No turning back
Having walked through decades of abuse, and now persecution for her faith, Chu may be weary. But she is not weak. This beautiful woman in her mid-40s displays mettle that has been forged in the fire. Her heart—for her children and for following Jesus—makes her strong. Even knowing that her husband would likely beat her, she still refused to deny Jesus.
“I refused to deny my faith,” she says, “because I didn’t want to be tempted by the devil. And I don’t want that for my children either.”
After she fled her home, Chu went to the authorities to show them her injuries and file a report. When they said they ‘didn’t know anything about it’, she didn’t stop there. She went to two more levels of authority, fighting for her rights; each said they would ‘try to handle it’. But after waiting a long time with no action, Chu divorced her abusive husband.
When I talked to Chu in late February 2020, she was living with her parents in another village. Now, three months later, our ministry partner shares that she is living in her church’s local parsonage. For her safety, she must live miles away from the area where she lived with her husband. Because of the divorce and her faith, the tribal leaders in that village said she needed to leave.
“They told me, ‘If you stay here, you could be killed.’” She knew the threat was real. Only months before, the houses of two of her adult sons were destroyed because they follow Jesus.
If she renounced Jesus now, would she be able to return to her community? Chu’s thoughtful response reveals that the roots have indeed gone deep: “If I go back to everything as before, they will accept me back into the village. But because I already follow Christ, there’s no turning back.
“I believe that when we believe in Christ and we are willing to abandon all things for the sake of God, that’s when we become a child of God.”
I tell Chu that so many women throughout the world need to hear and be inspired by her story. She offers the truth she has learned firsthand: “My encouragement for them is to continue to lean on God and keep faith no matter what.”
Mourning into dancing
Every day, Chu wakes up to praise God, she says. She is illiterate and cannot read her Bible, but she listens to the Word of God from the radio. She wants to stand strong for Jesus, she says. She also asks for prayer that her persecutors—her ex-husband, relatives and the tribal leaders—would know ‘my Jesus’.
As I talk to her, she sobs long and hard as she asks for prayer to one day have a house of her own. It’s clear this devoted mother is thinking of her children, not her own comfort. She dreams of having a home and her children around her.
“Even though not all of my children could come, I wish that at least some of them could come and stay with me,” she tells me.
Three months since she shared that dream with me, I learn that after much prayer and many conversations with her ex-husband and his relatives, three of her children are now living with her at the parsonage. And that her dream of having a home may soon be a reality. Pastor Kua has asked his church members to help build a home or buy land for Chu.
For 90 long days, this mother was without her children, with no hope of ever having them with her again. Ever since I met her, I’ve prayed for my sister to be reunited with her children—and now, as the psalmist wrote, God has turned her mourning into dancing.
This mother, my sister in Christ, is emotional as she learns that Christians throughout the world have been praying for her. And she is thankful for the support she’s received. A few weeks after meeting Chu, Open Doors partner provided her with food relief and financial assistance. The food was especially needed during Vietnam’s COVID-19 lockdown. Everyone in her village suffered, she says.
“The support you brought me really helped during those difficult times.”
When Chu first met Jesus years ago, she admits she was so desperate she didn’t think much about it. “I just wanted to believe in Christ because I hoped that when I believed in Him, my life would get better,” she remembers.
In many ways, her life is not ‘better’, even with her children now with her. She is banned from her village, divorced, surviving on one small farming income and without her own home. But in her grief, there is also hope. In the absence of her community is the presence of her Savior. And in her pain, there is now trust.
“No matter the hardships I’m going to face, I know that when I pass away, I have a place with Jesus.”
Thanks to your prayers and support, Open Doors local partners continue to walk with Chu, and other believers in Vietnam who face discrimination and attack for their faith.