard this missionary say that God was his father, who loved him. And Daniel, who didn't have a father, wanted one. He accepted Jesus as his savior," said the Rev. Kay Stepp, also on the staff of South Hills Assembly.

He fell in love with a Buddhist girl whose father wouldn't allow him to try to convert her. They were to have been married in 1942. But when Pearl Harbor was bombed her mother knew a Japanese invasion was imminent and urged them to marry immediately and flee the city. They married the next day.

After 70 years of marriage, he and Elisabeth were still visibly in love, Ms. Wong said.

"They are so faithful and so cute. They hold hands. They went everywhere together," she said.

His wife would convert -- along with her entire family -- after they attributed the healing of both of her parents to his Christian prayers, Ms. Wong said.

During the Japanese occupation many children were orphaned.

"My father would teach them to write and to read. My mother would gather the girls to learn dressmaking. Those things were important for survival," Ms. Wong said. "My father always helped other people because he himself had been in a difficult situation."

He had a talent for jewelry design and found work with goldsmiths, becoming a diamond cutter. His work allowed him to contribute to building and sustaining important Christian institutions in Indonesia.

In 1946 he was among the founders of Gereja Isa Almasih -- the Church of Jesus Christ -- which started in an abandoned hall to which people brought their own chairs. Today it is a major evangelical church, with branches throughout Indonesia and one in California.

Although in his culture and generation it wasn't common for women to pursue professions, he wanted his daughters to receive an education and follow their dreams, Ms. Wong said.

"We were given a chance, an education, because he himself never had one," she said.

At various times his daughters lived in Pittsburgh, so the Hadinatas moved to Mt. Lebanon in 1980. Although their English was limited when they arrived, the Hadinatas quickly became active in South Hills Assembly, ministering to elderly members and promoting support for missionaries.

Around 1984, the Hadinatas started their own outreach, Indonesian Christian Fellowship, for students at the University of Pittsburgh. Mrs. Hadinata would cater it with a home-cooked feast of traditional dishes, which they took to an Oakland church where the group met.

They would bring carloads of homesick students to their house.

"He was an encourager. He really helped to keep these students in the states so they could get their education," Rev. Jack Stepp said. "They were so far away from home, and the Hadinatas were a home away from home. Their home was always open, and they mother-and-daddied them."

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Hadinata is survived by daughters Christina Chi of Gaithersburg, Md., and Janny Morelle of Laigneville, France; a son, Samuel of Mission Viejo, Calif.; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Visitation is today starting at 9 a.m. with the funeral at 10:30 a.m. in the Baptist Homes Chapel, 489 Castle Shannon Blvd., Mt. Lebanon. Committal will be at 1 p.m. in Homewood Cemetery.

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Ann Rodgers: or 412-263-1416.


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