This communist country is ethnically and linguistically diverse, but mainly closed to outsiders. Christians are in a tiny minority. Believers face persecution, from officials and their local communities, but the church is growing.
Mrs P.V.* grew up in northern Laos, in a home where they followed the spirits. She was a bright girl and did well at school. She met Mr Bright-Shining* and the two fell in love and marriage was arranged. He is a photographer and, together, they opened a shop for people who want family and wedding photos taken and where all the necessary forms for births, weddings, divorce, funerals and sales of house, car and motorcycles are photocopied and sold.
About twenty years ago, Mr Bright-Shining’s eldest brother became a Christian, down in the capital, Vientiane. The brother soon found an opportunity to go north to visit Bright-Shining and P.V., in order to tell them of his new-found faith. The Lao government opposes the Christian faith and discourages people from committing themselves to Christ, calling it ‘a foreign religion’ that should have no part in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos. However, P.V. and Bright-Shining were deeply impressed by the change in their brother’s life and the more they listened, the more they were attracted to faith. Some little while later, the older brother led them to Christ, prayed with them and baptised them.
Mrs P.V. knew of no other Christians in their town (though there is a church comprised of people of another language group). So, attending a church was impossible and for ten years or so they quietly trusted in Christ, but were frightened by the attitude of the authorities and so kept quiet about their faith. Then a family came to live in their town who knew the older brother in the capital. They sought out Mrs P.V. and her husband and every Sunday evening, they met together for worship, Bible study and prayer. Mrs P.V.’s faith grew in leaps and bounds and very soon she began to talk to customers at their shop about her faith. Some of them were intrigued by what they heard and asked if they could become Christians.
Some little while later, the older brother led them to Christ, prayed with them and baptised them.
Mrs P.V. once said that in the course of a year, half the town passes through their shop because of the photocopied forms they need to buy. One of the comments that her listeners made was that becoming a Christian was illegal (because of the attitude of the authorities). So, Mrs P.V. bought a copy of the country’s Constitution and read that Lao citizens have the right to follow no religion or one of five listed, including Christianity. She photocopied this and, from then on, always had some copies available to show people.
Mrs P.V.’s warm personality and friendly manner are attractive to visitors in her shop and last year she witnessed to over one hundred people and led forty people to faith. Her knowledge of Christ shines brightly through her life and there are now 65 baptised Christians in the little church that meets on Sundays. At Christmas, more than 200 gather for a celebration, half of these are non-Christians, invited to hear the Good News of Christ.
*names changed to protect identities
- for strength for believers in Laos to persevere in the faith, in the face of opposition or persecution
- for Christians who boldly evangelise at great cost, and for opportunities to witness
- for the churches, for strong leadership and biblical resources.