Laos (MNN) — Laos ranks 12th on Open Doors World Watch list of countries who support persecution of Christians. According to Open Doors, "The government exercises tight control on all parts of society. Small independent congregations are under pressure and have been refused recognition. Local authorities regard them as enemies; Buddhist leaders and village shamans also watch them closely. Most believers are ethnic minorities."
This wouldn't be a place a typical Christian would want to start a business, but Lifewater International has done just that. For security reasons we'll call our Lifewater contact "Somboun." Somboun tells us about some of the problems in Laos facing Christians. "Christianity can be viewed as being something that is a part of the American government and can be viewed with suspicion. [Laos] is actually a communist country, one of the last communist countries in the world."
Lifewater got involved with a partner in the country, who they trained to drill wells. "He has since started his own company and God has used him to get into government circles to be an influencer."
Now, Somboun says, "Lifewater has been a part of helping us starting a new company that actually focuses on ceramic water filters. So, we're making those and selling those in Laos."
It's not possible to be a missionary in Laos. Somboun says he's a businessman, "But, at the same time we're doing this great social work and just really providing water. At the same time our heart of course is is to see the church grow and build key relationships with local leaders, the registered church, and the unregistered church and just be a support and an encouragement to them."
The business is actually helping the church financially. "We're actually able to employ a lot of Christians, people that we feel like God is going to use these guys — take them and use their lives to share the Gospel so that they can be equipped to really be some effective leaders in Laos."
The need for clean safe water is great. He says Laos is one of the poorest nations in Asia. He says people, especially children, are dying every day because of poor water. To this end, Lifewater's in-country partner has conducted many promotional activities to raise awareness about the need for safe water and promote their affordable water filters. Activities have included community hygiene training events, booths at festivals, radio advertising, market displays, and door-to-door sales. Their filters are greatly valued by communities and demand for them is steadily growing, to the point where customers are pre-paying for their orders.
Somboun says a side benefit is reaching the unreached So people of central Laos, "donating filters to them, working with national leaders who are going out and sharing the Gospel and building the So church. Basically without Lifewater, we're not able to be there in Laos and see the church grow."
There's always concern they could be targeted by the government. "We've actually had a Lao co-worker in the company. They actually had to leave because the police were looking for them because they led a young girl to Christ in their village, and that kind of caused a little scene."
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