Charges Against Bhutan Pastor Dropped
At 3:19 a.m. on January 19th, Open Doors received a text message from Bhutanese Pastor Tandin Wangyal, “Praise the Lord! God answered our prayers. A million thanks for your prayer support!” Although Open Doors is waiting for clarification on whether all the charges were dropped, we are rejoicing with him.
Tandin was convicted September 10th on two charges. The first charge was for showing a film without official permit as required by law. For this, the convicted pastor was sentenced to eight months of prison term. The second charge was collecting funds from a foreign agency between 2012 and March 2014, a non-bailable felony offense that carries a penalty of three years and three months in prison.
Another pastor, David Lobzang, was also imprisoned for the first offense only after the two pastors conducted a three-day seminar in March of last year in a house church where approximately 25 Christian believers were in attendance. During the seminar, they showed a persecution-preparedness film. A neighbor complained about the event to the village authorities, alleging that the organizers did not have a permit to gather. Lobzang’s charges were reduced, and his family paid the penalty. Tandin remained in jail.
During his four nights at the Samtse Central Jail, Tandin described experiencing intimacy with God that he had not experienced before. “He became closer to God, as he spent most of his time in prayer,” the source told Open Doors. “On September 15th at 3 am, while praying, he had a vision; in it he saw an angel leading him by the hand. The door of the prison cell suddenly opened and he walked out. That same afternoon, the vision came true; at 3:45 pm, he was released!”
Tandin has been free on bail while the high court in Samtse has been reviewing his appeal. There were three possible outcomes: the court could have found Tandin guilty and ordered him to continue to serve his four-year sentence, the court could have decided to drag the case on to harass him and his family, or the court could have reversed the guilty verdict. The details as to whether he was acquitted or his sentence was reduced to a bailable offense are still unclear, and more information will be released when information has been received from Tandin.
Two days before the January 19th judgment was to be handed down, Tandin wrote, “My flesh and spirit are in a constant battle. I continue to implore your unceasing prayer support for me, my wife and three sons, as well as for my mother Ruth, who will be greatly impacted by the court’s decision. We thank God for your love and support,” he continued. “I believe that this Monday, I will be a free man!”
“Obviously, I am worried about my wife and three sons. It’s been almost a year-long battle, and I know how much this has brought challenges to us, but I want to thank God. Despite this ordeal, God has been very gracious to us in many ways, and we continue to thank Him for Open Doors, which has unceasingly raised intercessors and prayer partners from the worldwide Christian community on our behalf.”
Thank You, Father, for Your care for Tandin, both while he was in jail and in bringing about his release. We pray for him now and for his family; that You will sustain them and heal the trauma they have sustained during the past months of difficulty. We pray for their ministry among the people of Bhutan; that it will not be hindered by his court struggle, but rather that many will see Your hand at work in his life and turn in faith to Your Son. We pray for the people of Bhutan; that they might be set free to worship and praise You in Spirit and in truth! In the name of Jesus, who is gathering His Church from all the nations of the earth, Amen!