He used to worship a ‘devil god’—now he follows Jesus

November 13, 2019 by Lindy Lowry in Asia

Choj* is a gentle, soft-spoken Christian man in his 20s. He is a husband, father and  farmer. And he is part of a Vietnamese tribe called the Hmong. Most of the Hmong people worship their ancestors through daily rituals they believe will protect them from illness, natural disasters and other trials. Any Hmong who doesn’t adhere to these ancient beliefs and rituals—thereby dishonoring their ancestors—is cast out and excommunicated from their family.

 

The young father saw this persecution play out firsthand—just six days after he shared with his family that he had become a Christian.

 

An Open Doors worker recently shared this interview.

We meet Choj in a small church in one of Vietnam’s major cities—far away from the remote mountainous village where he lives with his wife and two-year-old daughter. It’s too dangerous to meet him there.

When Choj and his wife married, she was living in a village with mostly Christians. But it was their daughter that led Choj to Christ.

Or, more specifically, his daughter’s sickness.

“I don’t know what her illness is called,” he explains. “But she came down with a high fever and had a severe headache. It became worse. She fell asleep and didn’t wake up for three days.”

Choj was used to sacrificing pigs and chickens to the gods. (The Hmong often sacrifice animals to ward off the bad spirit believed to cause the illness.) But he never felt like the gods he worshiped were on his side; they never seemed to help him. In desperation, he went to the local shaman, asking what he needed to do to heal his daughter. The shaman was little help.

“He told me I needed to sacrifice a big goat and a red dog,” Choj remembers. “I had goats, but where was I going to find a red dog?”

That night, Choj had a nightmare: “I saw a fly who planted an egg on my coat. The egg turned into a maggot”—a sign of bad luck in the Hmong culture.

Learn why Vietnam is No. 20 on the World Watch List.

‘This must be God’

Choj grew even more fearful and desperate. Though he’d never bothered much with his wife’s Christian faith, he gave in and brought their still-unconscious daughter to the Christian church his wife was raised in. At that point, Choj “didn’t know anything about church,” he says.

Choj’s first visit to a church wasn’t too memorable. The pastor prayed for the young girl, but little happened.

“She opened her eyes for a little while,” Choj says. “I didn’t experience anything extraordinary and was certainly not planning to abandon my ancestor worship.”

Two days later, the brought their daughter again for prayer. This time, the girl regained consciousness. His daughter’s healing was this father’s turning point. “I thought: This must be God. I decided to follow Christ.”

Six days after accepting Jesus and telling his parents and siblings, the persecution began for Choj, his wife and his young daughter.

Persecution begins

Choj is very matter-of-fact in the way he shares his testimony. It’s almost like he’s telling someone else’s story.

“I knew there would be persecution by my village,” Choj says, looking back. “I decided to follow Christ, anyway.”

Four days after his decision, Choj believed he had to tell his family how his daughter was healed: “I told them Jesus had healed her after the pastor prayed for her.

“My brothers were very happy for us and wanted to build an altar for me to worship our ancestors.” (in Hmong culture, the altar is believed to be where the spirits of ancestors return)

But Choj refused their offer. That’s when his family and his village turned on him.

“That’s when the persecution began,” he says. “They wanted to cast me out of the village; even police officers and local authorities told me to go back to worshiping the ancestors.”

But this new believer wouldn’t be swayed: “I replied that I had already accepted Jesus Christ and that I would not go back.”

We ask him if he ever had any doubt about following Jesus, especially after his family’s disapproval and threats. He smiles as if he’s thought a lot about that day and the difficult days ahead.

“There was something unexplainable in my heart that said, ‘Don’t go back, just follow Christ,’” he says. “It wasn’t courage. When I saw how God healed my daughter, I could see He is the Healer. There is no more reason for me to sacrifice to a devil god. I’ve got nothing to ask him. I know God is good.”

Day 6

Two days later, on the sixth day after Choj accepted Jesus, life changed forever for him and his family. He looked out to see a mob approaching his house. He describes what happened next:

“They asked me to come out. Then they began to tear down our home. They took our cow and goat from the shed. Then they asked us to leave the village.

“They said, ‘If you stay, every person in this village will give you one punch and you will die.’ Then they ransacked our home; all the valuable property was taken out. They tied our goat and cow inside the destroyed house.

“They gave my oldest brother a hammer, and he smashed the house to pieces, saying, ‘They don’t worship our ancestors anymore! He doesn’t worship our mother and father! He is against the family!’”

Someone pushed a paper at Choj to sign over his property and land to the village. But he refused. In fact, in all of the chaos and screaming, Choj says he remained calm, even peaceful.

“I could only think about Jesus,” he says. “I know God will give me a new house one day.”

Recognizing the danger they were in, Choj and his family, along with his wife’s family, ran for their lives from their village.

‘I’m so thankful’

A year has passed since Choj and his family were forced to leave their village. He, his wife and his daughter have been living with his in-laws in a tiny 13-by-16-foot space.

But because of you, Choj and his family are looking forward to moving into a new home. Through your provision, he has been able to buy wood and pay a worker to build a new house for him and his family. He and his family have seen “the amazing love of God,” he says.

Because of you, this father that didn’t know God a year ago now has hope.

“I’m so grateful for the help of other believers here in Vietnam, but also foreign brothers and sisters via Open Doors,” Choj says. “I’ve walked around the new house, and I feel very happy and grateful. I know it’s possible, thanks to the help of my family in Christ. Without the help of my brothers and sisters, we’d have to live on the streets.”

Will you help projects like these continue?

To advance the gospel in Vietnam, Open Doors continues to support believers like Choj and his pastor with critical resources, including discipleship training, Bibles, assistance through literacy and socioeconomic development, and advocacy and immediate relief to tribal believers shunned from their communities. Projects like these are what Open Doors knows God has called us to. But we can’t keep these going without your help. We still need $1,805,029 before the end of the year to bring projects like these—all over the world!—to completion. We need your help to strengthen and train Christians like Choj and build the Kingdom. Will you help?

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Living proof

Choj’s story is far from over. He still prays for his family and his village. He calls his relatives sometimes, but they rarely pick up. When they do, they shout at him. He misses them, but he also says the persecution he has gone through has brought him closer to God.

“I want to know Him better,” he says.

Choj is illiterate and cannot read the Bible. He simply listens to God’s Word through his pastor who reads from a Hmong Bible. He doesn’t have a favorite Bible verse, but he says he remembers seeing the movie The Passion of The Christ.

“I was very touched by Jesus’ sacrifice,” he says, putting into simple words the essence of the gospel: “Jesus had no sin, but because of His love for us humans, He had to die.”

Choj and his family are living proof that God is at work, even in the remote mountains and dense jungles of Vietnam, even among the Hmong people. He’s working through His Church every day in these places and in the hearts of believers like Choj.

“I don’t know how to express my feelings,” Choj says quietly, “but it means a lot that you are there for me. Thank you and may God bless you.”

 * Name changed for security reasons

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