“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!…Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:8-10
While in Laos I had the privledge of meeting a man who suffered much for the name of Jesus Christ. I gave him the nickname “Lao Job” because of all of the things he suffered for being a Christian. Like the man called “Job” in the Bible, this man also had his faith put to the test.
“Lao Job” was put into prison by the communist Lao government because of his work in spreading the Gospel to many people. While he was in prison the officials worked overtime to get him to sign a document renouncing his faith in Jesus Christ. Despite the intense pressure and suffering he would face, he would not turn his back on God.
One day the news came to him in prison that his wife had died. The officials coldly told him that he should renounce his faith in Jesus Christ so he could go and take care of his children and his mother. He refused.
Later word came to him that his mother had died. The officials pressured him to renounce his faith and return home so that he could care for his children. They cut to his heart even deeper said, “Why should your children be without their father”? Yet he refused to turn his back on the Lord.
In final gut-blow he was informed that his children had died. His pain was unbearable. In a final act of desperation, the officials pushed him to renounce his “foreign god” and return back to the local way of worship (animism). He said to them, “I have paid much too high a price for my faith. Why would I turn my back on Jesus now? If I do, I will have lost even more and gained only hell. I will never do it.”
I never fully understood how his family died, but I got the feeling that it wasn’t from natural causes. The brothers seem to imply it, but actually saying the way all of this happened seemed to bring up too much emotion inside of them.
Many stories of this type of horrible modern day persecution continue in this part of the world. It is nothing short of diabolical.
Eventually the prison officials released “Lao Job” because of increasing pressure from outside international organizations demanding that religious prisoners be set free. He left prison with no earthly possessions and only the help of a couple of his brothers in Christ. They helped him find a place to live and start a new life on his own.
Eventually he began to raise water buffalo as a way to make a living. Not too long after, the entire herd died of a disease. His fellow villagers came to him and asked him why he would continue to believe in God since God was obviously not helping him. “God is not with you”, they taunted him, and they again tested him to renounce his faith. He again refused.
One day he was hunting for some food and saw a monitor lizard. Many Laotians prize this meat and if they didn’t eat it themselves they could sell it and make a good bit of money. So he chased the lizard up a tree. As he climbed a nearby tree to reach for it, the tree snapped and he fell a long way down landing on his hands where his right collar bone snapped in half. The pain was immense for a very long time. Without proper medical care available, he would suffer much in front of his fellow villagers. Again they taunted him.
“Why do you still persist to believe in this Jesus?”, they said. “He is not with you. He does not care for you. Why bother? Just renounce him and move on with your life.” Again “Lao Job” refused.
With each trial he faced his faith grew even more precious to him. He kept his eyes fixed on Jesus and longed for the day when his glory would be revealed. He knew that despite the suffering he was enduring, God still loved him and Jesus was still faithful.
To this day he continues to testify of God’s faithfulness and goodness despite all of the excruciating trials he endured. He is now remarried and has a child, maybe two. He leads over eleven families in his small village and is responsible for traveling his surrounding area to encourage between four and five hundred other believers. He does all of this on foot since his motorcycle broke and he did not have the money to repair it.
I was able to meet him in person. The lump on his collar bone from his bone never properly resetting emphasized the story the Lao brothers had just finished sharing with me. As we prayed for him, his family, and the believers that followed his leadership; I wondered to myself what it would be like for him to finally meet his Savior face to face.
I also wondered about what it would be like for me to stand next to these “nameless faceless” leaders of the Church who have sacrificed so much for the name of Jesus. What kind of faith story would my life tell?
Jesus says that there are those who are poor and afflicted now, but they are in fact rich. They suffer, are put into prison by the devil, and suffer harsh persecution in this life. Instead of allowing these things and calling his people to remain faithful, why doesn’t Jesus just deliver them and blast their enemies into dust?
Although we may never fully know the answers this side of eternity, I began to see a glimpse of the wisdom of God through some of the other testimonies I would later hear in person.
I will share these things in my next post. Stay tuned.