Christians in Laos feel the firm grip of Communism. Believers who meet for fellowship are regularly visited by authorities, while those who share the gospel face expulsion from their village, arrest and death threats. Thomas* is a believer on the run who has seen many come to Christ, “I have always been running. This is the third time I’ve escaped.”
When we met Thomas he was hiding in a Bible college outside Laos. “I have been crying for two days. I cannot sleep at night. I don’t know where to go and what to do next. I only have two choices: live an uncertain life, or go back to Laos and die.”
Thomas has paid dearly for sharing the gospel, unable to see his wife and children. “I just want a place of peace where I can stay legally. I also want to continue sharing the Gospel,” he says. “All my life I have suffered; I would like to have freedom. I also don’t want my family to suffer. At the moment, nobody is taking care of them. My wife does some farming to feed the family. If I could just go back, I would. I cannot call my wife nor can my wife call me. The government did something to our phones.”
Thomas shared with us his amazing story of salvation and escape.
“My father, a Lao, was a soldier who served in Vietnam. He met my mother there. After some time, my father left my mother and my six siblings… (He) married another woman. He had twelve children with her. All but one died.”
“After the tragedy, my father decided to go back to Laos with his new family. There he met the Lord Jesus Christ. Our relatives did not support my father’s conversion, so he was arrested and imprisoned for nearly two months. After his jail sentence, he was taken back to Vietnam. He and his new family came to stay with us. He was the one who introduced the Lord Jesus Christ to me.”
Thomas and his dad shared the Gospel in his village in Vietnam, where rapidly, many became followers of Jesus Christ. A year later they begun to face persecution and his father was forced to return to Laos.
“I was quite young at that time, so they were not doing anything to me,” Thomas shares. But as he grew older and continued sharing the Gospel, the Vietnamese authorities started hunting him down. After were some serious threats to kill him were made he left the country.
“In August 1997, I escaped to Laos by myself… I escaped to Northeast Laos and my mother followed shortly. We stayed there for four years. The police followed us to arrest all the Christians there. Some were able to escape and fled to different provinces in Laos, but some were arrested and were sent back to their old village. My mom, my brother, my father, his new family, and I escaped to a small village. This was our second escape. We were the first family of Christians there. We shared the Gospel and a lot of them became believers. At present, there are 10 families who are Christians there.”
In 2009, the police in Vietnam contacted the police in Laos to arrest Thomas’ dad. He was once again imprisoned, this time for more than a year. In order to prevent him from spreading the Gospel, the police gave Thomas’ dad “medicine” which caused paralysis in his arms and legs.
The police also kept tabs on Thomas. In 2011, the government went to his village and handed out certificates. “The certificate congratulated me for completing a training I never attended,” Thomas shares. “All of the certificates were white. It was only mine that was a different colour. Some people told me the colour meant I would be killed because two others received the same colour and were never heard from again.”
Unperturbed Thomas continued sharing the Gospel and shortly thereafter was arrested. Luckily Thomas was only jailed for a week and then continued his evangelism and attended Bible College.
Thomas didn’t know that the threats would escalate however and chose to stay. “2013 was… (The) year that the government sent a hundred people to live in our village,” he shares. “One government representative lived with me. He was sent to monitor me. For six months, he was at my place. Sometimes he stayed the entire day, and sometimes he would just visit.”
“During our last meal together he showed me seven pictures. There was a red cross in each picture showing that those people would be killed. I recognised the faces in three of the pictures. The first two were my relatives. The third one was me. The year after, I found out they had already been killed. They were beheaded and their limbs were cut off. I don’t know why they were killed. They were not Christians.”
Being born in Vietnam, Thomas was required to have a visa to live in the country and permission to stay in his village. It was upon application for his visa that he knew the time to leave Laos had come.
“I went to Vientiane (the capital) and applied… to renew my visa. I also wanted to renew my driver’s license. I wasn’t allowed to renew anything. The officer told me that the authorities were coming, and when they came they accused me of making weapons and inciting revolution.”
The officers asked Thomas if he agreed with the accusations and he said no. “They tried to force me to sign something again but I refused –someone else signed the document for me.”
A close relative who worked for the government contacted Thomas urgently. He told him he had to leave, “he said if I had wings, I should fly.”
The following day, an Open Doors partner took Thomas to the border and helped him cross to a neighbouring country. At noon, the police went to his bus station and searched all the foreigners passports. “It was a good thing there were two others who shared my name,” he says. “Unable to find me, the policed delayed the departure of my bus from 2pm to 8pm. When I finally left at 8pm, the other Thomas’s were gone. Maybe it was a miracle.”
Thomas wants to return to Laos with his family, where he has lived most of his life. He dreams of one day being able to live peacefully while sharing the good news of Jesus.
*Name changed to protect identity
Photos used for illustrative purposes only.
- Pray that God would safely bring Thomas’ family to where he is living now.
- Pray for God’s comfort and love to for Thomas to be apparent, as he is feeling defeated and alone currently,
- Pray for the many believers like Thomas who continue to share the good news despite the imminent threat to their lives.