Renounce Jesus or starve.
Those were the two options given to members of our spiritual family this summer in a small village in Laos.
One of Southeast Asia’s poorest and least developed nations, Laos, is also one of the world’s five remaining communist nations. Christians are a tiny, persecuted minority there. In spite of the persecution, however, the church is growing, especially in rural areas. In one undisclosed village, the number of believers has almost doubled in the past five years, growing from 20 to 36 families. Consequently, threatening visits by communist authorities have become a regular occurrence.
The first time that authorities visited the village this year, they warned all the Christians that there would be harsh consequences if they continued to gather for worship. The believers knew they were not hearing idle threats; one of their spiritual leaders has been in prison for the past 12 years on trumped-up charges. Eight families consequently renounced their faith in Christ. The others held fast.
Not content with only eight families renouncing their faith, authorities returned in July. This time they chose to use a carrot rather than a stick to achieve their goal, telling the remaining 28 faithful families that they would receive food and clothing from the government if they renounced Christ. Drought-like conditions made the offer particularly tempting for these poor subsistence farmers.
Sadly, 10 more families renounced their faith and accepted the government deal.
But that’s not the end of the story. God honored the faithfulness of the 18 families who refused to bow. Just days before communist officials arrived in July, Heaven’s Family provided $2,000 to co-laborers in Thailand who minister to the poor and persecuted believers across the border in Laos. Gifts to the Persecuted Christians Fund made that gift possible. Believing these funds were Christ’s provision for our Laotian brothers and sisters in their time of need, our co-laborers bought rice for the 18 families who stood strong in their faith, carefully smuggling the food to their village in small amounts.
As of this writing, the faithful are continuing to receive rice for their families. Those who have renounced Christ in exchange for rice and clothes, however, have yet to receive anything from the government.
Please pray for those who yielded to temptation, that they would return to their faith, as we know that the Lord is merciful and forgiving. Also, please pray for the chief of the village, that he would come to faith and repentance. And please pray for our dear brothers and sisters who live under Laos’ communist regime.