*Update: This recently released news story from Compass Direct matches with the first hand story I just shared about persecution, threats, denial of medical care, schooling for children, etc: Click Here to Learn More.
“One brother asked for us to come. This brother NEEDS us to come.” This is what our Lao contact said to us as we headed to our new destination to encourage a family that was facing real life persecution for being Christian.
The villagers had already shut off access to water and kept their son from attending school as a way to force them out of the village. The boy was now very sick and needed to see a doctor, but the village doctor refused to see him and the drug store owner refused to sell the parents medicine. As the parents searched desperately for a solution, they contacted their brother in Christ to come and help them.
This would be one of many real life dramas we would encounter on our journey throughout the countryside of Laos.
In just a couple of days we traveled well over 1000 kilometers and made over 20 stops. At each stop, we encouraged and prayed for our brothers and sisters, listened to their stories, and helped where we were able. Our going to these more remote places encouraged the people we met so much. Each time we met with a new group, we greeted them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the name of our supporters, their brothers and sisters, from all over the world. We told them that we were so honored to have them as family and that we would be sure to let more of our friends know about their lives and stories.
During one of our first long stretches we picked up a brother and his wife who were leaders over many groups. After some time together this brother began to tell us his story. He told us of a time not too long ago when the government was working hard to round up Christian leaders and send them to re-education “classes” or to prison if they would not sign documents renouncing their faith in Jesus. Many of his friends ended up in prison. He himself was a newer Christian, but he found himself in a new leadership role as he had to go to the families of these brothers and encourage them to remain faithful to Jesus despite the intense pressure they were under.
He would take food to his fellow believers in prison and help them in any way he could. Many times the government would not have ever charged these men with a crime and neither did they ever receive a trial. If they did allege something, it had to do with being a traitor to the government, but in reality all they were doing was sharing their faith in Jesus with others. These men were branded as key leaders of “the movement.” Anyone who was thought to be a “propagater” of Christianity was fair game.
It wasn’t long before this brother found himself back at the prison, but this time it wasn’t to encourage the brothers from the outside, but now he would be encouraging them from the inside. While in the prison, he shared stories of torture and of almost being starved to death on a regular basis. One time he was in the stocks with both his arms and legs secured for 23 hours a day. Many times he felt near death, but he held fast to his faith in God. Eventually, these brothers were released due to outside pressure from foreign groups on the government, but the life many of them returned back to was already destroyed.
As our brother got to this part in his testimony, his voice began to quiver and his breathing deepened. He told us that many of those who were in prison were not able to reconnect with their families. They were “missing.” Wives, children, and parents were no where to be found. Property had been confiscated and the villages they used to live in were not places where they could return. At this point, our brother stopped his testimony and tears streamed down his face. This truck full of grown men sat in stunned silence as we tried to wrap our minds around what he had just shared.
Today this brother leads many groups of believers. The intensity of the past persecution is behind him, but the scars remain. He has committed his life to helping others come to know the amazing love and sustaining power of the Jesus he suffered so much for. For me, his story was another wake up call to the very real spiritual battle that we are fighting in the world today, a battle between good and evil, ignorance and truth. But most of all, I reminded of the scripture in Hebrews 13 and the reality of it’s very real application for us today.
“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3
This is God’s word to us who are able to live out our faith today in relative comfort and safety. We are called to feel these things deeply and to understand the value of our common faith in light of these 21st century realities. Remember these family members in your prayers, would you?
As we traveled further on our journey, there would be many more stories to hear and experiences to have. Stay tuned as I will share more soon in the posts to come. To read past stories, click here