In a small church with sky blue walls is a woman with gold, heart-shaped earrings. She sits on the floor with men and women singing praise — glory, hallelujah— oblivious to their surroundings, voices bouncing off the walls, their ears lent only to the mellow strumming of their pastor’s acoustic guitar.
She says she has always been religious. How could she not be, one might wonder, when she lives in the land of glistening pagodas?
Long before she gave her life to Christ, the woman would wake up before light and prepare meals for the crimson-robed monks who would regularly pass by her doorstep. As part of family tradition, she would bathe Buddha statues, offer food in the temples, meditate and memorize Buddhist prayers.
Her name is Hannah. She says it was through a song that she received Jesus Christ. A Chin lady, whom she had met randomly at school, befriended her and invited her to come to church.
“Do not come to my house,” she told the Chin lady. “Let us meet by the road. Then, we will go to church.”
Hannah knew she was treading dangerous ground. It was dangerous and different. The decision to attend church would not go over well with her pious parents, but all her worries slipped away when she heard the choir’s Christmas melodies ringing from the windows. The lyrics said it was Christmastime – the time when Jesus should be given a place in her heart.
Everything was different when Hannah got home. She headed straight for the images of Buddha in her house and removed them from the premises. “They are not alive,” she says, “Jesus is alive. I no longer wanted to worship them.”
Hannah was changed. After she prayed for Jesus to fill her life, she became thirsty for the Living Water. Hannah came to church not only for worship service on Sundays but on Wednesdays to attend the prayer fellowship and on Saturdays to help out with the youth. But her sister told their mother about her activities, and Hannah soon learned the cost of following Christ.
Hannah was beaten by her own mother for her faith.
Still, Hannah endured. She tried bringing her stepbrother to church, but they got caught. This time by their father. “We are not Christian,” the father said. And he cursed them, taunted them, and prohibited them from going back. Another time, Hannah’s father smashed her head against the wall.
“I was beaten whenever I went to church. After I came back from church, I was beaten.”
Now, Hannah’s mother is softer. Her mother even attended church at one point. She does not believe in Jesus yet, but she tries to understand her daughter’s faith.
A few feet away from Hannah is a woman in a violet shirt. She is Hannah’s sister – the same one whose whispers led to Hannah’s bruises long ago – and today on the church stage with knees planted on the floor, she declares: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.”
*Representative names and photo to protect persecuted Christians