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Laos: In Prison for the Gospel

Authorities in Laos arrested two Hmong Christians seeking permission to share the gospel message. One of the two men, “Visay,” spoke to VOM workers about his arrest shortly after his release, while his friend remained in prison.

Visay has been passionate about sharing his faith with others after Jesus healed him several years ago, and he led his family to Christ.  In order to learn more about his faith, he decided to attend Bible school. There he learned “to have strong and deep in faith.” The support he found at Bible school helped him get through the unexpected arrest. He says, “That’s what made me stand strong when this situation happened.”

chained hand

Part of his graduation requirements were to complete a ministry project. As an enthusiastic young believer, Visay decided to visit 11 Hmong villages in Laos. He intended to ask villages a series of survey questions in hopes that it would give him an opportunity to share his faith in Jesus. His friend, David, a fellow student, agreed to help Visay with his ministry project.

Before visiting the first village on his list, Visay sought permission to visit from the leader. Outsiders are generally not welcome in rural tribal villages, and Visay wanted to ensure he did things properly. When he called the leader, the village head told him he needed to come in person. At the last minute, Visay couldn’t go, so he asked David to go on his behalf.

When David arrived, the village leader vaguely told him to start the survey with some village members. It was a ruse. Within 30 minutes, four policemen came to arrest him. They told David, “Because you are sharing about Jesus, that’s why we come and catch you.”

They took David to the police station in the nearest city.

The next day, Visay went to try to convince them to let David go. “I told them I am the owner of all survey papers and I ask David to do this for me.”

Instead, police arrested Visay. They put me in the same jail as David, but in a separate room.”

Prison conditions were difficult. Prisoners had a bed and a fan, but there were few windows in the concrete structure. The only food was a small bowl of rice delivered twice a day.

Fortunately, Visay spent only two days in prison. His brother came and paid the fine so that Visay could be released. David, however, received a longer prison sentence, in part, because he shared his future plans during a police interview. “He said that after he graduates from Bible school, he will come and set up a Christian conference for 5,000 Hmong in Laos.”

The Laos police were highly concerned that if Christians organized events among the Hmong, the tribal people might all convert to Christianity and refuse to submit to communist dictates, so they kept David in prison.

While in prison, he was not allowed to have a Bible. Meanwhile, Visay continued to work for his friend’s release, and he visited once a week. “I brought food and money to him. And I tried to ask the police to release David.”

Several months later, David was finally released.

According to the VOM field worker for the region, believers who grow up in a district or province where persecution isn’t as severe can be unaware of what the situation is like for other believers elsewhere. “They tend to think the whole country is [like theirs] and they tend to miss the danger they might be in,” says the field worker. So the believers may make decisions that seem unwise from our perspective, but it’s because they simply don’t know what is happening elsewhere. “However,” says the field worker, “It’s the poor and simple of this world who are often those who are so strong in their faith.”

Visay and David’s strong faith carried them through, and neither were deterred by the adversity they faced. Both Visay and David graduated from Bible school and they are now actively sharing the gospel in Laos. Visay says that the experience “give me more boldness and give me more understanding how to do ministry in this country. I need to be much more careful than the last time.”

Continue to pray for the believers in Laos living under these conditions. Pray for spiritual growth and wisdom, along with boldness.

Posted: June 28, 2016

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