I recently returned from a trip to the country of Laos where I was able to see and learn so much. I want to invite you to come with me into this modern day story of those who are paying a high price for their faith in the Lord Jesus.
For the sake of protection I will be general in description of people, places, and timing. It is my hope that you will be challenged and encouraged by these stories, and energized to pray for and support our brothers and sisters who live in this reality every day.
Let me start things off with a little background first.
Laos is a very diverse tribal country of over 6 million people with over 90 languages. Over 80% of the population makes their living from subsistence farming. The average income is only 1.3% of the median income for America which comes out to about $1.00 per day.
The forces of globalization and modernization have long left this country behind. The majority of the people living know very little, if anything, of the modern materialistic life being lived out in the mega cities of the world and in the West. Even the Northeast of Thailand, which is the poorest area of our country, seemed to be modern compared to what I saw and experienced in the countryside of Laos.
The country gained independence in 1954 when the French were defeated by Vietnamese and Lao communists. The Communist party is still in control of the government to this day. After the Vietnam War, Laos gained the dubious distinction of being the most bombed country in the world because of the ordinance dropped on it by the US, 30% of which was left unexploded. The battles fought in Laos during the Vietnam War has come to be known as the “Secret War.”
Major persecution of the Christian church by the communists began after the pull out of 1975 and continues on to the present time. Although Christians number less than 2% of the population, Christianity has been declared the NUMBER ONE enemy of the state. According to Open Doors, Laos ranks in the top ten most persecuted countries in the world for Christians. On our journey, we heard first hand reports of imprisonment, torture, and murder. I will share a few of these stories in my next posts.
Though the government allows a “registered” church to exist, mainly in the capital city; evangelism, church planting, and new building is against the law. Most, if not all of these registered churches, were in existence prior to 1975. Still many have been shut down and their buildings have been destroyed by the government. Others have been infiltrated by government spies who report on any growth and “illegal” evangelistic activities.
Despite the heavy restriction of religious freedom, there is a growing underground movement led by indigenous Lao and tribal leaders who are taking responsibility to see that the Good New of Jesus Christ goes to their whole nation. They carry the burden of their people daily and live to see them come to know the freedom that is found in Jesus Christ.
They carry out their mission in secret knowing that any moment they could be found out and suffer the consequences along with their families. Many have already been imprisoned, tortured, and lost their families because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
To me, they are modern day heroes of whom Hebrews 11:37-38 says, “the world was not worthy of them.”