What If Your Family Disowned You Because of Christ?
What if your family rejected you because of your belief in Jesus? Would you leave home? This is Cheu’s* dilemma. Believers from Buddhist countries usually come from very tight-knit families living in equally tight-knit communities. An Open Doors fieldworker tells the story of Cheu after spending some time with him one hot afternoon in Laos:
Among the people sitting in circle in a secret church meeting, a young man in his 20s is more noticeable than any other person. His little gestures hinted at a yearning, his eyes were distant and stare into the distance at nothing in particular. There are subtle flashes of familiar emotions – peace, joy and belongingness. Cheu, a new convert in Christ who was still celebrating his newfound faith in Christ, has to escape the tyranny brought about by his own family and community who were once his providers of comfort and warmth in times of desperation.
“One day, my brother and uncle came to me and lied to me. They invited me to go to their house which I agreed to without hesitation. Little did I know that when we arrived at my uncle’s house, they would beat me and tie me up with a rope. They told me that I need to return to my old faith, they would continue to beat me. They bound me with a rope with my hands behind my back. My brother, an average-sized man but with a solid build, used the side of his palms to hit my neck and face over and over again. I was tied from seven in the morning until seven at night,” Cheu recalled.
It pained me hearing how these words rolled from his tongue. The creases on his forehead and the scars on his right cheek emphasized the evident pain in his eyes and voice.
A Time to Escape to a Family in Christ
“How were you able to escape?” I asked. Glancing at my translator, he answered, “At that time, my wife was still pregnant. On the day that it happened, I sent my wife to my in-laws in another village. After sending my wife away, I went home and my uncle and brother came to get my motorcycle. They tied me up and said that I should go back to my old faith, the Hmong culture. ‘If you won’t go back, we will hit you until you die,’ they told me.”
Nearing dusk, he asked the Lord in prayer for guidance. “After that, I prayed and prayed and told God to forgive them and myself. After praying, I lied to my brother and uncle and other people and told them that I would return to my old faith. So they untied me. After they took off my ties, I slept at my house. I went to my wife very early the next morning to pick her up since my in-law’s house is very far from my house. We hopped on a bus to escape and came here. Until now, my uncle and brother and my family still don’t know where I am, and I heard that they are looking for me. I also heard that the village chief, my brother and uncle said that if I come back to our home in our village, they would hit me over and over again until I die.”
It was a stirring question, I know. But Cheu’s somber mood didn’t change. Since the moment I was introduced to him till the moment I left that secret meeting, this was the longest statement I had heard from Cheu.
Cheu and his wife were able to escape from the hands of their oppressors, his family and the village chief. He was welcomed by a community of Christian families in Ban Neuk*, a church in Vientiane Province 24 hours away by bus from his province. This church is always open to the needy. A family that provides and defends. A family given to Cheu and his wife by the Lord.
As written in Luke 19:9-10, a favorite verse of Cheu, “… Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
Ban Neuk church is a living testimony to this. A Hmong evangelical church has been hosting persecuted Christians from all over Laos. They treat them as new members of their growing family and provide them shelter, food and other basic needs.
Up until now, Ban Neuk has been giving Cheu and his family not just the warmth of a shelter but also the comfort a family could give and the love a family should provide.
“Though I miss my mother and despite what happened to me, I am still very happy that I believe in Jesus. I can worship Him and I can believe and I have peace in my heart. For me, I will stay here in this village and I will live here because I can worship and nurture my faith freely.”
A Firm Heart
The Hmong tribe is a patriarchal ethnic group, it is customary that fathers, or men in general, should be respected and well-regarded in the community, and whoever goes against their will is subject to punishments. Raised by his brother and mother with his uncle’s influence after his father died at the age of 12, Cheu grew up obeying their commands. Despite growing up adhering to what his uncle and brother told him to do, Cheu disobeyed them. He heard the truth and knew it was time for him to depart from them.
His answer to my questions about how he feels having experienced the vigor of his brother’s hands and the power of his uncle’s words surprised me.
“I didn’t feel anything. I think it was because my brother didn’t know what he was doing and he doesn’t know God.” Regardless of what happened to him, where he is at right now, and no matter how recently he has come to know God, Cheu is firm in his belief in Christ.
“Nothing can stop my belief now, and I will not go back to the Hmong culture of worship. I will continue believing in Jesus instead. I will sacrifice myself to God. I will follow however God wants me to do. I will follow.”
It is the desire of Cheu that a bigger community of believers will pray for him that he may have a stronger faith in the Lord and will be drawn closer to the Lord even in the midst of persecution. It is also in his prayer that the Lord will provide him a more stable source of income.
- Pray that the Lord will provide him a stable source of income for his family in Ban Neuk.
- Pray that the Lord will strengthen his and his wife’s faith, that they may be able to stand strong despite persecution.
*Name and locations changed for security
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