Laos (CAM) — When local missionaries in Laos shared the gospel with a woman running a small business a little over a year ago, they had no idea she would have such spiritual impact – enough to draw the ire of a local communist official.
The way Pei Manivong* draws people to Christ is the way the word of salvation often spread in the first century: redeemed merchants and traders planting gospel seeds as they went about their everyday business.
Buying and selling items on her route through various villages and a city, Manivong is able to make contact with many people, the leader of a local ministry said.
“Pei is Khmu, but she also is able to speak Hmong because she is a local goods salesperson, traveling around selling goods in many villages where different people groups live,” he said. “But when they want to accept Jesus, she asks them to come to her village and she then leads them to Jesus or lets them go to church in the city. There they are led to Jesus Christ and are trained about basic Christian living.”
With the local ministry giving her a motorcycle and gospel-loaded MP4 recordings and SD cards, as well as a smartphone so she can be spiritually fed by the leader’s messages on Facebook live, Manivong started three house churches last year, he said.
“As a new believer, Pei has been on fire for the Lord, leading 24 families, more than 100 people, to Christ in the past year alone,” he said.
Manivong said she does not begin by telling the tribal animists the gospel but by finding out their physical and spiritual needs. Often sick people tell her they sacrificed a cow or buffalo to the spirits for healing, but nothing happened, she said.
“They are then worse off than before, because they don’t have money to go to the hospital, which is usually far away and too expensive,” Manivong said.
“When they hear from Christians that God can heal anything, they approach me and I pray for them and, over time, they are healed.”
Prayer and Freedom
Animistic belief in malevolent spirits that need to be appeased continually clouds the hearts of tribal people, the ministry leader said.
“The Khmu people are deeply animistic and fear spirits every day of their lives, but one common occurrence that brings many people to Christ is the healing of the sick,” he said. “She is telling them that Jesus has power to save people from sin, and that He also has power to cast out an evil spirit and to heal.”
When people hear this Good News, they are interested and listen to her, he said.
“More than that, they ask her to pray for them, and they get healed,” the leader said. “Also, they are freed from the evil spirit and sleep well at night.”
This degree of gospel advance among villagers of the communist country can bring risks. The presence of new Christians drew the attention of the headman of her village, who warned her to “stop converting” people, the ministry leader said. When more people left their ancestral rituals and beliefs for Christ’s salvation, the headman rebuked her.
“The head of the village called her and asked, ‘Why are you witnessing to them and continuing to lead them to be Christian?’” the leader said. “She answered, ‘I am not going out and witnessing to them, but they come to me and want to know about Jesus. When they come to me and want to know about God, I have to tell them, otherwise I am wrong before them and God.”
Local missionaries undertake the task of discipling those Manivong has led to Christ, visiting them and nurturing their faith, especially as they face persecution.
“The radio programs that are loaded onto MP4 players and SD cards provide discipleship messages that have been crucial to this process,” the ministry leader said.
The Lao government grants local authorities broad powers to suppress Christianity, he said, as they can jail or fine Christians for worship deemed at odds with “traditional customs” or lacking in official permits. Christians who resist local officials’ demands to renounce their faith are expelled from villages, jailed, or have their homes torn down, he added.
“This past year, five families were expelled, and their houses were torn down,” the leader said. “Four families have not been able to go back to their villages yet. One family was able to go back to their village, but the local authorities did not allow them to repair the house.”
In addition, four families and another Christian were arrested for their faith, and the individual has been imprisoned since April 2020, he said.
Persecution grows as churches emerge, and last year the ministry’s local missionaries planted 39 house churches. In 13 provinces, 1,852 people from seven tribal groups put their faith in Christ throughout the year, the leader said.
“Your help enabled us to reach out to many people and many tribal groups,” he wrote to Christian Aid Mission.
Workers are discipling people like Manivong and proclaiming Christ throughout Southeast Asia in spite of opposition. By sending support through Christian Aid Mission, you can help them plant and cultivate faith in a growing number of people.
*Name changed for security reasons
Header image courtesy of Christian Aid Mission.