Laos: Jail-time Evangelism
An in depth look at the ongoing crackdown against Christian pastors in Laos, including news that the gospel is being spread throughout prisons in the country.
4/25/08 Laos (WorldMagazine) Pastor Khamxay doesn’t remember all of the horrific events during his three trips through a Laotian prison. Repeated blows to the head have affected his memory. But he does recall the horrid stench as well as the five prisoners he led to Christ during a recent imprisonment.
Already this year 15 Hmong families have been arrested and risk being sent back to Vietnam—an almost certain death sentence. The day after these 58 believers were seized, nine Hmong church leaders from Laos were sentenced to 15 years in jail for failure to control the size of their ministries.
Others are brutally murdered, according to the British agency. One local pastor was pulled from his motorbike and slit in the throat. His wife, Matta, now continues his ministry of shepherding the underground church. When Boyd’s team visited one of these small congregations, Matta was teaching from 1 Corinthians about love that keeps no record of wrongs.
“There are people exercising radical forgiveness just as Christ said, and there are people who are sharing their faith just as Christ said,” Boyd noted.
The state openly encourages Buddhism, and Christians comprise less than 3 percent of the population in Laos. Khamxay, a former animist who is in his 50s, became a Christian through an encounter with a local pastor. When 10 of his 15 children died, he believed spirits had killed them. The pastor prayed for his family and the dying stopped, leading Khamxay to faith in Christ. Today—despite the risk of being jailed yet again—he travels on foot to minister to 500 believers in 18 house churches across Laos.
“The jail was a very small, dark room with no air inside,” Khamxay told Boyd with the help of a translator. “There was a very, very bad smell because it was like a toilet in there. When we lay down we could not sleep.” Khamxay said he almost died from the beatings given to him after guards learned that five of his eight cellmates had become Christians.
Boyd said, “We heard repeatedly from prisoners in both of these countries—Vietnam and Laos—of being beaten by their interrogators who deliberately target the organs of the body and tell them, ‘We are going to kill you slowly.'”
Boyd says that although he was relieved to leave Laos with his tapes intact and grateful to return home to a civil society and rule of law, he was also humbled by the unwavering faith of the Laotian church: “We have a church here which is largely asleep, and in these other places where the church is persecuted people value freedom.”
“The Bible tells us that we are called to overcome, and for most of us that doesn’t mean much,” Boyd added. “They’re leading prisoners to Christ in those cells, and everybody we spoke to had not a word of complaint. . . . And when they get out of jail they are straight back preaching the gospel, strengthening the underground church, looking after Christians, and leading Laotians to Christ.”