How would you cope? Thirteen years in prison for telling people about Jesus. Months in solitary confinement. Would it break you? Would you give up? Not Dok from Laos. He says his 13 years in prison made him more ‘efficient as an evangelist’.
Isolation is nothing new for believers in Laos. Christianity is treated as a hostile Western threat. Christians have to be extremely careful to stay on the good side of the authorities; believers from Buddhist backgrounds are considered to have betrayed their community; and house churches are considered ‘illegal gatherings’, so have to operate in secret.
Now 74 and out of prison, Dok and his wife, Jik lead 3,000 believers in 62 churches. He says:
“In Laos, there are two seasons: sunny and rainy. Robust trees thrive in both seasons. Our church is the same as a robust tree. It thrives in the sun and it thrives in the rain, and more importantly, it gives shade to others – whether it be from the heat or from the downpour.”
That’s a pretty prophetic thing for the global church to hear at this time of lockdown.
Dok was the first to become a Christian believer in his region, in the late 1990s, and the first to be imprisoned for over a decade for preaching the gospel.
When he became a Christian, his life changed completely. He was a former military officer who treated people pretty badly. Many people visited him to hear his transformation story, giving him an opportunity to share the good news with them. So many people, in fact, that he was given a warning by the authorities.
Dok asked people not to come, but they were unstoppable. Then, on 8 June 1999, when his children were at school, police came for him in his home and took him away. His wife, Jik, had no idea where he’d gone, or when she’d ever see him again.
Image: Dok was imprisoned for his faith for 13 years
After his arrest, Dok was put in solitary confinement. The room was small, bare, cramped and smelly. “My hands and feet were handcuffed. Where I slept, I also went to the bathroom. The room was very, very dark. I couldn’t see anything. They didn’t let me wear anything but my underwear,” he recalls.
“I… had nothing to do inside but pray and pray and pray that everyone would believe and accept Jesus.”
This went on for five and a half months. He was treated badly – made to do menial work, denied food and often beaten. To this day, he still wears the scars of that time, not being able to see propely through one eye.
“I lived in that small room for a long time and had nothing to do inside but pray and pray and pray that everyone would believe and accept Jesus. I prayed that the Lao people will also believe as well as the prisoners who were with me, I prayed for them every day that I was in that cell.”
Thankfully, the days of torment came to an end; Dok’s prayers were heard. “One time, I slept through my pain and I had a dream. In my dream, there appeared three people who looked like angels and wore very white clothes. They prayed hard for me. When I woke up, I felt much better. The pain was gone.”
A few days later, he was released from his cell and transferred to a bigger cell where there were more than 70 prisoners.
Meanwhile, Jik had no idea whether her husband was dead or alive but, after months of waiting for news, some prisoners who’d been freed, brought her a handwritten letter, signed by Dok. She at once went to him and from then on, every day for more than a decade, brought him food.
“From the basket of sticky rice my wife sent to me every day, she wrote encouraging words and slipped in torn pages of the Bible. Some of the words written on the small pieces of paper were simply: ‘Believe in Jesus’. Upon reading those words, I became so happy. The police even thought that I had gone crazy!” says Dok.
Image: Bible verses hidden in baskets of rice
In his larger cell, Dok met three other Christians, one of which became his great companion in prayer. They prayed for every cellmate, every day, as well as for healing for the sick and salvation for all. In his new environment, Dok’s good behaviour was noted by the chief of police, who gradually assigned him the care of everyone in the jail – in total 600 prisoners – and even including the police officers!
Until his release, when Open Doors first visited him, Dok did not realise that people were concerned and praying for him, besides his family. With the benefit of supporters’ gifts, Open Doors was able to extend financial help to Dok’s family from time to time, including for an eye operation.
“We don’t have any words to say except thank you,” says Jik. “When my husband was in prison, you prayed for us and helped us. You remembered us.”
Despite all that he has been through, Dok says: “God is good and He is above everything in my life. I still believe in God because I know that God died for my sins, and even if I am a sinner, He has accepted me and forgiven all of my sins. I have pure joy in the Lord.”
Laos is number 20 on the Open Doors World Watch List, listing the countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.
Dok asks for prayer for Christians in Laos: “I hope that one day, God will open the doors for us to do ministries as openly as possible without being hindered or arrested. Pray that we will have more leaders whom we can partner with to do ministry together. The Christians in Laos are growing in number but there are few workers. Most of our leaders and pastors do not have jobs. They need to take care of the church and their families as well. Please pray for them that they may have sufficient provisions for their families. We already lost some of our leaders because they leave the church and go to far places to get a job and make money for their families. Their families do not come back to the church any more. Pray for our outreaches and our visitation ministries – for God’s financial provisions as we go and reach out to those house churches in villages. Reaching out to them and giving them encouragement is very important.”
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.