Good news! After spending more than three months in prison, James*, an Open Doors student who was imprisoned last September has been released. James was accused of evangelism in a small village in Laos and was finally released on Christmas day.
We have also heard that Thomas*, another believer who has been running from Lao authorities for his faith, was also allowed to return to Laos on December 20 after hiding in Thailand for more than two months.
In Laos, believers are regularly visited by the authorities, and many Christians who share the gospel face expulsion from their local villages, arrest, and death threats.
“We praise the Lord for answering our cries and for His goodness to James and Thomas,” said an Open Doors source. “Thank you so much for praying for our brothers!”
Thomas is 29-years-old. He has a wife and four children. Thomas loves Jesus and His people. Because of this great love for God, He has consistently led people to Jesus Christ. This behaviour has landed him on the hit list of the Laos government.
Although his family is originally from Laos, Thomas was brought up in Vietnam. He became a Christian in 1995. He and his father shared the gospel in his village where many became followers of Jesus Christ. But in 1996, a wave of persecution in Communist Vietnam meant that his father was forced to return to Laos. Thomas stayed for a year – still sharing the gospel – until the Vietnamese authorities started hunting him down. To save his life he had to leave the country.
“In August 1997, I escaped to Laos by myself and left everything in Vietnam. I escaped to Northeast Laos and my mother followed shortly. We stayed there for four years.”
But in Laos things were little improved.
“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 mum, my brother, my father, and I escaped to a small village. 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.”
Thomas continued the work in Laos, but experienced a lot of harassment. He went from village to village and was arrested and put in jail for one week. After a year, he decided to study the Bible at school and graduated in 2013.
Then, last September, Thomas tried to renew his visa. “When I got to my house, someone from the government was there, accusing me of making weapons to use against the Lao government and bringing people to Jesus to revolt against them.” He wasn’t allowed to renew his visa, or his driving licence.
“I wasn’t allowed to renew anything. The officer told me that the authorities were coming, and when they came they accused me again of making weapons and inciting revolution.”
“My relative from the government told me afterwards that I should run away. 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. Thomas went into hiding at a Bible school outside Laos.
“I just want a place of peace where I can stay legally,” he said at the time. “I also want to continue sharing the gospel. All my life I have suffered; I would like to have freedom.”
After such a story it’s great news that Thomas has been allowed to return home. But clearly there are many obstacles ahead, so please continue to pray for Thomas, James and other believers in Laos.
*Names and locations have been changed for security reasons
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.